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View Full Version : Why did the robots drop out of 40K?



void trekker
24-03-2008, 15:21
In 1st ed., robots were pretty important, and it was made clear that they were a major part of life in the Imperium. They did not replace human soldiers, as, true to the 40K fluff, human life was cheaper than machines, but they made a nice addition to the 40K military.

First off, they were somewhere between space marines and dreadnought suits in power. They were fearless and stupid, and this was represented in one of two ways. In the original rules, you had to plot your robot's move one or more turns in advance, depending on its intelligence. Later, they came out with the 40K Compendium, which gave rules for "programming" robots. Most people didn't like these rules, however, as they added to the complexity of the game, and generally just used the written orders suggested in RT.

The models were also very cool, and could be used as support for Guard, Marines, and even Orks or Harlequins (as salvage jobs).

However, now they are into this Dune-rip-off "thou shalt not make a machine that thinks like a man." Why? It seems to me that all this does is close down one potentially very interesting area for gaming.

It also does not seem very realistic, and I wonder how a galaxy wide empire can function with no thinking machines at all. At least in Dune they have the (poor) excuse that humanity's intelligence has evolved to the point that we think faster than machines. And no, that's not just the Mentats, Pietr DeVries tells Baron Harkonnen -as an aside- that even his (the Baron's) brain is far more advanced than any mechanical computer.

So, does anybody know why they did this? Also, what do you think of it? I'm guessing my prejudices are obvious, but some of you probably think that the no-robots canon is a good thing. If so, why?

Archangel_Ruined
24-03-2008, 15:31
The fluff moved away from that level of technology, the imperium simply couldn't produce and maintain anything that complicated, instead opting for the darker technology of servitors. I think the fluff direction they took was a better one, as the decrepit state of the adeptus mechanicus is far more characterful.

void trekker
24-03-2008, 15:35
The fluff moved away from that level of technology, the imperium simply couldn't produce and maintain anything that complicated, instead opting for the darker technology of servitors. I think the fluff direction they took was a better one, as the decrepit state of the adeptus mechanicus is far more characterful.

Mmmmmmm... I don't think I can buy that one. They don't have the technology to reproduce robots, but they can still reproduce faster than light starships?

Granted, I know its 40K, and it is supposed to be sci fan rather than sci fi, but I miss my robots.:cries:

Firaxin
24-03-2008, 15:39
Robots would be a cool addition to my list, but it would probably take away from the Necrons.

If GW, or someone with free time, put up a Creature Feature for robots then I'd be happy to use that.

IJW
24-03-2008, 15:42
They don't have the technology to reproduce robots, but they can still reproduce faster than light starships?
FTL starships largely powered by psykers, that is... :angel:

I do have fond reminiscences of 40k robots, though. Especially once a few critical hits had started messing up the program. :evilgrin:

t-tauri
24-03-2008, 15:48
The adeptus mechanicus still has robot maniples (http://www.solegends.com/citcat911/c2025smrobots.htm). Repairing and recreating these holy machines is now a major feat so they are not common on the battlefield. They are probably only fielded now in the armies of Forgeworlds. At the time of the Heresy robots were much more common. They still exist in the background and hopefully Forgeworld will see fit to release some new models when they do them in Imperial Armour.

This is probably better suited to 40k background. Moving there.

superknijn
24-03-2008, 15:48
It's not a matter of technology, but fear. IIRC, the robots where the cause of the decrepit state of humanity before the Great Crusade, and know the Imperium hates (semi-)sentient robots with a passion, calling it Abominable Intelligence.

Neknoh
24-03-2008, 15:50
I think the deal is that they simply don't have the abillity to produce the AI needed for robots, furthermore, robots with the abillity to walk etc. are hugely complicated and as for the spaceships, well, they are built after STC's, and they enter the warp by being guided by psychers.

