Warhammer 40K Lore Discussion

TheMysteriousGX

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I mean, are we really shocked that graphic bloody sexual violence is treated significantly differently than graphic bloody regular violence? They try to sell these things in hobby shops

It's not like they're going to commission InCase or Archon of Flesh
 

SilentPony

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I mean, are we really shocked that graphic bloody sexual violence is treated significantly differently than graphic bloody regular violence? They try to sell these things in hobby shops

It's not like they're going to commission InCase or Archon of Flesh
I mean that's kinda it. Kids do action all the time - Video games, movies, tv shows. Filled with dudes punching things and war scenes and the like. Its a lot easier to convince a mom or dad to buy the werewolf space Vikings than it is to buy the gang rape squad.
I mean yes, there is the prudish no peepees part where you have violent Chaos cultists skinning hundreds of people alive and using their flesh to make banners and flags, but deary me no don't touch the peepee parts.
But at the same time Berserk wasn't afraid to show rape, and it just became a fetish comic where every single enemy monster is introduced by raping someone, and every female character is raped at least once.
40k was smart enough to have the brutal shit off camera, and kept the more marketable big chainswords and bolters stuff front and center.
 

Thaluikhain

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40k was smart enough to have the brutal shit off camera, and kept the more marketable big chainswords and bolters stuff front and center.
Usually, though some of the books go into messed up torture stuff, but still keep the sex out o it.
 

Eacaraxe

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...Its a lot easier to convince a mom or dad to buy the werewolf space Vikings than it is to buy the gang rape squad.
The "draw the curtain" take towards explicit content is definitely something that occurred later than my heyday in 40K tabletop and lore. My 2nd edition Chaos codex has some gnarly depictions of what Chaos does to its followers and enemies. The short story in that codex about Noise Marines tearing into guardsmen actually made me nauseous to read, whereas the short stories about Kharn at Isstvan III and Skalathrax, and the Great Unclean One, barely elicited a blink.

By way of comparison, the only other times that happened was reading real-life descriptions of ebola symptoms and acute radiation sickness. So, that's a fuckin' high bar.

And back then, you didn't buy or play Space Wolves because werewolf space vikings. You bought and played Space Wolves because of the weapons-grade, uncut, pure unadulterated DOGSHIT that were 2nd edition Wolf Guard. Only unit in the game, as far as I know, that was nerfed via errata in White Dwarf...twice...and still game-breakingly overpowered to the point of being outright banned in most game stores and tourneys, including Games Workshop's own.

You'd show up to play, and half the army lists were literally just Blackmane or Grimnar, Bjorn, and twenty Wolf Guard. Most the other half were cheldar, but that's another story.
 

TheMysteriousGX

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The "draw the curtain" take towards explicit content is definitely something that occurred later than my heyday in 40K tabletop and lore. My 2nd edition Chaos codex has some gnarly depictions of what Chaos does to its followers and enemies. The short story in that codex about Noise Marines tearing into guardsmen actually made me nauseous to read, whereas the short stories about Kharn at Isstvan III and Skalathrax, and the Great Unclean One, barely elicited a blink.

By way of comparison, the only other times that happened was reading real-life descriptions of ebola symptoms and acute radiation sickness. So, that's a fuckin' high bar.
Ahh, the joys of going from regional niche novelty hobby to internationally recognized mainstream nerd brand

Which isn't to say they don't still have their kink, it's just disguised now. Nothing in the modern slaneshi line has anything close to the raw fetish material as the Sister's of Battle Shame Dreadnought (Mortifyer) if you know what to look for.
 

SilentPony

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Ahh, the joys of going from regional niche novelty hobby to internationally recognized mainstream nerd brand

Which isn't to say they don't still have their kink, it's just disguised now. Nothing in the modern slaneshi line has anything close to the raw fetish material as the Sister's of Battle Shame Dreadnought (Mortifyer) if you know what to look for.
Ah yes, the naughty naughty Sisters, in their high heeled corset pushup bra power armor, hooker makeup, and the even naughtier ones who strip down to leather bikinis while their Mistress whips them with an electric cat o nine tails. And the even naughtier ones who get hooked up with the mecha edging machine that torments them endlessly with not experience the ecstatic release of combat in the Emperor's name.
Yeah nothing kinky there. A totally legit and professional military organization.
 
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TheMysteriousGX

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I mean, they're basically just Space Marines, or so the nerds online who don't play them tell me
 

Gordon_4

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Ahh, the joys of going from regional niche novelty hobby to internationally recognized mainstream nerd brand

Which isn't to say they don't still have their kink, it's just disguised now. Nothing in the modern slaneshi line has anything close to the raw fetish material as the Sister's of Battle Shame Dreadnought (Mortifyer) if you know what to look for.


