Monday, July 27, 2009

On the Nature of Souls and the Empyrean

Behold- random hypothesizing on the nature of the metaphysical in the 40k universe, complete with a few ideas stolen from very intelligent nerds and a side of ketchup.

First and foremost, I feel I must define the basis of my little tirade.

What is the warp? The warp is the world behind the world. It is a dimension beyond the three we are familiar with, one that has connections to ours but is forever separated from it. It quite frankly is incomprehensible in is true form, as least as mortal minds are concerned. We must ascribe mortal properties to something that is immortal, or give it mundane relationships in order to abstractly grasp its magical potential. The bridge between the material realm and the immaterial one lies only in the soul.

What is the soul? The soul is a connection between life and the the empyrean. While it is not necessary for life, or sentience for that matter, to possess a soul, it is only through the soul that life can influence and even manipulate the energies of the warp. Souls, when present, are "colored" by emotions, and the most important effect this engenders is a "coloring" of the warp itself. That is to say, where a concentration of souls with powerful emotions is present, the warp reflects these emotions. Most souls can only influence the warp. It takes an incredible willpower and intellect to even attempt manipulation of warp energies, and for the overwhelming majority of sentient life in the galaxy, this is obviously beyond expectations.

So, where to begin?

It is often said that the warp is timeless (note I did it in this blog's very first post) and it is completely ignorant of our laws and theories of physics. I do not believe this is entirely true, or that it fully explains the situation.

By using the warp as a method for faster-than-light travel, it must have some sense of temporal and spatial relationships. For example, if this were not the case, considering the chaotic probabilities of the warp's nature, summoning a demon or conjuring the effects of a spell to your location would be functionally impossible. The energy is as likely to appear on the other side of the galaxy (not to mention 32,845 years after you die) as it is in the functional here and now.

Speaking of the sides of the galaxy, when considering the notion that warp energy shows no signs of influence from outside this galaxy, and the notion that there are almost without a doubt countless other peoples inhabiting the universe, the likelihood is that we see only a part of the warp. This idea requires the acceptance of the theory that there are "parts" of the empyrean, and that they therefore have some spatial relationship to each other.

In terms of time, I believe the warp must adhere to its advance at least partially. Souls and their emotions are present in the here and now. They are tied to mortal bodies and consciousnesses that are subject to the progression of time, and in a bastardization of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, time must have an effect on the warp if the connection exists via the soul. Just as the warp can enter the material realm and influence localized time, so too can time influence areas within the warp.

I then ask myself how does this relate to what happens in warhammer 40k? Well, let's look at faster-than-light travel. A ship fits itself with crew and cargo, and (in the case of any concerned civilization) heads far enough away from any local population so that the energies unleashed in transference between dimensions does not have unwanted side effects. The ship enters the warp and begins traveling towards a destination. This is an incredibly important point, because it requires both a direction and points of reference, which can only exist with some adherence to both time and space. Moreover, in the case of Imperial ships, the Astronomicon is used as a sort of lighthouse or beacon for reference, and entire charts are made of calmer warp routes and safer jump points. I believe that, because souls are the connection between this world and the next, time influences the warp and does so most significantly around where souls are most heavily congregated. Likewise, whether are very few if any souls present, like say, across the vast expanses of empty space in the galaxy, time has little connection and unimpeded journies can be made extremely quickly.

Now, having put this forth, I must address those isolated incidents in which there are reversals of the flow of time. There are not many documented, and certainly travel in the warp must heavily favor a forward flow of time, or it could not be used with regularity as a vehicle for said travel. So why do they happen so sparingly, and why at all? I would say that, like an ocean, there are eddies and stagnant pools created that do not follow the flow of everything else around them. I hypothesize that there are cradles or pockets of warp energy that remain undisturbed by the flow of other energy around them. So a ship that is deposited in one of these pockets could very well emerge from the warp years before it left, or years beyond its intended arrival. Because of the chaotic nature of the warp however, these pockets are not likely to remain untouched forever, and can be destroyed, subsumed, or melded into flows of the empyrean. Obviously, the implications of this are widely unpredictable, save for their unpredictability.