So, they don't have the STC's to do it, nor do they have the experience in the field to properly maintain such machines. However, I could probably see some planets using robots as part of their fighting forces, as Imperial Guard, you could use Ogryns or allied Grey Knight Termies to represent robots if you wanted to

Archangel_Ruined
24-03-2008, 15:57
They don't produce FTL ships, they produce warp ships, they drop out of space and time altogether, and many of those are thousands of years old and kept going by rituals over understanding. In fact, the only way they're guided and kept on course is the slaughter of thousands of psykers a day for the astronomicon. The only real AI the imperium fields are machine spirits, and only the marines have access to them in a battlefield role in 40k (titans very much excluded...). The imperium is a backward place based on superstition, the only race with FTL technology are the necrons, as they can't use the warp.

malika
24-03-2008, 15:57
However, now they are into this Dune-rip-off "thou shalt not make a machine that thinks like a man." Why? It seems to me that all this does is close down one potentially very interesting area for gaming.
40k in many way ripped off things from Dune... Humanity did create AI's during the Dark Age of Technology, the so-called Iron Men. These Iron Men eventually rebelled against humanity but got defeated. As a result of this humanity banned the use of AI. Hence robots wouldn't be as common as you might have wanted.

Robot maniples of the Legio Cybernetica are still existent though, however I vaguely remember reading a piece of fluff which stated that most of them sided with Horus during the Heresy, making robots even rarer.

Do note that the Machine Spirit might be considered to be AI.

Joah_from_Alberta
24-03-2008, 16:57
There is a site that has a nice integration of robots in the Warhammer 30k Universe. http://belloflostsouls.blogspot.com/2007/09/warhammer-30000-age-of-heresy-v2.html

There are some nice 'bots in there. Anyhow, my two-cents is that we took a silent vote (both from past/present/and future players of 40k) and decided that seeing as we are no doubt bound in our own world by machina manifesta and therefore do not need to be reminded of this drudge in our gaming.

elphabea
24-03-2008, 19:11
I miss them too. In RT times they were fun to use, quirky but fun. I still have one left and use it as a SM Dread.

Flame Boy
24-03-2008, 20:01
I don't see what the problem is fluff-wise, as I'm sure the original robots used organic parts or cultured artificial organic components in their construction, so they could probably circumvent the artificial AI superstitions,it's probably more a logistical concern more than anything these days. I remember something about the components from robot cohorts were cannibalised into maintenance of Dreadnaughts, but as they no longer resemble the Robot models in any significant manner, it's hard to treat that as a reason, too.

I personally would like to see robots in some kind of Adeptus Mechanicus list, it looks like they would be like some kind of Terminator/Sentinel style role.

Actually, Chaos Obliterators are probably quite a similar playstyle to what I'd expect from the robots, with their rather... varied weapon fits.

Mike KK
24-03-2008, 20:18
i think they would be pretty cool to do an mechanicus army

Niibl
24-03-2008, 20:34
I remember something about the components from robot cohorts were cannibalised into maintenance of Dreadnaughts, but as they no longer resemble the Robot models in any significant manner, it's hard to treat that as a reason, too.
That would be a good reason to base new robot models on the new dreadnaughts.
Just replace the sarcophagus-plate with a robot head and the powerplant with a smaller one with a weapon mount.

I think the main problem why GW has avoided robots is that they could not be represented properly rulewise.
Most likely you would end up with some kind of dreadnaught, sentinel, big monster or a proper, unique robot with too many special rules.
Tricky.

PondaNagura
24-03-2008, 20:36
andy chambers had been the person trying to head that army up, but he left the company a few years back, and we wouldnt see something like that done for many more a year. or until GW becomes more efficient in releasing stuff in a timely fashion. though i'd love it if FW would release something in an imperial armor, or update book.
.
me i use termies as robot in my admech list, with the serg as the moderati...a perpetual WIP

Chem-Dog
24-03-2008, 21:28
I think the main problem why GW has avoided robots is that they could not be represented properly rulewise.
Most likely you would end up with some kind of dreadnaught, sentinel, big monster or a proper, unique robot with too many special rules.
Tricky.

I don't agree, all you need robots to be is some kind of demi-Dreadnought, a few choice pre-heresy weapons (Combi-bolters rather than stormbolters etc) to represent the ancient nature of the machine you have all you need to have robots, the limitations of vehicles would amply represent the limited capabilities of robots, especially when placed within a squadron.

I have been hoping robots would be included in the way overdue Adeptus Mechanicus codex for as long as there have been rumours of it's development and can't see why they wouldn't be done. The robots detailed in the 2nd edition Compendium were far from Artificial Intelligence, having simple instructions (If withing range of enemy shoot, if not go closer...).

Aeolian
24-03-2008, 21:52
I would argue that most of the Imperium's ships are not STC but developed by Mars/The AdMech after the Age of Strife with the remaining tech they had. Modern 40k ships being the surviving tech with a lot of what was around from the first Explorator fleets being impossible to maintain let alone produce now.