So, tell me you're a Clive Barker fan without telling me you're a Clive Barker fan, Games Workshop.
 

Thaluikhain

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And back then, you didn't buy or play Space Wolves because werewolf space vikings. You bought and played Space Wolves because of the weapons-grade, uncut, pure unadulterated DOGSHIT that were 2nd edition Wolf Guard. Only unit in the game, as far as I know, that was nerfed via errata in White Dwarf...twice...and still game-breakingly overpowered to the point of being outright banned in most game stores and tourneys, including Games Workshop's own.

You'd show up to play, and half the army lists were literally just Blackmane or Grimnar, Bjorn, and twenty Wolf Guard. Most the other half were cheldar, but that's another story.
Hmmm, I am now reminded of how I used to hate Space Wolves, not so much because of them themselves, but what we'd now call the beardiest person I knew when young at my local GW was a SW player. Which, in retrospect...
 

Eacaraxe

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Add Stormcaller and you have my most hated characters in 40k.
I don't recall seeing Stormcaller get much play back then, but psyker powers were pretty gimp in 2nd edition and the rules were a complete mess. It was more common in my experience to see players ditch Bjorn and cut the number of Wolf Guard back to run a Land Raider, at least in 1.5k point games.

Ah yes, the naughty naughty Sisters, in their high heeled corset pushup bra power armor, hooker makeup, and the even naughtier ones who strip down to leather bikinis while their Mistress whips them with an electric cat o nine tails. And the even naughtier ones who get hooked up with the mecha edging machine that torments them endlessly with not experience the ecstatic release of combat in the Emperor's name.
Yeah nothing kinky there. A totally legit and professional military organization.
You pretty much hit the nail on the head in terms of why the "boob armor"/"male gaze"/"objectification in SFF" complainants need to more critically examine their targets, and tailor/contextualize their arguments to thematic and social appropriateness. The Adepta Sororitas are one of the most commonly complained-about armies in fauxgressive circles, and they're completely off-base when they do.

With the earlier-edition SoB...yeah, that's the point. That's precisely the satirical element to the faction, the uncomfortable fetishism and psychosexuality. In a certain way, it's even holding a mirror up to the beholder's face and highlighting how we're socialized to perceive mortification and sanctification as sexual by default, when women are involved opposed to men. It's the cornerstone for highlighting the hypocrisy of organized religion and puritanism, especially in the uniquely horrific context of 40k.

That goes doubly when one takes into account their lore, specifically the details about their founding and for whose purposes.

I mean, they're basically just Space Marines, or so the nerds online who don't play them tell me
Admittedly, back in the day before GW added army-specific rules, stratagems, gambits, and the like, they were just Blood Angels with guard stats. I don't think it was even until the Dark Millennium expansion they got miracles, and they got that because there were no psykers on the army list. Granted allied detachment rules were much more forgiving then*, but Imperial psyker options were comparatively weak and an SoB player was generally better off bringing a Culexus if they anticipated psyker problems. In fact, I'd argue SoB back in the day was better as an allied detachment opposed to an army core.

They had some neat tricks like dual-wielding inferno pistol seraphim squads, Exorcist tanks being what Whirlwinds should have been, and Immolators having nasty Strength and AP by default (twin-linked heavy flamer with holy prometheum could wipe Terminator squads). I don't remember penitent engines being very good, but they were something rare in those days -- fast melee/short range walkers. They were an okay army, but didn't really have anything to stand out as compared to others.

[* Forgiving and hilarious at times, because the alliance matrix or whatever it's called now was incredibly detailed and context-specific. Khornate armies specifically could ally with Eldar, especially against Slaaneshi armies. Blood Axes -- and only Blood Axes -- could be allied to Imperium armies, and could be taken as allied detachments for Guard. All bets -- and I mean all bets -- were off versus Tyranids.

One of the greatest tabletop games I ever saw was a 1.5k point Dark Angels army, allied to a 1.5k Chaos Undivided army that had Cypher in it, against a 3k point Tyranid army. Dark Angels had that unique "hunt the Fallen" victory condition that superseded the usual rules, so the game was as much 2v1 as it was free-for-all: normal victory conditions applied for everyone, but the Dark Angels player could just kill Cypher and withdraw to claim victory.

