Wednesday, 22 April 2015
5 Ideas We Want To See In Codex: Craftworlds
So it's been confirmed now. The next codex about the eldar will focus upon the individual craftworlds, making each one stand out and fleshing out aspects of their existence. Quite frankly, it's about damn time. A previous criticism has been that, in comparison to all other races, the astartes receive a massive amount of attention and detail while other major factions of major races are effectively skimmed over. This has been especially true of both the Tau Empire and Craftworld Eldar over the years, and now is the time to correct that. While personally I still consider many points of a previous list to be very valid, there are several others which should be brought up as points to correct. So without further ado, here's a number of ideas we want to see in Codex: Craftworlds.
5. Customs, Traditions And Contacts
It's known that, while they have drifted apart and separated from one another, some craftworlds do maintain contact with one another. This can be for trade reasons, forging alliances and even going so far as to occasionally enter war with one another. Being so varied and often isolated for various reasons, it would be interesting nevertheless to see just how as a race they maintain communication and even alliances when needed. How also they might treat outsiders such as corsairs, how they even go so far as to break and separate themselves from all outsiders when needed.
The chief issue really is that, for all we know about the craftworlds, we don't truly know much actually about them. How have the End Times caused shifts in their cultures? What impact does believing in dead gods have upon them? How do they view humans and what schisms, alliances or even developments has their nomadic nature caused? What role or connotations do certain Aspect Shrines carry from world to world, and how does the Path system alter from one to the next if at all? Very few of these have been explored, often only with certain surface details or areas of their identity outlined. Even the better novels to focus upon the race such as Valedor completely skipped over these and left only minor elements here and there to flesh things out.
This is a true opportunity to really develop and show how the eldar differ from one another and there's plenty of opportunities to do so without massive retcons. They have shared aspects, differing ideologies, varying views and even potentially critical differences in the way their defensive measures against She Who Thirsts works. At the moment we only have a few basic elements to help make the craftworlds seem individual, this book is a chance to make them truly individual and stand out with their long histories.
4. Focus Upon The Craftworld, Not The Warhost
This does tie into the previous point a fair bit, but it is well worth mentioning despite that. A chief problem with how underdeveloped the Craftworld Eldar are is actually due to their nature. Unlike the Dark Eldar, orks or astartes, they are not all warriors. In fact, a vast number of those on a craftworld are following every different Path besides that of the Warrior to specifically avoid stagnation or a gradual death of their society. The thing is though, it often seems that writers have no idea how to actually deal with this. Unless a force is carrying guns, praying to some god or capable of unleashing hell itself, many societies and little details are instead skipped over.
The lack of focus and any real fleshing out of anything beyond a faction's armies has been seen again and again over the years, down to the point where we barely have anything about them which doesn't relate to war in some way. Biel-Tan is notably militaristic overall and ready for conflict. Iyanden, sadly, has its entire lore and detailed existence revolve around one single battle which ruined them. Alaitoc is the closest we ever get to anything beyond this, but that only comes down to noting how so many of their kind move upon the Path of the Outcast. Something which is almost purely there to help give them a distinctive unit to latch onto in war. This is only made worse as so many craftworlds have their lore narrowed down to paragraphs at the most in some books, just focusing upon those warlike details.
If Games Workshop really wanted to change things, to alter how things are depicted, they could shift the focus somewhat. Show how certain aspects of their society might lead towards massive numbers of a certain unit, but use it to focus upon those aspects over just the unit itself. Perhaps even detail the inner workings of the craftworld to a point which outlines their metal state in war, but to help show how a single ideology or elements of their traditions could help lead to certain way of war. All of these have been present to a degree, but the focus has always been upon the warlike aspects above all else, with any cultural significance coming second. It really wouldn't take much just to help better balance out these aspects and turn each craftworld into a true culture.
3. A Long-Lived Species
One sadly often forgotten detail is that the eldar tend to live for many thousands of years. They're elite, few in number and the natural end of their lifespan only comes after a truly staggering number of eons. This has always been noted in the books, but the problem is that so many writers seem to miss the real significance of this fact. Whereas the astartes remember and venerate their primarchs, the eldar of their craftworld sailed the galaxy during their time. When the Emperor himself was planning his Great Crusade, the eldar were already a well established force. Many of their number have witnessed generation after generation of humankind pass by, and have seen firsthand how their empire has decayed and knowledge lost. Think about what that means for a moment: We have an army where whose average soldier has probably been living and perhaps even serving from the time before the Sisters of Battle were founded.
