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View Full Version : 40k fiction: Too much of a good thing?



shutupSHUTUP!!!
07-06-2008, 11:11
I'm starting to think 40k is becoming like stars wars the expanded universe. A fictional setting where every character has met every other character as well as their extended family, gone on an adventure with every protagonist and had a duel with every antagonist whilst having lived to tell the tale. A universe which goes into tiresome detail of props used in movies etc (hello Imperial Armour).

Is this a good thing? let's consider the horus heresy series for a moment.

The HH used to be a short story that justified the 40k universe. It helped us suspend our disbelief at the over-the-top gothic Imperium by making us think
"Yes, perhaps human society could end up as ****ed up as the Imperium if that happened".
That, combined with a few basic points (millions worlds, totalitarian rule, gigantic beurocracy, unchecked relgious fanaticism) told us all we needed to know in order to imagine this fantasy world in our heads. All 40k fluff since then has essentially been an excercise in fleshing out these same concepts over and over again.

But is the 40k universe better off for it? Has the Horus Heresy series of books for instance improved upon the original backstory? I think it hasn't. To go back to the Star Wars analogy, is that a better mythology for having every minor character who appeared in the movies go off having an adventure of their own? I think it's ended up as an incestuous mess.

Now personally I'd sack everyone at the Black Library like they did with that RPG project in an attempt to stop the rot, but I might be in the minority with that view. But do you think the 40k universe would be better off if it stopped trying to explain everything in exhaustive detail?

Do you really want 40k to end up like this?


Wookiepedia Did you know…
* … that Brute was a Gungan shoe saleman who left Naboo for lack of trade?
* … that take out food containers were used to transport food from dining establishments?
* … that Arratun was a pirate whom Wraith Squadron easily defeated?
* … that Mist, a Human bounty hunter, was allowed to command various Imperial units in the service of Moff Kentor Sarne?
* … that Belyssa Romey was a Major in the 132nd Forward Division stationed in Atrivis sector?
* … that dewbacks possessed cloacas?
http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page

HE USED TO BE A GUNGAN SHOE SALESMAN I DIDN'T KNOW THAT LOLZ.

Now consider: Do you really want to know about The Fall? Do you really want to know Marneus Calgar's entire career history? Do you really want to know what every primarch felt about every other primarch?

Koryphaus
07-06-2008, 11:34
Actually, yeah to most of that. I do want to know more, I hate not having fleshed out backstories. I usually go to great lengths trying to design effective backstories for my armies, and now GW is doing more of that themselves, it gives me a greater scope to draw from.

I'm a big fan of the extended Star Wars and Star Trek universes as well. I love having background fluff. Its wonderful!!

Gus Train
07-06-2008, 13:11
Personally, I love the amount of detail Imperial Armour puts into their books, particularly their vehicles - schematics, service records, renowned colour schemes, identification numbers etc., however I realise many people simply don't care, or don't want to know and so they leave this type of thing out of your run-of-the-mill codex. Also, I'm a bit of a tank buff so I dig that kind of stuff.

I also like having copious amounts of information to sift through when researching a character, army, regiment, event, planet etc. I'd much prefer it to be over described than under. Keep in mind this coming from an avid history buff, so I like having lots of sources to work with to remain as accurate as possible :).

In regards to the Star Wars extract, despite the fact MOST people don't give a toss about whether or not 'Mist, a Human bounty hunter, was allowed to command various Imperial units in the service of Moff Kentor Sarne', some people might and to them it may be critical information :p.

Condottiere
07-06-2008, 13:13
Yes, I'd love to find out more about 40K.:D

However, having said that, I pretty much hate the expanded Star Wars Universe.:wtf:

nightgant98c
07-06-2008, 14:04
I like what the stories have done for 40k, which is give us the details we were wondering about anyway. But, there is a point that it can become too much, like what has happened to Star Wars.

MrBigMr
07-06-2008, 14:09
I love anything not too combat oriented and from a non-Imperial POV. Oh right, there aren't many of them around. I love to get information of the lifestyles and all of different races and factions. Somehow it inspires me far more than any novel about SM and Guard pwning every other faction. If I want combat, I'll play the game thank you very much.