The entire time the two allied players fought the tyranids, they were playing this incredible cat-and-mouse game. The Dark Angels player kept trying to get Cypher in weapons or assault range, the Chaos player was trying to keep Cypher safe, all while trying to throw each other under the bus to the 'nids. The 'nid player knew his first priority was to stop the "hunt the fallen" victory condition, and moved his stealers to catch Cypher out of position. The Chaos player had to keep Cypher in cover from the Dark Angels, which limited his movement options against the 'nids.

The Chaos player realized that could work to his advantage, so he had Cypher charge the stealers. The Dark Angels player couldn't claim the "hunt the fallen" condition unless he did it, so he had to go all-in to protect Cypher from the 'nids. So, this massive melee clusterfuck kicked off around Cypher, which gave the Chaos player the trigger condition for deploying his Bloodthirster -- right in the middle of it all, protecting Cypher from 'nids and Dark Angels alike.

Meanwhile, the Chaos player used the rest of his forces to start seizing objectives. Cypher did go down, but the Dark Angels player couldn't withdraw and invoke "hunt the Fallen". The game ended on turn six with a pretty resounding victory for the Dark Angels/Chaos army.]
 
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SilentPony

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You pretty much hit the nail on the head in terms of why the "boob armor"/"male gaze"/"objectification in SFF" complainants need to more critically examine their targets, and tailor/contextualize their arguments to thematic and social appropriateness. The Adepta Sororitas are one of the most commonly complained-about armies in fauxgressive circles, and they're completely off-base when they do.

With the earlier-edition SoB...yeah, that's the point. That's precisely the satirical element to the faction, the uncomfortable fetishism and psychosexuality. In a certain way, it's even holding a mirror up to the beholder's face and highlighting how we're socialized to perceive mortification and sanctification as sexual by default, when women are involved opposed to men. It's the cornerstone for highlighting the hypocrisy of organized religion and puritanism, especially in the uniquely horrific context of 40k.

That goes doubly when one takes into account their lore, specifically the details about their founding and for whose purposes.
You can see it in their official artwork:

Its gotten a little better since the beginning, but only a little. 40k being a series of parodies stapled together to form a universe, the Sisters are the oddly sexualized radical religious puritanism faction. And you can argue pros and cons on if that's something worth parodying, but its pretty damn blatant.
 

Zykon TheLich

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I don't recall seeing Stormcaller get much play back then, but psyker powers were pretty gimp in 2nd edition and the rules were a complete mess. It was more common in my experience to see players ditch Bjorn and cut the number of Wolf Guard back to run a Land Raider, at least in 1.5k point games.
It wasn't a game issue, I just hated them from a design and lore perspective.
 

TheMysteriousGX

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Its gotten a little better since the beginning, but only a little. 40k being a series of parodies stapled together to form a universe, the Sisters are the oddly sexualized radical religious puritanism faction. And you can argue pros and cons on if that's something worth parodying, but its pretty damn blatant.
Unfortunately, the realities of being a multimedia franchise with one super-popular faction and mass market appeal has sanded off most of the rough edges to the universe. The Space Marines are the Good Guys, serving an empire they tut-tut the atrocities of, of which there are fewer and milder, waging a justified war against every other faction

It's staggeringly difficult to write fiction where everybody involved is The Bad Guy and I'd say Games Workshop has failed utterly.
 

SilentPony

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Unfortunately, the realities of being a multimedia franchise with one super-popular faction and mass market appeal has sanded off most of the rough edges to the universe. The Space Marines are the Good Guys, serving an empire they tut-tut the atrocities of, of which there are fewer and milder, waging a justified war against every other faction

It's staggeringly difficult to write fiction where everybody involved is The Bad Guy and I'd say Games Workshop has failed utterly.
Part of the problem was as 40k grew more popular and mainstream, the newer fans didn't realize it was a parody. They didn't realize the Space Marines, being brainwashed brutalized radicalized xenophobic child soldiers, were not heroes, but the utter worst fate a little boy could be. In any other franchise, Space Marines are the worst of the worst. In 40k, they're just kinda there.
People looked at the Inquisition, with early Inquisitors literally citing Mein Kampf as their moral guide, and thought "Oh hey, edgy!"
And then the Tau got introduced some 2003-2004, as an actual good side, with liberalism and democracy and not religious totalitarianism. And it totally threw off the entire vibe. You can't add something reasonable to the unreasonable setting of 40k. Its like asking Groucho Marx why he has a painted on mustache. You're popping the bubble a bit.
 
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Eacaraxe

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And then the Tau got introduced some 2003-2004, as an actual good side, with liberalism and democracy and not religious totalitarianism. And it totally threw off the entire vibe.
They were utilitarian and communitarian. And, it was fans who were pissed Games Workshop introduced a faction that was considerably less overtly evil than the Imperium, which is how and why the Tau -- well, the ethereals -- were slightly retconned to be mind controlling, eugenicist, totalitarians...and the farsight enclaves added to preserve the "good guy Tau".

