Tuesday 28 October 2014

Acceptable in the '80s: The Lost and the Damned

Acceptable in the '80s is my attempt to review (or at least just comment on) every release during the lifetime of Warhammer Third Edition. By following these links you can read all about Warhammer Third EditionWarhammer Siege, Warhammer Armies and Slaves to Darkness but now it is the turn of, perhaps, the most iconic of them all...

The Lost and the Damned.

In my opinion, the Warhammer rulesets released between 1987 and 1990 are the definitive ones. Not because of any particular sleekness of play or rules mechanic but for the sheer originality and scope of the vision. It was here that all the background and creative development peaked. It was also an attempt at a coherent game, with the rules, army-lists and other supportive material all produced at roughly the same time. It was to be a complete package.

Recently, I have read the writings of gamers who approach these books with a similar attitude as they approach any other edition. Let's call this the 'modern view' of the game. I expect you will have too. Quite often, they totally (and I really do mean TOTALLY) miss the point. They instantly latch on to the more powerful spells (I wont use overpowered, because nothing is actually overpowered in the game if the GM crafts the scenario) and 'prove' the game to be broken by suggesting you field three wizards all with Summon Daemon and Vortex of Chaos spells in your army. 

Some even have a go at playing such a game. Though they seem to struggle to find any real satisfaction with the result, leaving some a little bit baffled about what the fuss is all about. The Lost of the Damned seems to be the book out of all of those produced in the 1980s to be singled out for scathing remarks about be overtly powerful, but bloggers, gamers and avid forum bashers are still keen to point out that despite their misgivings, they still hold the book in a very high regard.

But what makes it such an iconic book? Is it the famous cover, which as been used and reused ever since? Or perhaps its the nature of the material inside - with the gods of Nurgle and Tzeentch having the little bit longer in the development cycle to get them just right? 

In my opinion, both of these points of view are fair ones to make. Though it has its detractors, like any piece of artwork, the power of Les Edwards cover painting cannot be denied. The ranks of horrific Nurglesque (remember when adjectives like this were used?) followers wading through filth overlooked by the gigantic form of Nurgle himself is still one of the most remarkable images ever produced for a GW product. Ever.

In the process of maintaining this blog and exploring the background of later 1980s Games Workshop, I have uncovered a fair few gems of information, and the Lost and the Damned is no different. One of the more interesting finds was Les Edwards views on the painting of this classic cover, including many WIP shots of the artwork. Though not quite on topic, but the same could also be said for the Slaves to Darkness cover too, complete with a 'missing' warrior in the painting!

Within the pages of the classic publication, Blood and Iron, Les Edwards discusses the painting of the Lost and the Damned in quite a bit of detail. There is a link to the complete article below the extract I have presented here.

"As a Chaos Power, Nurgle can appear in any form so I thought it a good idea to give him a few more horns. He was to dominate the picture, but be distant at the same time. So I decided he would be sitting on a pile of bodies (but as it will be seen, this idea got rather lost.) Having drawn the rough to the proportions required and allowed space for the type, I then had to await the client's approval and suggestions. These suggestions concerned Nurgle's symbol on the banners, and some changes to the foreground figures to ensure that they fit neatly into the Games Workshop Universe.
        I was trying to use strong colours, but at the same time to keep a feeling of rot and decay. Much of the rust on the central Chaos Warrior and the armour of the Space Marine is bright orange straight from the tube, applied in patches over the previous coat of reddy-brown. The left hand side of the painting I kept fairly shadowy and vague so that it would not draw the eye away from Nurgle. In repainting the water, I made sure to keep it a strong yellow, as I was beginning to feel that the lower part of the painting was becoming rather grey. There is not a great deal of colour in the figures, but I felt that bright blues or greens would be unsuitable for Nurgle's horde. Apart from a few minor details, I finished the rest of the picture before at last turning to Nurgle himself."
        At this point I was reasonably happy with Nurgle's apparent distance and size. I felt that I would be able to keep these aspects unchanged if I kept his lower half a little vague and misty and put plenty of texture and detail on the top part. My natural urge was to make him very indistinct, but as he was to be the focus of the illustration, this was not appropriate. This half and half approach seemed a reasonable compromise, but it meant, of course, that what was meant to be a pile of bodies at Nurgle's feet, became a vague mass."

Les Edwards

Art aside, what of the background material? Well the material published in the book is equal too, if not surpassing, the material published in Slaves to Darkness. As before, we are lead through a detailed journey into the daemonic worlds of Nurgle and Tzeentch, complete with descriptions of their realms within the Chaos Wastes and a bestiary of their daemons and armies. The layout is very different however, being somewhat more spartan than Slaves but included among the pages is a wellspring of fiction writing that really helps bring the subject matter to life. These extracts and very short stories are written by varied hands, and include classic writing from Rick Priestley and Bill King.

