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SolkaTruesilver
15-11-2010, 00:55
I was wondering if the Tau cast system (Fire, Earth, Air and Water) is hereditary or determined by talent/interest? Are individual Tau allowed a choice? (Except the etherals, off course).

Is a Tau confined in a single task all his life, like a japanese feodal peasant or Samurai?

Cry of the Wind
15-11-2010, 01:01
It is hereditary, the castes are almost like subspecies of the same race. The Air Caster for example are very different in body structure than other Tau and likewise the Fire Caste are heavier and tougher in build than the others. Breeding between Castes is forbidden to help keep those genetic traits where they are most useful.

As far as task in life is concerned I'm sure they are assigned roles based on their innate skills as determined by their education as youths. Choice might come into it a bit but not as much as we experience in the western world.

Col. Tartleton
15-11-2010, 01:24
Essentially there were four different ethnic groups before the Ethereals came. The Ethereals began a program of selective breeding for the greater good and over time these ethnic groupings have become virtually different species. Like wolves and dogs. They can still breed, but they're different animals.

The Fire Caste are tall, broad, and strong. They're natural fighters and practice a warrior culture. You know how when you look at some people you can tell they were/are soldiers or cops? There's a certain build, certain way they carry themselves, the way they speak. That's what we're looking at, but more so. A Fire Caste will be much more physically imposing then other Tau, that "I've killed people before" squint, and ritual scars across his body. Their ancestors were tribes of warriors in a Savannah setting.

The Earth Caste are short, broad, and generally stout. Sort of your average Tau look. Strong but not overly muscular. Perhaps a bit of flab around the middle. Good, hardworking country folk. The calloused hands of someone whose constantly tinkering with a machine or some new toy. Their ancestors were city builders and farmers.

Water Caste are tall and lean, well spoken, outgoing, personable, but you can see them counting the coins in your pocket. Maybe its training or maybe its there blood but they're just naturally adept at manipulating you. Their ancestors were wandering traders. Think gypsies or the Jewish Diaspora. They probably have that sort of reputation for being a bit shady, but the Greater Good prevents the Tau from being racist. :angel: As such they're basically running the show. Think of a shiesty (I think I can say that right?) talent agent or a defense attorney type. They're always lying to your face and you know they are and you just have to accept its how they are.

The Air caste are lanky and gaunt, fragile to the point of being easily exhausted and short of breath. You'd think them sickly until you put them in a low gravity environment. Then you realize their bodies were built for swimming through their orbital cities. Incredible reaction times, agility, and situational awareness would be their virtues. Put them in a cockpit and watch them shoot down everything sent against them.

Shinzui
15-11-2010, 01:43
Essentially there were four different ethnic groups before the Ethereals came. The Ethereals began a program of selective breeding for the greater good and over time these ethnic groupings have become virtually different species. Like wolves and dogs. They can still breed, but they're different animals.

The species divergence happened before the Ethereals came though kinda moot as they enforce the separation since appearing.

Col. Tartleton
15-11-2010, 01:52
Yes, but it wasn't what it is now.

SolkaTruesilver
15-11-2010, 01:55
What I find hard to believe, it's the original aspect of the Air cast. The Tau were still in early industrial era when they me the etherals. How did the ethny which formed the Air cast had developped, sociologically- or biologicaly wise?

Clockwork-Knight
15-11-2010, 01:58
Wasn't it even more extreme back then? The predecessors of the air castes all had small wings with which they could glide on some natural thermic vents or so for example, which the "modern" air caste tau don't have anymore.

ForgottenLore
15-11-2010, 02:06
The Tau were still in early industrial era when they me the etherals.

If that. I have always pictured late Renaissance/ Early Colonial era type technology when the Ethereals arrived, what with the Earth caste city (presumably the most technologically advanced caste, even then) using cannons and city walls.

What needs to be kept in mind is GW's overwhelming tendency to use massive hyperbole in all their fluff writings. The castes were probably not as divergent as is claimed. They probably still aren't as divergent as is claimed, but GW likes to make huge sweeping statements like "the different castes are almost separate sub-species".

