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:
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.
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