Thursday, June 25, 2009

Warhammer 40k the Orwellian Angle

This will be a series of periodic looks at the 40k universe from an Orwellian perspective. Who doesn't love a good conspiracy!

The background of the 40k universe has constantly changed and evolved for just over 20 years. Every bit of background/fluff was completely official at the time it was published. So what makes the current version more important than the original version?

The problem with the background/fluff is that it is very subjective about what is considered cannon and what isn’t. There is a lot of conjecture over the Black Library fluff, is cannon or not?

What we do know is that the whole history of 40k has been written, re-imaged and rewritten again. It can be very frustrating and hard to keep track of.

Sometimes there is a complete change in the fluff, like entire races that had existed just disappear from the universe.

There are many views held by us, the 40k enthusiasts. I relate them to the Inquisitorial factions, there are many shades in between the two and many viewpoints exist within even these categories.

Puritan: These people see the most recent fluff is correct. They view it as the only truth, all the other background is superseded by this. They acknowledge that GW has complete control and direction of the fluff.

Radical (this is the Orwellian view.): These people see the fluff like real life history filled with opinion, bias and propaganda built upon throughout the years. Rather than seeing the most recent fluff as cannon above and beyond previous sources, you develop theories as to why the story was changed. They see that the majority of the fluff comes from the Imperial viewpoint and thus would be subject to distortion.

I prefer a Radical view of the background for 40K it gives great depth to the universe and makes it feel more real and gritty. I think the old adage “the victor writes the history” fits in nicely here.

The first Radical view I’d like to bring up is the shadow cast around the founding of the Ultramarines. This is part one; I’ll finish this up next week.

In WD 97 the Ultramarines were introduced to 40k as a third founding chapter. Their Primarch Guilliman was a great Imperial Guard commander, he was chosen as the leader of the chapter.

Here is the text bout their founding from WD 97:
Chapter Ultra-marine of the Legiones Astartes was founding during the inter-legionary wars of the thirty-second millennium. Tradition places the date at 4001001.M32 - the very first day of the millennium. The chapter is therefore over eight thousand years old, making it a chapter of the third founding. Upon its inception, the Emperor gave the chapter the number 13 - formerly the number of one of the traitor legions now banished to the Eye of Terror 'without number and name with all honors erased'
As we know this was later changed and they are now listed as a first founding chapter.

What if it was true that the Ultramarines were a third founding chapter and Guilliman was a really great Imperial Guard Commander? Would it be so hard to understand why many of the original legions initially refused to follow High Lords of Terra recommendations? We now have the Horus Heresy Books that confirm this tension. Would it not make sense for the High Lords to create a Puppet that would promote and enforce their mandates? It makes a lot more sense when you look at the reactions of the real loyalist Legions.

Many of the Primarchs were very opposed to the splitting of their legions? Let’s take a look at the Crimson Fists who were originally a first founding legion and their brothers in the Imperial Fists. In the current fluff one begat the other, what if great treachery on the part of the High Lord forced them to hide the truth.

The Imperial Fists are attempting to destroy the Fortress of Pain. The situation is a complete stalemate with both sides suffering from huge casualties. The Crimson Fists some distance away the fighting on the Eastern Fringe. The two most vocal opponents are separated the High Lords seize their chance. The remnants of the Imperial Army fall upon the little of the Crimson Fists that remain, killing nearly all. Using the prototypes of the Assassin Temples, they succeed in laying low the Primarch, mortally poisoning him. Seeing their Primarch alive but with his life in the hands of the enemy forces the rest of the Crimson Fists to surrender. They take the Primarch's weapons as their own and they eventually find their way to Guilliman. Doesn't it make more sense for a Primarch from the Crimson Fists to wield such weapons?

The Imperial Fists have taken huge casualties at the Fortress of Pain. Now you have the two most vocal opponents incapacitated. The High Lords present an ultimatum to the remaining Astartes of those Legions. Weak and beaten, they have no choice but to accept to the demands. The Crimson Fists will be allowed to live as long as they obey the High Lords, remain silent about their founding and give up their home world. If they disobey, their Primarch will be killed. If Dorn disobeys, his brother will be destroyed.

What if this is the reason the Crimson Fists are no longer a first founding legion?

Here is some background on Orwell for those who do not know his work.
Orwellian: George Orwell
In regards to George Orwell's 1984 book where the current ruling party rewrites history to fit their needs:1984

I'd like to thank Refuse and Sigismund Himself at the Bolter and Chainsword for the inspiration for these posts.


  1. I agree with the Radical view. I was bouncing around 4chan's "traditional games" subforum, called "/tg/" and came across something you might be interested in - a proposition for the Tau - to make them in particular more 1984-ish. I think the more Catholic the Imperium is, the better, however I wouldn't change it that much. I think the Necrons need a rewrite as well.

  2. Oh...



    This makes complete sense now...With the Crimson Fist being similar in nature to the Imperial Fist but almost like cousins not brothers...

    and the Imperial Guard Commander...leading Space Marines...a bit of the stretch...but the way you word it makes sense to me...

    ...Wow...go you High Lords for hidding the REAL TRUTH...haha

  3. It's an interesting concept and I think that is one of the great things about 40k fluff. We know that the Imperium changes history to suit itself and that means that GW can get away with massive fluff upheavals and gives us all the chance to create conspiracy stories to connect them all up. I'm very much a fluff lover when it comes to this hobby and it's the story telling that gives me the most pleasure and thankfully GW have given us a lot to work with!
    Great post!



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