Tau: "Good" Guys? (WH40K)

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Tau: "Good" Guys? (WH40K)

Post by Stravo » 2006-11-02 09:52am

OK, I've seen some stuff that argues (or complains) that the Tau are the goody two shoes of the 40Kverse and that their very existence and philosophy of the "Greater Good" sort of violates the general gritty goth feel of the 40kverse. Some even going so far as comparing the Tau to the Star trek United Federation of Planets.

I can't say I agree with this at all - but the caveat with my view is that it is based almost solely on the Tau as depicted in the Dark Crusade videogame. At the end of the Tau campaign it is strongly implied that the Tau sterilized the human inhabitants of Kronus to ensure that the human population would dwindle away for the GreaterGood.

I get the sense that the Greater Good is a euphamism for 'what's best for the Tau' and in another sense its like the Collective Good of a communist society. The Tau come off to me anyway more as a Communist (Stalin era, fanatic new commmie type) type power than anything else.

Anyone more well versed in 40k lore than I (just about everyone else here) want to chime in on the Tau and the Greater Good? Are they really the odd ball 'good guys' in the 40kverse or are they just a more subtle form of bad guy?
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Post by The Grim Squeaker » 2006-11-02 09:58am

The Tau are space commies with all that implies, they have concentration camps for re-education (they send humans there as well) and employ brainwashing.
They also don't have a problem with killing natives, it's just that they're far more sterile than the IoM and aren't Xenophobic (Compared to the IoM) though they do destroy corruptive influences (But not tech).

The term "degrees of guilt" applies here, compared to the IoM they're saints, in the same way that the IoM is paradise compared to the alternatives of Chaos or the Dark Eldar (Rape-a-pirates)
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Re: Tau: "Good" Guys? (WH40K)

Post by SirNitram » 2006-11-02 10:16am

Stravo wrote:Anyone more well versed in 40k lore than I (just about everyone else here) want to chime in on the Tau and the Greater Good? Are they really the odd ball 'good guys' in the 40kverse or are they just a more subtle form of bad guy?
Insofar as 40k has good guys, the Tau are it. Period. But that's like saying in Hell, a serial rapist isn't as bad as Hitler.

The Tau are Stalinist, and re-educate those they find lacking. It's just they don't sodomize you to death or a million other horrible fates, they just headshot you if you go over the line.
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Post by Azazal » 2006-11-02 10:27am

I would say that the Tau are called good incorrectly. It would be better to say that they are more progressive then the other major players in 40K-land. They are growing and developing new tech, which counters the stagnant gothic feel of the IoM and the slowly dying Eldar for example. I wouldn't call them space commies myself, more like space Romans. They encounter a new race, and give them the chance to join as auxiliaries to "The Greater Good" or to conquered and enslaved, where as the other races would just squash you under foot.
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Post by Lord Woodlouse » 2006-11-02 10:36am

The best of a bad lot, certainly. I think the comparison is worth noting, though. Considering what they're going up against the level at which they're willing to go to give other races a chance is positively saintly.

I don't think they have plans to sterilise the entire human race, they're happy to use humans like they use the Kroot, in general.
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Re: Tau: "Good" Guys? (WH40K)

Post by Stormbringer » 2006-11-02 10:42am

Stravo wrote:Anyone more well versed in 40k lore than I (just about everyone else here) want to chime in on the Tau and the Greater Good? Are they really the odd ball 'good guys' in the 40kverse or are they just a more subtle form of bad guy?
A subtler shade of bad. The Tau Empire, under the direct rule of the Ethereals, are only good by comparison to the worst of the other factions.

For starters the whole of the Tau Empire is just pawns for the Ethereal Caste. They're the unquestioned leader of the whole shebang, keeping the rest of the Tau proper in line via what is suspected to be low-level psyker ability. In many ways the collectivism and greater good are bullshit; the Ethereals have their way and that's that.

Another thing is that the Tau are riddled with caste differences. Again despite the collectivism, even bioligical Tau are rigidly dividied into castes. Unlike the Imperium, there's a great deal of freedom within the caste but no chance of persuing something different. On top of that, allies and native populations while welcomed on the surface, are distinctly second class in a lot of subtle ways. At best they're expendable troops to get used up instead of the Tau. And they are used up with little regard beyond the needs of the Tau.

