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Nathaire

Death vs Death Lore

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Hi, folks. I'm thinking of starting a Death army but I was curious if there's any lore surrounding in-fighting within the faction. I know that Nagash technically has control of all the undead, but does this really only pertain to large conflicts or would he also prevent competition and fighting between Mortarchs?

I really dislike the idea of playing factions that are completely without interior conflict (such as Stormcast). If Death is that way I may end up doing something else.

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It works that way: Nagash is the ruler of all undead and when he calls they answer, but it's a rare occurence - normally undead have their own small kingdoms and fight among themselves. It's just when there's a bigger threat and Nagash orders them to join forces, they have no choice but to obey. I recomend you short story "The Dance of the skulls" - it tells about Neferata and court intrigues between warring vampire provinces.

Edited by michu

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Specific examples of infighting are more difficult to find, but the novels certainly build strong grounds for the possibility.  Soul Wars (I won't spoil anything) in particular does a good job of showcasing how different elements of Nagash's forces work, or in this case don't work, alongside one another.  With Nighthaunt being crazed shock troops driven by emotional insanity and fury.  Deadwalkers act more animalistic.  Driven by hunger and instinct, but more with heroes a little more practical and grounded than their Nighthaunt bretheren.  Meanwhile Deathrattle are slow, methodical, and logical.

The biggest division seems to be between the likes of Wight Kings and Nighthaunt heroes.  They don't exactly see eye to eye. 

Edited by BarrowLord
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That's great to hear! Thanks for all the information. My force will be heavily focused around Deathrattle units allied into the Legion of Night. I've read that Mannfred is one of the more manipulative and untrustworthy Mortarchs anyway, so I guess if any of them are going to be doing some infighting it will be him.

Have you all found the Death-focused AoS Black Library books to be good? I'm halfway through the Realmgate Wars and they are a little underwhelming, to be honest. I'm sure some of it is just finding footing for the new setting.

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vampires have always fought between themselves for power and influence! ;) So there's that if you want to do a legion of blood theme someday!

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2 hours ago, Nathaire said:

Death-focused AoS Black Library books to be good?

It’s old world, but vampire wars is pretty awesome and the Episode Gotrek&Felix Vampireslayer was nuts!!! Also had a great hint for Nagashs working. As I said elsewhere, they all (except Arkhan) would rather be free of nagashs influence and rule their own style. But when he is calling, you just cannot spit him in the eye, even if you give it your best try, you just can’t. Ha says jump and you might hate yourself, but you just started hopping...

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3 hours ago, BarrowLord said:


The biggest division seems to be between the likes of Wight Kings and Nighthaunt heroes.  They don't exactly see eye to eye. 

Intriguing. Where can i read more about this?

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27 minutes ago, Honk said:

It’s old world, but vampire wars is pretty awesome and the Episode Gotrek&Felix Vampireslayer was nuts!!! Also had a great hint for Nagashs working. As I said elsewhere, they all (except Arkhan) would rather be free of nagashs influence and rule their own style. But when he is calling, you just cannot spit him in the eye, even if you give it your best try, you just can’t. Ha says jump and you might hate yourself, but you just started hopping...

I have the chronicles "vampire wars" that still it's eyeing me to start reading it...

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Nagash is the Supreme Lord of the Undead, and where he imposes his will they all get in line.  But, even as vast and omnipresent as Nagash is, he can't impose that will in all places at once.  More powerful/independent undead are quite capable of working against each other, or even subverting Nagash himself when his attention isn't on them, and they can drive legions of lesser undead to do the same, though rising up directly against nagash isn't really possible because again the moment you get his attention, your undead legions turn on you and you are unable to prevent yourself from bending knee.

Different types of undead are different amounts of susceptible to this, requiring different amounts of focus from Nagash.  Vampires can be quite squirrely and duplicitous.  Their true undead nature still makes them very vulnerable to direct commands, but their trickery, intelligence, and power gives them significant leeway in twisting or misinterpreting commands to their benefit.  Ghouls are shielded by their half-living nature, and ghoul-kings by their innate madness.  Nagash /can/ compel obedience from them, but it takes much more focused attention to do so, and the moment he turns his mind away from them their king's madness may reassert itself and cause them to stray from their tasks.  Sort of like trying to lead a classroom full of students with ADHD, you can set a handful of kids on a task, but if you turn your attention to some other kids you can't necessarily rely on the first group keeping to the same assignment for very long on their own.

