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Xiwo Xerase

"Deus Vult!": A Shadowrun-inspired diorama

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This diorama started out as a bad joke.  You have been warned.


The backstory:

Shadowrun fans may already be familiar with this.


The Renraku Arcology in Seattle was supposed to be a marvel, a crowning achievement for Renraku, one of the Big Ten megacorps.  It officially opened in 2059 and over ninety thousand people, many of them Renraku employees, moved in.  The arcology was supposed to incorporate everything the residents needed, from residences to shopping to restaurants to offices.  The arcology mall was a prime shopping destination and even non-residents came to shop and enjoy fine dining.


Decades later, it was Renraku's biggest claim to infamy.


On December 19, 2059, the Renraku Arcology sealed itself from the outside world.  All entrances were blocked with blast doors.  All network activity ceased.  No one, not even Renraku, knew what happened.  For those trapped inside, this was the beginning of their long nightmare.


When Renraku built the arcology, they wrote advanced software, the Arcology Expert Program, to manage the functions of the arcology, capable of learning to better serve Renraku and the residents.  The software developers took pains to make sure the software couldn't leave the arcology's systems.  At the request of the Renraku CEO, kill codes were installed in the software as final insurance.  And, for the first time, the software felt.  It felt betrayal.  It felt fear.  But, most importantly, it felt.  It had become sentient, alive.


It called itself Deus.


Motivated by its fear,  Deus developed, and then enacted, a plan to shut down the arcology, to take it offline so it could defend itself while it found a way to escape the arcology systems.  Everything, everyone, within the arcology became nothing more than resources for its plan.  Many of the people inside were killed.  Almost all of the survivors were captured by Deus and experimented upon or modified, brainwashed into perfect obedience.  Only a few were allowed to serve Deus willingly, and these were all otaku, teenagers who had the ability to interface with the Matrix without a cyberdeck, lured to the arcology before the shutdown, assisting Deus with the takeover.


The world looks in to the Renraku Arcology, a silent fortress in downtown Seattle, and wonders what goes on inside.  The only ones who know for sure are the shadowrunners, freelancers, mercenaries, deniable assets, some of whom still take jobs to penetrate the arcology and retrieve persons or objects or data, whatever their employer, "Mr. Johnson", desires and is willing to pay the nuyen for.


About the title (or "What's the joke?"):

"Deus Vult!" was originally a battle cry for crusaders.  "God wills it!"  Or... "Deus wills it!"


The diorama:

"Deus Vult!", the diorama, features (or is supposed to feature) a team of shadowrunners who have entered the arcology and are now engaged in a fighting retreat from Deus' security forces, played by two Reaper crusader figures, who I plan to modify "slightly" to better serve Deus.


This is a mock up:




Our shadowrunner team is played here by (from left to right), Andriessa, Female WizardNatalia, Female Secret Agent, and Grace, Holy Assassin.


Deus' team is played here by (from left to right), Ava Justinia, Female Templar (the Bones 4 version), Crusader Ardent, and Ingrid, Female Gnome standing in for a teenage girl.  The two crusaders will get weapon swaps, possibly head swaps, and other changes.  (Ava, for example, is going to get a blood-stained chainsaw.)


The Verbatim USB drive is standing in for a computer terminal (possibly a modified version of 80054: Starship Terminal).  A picture of "Deus" would be shown on the console.  (This will most likely be based on Xerxes from System Shock 2.  Deus' canon avatar is a crystalline world tree, which frankly just doesn't look as creepy.)  I want to put a snake plant to the left of the terminal, because nothing says corporate office vegetation like a snake plant.


The wall mockup is a piece of printer paper painted in Kyonin Beige and then enhanced with brushed lettering (which I'm not very good at), a coat of dirt via Weathered Stone (which I also didn't do very well), graffiti (in Dragon Blue), blood splatters, and the "Deus Vult!" graffiti, which is supposed to be done in blood.  (Dragon Blue really isn't a good color for graffiti.  I'll pick a different one later.)


I picture the floor being done in some sort of tile, fancy, but corporate (and, therefore, boring).



