Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Chaos Bias

Today I bring you a guest article written by Arch-Heretic Peter:

I was paging through the Chaos Marine codex and something struck me.  It’s been gnawing at me for a while and I finally realized what it was a few days ago.  I think it’s a strong indication of why this codex—and the one before it—have been sort of lacking.

If I could, I'd like to bounce a storytelling idea off you.  And the best example of it would be Magneto, the X-Men’s recurring nemesis.  I think he makes for a great parallel.  If you aren't a big X-Men fan, Professor X and Magneto used to be allies.  They were friends who shared the same beliefs and goals.  But at some point, Magneto decided he needed to follow a different, more extreme path.  He became the villain of the series, and the arch-enemy of the X-Men.

So....why did Magneto decide to become a villain?

Well, that’s the interesting point.  He didn’t.  Magneto decided everyone else was doing things wrong and that he was going to start doing them right.  In his mind, Magneto is the hero while Professor X and his students are a bunch of well-meaning idiots who keep getting in the way.  Most good villains have this viewpoint.  They think they’re the good guy.  Look at any war in history.  Both sides believe they’re in the right, and it’s only afterwards that one gets declared “the villain.” 

And this is true of the world of Warhammer 40,000, too.  Read any of the assorted Space Marine codexes and they'll tell you how they're humanity’s glorious protectors, retaking the stars in the name of the Emperor of Mankind.  But in the Tau codex, the members of the Tau Empire are the heroes, bringing a bold vision of peace and unity to the galaxy.  Same with the Eldar, the Orks... heck, even the Necrons come across as the heroes in their own Codex.  They're the original rulers of the galaxy, returned to reclaim what is rightfully, logically theirs from the immature races.  No matter what army I choose to play, I'm playing on the side of the heroes of the story. 


Take another look at the Chaos Marine Codex.  Check out the language of the book.  Really consider the words and phrases and how they’re used. 

Look all the different events and stories on the timeline (pages 22-25).  These aren't tales of Chaos winning... they’re tales of the Imperium losing.  The codex doesn't talk  about the Chaos Marines versus the servants of the False Emperor.  It’s all about the Imperium versus assorted traitors.  The story of the Abyssal Crusade is fantastic, but it’s not a story about Space Marines switching loyalties to Chaos.  It’s the story of how Konvak Lann and the Vorpal Swords survived, were vindicated, and then exposed and killed the corrupt Saint Basillius.

Consider the descriptions for different entries.  Sorcerers.  Daemon Princes.  Chaos Marines. Cultists.  Spawn.  Heldrakes.  All of these make the point of saying (one way or another) that turning to Chaos is a mistake.  That these characters are doomed because of their poor choices.  Even the entry for Abaddon himself is slanted toward the Imperium and makes him out to be the great villain.  His own rulebook sees him as being on the wrong side.

Codex Chaos Marines is written under the assumption that the Chaos Marines are the bad guys.  It assumes they deserve to be punished.  Every bit of fluff is done from the point of view that the Imperials are the heroes.  It actually tells Chaos players that following the Powers is seen as a sign of weakness and inevitable failure.  And the rules reflect that. 

Compare this to the old 4th edition codex, the one that still gets songs of praise from Chaos players.  The various stories are about the great Chaos victories.  The rise of mighty Daemon Princes and successes against the misguided fools who worship the corpse god.  This book is all about Marines who saw the light (so to speak) and decided to stop following the False Emperor. 

Remember that phrase?  Death to the False Emperor.  Try to find it in the new book.  It’s mentioned in passing on page three, in the introduction, and then never comes up again.  Nothing even close to it.

Because if it did, the Chaos Marines might look like the heroes.

Let The Galaxy Burn
Chaos needs a better P.R. department 


  1. You sir, make excellent points throughout this article, and it why I can't get into any of the recent 40k stuff. A lot of the writing, specifically the Horus Heresy, pushes you to hate Chaos with a passion, and thus make you want to hate the Space Marines even more! It is quite a conundrum. Thank you for putting my thoughts into words.

  2. Well put. Abnett's description of the Blood Pact and Sanguinary is that of a people who have never lived under the Imperium, or only did so in the distant distant past.

  3. yes! This isn't a recent trend though, the 2nd Edition Chaos codex (which is actually the first chaos codex) is a great read, but it still comes across that Chaos is a result of foolish choices rather than a deliberate trading of your soul for power. I think the saving grace of that codex is that although the Chaos guys are obviously damned, and perhaps fools, they are at least BADASS MEAN COOL HARLEY RIDING DAEMON WORSHIPPING RADICAL DUDES!. As opposed to the bunch of whining losers with Daddy issues the current Codex describes.

  4. Exactly. Joining the ruinous powers is a bad idea, and will only end badly, we get it. BUT I want to see it from their point of view with a lot less mustache twirling.

  5. This article is kinda cool, but it is silly to argue that Chaos is/are not bad. Was it each mans choice to become a servant to his chosen chaos god? Yes. Would anyone argue that trading an increase in power for say...giant painful pustules or oddly placed tentacles a bad choice...again I think that few would disagree. In any case, most of the individuals did not make a choice, but rather followed a leader type that they were loyal to beyond the point of no return...unwittingly.

    On top of all of this...Warhammer 40k is about the Imperium and its enemies (the bad guys). That is an unarguable fact. You can scream til you're blue in the face, but that is how it is.

    1. No one said Chaos isn't bad. No one was screaming about anything. The point was that they've been made villains in their own codex, which goes against all the other 40K rules and traditions.

      And the rulebook is about the Imperium and it's enemies. The codexes are about how each army is the "right" way to go in the world of 40K. That is an inarguable fact.

  6. I don't think anyone is saying Chaos isn't evil. They are a bunch of selfish psycho and/or sociopaths.

    If all the codices were written from a Imperial point of view, sort of a threat assessment type of thing, that would be fine. But they aren't. All of them except for Chaos glorify the army they are describing.

    I would like to see their codex written from a perspective of why they are driven to do what they do. Very few villains see themselves as such.

    Of course 40K is and has always been about the struggle of the Imperium of man. As well it should be. One of the great elements of the story is the parallels between the Imperium and Chaos. One is a heartless machine that grinds up the bodies and souls of thousands of its followers every day, the other is the powers of Chaos.

    1. The forces of Chaos are the unabashed villains of the 40K universe; no question. The issue w/the most recent codex is that they are unabashedly so. They're the bad guys, and they're bad guys because they've made bad decisions. I hadn't really given it much thought until Pete pointed it out, but the language/tone of the book makes all the difference.

      I think I'd prefer the forces of Chaos be a bit more subtle in their evil-ness. Y'know, sorta like the Dark Side of the Force. It's a quicker, easier path to power that comes with a set of consequences (apparent or hidden). I like the Magneto example - he doesn't see himself as a villain. I bet Abbaddon doesn't either - he's fighting for what he thinks is right, and he made some deals with some powerful folks to see his vision through.

      "Death to the False Emperor" is MUCH more compelling to me than "Let the Galaxy Burn". But at the end of the day, I s'pose I'd settle for either one...

  7. Some great points! I I miss that old codex.

    Nominated you for a Liebster, keep up the great work!

  8. Yeah, the history is definitely fro the POV of the Imperium. Which is unfortunate.

    I too, have libster'ed you!