Friday, February 12, 2016

The Pilgrym: Roland Arnesen, headless mercenary

"With their fingers on their triggers, knee-deep in gore."

Over the last few days I have been working on creating my headless mercenary, Roland (who is posing as a missionary for the Church of the Red Athenaeum, but is a agent for Inquisitor Molnar, Ordo Mechanicus). He is still work-in-progress, but I wanted to show some pictures to get everyone’s thoughts and suggestions. Since he is posing as a warrior priest/missionary, we thought that he would be armoured much like Church’s armed force, the Order of the Crimson Hour. Although the Order is modeled after the Adepta Sororitas, they will not have power armor (the Church would not have those kind of resources), but more practical tactical gear.

We ended up deciding the general armour for the Order, and therefore Roland, would be based around the Death Korp Engineer models (nice genderless body armor), with robed legs from the Empire Flagellants. To fit with the Church’s desire for its members to have ritual wounds, and Roland’s warlike ways, we decided to give him a partial bionic arm. We were thinking that while the most fanatical members of the Church do not like to use bionics to fix their ritual wounds, the Church as a whole has gotten somewhat lax on the issue. To maintain their fighting effectiveness, most members of the Order of the Crimson Hour replace their severed hand (a requirement to join the fighting Order) with a bionic one.

Although a headless warrior is quite an eccentric concept, we wanted the model to still hold a subtle level of realism, not completely giving way to the classic 40k grim-dark ethos. 

We wanted to make Roland’s submachine gun look similar to a Thompson. Finding small weapons is somewhat difficult in the 40k range, so we ended up using an Arc pistol as the base. To that, we extended the butt of the pistol and added a stock. We also replaced the small drum magazine with a straight one, and did a bunch of green stuff work to make it more convincing.

Roland's Urdeshi U90 .45 caliber assault cannon.

Roland lacks a conventional head (lost in a prior engagement); his brain was transferred to an armored case that is fitted to his back (used a piece from a Kataphron Destroyer servitor). Although without a head, his neck is still intact, although it is covered in an armored sheath, to protect the remnants of his spinal cord. There is a little vent to allow him to obtain oxygen though somewhat conventional means.  I also added a piece of consecrated parchment tacked to the neck sheath.  All of these details are important to give some visual clue that his lack of head was an intentional modeling choice, and not just lazy modeling (ie. simply leaving the hole where a head would be placed). I added various sensors that are connected to the brain, allowing him to interact with the outside world. These include some targeting lenses and other bionic optics on his shoulder, which are attached to his brain via a thick armoured bundle of cables.  A little speaker grill was added to his chest, allowing him to speak with others.

A lot of cables and sensor apparatus were added to Roland's back to make the concept of his brain being housed on his back more plausible. 

When thinking about more about how Roland communicates with others, we got the idea that maybe he could have some form of companion that was linked to him that served as a ambulatory vox-caster. We found a little owl in the Wood elf Dryad kit and thought it would be perfect. A speaker grill was recessed into its chest and one of its eyes was converted to be a bionic one. The vox owl seemed a fitting companion for a missionary, allowing him to project his fiery sermons. But its true function is to serve as a messenger and and spy for the Inquisition. The bird allows Roland to keep closer tabs on the Church, and allows him to easily transfer information to Molnar’s other agents on Terra. We still need to determine what to perch the owl on, allowing us to base it. Initially we were going to have it attached to Roland, but we are hesitant because it might detract from Roland himself.   I do not think the owl looks bad on his shoulder, however.  We could also have the bird perching a wooden sign post (like in some of Thistle’s wonderful artwork) or a weird tree of sorts, allowing it to be used separately from Roland in game terms...

Roland's vox-owl converted from an owl from the Wood Elf Dryad kit.

We are not sure if we want the owl directly on Roland, or possibly on a separate base.

To add to the ominous, religious nature of the model, we have considered adding a little shrine on his back, one that would ominously suspend a skull above his head. This skull would not be any old skull, but in fact his own, reconstructed from the bone fragments after his injury. Our thought is that he carries his skull around as a reminder of where he has been in life and where he is going. Normally, when working as an official agent of the Inquisition, he would not brandish the skull, and just keep it somewhere on his person. But to play up his role as a zealous missionary, allowing him to infiltrate the Church of the Red Athenaeum, he displays it as a solemn reminder of one’s mortality and to help incite fervor in those he addresses. Also, many members of the Church carry around their loose bones from holy wounds that they inflicted upon themselves, like carrying around the metacarples of a lost hand, or long bones of a limb amputated in the quest for feeling the Emperor’s pain. Our initial thought was to have it on a little wooden shrine, similar to what we have done with our Deathwing terminators. Part of what I liked about this idea was that it would be placed behind the neck, resting on the brain-case perhaps, giving the model an odd disjointed feeling.  This idea might be a little overboard and crazy, so we wanted to know what people thought about it, and if it is worth pursuing.

I think Roland is getting close to being completed, and I am pretty happy with how he has turned out.  I would love to hear peoples’ thoughts and suggestions, however!

-Adam Wier


  1. Coming along nicely, and I love that Thompson. More figures should have realistic weapons.

    The solider from the Order of the Crimson Hour is quite nice as well, and I look forward to seeing a couple more of them. (you might consider making a full squad, enough for use in a larger skirmish setting as well)

    1. Thank you for the kind words! I really enjoy trying to modify 40k weapons and make them a little more believable. (:

      I am planning to make at least two more warriors of the Order of the Crimson Hour. But I like you idea of trying to make an entire squad, they would work well for lots of things. It would be neat to try and construct an entire army of them and use Sister of Battle rules or something (but that is getting little ahead of myself, I will likely struggle to finish 5 of them, ha ha).

  2. I really like the changes you made to Roland. After seeing the owl perched on his shoulder, while not a bad look, I would be inclined to say that the bird should be mounted separately. The owl doesn't take away from Roland's aesthetics, but I don't think that mounting him on the shoulder does anything significant for Roland wither, and may just be gilding the lily at that point.

    1. Thanks for the suggestions! I think you are right about the owl, while it looks fine on his shoulder I do not think it really adds anything to the miniature.

      I still think I will experiment with creating little wooden shrine on his back with a skull. It remains to be seen if I will include it or not. I do not want to overdo the model. :)

    2. Here's an idea that might be a slight departure from what you've already modeled, but what if the Owl's head was Roland's skull? It would certainly reinforce the connection between the two.

  3. I agree, mount the bird separately. It will also play into his secretive ways being able to multitask. I also quite like from the Iron Sleet post that you can see how big he is for a human compared to the female. Brains and brawns literally in this case.

    1. Thanks for the input! I will mount the owl separately from Roland. It will give me an opportunity to create a little scenic perch for the owl. :)