One thing that is never really explained are the inspirations for the ideas behind the Realm of Chaos books themselves. Not that we should expect such things in any work of fiction but it is still interesting all the same to know how these projects we enjoy were put together. Thankfully, I asked Bryan Ansell about his recollections concerning the creation of the Chaos background material and he had quite a few interesting points to make. 

Nurgle is an "actual" god (honest). 

Nergal is a Babylonian god who goes back to prehistoric times: he was still around to be worshipped by the Assyrians. I changed the spelling because I thought that "Nurgle" was more amusing. Also, it could be the sound of a death rattle, or air being expelled from a rotting, putrescent carcass. Nergal is god of death, disease and pestilence. Also god of war and ruler of the underworld (or sometimes his wife is). As he's been around for a very long time his attributes have changed back and forth over the years. I'm sure he's extremely pleased that we are still thinking of him. Perhaps with all this attention we might eventually conjure up a physical manifestation.
Tzeentch was meant to be the sound of a spell blasting out. Like in a Dr Strange comic. It also has a sort of Aztec feel: which goes with the feathers and the bright pastel colours.

Bryan Ansell

As I pointed out earlier, one thing that strikes home when you compare the two Realm of Chaos books is the difference in the layout and artistic styles. Slaves to Darkness feels much more coherent and I had often wondered at why there was such a dramatic difference between the two publications. This puzzlement was further confounded by the discovery of unpublished material from the Realm of Chaos books, and especially this intriguing sketch that closely resembles the 'face off' page in Slaves to Darkness were the forces of Khorne and Slaanesh are arrayed against each other in overview.

Especially considering that an equivalent image does not appear in The Lost and the Damned! When I was given the opportunity to interview Tony Ackland I couldn't help inquire after his recollections of this particular aspect of the book design.

Originally there was only going to be one book.  So the initial compositions for the various daemon header sections were designed to be compatible.  The plan had been that vast majority of the artistic work would be up to Ian Miller and myself with occasional artwork from various freelancers.   What then happened was that too much text was generated (a ratio of text to illustration had been established at the beginning of the project) for one volume.  So it was decided to make it a two volume project. 

After the completion of Slaves to Darkness it was necessary to return to other projects that had been put on the back burner.  So effectively the Lost and the Damned was a less focused project.  In the intervening time Ian became involved in other things and the studio grew and more artists were employed, the result being that the initial vision was somewhat diluted.

Tony Ackland

Though diluted, The Lost and the Damned remains a very well sought after book. In fact, I know hardcore Oldhammer gamers who don't own a copy at all and some who won't even view one of the commonly available pdfs of the publication as they are waiting, one day, to experience it as it was intended to be read. So this leads us on to the question of 'how much is LatD' actually worth?' If you are sitting there reading this blog, your soul fired with nostalgic need to own a copy, what is a realistic price to pay?

Even in the pre-Oldhammer days when I was trying to hunt down all the old books I had wanted as a youth, it was hard to get hold of LatD for less than £70. I mean, Siege and Armies were picked up pretty cheaply in about 2008, not that I can remember what I spent on them, but I doubt it was more than a tenner. I was lucky, and managed to score a near mint copy of LatD a couple of years ago for £57, which I thought was a real steal, considering I was losing to auctions exceeding £100.

£100 is still the average price of getting your hands on a copy of this book, though I have seen cheaper and more expensive sales. And I wonder if the expense of the book has also contributed to its iconic status. One thing worth pointing out here is the fact that unlike all of the other WFB3 books, the Lost and the Damned only got a single print run as far as I know and subsequently, there are a lot less editions out there for collectors to buy compared to all the others.

But what do you get if you lay your money down and bite the bullet (or should that be prod the pustule?) and make the change, adding the classic book to your collection. Well truth be told, a great deal more than just the Nurgle and Tzeentch stuff. So to finish off this post I am going to do a little photo journey through some of the lesser known but fascinating parts of the book.

One of the pieces of background that I loved about the Lost and the Damned is the section about the Dark Tongue. It is essentially the language of chaos and can be used to add inscriptions to models, banners and scenery. Its not something that I have used much, though I have seen many models in Bryan's collection that seem to have markings similar to those shown in the book. There is a lot of scope here to do various things in the future I think.

