Thorek Ironbrow brings Dwarfs to the Vortex as Silence & Fury’s Free-LC legendary lord

Total War: WARHAMMER II

Ben Barrett
July 6 2021

The book of grudges, oh how it grows. Dwarfs don’t forgive, they don’t forget, and they’ve been waiting for their update and introduction to the Vortex map for much too long. Thorek Ironbrow has decided that wrong will be righted, bringing his skills as the greatest Runesmith against the Lizardmen, Skaven, and others in the New World. He arrives alongside a general reworking and touching up of a few Dwarf mechanics, including rune magic, the book of grudges, and more.

Leif Burrows, Senior Designer on the WARHAMMER II DLC team and real-life grudge thrower, joins us to run down all the changes and why you should be excited to get stunty down south.

WARHAMMER II Dwarf Update

We’ll start with the broad changes to the Dwarfs. While this rework isn’t on the same level as the massive changes to the Beastmen that are also coming with the Silence & Fury update, it will make playing Total War’s shortest denizens more enjoyable.

“We’ve been wanting to do some work on the Dwarfs in general for a while,” says Leif, “being one of the original races from WARHAMMER I. They have had some reworking in the past, but it’s been a long time since then. The game as a whole has grown a lot – we’ve got more at our disposal to do the Dwarfs justice.”

Introducing Thorek meant we absolutely needed a Runesmithing system and better runes for him to run around with. They’re a significant part of the tabletop game, letting you customise characters and units to your exacting specifications, and we wanted some of that in Total War.

“On campaign side we’ve now introduced the ability to craft runes and expanded the number of runes that you can equip onto your characters. Using the forge panel, you can now craft these runes. It’s split between two types – character runes and banner runes.

“Character runes are ones that you equip directly onto your lords and heroes to give them the classic buffs or tweaks to their ‘build.’ We’ve also added three specific rune slots to equip these in, meaning there’s no overlap with arcane items and weapons and such. You can mix and match freely.”

There’s real power to be had there – everything from the tankiest of Dwarfs that deals damage in an aura around him constantly, to a stalking, vanguard-deploying assassin Dwarf for taking out enemy characters and key units. Naturally this all stacks with their skills, traits, and other equipment, making Dwarf lords and heroes incredibly versatile. But it doesn’t stop there…

“Banner runes effect your units and are equipped into the followers panel as before, but there are a lot more of them with more interesting effects. You can equip a rune onto an artillery piece that gives it homing projectiles or makes them explosive. There’s even one rune which allows your artillery to blow itself up when it gets attacked – brilliant when it works.”

Crafting runes takes Oathgold, and every time you make some you get a batch so you can spread the effect around your armies. Speaking of Oathgold, it’s also getting some changes – you get more as rewards, and we’re restructuring the hero Oathgold generation to increase local building yields rather than generate it themselves.

Hand-in-hand with equippable Runes is the entire Rune Magic system. Thorek gets access to Runelords for free (whether you own their associated DLC for WARHAMMER I or not) and is quite powerful himself. That meant some reworks to the system.

“To talk about the Rune Magic overhaul a little bit, it operates like a magic lore, but with its own unique twists. Instead of using the Winds of Magic as a resource, it’s based on cooldowns. You have an individual cooldown for each of your runespells, and then there’s a character-based cooldown as well, shorter than the individual one. So, say you invoke the Rune of Wrath and Ruin, both cooldowns begin, that Runesmith can’t use another Rune until their character cooldown is reset. Then you won’t be able to immediately invoke the same Rune again, because it will be on its own, longer cooldown. All of these are naturally affected by other skills, techs, runes, etc. Thorek is particularly good at it.”

Finally, we’re taking a long, hard, furious look at grudges. As one of the oldest systems in the game, they needed polish. Moreover, they’re a central facet of the Dwarfs, not only in gameplay but also in lore.

“Grudges have consistently had issues; they’ve been around forever. We wanted to move it away from being a system that just punishes you constantly. The grudge bar has been expanded with more tiers, there’s five instead of three, it’s not as easy to get locked into the negative side. Grudge generation has also been touched – it’s one of the oldest scripts in the game and it needed updating.”

There are a lot of details, but the basic version is grudges with better rewards, that are more interesting and varied, as well as easier to complete and with less punishing scaling if they go ignored in the late game. There are even benefits to having many unsolved grudges, as it makes Slayers more likely to show up in your Regiments of Renown pool. Plus, we’ve added UI and UX improvements so it’s easier to see which armies on the campaign map are the targets of grudges.

To better represent the lore of the Book of Grudges, there are also now various Legendary Grudges. “Each lord has their own set of four or so Legendary Grudges that they begin the game with. These are bigger things that help guide the flow of your campaign in some ways. It gives you objectives, grander things that you want to do.”

