Friday, 12 July 2019

Basic-Ass Imps and Some Vague Rambling


I do wonder often if anyone is ever going to actually play as any of the races or classes I describe. All of this stuff is kinda overkill for the drop-down menu of a 3D printing company. Even assuming (fingers crossed!) that the company does well and a lot of people log onto the site I really have no idea if anyone will actually care about the reams and reams of detailed lore that comes up when you click 'Imp'.

So so far I've just been working on Races, and since Blackwater got largely done, I've been creating the other inferred realms entirely through the descriptions of the races that live there. I haven't done more than a bare number of actual objects, but they are important too.

Part of the idea for this was that, by interacting with the drop-downs of the creation menu on the site, the 'user' is already partly playing a kind of game, because by assembling race, class and objects in a hierarchy, they are effectively partly assembling a specific character, especially if each kind of object has an origin and history.

And I had vague ideas of extending that process and creating a kind of Universe where it existed somewhat at intellectual or fantasy Lego, in that there were a lot of materials, and if you used them you got a strong identity, but you had to actually make use of them.

So Uud, outside of its basic descriptions, and maps, would be communicated through tables, like a Yoon-Suin, Border Princes or Vornheim thing. And that there would be no absolute canon Uud, only a hundred thousand individual ones created by different DM's for their own games.

Basically extending the way 3D printing lets you harness the power of an industrial process and distribution system and extending that to an imaginary world so the whole thing was like a series of pieces that only made sense when you, the chooser, chose a selection and locked in into a particular configuration that was unique to your game.

So the continents, or realms, are ultimately meant to be things you can literally pick up and put down like stickers on a map, arranging the 'world' however you like (within some broad structure). So if you want to do a story or game about two realms meeting then you just draw it like that.

The same, if we ever did a book of fictions, was meant to apply to that, everything was meant to be told exclusively in the 1st person, or what I've been told is called an 'Epistolary' story, so that sense of everything being accurate 'according to the point of view of the teller', but any particular reader can take whichever parts they want to be more real than the rest.

This was all to stop is becoming a 'dead' world, one where there is a set canon, and everyone needs to learn it, and all stories take place in the same history and when you want to know what really happened you ask the company that makes it and they tell you what is canon.

Instead, if its intellectual Lego, its more like a new Lego set came out each time and the conversation is more "what did you do with yours?" rather than "what is the new truth?"

The capacities of the internet and the modularity of 3D printing and industrial design, as well as the dropping of the difficulty of printing, and possibly the talent pool built up by the OSR Diaspora and, sure Storygamers as well, opens the idea of a different feedback response between the company and the 'users' or players, one that encourages not just play in the same world but individual creativity and creation with the tools provided.

Selling people tools essentially. Which yes they don't actually need to be sold those, they can make their own. But the sheer replication power and marketing force of a successful capitalistic enterprise  can create such a powerful feedback response that it can shape the culture, which in turn shapes it.

We've seen nerd companies essentially get poisoned by a negative feedback response in which the company doesn't really like its fans, the fans are resentful as fuck and they essentially seem trapped together, and where the worst elements of fan culture get boosted, loremasters (which isn't necessarily bad in itself) of hyper-detailed but dead creative worlds arguing each other into extinction.

What if that feedback response was a positive one? Where to interact with the thing you had to actually build or make something. It needn't be that complicated at first, you could essentially provide people with parts and tools, like the intellectual equivalent of a push-fit model, but if you could get it working, each development cycle, instead of being "Here's what happened in the Forgotten Realms/41st Millenium this marketing budget cycle" it could be "Here are a new bunch of fresh imaginative tools, what can you make with them and what do your worlds look like?"

All pretty vague dreams at the moment, and possibly deep delusions. We will see. You will be able to watch in real time as see if all this blooms into its own paracosm, disappears into nothing or chugs along somewhere in the middle.

For now, some Imps, who I interpreted mainly as fuckbois. You are welcome.


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"Imps keep it real."

Is something only Imp would say. And is a lie. Imps are inconstant, deluded and frighteningly confident scumbags.



IMP ORIGINS


The shape of an Imp; something like a toybox miniature demon, and the range of mildly diabolic qualities they can exhibit, has lead many to ask; where in the hell to Imps come from?

Or more precisely, exactly which Hell do Imps come from? And why aren't they there right now, curled up and somnolent with the majority of Uuds sleeping or disappeared divine and diabolic hierarchies? Why are they up and about, flapping around in Marginalia and a handful of other places?

There is a legend which most Imps claim to believe, the story of the Imp King.

As they would tell it, long ago, before the fall of Esh, the Imps swapped one of their own for a human child. This child grew up in Hell, amongst the Imps. Over time, they grew strong, and eventually became the King of Imps. This 'King', then lead a revolution in Hell. All the lesser spirits, small demons, minor horrors and others, banded together to overthrow the ruler of that Dark Realm. In this they were successful, but at the last minute the Imps were betrayed. They were cast out of Hell and banished to reality, there to perish.

Which actually turned out OK as the Fall of Esh lead to its realms of Divine and Diabolic judgement falling into a kind of dull sleep, curling up into silence, growing distant and quiet. While out in the world, well, not everything was destroyed, at least some parts lived. And those parts of falling worlds that were spirited away and curled up into Marginalias first strands turned out to be great places for an Imp.

So, win-win?

Regardless, absolutely no-one other than Imps believes the Legend of the Imp King. It is not clear if even the Imps believe it, considering how much absolute rubbish they talk.

Some sophonts claim that Imps are the avatars, or elementals of Primordial mistakes. That the very substance of creation, since its beginning, has thronged with these tiny errors, like imperceptible chips in smooth glass, or like the dots and blurs which sometimes float before the eye. Old philosophies of Esh said that the perfection of existence demanded flaws, as if through some complex teaching, what is perfect could only be understood through what is flawed.

Darker and more realist sophonts since the Fall instead claim that everything is just really really really messed up all of the time, and that reality has been so ravaged by Yggsrathaal that cracks are everywhere, and so Imps are also everywhere.

A popular belief amongst the common people is that Imps are random thoughts from dreaming Gods.

Whenever a Devil, Demon or other dark being turns in its sleep and laughs without restraint, but for reasons that are not themselves cruel, an Imp is born. And whenever a good God or and Angel likewise also smiles when sleeping and sniggers for reasons they really should not, then also an Imp is born somewhere in Uud. For Imps are creatures of inversion, or upside-downness, petty lords of Misrule riding backwards on snails, wine-bags full of nonsense like the farts of chthonic entities.





THE POWERS OF AN IMP


Imps are, by many comparisons, quite powerful for such miniature beings. Or they would be if their catastrophic personalities did not effectively disrupt, neuter and destroy the effects of these powers, causing most of their plans to collapse like badly baked bread.

Their abilities vary greatly, sometimes because the Imp in question has actually forgotten that they can do something.

As well as eating, and more importantly, drinking, anything available, Imps can live off sins. If they can get others to commit minor wrongs, these actions can feed, and ever heal them. This gets much harder to do, and the effects of it lessen the more aware the participants are that, by screwing each other over, they are actually helping the Imp. This causes the action to slip into charity, and to no longer be a sin.

After drinking alcohol Imps can fart fire from their ass. Since many Imps are high-functioning alcoholics, this is a more commonly available power than you might think. Imps find this endlessly amusing, running whiskey-and-cigarette parties where they sit around downing whole bottles of booze and drunkenly lighting each others smokes. It’s all fun until they are grabbed by a Troll, stapled to a stick and used as a pipe lighter.

Many Imps have the ability to turn themselves invisible. Or at least, to make themselves hard to notice. Unfortunately, (for the Imps), they rapidly fall into delusions of invisible omnipotence and are often detected through their own insane cackling and a tendency they have to narrate their exploits out-loud...

"Heh, heh, heh, the fools!"

Many Imps can also change shape, often into small and feral animals, like a Crow, a Rat or something similar. As with the invisibility, they tend to massively over-use and in a sense, to get 'high' on this power to the point where it gives them a kind of delirium, and massive identity issues. An Imp pretending to be a Crow may actually get so involved in the masquerade that it starts to think it is a Crow and forgets what it was originally meant to be doing. One who has been pretending to be an animal, will often adopt that animals behaviours, even when in Imp form.

The only way to resolve this is to pinch, poke or slap the Imp back into sanity.

Imps may have some degree of resistance to at-least small natural fires. An Imp will often snooze in the middle of a campfire while others sleep around it, pulling the ashes or embers over them like a sheet and passing out. Even the Imp doesn't know how far this ability might stretch, whether it applies to large fires, to magical fires or to fires of strange materials, and they will often forget they can do this.

Whether it’s being caught while invisible due to their own insane cackling, being trapped as a mad crow for a decade or passing out drunk, face down in a guttering candle and waking up encased in cold wax, Imps rarely learn anything from any of these mistakes.

In fact, if being an Imp is about anything, it’s about massive and impulsive overuse of whatever you can get and about never learning anything from anything.





