Monday, 23 May 2016

The Root of all Evil

Have you got Lost and the Damned? Well? Have you?

It's like an expensive badge. One of the most expensive, book shaped, badges of the whole Oldhammer 'movement'. It's one of these ebay items that makes you sweat through your eyeballs at the thought of pressing 'buy now'. The chaos that ensues when one comes up for auction is worse than the most sharp elbowed, old woman at the church jumble sale.

Don't get me wrong, it's a great book. As an example of the levels of madness that Brian's ego reached then it is a fantastic resource but as a book to play games with? You can manage without it.

A lot of the warband stuff is repeated from the first book and cleaned up a little. The Tzeentch and Nurgle lists are in different formats to lists in the first book. The Beastman and Minotaur stuff is interesting but not hugely ground breaking and there is some neat stuff about creating your own chaos gods and daemons. The painting pages are nice but not as nicely presented as in StoD.

So what is so good about it then? Well it has a really good quick reference sheet for 3rd ed but that's not worth a hundred quid. It does have the first description of the Emperor's early life and his creation of the Primarch's and then Horus Heresy leading to his battle with Horus and his entombment in the golden throne.

No one is going to deny that's important. To be fair, it's not the only place the clusterfuck that for the Horus Heresy was mentioned. Something was hinted at in RT and there was more detail in Slaves to Darkness and in Adeptus Titanicus but as a detailed examination of the whole story of the Emperors life, who he was, how he came to be and how his life, the section in Lost and the Damned is actually the closest in detail that we had until GW started exploring the Heresy in detail 10 years ago. The center piece is the above image of the final confrontation between the Emperor and his wayward son as well as a prose piece describing the battle which hasn't been explored in any detail since.

As a primer for the whole Heresy story combined with the short pieces about Magnus and Mortarion it was pretty much the piece of information about the Emperor and the Primarch's for a long period of time. In a way the whole of the 30K phenomenon has it's roots in this first detail exploration of the man behind the Imperium of man. In fact, I may be ignorant of some pieces somewhere else but, this is the most in depth exploration of the creation and growth of the Emperor to date.

It's therefore doubly interesting that the section following this should explore another aspect of the Emperor that has barely been mentioned since.

The concept of the Emperors immortal soul is explored in depth in the background in the Inquisitor rule book but it's one of many theories that various covens of Inquisitors believe might be the case. In LatD the idea of the Starchild is given as fact. The Emperors soul is floating around in the warp awaiting rebirth as a new saviour for mankind. This fits in nicely with the Thorians belief that the Emperors spirit can be resurrected if a suitable host could be found. Thorians dedicate themselves to tracking down and evaluating these Avatars, in fact in some way this is the entire point of the inquisitions existence, finding a suitable host and a practical method for resurrecting the Emperor.

LatD discusses that the Starchild imbues it's champions with small parts of it's eternal power, gifting it's champions some special powers and abilities. This acts like a mirror and a balance to the gifts the Dark gods gift their champions, and in game terms, allows you to field a warband full of goodies rather than a Chaos warband. What is intriguing about these champions of the Starchild is that they have no idea that is who they are. They are simply freedom fighters, fighting the good fight on behalf of the common man against evil and chaos in all its forms. They do all have two things in common though. They are all descendants of the Emperor and they are all immortal. Ooooohhhh!! If you've been reading along with the Heresy at bedtime book and CD collections then you'll know that there are several immortal characters popping up in the story. Referred to as 'Perpetuals', people like Oll Perrson and Damon Prytanis have interesting and complex lives that have links with various important historical events throughout human history. It is inferred, for instance, that Oll was one of the Argonauts and fought during world war one.

What isn't discussed in the Heresy novels is where these Perpetuals come from (or at least some of them. A couple are created by the cabal and at least one was created by the Emperor). In LatD it's made pretty explicit. All the immortal champions of the Starchild are in fact descended from the Emperor himself and have part of his genetic make-up within them. In the 38,000 years between his birth and his taking over as the big cheese, LatD makes the assumption that the Emperor had some dalliances with the fairer sex and that at least some of these (probably the majority in the 10,000 years before the introduction of contraception - but then he's the Emperor, maybe his sperm pays no attention to contraception?) resulted in babies. These grew up as immortal beings known as Sensei. Now the book does say descendants, so we are free to assume that the children of the children of the children of the Emperors children are as equally immortal as each other so even assuming that the emperor only got randy once every 10 years and that only a proportion of those ever produced offspring and that a proportion of those survived long enough to produce offspring of their own etc. We could be looking a several thousand immortals wandering around fighting their own fight for their own reasons within the Imperium. Obviously hidden in amongst the teeming trillions of humanity this is a fairly small number but as a character type they introduce an intriguing possibility.

