Friday, December 23, 2011

Writing Tyranid POV

With so much excellent fluff out there for the grimdark of 40k, I still keep hoping for a good meaty tale from the Tyranid point of view.  The Eldar-centric Path series is a great example and as a long-time Eldar player, I've truly enjoyed it.  Turning to my latest love affair - Tyranids - the general consensus is that 'nids are too mindless, or simply not individual enough to develop a decent point of view from which to write.  This doesn't mix with the fluff though - there are several potential plotlines out there that I think could be developed relatively easily.  The brood brothers, covens, genestealer infestations all have a human side with great potential political and violent interplay driven by alpha-male predator interactions.  Taking a different tack though, writing from the perspective of a full-out invasion horde would be tough.  I still think it would be possible; below is my take on an opening.  A Ymgarl brood, bent on returning to the Hive Mind after being abandoned by a tendril of a Hive Fleet's assault:


Here come the vibrations again, pulsing, rumbling then staccato… time passes… and quiet.  I hear a buzzing and … footsteps.  Have they discovered us?  We detect no mind-noise, and we would have felt the Mother-of-All long before our family was close.  This may be much-needed prey.  It has been… long since last we fed, since last we were abandoned.  We will find the Mother again.  I subtly awaken the closest, dormancy shed like a husk.   Close enough to see, to hear their minds… listening for the heavy tramp of the flamebringers.  No, these are light steps.  Moving slowly like a new hatchling whose carapace has yet to harden.  These have no carapace, no smell of poison.  They carry long firespitters, but they rode in a metal beast that can take us away from here, if we are worthy.  We must find the Mother.  We will be careful; I awaken the brood.  Dormancy slides from us like the birthing pool’s slime, slow and distasteful.  It has been a long sleep.

+++++Vessel: Verdant Shores +++++
+++++Registry: Hades Subsector, Morwell+++++
++++Owner: Rogue Trader Fleet Apropos Ninth +++++
++++++ M41011.32a +++++++
++-++Comms Log ++-+++++
++++…++ +  Drexler, Scout Lead:  ..Confirm – this moon is as dead as the one by ++++!..  Just ashes, rock, and more rock.  We’re buttoning up and headed back to the Shores.  See you in a..  what was that?


  1. I think a big part of the problem is that to most, they don't like the current fluff as much. They liked the mindless endless swarm feel. The new fluff was almost a complete rewrite from the old.

  2. I have to admit that I really hate the Tyranid background and generally just try to ignore it in favour of imagining Tyranids being more like they were in Rogue Trader: Eusocial fleshsmiths. That way a Tyranid could have motivations (rise to be the Tyrant, pass on genes to his own swarm, etc), conflicts, and so on. I think the key to writing aliens is to figure out what they have in common with humanity, and so what the reader will empathize with the protagonist, and what they don't, so that the reader will be able to contrast it with the human reaction.

    I'd also avoid terms like "flamebringers" or whatnot:

    When in doubt, it's worth reading Aaron Dembski-Bowden's comments on writing Space Marines.

  3. Yup - flamespitters sucks ;) Just thinking how weapons would be referred to by a race that utterly eschews hardware, or if they would make any meaningful differentiation between man and machine. I'll have to check Dembsk-Bowden's comments.

  4. I was getting intrigued by what you wrote and would buy something like that!

  5. I'd offer that one reason to use biological weapons would be to apply a sort of natural selection to design: instead of thousand-year-old heirloom bolters, Tyranids have that year's best-of-breed deathspitters. So yeah, I don't see why they wouldn't make a distinction between technology and end-users, particularly if they feel that building weapons out of bits of refined mineral is crude compare to growing weapons from the user's geneic template to better link the weapon and user.

    Me, I'd emphasize the Tyranid urge to dominate, to devour, and to procreate, building up from those motivations to things like establishing new hives, dealing with social situations, attacking aliens, and disdaining conventional (non-biotech) technology.

  6. This is an interesting idea and one I have actually had before as well. I would envision a book where it would actually have to bounce back and forth between the human (or Space Marine) perspective and that of the Tyranids. Probably from the Hive Tyrant/Broodlord/Hive Mind perspective. You could approach it from any independent type units and then that of the over arching leader of the nids.

    This would be tricky no matter what as the Tyranids are so incredibly alien to people - they would not have emotions or anything we would likely be able to put into context.

  7. That was a neat lil' intro!
    More 40k stuff from the bad guy perspective would always be welcome.

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