In my last post, I looked at what GW has left in the tank when it comes to its own IP and things it could bring into the 41st Millennium. As it turns out, there’s not a huge amount to bring into the game, so are we approaching one of those rare times when Games Workshop starts inventing something completely new for the game? In this post, I want to look at the external influences that have informed 40k’s most alien of races, and look at the current and past Sci-Fi scene to see what would work in the Grimdark.
Some of the longer serving 40k Xenos races have a very obvious origin – Warhammer. The fantasy game loaned quite a lot to the Sci-Fi sensation when it was in its infancy, and most of that turned out great. Heck, between the comedic stylings of the punky Space Orks, and Jes Goodwin’s unique designs of the Eldar, we got something truly fantastic. But races that were fleshed out a little later came from other places entirely.
The Tyranids are the obvious place to start. They were classic Sci-Fi movie monsters brought to life and their stylings certainly owed something to Giger and Scott’s work, Alien. The original Tyranid that appeared briefly and vaguely in Rogue Trader was more like a Dinosaur and so we’re lucky that the Xenomorph’s influence took hold. And while modern Nids have moved a little further away from this, the influence is still there, though it is now more of a ‘nod to’ than a true homage. This is a great example of GW taking something from Pop culture, combining it with their own ideas and providing us with a great Xenos army.
The Tau are another good example. You can’t look at a battlesuit without being reminded of Japanese Anime and Manga. Look at the head of Briarios from Appleseed and tell me that you don’t see a little of that in the helmet of say a XV86 Coldstar. But GW was a little quicker to evolve the idea with the Tau, and gave them space communism, loads of weird allies and the whole fish thing. Nevertheless, the influences of Japanese battlesuit
animation and aesthetics remain.
And this is what we’re looking for here. Where could the influences come from? Giger’s Aliens and Japan’s Gundams (amongst others) have fed fantastically into 40k, so where do we look next?
What we’re really looking for are a combination of the following things:
- A unique design aesthetic that works within 40k.
- A great background that everyone can buy into.
- Unique weapons and technologies.
- Something that can be developed.
These are the key factors which link the Tyranids and the Tau, and their influences. Nothing else looks like Japanese animation or an HR Giger biomech, and this gives us the unique aesthetics. The background comes in the most part later on from the writers, but some of that can be absorbed as well. After all, Tyranids and Genestealers can infest space hulks, and Tau are technically made of sashimi. Both have completely unique weapon sets which again are taken in some part from their prime influencers. Tyranid’s have their venom cannons, Xenomorphs have their acid blood – both biological weapons created from the creature’s own bodily fluids. And I’m not even going to start listing the rail guns and missile pods on Japanese battlesuits.
These are our key ingredients, and now that we have them, we know what we’re looking for in terms of our inspiring figures from beyond 40k.
Potential Test Subjects
You know what, I wrote about a thousand words for this section and ended up deleting the lot. I talked about Klingons, Predators, that monster from Stranger Things and some Fallout mutants, but I scrapped it all. I maintain that the above formula is the way to go when you’re bringing in something into the 40k setting, but I had an epiphany.
The Kroot. Yes, I know they’re already in the game, and this article was supposed to be about things beyond the game and a new Xenos race, but the fact of the matter is that the Kroot could hold the real key to this issue of not having enough Xenos.
How did I miss them from the last post?! Maybe because they’re still relatively new to the game, or because they’ve been slowly phased down in the Tau lists. But still – how did I miss them? Let me explain.
Imagine that during the next Tau sphere of expansion, a rogue Kroot chief takes control of his species. An outsider who no-one thought could be leader, but the tribes vote him in. And he splits the Kroot from the Tau. Some would remain loyal to the Tau (no need to take them out of that codex) but this new leader breaks off a huge section of the Kroot and leads them on their own expansion. Their shaman come to the fore and develop a way of using the webway, or teleporting, or something that would allow them to move between star systems without ships, and they go on the hunt.
They have the look and hunting nature of Predator, they’re a fast horde army that is supplemented with monsters. They rely on natural magic and scavenged technology. Though they’re looking not for war, but for a slice of the galaxy for themselves, where they can live and hunt and be free. This nature stops them from being too Orky which is one of the dangers any new race could fall into.
Forge World could revive their Kroot monsters which have long been missing from their ranges, and design more. The designers and fluff writers could pull more from tribal cultures, including but not limited to the Native Americans, south pacific tribes and aboriginal Australians (preferably without being too obvious and certainly not insulting – nothing too on the nose, they should draw from but not imitate as that can get very insulting very quickly ). They could represent a step backwards for the ever expanding Tau who have already suffered a schism with the Farsight enclave. All the roots for a great army are there already.