The Tau are certainly impressively scientific, in contrast to most powers. But 40k being 40k, that is it's own form of hubris. The Tau utterly dismiss, at least on the official level, all the things like Chaos and other warpcraft. Nor do they believe in psykers or any of that. Which means they're impressively technical but oftens times are blind to the very real dangers of the Chaos-taint. In Firewarrior for instance they run smack dab into a Daemon with predictable results, but are utterly heedless even faced with evil incarnate. They also do stupid things like take in rogue psykers which typically backfires.

All in all, they either have a bad case of Sunnydale Syndrome or the Ethereals have much darker motives. Which brings us to an interesting side note of Commander Farsight who is mostly likely screwing around, knowingly or unknowingly, with Chaos tainted artifacts. But he's a semi-traitor so who knows exactly how he fits in.

Either way, the Tau aren't really good guys by any stretch of the imagination. They're like the Ultramarines under Graham "Papa Smurf" McNeil; the same malevolent universe given a thin gloss of true goodness.
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Post by SylasGaunt » 2006-11-02 10:43am

As others have said it's a matter of degrees. Compared to the Dark Eldar who would gladly flay someone alive just for the sheer hell of it? Yeah they're pretty good compared to that. Compared to the Imperium of Man where Genocide is considered one of the top ten options? Yeah sure. Overall? No way. The Tau have the clean good-guy face sure but there's hints of far more sinister things going on. Off the top of my head we've got things like-

1.) The entire Ethereal class seem to exert some form of pheremonal control over the other castes.

2.) IIRC there's enforced caste breeding where nobody is permitted to pair outside their caste.

3.) Reeducation camps- Mentioned in Dark Crusade I think and IIRC the main character from Firewarrior was sent to one since he scared the bejeesus out of the other tau.

4.) Join or be Conquered attitude- How it seems to go. They give you a chance to join willingly but in the end you don't get much choice in the matter of whether you want to be in the Tau empire or not.

5.) The Vespid- Sinister hints in the latest version of the Tau codex note that it's seen by some as rather strange the way the Vespid just leapt into the empire right after all their leaders started wearing the Tau made communion helms that translate for them.

Then there's potential C'tan influences with them as well.

In summary they've got a pretty face but calling them good is like saying a suit wearing serial killer is better than a dirty, ragged man who goes on a shooting spree.

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Post by SylasGaunt » 2006-11-02 10:45am

Ghetto Edit:
All in all, they either have a bad case of Sunnydale Syndrome or the Ethereals have much darker motives. Which brings us to an interesting side note of Commander Farsight who is mostly likely screwing around, knowingly or unknowingly, with Chaos tainted artifacts. But he's a semi-traitor so who knows exactly how he fits in.
Really now? Last I heard theories were he was messing around with C'tan stuff not chaos.

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Post by Stormbringer » 2006-11-02 10:50am

Lord Woodlouse wrote:The best of a bad lot, certainly. I think the comparison is worth noting, though. Considering what they're going up against the level at which they're willing to go to give other races a chance is positively saintly.
Except they don't really have any intention of giving humans or Kroot or any one else a chance in the long run. They still regard any not aligned with them as enemies, plain and simple. In that that respect they're as xenophobic as the Imperium. They just understand that diplomacy is saying good doggy until you find a rock. At best their diplomacy also comes with a heavy dose of attempted indoctrination and a political subversion. You can see a heck of a lot of that in For the Emperor.

The only reason they've really negotiated is their inferior position. If it weren't for that it seems likely they'd be as bloody handed as the Emperor's Great Crusade.
Lord Woodlouse wrote:I don't think they have plans to sterilise the entire human race, they're happy to use humans like they use the Kroot, in general.
Except they don't genuinely give a damn about others, human or kroot. As you say, they use kroot and they use humans. At best other races are entitled to be used as auxiliaries to die instead of Tau for which they get some rewards as valuable little helots. But the hell if they'll really get anywhere.

