My recent interview with Tony Ackland got various tongues wagging across the Oldhammer World and beyond, particularly on the subject of Malal. But who exactly is, or indeed was Malal? All most of us know is that he (or she?) was developed out of house, was linked to Kaleb Daark and fell victim to legalities worse that the Realm of Chaos itself.
So Realm of Chaos went in search of the mysterious 'fifth god' and uncovered a story of censure and complaint in the process. With contributions from the great Tony Ackland and the legendary Rick Priestley, we set about solving the mystery of the Malignancy of Malal.
RoC80s: There is much speculation about the original nature of Malal. What do you recall of the development of this early, and abandoned due to legalities, chaos god.
Rick Priestley: Malal was invented for a comic strip without any reference to the actual Chaos gods – I think the comic strip author just wanted to set something up that wouldn’t muddy our background and which he could manipulate as he wanted. Whoever arranged the deal didn’t think to make it clear that the work would be a genre piece and hence GW property – and when it came down to it the author claimed ownership of the IP and GW had to abandon it. Clash of cultures really – in the games industry us poor games writers are used to this kind of thing – not so in the world of comics.
So who exactly was Malal then? Well, its seems that Malal was the embodiment of Chaos' indiscriminate and anarchic tendency toward destruction, including itself and its own agents. An cancer of chaos if you like. The nature of Malal's power was largely parasitic, the idea being that the Renegade God grew in power only when the other Chaos gods did. Like the other deities, Malal had a sacred number and this was 11. His sacred colours were black and white.
In the Spring 1986 Journal there was also one additional page of Warhammer Fantasy Battle rules (and a small bit of Malal background) for including Kaleb Daark and his steed in games. This issue also saw the first advertisements for the miniature figure set including a mounted and standing Kaleb Daark. The Spring 1987 Journal featured the miniature figure sets of the two Chaos Brothers, Jaek and Helwud, Kaleb's main adversaries in Part 3. Part 4 "God Amok!" was also advertised in this issue, but it never saw print. It is uncertain how much of this 4th installment was actually completed before the legal problems began and work was halted.
What follows is the background and fluff, published for Warhammer Second Edition, concerning Kaleb Daark:
The Ultimate Chaos Hero – Kaleb Daark:
There is a name whispered quietly and with fear even by the most depraved, the most evil, the least sane of the worshippers of Chaos, that name is Malal the Renegade God of Chaos. Any man who dare look within the unholy black pages of The Great Book of Despair, that foul tome held sacred by worshippers of Chaos, would find the following words:
…and he that went before now came last, and that which was white and black and all direction was thrown against itself. Grown mightily indignant at the words of the Gods, Malal did turn his heart against them and flee into the chambers of space ... And no man looked to Malal then, save those that serve which they hate, who smile upon air misfortune, and who bear no love save for the damned. At such times as a warrior's heart turns to Malal all Gods of Chaos grow fearful, and the laughter of the Outcast God fills the tomb of space....'
In eons past Malal was cast out from the bosom of Chaos by the other gods, or else abandoned them of his own volition, no one is sure which. In any case Malal's relationship to the other Gods of Chaos is strange one. All Gods of Chaos pursue purposes that are wholly their own, yet only Malal occupies a position so resolutely parasitic upon his own unfathomable creed. To be a follower of Malal is to be chaotic warrior bent upon shedding the blood of other chaotic creatures. As such, Malal is both feared and hated by the other gods. Malal's worshippers, too, are loathed by other chaotics; they are outcasts beloved by neither the friends nor enemies of Chaos, dependent upon the least whim of their patron deity. Few men worship such a god; fewer still live long in his service. The bonds that tie master and servant ever drain upon the soul of the warrior, and it is a rare man that can loosen those bonds once forged
Kaleb Daark is the greatest amongst such warriors, the Doomed Ones is what they are called amongst men. Whereas the souls of lesser servants shrivel long before they can gain real power, those whose service remains true may gain immeasurable benefit. Kaleb Daark enjoys the favour of his insane god, for his resolve is incredibly strong, perhaps deriving vigour from some dark aspect of his personality, some event hidden deep with his past or subconscious. None would dare to inquire of the man himself. Of his origins and his initiation into the cult of Malal, no one can do more than guess. Of his might of arms, undoubted courage and potent unholy weaponry, however, all know at least the most horrific details.
