[Archive] Slave Crews


Do you suppose that Hobgoblin slave crews would have a place in the Chaos Dwarf navy? Ratings? Cleaning? Would heavier slave troops, like regular Orcs or even Black Orcs be kept as marines, or would all these positions and functions be reserved for Dawi Zharr themselves, the complicated machines being too rare and valuable for slaves to be trusted?

Or, possibly, would the Hobgoblins rate a different ship all their own, for scouting purposes or chaff to hurl in the teeth of the enemy’s navy?

Inspired by Dreadfleet, I’m rolling these ideas around in my head, for the manifold purposes of model conversion, army construction, and rules/background development. I think the idea of having a force of Chaos Dwarf marine slave raiders is cool.

Do you think control of water daemons would feature heavily in the details of the fleet? Perhaps some sort of cult of appeasement? Hmm… running wild with questions and ideas, here…


Hobgoblins would still be slave elite, so they’re unlikely to be cleaning things, but for sure they could be in charge of operating cannons, acting as deck crew, Any kind of officer, however, would likely be a CD, as they themselves are above the slave class.  

Orcs/BOs would also be kept below decks until their masters order a boarding party be formed and order the green-skinned meat shields to attack in the first wave.  I can’t imagine Orcs or BOs being given much leeway on a CD ship, certainly not with weapons to-hand while they’re all hanging around idly eating hardtack or the maggoty ship’s biscuits.  That’s just a recipe for a mutiny, as the slaves (I imagine) would almost always outnumber their better fed, better armed and better armoured masters.  A cool idea might be that the slave pens are kept below decks and the only way out is via a staircase or ladder that leads straight to a protected/sheltered building on the sides of the ship that is used to launch close combat boarding raids from. Maybe built in such a way that the only safe and efficient way out of the protected alcove would be to walk across the retractable boarding plank during an assault, but that it wouldn’t be easy to gain direct access to the ship’s deck or officer areas without climbing around on the outer hull of the ship. The outer hull around such an area could be easily protected with spikes and oil slick to hamper nimble goblin hands from finding a firm hold ;)  … Hope that idea makes some kind of sense.

I don’t know if Hobgoblins would have a ship of their own. If they did they’re likely to be independent of the Chaos Dwarfs, although perhaps a Hobgoblin mercenary ship would be cool… otherwise I think there would still be at the very least a CD captain on an all Hobgoblin ship.

I’m sure there are a few others on the site here who have given this much more thought…

As for water daemons, I have no idea.  Daemons: yes. Capturing big ugly sea critters and enslaving them: probably. Making huge steam boilers, etc.: for sure.


If I was a Chaos Dwarf I would never let slaves even touch some thing so valuable and important as battle ships. They would be too high tech for slaves to manage. In my fluff even guns are so imp0ortant and revered that no proper Bluebeards’ clandwarf could let filthy slaves to touch them. But this is my fluff of course :wink:

By the way, they idea that hobgoblins or goblins could keep clean something… well it’s a little bit akward :wink:

I do like Nicodemus’ idea of a slave area below the deck, with the only way out as a boarding plank. This is pretty cool!

I really like the idea of hobgoblin mercenary/slave ships. This can give a lot of modelling possibilities… I can easily imagine those filthy, cramped and junk-made ships managed by hobgoblin and lesser slaves roaming around the main CD force!

If modelling was my full time employment… :frowning:


Besides the possibility of Chaos Dwarf torpedoes … what about small slave ships that are basically only a small step above being a torpedo?  They could be designed to fire off at high velocity, maybe having their own boiler at the back, but instead of exploding on impact the entire top of the vessel would open outward. Where the top hatch at the front of the vessel would flip forward with big nasty hooks to grab hold of what ever battleship it just hit. The hatches could have built in hadders on the underside, and maybe simultaneously pop open stowed weapons lockers so that the slaves immediately have a way out of their prison - up the ladders and on to the enemy vessel :wink:

Bwahaha, let’s see how those scurvy dogs like their freedom now!?


Some good thoughts here. In old Man o’ War, the lesser ships were probably mainly crewed by Hobgoblins, the main ships by Chaos Dwarfs: Chaos Dwarf Fleet – Wargaming Workshop

Every warships would logically have at least a Chaos Dwarf captain, since that’s how the hierarchy works. Warships are huge investments of resources, and should as such always be commmanded by the Dawi Zharr themselves.

Of course, the main ships of the fleets were monstrous floating artillery pieces, with a big hat! All ships are likely packed with slave gangs that shuffle coal into the engines, cleans the decks, gets sacrificed for Hashut and so on. Torpedo slave ships would definitely fit in, and already have a kind of predecessor in the form of the Hull-Destroyers, which are all-out ramming ships.

