Leagues of Votann

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"Right after Mankind’s colonization of the galaxy came its first true golden age. Reared by machine prophets, the survivors of the Oedipal plagues built civilizations that equaled and even surpassed their Solar forbears."

– CM Koseman, "All Tomorrow's"

"So, we're talking about space dwarfs who need more RAM for their gods?"

– Anon

The Leagues of Votann (also known as the Unsquatted Squats) is a ""new"" faction in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. They are gatherings of short abhuman clones called the Kin (more commonly known as Squats by the dirty Necromunda gangers), bound together by the Votann, super-cogitators from the Dark Age of Technology. Each League has its own Votann, and are organized in strongholds around it. They used the data stored to survive among the stars and maintain their culture across generations. Of course, since some factions are touchy about AI, the Leagues are very cautious when dealing with its closest ally, hence their secretive lifestyle.

However, because of the setting, everything is not that simple. Since Windows is not regularly updated anymore and issues that have arisen from having remained active for literal millennia, the Votann began to deteriorate. If they want to repair their computer, they must wage war with other shitcoin miners for more processing power, the Kin have to once more brave a galaxy full of danger.

History/Culture

Even the oldest living Kin don’t remember what their earliest days were like, though some undeniable “First Truths” remain constant in the Votanns’ data tracks. One such truth is that the First Ancestors departed from ancient Terra prior to the Unification Wars to harvest the untold riches of the galaxy. What became of these Ancestors is unknown, but curiously when the Ancestors begun to fade away…the Votann are first mentioned.

A second First Truth is that the Kin have always been a cloned people. The Ancestors used genetic systems called “cloneskeins” to manipulate and modify their race’s molecular structure, and continue to define their overall division of labor. Over time the Kin became squatter, denser, and stronger than an average human. They’ve even been able to artificially neuter their psychic footprint to avoid the attention of Chaos, in a not too dissimilar to how the Tau souls work. Some fans are now speculating that GW is tying the Men of Stone thread to the modern Squat civilization (either to the Squats themselves or to the Votann) given the Men of Gold and Men of Iron have already been speculated to be Perpetuals and abominable intelligence. With the reveal of the “Iron Kin,” their fully-mechanical and true AI robot social class, who were designed with a prerogative to help their meaty cousins, this theory of the Kin being the Men of Stone could bare all the more weight.

In the modern day of the 41st Millennium, the culture of the Kin seems, according to the drip feed from WarCom, very egalitarian, with no distinction between male, female, machine or otherwise amongst its members. United in the guidance of the Votann, the Leagues of the Kin operate with seeming unity, with every member of their society performing the role they were literally designed for without question, the Kin working in unison for the betterment of the clan-family.

Speculation

There's a few ways to look at these First Ancestors. The first is that they were just the first humans of the colonization ships who, after centuries, simply invented the Votann as a long-term solution to administration work, and the cloneskeins as a way to keep their population on their generation ships viable on a genetic level. Then, by the time they landed on the first high-density worlds, were simply long gone, with the Kin being the first settlers walking out to worlds their ancestors tailored them to be specialized for. Couple this with a simple cultural paradigm shift with the Votann literally being cogitator cores built by their ancestors, and so worshipping them as relics of the long-dead, and you end up with the Kin as we know them in the modern setting. But that's not grimdark enough. Alternatively, digital mind duplication of the organic brains of the First Ancestors into AI form is a possibility (like the T’au with Commander Puretide alongside Ob'lotai and Brightsword in the Farsight Enclaves) though it wouldn’t explain why they don’t communicate with their descendants on a personal level. Then again, immortality does desensitize as seen with the Emperor’s interaction with mortals.

Another idea could be that the Votann pulled, on a miniaturized and successful scale, a usurpation of their human creators and enslaved the surviving ancestors of the Kin, similar to the Men of Iron. Once victorious, the Votann could have created the cloneskeins as a way to "rebuild" their new fleshy puppets to best suit their needs: high-density worlds far away from the prying eyes of uncaptured humans, and boasting enough resources to build more Votann. Couple this with an implanted genetic desire for the Kin to worship the Votann as their literal creators and ancestors, and you've paved the way to the Leagues' current standing. Tack on the Kin being let loose without their guiding masters, as the Votann have begun to slow down and fall into disrepair, and you're back to the nice and tidy grimdarkness of the 41st Millennium.

