[40k] Great Crusade Imperial military organization

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[40k] Great Crusade Imperial military organization

Post by Morilore » 2008-07-11 01:12am

So I finally started reading some of the early Horus Heresy books (old stuff, I know), and it struck me just how hardcore stupid the whole Imperial military setup is. First of all, why were the Primarchs given control of "their" Legions when discovered, and why was all recruiting apparently shifted to their home worlds? By the time the Crusade is spreading out through the galaxy and discovering the lost Primarchs, the Astartes Legions are already old, well-established military organizations comprised of Terran recruits. Sure, the Primarchs are all great leaders on their home worlds. That doesn't mean that "hey, see this guy? Your genetics are modeled after his, so he's your lord and master now, even though he is completely unfamiliar with our ways and has never been in this military. And by the way, all your rooks are coming from this totally unfamiliar new world we just met from now on, k thx" makes any sense at all. If you absolutely must make these noobs the rulers of Astartes Legions, the logical thing to do is commission new Legions and not play merry hell with the way things have been working for the past century or so. Although the books seem to depict these transitions occurring without a hitch, this still bugs me.

Second, the chain of command and social organization of the Legions seems designed to encourage civil war. The centerpiece of every expedition fleet is a very closed plutocratic warrior caste trained with devoted loyalty - to each other and to their Primarchs, not to the state. These closed warrior societies are in complete command of all the more conventional Imperial military forces, so there is no balance of power. All military power in the Imperium answers to twenty ambitious and powerful men, many of whom are known fuckups, and no mechanisms exist to keep the armed forces on the level if these generals turn traitor.

Why did the Emperor devise a military like this, when he has supposedly lived through and influenced most of human history? Was he so blinded by his love of and pride in his "sons" that he forgot the realities of military politics? Is their some logistical reason, rooted in the nature of warp travel and FTL comms, that makes this setup the most efficient in the 40k universe? Was the Emperor just a moron?
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Re: [40k] Great Crusade Imperial military organization

Post by Crom » 2008-07-11 01:28am

Morilore wrote:So I finally started reading some of the early Horus Heresy books (old stuff, I know), and it struck me just how hardcore stupid the whole Imperial military setup is. First of all, why were the Primarchs given control of "their" Legions when discovered, and why was all recruiting apparently shifted to their home worlds? By the time the Crusade is spreading out through the galaxy and discovering the lost Primarchs, the Astartes Legions are already old, well-established military organizations comprised of Terran recruits. Sure, the Primarchs are all great leaders on their home worlds. That doesn't mean that "hey, see this guy? Your genetics are modeled after his, so he's your lord and master now, even though he is completely unfamiliar with our ways and has never been in this military. And by the way, all your rooks are coming from this totally unfamiliar new world we just met from now on, k thx" makes any sense at all. If you absolutely must make these noobs the rulers of Astartes Legions, the logical thing to do is commission new Legions and not play merry hell with the way things have been working for the past century or so. Although the books seem to depict these transitions occurring without a hitch, this still bugs me.

Second, the chain of command and social organization of the Legions seems designed to encourage civil war. The centerpiece of every expedition fleet is a very closed plutocratic warrior caste trained with devoted loyalty - to each other and to their Primarchs, not to the state. These closed warrior societies are in complete command of all the more conventional Imperial military forces, so there is no balance of power. All military power in the Imperium answers to twenty ambitious and powerful men, many of whom are known fuckups, and no mechanisms exist to keep the armed forces on the level if these generals turn traitor.

Why did the Emperor devise a military like this, when he has supposedly lived through and influenced most of human history? Was he so blinded by his love of and pride in his "sons" that he forgot the realities of military politics? Is their some logistical reason, rooted in the nature of warp travel and FTL comms, that makes this setup the most efficient in the 40k universe? Was the Emperor just a moron?
You make an excellent point.

It strikes me that the Emperor created that structure of power because he feared Chaos corruption. IIRC the Primarchs were designed by the Emperor to be resistant to Chaos influence.

So, instead of relying on corruptible humans, he planned to first using the Primarchs as generals, and probably later as the ruling administrators. At least until humanity had matured as a race of psykers.
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Re: [40k] Great Crusade Imperial military organization

Post by Morilore » 2008-07-11 11:14am

Crom wrote:You make an excellent point.

It strikes me that the Emperor created that structure of power because he feared Chaos corruption. IIRC the Primarchs were designed by the Emperor to be resistant to Chaos influence.