See this famous Adrian Smith beastman image? It has a slightly indistinct inscription upon its blade, though there is nothing strange about that, surely?
That is until you use the Dark Tongue (the written language of chaos) to decipher it. Have a look here at the solution and its NOT for the faint of heart!
This overview double page spread is excellent and can be found as soon as you open up the book. All the rules condensed down into easy to use chunks. I often just play off this and forget much of the other detail. Very useful indeed. 
Now this is an excellent article. It is an expanded version of the narrative gaming rules that were published in WD way back when. These are an Oldhammer GM's dream and have a great number of tables to generate plots or even sub-plots for your campaigns. There is even a suggestion about hosting a one-side game. Basically, two players verses a GM. Marvelleous stuff!
There are also full rules to create your own daemons, either as part of the WFRP or RT systems, or for your Warhammer games. The modelling guide for creating these daemons is very interesting and creative. 
Though not as eye popping as the painted presentations from Slaves to Darkness, there are some incredible models on show within the pages of this book. Here we see a beautifully spread of painted daemons from Tzeentch and Nurgle. 
And finally, its well worth mentioning the incredible background articles that delve deep into the Rogue Trader universe. So much detail in fact that despite nearly 30 years of stealing ideas from the Realm of Chaos books, there is still loads of material that seems fresh and new.
So to conclude, The Lost and the Damned remains an iconic book and is probably the mst sought after written publication from the 1980s golden age. Though expensive, getting hold of the book with very much worth it for the treasure trove of information and gaming ideas that it holds within. Many other writers on the subject have gone as far as stating that LatD (as well as its sister book, Slaves to Darkness) best illustrate the creative peak of British fantasy gaming. There has simply never been anything like them before nor since, and I really do doubt that they will ever be surpassed by GW or any other company.

So, do you have any thoughts about The Lost and the Damned? Do you think it deserves its status as the ultimate Warhammer book? Have you bought a copy over the last copy of years?

Your thoughts and stories need sharing.



  1. Where do you get the price from? The average for sold listings on ebay is around £60 to £70, maybe a little more.

    1. About five years experience watching third edition books selling across a variety of websites and forums.

    2. I just bought the two books for £80. I am extremely chuffed, but they are still to be delivered. The seller was very keen to point out that, even though they are both in very good overall nick, there are two pages ripped out of LatD and one from StD. I think I can live with that! It does mean that I now have two copies of StD...

  2. Like you I hunted for a while before getting a hold of LatD for a very reasonable price. You can still score bargains on eBay but you've got to be patient...

    I love the daemon generation system and rules for making your own patron power with their complete bestiary of servants. There's random daemon generation systems in WFRP and the 40K RPGs but it focuses on the four major powers only, with "nonaligned" daemons being forced to be minor only. Here you can spit out whatever bonkers stuff you want and the rules will help you out which I really appreciate.

    I do find the army lists a little underwhelming though. There's something delightfully quaint about the old school "units in a box with picture" army list for me which lets me know I'm in an old-school book, whereas the Nurgle and Tzeentch lists just feel like generic army lists from any point in the last 20 or so years. The 40K lists seem particularly underwhelming to me - I think the Emperor's Children and World Eaters get a lot more detail in them than the Death Guard and Thousand Sons, and the 40K entry for wizards reused Advanced Heroquest art (or is it the other way round?) seems to cap off a weak section of the book.

    The fluff at the start with the dark tongue is ace, though, and of course the book gives us the Star Child rules which adds a fun twist for those interested in a narrative campaign without necesarilly wanting to be a gibbering evil of chaos.

    1. I'm quite into the series-of-randomly-generated-retinues-for-champions way of building lists, with units selected to tie into whatever emerges from that process or because I happen to like them. The Slaves to Darkness lists feel more... regimented, I suppose, less Chaos-ish, although I would have liked to see Possessed Space Marines and the other options of such ilk in the Lost and Damned ones. I do take your point about the boxes though; LatD feels vague, a disparate collection of great ideas that doesn't quite coalesce down into solid gameable stuff. But then, I did have a lot more fun making my Lost and Damned list for my own blog...

  3. When I got hold of LatD back when it was published, for me it started my falling out of love with Warhammer. As George Quail notes above, the army lists were a main factor. Armies and Slaves to Darkness had these nice boxes for each type of unit, and this nice lay-out was abanded in LatD. Moreover, while Slaves to Darkness still supported WFRP quite a lot, I think this was far less the case in LatD. The cross-over potential between WFB and WFRP was one of the main attractions of Warhammer in my gaming group during the late eighties/early nineties.
    Hence, I see LatD more as a prelude of what was to come in WFB4, rather than a solid addition to WFB3. I always liked Slave to Darkness much more, because indeed it felt more coherent, while LatD always looked more like a collection of WD articles.

