Warhammer 40,000 (Lore & Discussion)

I’ve always been intrigued by Warhammer in it’s various incarnations, but to be honest I didn’t know much about the lore besides what little I gleaned from their association with one of the greatest bands of all time, Bolt Thrower.

I played Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning back when it was a thing so I learned a little more (including exactly how shamelessly Blizzard ripped them off with Warcraft, natch).

But I knew almost nothing about Wahammer 40,000. I knew there were Space Marines and I knew there was an Emperor. I knew there was lots of conflict and combat and powered armor and huge war machines, but that was about it.

Then, thanks to watching a lot of short science fiction films, I found this in my recommendations on YouTube: Astartes, a 13 minute wordless film (told in 5 parts) made by a fan of Warhammer 40k that blew me away even tho I had no idea what the backstory was. I didn’t know who was a good guy, who was a bad guy or what the hell was going on other than what I was shown.

Since I didn’t know what Astartes was (didn’t even know if it was a plural or not!), I looked it up… and apparently now I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole. :smiley:

In just the past 15 or 16 hours I’ve spent some considerable time watching some videos that go thru the lore and explain what’s going on. They were all made by the same guy, Luetin09, and they are incredibly well put together. In the order I watched them:

EXPLAINED - What is Warhammer 40,000? | Beginners Guide to 40K + Lore (17:20)
THE EMPEROR OF MAN [1] The Rise of Humanity (1:27:15)

So I now understand a bit more about the Warhammer 40k universe (or galaxy, if you prefer). I like it. It’s detailed, it’s messy, it’s complicated and it’s dynamic as hell and I’d like to experience it myself. I’ve got some of his other videos on my list of things to watch, but I’m not sure that doing so wouldn’t spoil some of the fun of reading the actual stories, so I’m holding off for now.

To be clear: I want books and stories to read. I am not interested in playing the tabletop game nor is this thread seeking video game recommendations.

I found a site online that recommends starting with the Horus Heresy. Okay; I looked that up on Wikipedia and found that there are 56 (soon to be 57) novels just written around the Horus Heresy! And the first three are all OOP and command prices in the range of hundreds of dollars for hardcover editions and sometimes that much for paperbacks.

I see that there are hundreds of Warhammer 40k books by a plethora of authors and so I’m a little overwhelmed with choices.

I don’t mind starting in the middle, or at the end. I like having to put the pieces of a story together in my head just fine; it even enhances the reading experiences IMO. (I read the first 10 Dresden novels all out of order as I could find them and loved the experience; I’m still doing that with the Culture novels.)

I prefer hardcover books and do not enjoy reading ebooks.

I’m leaning toward jumping in with Lord of the Dark Millennium: The Dan Abnett Collection (Warhammer 40,000), mostly because it’s fairly recently published, it’s hardcover and it doesn’t seem to be embedded in a particular specific storyline that has already been taken up by several dozen related novels, novellas and short stories.

So I decided to turn to my fellow Dopers to ask: where should I start?

And would any Dopers like to talk about Warhammer 40k lore?

Subscribing since I too have been fascinated by 40k lore, but the sheer volume of information out there overpowers my fascination every time.

That 17 minute video EXPLAINED - What is Warhammer 40,000? is really well thought out and put together, Sicks. Information is concise and delivered in a narrative framework that builds itself well. I know that every time I picked up a book in the past, I was just overwhelmed by what I obviously didn’t know and that video really helped me understand some key things that nagged at me and wouldn’t let me past.

For instance, I now understand that there really aren’t any good guys. The Emperor has a Grand Plan and the end goal of that plan is the continued existence of the human race & hopefully its domination of the galaxy, but the workings of the plan seem to vary from “objectively awful” to “completely evil”.

ETA: I went ahead and ordered the Dan Abbott book after reading a bunch of the reviews on Amazon. I’m goin’ in!

That should be Dan Abnett in the post above. :mad:

I’ve never read any of the books or played the games, but I read a bunch of WH40K rule books back in the late 80s/early 90s, and every now and then I go to the wikiand read some random entries just to soak up the craziness. Did you know that Orks are actually a form of fungus?

Yeah, best that I can tell, the Emperor is Stalin to everyone else’s Hitler.

I did not know that, but I am now sitting down to watch Luetin09’s ORKS - WAR IS LIFE (57:29) to see if he covers that.

I gotta be honest, tho: I prefer the “orc” spelling.