Nighthaunts are a bit more manageable than either ghouls or vampires, and Nagash requires relatively little personal effort to direct them, but their minds aren't all there, and they are driven by a burning hatred of the living.  The tormented spirits may by too distracted by their own suffering to fully understand a task, or too driven by the need to hunt the living to stick to it.  As such, they make great shock troops, but terrible garrisons, and require particularly strong-willed commanders to keep them in line when Nagash's attention is elsewhere.  In contrast, mindless zombies have a much easier time sticking to tasks, but are too stupid to carry out orders of any complexity without constant supervision.

Of all of the undead, the deathrattle legions of skeletons and wights are the most pliable.  They retain enough intelligence to follow instructions of some complexity, and once compelled will continue on their tasks untiringly and without distraction until they are destroyed, given another task, or wear their bones away to dust.  As such, these are Nagash's most relied-upon tools.  The drawback however is the same as their strength - how easily controlled they are.  Skeletons left to a task with no one to supervise can easily fall under the sway of another necromancer, vampire, wight king, or the like, and be ordered away from their initial assignment.  Morghasts combine the strength and willpower of vampires with the tireless and unquestioning loyalty of skeletons, and as such are even more favored among Nagash's servants, but the divine spark inherent in their creation means they cannot be marshaled in numbers that even begin to approach the endless deathrattle legions.  As such, a mix of skeletal and morghast soldiers make up the bulk of nagash's personal forces, as reflected in the grand host ruleset and first cohort formation.

But again, Nagash can command literally any undead creature directly and completely if he puts his mind to it, it's just a matter of how much of his vast willpower and attention he can afford to manifest in any given place at any given time with all the different plots and all the different battles that the undead are involved with over all the mortal realms.

Nagash is, in some ways, the most mortal, the most human of the various anti-chaos gods, being strongly driven by the very mortal vices of pride and petty spite.  However, at the same time, he's also the /least/ human of these gods, having abandoned his mortality long before ascension, and split his mind and soul into dozens of fragments each operating semi-independently as components in a massive machine, sometimes seemingly in opposition to each other, like a resistor might seem to operate in opposition to an electrical circuit while still contributing towards a singular goal that no one component is fully aware of, even if that component happens to call itself, and take the physical form of, "Nagash".

You should be aware that, at any given time, there are many different manifestations of Nagash.  Think of the creature you call Nagash less as Nagash itself, and more as semi-autonomous avatars representing facets of the greater deity as a whole.  But while these multiple incarnations do let Nagash spread his direct personal influence much further than almost any other rival deity can, they still aren't enough to allow him to personally direct even a significant fraction of all the undead in existence, so he relies on subordinates - wight kings, vampire lords, master necromancers, shroud knights, even ghoul kings - though their madness makes them the least reliable of this sort of servant.  These individuals are played against each other to refine their skills, test for quality, and weed out inferior servants, and are given direct command of lesser undead before being assigned to various tasks so that Nagash's direct will can be applied elsewhere.

The mortarchs fall into a similar role, halfway between a subordinate lieutenant and fully manifested avatar.  Each likely (though this isnt totally confirmed) does contain the soul of the being they appear to be, as those souls became part of Nagash when they first became mortarchs and can be called up from the depths of Nagash's being whenever they are needed, but that soul is irrevocably mixed with a shard of Nagash's own being.  They are basically the person as Nagash remembers them, as Nagash needs them to be, semi-autonomous fragments of his being that require less power and attention to maintain than a full avatar while being far more reliable than other, more independent undead.  The mortarchs are thus relied upon to direct critical, long term plans and campaigns on Nagash's behalf, and to apply their unique personalities to them. 

As splinters of Nagash's own soul, they are fundamentally unable to act against him directly, but they do scheme against each other, and sometimes seem to subvert Nagash by inspiring their subordinates to defy him.  Again though, all the mortarchs, as well as 'Nagash' the person(s)/avatar(s) himself/themselves, are all components of the Greater-Machine-Nagash, which can be thought of as a sort of infinite clockwork lattice of bone and blood and soul and sinew representing the will and ambition of Shyish itself, which Nagash inextricably bound to himself, and himself to it, during the End Times, a bond re-invigorated and infinitely deepened by the necroquake that set off the soul wars.

