Greetings and welcome!
This week, we have a special blog post brought to you by Zachary Liverseed, one of the designers behind the amazing (and horrifying) Verjigorm miniature currently available through the Grand Bazaar Kickstarter. I’m going to step back now and let him fill you in on the design process.
— Morgan Weeks
Designing a Horror
Several months ago, my partner, Emmanuel Rodriguez, and I were tasked by FASA Games to bring to life the greatest Horror known: Verjigorm.
Verjigorm was a tricky figure to pin down. Not much is written about it and because of that, we had very little to work with when designing such an abstract monster. I poured over the few references in books and artistic depictions to help create what I feel is the most complete depiction of Verjigorm to date. Here is a detailed breakdown of that process.
Capturing the Character
The first step in the creation process was ensuring we captured the character properly. Based on its descriptions and various depictions, Verjigorm carries a similar “feel” throughout. It’s depicted as vast, alien, and demonic. We wanted to give it the feel of a cross between a Lovecraftian Horror and a demon from the Ars Goetia. The face specifically is meant to give the impression of an unfathomably intelligent and patient evil. We wanted it to communicate to players it isn’t just some unknowable alien, but it’s methodical, patient, and limitless in its maliciousness.
Verjigorm’s physical description was most recently and thoroughly detailed in Horrors (1995) by Robin Laws. Two different physical descriptions are given in the book. The first is in its origin myth. It was said to have “One thousand and seven eyes that sprang from its head” and “ears that never shut” as well as a maw from which “countless foul poisons” flowed. Verjigorm was also said to have many spawn, the horoi, which sprang from its decaying flesh and were fashioned in its image.
The second description comes from the Game Information section, wherein Verjigorm is said to “often take on a single physical appearance of terrifying proportions.” It’s said to stand 15 feet at the shoulder, feature six eyes on its hideous face, a wide mouth with three-inch fangs, and a flexible ten-foot neck sprouting from its torso. Its skin gleams like metal with a myriad of razor-sharp spikes protruding from its body. Verjigorm is described as walking on four legs, each ending in three sharp talons. It’s also able to stand on its hind legs, reaching 45 feet tall when doing so.
The various artistic depictions captured elements of the above information but were incredibly varied overall. Partly, one might assume, because of its ability to shapeshift. But mostly, it was done in a way to give gamemasters leeway in its depiction.
We looked at its stats for more information to help us design its appearance and found Verjigorm (unlike many of the other Horrors featured in Horrors) is incredibly physically powerful. Its Armor Ratings, strength, and size indicate it’s just as strong physically as it is magically. Given its preferred choice of prey, dragons, this makes sense.
We then took a note from how Weta Workshop designed Dark Lord Sauron from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. More specifically, his scene in the first film. The book gave very little physical description of Sauron, so Weta (in a similar situation as us) combed through the books finding elements to incorporate into Sauron’s design. Such as his helmet looking like a horse skull to mock the men and elves who highly valued them. His armor appeared burned, as his body (in the books) radiated unbearable heat. The armor was also larger-than-life, showing off his excellent craftsmanship whilst paying homage to his master, Morgoth. All of this culminated in a wonderfully oppressive design that captured the feeling of a character who was never well described in the books.
I did a deep dive to see if there was similar information on Verjigorm to help us with the design and found three elements to focus on specifically.
- Its hateful tendencies towards its prey of choice, dragons.
- The parasitic nature of Horrors in general and its specific desire for domination.
- Its spawn, the horoi, and the potential relation they have to what its currently doing to the dragons it captured.
The first part was interesting; we decided to show its hatred of dragons in its physical form. Even the description from Horrors alludes to the idea Verjigorm’s physical appearance is something akin to a dragon put through a Lovecraftian blender. I like to think it takes this form on purpose to mock and instill fear in prideful dragons. We asked the question, “Outside of the existential threat Verjigorm provides, why do dragons fear it specifically? Why not other Horrors? Surely strength alone is not the reason they fear it.” We brainstormed and eventually I got the idea Verjigorm could be wearing dragons it captured as a sort of armor, form of punishment, and nourishment; dragons being kept alive and writhing in agony to provide food for Verjigorm. We thought it would be creepy, given its parasitic nature, for Verjigorm to burst forth from the dragons it’s wearing.
I wanted to evoke the parasitic nature of Horrors in Verjigorm’s design by having its body be akin to a cross between a snake, centipede, and tapeworm. With long protrusions coming out of a sharp, boney, almost xenomorph-esque exoskeleton. We also designed it to be emerging from a portal, to give the impression its body continues far beyond what is seen on the figure. Evoking a Lovecraftian feel, almost like a massive alien tapeworm peeking into our reality from whatever hellish netherworld that spawned it.
The final element of its design, which took a lot of playing around with, was its face. It needed to be intelligent and malevolent. I wanted a malicious grin with an oversized maw full of crooked, transparent teeth. Insect-like pincers emerging from its head like horns to give the impression it could latch into you with any part of its body. Its eyes had to be dark, empty sockets. Windows into the void. Its gaunt face, uneasy grin, and lack of eyes make it impossible see what it’s thinking through its alien but familiar-enough-appearing face. Onlookers could only know whatever it was thinking was so unfathomably malicious, a normal emotive face could never express it.
All these thoughts and ideas culminated into the design you see before you. I want to thank Ross and Morgan for the opportunity to design this fascinating character, and I hope all of you enjoy the design.
My deepest thanks to them for creating the “miniature” — it’s not small, as the image below featuring all the miniatures on offer shows.