Compare and contrast to how little mind is paid to how Chaos is inherently dualistic, with each Chaos god representing the good and evil associated with their purviews: Khorne represents honor and warriors' pride, Tzeentch represents hope, Slaanesh represents joy, and Nurgle represents rebirth and growth. It just happens to be the case the gods were corrupted over time by mortals' degeneration. Chaos as the "epic tragedy" faction goes far beyond just the Horus Heresy.

You can't add something reasonable to the unreasonable setting of 40k.
Well, you can when it highlights the explicit and implicit horror of others by comparison. For example, Catachans' inversion of commissars' summary execution rule. It's comedic until you remember most commissars really are that bad, and given those circumstances it's perfectly reasonable to frag them...and of all guard regiments, Catachans alone resist Imperial doctrination to the point they do.

It's a far cry from, say, Tallarn (if I remember right) who had preacher-commissars and confessor-commissars instead of commissars and lord-commissars.
 

Thaluikhain

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Compare and contrast to how little mind is paid to how Chaos is inherently dualistic, with each Chaos god representing the good and evil associated with their purviews: Khorne represents honor and warriors' pride, Tzeentch represents hope, Slaanesh represents joy, and Nurgle represents rebirth and growth. It just happens to be the case the gods were corrupted over time by mortals' degeneration.
Well...is it not equally true to say that it's not? Sure, there's fluff that says it is, and then there's lots that says it is not. Someone could very easily argue that chaos is just evil, end of, and back it up with more evidence.

Now, GW isn't big on setting things on stone (or at least things that aren't contradicted somewhere by something else set in stone), but even as early as 2nd, it was perfectly possible not for 40k to be big on parody, and be mostly taken straight, albeit with wacky or dark humour thrown in. There's little or no parody in the Tyranids, they are fairly straight up space monsters, the Necrons are fairly straight up undead/robots/whatever. Space marines came in generic/viking werewolf/vampire/dodgy flavours. Guard were just "historical soldiers X" in space, and commissars didn't even go round offing people in 2nd. The Ad Mech praying to machine and administering ritual blows to computers seems less silly when gods and demons actually exist. Sororitas boob plate doesn't seem much of a parody when it's just like every other franchises' boob plate, (later) Repentia in their undies and whips just looks like fetish stuff that pops up all over the place.

Admittedly, when they get into the government and policing systems things are different (Sentence: Guilty. Awaiting trial), but 40k tends not to dwell so much on that. And, ok, orks are a parody of working class people from another town who have a funny accent a lot of the time.

But I'd say for at least the 30 years and 8 editions since 2nd ed 40k, while often silly and including satire, is played fairly straight (in it's own weird way) at least as much as it isn't.
 

Eacaraxe

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Well...is it not equally true to say that it's not? Sure, there's fluff that says it is, and then there's lots that says it is not. Someone could very easily argue that chaos is just evil, end of, and back it up with more evidence.
A lot of that's down to the extensive revisions and rewrites to lore done over time, without much in the way of central authority, tracking, or coordination on GW's part. Not to mention, GW's propensity for introducing factions to tabletop before the requisite world- and lore-building to fit that faction into the setting properly. Hell, the writeup of the Horus Heresy in my 2nd edition codex is far different than that of codices today. There's only a 60+ book series between then and now.

Ad Mech was the cleanest fit to date not because of any army list consideration, but because they were an integral (but unexplored) part of the lore from the beginning, and Ad Mech units had already found their way to tabletop between the cracks. GW, for the first time, had built an army list players wanted and had been demanding for years, opposed to introduce an army list no one really wanted or anticipated, without a clear niche in the game, as a form of market testing before spending labor hours on the lore.

The perfect example of GW-as-usual isn't actually the Tau, in my opinion. It's the Necrons. When GW introduced the Necrons, they displaced three armies that already filled the "slow-moving, shooty, incredibly hard to put down" gameplay niche -- Iyanden, Thousand Sons (god damn were 3rd edition Rubric Marines amazing), and Death Guard -- with the requisite power creep to make models sell, but none of the lore to make them a compelling faction to play. GW just said "our Aliens riff worked, let's riff Terminator too!" and went all-in, without apparently realizing 'nids worked because they'd already been in the game for years, had a clearly-defined niche with lore behind it, and were introduced as an HQ-elite-heavy expansion to the genestealer cult army list.