I believe that there is further evidence for my theories. In the terrible book, Battle for the Abyss, a navigator describes looking at the planet of Macragge as something akin to a beacon of light, made so by all the souls. I'm sure Macragge at one point was devoid of sentient life, so if the warp was without a sense space or time, how could the navigator see the effects of the souls together and at that point in time? The Eldar, of all kinds, utilize the famous Webway for travel throughout the galaxy. Those undamaged parts are far more reliable than the warp itself, and though its geometries are certainly alien, it still is a series of tunnels at its most basic. A tunnel must pass through space and time. I could go on, but this is already a pretty long post.

It would be logical to ask what the very purpose of souls is, and by extension why we and others were created with a connection to the warp. The Old Ones are credited with creating most of the races in the galaxy, and as far as I know, all races made by them have souls on some level or another. True, a large number of those races were created with souls so that they could utilize the warp agains the Yngir and the Necrontyr, but that is besides the point. For those races made first, such as the Eldar, why souls at all? I believe the answer lies in the need for expression and connection in almost all of sentient life. The Old Ones, by granting or indeed making souls, gave the "lesser" races a way in which to commune and relate with their creators. I think the Old Ones probably felt very basic social needs, which would have been the motivation behind the imbuing of souls and the crafting of the races at all. Now, one would be justified in believing that the Old Ones did not give souls or make them. I have no evidence or mind to refute that idea, but it doesn't change much. If souls and the connection to the warp are simply products of natural processes alone, than the Old Ones surely knew this and, armed with said knowledge, made the races anyway. Whether desiring kinsmen, worshipers, toys, or whatever, the Old Ones made creatures that could connect to them on both the physical and metaphysical level. This, I believe, is the reason behind it all.

I apologize for the lack of thorough organization and substantial evidence, but for those few who read this I hope you give some feedback and take what you will.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Codex: Smurfs and Pals

My first foray into publicly posting rules will be my revision of Codex: Space Marines. With everyone's favorite genetically enhanced super-soldiers being the poster boys for the company, and with their organization and capabilities being thoroughly explored, I find them to be the easiest starting point. I am rewriting it to fit 5th Edition rules (I know some of 5th is suspect, but I want these to be playable without having to get used to a whole new ruleset quite yet).

A mild disclaimer: I am not a Marine player, and I have played with Space Marine armies since I started with the 3rd Edition of Warhammer 40,000. I do not believe myself to have any bias towards or against the men in ceramite, but I am trying to make them more of an elite force than they currently are. Individual units will be really good, but more expensive than they are now. Also, certain units will be subsumed into others based on published Space Marine organization, hopefully without losing any of the valuable options they have now. On to the start.

The Emperor engineered the Astartes to be the best warriors in the galaxy. They do not feel fear, their bodies are stronger and more resilient than any normal man, and their reputation is only exceeded by their skills in war.

All units with the Angels of Death rule are subject to the following:
  • The unit automatically passes tests to regroup, even if below 50% unit strength.
  • The unit rolls 2D6 when running, and the controlling player may select which single dice roll to apply.
  • The unit may shoot Heavy weapons in the movement phase even if it moved in the Movement phase. However, if it does so, it may not assault in the Assault phase.
Explanation: Before you all scream bloody broken, hear me out. ;) I am making the Marines into a more mobile, superhuman force. Even in stalwart defense, they still utilize mobility to concentrate their efforts and cancel out their expected numerical inferiority.

Unless it is tactically viable for them, I don't see why they would run as slow as normal men, or be incapable of bringing mobile heavy firepower on foot. If the justification in the rulebook about "advancing" as the reason for only 6" movement is to be accepted, Space Marines should has as easy a time moving and shooting with a plasma cannon as a guardsman does with a plasma gun.

The cost for this rule will be more than what the Marines pay for their current "And They Shall Know No Fear" rule. Speaking of which, I toned down that rule in order to make it simplified. Space Marines are brave, but they aren't stupid. They will retreat, and keep retreating if tactically viable. Furthermore, if say, a swarm of Hormagaunts catches them when they are retreating, they are as dead as any other infantry unit.

In the beginning...

An attempt to reconcile the ways of the old with the passions of the new:

As humanity first began its journey down the path of sentience, the species' reflection in the empyrean began to grow. Souls ignited with passions and trains of thought never before seen around Earth. Soon, individuals with spirits of impressive potency appeared, such that they could see, feel, and influence the energy of the aether on rudimentary levels. These men and women would come to be referred to by many titles: witches, warlocks, shamans, etc.

