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  1. #1

    Is 40k too grimdark for its own sake?

    ED: for its own good. Sorry, English is not my mother tongue.

    I don't want to ramble about, so I'll get to the point: I think GW is trying to breath some hope and suck some of the grimdark out of 40k, but it's doing it in the wrong way and at the wrong places.

    Here's the idea:

    - The Grim Beginnings.

    40k wasn't grimdark back in the Rogue Trader days. It was low-res sci-fi which drank profusely from Starship Troopers (the rawdy and mundane, space marines, very different from the holier-than-thou versions we know today), the broken grandiose references, religious subtones, medieval flavour, grander-scheme eugenics and faux-latin from Dune (which, after having read as an adult, made me think I was reading the first 40k novel ever published), sprinkled with other tropes and stereotypes of the genre, the approach that made WHFB a success before 40k was even its own thing (remember, Space Lizardmen...).

    Grimdark creeped into it out of scale, shock value and also because it was the logical next step. Dune was grim in its depiction of a future ruled by higher classes, neverending family feuds, injustice and the ban of advanced computation due to a machine rebellion, but it told a personal story to which we could relate, one of freedom fighting and personal superation. Starship Troopers was gritty and dark, because it made you understand the main characters and it made you accept the fascistic world they lived in.

    In time, the scale of the tragedy in the 41st Millennium became enormous. Just the choice of setting the game 40.000 years from now (an amount of time that almost octuplicates the time since the first cities in Mesopotamia) speaks volumes about the intentional design ideas behind RT's background: removed from familiar structures and countries and concepts; no Federation, no United Nations, no USSR, no recognisable modern day structures or references, but also with room for cultural elements to develop. Thus, a simple groundwork was created: in this world, you can do more or less what you want, because it's at the same time familiar and foreign, relatable yet removed.

    - Tragedy gigantism.

    Now, 40k has always suffered from tragedy gigantism. Planets lost in the hundreds, people die by the billions each day, the government's machine is horrible and inhumane, our rulers don't care about us and our saviour (in what I consider true genius on the writers' side) is crucified in a golden throne, but instead of dying and coming back to life 3 days later, he sits a second away from death on a life-sustaining device for 10.000 years, robbing people of their messiah and keeping in its place a myriad of ministries, agencies, organisations, aristocracies and any form of oppression imaginable. Everything is exagerated and nothing is too sacred in the 40k we grew up with. Things were VERY serious, but also, too serious. On-the-nose serious. You were in on the joke. The Imperium was a fun place in which to destroy fantasy and sci-fi tropes, in which to show how far mankind could fall, in which a cynical, destructive approach to our own reality and thoughts brought forth very interesting results. Who can forget the Gretchin Revolutionary Commitee from Gorkamorka, the communist goblins led by a trench-coat wearing Red Gobbo?

    Lately, though, I see an approach that's serious-serious, intended to take everything at face value, without further criticism, without any real commentary or intention other than "Fascist hopeless future is cool." Sure, it's cool, but I've always liked 40k for its absurdist qualities, for its experimental value. I've spent more time developing fun IG regiments and interesting ideas for Marine Chapters than actually playing with them. You knew that the faith the Imperial Creed sold was empty, that the IG were all doomed, that the Marines were self-righteous pricks... but now, everything is supposed to be what it appears to be.

    - Grimdark as usual.

    The Grimdark has become the norm, and we (at least I) can't relate with it anymore. I read about the Dark Imperium and I'm not impressed. The Fall of Cadia didn't give me the same visceral reaction that the Sundering of Ulthuan did back when they killed WHFB, or the Destruction of Altdorf, or the death of Karl Franz... sure, it got silly, but you had never seen anything like that.

    In 40k, we've seen it. Planets killed, billions dead, entire chapters dying out in the cold void of the purple eye, we've seen it all, and from much closer up. So the Rift and the Fall of Cadia and all that, they're not much of anything really. I don't know how does it affect the normal ebb and flow of Imperial life, or how does this affect key areas in the galaxy. Why didn't we get a small text about the appearance of the Rift or the flicker of the Astronomican? Yes, yes, there are novels, but that's not the point, they're secondary sources anyway.

