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The Boy Named Crow

Ravenor: Canon Inconsistency

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I've just started reading the Ravenor books in an attempt to further my understanding of the canon, and have been impressed so far by the books. While reading, I noticed a number of inconsistencies in what, from other sources, I've understood as being established. Now, most of these I brushed off. One of the first things I learned when exploring 40k is that the canon is full of holes. One thing, however, really jumped out at me:

Everything I've read so far has maintained that Warp-Capable Starships are massive, with crews of thousands and thousands, akin to floating cities. (A piece of the canon I really like, btw) However, the book made mention of two starships, THE HINTERLIGHT and, I believe, THE ALLURE, which have crews of only 50 and 80, respectively.

Now, I'm totally willing to just accept that this is an inconsistency that I have to reconcile, but I just thought I'd check to see if anyone knows something I don't that explains this.

Thanks.

(PS, I'm only through the first book, if anyone posts spoilers, I'd appreciate a warning.)

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To be fair though: a low crew number could indicate several things. Either the ships owner is too poor to sustain an effective crew and thus has to make do with a "skeleton crew". Or the ship might be an incredibly sophisticated piece of technology where much of the ships functions and controls are simplified and ruled over by high-tech servitors and thus negate the need of an extreme amount of crew members like their counterparts would normally need.

For instance, in Eisenhorn a particular Rogue Trader had a really large ship where basically EVERYTHING was monitoried and controlled by sophisticated servitors. Normally, the only "living" person aboard was the Rogue Trader himself (which of course meant that he was a little "needy" the few times he received good company lengua.gif).

Sure, it is canon inconsistency but like with Colonel Commissars, I find the inconsistency to be of an excusable sort.

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 There are a number of things in Dan Abnett's books which don't square with canon, but he tends to get away with it by being one of their best writers. The pre-Heresy storm bolters that turn up in Horus Rising, the crew sizes from both Eisenhorn and Ravenor (although at least with those there's a lot of precedent, going all the way back to Inquisition War and Eye of Terror), and a fair few other Abnettisms turn up, annoy the fluff-nazis reading it (and I must admit, I can be one of them), and is then usually forgotten by most. Essentially, it's a known problem- any Abnettism you see probably has an easy fix, so just mentally edit it to something more believable if need be, and just take advantage of his pretty good writing in the meantime.

Mind you, I've no idea what CS Goto and Ben Counter's excuses are...lengua.gif

 

Another thing to bear in mind is that 'canon' in 40k is rather amorphous, as you'd expect from something written by dozens of people over a period of 23 years (so far, ish). Ship sizes and crew numbers are somewhat mutable, and have often changed radically from first introduction; for example, the Gothic-class cruiser was originally a battleship, the Emperor-class battleship used to have open launch decks which carried Cobra-class destroyers, as they were too small for independent warp travel, until Rogue Trader was released, the Lunar-class cruiser was 3km long, not 5km, and there have been at least five ships in canon with a crew less than 20 (4 of which were operated with crews of 5 or less).

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Also in regards to canon - what we have from the fluff in the rulebooks is sort of a general overview of the imperium - the imperium is huge, an uncountable number of worlds with each one slightly different from the last and some radically different from anything else - not everything is consistant across the whole thing.

 

Edit: I mean the 40k TTG rulebooks, the DH and RT books have expanded upon that fluff, but personally I still see them as guidlines and info for a specific section of the imperium.

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I might point out that the original BFG crew numbers were something like 1k-1500 crew per HP of ship.  Thus a battleship might have 8-12k crew, but a escort would only have a few hundered to a thousand.  Which is what I use anyway in RT...

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One 'apoligist's eye' viewpoint I find particularly helpful in combining my age-old "I love Battlefleet Gothic!" with my whippersnapper "Wow, Rogue Trader is really cool!" is the sheer variability of the Imperium.

That is, the Imperial Guard codex does a fair description of this. A 'Regiment' in Adeptus Terra parlance isn't a set of numbers for a fighting force, it's a qualititative unit. Each 'regiment' should be able to provide roughly the same power to a theatre of conflict (using some obscure, esoteric metric to value 'em). An infantry 'regiment' my be dozens of thousands of soldiers, yet a superheavy tank regiment might only be a handful of (frankly massive) vehicles. Similarly a highly trained, well equipped infantry regiment will likely number a lot less than a regiment spawned from a feral world.