And if you want to borrow from current Sci Fi, go for it. Maybe they can walk through other dimensions to reach other worlds, and encounter/enslave monsters like that creature in Stranger Things. Or they could purposely mutate Tau captives to make them suffer as the Kroot have, and turn them into things that resemble the mutant monsters in Fallout.
I don’t know. This isn’t where I saw this post heading. This conclusion has nothing to do with the title or the core theme, but I guess this is a case of ‘best laid plans, etc…’. But honestly, I see this as the best way that we can get a new Xenos army into the game. That or, I don’t know; Ewoks. There you go.
On that unexpected note, I shall ask you to forgive me for leading you down this rabbit hole, and wish you happy painting and gaming. Onwards!
There is a whole kroot army list in an old chapter approved book. At one stage I was going to go all in and make a full kroot only army using it. (Gw them quietly dropped it along with the snakebites ork lists)
Haha, I know that feeling when you start writing something and it completely morphs out of all recognition!
Honestly I think you have a good point in the end, though I still think I would look to keep the Kroot part of the Tau and perhaps develop some of the other mercenaries they’ve discussed already – Tarellian Dog Soldiers being my favourite and perhaps the easiest concept to develop.
Predator is also a fantastic source concept, especially since predator vs alien has already established that hunter/prey relationship with giger’s aliens so taking the next step and introducing a race that has followed the Tyranids across the galactic gulf isn’t completely unbelievable. It would also conveniently allow them to be introduced without having to retcon a whole section of the galaxy and pretend ‘they were there all along’.
Lastly, don’t know if this interests you, but I came into possession of an old Baal predator the other day – it was fairly hacked about so I’m currently restoring it but would you be interested if I can get it to a state where I’m happy to sell it on?
Hmmmm the oddworld games in grimdark, i could buy that 😀
Could see an abe’s odyssey fluff going along the lines of abe guevara (as i dub your resistance leading kroot), leading an uprising after realizing that the greater good isn’t in their best interests and they are in fact a slave race for the tau, an ugly grease which lubricates the machinery of the expansion. Cue many sabotage efforts, and i would have a house rule of a loyalty roll each turn for any kroot in a tau army to see if they change sides mid game ;). What would be interesting for them as a race would be having a totally different take on the chaotic pantheon and the warp through “natural magic”, in so much as not good and evil, but a more holistic approach, rather than nurgle being death and decay he could be seen more as the counterpoint to life, like without him no compost and no growth, stuff along those lines, which would tie into many aboriginal belief systems. With it being grimdark of course could all be a ruse by chaos 😀
There is one other race which could work in a similar tribal scavenged tech route, exodite eldar!, as much as i have no love for pointy eared space elf bastards, i would love to be able to legitimately field my exodite eldar “jetbike” squadron, which consists of toy pterodactyl’s with jet bike cowlings grafted onto their backs and old school wood elf horse men with spears riding them lol. Fluff wise as we pretty much have unified eldar now with the ynar..ynaeri…god of death eldar, they would be completely distinct especially as they could have populated entire planetary systems, so have numbers on their side and forgotten tech revered as relics, soul stones are symbolic rather than real, wood replaces plastic, and eldar rituals become cargo cult* interpretations
Aye, I’ve been thinking that the Kroot would be a good pick for GW’s next xenos race. May be wrong on my background, it’s been a while since I read up on the Kroot, but if I recall correctly although they’re relationship with the Tau is supposed to be exclusive the galaxy is a big place and away from the prying eyes of their allies the Kroot are more than happy to do their own thing, or hire themselves out as mercenaries to other races. Between FW’s Kroot monsters and the various Kroot-hounds/Krootox/Shapers etc there’s already the core of an interesting new faction ready to roll.
Exodite Eldar would be another good pick – although do they really need to ride around on Dinosaurs GW? Most likely some guy in the sales department is emphatically saying “yes, dinosaurs all the way” but it really would be nice to see something more original and interesting – and I say that with the greatest respect to the dinosaurs, who I love but who really don’t belong in science fiction.
A.I. The Imperium takes a hard line on Abominable Intelligences given the rocky relationship mankind appears to have had with them during the Dark Age of Technology. However there’s already been references in the Horus Heresy series to AI with an equally dim view of humanity and chaos alike so although every servant of the Omnissiah knows that an unsanctioned machine is a doorway to the daemonic there’s no need to make this part of the chaos family of factions (leave that to the Dark Mechanicum). Instead we could have a race of sentient machines and robots (not humanoid though – these aren’t the Necrons) and the ragged human cultists that serve them.