Hashut’s Blessing:

Speaking of daemons - there’s a possibility that they bind a daemon to a sail (much like the wind daemon of the Arabian looking ship in Dreadfleet) to send orcs as boarding parties before their own assaults or whilst they blast away with their cannon.

I think that on any CD vessels, they would likely have weaker slaves doing the cleaning and operating of the ship (or just Hobgoblins doing it all. They may be trusted, but that means they’re more likely to be used at sea where mutiny is far worse - pushed overboard in superheavy army? Drown, drown, drown…) and maybe fighty/stronger slaves are kept in the bilge with an attack route akin to what Nico said and to be used as auxiliary oar power if things like engines and sails give out - or as meat for the hobgoblins etc…


In reference to the greenskins keeping anything clean thought… I have pondered recently the possibility that Chaos Dwarfs might maintain a coterie of slaves trained in an unusual fashion, as a display of wealth and skill or perhaps simply experimentation. Ideas for highly unusual include Hobgoblin diplomats and/or Goblin scholars. A greenskin specialized in patience and abstract concepts is about as impressive a demonstration of training ability as could be devised, I think.

It was my thought that if Hobgoblins were to crew and captain their own ship, it would be something within their regular capacity, like a swift wooden sailing sloop, as opposed to the brass and iron daemon ships the Dawi Zharr themselves design. It’s hard to imagine a ship built out of such materials, no matter how small, that constitutes an expendable scout. So as opposed to the Dawi investing proper resources, they simply oversee the construction of the ship, ensuring it to be sound, and otherwise give the Hobgoblins their head, even as wolfrider tribes are the eyes of the armies on land. Indeed, a Hobgoblin Wolf-ship seems like a reasonable name for such a vessel.

The manned torpedoes concept is awesome. I was just reading a summary of a book on Kamikaze during World War II, and of course, duping a slave into committing suicide adds the flair of hilarity.

Or perhaps Chaos Dwarf criminals, in lieu of being offered to some daemonic force, might prefer a mortal death. I never was particularly enthralled by the idea of evil Slayers, as the society seemed too precarious to permit any sort of redemption, or tolerate any kind of voluntary withdrawal from the usual course of business.

I have long adored the concept of pre-modern naval warfare. I am most of the way through Lord Admiral Nelson’s letters on e-book (though I am American). Inspirational sort of man, I tell you, faults and all.

The Englishmen will doubtless snort at the obviousness of it.


I think it really depends on the type of ship.

Something with a large boarding crew or multi-deck guns I imagine the hobgoblins would outnumber the CD crew hundreds of times over.  They and the orcs/ men would be doing all the heavy lifting whilst the CD would oversee from a safe distance (the length of a whip) :slight_smile:

The hobgoblin pirates would be the majority of the boarding crew, forming the first wave.  Anything left the CD pirates would take care of.

Anything with ores I imagine they’d have generic slave chaingangs rowing and the hobgoblins overseeing them. Probably the survivors of previous battles they’ve enslaved.

Something like a submersible I can’t imagine there being that many hobgoblins compared to ones needing boarding crew.

Thommy H:

While it makes sense in a pitched battle to send in waves of cannon fodder first, in a boarding action you’d actually want to overrun the enemy ship as quickly as possible - if you send over poor fighters, they get hurled back and the enemy use your own grapnels etc. against you to mount a counter attack. And any energy they waste disposing of your cannon fodder is balanced by you having to climb over the bodies of your own side in the narrow confines of ship-to-ship combat anyway. So, in fact, I’d imagine Chaos Dwarf boarding parties would mostly be made up of Chaos Dwarfs, and probably quite savage ones at that.


I'd imagine Chaos Dwarf boarding parties would mostly be made up of Chaos Dwarfs, and probably quite savage ones at that.

Thommy H
That's likely if the ship, or something on board had value. If you just needed the disruption while some other CD contraption tore open the hull of the enemy vessel and eviscerated the bowels of the ship the rabid and crazed slaves would be enough.

Of couse part of this discussion on strategy goes to the heart of what each of us imagines various facets of CD society is like, and some of this is beyond the offician GW canon that exists. By way of example, I imagine my Chaos Dwarfs as arrogant elitists, looking down their nose at all other races as inferior. To this end, I can't imagine my Chaos Dwarfs, if they were go to sea, would ever capture an enemy vessel as all other ships would be regarded as inferior in some regard. Of course one could always imagine a scenario where an enemy vessel would be needed or valued, but to me that would be the exception, rather than the norm.

On a tangent from the above, what a huge and barely portable boiler with a bound daemon inside that could be hauled over by slaves to a captured enemy vessel. After smashing through the deck of the ship to drop the boiler in to place and getting some slaves to rig up a few extra bits to install it (either to automate the rowing of oars or turning of a large paddle wheel, or maybe just pumping up water from below the water line and blasting great jets of it out below the waterline at the back of the ship)... the ship's course cound then be set to head back toward enemy waters, and boobytrapped to release the daemon if the ship is boarded again or is damaged. Maybe not as good as the slave torpedo idea...