In this manner then, I like to imagine that starships and their designations are afforded based on what they can actually do rather than their dimensions and physical statistics. This came up when Richard Williams' (Relentless) short story Mortal Fuel was published which put the starship 'Relentless' (a Lunar Class) at over 8km long (bigger than a BFG battleship!). At this point I thought "What if it's just worse technology?" Bigger weapons, bigger batteries, but altogether much worse technology means you'd need a much bigger ship and more massive crew to do the same job.

In the end Richard Williams revealed over on the old BLP boards that this was in fact simply an error and that the Relentless was intended to be little more/less than a 'very average Lunar class ship'. Good stories too, I quite recommend 'em.

The 3.5km 'Imperial Cruiser' size is one I quite like, presuming it to be the standard for the more 'common' Battlefleets built by the likes of Cypra Mundi, Mars, Luna, Kar Duniash and such (i.e. the ones seen in the BFG game). If Battlefleet Calixis and its supporting merchant fleet and traders happen to be composed of ship froms a different 'capacity' STC template; fair enough.

Presuming that 'things with the same name are broadly meant to be the same thing in each game' then I'm happy. A Lunar in RT and a Lunar in BFG can both be fairly similar in my book, despite there being a difficulty in modelling/mapping their actual equivalence. So at least from a narrative view, they're similar enough not to confuse folks.

But if you had a low-tech-grade Lunar running about with a crew of only a couple of dozen, I'd start asking revoking suspension of disbelief!

For a good look at negotiating the confusing canon, I'd point to Matt Farrer's upcoming omnibus (releases with a bit more 'extra' added in), Enforcer. It treks through a lot of varied and interesting aspects of the canon and, IMO, presents 40k in its most endearing, captivating* light. That is to say: I think Farrer's 'canon' is the best one. (Dan Abnett is quite consistent within his own writing, which is fortunate and makes it easy to read if you just skew things slightly and think 'Abnettverse' as another slant on 40k)

* 'Grimdark' is never better applied. It's bleak stories with largely monstrous characters if you think of them in a 'today's world' morality, but the books work very well and are delightful reads.

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 Um... I'm not 'calling' him on anything. The purpose of my was not to complain about canon inconsistencies. I was just seeing if there was any precedent for something I hadn't encountered before, which it sounds like there is.

I'm not trying to split hairs, but I just want to make sure my intent is clear. Also, which older examples were you referring to, out of curiosity?

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 Probably the Tormentum Malum from the Inquisition War trilogy by Ian Watson, the Wandering Star from Barrington J Bayley's Eye of Terror (actually, come to think of it, there are at least 3 small ships from Eye of Terror, but I think only the Wandering Star is named). The Tormentum Malum spent most of its' time with a crew of 4 (pilot/Navigator, squat engineer, captain (an inquisitor), and an assassin that did pretty much everything else), while the Wandering Star had a crew of 2 (captain and Navigator). It's worth noting that the Wandering Star was a mere 90 feet (~30m-35m) tall (and assuming that it landed on it's belly, that gives it a probable length of about 100m, given a comparison with other imperial ships).

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The smallest warp capable ship I am aware of was a courier vessel in one of the Grey Knight books. It was an Inquisition warp courier that had a Navigator for a pilot and the passenger that carried the information. It was seldom used due to its rarity and how ancient it was. I don't recall if they gave a size other than small. 

 Canon means nothing to GW. They don't care or want the burden to keep track of things too closely. As long as it is cool and reasonably 40Kish and they can make a buck, or pound as the case may be, they don't care about inconsistency in the majority of fluff.

 

 

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GW have always had a lax approach towards thier lead authors. It seems that even the most successful writers such as Dan Abnett and Ben Counter aren't expected to actually read existing background on a subject before they write about it ... and yes, I find that a perpetual annoyance. The most recent example I can think of is the Mark V (Heresy) armour mentioned in Battle for the Abyss, a type of power armour that wasn't even constructed until the Heresy was out of the bag and well underway.

But, having said that, sometimes writers do have to guess. Ship sizes and crew sizes are among the better described, at least if you've read some of the BFG stuff (It was available for free download for ages, I think it still is somewhere). I always treat the novels as inspiration, nothing more

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Tullio said:

 

GW have always had a lax approach towards thier lead authors. It seems that even the most successful writers such as Dan Abnett and Ben Counter aren't expected to actually read existing background on a subject before they write about it ... and yes, I find that a perpetual annoyance.