Folks like Thorgrim have even more, as well as receiving larger rewards from clearing their book. In addition, we’ve tweaked some techs to provide diplomacy with other Dwarfs to help offset the problems of high Grudge severity. The goal of all these changes is to make Grudges something that drives your campaign forward but doesn’t constantly get in the way of playing and doing fun stuff.

All of this, plus a hefty load of balance changes across the board, mean Dwarfs are in a very different place to before the DLC. You’ll get the full list of changes in the patch notes just before launch, naturally. Now, let’s move on to the man himself…

Thorek Ironbrow

Marching forwards atop the storied Anvil of Doom, the legendary Runelord Thorek Ironbrow works amidst the roar of battle, hammering powerful magic into the ancient runes of the Dwarfs. Harsh and unyielding, he will accept nothing less than victory. Bearing the runed weapons he has forged — with potent magic woven expertly into their blades — the soldiers who war beside him trust the masterful swing of his hammer will lead them to glory.

“He’s a grumpy old Dwarf, as many are. One of his defining personality traits is that he believes the old ways are best. They’re tried and true and tested, they’re reliable. That’s what Dwarfs are all about, being reliable – none of this new-fangled technology with black powder and so on. So, he has specific buffs to some of this older tech – Grudge Throwers, Quarrellers, Bolt Throwers – these are all buffed for Thorek. You have the opportunity with him to do something different and not necessarily end up with the normal build in the late game. We wanted to make it viable that he could stick with those lower-tech units into the endgame, changing how he’ll play each battle.”

Given his preferred units use arc-fire, cost less to maintain, and can still be supplemented with the power of the Dwarf late-game if and when you like, there’s quite a range of possibilities. Even moreso, his unique campaign mechanic, the Artefact Vault, provides even more power and variation.

The Artefact Vault is where Thorek identifies the miraculous relics in the world and turn them into a selection of faction-wide buffs, runes, a unit or a hero. These can be mixed and matched as you like – a powerful hero or mind-controlled carnosaur today, perhaps powerful runes that can refresh your troops or devastate your enemies tomorrow? You’ll be able to see and target the individual pieces that make each artefact, deciding how to expand your empire and where to raid and explore.

“It leads you to fight with most of the cultures that are in Lustria. There are parts up with the Vampire Coast, with Lokhir and the Dark Elves, Skaven and Lizardmen are all over the place. It gives you this sense of journeying to locate these lost artefacts and reclaim them for the Dawi Empire. Rekindle the golden age.

“That culminates with his story in Vortex. As you’re gathering artefacts you will have a skaven influence nipping at your heels, they’re also interested in these artefacts. They want to take them from you and as you craft them you will be attacked by Skaven armies that appear and beeline towards you.

“Once you’ve gathered a certain number of artefacts, Thorek can determine the location of the final lost vault, long hidden. That’s where the final battle takes place, beneath the jungles of Lustria, fighting off this Skaven horde that are trying to claim the treasures for themselves.”

In Vortex, Thorek starts in the Southern Spine of Sotek, surrounded by Lizardmen, Skaven and even some pesky High Elves. He stands ready to march on the Mine of the Bearded Skulls from the Thrice-Cursed Peak – his quest for the relics of his ancestors to restore the glory of the Dawi people begins here.

He also has access to the Rune of Doom once he mounts up on his Anvil of Doom. This is a spell that gives a temporary but massive increase to melee attack for his entire army, that also means they cause fear to enemies. It’s long-lasting and deadly and can cause any Dwarf army into a powerhouse at a key moment.

This all combos rather well with Thorek’s other campaign buffs:

  • Additional Oathgold from buildings, and reduced Oathgold cost for crafting runes.
  • Significantly cheaper and higher rank Runesmiths.
  • Jungle climate suitability – that one’s a gimme.

He also has the following improvements in battle for his army:

  • Reload time reduction for Bolt Throwers, Grudge Throwers, and Quarrellers
  • Extra armour-piercing weapon damage and extra armour
  • Lower miscast chance thanks to Kraggi, Assistant at the Forge

Another interesting note is Thorek’s start on Mortal Empires is completely different – indeed, on a different continent on the other side of the world. The Southlands Worlds Edge Mountains are the home of Karak Zorn and enemies in the form of Greenskins and various undead.

That’s the highlights for the Dwarfs. There are masses of smaller changes not detailed here, from numbers tweaks to the exact subtleties of the systems. Our influencer partners have a few videos on the subject, we recommend you check them out. We’ll also have a bunch of other blogs covering Silence & Fury’s major topics in the coming days. Stay tuned!