Of course, even with the astronomican faltering, its failure might mean the Emperor's soul is freed and reborn, resulting in his "second coming"… Certainly there is plenty to point to that sort of result in the fiction. Great Crusade v2.0, anyone?
I subscribe the the "Abnettverse" as do others in this thread. Less grim, plenty of dark. The best thing about 40k is that it is vast enough to set great stories in, without having to bump into any of the canon characters or events.
I just think that this wouldn't happen in the scope of a few decades or centuries, but over a timeframe somewhat similar to the many millennia you mentioned came before the original Imperium. That, and this reborn Imperium's power may well not be Terra. It may not even have an Emperor (or not this one), and it may have a distinctively different hierarchy with different factions using different equipment. In short, it might be as different from the Imperium we know as the Imperium is different to the original human empire(s) in the Dark Age of Technology.
This is what I would expect from whatever comes after 999.M41 - with all the build-up the galaxy needs to be different, not just "another day in the Imperium". Then again, any "new Imperium" probably should still hold some resemblance in certain aspects for recognition values? Different, yet familiar… If so, a comparison of the ideal might be the Legacy era in Star Wars, for those of you that read the comics.
There's certainly a lot of potential for creative minds.
current 40k RPG character: Captain Elias, Celestial Lions Tactical Marine
It could still bounce back at full strenght.
Sure it could. And that would be terrible. "The end-times were upon us, but we snatched victory from the jaws of defeat… Now what?"
If you continue the timeline you've basically got 3 choices, none of them good:
1. Status quo - nothing overly major happens. There's big battles, campaigns etc, but nothing that has the potential to really shake the setting. The problem with this is that it gets a bit boring and frustrating as people get fed up waiting for the big climax that never comes.
2. Huzzah! Major conflict that threatens the Imperium but the forces of mankind emerge victorious! The problem with this is that it leaves the setting a bit redundant. Sure, you can throw in another big bad guy to threaten mankind etc, but enough of that and it just turns into problem 1 above. It's a bit like setting a LotR game after the one ring has been destroyed, it's just not as interesting without the threat of doom hanging over everything.
3. Oh crap. Major conflict that threatens the Imperium and mankind loses. Essentially changes the setting completely.
Other games and settings have tried one or another of the above approaches over the years. There are also other problems with meta-plots (such as fluff-buildup driving away new customers, for example). As people have realised the problems it's led to them being far less popular than they used to be, with some settings just freezing their timelines to deal with it.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are my own. I do not speak for FFG in any capacity, officialotherwise. To be honest they don't really tell me much about anything, so you can assume I don't know squat.
I mean diddly. I don't know diddly. I did not mention squats. Squats are not making a comeback.
Unless they are. I really don't know!!! Seriously. Though squats were cool. Pity they all got eaten by the 'nids. Or did they?
I don't mind that they arn't advancing the timeline. It's good that it's set in a period where all the forces are active, there's doom on the horizon but they don't know what form it will take. It's a big Galaxy with plenty of stories within it that haven't been told yet.
People invest a lot of time in 40K and if you have to make sweeping changes you are going to disenfrancise some loyal fans. Say they said the Imperial Fists had been destroyed or the Eldar wiped out finally. That's going to send a lot people elsewhere.
And if you advance the storyline without anything really happening then what's the point?
I think what they need to do that they haven't done so far is emphasise that the tide is turning against the Imperium, that it starting crack.
For instance a lot of their background developement comes from Forgeworlds line, who are working on 'The Fall of Opheus' with the Imperial defenders against the Necrons. It would do a hell of a lot to emphasis the threat of the Necrons if they actually won that. Doubt it will happen though. Or maybe a big push from tyranid hive fleet wiping out a section of the galaxy and taking some major (but previously not, or bearly, mentioned) Imperial worlds with it. How about the Tau and one of the Craftworlds form an alliance, sure the Eldar are in it for themselves, but it's in their interest to play along together now. What if Fulgrim is seen rampaging through part of the Galaxy with the head of Leman Russ?
