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Highborn Elf Aesthetic Advice on T9A

Shared some tips for T9A team, since art informs miniatures. There are lots of things to improve upon with the GW Elves, if one is willing to tap into more Lotrish reference sources as well. Copy-pasted just in case it is of interest for anyone around here.

Anyone with ideas for improving artwork designs or suchlike in fantasy, with GW Warhammer designs as a starting point, should share their ideas over on the Ninth Age. They're still in early steps. Many factions, many opportunities to influence the future course of the ship...

Use of Different Shield Designs for Highborn Elves

Scalemail Highborn Elf Design

Use of Swans and Dolphins in Highborn Elf Designs

Use of Abstract Symmetric Heraldry Devices for Highborn Elves
I'm presuming the links are all dead for anyone who isn't a member of the forum.

If people are looking to redesign the highborn elves (presuming that's High Elves), you need look no further than 5th Ed.  For pretty much all races actually.


Whilst I can't see these, I think unicorns, griffons and Dragons are all valid ideas.
Ah, damn. They've got member-only forum areas now that you mention it. Problem is, their site writes in strong [lexicon][/lexicon] tags and other random stuff, so it can be a hassle to clear all those out from a longer post when copy-pasting to other sites. Might fix this later by that route and just copying the posts into this one.

Yep, those creatures are all valid. But since they're already part of the GW High Elf palette I didn't touch on them. T9A started as a Warhammer legacy movement, but can become more than that. Happy
Shot them a proposal on Avras in T9A. If you've got any ideas of your own, then join in that thread.

Originally posted here.

One way to reinforce the non-Human impression of Highborn Elves, is to break away from long-standing real life Human design forms in architecture, urban planning, landscape architecture and the like. Stark and simple geometric designs are standard when Humans map out buildings and street networks: There are squares, rectangles, circles, octagonals and a combination of such simple geometric forms. Parallell lines are a favourite.

Fictive Elves on the other hand usually go well along with flowing lines, leaf forms, wave forms, perhaps simplified shapes borrowed from bottle-nosed dolphins, birds such as swans, swallows or eagles, and other elegant creatures and plants. In order to set Elves apart, one would expect that this plays true not only in surface decor but often also in the layout of buildings, gardens, streets, canals, road networks and modified landscapes (perhaps surrounding a mansion). One wouldn't expect Elves to resort to a mere gridwork, since that would be for Dwarves in their simpler moments or Humans when they can bother to even make an effort at urban planning. Instead, one would expect the layout of Elven cities, villages, farmed landscapes and so on to share some elements from their ornamental patterns.

Below are some quick experimental doodles to try out some of the proposed design principles, depicting map details of Elven roads or street networks, or perhaps canals? Nothing refined and perhaps nothing worth using, but maybe something to get the ball of imagination rolling:

And this doesn't even touch on such things as walkways, fountains, potential street lights, possible elegant and sweeping mosaic patterns inlaid into the road/street pavement, flanking statues, greenery and ways in which surrounding terraces, triumphal arches, buildings, bridges between towers and topography play into the overall impression of which this 2D layout is only a part. One would expect Elven urban planning and architecture to produce an artistic effect both on the ground and on the map. Likwise, Elven settlements would often be expected to make dramatic or soothing use of the landscape, often but not always favouring climbing heights or rolling hills over mere flatness, perhaps remodelling the landscape where necessary to better please their eyes (though not necessarily the cart-drivers!).  Within reason, Elven practicality would probably often be adapted around the artistic layout of towns, buildings or roads, rather than the other way around. (Related to a fondness for slim, tall towers which look nice but leave a lot of walking up steps to reach a room.)  And often, quirky features that would seem and act as an unnecessary minor hassle in the middle of a street's flow to Humans, would have the Elven denizens long since being used to it, forming their traffic behaviour around it in seeming harmony, even if the solution is pragmatically suboptimal.

One source of inspiration could be Elven patterns like this or this. Another could be natural forms, for example a whole city whose street map forms an eagle in flight seen from the side; some kind of flower or leaf; a street network mimicking a tree branching out; or something mulilayered such as a city wall and main street map which hints at a proud, rearing horse head with throat (symbolizing victory, rising power and shining splendour), while inside this, the canal network running up from the harbour resembles a stylized kneeling Elf maid crying in sorrow, standing for loss, decline and fading glory.