    - Hope at the wrong places.

    Now the Galaxy is no longer led by faceless goons more concerned with their own medals or wealth than with the welfare of their citizens, it's led by the less grimdark of the Primarchs! Guilliman, the guy who is more concerned about the military and the matters of state than the welfare of his citizens. He is the relatable face of 40k now (as relatable as a 10.000 years old Cato-like Roman prick with superpowers can be) and he is supposed to breath some new hope into the Empire by getting things done. Technology is advancing again, the Imperium is on the offensive! There's hope!

    Or is there? Because as far as I understood it, 40k's point of proximity was that its people lived ****** lives for the good of Mankind, because the machinery of war, the brutal oppression, the censorship and the mind police were a necessity when free thought and freedom are gates to hell, LITERALLY. Which is in itself a very interesting and fun approach; what if everyting that was criticised about Western civilization was true. The Dark Imperium tried both to give 40k some semblance of optimism by puttinga good guy in charge, but made it worse by having this guy, who, like us, doesn't believe in the Imperium or its means of control, resigned to keep the machinery of oppression going, by not dropping one inch the real danger of the Warp. Are we supposed to think this is a different setting now? The same? Or maybe just the same but less deep, less meaningful?

    The Grimdark has abandoned all pretense of being a foundation for twisted fun or intelligent commentary, and it's just part of what it used to be: cool dark stuff for shock value, without the wit and without the relatability. The same evil that befell AoS is now befalling 40k.

    Sorry about the wall of text and about the ten-dollar words. Just some thoughts I got between correcting exams.
    Last edited by Cèsar de Quart; 23-11-2017 at 19:32.

  2. #2
    Inquisitor Lord Damocles's Avatar
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    Re: Is 40k too grimdark for its own sake?

    Part of the problem is that the 40K universe (/Imperium) has become flanderised by some authors - whereas the point of the Imperial war machine being a massive meatgrinder; the Administratum being bureaucratic hell on a galactic scale; the Mechanicus being trapped in millennia-old dogmatic tradition etc., used to be that these were necessary states for the Imperium to maintain its existence, all too often they've simply been portrayed as 'herp-de-derp grimdark incompetence'.

    The Gathering Storm/Dark Imperium advances have suffered horribly from poor writing and being rushed out with little or no groundwork laid to set up plot threads (Cawl exists because the plot requires him to, not because there's any precedent or logic behind his existence, for example; Chaos has a plan to create the Cicatrix Maledictum because reasons despite there being no indication of this previously; the Sisters of Silence are suddenly back in huge numbers because they tie into the Horus Heresy line... etc.).
    It could probably have worked quite well if given more time (several years) and treatment like it receives in Watchers of the Throne.

  3. #3

    Re: Is 40k too grimdark for its own sake?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Damocles View Post
    Part of the problem is that the 40K universe (/Imperium) has become flanderised by some authors - whereas the point of the Imperial war machine being a massive meatgrinder; the Administratum being bureaucratic hell on a galactic scale; the Mechanicus being trapped in millennia-old dogmatic tradition etc., used to be that these were necessary states for the Imperium to maintain its existence, all too often they've simply been portrayed as 'herp-de-derp grimdark incompetence'.

    The Gathering Storm/Dark Imperium advances have suffered horribly from poor writing and being rushed out with little or no groundwork laid to set up plot threads (Cawl exists because the plot requires him to, not because there's any precedent or logic behind his existence, for example; Chaos has a plan to create the Cicatrix Maledictum because reasons despite there being no indication of this previously; the Sisters of Silence are suddenly back in huge numbers because they tie into the Horus Heresy line... etc.).
    It could probably have worked quite well if given more time (several years) and treatment like it receives in Watchers of the Throne.
    Yes, I agree. We need PoV's from the ground up.

    Back when, these points of view were us, presented with cultural artifacts, reports, accounts and tally counts, commentaries on prophecy, stories about archaeologists and explorers, transcriptions of meetings, illegally obtained... as well as run-of-the-mill battle stories. There was no need to show what the average man thouight because we saw it through the eyes of the authors of the stories, the letters, the reports...