PERSONALITY - AN IMPS REGRETTABLE SELF


With Imps, its not really a question of whether they are a Narcissist - just how bad it is.

The less-terrible Imps have a manageable level and often find ways to be an at-least moderately useful person with some level of functional empathy, a vague sheen of reliability and not too many negative behaviours.

'Bad' Imps are simply alcoholic, drug-addicted, scheming feral little bastards, like a cross between a pack of nasty crows and a teenage street gang; somewhere between an infestation and crime spree. Gangs of Imps laugh at old Gnomes who have fallen over in the street. Feral Imps dare each other to climb up a cows asshole simply to see if it can be done. They smash windows with stones, scrawl insults on walls and randomly call on strangers pretending to have Tourettes and asking to borrow money.

Like Goblins, Imps lie a lot, unlike goblins they do not have the excuse of 'alternative cognition', and also unlike Goblins they are bad at it.

Imps like to make crude sexual jokes about the lives of larger creatures, though it’s not clear that they really understand what they are joking about and their attempts at insults come out as strangely surreal;

"You pigged that hooper right in the bloggins! Heh heh heh!"

Resulting in a sense that one certainly has been insulted and that something bad has been said, but a confusion as to how and what exactly the insult meant.

An Imp would totally have a stripper pole in their house, just to be edgy, even if they didn't really know what to do with it. But they would probably never actually own a house, at the most they would rent. (Never leave an Imp with the keys to your house).

Many Imps though, have more manageable, or at least 'civilised' behaviours. Whether this makes them better or worse over the long term is a still-open question.

Knowing a 'civilised' Imp is like knowing a celebrity, except they are almost certainly not actually famous and are probably even more self-destructive and possibly more useless than an actual celebrity.

An Imps greatest treasure is often a six-foot high oil painting of themselves in formal wear, or possibly a giant sculpture of themselves in milk-white marble.





IMP BENEFITS


That said, there are (arguable) positives to knowing an Imp.

Many Imps just want desperately to fit in and will simply hang around making themselves 'useful' until you get tired and let them be your friend. In fact, Imps seem to live their lives almost entirely for other people. They need and feed off attention, and if they can't get good attention, they will get bad attention.

Their garrulous, chatty, sneaky and deceptive nature means they get in anywhere, know everyone and have heard all the gossip (although much of what they know will be lies).

An Imp will immediately find the most questionable character in a pub and immediately sit down with them. When you meet the imps friends they always seem suspicious types, and also not really their friends, they sometimes refer to the Imp by a different name. Imps can find crime, schemes and shady business with unerring accuracy. Bad ideas and terrible con-jobs are their north star and they will always locate the worst of them. This can be bad, or good, if you are looking for shady business.

Imps often do well with assisting another, often stronger, entity. They are strangely loyal creatures, in their own way. They seem almost keyed to do it.

An Imps powers of illusion and invisibility, their high awareness of others attention and their speed of movement make them very handy in a whole range of ways, especially as spies or thieves. Though they are also quite ill-disciplined.

Imps are also shameless Yes-Men, so if you want to be told that your every decision was brilliant, there can be nothing better than an Imp. They are also strangely, bizarrely confident in their own abilities and eventual success despite the ever-unfolding, self-destructive cataclysm of their daily lives. While this can be extremely irritating in good times, in bad times the Imps irrepressible nature can make them quite tolerable.

True, this does often lead to Imps working as dogsbodies for villainous beings. But really, if the best someone can do is to put together a flock of Imps, they are not exactly a high-level threat. It’s like having a gang of miniature asshole teens working for you. (Though they can still be dangerous to smallfolk.)

Less horrible Imps can find places working for less horrible (but still probably not that 'good') rulers. They can be the Queens left hand, a Court Jester or Satirist, and on the side, a spy, thief and messenger. Wherever they are, they are always involved in affairs, in 'business', the work and movement of the court, the gossip, parties, connections and talk.

It’s rare that you would want even a reasonable Imp to be the person in charge, but they can definitely be the person you want backing up the person in charge, especially if there are certain things the leader can't be seen to do.



WHEN DANGER THREATENS


Imps are surprisingly good in emergencies, especially situations involving fire, destruction, darkness, poison and gas, none of which seem to make an Imp especially or unusually afraid.

For such ridiculous flibbergibbets the rest of the time, they don't really get hysterical or emotional in response to danger in the way many others do, and they are surprisingly tactically efficient.

While craven, they are not cowards. They will fight, in fact they are quite aggressive, but not until they think they can win. They HAVE to see a potential route to victory, or at least, survival, so their combat logic is quite different to some other creatures and personalities. They don't do noble last stands (they would just run away). They won't dive into danger to protect a friend unless they think they can win.

Compare this to a Gnome, who might jump into a no-win situation simply out of a sense of duty.

To a Goblin, who might leap in on the assumption that they can connive or improvise some way out of an apparent impossibility.

Or to a Firbolg, who might leap in even if they thought they might die, purely for the élan of the thing, and to make an end worth singing of.

An Imp would need to see a way to win before they got involved. If they really like someone it doesn't need to be a very high likelihood - but there needs to be a chance.

Despite their refusal to fight unless they think they can win - all this goes out the window if the subject is crime.

An imp is always ready for some extra-legal scheme, even if very high risk. The simple fact that it is illegal or wrong seems to energise them. If the matter is breaking and entering, fraud, theft, deception or just a simple piece of electoral Gerrymandering, an Imp is almost always fully ready go right now, regardless of the risk involved.









IMP LIFE AND IMP DEATH


Imps may be functionally immortal, or at least, they do not seem to age. They have short-term minds and forget things after a century or two, so an Imp may have lived many lives and not even remember them. Their ridiculous nature seems to protect them from the tragedy implied by their extra-long lives. In some ways they are like minor comic characters made real. Always the same japes, pratfalls and 'hilarious' misadventures, never developing, never really learning, but growing no closer to death.

But there are ways for an Imp to 'age' and change. Ways both good and bad.

The darker path for an Imp is to dive deep into their capacity for deceit and manipulation. A truly evil Imp can become a kind of emotional black hole, a vortex of pain and degradation who slowly poisons the lives of all who come into contact with them, but who time and time again, escapes any of the consequences. The worst among Imps regard themselves as responsible for nothing. They are always utterly right, its only on this particular occasion that they were let down by others. If an Imp proceeds along this path, they can become more and more powerful, eventually transforming into a form of sleepy Daemon.

Much of the Diabolic hierarchies of Uud are currently lost or asleep, so when an Imp becomes a Demon, they gain incredible powers, but suffer under the same sleeping curse as the rest of Uuds divine and demonic entities. Although they are potentially terrifyingly powerful, and out and loose in Uud, rather than curled up in a pocket dimension, they are also somnolent and narcoleptic, preferring to hang around in a lair, slowly poisoning the atmosphere with their terrible dreams

A 'good' way for an Imp to develop is by drinking mortal blood that has been both freely, and honestly (no deception involved), given. The more of this blood they drink, the more mortal the become. Their emotions and intuitions deepen and widen, they become capable of a greater range of experience and understanding. It presents the opportunity to 'cure' their narcissism. The interior lives and feelings of others become more real to them, and a source of meaning. This also makes them vulnerable to sadness and despair, which they do not much like.


Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Vote for Whatever You Damn Well Like

More precisely, if you read something, played something or ran something and you enjoyed it, then vote for it;


(Click the image)

Monday, 8 July 2019

In the 31st Millennium - Your Feelings About your Dad

ALL OF THE HORUS HERESY BOOKS I HAVE EITHER READ OR LISTENED TO AT SOME POINT


tldr; Nietzsche tries to fight Azathoth. It does not go well.



HORUS RISING - Dan Abnett, Read aaaaages ago.

I honestly do not remember much about this book. Horus arrives in a big teleport scene. There's basically, the Federation, like a bunch of humans and Xenos living together and being chill. They are united by a hatred of 'Kaos' this terrible evil force which nearly destroyed them both. And they have a bunch of Kaos artefacts.

Horus and the boys rock up. These Federation types, the Interex, are somewhat put off by the boys as they look like insane barbarian supersoldiers wearing wolf-skins in space and their main guy is called 'The Warmaster', which smells Kaos-y to them.

I think I remember, and I can't recall if I remember this from the book or just from later discussion, that there are two important things going on here.

It’s not quite clear how much the Great Crusade is Nazi-Xeonocidal (kill everything Other), or more British Empire Xenocidal (another empty planet, tip top!), and here is a point where Horus seems to be questioning the whole Xenocide thing with "Should I really be murdering these people?".

This becomes a bigger deal as the series goes on because over time, as it gets more Dembski-Bowdenish, the Heresy series becomes more about the massive moral flaws in the Great Crusade from the beginning. And it also becomes about competing alternate versions, and visions, of the future.

The Emperor and the Chaos Gods are both reading the future and trying to make their preferred version the one that happens. They are also both trying to trick and deceive each other about what they are going to do and about which futures are likely.

A bunch of other characters and factions have similar powers and are trying to do the same thing.

So a lot of the Heresy is about making choices with strong, competing visions, and I mean literal visions, of the future, and how and why you do that.

