Slightly controversial post

Hi folks,

Note: This is a post about fluff, there will be spoilers about anything and everything in malifaux. If you don’t want any fluff spoiling, don’t read this post (until you’ve read at least the second edition book for malifaux).

Note 2: by the end of this post, vaguely 1/7th of the Malifaux community won’t like me. Given which seventh of the community it is, I class this as “acceptable losses” (not giving it away am I?)

As promised (or at least, hinted) this post is going to be about the fluff (background story) of Malifaux. Now I could have (and indeed, did) written a massive post about why I like different bits of fluff and blah blah blah. Unfortunately it turns out I can be incredibly dull (as I’m sure you’ve noticed). It was essentially a list of stuff, and I nearly died of boredom reading it through. So I thought to myself “how could I make this more interesting?”, “what’s the story behind the story?”, “what has no one else spotted?”, and then it struck me:

Bad fluff.

No one seems to talk about bad fluff. Either they are (massive generalisation) Wyrd fanboys (myself included) and gobble up whatever Wyrd kicks out, or they aren’t that bothered, and accept the fluff as one of the benign realities of life. Well that’s all about to change, as I tell you about the single worst bit of fluff I have ever (possibly) seen. OK, that’s a big statement, but seriously, I really don’t like this particular fluff. However, to get to the bad fluff, we need to take a lovely (if brief) walk down the streets of Malifaux, with their fantastic fluff, so let’s start there.

So various things happen with mages, alternate worlds, and graffiti-d bodies being thrown through holes in time and space, resulting in the present world of malifaux (told you it’d be brief). Mankind is interested in it because of these soulstones which harness the energy of death in a form which can be used to enhance their power.

However the powers that be don’t want soulstones falling into the wrong hands, and fortunately the governor of Malifaux has a lovely group of people called the guild, who will take care of us and make sure none of those nasty unsanctioned magic users can hurt us. As it happens though most of the key people working for the guild have their own Agendas, are horribly corrupt, or are  faceless monsters in disguise. There’s some fantastic fluff on this, my personal favourite bit being Sonnia’s stories, which accentuate the “being a little bit illegal to further my interests” aspect of the characters.

But who’re the guild protecting us from? Well there are two groups of people who aren’t too keen on the guild’s restrictions. The first group is the Arcanists. These are people who want to use magic and the power of these soulstones for their own purposes (perfectly good purposes, like a bit of fauna-fixing). They aren’t particularly keen on the law restricting what they can do, and a lot of their minions come from the militant side of the miners and steamfitters union (the general workers).

The second group are the resurrectionists, who’re sort of similar to the arcanists. They want to use magic and soulstones to improve their position in the world. It just happens that they’ve decided to do it by raising zombies to help them. The ressers, Seamus, Molly, and McMourning in particular, provide the comic relief to the background, with Seamus being a larger than life murderer, and McMourning always requiring his henchman, Sebastian, to cover up his necromantic tinkering… in the guild’s morgue.

While these three factions bicker among themselves for power, there are other, darker forces at work. When humans moved into the world of Malifaux, it wasn’t empty, and the locals aren’t best pleased with the intrusion. The Neverborn are these residents of Malifaux, fighting to take back their land, and infiltrating parts of the human societies for their own malicious reasons. They do a great job of providing the ever present threat from the shadows, making lightning ambushes, and pulling a lot of the strings (literally in some cases) in the background.

Finally there are 2 factions which I see as being fairly similar. There are the outcasts, a ramshackle group who, as their name suggests, are shunned by the rest of society. Many offer their services as mercenaries, but a number (such as never-vik and Jack Daw) have more malicious purposes. In contrast, the 10 thunders are openly welcomed into the other factions… because they’re spying, cheating, backstabbing, swines. They have infiltrated every group in Malifaux, and are setting them up for a fall from the inside.

…and then there’s a bunch of random little green guys living in a swamp miles from anything of interest to the story, who do their own thing and don’t interact with anyone.

Wait!? WHAT? There’s all of that fantastic backdrop of massive scheming, backstabbing, and shaky alliances, and then a totally distinct group of yokels living in the middle of nowhere shooting each other in the face?