Dreadaxe is a deadly chaotic weapon gifted to Kaleb Daark by Malal. It is a living axe, a weapon bearing a part of the soul of some great cosmic being, a hellish demonic servant of Malal. As the weapon strikes its jaw closes and its teeth bite deep into the soul-stuff of its victim. As the soul of the victim is sucked from his carcass, the body shrinks, rots and shrivels away to almost nothing.
Kaleb Daark causes a wounding blow against a creature of Chaos, Dreadaxe automatically attempts to drain the creature's soul. The victim must make a test against its Will Power. Roll 2d6, if the score is equal to or less than the victim's Will Power characteristic score then there is no effect. If the score is more than the victim's Will Power then the creature is automatically killed (no matter how many wounds it has). In addition, the victim's soul feeds Malal, Dreadaxe and Daark. The Will Power score of the now dead creature is divided by three, any remainder is ignored. One third goes directly to Malal (and is ignored for the purposes of the game), one third goes to Dreadaxe, and the last third goes to Kaleb Daark. The points that go into Dreadaxe can be used in the next round of combat only as a 'to wound' bonus. For example, if 3 points are gained this is a +3 on the next 'to wound' dice score. All points must be used at once, and may not be carried over. The points that go to Kaleb Daark are retained in a pool. The player should keep a record of the pool total. These points are used to summon the god Malal, and may also be used as a dice bonus. A maximum of 1 point may be used in any turn to modify any dice rolled by Kaleb Daark. For example, he might choose to add one to his 'to hit' score, or even increase the 'to wound' score. The point is expended after the dice roll.
Kaleb Daark's armour displays runes granted to him by his patron deity. These are 2 Armour runes, a rune of protection and a of renewal (see Warhammer Battle Magic). His armour provides a total of 3APs.
Kaleb Daark's mutant warsteed is a further gift from his dark master. The creature fights with great ferocity, and is far faster than any normal horse.
Kaleb Daark's armour is black, bearing the motif of Malal as decoration. This takes the form of a skull, half black and half white. The same colour scheme is repeated on his shield. Kaleb himself is pale, a result of the constant strain of his relationship with Malal. His hair is very pale so that it appears almost white.
Kaleb Daark's laconic wit is often the last thing his victim's ever hear! His battle cry is 'Dreadaxe thirsts for you'.
Basic points value is 215. Armour adds 44 points (2 x a modifier of 22). Dreadaxe adds an arbitrary 100. The various runes are worth 200 points. Total 559. The chaos warsteed is worth 90 points plus a modifier of +20 totalling 110. The total value of Kaleb Daark and his warsteed is 669.
With a little investigative work, evidence for Malal can be uncovered in other places in '80s published materials. For example, in the first edition of in 1986, Malal has a short paragraph along with Khorne and Nurgle and is mentioned as a renegade Chaos God dedicated to the destruction of the other Chaos gods. Then, in the short story, Th in , there is also a reference to an unnamed albino (Elric again?) Malal Chaos Champion and his warband roaming the Chaos Wastes. Interestingly, this Champion is slain by the novel's main character in what could be seen as an early example of what GW would later do with the Squats! Additionally, in the card game, published in 1987, featured the 'Claws of Malal' card. The unit represented in the game by this card was a warband of Beastmen eager to fight, preferably against followers of the other Chaos Gods.
RoC80s: There is some confusion over the Malal concepts. Was the image above a Malal concept sketch or not?
