The arrival of a brand new faction to the extended Warhammer universe is monumental. The announcement of the Idoneth Deepkin was shocking and seemingly came out of nowhere. This race of aquatic aelves haunt the deepest of seas, skulking to the surface in order to harvest souls and keep their species alive. While worshipping under the shadow of Mathlann, they struggle with an eternal curse that occurred at the moment of their creation under Teclis.
The Deepkin named themselves the Idoneth, which translates to extreme seclusion, as a reflection of their brooding and sinister lifestyle. We’ve come out of the dark and discussed this shiny new army with Games Workshop studio writer Jeremy Vetock.
Where did the idea for Idoneth Deepkin originate? Are there any pop culture influences, such as the classic monster flick The Creature From the Black Lagoon, in their lore or background?
JV: Really we always start with the miniatures, and the sculptors began the nautical theme. We then took these amazing models and tried to place them in our Mortal Realms – the made-up universe of Warhammer Age of Sigmar. We didn’t want happy Little Mermaid coral reefs, but something darker, creepier. I think the main idea that struck a bunch of us was not a pop culture reference at all, but rather classic sailors’ tales and coastal myths of enemies that come out of the sea fog and strike, leaving horror and mystery behind. There is sort of a Bermuda Triangle mythos going on – certain sea lanes are raided, giving rise to ‘sailors’ tales’ of sea monsters in those areas. I imagine every Idoneth undersea city to be surrounded by a wide perimeter of sunken ships – like an elephant’s graveyard of rotting timbers, sunken treasure chests and shark-ridden hulks resting where they sank. The idea of them stealing souls to save their race probably riffs most off Games Workshop’s own Aeldari – space-faring elves for the Warhammer 40,000 game who have a long feud with Slaanesh, who covets their souls. This was another chance to tell that story in a different, fantastical Age of Sigmar setting that builds on the elven tragedy with its own weird twists. And finally, I think there is something very ancient and instinctual that we get when looking at the water – whether a deep drop-off underwater or just the edge of a lake – where your vision ends and the water is black… what lurks in there? It was trying to take that fantastic vibe and very human instinctual fear and carry that into our fantasy universe.
The dichotomy of a race that wants to remain deeply isolated yet needs to strike out and find others simply to survive is a compelling tale. But is this struggle truly sustainable? Is this a faction whose populace is on a path of termination in the long run?
JV: Yeah – good question, and one we definitely talked about. I think we as outsiders can see that a) hiding in reclusion and b) stealing souls and c) remaining hardcore isolationists and d) perpetuating a system of repressed slavery, are probably signs of a broken, unstable race that can only lead one way. But the tragedy is that they probably don’t see that at all. Well, perhaps the most enlightened of their kind – those of the Ionrach enclave – might be aware of some of the issues. They probably offer their race the most hope as they attempt to gather the other disparate enclaves together as well as allying and establishing relationships with other races. Other enclaves (the Dhom-hain, the Mor’phann, etc.) are probably a little more broken, though they range on a spectrum. So I suppose it is a glass half full or half empty thing. But as a race they certainly seem to be poised for change, and I think perhaps the game’s players and hobbyists can help decide. They are a grey faction, with some aspects of hope and others of pure darkness, and they can be played as good, bad, or torn between both. It’s an exciting concept that is bound to see some change in the future – and, like all good tragedies, the audience can see it start to unfold before the actors realize.
Is it possible the Idoneth will ever truly find a cure for their curse, and could this be large part of the fabric of the ongoing Age of Sigmar plotline?
JV: Again, great question. I think the ‘quest for the cure’ is the hope side of their story, and would love to see that continued – most likely by the Ionrach enclave. But of course, the traditionalist and isolationist enclaves will feel like they are fine the way they are, and the other races (who are clearly inferior) are fine serving as ‘soul-cattle’. Again – some exciting options to pursue and you can see how, even if their enemies don’t get to them, the Idoneth Deepkin are on a path of civil war and strife themselves. Despite being a new race they really have a history and it feels more like the Idoneth tale is in medias res rather than at its beginning or end.
In terms of sheer population and their place, how do these reclusive aelves compare to the other major players in the world? Do they have the numbers to win a sustained large-scale war if it ever comes to that?
JV: The Idoneth Deepkin are a power in the Mortal Realms for sure. They probably don’t even realise how mighty they are. They have great strength in magic (which was taught to them by Teclis and then developed in their own way), their highly defensible hidden stronghold-cities and all kinds of enslaved watery beasts to aid them in battle. Plus they boast the natural war skills of the highly agile aelf race. However, going against them, they are far from unified – the different enclaves don’t see eye to eye, and they make themselves difficult allies as they have deplorable diplomacy and people skills. And in terms of sheer numbers they could not compete with the hordes of other races. So if they were all ‘found out’ and had to stand alone against the forces of Chaos they would fold… but so far that hasn’t happened. Against everyone else – I think they can hold their own.
What common ground could the Deepkin find with the other factions, and is it even feasible to see them fighting alongside a group of outsiders?
JV: There are a few examples where the Idoneth Deepkin do ally with others but it is never easy – in fact it was only after they tried to steal the souls of some Stormcast Eternals and found they were tethered by Sigmar that they decided to become allies. They have allied with the Sylvaneth, but in a pinch are not above taking their souls either… So, in classic tradition, I think they will ally, but only when great need or common cause push them to it. Otherwise they are likely to continue their isolationist, self-serving ways.
Will we see any Idoneth in any other Games Workshop games? Is it possible to field a Deepkin hero in Warhammer Quest, for instance?
JV: I certainly hope so. The last few years we have really been upping our game in terms of games like Warhammer Quest and Shadespire and the new vistas or revisited IP opportunities that they present. Designers (from wordsmiths to painters to artists to sculptors) really like the chance to revisit existing IP in a new way or from a different direction – they are a great chance to test the waters (pun intended!).
Seeing the arrival of a faction that’s never existed in the Warhammer universe is extremely exciting. Will we be seeing other brand-new armies and factions emerging in the near future?
JV: If I answered this with specifics I would have to ‘go sleep with the fishes’. Again, I certainly hope so. There are a number of hints throughout the background but whether they are red herring (ah the fish puns!) or are foreshadowing remains to be seen. The Age of Sigmar has many realms we have barely touched and I think as fans of the game and background we’d all like to see them populated. Wasn’t Slaanesh slowing breaking free? (And what would the Idoneth Deepkin do then – ye gods what a nightmare for them!) What else lurks in Ulgu, the Realm of Shadows? Strange reports have been heard out of Hysh, the Realm of Light. The recent Necroquake and the eruption of undead that sprang from it have already changed the realms and those necrotic aftershocks will continue to do so… I think the evolving nature of the storyline and the freedom of the new setting are only the beginning.
Do you play Age of Sigmar? Which faction? Tell us about it in the comments (or better yet, share photos of it with us!) And be sure to join Will Friedle as he learns the ins and outs of painting miniatures on Geek & Sundry’s Painters Guild on Alpha – get a free 30 day trial at projectalpha.com.
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Image Credits: The Warhammer Community