I have given the Warhammer 40k setting some thought recently, and realized that drastic swathes of it make no sense.

Now I am not talking about the glaringly obvious issues on the surface here.

For instance the big imperial battleships are described as relying on massive labor forces to move shells around for the ship’s weapons. Simple labor saving devices like forklifts, cranes and trolleys seem to be absent. …and yet making a servitor with hoists for arms seems doable and so does making a tractor-servitor, or a supply truck for surface operations but not bring it to the cavernous interior of a ship? And why exactly can’t they turn off the sophisticated artificial gravity systems to compensate for the lack of load moving technology?

And if the Imperial Guard can field extremely sophisticated (yet stupid) technology like walkers why can’t the Imperium field much less sophisticated technologies elsewhere?

The cause of this sort of setting-glitch is grabbing at a cool image or concept, but not considering consequences or alternatives. Like the above example, the idea of Dickensian labor gangs in Imperial warships and so on…even though even five seconds of thought shows it is nonsense.

Another issue is that some things being cool in one context get over-used everywhere. For instance the idea of Hive Worlds in which no-one uses land vehicles because their city is one huge building…and then for less populated Imperial Worlds everyone wonders if humanity can still manage to build and drive cars. And that’s despite the fact the Imperium can build tanks and other military land vehicles.


2017 February 15th

I am starting to think that one of the better ways to explain the W40k setting is that the earlier editions (particularly 2nd) describe better / less-fallen parts of the W40k universe and as the edition number rises it’s describing progressively more-fallen parts of the setting.

For instance in earlier editions the Adeptus Mechanicus are inventors, explorers and innovators trying to lift the Imperium’s technology level and increase its scientific understanding. In later editions they are crazy technophobes who don’t want anyone building or understanding anything and outlawing loads of technology and they can’t replicate or repair tech built by past generations.

I think that the way I would handle this from a GM’s perspective is to set a tech-level by planet for what they can do on their own. So there will be legacy tech that they can’t replicate but for all the day to day quality of life stuff you might pick a tech capability by year (such as “1920’s”). Forbidden stuff like AI would still be forbidden (noting it was not forbidden in 2nd and 3rd edition W40k). Then you just decide what wargear a planet could reasonably make (which may be none) on its own and anything else needs importing from a forge world or hive world.

One world’s Imperial Guard regiment for instance might have autoguns because they can be made locally while lasguns can not for example (could be very relevant to Only War).

With that model you could make root-sucking-jackass worlds like modern W40k describes and reasonably coherent old-style worlds like earlier editions describe. On some worlds Rogue Traders might be able to pick up a laspistol at any weapon shop on the planet (but a power sword would still be a rare find) and on the next world tracking a laspistol down would require scouring the globe and then convincing the owner to part with the rare item.

Similarly to worlds I would do the same with organizations, particularly those that are now diametrically opposed to what they used to be. One part “well that’s what the common population think, but actually…” and one part “well looks like there are different factions and sects within that organization”. So with the Adeptus Mechanicus for instance if they swoop in and say “NO TECH FOR YOU” grab the stuff and split you could explain it as a Luddite faction of the Adeptus Mechanicus or that what they really did was play Luddites as they grabbed the ‘banned’ tech and ran off to study it.




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