Just some tips for T9A artists and background writers. With fantasy Elves, the sky is the limit. You might want to take the chance for some daring novelties.

A somewhat hasty concept map to illustrate some of the above proposals, drawn in the same quick manner and with the exact same type of felt pens which I drew city maps with as a child. Note that everything is simplified (e.g. no walkways or topography or statues), and even where the base of a building might have an odd form, the rest of the building might turn out to flow into more mundane shapes. Roads might have turned out broader than they should be since those were drawn first. Note also that the length of city wall to man and defend could have been shortened considerably with a different layout around the present head and wingtip section, but Elves aren't about minimalist practicality, Elves are about dashing beauty first and foremost ("The unadorned life is not worth living"), to which their practical solutions then have to take shape around.

My brother proposed a better city map based on an eagle shape, namely something with wings like this, where the empty space between wings and head is the city's harbour, easily sealed off by giant harbour gates at the wingtips.

Note also that this concept city have a lot of untouched marshlands close by. Elves, being resistant to sickness, would not find swamps to be an unattractive waste of productive land and den of pestilence. Rather, they would find their natural beauty appealing, not least for all the swarms of birds nesting thereabout.

As you can imagine, a lot of buildings would be tall and towering structures, meaning that a small footprint on the ground doesn't say anything about the actual space. Likewise, cellars, sewers and underground grain stores and reservoirs are not touched upon at all. A lot of roads and walkways would probably have sparse and elegant mosaic patterns inlaid into them. The military harbour is just a close copy of Carthage's. In the end, one would expect Elven cities to take on different forms than Human ones, given the different and more artistic mindset of Elves as well as the prevalence of high towers and ridden flying creatures mean that any noble worth his salt would like his city to have an appealing layout, whether mimicking the shape of objects or creatures, or having a street network based upon prismatic patterns or something else completely.

Rules of thumb:

Wide streets
Don't squash buildings together cheek by jowl
Flowing roads
Stud it with fountains like gems
Grids are for Dwarfs

Woah, that's nice!!

Kegiz Gavem: Ethiopian Dwarves of Light

Rapidly pasted-together reference board, if real life Ethiopian inspiration is sought:

Shotel sickle sword for some Gavemite guard unit? Quick sketches drawn while eating Italian meat (catch the reference). The headcrest could represent blazing sunbursts, as do the shield ornaments. If one was to keep the barefoot part (even Ethiopian noblemen walked and rode barefoot into the 19th or 20th centuries), then perhaps there is a religious significance: It would be unseemly to tread the ground lit and warmed by the judging sun on high with anything but your own soles of flesh. Partake of the sun's blessed gifts. If nothing else, we note that Dwarven Holders and Infernal Dwarves as a rule always have shoes and boots (Seekers aside), so Kegiz Gavem manning up to walk barefoot sets them visually apart.

Spearman with head of fresh Feral Orc victim. Filthy heathens! Cleanse them from the sacred sight of the brilliant sun. No, body proportions have never been a strong card of mine:

Onward from devout but ultimately sinful foot soldiers to holy men of war and deepest piety. Barefoot knight? If shoes and sandals are to be used by Gavemites, then perhaps their paladins eschew footwear to trample unwarded on thorns and brambles, not to speak of ants, serpents, hot coals and grotesquely sharp obsidian shards strewn out by Infernal Dwarf hosts' sadistic Hobgoblin scouts. All endured as a penance and test of faith in full witness of the divine light on high. Paladin of Kegiz Gavem, possibly in ceremonial attire if heavier armour should be the battle norm:

Should any inspiration be gleaned from Nubia to the north? Yes or no to gunpowder weapons and advanced mechanics?

Would Kegiz Gavem's ships be of the sewn variety, kept together by ropes not nails, as was the case with ancient Egyptian and Aksumite vessels and boats in general at the Horn of Africa until recently, just of more immense fantasy scale? In real life, Aksum's navy must have been important for its dominance of overseas province in Yemen. And to borrow a page from that book, how about some holy righteousness-fuelled wars over trade routes, local minerals and luxury goods such as myrrh and frankincense against Infernal Dwarf settlers and traders and warlords?