All undead beings are unwitting components of the greater Nagash-That-Is-Shyish through the death magic that animates them, and the mortarchs restrict or counteract each other or Nagash himself only where doing so in some unfathomable way serves the greater whole, even if they themselves are unable to see it.

 

So anyway, yeah, open war of the undead against Nagash doesn't and really can't happen, at least not according to the current canon lore.  That sort of thing was put to bed once and for all in the End Times, and has never been a thing in Age of Sigmar.  But conflicts between undead warlords and even mortarchs absolutely can and do happen while Nagash isn't looking, or where Nagash - whether consciously as the person or subconsciously as the great machine - feels such conflict will advance his overall aims by weeding out the weak or teaching a servant humility or even just letting personified embodiments of two conflicting thoughts, emotions, or ideas within the greater whole of Nagash fight it out to decide which in direction the machine will move its pieces going forward.

Edited by Sception
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Thanks, Sception -- that was a very clear explanation. So in some cases Nagash can have one hand working against the other, as long as it advances his true goals?

I see a lot of Black Library novels about Nagash, both from the Old World line and Age of Sigmar. Are any of those in particular worth reading?

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From what I understand, no Undead minion no matter how powerful could directly challenge Nagash and win.
What could happen while his not directly paying attention to the more powerful Undead minions is they could enable an enemy of the dead to bring about Nagash's death by various duplicitous action, done in secret not in an act of direct aggression. 

Think of him as a Mad dictator. (though more powerful lol)
No direct action against him will work, but secret BS can bring about his death from external intervention.

If the above is 'True' there is almost certainly in-fighting between different factions and there thoughts on how things should be done. 

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51 minutes ago, Nathaire said:

Thanks, Sception -- that was a very clear explanation. So in some cases Nagash can have one hand working against the other, as long as it advances his true goals?

Exactly.  And there are already multiple examples of this.  In particularwith mortarchs undermining or defying Nagash in ways that might seem self interested, but that still still arguably advance his overall interests even more.  In at least one case, a mortarch uses a cat's paw to directly defy Nagash when they themselves are physically unable to do so due to their connection to him.  In particular check out the novels 'Undying King' and 'Soul Wars':

https://www.blacklibrary.com/new-titles/featured/ebook-soul-wars.html
https://www.blacklibrary.com/new-titles/featured/ebook-soul-wars.html

 both of which also briefly mention and expand on the idea of Nagash having different personal avatars & incarnations, though none of them directly appear.  'Nagash-Morr' is one mentioned by name, which takes on the aspect of Morr, one of several old world death gods that Nagash consumed during the End Times, and is specifically described as manifesting to protect mortal worshipers of Nagash from the forces of chaos.

Nagash appears in a number of other Age of Sigmar novelizations set during the realmgate wars, but his actions in the earlier realmgate war books are generally revealed/retconned as subterfuge and misdirection by the end of that arc, so I'm not sure it's particularly worth getting into now.

 

For old world Nagash lore, check out the rise of nagash omnibus for his origins:
https://www.blacklibrary.com/all-products/rise-of-nagash-ebook.html

and the End Times novelizations, particularly the first book 'Return of Nagash' for how he ended up:
https://www.blacklibrary.com/all-products/return-of-nagash-ebook.html

Three of these books are available in an ebook bundle:
https://www.blacklibrary.com/warhammer-chronicles/bundles/nagash-ebook-bundle.html

that includes the origin trilogy/omnibus (nagash's as he started in the old world), the Return of Nagash (nagash more or less as he ended in the old world), and Undying King (Nagash as he exists in the Age of Sigmar, though that book in particular is set during a weaker torpor while he's still recovering from his defeat at Archaon's hands at the dawn of the age of chaos, so his will is particularly scattered and unfocused).

 

As a character he doesn't change too much between the end of his origin trilogy and the start of the end times.  He spent most of the intervening millennia regenerating from various defeats, occasionally returning to life only to be destroyed again by this or that hero, each time weaker than the time before, due both due to missing some of the artifacts invested with portions of his soul (his crown, his severed hand, etc), and due to essentially a curse inflicted by the skaven fellblade that originally slew him, until he finally is restored to full power during the End Times, and very quickly after that grows far more powerful still.

