Friday, March 2, 2012

Old Stuff Day: The Word Bearers Are Pretty Bad Ass

In lieu of making any progress on my Vindicator for a Day 6 post, I'd thought I'd use the space provided by serendipity to participate in Old Stuff Day.  A little over a year ago today, one of my most read posts popped out into the world and I think it holds up quite nicely.

So my intro to what was supposed to be this post got a little out of hand.   Now its time to go exploring.  I'm coming down from a sugar high, so here's to hoping this makes sense.

As part of GW's plan to expand the defining moment in the time line of the 40K universe's pretend history, Black Library has been publishing the shit out of novels about the Horus Heresy*.  For the most part, its been pretty good.  They've gotten some pretty good sci-fi authors working on it and Prospero Burns is actually in the New York Times Literary Review.  Crazy.

Like a lot of you, I have mixed feelings about the amount of information we now have on the Horus Heresy.  I'd like to talk more about the whole fun of trying to fill in the details ourselves prior to Dan Abnett, but that's a post for another day.   In short - I think the mystery and ambiguity of the story as presented in the 2nd edition rules was in many ways more fun.  However, all the detail we have know allows us to play games other than 'fill in the  blanks'.  Let's play 'historian'.

I'm not talking about the mere collection of facts that BoLS' lore posts** are all about.  I'm talking analysis and placing the events in context of the 41 millennium.

Today I want to talk about the Word Bearers.  I recently read Battle for the Abyss and it got me thinking about the religiosity of that Legion and its impact on the modern Imperium.

All throughout the series, the Word Bearers are at the center of the heresy - they were the first to turn to Chaos and they were the most active in recruiting the other primarchs and Legions.    Whenever treason is about to go down, there they are.  And they pretty bad-ass about everything.

I think making them the instigators was a stroke of genius.  Back in the old days, all we knew is that Horus got mad and tried to kill everyone.  We didn't have a lot of context for why other than demons and hubris may have been involved.  It was pretty lame when you think about it - either the act of treason is rendered meaningless because of a lack of free will, or the Primarchs are nothing more than super powered 12 year olds.  Instead of a bunch of vague bullshit, the Word Bearers are in the mix making it a little more believable. 

But what really fascinates me is there need to worship and the implications their need has on the universe. Their need to worship gods stands in direct opposition to the Emperor's enlightened age plan.  Yet after it's all said and done, the citizens of the Imperium end up worshiping the Emperor anyway.  That's a lose for the big guy and a pretty important one at that.  Unfortunately for the Word Bearers, its a lose for them too.  A big part of what they hated about the Emperor was that he was being seen as a god.  However, this was something they had a hand in and something that came to pass anyway despite their later efforts.  I'm not sure the Word Bearers can take full credit for the Ministorium, but the whole reason they went all Chaosy in the first place is because they were censured for spreading the word that the Emperor was a god (like the Ministorium).

Hello sir or madam.  Can I interest you in some pamphlets?
Plus, being involved in war in which one of the chief results were cultural shifts directly against the Emperor's plans and wishes is definitely a point in the 'win' category.  It's stuff like that really make the Horus Heresy a draw (at least for the non warp part of it) - for all the effort the Loyalists put in to push the traitors back, the Imperial culture was almost completely skewed towards behaviors the traitors where champions of or that make the Imperium's life difficult.

------[Foot Notes]-----------
 * Though a ton of details were filled in for the Horus Heresy card game that no longer exists.
** I know BoLS gets a lot of crap and I really do appreciate what the various lore authors are trying to accomplish, but its kinda boring as it's really just a collection of facts.  There's a real opportunity to dig into 25+ years of fluff they keep passing by.

1 comment:

  1. My experience is different. I got into 40K six years ago and almost immediately began reading the Heresy novels. These novels were my introductions into 40K fluff, for better or worse, and to this day is the root of most of my 40K fluff knowledge and for that I love them.

    I agree about the Word Bearers. The beauty of these books is seeing how everything coalesced into the larger broader knowledge everyone had of the heresy. The irony of it all is one of the things I enjoy about the 40K universe. Everything is colored in shades of grey and I'll take that over the old good and bad guys any day.