Insider 11-29-2011

This time I’d like to talk about Captain Jeremiah Kraye. He first appeared back in 2008 in WARMACHINE: Legends, but it feels like yesterday that I was inspecting Chris Walton’s wonderful concept sketches and talking to other members of the team about someone who quickly became one of our most vividly realized and sympathetic Cygnaran warcasters.

Legends included an extremely ambitious narrative and was also crammed full of interesting new characters, more than I could even utilize in the story. While the Cygnaran narrative was focused on Coleman Stryker and his redemption, it was also the unveiling of our first cavalry warcaster: Jeremiah Kraye (and let’s not forget his warhorse, Malagant). This character made a strong impression the first time I saw his concept art, and this affinity intensified as the team fleshed out his background. I believe Kraye is a warcaster that delivers on every level, from his concept to his play style in the game. He’s also one of the finest sculpts we have ever produced.

Working on Kraye gave me a good excuse to delve into the Cygnaran Reconnaissance Service, an organization I created years ago when defining aspects of Cygnar’s government. The evolving role of espionage in Cygnar is interesting to me, particularly as it changed between the reigns of Vinter IV and Leto. King Vinter was known for his Inquisition and its abuses, and so it was only natural Leto would need to disband them but then find other means of gathering information. That role fell to the CRS, which had traditionally served Cygnar’s military by providing reconnaissance through the thankless efforts of hundreds of far-flung scouts and rangers. Under Leto, the CRS was broadened and given its dual face, with covert agents working alongside larger numbers of rangers in open military service along the borders. Being connected to this group put Jeremiah Kraye in an interesting place as a warcaster, exploiting his skills to react to unexpected threats.

None of the Iron Kingdoms nations are identical with any real-world counterparts, although there are some obvious inspirations. In my mind Cygnar has always drawn more from the UK than the US, for example. Despite this, Cygnar’s eastern border with its barren Bloodstone Marches and unforgiving desert has always brought to mind certain dusty movies and novels out of the American Wild West. When working on Jeremiah Kraye’s personality, what came to mind was a blend of western frontiersman mixed with American Civil War cavalry officer. I quickly found the voice for Kraye in a style more influenced by westerns than the Queen’s English. Indeed, whenever Kraye is speaking I find myself imagining Sam Elliot in one of his memorable roles, such as John Buford from Gettysburg.

Relying too heavily on such a mental template can cause problems, but Kraye’s voice has always been strangely effortless. Much of this comes from how naturally his personality comes from his background. Kraye’s sense of honor and the combination of daring and stoic dignity he possesses are rooted in his troubled military career. This was a man who could not thrive during the reign of Vinter IV. He did not have the luxury of finding a quiet corner and burying himself in esoteric research like Sebastian Nemo did in this same period. Kraye would have been out on the borderlands sharing time with such ruthless villains as Asheth Magnus and Saxon Orrik. Kraye chose to step down and quietly extract himself from the military, then sat tight through the Lion’s Coup. He waited until Leto reformed the military before he was willing to volunteer to serve again. For Kraye, being of relatively low rank for his age is something of a badge of honor, denoting a man who would not serve a tyrant.

Writing Kraye has been so enjoyable that I’ll admit he has snuck into more scenes than he probably should given he is essentially a supporting character in the larger narrative. In addition to fighting alongside Darius in Legends, he was the perfect co-conspirator to join Victoria Haley striking against Cryx in Forces of WARMACHINE: Cygnar. He subsequently made a cameo in Forces of HORDES: Trollbloods as the natural choice for a sympathetic Cygnaran officer Gunnbjorn remembered fondly even after leaving the Cygnaran Army. I knew Kraye would understand Gunnbjorn’s choice, having faced a similar moral dilemma during Vinter’s reign.

While his powers and combat prowess is notable, the most appealing aspect of Kraye is his intrinsic humanity. Just like anyone else would, Jeremiah Kraye gets tired and thirsty after countless days in the saddle. You can hear him groan as he dismounts and feel the relief when he pulls off his boots and falls into a military cot to catch a few hours of sleep. In spite of this, he still rises before the sun to make ready for another day. The early morning finds him already riding alongside his warjacks, kicking up dust along Cygnar’s long and dangerous borders.