This one has been sitting in my drafts folder for a while, and I figured it was time it got finished and saw the light of day.

When I announced my post on Meltaguns on the GURPS Discord server, the following sentence from there generated a little discussion:

There is pretty much no reason to use one of these instead of a
good anti-vehicle missile, but the Imperium of Man never cared for reason.

Some of the people who were in there at the time disagreed with this sentence. They attempted to explain their position1, and while I still don’t agree with them, I could kinda see where they’re coming from.

At the core of that logic is a strong impulse to suspend disbelief in the setting and to willfully ignore the gaps between the fiction and the rules2. To look at the stuff depicted in the setting material and wargame rules, and to build a chain of logic that makes it internally consistent. This is an attitude shared by a lot of fans of the setting, and some of its writers too.

I come at this from a different direction. At the core of my thinking about Warhammer 40.000 is the fact that this setting is utterly ridiculous, and any material I write about it will hold that idea within its heart. The Imperium are a bunch of spaze nazis whose outlook, equipment, and strategies are entirely oriented towards what would make the best heavy metal album cover. Their claims to be the only alternative to the end of humanity or even of the universe are entirely bunk. I will never, ever take them the least bit seriously or picture them in a sympathetic light. They will never be better than a joke in my book.

The same goes for pretty much everyone else, though they likely prefer to pose for album covers in different music genres3.

I will gladly adapt stuff from that setting to GURPS, and I would even GM a game in that setting, but in both cases I will always keep that ridiculousness in mind, lampshade it at every opportunity, and make sure every shade of nazi in there is an eminently punchable antagonist. As you might imagine, it’s not very likely that I’ll end up playing in a game with people who take the Imperium at its word, much less people who think it’s way of thinking applies to the real world.

  1. Which was that the setting’s missiles are weaker than meltaguns because that’s what the wargame and FFG rules imply. 

  2. Or ludonarrative dissonance if you want to be technical. 

  3. Hair metal for the Eldar, some kind of Gundam soundtrack for the Tau, and so on.