These shamans understood the true nature and horror of the warp. Almost without exception, the shamans guided their peoples and protected them from the predations of the occasional warp-hunter that sought to feed on them.

Though the shamans possessed powers beyond the ken of normal men and women, they were still first and foremost human. Their lifespans could not be extended for any great measure, and they died like those around them. Their souls entered the warp and began to coalesce, drawn together by their mutual need for protection and their desire to protect human kind. Over the span of thousands of years, shamans from all over the world died and found themselves drawn to the collective. As one, they fought warp-spawned beasts and shielded the species from the attention of the Dark Gods. With such single-minded purpose and purity of focus, it did not take long (by measure of the timeless warp, of course) for a singular consciousness to form. Thus the Starchild was born.

The Starchild's powers were incredible. The entity's nature balanced and quenched the chaotic fury of the warp's energy in its vicinity. It's touch could cleanse mutation and cure madness. It spoke to newer generations of shamans, giving them healing powers and prescient wisdom, and guiding them to its side when they left the mortal world. Perhaps its strangest and most magnificent power was to keep itself invisible- hidden from the gaze of Chaos, the only power in the galaxy strong enough to tear it asunder.

As humanity began creating civilizations and abandoning shamans and the need for them, it also began exploring its own psyche more. While this brought the species to greater philosophical and scientific heights, it freed the darker side of the mind to flirt with dangers and uncontrolled passions. With fewer shamans passing on their lineage and souls becoming more difficult to manage, the Starchild found its power plateauing, its chosen task increasingly daunting, and itself running out of options. Mankind needed to be protected from itself.

To this end, the Starchild decided to begin influencing human affairs directly. It came to all remaining shamans and called them together. It asked them to join it, for the sake of humanity. The shamans engaged in a mass suicide, and fed the Starchild with an influx of new power. As part of the plan, one shaman from the region known as Anatolia left his wife pregnant with a son. This boy would be a vessel for the Starchild. He would have his own consciousness and identity, but he would also have a special connection to the Starchild, so that he might utilize its wisdom and carry out the entity's perrogative.

This boy would grow to become a man, and he wielded tremendous power. He was functionally ageless and possessed the ability to remake reality as he saw fit. For thousands more years he watched his species grow and experiment. He spent ages learning philosophies and sciences, and shared pieces of his considerable intellect to better the people. At times he took control of a sect of mankind directly, guiding it along paths to set examples that would inspire. On other occasions, he worked behind the scenes, guiding world leaders and trying to influence humanity to work to better itself. But the passions of the human soul proved too restless to be manipulated so discretely.

Humanity spread throughout the stars on its own, taking much of its own beyond the grasp of the Starchild. The Dark Gods, as well as many alien races, began taking interest in the potential of humans, for balance or for Chaos. The Age of Strife took hold, as warp storms cut off huge populations from contact with Earth, and a great many people were slaughtered. Through its relentless pursuit of economic and scientific opportunity, mankind brought itself into its darkest days.

The "New" Man, and indeed the Starchild itself, eventually realized that more direct action was needed. Using unpracticed sciences and the reailty-warping power of the aether, the New Man created himself a more formidable and potent body. He recruited, taught, and learned from the greatest genetecists, arms manufacturers, and logisticians of the day and began a conquest of the globe. With genetically engineered super-soldiers armed with the finest weapons and armor known to man at his side, he marched forth and took control of Earth. The New Man, having tasted the limits to his power and the scope of what he sought to accomplish, turned his steely gaze to the stars. And thus, the Great Crusade began.

A New Beginning

I am dedicating this blog to the posting of house rules for warhammer 40,000 and warhammer fantasy, as well as short fan fiction and my musings on the background.

For those of you that care why, I do this for two reasons: I am an avid fan of the background for both games, and I see inadequacies in the rules systems for both games. I consider myself to have a modicum of intelligence, and a freedom from having to write in order to further the profits of the company.

Here's to you fine people, and the hope that maybe this sad little excuse for a nerd's outlet will attract an equally obsessed reader or two. ;)