Monday, October 1, 2012

Warhammer 40,000 Fluff

The Fluff of the 40K universe is copious, now celebrated in novels, novellas, online websites dedicated to certain factions, forums, magazines and a long list of other places.

The fluff is most likely why the game has enjoyed popularity for so long.  The interesting stories of the different races and mankind’s struggle to survive a universe that has grown awfully cluttered with dangers to their sovereignty that have necessitated apocalyptic measures just to defend, on battlefields as far reaching as Death worlds, Agriworlds and even the battle for your very soul.

Star Wars made Pseudo-mysticism and science fiction meld well and probably spawned a fair amount of these kinds of things, but few in the world can boast the popularity of the 40,000 universe.

So you would think, then, that the story would be sacrosanct, something to be protected and proud of.  That of all the game elements, whether it be rules or artwork, the one thing they wouldn't change too substantially was the underlying story of the various factions.  Advance the story?  Sure.  Most games do that.  But utterly cast out all history and remake it?  Are you not playing with fire and arguing with success at that point?  I think you are.

That is just what has been done.  In the newest codex's, instead of adding to the ongoing story, they have literally DELETED it in many places.  Literally. 

In the main rulebook which so many players will probably never own thanks to the overwhelming demand for the "mini-rulebook", you will find that seriously important story elements are simply gone.  Vanished in fact.  Gone is mention of the Exterminatus order on Tau.  Gone is the mention of the fungi-origins of the Orks.  Gone is the dominance of the Star Gods in Necron mythology and in practice.  Gone is the entire history of the Grey Knights, replaced with the Men in Black image (and the retarded moniker of being the 666th Space Marine Legion, a drop of irony in a pool of tongue in cheek references that make it hard to take that seriously).  Sisters of Battle aren't even part of the Inquisition anymore (yeah...  I know right?) and instead are the Ecclesiarchy only.  Now they were always the Roman Catholic Church of the Emperor and weren't SPECIFICALLY part of the Inquisition originally, but they were adopted into the Inquisition in the last codex for almost 8 years...only to be expelled again?   I could understand them always having been in some way part of the Inquisition and it just not being seen as that important, then having it made more important.  But to pretend like it never happened?  Not even a line of text to explain it away?  Even crappy movies know to do that.

The Dark Eldar codex was a tremendously well done book, and hope rose anew after that for fluff, but really, it's a disappointing spiral we are on.  The Chaos Space marine codex and the Advanced ordering stuff looks promising and I am hopeful that it will be a return to glory for the somewhat...  uninteresting codex that so many abandoned in disgust.  Dark Angels appear to be close on their heels. 

I just pray that when the dust settles, they won't turn Tau into amphibious creatures instead of the steppe hunters they've always been.  But you never know...

8 comments:

  1. Many of the things you mentioned are not changes or retcons. GK have always been the 666th Chapter, ever since they were introduced and given background. Sisters were never part of the =I= per se, they were just forces that an Ordo Hereticus Inquisitor would be most likely to use.

    The only thing that was really overhauled was the Necrons story and, frankly, they needed it. Who want to play the guys that got tricked and owned by some lame Star Gods? And even with that retcon, they didn't really change how the War in Heaven played out, which was the greatest revelation from the old Necron fluff.

    The thing about 40K backstory is that even when it changes, it stays the same. Almost all of it is from the POV of the Imperium who have, to put it mildly, a limited understanding of the world around them. 40K fluff is all about perspective; maybe an erroneous report from a backwater Magos Biologis (Orks as fungi, or not), maybe some Inquisitor misunderstanding who is in charge in the Necron/C'tan dynamic.

    They don't need to explain (or explain away) changes they make simply because the vastness of the universe. Remember, everything is a lie!

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    1. ... and that is what makes the 40K backstory so great; it is fluid and dynamic. That is why there is room for people to add their own armies with backstories that come from their own head. It is a big universe and there is room for a whole lot!

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  2. Ward flavored Koolaid, on sale, 4 Packets for a dollar. Lol.

    With respect, if they introduce smurfs as Kroot and tell you "they were always smurfs to begin with, d'uh" and it was just the "vastness of space and limitations of human understanding" that made that misunderstood, shall I nod and say "okay"? Because thats what you just said I should do.

    Look I'm not going to stop playing the game. I'm just frustrated that some of the cool backstory *I* have created over time for my forces is now obliterated. You see, I have written some pretty cool backstories for all my armies and now a bunch of it would make no sense. I played the game and made imperious declarations at my opponents army to sort of increase the mood of the game only to find those things I said would now make no sense. Bad writing. A few lines of text to explain it away is too much to ask? I guess it is. You apparently think so.

    The RPG was also affected. Some of us care about that since some of us PLAY those games. A lot of Warhammer players forget that some of us Role players are transplants to the tabletop world. The tabletop game of Warhammer isn't as interesting as roleplaying games are (to me) but I enjoy both. Still, it totally messed up storylines and made some things not make sense there too.