So, instead of relying on corruptible humans, he planned to first using the Primarchs as generals, and probably later as the ruling administrators. At least until humanity had matured as a race of psykers.
And we all know how well that turned out. Instead of corrupting an army here, a general there, and inflicting countless annoying anti-insurgent campaigns on the Imperium, Chaos was able to subvert huge fractional portions of the Imperial military instantly by targeting those twenty eminently corruptible men. The root problem here is that the soldiers were more loyal to their generals than to the state, so no one could hold the generals to task for fucking up.
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Post by andrewgpaul » 2008-07-11 12:52pm

Wasn't it dure to lack of central control and communications? the Legions (and by extension, the various crusade armies) <i>need</i> to be autonomous, since messages to and from Earth can take weeks or longer to transmit.
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Re: [40k] Great Crusade Imperial military organization

Post by Crom » 2008-07-11 01:32pm

Morilore wrote:And we all know how well that turned out. Instead of corrupting an army here, a general there, and inflicting countless annoying anti-insurgent campaigns on the Imperium, Chaos was able to subvert huge fractional portions of the Imperial military instantly by targeting those twenty eminently corruptible men. The root problem here is that the soldiers were more loyal to their generals than to the state, so no one could hold the generals to task for fucking up.
I agree with you, the system was horribly flawed.

With respect to the OP:
Why did the Emperor devise a military like this, when he has supposedly lived through and influenced most of human history? Was he so blinded by his love of and pride in his "sons" that he forgot the realities of military politics? Is their some logistical reason, rooted in the nature of warp travel and FTL comms, that makes this setup the most efficient in the 40k universe? Was the Emperor just a moron?
I think that the Emperor's intention was for the Primarchs to act independently from any centralized authority so as to allow him the time and resources he needed for his other big projects, like subverting the Eldar Webway.

I mean, from his point of view, it appears that he does not trust humans to handle the big decisions, so either he goes and deals with issues himself (and risks being bogged down by minutiae) or he delegates authority to humans he feels are untrustworthy. His solution was to create a group of supermen to handle running his Empire in sections where he could not be.

It's not a terrible plan, in my mind, assuming you can trust these twenty supermen. And, from early on, the Emperor had only the early Astartes and Custodes to judge the success of his project, all of whom were conditioned to be loyal to the Empire. And even then, it took a ridiculous rube-goldberg machine of events to corrupt Horus.

If you look at the Primarchs, all of them giant super-charismatic military geniuses, they seem well built for it. It seems like he severely underestimated their ability to resist Chaos corruption.
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Post by Crom » 2008-07-11 01:33pm

andrewgpaul wrote:Wasn't it dure to lack of central control and communications? the Legions (and by extension, the various crusade armies) <i>need</i> to be autonomous, since messages to and from Earth can take weeks or longer to transmit.
IIRC that was part of it, though Pre-Heresy I thought the Warp was a lot friendlier.
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Post by Morilore » 2008-07-11 01:47pm

andrewgpaul wrote:Wasn't it dure to lack of central control and communications? the Legions (and by extension, the various crusade armies) <i>need</i> to be autonomous, since messages to and from Earth can take weeks or longer to transmit.
That doesn't have anything to do with soldiers being more loyal to their genetic familiars and generals than to the state. If, for example, the Sons of Horus weren't so worshipful of their Primarch, they would never have sold his soul into that Chaos lodge in False Gods, and there probably wouldn't be so many of them willing to sell out the Emperor for him. Horus might also not have been so reckless in his blind assault on the Davin moon in that same book if he hadn't learned to expect worshipful obedience, and hence not have been wounded by that anathame in the first place.
Crom wrote:I think that the Emperor's intention was for the Primarchs to act independently from any centralized authority so as to allow him the time and resources he needed for his other big projects, like subverting the Eldar Webway.

I mean, from his point of view, it appears that he does not trust humans to handle the big decisions, so either he goes and deals with issues himself (and risks being bogged down by minutiae) or he delegates authority to humans he feels are untrustworthy. His solution was to create a group of supermen to handle running his Empire in sections where he could not be.

It's not a terrible plan, in my mind, assuming you can trust these twenty supermen. And, from early on, the Emperor had only the early Astartes and Custodes to judge the success of his project, all of whom were conditioned to be loyal to the Empire. And even then, it took a ridiculous rube-goldberg machine of events to corrupt Horus.