Considering that they don't much give a damn, and have proven it, about the lives of their conquered auxiliaries I'd say that sterlising a population of restive humans is not at all out of character or unlikely.
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Post by Lord Woodlouse » 2006-11-02 10:56am

Stormbringer wrote:
Lord Woodlouse wrote:The best of a bad lot, certainly. I think the comparison is worth noting, though. Considering what they're going up against the level at which they're willing to go to give other races a chance is positively saintly.
Except they don't really have any intention of giving humans or Kroot or any one else a chance in the long run. They still regard any not aligned with them as enemies, plain and simple. In that that respect they're as xenophobic as the Imperium. They just understand that diplomacy is saying good doggy until you find a rock. At best their diplomacy also comes with a heavy dose of attempted indoctrination and a political subversion. You can see a heck of a lot of that in For the Emperor.

The only reason they've really negotiated is their inferior position. If it weren't for that it seems likely they'd be as bloody handed as the Emperor's Great Crusade.
Lord Woodlouse wrote:I don't think they have plans to sterilise the entire human race, they're happy to use humans like they use the Kroot, in general.
Except they don't genuinely give a damn about others, human or kroot. As you say, they use kroot and they use humans. At best other races are entitled to be used as auxiliaries to die instead of Tau for which they get some rewards as valuable little helots. But the hell if they'll really get anywhere.

Considering that they don't much give a damn, and have proven it, about the lives of their conquered auxiliaries I'd say that sterlising a population of restive humans is not at all out of character or unlikely.
But considering every other race in the universe would sooner see them exterminated I think that makes them comparatively good. If they were any nicer chances are they'd be too weak to even survive in the 40k universe.

It's worth asking; Did their draconian aspects arrive before or after contact with races such as the Ork and the Imperium?

I've read things that show they have human settlements in their space where everyone is pretty much allowed to do as they please, including worship their Emperor.
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Post by Vehrec » 2006-11-02 10:58am

Whatever Farsight found, I'm more inclined to root for him than for the other space commies. Unless it's green and glows. Green and Glowing would be very bad. I keep hoping that what he found was really some kind of Eldar weapon for killing C'tan. A man can dream after all. . .
The fact that the Tau give you a carrot in addition to the stick doesn't make them good. It just makes them more subtle. If people in the Tau empire are happy, it's because of propaganda and thought control.
Far more worrying than Ethereal control is the Speed at which the Tau adapt, evolve and advance. The Air caste used to have wings you know. Just a few thousand years ago. SOMEBODY has been interfering in Tau development for millennium. And I think THAT is why Farsight went rouge.
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Post by Stormbringer » 2006-11-02 11:03am

SylasGaunt wrote:
All in all, they either have a bad case of Sunnydale Syndrome or the Ethereals have much darker motives. Which brings us to an interesting side note of Commander Farsight who is mostly likely screwing around, knowingly or unknowingly, with Chaos tainted artifacts. But he's a semi-traitor so who knows exactly how he fits in.
Really now? Last I heard theories were he was messing around with C'tan stuff not chaos.
It's possible that they've retconned that to an extent. I haven't paid too much attention to the knew Tau Fluff (the whole thing's annoyed me to an extent).

But ancient artifacts + plus history of warp storms + plus giant sword + a life extension by an order of magnitude = Chaos taint in my book. C'tan technology doesn't really seem that benevolent, it seems more likely to the be the wake up and slaughter your species kind.

As significant, if not more so, is that Farsight himself has broken away from Ethereal control. While the break isn't quite open, neither is it the status quo. If Ethereals are psykers, Chaos taint may be a powerful incentive to back down. They can't be totally unaware of Chaos.

Last but not least, it fits the MO of Chaos far better. Farsight dug around on empty planets in old ruins. Given the areas history of warp-storms, it's even money those are tainted planets we're talking about. Further more, Farsight is Fire Caste (a warrior) which fits Chaos bill of attracting military leaders and would be desposts. Furthermore, they've set up enclaves and spread. Not unlike a lot of the lesser Chaotic Realms, such as the Sanguinary Worlds.
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Post by SylasGaunt » 2006-11-02 11:05am

It is worth noting that Fire Caste are notably more aggressive than other Tau and as soon as Farsight's Ethereals got killed what happens? He carves out his own little empire.

