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    Default TL;DR: Humanity Wears Many Hats

    Humanity Wears Many Hats

    It’s only short. But, assuming you can look past the fact it was filmed on a budget that consisted of whatever change was in J. Michael Straczynski’s pockets that day, it’s one of the thousand moments that means seminal 90’s sci-fi series Babylon 5 is still a watershed of quality sci-fi television.

    For those of you who’ve never enjoyed B5’s overarching ‘Star Trek vs. The Imperium vs Cthulhu’ metaplot… Well, this scene has nothing to do with the awesomeness of The Great Shadow War. In this episode, the titular space station is holding an ecumenical festival. Every species is giving the others a demonstration of their varying religious beliefs. Over the episode we’ve been treated to Dionysiac cult drinking, wibbly crystal towers and togas mindfulness, and every kind of generically alien faith imaginable. The station’s commander has been wondering what the human offering should be, because unlike the various alien species, humans don’t have one faith. This little scene is what ends the episode: the alien ambassadors are taken to shake hands with representatives of every human faith on the station, from Christian to Muslim to Jew to animist to probably even a god*mned Pastafarian. He even dares to begin this meeting with – By The Maker! – an atheist!

    ’Hello there friend. Do you have time to hear the Good News about Ynnitach, Eldar God of Death…? Here, have a leaflet.’

    The ‘Planet of Hats’ trope is utterly ubiquitous one in sci-fi for good reason – by giving each alien culture a specific cultural ‘hat’ to wear, you make things clear for the viewers, and can more effectively use alien species as metaphors to look at humans and human cultures… which, at the end of the day, is all sci-fi is really about.

    Well, that and sweet mecha action.

    One of the things that’s fun about this trope is seeing what sci-fi writers decide to give humanity as its ‘hat’, because while it tells you a few things about their work, it tells you a lot more about them. If our hat is ‘self-determination’, then you’re going to have something tending towards positivity and optimism; if it’s ‘skill at war’ then you’re going to get something either jingoistic, hopeful or some unholy mix of the two.

    Over Babylon 5’s storied run, humanity got so many hats it was a wonder Mr. Benn didn’t wander through the station. Things that made humanity special included ‘youth’, ‘courage’, ‘being special’ and even ‘fascism’. However, one of the most consistent ones was ‘diversity’: one things humans did that aliens didn’t was have lots of different types of people. The above scene really drove that home for me: after an episode where every alien race has a only a single religion, that heterogeneous line of humans, each with their differing beliefs... By making humans so diverse, the alien species suddenly seemed limited – perhaps even small – by comparison.

    That trope, so prevalent in speculative fiction, where a hypothetical alien or human culture is monomaniacally defined by a single core idea, is what I’m going to be looking at today.

    Why Monocultures Don’t Make Sense To Me.

    So here’s just one example that always gets me.

    In the 40K RPGs – all of them, from ‘Dark Heresy’ to ‘Deathwatch’ - it’s stated that pretty much everyone in the Imperium speaks Low Gothic. Well, except the educated, who can usually translate High Gothic, and the AdMech, who can do techna lingua and binary cant.
    This has always struck me as one of the least realistic things about 40K. Everyone in the galaxy speaks a single language?


    I mean, at first, it makes a sort of sense. After all, it’s believed that 90% of the circa 7,000 languages currently spoken in the world will have become extinct by 2050. Why? Well, numerous reasons, but mostly we’re closer than ever before. The internet brings us closer. Travel brings us closer. Languages only truly flourish in geographic isolation. Only when you’re completely cut off from other speakers of the same language do the collections of words you and your mates use as little jokes between yourselves (properly called an ‘idiolect’ if we’re talking about the words you personally use that no-one else does, or a ‘sociolect’ for those ones that you and your friends do) become a completely new language.

    We see this in the evolution of the ‘Romance’ languages, so named for their descent from Rome, rather than because they’re better at getting you laid. French, Spanish, Italian and many others all began as Latin. When the peoples of those geographic regions were cut off from one another by the collapse of the Roman Empire, only then did their speech diverge into the modern versions of the language. Latin fragmented to the point where a French native might be able to kind-of, sort-of work out what a Spaniard might be saying… But mostly not. In the final analysis, despite a shared sexy accent, the two languages are not the same at all.

    Somewhat sadly, the only truly universal human language is a drawn sword. Well, that or a chocolate bar, at least according to ‘Stargate’.

    You can see this divergence in English. People from a council estate in Glasgow wouldn’t necessarily be able to speak with certain Alabama natives, and not just because they showed up with a knife to the gun fight, but because of the thickness of accent and dialect. Given enough geographical distance, idiolect becomes sociolect becomes dialect becomes a new language. And it only gets worse over time, too: compare modern speech to Old English, or Middle English. People have a hard enough time understanding Shakespeare; Old English is functionally closer to German or Scandinavian than anything spoken in the UK or US nowadays to be understood by a native Modern English speaker.

    So, while at the moment we see languages disappearing as the Earth grows smaller and more compact, the opposite would happen if that closeness were to disappear.

