Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Codex Design: Building Army Character


Hey guys,


been awhile since my last post. I've been immersed in Halo: Reach this past week - more on that here.


What I wanted to talk about today is a topic that has been troubling me since I began writing Codex: Stellan Hoplites. What I've found is that creating lore about a civilization or even just their armed forces is a taxing job and often seems pointless. Why add character to a book that is all about rules?


Well the obvious answer to that is that Warhammer 40,000 is not all about rules. If it were it would simply be a lackluster variation of chess. 40k is about cinematic realization as much as it is about inches and dice. There's a story being told in every decision the player makes that allows the cooperative creation of a battle scene centered around our favorite characters. 


So what makes these little guys so special? Well Games Workshop has invested a lot of money and manhours building a universe from scratch so that our toy soldiers can have context. The context gives them a time and place and, as the story evolves, it gives them a motive - a reason to fight. This reason can be almost anything as GW has often shown us but without this detail the rules on the page are lifeless and dull. 


With the Stellans, one major objective I had was to really focus on their "humanity" to kind of place them outside the somewhat tired supersoldier paradigm. GW is great at producing history for their factions but very few armies posses culture. The short stories and timelines tend to focus on the fighting and never seem to really identify the belligerents beyond the lucky few special characters. 


Some time ago I had posted a short story about one of the Hoplite characters, Sergeant Drade. Short stories are rarely short enough in my opinion and so they don't get much attention. What I was trying to impart, however, in the story is that every one of the Hoplites is considered a hero to the common Stellan. It doesn't take superhuman strength or psychic powers to be a hero. Rather it's facing the myriad perils of the 40k universe without those tools that makes the run-of-the-mill human being so great.


There are many attempts all over the inter-webs to create new codices. Though few of these involve an original "race" as mine does those few that do never seem to include any kind of soul in there fluff. Always the story revolves around the great battles and overcoming the odds but it is never human beings that fight those battles - only numbers on a page. 


In parting, I'll leave you guys with this - a little piece of Stellan culture. Why not tell me what you think?


-Atrotos




Graceful spirit astride the sky 
For whom does the Death’s rattle sigh? 

A phantom memory run amok
 The warrior of time, of legend 
gone afore us but not yet dead
 doth now reach you 

His hands are full of blood.

 The shield, the sword 
the lance of light 
trinkets in a box sealed in man’s 
own heart

 Now to punish, now to parry
 the mud-caked boots 
will never change 
He reaches for the sky, longing 

His hands are full of blood. 

His fingers mine, 
His memory unyielding 
Raging in a quiet sea of time 
He reaches you, accept him 

He is not dead
 For he is me, 
I accept him 
and his hands full 
his fingers clothed in crimson 

Are my hands full of blood. 

Graceful spirit astride the sky 
For whom does the Death’s rattle sigh?
 Not for the Stars, no not I
 I may fall 
But I will never die 

- Extract from the Inquisitorial Battle Hymnal vol. MXII, written after the Hoplites’ costly victory on Posthia

4 comments:

Ahrimaneus said...

Nice poem. I like it.

And I know how much effort/time you've put into the Stellan's story/culture. It's definitely a worthwhile endeavor.

Can't wait to see what special characters, stories, and troop descriptions you come up with for your 'dex. Not to mention all of the awesomeness that comes in the first part of a codex

Atrotos said...

I'm glad you like the poem. I thought it was a little risky adding so much creative freedom to the Stellan background but maybe it'll be well received and it'll definitely be original.

I've actually decided to keep the background material to the bare minimum. The reason for this is because I think less is more when it comes to story telling. One extract or quote can be worth as much as a whole page of narrative and it's much easier to read. Also I had this idea that the Stellans might remain a mystery for the most part - that way perhaps players will ask for more info about them rather than getting their fill all at once.

Master Bryss said...

It's the same motive that led to me creating the Angels of Secrecy... most marines are portrayed as huge paragons of battle, and the only ones that have special traits are too barbaristic for my liking (or are Dark Angels). I like to think my army has a degree of sophistication.

The AoS are supposed to be one man's vision of what he belives (or was told to believe!) Space Marines should be. Creative freedom should be encouraged.

Atrotos said...

I'm glad you like the poem. I thought it was a little risky adding so much creative freedom to the Stellan background but maybe it'll be well received and it'll definitely be original.

I've actually decided to keep the background material to the bare minimum. The reason for this is because I think less is more when it comes to story telling. One extract or quote can be worth as much as a whole page of narrative and it's much easier to read. Also I had this idea that the Stellans might remain a mystery for the most part - that way perhaps players will ask for more info about them rather than getting their fill all at once.