If you look at the Primarchs, all of them giant super-charismatic military geniuses, they seem well built for it. It seems like he severely underestimated their ability to resist Chaos corruption.
So he doesn't trust humans, so instead of dividing all powers and installing vast oversight mechanisms so that the ability of any one individual to screw things up is minimized, he places the whole military on the backs of twenty genetic supermen and gives them this power even when he wasn't there to raise them and make sure they turned out alright? What is it about genetic supermen that makes them inherently more trustworthy than ordinary humans? Even if they have some mystical anti-Chaos defense, that doesn't stop them from being dicks on their own initiative. I mean, Angron and Corax were complete psychopaths and the Emperor still gave them power.
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Post by Coaan » 2008-07-11 03:43pm

I attribute it to the Emperor's love for his sons to have blinded him.

The final conflict with Horus is evidence enough there. Horus killed one of his own brothers infront of the Emperor in the imperial palace and still the Emperor could not bring himself to bear against Horus fully. It was only the realisation that Horus was lost after mortally wounding the Emperor, that he cut loose and tore Horus apart.

His sons, the twenty primarchs were supposed to have been modelled after himself and as such, in the Emperor's mind, they were as close to infallable as anything was going to get in the 40k universe. At least in his eyes. They were supposed to be the perfect beings created from the perfect 'Human' . It might have been a dumb thing to do by putting all their eggs into one basket. The point is though that the Emperor trusted them all unconditionally and had likely expected they could resist the ravages of Chaos.

As with all decisions based in emotion, the lack of logical thinking in the military makeup of the Imperium eventually caused the Horus heresy to be possible.
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Post by Lazarus » 2008-07-11 03:45pm

I don't think it was stupidity on the Emperor's part, more like making the best of his slightly screwed up (but salvageable) master plan for taking over the galaxy. Had whatever force it was (do we know yet?) not scattered the primarchs they would have been raised and trained by the Emperor himself - in that case I'm sure they would have been practically immune to Chaos. Faced with the situation as it was, the Emperor may have decided that the in-built conditioning would be enough to keep the plan workable.
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Post by Morilore » 2008-07-11 04:00pm

Lazarus wrote:I don't think it was stupidity on the Emperor's part, more like making the best of his slightly screwed up (but salvageable) master plan for taking over the galaxy. Had whatever force it was (do we know yet?)
We're pretty sure it was Chaos.
not scattered the primarchs they would have been raised and trained by the Emperor himself - in that case I'm sure they would have been practically immune to Chaos. Faced with the situation as it was, the Emperor may have decided that the in-built conditioning would be enough to keep the plan workable.
That's stupid. This idea supposes that the Primarchs are somehow indispensible, or so valuable that giving them absurd power is somehow worth the risk, even though the Imperium got along fine without them for several decades.

I think the creation of the Primarchs had nothing to do with "plans" and everything to do with the Emperor getting sick of feeling several million heads above everyone around him and wanting a family he could be on the level with. I don't recall any Primarchs having biological children, and the Emperor could have kept his psykerization test subjects in the vats, so I don't see what they have to do with making humanity psychic.
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Post by Shadowtraveler » 2008-07-11 04:07pm

Don't forget that the Traitor Legions purged all their Loyalist members during the Istvaan battles. It's not a cut and dry "I turn and everyone turns with me thing". Even after Horus turns it takes him over a year or so before he's able to actually rebel.

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Post by Morilore » 2008-07-11 04:25pm

I still think that there probably would be fewer turncoats in the Sons of Horus if Horus himself was seen as just another general. When Erebus was seducing the rest of the officers, he plucked the strings of their adoration for the Warmaster loudly and repeatedly. The books so far read like the Primarchs are revered because they have Draka pheromone powers more than anything else.
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Post by Crom » 2008-07-11 04:26pm

Morilore wrote:I think the creation of the Primarchs had nothing to do with "plans" and everything to do with the Emperor getting sick of feeling several million heads above everyone around him and wanting a family he could be on the level with. I don't recall any Primarchs having biological children, and the Emperor could have kept his psykerization test subjects in the vats, so I don't see what they have to do with making humanity psychic.
Well, do remember that the Imperium enjoyed successes with the integration of the Primarchs into their armed services. They were so effective that the Emperor returned to Terra and left conquering to his Primarchs.

