Thursday, 21 October 2010

40K v FS

On the FS Yahoo mailing list, someone asked about the difference between 40K and FS. It's an interesting question; I've posted, but I'll stick it up here as well so it doesn't let lost in the noise.

For me, the difference is simple; subtlety and space to ask questions.

40K has EVERYTHING turned up to 11; one hive city holds the worlds' current population, a Super Star Destroyer would only make it as a frigate and everything is nastier than everything else. I mean, just look at the bad guys; zombie robots that serve soul-eating star gods, god-level manifestations of raw human urges, fungal super-soldiers that not only fight but infest so there's a never-ending source and some hive-mind god intelligence eating our galaxy and turning our own biospheres against us.

And all of these are fought by demi-human supersoldiers with guns that fire rounds bigger than your thumb.

The morality is black-on-black; the good guy is a fascist, xenophobic human empire that uses criminals as spare parts and got its fashion tips from the wrong side of WWII.

And the thing is, all of the technophobia is good and necessary after the scrap with the Iron Men. Psykers need to end up as the God-Emperor's lunch because that's what keep space travel going and because until they mature they'll only serve to break reality. You can't stop and ask if it's OK to bomb a planet of civilians because you'd already be eaten by whatever got to them.

And that's awesome (I should point out that I have both DH and RT and I think they're great). Everything is supposed to be epic and more than a little mad and hardcore - the political conceit of being hard men making hard decisions made very real, desperately fighting to survive just one. More. Day. Against things that would make Cthulhu go 'I'm outta here; this stuff is *whacked*'.

Compare with FS; each of the sects has factions ranging from evil bastards to moral paragons and most shades in between; even the symbiots as written are a weird transhuman thing that doesn't quite work out, rather than the 'consume!' thing of the Tyranids.

Yes there's technophobia and space feudalism too, but they're inverted by being painted as a choice. The nobility took their chance when the Second Republic fell down, and remade the Known Worlds as they wanted them - and they had to fight to do it. The Guilds' precursors built the Second Republic and would like to do it again in some form.

In many ways it's classic sci-fi of the type we don't see often enough, questioning the human condition.

Tl:dr: Fading Suns asks 'why' - why did all this change and can we escape it? 40K says 'blessed is the mind too small for doubt. Now reload and let's get that thing or die trying!'


  1. The two are so different I'm not even sure they bare comparing. They both take place in space, but that's about it. 40k is a caricature, while FS is a serious philosophical exploration of a them (middle ages).

    But I agree - both are totally awesome :)

  2. Well, they do have some similarities on the big identifiers. They're both awesome; they have religious, transhumanistic engineer elements for one, a strong chaos/law axis for another. Both take a serious stand on knowledge and enlightenment (40K is against it), essential to both games' settings.

    Of course, it wasn't my argument in the first place; it just made me think ponder.

    It doesn't help that FS and 40K are both kitchen sink settings, riffing on everything and will therefore bump up.

    I'm not totally sure on the caricature thing though. Yes, 40K runs off 2000AD and that has an overt streak of satire running through it, (being British I don't think of it as being cleverly funny, so much as a mechanism for coping with our political and social structures), but it's worth remembering that Judge Dredd was originally played straight and I think 40K does seem to have preferred that stance for most of its life. 40K is pretty heavily Heavy metal Cthulhu in Spaaaaace, with black comedy to emphasise the darkness.

    But in practical terms, I do intend to borrow a few ideas from 40K for props. If nothing else, because 40K has already led the way in combining medieval and technological styles with gusto.