    1. Some very interesting points made by the last few comment makers. The difference between the two RoC books is quite profound, though the actual content is just as rewarding to get stuck into. One problem that LatD has, when compared with Slaves, is that it is the second book. Slaves was the first and had that major, major impact and well Lost had to waddle in years later in its wake. It could never be as sensational as the first. Secondly, LatD was also a bit of a victim of changes in the studio. Realm of Chaos was Bryan Ansell's big project that he was very keen on getting right. By the time that Lost was published, he was becoming less involved in the process of design.I think it shows.

  4. I wrote a whole essay just about one of the Adrian Smith drawings in LatD http://dndwithpornstars.blogspot.com/2012/11/why-is-this-picture-so-good.html

    1. And I just read it. Very, very interesting.

  5. I have the same thoughts on LatD that a couple of other posters have noted re the average layout and lack of focus. It just isn't as tight a tome as StD is. Having said that it still has some fantastic moments - the minis as always are cool as is the artwork and fiction. It is worth having even if one has to pay pretty top dollar for it.

    1. Its even better when you get your hands on a copy for next to nothing, I guess! (:

  6. Where do I begin? When I started out in my Warhammer collecting I was down for the Skaven. Over the years I’ve amassed a rather large force, I had always collected Chaos on the side though. When the Slaves book was first release I was all over it. I collected every mini I could get my hands on. I read that book over and over. The 40K side really had no impact on me. I was a fantasy player. So for me it was a waste of paper from the start.
    When LatD was released that was it. I was a complete follower of Nurgle. Actually I had fallen into Nurgle’s grasp from WFRP, but it was the original prerelease photos of the Nurgle Minis in one of the WDs that sealed my fate. Again, the 40K side was of little importance for me, but by this time I had started collecting 40K Chaos so it had some merits. The LatD is by far my favorite of the two books. In fact I love every part of it until I get to page 184. Yep! 184. I HATE the stupid a$$ Star Child! To me that has always been a complete waste of space. Here I am all these years later and I’m still going over these book. I still write up armies from them. I know them like the back of my hand, and yet, I still to this day haven’t read the full pages for the Star Child. It has always seemed out of place to me. You have the write ups for Nurgle and Tzeentch, Magic, Rewards, War Bands, Scenarios, Painted Minis, other races (Beastmen, Minotaur, etc.),Dark Tongue, History of Chaos in the 40K universe, Chaos Marine war bands, beautiful art work, and then, BAM!!! The Star Child. After that you’re gently caressed with another of Steve Tappin’s awesome drawings for the Armies lists. From that point on its business as usual. Fantasy followed by 40K armies and war bands. Where the F’ did the Star Child come from?! It serves no purpose other than fill space. I would rather have seen a larger painted minis section or a battler report using the new army lists, or, better yet, an expanded magic section with different magic items. Or even a reworking of the daemon weapons, but the Star Child? Absolute rubbish.

    1. Most people who speak about the Sensai stuff always do in a hushed voice of reverence. So its refreshing to hear a different point of view concerning this little piece of old school background. If things had go in a different direction and the creative team had been guided by Bryan for a few more years I often wonder what else would have emerged and how the little ideas like the Star Child may have been developed.

    2. Please don't get me wrong on these things. I just find the whole Sensai story out of place in the LatD. I LOVE the old Chaos books. They have been a part of me for so long. I purchased my books back on their original release dates. I've continued to go over them for the last 25+ years. Almost daily. The LatD cover art is my wall paper. I have the PDF versions of the books currently open on my PC as I write this. With each new Chaos release I go over it to see what was taken from the original books. Which GW seems to do with each new writing of Chaos. As for my minis, here is a link to one of the models I converted and painted back in the early 90' that you might enjoy.


      Oddly, I painted this after I moved back to the States from England. I didn’t do a lot of painting while I lived in the UK. Strange? I really need to start taking more pictures of my old school figs.
      out of place.

      P.S. Love this site!

  7. Astonishingly, having lost my contributor's copies in a housefire years before, some random visitor to the Luton GW store walked in and gave me copies of both, which he didn't want. They're safe in my loft!!
    Always shocked at how much people are paying for copies now!!
    I mean. for only £200 you could own this
    Ink pen and wash on paper 21cm x 24.5cm original from this very book...not a copy, the real thing!!

  8. I got my copies for a quid each at a wargames show bring & buy. :P

    Other than the less consistent visual feel than the first volume, the thing that dissapointed me were the 40k army lists. Slaves To Darkness had specifically World Eaters and Emperor's Children army lists. This book had Nurgle and Tzeentchian renegades, which included some Chaos Space Marine units.

    The 2nd edition WFRP Tome of Corruption is a worthy successor, I think; the descriptions of what happens when a Greater Daemon is summoned (with effects on the environment for miles around) really drive home how dreadfully powerful those things are.

  9. Listed my copies of both on eBay today if anyone is interested in the UK