I always like to put a good effort behind my armies, since a ready chewed vanilla army doesn't appeal to me. I want my armies to look, feel and act like how I want it.

40K is more than just the normal TT game. You got various games put around the universe, such as Necromunda and Inquisitor, which both need plenty of backstory to work well. There are also RPGs and I've been to many 40K larps, in which knowledge of the universe had helped plenty in getting into character:
http://www.labyrinth-productions.com/Pics/hq.jpg

Shadowheart
07-06-2008, 14:31
I'm inclined to agree with M. John Harrison and his infamous "clomping foot of nerdism". Not quite so fierce about it, but he's got a point I can't deny. Worldbuilding for its own sake is a lame, impotent kind of fiction.

What draws me to 40K, besides the toys, is the imagery, the ideas. Explaining it away kills it - if you make sense of the Imperium it rather defeats the point. That's mainly why I think John Blanche is the best at doing 40K, he doesn't explain, his weird **** stays weird.

I like the background so long as it's about building and sustaining a certain feel, an atmosphere, a style. When it becomes a matter of filling in blanks and just giving you data to process, I stop to care.

Speaking of Star Wars, I concidered myself a fan, but I never particularly wanted to see episodes I-III just because they were there. And I thought even then that "see how Anakin becomes Vader" was a pretty dodgy premise for a set of movies. Nevermind "see what they were referring to in that one line about Clone Wars".

Likewise, I don't want to 'see' the Horus Heresy just because of what it means to 40K. It fills the role of background element just as well, and quite probably better, without being 'seen'. As such I haven't read any of the Horus Heresy books, although I wound up with a copy of the first one that I'll probably give a shot some day.

All that being said, I think for the most part GW does a fairly good job of not overdetailing or overexplaining their settings. I doubt it's entirely deliberate, but there you go.

Burnthem
07-06-2008, 14:55
All that being said, I think for the most part GW does a fairly good job of not overdetailing or overexplaining their settings. I doubt it's entirely deliberate, but there you go.


QFT, i think that its been handled well, if you are a fluff nut (like me :D) then you can go and read as much as you want, whereas if you're only interested in the TT game you can ignore the fluff completely. It isn't forced upon us so there is room for everybody :)

Eryx_UK
07-06-2008, 15:01
I love having the expanded information about the 41st millennium. It helps bring it alive. The IA books do a phenmoninal job of showing how wars are fought while the HH series of novels expands nicely on what actually happened. Its all good IMO.

Star Wars has gone too far IMO, but thats because it has 30 years or so of a massive fan base that clamours for me. Thats something that the 40K fanbase cannot compete with.

Norminator
07-06-2008, 15:04
I think the problem with the Expanded Universe stuff is it explains stupid things (like you said, how he was a shoe salesman) and endulges in mundanity (this is based on what I know from what I've heard, I've never actually read any EU stuff). Meanwhile 40k still stays epic, focussing on big battles and leaders, or events involving planet wide conspiracies with important individuals like Inquisitors and Space Marines. This (I hope) would keep it from the frankly embarrassing state that Star Wars fiction has gotten into.

MrBigMr
07-06-2008, 15:05
I'd like to add that creativity and making one's own stuff is one strong marks of 40K compared to other games. Intead of ready set armies and factions, there are groups that you can place your own army into with its own history, background and all. You don't need extra knowledge for those codex armies, since all you need is "These are Ultramarine and this is their history, combat doctrine and painjob. Now follow the lines and have fun. That's an order." How much creativity can you get with those ready painted armies on the long run?

In 40K you can read the fluff, especially the gaps and fill in how you like it. It's not needed and you can do ready made armies, but when one wants to do their own stuff, it's good to have some understanding of the background, especially if one wants an army that's themed and fluffy. You can always make a Hello Kitty army, but not all enojy that.

With good knowledge of the setting, it's easier to fit one's army into it and defend the choices from the "that's not fluffy" and "that would never happen in a billion years" people.

