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View Full Version : Why such a decentralized look at the Imperium?



Ktotwf
13-09-2007, 23:49
It is interesting to me that, with the Imperium being often a very top heavy organization (i.e. mostly everyone who is anyone lives and works on the holy soil of Earth), why there isn't more depiction of the Earth, and the High Lords of Terra, and all the good high level government stuff?

Why aren't there more (or any) depictions of the Adeptus Custodes for instance? What is the name of the current Supreme commander of the Imperial Guard?

In other words, why, when there is so much potential for a great panaramic view of the Imperium's creme de la creme, do we always seem to get stuck with some Imperial Guard regiment in some Emperorforsaken corner of nowhere?

robertsjf
13-09-2007, 23:51
Uh, because the imperium is actually more of a feudal structure?

Ktotwf
13-09-2007, 23:53
Uh, because the imperium is actually more of a feudal structure?

Yes, but there is still a "King's Domain" so to speak (the realm of Terra), and we have seen NEXT TO NOTHING of it.

Tehkonrad
14-09-2007, 00:17
true very true

DantesInferno
14-09-2007, 00:21
Yes, but there is still a "King's Domain" so to speak (the realm of Terra), and we have seen NEXT TO NOTHING of it.

We get a decent look at Terra and the top end of the Imperium in the 4th ed rulebook, 3rd ed rulebook, and Codex Imperialis (2nd ed). The Navigator article for Inquisitor might be worth a look too.

What, precisely, were you looking for? The Custodes have an almost entirely ceremonial role (having done one thing of note since the Heresy), and we know who the High Lords are (not their names, but their positions).

At the end of the day, though, Warhammer 40k is a battle game, and so there's going to be a fair amount of focus on the fighting itself, and therefore look at the people on the ground. As for the Machiavellian manoeveres occuring in the Senatorum Imperialis, it's not too hard to extrapolate from what we know.

Ktotwf
14-09-2007, 00:24
We get a decent look at Terra and the top end of the Imperium in the 4th ed rulebook, 3rd ed rulebook, Codex Imperialis (2nd ed). The Navigator article for Inquisitor might be worth a look too.

What, precisely, were you looking for? The Custodes have an almost entirely ceremonial role (having done one thing of note since the Heresy), and we know who the High Lords are (not their names, but their positions).

At the end of the day, though, Warhammer 40k is a battle game, and so there's going to be a fair amount of focus on the fighting itself, and therefore look at the people on the ground. As for the Machiavellian manoeveres occuring in the Senatorum Imperialis, it's not too hard to extrapolate from what we know.

Its true- most of what we know comes from the BGB. All the same, it would be nice to have some fluff that shows the workings of the Earth, both day to day, and how the most powerful men of the Imperium work together (or don't) in politics.

Surely there is AT LEAST a short story in there somewhere...like a council of the High Lords transcript or something. It would be cool...and, for me, that is good enough justification.

DantesInferno
14-09-2007, 01:07
Its true- most of what we know comes from the BGB. All the same, it would be nice to have some fluff that shows the workings of the Earth, both day to day, and how the most powerful men of the Imperium work together (or don't) in politics.

Surely there is AT LEAST a short story in there somewhere...like a council of the High Lords transcript or something. It would be cool...and, for me, that is good enough justification.

Yep, it would be very interesting indeed to see what exactly would go on in a meeting of the High Lords. Though I suspect what is actually said would be very formal and empty - the vast majority of important decisions would actually be made at a much lower level within the various departments constituting the Imperium.

But we don't have any concrete examples of this, so this is all just speculation. I'm not quite sure what to say other than it's a shame.

Lord Cook
14-09-2007, 01:40
mostly everyone who is anyone lives and works on the holy soil of Earth

I completely disagree. The vast majority of important figures in the Imperium have probably never even seen Earth, let alone work there. The Imperium couldn't possibly function as anything like a centralized power. The scale of distance and time that separates those in control from those they command makes detailed decision making impossible. This is why each Segmentum has it's own central Fleet base, such as Port Maw, while the same applies to each sector and so on. Even on individual worlds, the word of the Imperial Governor is law, and he has almost total control without the need to refer to anybody.