In short, they don't need to advance the timeline but I don't think they are doing enough to put life into the setting as it is.
Face Eater said:
Sometimes I feel that too much focus rests on the "outsourced" material, especially the novels. This is where you find the status quo the most, as it tends to sport Big Damn Heroes saving the day rather than suffering from setbacks, thus kind of ruining what the studio material attempts to establish. People's impression of something depends hugely on what exactly they're looking at, which is doubly true for 40k where consistency between different sources tends to get lost.
current 40k RPG character: Captain Elias, Celestial Lions Tactical Marine
Basically the Imperium was declining all the Time while the Tyranids became the deathblow for it. Now in 6thE Chaos is playing a bigger part und Necrons become big player too. All the Odds are against the Imperium though the fluff is filled with tons of "Acts of last Hope" i. e. the Terminus Decree, Russ an Guilliman, etc.
If you take a look at the Novels you must always accept that they make heavy use of power-plot-armor and are mostly in favor of their main-race. This is what people pay for when they get em. But if you take a look at the Time-Line they are just single battles.
Also the Line "Space Marine Battles" portraits several of the largest Engagements in ther later millenias where the Space Marines are the Heros of the Day but suffer horrible losses that cripple entire chapters if not doom them. This is the decline of the Imperium that is fighting with its back to the wall, doing some of its greatest battles but in the end the attrition will bring down the imperium. The eternal defence, made of the men of the Imperial Guard will fail one day and even the astartes might not save the breach and what happens then is totaly up to fluff interpretation.
The 6th ed rulebook sets the tone of the Imperium in decline. But beyond that you just don't get the Impression.
A good deal of this is because as FieserMoep says, the vast majority of modern setting BL books are written from the point of view of the Imperium and the hero has to save the day. It's exasperated because there will never be a book from the Tyranids perspective and unlikely to be one from the Necrons point of view so it's going to be hard to sell them as a legitimate threat when they are only going to turn up in books to be defeated There's not much they can do about that unless they learn how to write books where the heros victory is in the face of defeat or that they specifically go out of their way to illustrate that their one victory is surrounded by defeat. In a way it would help to go back to their origin story for inspiration, the Horus Heresy was a classic give and take with victory snatched from the jaws of deafeat at the last minute. The Imperium won but it was greatly weakend.
This is the reason I picked on Forgeworlds books. They do a lot to expand the setting and go into great length to descibe all forces involved but the Imperium doesn't nescesarily need to win.
I don't think the worldwide campaigns are a bad idea, in fact I think there should be more of it. It's the execution that's at fault. The end result doesn't need to be a total victory one way or another. If each location had one world to fight over the end result could be to limit how many worlds the Imperium looses with the dramatic final battle being for an Important world that is effected by how many planets had been lost or taken by each side up to that point.
It could still bounce back at full strenght. We must remember that 25 thousand years before, there were something like dozen human colonised worlds and it became something huge and strong. Nothing say that it could be impossible for a couple of thousand of worlds, still united together, to build back an empire when the principal adversary are brutish orks that are as much a threath in 40k than they were in 15k, or the eldar that were an empire then and couldn't stop mankind to expand while they are now a few millions in the galaxy. The real threath would be chaos, which would have wasted a lot of their great firepower assaulting the empire, and the tyranids that can boast gigantic armies. But still, one world can halt or stop them, as seen on Maccrage.
Yes, the Imperium of mankind was hit and recovered many times in the past. But when Goge Vandire was there, there was not much left of the Empire and a war made it whole again. There were gigantic whaaagh! that nearly swept half of the Imperium away and it built itself back. I'm not saying, in any realistic way that this will certainly happen, I'm saying that nothing can make sure that one specie like mankind, with all their technology, power, capacity to populates its worlds and anything, it could easily get back on track with the right leader.
Because actually, the Imperium is on the brink of collapse because of its sheer importance; the Imperium is everywhere and all the galactic species are in war against it. When it won't be the case anymore, do you think all the xenos will continue to attack it without fighting each other? Mankind will become again a small power like it was before the Imperium, and then, they will have the choice to get back on track or getting killed slowly.