    The emphasis on in-universe sources of information is gone, and we're left with fairly standard battle stories, and overly bland exposition in what I like to call the "textbook effect". Army book fluff has become a high-school history textbook. What fun!

    Morover, I agree with Bellarius, the writer at "The Good, the Bad and the Insulting" blog, wehen he said, back in the day, that 40k lore has been building up tens of plot lines that the current writers have decided to throw overboard and introduce the results of new plotlines never before seen and present them as things that have existed since forever. The Ynnari appeared, but most of the Eldar plot points vanished. The books themselves dropped a lot of their own plot points after a month (remember how Greyfax didn't trust Celestine, which was something I liked, or how Guilliman was being distrusted by the Inquisition and appeared to be veering towards schism?). At least the End Times did finish up unfinished business and resorted to already known devices, places and apparels.

    Also, if they wanted the setting advancing to feel impactful... just kill characters or make them evolve, pull out a Corbulo. I'd have loved to see a promoted Jarran Kell with a new mini full of regret, anger and resignation (I'd have bought three, one for himself and two for conversions probably. Dammit GW, you'd take my money if you only knew how to!), or a disgraced Eldrad Ultrhan becoming some sort of Harlequin drifter, or a special edition Creed Leman Russ with Creed's bronze statue on top, celebrating his heroism and death. I'd love to see a new Wolf Lord, or have the Warzone Fenris plotline have actual impact on the chapters involved. The Tau are fairly popular, so just build more on them!

    People would be excited to see what characters would be affected, and how, otherwise all the expectation is just about what names change color on a map or what things are different than before in a very poorly written text.

  4. #4
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    Re: Is 40k too grimdark for its own sake?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cèsar de Quart View Post
    Things were VERY serious, but also, too serious. On-the-nose serious. You were in on the joke.
    And I feel that is why it moved into grimdark as usual: people got sick of having each tragedy smack on your face every damn time the real a rulebook, it was also silly and people question who the hell the imperium survive this long, by allowing grimdark to just exist it also allow to more sympathic chararters(not good byt sympathic)



    40k some semblance of optimism by puttinga good guy in charge, but made it worse by having this guy, who, like us, doesn't believe in the Imperium or its means of control, resigned to keep the machinery of oppression going, by not dropping one inch the real danger of the Warp. Are we supposed to think this is a different setting now? The same? Or maybe just the same but less deep, less meaningful??
    Because it the same guy like other who make the imperium what it waws and how was those days, roboute quote show that welll "WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME? I GAVE EVERYTHING TO YOU!"

    whereas the point of the Imperial war machine being a massive meatgrinder; the Administratum being bureaucratic hell on a galactic scale; the Mechanicus being trapped in millennia-old dogmatic tradition etc., used to be that these were necessary states for the Imperium to maintain its existence, all too often they've simply been portrayed as 'herp-de-derp grimdark incompetence'.
    Because THEY are incompetent, part of it is somethhing warhammer got better that any other sci fi: rulling everything bigger than a planet is HARD, but part of it is by sheer paranoia, religious superstition and many other.

    If anything I have seen the other way around: to many players justified the imperium , saying it was made that way by external situation and while they are right to a fault, they lose the point that half of grimdarkl come from the imperium actual incompetence and fault, for one thing I like about Horuse heresy is that show great crusade wasnt sunshines ether.

    Morover, I agree with Bellarius, the writer at "The Good, the Bad and the Insulting" blog, wehen he said, back in the day, that 40k lore has been building up tens of plot lines that the current writers have decided to throw overboard and introduce the results of new plotlines never before seen and present them as things that have existed since forever. The Ynnari appeared, but most of the Eldar plot points vanished. The books themselves dropped a lot of their own plot points after a month (remember how Greyfax didn't trust Celestine, which was something I liked, or how Guilliman was being distrusted by the Inquisition and appeared to be veering towards schism?). At least the End Times did finish up unfinished business and resorted to already known devices, places and apparels.
    I will be blunt here: Sometimes it dosent matter because the plot lines are bad, I used to argue in spanish webside about how the elves gods plot of end times khaine was bad and out of nowhere unlike old plotline, I have to point to him that Valten dosent really make any damn sense and he was just there to be messiah figure: which is something warhammer isnt really about.