Col. Tartleton
15-11-2010, 02:14
If that. I have always pictured late Renaissance/ Early Colonial era type technology when the Ethereals arrived, what with the Earth caste city (presumably the most technologically advanced caste, even then) using cannons and city walls.

What needs to be kept in mind is GW's overwhelming tendency to use massive hyperbole in all their fluff writings. The castes were probably not as divergent as is claimed. They probably still aren't as divergent as is claimed, but GW likes to make huge sweeping statements like "the different castes are almost separate sub-species".

Yeah.

Also hopefully they retcon the wings to being manufactured gliders. That would give them an awesome feeling rather then "huh?" I always found that bit wonky and out of place. I see the Fire Caste as sort of like Africans, Earth Caste as Asiatic or European (Russians? Proles?), and Water Caste as these more middle eastern or Italian merchant types, and then you have guys with wings...

Shinzui
15-11-2010, 02:16
Yes, but it wasn't what it is now.

Well the only real difference we know of is they they aren't killing each other. Pre Etherals the Air caste were messengers and scouts, the water caste traders, the fire caste lived as plain dwellers on the salvannas of Ta'u while the Earth Caste were building farming and developing advanced tools in the lush areas.

Really the only diffference is their working together under the Ethereals... and not killing each other of course.

The air caste really was the only one really different but I'm guessing the wings are still there but are removed as their aren't necessary.

ForgottenLore
15-11-2010, 02:20
Also hopefully they retcon the wings to being manufactured gliders.

That would be sweet! Bird Tau of Catrazi

I have always been annoyed with the concept of air caste.

A society of thinkers - makes sense
A society of talkers - makes sense
A society of action-takers - makes sense
A society of pilots - :wtf:?

BTW, SolkaTruesilver, if you would like some examples of how the caste system probably works, the Dominion on Star Trek DS9 and the Minbari on Babylon 5 are both pretty good examples.


The air caste really was the only one really different but I'm guessing the wings are still there but are removed as their aren't necessary.
I think the wings have been kind of dropped from the fluff. I think there was only one, somewhat vague reference that hasn't officially been mentioned since.

Clockwork-Knight
15-11-2010, 02:41
Unless explicitely contradicted (and sometimes even then or perhaps even because of it), every old piece of background lore is still true.

However, it was stated that the wings of the air caste ancestors weren't powerful enough to fly like birds, and that they needed some strong currents, so yeah...

AndrewGPaul
15-11-2010, 07:39
Is there any art of these? Because it's sounding to me like the same sort of wings that plying squirriels and the like have, rather than an actual third pair of limbs.

Iuris
15-11-2010, 07:48
Actually, I can't remember anyone ever mentioning any breeding restrictions being enforced, at least not in any fluff I'd remember.

Mind you, getting a fragile, hollow boned air caste girl to mate with a fiery fire cast male might well require a medical team on standby anyway :)

AndrewGPaul
15-11-2010, 08:04
:wtf: Oh gods, the fanfic ...:no::cries:

Iuris
15-11-2010, 09:46
The only way to stop a fanfic is to beat 'em to it and write a better one before they can write a bad one.

P.S.
Do we know anything about the Tau personal life? Apart from recognizing sisters as family and writing home (the kroot researcher story in the original codex), I don't remember anything on the subject. Monogamous? Polygamous? Family oriented? Collective education? Hell, even egg laying or live birth?

Hellebore
15-11-2010, 09:50
Xenology says comparable reproductive system to humans. Although the female tau doesn't have breasts.

The Index Xenos says iirc that breeding between the castes is strictly forbidden, with the death penalty.

Hellebore

Iuris
15-11-2010, 10:00
The Index Xenos says iirc that breeding between the castes is strictly forbidden, with the death penalty.

That'd be from the "90% commercials, 10% readable, double the price" White dwarf, then? No wonder I'd miss it...