Vishok
07-06-2008, 15:36
The thing about 40k is that anyone can pretty much make up whatever they want and it's guaranteed to fit in - even if it's relegated to a warp disturbance like the Maelstrom or the Eye.

Hello Kitty, Bolter Edition.

I don't think it's fair to compare with Star Wars, on the grounds that Star Wars sucks.

If you're just talking about expanding the universe and all, I don't really think the 40k novels do much really. The universe is really too huge to even worry about that. I read every novel I get, and while I'm reading I keep in mind that this is a single story - and in all reality has absolutely no impact on my army's fluff or our campaign setting's fluff. It just gives deeper insight to the fact that the Imperium is massively huge and customs, languages and dress all vary.

As many books as all the monkeys in the world (or at BL) can write they will never do too much, because 40k is too huge.

Jaeger48
07-06-2008, 19:30
I agree with the OP completely. I play the game because I like the rules and running little army men around the table. I only need as much fluff as to say that there haven't been the great strides in technology and why the fighting is happening.

You have to remember though, there are a many more open ears that love goose stepping to GW propaganda all the while the nerd sweat glowing on their brows. As long as this crowd exists GW will continue to pump out product and sell sell sell.

Lord Damocles
07-06-2008, 20:08
I don't mind relatatively presdent day (ie. 999.M41) background material, but I do dislike the Horus Heresy series as IMO it takes away from the whole semi-mythical nature of the heresy. Plus all the pointless retcons they feel the need to include.

Jo Bennett
07-06-2008, 20:24
One of my big (perhaps my only real) beef with 40k since the end of 2nd ed has been the demolition of the background legends of the 40k universe and their replacement with encyclopedic detail. In the 2nd ed 40k codex imperialis, the battle between lion el johnson and luthor is briefly hinted at, no more than a couple of lines, likewise the black rage, and similarly the 2nd founding mentioned in Dark Millennium. Everything was shrouded in 10 000 years of intervening history. The Codex Imperialis background material reads as a compiled summary of all of human knowledge in the 41st millennium, such as might be available to an Imperial Commander or a junior inquisitor, not as an emperor's eye view of the whole of imperial history, as more recent fluff tends to do. I have no problem with vehicle schematics and what not, it's the back story and the way it is told that matters. For the theological discrepancies between the Ecclesiarchy and the Space Marines to hold water, there has to actually be some doubt about who and what the Emperor is, his origins need to be lost in the mists of time. Dramatic irony doesn't work very well in a game setting.

pox
07-06-2008, 20:50
I'm not a fan of any of the novels, and I'm not a fan of dawn of war. however, I love anything that is accessible to the public, because it directly brings new gamers into the the game. I have at least five new gamers in my shop in the last year, one from reading the heresy novels, and four from dawn of war.

and on a personal note, I really love the technical manuals that black library and forge world put out.

IJW
07-06-2008, 21:02
Now personally I'd sack everyone at the Black Library like they did with that RPG project in an attempt to stop the rot,
What, the RPG project that was licenced out to FFG (http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/dark-heresy/index.shtml)? ;)

shutupSHUTUP!!!
08-06-2008, 00:46
Well they still sacked everyone (iirc).

There's been a lot of good responses in this thread.

@Shadowheart: Thanks for pointing me to William Gibson, his comment summed up my views much more concisely.

Now I don't think 40k has gone too far down the road of pointlessly exhaustive worldbuilding yet, and it is sort of a special case since it needs to have a consistent world for everyone to make their own stories/backstories in (rather than just one author). However I think there's a risk of 40k ending up like the star wars EU example in a decade or so if they go about it wrong.

I think the best thing they can do is keep most of the Black Library lore unofficial and forget about most of the stories written there so that in, say, 6th edition they aren't messing up the HH backstory by giving us all these unecessary details from the HH series of books.

thechosenone
08-06-2008, 01:45
I'm just not sure why you wouldn't want to know the details of the horus heresy. I think all this nonsense about star-wars depth and detail compared to 40k fiction is really just an over the top example.