As was a lot of technology. Why does everything have to be STC??

And yes, like most things Robots are still around but becoming increasingly rare. I assume that on some planets they still do a lot of the work like in RT.

Why?
1. Just because humans distrust robots doesn't mean they wont exist or that many humans are fine with it.
2. They aren't AI, they are only a little smarter than robots we can make today, only with better mobility technology. AI is still banned.

Neknoh
24-03-2008, 21:57
what I see as a problem for the TT is that there really isn't a middleground between a Dread and a Sentinel, you'd basically end up with Sentinels with Combi Bolters and 2 CC attacks

atlantis
24-03-2008, 22:37
The adeptus mechanicus still has robot maniples (http://www.solegends.com/citcat911/c2025smrobots.htm). Repairing and recreating these holy machines is now a major feat so they are not common on the battlefield. They are probably only fielded now in the armies of Forgeworlds. At the time of the Heresy robots were much more common. They still exist in the background and hopefully Forgeworld will see fit to release some new models when they do them in Imperial Armour.

This is probably better suited to 40k background. Moving there.

I take it u mean the Forge World Sakratsu leagons.

but the closest thing to robots now are the Necrons. tho i have only played since 4th ed. so i havnt come across them. but for apoc they can be used

Grimmeth
24-03-2008, 22:42
Servitors are programmed machines (as our servo skulls) (albeit partly biological - cheaper?) And I would expect, many other robots performing more menial duties within the Imperium.

However, a full blown AI would be very adaptable to change (and potentially lead to Chaos?) - which is something the Imperium are very loathe to do

Burnthem
24-03-2008, 22:42
The Imperium does have the technology to both build and maintain sophisticated AI, it just doesnt through fear, due to the troubles that led to the Age of Strife.

As for Starships, not only are they continually being built, but they are being improved and developed as time goes on, anyone that plays BFG knows that the Starships present in the 41st millennium are vastly different from those from, for example, the 35th Millennium.

Dont take the whole ' everything is forgotten, we cant build anything new' idea too far.

Kandarin
24-03-2008, 22:51
However, a full blown AI would be very adaptable to change (and potentially lead to Chaos?) - which is something the Imperium are very loathe to do

You've hit on a very interesting point there, and one that differentiates 40K's approach from being a pure Dune ripoff. The Imperium doesn't allow men to think for themselves. Why would it grant that most restricted of privileges to machines?

Firaxin
24-03-2008, 22:58
I take it u mean the Forge World Sakratsu leagons.
I'm not that familiar with the Adeptus Mechanicus, but I take it you mean Skitarii legions?



but the closest thing to robots now are the Necrons. tho i have only played since 4th ed. so i havnt come across them. but for apoc they can be used

Uhh... did you just say Necrons are illegal in 4th ed? Cause that's what it sounds like to me.

Firaxin
25-03-2008, 00:49
Sorry to double post, but I feel like if I edited my last post this many hours later, alot of people would miss it.

Anyways, what do you think would be in an Adeptus Mechanicus codex?

HQ
Senior Techpriests
Skitarii Commanders
?

Elites
The robots of which we speak.
?

Troops
Servitors
Skitarii Warriors
?

Fast Attack
?

Heavy
Probably the tanks available to guardsmen/marines, but buffed, tech-priest style.
A dreadnought sized robot (of which we have also spoken)
?

Fill in the "?"

malika
25-03-2008, 00:56
You might want to start a thread in the rule development thread if you want to work on an Adeptus Mechanicus codex.

Firaxin
25-03-2008, 01:00
Bleh. Ok, hold on, it'll be up in a minute.

Khaine's Messenger
25-03-2008, 01:56
So, does anybody know why they did this?

Thematics, mainly. The lack of explicitly mentioned robots at present is one of the trope replacements intended to reinforce the notion of 40k as future fiction neo-medievalist fantasy as opposed to actual science fiction, for which robots are something of a standard. In my opinion. Also, it's just an interesting facet of 40k, since I am of the opinion that AIs don't need anthropomorphic shells, and neither do anthropomorphic shells need AIs, so the whole "no machine in the image of a man" thing is somewhat a matter of perspective.


I'm guessing my prejudices are obvious, but some of you probably think that the no-robots canon is a good thing. If so, why?

