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Colonel_Kreitz
09-04-2013, 04:43
I was reading through the Tau Codex over the weekend and was enjoying GW's overview of the Tau fluff and some of the expanded explanation of the 3rd Sphere Expansion.

I subsequently picked up my old 3rd Edition IG Codex, as well as my 3rd Edition Rulebook. The contrast was night and day.

The IG Codex has some narration, but is filled mostly with flavor. There's a partially redacted letter from a Guardsmen to his family. Snippets of mobilization orders and TO&E tables, fragments of after action reports, short vignettes about battles or history, maps, and portraits of famous battles and units. There isn't an overarching story or narrative, but there isn't supposed to be. Instead, there's a snapshot of the 41st Millennium. The 3rd Edition Rulebook is the same way. While there's some narrative, it's mostly short stories, pages from the diaries of pilgrims, astropathic communiques, and concerned reports from Inquisitors. Ever few pages is a piece of John Blanche artwork with a suitably disturbing (and often desperate) catechism or prayer.

All of this also reminded me of my favorite Index Astartes column (and one of my all-time favorite pieces of 40K fluff), which is about the Cursed Founding. It isn't a narrative at all. Rather, it's a sort of epistolary story told through log entries from an Explorator team and an autopsy report on a mysterious giant. It tells a story, but it conveys the feel and the mood of the 41st Millennium. It draws you in, even though it's short on information.

Somewhere in (I think) 4th Edition the style changed. Codices are now filled with information and exposition. They tell the story of a race from the perspective of a 3rd-person, omniscient narrator. Unit entries cleanly tell the tale of a unit's history and its specializations. There is more substance, but less style. Quote boxes and vignettes appear sparingly and there are almost never the sort of vox-logs and after action reports that fill the 3rd edition codices.

I think the last two editions of the game are an unspeakably vast improvement over 3rd and 4th (the words "Rhino Rush" still annoy me) in terms of rules and I think that a fair amount more detail and substance is being packed into the fluff. However, I can't help but feel that this clarity has come at the expense of immersion. It feels like the difference between sifting through newspaper clippings and reading a history book.

Is it just me or is this far less fun?

blackcherry
09-04-2013, 07:34
I can agree to an extent. I personally feel a mix of the two would work quite well rather than just the extremes of either. Admittedly, the sparse content of the 3rd edition codexs (which gave you just enough information to be of use to gameplay ) encouraged me to go out and find more information to fill in the gaps, which lead to me developing a deeper understanding of the 40k verse as I was able to piece together clues, immersing myself in it more. On the other hand, they were called pamphlets for a reason. People complain about prices today, but we payed about 8-12 quid for something thinner than the average daily newspaper :p

I think it comes down to a change in outlook in the design studio. In 3rd edition Gav supposedly wanted to make the default viewpoint 'in universe' to add a bit of darkness to the and mystery back. The current design studio are clearly fans on the second edition approach, which was make it gods eye.

I still do miss all those small snippets like the imperial propaganda poster on what to do during a tyranid invasion and the like. Without a doubt the 3rd edition rulebook was the most pleasing to my eyes as well.

Ohman
09-04-2013, 08:08
I do agree that immersion, as you call it, suffers when everything is spelled out in detail. Less is usually more when it comes to 40k fluff.

At the same time, the game has been around for 25 years. It is only natural that GW change their way of presenting the background once in a while. In a few years time maybe the minimalistic way is back.

Kakapo42
09-04-2013, 10:47
I was reading through the Tau Codex over the weekend and was enjoying GW's overview of the Tau fluff and some of the expanded explanation of the 3rd Sphere Expansion.

I subsequently picked up my old 3rd Edition IG Codex, as well as my 3rd Edition Rulebook. The contrast was night and day.

The IG Codex has some narration, but is filled mostly with flavor. There's a partially redacted letter from a Guardsmen to his family. Snippets of mobilization orders and TO&E tables, fragments of after action reports, short vignettes about battles or history, maps, and portraits of famous battles and units. There isn't an overarching story or narrative, but there isn't supposed to be. Instead, there's a snapshot of the 41st Millennium. The 3rd Edition Rulebook is the same way. While there's some narrative, it's mostly short stories, pages from the diaries of pilgrims, astropathic communiques, and concerned reports from Inquisitors. Ever few pages is a piece of John Blanche artwork with a suitably disturbing (and often desperate) catechism or prayer.

