Monday, April 9, 2012

Scythes of the Emperor Background Pt2

Scythes of the Emperor Background Pt2

So it’s been a while since I posted something.  I’ve been working a lot on new weapon designs.  My intent was originally to shell the female star marine designs.  However my frustration with the process has made me temporarily abandon that process.  Instead after a night of drunken debauchery I’ve started making some new weapons.  I’ve got a few designs near completion that I’ll load soon.  Till then you’ll have to wait to see what I’ve cooked up.

In the meantime let’s talk background.

Now there are two things I hate in this world.  Being told not to do something and being told I can’t do something.  I’ve been told I shouldn’t or can’t make female marines as long as I remember.  I’ve never really thought the reasoning behind the arguments against it made sense.  There are really two reasons I’ve heard regarding why there aren’t female marines. 

The first is that women don’t belong on the battlefield.  I heard this one directly from an actual marine.  I kind of expect it from sexist military types anymore.  It doesn’t really surprise me some men think that way but it does confuse me.  Biologically women and men differ, obviously.  While I don’t subscribe to the notion that women are inherently weaker than men I recognized that each sex excels in different ways. My marine friend who so condescendingly said that women would be a distraction in a warzone conveniently forgets that for thousands of years many civilizations included females on the battlefield.  The celts, amazons, many native American tribes.  Women may not be able to achieve the physical strength of men as easily but they have a determination and ability to multitask that makes them equally effective with a weapon.  In animals females often do the hunting in packs.  And let’s not forget how fierce a mother can be caring for their young.  Women can be cunning and deceitful, resourceful and strong, violent and calculating. All these things can turn the tide of a battle as much as a wall of marines throwing themselves valiantly at the enemy.  I’ll argue that an ignorant male marine will never be worth half as much as an intelligent female one.

The second is simply, GW says there aren’t.  Now I always love this argument because it’s really all based on the fluff from back in rogue trader days that says the space marine process only works on men.  Of course I find this funny because fictional science is justification for the argument.  Beyond this the foundation is the opinions of writers that no longer work at games workshop.  Now scientifically in order for the genetic changes required in space marines to only work on men they’d have to be entirely based on the Y chromosome but it’s impossible that muscle development, build, reflexes, eye sight, and the myriad of other changes described are sex linked.  It’s quite likely that at least a portion of the augmentations would work fine in females.  Beyond this the background only says that the standard astartes process only works in males not that another process doesn’t exist.  A long list of augmentations both biological and mechanical exist in warhammer 40k.  And other female forces use them. IG use selective breeding.  Sisters of Battle use cybernetics and indoctrinated mental conditioning.  Then of course there’s the Sisters of Silence, it’s never explicitly stated augmentations they used but considering they could stand against battle hardened astartes it’s not unlikely to imagine they were also bioengineered by the emperor.  In the end I see no reason why the emperor would confine his genetic tampering to men.

Then of course there is the issue of sustainability.  Approximately 4500 soldiers died in the Iraq war.  At the peak there were 25000 soldiers there which means in a single protracted military campaign the best armed and equipped military fighting force on earth lost 18% of its soldiers or 2.6% per year of the 7 year war.  If you believe the fluff a single astartes chapter can produce 2 new marines per marine in their entire life time.  Assuming a life span of 1000 years that means the astartes chapter can produce 2000 marines in 1000 years. That’s 2 marines a year.  Combat losses of 2.6% per year would mean they lose 26 marines a year and only replace 2.  The Astartes process is comically unsustainable according to what we know of it.  They fight one military campaign and then have to sit out of combat for 2 decades to recoup losses.  Even with the potential thousands of chapters the odds are all chapters would go extinct in just under 1000 years.  And that’s just using real world numbers, if you read the novels produced by black library it’s rare that more than 2 or 3 members of a squad survive.  Which would kill off most chapters in closer to 400 years. 

Realistically there are two ways I can see that the Emperor could solve the attrition rate of the space marines.  For practical reasons I assume both are accurate.  The first is the most logical solution and the easiest to effect.  The Progenoid glands can be implanted multiple times.  This would allow a space marine to produce more than 2 sets of geneseed in their life time.  Now depending on the arduousness of this process the amount of geneseed produced would vary.  The background says the Progenoid glands can be harvested after 1 and 2 years respectively.  I believe this would be under optimal medical conditions.  Under medical supervision a single marine could produce enough geneseed to replenish a chapter in a few decades.  In this scenario it’s the marine selection process and training that make it so arduous to rebuild a chapter.  Without constant expert care I’d be inclined to believe the progenoid implant success is closer to that of birth rates in 3rd world countries. Basically only 1 in 25 progenoid implantations are effective due to radiation, chemical and biological exposure. This would mean a single marine would take 25 to 50 years to produce another under battlefield conditions.  That’s between 40 and 80 per year, effectively replacing combat losses with a minor surplus that could go to the Mechanicus.  This number is far more practical than 2 per year given originally but still insufficient to make decimated chapters recover quickly from their losses.  It would still take a god 100 years to effectively train a replacement for a veteran battle brother leaving a chapter that’s below half strength a good 500 or more years to rebuild while on light duty.