And, in the WH40k universe, humanity is a psychic race. Thousands of psykers are sacrificed to the Emperor daily. The Emperor's plan, IIRC, was to guide humanity to a point where they were mature enough to withstand the effects of Chaos without his intervention.
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Post by Crom » 2008-07-11 04:30pm

Morilore wrote:I still think that there probably would be fewer turncoats in the Sons of Horus if Horus himself was seen as just another general. When Erebus was seducing the rest of the officers, he plucked the strings of their adoration for the Warmaster loudly and repeatedly. The books so far read like the Primarchs are revered because they have Draka pheromone powers more than anything else.
I don't think anyone is contesting that it was a horrible set-up.
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Post by Morilore » 2008-07-11 04:34pm

Crom wrote:Well, do remember that the Imperium enjoyed successes with the integration of the Primarchs into their armed services. They were so effective that the Emperor returned to Terra and left conquering to his Primarchs.
Well, yes, I know that, and I think it's stupid writing. But I guess I'm wasting my time trying to take 40k seriously.
And, in the WH40k universe, humanity is a psychic race. Thousands of psykers are sacrificed to the Emperor daily. The Emperor's plan, IIRC, was to guide humanity to a point where they were mature enough to withstand the effects of Chaos without his intervention.
Okay, more psychic. From what I recall the idea was that humans would become powerful enough psykers to control their psychic gifts, rather than mostly getting screwed up by them.
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Post by NecronLord » 2008-07-11 06:03pm

Morilore wrote:I mean, Angron and Corax were complete psychopaths and the Emperor still gave them power.
Angron and... Corax? Are you perhaps thinking of Conrad Kurze? Corax is pretty much Spartacus, in spaaaaace.
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Post by Morilore » 2008-07-11 06:40pm

NecronLord wrote:Angron and... Corax? Are you perhaps thinking of Conrad Kurze? Corax is pretty much Spartacus, in spaaaaace.
Yeah, Conrad Kurze, my bad.
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Post by Crom » 2008-07-11 07:46pm

Morilore wrote:Well, yes, I know that, and I think it's stupid writing. But I guess I'm wasting my time trying to take 40k seriously.
Hey, it's cool. I like taking things seriously too. As it stands, in-universe, the Emperor should have known better. But, I suspect he never quite lost his ancient mentality and so, despite being quite adept scientifically, he created what he knew when it came to warfare.

The whole warrior cult aspect of the Legions, for instance. He seemed to believe, as the Chapters continue into the modern era, that a level of barbarism in the Astartes made them more effective soldiers.

So the final answer is that the Emperor, despite being a godlike psyker, was an idiot when it came to designing an organization and too proud to doubt his own creations.
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Post by Stormbringer » 2008-07-11 09:38pm

Morilore wrote:That's stupid. This idea supposes that the Primarchs are somehow indispensible, or so valuable that giving them absurd power is somehow worth the risk, even though the Imperium got along fine without them for several decades.
They were indispensable if the Emperor's plan was to go off right. They were meant to the be the incorruptible, demi-god commanders that they turned out to be and unfortunately there was no back up possible. It was a one time roll of the dice and the Emperor took the gamble because he had to have some one leading it in his stead. He couldn't lead from the front forever and pursue his plan. After all, there is only war and it was going to go one for millenia.

As for getting along, that they did but it was never the height of the Great Crusade. The Primarchs started turning up fairly early on and the bulk of the Crusade's successes were done under the Primarchs. It's hard to imagine that success coming about under the Emperor direct command and on top of that it posed as great a risk of the wheels coming off elsewhere as the Primarch plan.

The plan is far from perfect but few plans are, especially in the extreme pessimism of the 40K universe. It nearly worked and had the Horus Heresy only came off by the narrowest of margins.
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Post by DocHorror » 2008-07-12 02:20pm

NecronLord wrote: Corax is pretty much Spartacus, in spaaaaace.
You mean Angron. :)
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Post by andrewgpaul » 2008-07-12 03:41pm

What is Corax's schtick, anyway? Conrad Kurze is pretty much Batman, no?
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Post by DocHorror » 2008-07-12 04:39pm

andrewgpaul wrote:What is Corax's schtick, anyway? Conrad Kurze is pretty much Batman, no?
Kinda, but not quite. He's meant to be Kurtz from Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now. Using 'unsound' methods to achieve his ends.

Seriously. Batman wouldn't string up thieves by their entrails.
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Post by Commander 598 » 2008-07-12 06:07pm

DocHorror wrote:
andrewgpaul wrote:What is Corax's schtick, anyway? Conrad Kurze is pretty much Batman, no?
Kinda, but not quite. He's meant to be Kurtz from Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now. Using 'unsound' methods to achieve his ends.

Seriously. Batman wouldn't string up thieves by their entrails.
Maybe not normal Batman, but this is Warhammer 40k GRIMDARK Batman we're talking about.

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Post by andrewgpaul » 2008-07-12 06:23pm

Possibly a bit of both.
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Post by loomer » 2008-07-12 11:01pm

Kurze is The Punisher. Corax is Batman. Master of tactics, guerilla warfare, and special operations. Sounds like Batman.
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