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Post by SylasGaunt » 2006-11-02 11:10am

Stormbringer wrote: But ancient artifacts + plus history of warp storms + plus giant sword + a life extension by an order of magnitude = Chaos taint in my book. C'tan technology doesn't really seem that benevolent, it seems more likely to the be the wake up and slaughter your species kind.
Well the Dawn blade does bear more than a little resemblance to the blade off a Warscythe. But one of the things that really seems to hint at C'tan interference over Chaos is the fact that unlike virtually every other species seen the Tau have no psykers as far as we've seen.
As significant, if not more so, is that Farsight himself has broken away from Ethereal control. While the break isn't quite open, neither is it the status quo. If Ethereals are psykers, Chaos taint may be a powerful incentive to back down. They can't be totally unaware of Chaos.
They're aware it exists but they don't do much to distinguish them from other humans, they even claimed once to have killed Slaanesh. And Xenology seems to disprove the psyker idea in favor of Ethereals extering some kind of pheremonal control over the other castes. And also according to the fluff Farsight didn't so much break free of Ethereal control as have it pulled off him. His Ethereals got killed while he was on campaign right before he went rogue.
Last but not least, it fits the MO of Chaos far better. Farsight dug around on empty planets in old ruins.
Well that can fit either chaos or C'tan.

One theory I recall being mentioned is the C'tan grooming the Tau to be Necrons 2.0

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Re: Tau: "Good" Guys? (WH40K)

Post by NecronLord » 2006-11-02 11:10am

Stormbringer wrote:They're the unquestioned leader of the whole shebang, keeping the rest of the Tau proper in line via what is suspected to be low-level psyker ability.
Xenology strongly fingers it as being pheremonal, not psionic. Someone made them that way - probably the Slaan/Last of the Old Ones or the C'tan, more likely the former, given that Ralei bothered to investigate the Tau. The same pheremonal control organ is shared by a hive race on the other side of the galaxy.

To be entirely fair to the Ethereals, if someone shoved an 'absolute obedience generator' into your head, would you be as restrained as they are? I doubt I would manage to be, especially after generations.
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Post by Stormbringer » 2006-11-02 11:14am

Lord Woodlouse wrote:But considering every other race in the universe would sooner see them exterminated I think that makes them comparatively good. If they were any nicer chances are they'd be too weak to even survive in the 40k universe.
The moral difference between killing some one and enslaving them with no regard for their life is pretty minimal as far as I'm concerned. That's really the difference in attitudes between the Tau and the Imperium. Both are soul-crushing, tyrannical states ruin at the expense of the many for the few. The Tau just insist you smile while you're living your helotic existence.
Lord Woodlouse wrote:It's worth asking; Did their draconian aspects arrive before or after contact with races such as the Ork and the Imperium?
Well before. The Ethereals were dominant among their species well before significant contact with outsiders. Hell, their whole society is based on that initial brainwashing!
Lord Woodlouse wrote:I've read things that show they have human settlements in their space where everyone is pretty much allowed to do as they please, including worship their Emperor.
And Romans allowed their slaves to worship their foreign gods. That made them no less slaves.

Those conquered or subverted populations exist only on sufferance from the Tau Empire. If they cease to be useful, if they step out of line, if there is any hint that the Emperor comes before the Greater Good, then they all die. They're nothing but useful animals so far as the Tau Empire is concerned. The same goes for the Kroot too.
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Re: Tau: "Good" Guys? (WH40K)

Post by Stormbringer » 2006-11-02 11:23am

NecronLord wrote:Xenology strongly fingers it as being pheremonal, not psionic. Someone made them that way - probably the Slaan/Last of the Old Ones or the C'tan, more likely the former, given that Ralei bothered to investigate the Tau. The same pheremonal control organ is shared by a hive race on the other side of the galaxy.
I haven't read Xenology, so I don't know. That said, that's far from certain though as last I heard, the official line was that no one had a definitive answer. There's also the simple fact that Tau who have never ever seen an Ethereal still are blindly obdient to them, which makes it likely that there's something more widespread.
NecronLord wrote:To be entirely fair to the Ethereals, if someone shoved an 'absolute obedience generator' into your head, would you be as restrained as they are? I doubt I would manage to be, especially after generations.
The Ethereals haven't been bad leaders, persay. The biological Tau have done fairly well out of their leadership. But that makes them no less absolute despots. For all the Tau prattle about the Greater Good, it's the upper echelons of the Ethereal Caste that decide what is for the greater good. Nor are they above ruthlessly oppressing those that in any way question them.
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Post by SylasGaunt » 2006-11-02 11:31am

Regarding the Tau who've never seen an Ethereal that could be a function of life long indoctrination, might I ask what sort the Tau in question were?