Now I’m not trying to insult anyone’s work at Wyrd, but I can only imagine the conversation went something like this:

Person 1: “in warhammer, people seem to like whacky factions like the goblins, with their attacks which either work fantastically or backfire, general low stats, large numbers, being short, and being green… maybe we should have something like that?”
Person 2: “good idea, I wonder what characteristics they could have?”
P1: “Well first off, the key defining features that they’re whacky.”
P2: “Obviously, that’s the whole point of them, but how could we implement it?”
P1: “How about weapons which can be highly destructive, but can also backfire in a major way?”
P2: “That sounds great, oh, is it lunch time already? Maybe we should finish this later?”
P1: “We could just make them small, green, low in stats, high in numbers?”
P2: “Sounds good, I fancy a burrito…”

Now let’s just be clear here, my issue is not with the whacky/random nature of gremlins. Whacky is a formula which is proven to work in many games, and it works fairly nicely in Malifaux too. In the game, Gremlins offer something which no one else really does. However this is a fluff post, and in the fluff, gremlins offer nothing.

My issue is that gremlins simply do not feature in the grand story of Malifaux. There’s the malifaux fluff, this great grandiose backdrop with a huge web of intricacies… and then there’s the bayoufaux fluff and the two simply don’t interact.

Then there’s also the fact that the gremlins are trampling all over the ressers fluffy style territory. The ressers (particularly McMourning and Seamus) are the comedy characters of malifaux. They do a flippin’ good job of being the comedy characters of Malifaux. So why is there any need to tack this other group of comedy characters to the side of Malifaux? It’s not even a different type of comedy, they both provide basic slapstick laughs, getting into tight situations and escaping them with hilarious results… except that where the ressers are amusing, the gremlins are just bad…

So along comes the second edition book, and lo and behold, someone has made the catastrophic decision to make gremlins their own faction. My personal choice would have been to once again take your lead from GW, and their squats role model, and just cull them when you have the chance. Not to worry though, if gremlins have become their own faction, we’ll presumably find out how they fit into the malifaux story at last.

…oh wait, they have a chat with Zoraida, and squabble with the Ortegas… canonically, they’re still totally distinct from the whole of the rest of Malifaux.

I won’t even start on the Gremlin conversations, which take ages to read trying to figure out what the over-accented words are meant to be.

Conclusion
Gremlins are (in my humble opinion) an awful aside to a great storyline. No one would blame Wyrd if they just said “look, we made a mistake, just forget the gremlin fluff ever existed”. I’d be very interested for someone to show me how the gremlins fit into Malifaux. What am I missing? If I’m not missing anything, then why the *expletive deleted* do they still exist?

Hopefully next time it’ll be a little less ranty, but this is a rant which has been on my mind since I first discovered there were such things as Gremlins in Malifaux, and it had to be vented.

Until next time

Dave/sssk

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7 responses to “Slightly controversial post

  1. Interesting take on things, but I do agree that goblins/gremlins are generally not written very well. I have yet to read the m2e fluff (still waiting on a book) but I can sense where they are sitting from your post and it pains me as I love the Gremlins and their individual stories even if they never really interact with anyone but the Ortegas.
    Have you ever read the Freebooters Fate fluff, they have I believe the best way of showing goblins a funny but serious threat way (makes sense honest).

    Basic idea is that they are rodents/vermin that are an annoyance and nothing to worry about until something happens (in Malifaux’s case it should be when Somer gets the big hat) and they start to co-ordinate and threaten first outposts and then slowly start building momentum to become a serious problem on par with others.

    Now this is a pretty standard tale (WAAAAAGH! anyone? LoTR?) so perhaps Wyrd didnt go down the same route to be different BUT the idea of gremlins/goblin behaviour in a fantasy setting is too far ingrained in people that anything moving away from this doesnt feel right.

    Feels like the Gremlins need a break out moment perhaps Ulix will give them that moment Pig Charge!!

    (Sorry for the ramble)

  2. Interesting read. I think that I largely agree but was kind of expecting something different.

    I think for the question of if something is ‘bad’ fluff needs to first be asked in which way is it bad?

    In this instance I would argue that from day 1 the Gremlins have always been bad when considered as part of the over-arching storyline, but the individual articles I have yet to read, so can’t comment on them.