ETA: LMFAO he gets to their origin in less than 2 minutes! Aye: fungus spores!

Well, the Emperor is Hitler, the best any major power gets is Stalin, and some of the are almost literally the Devil. It’s odd that many, perhaps most players don’t quite get that. For whatever reason they don’t get that all the glowing praise for the Emperor is in-character. The guy was the biggest bastard in all of human history, and pretty well up there in non-human history as well. Yes, he wants “humanity” to grow in the abstract, but any and all individual humans are only expendable numbers, and he actively wants the extermination of all those he dislikes - which includes all the mutants, plus anyone who doesn’t implicitly obey him and any culture he couldn’t completely control. Also, if he feels like or it’s convenient or he wants to make a point.

Reading between the lines, the Cult of the God-Emperor is broadly good despite that it’s often represented as fanatically stupid. Hilariously, all the worst elements came from the Emperor himself, such as the genocide, absolute xenophobia, and complete intolerance of even marginal variances. And hilariously, the awful state of the galaxy makes that a special kind of insane sanity.

But that is what I like about the setting. It’s quirky example of British dark humour, presented as a madcap sci-fi universe and you don’t see that very often. Intriguingly, it’s also pretty good about the sheer scale of the setting: there are millions of inhabited worlds and untold numbers of humans alone, and the setting really commits to that. it doesn’t help that we’ve had quite a few really high-quality writers that worked to elevate what was something of a joke setting into ocaisionally strong sci-fi.

TV Tropes includes pages on games, and describes the setting of this one too:

Tyranids really are not evil as such. They’re just … hungry.

Let’s see… by now “Sandy Mitchell” has produced several volumes of novels featuring Ciaphas Cain and having fun with the setting.

There’s a pretty amusing YouTube series called “If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device”, about what happens when the Emperor finally regains the ability to communicate and finds out how badly the Imperium has screwed things up in his absence.

I’ll also second the Ciaphas Cain novels as a great example of British dark humor; the title character is a Blackadder-ish twit who’s just trying to do the best he can to put up the appearance of doing his job without getting killed in the process, and yet continually manages to fail upward out of sheer dumb luck.

If you want pure infusions of lore, go dig up the sourcebooks for the 40k tabletop RPGs. They’re full of interesting stuff and are great reads even if you have no intention of playing the game.

You can also rabbit-hole your way through the Lexicanum, which will usually tell you novels/sourcebooks various characters and events come from.

Those Ciaphas Cain stories sound like a bunch of fun but the format (personal recollections annotated by another) seems like it might be tedious; is it?

ETA: Are the books that are labeled as “Codex” rulebooks for the game?

The codices, I believe, are rulebook supplements for the tabletop wargame (as opposed to the tabletop RPG).

Most of the text is Cain’s first-person recollections of events as written in his memoir, which the Imperial censors rightly blocked the publication of lest the masses believe he’s not the hero that the propaganda vids have made him out to be. The annotations are a minor part of the text.

This is a common interpretation, but not one I entirely buy. For a species (of sorts) on the scale that they are, biomass would be irrelevant - they can get the necessary materials elsewhere if they wished. They destroy because they want or choose to do so, and have even created specialized creatures to infiltrate, subvert, and destroy civilizations from within in order to keep doing so.

They are just stories narrated in the first person. The “annotation” thing is just a framing device that, in practice, amounts to a quite occasional humorous footnote or parenthetical remark.

I would certainly agree that as a whole, they are intelligent, efficient, adaptable and ruthless predators. Your position would seem to indicate that the Tyranids directs hatred towards all non-Tyranid lifeforms. I don’t agree. I don’t perceive hatred or unproductive cruelty in their actions. I doubt that the Tyranid race even has such emotions as we could understand them and even if they do, they don’t waste them on us. We’re just meat.

The 40k setting is balls-to-the-wall-full-tilt-insanity-logic-be-damned and that’s part of what makes it so appealing.

Blizzard wanted to make a Warhammer game but a combination of wanting to maintain control of their own universe and an inability to iron out a deal with Games Workshop prevented that from happening.

I happen to enjoy some of the lore videos you’ve linked to and listened to many of them while playing World of Warcraft.

My only knowledge of WH40k came from the last few days I’ve been playing WH40k Mechanicus and I fucking love everything about it. The adeptus mechanicus are my favorite now, without knowing anything about the other races.