View Full Version : Lost Tau colony fleets?

07-11-2013, 15:21
I'm reviewing in my head a storyline, and I would like to get some input from you all regarding the Tau colonizung efforts in the first two Expansions.

I would like to incorporate a Tau colonizing fleet that was caught up in a warp storm and was transported to another region of the galaxy. They would then attempt to colonize the area where they were instead of going home.

What time frame would this be good to place in, First Expansion, or Second Expansion? Would it be possible to do this before there was much/any contact with Humanity? Preferably a time when they had Pulse weapons and battlesuits (albeit somewhat primitive versions).

As a side note, what's the deal with the Damocles Gulf in terms of navigation and the Ethereals forbidding entrance?

07-11-2013, 15:43
I've had a similar idea for a Tau Cadre. I think it becomes more compelling the earlier you set it in Tau Empire history - particularly because you can emphasize their isolation if they're thrown far enough. They could be colonizing a world where the light reaching then from their home star dates from a time before their ancestors ever recognized the Greater Good! Plus if they leave before the Imperium recognizes the Tau as a true threat the colony is more likely to last longer.

07-11-2013, 15:58
That is pretty much the backstory for my own sept. my self, I set it for their early experiments in FTL travel, before they had all the kinks worked out.

07-11-2013, 16:15
Heh, it's going to start as a Tau Sept, but it won't end as a Tau Sept.

08-11-2013, 18:32
Actually, I think a tau space station getting caught in a warp storm and relocated was part of the backdrop in the Black Tide Blood Angels novel by James Swallow.

Ships in transit getting caught in Warp Storms and the Damocles Gulf are a little bit of a different story, since so much of the background conflicts on these topics.

Once upon a time in 40k background, tau ships used a form of space travel called 'warp skimming' or 'warp diving', where they used reverse-engineered warp drives to tear a hole in reality, and then used their 'gravitic drives' or 'ether drives' to pull the ship into the plane between the Materium and Immaterium called the vash'aun'an. The upsides to this were relatively consistent transit times, protection from the ravages of the Warp on the crew and space-time, and no need to rely on conventional Warp currents since they had no effect on speed. The downside was that although this was conventional faster-than-light travel, it was still slower than 'average' Imperial speeds by a factor of three to five.

In fact, this was once the explanation for how the tau were able to cross the Damocles Gulf so effectively and proliferate into the territories beyond it, whereas the Imperium viewed the tumultuous Damocles Gulf as a considerable barrier to such efforts. At the onset of the Damocles Gulf Crusade, the retreating tau were capable of reaching their inner territories in time to warn them of the impending Crusade because the Imperium was stuck in the Warp mire of the Gulf and took five whole months to cross.

According to the latest Codex, none of this applies anymore, and it is unclear whether the tau have obtained true faster-than-light travel with the newly described 'ZFR Horizon' drives.

Personally, I think this is a huge oversight. (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SciFiWritersHaveNoSenseOfScale)

Even a cursory glance at the narrative sequence of events would crumble this idea that tau lack FTL in an instant. Be that as it may, according to the latest Codex and Farsight supplement, the tau now find the Damocles Gulf just as dangerous and troubling to cross as the Imperium, so we'll have to wait and see if Games Workshop's writers can make more sense of it in the future.


As for your question of when time period you should set this in, if you want to ensure your tau have had very little contact with humanity, either the First Sphere or Second Sphere expansions would suffice. The tau didn't start making contact with humans until early in the 41st millennium, and even then they didn't fully comprehend the true might and scale of the Imperium as a whole until after the Damocles Gulf Crusade in 745.M41.

You could also make it a one-off colonization fleet tied to neither of the two main expansion phases, similar to the Velk'han Sept's colonization immediately following the Damocles Gulf Crusade (look in the Deathwatch Fantasy Flight Games books for more info). If you do this, however, I'd recommend it being a relatively small colonization fleet, since the establishment of the Velk'han Sept took a major toll on the military and industrial power of the Tau Empire, which I assume is contemporaneously tied to Farsight not getting the resources he needed to prosecute his war against the Orks.