All of this also reminded me of my favorite Index Astartes column (and one of my all-time favorite pieces of 40K fluff), which is about the Cursed Founding. It isn't a narrative at all. Rather, it's a sort of epistolary story told through log entries from an Explorator team and an autopsy report on a mysterious giant. It tells a story, but it conveys the feel and the mood of the 41st Millennium. It draws you in, even though it's short on information.

Somewhere in (I think) 4th Edition the style changed. Codices are now filled with information and exposition. They tell the story of a race from the perspective of a 3rd-person, omniscient narrator. Unit entries cleanly tell the tale of a unit's history and its specializations. There is more substance, but less style. Quote boxes and vignettes appear sparingly and there are almost never the sort of vox-logs and after action reports that fill the 3rd edition codices.

I think the last two editions of the game are an unspeakably vast improvement over 3rd and 4th (the words "Rhino Rush" still annoy me) in terms of rules and I think that a fair amount more detail and substance is being packed into the fluff. However, I can't help but feel that this clarity has come at the expense of immersion. It feels like the difference between sifting through newspaper clippings and reading a history book.

Is it just me or is this far less fun?

You know it's things like these that make me like and enjoy the old 3rd edition codexes far more than any that have come afterwards. Sure they might not have been the longest reads, but they were packed to bursting point with flavour and character. My favourite codex of all time is the very first Codex: Tau (probably helps that it was the first GW book I ever purchased, so it's quite nostalgic to me), purely because of all the characterful flavourful little bits and pieces in it. I didn't really mind the lack of facts, as back then I was completely new to 40k so didn't really know any better, and once I did I simply started inventing my own background material to fill in the gaps, but the colourful little quotes, short stories and stylistic artwork all drew me in like Iron to a magnet.

I think what I also like about the first Tau codex (and other codexes of that era that I have seen or read through) is that unlike some of the newer ones, it showed rather than told. Instead of having a section that was an overview of the alien auxiliary factions that were a part of the Tau Empire, it had a letter written by an Earth Caste scientist on Pech to his sister telling her about all the bizarre creatures he had seen and the adventures he had gotten into. Instead of mentioning that the Tau were quite good at negotiating with other powers, it had a short story about an Imperial ambassador and a Space Marine sent to a Tau world to negotiate a cease-fire to buy them some time to counter-attack on Nimbosa, only to be completely out-foxed and sent home, as well as a quote from a rogue trader describing just how difficult arguing with a Water Caste diplomat is. Instead of Aun'va, who was stated to be inspiring and motivated Tau forces to victory a few times, it had Aun'shi, and a page talking in great detail about how when an outpost he was inspecting was attacked by Orks, he stood and held the line shoulder to shoulder with the defending Firewarriors, leading by example and cutting Orks to bits with his honour blade until re-enforcements showed up. Instead of giving a few general modeling tips and a small list of colours used for the studio armies, it had photographed step-by-step detailed instructions on how to put together and paint basic Tau units. I could go on like this forever, but you get the idea.

That's something I think has been lost with recent army books, and it saddens me when I think about it...

Horus38
09-04-2013, 12:43
I was actually musing about this recently too. The marked contrast for me was a little bit different though. I've really been enjoying the Tau background with it's very clean presentation and much more defined empire boundaries/wars. I find this so much more refreshing that the over the top ridiculous fluff one-up-manship stories/snippets that have been so prevalent in the 5th edition books.

And honestly, I've had my fill of the 3rd edition mysterious speculation/short stories/blurry universe snapshots. I feel like that vein/style has been pretty thoroughly explored and I'm glad for a change.

jareddm3
09-04-2013, 12:55
Much of the style that you're referring to has been shifted over to the 40kRPGs. Just as an example, each of the RPG lines has a bestiary associated with it and every single creature is accompanied by an in-character account of an incident involving that creature. Though to be fair, such material holds far greater value for the RPGs compared to the wargame. The former needs a significant amount of inspiration in order to build a campaign, the latter, less so.

