Saturday 30 September 2023


A new project I've been working on in an original setting - the dark forests of Mori. Multiple new warbands and scenery in a non-AoS style, and I've tried to push my photography with this project. Read on below the jump for a deep dive into this weird place, and a ton of photos.

Having decided on the tone I wanted, this setting was originally going to be a weird take on the Mortal Realms of Age of Sigmar. In order to isolate the setting and make it a self-contained sandbox, I thought of the idea of the Mortal Realms leaking their excess magical energy out through the other side of the universal plane, cross-pollinating with each other and producing tiny "Domains" that combined the elemental traits of many realms into separate isolated pocket dimensions. The Realms are mutually unaware of the Domains, which are inaccessible, clinging to the underside of the universe like drops of condensation on the roof of a cave. The Domains would have elemental themes based on combinations of the Realms' elements, with a skew towards effluent materials like ash, smoke, earth, fog. This way I could pick and choose exactly what elements from AoS I wanted to exist in this setting. It could also be a cool way of developing new micro-settings in future.

Two things made me give up this idea. Firstly, I learned that almost exactly the same idea already exists in Dungeons and Dragons as the "Para-Elemental Planes" (ash dimension and all). Secondly, I decided that I was already isolating the setting from pretty much all Age of Sigmar lore, so why not go the whole way and make it its own thing altogether?

So instead, the Domain of earth became Mori. A foggy, ill-defined setting that might be a world, or a country, or a single large forest. Mori means forest in Japanese, and also appears in the West in "memento mori". It's a self-contained sandbox to make Age of Sigmar-esque miniatures that borrow design cues from ancient Japan and thereabouts. I want to avoid the standard samurai / ninja / geisha tropes (no shade to anyone who does that, it can be cool in its own right) and go for more primitive folkloric, low-fantasy themes. So peasant-bandits clad in straw, strange masks, spirits, yokai and so on. I haven't yet developed lore of this setting, and will probably only explore it by making the miniatures themselves. Princess Mononoke is one reference point, and also a lot Japanese folk horror from manga and movies.

Teppō Bandits

The Teppō Bandits - a band of peasant highwaymen of the woods armed with matchlock rifles and an impressive cannon.

The models are based on the Corvus Cabal kit, which is nice and dynamic - the characters look like they're leaping and running. The crow-feather cloaks were filled out just a little with greenstuff to look more like a Mino straw coat. I think these particular bandits mix feathers into their Mino for extra warmth.

The hats and woven sandals are scratch sculpted from greenstuff. I based the hat design on simpler peasant Kasa hats instead of the refined Kasa that soldiers or nobility might wear.

The band's captain is based on the Shrike Talon from the Corvus Cabal, using its stilts as extra long bladed geta shoes. His cloak is a mix of several different fur cloak parts.

The cannon design is inspired by historical South-East Asian cannons, like this "Cirebon cannon" displayed in Jakarta. It's one indication that this project is not going to be strictly drawing only from Japanese history. The barrel is completely scratch built from Aves Apoxie putty around a sprue core, but the mouth of the cannon is a Dwarf dragon-head gun barrel, and the ornamental cannon frame is cut down from two of the Blood Bowl Amazons marker.


 Wolf-Bat-Rat Sorceror

Next, a sinister outcast - known as the Wolf-Bat-Rat sorceror. This model is completely unmodified from the Askurgan Trueblades kit, because I loved the base model so much. The colour scheme is muted; in Mori, I'm trying to push each faction towards their own monochrome theme that is still naturalistic. For example the Teppo Bandits are all in warm brown hues.


Mad Butoh Dancers

Thirdly, a troupe of mad Butoh dancers. Although Butoh dance is a modern avant-garde artform, I think it fits pretty well in a dark fantasy setting. This troupe dances the dance of Utter Darkness, I guess it has some sort of harming effect in place of real weapons.

The models are a mix of Askurgan Trueblade skirts with Zombie torsos and various heads. The crouching one had a skirt sculpted from greenstuff. Their faces are daubed with white facepaint, their hands and feet blackened with dirt.

The hardest thing was to find heads with the right faces for these models. They had to be gurning or pulling grotesque expressions, and most Warhammer faces are either yelling or looking heroic.
It also helped to find interestingly positioned open hands from the Zombie kits and elsewhere, to look like they're dancing.

A Yokai

Finally, the model that pushed me to start this project when I first saw it previewed. It's the Curseblood from the Askurgan Trueblades kit, here standing in as some form of Yokai or Bakemono. If the Wolf-Bat-Rat sorceror is a cool model, this one is one of my all time favourite Games Workshop sculpts. I think it's due to that mouth with curving fangs and lolling tongue accompanied by bulging eyes - a set of features that commonly appears in East Asian folkloric monsters that I've tried to replicate a few times (without much success) prior to the release of this model. It's lovely to see this face on a GW sculpt, and I hope they branch out into this direction more often.

On top of the face, the pose and proportions are also fantastic. An excellent monster to fit into the dark forests of Mori. I already have some plans for more unaligned yokai-like creatures.


A note on the scenery. The bamboo pallisades came with the same Warcry box set as the Askrugan Trueblades, and contributed to my rare decision to buy a new box set. The two large trees were also made from trees in this set. However, the original trees are meant to be fleshy. I cut away their clawed branches, and replaced them with spare leafy branches I had left over from the Sylvaneth Endless Spells. They are perfectly gnarly and work well as "normal" trees (but the bigger trees in the kit are sculpted with fleshy muscles and wouldn't work so well without some extra sculpting on top).

The bent stump is from the base of the Orruk Vulture monster. And the tiny tree is a basing detail from a Lumineth kit. Unlike my normal approach to scenery, I've based each of the trees with normal GW bases. I plan to add more.

Thanks for reading


  1. I'd love to see some Tzaangors turned into Karasu Tengu (or Kotengu)! I love the whole concept of this project generally as it puts me in reminiscence of some of my favourite PS1 games; Ninja - Shadow of Darkness and Ronin Blade (especially the latter which is essentially Silent Hill set in Shogun-era Japan).

    1. Thanks Gretchin! Tengu would be a great fit. I'm a fan of the ones with red faces and long noses myself. Ronin Blade sounds great, I'll check it out.

  2. Fantastic work, very inspiring conversions. Looking forward to seeing what else you have in mind for this setting.

  3. I love the original take. Glad you went that direction. The idea of a dark dream-like world in a shinto-esque timeless ancient japan has all kinds of compelling hooks about it. Can't wait to see where you take this.

    1. Thanks very much! I really like how you've summarised it here - exactly the mood I'm going for.

  4. Awesome work. I'm especially excited about your emphasis on miniature photography -- I'd love to see some more into that process!