If we mix and match the overlapping bits of fluff we can write ourselves some interesting games involving Immortals, pursuing Inquisitors, vengeful chaos types, meddling xenos and all manner of other bits and bobs.

Add to this Illuminati and we've got even more craziness to contend with. The Illuminati are only briefly mentioned in LatD but are covered in more depth in StD but essentially they are survivors of possession. At some point in their lives they have been used as a vessel by a daemon of some sort and through extreme power of will have managed to defeat the evil being and have banished it from their body. This obviously leaves a fairly indelible mark on someones soul and through the knowledge that they have shared with the entity they know a hell of a lot more about the nature of the universe, chaos and the Emperor himself.   The illuminati's plan is to ensure that at the moment of the Emperors death all the portions of his soul can be reunited by simultaneously sacrificing all the Sensei that they can catch. Unless you've read the inquisition series of books where all that is just Tzeentch messing about.

So, fed up playing Battle at the Farm? You could do a lot worse than delving into a bit of pseudo-fluff quackery and picking and choosing the parts that nearly make sense. Build a campaign around that kind of universe ending subterfuge. Play it as RT, Inq28, Inquisimunda, tiddlywinks, whatever, but use your imagination to scoop out the guts of 40K and have a good root around. There is still plenty waiting to be explored. And now you don't have to spend £100+ to do it. Cheers.


  1. I'm lucky enough to still have my original copy of LatD in very condition (unfortunately my copy of StoD got flood damaged but is still useable). I agree that it says more about the madness of Bryan Ansells ego than being an essential playing book, but I also think this has something to do with the chaos of the design process, the hangover of roleplaying and the fact that games were designed for narrative fun as opposed to balanced tournament play. Yet it is also these elements that attract me to the spirit of Oldhammer instead of the more modern product (some of which are well crafted games with great miniatures). You got the sense that you were involved in a much wider setting rather than simply playing a tactical game with counters that happened to be nicely painted miniatures is what made the hobby for me then and has kept me interested since I got back into collecting.

    I am currently stalled in the Horus Heresy novels, having got very bored with one of the repetitive short story collections. But I did love the fact that with those novels they set out to do something that added mystery to their games as well exploring the background. I agree that their is more than enough material available that you need never play another nameless battle between unnamed characters. Every battle should be part of a story, not simply a more colourful substitute for chess or draughts.

  2. Excellent well written article.
    I agree with you, it's a wonderful book to own, but not essential. A lot of the articles were released in White Dwarf (such as the Beastmen, Minotuars, and the Emperor's battle with Horus).

    The rules for Nurgle and Tzeentch are useful, as are those for Lesser Powers of Chaos. It is also nice to have the rules for Dragon Ogres.It is essential thuogh if you want to game Star Child warbands, and understand the background.

    Personally I always found the 40k Chaos Legion lists a bit of a let down. I would have preferred one in the style of the Slaves to Darkness book, but by that time GW were changing the format of their army lists.

    Overall it's a great book, with a lot of art and background, with some useful rules, but not a must have at any cost. But then we both have a copy. :)

  3. Yeah, as far as I could see at the time, the RoC books represented 'Peak Egomania' at the studio. The sheer amount of time, creative effort and money that went into a book that was, to all intents and purposes, entirely superfluous, however nice it was, was just staggering. It is genuinely amazing that GW weathered the storm.

  4. With talk like that the Inquisition will be after you next..............................

  5. My copy of StD was stolen, but I still have my LatD, even if half the pages are threatening to fall out...

    It's my fav of all the GW publications ever. But then I was always a tru devotee of Nurgle. The Star Childe stuff though really engaged my imagination and 25 years or so ago I owned a warband made up to be a Sensei and fight my then Nurgle rotters.

    The Emperor to me would have been a truly randy sod. I mean, with all that power of mankind, he'd surely take full advantage from time to time over the eons surely?

  6. Today 1 in 200 men on earth we can prove are descended from Genghis Khan. The Y chromosome is begin traced here so we are not even tracing any of his daughters descendants or indeed any of his male descendants daughters descendants the number is probably way higher. He only had 20-30 years of making sons (we only count sons because we are tracing the Y chromosome) I'm sure an immortal emperor with many thousands of years of procreation must have more descendants than that.

    The book only describes male Sensei, perhaps the genes for godhood are only to be found on the Y chromosome. I volunteer someone else tells Feminista.

    On a separate note the beastman warbands are brutal, I found them to advance much more quickly with a much better selection of warriors.

    1. I assuming the emperor was across between a monk and Spock so would only have felt the need occasionally but if he was as randy as the Khan then we would be talking about millions of godlike nutcases. Good to hear from you again. We need to sort out a game.


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