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View Full Version : Chaos: The underdog of the 41st millenia!(Many, many spoilers)



Memnos
16-03-2017, 23:17
So after reading Traitor's Hate, Primogenitor, Fall of Cadia, Fracture of Biel-Tan and Rise of the Primarch, I have come to a conclusion:

Chaos are the protagonists in the 40K universe. Note that I am not calling 40K the good guys, but the protagonists. Here is why:

1) Chaos is always outnumbered - In Traitor's Hate, the Chaos Space marines came up with a brilliant plan to create a new warp storm that would cut years off of the thrust to Terra. When the Blood Angels showed up, the book describes the conglomeration of Chaos Cultists, Traitor Legio Titanicus, Black Legion, Alpha Legion, Crimson Slaughter, etc. as doing fine until the Blood Angels showed up. Then, they are described as being 'Outnumbered' as the Blood Angels showed up. Assuming that the entire chapter of blood angels showed up, that's 1000 space marines. That means that Abaddon sent less than a chapter's strength of his 'mighty legions' to win a battle that would have allowed the invasion of Terra in months instead of years.

2) Chaos is the underdog - In Fracture of Biel-Tan, Chaos consistently only wins when they surprise the enemy. And not always, even then. Ahriman sneaks up on the Ynnari? He does fine until the Ynnari actually face them in a fair fight. Then, Ahriman and his allies get contemptuously tossed aside like so much trash with barely an effort. 3 greater Daemons of Slaanesh, including one that is hundreds of feet tall and nearly as ancient as Slaanesh? They do well against an unarmed Yncarne. The moment he gets his sword, he wins in seconds. Rise of the Primarch does the same thing - Traitor Marines did fine fighting Guilliman until he woke up. The moment he did, Guilliman beat Abaddon's force in hours, because Abaddon either didn't deign Guilliman waking up to be important enough to send more than a Chapter worth of marines or he just didn't have the numbers to gang up on him. Huron Blackheart beat Guilliman in a fair fight where Guilliman's ship was trapped by detritus and couldn't move and Blackheart could fire on it with impunity. Other than that, not so much.

3) Chaos cannot win through brute force and only wins when treachery, guile, tactical brilliance and cunning is in play. Whether it's Traitor's Hate Black Legionnaires coming up with a plan to find an ancient rift, Fabius Bile using nothing but a few hundred bodies to invade a Craftworld filled to the brim with people capable of seeing the fricking future and knowing his plan ahead of time _AND_ outnumbering him milliions to one or Lufgt Huron carefully orchestrating an ambush in a place where power cannot be brought to bear and tactical supremacy allows you all of the foresight to say "I could see he was going to shoot me. And then he shot me. Because I couldn't move - HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO WIN?!", Chaos only succeeds when they have brought all their considerable cunning to bear.

Chaos, we can see, are the protagonists. The antagonists in these sorts of stories are always the monolithic evil empires capable of sending hordes to crush the cunning and heroic protagonists: Sauron, The Red Queen of Wonderland all the way to Thanos in modern comic book movies - People need to have literary drama. The way to build this is to make the enemy seem unstoppable and the heroes hard-pressed.

It's clear from the stories that the 'heroes' are Chaos, because the Empire simply is not sincerely threatened at any point where a fair fight can be had.

theJ
17-03-2017, 21:05
You are correct in that the Imperium are the villains.. but you are incorrect when you assume that makes Chaos the heroes.
The fourty-first millenium has no heroes - at least not on a macro level. It is an endless war of attrition between various arch-villains of every colour of the rainbow, from the extremist hordes of the Imperium, to the blind hunger of the Tyranids, to the treacherous scheming of chaos, to the innate bloodthirst of the greenskins.
An individual in the fourty-first millenium may be considered good, with little regard for which faction she hails from, but the factions themselves are not.

madprophet
18-03-2017, 04:17
40k is very much a situation of what you see depends largely on where you sit. The Imperium isn't really a villain - it's an unpleasant solution to an unthinkable alternative. When the Emperor began the Great Crusade, most of humanity was divided into petty, squabbling states. Many human populations were enslaved by Xenos. Humanity could be enslaved by the Orks and see millions worked to death, or reduced to drugs by the Dark Eldar or exterminated by the Eldar (or the Necrons) - later they could be eaten by the Tyranids or herded into sterilization centers by the Tau... Of course, our western notions of freedom, individual rights, free expression, free thought, freedom of conscience, etc. went the way of the dinosaur but that was the price of survival. The Emperor is Osiris, Zeus, Hachiman, and Christ but he is also human hubris, he is Babel and Marduk, Lucifer and Set.