Note that Kegiz Gavem's lines of communication over the Southern Ocean could be much faster and better than trudging Infernal Dwarf overland routes (unless they, too, sport considerable harbour facilities and fleet forces in the Southern Ocean, which are able to outmatch Kegiz Gavem), making the numerically and materially superior Infernal Dwarves in the region face a logistical uphill battle against the sea-supplied fortified coastal settlements of Kegiz Gavem in the equivalent of Yemen. And once any concerted Infernal Dwarf offensive at kicking the Taphrian rivals into the sea ebbs out and the besiegers need retreat, the overseas forces and settlers of light-worshipping Kegiz Gavem give praise to the holiness of light and can encroach once more on the turbulent hinterland of their holdings, which otherwise hugs the coast:

And to help keep night guards alert against Hobgoblin sneak attacks, the Gavemites have their secret weapon of coffee! Blessed freshness of sunlight for the body stored in beans, turning night to day for a tired sentry's senses:

Gavemite Technology

Given the probable (but not complete?) isolation from the Vetian Dwarven Holds through many centuries of chaos, Kegiz Gavem may have been left much to their own devices as regards innovation, and one would expect them to invest more heavily in matters connected to religiosity than in advanced technology. Still, fantasy Dwarves are Dwarves wherever they live, and they need sport a higher innovation level than the real world counterparts they are based on: Ancient Celts, Norse Vikings and Babylonians didn't sport gunpowder or steam machinery, so to speak.

Dwarves have an affinity for working matter. Their craftsmen's tinkering minds and hands coupled with a long life span (boosting innovation since all that knowledge and craft skills aren't wasted on the grave as quickly as for humans) mean that their holdings will shine as beacons of advanced technology in classic fantasy settings. Kegiz Gavem being separated by distance and volatile neighbours from northern Dwarven Holds mean that they will have missed out on much of the benefits of being a close part of a wider, innovative and creative world. Less snowball effect from friendlier neighbours in the invention department.

We may however assume that long-standing rivalry with Infernal Dwarves since at least the 7th Age (of Thunder) have been driving Gavemite modern technology for centuries at this point. By capturing Infernal Dwarf equipment in war and reverse-engineering those pieces which are not corrupted by the unholy (and maybe even exorcising such gear to allow study and copy?), Gavemite engineers may have kept up the pace reasonably in the arms race, and moreover been spurred to make some inventions of advanced technology of their own to compete with the enemy. Some contact with human Augeans through trade, and maybe even sporadic contact with other Dwarven Holders in adventurous circumstances during the eras of strife (think of young engineers with mates trekking through savage countries and wastelands to reach their legendary lost brethren for thrill, glory and the betterment of uncorrupted Dwarfkind everywhere) could have played a part in Kegiz Gavem's technology.

Do they have steam machinery? Or indeed sufficient fuel sources (coal and charcoal from wood) for said engines? Do they sport Gyrocopters? Or would these things in the DH army list perhaps be Gavemites mounted on flying beasts or suchlike, Warcraft style, if they are available at all? One could imagine that Gavemite access to Gyrocopters, if they feature, could be a sign of reconnected Dwarven Holds in the 9th Age, and maybe some potent rune-crafting techniques in stone have flowed in the opposite direction?

Whether or not flying machines and steam engines are used by Kegiz Gavem, here is my take on their technology:

Developed mainly in isolation from their Vetian cousins (great stonework architecture). Picked up some Infernal Dwarf technology through reverse-engineering captured equipment (esp. gunpowder weapons), spurred to further inventions by the necessity of arms race (artillery variants, metallurgy?). Less advanced technologically than both other Dwarven Holds and Infernal Dwarves (e.g. limited clockwork, optics and printing at best), have instead devoted resources and energy to advance spiritually/religiously (and in fantasy this have potent practical payoff). Kegiz Gavem remain the most technologically advanced power in all of Taphria, and their efforts to catch up with some Infernal Dwarf technologies have aided them greatly through centuries of tug-of-war in T9A equivalent of Yemen, together with their powers of holy light. As of lately in the 9th Age, contact has been re-established with Vetian Dwarven Holds, leading to some imports of technology, yet the demented inventors of the Infernal Dwarves are ever pushing the boundaries of possibility, and in this very Age the recovering devil worshippers and heathen slavers are pulling ahead of their Gavemite rivals. At this moment, the Gavemite overseas holdings are under mounting pressure from their enemies, whose increasing naval superiority disrupt vital supply lines. The future of Kegiz Gavem's fortified coastal settlements overseas looks grim, yet the stubborn Dwarves are determined to resist with all their might. The Gavemites have redoubled their efforts in the face of rising losses on the seas and on the distant shores, trusting in their arms, the divine light, and hoping for miracles against the powerful forces arrayed against them.