I am fine with this, because servitors/helots (a tip of the hat to "robot"'s etymology) serve the role of "golem" well enough for my expectations of the setting. I cannot think of the presence of robots as adding anything to the canon except that it's one more piece of rapidly decaying specialist technological knowledge that the AdMech hordes to itself. Perhaps representative of my own dim imagination. ;)

Now, I wouldn't mind if anyone used robots, or showed up with robots, or wrote about robots, or if robots reappeared as if by magic in the modern "canon." And maybe it's because I walked onto the 40k scene at the end of second edition and the start of third. But "robots" haven't really been in "my" image of 40k. The rare short story that involves them (eg, the comic from Galaxy of Damnation?) is a nice treat, but it's mostly a retrospective on the DAoT.

void trekker
25-03-2008, 13:28
I don't see what the problem is fluff-wise, as I'm sure the original robots used organic parts or cultured artificial organic components in their construction, so they could probably circumvent the artificial AI superstitions,it's probably more a logistical concern more than anything these days.

Granted, but, I guess my real question is, why not just rewrite the fluff to include robots, rather than using the fluff as a way to exclude them? GW can write up the fluff for 40K or any of their games however they see fit. If you have really cool models that you'd like to use with eclectic rules (as with robots: fearless warriors with sadly literal minds) why get rid of them, and then use fluff to justify that decision?

Burnthem
25-03-2008, 13:50
If you want to include Robots in an army then go for it, the Galaxy is a large place, with many human worlds on the galactic fringes/poles that aren't a part of the Imperium.

If someone tells you that you can't, tell 'em to go stuff themselves :)

Flame Boy
25-03-2008, 18:06
I think one of the possible hurdles is that GW has now placed the Praetorian battle servitor in a very similar role to the robots of yore. Unless they were different in role, I suppose with the robots being more armoured, for example, I'm not sure how well the two would coexist without overlapping each other.

Pacific
26-03-2008, 16:02
I'm sure there was something mentioned in one of the rulebooks (3rd ed?), about a war against the 'men of iron' or similar, basically similar to the idea of the 'Butlerian Jihad' in Dune, or more recently the rooting our and destruction of AI's in Ian M Banks' 'Algebraist'. Essentially, anything run by computer intelligence or AI was made illegal.

In game terms im not sure how robots would be written back into the rules, considering alot of what made them fun in RT was pre-planning movement and the random element - things which would be too much of a change of pace for a 4th edition game.

However, im sure the Demiurg could be made to make extensive use of robots, perhaps if they finally make an appearence then robots might well too? :)

Epicenter
28-03-2008, 10:27
I'm pretty sure robots were one of those things that were cut in the interests of consolidating 40k between editions with the intention of reintroducing them at some later date that never came around. There's actually a lot of things like this, some of which get reintroduced from time to time (human bombs, penal legions, arbites armies, etc.).

I think it's also that robots "felt" too much like Dreadnoughts. When dreadnoughts first came out, you could make your own and fit them with controls that allowed for an actual pilot who could climb in and out of it. Gradually, however, even the Eldar lost this ability with their dreadnoughts (Wraithlords to you youngins'), and once the pilots were sealed inside their machines, basically you had - you guessed it - a robot with a biological brain. With dreadnoughts fulfilling the imagery of "robots" in 40k, robots became a bit redundant.

Finally, I think the last major hurdle for robots now is that they're considered "mechanicus" technology so other Imperial forces won't really use them anymore, backed up by Butlerian Jihad style fluff.

(Incidentally, 40k is absolutely RIFE with "Dune" inspired fluff. In fact, I'm pretty certain this is very much an intentional thing. Space Marines in RT felt very much more like Sardukar than the "Space Knights" they are today, the non-militant sisters side of the Ministorum in the 2nd edition Sisters of Battle sourcebook have a very Bene Geserit feel to them and the Missionarius Galaxia / Missionarius Protectiva fluff, etc etc etc.)

ThruggBullneck
28-03-2008, 20:25
I agree with much of what Epicenter says. I'd posit another reason: the robot miniatures were pretty rubbish even by the standards of the time. They just weren't as cool as the various dreadnoughts either in concept or design.

If you take a good look at the "fluff" of 40K, it is often first driven by miniature availability and secondly by army list design. The technology to produce lots of plastic tank kits resulted in lots of new reasoning about why grav tech is so limited and why Rhinos are only available to certain factions.