Although more fluff on the High Lords would be great, it would basically just be the same as that for the notable leaders of a particular sector, except on a larger scale.

Iracundus
14-09-2007, 01:45
The High Lords also do not actually rule the Imperium on any practical level despite their supposed technical power to do so. The distances and scales involved mean any attempt to exercise central control is limited in what it can accomplish, despite whatever the High Lords might proclaim. For example, after Kraken made major inroads into the Imperium, the High Lords made a declaration that the Imperium must gird itself for war and extermination of the Tyranids. No systemic Imperium wide mobilization against the Tyranids has been done. The action has been done at lower levels but not Imperium wide.

Much of the governmental work on Terra is likely to be ceremonial or purely bureaucratic paper shuffling. With the time delays of warp travel and astropathic communication, it is debateable how much of this paperwork is actually meaningful.

Ktotwf
14-09-2007, 01:48
Yes, but nothing is ever purely ceremonial - the High Lords of Terra surely exert a certain amount of real influence over the entirety of the Imperium, whether it is through galaxy wide directives, or simply an "example" so to speak: it seems silly to suggest that the power of Terra is simply an illusion, regardless of the amount of decentralization that is inherent in a galactic government.

Iracundus
14-09-2007, 01:52
The power of Terra is not an illusion but the power of the High Lords is. There is a difference. Terra still exacts tithes of resources and manpower and psykers. The High Lords however, can make decrees and commands but despite their seeming grandiose sweeping natures, they seem to end up being rather empty statements with only sporadic or uncoordinated enactment.

Ktotwf
14-09-2007, 01:54
The power of Terra is not an illusion but the power of the High Lords is. There is a difference. Terra still exacts tithes of resources and manpower and psykers. The High Lords however, can make decrees and commands but despite their seeming grandiose sweeping natures, they seem to end up being rather empty statements with only sporadic or uncoordinated enactment.

And yet the ability to have a "sporadic" and "uncoordinated" effect on more than a million worlds is not "an illusion of power."

Iracundus
14-09-2007, 02:01
It is if you look in terms of actually getting things done to meet the problems at hand. A haphazard here and there mobilization against the Tyranids for example isn't going to decisively change the overall galactic situation.

Ktotwf
14-09-2007, 02:02
It is if you look in terms of actually getting things done to meet the problems at hand. A haphazard here and there mobilization against the Tyranids for example isn't going to decisively change the overall galactic situation.

No, but if word filters in through various means, that more and more planets are mobilizing, then the PRECEDENT set by the High Lords may well have a large scale effect.

Iracundus
14-09-2007, 02:10
Except planets are run independently by their Imperial Governors. The fact that other planets have had to cough up extra levies, doesn't affect one particular planet. If you dig through the background, I don't recall finding any decree from above sector level that actually had meaningful effect on the local level, beyond being an empty position statement.

Ktotwf
14-09-2007, 02:18
Yes, but surely sector level decrees derive much of their shape from decrees at the Segmentum and Imperium level? I mean, the Sector level decrees aren't just made up out of thin air, unless that sector is facing significant and unique pressure.

Iracundus
14-09-2007, 02:22
The Imperium is essentially feudal. Each world is independent. Each sub-sector is independent, and each sector is independent. Though they may pass information up to higher levels, they have autonomy in dealing with affairs under their jurisdiction, so actually I would say that yes they do have the authority to make their own decrees.

Ktotwf
14-09-2007, 02:24
The Imperium is essentially feudal. Each world is independent. Each sub-sector is independent, and each sector is independent. Though they may pass information up to higher levels, they have autonomy in dealing with affairs under their jurisdiction, so actually I would say that yes they do have the authority to make their own decrees.


Well, yes, I understand quite well how a feudal system works, but in any Feudal system there is a certain amount of guidance from above as well.

All the sectors are independant, of course, I get that. What I am saying is that a Feudal structure does not prevent parts of the decentralized Imperium from cooperating on Matters of State that are decreed from Terra.

