Of blood knights and madmen

So, why start a World Eaters Army?

I have always loved the various incarnations of chaos in the worlds of Warhammer Fantasy and 40k. And I’ve always been drawn to Khorne and his followers in particular. When it comes to the World Eaters, I guess it’s simply the colour scheme that does it for me, the snazzy combination of blood red and brass. I also like the design, even the so-called “bunny helmets” that so many World Eaters players seem to abhor. And I have to admit that I am still able to enjoy the Khorne Berserker plastics as a basis for conversions and kitbashes, dated as they may look.

What I don’t like is most of the recent fluff for the World Eaters. While former editions of the background had Khorne down as the god of warfare and brutality, they also stressed that he was the patron of martial pride and honour, and that if you took too much pride in your strength and fighting prowess, you were in real danger to fall to the worship od Khorne. The World Eaters, then, weren’t just the crazed madmen they are now, but also fierce and sometimes honourable warriors whose pride had become their undoing.

One of the coolest snippets of background in the 2nd edition Codex Ultramarines had an Ultramarines officer (it may have been Marneus Calgar himself, I can’t recall) fight so valiantly that he earned a salute from a World Eaters champion in the midst of battle. To me, that’s the essence of the legion right there: They have committed to a life of eternal battle and slaughter. But they take fierce pride in their abilities and are ready to acknowledge strength in others.

There’s little of this in the recent fluff, though: The World Eaters have become a collection of crazed madmen who are always screaming for blood and killing indiscrimiately. This doesn’t really sit well with me, not so much because it’s kind of an unsympathetic thing to do, but rather because the slaughter of defenseless planetary populations doesn’t feel like something that would make the god of war very proud of his followers.

I also think that this recent one-dimensionality is a reason for the lack of great fluff for the World Eaters. From a narrative standpoint, at least if you play it straight, it’s really not very compelling to have someone be always angry, all the time. It’s no wonder that there are lots of BL books on other traitor legions, but none for the World Eaters (supposedly, there’s one on the way. I have to say I’m equally thrilled and horrified at the prospect): In their current incarnation, they really can’t be too much fun to write about.

So, what to do? My answer was to slightly readjust the fluff for my World Eaters so that it still fit the established guidelines but also harkened back to the older incarnations of the legion. My army is called “Khorne’s Eternal Hunt”, because that’s what it is: a hunting party, eternally hunting for worthy prey. It is only by bringing down the most powerful enemies that they can prove themselves worthy in the eyes of Khorne – at least, that’s what they think.

Khorne’s Eternal Hunt is also made up of the remains of the World Eaters’ 4th assault company. Contrary to most of the legion, they have managed to stay together as a fairly coherent fighting force. They regard the madness that has gripped the legion with disgust and fear and are fighting a losing battle to keep it at bay. In battle, they are as ruthless as all World Eaters. But after the battle has ended, they feel only emptiness. An emptiness they try to fill with an endless number of campaigns. They tell themselves that they still have their honour. But it was honour that damned them to begin with. They know that they are lost, but where the Imperium of Man cast them out, Khorne will always accept their loyalty.

I think it’s far more interesting to have the World Eaters alternate between periods of frenzy and dark, fatalistic brooding, than to have them be super-angry all day. At least, I wanted to have my World Eaters be somewhat multidimensional, since it’s much easier to imagine them as characters that way. In case you’re interested, TVtropes has an awesome writeup for a character archetype the call a “Blood Knight”. It makes for excellent further reading and has lots of examples of how this archetype is handled in fiction.

Anyhow, that’s the rationale behind my army’s fluff and background. For those of you who are still reading, I’ll probably be showcasing some fluff somewhere along the way that further illustrates my point on this.

Geez, what a wall of text! Next up, some pretty pictures 😉

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2 Responses to “Of blood knights and madmen”

  1. […] at close quarters and usually cannot hit the side of a barn when shooting at anything. However, I already voiced my dislike for the fact that the recent fluff only ever portrays the World Eaters as nothing but […]

  2. […] some trepidation that I approached the first real BL book to flesh out my favourite legion: I have gone on record stating that the prospect of new material for “my” legion always fills me with equal […]

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