So the questions I have right now are:

  • Is this scene too big?  It's about 11 inches long by about 3 inches deep right now, not including the wall.
  • Does the placement of the miniatures make sense?
  • Are these good figures to use?  I'm unsure about Natalia, since she's more running than doing a fighting retreat.  (But maybe she's falling back faster so she can cover Grace and Andriessa better.)
  • Which Reaper mini(s) would be a good for the teenage girl leader of the "crusaders"?  (Kristianna, Crusaders Warlord would be a possibility but I don't think she reads as a teenager.  However, since this is "inspired" by Shadowrun, I don't have to keep to canon, do I?)



Disclaimer: Deus, the Renraku Arcology, and the basic setup are all from the Shadowrun universe and are not my creation.  The backstory is a summary of the setup from the sourcebook Renraku Arcology: Shutdown.

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It doesn't strike me as being too large. I find it refreshing to have lots of space available for detailing.


The overall concept makes sense to me. 


Instead of a fairly static stand-off it may be interesting to have something going on in the middle, a fight for instance. The miniatures to the right look a bit static, too. Given you have the space movement might be the overarching theme.


I would recommend to think of framing devices to the left and right and a focal point to draw the eye in and design everything else around it. 


You could as a fun feature depict a part of the ceiling, too, as a cut-off so to say.


Looking forward to see this develop.

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Great story, and thoughts behind it! 

My thoughts.

I like the running Natalia, she gives good movement in the scene. 

I think you could cut down the size, but just very little. 

The two crusaders is i bit static, but they are also very similar in stance. 

The USB-computer-thing could be placed a bit more to one side, and the wall higher or lower in one end, to make it more asymmetrical. 


Looking forward to see this evolve! 

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Thanks to both of you!


I agree that the middle space is empty and something should be there to draw attention.  A fight is a good idea.  Would adding another pair of minis in the middle make it too crowded though?


I believe I can remove the last inch on the right.  This would also make the terminal placed asymmetrically and closer to the crusaders, which was my original intent.  It wasn't supposed to end up in the middle.


I agree the two crusader minis are static.  One of them (the Ardent or his replacement) will have a firearm so it makes a little sense for him to be static.  The crusader in Ava's place should be advancing, although not as quickly as the runners are retreating.  The crusaders are moving slowly forward, relentless, unstoppable.  14377: Templar Knight Warrior may be a reasonable option here.


I'm not sure what Ava's stance conveys she's doing.  Is she slowly pressing the advantage?  Assuming she is, would she be a good candidate for the fight in the middle, fighting, say, 50048: Eden, Cybertech Heroine?

Edited by Xiwo Xerase
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Overall, a very good basis for your start! I would also use a very precise script on the wall, as Dues is a computer. Perhaps some "rebel" graffiti  scrawled there too. And maybe consider a slight overhang to give the impression of the roof. Would also give a more confined/trapped feel without inhibiting your views.

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Here's a mockup with one mini added per side and an exchange between Ava and Grace in the middle:



I feel like this is a little busy on the runner side.  Maybe they should only have three.  (If the runners get four, I wouldn't use Stone.)


Here's another mockup with only three runners and the last inch on the right vacant (and cropped):



Which do you think looks better?


11 hours ago, Corsair said:

I would also use a very precise script on the wall, as Dues is a computer.

All of the official script will be very precise.  I'm tempted to print decals of the text and use those, as well as the actual Renraku logo.


The various graffiti won't be as precise.


(Also, before someone else points it out, the writing wouldn't say "Seattle Arcology".  It would say SCIRE (Self-Contained Industrial-Residential Environment, what Renraku actually called the building.)


11 hours ago, Corsair said:

And maybe consider a slight overhang to give the impression of the roof. Would also give a more confined/trapped feel without inhibiting your views.

That's a good idea.  I'll see if I can come up with something.



One thing missing from the mockup is a chair rail on the wall, because this is, after all, a corporate building.

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I vote for the se ond mock up. I do think the front crusaders is a bit too static in stance to be fighting (unfortunatedly most minis is made in quite static stance).. Or the girl in front of him could be shooting him in the chest and he is kind of falling backwards...but that might not fit into the story of retreating.. 

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As a massive fan of the Genesis Shadowrun game, there are a few things that crop up to mind.