    Changing this stuff goes beyond just the tabletop version of the game. The writers needed to think more about that possibility. They didn't. Shall I applaud that? Or speak about it? When they write a five volume set of books about the Grey Knights being "Men in Black" and then utterly change that again in the codex next time, the books will be invalid. Why would you do that without explanation? Bad writing. Thats why. And when Tyranids turn out to be Space Marines after all, let me know how you feel about that. Was that the vastness of space blinding us to more truths? yeah. Probably was.

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    1. Is that honestly your response? I'm somewhat taken aback by your adversarial tone,but let's keep trying:

      "Ward flavored Koolaid, on sale, 4 Packets for a dollar. Lol."

      Uhhh, I never mentioned Ward and I don't think it matters who writes the backstory; Mat Ward, Dan Abnett, or even you.

      "With respect, if they introduce smurfs as Kroot and tell you "they were always smurfs to begin with, d'uh" and it was just the "vastness of space and limitations of human understanding" that made that misunderstood, shall I nod and say "okay"? Because thats what you just said I should do."

      That is severe hyperbole. What changes have been so drastic that would cause you to make that comparison? That is not what I said you should do, because that is not realistically going to happen.

      "Look I'm not going to stop playing the game. I'm just frustrated that some of the cool backstory *I* have created over time for my forces is now obliterated. You see, I have written some pretty cool backstories for all my armies and now a bunch of it would make no sense. I played the game and made imperious declarations at my opponents army to sort of increase the mood of the game only to find those things I said would now make no sense. Bad writing. A few lines of text to explain it away is too much to ask? I guess it is. You apparently think so.
      The RPG was also affected. Some of us care about that since some of us PLAY those games. A lot of Warhammer players forget that some of us Role players are transplants to the tabletop world. The tabletop game of Warhammer isn't as interesting as roleplaying games are (to me) but I enjoy both. Still, it totally messed up storylines and made some things not make sense there too."

      *My* point was that none of your personal writings are in any way trumped by anything GW writes "canonically". Your stuff still makes sense from your/your armies/your characters perspective. My point is just because the rulebook doesn't mention an exterminatus on Tau, doesn't me it didn't still happen. The story is global but also personal; for me there are still Squats riding trikes on the high gravity planets near the core of the galaxy and no one can prove me wrong.

      "Changing this stuff goes beyond just the tabletop version of the game. The writers needed to think more about that possibility. They didn't. Shall I applaud that? Or speak about it? When they write a five volume set of books about the Grey Knights being "Men in Black" and then utterly change that again in the codex next time, the books will be invalid. Why would you do that without explanation? Bad writing. Thats why. And when Tyranids turn out to be Space Marines after all, let me know how you feel about that. Was that the vastness of space blinding us to more truths? yeah. Probably was."

      Again with the hyperbole. New stuff does not invalidate old stuff. When you mention something older that some newer player doesn't understand, that is an opportunity to tell a story, or break out an old rulebook/Codex/White Dwarf and educate them.

      My point is that it is all true, even the contradictory stuff, and that is where the vastness of the universe comes into play.

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  3. Yeah no offense meant here as me INCREDULITY is often mistaken for an adversarial tone. My physics lessons say something cannot both be and not be.

    I do not understand how someone COULD think this way. You're arguing that in essense, the underlying assumptions upon which the RPG, bopoks and other games I spent MONEY on, the stories I wrote which I spent TIME on and the game I spend time AND money on in great amounts should in no way be bothered to include a few lines of text to explain the lore changes? Or transition them as ti were. And you're saying that this was SO much effort that they couldn't bother and we should not in turn be critical of that?

    I don't agree.

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  4. You should know physics has no place in 40K!

    I think you have a flawed understanding of the backstory as a whole; GW themselves say there is no such thing as canon. The explanation I am giving is the explanation GW gives. In a universe with tens of thousands of years of history nothing is written in stone and perspectives vary among the billions of lifeforms within the galaxy. Even things written in an omniscient way are not cold, hard fact. I would think that someone who likes to write their own stuff would appreciate that fluidity. I know I do. It means that if I write something and someone says "Nuh-uh, it actually happened like this and your stuff doesn't make any sense" I can tell them to go suck an egg. From a practical point of view GW has probably 50+ people writing background for the 40K universe (Black Library, the RPG books, Codexes, rulebooks, Forgeworld, video games), they cannot all have an encyclopedic knowledge of everything that came before or even what their contemporaries are working on at the same time; should they spend their time fact checking their work (or editing it after fact checkers tell them something is wrong) or continuing to produce creative and imaginative work?

    For someone who is called unorthodox you sure seem to be having a hard time wrapping your head around this.

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  5. Yes, well my "flawed understanding" aside, I think the POINT I am making is very clear. You're fine with doing a 180 and no less, doing it in a direction that is literally as unbeleivable as it gets (Killing the populace of the planet you JUST SAVED..for the love of pete, I'm JUST SAYING...). I am not okay with that. Thats really what it comes down to here.

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