    Which is where the suspension of my disbelief finally gives out and fails its MOT.

    Because somehow, on a billion, billion worlds, each cut off from each other by light years of interstellar travel, somehow everyone speaks Low Gothic? Standard Low Gothic? Even on feral worlds where the people haven’t seen space travel and which aren’t even recruiting worlds for some jabroni Astartes chapter no-one’s ever heard of? Even on worlds which have been cut off from the Imperium since the Heresy, and which have undergone 10,000 years of language evolution?

    I mean, some worlds? Sure. Sure, some worlds – especially ones built around STC technology – would absolutely speak a kind of Standard Low Gothic – perhaps with a heavy accent or with many dialectal words thrown in. But all of them? In a galactic empire so big the only way to cross it is to do a Meatloaf and literally become a bat out of Hell? Nope. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

    Much like one grenade attack per unit

    The Comforting Inaccuracy of Monocultures.

    When it comes to people like Black Library’s writers, something like this is only very rarely going to be a problem. Even if it does come up as a plot point, then they’ll come up with a logical explanation if they feel the need. This isn’t an issue for or with the writers, who need to follow the Rule of Cool as well as rules of narrative expediency.

    However, the fans? That’s an entirely different kettle of rapid f**king piranha. No, the fans tend to be loudly and violently against any kind of non-conformity to fluff. If it says that everyone in the galaxy speaks a variant of Low Gothic, then by Throne, everyone in the galaxy speaks a variant of Low Gothic.

    And of course, I’m only using language as a single illustrative example of one aspect of many fictional cultures. There are many other points of divergence in human culture that could be applied to fictional species, cultures and civilisations. Consider the example of religion from Babylon 5. We all know the Eldar are a pantheistic culture. But what about the ones who don’t? Are there Eldar out there who only believe in one god? Are there some more of a more scientific bent, viewing the Avatar of Khaine as a purely psychic construct, made through empirically observable processes by their peers with nothing truly divine about it? Consider the alternate example of the Imperium: we all know that everyone there loves the Emperor. But do they all worship him the same way? Consider the wars and suffering over religious disagreements. The history of my country, England, is littered with savage wars between people who all prayed to Jesus, but disagreed murderously on how that should be done. We occasionally get this represented in 40K – consider the various Inquisitorial factions and their outlooks. For all that, though, we never see something like the Salamanders going to war with the Ultramarines over an argument over which direction they should face when praying to Terra. A certain type of fan, when presented with two factions that should be friendly (or unfriendly) will scream ‘NO! THAT WOULD NEVER HAPPEN! IT VIOLATES THE FLUFF!’ when presented with an alternative idea – even if that idea doesn’t radically contravene the fluff, but just does something a little different or unique or interesting.

    40K is a game about plastic soldiers, and one of the greatest joys of the hobby – to me, anyway, is converting and designing models that are completely unique. And not just visually, but thematically too. Models and figures that run with the fluff, but which present the ideas in totally different ways to the stuff that’s already out there. There’s a million stories about square-jawed heroes; a relentless dedication to monocultural fluff only leaves our hobby all the poorer. Shouting ‘they would never do that because their chapter/ genetics/ plot device wouldn’t allow them!’ diminishes the hobby, and leaves us with less.

    And it’s not like I’m in poor company with this attitude. John Blanche famously makes models that he just likes the look of. They gave him a Blanchitsu section in Warhammer Visions every month where he mixed Dark Eldar and Imperial Guard and Vampire Counts bits, painted them all in brown and shouted ‘IT’S AN INQUISITOR WARBAND! I’M JOHN BLANCHE AND YOU CAN’T STOP ME BECAUSE I MADE ALL THIS SH*T UP IN THE FIRST PLACE! NOW GET OFF MY LAND!’

    Does anyone complain when he does it? Of course not: he’s John F**king Blanch, and no matter who you are, he’s more 40K than you or I will ever be, so he gets to do whatever he likes with his toys.

    The thing is, so do you, and so does everyone else. 40K is a game that runs only in the Rule of Cool, and what that means is that the background is the start of your army, not manacles that bind it.

    For example, you can see my Wraithknight above. I don’t collect Eldar per se. My main Eldar force is a Dark Eldar one, because I’ve watched the ‘Hellraiser’ films something like a hundred times, can quote the scripts verbatim, and so of course I have Haemonculus Covens army.

    I didn’t really want a Wraithknight when it came out, because… Well. All those smooth lines. It didn’t fit with my leatherbound collection of steroid-gimps. Then GW released the Ghost Warriors, and I’d always liked Wraithguard, so I was all ‘f**k it, let’s make this work’. I just needed to make them work with my own DE. The question was how?