Lord Cook
14-09-2007, 02:25
the Sector level decrees aren't just made up out of thin air

No, they are made by those in command of the sector. This is the result of decentralization, being able to make decisions without the authority of Segmentum (or even Imperium) command.

Ktotwf
14-09-2007, 02:30
I am well aware of what decentralization means, thank you. What I am SAYING is that policy and general statements of purpose (moral guidance, and decrees) that are issued from Terra would have effect, and they would be taken into consideration by the Imperium as a whole.

Whereas sector/segmentum command would effect their region, Terra would have a broad based but extremely weak "authority" over the whole, meaning they do have a sort of power, just not power in terms of "Do this now!"

Iracundus
14-09-2007, 02:31
That decentralization is why the High Lords are on a practical level rather impotent. Their sweeping decrees are left up to lower levels to decide on enactment (once/ or even if they receive them in the first place). How they are enacted, how quickly, are all utterly left in local hands. This may suffice for small scale issues but when it comes to framing a cohesive strategy or response against galaxy wide issues, it isn't great.

Ktotwf
14-09-2007, 02:34
That decentralization is why the High Lords are on a practical level rather impotent. Their sweeping decrees are left up to lower levels to decide on enactment (once/ or even if they receive them in the first place). How they are enacted, how quickly, are all utterly left in local hands. This may suffice for small scale issues but when it comes to framing a cohesive strategy or response against galaxy wide issues, it isn't great.

No, but Terra functions as a uniting symbol (being both the origin of Humanity, and the seat of power of the High Lords and, not to mention, the God-Emperor) and symbols only have the power that people allow them to have. I wouldn't call the High Lords powerless, they are simply powerful in a way that is comparable, say, to the Pope or the U.N. rather than hardcore Dictators or something.

BTW, anyone know what the "tithes" that the central Imperium collects are used for? Are they distributed among the Segmentum offices, or does Terra keep them for something? Perhaps to keep the massive defenses around Terra operational?

Iracundus
14-09-2007, 04:10
As with communication, tithes are probably collected at local level and passed slowly up the chain, with subtractions for local expenses and graft and embezzling along the way before passing what remains along.

Shrapnel
14-09-2007, 18:15
As with communication, tithes are probably collected at local level and passed slowly up the chain, with subtractions for local expenses and graft and embezzling along the way before passing what remains along.
saves passing it back down the line
:rolleyes:

Lord Cook
14-09-2007, 19:36
I am well aware of what decentralization means, thank you.

I didn't mean to imply that you didn't know what it meant, sorry if this was how it came across. I would liken the power of the High Lords more to a commanding general during a very large battle in classical antiquity. He has total authority, but he can only act on information brought to him by runners. By the time the information arrives, has been assessed, and then the orders sent back, those orders could very well have no meaning at all. Of course there is also the 'bad news' effect, whereby the messengers are afraid of relaying grim news (or in 40 afraid of reporting their own mistakes) that the leader may often by given deliberately false information.

Kage2020
14-09-2007, 19:46
...why there isn't more depiction of the Earth, and the High Lords of Terra, and all the good high level government stuff?
The easy answer is, unfortunately, that it really doesn't make a single bit of difference to the product. That isn't an anti-GW comment, merely an acceptance that they often have a different agenda to the fans. It's that whole shareholder thing.


In other words, why, when there is so much potential for a great panaramic view of the Imperium's creme de la creme, do we always seem to get stuck with some Imperial Guard regiment in some Emperorforsaken corner of nowhere?
Ask yourself this, though? As much as the regiment in question is unrepresentative, how unrepresentative would be the focus on Terra?

Erm, with that said, I would love to see this kind of stuff. Unfortunately it seems that it falls to the fans to fill in this kind of information and, well, that means that the fan has to go through the fires of perdition in making suggestions that are not "canonical."


Uh, because the imperium is actually more of a feudal structure?
Which is a good point. It's kind of defocused centralisation, or at least in my mind.