During M15 they had functional STC and technological advancement continuing. M31 they had the Emporer the Primarchs and the Legions, as well as advancing (all be it far more slowly tech) M41? Stagnation and an empire that is barely holding together.
The short answer is that the 40k setting has an enormous amount of room chronologically and geographically for more stories to be told without advancing the official time line. This is one of its greatest strengths.
As an addendum to that, the over arching story is not the life and death of the setting, it's support for the numerous table top games, novels, rpgs, card games, board games, short stories, and computer games which drive its existence. To assume that the story moving forward and flopping or not moving forward and stagnating will kill the setting is probably hysterical and ultimately false. Regardless, its making assumptions about market viability that are super speculative mostly meaningless.
If the questions becomes one of personal vision/story/interpretation/preference rather than franchise survival we can all happily pitch in without pretending our opinionating is something it's not.
As to my opinion, I too find Abnett and even Mitchell to be more compelling storytellers for the setting than most of the others, but I also am devoted to the idea that there is no canon, that all material could be propaganda, misinformation, confused records, misreporting, or blatant falsehoods. This too is a great strength of the setting and allows it to absorb even the apocalyptically bad material produced by Ward without suffering a fatal injury. After all, who is to say that reports of the Grey Knights bathing in the blood of battle sisters is not Chaos propaganda, misheard tales of the secretive Chamber militant of the secretive Ordo Malleus of the secretive Inquisition, or maybe just a transcription error in the records. Such flexibility makes me so much happier than swallowing all the Ward-**** as fact.
So does the time line need to move forward? Nope.
Can it? Sure.
Will it kill the setting? Nah.
Must it change it completely or be inadequate? Don't think that either.
The apocalyptic change here involves a great threat, but great threats liek the Horus Heresy et. al. did not destroy the setting, they added depth to it, they gave it history. Must this conflict's resolution end all conflict? I don't think so. The first Horus Heresy book has a line in which a certain famous Iron Fist tells a key Luna Wolf that "there is no ending the crusade, once it has conquered the Space Marines will still have to fight to preserve what they have gained, in the future, there is only war." No reason that can't be the case even with an Imperium victory.
A fundamental feature of 40k is that it allows cool armies to fight, as mentioned above. To maintain that you want to maintain all the armies existence. No problem. Here is a possible arrangement which allows for climax, without destroying all the factions.
Imperium - Have the Imperium survive, great epic (if not total) victory, climax achieved. Also, there, that faction exists (and by faction I mean lots of factions). And yeah, they still totally fight each other, so even if they are winning, a standoff (or dragged out victory with lots more battles for the setting) is possible.
Tyranids - Have the Tyranids get driven off, all but annihilated even. The Tyranids have a bounce-back mechanic, so wiping out all that exist now is totally irrelevant to them once again becoming a threat. Does this diminish the climax? Why should it? Does the end of WWI diminish the importance of WWII? We can always have more Tyranid fleets show up, or have fleets return after eating worlds somewhere safe and unnoticed. So, this faction exists too. Obviously if you want to end them as a major threat, that is in the cards too. Also, the Tyranids fight each other, so even if they have not been wiped out, a standoff is possible.
Necrons - Totally have the bounce back mechanic of "more wake up" super easy to brign back as a threat after defeated, minor or major, as desired. faction preserved. Also, they fight each other, so even if they have not been wiped out, a standoff is possible.
Tau - Who cares, they are a side-show pocket empire amongst pocket empires. if youw ant them to be major fine, have their communism spread like wildfire and unite humans/more aliens and vastly expand their power base. If you want them gone, super easy to make that happen. if you want them dominant as a ruling class, have them science up a massive tech advantage. if you don't care, leave them a sideshow. Regardless, faction preserved. Also, they can totally fight each other (you were mind/pheremone controlling us? *zap*), so even if they have not been wiped out and are somehow winning, a standoff is possible.
