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Devoted to the Preservation, Collection, Conversion, Painting, and Resurrection of Space Dwarfs.
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Special Character Conversions: Marbo and Straken

One of the best aspects of the 5th Edition of Warhammer 40K for me was the renewed emphasis on Special Characters and other additional Headquarters staff. I gleefully welcomed the chance to convert Chaos warped versions of the Imperium's greatest heroes and most loyal servants.

In more practical terms, though, I did not want to let the many kinds of special HQ options overwhelm the style I had established for my army: fierce individualistic troops motivated by lust for blood and exotic weapons. I therefore decided to create my own versions of the Catachans Special Characters, rather than Cadians, for their rougher attitudes and absence of regulation uniforms. I've also made some similar restrictions on troop types: no Psykers, no Ogryns, no Ratlings (except as chefs/food).

Battle-Brother Machinder
The first Special Character I converted was my own version of Guardsman Marbo, renamed Battle-Brother Styvleer Machinder. I started with Squat Adventurer 4, since his Ninja-like clothing and rugged gear suggested the stealthy ruggedness of Marbo, down to the bandanna-like twists on his headgear.

Since he was in clothing that fit the character well, but also covered him well, the arms gave me my best chance to show his Allegiance to Chaos. A concern about this mini was the backward tilt to his positioning. I didn't want this posture to suggest that our Mighty Servant of Khorne was thinking of retreating, so I also needed to use his arms to provide a counterpoint to his posture. The Tomb Kings Charioteer Arm gave a better reason: Machinder is leaning back to put more force into the snap of his whip. I added some tattered cloth of greenstuff to his shoulder to make it look as if he lost a sleeve along with his arm flesh.

I also just really liked the Tomb Kings Whip Arm, and had been waiting for a good reason to use it. This is a practice I advise: If you have some bits you like, don't hesitate to use them on the first conversion that they work well for. There's no need to save them in hope of finding the perfect opportunity. You'll like your current conversion more, and will get to enjoy the nice bits sooner. And you know you will always find more interesting bits than you can ever use, so there is no fear of running out of inspiration.

And that is why my version of Guardsman Marbo uses an Envenomed Whip, instead of a blade. Whips and poison are too much fun to leave to the Tyranids.

On his right side, I have finally used one of the arms from the Squats Arm sprue. Here the cloth pattern fits very well with his clothing and the glove provides a nice chance to provide a counterpoint to his high boots. The straight-out tensed appearance of the arm also fits well with the tone I wanted to give his posture, and nicely raises his gun to his eye-level.

To create his Ripper Gun, I used a chopped up Eldar Shuriken Catapult, and attached a small bit of a Dark Eldar Shredder Gun, then part of a Space Marine Plasma Pistol to the front. I stuck one of the bolter ammo strings from a Chaos Marine bolter and filled the gap between it and the plasma bit at the front with greenstuff. Not quite visible beneath his feet is a brass Imperial Devotional Sign saying "Strength Through Purity". A thought so feeble-minded it barely deserves to be trodden upon by such a great warrior.

Brother Machinder is joined by Ex-Brother Marine, from first set of Space Marines released in September 1987 (White Dwarf 93).

Colonel Iron Beard Schtarken
My second Special Character conversion was Colonel "Iron Hand" Straken, processed through my patented Rename-Intator 40000 and transformed into Colonel Tony "Iron Beard" Schtarken. His body is from the Squats Pirates series, a poorly promoted set of models, perhaps not released in every country. He is accompanied by two Space Rats, Hydra and Aim. They are obscuring the conversion of his left leg from a wooden peg to a robotic prosthesis taken from one of the early Space Marines.

I have combined Schtarken's bionic arm, Plasma Pistol, and Close Combat Weapon into one evil machine, starting with the upper arm of a Necron Warrior, to which a Plasma Pistol from the Rogue Trader Ork Heavy Weapons sprue was attached (minus the grip). Then I added a impressively large blade from the Tomb Kings Skeleton sprue for the CCW. Schtarken is sculpted in a way that makes him look as if he is facing something taller than himself, so I positioned the arm to align with his gaze. The rat on his left was also selected for his upward gaze; he is obviously Aim. Hydra is sniffing out something in the wee bit of vegetation.

I didn't like the flatness of the original Pirate helmet, so I added a spike to the center to give Schtarken a bit of a German WWI look. It also helps make the upward tilt of his head more noticeable.
From the rear, we can get another look at his converted arm, now with its stylized Khorne symbol visible. I've also added a cape from one of the WFB Chaos Marauder sprues. Its windblown direction aligns nicely with the angle at which Col Schtarken is holding his shotgun in his left arm. This pattern provides a contrast to the perpendicular pattern created by his right arm and head positioning, giving more three-dimensional complexity to his overall appearance.

In general, I try to select and position my bits for conversions to create two or so alignments across multiple areas of the model, to give the eye multiple ways to view the miniature. Since the miniature will frequently be viewed from above, I try to make sure these alignments are visible from direction as well. Base elements can also be helpful to create these kinds of visual alignments, especially from above.

The basic position of a model can create an unbalanced appearance from above when based, and positioning of base elements can be a helpful remedy. This mini started as a static pose right to left, common for the time, to which I added an upward slanting arm, creating a more dynamic front to back look. But there was no similar element of the mini that could be used to balance this out on the left side of the base, which looked quite empty in comparison from above. Here, Aim the Rat came into use again to provide a parallel front to back upward slant on the left side to balance that of the right.


  1. Wow- I thought the title of your blog was a joke at first. Color me surprised.

    Great conversions btw- that will be an interesting army to see across the battlefield from me.

  2. Heh. The joke's part of the fun. Two of the most humorless Warhammer critters, Dwarfs and Khorne Cultists, joined together in silliness so strong that some deny their very existence...