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Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader (1st edition) lore question

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Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader (1st edition) lore question

Postby Kurgan » Sunday January 30th, 2022 1:34pm

So I've read on various "wiki" type pages, saying that in the original version of Warhammer 40,000 (gamesworkshop's "grimdark" futuristic wargame released in 1987), the Emperor wasn't a corpse strapped to a throne and kept "alive" (sort of, some aspect of his mind or soul is said to be alive) by technology but was simply an elderly man who was still ruling his empire but bed-ridden, then some later edition stated he slipped into a coma.

However, I looked at a copy of the Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader (c. 1987) rule book and it opens with calling the Emperor of Mankind a rotting corpse (pretty much verbatim as he is described in the 5th edition starter kit "Assault on Black Reach" from 2008). Is this an error in the online pages?

Thanks in advance for any super WH40K lore nerds who can answer this, especially if you can show me any alternate sources....


FYI: The reason I ask this is because I'm looking into the backstory of the loosely inspired game Space Crusade (1990) and checking to see where the timeline could line-up between this game and what the WH40K lore was at the time of release. But if the warhammer wikis are wrong, I'm sure they'd appreciate the correction!
Last edited by Kurgan on Monday January 31st, 2022 12:03pm, edited 1 time in total.


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Re: Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader (1st edition) question

Postby cornixt » Monday January 31st, 2022 10:57am

I don't think there was much if anything released before Rogue Trader came out. Back then though, the lore was just that he was a very strong and smart man, not the giant super being that he is now. They retconned a lot of stuff by second edition.


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Re: Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader (1st edition) question

Postby Kurgan » Monday January 31st, 2022 11:13am

Thanks, and as someone who wasn't a fan much less a WH historian any help is appreciated. The general idea that the first time they introduce the Emperor, he's already a corpse on a throne, leaving the impression that he's just a figurehead, a symbol (or even a hoax), even if (prior to his introduction as a dead guy) they say he was once this great figure... seems to stand.

Thus the Wikipedia entry on it (but maybe not the Warhammer 40,000 wiki, which seems to write a unified article on the latest edition) is wrong... I'm surprised fans have let that slip by, I guess the lore is that confusing?

But the "dead emperor introduction" text appears again in 2008's starter kit and looks the same as it did in 1987.


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Re: Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader (1st edition) lore question

Postby cornixt » Monday January 31st, 2022 12:55pm

At one point, the Emperor was the result of an immaculate conception that was created by thousands of psykers who forsaw the coming of chaos and sacrificed themselves to create someone who could hold it off. I think they gave up on that since it hasn't been mentioned in the last couple of editions. It becomes less clear what is meant to be canon as they go on. He seems to grow in size with each edition too, he used to be the same size as the primarchs, but now he is supposed to have always been some absurd size, like nine feet tall, bigger than even the new primaris marines. At least the primaris marines are closer in scale to the size that marines were always described as, even though the models were always far too short.


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Re: Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader (1st edition) lore question

Postby Kurgan » Monday January 31st, 2022 1:21pm

[nitpick - the proper term would be "virgin birth" but that's not the main point here]

I'm sure the explanation is going to be that the contradictory, confusing stories about the Emperor in various editions of the game are meant to reflect the "truth" that he's a legendary figure. So Chuck Norris gets stronger, William Wallace is 10 feet tall, etc.

I'm most curious what he was in 1990 when Space Crusade was made. As with the "loosely set in the same universe" minimalist controversy over Warhammer Fantasy and HeroQuest, it appears that Space Crusade sidesteps the issue. So either the space marines and eldar you play as in SC either don't know what's really going on, it simply contradicts the WH4K0 explanation current at the time, or just ignores it, allowing the players to fill in with their imagination (or not). But it seems like if it is set in the "present" of WH40, then the Emperor should be a mummy strapped to a chair with an energy beam bouncing off his skull, and the real power in the Empire is elsewhere, the rest being superstitions held by his soldiers.

But for a minute I thought maybe the wiki page was based on something, like the Emperor was still alive at the time of that game's release in the universe's shared "present", but that seems not to be the case.

I contacted Stephen Baker about it and he replied basically while its connected in similar ways (as HeroQuest was to Warhammer Fantasy), its deliberately kept vague. So I suppose you could add that bit of trivia to your Space Crusade campaign or something else entirely if you want.


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