    Ynnari was good for me because it finally used the plot point of ynead who was nothing more that escape hatch for the eldar that never really amount to anything, and there is other thing like never expanding of abbadon black crusade, something that give us the dreadfull failbbadon meme for example, it was awfull, the end times spend more timie closing all the thread it can which it hurt the narrative....A LOT.

    Also, if they wanted the setting advancing to feel impactful... just kill characters or make them evolve, pull out a Corbulo. I'd have loved to see a promoted Jarran Kell with a new mini full of regret, anger and resignation (I'd have bought three, one for himself and two for conversions probably. Dammit GW, you'd take my money if you only knew how to!), or a disgraced Eldrad Ultrhan becoming some sort of Harlequin drifter, or a special edition Creed Leman Russ with Creed's bronze statue on top, celebrating his heroism and death. I'd love to see a new Wolf Lord, or have the Warzone Fenris plotline have actual impact on the chapters involved. The Tau are fairly popular, so just build more on them!
    Well, there is some progress, just look guillman, there is note about calgar not being happy with the return of the primarch, cato sicarius being train for not being egoistal madmen, strike is now chapter master of the raven guard(in part, I think, becase he is the only RG chararter GW create) but warhammer is also about faction so they cant bring everyone around.

  5. #5
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    Re: Is 40k too grimdark for its own sake?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Damocles View Post
    Part of the problem is that the 40K universe (/Imperium) has become flanderised by some authors - whereas the point of the Imperial war machine being a massive meatgrinder; the Administratum being bureaucratic hell on a galactic scale; the Mechanicus being trapped in millennia-old dogmatic tradition etc., used to be that these were necessary states for the Imperium to maintain its existence, all too often they've simply been portrayed as 'herp-de-derp grimdark incompetence'.

    The Gathering Storm/Dark Imperium advances have suffered horribly from poor writing and being rushed out with little or no groundwork laid to set up plot threads (Cawl exists because the plot requires him to, not because there's any precedent or logic behind his existence, for example; Chaos has a plan to create the Cicatrix Maledictum because reasons despite there being no indication of this previously; the Sisters of Silence are suddenly back in huge numbers because they tie into the Horus Heresy line... etc.).
    It could probably have worked quite well if given more time (several years) and treatment like it receives in Watchers of the Throne.
    I wouldn't say flanderised as such - in the novels in particular, it's been more the case that the authors have worked around the background to make something that people could actually live in - but more that each successive head of 40K's wanted to put their own particular stamp on it, whether that's Rick Priestly, Jervis Johnson, Andy Chambers or whoever, John Blanche's art's been the go-to for overall theme (I wonder where GW would have been had someone like Carl Critchlow been art director), and then the codex writers and developers have taken the bits they're working on at the time across into their view of it, further distorting the background - from memory, there's never really been anyone who's been a Product Architect or similar role for WFB or 40K, someone who can keep things from straying unnecessarily out of bounds, just a designer promoted out of where they were comfortable and who's more involved in the gaming rules and making sure each new version, the codexes and new models come out on time.

    And then we get the more recent changes - and sorry, but I'm still going with it coming solely from the Chapterhouse verdict as a way to protect the IP, with a little "hey, wouldn't it be cool if..." thrown in to stop all the developers leaving in disgust (Custodes and SoS, for example).
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  6. #6
    Chapter Master Rhaivaen's Avatar
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    Re: Is 40k too grimdark for its own sake?

    John Blanche/ his art are utter tripe
    Have a look at my Combined Krieg/ Ryzan Husarz-Grenadiers attempt: http://www.warseer.com/forums/showthread.php?t=177393
    Quote Originally Posted by Juggalo
    If my post comes across as angry/aggressive/offensive/whatever, it is not intended as such. At worst, it is merely incredulity, conveyed through the inflexible format of an internet forum.Don't flatter yourself thinking anything to the contrary

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