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Re: Tau: "Good" Guys? (WH40K)

Post by NecronLord » 2006-11-02 11:31am

C'tan lover that I am, I've got to say, I don't hold much truck with the idea of the C'tan being the patrons of the Tau, or behind Farsight's rebellion. In Xenology there's the previously mentioned evidence of interference in Tau evolution, and while the C'tan are certainly capable of this (see Nightbringer's prologue) and have had the opportunity, there's not much motive for that.

In the same way, despite the Dawn Blade's resemblence to a necrontyr weapon, Farsight's behaviour is much closer to a semi-secular Khornate than anyone under the influence of the C'tan. The C'tan aren't out to draw attention to themselves by having their underlings set up domains out in the open.

Of course, he could just be a loon who's found a nifty sword.
Stormbringer wrote:I haven't read Xenology, so I don't know. That said, that's far from certain though as last I heard, the official line was that no one had a definitive answer. There's also the simple fact that Tau who have never ever seen an Ethereal still are blindly obdient to them, which makes it likely that there's something more widespread.
It's something in the water! </conspiracy nut>. More seriously, for general obedience, they have a Stalinist state that works. That's pretty good at inspiring fanaticism, I dare say, even in humans. Of course, it's always possible that the Slaan/etc altered the normal Tau to be innately super-nationalistic...
The Ethereals haven't been bad leaders, persay. The biological Tau have done fairly well out of their leadership. But that makes them no less absolute despots. For all the Tau prattle about the Greater Good, it's the upper echelons of the Ethereal Caste that decide what is for the greater good. Nor are they above ruthlessly oppressing those that in any way question them.
The thing that creeps me out most of all about the ethereals is Aun'va having 'millions of temples to his wisdom' or something.
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Post by Stormbringer » 2006-11-02 11:37am

SylasGaunt wrote:Well the Dawn blade does bear more than a little resemblance to the blade off a Warscythe. But one of the things that really seems to hint at C'tan interference over Chaos is the fact that unlike virtually every other species seen the Tau have no psykers as far as we've seen.
There are also Daemonic Weapons that function similarly. And they do have the ability to grant unnatrual life, something that is at best unproven in a Warscythe.

And yes, the Tau have no readily apparent psykers. But that doesn't mean they're necessarily unnatural. Orks, for all they're artifcially designed, also have a virtually no psyhic presence as a whole.
SylasGaunt wrote:They're aware it exists but they don't do much to distinguish them from other humans, they even claimed once to have killed Slaanesh.
Good for them? The Tau can't really be that dumb when it comes to Chaos. They've had ample evidence for at least the upper echelons to have an idea of what it really is.
SylasGaunt wrote:And Xenology seems to disprove the psyker idea in favor of Ethereals extering some kind of pheremonal control over the other castes.
And the official GW fluff choses to call it unknown. So while it's certainly possible, it's by no means proven.
SylasGaunt wrote: And also according to the fluff Farsight didn't so much break free of Ethereal control as have it pulled off him. His Ethereals got killed while he was on campaign right before he went rogue.
A feat which probably wouldn't be hard for Tzeentch to manage, I'm sure.

However he came to be free of the Ethereals, the fact is he rejected them when they came to reassert control. His enclaves have become entities unto themselves, at best in a Taiwanese relationship the the Empire proper.

And as I've said, there's the fact that Farsight has better the Tau life span by something like an order of magnitude. That screams Chaos Taint.
SylasGaunt wrote:Well that can fit either chaos or C'tan.
Except for the fact that in most cases screwing around with Necron worlds results in them waking up and slaughtering everyone, that's true. But I think that last part is pretty important, don't you?
SylasGaunt wrote:One theory I recall being mentioned is the C'tan grooming the Tau to be Necrons 2.0
Well, now that's one to file for the absurd theories file.
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Re: Tau: "Good" Guys? (WH40K)

Post by Stormbringer » 2006-11-02 11:44am

NecronLord wrote:It's something in the water! </conspiracy nut>. More seriously, for general obedience, they have a Stalinist state that works. That's pretty good at inspiring fanaticism, I dare say, even in humans. Of course, it's always possible that the Slaan/etc altered the normal Tau to be innately super-nationalistic...
I think to an extent they do have a remarkably comformist society. There's no question the whole Tau Empire is one big conformity factory.

