Let us take a moment to travel back, far back, to the mist enshrouded time of legend.
Let us travel back to the Mid-Eighties.
Warhammer Fantasy Battle had just been released upon the UK public, a dark, dirty and grim antidote to the heroic fantasy of Dungeons and Dragons, WHFRP was a slow burner, but it was a hit. WHFRP's importance to the growth of Games Workshop is not one that gets discussed regularly, but this is s cornerstone of the Old World, and without it, there would a very different Warhammer Fantasy Battle.
Whilst the Tolkien and Moorcock influences were still very much worn on the sleeve of Warhammer, it was here, with WHFRP that the world began to grow out beyond the influences that birthed it. Orcs and Goblins became something very different to the Chaos-born monsters that existed beforehand, Altdorf was raised, Sigmar explained.
It was here that the spark caught, and the fire took hold.
However, the Warhammer World was still developing under WHFRP, and the newly released 2nd Edition Fantasy Battle, and it made the decision to close model itself on the late Medieval/early Renaissance eras of Europe, and kept the human behaviour of that time fairly unchanged. Fantasy creatures were inserted (and some have long since fallen to the wayside). If you spend time with the first of the Warhammer novels, namely Drachenfels, or the Orfeo Trilogy, you can see the strains of a evolving concept trying to push past the roots of it's conception and become something else.
It was here, at this point, that Games Workshops CEO, Bryan Ansell, made a decision. Drachenfels had sold well, and the chance taken with fan favourite author Kim Newman (writing as Jack Yeovil) had paid off well.
“I want other fantasy authors”.
Where did Games Workshop go? Who did they speak to?
They spoke to a man who had published a parody of the genre, a man whose name would become synonymous with British Fantasy for the next three decades.
They spoke with Terry Pratchett.
Sir Terry had enjoyed success with his Colour of Magic and Light Fantastic novels, both of which are great parodies of the Fantasy genre of the time, but a long way from what his Discworld creation would become. It was Equal Rites that caught the eye of Games Workshop, something in the world building, something in the humanity of the characters. Granny Weatherwax is a long journey away from Orfeo the Bard, but there was.... something... there.
It didn't hurt of course, that Sir Terry was fast becoming a fan favourite, no matter what the critics of the time said.
It;s also didn't hurt that Dave Langford, a long respected genre reviewer/writer/royalty was a giant fan of Pratchett, and found ways to get those reviews into his columns of pre-GW only White Dwarf whenever the chance came along.
We will never know what or how those conversations went, any records have been lost to time, and with Pratchett's passing four years past, it is unlikely we will ever discover what, if any plans were thought up.
It is known that Sir Terry enjoyed the Warhammer world, had played D&D in his youth, painted miniatures as a hobby for a while. It is also known that Pratchett had no enjoyed working with other people when the project grabbed him, be it Good Omens with Neil Gaiman or the Long Earth series with Stephen Baxter.
Mostly, it is known that Pratchett only ever said one thing about his meetings with Games Workshop
“I feel a bit like King Herod being invited to write the newsletter for the Bethlehem Playground Association.”
The idea of a Pratchett influenced Old World is oddly intoxicating. The heart of Pratchett was always one beating to the drum of humanity reaching and being better, whilst at the same time trying to hold down the darkness of it's own soul. Whilst you may think of The Discworld as a place that brings a smile to your face, imagine what the engine of Sir Terry's mind could have done to The Old World.
Saying all that though, The Discworld series is an anchor to me, and to many that I have spoken to, and whilst I would love to have seen what was tentatively explored between Sir Terry and GW, I am glad that we were gifted with what we have now.
R.I.P. Sir Terry Pratchett
(28 April 1948 – 12 March 2015)
Wayland Games currently sell Discworld Minis.
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The Fluffenhammer is a archive of joy for the worlds of Games Workshop (and beyond)