Gorbad Ironclaw
09-04-2013, 13:57
It depends one what you want the book to do. If you don't need to convey that much actual information for people to get it then doing lots of 'style' as you put it is great and can really enhance the mood. However if you are dealing with something people won't inherently get and need to produce a lot more information then a different format is called for. 'Style' is only useful if people can connect with it. You could make the book incredible 'Tauish' but if people don't know what half of it is referring to, what it means or why it's like that the overall effect is going to be annoyance and confusion.

Azulthar
09-04-2013, 14:27
I hated 3rd edition when it was first released, with the "dumbing down" of rules and codices that were as thin as brochures and held almost no fluff. I barely gave it a chance :(

Looking back, it was the setting at its finest. It was darker and more immersive than any other edition. Even Orks were badass scary back then.


Still, I like a bit more substance to my fluff as well. The hybrid approach seems best. I do think 6th is not so over-the-top "heroic" as 5th though, so that's something.

Colonel_Kreitz
09-04-2013, 15:07
Y

I think what I also like about the first Tau codex (and other codexes of that era that I have seen or read through) is that unlike some of the newer ones, it showed rather than told. Instead of having a section that was an overview of the alien auxiliary factions that were a part of the Tau Empire, it had a letter written by an Earth Caste scientist on Pech to his sister telling her about all the bizarre creatures he had seen and the adventures he had gotten into. Instead of mentioning that the Tau were quite good at negotiating with other powers, it had a short story about an Imperial ambassador and a Space Marine sent to a Tau world to negotiate a cease-fire to buy them some time to counter-attack on Nimbosa, only to be completely out-foxed and sent home, as well as a quote from a rogue trader describing just how difficult arguing with a Water Caste diplomat is. Instead of Aun'va, who was stated to be inspiring and motivated Tau forces to victory a few times, it had Aun'shi, and a page talking in great detail about how when an outpost he was inspecting was attacked by Orks, he stood and held the line shoulder to shoulder with the defending Firewarriors, leading by example and cutting Orks to bits with his honour blade until re-enforcements showed up. Instead of giving a few general modeling tips and a small list of colours used for the studio armies, it had photographed step-by-step detailed instructions on how to put together and paint basic Tau units. I could go on like this forever, but you get the idea.


This is exactly what I'm talking about. I don't remember much about the current fluff other than some facts. "Draigo is trapped in the Warp" or "Longstrike is a very good shot". That conversation between the Marine captain and the Water Caste diplomat... I remember the story and the point of it and the disappointment felt by the Tau. Show not tell is exactly what it was. It is now tell, tell tell. And frankly, it gets a bit tiresome when what they're telling is "X is a great and respected leader" 50 times per book.

carlisimo
09-04-2013, 17:03
Bear in mind that the 3rd edition codices were widely hated for being different from the 2nd edition codices. People were thankful when GW made the 4th edition books more similar to those from 2nd. They probably won’t go back.

But you’re right, the material in the 3rd edition books was actually pretty interesting. I have the three Eldar codices (2nd, 3rd, 4th) and most of the fluff in the 2nd and 4th edition books is the same. The 2nd edition books did have a lot of short stories that GW no longer likes to include in codices or White Dwarf (maybe because of Black Library?), and the new books have timelines, which are new – but the bulk of the storytelling is the same. The material in the 3rd edition book is, as you say, a snapshot. There’s a translation of an Eldar artifact and little descriptions that haven’t reappeared in later material. It puts you in the moment.

I never liked the 3rd edition books because they were so sparse on background. They did go too far with that, and I think it would have been a shame if there were no easy way to learn the history of the faction you play. But your post has given me a new appreciation of those books. Thanks.

Lord Damocles
09-04-2013, 17:31
The main problem with the 3rd edition Codexes was that they were predominantly from the viewpoint of the Imperium - this wasn't a problem for Guard/Marines etc., but for some Xenos books the lack of background was a problem.

I did prefer it when the format of the books wasn't set in stone like it has been since 5th ed. Codex: Space Marines, though.

ryng_sting
09-04-2013, 22:31
Paging Mr Ward...

