Thursday, 12 February 2015

The Squat heresy

If you haven't read Cryptonomicon the Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson go and read it now, then come back... [edit - vagueness on the title, they're both good but one's far more relevant to this!]

Good, wasn't it?

That mindset of Hooke and co. is just a hint of what it's like to be a Squat in the 41st millennium. Except rather than twisting yourself into knots, and going off on false tangents, trying to square your understanding of your god with your understanding of the world, there is no separation. There's no science, only worship of the Emperor and the relics of the past, and your every thought is heretical.

That device in your hand - what on earth are this and that bit doing there? They're completely useless, throw them away. And if you just adjust this, like so then it's so much more efficient... Except this is a sacred artefact created by the priesthood, and your very soul is now forfeit.

Squats are not cool biker dudes. Those in the mainstream of the Imperium's society are outwardly very, very conformist and occasionally manage to conform well enough to rise moderately (but not too far, they are mutants after all) in the Army or the Adeptus Mechanicus.

But hidden at the heart of their society is a heresy - the Guild: tinkering; investigating; discovering... and acutely, constantly aware that everything they do goes against the priesthood and their living god. Squats are a proud, stubborn race - sometimes hurt pride or jealousy lead to betrayal, and another cabal is rooted out and destroyed by the Inquisition. Those that survive in secret may have magnificent beards, but furrowed brows and few hairs on their heads.

Left to their own devices Squats could well be the saviours of humanity - or at least help them claw their way back towards their previous technological glories. But there's no hope of that while the deathless Emperor shuts off any chance of regime change.


It may be derided as grim and dark, but the original Rogue Trader universe has enormous potential I feel, even if I quibble with the balance on the tabletop. However brilliantly realised it is though there's only so long you can visit a universe illustrated by Ian Miller without wanting something a bit more shiny. And so it's been slowly watered down into what it is today - but the occasional quick glimpse of the grim dark is so much more interesting.

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