Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Should the 40k story Progress? Exploring the Death of the False Emperor!

Old School here to talk about the 40k storyline and the case for progression as the editions move on. The topic is one, as a fluff fiend, that I have thought about many times, but never bothered to blog about until I saw Sandwyrm's post on The Back 40k.

In his post, Sandwyrm deals with the death of the Emperor as a catalyst to create new human factions and expand some of the xenos ones as well. He also reposted some comments from a discussion he had in the comments of a Bell of Lost Souls post where some folks had an extremely adverse reaction to the idea of the 40k storyline changing.

My view on it is that the game has been around for an extremely long time, especially when you factor in Rogue Trader and the original fluff and the entire time, though the stories have shifted and clarified, the game has been going on in the same fraction of the 41st millenium for quite some time. Each addition goes further to push the idea of mankind being on the brink of destruction - Now this is a great idea for a setting and the despiration has an undeniable draw, as you can tell, since you are sitting here reading this (lol), let's dig deeper ...

How far can this continue however? How long can we keep the same story and not progress? How long can the tyranid threat be lingering or Chaos glowering or any other massive galactic threat before something gives? How long can the Emperor himself hold out in his withered form?

If 5th edition is the End Times, is 6th edition The End? What if the Emperor dies and his death is a mystery? The Astinomicon goes out. The Chaos Space Marines cease to have purpose and the very powers they have come to worship no longer need them to accomplish their goals. Humanity is spread out and has limited travel and communication capabilities. The Space Marines and Guard fleets truly are humanity's last standing hope. The tyranids are no longer drawn toward Terra and the hive fleets go random. The Eldar and the Tau have a respite and their respective societies can find a chance to flourish in post-imperial space ... but still there is only war.

This would make for an interesting setting, push the Black Library side of things into new territory and would generally allow the game and its factions to carry on without major disruptions game-play wise. Basically, the Space Marine fleets who remain whole are now the custodians of the particular regions they find themselves in as are the guard, who may be closer to their homeworlds than the Marines are. Xenos races push in to expand their territories, as they always have and fight over space. The Nid fleets now scramble and regroup, taking in much needed biomass as they do so. The daemons push further into real space for longer periods as the Chaos legions splinter to claim their own corners of the galaxy as their once united purpose crumbles, some may even become the malevolent benefactors of regions, preserving the huimanity living there. The inquisition scrambles to defend Terra and thr Radicals come to the fore in the End Times.

Very good stuff I would think and with those elements at play, the average gamer and the string of codices can move on as it always has.

Now, the question is; "Do you think the story could use some progression? Would the death of the Emperor be a good catalyst for that progression? Do you think it could be done with minimal impact to the game, while certainly impacting the fluff? Where would it go from there?

In my mind, I would hope for the Emperor to be reborn and for the Space Marines to find themselves guiding humanity as Ultramar is guided by in the meantime, but cut off from the total Empire. I can imagine the Astronomicon to flicker back on as He is reborn and for the Inquisition, several Space Marine Chapters or strikeforces (led by libbies), and even the legions of the traitors to move toward it, yet maybe never actually finding the Emperor, but maybe just His work or Miracles where they should have found him, forever a mystery as the Imperium begins to rebuild and reconquer its space, sharing it with new neighbors. Perhaps even some traitors could be redeemed in this time and maybe some loyalists could betray the imperium.

In any case, food for thought. If you made it this far thanks for reading this fluff rant. All in all the story and the current edition are solid enough to stick around for a long time and I am not saying there is a NEED for a change, as they could really mess it up (lol), rather just one nerd exploring the possibilities and asking other nerds what they think.


  1. I think it's a possibility, but I don't think it would ever happen. I don't think GW will ever advance the background. Instead, we will continue to see a deepening of the 10K years from M30 to M40. We have had 5 years of Horus Heresy Books, and really have only scratched the surface of those.

    And honestly... at the rate that GW publishes stuff (not very fast) I don't think 4 years of 6th edition (2012-2016) would be long enough to explore this post period.

    40K isn't about the story, it's about the setting. The setting to wage massive wars, or any size and that no matter how big you make your little corner, it is a small blip in the radar of the Galaxy.

  2. Good points all around Lowrey. I don't think it will hurt their business model either way. The topic is intruiging to me though as somebody who actually bought the Rogue Trader book when it came out.

  3. For once in my life I don't want the story to progress any further.

    GW is exploring the Horus Heresy afresh as well as the Badab War, plus with all the Imperial Armour books coming out, there are more than enough wars and events to keep us occupied.

    The Warhammer 40,000 universe is an enormous place after all.

  4. The death of the Mon-keigh ruler would be a natural progression of story. according to most of the books it would seem the emperor has been living for centuries or at least reborn many times. as of right now he is on life support and cannot be reborn to forge humanity anew. His death would mean the start of a new cycle which has been stalled for several thousand years. The rule book already hints at failures in the golden throne and the shrinking of the astronomicon. I don't think GW will kill the old bastard off though. they have to much they can flesh out. I hear some rumblings though.

