Warhammer 40K meets D&D in new series starring former Games Workshop presenters

Left to right, Greg Jones, Louise Sugden, Chris Peach, Jamila Hall, and Daniel Saye in a press photo for Heretic Hunt, a new D&D actual play set in the world of Warhammer 40,000.
Photo: Impolite Productions

Louise Sugden and Chris ‘Peachy’ Peach star in Heretic Hunt

The Dungeons & Dragons actual play space is jam-packed with heroes wielding swords and casting spells, kicking ass and taking names in vaguely medieval settings. By contrast, the world of Warhammer 40,000 is naught but grim darkness, a futuristic hellscape where life is cheap and sharp objects are even cheaper. An upcoming D&D actual play series will, at long last, bring those two universes together. It’s called Heretic Hunt, and Polygon sat down with the cast for an exclusive preview.

Heretic Hunt stars two folks who should immediately be familiar to fans of The Hobby — former Games Workshop presenters Louise Sugden and Chris ‘Peachy’ Peach. Both recently left the Nottingham-based gaming giant to set themselves up on YouTube, leveraging their recognizable faces and acumen with a paintbrush to go their own way. They’re joined by writer Daniel Saye as the Dungeon Master; actor Greg Jones (Warhammer 40,000: Darktide, Hammer and Bolter); and Jamila Hall, who both performs in and produces the program. The series, which is expected to premiere later this year, features eight 48-minute episodes with miniatures and terrain built and painted by the players.

Our interview has been lightly edited for clarity and concision.

Key art for Heretic Hunt shows the silhouettes of its main characters, including a woman with a knife and a man with a cup of tea.
Image: Impolite Productions

Polygon: The reason we are all talking today is because of the power of social media. I saw a couple of photos go flying by. Daniel, how exactly did you bring about this marvelous concept?

Daniel Saye: I’ve played war dollies since I was a kid. I still have the very first minis I painted, and I have loved the worlds of Warhammer 40,000 just deeply and madly. Like a lot of people, Dungeons & Dragons is also just a happy place for me — and so were a number of different RPGs. I’ve always wanted to tell a story in those 40K worlds, but it was a number of series by Dan Abnett that was my intro into street-level Warhammer.

Rather than, say, armies with thousands of Space Marines and numberless, faceless hordes of Tyranids, some of Abnett’s best work is just a couple of guys for whom a laz pistol is fancy. Oh! We got one of those, like, laser guns! Ooo hoo hoo! […] To just a couple of street thugs, that’s the highest tech thing. And a warm meal? Holy crap! That’s always been a story I wanted to tell. […]

Jamila kind of pulled all the strings and tightened it together, but fundamentally, the whole thing has come together out of this love of storytelling inside of a Warhammer space.

Set the scene for me. What is this campaign about? Where is it set? What are your characters expected to be doing in this world, Daniel?

Saye: For this story, we start out in the hive with our team. The very first moments of the first episode are our team trying to bust up a heretical ritual, and the story plays out from there. Our assembled heroes are a group of Inquisitorial agents, some with a long history with the Inquisition, some who may be more recent hires, and some who are very recent conscriptions. So it’s a mixed bag of characters who are basically trying to not save the world, just save the place they’re in — and themselves in a lot of regards as well.

A tower of metal and smoke rising from the arid plains of a distant world. The sun is in eclipse behind its moon, perfectly bisected by the hive’s uppermost spires.
Image: Impolite Productions
The setting for Heretic Hunt is Serrix-2, a hive city in the world of Warhammer 40,000.

Louise Sugden: Mostly myself. A lot.

Louise, I want to learn more about your character. What was the seed that you were given to create that character and what did you come up with?

Sugden: I’ve never had a DM like Dan. He is fantastic, and the seed he gave us was basically like, Oh, Louise! You like Necromunda! What have you always wanted to be in a Necromunda setting? And that was essentially it. Around that I was able to see some miniatures I painted that really inspired me. And of course, I used to work on Necromunda, so I love the lore and the creation. I kind of just ran with that and created my character. […] We all have the archetypes that are still there from D&D, but kind of adapted it to the Underhive and a 40K setting. […] There is a little bit of myself in my character. They are quite hyperactive, they’re quite intense as a character, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how people react to me role-playing that character, which is, I think, just me but amped up to 11.