Horus38
10-04-2013, 12:39
Paging Mr Ward... Seriously, I'd like three big huge story battles/narratives which one-up whatever you've written in your previous codex..... :(

theJ
11-04-2013, 15:49
Wasn't around pre-5th, but I gotta say I much prefer what few in-universe descriptions I've found over the word-of-god style we get for most stuff.
If my understanding is correct, the primary role of the codices is to inspire the creation of kickass armies, and dry history lessons don't do that.

Even if/when I were to want the cold hard facts, it's not like they're particularly hard to find, anyway...

ntw3001
15-04-2013, 00:22
I did much prefer the older approach. The codices for 3rd were just too thin on everything, but the background that was there was engaging. Things like reports, autopsies and so forth were interesting. 2nd had a lot more actual writing; short stories and such. That was good too, because it tended to pull in the same direction of shedding light on small points, highlighting roles. I remember one accompanying the Adeptus Arbites entry in Codex: Imperialis, about a judge on an isolated world considering his options to deal with a rogue Governor. It was excellent, because it brought the reader to the level of that single agent. I'd rather see something like a particular soldier's induction to the Imperial Guard than read a breathless account of how Kaldor Draigo knocked out a bear in one punch and then ran five marathons in a row and then and then he went to a restaurant and ate allll the food and wasnt even full and he can turn into a dragon or a sword or a dragon with a sword and i was there and we were best friends and we did high fives

But okay, that's just an issue of poor writing and a young target audience. One real problem is that 40k isn't really built for delivering narrative. It's a setting, not a story, and the audience are invited to participate rather than consume.

LordLucan
15-04-2013, 00:48
I want some more xenology of Liber chaotica-style background lore; in-universe and partial, with hints at weird conspiracies and disturning implications.

gitburna
16-04-2013, 15:34
I'm sure i remember Jervis Johnson talking about the 2nd edition approach of "spelling everything out" in particular referring to the 2nd edition Dark Angels . "look there's even a hidden chamber no-one even knows about containing Lionel Jonson".
He was saying they felt this "God's view" approach was something the design studio wouldn't go back to.

I guess the IP department have needed to get involved, could be something to do with maintaing the copyright, i have noticed an awful lot of old ideas, designs and even text re-released in some form or other over the past few years.

I was only saying to my gaming group the other day, i really liked the 3rd edition codexes. The background was very punchy and full of flavour, there was no needless repeats of statlines and a seperate beastiary (everything was self contained in one entry) and most of all the codexes were CHEAP.

I could afford to buy all the codexes back in those days, I can't do that when they cost 30 for something that realisitcally has the same sort of product lifespan. They said back in the day that black library, Inferno magazine, White Dwarf etc were here to fill in the blanks, well we have all that and we also have had an explosion in regards to the use of the internet in that timeframe. It'll never happen but i would love to go back to that period of cheaper, thinner more straightforward dexes. Flicking backward and forward in the middle of a game looking for a rule is quite frustrating. "now is it in the bestiary or the army special rules or the wargear section"

Palvinore
16-04-2013, 15:39
I'm sure i remember Jervis Johnson talking about the 2nd edition approach of "spelling everything out" in particular referring to the 2nd edition Dark Angels . "look there's even a hidden chamber no-one even knows about containing Lionel Jonson".
He was saying they felt this "God's view" approach was something the design studio wouldn't go back to.


Yet that is exactly what they have gone back to.

Fuzzy POV accounts only help if you already have some feel for the universe but isn't useful if you haven't the foggiest idea about a race or faction, particularly if it is a xeno faction. Imperial-centric POV writing in the 3rd edition books didn't help reveal much about the xeno race background, and it isn't exactly encouraging for a new player to read in their own Codex about Imperial centric propaganda about how their race is to be defeated, destroyed, or smashed.

Grimbad
16-04-2013, 16:14
Yet that is exactly what they have gone back to.

Fuzzy POV accounts only help if you already have some feel for the universe but isn't useful if you haven't the foggiest idea about a race or faction, particularly if it is a xeno faction. Imperial-centric POV writing in the 3rd edition books didn't help reveal much about the xeno race background, and it isn't exactly encouraging for a new player to read in their own Codex about Imperial centric propaganda about how their race is to be defeated, destroyed, or smashed.

On the other hand, 3rd edition more than other had plenty for Imperial players to read about how the Imperium was being destroyed, often by itself.