  5. I think of it like their Ace in the hole - like if sales ever really hit bottom or an edition scares everyone away (4th), they can kill the Emperor, crank things up and maybe rejuvinate themselves, but honestly after the success they are having in 5th, I don't know if they will ever reach that point.

  6. i like this just cause it would shake up the whole 40k universe

  7. Were GW a Japanese company, they'd kill him and resurrect him as a heartwarming, bumbling-idiot child with ultimate power trying to come to terms with his role in the universe while learning valuable life lessons. Or some other such nonsense. No thanks.

    I am, however, very supportive of anything that allows for further advancements for AdMech. Anything to flesh out their relatively vacuous fluff would be awesome. (ok, sure they have some decent pre-heresy/dark ages fluff, but what have they been doing since then? Spending thousands of years looking for STC's and secretly worshiping what may or may not be the Void Dragon? Come on, I'm sure they've been up to something interesting up there.)

  8. That whole response was hilarious. The Star child would seem very avatarish!

  9. I'd love to see there be some sort of progression in the back story... even if it starts to come out in future codex's.

    We have the Tau who are rapidly evolving compared to other races... We could have one of the Grey Knights or Sisters or another Inquisitional division there could be a mention that the Emperor has transcended from The Golden Throne and his broken flesh to be something more within the warp itself.

    There are so many opportunities they could take but also it could be rumors within groups that could get out which would give a larger background but also could give reason for Marines to be fighting Marines due to some hidden truth.

    But that's my 2 cents...!

  10. Do you have any idea the kind of anarchy the death of the Emperor would cause in Imperial society?

    Remember that the Inquisition martyred him in the first place, telling the masses that he had "Ascended to the golden throne". Already he was being worshipped as a god throughout the Imperium. His 'ascension' kept the masses ignorant and hopeful.

    The Imperium can barely endure as it is without the sheer panic caused by news of the Emperor's death.

    His death would spread panic, anarchy, desperation and discord. The Adeptus Mechanicus (whose only tie to humanity was through the Emperor) would leave the Imperium to rot.

    Meanwhile all the riots and other social disturbances would cause a break down in the flow of resources and services between worlds.

    Would major battles also become lost due to poor morale?

    Chaos worshipping would be rife.

    So really, while some of you might think it's cool for the whole thing to descend into madness, it would mean the end of the Imperium, which is the core of the Warhammer 40K game.

  11. Madness indeed, but extremely interesting!

    Maybe the Imperium as we know it should end. Showing the High Lords and Inquisition for the fascist tyrants that they are. The Astartes would have to choose to protect humanity or their fascist overlords on Terra.

    It would make all the Marine on Marine action we see on the tabletop more palatable from a fluff perspective.

    I would much rather the storyline move forward into anarchy with the possibility of some advancement/innovation in Technology because the Ad Mech are not stifling it; than more of the same old fascism and fear that we currently have.

    In the end the core of 40k is humanities struggle to survive in a galaxy at war. It can continue as a viable and interesting storyline without the Imperium.

  12. Adam, I think you are over playing things a little. The average Imperium citizen has no real concept of the happenings of the Emperor. I doubt they would be told that he had died.

    Who knows, he may already be dead. If not dead, I doubt there is a "he" there anymore; more likely that there is just a burnt out shell that acts as a lens to focus the souls of the choir as they die.

  13. An interesting thought occured to me ... if Magnus the Red ever came around, he would be an ideal sit in for the emperor while he is reborn. If you read Thousand Sons, that was the Emperor's intention for Magnus from the beginning.

  14. what would be intresting if the emperor was reborn

  15. As someone else said, 40k is a massive setting in which you're free to create your corner of the galaxy and toy around with it, with the principles of the universe as cornerstones and general background on which to fall back.

    I mean, just look at the size and scale of the Sabbat Worlds Crusade : millions of guardsmen, a star cluster of several dozen worlds, a running series of over a dozen novels... And that thing is just a tiny piece of fluff, worth a footnote at best in the annals of the Imperium.

    For me, the Sabbat Worlds are exactly what people should be going for : your little corner of the galaxy to toy around with.

    GW seems to be steering away from any radical change in the background if Fantasy is anything to go by.

    A few years ago, Storm of Chaos was all the rage, the end times were upon us and we had this massive world campaign, which IMHO GW rigged to make it more interesting (I keep getting the feeling the Imperials and their allies were keeping Archaon's forces well away from Middenheim).

    Nowadays, it seems the Storm of Chaos does not even get a footnote in the Fantasy fluff. It's gone from the background of the main protagonists : the Empire and Warriors of Chaos IIRC.

    I discussed this a while back with some game designer (I think it was Phil Kelly), who told that they wanted to create this atmosphere of impending doom, of "five minutes before the apocalypse", implying that the Ragna'ork, the Rhana Dandra or whatever you want to call it is never going to take place in the official fluff.

    In other words, the Emperor is not going to die, at least not in the foreseeable future