The Imperium is the last stand of an embattled humanity dangerously at bay from the forces arrayed against it. It's evils are well known, but in many ways the Imperium is the protagonist - it is the last best hope for man in a very uncertain universe.

Chaos was a reaction to the regimentation of humanity by the Emperor - and chaos doesn't equal "evil" either (nor are they "good") - chaos is primal, but it is also tolerant. Anything goes because all is about change. Khorne is not just the Blood god - he is also the god of war. He is Thor and Athena as well as Ares and Loki. He is a god of martial honor as much as bloodshed. He has many faces and is probably worshipped in many ways - some even benign to his followers. It's easy to see Khorne's followers as mindless berserker warriors, or cartoon versions of jihadi nutters - but they can be so much more. They can be honorable samurai, blood-bonded viking heroes, medieval style holy orders of knighthood like the Knights Templar or the Teutonic Knights.

Nurgle isn't just the plague god - he is also the god of healers, the benign god of death and the god of life. He is Hades and Thanatos and Macaria in equal measure. He is Arawn and Hel. He is Asclepius and Malia. He represents evolution, new life, transformation and overcoming death. He is the god of resurrection as much as the god of disease. His followers are always portrayed as disease ridden plague bearers but they could as easily be healers and preachers of peace and promising a hereafter rewarding the victory over death - for has not Father Nurgle defeated disease and death, transcending it and turning it from infirmity into strength?

Tzeench isn't just the cosmic cancer, he is the agent of beneficial change - he is Apollo and Luna as much as he is Demogorgon or Lucifer. He tears down tyrants and frees the human spirit. He is Liberty and Freedom, the god of madness and inspiration. He is Bacchus and Pan as much as he is Zeus and Dis Pater. He is the god of laws and diplomacy as much as he is the god of plots and deceit.

Slaanesh isn't just the goddess of excess - she is also the goddess of love. She is Aphrodite and Freya as much as she is Dionysus and Mammon. She is the Queen of Heaven, the patron of lovers, the liberator of the creative impulse. She is risk and reward - the goddess of free trade and free markets as much as the goddess of perversion, lust and exploitation.

The Orks are free from the burdens of conscience. For them. the great moral battle is won - they just don't care. Might is Right, and Might MAKES Right. The Orks are about eating, drinking, looting and spreading their spores across the universe. Every day is a party - and the party might end at any moment. They are the quintessential hedonists - eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.

The Eldar (and the Dark Eldar) are the Stoics - the Strong do as they will and the weak suffer what they must - neither should get too worked up about it, it is the way of the world. The Eldar (both factions) seek to save their race from the hunger of Slaanesh and hope to awaken Ynead (sp?) as their saviour - the second coming of the Eldar race, as it were.

The Tyranids are simply hungry - they are superpredators. They don't think any conventional sense and have no individual goals - though the Genestealers are an exception to point, they still do the hive mind's bidding.

The Necrons are tragic heroes - the dead awaiting resurrection in Hel or Purgatory. They have traded their souls for immortality and seek to be left in peace until they rise from the dead to reclaim their lost empire.

The Tau are the Communists - always yammering about the Greater Good - but really, they mean the greater good for the party... errr... I mean the ethereals. Other races and castes have a place in the Soviet Workers' Paradise....errr.... I mean the Tau Empire but policy will always be based on the interests of the Politboro.... errrr... I mean the Ethereal Caste.

Who are the "good guys"? All of them or none of them or it depends... and it is that moral ambiguity that makes the setting interesting in the first place.

Memnos
18-03-2017, 10:02
It's not a question of them being a villain morally. There are no heroes morally. As I state, from purely literary device standpoints, the antagonists are the Imperium.

Because there is no literary drama from making Chaos - Clearly, the weaker and least capable of succeeding - the antagonists. Because there is never really any doubt as to the outcome, Chaos cannot be the antagonist.

madprophet
18-03-2017, 19:51
I am not sure I agree with your definitions - Did Germany with it's 80,000,000 people have any real chance of defeating the UK, USSR, USA, China and their allies during WW2? Did Germany's industrial base, merely 1/4 the size of the USA alone, ever have any real hope of overcoming American and British economic might? I would say they did not. The German fate was sealed the day they accepted battle in North Africa and the outcome of the war determined on 12/8/41 when Germany declared war on the USA. Does that make the Nazis the protagonists?

