Friday, April 22, 2011

Feature Fridays - With Gav Thorpe!

This week we sat down with the legend and Master Farseer himself, Gav Thorpe!

Thank you  so much for your time, we at Digital Waaagh are very excited about this opportunity. 

On a personal note, Gav has been a large source of inspiration in my personal hobby, as well as a huge influence on many...that being said, here are the questions.

DW: In your long history of battle reports that you participated in for White Dwarf, is there one that stands out among the others as your most memorable or favorite?  If so, which one and why?

Gav: Heretic was probably the most fun. That was the big tank battle, between the Dwarfers (Space marine alliance) and Games Dev (Imperial Guard under mad psyker influence). We used a dictaphone to record 'radio' messages to each. Andy C had devised a scheme for the Assitants to use, something about colours at the start meant the message was bogus. The Dwarfers were a lot less organised. The other great thing about the battle report was the creation of the Evil Lord Varlak, a much under-appreciated supervillain of the 41st millennium.

DW: The background of Warhammer 40,000 has become very vast and is very important to fans and gamers. It has a far-reaching and unseen impact. How do you feel knowing you have been a big part of this?

Gav: I feel good. Of course, a lot of the heavy lifting had been done by the time I arrived to move the soft furnishings around, but on the whole I am very proud of my major contributions to the background. Special mentions go to Codex: Sisters of Battle and Inquisitor, for the chance to monkey around with the weirdness of the Imperium. I love the crazy stuff, and both of those were a great opportunity to add some real depth to previously unexplored territory. I also really enjoy the lighter side of things like Digganob. It's nice to see an idea of yours coming up in a discussion, or inspiring an army, or maybe making a reappearance in another place. One of the 'problems' with working in a creative team is sometimes remembering who came up with what ideas, so I'm always careful not to take all the credit for myself. I'm sure there are some people's favourite gems that I've forgotten about that were my creations, little throwaway titbits, but equally I can't take all the praise for everything I've written alone; there's a lot of people who have contributed over the years.

DW: What are your creative influences?  What inspires you?

Gav: History. Real life contains far more wonders and cool characters than imagination alone. I enjoy the blending of ideas, taking inspiration from several different sources to create something fresh, if not 100% original. It pains me when people make too-literal representations or comparisons, rather than putting in an extra bit of effort to put a new spin on a well-established idea or image. Writing-wise, I have read and enjoyed all manner of authors, from Tolkien to Iain M. Banks and everything in between. I can't say any particular writer was my inspiration, because I think it would be churlish to pretend I could emulate them, but I certainly put a lot of stock by the likes of Robert E Howard, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, David Gemmell, Asimov, and too many others to list.

All sorts of things inspire me to create particular characters, scenes or images. It might be something on the news, or a picture of a spectacular vista, a piece in a documentary. I prefer to take inspiration from real-life sources rather than fiction, though a lot of 40K and Warhammer have their obvious literary influences, because I feel that is going back to a more original concept rather than a particular person's iteration of it. I'm also quite susceptible to unintentional mimicry, so I'm always wary of subconscious plagiarism.

DW:  Is there any "top secret" information on this "Eldar Crossover story" you would like to share?

Gav: The “crossover” is between two Eldar-based stories that Andy C and I are writing in conjunction with each other. It's a two-part tale, one coming at the subject from a Dark Eldar point of view, the other from a slightly more Craftworld-based perspective.

DW: And this question comes from Andy Chambers, who writes: Whatever happened to your reptilians? (when you came for interview he brought a codex you had written yourself, it showed him that you had the passion to write.)

Gav: I'm surprised, and delighted, that Andy remembers them. They did, I kid you not, end up becoming the Tau. In one sense at least. My reptilians (Shisshel they were called!) had the five elements caste system that was later incorporated into the Tau background. The visual images were basically a rip of Jes's White Dwarf 127 concept sketches and so probably best left in the past, but the society and army dynamics fed a little bit into the Tau project many years later. Never throw anything away. I wonder if he remembers me telling him and Jervis during my post-interview tour of the Sutdio that putting a flying tank (the Eldar Falcon) into 40K would be very difficult to implement fairly?

DW:  I have sent an interview request to Jervis Johnson, and Michael Perry as well, what is one "off the wall" question I should ask them?

For Jervis: Why didn't you use my Zoat and Bull Centaur rules in the 3rd edition of Blood Bowl?  (I presented these to Jerv at Games Day before I joined GW, and it was because he asked me to send them to him at the Studio that I ended up getting a job! He also lied and said he was working on a 'supplement' when he was in fact penning the new edition.)

For Mike: What is your next movie role going to be?

And there it is!  Thanks again to Gav Thorpe, it was awesome to hear some of the “behind the scenes” tales of the early days of Games Workshop.

Next week I will be talking with multiple award winning, Dave Taylor for


  1. That was satisfyingly substantial.

    I remember that battle report well, and it did look like a lot of fun to play. It was almost a proto-Apocalypse back in the days when tanks were much fewer and further between.

    Interesting to get little bits and pieces from behind the scenes that make the whole clearer. I still think of him like the new boy, and I'll agree he was a big influence.

  2. I'm glad he likes Digganob. Gorkamorka was an excellent game, and Digganob did an underappreciated job of fleshing it out with something of a dark streak (remember how the Muties came to exist, and the presence of what we now know to be Necrons under the Digga pyramids...).

  3. Wonderful insight into content creation, especially the bit with Tau.

  4. Loving these interviews,they're giving some good responses here (the quality questions help no doubt).

  5. Interesting about his choice of authors. After plagiarizing Terry Brooks' Elfstones of Shannara for a White Dwarf short story, I am surprised he didn't list Mr. Brooks as a major influence, at least influencing his writing style.

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