So this thing with the Interex is a point where maaaaybe the Great Crusade could have evolved from Xenoxide-for-all to Xenocide-for-some and a kind of great alliance against Chaos.

But that didn't happen. Erebus of the Word Bearers steals one of the Interex's chaos swords and starts a war so now everyone gotta die.

We also get introduced to the Mournival, Horus's best bros, of which Loken is the goody, Abaddon is the baddy and there are two more who honestly don't end up mattering that much. (Except Horus Aximand, ‘Little Horus’ is fun, mainly for the terrible shit he goes through during the Heresy and how he ends up being a little like Big-Horus’ Picture of Dorian Grey’ in some ways.


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FALSE GODS - Graham McNeill, Read aaages ago.

Again, I don't recall much of this.

Horus gets recalled to some backwater world (maybe its Davin?) because someone he left there to look after it has gone rogue.

This guy has been taken by Nurgle. He also has the Interex sword which Erebus nicked. No-one gets that they are fighting Demons yet. This guy is messed up because Horus left him behind to do crap work on this planet.

So two things there. One - Chaos will use your friends against you.

Two - Primarch super-charisma can be so powerful that asking someone to separate themselves from it can be like making them go cold-turkey off a drug, it produces a lot of bitterness.

Horus is separated from his guys and faces the Nurglydude alone. He wins but gets stabbed by the super-evil chaos sword.

Oh no, Horus is dying. Abaddon freaks the fuck out, because daddy issues (the Horus Heresy tagline could be "In the 31st Millennium - Your Feelings About your Dad"), and while taking his body back accidently-on-purpose stamps over some annoying humans.

I think this is the first time that Astartes just crush some humans in the series. This feels like part one of a trail which ends with "Why not just carpet the ship in flayed, or indeed, still-living skin?". (And yes the Emperors Children do end up doing that).

Everyone’s having a breakdown and then Erebus, the worlds most suspicious dude, says hey lets take your dad to this freaky cult I happen to know about..

Great idea. They take Horus to the Davenite Lodge and the Ruinous Powers talk him over to being evil.

This is kinda a busy section, a lot happens.



First - wtf is going on?

The Chaos Gods are pulling Horus about his timeline in a way which seems to be actual near time-travel. In particular they pull him back to the theft of the Primarchs, and in some way his presence there seem to trigger this?

Later on in 'The First Heretic' the Chaos Gods do the same thing for some Word Bearers, with something like the same effect.

That's a lot of time loops going on.

Then they show Hours the Warhammer 40k rulebook and the big John Blanche image of the Emperor being worshipped as a god, everything being shit and Horus and the other Primarchs being 'forgotten' or erased from history.

AND - Magnus the Red turns up in ANOTHER projected vision thingy to tell Horus not to turn evil.

So there are a whole bunch of things crossing over and going one way or another at this point, to the edge of ridiculousness really.






Second - Why does Horus go evil?

*Dads Super-Charisma*

Primarchs have super-charisma, so when they dump someone that person gets VERY UPSET and feels abandoned, coming down off the Primarch high and possibly also reconsidering all the things they did while under their sway.

E-Money has super DUPER magic god charisma so presumably Horus is experiencing the same effect in his own way, feeling abandoned and lost and seriously questioning, pretty much all of his life and the stuff he's done.



*Dad Lying About Everything*

We don't really know exactly what level of knowledge E-Money gave his boys about the Warp but whatever it was it was clearly, at best, very, very incomplete. So we have the moment when you realise that being inside a circle of trust is actually just being inside one onion ring of layers of manipulation, with no centre in sight, so how do you know what's real?

And you have the revelation of the really, really, really BIG powers in the Warp and how unlikely victory against them is.



*Remember the Thunder Warriors?*

Hey, remember the last time dad made super-soldiers. And then once they became a problem and their utility was done, he sent them to live on a farm?

Wait, aren't *I* a super soldier?



*Why Am I A Demon Dad?*

We don't really know to what extent the Primarchs know, or have been told, that they are essentially pasteurised Demon sauce pumped into Bio-Engineered superweapon bodies.

There are strong indications that they realise they are not just biological superweapons. They know there is something special going on there. The Khan can punch ghosts and this doesn't seem to shock him.

Imagine finding out you are gay after your dad told you, not that gays were bad, but that they didn't fucking exist..



*I Can Stop Any Time I Like*

Being a hyper-competent, Type-A biological superweapon. In fact, being the very best biological superweapon, you probably think you can just take one snort of that warp dust, then quit.

Just absorb enough chaos juice to keep me alive and get me over that hump.

After all, isn't that exactly what Dad did?

If you've almost never failed in your life, how hard would it be to think you could get addicted?

This comes up later on in the Heresy with a lot of the fiction around Horus fucking up in various ways leading, not to his absolute failure, but to him relying more and more on warp dust and letting Chaos deeper and deeper into him.

Like a lot of Heresy things, is not clear if this is ineffable future vision, different writers noodling in different ways, arguments in the Black Library editing room, plotting of Tzeentch, an attempt to answer a strange pre-existing bit in the lore in a way that has psychological depth, classical old-school fucking up, the Emperor being a creep, 'twas all arranged in advance' bullshitting or whatever.

If I were betting on Dan Abnetts vision I would bet that Big-E was trying to secretly weaken Horus through victory by letting more and more chaos-stuff into him, with the hopes that at the last minute he can re-pasteurise the guy and make him his head-boy against Chaos. Then at the last moment Ollianus Pius somehow fucks this plan up and E has to microwave his son.

Best guess.



*Pfft *I* Can Run a Crusade and it will be easy.*

He was already doing like 90% if this shit it takes to be Emperor just on his day to day. How hard can it be? (But its that last, secret 10% that really does it).



*Goddam Civvies plus I'm not even Human*

"Hey Superweapon, you are fired and we are replacing you with an accountant."

"But I am a superweapon."



*Hans, Are We The Baddies?*

This is something that comes up more and more in the Heresy stories. But even the Great Crusade at its nicest was Xenocide, Manipulation, letting nutters like Angron and Kurze run around, wiping out recalcitrant human populations, harvesting psykers, using worlds, their economies, peoples and cultures as simple resources for war, and a whole heap of other shit.

This only comes up in Praetorian of Dorn but the acceptance rate for Astartes aspirants is about 1 in 100 in that book, so for every super soldier you get 99 dead boys. And that doesn't include pre-training and those lost after organ implantation.

The Astartes being an army of child solders essentially is a classic (and much, much, much repeated ADB beat) but it’s there.

Who can absolve you for all the terrible shit you did? Lorgar needs a god. Horus had his Dad. But if he's a manipulative lying loon then you are guilty for all of that.



*Fuck I Don't Want to Die*

Not that complicated. Its not just dying, its feeling like you are losing. It's dying looking like a schmuck.


How many of these reasons are there in the book? Hard to recall but not all of them. A bit of a problem in the Heresy is that Horus and Big-E increasingly become Black Boxes, simple agents of fate, and therefore quite uninteresting.


Well, there we go. Horus is evil now. There's another as part of this trilogy, Galaxy in Flames, but I honestly can't remember if I read it.



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LEGION - Dan Abnett, Read

Dan Abnetts first rather questionable book of the series.

What were the Alpha Legion up to during and prior to the Heresy? Isn't it their job to spot things like ALL OF THE WORD BEARERS BEING EVIL AND SOME BEING DEMONS?

Well, they were being kinda interesting and somewhat dumb.

Abnett was in a real mystery vibe for this part of his career and its somewhat fun until you think about it. Alpha Legion are meant to be edgy super-smart quasi bad-guys who-do-what-it-takes (even more than everyone else who is the same thing). When you look at their stated motivations they tend to be... fucking stupid. As in dumber than a 12 year old stupid.

But LAYERS!!! WHAT IS THA TROOOF?

A sketchy group of Xenos, based on future visions (which fuck knows, may or may not have been influenced by Chaos), think that letting Chaos 'win' and take Humanity, means it will burn itself out and they can destroy it.

So all you need to do is sacrifice Mankind and all will be well.

Is there anyone in the Great Crusade dumb enough to fall for this and fucked up enough to try to execute it?

Yes/No, meet the Alpha Legion (or did you???)

Honestly I remember this being a very fun book to read, its only when you write down the motivations of the people in charge that it seems utterly stupid. A lot of Alpha Legion stories are like that. Like someone let a glittery pig into a shifting hall of mirrors. You see it gleaming in the reflections and racing about, you race after it, very excited, knocking over mirrors. Then you catch it and it’s a pig.

I'm also pretty sure the cover of this book with the lengthened 'tru scale' marine walking towards the reader, kicked off the design process that eventually gave us Primaris.

The Alpha Legion are a lot like an early J.J. Abrams joint. Have fun with them. Don't expect them to add up at the end and walk once you get bored.


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MECHANICUM - Graham McNeill, Read

I don't remember if this was a great book, but to me it is a great subject.