...it was perfectly possible not for 40k to be big on parody, and be mostly taken straight...But I'd say for at least the 30 years and 8 editions since 2nd ed 40k, while often silly and including satire, is played fairly straight (in it's own weird way) at least as much as it isn't.
This is why I hesitate to call 40k parody. Satire, yes; parody, no. Yes, there are events, novels, and entire factions that are parodic, even farcical, but the setting and property themselves are not. The tone and tenor are generally tailored to whatever it is being satirized -- the satire of hooliganism through the Orks is fairly good-natured, whereas the satire of anything associated with the Imperium -- Catholicism through the Ecclesiarchy, privatized heavy industry and military-industrial complexes through the Ad Mech, military nepotism and incompetence through the Guard -- is damned scathing. GW writers' penchant for punching up is slipshod, but when they land a hit, it's right on the nose.

The question you should likely ask, is on which side of the Atlantic are people taking it more seriously than others. 40k, for better or worse, is quintessentially British and not everyone outside the Commonwealth is culturally equipped to parse or understand British humor. 40k's slide away from overt parody absolutely correlates to the growth of its popularity in North America.

[By the way, Summary Execution was absolutely in 2nd edition. It was just a terrible, terrible rule, because it only applied to Fear tests and put the Guard player in double jeopardy because Summary Execution almost always triggered follow-up cohesion tests. Very few units caused Fear but not Terror, which Summary Execution didn't solve, and 2nd edition cohesion tests were straight squad-killers. It was almost never worth it to actually use Summary Execution.

The Catachan version, on the other hand, was incredibly useful.]
 
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Thaluikhain

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The perfect example of GW-as-usual isn't actually the Tau, in my opinion. It's the Necrons. When GW introduced the Necrons, they displaced three armies that already filled the "slow-moving, shooty, incredibly hard to put down" gameplay niche -- Iyanden, Thousand Sons (god damn were 3rd edition Rubric Marines amazing), and Death Guard -- with the requisite power creep to make models sell, but none of the lore to make them a compelling faction to play. GW just said "our Aliens riff worked, let's riff Terminator too!" and went all-in, without apparently realizing 'nids worked because they'd already been in the game for years, had a clearly-defined niche with lore behind it, and were introduced as an HQ-elite-heavy expansion to the genestealer cult army list.
Eh, I didn't mind them in 2nd ed, where they were just weird unknown raiders. The 3rd ed fluff, apart from totally rewriting the entire setting and making every other faction irrelevant wouldn't have been bad if it wasn't suddenly crowbarred in as something lots of people always knew about, but just didn't mention until now.


This is why I hesitate to call 40k parody. Satire, yes; parody, no. Yes, there are events, novels, and entire factions that are parodic, even farcical, but the setting and property themselves are not. The tone and tenor are generally tailored to whatever it is being satirized -- the satire of hooliganism through the Orks is fairly good-natured, whereas the satire of anything associated with the Imperium -- Catholicism through the Ecclesiarchy, privatized heavy industry and military-industrial complexes through the Ad Mech, military nepotism and incompetence through the Guard -- is damned scathing. GW writers' penchant for punching up is slipshod, but when they land a hit, it's right on the nose.
Ah, ok, I see what you mean. Though I'm seeing more nepotism and incompetence than anything else, I guess cause those are generic and easy, not having a go at any institution in particular.

The question you should likely ask, is on which side of the Atlantic are people taking it more seriously than others. 40k, for better or worse, is quintessentially British and not everyone outside the Commonwealth is culturally equipped to parse or understand British humor. 40k's slide away from overt parody absolutely correlates to the growth of its popularity in North America.
Hmm, hadn't seen that idea before, but it doesn't seem unreasonable. Also I think it's just not the 80s anymore, and culture has changed. And extreme example, there's people nowdays saying the Empire in Star Wars are the goodguys.

[By the way, Summary Execution was absolutely in 2nd edition. It was just a terrible, terrible rule, because it only applied to Fear tests and put the Guard player in double jeopardy because Summary Execution almost always triggered follow-up cohesion tests. Very few units caused Fear but not Terror, which Summary Execution didn't solve, and 2nd edition cohesion tests were straight squad-killers. It was almost never worth it to actually use Summary Execution.

The Catachan version, on the other hand, was incredibly useful.
Erm, it's not in the Imperial Guard codex for 2nded under commissars, they are just immune to psychology (p 20).

And the Codex Catachans (which said it could be used for other jungle-ish deathworlds) just had commissars having a 1 in 6 chance of not turning up to the battle. As an aside, Gav Thorpe's Annihilation Squad novel also mention Armageddon Ork Hunters (who are also jungle fighters) doing the same.