08-11-2013, 20:56
I am looking at it to be large enough to try and conquer/settle a sub sector for a small season, but small enough to be ravaged to elimination by a plague backed up by a coup/war.

08-11-2013, 21:44
Depending on the size of the subsector (smaller, preferably), that seems like a reasonable size. There are probably many such colonization fleets deployed at a time regardless of what Phase Expansion the tau are in.

The Velk'han colonization effort represented a significant investment of resources to accomplish, but it succeeded in establishing a defensible foothold encompassing an area of space larger than your average subsector in the Jericho Reach.

The only other considerations I'd suggest are which ships you intend to use in the fleet, both generation and composition. Most ships in 40k are only designed to be "at sea" for a few months (perceived) at a time before restocking on supplies, personnel, food, water, and fuel.

The older generation of Kor'vattra ships with their slower drives were enormous, designed to be generation ships for long voyages since there was less perceived time dilation. Running low on fuel would probably be the most pressing concern after popping out of the Warp Storm, and the tau could take a bit more time assessing their location and reconnoitering their surroundings.

If you decide to do a newer post-Damocles fleet of Kor'or'vesh ships, your tau may develop a more pressing need for food and water, requiring an emergency colonization of the nearest habitable planet(s). There would probably be more immediate distress while the tau figured out what was going on.

Regarding fleet composition, I'm not sure a combined conquer/settle fleet is a good idea. Given the above mentioned issues of supplies for, potentially, tens or hundreds of thousands of tau colonists, you'll generally want to pacify a region of space with a warfleet first, and then bring in your escorted colonists in a second wave.

This could create more tension for your story if your colonists and escorts were ill-prepared to engage in a large scale conflict, or your displaced warfleet did not have the capability to sustain itself over a long period of time and required scuttling some ships for construction materials to make do.

08-11-2013, 23:39
Hey Doombringer, where is the fluff about the Velk'han colonization located? I am pretty up on most Tau fluff but I haven't heard of that one before.

08-11-2013, 23:59
Fantasy Flight Games' Deathwatch RPG books, namely the Core Rulebook, The Achilus Assault, and The Jericho Reach.

The expansion into the Jericho Reach occurs in 745.M41 nearly uncontested, the Imperium learns of the tau's arrival into what was formerly the Jericho Sector in 755.M41, and the Imperium spends over twenty years gathering information and mustering a Crusade force which finally arrives in the region in 777.M41.

Whether hostilities continue to stalemate to this day, the Imperium has given up its defense of the Jericho-Maw Warp Gate, or the Velk'han Sept has been wiped out is unknown, but it is safe to assume that it wouldn't be an easy fight for any of the participants given the presence of both Chaos and Tyranid forces also in the region.

09-11-2013, 00:30
Ah, that explains it. I haven't paid much attention at all to the RPG. Stuff for that comes out too fast for me to keep up with and I have no interest at all in role-playing in the 40K universe.


09-11-2013, 02:50
The way I want to try it is that this fleet is relocated to a subsector by a warp storm far enough away that the only way they could get back in a reasonable time would be a similar event.

The hard part is cutting off a Human subsector long enough for the Tau to begin relying and teaching the Humans to do more and more with their tech and being trained without the Imperium's influence without having the Crusades dropping in before it could happen.

A Warp Storm could do it, that's a little too Deus Ex Machina, but it could explain a few things I want to do elsewhere in the general storyline. Plus it would have to be rather large, wouldn't it?

09-11-2013, 03:37
For my own Tau Sept background, I put in a human world they can make friends with that hadn't been found by the Imperium yet. I have always considered that to be an area of the background that doesn't get explored much and it suited my purposes nicely.

10-11-2013, 10:37

Its also possible (The way that information reads) that they have true (read: none timey wimey warpy) FTL. There are 3 sets of engines mentioned, one that is relatively slow, one that is 'almost light-speed' and the horizon drive, which takes them at 'previously unimagined speeds'.

