The Faceless Mothers

You will have to wait to see pictures of the “Faceless Mothers”. When I got the Necromunda starting box I started working on the Goliaths first (do you want to know more?). I also have a bunch of Confrontation warbands in the making (do you want to know more?) since I brought friends into the game as a way to find new players and get motivated to start painting the massive pile of Confrontation minis I own. So the schedule is: Confrontation, then finish the Goliath gang, then to the Faceless Mothers (with maybe secret project n°1723 in somewhere in between).


What a lovely place to live!

The Underhive: lovely place, nice weather, great food…

I never played the original Necromunda. Of course I know what it was and I am reasonably accustomed to its lore. Still, I am no Necromunda specialist. The re-release was an opportunity for me to take a serious tour of the Hive for the first time. I love skirmish games (see my undying love for Mordheim and Confrontation) since they are the only games I really have time to play nowadays; and I really love a good and dirty grimdark.

I got the Necromunda box for Christmas and read the book(s) [yeah, I got gang wars too] immediately [note to the developers: sorry, it didn’t stop where I should have, I had nobody to play with to test the rules, so…well…]. I LOVED the background of Necromunda. It immediately gave me ideas for 5 (or was it 6?) gangs and warbands. The lore is great. I am going to dig in the old stuff too to have more materials, maybe the novels too. I am already very excited about Orlocks (Peaky Blinders Orlocks anybody?) and I obviously NEED that beastman bounty hunter (and the other ones too).

Anyway I came back home after Christmas and started to work on the content of the box right away, we wouldn’t want another “Dreadfleet incident” would we (do you want to know more?)? As you may know I started to work on the Goliath first, even though I find the Escher more inspiring. I wouldn’t want them to think I do not love them dearly though, so I worked on their backstory quite a lot.

Why a backstory before the minis may you ask? Well this is how I work most of the time (do you want to know more?) and also this time I was in the weird position of being excited by the minis and the setting but not wanting to go the way the official lore would have led me.

Well, let’s put it this way: I really like the Escher story of “high class” gangers dealing drugs and using their poisonous weapons to get their way. That just wasn’t the story I wanted to tell.

Creating the background

I think the way my mind works when background stories emerge is the same way a cake is baked: you mix a bunch of stuff, let it heat for a few time, then you have your cake. For my “Escher gang” there were three main ingredients: a frustration, a movie and the work of someone inspiring.

You can be « cool », but you’ll never be « painted-face-feathers-in-the-hair-wearing-a-teeth-made-necklace-holding-a-long-rifle-Escher-cool ».
  • The frustration

The frustration came from the official lore. I like it a lot and it is full of opportunity, but I wanted something more grimdark, something more mystical and crazy. So I decided my “Escher” wouldn’t be “Escher”.

The part of the Escher background I did not want to use is the reason why they are all female. The idea that male are more easily killed by poisonous substances than female seemed weird to me. Almost as much as “the female body could not withstand the necessary adaptation to make a Space Marine”, I mean come on people do you think pregnancy is a piece of cake? And do not make me start on the cloning thing, your Master Cloner gave wings to one of his sons…WINGS! Anyway, this is not about Space Marines…

Even though it is said in the rulebook that the other gangs are male & female, we do not get female minis for other gangs (well it seems we just did in the Van Saar gang, as I said, this post has been long in the making). Not that this bothers me much, I get how criminal gangs can root in the “manhood” ideology and discriminate against women. I even get how gang members could “spontaneously” be of the same gender since gang phenomenon is strong among teenage groups that are (usually) very rigid in terms of gender identity. Anyway, this is not about cheap sociology so I won’t bother you with this.

The only thing you have to get is that, in my head, non-Escher gangs are “all male” because they choose to be (in other words they discriminate against women), so the natural explanation (in my head) for an “all female” gang is that they choose to be (in other words they discriminate against men). On top of suiting well my approach of the whole “gang” mentality, it offered me an opportunity to play with something interesting by reversing a cliché, which is very useful in creating a good story in my opinion.

The cliché of all clichés when it comes to female warriors: Amazons…

So the first ingredient was: my female gang would be all female because its members chose to.

  • The movie

You may have guessed but cinema has a strong influence on my inspiration. I watch many movies and I enjoy it a lot.

In recent years I was struck by the “Mad Max” reboot (or is it a sequel? None of this really makes sense in the Mad Max universe anyway). I do not know the franchise very well (I have seen the original ones years and years ago) but I like post-apo and I found the aesthetic (both graphic and narrative) of the movie very interesting.

One of the theme of the movie I found inspiring was the work on gender: the “opposition” between Max and Imperator Furiosa; the work (very graphic) on virginity and maternity (strongly relying on “clichés” but underlining their absurdity as they are transported in a completely destroyed society); and of course the myth of the amazons.

Since watching the movie I wanted to work on something about amazons and maternity, but not in a “glorious” way (not the Wonder Woman way if you prefer – a very good movie by the way –), I wanted something to fit in the very grim and very dark universe of the Underhive.

There is a feeling of heroism and desperation that struck me in Fury Road.