So I automatically assume marines “breed” faster than the default fluff implies.  So what’s the other solution?  Natural selection.  The Emperor created the primarchs to be his allies during the crusades but none of the Emperor’s plans were limited to the crusades.  We can easily assume that the Emperor planned that the Astartes would one day win the crusade.  In the early rogue trader days space marines were referred to as the next step of humanity.  I always believed that’s what the emperor intended, to elevate all of humanity to the level of the Astartes after the war.  But in order to do that the Astartes process would have to be executable without technological intervention.  There for I believe it was sort of inevitable that the Emperor would create female astartes.  In the official background there is of course no evidence that he did.  Of course there is no evidence he didn’t either. Instead we are left with the decaying remains of his empire and a bunch of male astartes chapters that defend it.  So if the emperor made female marines why aren’t there any left?  Well there are 2 unaccounted for legions that were expunged from imperial record.  So what do you do, that Horus didn’t, that gets you kicked out of the family. Generally, you get your creator to quit GW before the book is published.  However in the setting I’d suggest you give the astartes the chance to become a race independent of humanity.  The chance for humanity’s protectors to become the ones who surpass and snuffs them out for all eternity.  It’s the last thing they would want at the end of the Horus Heresy, the chance that any minute somewhere in the galaxy a female marine could give birth to a new Horus.

So that’s my logic.  The Emperor planned to elevate humanity to the level of demigods but got iced before he could do it.  In response the high lords decided to pimp slap the female astartes out of history.  As a result we are left with hot boy on by man war in the 41st millennium. 

Design Symbolism

When I first decided to make female marines I wanted to design a chapter that both captured the feminine mystique and embodied the astartes ideals.  I imagined that even in modern times female astartes would be tightly held secret.  So I imagined them as hooded and cloaked warriors much like the dark angels. One of my fellow players has a dark angels banner that depicts the angel of death, wings unfurled, scythe raised, face cloaked in darkness.  From there I just gravitated to the idea of “Scythes of the Emperor.”

As their icon I sketched out two scythes forming an ‘S’ shape.  I felt it was a fitting design as it reminded me both of their name “Scythes” but also of the symbol for infinity.  The scythes are a recreated chapter, though the details of their legacy are lost they are rising from the ashes to reclaim mankind’s destiny. 

The scythes would be hooded and cloaked but not just to hide their faces.  They are hooded to represent the death of old fears.   I envisioned a secret movement within the inquisition.  A growing discontent with the status quo, as well as a realization that the Emperor is the only possible way to save humanity.  Not the Emperor as he is, but the Emperor as he was.  The idealist that lit the fuse on the crusades and lead humanity back to dominance.  For better or worse I saw this movement as a sort of schism between the old guard who have protected the status quo and the more idealistic who seek to upheave the system.  You could make the argument that one or the other side is being manipulated by chaos and you might be right.  But regardless the idea is the foundation of a new Order in the inquisition.  The Ordo Carnificium, the order of endings.  A mix between dooms day believers who are convinced the Imperium is on the brink and young idealists seeking to restore past glories.  Both groups have put their faith in the hands of the Emperor. And if the Emperor can’t get off the throne to save them his vision, discarded so many years ago, just might.

Almost a year later I discovered that there was already a Scythes of the Emperor chapter.  I was quite dismayed by this because I thought I had come up with a cool original name for a chapter.  But then I decided it was quite fitting.  A secret organization like the Ordo Carnificium would be inclined to hide their militant arm. Where better to hide it than in plain sight.  So the idea of naming the chapter after a severely crippled military force currently in service made perfect sense.  The myriad sightings of the female scythes would be chalked up to the active military career of the male scythes.  Only limited editing of imperial record would be required to keep them a secret.  A combat doctrine to hunt down those that have seen them fit quite well into their secrecy pact. So the army could fall into the category of counts as Dark Angels army.  Of course Dark Angels aren’t the most competitive list but I’m fine with that.  They have the basic marine load outs and a slightly tweaked army build.  I imagine that in the next edition the revised Dark Angels won’t work for the Scythes anymore because of the new cool gee-wiz-wow junk they will get but oh well.

Aesthetically the Scythes needed to be as imposing as their male counter parts but as feminine as possible.  From my perspective the female form is a beautiful thing. I didn’t want to sully the idea of female soldiers by making them unrealistic. So the armor I designed was intended to be a practical application of the same parts that make up the male marines.  However instead of being a heavy bulky design I chose to go with a thinner structure.  The design uses real female proportions.  As a result the body is slimmer than the male marine designs.  The shoulders are narrower by almost a millimeter and the body has a noticeable waist which flairs out at the hips.  This forms the traditional hour glass figure so prized in modern femininity.  The legs are wider at the thigh and narrower towards the knee.  The thin design gives them a bit more graceful lines than the traditional marines making them stand out.  Also due to the thinning of the body they appear taller when stood next to male counter parts.  This illusion is intended to make them more intimidating without bulking them up like she hulk.

The armor designs themselves are pretty much the same as traditional marine armor apart from the curves.  The biggest controversy to deal with was the breasts.  Traditional fantasy convention holds that female breast plates have to accentuate the bust line.  Fans of warhammer consistently seem divided calling the cleavage zone a bullet trap.  I’ve been playing 40k since it was rogue trader. As a result I have a fondness for it being “fantasy in space.”  As a result I lean more towards having skimpy female armor than having androgynous super soldiers.  As for the cleavage issue, I personally think the bust on a female figure isn’t so much a matter of safety or realism as recognition.  It’s true that modern soldiers, male or female, wear the same uniforms but having the bust noticeable in a uniform is the easiest way to distinguish male from female.  It’s the fastest way to spot the difference at 28mm scale.  The rest of the details just add to the mysterious look of the figure.

The female figures I’ve designed are only partially complete.  The bodies are detailed but they lack the character of their settings.  Most notably they lack their shrouds.  Each Scythe wears a robe which I make with green stuff. It isn’t the same type of body covering robe as the dark angels, its better described as a sleeved sir coat.  The upper body has a pennant shaped cloth robe and the sleeves flair out below the elbo.  The design is intended to be flowing so that while in motion it conceals body detail.

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