Friday, 13 September 2013

The Magic of Warhammer Third Edition: The Colleges of Magic

I always love this time of year.
The nights draw in, and this results in candles flickering on fireplaces, the roaring glow of the fire itself and the need to draw back the curtains a shut out the long night of winter. With a great deal less time spent outside, the opportunities for miniature projects increase. I am sure that the sight of the enthusiast, bent in concentration over his desk, warmed by the mellow light of the modelling lamp is a familar sight in your home.
It is in mine.
My family and I have lived through about six months of chaos. Building work, extensions, new jobs, young children... the works. Now, things seem to be settling down and getting back to normal. In fact, I am typing this at work, just before I head off to remove my vast lead collection from storage. Initially, I thought it would need to be store for a couple of weeks, but problems just dragged on and on and freeing my collection was right down at the bottom of my wife's priorities! Largely due to the success of the Oldhammer Weekend (my wife could see pictures of what we do, rather than the mess of miniatures that is my usual working space) she has authorised a new miniature painting storage area alongside the Welsh Dresser display I posted up a while back. I have a new desk, mini gaming table set up and she has even warrented a new computer/printer/scanner set-up so I can blog with greater ease then ever before!
At last! I'll update you, loyal followers, of my 'Oldhammer Area' once its set up. You shoudl also see lots of new painted models from me, including the Nightmare Legion, Foundry Bretonnians, the Marauder Giant and Old Spiney himself in the coming weeks!

Before I depart to the secret lead cave and remove the weighty boxes of old school goodness from their dust wreathed sheets, I want to talk about Gary Chalk. Now, if you are not aware of the man, here's a little video from his website that will enlighten you further.

As you will have seen, there are plenty of illustrations here that make you aware of his bright, distinctive style. In fact, his style is so distinctive that he deserves to sit alongside the likes of Ackland, Blanche and Miller for his contribution to early Games Workshop (Livingstone/Jackson and Ansell eras) though, of course, his work is in no way gRiMdArKtm so hasn't a hope in hell of being mentioned or refered to in the mainstream GW hobby these days. One of the images shown on the video is that of a wizard casting a spell. This image is important to the nature of today's post, namely the rather unknown articles published across WD113-114 about magic in Warhammer '80s style.
What follows is a major article (or should that be articles?) that give us the most indepth look at magic in Warhammer Third Edition, with details about Colour Magic, the Colleges, New Spells for games of Third Edition and plenty more. All richly illustrated by Gary Chalk himself. Now, this article has been a bit of a mystery to me for some years. It is just so different to everything else that ever appeared in the magazine, partly due to the art style. Now, we know that there were several projects (most notably Confrontation) that were initially intended to be supplement released, but later saw publication in White Dwarf. Could these pages reflect something to do with magic that never saw the light of day? Or perhaps material that was part of the cancelled 'Realms of Sorcery' project to support Warhammer Third and WFRP in the later '80s? Who knows, but what we get is a wonderful article full of old school wonder. Additionally, its is interesting to note how the background has changed regarding the nature of magic in the Warhammer world and how the colleges have developed. Now, I won't spoil this for readers, I'll just leave you to enjoy the articles, but if you have an opinion about what you have read, please do share it below.


  1. I remember this well. As far as I know, it came out of a conversation between John Blanche and Bryan Ansell and was created by decree from above.

    It had something to do with the theory of the colour wheel in art, I think - I could never make head nor tail of it myself, and I don't think I was alone there although that was not a healthy opinion to express in the GW Design Studio at that time so I can't be sure.

    It was not part of any pre-existing work for Realm of Sorcery. Ken Rolston was working on a draft of RoS a little before this came out (if memory serves) and it stalled afterward.

    1. "I could never make head nor tail of it myself"

      The colour wheel in art or the colour wheel in warhammer magic? :)

  2. Interesting stuff! The background of the eight colours and colleges (and more) seems a bit better thought out and dare I say it - deep - than what I've read since sixth ed. And amethyst wizards have changed a bit, ain't they?

    The in-game effect against wizards of an adjacent colour is nifty, but especially intriguing against non-wizard units. I wonder if that had any bearing on the background of the Empire provinces and their particular colours? Be interesting to see how it'd affect current background and games if it was suddenly wedged back in.

  3. Very nice ! Hey Orlygg, you should try to get a full interview with Gary. When I was a kid his work for the "Lone Wolf" book series was one of the reason I became a gamer in the first place. I had an extremely limited understanding of English back then, but his drawings had that "magical quality" that drawn you right in the story. Years later, I bought Rackham's Cadwallon rulebook solely for his stuff. He should publish an art book or something.

  4. Thanks for posting this!
    I wasn't aware the color mages were ever part of 3rd... I thought they were solely in later editions.
    I probably saw these articles but that was long before I began playing WFB and around that time I was having a bit of an anti-magic phase... so I paid it no attention and went on reading about Space Hulk.

  5. Up to my old tricks, new URL for Snickit's Tail is put the word out please!

  6. I purchased a 2nd hand copy of the "Fantasy Warlord" rulebook, more for the illustrations and artwork, than for the rules themselves. I really Gary Chalks unique style, so thank you for writing a little bit aboutt his work, in your blog.

  7. Thx Orlygg for the nice art pics. I have Fantasy Warlord here at home although never played it.
    The article about the colleges of magic is great. In my opinion the older way of presenting background material is more apealing (well anyway it is to me). The old material was more a try and tweak. So not as strickt as in later versions of warhammer and I really like it. It give you more ways of building you wizard and the forces he was with.

  8. Very interesting, especially with how much is still in place and those parts of it that have changed