I am not yet set on using direct graphic references to the movie (even though Escher with mechanic prosthesis is an idea I am toying with) but I saw in the Escher gang a good opportunity to try some of these ideas.

So the second ingredient was: maternity was to be meaningful in that group of people.

  • The work of someone else

At that point I got cold feet. I mean why go through all this trouble? The minis are fantastic and they do not “need” to be converted to look good, badass and fun (I am not yet sure that I will convert them as heavily as my Goliath anyway). As for the background story, it is far from uninteresting and there are many many narrative arcs to exploit within the Escher lore without creating something of your own.

Then, the work of a fellow warmonger showed me the right path: it was Hobbyistgirl who made me jump off my self-doubt cliff. She made some wonderfully badass and great looking Escher gangers (do you want to know more?). I like what she usually does, but I have to confess I think these are some of her best work.

I won’t directly use her ideas and her gang wouldn’t fit in my background story anyway, but she deserved to be mentioned at this point because her work inspired me and seeing what she achieved made me “dare”.

The third ingredient was: it is ok to take the hobby knife to and put greenstuff on great minis, because you actually can make them…yours!

  • The result

What cake did the mixing of all those ingredients made? Well, a weird one but I hope it would be tasty. My “count as” Escher gang is called…

The Faceless Mothers

I intend to convert the Escher minis and cover the face of all my gangers (Faceless Mothers), since the Mothers are secretive and live in the shadows. That means helmets, masks, veils and so on… I am also thinking about a pregnant champion and, as I said before, some mechanical limbs.

Regarding the paintjob I will not got for the usual Escher “I am from the 80s and I look fantastic” style. I would like to try something more “blanchitsu” like, a least that would be an opportunity to try it. Well I have not started on the minis yet, so we’ll see where this goes…

To keep you (and me) waiting, here is the lore I came up with.

  • Not a gang

First of all my gang will not be a gang. Well…rule wise it will be a gang since it is a “count as” Escher gang. But I want to do something more mystical so I refer to it as a cult. At least that is what the Inquisitorium and the official Imperial authorities will tell you about them. The Faceless Mothers would define themselves as a “Matriarchy” or a “Sisterhood” and most of the time they would refer to themselves as “the True Believers”.

They constitute an autonomous group with its own set of rules (social and religious) and form a functioning community living on the margin of Imperial society, with very few nonviolent contacts with the outside world of the “false believers”. A shared core of beliefs, a very strict set of rituals and a quite rigid social hierarchy make the glue keeping the community together.

Heroism and desperation…
  • Credo

The Faceless Mothers are defined by their faith. According to the Inquisitorium they are one of the many heresies that are thriving on the rotten fruit that the Imperium of Man has become, but like many heretics they do not perceive themselves as such.

The Faceless Mothers are not under the influence of any of the Chaos God (that they know of anyway, an Inquisitor would disagree) and they inforce a rather extremist “anti-mutants” policy. They are known to wage an endless “holy war” against Genestealer cults (which means some imperial agents may “use” them from time to time). In their own eyes they are the purest and most zealous followers of the Imperial cult and many aspects of their rituals and faith are in line with strict observance of the Imperial cult.

So where is the stain of Heresy on their soul, would you ask? Well, well… The Faceless Mothers consider that the core message of the Emperor is that Mankind should be rendered to its original purity. That explains their hatred of mutants. No problem here, the Inquisitor would say. Well, not exactly, since the Faceless Mothers have a rather extensive definition of “mutant” and consider the “male gender” as…a mutation!

That’s the core idea of the lore I wanted for my “cult”. These girls are fanatics who consider all traces of mutation should be eradicated from mankind starting with its male component.

In the Faceless Mothers’ credo, the Emperor (I have not decided yet if the call the Emperor “Empress” or not, I like the fact that they kept the name) is a giver of life. His most holy achievement was to create the Astartes isn’t it? Basically he gave life, “birth”, to them, using his own body in the process. That “power” is essentially female, so shouldn’t it mean that the purest form of “Humanity” (in the distorded religious sense commonly used in the decaying Imperium of Man) is to be female? Well, that is what the Faceless Mothers believe anyway.

The Faceless Mothers believe that the true way of being devout to the God-Emperor is to give life and that the most insidious mutation of all is the male gene (since it occurs roughly one out of two times in the standard reproduction process).

No one really knows how the Faceless Mothers actually become “Mothers”. They are known to abduct infant girls during their raids, thus “liberating” them from the false beliefs tough by the official Imperial clergy. They also “liberate” many adult women that way.

Still, we have many testimonies of Faceless Mothers being pregnant. Some lubricious adventurers say they capture men as well to use as tools for their needs, but this seems to be the fantasy of some wannabee sex slaves, since no official report ever mentioned men being left alive or accounted as “missing” after a Faceless Mothers successful raid. The most serious theory is that the cult has developed (or discovered in some forgotten place) efficient gene-cloning and in vitro reproductive tech. As usual when it comes to technology in the grimdark universe of the 40th millennium, the frontier between technology and religion is blurry and the Faceless Mothers would certainly think of their “reproductive science” as a holy ritual. Anyway, how they have children is their most jealously guarded secret.

