Sunday, 30 October 2016

WFRP'd: Tony Ackland's hidden GW portraits in the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay rulebook

The author of this blog with the Grand Master of Chaos himself.
Here is a short and very sweet post in part of my WFRP'd series, celebrating 30 years of the seminal Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. As many enthusiasts have pointed out, nothing conveys the look and feel of the Warhammer World in 1986 like Tony Ackland's artwork. As the prime illustrator of so much of the early Warhammer mythos, his work illuminates the world we love like no other. The sweeping landscapes, the grimy backstreet taverns and the dank, desolate dungeons of the Old World spring to life (stirring our imaginations with myriad possibility) with each stroke of his pencil. 

Having had the pleasure of meeting this remarkable man several times now, I consider myself privileged to have spent some hours in his company. He is very much a walking, talking version of one of his wizardly drawings. The long beard, the twinkling eyes and the chaotic cackle that serves as his laugh. He remains a man of endless story, absentminded genius and anarchic, subversive humour. 

These elements are often present in his work, if you know where to look. If you get the chance to spend any time with Mr. Ackland and he has his portfolio of work with him you can expect detailed explanations for each piece. Some of these explanations reveal trinkets of knowledge that will fascinate the enthusiast of Old School Warhammer, others will reveal amusing anecdotes of life in the Design Studio and the (sometimes rather dubious) goings on in the background of things. 

At other times they reveal what modern folk call 'Easter Eggs', little hidden facts and tributes in artwork and background, often secreted away in pieces of work we have been familiar with for decades. When these hidden secrets are revealled to us those pieces of work suddenly take on a new and unexpected light. 

I have three such pieces for you today! 

All of us are probably familiar with the careers section of the WFRP. If you were anything like me, you'd spend hours perusing through the entries imagining characters with prolific careers in agitating, tomb robbing or coach driving. For me, it was the sheer normality of so many of the careers that made them so appealing, you could imagine people like this living in a fantasy world far more than a bunch of longhaired tight wearing men with impossibly white teeth. 

It was the artwork that accompanied these careers that would often fire the imagination, with some of the illustrations speaking more about that career path than any amount of text could. Well it seems that a number of these illustrations were caricatures of well know Citadel staff. Tony Ackland explained to me:

TA: "There was Richard (Hal) Halliwell as a beggar, Rick Priestley as a scribe, John Blanche as a cripple, and Bryan Ansell as I can't recall what. Richard Ellard was a cleric wearing the amulet of the double Volkswagen. He had two Golfs at the time. John Stallard was also featured. I can't recall any others offhand."

Now, Tony still has three of these caricatures in his possession and I can share then here with you thanks to him.

Rick Priestley the scribe. I love the tiny xerox gag on the edge of the table. 

The double Volkswagen endowed Richard Ellard masquerading as a cleric.

The mighty John Blanche brought low as a cripple. 
As for Bryan Ansell, Richard Halliwell or John Stallard I have yet to discover which illustrations they may be. Or indeed if any other GW alumni lurk amongst the pages of WFRP waiting to be discovered. 

Perhaps YOU dear reader could be of help? Get flicking through that rulebook!

Thanks to Tony Ackland for his contributions to this post. 



  1. That drawing of R. Priestly is one of my favourites in all of Mr. Ackland's huge body of work. I love how his feet barely touch the ground.

    Until now, I've never noticed the writing on Priestly's desk. It appears to read "Rank Xerox" (??). Is that some sort of dis for a scribe?

    Anyway - great post - thanks for sharing!

  2. Rank Xerox is a old company for office equipment...

  3. I think that Bryan Ansell may be the axe wielding berserker under the Frenzied Attack skill.

  4. The reason for the words are that first word processor we had at Citadel was a Rank Xerox. It was a huge piece of kit and printing was accomplished by choosing one of three daisy wheels. The one advantage over the electric typewriter was the on screen editing.

  5. I collected all the gags and in-jokes (that I knew of) for Warpstone, the leading WFRP fanzine ( "Secrets of the Warhammer Artists" appeared in issue #6 and "Secrets of the Warhammer Writers" (with help from Phil Gallagher") in issues #14-15.

    1. I miss Warpstone, it was always entertaining.

  6. I had no idea abou it! Thank you!