Tony Ackland:'That' s my note written by it, so it would be. I seem to recall it got used as a generic demon somewhere. Apparently it also fitted the description of a D&D beastie without resembling any of the TSR interpretations.
RoC80s: There is a huge amount of interest from fans in the Malal design philosophy. Do you recall how much concept work was done for the daemons and what the general feel of the model range might have been?
TA: The Wagner, Grant, Ewins strip never went beyond one or two episodes. Saying that the publication of the Journal/Compendium was erratic would be a massive understatement. So the ideas behind Malal were somewhat vague. But because it had been mentioned in the strip the view was that it should be included in the Warhammer/Realm of Chaos universe. I can't recall who was tasked with writing the background, but I had quite a free hand in the pictorial interpretation. As I remember it the main characteristic as one of Malevolence which gave rise to the name.
|Greater daemon of Malal, confirmed by the artist, Tony Ackland.|
RoC80s: If the image we are currently discussing is a lesser daemon. Does that make the second image the concept for a greater daemon of Malal? If so, it looks similar in many ways to the bloodletter design doesn't it? Also, can you recall if any concept work was done for beasts, creatures or steeds of Malal?
TA: By the second image you mean the one with MALAL written in the upper left hand corner and the number 372 lightly pencilled by it? If so that is the greater daemon. what we were going for was a similar feeling to Khorne but with added evil. But the copyright issue killed it off before we got that far. Actually I'm wrong the unpublished skull headed insectoid creatures were beasts of Malal but which is which I can't recall. It was during the process that the copyright issue surfaced. Interesting that none of the management actually mentioned that being the reason for Malal's removal at the time.
RoC80s: You have stated that an early concept of Malal was for a daemonic power more evil than Khorne. With the the Blood God seeped in violence, is it really possible that a deity could be more evil than the God of Skulls?
TA: One way to look at is that Khorne is WW2 Wehrmacht, Malal is WW2 SS.
- RoC80s: Were there ever any difficulties producing such horrific and violent concepts, such as Malal and Khorne, in the studio. Was your work ever censored in house?
- TA: There was one piece I did for Realm of Chaos Slaves to Darkness, it was of a artifact of Slaanesh which was censored. The objection being that it depicted individuals writhing around a staff having oral sex. Actually it showed no such explicit acts. I had obviously been too successful in implying such behaviour. I wish I still had the original. The flack over fantasy games persisted well into the nineties. I remember walking into Harlequin miniatures and being received with a lot of humour. They explained that the evening before a Reverend of some description had been declaiming the evils of fantasy games on a regional TV program. He produced a miniature of a chimera to illustrate the sort twisted minds that were behind the creation of such abominations. No prize for guessing the company that produced the miniature or whose twisted mind created it.
RoC80s: So were religious groups an issue during the creation of Realm of Chaos? As, around the same time that Slaves to Darkness was published, White Dwarf 102 printed this disclaimer on their contents page:
- "GW would like to make it quite clear that the Daemons referred to in the extract from Realms of Chaos are wholly fictional creations.They have no basis in reality whatsoever, and there is no intention to foster the belief to the contrary."
- Can you recall what prompted such a statement?
- TA: Back in the early days, the hysteria generated by elements of the religious community would have been treated as free publicity. By the time of Dark Future, GW was trying to promote itself as a serious business and was far more sensitive to a negative press. Particularly true as they were trying to expand in the US. One thing that most people are unaware of is that Imagine, the publication put out by TSR UK, was written and edited under the constraints of the US Comics Code.
And there we are. The story of Malal. His (or her) creation, the turbulent life of the character and its legacy. What I find strange is all the legal fuss about the character, especially with the blatant similarities of its champion with than of Elric ( a property that GW had rights to publish games and miniatures for). But hey, its all history.
Big thanks to Tony Ackland and Rick Priestley (once again) for the generous use of their time and memories.
Any thoughts or comments?