    Well, Cenobites like to torture the dead, so if I take the ‘Wraith’ thing more literally, it starts to fit quite nicely with them. With a Spiritseer as an HQ, my Eldar army became a literally necromantic one – the rule is: no Craftworld Eldar allowed. You know, unless they’re dead. From there, the story kind of wrote itself: the Spiritseer was insane – one of a handful of survivors from a wrecked Craftworld that was more of a space hulk than an Eldar vessel any more. In her isolation, with only the dead for company, she’d checked the plot at the door and allied with the Dark Eldar. Why? Well, they get the living for torment, she gets the dead for her personal webway. The few living Eldar left over quickly fell prey to her charisma, and follow her wholeheartedly as a full-blown Eldar death cult, all given over to the wholehearted worship of Ynnitach.

    With this in mind, I turned the Wraithknight into what I imagined she’d want it to be – a walking avatar of Ynnitach himself. Dark Eldar don’t get to have Wraithknights, but for me, this background made sense, the conversion made sense, and I think the whole thing just works. If I’d just followed the fluff in an ultra-orthodox way, I’d not have been able to do this; by taking the fluff in a slightly different direction which still honours it, I think I’ve managed to come up with something pretty good. And there’s many ways to do this.

    So, say you want a unit of Khorne Berzerker who specialise in sniping rather than axes. Well, why not?

    ‘It’s completely against the fluff!’

    Is it? Khorne cares not where the blood flows from, so long as it flows. Facial wounds piss blood, so just convert up some Berzerker models to have massive antimateriel rifles, count them as Havocs equipped with Lascannon, job’s a good ‘un.

    Maybe you want a squad of Eldar head hunters.

    ‘Don’t you mean Dark Eldar?’

    Nope. Eldar can be monsters too; imagine a unit of Eldar cut off behind enemy lines, left without resupply and struggling to survive against humans… Humans they grow to hate. Humans they end up hunting for sport as they descend into savagery. Take the severed heads from the Dark Eldar kits, but give them to a squad of Eldar scouts who’re equipped with nothing but knives. Count them as Striking Scorpions, and have them stalk the enemy for scalps.

    Why not build a unit of Ork Peace Negotiators?

    ‘Orks would never do that!’

    Son, I don’t think you know the Orks. Orks would do anything if it was funny.

    Take a unit of Nobs, give them suits, cheery smiles and the White Bosspoles of Not Krumpin’ Fings, have them run towards your opponent shouting ‘DON’T RUN! WE’ZE YA FRENDZ!’ Anyone complains, have the nobz beat ‘em to death with the bosspoles.

    Give ‘em a Lotso-huggin’ Deff Dred for extra laughs, the irony being, with all those attacks, it really DOES just want to hug you.

    Saying ‘you can’t do that the fluff says no’ is often understandable, because the fluff, as is, is pretty great. But I believe it supports a much broader interpretation than many people want to allow it. Ultimately, 40K is built on models, and converting up cool things is just too much fun to not do. A cool model should write the fluff as much as the fluff inspires the model.

    So, in closing, I just want to present some of the models I’ve done that take this approach, and hopefully give you some inspiration in breaking the fluff yourself. Not ignoring it, but taking it down a parallel path you might not otherwise have done.

    ’Colonel’ Millia Quaritch

    Millia Quaritch was a farmer. Life was safe, secure and dull. Then war broke out and her entire family was killed.

    So she did the only logical thing: she sold the farm that had been in her family's hands for ten generations and used the proceeds to buy a decomissioned Arbitrator Sentinel. Unable to afford ammunition, she would show up on battlefields unannounced and immediately charge to where the enemy was strongest, crashing the Sentinel into heavy infantry formations, and attempting to kick them to death.

    As the years progressed, she earned the notice of the Astra Militarum, who endeavoured to recruit her. They failed miserably, as the woman refused their call up, and actively flouted any orders she might be given. She didn’t want anyone telling her who and what she could murder. So, for a time, it looked like she was destined to die either on the receiving end of an enemy anti-tank round, or at the end of a commissar’s bolt pistol.

    Strangely enough, neither of these things happened; not after an infamous run-in with a deeply hated Commissar named Feroc, who attempted to shoot her for insubordination. She headbutted him, explained that as a civilian, he had no authority over her, and proceeded to beat him to death bareknuckled. All this right in front of his command squad. Feroc's death did more for the Guard's morale than the Commissar's life had ever accomplished, and after that, Quaritch was untouchable - all future attempts to in any way impede or order the woman met with a steely wall of Guards who would rather die than let 'Colonel' Quaritch (who holds no actual rank, but is simply referred to as such by every infantryman who knows her, to the point that the commissars have simply been forced to accept it) be held back in any way.

    Over the years, Quaritch has slowly worked on her faithful Sentinel, 'Mortem Irrumator', adapting it precisely for her personal needs. Still driven by a need to face the enemy immediately and as closely as possible, she's stripped off all the armour save a basic roll-cage, all while turbo-charging the engine using modified melta-cells as an accelerant. In combination with a set of entirely unique melee weapons adapted from old logging equipment, 'Colonel' Quaritch remains a devastating terror on the battlefield, following no orders save her own, racing headlong into as many of the enemy as she can, surviving each and every battle through little more than pure, unadulterated rage, her personal motto declaring 'Pedicabo ego donec mortuus es'.