Thommys quite right. Boarding parties don’t work through swarmping the enemy by weight of numbers rather by a small incredibly vicious surgical shock designed to capture key logistical and command areas of the enemy vessel and to frighten the defenders into giving up the fight.


Sounds like Chaos Dwarf warriors, and possibly Black Orc shock troops to me, then.

Secondary question, that will address tangentially all of the above. The building of Chaos Dwarf ships of war: follows a pattern laid down with multiple ships built, or do you think it follows along the more recently suggested method of each ship essentially being a unique construction, that tend to fulfill similar functions in combat and are thus grouped that way?

I am considering the implications of the multi-function daemon engine entries in the GT and Thommy’s list. I would think that logically, the construction of ships follows more or less the same procedure, with similarity of overall capability being a reflection of the needs of combat.

And I love the idea of a menagerie of quixotic magica-mechanical constructions of vast size and power. I prefer that, overall, to the admittedly cool idea of interchangeable parts construction being a part of the Chaos Dwarfs ability. Runs a little counter to the idea of pride in craft, and would give them too much of an advantage, in my mind. I don’t want them to win so much they lose that perched-on-the-edge-of-extinction flavor that I love.

Related note, I wondered how it would change things if the bargain with Hashut was far harsher, being more in the nature of the Dragon Ogre path, save they promised their souls as sacrifice to Hashut later, instead of to daemons right then. Hence their drive to find slave peoples to sacrifice in their stead, delaying the date payment comes due for the race entire. That thought might have to get explored elsewhere, but I’ll develop it more first.

Thommy H:

I think it depends on who’s commissioning or building the ship. A Daemonsmith is going to take the opportunity to create some hideous, unique hybrid of machine and Daemon - this fits with the new background about the captain of the mechanical kraken thing in Dreadfleet being a renegade engineer - but a practical Sorcerer Lord, or a militaristic Lord allowed to interpret his master’s will as he sees fit, might just want a lot of good ships fast. Chaos Dwarfs are certainly capable of mass production; to suggest they make everything bespoke is to render their whole society untenable! So I think most Chaos Dwarf ships would be big, ugly ironclads built to standard specifications, but flagships and one-off pirate ships could easily be something more unique and terrifying.


Intriguing topic. Principally I like the idea of slaves manning oars. Because that seems such a CD thing to do. However, I can’t really see CDs use flimsy wooden ships as we are familiar from the Mediterranean.

However I recently read about Far Eastern Warships of ancient times and realised that 1) they must’ve been effing crazy because there’s no way those tubs could have worked. And 2) they actually worked very well, thank you very much. Most of these ships were what we’d probably call “square” and squat so “fit” Dwarfs. Another very surprising piece of information was that they had paddle-wheeled fighting ships. They also used oars and this is where it again “fits” CDs in my mind. Unlike galleys the Far Easter ships more or less had separated “rowing” and fighting areas. Well in a much more enclosed way. This means you can separate the propulsion providing slaves from the fighting parts which would be for the CDs. Rather fittingly one could even envision how the Hobgoblin overseers would run the below deck area like their own little private hell.

Far Eastern ships also seems to have tended towards using many levels, there’s eg one illustration (of admittedly a river craft) with 3-4 levels of deck arranged pretty much like a Ziggurat! And this is waaay before cannons and stuff, when the best thing someone could figure out  in the west was to ram your own ship into the enemy and fight a land battle on the ships deck.

Oh, and search for “Korean Turtle ship”. If that could have been made by a Chaos Dwarf I don’t know what could. Although the CD version would obviously be of a more “MOAR SKULLZ!!” type.

For the whole boarding thing I would suggest that that’s not something CDs would do. They are a firepower based army really (?) so I’d say they would fight from a distance, which removes the need for 1) risking their lives or 2) bring unreliable people with you for boarding. If they’d be more interested in destroying than capturing enemy ships.

Thommy H:

they'd be more interested in destroying than capturing enemy ships.
You can't pick up many healthy slaves from a blazing hulk...

I'd suggest that any Chaos Dwarf fleets primary objective in any battle would be to board and capture as many enemy vessels as possible, and for that they'd need experienced, fearsome fighters. In fact, if there's a place in the Chaos Dwarf background for berserkers, it's as navy crews I think. They also probably use exclusively steam/Daemon powered ships, so slaves would be required deep in the bowels of the ships for working the furnaces - a particularly hellish environment, I'm sure.


