The setting of Warhammer 40,000 is an odd one. It is 30 years old, has been the setting for seven editions of the eponymous wargame (not to mention Warhammer 30k, Epic, Battlefleet Gothic, etc) along with numerous board games, role-playing games and computer, mobile & console games. A veritable horde of writers has published hundreds of novels, short stories and comics. You’d think that as a setting, it would be all sewn up by now and there’s no room for a humble player of the game to create their own stories.
You’d be wrong.
If anything, all of the above have barely scratched the surface. In the Imperium of Man there are a million worlds populated by billions upon billions. I’d guess less that a thousand systems have even a name, and just a few hundred have sufficient detail to be called meaningfully fleshed out. Even the major planets (such as Terra itself, or Macragge) have plenty of scope for gaming groups to make their mark and make them their own.
Add on to that the countless worlds of the Tau, the Elder Craftworlds, those ravaged by Orks or Tyranids, given over to the perils of the Warp or simply unexplored, and you’ve got a setting where anyone can find a corner and create their own legends and tales.
You’re free to create your own Chapter, Force, Hive Fleet, Clan, Cult, War band, Coven or whatever from the numerous factions in the game, or adopt an existing one and make it your own. If you want to play Space Marines, for example, you can select an existing Chapter that appeals to you, or create your own. There are a thousand Chapters, of which a few hundred are named. All of them are yours for the taking, so you can make that green and yellow hockey-stick wielding Space Marine Chapter of your dreams – or take an existing (though lesser known) Chapter and mould it as you wish.
For example I’ve taken the Guardians of the Covenant, a successor Chapter to the Dark Angels, and see them as a Chapter that balances the study of war with the study of the arts. A marine might be a poet, author, sculptor, or a leading expert in Imperial history. One of the Dreadnoughts is a pseudonymous Imperium-renowned composer. For the Guardians of the Covenant there is not only war, but they fight with equal ferocity because they know what they are defending, and why. They are the rarest of all things – happy and mentally well-adjusted space marines.
They are called the Guardians of the Covenant because they keep the promises that the Dark Angels are unable to keep, fulfilling the oaths, orders and duties that their sires cannot complete when they are pursuing The Fallen. If a call goes out to the Dark Angels, it might well be answered by the Guardians of the Covenant in their stead.
Though they are a lesser known Chapter, they are adroit at quickly earning the respect and camaraderie of other Chapters, and proudly wear fragments of amour given by other Chapters in thanks and recognition of past alliances. This can make them look like a rag-tag band, but these honours go a long way toward cementing further alliances on the field of battle.
That’s just one take, of one minor Chapter out of a thousand other Chapters, from one faction in the game of a setting with over a million planets. I get my creativity fix, and get to play and be involved in a game I enjoy.
I’d say the state of the game is in a pretty good place right now. Wouldn’t you?