The end times books imply that this happened several times that we never see, but the one time we do is also Nagash's first meeting with Sigmar:
https://www.blacklibrary.com/warhammer-chronicles/time-of-legends/God-King-ebook.html

It's actually the third book of Sigmar's equivalent origin trilogy and pits Sigmar-the-Man against a reduced Nagash leading an undead army from Nagashizzar to the northern lands of the Empire in search of his crown, which has come into Sigmar's possession after events in prior books in the sigmar origin trilogy.  Needless to say, the two don't exactly see eye to eye in their first encounter, but they are able to work together in the End Times, and it's implied in multiple AoS novels that they were basically close colleagues if not outright buddies during the Time of Myth, working closely together in the initial foundation of civilization in the Mortal Realms.

Edited by Sception

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I'm sure for Soulblight anyways there are some of them that think "theres only so much blood to drink, ergo if I eliminate my Soulblight rivals, more blood for me!"

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Vampires in general (though of course there are exceptions) are scheming, duplicitous, and vain by nature.  They might subvert each other to attain higher station, or more power, or to ingratiate themselves to a superior, or to satisfy personal pride or petty grudges.  Plenty of reasons for Vampires to attack each other whether politically or militarily.  Yes, such internal conflict can and does sometimes the alliance of death on the whole, but those same traits make vamlires excellent spies, infiltrators, manipulators, warriors, and commanders.

They are the aristocracy of the dead, among the most elite warriors, and the most effective independent commanders short of the mortarchs themselves, and their pride is not unjustified.  Vampires are able to easily dominate the minds of weak willed mortals and bend large forces of lesser undead to their will.  Placed in command of an army of the dead their mere precence can sustain their forces against losses and drive them to a killing frenzy far beyond their usual abilities.  Vampires are capable of both raising legions of corpses to unlife and of spreading their own cursed form of undead existence to the living, such that a single vampire infiltrating past enemy lines can turn into an entire army of the undead practically overnight.

Though not all that much more durable that other undead champions, their ability to feed on the blood of the living allows them to recover from almost any wound that doesn't outright destroy their physical forms, and some are capable of recovering from even that.  While their prideful streak can be troublesome, it is the unavoidable consequence of two extremely useful traits - a cunning and predatory intelligence that far outstrips other undead and an independence that allows them to react and adapt to unexpected situations far more adroitly than any wraith or wight king can manage, meaning they can handle more complicated assignments with far less oversight from superiors.  Altogether, their usefulness as tools more than compensates for any inconvenience that might arise from their occasional infighting, and even that can be a useful trait that weeds out the weak while keeping the strong on their toes.

Edited by Sception
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Easy answer is that when big bone daddy nagash or the teachers pet arkhan aren't looking, everyone will backstab each other in a heartbeat, even the mortarchs... especially manfred. Vampires in general aren't controlled like the spirits or animated corpses, they still have free will and tend to be very independent when it benefits them, either by earning more favour with their superiors or usurping their superior. (albeit the sheer power difference and web of intrigue weaved by the vampire mortarchs prevents other vamps from getting too high and mighty) Flesh eater courts are bound by the whims of their kings and the kings are technically a messed up bloodline of soulblighted vampires so the same applies to them tho due too their insanity more of them tend to be separate from nagash's legions than members of the other vamp bloodlines. There's also death cults and stuff that worship other death gods but they aren't touched on as much lore wise as nagash and his followers. 

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One thought that came to my mind reading through all this is, well Nagash invented all this. (not counting Drachenfels, sorry) 

During his origin stories it is described that the winds of magic were very weak in Khemri and he almost failed at mastering the magic taught by the Dark Elves. As a last desperate measure they teach him ?Blood Magic?, well drawing magical might out of sacrifices. From there he studied and developed and invented ways to use and command this type of energy.

Then with the F&G Episode Vampireslayer and several other book and stories (his crown), every thing he creates, he imbues with his essence and within the intricate workings of the artifacts he also inserts workings and mechanisms to corrupt and dominate the user to Nagashs cause. His nine Liber Nagash are supposed to have „corrupted“ Mannfred into traveling to him, to be dominated. The Amulet from the F&G story gave power over Vampires, but when that mage (forgot his name) analysed the spells, he was A) I guess as a master I‘m more like kindergarden fingerpainting B) Look what we gave here...gagelgaaarghhhh, it sucks my soul out and tried to crush my spirit.