But the fact that they were able to subvert native Tau immediately combined with the fact that it apparently works on humans makes me some what skeptical about whether pheremones and brainwashing are all of it.
NecronLord wrote:The thing that creeps me out most of all about the ethereals is Aun'va having 'millions of temples to his wisdom' or something.
Talk about a cult of personality.
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Post by NecronLord » 2006-11-02 11:44am

It's important not to write the Imperium off as pure-evil too. Most of what it does it actually has no choice in. Even its persecution of mutants is almost certainly necessery for humanity to survive in the long run.

It was wiping out aliens during the Crusade, left right and centre? True. Of course, the Emperor started a war against aliens because at the start of the Crusade, the vast majority of humanity was enslaved by those same aliens. They certainly are over the top in their anti-alien sentiment, but most of the aliens we've heard of them taking action against have either been in their way (which is evil) or out to enslave and/or destroy humanity.

The hyper-religious fanaticism is necessery because without it there's a higher instance of chaos corruption. The psyker persecution is obviously necessery. And individual groups get away with things (slavery of fellow humans, and whatnot) because without the unquestioning fuedalist nature of the Imperium's governance, imposed by the difficulties of warp travel and communication, it would be practically impossible to raise the forces necessery to fight and win large scale wars. This is why the Emperor was working to understand and seize control of the webway, or build a human version, in order to free humanity from its dependance on the warp, and permit a more enlightened social system to be constructed.

Sure, the Imperium is one hell of a shitty place to live, but that's almost entirely because of the nature of the Warp.

In comparison, the only excuse the Tau have for their behaviour is that someone might be manipulating them into it.
Last edited by NecronLord on 2006-11-02 11:55am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Tau: "Good" Guys? (WH40K)

Post by NecronLord » 2006-11-02 11:47am

Stormbringer wrote:combined with the fact that it apparently works on humans
It doesn't. Well, we only have the word of their propaganda on the matter of 'gue'vesa' happiness.

Dark Crusade: I'm told that in Dark Crusade, when you force the Fire Warriors off the planet, the humans previously 'defected' to the Greater Good there promptly rise up and slaughter all remaining Tau on the planet.

No matter how much they tell the Kroot to stop being barbarians, after all, it just doesn't work.
Talk about a cult of personality.
Humm. He's not the space-pope. He's the space-Lenin, clearly.
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Post by Big Orange » 2006-11-02 12:03pm

I don't get the impression that the Tau Empire is intrinsically evil like the Chaos beings, C'Tan and Tyranids are and you probably have a better chance of survival under the Tau Ethereals than under a Imperium police state, Ork chieftains or Eldar lords. And the sterilising of Imperiam humans on colony worlds sounds like a necessary precaution if the Imperium humans want to exterminate all Tau to last man, woman and child, when given a chance. The Tau are "evil" by our standards, but they're essentially "good guys" when in the deep, deep, deep, deep, deeep moral cesspit of WH40K.

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Re: Tau: "Good" Guys? (WH40K)

Post by Ted C » 2006-11-02 12:06pm

Stravo wrote:OK, I've seen some stuff that argues (or complains) that the Tau are the goody two shoes of the 40Kverse and that their very existence and philosophy of the "Greater Good" sort of violates the general gritty goth feel of the 40kverse. Some even going so far as comparing the Tau to the Star trek United Federation of Planets.

I can't say I agree with this at all - but the caveat with my view is that it is based almost solely on the Tau as depicted in the Dark Crusade videogame. At the end of the Tau campaign it is strongly implied that the Tau sterilized the human inhabitants of Kronus to ensure that the human population would dwindle away for the GreaterGood.

I get the sense that the Greater Good is a euphamism for 'what's best for the Tau' and in another sense its like the Collective Good of a communist society. The Tau come off to me anyway more as a Communist (Stalin era, fanatic new commmie type) type power than anything else.
The Tau are a predominantly Communist society, hence all of the "Greater Good" talk. It largely means what you think it does: "Greater Good for the Tau". They'll work with other races if it's in their interest; they'll also exterminate other races if it's in their interest.

There are no "good guys" in 40K. Even the Chaos Gods have good aspects. For instance, the war god Khorne embodies mindless violence and destruction, but he also embodies chivalry and nobility.
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