Moreover, Chaos is not nearly so overmatched as as you suggest. The forces of Chaos did remarkably well in the 13th Black Crusade, Cadia has fallen and the path to Holy Terra is now open. Chaos also has 5th columnists throughout Imperial space not to mention strongholds outside the Eye of Terror. Chaos is also not fixed in size - it can gain new recruits from among it's putative "enemies" with great regularity. Chaos, in effect, "won" in the Old World and the same is possible in the 40k setting. Besides, look at most the the Imperial Armor books - the Imperium always seems to lose. The fluff just doesn't support the conclusion that Chaos fate is sealed.

Memnos
18-03-2017, 22:59
I am not sure I agree with your definitions - Did Germany with it's 80,000,000 people have any real chance of defeating the UK, USSR, USA, China and their allies during WW2? Did Germany's industrial base, merely 1/4 the size of the USA alone, ever have any real hope of overcoming American and British economic might? I would say they did not. The German fate was sealed the day they accepted battle in North Africa and the outcome of the war determined on 12/8/41 when Germany declared war on the USA. Does that make the Nazis the protagonists?

Moreover, Chaos is not nearly so overmatched as as you suggest. The forces of Chaos did remarkably well in the 13th Black Crusade, Cadia has fallen and the path to Holy Terra is now open. Chaos also has 5th columnists throughout Imperial space not to mention strongholds outside the Eye of Terror. Chaos is also not fixed in size - it can gain new recruits from among it's putative "enemies" with great regularity. Chaos, in effect, "won" in the Old World and the same is possible in the 40k setting. Besides, look at most the the Imperial Armor books - the Imperium always seems to lose. The fluff just doesn't support the conclusion that Chaos fate is sealed.

In real life, literary drama doesn't exist. The Nazis in a story are always a legitimate threat. If the story involved Hitler being held down by six beefy guys while Captain America punched him for an hour and a half, it would not be a dramatic story in any sense of the term.

Cadia fell. Kind of. After such powerful Chaosy things happening like:

The entire fleet of Abaddon being held off by one ship which eventually blew up the Blackstone Fortress.
The Blackstone Fortress, capable of obliterating worlds, fires after Abaddon's forced get beaten up repeatedly despite overwhelming force. The Pylons say, "Enh. Whatevs." and literally nothing happens with the greatest superweapon Abaddon has.
The Eye of Terror gets blasted by a Necron superweapon and is clearly hurt, banishing Demons like someone with the name of Teclis might do.
Cadia wins, so Abaddon uses the scuppered bits of his formerly impressive superweapon to smash a giant comet in to the planet, breaking it apart on a tectonic level.


Yes. That's right. Cadia beat Abaddon's forces. Abaddon just used pure spite to make Cadia fall in the end and could have saved an awful lot of Chaos lives had he simply thrown a comet at it in the first place. He's a bad commander and bad tactician and should feel bad.

madprophet
18-03-2017, 23:43
In real life, literary drama doesn't exist. The Nazis in a story are always a legitimate threat. If the story involved Hitler being held down by six beefy guys while Captain America punched him for an hour and a half, it would not be a dramatic story in any sense of the term.
Maybe - but I am talking about what really happened, taken as a literary device. Chaos is not so terribly over-matched as Hitler being held down by Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk and being beaten to a pulp by Captain America. Chaos is more like Max Schmelling fighting Joe Louis.


Cadia fell (after): The entire fleet of Abaddon being held off by one ship which eventually blew up the Blackstone Fortress. The Blackstone Fortress, capable of obliterating worlds, fires after Abaddon's forced get beaten up repeatedly despite overwhelming force. The Pylons say, "Enh. Whatevs." and literally nothing happens with the greatest superweapon Abaddon has. The Eye of Terror gets blasted by a Necron superweapon and is clearly hurt, banishing Demons like someone with the name of Teclis might do. Cadia wins, so Abaddon uses the scuppered bits of his formerly impressive superweapon to smash a giant comet in to the planet, breaking it apart on a tectonic level.
That sort of proves my point - Despite the Imperium having every reason to "win", Chaos still managed a victory - albeit a clumsy one.



Abaddon just used pure spite to make Cadia fall in the end and could have saved an awful lot of Chaos lives had he simply thrown a comet at it in the first place. He's a bad commander and bad tactician and should feel bad.
Hell, Neville Chamberlain and Albert François Lebrun could have stopped Hitler cold by simply mobilizing to stop the reoccupation of the Saar... they were bad commanders and tacticians, too. Even Churchill, who was an otherwise competent war leader planned the debacle at Gallipoli. Washington made a mess of the Battle of Long Island but managed a clumsy (but important) victory at Trenton just months later. That Abaddon was not always a brilliant commander - while true - doesn't mean all that much.