    Counts as Penitent Engine

    Bifrosti 131st Imperial Guard Riptide

    Prior to the campaign to liberate Kepler-22, The 121st Bifrost Regiment of the Imperial Guard had been embedded on the world of Albitern, engaged in some of the most horrific street-to-street urban warfare of a Black Crusade. The Bifrosti (as they called themselves) had not come from a planet used to such horror – Bifrost itself is a largely peaceful agrarian world, dedicated to the production of foodstuffs for their sector of space. A devout people lead mainly by the fervour of their Eccesiarchal preachers, the men and women of the 121st fought harder and longer than anyone could – or maybe should – have expected, especially given their humble origins.

    After this, the Inquisition had dispatched them to deal with a particularly vile xenos insurgency on the ancient planet of Kepler-22, all on the assumption that as veterans of a long and brutal war, they would prove more than a match for anything there. Under normal circumstances, this would perhaps have been true… but a heresy had begun on Albitern. One which had slowly and ineluctably corrupted huge numbers within the legion.

    The Order of the White Feather, as it is called, is founded on one of the more subtle, yet most horrifying heresies to have ever been codified. Holding beliefs counter to all the most heartfelt culture of humanity in the 41st millennium, the Order of the White Feather has the audacity to dare to ask its members to place their faith in an idea so counterintuitive even the most radical Inquisitors only dare speak of it in whispers: pacifism.

    The fighting on Albitern had taken something from the modest people of Bifrost – their Emperor-given fighting spirit - and the machinations of the vile cult preaching of ‘universal compassion’ had only exacerbated the problem. Where once they had been united, the violence had left them broken, unable to face their own reflections. And it seemed as though they have suddenly, as one, simply decided not to fight. Thus it was that when the local T’au ambassadors (members of a rogue sect known as the E’Krati, cast out by the T’au proper for having ideas about the importance of peace, love and understanding) approached with banners of friendship, it is said their high commander fell to his knees and begged that his people be taken in.

    Which they were. Within a handful of years, both T’au and human were working together as true companions. Technology and culture was shared and there were even hideous rumours of intermarriage.

    Upon hearing these loathsome reports from embedded Imperial Agents, the Inquisition was sickened, and redoubled the urgency of the offensive on Kepler-22. By the time they arrived, delayed by a freak warp storm, the Bifrosti’s enginseers – now cut off from Martian edicts against the use of Xenotech – had had more than enough time to assimilate T’au technologies and synergise them with extant Imperial ones. Inquisitorial agents were horrified to discover that the Bifrosti 131st had absorbed so much Xenos culture, they could barely even be considered humans any more, going to war as they did in mechanised battlesuits built on the darkest of xenotechnological designs.

    Counts as a Riptide.

    Wise Briarios

    When the T’au came, their initial contact with the Banebdjedet was fraught with violent conflict. The abhumans – a proud people cruelly despised as ‘Beastmen’ in the Imperium of Man – did not take kindly to the alien invaders, and resisted them with all their might. Needless to say, their defeat was swift and absolute.

    The T’au attempted to negotiate with the tribal elders of each tribe as best they could; in some cases, they achieved the submission they hoped for. In others, they failed, and the tribe would be permanently pacified through programs of forced sterilisation, mental conditioning, and in some rare cases, extermination.

    However, the Banebdjedet were not the only tribe of abhumans on Kepler 22b. Deep in the forests of Northern Mendes lived one group that would prove to be of the utmost concern to the T’au – the Minossim. Their tribe held out longer than any other, fought harder, and died more proudly, for they were not simple Beastmen. They were an altogether rarer species of abhumans, mostly believed to be myth, even by the Imperium’s Ordo Xenos. Known only by the ancient moniker of ‘Minotaurs’ the Minossim were huge abhumans, larger and more dangerous even than Ogryns, and their greatest warrior was their massive albino chieftain Briareos.

    Briareos fought the T’au at every step; easily a head taller than any other Minossim, Briareos was a terror to behold, a furious, wild berzerker. If not for his prescence, the Minossim would have perhaps lasted a month or so longer than their Banebdjedet peers. Under his skilled mastery of guerrilla warfare, they held out for three. Their defeat, when it finally came, was absolute, and they were taken by the T’au.

    Deemed too dangerous to be welcomed into the Greater Good, the T’au council had the tribe exterminated. That should have been the end for Briareos, but for a last minute intervention; for some reason, one that to this day has never been explained, Briareos’ cell was opened, and the albino leader fled, expecting his warriors to join him in a day or so.

    They never came. That was centuries ago, and Briareos, so old and so terrifying even death is too fearful to take him, wandered the dark places of the world, waiting for a chance for revenge against those who killed all his friends, his family, his beloved wives, his beautiful daughters and sons. Eventually, despairing and abandoned, he wandered into a dark cave to die, and there, on the cusp of death, a figure appeared to him: a man, sat upon a shining golden throne, a crown upon his head, and with a voice like lightning. Terrified as he had never been before, the Minossim begged for mercy, but the strange figure assured him there was no need to fear; that he was Chosen. That one day, he would lead the Banebdjedet to freedom from these hateful blue-skinned oppressors.

