How to Fluff in Two Easy Steps!

Schiffskanone bereit!  Read on to find out how U-158 helped
me create fluff for my Imperial Guard army ...
Well, belated Christmas and preemptive New Year's greetings to you all!  We're almost at the end of Palladian Guard's first year, so I thought I'd do a throwback to some of my earlier posts with a look at fluff, and fluff creation.  I should also mention Headologist, who's done a series of fluff creation posts of his own over at DYHAF.

His posts focus a bit more on creating settings, factions and background from the ground up - making your own Space Marine chapter or Imperial Guard regiment, for example.  So as not to tread on fluffy toes, this is more focussed on creating background for an existing army, so how to write up battle reports and campaigns in a 'fluffy' way.

Step One:  Get the raw details

Anyone can write up an Imperial Guard service record or medal citation to go with your army's fluff - but it really means something when it's a medal citation for one of your men.  To do this you need to be prepared to record some trivial details as they happen.  I use a notepad and pen to jot down little titbits of information during the battles.  So:
On turn four, Captain Nero charged the scout squad.  There were two rounds of combat which Nero won, but he took a wound.  If I hadn't paid the extra points for the power sword, the armour saves would probably have kept the scouts alive long enough to kill Nero!
Nice and easy.  You don't have to think about that too much.

Step Two:  Translate 'nuggets' into fluff details

This is the hardest step as it's where all the imagination comes in.  You need to take the little 'nuggets' of detail from your notes, and translate them into fluff terms.  An example of what I mean would be:
If I hadn't paid the extra points for the power sword, the armour saves would probably have kept the scouts alive long enough to kill Nero! 
As Nero's family power sword cut down the last enemy scout, he muttered a prayer of thanks to the Emperor while the shimmering blue field bit through the carapace armour.
Basically, it's cutting out all the game words (points, armour saves) and replacing it with the fluffy equivalent.  The above example is fairly straightforward, but the limit here is your imagination.  I'm going to use a fairly detailed example to show how little the starting 'nugget' needs to be to inspire you.

I'm a fairly avid player of Silent Hunter III, the World War II submarine simulator.  I decided to write a 'War Diary' for one of my missions, in the style and feel of a real WWII U-boat war diary.  This involved a lot of translating the in-game events into 'fluff' for the log-book.

Here goes.  I'd torpedoed and crippled a merchant ship, so then I surfaced to get the crew to use the submarine's deck gun to finish it off.  I pressed 'S', to surface, then double-clicked on 'Man the Deck Guns' - but I hadn't realised how rough the sea was.  The message flashed up on screen, "We cannot man the guns in rough waters, Herr Kaleun!"  Woops.

But, this is where the imagination came in.  What happened there?  Well, the captain ordered the submarine to be surfaced, then the Watch Officer to man the guns.  Unfortunately, he didn't realise how rough the sea was - so a little leap of imagination, and the relevant section of the log looks like this:

The page of U-158's Kriegstagbuche, or War Diary.  Incidentally, if you're interested in this project check out my SUBSIM page for more details on the project, and to read the whole thing!
There we go!  A nice 'fluffy' entry.

So that's what I do when I get nuggets of detail from my games.  A failed morale check, is the 'nugget' for a sergeant who served in another war, and doesn't want to get his men killed and retreats during the next battle.  A lucky 6 to wound is the 'nugget' for a trooper who spends his off-duty time studying charts of enemy physiology and weak spots, rather than drinking with the other men.  You get the idea.

Most of my character's backgrounds come from nuggets like this.  You can just make up a characters backgrounds, but I like for them to make it themselves - to earn their reputation, as it were.  It doesn't have to stop there - the start points for some characters have been their poses, their colour scheme - even their expressions!

Hope you enjoyed that little glimpse into my fluff-creating world.  I'm still away for the New Year but when I go back I've got a few exciting projects coming up ... I'll say no more.

Until next time!

The Colonel


  1. Superb stuff as ever, and many thanks for the shout out. My latest fluff craft post I've been writing is about representing fluff / character on the table and getting to a starting point where you can develop the fluff of the force and characters on the table so thus follows on nicely - will definitely be linking to this. Definitely wouldn't really recommend fleshing out characters too much off the table, it's nice to have that balance. Definitely advocate this approach, quite often I have a vague idea of a character in mind and that develops as I build the character. My Imperial Navy Boatswains Mate is a good example of this, more on that later lol...

  2. Great stuff, and well explored. Superb ideas - thank you!

  3. The nugget method is how I go about fluffing out my games. Earlier today I played a small 15mm skirmish game in which one of my figures armed with an RPG managed to immobilize an enemy vehicle with a lucky roll. In my opponents following turn neither of the infantry squads near the vehicle activated and so they couldn't move or shoot. This turn of events led me to create a scenario in my head where after the RPG impacted the vehicle the road was showered in debris, and visibility was greatly diminished, instead of taking chances in the open the infantry decided to hug cover and pray that they could spot and eliminate the RPG operator before he could relocate to a new firing position. I've noticed that the majority of my gaming group does a similar sort of thing, a lucky or unlucky situation turns into a story, and the story tends to make the game more enjoyable for everyone involved.

  4. Another cracking post from the masters of fluff!
    Nuggets are totally the way to go. I love game nuggets but my latest project just crated itself out of slightly drunken evening messing around with colour schemes. "hmm that looks like it cold be a ....." and 'shazam' a character and squad's background comes into existence.
    I'm loving heroic deaths too! knowing that the characters may end up dead really makes all of there decisions on the battlefield more heroic.

  5. @Headologist: Oooh, mysterious, can't wait to hear about him!

    @Admiral Drax: Thanks for reading, glad you liked it! In fact, now I think about it your list of 'achievements' on the left hand side of your blog was a bit of an inspiration for step 1 of this post.

    @Chris: Wow, a perfect example. I do think that a lot of this is self-explainatory, but it's good to write it down for that one reader who might not have thought of it. Also, if I have an attack of traumatic amnesia I can re-train myself using these posts.

    @Col Ackland: You're too kind! And drunken modelling/fluff evenings are certainly the way forward! Very nice.


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