There are a truly staggering number of story ideas and lore opportunities which could be had with this. Think for a moment what might happen if the eldar visited a world, gained an impression of it, and then returned at a later date only to find it completely transformed. Think what might happen if the eldar visited a human society, the impact of their arrival, only to have that turn into a legend. Hell, take that further and perhaps have them intentionally visiting it, prodding a society or race down the specific path they need or to develop along certain lines for some unknown purpose.
Even ignoring this fact, we then perhaps have how their race might have acted during certain openings, events or eras of human history where they were weak. At many points the Imperium's attention has been diverted elsewhere or isolated. The Black Crusades, certain xenos incursions, even Goge Vandire's bloody dominion, eras in which they might have times to strike back or carry out some plan of one kind or another. They can easily be written into the long, bloody events of the galaxy and interlinked into major events in one way or another. Not to just, as is so often the case, list only their origins and then major events in M41.
Writers, to be put it simply, need to think about how a long-lived species would act, behave and even influence the events of the galaxy.
2. An Even Focus For All
For all the criticisms you can make of Games Workshop, they are willing to listen and try to improve when the voices of dissent are loud enough. This was best seen with Codex: Space Marines. After the gibbering insanity of the Fifth Edition Codex, the recent Sixth Edition book did everything it could to win back the crowd. It certainly didn't do it perfectly, but it was a big step in the right direction, the most notable among these being how it divided the book up. A vast number of major chapters were given a section of the book to help them stand out, to flesh out their traditions and histories rather than one being dominant overall.
Dividing the book up to focus upon several craftworlds at once would ultimately allow it the space it needs to really flesh out. Properly focusing upon them one at a time rather than just their distinct similarities and shared history would help them to individually stand out, but more than that to make it seem like a truly far flung society. Rather than just to be the same race with a new colour scheme or differing tactical doctrines, it could given each craftworld a real identity, one after the next. The reason this is a point rather than just something obvious to brush over is that, sadly, Codex: Space Marines is so far the only one to do this. No other book so far has attempted to emulate this quite as well, and the few times an army has left a faction to be fleshed out had been reserved for supplements and the like.
Call this a minor point if you want, but it's a truly important one if the codex wants to actually live up to its name and focus upon the craftworlds one at a time.
1. Make Them Alien
Of all the species in Warhammer, the eldar are the closest to being human. The misconception anyway, usually put down to their basic visual appearance. The truth is that, of all the species in the galaxy, the eldar are actually among the most inhuman, but all too often writers forget this. They share certain emotions, romance, love, hatred and understand loss, but these are different shades and elements to what humankind experiences. Their entire lives are dominated by single pathways intended to direct them away from total excess and encourage near total control. This is, however, only the barest start of the truth.
The eldar are insanely advanced beyond anything humankind can truly understand. Their language is complex, yes, with humans barely gaining elements of spoken word and its meanings, but there is far more beyond that. For example, this is a species which can have entire conversations in moments through basic body language, even to speak a word twice and for each one to have a billion different meanings depending upon slight inflections. Atop of this, there's also the nature of their biology. What's often forgotten is that the eldar are primarily psychic in everything, from their potential to bend reality to their very biological functions. Their body is built so that it never produces waste, has far more complex DNA, and (in the case of some) whose final stage of existence is to crystallise into a tree.
To put it bluntly: Comparing them so directly with humans is inaccurate at best. It would be like putting a pug next to a thunderwolf and claiming the two are very similar. You might be able to argue there are similarities, but in moments you can quickly see they're two very different beasts.
If writers want to approach the eldar and make them truly stand out as an individual race, they need to stop writing them as an overtly human force and use a more exaggerated style. Some have developed an approach which makes them seem more oddly formal or Old English in their behavior, more like something out of an overtly scripted play. While this does help to a degree, the truth is that they need to look to more alien inspirations or even amoral depictions to make them have a more unique form of morality and existence. If they truly want to make them stand out as a unique race, they need to actually seem like a unique race rather than just elves with shuriken guns.
So, those are five points which would be great for the codex to focus upon. These are more wishes than some truly necessary element to help properly make the codex a success, but they would help significantly. Well, that and treating the Phoenix Lords like the eldar equivalent of primarchs, rather than just glorified Autarchs.
Still, there's plenty more which could be said. If you have a few ideas of your own, please feel free to leave them in the comments.