    Briareos emerged from the cave a changed man, and has dedicated his life to spreading the word ever since.

    Now, amongst the Banebdjedet, he is a rumour, a myth, an urban legend, showing up here and there with a message of defiance, a prophecy of freedom from the cursed T’au oppressors. No-one ever seems to have seen the ancient Minossim, but everyone knows a friend of a friend who once gave him bread and lodgings, and in exchange was told tales of the old times, when the Banebdjedet and Minossim were free from their yoke, and worked the land.

    When the invasion happened, Briareos saw the first drop ship descending, and in their re-entry screams, recognised the same voice he had heard in the cave all those years ago. Walking to meet the invaders, he pledged them his good arm, if only they would allow him the chance to free his people from the T’au, and the horror they have brought.

    Inquisitor Beckett was so impressed by the sight of the beast kneeling, he immediately agreed, and Briareos has become the terror of the Kepler Covenant, laying waste to all he sees with the mighty Daemonhammer the Inquisitor has gifted him. Everywhere he goes, the Banebdjedet see their hero, their leader fighting to free them, and day by day, their fight against their hated persecutors grows, as more and more of them flock to fight with this great icon of resistance.

    For Wise Briareos, who only once, only briefly lost faith his people would be freed, it is now a matter of time.

    Counts as Nork Deddog.

    Grand Voivodol Szca Vikozsc

    While it may sometime seem that the universe has decreed that some are born monstrous, in truth, most are born as blank slates, then shaped into virtue or grotesquerie through the vagaries of upbringing and chance. Very few get to choose what they will be.

    Szca Vikozsc was raised in the small village of Mykaeb’shee on the verdant planet of Iyanden many, many millennia before The Fall. Initially an unremarkable girl, this all changed during the manifestation of her psychic powers. While most Eldar have some powers of precognition - receiving brief flashes of insight of what may come to pass – less than one in a billion suffer the fabled Curse of E’lys, where some flaw in their cerebellum causes this psychic potential to misfire spectacularly. This condition’s victims are cursed to have their entire perception spacetime’s flow come unstuck, finding their themselves entirely unable to view past, present, or future separately. Instead, reality appears to them like a worm farm in forced perspective, nascent futures spiralling off in every direction, each based around the possible choices the victim might make. Those potential futures in which they die become darker; impending moments of success glow brighter. A victim of the curse quite literally sees their life in front of them, from their brightest destiny to their darkest fate. Thus, they can cherry pick the outcomes of every single potential action, growing into precisely what they most want to be without effort.

    Somehow, the initial sensory overload, did not kill her – one of only a handful who could make such a claim. Slowly adjusting to an existence defined by an absence of anything which could be called sanity, Vikoszc was able to begin determining which future seemed most preferable. Ultimately, two ‘corridors’ presented themselves most powerfully. In the brightest, the young Eldar would come to her people with irrefutable proof that the warnings of her race’s impeding doom were true; she would be a messiah for her people, saving them from themselves and preserving Eldar civilisation for all time. In the second, she would instead walk a darker path, using her powers for naught but personal gain, eventually ruling Comorragh with a razored fist. Two vast potentialities ahead of her, and all she needed to do was reach out and claim one.

    Of course, there is a reason this is called a Curse. Electing to pursue neither, she instead focused on a dimmer, more obscure potential future where she dominated without ruling; where she ruled without governing; where she was, indisputably, the most powerful member of her race that would ever be.

    Armed with foreknowledge of the upcoming Fall, she hid in the Webway. Working her way from simple Webway Guardian to mighty Bonesinger, within a century, she was so trusted, so respected, so esteemed, that she was allowed to work alone.

    Alone… and unimpeded.

    Crafting portals and pocket dimension, she constructed her own arterial labyrinth of interdimensional apertures, perforating Realspace like stitches through a wound. By the time of the Fall, her secret kingdom lay ready, gravid with dread purpose.

    The millennia that followed intensified her power, as her dark charisma allowed her to accrete a private empire of acolytes. By the time of the Horus Heresy, Vikoszc would be the founder of a clandestine faith carved in her own haemorrhagic image, silently amassing followers in their millions. By the 41st millennium, her followers are by far the most numerous of any of the Kabals, as well as the least active. This is a deliberate choice, for Vikoszc is uninterested in anything so worthless as wars, or any conflict as petty as the rule of Comorragh.

    Some describe her as a spider at the centre of a web. But they make a fatal mistake by diminishing the scale of her ambition. In truth, she is more akin to a black hole at the centre of a spiral galaxy, destined to pull in and consume everything that falls within her reach. Realspace alone could never be enough for her, nor simple Daemon Princehood. No, Vikoszc sees godhood within her reach, and desires it with a fervour that could eclipse suns, marshalling her forces for a grand assault on the realm Empyrean itself.