Ah, another interesting point concerning their construction. Given that all warfare is defensive or has the goal of procuring slaves, that suggests that ships built with offense in mind would have a considerably greater capacity for taking prisoners than any normal ship. Indeed, a reason they might take over an enemy ship entire and sail it back is to save on the transport costs of bringing the slaves back - let them use their own labor, ship, and foodstuffs to return them to port, then cannibalize or scuttle the ship. Or, merchants that they are, sell it, less the crew and powder…

Perhaps, indeed, they have a bay somewhere they might keep captured ships to be crewed by slaves and overseers at time of need, when they should have to put many vessels into the sea at speed. Or conduct some ruse, although Dawi Zharr society does not seem particularly to place high value on outwitting the enemy, so perhaps that could just serve a purpose in fluff as a one-off ploy.

Or would there always be a slave transport vessel available in their fleet, to transfer all the prisoners to?

Do you think in their greed the Chaos Dwarfs might sell prisoners back for sufficient funds, or does the need for labor and sacrifice outweigh any use for Human (or Elven) gold or artifacts? Might a campaign of resource depletion be something they would consider, in a long view? The society seems friendly to the concept of mercantilism.

Last question for the post - Chaos Dwarf merchant ships. Traditional vessels of commerce, or armed to the teeth with rockets and marines?


Related note, I wondered how it would change things if the bargain with Hashut was far harsher, being more in the nature of the Dragon Ogre path, save they promised their souls as sacrifice to Hashut later, instead of to daemons right then. Hence their drive to find slave peoples to sacrifice in their stead, delaying the date payment comes due for the race entire. That thought might have to get explored elsewhere, but I'll develop it more first.

I've more or less written that for my fluff.  Though I didn't go into details of what the final reckoning would involve (leaving it to the imagination).

Thommy H:

Do you think in their greed the Chaos Dwarfs might sell prisoners back for sufficient funds, or does the need for labor and sacrifice outweigh any use for Human (or Elven) gold or artifacts? Might a campaign of resource depletion be something they would consider, in a long view? The society seems friendly to the concept of mercantilism.

Last question for the post - Chaos Dwarf merchant ships. Traditional vessels of commerce, or armed to the teeth with rockets and marines?
Maybe if they were a culture in the real world they'd have a more peaceful merchant navy hanging around - for Warhammer purposes though, I'm guessing they're all battleships. In reality, no nation of completely merciless slavers could ever survive. All the great slaving nations, from the Romans to the Americans, still traded with the people they took captive and actually obtained most of their slaves this way. Most Africans sold in the Atlantic Slave Trade were first taken and sold by other Africans, for example.

The Chaos Dwarfs are, like most things in Warhammer, a souped up, almost parody version of the real-world inspiration. Industry on the scale depicted in the background would soon deplete all natural resources. And, for that matter, the Dark Lands should actually be extremely fertile instead of a desolate wasteland anyway! Volcanism produces good soil, not desert.

So, to a certain extent, questions like this are moot. It might make real-world sense for Chaos Dwarfs to mitigate their psychotic society, but it wouldn't be Warhammer unless it was played to the hilt.


Grimstonefire: Yes, I recall that now. I say, it always gives me a warm and fuzzy when I have a good idea that other people had first. It’s like instant validation! :slight_smile: Futility is one of the best things about the Dwarfish peoples, and there’s nothing like it being explicit that extinction is inevitable to define futility.

When was ‘evitable’ actually a word, one wonders?

Thommy H: The truth, the truth. I would suppose most of their ships would be built with the capacity for cargo and prisoners in mind anyway, and the idea of normalized relations sufficient to not involve heavy armament doesn’t quite jive.

Still, a concept such as Ancient History’s Obsidian Age proposition is interesting enough to make me wonder about it.

Related note, in the strict caste system conception, how would a trade caravan (of the sort receiving slaves from Ogres in exchange for weapons, say) be organized in the details, since the merchants and artisans are of a lower caste, and thus less authority, than warriors? Are the guards operating under instructions temporarily giving the merchant authority over the caravan or fleet? Are merchants instead without authority, and accompany the warriors instructed to deliver the cargo expressly for the purpose of negotiation and face time? Is commerce just a greater or lesser interest of the priestly caste, even as it is with nobility in the Old World?

Thommy H:

In my conception, once outside the confines of Zharr-Naggrund, the caste system starts to fragment a little bit. Out in the Dark Lands, you’re in the world of stuff like the Infernal Guard - disgraced Warriors cast out from their houses - and the Embersworn Clans - ad hoc bands of Daemon hunters. Whole generations could live and die out there in the wastes, riding on caravans (possibly Land Trains…) from one trading post to the next. The leaders might work as merchants, but perhaps their parents were Warrior caste, and they still consider themselves part of the fighting elite. Or Artisans and Labourers may take up arms out of necessity and be indistinguishable from their highborn companions.

But this is entering the territory of fanwank now.