Such is one of the fierce battlegrounds of the Ninth Age.

Founding of Gavemite Religion

Ancestral memory in Kegiz Gavem could be primeval and thus revered even in other Dwarven Holds. Their orthodox self-abnegation and atonement could be a spiritually loaded imitation, commemoration and re-experiencing of the miserable drudgery and humiliating hardships of Dwarven slaves under the claws of their Saurian overlords during the 1st Age.

Chastisement of self would be reliving their virtuous and humble forefathers' suffering; a perceived punishment for primitive sins during which some of the mine, quarry and stonework-toiling troglodyte slave Dwarves in the midst of darkest despair found hope and salvation in the light. And the light delivered: A light that grew in the sky and shattered the slavers' dominion and the shackles of their slaves. The Gavemite cult could have been founded during this time in bonds, a belief in salvation, sin and higher holiness intertwined with the universally Dwarven ancestor worship.

The well-remembered founders, the martyrs and the humble endurers during this formative age of slavery and salvation are all part and parcel of the Gavemite mindset. The names, acts and travails of these righteous ancestors colour their everyday thoughts, spice their language, give shape and meaning to their innermost beliefs and echo in the dour lifeworks of each generation of devout Gavemites. Their way is a faith apart from other Dwarven Holds, although sharing many basic tenets of Dwarfkind for all their uniqueness: The ancestor cult, the rigorous engineering, the unending work, the care and precision of their crafts, the rejoicing in working matter with their hands.

Gavemites try to follow the examples set by their cult founders. There could have been especially hellish silver mines worked by slave Dwarves in Taphria, digging deep beyond the reach of the sun. Many died, yet many more were bred for the mines. The dangers were legion: Lead poisoning, earthquakes, rock falls, monstrous tunnel denizens, magma flooding and freak deluges of onrushing water from surface rainstorms escaping into mining networks. Dwarves died, Dwarves suffered, Dwarves survived by hardihood, and some survived by sheer faith. Tales tell of Dhuraz, who standing on his knees, praying to the light while a Saurian taskdriver flayed him whiplash by whiplash, found the mine he worked in collapsing when the heavenlight struck. Above Dhuraz, the ground caved in and fell hundreds of fathoms in upon itself, crushing sinful slaves and slavedrivers alike. Yet when the dust settled, faithful Dhuraz found himself still praying on the same rock, now exposed to brilliant daylight. The tonnes of crushing rocks had miraculously all cracked, tumbled and fallen to the sides of Dhuraz, swallowed by collapsing mine shafts below.

Icon of Dhuraz the Preserved. Note hand of sinful slave and Saurian tail sticking out from the rock masses.

One way in which Gavemites understand the Preservation of Dhuraz is to point to sufferers of hardship and remind them that Dhuraz was pelted and scourged with gravel and small stone shards, yet endured and saw the light on high shield him from any large rocks. The faithful must endure his woes unfailingly, no matter how harsh they seem, for by accepting the lesser evil, he will be saved from the greater evils by the light. Shoulder your burdens and suffer your pain.

For Dwarven reasons, there ought to be no single portal figure to Gavemite religion, the way Mannish faiths sometime sport one. The founder ancestors are revered as a group, an enlightened collection of saintly sufferers, legendary hard labourers, self-sacrificing fertile mothers, keepers of trust in the face of torture, seers, secret rune scribblers, revealers of higher truths, humble miracle-workers and scarred breakers of chains. A common figure is the Victim, who endures his hardships and face his cruel fate with humility. Another is the Downcast Risen, a battered survivor of woes who often wish to die, yet sees the light, hears the call and endures to wreak the vengeance of the oppressed and weak upon the mighty; a strong hero rising from the dust to save his kin and go out in a blaze of tortuous glory.

Gavemite religion is replete with the names, deeds and miracles of its cult founders. That of Dhuraz the Preserved is but one of many.

Nekoshim of the Copper Mountains

As originally proposed here, let's spice up the map with more Dwarves! Namely, Dwarves in the Copper Mountains (Atlas Mountains equivalent). Not Vetian Dwarves, but descending from ancient Infernal Dwarf colonists fleeing ravages during gone ages and seeking wealth, who settled in the distant Copper Mountains and lost close contact with their eastern kin in the following ages of chaos. During these eras of war, the Infernal Dwarf main body to the east turned toward heinous methods to survive and even prosper in an vicious world of savage hordes and marauding tribes battering their fortified cities: They started to enslave Daemons and mortals alike, dabbling in forbidden arts and pursuing power at any cost. Power to survive, to fight back, to dominate those who once beset them with superior force.