...The Custodes have an almost entirely ceremonial role (having done one thing of note since the Heresy)...
To be fair to the Adeptus Custodes, though, it's not as if they have been able to do anything. I mean, how often are significant events set on Terra. ;)


As for the Machiavellian manoeveres occuring in the Senatorum Imperialis, it's not too hard to extrapolate from what we know.
And that's where the really, really fun stuff happens.


All the same, it would be nice to have some fluff that shows the workings of the Earth, both day to day, and how the most powerful men of the Imperium work together (or don't) in politics.
To do that, though, we would have to know how the Imperium functions. And that's where we get some funky stuff going on and I would perk up at the publication of any such material! :D


The scale of distance and time that separates those in control from those they command makes detailed decision making impossible.
Which is one of the reasons that I've always taken a "hierarchal" approach to government in the Imperium, e.g. as advocated by the Anargo Sector Project (http://forum.anargo-sector.net).


Much of the governmental work on Terra is likely to be ceremonial or purely bureaucratic paper shuffling.
Or just a massive archive...


With the time delays of warp travel and astropathic communication, it is debateable how much of this paperwork is actually meaningful.
Indeedy. Though when has that ever made a difference? After all, this is the part of the "inefficient bureaucracy" that is a central theme of the Imperium.


The power of Terra is not an illusion but the power of the High Lords is.
The standard cynical (and not necessarily inappropriate) approach to government, Iracundus? I don't think that I could disagree with that, though I'm probably biased by such programs as Yes Primeminister.


...so actually I would say that yes they do have the authority to make their own decrees.
Agreed. Perhaps one could consider the descriptions of a 'rogue trader' in King's Farseer, as well as the proposed differences by us plebs (the fans) about how one might integrate the various editions on "Rogue Traders" and "rogue traders." :D


Well, yes, I understand quite well how a feudal system works, but in any Feudal system there is a certain amount of guidance from above as well.
Of course. However, one must not underestimate the flows of power and information that go both ways.

The short and sharp of it is...? In my mind you're both making reasonable points. <grin>

Kage

palmtree
14-09-2007, 23:11
It's been a while since I read up on the High Lords but aren't they all heads (or very highly placed) of all the main branches of imperial government? Meaning they have their own powerbases which they can mobilise to ensure that their decrees are followed.

Ktotwf
14-09-2007, 23:14
It's been a while since I read up on the High Lords but aren't they all heads (or very highly placed) of all the main branches of imperial government? Meaning they have their own powerbases which they can mobilise to ensure that their decrees are followed.

That is true - the High Lords is simply a council of all the MOST powerful people in the Imperium, and they probably all have more powerful as individuals within their organizations than they do in general as a council.

Although I remember reading somewhere that the Lord Commander Militant of the Imperial Guard was so caught up in doing ceremonial jobs, that he never actually did anything to do with the actual running of the Imperial Guard.

DantesInferno
14-09-2007, 23:32
Although I remember reading somewhere that the Lord Commander Militant of the Imperial Guard was so caught up in doing ceremonial jobs, that he never actually did anything to do with the actual running of the Imperial Guard.

Which makes Kage's Yes, Minister analogy all the more accurate.

A High Lord is going to have a few main objectives:
a) Keep the Imperium functioning.
b) Make sure that the organisation he(/she) maintains or increases its economic, political and/or military power within the Imperium as a whole.
c) Make sure he/she maintains his personal position at the top of his organisation - there are no doubt lots of ambitious people within his organisation who'd like his place at the top of the pyramid. Internal politics probably includes assassination, political coups d'etat, buying off bodyguards, etc.

Emperor's Grace
19-09-2007, 19:38
Which makes a business comparison compelling.

The president doesn't need to know what the workers even do, he just needs state "the vision" and to trust the VP's to make broad rules to enact it.

The VP's don't need to know what the workers do, they just needs state "the vision" and to trust the managers to make specific rules to enact it.

The managers need a vague idea of what the workers do, they state "the vision" and trust the supervisors to make/enforce specific rules to enact it.

The supervisors have a very good idea of what the workers do and try to get them to do it.

All in all, the HLoT don't need to concern themselves with control of specific planets. They just state how much they need sent back, what the general rules/consequences are, and pick the "right" imperial governor.