I really like these "backstage" 40k novels where we look away from the Super-Solders to find out what is going on with the rest of the Imperium and see all its weird deranged factions and barely-held-together sub-sections grinding against each other. And this means I tend to like Graham McNeills books as he writes a lot of those

So, what happened with the Priests of Mars during the Heresy? Kind of everything and nothing really.

Mars schisms right away due to a cybernetic APOCALYPSE WAR. Martian baddies release scrapcode, a future super-virus full of Chaos-stuff, into the Martian Mainframe, and within about 5 minutes, literally, half the planet is aflame and millennia of hoarded knowledge is trashed. McNeill is really good at writing these mega-scenes of tragic knowledge-loss.

Because we open the story at the high point of the Great Crusade, most of the 'good' things its responsible for (unifying Humanity, collecting and preserving galactic knowledge) has already been done, we don't see it happen. A lot of the pro-Crusade characters have lives shaped by these events. To them, being human was fucking terrible and everyone was ignorant, dumb and dying in the mud, and then E-Money turned up, saved and unified Humanity and got back loads of human culture and knowledge, bringing them back from the brink. But because we don't really see these events much, and don't feel how terrible things were in the age of strife, we don't feel their motivations as intensely. These scenes of mega knowledge-loss are one of the few ways we can sense what a tragedy the Heresy is, as a kind of shadow to its achievements.

Then mars enters a big civil war which neither side can win. The Mechanicum (Now the 'Dark Mechanicum' in the eyes of the Imperium, have the advantage on the planet, but the pro-Imperials have space and Terra is right there.

In the story this effectively takes Mars and the Mechanicum, off the board of the Heresy on a large scale. Which is boring but functional. The idea of the Mechanicum pushing forces one way or another is so far as I know never really deeply explored in other books. There are no books where the leaders of a Legion, expeditionary fleet or world, go one way, while the contingent of the Cogboys goes the other. Almost everywhere outside Mars they tend to be effectually subservient to whomever is currently pushing them around, which is relatively neat dramatically, or at least tidies things up, but what if that was not the case?

In the terms of the setting, the Cogboys provide a deeply valuable force of conservatism. They hold back technological development, preventing the borderline incomprehensible really high-tech futures and explaining the apparent incoherence of tech in M31.

Their reasons for turning are some of the most interesting. Some don't like E-Money/Terra and think they should be leading humanity. Some just want to do research. FREEDOM BABY.

The big promise Chaos makes the Mechanicum is that they will take the leash off and let them do whatever they want. Artificial Intelligence, full-scale genetic fooling around, psychic dickery, the whole thing.

The whole question of what on earth happens to an A.I. exposed to chaos, or what they would even think of chaos, is only lightly grazed in in the setting.

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A THOUSAND SONS - Graham McNeill, Read.

Exact details of Magnus Doing Nothing Wrong.

Probably the most interesting thing about Magnus is the relative subtlety of his fall. It only happens by degrees, every choice tilts him just a little further and while he is insanely hubristic, almost all of his motivations are good.

And the context is a lot like actions taken by, or that will be taken by, the Emperor.

He makes some kind of deal with a Warp Thing, but he does it to save his boys.

(And anyway, his boys suffering intense mutation and coming apart is largely a design flaw by E-Money.)

He won't stop dicking around with the Warp even when told not to. (But did anyone really think he would? You tell the guy who is already a size-changing, shape-changing super-witch "Hey, just don't do spells and stuff.. ?")

And he breaks that rule the hardest, first, to try to talk Horus out of falling to chaos, and secondly, to try to warn the Emperor about Horus.

Then he has a complete nervous breakdown and after that he has a complete Leman Russ breakdown and after that he has space-Alzheimer’s but that comes later.

Most sympathetic fallen Primarch? Maybe.

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NEMESIS - James Swallow, Read

"Why don't we just assassinate the enemy super-dude?" Asks everyone simultaneously.

So Malcador sends a shipload of space ninjas to take out Hourus and Maloghurst (Horus's Jaffir-style Grand Vizier), sends a super-demon to kill Big-E.

Both of these plans fail and once they catch wind of it, the Authorities on both sides nix any further assassination attempts.

Again, this book exists, in terms of the larger story, to take possibilities off the board. If 'Mechanicium' existed to say 'No the AdMech won't tilt this war one way or another, then 'Nemesis' exists to say the same for the assassins.

There is a nice anime moment when someone tries to snipe a Primarch with a fucking huge gun the size of a building, which is also hidden in a building.

The vulnerability/invulnerability of Primarchs, due to their magical nature but also due to the fact that we know which ones live and die, is a soft barnacle on the hull of the SS Heresy. It contributes to the Primarch Soap Opera/Primarch Ping-Pong element of the saga. These hyper-beings are continually being thrown into mutual contact and conflict and then being pulled away bleeding by underlings, escaping at the last minute, keeping the other alive for mysterious drama reasons etc etc. It happens too much.

In an episodic series, like a James Bond thing, it might be ok, but this is all meant to be the same story. These people are meant to learn and remember what they do.

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THE FIRST HERETIC - ADB, Audiobook and Read I think.

BITCHES GTF OUT OF THE WAY because the great Opposing Pole of the Horus Heresy has lumbered onto the scene and the moral schema of things is about to get Contested as Fuck.

If Abnett is essentially Bernard Cornwall in space, a relatively cheery (for 40k), sunny, directly masculine style writer, then Dembski Bowden is his murky, lunar, angsty, much more goth and viscerally left wing opposing force. Or at least, psychological counterpole, if not opposing.

Dembski-Bowden is one of the best writers in the series, he also has an extremely strong personality, an intensely moral view of the setting with some very particular repeated motifs and a really heavy fucking hand with anything he touches. Once he has been at something anyone else writing about it is either writing along with him or almost writing against him.

It’s my way or the highway! I WAS STOLEN FROM MY FAMILY AS A CHILD!! ASTERTES ARE WEAPONS!!!!

Now we get to flash-back to see exactly why Lorgar turned to chaos with a telling about as sympathetic as someone who really hated Lorgar and did not like religion in general could manage.

It’s here, with ADB, that the sense of the Great Crusade being itself morally corrupt starts to infiltrate and resonate with the unfolding story.

We also get an image of Lorgar as a simultaneously weak and manipulative man in a really creepy mutually-reinforcing quasi-abusive 3-way father son relationship with Erebus and Kor Phaeron, two of the nastiest characters in the series.

Lorgar is basically a dork who no-one likes, except his Sons, who obsessively revere and obey him, and who really really needs to know the fundamental purpose of all the terrible things he is being asked to do. And who has been set up by Chaos to fall, in a millennia-old multilayered scheme.

Brief note on the schemes of Chaos - they have some ability to influence things through time, and they have future visions. So if you want to avoid being manipulated by chaos.. you can't. They already went millennia back into the culture of your entire planet and created an entire society, mythology, culture and environment designed specifically to be the subtlest possible trap exactly for you.

If your enemy can see the future, invade the past, corrupt almost anyone with effort, it’s not really a question of whether they can Truman-Show you, but whether they can do so effectively, while staying under-budget (it seems that the powers of the Warp are not infinite) and while doing a trillion other things.

But if they really, really hyper-focus on you specifically, there is not much you can do. Even at the final analysis, if you do everything "right", they will simply present you with the most extreme 'tragic choice' possible. Even if you choose right, things will still be terrible.

And its here that the idea of E-Money being really fucking creepy is, if not strongly stated, then very strongly inferred. He must have known Lorgar was going to fall surely? He had literally all the signs, and E seems to have almost-deliberately put him in position to fall? Could he really have missed what was going on? Later on we find he seems surprised, not that the Heresy has started, but that it has started early.

And why would you design a super-religious son if you in particular, really hate religion? Unless you don't have much of a choice about it?

Conspiracy or cockup?

Or confused editing?

Or just honest attempts to resolve somewhat psychologically or intellectually irreconcilable lore?

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PROSPERO BURNS - Dan Abnett, Read

Time to get to know the Space Wolves who are now, definitely, edgy space-Vikings, and to see the Burning of Prospero from the other side - exciting!

But Dan Abnett is still in his modernist "what is truth?" mystery phase so this is more like a weird mystery story from the point of view of a mind-wiped dude who doesn't even know he’s a Manchurian Candidate, but the Space Wolves do, but they think he's the Manchurian Candidate for someone else than who he actually is?

We get a look at the council of Nikea, another event where the Lore says Big-E has to give a judgement which he either knows will be intensely unwise, or doesn't know? So we get another is-the-Emperor-deliberately-triggering-the-Heresy question, or what are everyone’s various future visions telling them.

Magnus blows everything at Nikea after the Blood Angels and White Scars nearly manage to persuade people over the Librarius by going "I CAN SNORT WARP DUST ALL DAY LONG AND IT WILL BE EASY!!! HUBRIS IS A CONCEPT FOR MEATHEADS NOT MY GALAXY BRAIN HA HA HA!!!!"

So we get the 'don't use Psykers' rule which, typically, I think only Rogal Dorn actually follows.

The Council of Nikea is another of those events where everyone has a spy there, and half the spies are brain wiped to think they are spying for other spies?