    Her plan for apotheosis is simple. By allowing the Fall to occur, she lead to to her species’ status as psychic vampires; a necessary change, as it allowed her to take spiritual energies into herself and glut upon them. Why? Because it is the most efficient method of accessing and processing psychic energy, and for her plan, she will need that energy on cosmic scale. Thus, she needs the suffering of others. Every weeping orphan created in her realm feeds her abilities. Every mutilated woman, every brutalised man, every act of atrocity, however small, nourishes the equation of her grand strategem. She has fostered and fomented wars on a thousand worlds, encouraged the brutalisation and subjugation of untold trillions, all to give her the power she will need for her ultimate, mad design.

    For, when her power is at its apex, she will march her numberless legion into the Empyrean itself, and have her minions lay siege to the Palace of Excess. When its walls fall, she will fall upon She Who Thirsts, and in consuming her utterly, instate herself as the newest Ruinous Power.

    Her plan is as inexorable as it is horrifying, and it will not be stopped.

    Counts as Talos, and, if my opponent lets me, an HQ choice for my Haemonculus Coven.

    In anticipation of the inevitable…

    ‘But wait! York! You said you wanted to ban Slaanesh last month! Literally last month you said that, you wretched, book-burning, no-sex-having-ever-not-even-a-little-bit, fascist puritan! And now you want to have her in your background?! You’re a hypocrite!’


    I made an argument in favour of marketing adult-oriented products to adults. GW seems to be toning down Slaanesh, so I feel she should go Forge World, because cutting her out of the fluff completely wouldn’t be fair, and would diminish the fluff. However, that nuance was lost because many people saw the big picture with the word ‘CENSORED’ and didn’t read any more than that – and that was a picture I did not choose and never would have used for this exact reason. My entire life, I have been anti-censorship and pro-certification, because an informed population is one which can make better, more effective decisions.

    But, you know, whatever.

    High Commander Lisbeth Deletar

    High Commander Lisbeth Deletar has no ears. If asked why, her response usually takes the form of asking her team of personal bodyguards to breaking the questioner’s bones in alphabetical order.

    The reason for this bizarre amputation is something she’s always wondered about. Her father told her he did it when she was a baby to keep her the spirits from carrying her away, but she knows that for the lie it is. Her father was a cool, pragmatic man, not given to the ridiculous superstitions of her birthplace. Growing up voidborn, a culture prone to superstitions both logical and ridiculous, her life was made all the more difficult due to her parents being illegal stowaways on the ship Crucible of Terror. She never found out what they were running from or why, and when asked, she occasionally laughs and makes a comment that it simply demonstrates just how good her parents were at escaping – whatever was they were fleeing never found them. She knew a little from things her mother told her. Her parents had met during a war on some far-off planet. Her mother had been some kind of military officer in charge of observation; what exactly, was never made clear, other than that she was skilled at ‘seeing long distances’. Her father had been some kind of super-sniper… but other than snippets, Deletar grew up with only rumours about her parents’ lives before the void, and no facts she could rely on, other than that her mother was missing her ears as well.

    Ultimately, her parents’ escape from whatever enemies were behind them would prove to be of little comfort. Despite all their skills at stealth, the ship was well named. The ship itself, filled with every kind of scum, gave them newer enemies, and so Lisbeth was forced to grow up fast. The vast Capitol ship's work gangers were amongst the most corrupt and depraved in all the Imperium, even before the campaign on Albitern sent them mad with post-traumatic stress. Her father, a master craftsman with his fists and more skilled with a gun than any man alive, was forced by circumstance to work as an enforcer for a small- time crime boss. He would "deal" with those who tried to impede the sales of xydrate – a vicious narcotic made from processed plasma core run-off, and as illegal as anything on board ship could possibly be. At the age of ten, she joined her father in the family trade, and he taught her everything he could.

    Her mother was quiet, sad and distant; she plied a trade as a fortune teller below decks, growing a dark reputation as a woman who knew the date of every man’s death and every woman’s ruin. If it wasn’t for her accuracy, the people would probably have handed her over as a witch, but when you’ve got nothing, a little foreknowledge is too precious to give away. Lisbeth was never close to her mother; the only time she ever saw her smile was in the arms of Lisbeth's father. As the narcotic trade grew exponentially amongst the shell-shocked veterans being transported aboard the ship, those days grew less and less frequent.

    One day, Lisbeth's father never came back. Her mother said she already knew that he was dead and Lisbeth believed her.

    For a time, the two of them were safe, but eventually, the rape gangs that prowled the poorest slums came for them. Lisbeth got away, but her mother was taken, and Lisbeth never saw her again.

    Alone, Lisbeth survived by plying her knowledge to the ship's Arbitrators. At the same time, she conducted a secret campaign of retribution, murdering criminals where she could as payment for her dead parents. As soon as she was old enough, she signed up to join the Arbites. Her preternatural skills with rifle and blade were well known, and her contacts helped her quickly rise in the ranks. From there, it was a simple sideways move to the better paid military police, and from there, up the ranks of the Imperial Guard. An extended position as a Commander's bodyguard helped provide the contacts necessary to climb the ladder all the way to the top, and in her fifties and much to her surprise, Lisbeth found herself in charge of the Bifrosti 121st.