Louise, you have contributed so much with your incredibly multidisciplinary skill set: everything from cartography for the Old World to the look of planets in Adeptus Titanicus to the work that you’re now doing outside of Games Workshop. How were you able to integrate all of your artistic skills into a role-playing experience?

Sugden: Basically, for the last eight years, until lockdown, there wasn’t a week where I didn’t do role-playing. That’s just another one of the things that I’ve done naturally for the last, I don’t know, 10 years of my life.

Reiterate for me real quick — specifically, since we’ve brought it up now a couple of times — the work that you did for the Necromunda franchise, just so that I understand it.

Sugden: Most recently, I did the map for the Ash Wastes, which is quite a big piece. And on top of that, which helped us out loads with what our work was, is I used to draw the Enclaves for each of the gangs, which was basically the hangouts and the hideouts for each of the gangs, which means I have quite an in-depth knowledge about the look and the feel of these places which I was role-playing. I kind of already know what they look like, because I already drew them — which is cool.

Daniel, why was it important to go with Dungeons & Dragons’ ruleset rather than something like a Wrath and Glory?

Saye: I’m not in my little voice studio, but if we were you would see that the Wrath and Glory rulebook is right up there. I know it! The thing is, though, when we were producing this, my issue is that all of our players know D&D. It is a beautiful shared language. I love other RPGs: I love Vast Grimm, Mörk Borg, Wrath and Glory, Soulbound. I am deep in an RPG space, and I adore them. But D&D is maybe the shared language that the majority of RPG players have.

And especially for this, what I found was we actually did some test games with some other players, seeing how we would tell the stories. What I found was that the efficiency of D&D is what made it great for a storytelling medium with a mind for an audience. Those [other] RPGs are spectacular for playing with your friends. But for me, and my experience of D&D, that made it a lot more efficient for me to tell stories on camera when we were filming it. So it was [equal parts] love of the game [as it was] a bit of practicality.

I will say I took lessons and I took elements from almost all of those other RPGs I’ve played: Death saving throws didn’t exist in our game. […] I’ll tell you this: There are multiple times when every player had backup characters [waiting in the wings]. Because the grim darkness of the 41st millennium is not a happy place, no matter how much fun we had telling that story. […]

I personally find in D&D, my maybe one criticism is that I find death saving throws a little anticlimactic. You know, “you get knocked down, you get back up again, and they’re never gonna keep you down” is largely the vibe there. And so for our show I want that terror. Zero hit points can be immediately the end of the game for any character. I’m not going to say whether it was or whether it wasn’t, but it definitely comes into play. I got in a lot of trouble, which I feel like I didn’t deserve.

Sugden: You absolutely did. You absolutely deserved everything.

Jamila Hall: You did. 100% deserved everything.

A close up of Dime’s work shows tiny posters that tell a story about individual buildings.
Photo: Leonard Dime
A fan-made diorama of an industrial space on the hive world Necromunda.

What role does the miniatures aspect play in this whole thing? If you look at something like a Dimension 20, they have a whole production team that focuses their energy on the settings, and the battlescapes, and the miniatures, and then they auction them off at the end. This is your first time out. We certainly don’t expect anything quite as big as that. But you mentioned miniatures: To what extent are we going to be seeing little battle scenes there?

Saye: When you’re working with people like Peachy and Louise, they bring a level of not just talent, but loving passion that is impossible to replicate. I can’t wait till you can see that: the conversions, the paint jobs, the everything. The sets are beautiful. We do away in our rules with [5th edition D&D’s standard 5-foot grid system] in exchange for [rulers and] inches, the same way that we would measure in a Warhammer game. So we actually combined rulesets and made this wonderful amalgamation. That means that we were playing on Games Workshop terrain.

We built these custom sets out of the terrain, which I hope maybe inspire some people to tell their stories the same way. But oh, the minis! They’re beautiful! They’re spectacular! Myself, I love The Hobby. I’m a passionate painter and an even more passionate converter.