Lionsprey
15-11-2010, 10:45
Water Caste are tall and lean, well spoken, outgoing, personable, but you can see them counting the coins in your pocket. Maybe its training or maybe its there blood but they're just naturally adept at manipulating you. Their ancestors were wandering traders. Think gypsies or the Jewish Diaspora. They probably have that sort of reputation for being a bit shady, but the Greater Good prevents the Tau from being racist. :angel: As such they're basically running the show. Think of a shiesty (I think I can say that right?) talent agent or a defense attorney type. They're always lying to your face and you know they are and you just have to accept its how they are.
You're kinda making it sound as if the water caste is in control when they are actually loyal to the end towards the Etheral (well most of them anyway i dont know if farsight's got any of them) and if they "cheat" a rouge trader for supplies its probebly at the order from a etheral and most definetly for the greater good ( again not sure about farsight)
also didn't they live at the shoreline etc and trade by boat rather then travel hence the water caste?

Did the air caste really have wings? i always imagend it as skin flaps (such as the flying squirrels) that shrunk to nothingness when they basicly moved to the space ships.

Iuris
15-11-2010, 10:55
Did the air caste really have wings? i always imagend it as skin flaps (such as the flying squirrels) that shrunk to nothingness when they basicly moved to the space ships.

There's a rather nice drawing in the codex, of Tau evacuating an outpost, that wonderfully shows an air caste pilot ushering a (presumably) earth caste tech carrying a bundle into the craft, with fire warriors all around.

Shamana
15-11-2010, 11:11
The whole "air caste with wings" I'm not very sure about. They did serve as messengers and go-betweens - which imo would suppose a fair bit of stamina when they had to do it on foot. Wasn't it some Kroot that had wings?

Lionsprey, I think you are underestimating the Tau, in particular the water caste. They are capable of independent thought, and they are quite able to operate in their chosen medium - in their case, trade and negotiations. The ethereals are more like a government - setting the major rules, determining policy, and occasionally mediating disputes when things aren't clear. The castes are generally told that they should do what they are good at, and left to their own devices unless there is a case where particular supervision is necessary.

The water caste are the frontmen, traders and embassadors. When it comes to dealing with outsiders, they are most likely better than the Ethereals - that is what their caste focuses on. When acting as traders, they don't need the closest Aun to tell them they need to make a profit or try to get the better deal from outsiders - they would do it anyway, being traders and all :) .

Clockwork-Knight
15-11-2010, 12:11
The water caste members are also the administrators and bureaucrates, as well as intelligence gatherers. They do have lots of responsabilities and prestigious duties to serve the greater good well.

Also, both 3rd and 4th edition tau codizes mention the thin membraneous wings of the air caste predecessors (of course, the Tau Empire codex is just mostly a copy-paste, so yeah).

Shamana
15-11-2010, 12:28
Right. So the water caste are the people people, basically :) .

SolkaTruesilver
15-11-2010, 13:35
If the Air cast ended up being the spaceship pilots, I would have seen them as the sailors and travellers of their society. Not necessarely "traders", but "sailor", as the kind of people who accepts to leave their home for 5 years to go around the world.

Then it wasn't hard to put them in charge of spaceships for decades.

ForgottenLore
15-11-2010, 16:00
I would see them as gypsy/ nomad types. Primitive tribes of air caste always on the move, never staying in one place for long. Problem is, I believe the codex claims they lived in the mountains.

Yeah, here it is. p 5 under "Advanced Evolution"


High on isolated mountain peaks, Tau soared on thermals, rising up from the hot plains on thin, membranous wings,

As far as I know that is the only reference to wings

Shamana
15-11-2010, 16:13
Heh, it never said it was "their" wings. Imagine little blue men paragliding or riding on some Da Vinci-esque flying machines... hilarious.

Clockwork-Knight
15-11-2010, 16:19
It's obvious that it's meant for the air caste predecessors to having wings that grew out from their bodies, and not artifiical contraptions.

The tau are strange and evolved quite fast biologically as well as technologically, and that's what makes them dangerous to the Imperium, and that's it.

Shamana
15-11-2010, 16:38
Dammit, but I wanted to imagine prehistoric Tau on gliders! /goes off sulking :) .