    A cold, calculating woman, High Commander Deletar leads from the front. Her skills as a warrior are excelled only by her skills as a leader, and she is well-acquainted with asymmetrical warfare. In fact, her particular style of generalship comes to her almost as naturally as it used to come to her mother.

    Counts as an Imperial Guard commander. If my opponent lets me, she gets to use her father’s Exitus rifle; if not, it’s just a lasgun with a sweet drum magazine.
    Last edited by YorkNecromancer; 07-03-2016 at 04:43 AM.

  2. #2


    I think the one flaw with this is that it's stated in almost all fiction I've read that Low Gothic is merely the enforced Lingua Franca of the Imperium. Cultures still have their native tongue, from Nostraman to Cthonic, Tanith to Vostroya. They just use Low Gothic to communicate with outsiders.

    I agree with the view of having the army be your army. I've got a mighty butt-load of Gue'vesa who often attract ire because, "OMG Guardsmen wouldn't do that!" (Even though the fluff says they would, and my fluff says they most definitely did.) This includes a Baneblade that got Tau-ified. I posted the WIP to a Facebook Group for 40K, and the rage was hysterical. (It only had twin-linked Burst Cannons instead of Heavy Bolters, a Co-Axial Ion Cannon, Drone-Piloted Sponsons and a few other tweaks! Oh, and the Aquilas are shaved off of everything.)

    I mean, they have even seen the abandoned Riptide prototype the Tau gifted my faction to get some use out of it rather than scrapping it. Counts-as Knight with a Double-Barreled Ion Cannon and Superheavy Fusion Blade. The XV-101 "Ironside."
    Read the above in a Tachikoma voice.

  3. #3


    Quote Originally Posted by CoffeeGrunt View Post
    I think the one flaw with this is that it's stated in almost all fiction I've read that Low Gothic is merely the enforced Lingua Franca of the Imperium. Cultures still have their native tongue, from Nostraman to Cthonic, Tanith to Vostroya. They just use Low Gothic to communicate with outsiders.
    See, that sounds more credible, but it still doesn't work, because the Imperium is a highly fractured empire. Despite what the High Lords of Terra might claim, their ability to exert that level of control over the Imperium is hampered by the sheer immensity of the space they have to govern. It'd be like the UN or NATO trying to enforce US English as the lingua franca of the Earth; sure, it's a useful language for commerce, but not everyone's going to care about that. Some people - like China (or perhaps a place like Cadia in 40K) - will actively oppose it, because why should they give up their culture for the UN? When they have levels of power that enable them to do so, there's not going to be a lot the UN/Imperium can do. Even if they crash down hard with violence and punitive measures, they wouldn't have the resources to do so everywhere, and especially not when it's such a minor reason to plunge the galaxy into war. Maybe one or two planets burn for it, and maybe one or two fall in line because of that, but overall, the Imperium is just too f**king colossal for it to make significant overall difference.

    So, yeah, as handwaves go, it's a really nice one, but it doesn't work for me for the reasons I've outlined above. I could definitely believe that many would want training in Low Gothic, in order to be an interplanetary diplomat. I imagine the ability to speak Low Gothic would be a massively desirable skill on many worlds, and probably bring both status and esteem.

    Still, when you consider the Earth of 2016 is significantly less advanced than many Imperial Worlds, significantly more advanced than others, and we don't have a single 'world language', then for me, the whole handwave falls apart. After all, if something wouldn't work in the real world, why accept it in a fictional one where the trope is significantly less likely, not more? If we ourselves can't achieve something, why should the Imperium? (Aside, of course, from narrative utility, which is the real reason.)

    Quote Originally Posted by CoffeeGrunt View Post
    I've got a mighty butt-load of Gue'vesa who often attract ire because, "OMG Guardsmen wouldn't do that!" (Even though the fluff says they would, and my fluff says they most definitely did.) This includes a Baneblade that got Tau-ified. I posted the WIP to a Facebook Group for 40K, and the rage was hysterical. (It only had twin-linked Burst Cannons instead of Heavy Bolters, a Co-Axial Ion Cannon, Drone-Piloted Sponsons and a few other tweaks! Oh, and the Aquilas are shaved off of everything.)
    Pics? Because that sounds awesome.
    Last edited by YorkNecromancer; 07-03-2016 at 06:19 AM.

  4. #4


    You also have to consider the fact that 99% of the citizenry will never meet outsiders and will be born and die in drudgery. Could refer to the fact that only the most prestigious and wealthy sections who do get to mingle with extra-planetary types learn the Lingua Franca, much like how English is the Lingua Franca of business and so many people learn it as a second language. There's also the argument for auto-translator augmetics.

    Apparently English is spoken by 1/10th of the Earth's population as at least a second language, and is the first language of about 1/20th, so it's not infeasible that in an advanced future, a single Lingua Franca could be in place and taught fairly efficiently alongside native languages. In fact, the more people that learn it, the more impetus there is to learn it.