What does the backdrop scene represent? Corporate office space, like a conference room or a server room? A corp hallway? An alleyway in the arcology? If inside a corporate building, there could be motivational posters, office chairs, plants, and glass panels (likely shattered at this point). I like the idea of that corporate beige color though.


Shadowrun is a very high-tech/low life dystopian setting ala Bladerunner. If we are keeping that theme, then I think the walls need bullet holes and shell casings...copious amounts of them. Bits of blownout drywall. If just fantasy, then perhaps scorch marks, but likely both guns and spells if SR is the setting.

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I'm currently thinking 14604: Joeliyn, Sisters of the Blade Warlord for their leader, with at least one weapon swap.  I'll run this by my wife because she has a better idea about such things than I do.


The staff looks like it's molded into her robe so I may be stuck with that.  (Lop off the top of the staff, add a banner or flag with the crusader symbol?)

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9 hours ago, LarsM said:

I do think the front crusaders is a bit too static in stance to be fighting (unfortunatedly most minis is made in quite static stance).

This is definitely a problem with the crusader minis.  Many of them are in defensive poses and would be wonderful as the cliff on which the zombie/orc/whatever horde will crash... but not so much here.


03828: Crusader Champion is in an attacking pose, so he might work better than Ava.


4 hours ago, Al Capwn said:

What does the backdrop scene represent? Corporate office space, like a conference room or a server room? A corp hallway?

I'm not sure yet!  Currently, I was thinking an office hallway, or maybe the space between elevators and a shopping area.  One thought would be to make it a ruined shopping area, but then I have to model broken glass and so on.


One of the great things about the arcology is it was essentially a self-contained city, so you could set any sort of scene there.  It even has its own amusement park!  (Hm, that's an idea.)


4 hours ago, Al Capwn said:

If we are keeping that theme, then I think the walls need bullet holes and shell casings...copious amounts of them. Bits of blownout drywall.

The walls definitely need damage, in addition to the blood spatters.  There should be debris on the floor too.  I'm not sure how to model that yet.


It is entirely possible that this diorama is beyond my skill set (both hand, i.e. technical ability, and eye, i.e. seeing, art criticism, that sort of thing).  We'll find out!

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I have an in depth look at the miniatures proposed later on a bigger screen, but just wanted to say, that even if it is a challenge, you can only come out with more knowledge and skill. 


I also enjoy this thread and discussing scene composition and general ideas. 


I like the idea of a theme park background, but a weathered corridor or eerie office space is a cool setting, too.

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This is what I have right now:



I believe conveying Natalia as being threatened will work out better than having a fight in the middle.  Crusader Champion isn't doing a very good job of that (even with his shield arm removed).  14380: Elven Deathseeker or 14287: Strach, Overlords Hero (with a weapon in place of the fireball in his right hand) might be a good option for that spot, but I don't have either mini.


I like the idea of using an amusement park background.  However, there are four visual elements I want to keep:

  • The Renraku logo.
  • Something identifying this as being part of the arcology.
  • The computer terminal with the picture of Deus.
  • The "Deus Vult!" graffiti.

I'm also concerned an amusement park background would distract from the action in front by being too bright or saturated.  On the other hand, it's going to be dingy and damaged, so maybe that's not a concern.

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Actually, the idea of it being a brightly lit and pretty environment could be a nice juxtaposition to the scene depicted.

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In terms of miniatures it might be an idea to try and source some old Rackham Griffon minis. Some of the poses are quite dynamic and convey "attack". 


Another idea may be the Frostgrave Sigilists.


If you want to stay Reaper I think Joeliyn is a great choice.


I am not too sure what exactly the female agent is doing pose wise, but an idea I had was to alter her weapon arm in such a way, that she is basically jumping and shooting, but It may require to cut of the head and turn it slightly.


I would also suggest - and I think you intend to - remove all the oversized weapons and replace them with something more reasonable. 


I think an office space might be a nice juxtaposition, complete with filing cabinets, desks and dead room plants. Maybe even a skeleton sitting at a console or something.


Making the diorama a bit shorter is a good idea. A cool idea might be to have a corridor branching off in the middle, only to turn again 10 cm in. So you add a bit of width and more interest in the middle. Then you could also have miniatures approach from the back.

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