Dan Abnett kinda wanting to be a mystery writer for a while coinciding with the Heresy stuff produced some wiiierrrd shit.

Oh I'm not sure if this is the first entry in this theme but this is the first time the idea of the Legions having a 'common name' which is a mistranslation or misunderstanding of their actual name comes up.

So the Space Wolves are the 'Vilka Fenryka' when at home, or 'The Rout'. Later on the White Scars will be the something something, Horde of Jaghetai?

Barbarian Legions get mis-named by a 'civilised' Imperium. Very topical.

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THE OUTCAST DEAD - Graham Mcneill, Read

It’s another backstage-Heresy book by Graham McNeill in which nothing that happens in it seems to really matter in the larger scheme of things and which other reviewers don't seem to like, but which I actually enjoyed.

A bunch of guys from Traitor legions were sent back to Terra to do the Captain America publicity thing, a 1k Son, some Death Guard and a few World Eaters. Now the Heresy is on they are in super-prison with rather mixed feelings. They were sent home largely before the corruption fully set in and so are not all chaosy themselves. But now Magnus has cracked a tube, they escape and are on the run. But to where?

There is a slightly silly future super-Samurai in this, and we get to meet maybe the last surviving Thunder Warrior who has been keeping it downlow in Terras criminal undercrust and hacking his own DNA to stay alive.

He's kind of a supervillan now but doesn't seem to hold it against Big-E?

Maybe he will turn up during the siege to do something.

The only other thing I can remember about this is Magnus cracking the tube gives an Astropath another FUTURE VISION which he has to get to someone important. This is a thing which gets re-used much later in the Solar War.

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KNOW NO FEAR - Dan Abnett, Read

Whoop whoop, Dan Abnett is back to being Dan Abnett. Time to hang out with the Ultramarines who are NOT BORING thank you but just really good at admin.

This is another good book which ultimately is mainly about taking a major player off the board. Guilliman has played Risk and Civilisation on the PC a lot so he has been building and building and building a little quasi-Empire of super-dudes out in the Eastern Rim and he has to be stopped helping out.

Luckily for Robute his brother Lorgar is on the way to help him, he wants to make things right after that time Robute totally and utterly humiliated him on the direct orders of the Emperor.

This book makes Robute Guilliman interesting, largely by kicking the shit out of him.

First he gets unexpectedly curb-stomped by Demons he didn't even think existed, then his second-favourite planet gets utterly utterly trashed (bad guys get their planet annihilated, good guys get their second-favourite planet annihilated, this also happens to the Space Wolves much later on) and his Legion Pearl Harboured in the most extreme way.

Then also he finds out his life is a lie, Demons are real (AND HE IS ON WHOOO), the future is dammed and he is in the middle of a super-plot by evil space entities he had no idea even existed, and worst of all, they have Horus on their side. Also Dad forgot to mention a lot of stuff.

So we get to see the most orderly, reasonable, one-joke-per-month Primarch who knows all the excel commands deal with the complete implosion of his reality.

Which he does pretty well. Tanks fall from the sky like meteors. There's a quite sweet cybernetic love story. Guilliman does super-admin and adjusts to punching demons relatively quickly. I think this is the first time the Heresy's most-abused demon punching bag, Samus, appears and gets quickly knocked out.

Erebus kinda screws up what is meant to be a complete victory but does pull of multidimensional warp shennanigans to start the Ruinstorm, a psychic megastorm made of pain which will keep Guilliman in the less interesting books for a few years.

Multidimensional warp shennanigans will play a major part in later books.

Both sides have to abandon a bunch of people in the tunnels of Calth, Robute does it sadly, Lorgar does it manipulatively. But is there really much difference?

Yes because one will deliberately feed you to demons and the other probably won't.

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ANGEL EXTERMINATUS - Graham McNeill, Read.

Behold, it is time for an extremely awkward buddy team-up between an Incel and David Bowie if he was a smackhead. It’s the Fulgrim and Pertuabo show!

Fulgrim turns up and spins Pertuabo an extremely shady tale about some alien superweapon in the Eye of Terror. Pertuabo, who by this point is sleeping every night in an iron maze he has specially reconstructed around himself, agrees to this and off they go.

After varying levels of mutual dickery it turns out that the weapon Fulgrim is seeking on an Eldar crone world is, in fact, himself, and he pulls a Surprise Ritual (you really have to watch out for those rituals) in which he sacrifices every remaining soul stone on the planet and tries to throw in Perty as well, in order to become a Demon Prince, and then runs off.

Few noteable things about this book.

Comes as close as is possible to making Pertuabo a sympathetic character, by taking us inside his damaged psychology to see the dreams no-one really knew about, letting us see him do his thing (constructing an architecturally perfect ampetheatre in about 24 hours), and by putting him opposite Fulgrim, who is basically a fey, deceptive junkie in this.

Is only one of a, (I think really astounding) number of betrayals amongst the traitors, to the extent that it gets a little ridiculous. Let me see if I can count them off.

- Fulgrim betraying Pertuabo to become a Demon Prince, nearly killing him & stranding his legion in the Eye.
- Horus betraying Magnus by setting the Wolves on him.
- Lorgar (kind of, but not really?) betraying Angron by turning him into a Demon Prince.
- Lorgar using a True Name to enthral Fulgrim to use him to betray Horus and become Warmaster, and that going utterly wrong for him.
- The Alpha Legion betraying, probably everyone, on Tallarn, and all the rest of the time too so it hardly counts.
- Pertuabo kinda betraying Horus to go after another alien superweapon on Tallarn.
- The Night Lords, fully DGAF about anything so can hardly be said to actually betray anyone.
- On Prospero Mortarion tries to betray Horus by promising the Khan that they can team up to take him out after Big-E is dead.

That’s just a lot of intra-betrayals. This is both a theme in the Heresy (once you start a-betrayin', you just have to betray more), and also arguably slightly dodgy writing.

Really, the bits of the Heresy between Istvaan and the Solar war feel like formless Primarch ping-pong. It’s meant to take Horus about ten years to fight his way to Terra, but in effect it feels like pretty much all the Traitor Primarchs are essentially on 'time off'. Lorgar at least seems hard at work fucking over the Ultramarines, Cuze just fucks right off, not sure what Mortarion was doing for ten years, Fulgrim goes Demon and just hangs out in the Warp, Pertuabo is endlessly seeking superweapons. Is anyone other than Horus actually doing their job?

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BETRAYER - ADB, Read

Ya boi is back and it’s time for more weird bonding between your highly religious cousin and your friend who fights tramps at night.

And it’s time for a deep dive into the personal history of a guy who got lobotomised, enslaved, turned into a gladiator, addicted to rage, fought his way to freedom and then got stolen by his mad dad and turned into a planet conqueror.

TRAUMA TIME. Also, utterly-evil-emperor time as well.

This is mainly memorable for the really strange but quite affecting dynamic between Lorgar and Angron, for Angrons deep descent into his own messed up memories, and for the final part where Robute arrives as an unexpected Special Guest Star in an attempt to prevent Angron being Demonised.

There is a really good scene here with a massive Titan emerging from its coffin ship and then being hunted by a pack of Warhounds.

Guilliman gives Lorgar and Angron a load of crap, then Angron gets consumed/transformed by Khorne, thereby arguably 'saving' his life and also condemning him to eternal rage and slavery.

Some good scenes, more Primarch ping-pong soap-opera stuff where someone’s super special enemy has to turn up in the last act but they are not allowed to kill each other so a series of unlikely events have to take place to get them in and out of the scene alive.

All in all, a good book. Very ADB but we have not yet touched Maximum Levels of Dembski-Bowdenification.

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Unremembered Empire - Dan Abnett, Read?

Whoo boy this is bad.

Actually I don't know if its individual parts are that badly written. But this book is basically just Guilliman hanging around on Macragge. Ruinstorm is on. Half of the Galaxy is cut off. Robute thinks dad is probably dead so it’s time to start Imperium 2.0. He finds his own psychic lighthouse.

The Lion turns up, Sanguinius turns up. Vulkan falls from the sky. Kurze turns up at some point I think.

There are some nice moments between Guilliman and his mum.

That's pretty much it. In 10,000 year Bobby G quietly removes this episode from the history books because it looks a liiiitle bit like treason. You should maybe do the same thing but just because its dull.

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Scars - Chris Wraight, Audiobook

No-one cares about the White Scars, which, by developing HH tradition, means we are probably going to get a pretty good book.

And we do!

Turns out the Khan is the actual Reasonable Primarch who is at relative peace with his own nature as a space warlord and as a likely warp-entity. He low-key thinks the Imperium is a giant load of bullshit, because it largely is, and is totally fine with being sidelined out in the Chondax system because it means he can fight Orks at high speed, meditate, play Go against his accountant and no-one comes knocking to bother him.

Then he finds out the Heresy has started, Rogal is calling for help, the Alpha Legion are playing psy-ops bullshit and his legion is split. The Khan likes Horus and Magnus and is deeply sceptical of the Imperium, on the other hand, he is pretty wise and wary when it comes to the Warp and actually seems to like humanity.