    Hmmm ok I’m getting ahead of myself, let me try another way:

    Let’s look at the Reserrectionists, they for in extremely well into the over arching storyline, and in Book 1 Seamus was extremely well written as a character of note.

    Let’s look at some of the recent fluff however, in particular the story where McMourning has to deal with those guild guards.

    I know from Twitter that this story was really well recieved, however I found that story as a piece of prose to be extremely poorly written.

    But of course this comes down to taste. I think you worded it right by saying that McMourning is slapstick, and to me he is portrayed no better than the Chuckle Brothers (who even as a child I hated).

    So in this example we have a character and faction who’s concept is both interesting and clever, but is implemented (in my opinion) in a clumsy amateur manner.

    So the question stands about how that compares to Gremlins. Their concept may be ill conceived, but personally if their stories were well written that would put them on a par with current incarnations of McMourning in my books.

    If the stories however were of the same quality, then that would mean they just sucked ass and should GTFO.

    Heh looks like you have another ramble reply πŸ™‚

  3. “My issue is that gremlins simply do not feature in the grand story of Malifaux.”

    … Yet. πŸ˜‰

    The thing to keep in mind is that while the original 5 had three books worth of story to establish themselves and the 6th had an entire book to themselves, the gremlins have only just become a faction in their own right. Thus far they’ve gotten one fluff piece, same as every other faction in the M2E book, so can you really be surprised that they’re not yet a major part of the overall story?

    That one story, however did exactly what you’d expect it to. It finally set the gremlins up as a united entity, with the promise of further big developments as the war begins.

    It was also the best story in the M2E book, so that got to count for something. πŸ˜‰

  4. Right. Let’s set the Bayou to rights.

    I’ll actually agree with you on one point. That’s Malifaux’s background. Like others have stated, the reason why those other faction’s fit in better is because they’ve had several years worth of development that Gremlins as their own faction, have not. Of course the groups that have had more written about them will feel more fleshed out. I remember when Book 1 was our only fluff and we had next to nothing about Nicodem. He seemed flimsy because we didn’t know anything about him. Heck, Collodi didn’t get any his own story until Book 4.

    But let’s take it further. Each of the other factions has a purpose in Malifaux, as you mentioned. I think this adds to their narrative weight because it gives them a stake in the city. Gremlins, although I think they have one (wanting to learn from humans or keeping their land), haven’t had their aims clearly expressed yet. All of this comes down to a matter of time. I think I remember on a podcast Mack mentioning that the Gremlins have a stake in the Old Malifaux plotline. Their Stone upgrade is called ‘The Guardian’ and gives the ability ‘Moment of Insight’ – alluding to something, don’t you think?

    Let’s stop defending them and state a case for why they belong in the game. Malifaux is sold upon being a game with a mixing pot of themes and styles. Gremlins are just another strand of that. Short, comedic races have been a staple of sci fi and fantasy lore for ages (Jawas, Hobbits, Fraggles etc) and the Gremlins are the Malifaux spin on that (that’s before you add in all of the other individual character parodies).

    By that fact, the Gremlins aren’t the only ones to be copying other material. How many times have people described Seamus as a mix of Joker, Jack the Ripper and Willy Wonka? The only reason why it is more apparent in the Gremlins is it is a central part of their character, whereas for everyone else it is not. Even your beloved beastmaster is a take on a character from fiction.

    Malifaux as a world, is a melting pot. It has shown that it can handle a wide mix of genres well. Why not comedy? Or American Frontier hicks? Some people get drawn to games due to the grim, gritty darkness of a setting. Whilst I enjoy that as much as the next gamer, I find my flavour of fluff tends to tilt towards the quirky. I like the darker aspects of Malifaux because of the mash of genres. Frankly, growing up on GW games makes any grim dark aspects of a setting a little bit tiresome. When I game to unwind, I want to play with something that could raise a smirk and the Gremlins do that perfectly.

    I also happen to really like cartoons. That might explain why I like the ‘funnier’ factions. My Mordheim gang is Halflings too, meaning I have a gaming thing for short people. Shh.