  • Social structure

Because “giving life” is so important in the Faceless Mothers society one’s place in the social structure is defined by how many generations one bred.

The cult is ruled by the “Council of the Great Grand Mothers”. These are the most respected and wise members of the cult. They seldom leave their Temple and are responsible for all the main religious duties, including choosing who is worthy to give life and the process of getting the chosen ones pregnant. They preside over the destiny of the cult. They are the ultimate “legislative” body of the cult, as “keepers of the customs”, and its ultimate judicial body. All major raids (and the very few diplomatic agreements made by the cult) are sanctioned by the Council. The Council elects its own members among the Sisters at least four generations older than the youngest children of the Sisterhood.

The Bene Gesserit, from Dune, another influence for my backstory I guess.

Just below the Council, are the “Grand Mothers”. They are more or less the Clergy and the top administrative body of the cult. They preside over the education of children and all the minor religious duties that the Great Grand Mothers cannot attend to. They do not usually leave the Faceless Mothers territories, except under heavy escort to carry out some diplomatic mission or pilgrimage assigned by the Council. All cult members three generations older (your daughters have to have had daughters) than the youngest children of the Sisterhood is a Grand Mother.

The “Mothers” are the core population of the cult. Individuals become “Mothers” once they have had at least one daughter and they are until their daughters have children of their own. They occupy all kind of social functions within the cult: worker, doctor, warrior… Individuals are not specialized in the cult (due to the structural lack of workforce linked to the very strict reproductive rules and the autarkic system) and every member is supposed to be able to carry on different tasks from growing food, educating children, scavenging for equipment or waging holy-war. In small scale raids Mothers usually command the raiding party (in game they would be leader and champions), but they constitute a far more important proportion of the troops (even low ranking soldiers) when the cult goes into full scale crusade.

Then come the “Maidens”. These are cult members old enough to bear child but who have not yet been chosen to give life. The Maidens are still considered to be “in learning” and cannot perform any religious or social act without the approval and supervision of a Mother. They are the main warrior body of small raiding parties, trying to prove their worth in war in order to get the honour of being chosen to give life once they come back.

At the bottom of the social hierarchy are the children (not yet fertile girls). They are the future of the community and they are taken care of by the rest of the group in a tribal way. Family is not a concept the Faceless Mothers use in the common way: the whole group is a “family”, hence there is no real “bloodlines” nor individual bond shared between mother and child. All the adult members of the group (maidens included) are the “mothers” of all the “children”. The children are the most valuable treasure of the cult and they are always under heavy guard.

These main “classes” refer to the individuals “born” within the cult but the Faceless Mothers are well known to kidnap many girls and women when they get the chance. The young girls are treated as children and immediately integrated in the cult and raised as they were born within the cult. All girls older than 10 (or younger but too strong willed to be considered a child) have to be “re-educated”. They are referred to as “novices” or “newcomers” and undertake a range of basic tasks under the close supervision of the Mothers while being taught the real faith. They are not allowed to bear child or wage war and they basically have no right on their own person inside the community. Once deemed worthy and pious enough they become Maidens (when they did not have children before their abduction) or Mothers (when they had).

The last class is made of infertile cult members. These “Childless Daughters” are regarded with mystical fear by other members of the cult. Since they are genetically female, they are not treated as “mutants” like men or other abhorrent creatures but since they cannot have children they are not included in the standard hierarchy of the cult. Once diagnosed, these individuals are devoted to one social role: spies. Since they cannot bear children, they are considered less exposed to the dangers of being corrupted by the exterior world and hence are perfect for infiltrating it. They act like undercover agents dealing with the false believers. They report directly to the Council which use them to get intel, rare supplies and from time to time strike secret diplomatic or commercial deals. The Childless Daughters are sometimes used as leaders when a raid or a holy war is organised far outside the Mothers territories. They make the most cunning and ruthless of all leaders and allow their group to survive in unwelcoming surroundings.

Imperator Furiosa, clearly a reference for my Faceless Mothers warriors.

That’s all folks, hope you enjoyed it, keep you posted on the minis as soon as I start working on them.

All pictures found on the internet, so I do not own any of them.

1 réflexion sur « The Faceless Mothers »

  1. Fascinating. I really like the main core of the Faceless Mothers’s reason for existence: the purity (or search for purity). I my opinion, they face an inevitable-and, as a spectator, delicious-doom, since purity, just as the search for « true authenticity » or « the Original » is a trap. First, because there will always be, at some point, someone purer in an extreme and non-viable way, second because inevitably, the society structure will meet a breaking point, since some of the top ranking will start deciding that some are not pure enough. Then will come dissidence and alternative readings of the Rules, then religious wars. I love it.
    What interested me also is, at the beginning of the article, the theme of the Cliché. Cliché as altogether a tool for expression, inspiration or narrative point. It asks for a whole article for itself!
    Great story.

    J'aime

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