Dimension 20, I envy their production department not just for their skills, but for the labor power they have. There are two moments I’ll tell you about [that happened] while we were filming. One was — and it happened multiple times — I would go back to my hotel room where I had a huge pile of bits and minis and unassembled stuff that I would go back to and be like, Crap, crap, crap, crap! Building things the night before! Trying not to knock myself out with paint fumes and superglue as I painted and built into the wee hours of the night because some NPC or some possibility had come up!

The entire story is a branching narrative. […] There are a couple of beautiful moments where our players either absolutely nail, or absolutely don’t nail, a very important check to notice something, learn something, or assess something—

Sugden: Some of the most insane rolls I’ve ever seen in my entire life were in that session. I have been playing D&D and all sorts of role-playing games for ten years and I’ve never seen anything like it. Honestly. Hand on my heart, insane!

Saye: So the storyline was based on the information from those rolls, and things like that. So I had, like, multiple different sets planned for different things. There was only one that really came out of nowhere, and I was like, What the actual…

What it led to was this beautiful piece of unexpected storytelling involving a black light that I never want to visualize [again]. But it meant that a certain battle took place in an unexpected [place]. I was not going to deny our characters what they’ve earned, so that’s where this battle needs to happen. But I remember turning to Peachy — I think we were coming back the next day to film the next episode — I was like, “Peachy, how do you feel about painting some terrain?” And everyone just did it. I was in another room just madly making sure that I’d crossed all my T’s dotted all my I’s, and in the other room there’s Louise, Greg, Jamila, and Peachy finishing off some bits of terrain that I hadn’t expected I was going to need, but suddenly we needed for this combat.

That is really doin’ the work, gang. That’s a lot of work.

Saye: It was a full team effort, and I can never thank you enough for it. But it meant that all of those moments got to be paid off, and it looks stunning as well. And I am my own worst critic in that regard.

So, eight 45-minute episodes. Sounds like we’re probably going to be cutting down some things a little bit. This isn’t going to be like a four- or five-hour, epic, endless, Critical Role kind of thing. Talk to me about your approach and kind of editing this down and making it a program.

Hall: The thing that struck me about RPG shows like [Critical Role] is that the investment for people is enormous. Because if you go into a campaign, the average length of an episode that I’ve seen is usually like two to three hours, and they’re something like 24 episodes long. So you’re looking at maybe 80 to 100 hours of content. So it’s not a world you can easily step into and kind of do on set [because of cost]. Coming from a film background, what I was interested in was, how do we package this content in a way that can be consumed in a more commercial way, in a more popular way?

Saye: We’re not trying to compete with that longform storytelling. It was more [asking], how do we tell more short, succinct, self-contained stories? But if it’s a hit, then it’s easier to produce a second season if you don’t have to produce 24 three-hour episodes.

Hall: The other aspect of it was that it could potentially be something [where] we don’t mean to not produce that length of content, but we want it in more packaged, season-long episodic formats — or a conventional TV-length type show. The average person can tune into this and, in the same way that you would binge a Netflix series, you can sit down and you can binge this in a weekend if you really want to. And then we hopefully will, if people like it, it would be something that we’d love to then turn into a saga.

If there’s enough characters left alive at the end of the season.

Sugden: You’ll see! You’ll see!

Louise, you’ve had such a run here, I feel, between starting your own channel on YouTube, between all of your successes with Rogue Hobbies at the Salute wargaming convention recently, and all of the wonderful work that you’ve done becoming a “real miniatures company” — whatever those air quotes mean. I think they’re your air quotes, not mine. But did you enjoy the experience of producing this show, and is this something that you would do again?

Sugden: It’s one of the best things I’ve done since I quit Games Workshop. Hundred percent. It’s what it’s all about. This is the kind of thing I would have loved to have done when I was on Warhammer Plus and stuff like that. But it just takes your friends to go, “Well, we can make this happen.” And I’m so happy that I left when I did so that I could join up with this weird team and actually make this thing come true, because it was — I cannot wait for people to see this. I think it’s some of our best work, including all the stuff I’ve done at Games Workshop. I think it’s fantastic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.