Eldar - These guys are super overrated in galactic power struggles, they seriously throw their whole population as militia at other factions to have an army, not exactly a winning plan when your birthrate is nil and your population close to nil. Still, if you want them to matter you deus ex machina distant craft worlds returning etc. if you want them to keep their "in decline" theme going, don't change anything. Faction preserved. Also, they fight each other, so even if they have not been wiped out but are somehow winning, a standoff is possible.
Dark Eldar - Yeah, scavengers on the periphery in some out-of-the-way stronghold? No reason to mess with this really. Faction preserved. Also, they fight each other, so even if they have not been wiped out and are somehow winning, a standoff is possible.
Chaos – Totally also has a bounce back mechanic, you can wipe them out, drive them into the eye, slaughter them all, heck you can do away with the eye itself and Chaos is totally plausible as a returning entity. Almost any amount of victory can be accompanied by a continuing threat of Chaos major or minor in its role. Also they fight each other, so even if they have not been wiped out and are somehow winning, a standoff is possible.
Orks – Also with the bounce back mechanic, also with the fighting each other. Also with their role being major or minor.
As far as victory for the Imperium changing it fundamentally I am not sure it would need to, driving off its many enemies might be a unifying moment, but the spoils of victory could be squabbled over. Even if the Imperium is re-energized it's still gargantuan, no amount of vanquished foes really ends their enormous logistical problems and constant brush wars. One can Deus Ex Machina an end to these things if one wants to, but why?
As to how the victory might come about I can conceive of amny plausible scenarios including the aforementioned propensity of every other faction to shoot each other in the back. The Imperium has enormous resources and large quantities of hero fodder, grinding that entire machine into motion can win by sheer numbers, honestly the only thing stopping even the Tyranids from being outnumbered by the force of man is organization. I am highly amused by the image of Tyranids being overwhelmed by waves of Guard (also can I just say that every calorie spent moving, thinking, fighting, shooting, etc. it bio matter expended, the Tyranids are not a perfect closed system, they need fuel and their own losses are still losses, even if they can recycle parts, what makes them work is getting to eat defenseless masses, a planet full of algae is a Tyranid gold mine, a defended planet is really not, espeically one with no eco-system left – 40 billion people on a hive world is still less bio-mass than the insects on our earth). Furthermore, the Necrons have a time bomb in the form of the current fluff's explanation of the C'tan as betrayed and basically enslaved. Let them get desperate and release too many shards on the battlefield and who knows if a freed and vengeful C'tan doesn't burn out half the Necron armies before succumbing? The Emperor returning obviously has all sorts of potential for Deus Ex Machina, as does his being reborn. The Imperium is honestly just one major STC discovery away from getting the upper hand (imagine a fully-functioning STC factory for TDA, or titans). But honestly, just having the Imperium pull it out in a big effort with lots of players and lots of close battles and lots of internecine conflict and eventually prevail is great fodder for extending the time line, letting us have our climax, and still letting the Imperium win, no need for the Deus Ex Machina at all really.
Really the only feature that messes with the setting so much that it will fundamentally change to storyline would be the Golden Throne/Emperor Reborn/ Emperor Revivified/Emperor Dead/Astronomicon waning plot line, and that need not truly transform everything about the setting. If the Emperor gets off the Throne and starts running things again there is no reason to assume that he will be of the same mind he was 10000-12000 years before. One can easily replace Emperor entombed in Golden Throne with Emperor sits on Golden Throne and carry on. The psyker sacrifices could even keep fueling the Astronomicon, now operated remotely by a walking, talking Emperor who is totally busy trying to conform institutions that have become engrained for millenia to his will, or maybe he is damaged or paranoid after the betrayal and his vision is rather less beatific, or maybe whether he is whole in mind will be the parallel in M.42 to whether he is alive or dying in the previous ten millenia.
TLDR: The time line need not move forward, but the themes and factions of 40k are totally preservable even if the time line moves forward, a climax is had, and details change.
what do you mean by advancing the timeline? 50k? Something like that. Or just a few years?