Not so the westerly cousins of the Infernal Dwarves, who developed in isolation and claims to have never turned to arts Daemonic. While a Dwarven folk apart from Gavemites, Vetians and Northern Dwarves alike, the mysterious Copper Dwarves have also become a tribe separate from their original kinsmen in the Infernal east, an uncorrupted branch of the benighted Infernal Dwarf tree.

I've got neither intention nor time of turning this into Homebrew army book with hopes of something making it into an official Dwarven Holds army variant, but if anyone wants to do so, then be more than welcome to move this to the Homebrew section! Just want to plant this seed firmly in the minds of T9A fluff writers and readers, and advance Dwarven interests in a milieu which is usually not associated at all with Dwarves in fantasy. Hopefully this gets the ball rolling enough for the Ninth Age team to pick up on the concept.

How does their culture look like? Any defining characteristics? Would a potential Copper Dwarf army list variant sport any unique things? Got ideas of your own? Please share!

As something of a reference, we've got Nabatean Petra's rock-cut buildings. Much of the largest is in Graeco-Roman style, while other parts sport local styles familiar from Mesopotamia in particular, with a local twist (stepped ornaments).

Below is a proposal on how Copper Mountain dwellers would fit into the wider world. Amharaq in particular could hold sway over many vassal Copper Mountain Dwarven Holds by long-standing treaties realizing Amharaq's military dominance into political influence and mutual economical benefit for both parties.

The southwest could be more rowdy, with only some Holds occassionally swearing allegiance to Al-Hisn (when forced or when it suits them), but mainly staying independent or acting independently under Amharaq's umbrella. Conflicts over land and water with local human highlanders and towns repeatedly flare up in the southwest, breaking an uneasy peace of occasional raiding. Copper Mountain Holds as a whole are not a united force with anything resembling a confederation, but a scattering of mainly subterranean settlements cleaving to their own interests and doing what it takes to survive and prosper. However, a gaggle of southeasterly Holds share a long-standing alliance against incursions from Hakim Nomads (dwelling on the desert frontier of the Copper Mountains), and will often unite their forces to exert control over key points along the eastern caravan route through the Great Desert, leading on to fabled Kegiz Gavem. Fortified oasis towns with date palms serve as resupply points for desert-trekking caravans, yet rule over the oasis towns have shifted many times from Copper Dwarven to Human hands. These towns sport a predominantly Human population, yet often with Copper Dwarven garrisons and overlords.

Note that the southern-most fork of the eastern route take a long detour around Rift Daemonic lands, while the northern fork to Kegiz Gavem is in eternal danger from Orcs & Goblin raiding from out of the northern Mountains of the Moon.

The ancient sea migration is obviously a reference to Sea People resettling to the west, and more particularly to Phoenician colonies in the Mediterranean.

MM90 "Pilsner" by Clam

Good Idea and the available architectural / archeological references lend themselves very well.

The MM90 is a perfect desert dwarf

Admiral Wrote:

Humans, being a sickly lot with much more to gain from living in cleared-out plains near rivers and coasts, are not great fans of wetlands. Apart from some sacrifices, particularly in Celtic cultures, marshlands are generally an unproductive wasteland and den of unsavoury wildlife, disease and parasites. A place to hide out in during times of war, and something best drained (at great effort and cost) and made better use of during times of prosperous peace.

Don't forget the theories about the "Bog Bodies" being sacrifices when thrown in.  They were thought to be gateways and stuff

Wow, what a thread. Just had a quick look so far, but I really like it. So many cool ideas here!
At least some of them have "Big hats"
Wow, so much inspiration from one person is quite incredible Admiral, incredible Takes Hat off
Looks great, wonderful concept as well!
Great concepts again! A bit odd that there isn't more done with African cultures already in fantasy stuff, at least not that I know of. Happy I feel the creative urge...
Thanks for a great read - I always thought the west wind Celtic dwarfs were excellent.
Also my favourite vanilla dwarf minis come from black tree design who also had some not slayers in kilts which appear to have disappeared of their website
Wow, well written Uther! Takes Hat off
I just found a Rhino in my O&G box. Not quite that big though.
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