Stuff I remember from this book is;

The main female POV character is an aging logisitcal expert brought in because the Scars really don't want to git gud at logistics and insist on going everywhere at HIGH SPEED. She's a pretty cool character and cool to see a middle aged woman hanging around in the 31st millenium.

The Khan is extremely chill.

He also had probably the most sane and reasonable view of the Warp and psychic powers.

This legion has a racial/cultural divide more pronounced than most and it plays out in an interesting way, with the alienated Terrans turning to Horus rather than holding with e-Money as they do in most Legions.

There's a scene at the end where a meeting between Mortarion and the Khan on Prospero turns into a Primarch-fight which, while its decently written, as a concept, sucks. Its more Primarch Ping-Pong and, I get Horus is low on decent personnel, but the person you send to talk someone into turning to your side is the dude who is literally made of sick? It feels like the setup for an arguably-pointless rivalry. (Ok he’s not quite literally made of sick yet, but he’s looks like he’s on chemotherapy and talks like a redpiller, seriously, this is the guy you send? You don’t want to send Malughurst? Abaddon>

Anyway, Jaghatai sides with dad.

The Imperium of Man - Slightly Better Than Being Soulraped for Eternity.

And now he has to find some way to Terra.

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Vengeful Spirit - Graham McNeill, Audiobook

It's time for Horus to get GODPOWERS. They don't just hand those out you know..

Well, effectively they kinda do.

It's also time to take a deep dive into the history of how exactly E-Money became so money, to take a look at how extremely awkward things are now in the Sons of Horus and to see how a highly militarised Imperial World fights.

Also, I think GW brought out Imperial Knights some time between here and the start of the HH series, so here they are now in the story. They were there all the time its just nobody was mentioning them.

tldr; aaages ago, when E-Money was just a normal dude who happened to be immortal and psychic, he hatched a plot either with or against a bunch of other immortal people..

Ok fuck, I need to talk about perpetuals now.

Another sketchy Dan Abnett addition to the lore. Every couple of trillion humans you get an immortal one. Not just long lived but magically-reassembles-own-body immortal, as if they are a dual soul living here and in the Warp and if they die here the Galaxy just slowly puts them back together again.

Anyway, there have already been a handful of these, largely in Dan Abnetts books. There's 'Oll Pereson' who is the Tom Hanks immortal. A creepy one who hangs out with aliens who is the Hugo Weaving one and a few others I can't remember.

E-Money used to be one of these. Maybe 15,000 years ago, after witnessing the Age of Strife and presumably having a Liberal-to-Conservative 'mugged by unreality' conversion, E-Money decided he needed GODPOWERS to save humanity.

He came to the planet Molech with this immortal chick. Used the portal there to enter the Realm of Chaos, like the real Ian Miller version. There he made some kind of deal with the Chaos Gods for GODPOWER.

Then he somehow apparently fucked over the Chaos Gods, leaving them VERY upset.

Or, they knew he was going to fuck them over and let him think he had because this was their plan all along.

OR, he knew that they knew he thought he was going to fuck them over, and let them keep on thinking that he didn't know that they knew, because he had an even MORE complex and multilayered future-vision scheme.

This is what happens when everything is a precognitive dual with Tzeentch.

Anyway, Horus has worked out about the portal and E-Money also knew about it so has left an army of infinite dudes to guard it without telling them specifically what they are guarding. He also left one psychic immortal chick who does know what she is guarding.

Now Horus has to take Molech and get into hell and everyone else has to try to stop him. So now we get some traditional planet-invasion Futurewar.

Noteable elements; Horus seems like he is actually in danger in some points. Though in this case it’s not clear is chaos is subtly encouraging him to fuck up as, every time he does, he needs to use Chaos Power in various forms to get out of it, thereby ensuring he keeps getting even more chaosy.

More time-cult shenanigans. Cause chaos can time travel, if they need there to be an ancient snakes-n-shagging slaannesh cult on a planet to infect it, they can just go back in time and plant one. Here we get a snake-sex bait-and-switch where the people you think are going to betray the empire are themselves betrayed.

There's a new guy in the Mournival. I can't remember his name and I don't think he lasts.

Garvial Loken, the Luna Wolf who survived Istvaan (but with TRAUMA), is now chilling with Malcador and is sent on a secret mission to seed Horus' flagship with psychic beacons to set up a future novel. Even though he's just there as a plot device, he still confronts Horus who is unconcerned with his apparently highly-penetrable warship.

Loken has some 'do I want to get back with my abusive dad?' emotions, but on seeing him now swole with chaos roids, decides no thank you evil.

More bullshit is required to get him in and out of his designated confrontation scene.

I think Samus appears in this book and is banished super fast. Second Samus-banishing of the Heresy. This time by an ordinary Astartes.

This book also kicks off with a pretty good scene in which Shadrak Meduson, the One Sane Man still holding the Iron Hands together gets pretty close to assassinating a bunch of evil Primarchs with hidden gunships. This actually makes them feel slightly vulnerable for a bit. No-one has told Shadrak it’s a soap opera so he is still treating things like a wargame.

Horus gets his GODPOWER, but at what cost? Slightly more of his soul probably. Also there are some shenanigans where the immortal chick meant to defend the portal dies, but bleeds into it, so did she enter the Ian Miller Realms of Chaos too? Or did something else happen.

Anyway, Horus is at full Emperor-killing demigod status now and everyone just creams themselves even looking at him.

Onward, to Terra! (in about ten books time).

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The Damnnation of Pythos - David Annendale, Audiobook

Hey it’s a bottle episode!

Dan Abnett said in an interview that an early conception of the Heresy was as more of a sprawling pseudo-history with more individual contained episodes like this. Well that didn't happen as nerds wanted the narrative tended to, but here is a portal into what the Heresy could have been like.

It's not bad. It’s a horror story. Evil wins and everyone involved is fated to be doomed no matter how hard they fight, which is more like how 40k actually would be probably.

We also get a good look at how traumatised and fucked up the Iron Hands are from their cybernetics addiction and dad-dying trauma.

The real characters in the Heresy aren't even the Primarchs but the Legions, these weird communities, multi-levelled, with a big crazy main personality, at the other end, lots of low-level, serfs effectively, or at least people who's only real option is to live inside a culture largely set by someone else, and distaff elements, mechanicuim, navigators (though we don't see much of them), and in the middle these ascended godboys. Super-malmukes who's character is shaped a little by the culture of their home a little by the genes of their space dad, a lot by the cumulative culture of the Legion. The culture of the Legion often has this interesting split in it, the Veterans are often from Terra, each chosen from different tribes, and a lot by their own choices (also by space-gods and psychic gene-magic).

Some Legions are more 'characters' than others. Often the most traumatised ones are the more interesting. The Iron Hands, Word Bearers and White Scars seem to me more as Legions-as-characters. The Thousand Sons and Sons of Horus seem more like collections of characters.

Here the Iron Hands, Raven Guard and Salamanders rock up on a crazy jungle planet with a freaky artefact which they find out they can use to predict and observe enemy fleet movements, letting them launch highly effective space ambushes.

Unfortunately, because Astartes Know No Fear, they don’t watch Horror Movies, which means they don’t notice any of the blatant and intensifying horror movie beats happening on Pythos. The creep factor just keeps growing and growing and the split between the factions just keep intensifying.

And then everyone gets eaten by demons because the Ruinous powers not only predicted everything they would do but, in classic chaos fashion, actually relied on it.

Good Work Ruinous Powers, if only all your plans worked this well.

It’s interesting to see a final last stand which is, in fact, almost certainly futile, and its interesting to see the Astertes actually fully disempowered by Fate and the powers of the Warp.

The writing is not perfect and it gets a bit daft towards the end, but this is a strong, grim book which stands out in the HH due to its tone and sense of identity.

And which has almost nothing to do with the overarching story. So forget it and we will move on to..

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The Path of Heaven - Chris Wraight, Audiobook

Jaghatai has to pull a Whacky Races and try to get to Terra across a Galaxy full of crap.

His method of doing this involves one of E-Moneys old mothballed webway-invasion schemes and a bunch of weird happenings. Including seriously pissing off Leman Russ (though this may have happened in 'Scars'?) and tragically losing his best buddy stormseer. Yesugai NO!.

The Emperors Children (Fulgrim is boning demon hookers in the Realms of Chaos at this point) and Death Guard form a classic awkward buddy-cop duo to catch him. With hilarious consequences.

Since racing and dashing about are the main things Jaghatai likes, he gets away after only fighting some Slaanesh Demons in the webway and ultimately ends up near Terra, ready for his next big scene in the siege of the Palace.

And yes Jaghatai fucking hates sieges.

The Khan is also strongly winning at this point as ‘Most Competent, Least Fucked Up’ Primarch.

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Praetorian of Dorn - John French, Audiobook

Rogal Dorn is damn well guarding the TITs off Terra, turning it into a fortress inside another fortress, covered with fortress cream and with a spicy fortified filling, accompanied by fortified wine.