    Before looking at your own points in more detail, I think Gremlins deserve a spot in the game because of the factions’ fans. Obviously I’m biased but I’ve never seen a more die hard lot of Malifaux players since the game started. I reckon that’s why they got upgraded to a fully fledged faction in the first place.

    Bad fluff is a matter of opinion. If you want to play the opinion game, having Tina suddenly start ripping people apart in Book 3 was a bit sudden for me. But with that elusive time that Gremlins haven’t had to development, it all made sense in Book 5. Frankily, the core concept of several factions is a bit ‘ordinary’ if you ask me (Guild being cowboys, Ressers being the undead blokes) but people like different things. There are as many people who like these factions as their are people who’d like to see a crew led by an elderly barnyard animal.

    Looking more at the Arcanists, I personally think as a faction, they’re a bit all over the shop. There’s this central core of miners and machines that’s all very good, but then you have Tina/Marcus stapled onto the end. They’ve never adequately explained why they’re all in the same camp beyond them all just being wizards and hating the Guild just a little bit (quite frankly, who doesn’t). Whilst touching on faction cohesion, look at the Outcasts. Every other faction could see their masters working together. The Outcasts are grouped together precisely because they don’t fit together! If that couldn’t come off as lazy and flippant fluff writing, what couldn’t? If anything, the Outcasts are more cohesive now because they’re not forced into the same faction as the Gremlins.

    Guild caravans. Ortegas. Zoraida. The Event. City folk. Lucius. Ten Thunders.

    What have these groups/people/events got in common? Off the top of my head, they are all things that the Gremlins have interacted with between Books 1 and 4. Before they were a full faction. Your point about them ‘not interacting with others’ is invalid.

    I’m not going to kid myself by thinking that my post will convince you otherwise. Your entire article is dripping in the sense that you don’t like them, which is fine. It’s just a made up story behind toy soldiers after all. But hopefully it’ll make you understand my ire, why I think they do not ‘add nothing’ and saying they need to be squatted out of the system was a poor, flaming choice of words.

    Next time we’re both at an event, consider yourself grudge matched son.

  5. Hi folks,

    One thing before I go on. I have (as ever) made a “terminology” mistake, using the term “bad fluff”. What I meant by that was “Fluff I don’t particularly like/fluff which doesn’t fit with my idea of what Malifaux ‘is’ ” (ie bad fluff from my personal point of view), rather than the definitive term “bad fluff” which was a bad term to use. So apologies to all for causing upset there (if I did).

    Thanks for all the replies to what was always going to be a provocative post (as you may be able to tell from the writing style, it was designed to be provocative). And particularly thanks to the gremlin players who’ve been in touch via various media to give their points of view. For those who didn’t see there’s a shiny new blog http://blackswampbayou.blogspot.co.uk/ (I hope that hyperlinks properly) with an excellent response to the post.

    I think Dumb Luck and Rathnard hit the nail on the head in the responses here. Gremlins are relatively new (well, obviously they aren’t, but they’re new as a faction) and they’re still setting out their stall so to speak in the Malifaux fluff. You could see it as similar to the Song of Ice and Fire (“Game of Thrones”, for those nerds who aren’t nerdy in that particular way) plot line, where you have everything going on in the main continent, and then Daenerys doing her own thing on a totally different continent for the first however many books.

    ,,,Is it a coincidence that I’m not that keen on the whole Daenerys storyline? Maybe, maybe not.

    Anyway, I think Dumb Luck (and Kris in the above blog) set out well why Gremlins do fit into Malifaux, or at least are moving towards fitting in. Does that mean I like them all of a sudden? Sadly, not really, they’re still Daenerys to me. However, it has achieved everything which this blog is about. It’s here to make me enjoy Malifaux more (sorry folks, your entertainment is a secondary win condition), and now that I can see a bit more of what Gremlins are doing, I can enjoy their presence a bit more (as previously stated, I have no issue with them in game), and enjoy the fact that they have a place there for many, and maybe eventually, for me.

    As penance for being a bit “up front” I shall be playing a bit of that “ophelia wannabee”, perdita, next year (that’s as close to Gremlins as I’m willing to get).

    See you all next time. I’m still figuring out what the Christmas blog post will be. Need to find something special….

  6. Pingback: Beared-itorial | Miniature Musings of a Bear·

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