In none of the books do we learn about quaint little facts like favorite foods, previous occupations, that random pointless character served here before doing something else somewhere else. That being said, knowing those things about a character isn't bad. It make take seven to ten seconds to read a little anecdotal phrase and continue on while giving you some sense of dynamic life to a character your reading about. I mean, we establish personality by showing history. Tolkien killed us with pointless information in his writing. Not the BL authors.

All the legend and mythology that has been around since second edition and rogue trader is being expanded on and clarified. I mean, you don't really think the creators of 40k had every detail fleshed out in their heads but just decided to tell only fragments of the story do you? If you believe that then you believe george lucus had EP 1-3 in mind and just made #### up for EP 4-6 and made it incorrect.

Its kind of natural for me tat least to play this game and look at the codices and the technical detail there in and say "But i want to know just what Horus was thinking when he turned traitor" Or "how did the primarchs react when their brothers turned on them" or "How gruesome was the drop site massacre and what was it like to be there"

I think it just comes down to how much background material do you need to engross yourself in your army. I need a lot. I want a lot. I want to know everything i can to get a sense of history for my force, to know where they fit in in the grand scheme of things. It probably comes from my background as a Game Master for numerous different RPG's and such. Maybe others don't need that much to get the fire going. I just don't think dropping a thread saying GW fiction is pointless(i'm simplifying) is really called for. Its just a tool to help you enjoy your gaming experience.

Lord Damocles
08-06-2008, 11:53
I'm just not sure why you wouldn't want to know the details of the horus heresy.

All the legend and mythology that has been around since second edition and rogue trader is being expanded on and clarified.

The background material is being expanded on perhaps, but clarified? I think not. Just thinking about the stories around Sanguinius, the Black Rage etc., we've had so many conflicting accounts of events that they can hardly be described as clarified. A few specific examples:
- The Bloodthirster which Sanguinius defeats at the Eternity Gate used to be Angrath the Unbound. For some reason it's now K'Banda.
- In the original background, Horus kills Sanguinius by slashing him with his lightning claws - the reason for the Death Company's red cross motif. More recent backgound has Sanguinius being strangled (and has Horus with a thunder maul).
- The Black rage used to originate from the use of corrupted gene seed from the body of Sanguinius to rebuild the Blood Angels chapter. Now it was caused by that K'Banda fellow.
- The whole Olanius Pius, Imperial Fist terminator, Custode problem...

While I don't generally like retcons (particularly needless ones), having conflicting / incomplete accounts of events during the Heresy adds to the 'legendary nature' of the events.

The HH series is setting what happened in stone. Come the description of the final duel between Sanguinius and Horus, there'll no longer be any room to wonder what might have happened - was it that Horus really couldn't defeat Sanguinius in single combat, so he had to zap him with a massive psykic (why can I never spell that?) attack? or was it that Horus was just toying with the angel, prolonging his agony? etc. etc. etc... The HH series will leave no room for doubt or conjecture (or just miss the whole episode out entirely like the Collected Visions book :rolleyes:) which in my humble opinion is a great shame.

Lord D

Fars
08-06-2008, 13:52
Honestly I love the detail.

What I love most about it, is no matter where I go in the Warhammer universe I can find backstory, fluff and flavour for my chosen path. I chose what I want and do not want.

I'm woefully ignorant about many Space Marine chapters, Necron and Tau backstory are still to be discovered by me. The concluding details of the HH I await with excitement. The list is incredibly long. I'll never know it all, i'd never even try. But the richness, abundance and quality of what is available makes my gaming better, inspires my painting. Makes me consider my next army selection.

I believe the fiction makes the hobby better, for me.

George Dorn
08-06-2008, 19:25
If you don't like it, don't read it, natch.

It's not like they're going to start referring to it in their codices.

thenurgler
08-06-2008, 19:31
The conflicting stories are much like we learn our history. There are many varied accounts of actions which happen, sometimes they conflict with each other. The Horus Heresy novels is hardly the one unadulterated truth. Don't think about reading it from the perspective that most fiction novels use, that of the omnipresent narrator but rather from a historian writing down what he believes to be an accurate account. I think clarity might be a bad thing, because it takes away from the historical feel that most if not all warhammer fluff is written in.