Same goes for his crown, which led to a nice undead regime after his defeat by Alccazzizar (however written, poor chap)

Every ritual and spell deviced by him, every theory to raising and controlling undead, but also to prolong ones life through necromancy or the blood elixir bases fundamentally on his research and inventions.

All usage of necromantic means are „poisened“ like his artifacts to ensnare and weaken the user, to bend him to Nagashs will and to make them susceptible for domination.

You can’t outrage Khorne, you cannot outdeath Nagash, you can’t outparty Slaanesh. Because everything you try to do feeds them power over you...

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That's interesting. So there were also no undead in the Mortal Realms before Nagash entered the picture?

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In the AoS setting?  Depends on what you mean by nagash entering the picture, because again, Nagash bound himself to the wind of Shyish during the End Times, imprinting himself upon it in the same way that he imprinted himself upon his various artifacts and the necromantic rituals he devised.  That wind went on to manifest in the warp as the mortal realm of Shyish, so in a sense Nagash was part of the picture from the moment the mortal realms existed.  It's likely there were primordial undead creatures walking the mortal realms, and Shyish in particular, before Nagash the god/person/conscious individual first manifested as a physical being in the mortal realms.  Nagash's physical/mental form is an incredibly intricate and powerful entity and takes a long time to coalesce anew after that physical body is destroyed and consciousness scattered.  Certainly there were undead monstrosities travelling Shyish before Sigmar freed Nagash's physical form from its tomb.  As for how he got there in the first place, iirc it's implied that thev chaos gods found Nagash's soul/being/essence during their ravenous consumption of the old world as it was torn apart, but that they were unable to destroy or consume it (his soul is so suffused with necromantic magic that it's basically poisonous to them), so instead they imprisoned it and left it behind.  From what I gather, a new body coalesced within the tomb, but was trapped and in torpor until Sigmar freed it.

But again, even before that, Nagash's influence was still there on the mortal realms via his unbreakable bond to the magic of Shyish itself.  Nagash The Great Machine was still operating, albeit purely on instinct and without it's most important component, and with no guiding hand on the wheel.

It's also worth noting that Nagash's mind and personality aren't the only guiding hand on that wheel, just by far the strongest and most self aware, but Nagash did absorb several other death gods in the old world, and yet more were caught up in the wind of Shyish as it was torn through the chaos gate, and re-manifested from the magic of Shyish in the early days of the mortal realms, most to later be consumed by Nagash anyway.  These entities/personalities are in a sense still part of Nagash - again recall Nagash-Morr - generally manifested as tools of convenience, but as powerful as Nagash is these entities were still gods, and may be capable of retaining some manifestation of their own identities within Nagash and possibly influencing his decisions and personality from within.  It's possible that Morr's personality and influence were at the fore during the period of Nagash's alliance with sigmar, though at the same time it's more likely that the memory of Morr's personality was just a mask Nagash wore over his true intentions while still plotting to betray Sigmar from the start in some portion of his mind kept segregated from the surface consciousness.  There are implications that the Great Work of the Shyish Inversion, with legions of skeletons transporting gravesand from the edges of Shyish to its center via hidden routes might have already started at that point.

The nature of Nagash is a rather complicated thing, and somewhat inconsistently presented in AoS fluff, so there's a lot of room for speculation.

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The entire flesh eater courts background is based on internal conflict. The first Ghoul king was punished by Nagash to that fate and went on a bloody rampage before being stopped and punished even worse, which resulted in the creation of the grand delusion. 

 

It also seems that Nagash is seen very different comapred to Sigmar by many "followers" he is far more feared than revered and he is a petty "god" if proper worship is not given to him. This is one of the reason I find the realm of death highly interesting.

 

It is also mentioned that, at least prior to the soul wars, the center of Shyish was more "normal" and might have human civilizations that revered the dead, then increasingly more undead inluence the farther out you get, such as undead ancestors providing guidance, to all out undead dictators and human slavery in the fringes. This in itself should provide a lot of different possible conflicts, as there might be a barrow king who actually helps his living descendants stand against an oppresive vampire tyrant looking for a new territory to conquer for example, that would be a cool narrative I think.

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Thanks sception for these Background pearls. Now playing death will be even more fun. And you encouraged me to buy the Black Library novels.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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