 

It does depend on the author's access to the background for research purposes (and the time they can devote to research as opposed to writing), and various other factors. Dan Abnett has, on the couple of occasions I've met him at conventions, mentioned a personal dislike of making those sorts of canon mistakes, but when you consider just how much 40k background there is, some of which may have been silently retconned (that is, GW no longer considers something worthwhile but hasn't specifically contradicted it in a more recent source) or be completely out of print and nigh-impossible to obtain, and then how prolific a writer Dan Abnett is (considering only novels, and not comic books, which he's been writing for over two decades now, he's written for four distinct settings - 40k, WFB, Doctor Who/Torchwood, and Primeval - and has written extensively for Marvel, DC and 2000AD in terms of comics...), then it starts to put into context just how difficult keeping even one long-running and intricate setting straight can be, let alone half a dozen or more. It's annoying when it happens, certainly, but it's hardly a complete surprise as to why it might happen...

It's perhaps easier for Graham McNeill, Gav Thorpe and a couple of others writing for Black Library, as they're former Games Designers who spent years dealing with 40k and Warhammer as a full-time job, with access to Games Workshop's full back catalogue of products, and who were almost invariably fans of GW's settings before they started contributing towards them...

 

 

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I think that there is a risk of being a bit too pedantic about the whole "canon" thing. To some extent I rather enjoy the little inconsistancies that crop up in the background. I find it quite fun to "retcon" such inconsistencies, smoothing out the bumps so to speak.

For example, Tullio complains about Mark V "Heresy" Armour being mentioned (I presume, I've not read the book) in Battle for the Abyss in a pre-Heresy context. I'm sure Tullio's right, and that this is a genuine oversight...but you can spin it after the event to make it look like part of a wider pattern. For example:-

"Mark V "Heresy" Armour

The Great Crusade stretched the resources of the Imperium nearly to breaking point. The disparate Space Marine Legions were spread over unimaginable distances, fighting wars on hundreds of different fronts. Even with generals as gifted as the Primarchs, supply difficulties arose, and in many regions, local marine commanders were forced to improvise and recycle mothballed equipment. The Mark IV armour that had been intended to be the standard equipment for all Marines towards the end of the Crusade simply failed to reach most of the intended recipients. 

As a result, it became common for Marines to operate in hybrid suits composed of elements from a number of different earlier marks of power armour. To a greater degree, all Marks of marine power armour tend towards compatibility: a Mark III Chestplate could be worn with a Mark II Helmet and Mark IV shoulder Pauldrons. Patchwork armour of this type became extremely widespread, often combined with local replacement parts built by Techmarines at short notice. Common field replacement parts included heavy, exposed chest cabling, and low-quality alloys in the limb guards, often studded to either reduce weight or attach different armour panels.

These suits of variably sourced, locally produced power armour became very widespread, and the more successful field innovations were widely copied among the Techmarines of the various Legions. Some Legions began producing these "Patchwork" suits from scratch, field innovations and all, in their Legion Forges during the course of the later part of the Great Crusade itself. Marines began to facetiously refer to this type of suit as "the Mark V," a comment originally designed to poke fun at the Administratum scribes who were signally failing to supply the long awaited Mark IV suits. So widespread did references to the "Mark V" become, that many local military commanders simply assumed that the marines were using a formal designation for a new armour type. Formal references to the Mark V caused much confusion higher up the chain of command, a confusion not helped when the Imperial Fists - a Terra based Legion - started manufacturing Mark V suits themselves on Earth. 

Thus what had began as a field innovation went full circle and ended up as a formal armour type. However, the newly official "Mark V" Armour did not get a formal title until the horrors of the Heresy began: the newly minted Mark V armour in many ways came to define the visual look of the Horus Heresy, as exhausted Marine Legions, shattered by murderous fratricidal conflict, desperately attempted to hold the line in improvised suits. In the end, the Heresy gave the armour its name, and indelibly associated the type with that era, even though Mark V armour substantially predated the heresy itself."    

There you go...a canon inconsistency spun away. I know many people will hate that sort of thing, but I actually don't like nitpicking: I like resolving the inconsistancies. And the great thing about 40k is that it's been going for nearly a quarter of a century, with probably over 100 writers working on it...there'll ALWAYS be mistakes, lacuna etc. There's no point gettig worked up about it, just adapt and move on! happy.gif

(That said, I'm still cross about the Squats being killed off....)           

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