As for the original post about every famous character meeting every other famous character, I feel that that is hardly the case. Notice how you give no examples about too many people knowing each other, or it being too interconnected. It's not like Marneus Calgar used to sell spare parts to Ahriman or Dante was a used car salesman who ripped off Inquisitor Kryptman. All that's happening is there is a good fleshing out of these characters lives which adds a lot of flavor to the game.

keatsmeister
08-06-2008, 21:38
I agree with the OP completely. I play the game because I like the rules and running little army men around the table. I only need as much fluff as to say that there haven't been the great strides in technology and why the fighting is happening.

You have to remember though, there are a many more open ears that love goose stepping to GW propaganda all the while the nerd sweat glowing on their brows. As long as this crowd exists GW will continue to pump out product and sell sell sell.

I think we need to step in here and differentiate between expansion of the 40K "fluffiverse" and the fiction of 40K. Sure, getting into too much detail about the current fluff and characters may ultimately be detrimental IF not handled correctly. However there are many works of fiction which simply happen to be based in the 40K universe and as long as they are reasonably well written, then these works can only be a boon to the 40K universe.

For example, sure some of the Horus Heresy stuff has been a little odd, and killed some of the mystery and aura of the idea for me. Did I really need to know about the political backbiting in the Luna Wolves? Did I have to know what Lucius was like, pre-Slaanesh worship? I took a risk in reading the fluff, and I have to accept that.

However, the 40k fiction pieces have demonstrated some fantastic additions. The Black Library does have profits to make, but no publisher would continue to churn out that many Gaunts Ghosts books unless they were a positive boon to GW's portfolio. The Cain novels are a splendidly delicious read, and the list goes on.

The Star Wars comparison holds little water. Star Wars original concept revolves around a saga, which has been fleshed out. It contains elements of the epic, but was ultimately an epic universe cobbled together in a best fit scenario, leading to the type of horrors alluded to in the OP. 40K is quite simply an epic universe created to be an epic universe in which to create sagas and tales, whether by gamers using their TT games to create a mini story, or by authors letting their creative juices go in a 40K setting.

Getting miffed because people get creative with a setting designed for that purpose makes no sense! it's like building an amusement park for kids, and then getting upset when kids have their brand of fun! ;)

Bran Dawri
08-06-2008, 22:24
Too much detail kills the suspension of disbelief.

Also, the more detail is released, the more likely a creative army will be condemned as "unfluffy" despite it having a consistent internal backstory that may use a certain army's rules to reflect something completely different.

MrBigMr
08-06-2008, 22:33
Also, the more detail is released, the more likely a creative army will be condemned as "unfluffy" despite it having a consistent internal backstory that may use a certain army's rules to reflect something completely different.
I haven't seen people having any problems on tearing down well thought out armies before. No matter how much GW themselves has said to have left gaps and weak points in the fluff for people to use to their own creations.

But no, some regard the rulebook and codexes as the word of God and if something is not in it, it's not kosher and as such is an abomination to all the background, makes the game a joke and proves the violator to be a spineless creep with no disregard to the established fluff. Such armies are to be spat upon and banned for all eternity.

Damocles8
08-06-2008, 22:39
to tell the truth I love the HH series...before it was a simple betrayal of Horus, now you got to see how easy it was to follow Horus vs. the Emperor. I really believe that these stories were wonderfully written simply because you already knew what was going to happen in the end, but you didn't know specifically how....now we know....

zanotam
09-06-2008, 01:59
Yes, I would love for them to do it...If they didn't suck so much at it! A certain Eldar book, if one of the primarch's has a twin are there now 21 or still 20 primarchs, and who REALLY cares about random inquisitor #27's 5017th heretic caught when we could learn about new races or races with little to no background, mentioned once or twice.