But oh dear, the Alpha Legion have a Cunning Scheme which, typically for them, is a plan executed with 100% super genius skill levels, but the central point of which is fucking stupid.

This book follows the Alphas being wheels-within-wheels and the Fists being Extremely Reasonable and Less Stupid Than Expected.

Alpha Legion (of course) had long-term plans to potentially betray everyone if necessary and have assets literally buried on Terra in preparation. Alpharius has a customarily insanely complex plan to provoke Dorn into fucking up and then to invade Pluto with a fleet that has been falling through space cold and hibernating for fuck knows how long, slowly getting closer, so presumably this began around the start of the Heresy?

Fuck it! Its the Alpha Legion. Anything can happen but none of it will work.

But Dorn only fakes freaking out, in fact predicting Alpharius's plan and looping back to counter-strike his silent invasion.

BUT Alpharius KNEW Dorn would do that and in fact set the whole thing up just so he could get close to Dorn to try to persuade him of..... of something?

If its that fucking aliens want humanity to die so they can take Chaos with them, thats a dumb fucking plan and Dorn wouldn't have listened.

If its anything else... that's still a dumb fucking plan.

WTF was Alpharius thinking?

Anyway 'Alpahrius' dies in this. Possibly Dorn had a plan to capture them which one of his guys fucks up by intervening through excessive duty. Who fucking knows.

Some interesting background stuff here with the recruitment of an Astartes and the rejection rate for implants being 99 in 100 which sounds like it can't be right but if it is and all of those are losses then they kill a loooooot of children to make Astartes.

Also stuff here about Dorn being very suited-and-booted but beneath that being quite capable of being a bit shifty if it gets the job done.

Classic Alpha Legion book. Fun to read. Dumb as a post.

.........................................




The Master of Mankind, ADB, Read

REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

I still hate this.

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The Crimson King, Graham McNeil, Read

Space Dads got Altzheimers! What do you do??

Yet more, more more fatherhood trauma. Magnus didn't just get his back broken by Russ, he also got shattered into a load of soul shards with bits of his personality and memories scattered hither and yon all over the galaxy.

The Main Magnus we have left is.. fritzing somewhat, forgetting things, rambling around the ruins of his libraries and dying slowly.

Think I already reviewed this somewhere. Tragedy. Mindscapes. Schemeing. Bitterness. Lucius as a Panto Villain. Endless plotting. Labrynthine Twists of Fate. Magnus continuing to do nothing wrong. Increasingly deranged idealism. Time shifts. Everything melting into Ballardian dreamsigns.

Bingo bango, don't worry everyone, we are off to Besiege the Emperors Palace, not because we actively want to help him, or because we are being manipulated by Tzeentch, but just to get that last fragment of soul back. Once we have that, everything is going to be ok.

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Tallarn - John French, Audiobook

Book opens with 99% of a worlds population dissolving and gets worse from there.

Pertuabo, still pissed from, pretty much everything that has even happened to him, is after another dang superweapon. This one seems to be a warp portal hidden beneath Tallarn, which presumably he hopes to use to repeat Horus' trick on Molech.

Oh and Pertuabo is dying it seems after that business with Fulgrim, and has an obsessive armour addiction.

Anyway he bio-nukes the surface of Tallarn and from that point on everyone has to roll around in tanks to get anything done.

Various factions run around in the bio-apocalyptic wasteland, including the Alpha Legion, who’s plans go about as well as accepted.

The book is really more a collection of pre-existing tales and the best of these are the early ones concentrating on the military and civilian survivors of the initial attack.

Tank Operas, it turns out, are really effective storytelling devices. A bunch of people with complex interdynamics, locked together in a hierarchy, which is in a steel box that makes up both their prison and only chance of survival, seeing the world outside through a series of lenses and blotchy screens, having to continually shout out to each other exactly what they see.

It has that Jane Austin effect of the strands of a complex social structure thrumming like the spokes of a web under pressure. A lie in a tank is much more interesting than a lie elsewhere and an annoying teenage locked together in an armoured compartment with you is much more dramatically interesting than in normal circumstances.

An interesting thing brought to the surface of this story, but which the entire HH is about, and because its soooo fucking huge and affects such a huge range of time, is something that only a saga the size of the HH could really look at in the same way - causes and consequences.

No-one on Tallarn has a full idea of exactly what they are fighting for. In a real sense, the survivors have already lost everything they care about. Most of the population and all of the biosphere is dead. They don't know why the enemy are still fucking about on the surface and their initial strikebacks are done almost purely out of spite.

Chance, fortune and slim luck brings more Imperial dudes, which makes it a war.

All Pertuabo cares about is finding his goddamn warp gate, but he can't tell anyone about it because if they find out what he's after they can stop him getting it.

The Alpha Legion proceed upon their usual dickery, playing everyone off against each other.

But in this story, the Alpha-Legion get Alpha-Legioned because, again, by chance, a top-level Cyberpunk Assassin happens to be on the planet and survives the attack and then starts duelling them in the information sphere.

People are fighting largely on instinct, in a war who's shape they can't see, towards unclear goals that keep shifting, and no-one knows what is really going on. The war ends when one of Pertuabos guys finds the gate, but loathing what it represents, blows himself, and the access tunnel up, hiding its location.

Pertuabo is out of time and gets brought to heel by Horus.

Ten Thousand years later we know that the culture effectively created by the attack and subsequent armour war, in which the entire remaining civilian population was essentially drafted and trained in armour tactics, creates an Imperial War World who's job is essentially pumping out tank regiments for the Imperium.

The Warp Gate goes un-used and is eventually discovered, and sealed by the Imperium.

So what did it all amount to? A bunch of mistakes and near-misses leading to an unexpected end. This book felt in its tonality and texture much more like 'real' history than most HH stories.

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Old Earth - Nick Kyme, Audiobook

Vulkan (who got killed and had various adventures), is an immortal it turns out, and wakes up in his home Volcano with a secret concept implanted in his head, which has caused him to build a strange doohicky.

He grabs a handful of his dudes and starts a webway road-trip across the Galaxy to the Imperial Throne room (currently besieged by Demons) where he meets the Emperor and puts the strange doohicky in the Golden Throne.

Turns out this is a dead mans switch which, if E-Money croaks, will warp-explode, seriously fucking up any Warp Gods who happen to be leaning in closely to watch it happen.

This is not a great book.

Vulkan, an empathic humanitarian in a Galaxy where the very cosmology makes theocratic fascism a reasonable necessity, is one of the most potentially-interesting characters in the HH. We don't really see any of that in any of his books.

The road-trip lets us poke our noses into a bunch of stuff happening all over the galaxy. We see the end of the ill-fated Shadrack Meduson, who's betrayal by the Legion he tried to save is actually better than anything else in the book.

And now we know how the 40k galaxy will end. In about 2030 all the Primarchs will be available in plastic. Abaddon will finally reach the throne room and kill Big-E. The super-bomb will go off killing or badly wounding the Chaos Gods, and then the galaxy will evolve into a multipolar one torn between competing Primarchs. Ce la vie.

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Wolfsbane - Guy Haley, Audiobook

Leman Russ the goddamn chad Primarch has decided that it’s his job to take Horus out.

This is after he helped to fuck everything up by ruining things with Magnus. He could just stay on earth and defend his dad  but nooooo, 'fate' and dodgy plotting (and, to be fair, pre-exitistng lore) says he isn't there for the last act so looks like its adventure time.

This is what all that titting about with infiltrating the Vengeful Spirit was about.

So, Russ goes off and sacrifices a great deal of his Legion so he can fight Horus with his dads magic psychic spear that makes people see the truth.

Bear in mind that Horus after Molech is meant to be pretty close, or directly at, Emperor-killing levels of upfuckedness. This is the guy who ends up swiping Sanguineous out of the air and nearly does take down dad.

Plus even before this Russ wasn't sure he could kill Horus?

So the relative power levels don't make much sense.

So they fight. For some fucking reason Russ gets a hit in, which is dumb.

Even dumber than that is that he thinks he has a killshot, and then doesn't take it?

The writing in this is ok within itself, but again and again the characters, especially the Primarchs, are forced into these elaborate dances of bullshit.

So Russ doesn't kill Horus and instead much of the rest of his legion is annihilated trying to keep his wrecked ass alive and to escape with him.

To be fair, these 'save dad, save the king' scenes that take place when a Primarch falls are pretty ok, and are likely how much and how obsessively a Legion would try to protect their dad. As a whole its still silly though.

So that was what the near-sacrifice of the Emperors Executioners, the Space Wolves, was swapped for, one psychic stab wound in Horus.

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Slaves to Darkness - John French, Audiobook

WAKE UP EVERYONE. GW has realised this thing is dragging, so they are WINDING IT UP.

The entirety of this book is just Horus quietly having a psychic breakdown as he knows know how seriously chaos-addicted he is, while his peons try to summon the evil Primarchs together for the end scene.

Also Lorgar be plottin'.

Lorgar goes to Fulgrims trap house in hell where Fulgrim is totally busy boning his demon GF/BF and gives absolutely no fucks about anything. Lorgar snags him with some psychic bullshit and plans to use him to depose Horus as warmaster.