To me, thats screams that the Tau DO have FTL, since any space-faring race would be scientifically advanced enough to know of the FTL constant, which means that FTL is by no means 'unimagined' as even we (being nowhere near that ability) have long imagined drives that travel faster than light. Add to this that the second set of engines was ALMOST there, and its pretty clear that the horizon drive is some kind of FTL.

There is a precedent for none-warp FTL (the Necrons) and the Tau are billed as being quite the smart ones scientifically and not having much of a warp connection, so this makes perfect sense.

The exact HOWS of the drive haven't even been explained, which means that you don't even need to use the 'warp did it' crutch to explain the weirdness. It could be that tachyons and gravitons interfered with the left falangy of the horizon drives flip-flop matrix and sent its doofer into overload. Ping, Tau lost on the other side of the galaxy.

You might want to bear in mind that if you do it too early in their history, that means no ion rifles, no fliers, no riptides, no XV25 or AX22 suits (possibly no HYMP Broadsides depending on if you think they were a new development or an omission from earlier codices).

10-11-2013, 12:53
@aim, the ZFR Horizon drive in the Codex is the "almost light-speed" drive.

Only the Earth caste had failed to reach their prescribed goal. With engineering centres in every sept working diligently, the Earth caste provided innumerable innovations, but the invention demanded by the Ethereals - faster propulsion-technology to drive starcraft - eluded them. At last, the quantum leap came from Fal'shia Sept, where they finalised development of the ZFR Horizon Accelerator Engine. An ingenious design, this powerful new mechanism allowed ships to attain near-light speed.

In order to reach those more distant systems earmarked as desirable by advanced scouts, the vast armadas of Tau starcraft had been outfitted with the latest Earth caste modifications. The ships' propulsion systems were upgraded so that when magnified by impulse reactors, the engines could obtain faster speeds - propelling starcraft forwards at hitherto unthinkable velocities. To further lessen the burden on those space-faring craft with the longest journeys, the Earth caste had outfitted transport craft with large stasis chambers - allowing Hunter Cadres or whole commands to shift to far distant battle zones months or years away without actually aging a day in the process.

It is important to note here that despite the invention of the ZFR Horizon prior to 018.M39, and the subsequent undated invention of the engine modifications which influenced the start of the Third Sphere Expansion, there was still a pressing need for the invention of both individual (745.M41) and mass (pre-Third Sphere) cryostasis chambers to ensure that tau did not potentially age months or years in the process of journeying across the stars (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TimeDilation). Given how close to lightspeed you'd need to be in order to get an appreciable Lorentz factor and experience of time dilation, it still doesn't sound like the tau have crossed the barrier yet, which I'll agree makes little sense of the narrative sequence of events we are given (Shadowsun's presence on many planets during the short time the Third Sphere Expansion has been underway, the Tau's capability to react to FTL threats or make FTL communication, etc.).

Lastly, the Necrons' method of true non-warp FTL was recently and similarly retconned out of existence. Necrons now make use of the webway for FTL, using living stone portals called Dolmen Gates (http://wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki/Dolmen_Gate#.Un-JYPmsjpU).

10-11-2013, 15:43
My bad, I wasn't reading from my codex at the time and assumed that the Horizon drive was the latest iteration of the drives. But the point still stands, from 'close to light speed' to 'unthinkable velocities' implies faster than light travel. and the use of stasis chambers makes sense for a short lived species who aren't using the timey-wimey-warp to travel (bearing in mind that the distances we are talking about between stars, would still take years even at multiple times the speed of light).

As for the necron retcon, I've not got the new necron codex, so that was just me not knowing haha. Still, tyranids travel faster than light don't they, with some soft of space whale that harnesses stars gravity or some other hand wavium? Again, this is just from memory so I could be off, but I remember a big hoohar about it when the codex was released.

13-11-2013, 04:01
Ah, that explains it. I haven't paid much attention at all to the RPG. Stuff for that comes out too fast for me to keep up with and I have no interest at all in role-playing in the 40K universe.

If you can get your hands on the books to just read, there is a LOT of good background information about various subjects. I was very impressed about the details and the "this is how things work" type writing put into it.