Koryphaus
09-06-2008, 02:00
What a lot of people are missing with the Star Wars example, is that they aren't simply expanding the Star Wars fluff, they are expanding the entire universal timeline as well. Eg, there's a little bit of information now available about the galactic republic, many years before the movies. There usn't to be any at all. There's some information about how the Rebels ended up on Hoth, about how Luke Skywalker formed Rogue Squadron and Wedge Antilles made General. Aren't people interested in learning how Lando really lost the Falcon to Han? Wasn't simply a bet in a Sabbac game, there was more to it than that...

After that, the books extend the history of starwars, introducing events that happen from 1, 5 10, 15, 40, up to 100 years after Return of the Jedi. New aliens are introduced, new characters, new threats etc etc.. Its far more simple than a mere expansion of preexisting details, and won't happen that way in the 40kverse, because GW wont advance the timeline beyond 999.M41. Also notice how no more details emerge about the events of the Primarch creation, their subsequent scattering etc, and certainly nothing about the missing 2 (I will go on the record and say that I will be really shi**y if GW brings that out..). The comparison with Star Wars EU and 40k is really quite groundless.

However, each to their own. Some people like Star Wars just for movies 4-6. Others like all 6, others like the Expanded Universe as well. If you are in the hobby simply for the game, then by all means, be in it for the game. Its your hobby!

Plastic Rat
09-06-2008, 02:23
Now personally I'd sack everyone at the Black Library like they did with that RPG project in an attempt to stop the rot, but I might be in the minority with that view.

Wow, ok, I was kind of agreeing with you on some points until I read the above. I dislike the expanded star wars fiction as well and have completely lost interest in Star Wars since the tidal wave of spinoffs and other commercial exploitations hit.

Black Library on the other hand has put out some incredible books that bring the universe to life really well. Pretty much all of the Dan Abnett stuff and all of the Horus Heresy novels (except Angels of Darkness) are really great books that feel almost like you're reading about ancient heroes and historical events. I do feel they've released some real stinkers... *cough*C.S.Goto and Mitchel Scanlon*cough*, but overall their stuff is well written and contributes a very valuable aspect to 40k. It's still very far from the expanded Star Wars universe and I put this down to GW's tight control of their IP.

Dark Heresy (the RPG in question) which is now controlled by Fantasy Flight Games, is absolutely stunning. The quality of the game, the books and the fluff is some of the best I've seen yet.

So how many Dark Heresy books have you actually examined? How many Dark Heresy games have you played in? How many Black Library 40k novels have you read?

shutupSHUTUP!!!
09-06-2008, 03:06
Wow, ok, I was kind of agreeing with you on some points until I read the above.
As I said, I wasn't expecting it to be a popular view. ;)

I'm not saying Dark heresy is a bad game (I've never played a pen and paper RPG so I wouldn't know what criteria to judge it on anyway) but I agree with GW for their reason of washing their hands of it - concentrating on the core game. I've read a few BL books I liked and some which I thought were the worst pieces of published fiction I've ever read, but again thats besides the point to me. I just think they publish books at an unecessary rate.

Maybe I wouldn't shut them down actually but I'd tell them to slow down somewhat and focus on quality.

Plastic Rat
09-06-2008, 04:44
I think expressing your opinion in a manner as strongly as you did makes you appear unreasonable, which negates a number of the points you make.

If GW DOES cut resources to focus on the core games, many gamers will lose their favourite aspects of the game. Not everyone is a 40k/WHFB/LotR junkie. Many enjoy the wide range of Specialist Games. Others like me enjoy the fiction of Black Library. Others are roleplayers and Dark Heresy offers an 'in' to 40k.

Don't completely discount something because *you* simply have no interest in it, others may and without everyone other than *you*, *you* wouldn't even have 40k.

shutupSHUTUP!!!
09-06-2008, 06:04
I don't think I'm being unreasonable, perhaps what I wrote simply hit a raw nerve with you. This thread isn't about specialist games (I only originally mentioned the RPG in reference to my views on Black Library). It's about excessive background material ruining itself in the long run. Of course the line that distinguishes a deep reservoir of background material from the sillyness of Star Wars EU is subjective as evidenced by the posts in this thread, I'm not saying my way is the only way.