Ok, so apparently it is right - old Air caste had vestigial wings. I doubt they completely lost those, especially as there is no cross-caste breeding, but that doesn't matter all that much.

ForgottenLore
15-11-2010, 16:57
It is certainly implying biological wings. The section is talking about not just biological evolution though, but also technological development. It says the one group of Tau started to fly, but it also says another group began farming and building settlements. So it COULD be read as hang gliders, if you stretch the point a bit. If that is what GW wanted to say. Like I said before, I think they kinda don't care enough and will probably ignore that one line in the fluff in the future.

Clockwork-Knight
15-11-2010, 22:26
Why ignore, if they can copy-paste it into the 5th edition tau codex, and the sixth, seventh, eight ad infinitum?

It's not like the tau codizes were disguised toilet paper-pamphlets shoddily written to release something as soon as possible like the old dark eldar codex did.

madprophet
17-11-2010, 18:09
In feudal Japan there were the Daimyo and four broad classes Warriors, Farmers, Artisans and Merchants

Ethereals = Daimyo (those who rule)
Fire Caste = Samurai (those who serve and fight)
Earth Caste = Farmers (those who produce necessary things)
Water Caste = Artisans (those who create beautiful things)
Air Caste = Merchants (those who move goods)

Keichi246
17-11-2010, 18:37
I have to make a few comments that while the Tau use a hereditary/genetic caste system - it seems to work for them.

For example - there is a pretty LARGE overlap in the cultural roles, and lots of tasks that occur within each "caste's" purview.

For example - I can see Fire caste warriors who are not particularly good at learning how to drive battlesuits being used as vehicle crewmenor even being held back at the Sept Worlds to work with the various other castes in support roles. (Helping Earth caste weapon design teams, shipboard security functions on Air caste ships, acting as a SWAT team for Water Caste police forces, etc) Air caste members are the pilots and spaceship crewmen - but they also occupy the low gravity oribitals - so they may be involved in starship construction, starship maintenance, etc.

There is also appears to be a fair amount of social mobility within each caste.

For example - rank appears to be based primarily on achievement - and no caste (other than the Ethereal) seems to be particularly dominant over any other. So a Kor'O can (and probably does) order a Shas'la out of the way at times.

Finally - the caste differentiation has multiple layers of enforcement built into the system. Each caste has been raised from birth among members of their own caste - so cultural senses of beauty and attraction probably go a long way towards eliminating any desire for partners of the opposite sex from different castes. (Fire Warrior chick: "That Air caste guy is just too scrawny - I'd break him in half if we did anything... No - I want that hunky battlesuit driver in third squad - he's so dreamy!") Add in a few more cultural mores ("dontcha know - it's agains the greater good to even think about dating outside your caste") , some rules set by the Ethereals, and the Ethereals "convincing" malcontents to give up the love affair, and the system works.

The Tau probably DON'T have any "Romeo and Juliet" style romantic epics, though.

ForgottenLore
17-11-2010, 21:06
- there is a pretty LARGE overlap in the cultural roles, and lots of tasks that occur within each "caste's" purview.

I tried to make that point in an article I wrote on another forum and got pretty well shouted down by everyone. The fact remains though that a functioning society needs more jobs than soldiers, merchant/diplomats, scientists, pilots and priests.


The Tau probably DON'T have any "Romeo and Juliet" style romantic epics, though.

If they do it is either a tragedy emphasizing the problems, disruption and chaos the young lovers cause, or they end up seeing the error of their ways and commit to the greater good, at which point an Ethereal shows up and provides them each with a perfect mate in their own caste.

SolkaTruesilver
17-11-2010, 21:15
If they do it is either a tragedy emphasizing the problems, disruption and chaos the young lovers cause, or they end up seeing the error of their ways and commit to the greater good, at which point an Ethereal shows up and provides them each with a perfect mate in their own caste.

I don't see why Tau wouldn't be okay with sexless (or even offspringless) intercast unions. Either they still encourage both Tau to at least provide to the Gene pool with someone of their own cast while they live happily with their soulmate, or they are simply asked not to have any Outcast children, probably sterilised in the process.