For those who know the HH, this is a bit like Ralph Wiggum planning to depose Nelson.

Pertuabo is tasked with grabbing Angron who has just been racing around being a crystal meth murder demon, which he does quite effectively and nastily.

Magnus, who everyone thought was dead, has just learned how to do even more effective Siegfried and Roy entrances and just fucking lands in a pillar of fucking magical fire. Eat it bitches.

And Mortarion has been given his own book to transport him to the Siege of Terra and also to give him really bad lurgy.

How does Horus overcome his psychological problems?

He doesn't? Maloghurst, his questionable Jaffir, who is totally committed to the course Horus himself set them on, goes into his nightmare dreamscape and essentially sacrifices himself to destroy? ruin? just mess up the very last of Horus's humanity, or empathy or whatever.

(This is why, if you find yourself in a leadership position, just try really hard not to convert anyone to the Ruinous Powers, because it will come back on you.)

So now Horus is fully and totally consumed by the chaos powers. Is there anything of him left in there? Probably a bit we will see towards the end but not much.

And this is one of the somewhat crap things about the HH as it has developed. Its driven by a war between Horus and the Emperor.

Master of Mankind pretty much set Big-E as a creepy, unpleasant manipulative narcissist.

Horus is now a chaos-puppet.

Soooooooooooo....................

There's no real feeling or personality to this final confrontation. Two beings almost without actual personality will face each other.

But maybe Dan Abnett will pull something out if his hat?

Oh and Horus blows Lorgars terrible plan and beats the fuck out of him in front of everyone, effectively taking his legion for the duration of the siege and making him run away crying.

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The Solar War - John French, Audiobook

WE'RE HERE! ITS THE END!!! Just another eight books (including this one) and we are finally done with the Horus Heresy!

Horus has finally arrived at Terra. The invasion begins. Horus is a super-assault guy but Rogal Dorn is a super-defence guy and has had about eight fucking years to fortify the FUCK out of this position. What will happen?

Well, 40k is a land fighting game not a space naval game so taking the whole of the solar system will be done in one book, but never mind that.

Ok, so Horus is planning to assault the Solar System, but what attack pattern will he use? Will it be the one where he uses some funky previously-unthinkable bullshit to hurl a speartip assault force behind enemy lines right at their weakest point in the backfield, followed up with a super-smooth high speed attack into that breach? Like he did at Ullanor with Big-E? And like he did a Molech? And I didn't read the one about Beta Garmon but come the fuck on Rogal the guy only ever uses one fucking tactic and you didn't at least plan for the idea of it?

Many things happen here. Poor old Samus is brought back as part of a deep-time warp fuckery plot to mess up the Fists at a key moment of the battle. He does get to fight Rogal for a bit but is ultimately banished by a middle aged woman.

Many scenes of superdestruction take place and many brows are furrowed on Terra. Pertuabo grinds and grinds closer.

But, as is now usual for Chaos, they were fighting in multiple dimensions at once and the sacrifices of the fighting, plus an extremely carefully-planned and charmingly ecumenical scheme between the Thousand Sons and Word Bearers, opens a goddamn warp portal right bang in the middle of the system exactly where it shouldn't be.

It’s the rituals, you gotta look out for those dang rituals. Remember what happened on Pythos? And Molech?

Angron is literally riding his ship when he comes in. Nice touch.

Well, Horus is here, right over Terra. He's got much of the Galaxy. He's got the Solar System. His only problem is tryhard Robute who has finally pulled his finger out and is closing in on his rear-guard.

All Horus needs to do is get into one building on earth and kill one dude on a chair before Robute gets here…..

…………………………………………………………………………………..




HAVE I LEARNT ANYTHING FROM THIS?????

Dan Abnetts writing skills in the Heresy have been ok. No actually they haven’t been ok, they have been below par. Unremembered Empire isn’t worth remembering. The Perpetuals are an interesting idea buuuuuuut, not that great? The stuff with the Cabal is bad. The Alpha Legion are Ralph Wiggum cosplaying as Jason Bourne.

But he also kicked off the Heresy, came up with the remembrancers, which was a good call, set up the mournival and Horus’ character. Made sure we see the Primarch largely from outside, which was probably a good call. Know No Fear was great.

I just really hope he nails the landing.


Probably Abnett and Dembski-Bowden should have swapped. ADB would have nailed the fuck out of Horus and Abnett is a natural Emperor and Rogal Dorn writer.


Its fascinating how one of the main themes of the Heresy has become its own logistics. And yet a lot of the centre of it seems formless. Lots of beautiful details but also lots of just moving people around.


The ‘black-boxing’ of Horus and the Emperor (probably E-Money should get a gold box) is regrettable. And its interesting how it seems to have evolved naturally across a bunch of different writers, in response to different pressures at different times.


The slow shift in the ‘meaning’ of the Heresy, in particular the general feel of the Great Crusade getting a liiiitle bit more left-wing, social-justicy (just a dab) and alienated from the very concept of it, is interesting. ADB is a driver of this but really it seems to have happened as a slight tone shift across a range of writers.

There’s a kind of dual-rank in good Heresy books, the main-line good ones and the oddities.

The main-liners are First Heretic, Know No Fear, Betrayer, probably Burning of Prospero/A Thousand Sons/Crimson King, Scars/Path of Heaven and probably Angel Exterminatus.

The oddities, like Tallarn and Damnation of Pythos, are interesting in their own way, little visions into a parallel world of what the Heresy might have been. One more distant from the Primarch Ping-Pong operatic elements.



There are several books with good substance, but what I thought were bad ideas driving them. Sometimes these seem to have been adaptations to pre-exiting lore or just the way things were going, sometimes they were wholesale introductions.


The relative weight given to, and differing responses to, visions of the future, is a fascinating seemingly auto-generated sub-theme in the Heresy. Many many times people get visions or predictions of the future that strongly contradict their desires and moral intuitions.

How someone responds to this is a really big deal in the Heresy, and plays deeply into 40k later on. Its not a question of ‘How Do We Win’, but, knowing that you probably can’t get the world you want, will you defy the darkness nonetheless?

In a way, for all its warping and weaving and often dodgy writing, the spiralling predictions of the Heresy suggest a morality without uncertainty. Even though nothing is certain. But by taking out the bright hope everyone secretly has for the most optimal result when they act, it forces the moral quality of their decisions back into some other realm, the act itself, rather than its consequences.


Stay tuned for another of these in 30 years time when people finally start coming out with all the freaky backstage dramas and editorial chaos and all the other wild stuff that must have been going on behind the scenes over the years of this series.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Your Annual Ennies Post

The Ennie noms are out HERE



We got a few for Silent Titans. Dirk did NOT get a nomination for Best Interior Art which, true, puts him in the much more truly scene-kid list of Great Artists Who Were Denied, along with Scrap Princess. But he still should have got the nom.

Anyway, every Summer Zak would put together his little 'scene kids' list of the things that everyone should vote for, to be considered a true insider.

What I'd like to do with this post is just anyone who is nominated, or anyone who really likes something that has been nominated and has something interesting to say about it, drop a comment and I will take those comments and put them in the post.

And that applies to anyone.

And if you don't want to give me a blog-traffic handjob, you can drop in a link to a review or commentary somewhere and I will put that in.

Images - maybe. Downloadable format only please and vertical door shaped pictures work much better than landscape. If the post gets busy (it will probably be ignored), I will limit it to one image for each thing.

Ordering - I will try to keep it in the same order as the nominations list.

Amount of stuff - might have to limit this if it gets super-long. 

I reserve the right to cut and ignore stuff if it gets political/weird/ if there is drama etc.

Going offline now and will be back up in 15 hours so expect an update then.]

OK. THIS WAS PRETTY MUCH A FAILURE.

Still , Dave Rollins linked this review for the free sample version of Luka Rejecs UVG


Aaand Maxcan7 left this interesting comment;

"These are more hot-takes than deep analysis, but here are some thoughts as I read over the list:

It seems like there are fewer OSR noms than in past years, although still quite a few. Even among the "OSR" noms, it seems to be more games that use unique systems that have sprung from the OSR community rather than old-school D&D per se. The only old-school D&D-style OSR game I noticed was Black Hack 2nd edition with a single nom, but maybe I missed some others. Also, Troika Numinous is criminally under-represented.

It also seems like there are more independent games, in a very literal sense, as in not part of OSR, or PbtA, or another pre-established system or style or culture.

That being said, it does seem like in certain categories, in particular art, they tended to go more traditional, although I don't remember how that compares to years past.

While there were definitely some great games and products that came out this year, it seems like there are a lot of things happening in the broader tabletop RPG culture right now that haven't fully manifested yet, and I'll be really interested to see what things look like in the next couple years. I think there are going to be some more obvious trends in upcoming years, but I don't necessarily have a great sense of what those trends will be quite yet. I suspect there will be more games that blur the lines between what we think of as OSR vs. storygame, but beyond that I don't know."

So - positive framing.