    As far as the religion, as I understood it there are countless Saints to the Imperium who are sanctioned for worship, as well as many other objects of worship. I can't remember where I read it, but usually missionaries to a newly-uncovered human culture start to nudge the worship towards the Emperor, having the original be an aspect of him. (Somewhat like the Christian conversions of Pagan religions.) So they make a certain holiday into Emperor Day, ensure there is no taint of Chaos, and so long as people worship the Emperor, it's all fine. Might be the Siege of Vraks, as that's part of how that world was corrupted IIRC. The roaming Missionary began to be worshipped in place of the Emperor, and a trusted confidante nudged him towards Chaos without him knowing.

    To be fair, you can get a lot of compliance with jackboots and oppression, but the Imperium is also constantly at siege from within, so perhaps the forced learning of Low Gothic is part of the cultural erasure that might prompt an uprising?

    Also here's a couple of pics of the Baneblade:

    And a few other, random bits:

    The main thing that draws me to 40K is the versatility and malleability of your forces. I've got Halo Fleet Battles, Dropzone, Tanks, and have tried a few other games, but nothing really has the sheer customisation potential that 40K has. You can really make it your own.

    I've got the album for the regiment here if you wanna browse, some models are more converted than others, I went for the idea of the Tau facilitating the retrofitting of Guard gear to improve their performance. Also have some heavily-converted Savlar Chem Dogs I put together for a Kill Team.
    Read the above in a Tachikoma voice.

  5. #5


    Quote Originally Posted by CoffeeGrunt View Post
    To be fair, you can get a lot of compliance with jackboots and oppression, but the Imperium is also constantly at siege from within, so perhaps the forced learning of Low Gothic is part of the cultural erasure that might prompt an uprising?
    That would actually be a really great starting point for a campaign; far more unique than the usual 'Chaos Cult reveals itself, plunges planet into war' that's become 40K's stock in trade.

    And that Gue'vesa army looks awesome. Love the coaxial Ion Cannon.

  6. #6


    Is Low Gothic not a catch all term for 'close enough' languages around the Imperium, with High Gothic being more formalised?

    Also, if I'm right in thinking, we've not really hears from the average Imperial Citizen, barring books set on a single planet? So it strikes me that there are other languages, we just never hear about them?

    Certainly I can easily imagine the Officer class (whom we hear most from) of the Astra Militarum being taught Low/High Gothic?
    Fed up for Scalpers?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Cannibal Sector 1


    Some nice proxies in there, bravo.
    "Has the whole world gone crazy? Am I the only one around here who gives a **** about the rules? Mark it zero!"

  8. #8


    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Mystery View Post
    Is Low Gothic not a catch all term for 'close enough' languages around the Imperium, with High Gothic being more formalised?
    Low Gothic is, essentially, 'English', and High Gothic is 'Latin'. So Low Gothic is exactly as much of a 'close enough' language as English is: fine if you're dealing with somewhere that has frequent commerce with other areas that use English as a primary language (not many), or as a secondary language of business (many) but bugger all use if you're dealing with somewhere that doesn't (far, far more than do). Remember, the Imperium is far, far vaster than the Earth, and we've not got a 'close enough' language yet. There's a reason intelligence agencies pay top dollar for people with globally useful languages like Arabic or Mandarin... And Mandarin is one of nearly 60 Chinese languages that bear only superficial connections to one another.

    Language is much, much more chimerical in nature than people think it is, because people play with it all the time, in literally every conversation they have.

    As for the officer class, I imagine it'd be like the intelligence community offering training in Arabic. Which is great, but it's not going to do you any good somewhere they speak Xhosa, or Tagalog.

  9. #9


    They use it in the Imperial guard (which every planet has to contribute to), in the administration (which everyone has to deal with) and in the ekklesiarchy (who everybody should listen to).

    The only way to escape low gothic is to not live in the imperial society, which basically makes you a criminal anyways.
    Most planets keep their native languages (we have a ton of them in fluff some are even used as a "secret language") but they are all expected to have learned and know low gothic for any kind of dealings with the imperium.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Perth, Australia


    In the RPGs the players all speak Low Gothic because they're working for the Imperium in a formal fashion (or for a Rogue Trader, who will also favour it) but you also get the local language of your planet in many cases. Or your ship for the Voidborn. I feel that suggests it's a highly valuable second language for a lot of people to learn. There are likely still manage regional issues with Low Gothic dialects but the Administratum and the Imperial Guard likely help smooth it out across larger distances. (I've seen suggestions that the internet is doing that here on Earth, and that we may end up with most people speaking one of three languages in at least broken fashion within a few decades.)

    For people that need to be absolutely sure their message is understood across planets, that's where High Gothic comes in. Since it's not a mother tongue anywhere (except maybe on some Eclesiarchy planets) it'll be much more resistant to change. And the people who learn it are also more likely to be the ones interacting on the planetary scale.
    Kabal of Venomed Dreams


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