Chapters Unwritten
16-04-2013, 16:45
I was reading through the Tau Codex over the weekend and was enjoying GW's overview of the Tau fluff and some of the expanded explanation of the 3rd Sphere Expansion.

I subsequently picked up my old 3rd Edition IG Codex, as well as my 3rd Edition Rulebook. The contrast was night and day.

The IG Codex has some narration, but is filled mostly with flavor. There's a partially redacted letter from a Guardsmen to his family. Snippets of mobilization orders and TO&E tables, fragments of after action reports, short vignettes about battles or history, maps, and portraits of famous battles and units. There isn't an overarching story or narrative, but there isn't supposed to be. Instead, there's a snapshot of the 41st Millennium. The 3rd Edition Rulebook is the same way. While there's some narrative, it's mostly short stories, pages from the diaries of pilgrims, astropathic communiques, and concerned reports from Inquisitors. Ever few pages is a piece of John Blanche artwork with a suitably disturbing (and often desperate) catechism or prayer.

All of this also reminded me of my favorite Index Astartes column (and one of my all-time favorite pieces of 40K fluff), which is about the Cursed Founding. It isn't a narrative at all. Rather, it's a sort of epistolary story told through log entries from an Explorator team and an autopsy report on a mysterious giant. It tells a story, but it conveys the feel and the mood of the 41st Millennium. It draws you in, even though it's short on information.

Somewhere in (I think) 4th Edition the style changed. Codices are now filled with information and exposition. They tell the story of a race from the perspective of a 3rd-person, omniscient narrator. Unit entries cleanly tell the tale of a unit's history and its specializations. There is more substance, but less style. Quote boxes and vignettes appear sparingly and there are almost never the sort of vox-logs and after action reports that fill the 3rd edition codices.

I think the last two editions of the game are an unspeakably vast improvement over 3rd and 4th (the words "Rhino Rush" still annoy me) in terms of rules and I think that a fair amount more detail and substance is being packed into the fluff. However, I can't help but feel that this clarity has come at the expense of immersion. It feels like the difference between sifting through newspaper clippings and reading a history book.

Is it just me or is this far less fun?

I agree wholeheartedly. We lose so much by having all of the holes filled in. The Necrons are a good example of this... They lost all the mystique and we had everything outright explained. I think this is good to have everything addressed, but to have it in the stale third person 100 percent omniscient perspective really ruins a lot.

Sent from my SCH-I535 using Tapatalk 2

carlisimo
17-04-2013, 03:42
Yet that is exactly what they have gone back to.

To be fair, the fanbase was up in arms over the 3rd edition books, and cheered when GW went back to the 2nd edition way.

Grimbad
17-04-2013, 05:16
To be fair, the fanbase was up in arms over the 3rd edition books, and cheered when GW went back to the 2nd edition way.

I always felt that was more to do with the brevity than the style.

Baneboss
19-04-2013, 18:52
I like fluff and history they pack into codexes of today. Mainly those 6th editions. I still think GKs fluff is a bit over the top (hurray secret wooden box, so grimdark). For example the newest Tau codex was a real pleasure to read. I really like Tau as an addition to the 40k as it was implemented all those years ago (Tau had lots of haters back then, maybe they still have some) and the newest fluff nailed it perfectly.

Perhaps new codexes dont have all those short stories... They were really good and i understand the idea of mystery they created. Cool in itself but i dont mind the shift to more history lessons. Perhaps they indeed could mix the two.

Corbeau
20-04-2013, 11:48
I was someone that wasn't happy with the move from 2nd to 3rd style Codices, and Grimbad is spot on, it wasn't the change in style it was the brevity. I love that collage of snippets written in an in-universe style - show don't tell as the old writing adage goes.

I love the fluff/narrative side of things so it's something we try to reflect in our games. If I might shamelessly plug some stuff :P

Imperial Navy Tattoos (work in progress notes hastily made in-universe, with some typos...) http://fav.me/d5reoje
Post-Battle Surgery Report (based on real events of a real game) http://fav.me/d5ixj17
Imperial Guard Field Dressing http://fav.me/d5mcerd

It's so much more fun to hint at things or give a flavour of things. Narrative, not dry exposition. (I only live 15 minutes from HQ, maybe I should put that on a placard and loiter outside...)