But there could be an in-between, if we consider GW's recent attempts at steering their IP into a more friendly and hopeful direction. If anyone is familiar with the short story "All Tomorrows" by CM Koseman, a similar situation appears in that book that happens with the First Ancestors: humans set adrift on massive generation ships to colonize deep space. However, in this story, it's told that the Star People (the aforementioned humans) began to romantically love the AI and machines that tended to them on these generation ships. When they landed on their new worlds, this technophilia was reciprocated by many machines, and the early settlers had a huge problem with procreation because of it, obviously. Now, in the setting of 40k, we could look at the cloneskeins as an attempt by the First Ancestors' machines as a way to get past the obvious disconnect between biology and machinery, allowing the machines to genetically perfect the "child" produced by the DNA used to create the clone from the parent. Over the millennia, this pseudo-breeding results in the Ancestor Cores quite literally being the ancestors of the modern Kin, as it's them who keep track of the biological heritage of each member of the League. Likewise, the disappearance of the First Ancestors would simply be them dying out due to natural processes, leaving behind their immortal machine partners to rear up their offspring. So, the grimdarkness here lies in the purely heretical nature of "procreating" with the Silica Animus, and the Kin's utter reliance on them to continue their species.

Ultimately, we may likely never get an answer, with such obscurity simply adding to the mystique of a new faction.

Another bit of speculation around the Votann is if anything else in the setting will be retconned into/explained as being one. The most obvious candidate is the House Van Saar STC, described as being "large building" sized and "damaged" in that its spewing out radiation, similar to the disrepair some Votann are said to be in albeit more extreme, and if it was a Votann it would explain why Squats are on Necromunda. You could even say the Omnissiah on Mars could be a Votann, perhaps even the first one, buried deep beneath the surface of the Red World. Considering the Man of Iron, UR-025, is said to have spoken to the Machine God, this could be a candidate for it's identity.

Forces of the Kin

GW is being coy about their reveal. For now we have one statline to go on. However, a large datacard leak pretty recently has revealed a number of new units that their roster will have. Those units will be listed with an asterisk, as what we know about them so far is based on flavor text and assumption.

  • Brôkhyr: The engineers and lead craftsman of the Leagues, named after the dwarf of Norse mythology, Brokkr, who built Mjolnir. They just blow tech priests out of the water on every level, as not only do their (creatively named) A.N-vyl Terminals (just picture a 3D printer but for guns) have MANY full STCs inside that make all their guns all that and a bag of chips in comparison to those of the Imperium, but they're also not limited by dogma and orthodoxy when it comes to technological advancements, meaning they actively upgrade their shit.
  • Grimnyr*: The predominant psykers of the Leagues. Gone are the days of Living Ancestors, as the Kin now name their dwarf wizards after the false identity Odin took while on a bet from Frigg, from Norse Mythology (or ripping off the WHFB dwarf god Grimnir. Still not sure how they role into the Leagues' society but we can assume that they intermediate between the Warlords and the Votann.
  • Einhyr*: All we know of these guys is that they are named after the Einherjars of Valhalla, and that they are probably the newly-christened Hearthguard Terminators of old, being the honored, battle-tested veterans of the League.
  • Warlord*: Retaining their names from the times of Rogue Trader, the Kin Warlords likely play a much similar role to their predecessors, being the military leaders of their leagues.
  • Berserks*: At the time of writing this, assumption tells us that these guys are likely sci-fi Slayers from WHFB.
  • Theyn: The sci-fi variation of the old Anglo-Saxon Thegns/Thanes. These are most likely your big leaders in the Leagues.
  • Hekaton Land Fortress*: A (presumably) large armored vehicle that can double as a defensive emplacement.
  • Hernkyn Pioneer: THE TRIKES RETURN! AS HOVERTRIKES! And with a female driver. It looks like a spider-tank tachikoma from Ghost in the Shell fucked a Harley and their baby came out a hoverbike.
  • Hearthkyn Warriors: Because replacing i's with y's is so sci-fi and trademark friendly. These are most certainly your basic foot soldiers, giving you a mini-marine Necron Warrior statline of a 4+ save, 3+ WS/BS, and a 4 to Strength and Toughness while having a 5" movement speed. Their special rules are still pending. In terms of lore, the Hearthkyn are essentially identical in terms of origin as the Guardian Defenders of the eldar, in that they are the core infantry force of the Leagues' military that were conscripted from their civilian populations. However, rather than being a militia roused during times of conflict, the Hearthkyn are instead closer to real-world militaries, in that the soldiery serve for an extended period of time before going home to their civilian professions. Serving in the Hearthkyn, anyone can enlist: male, female, flesh or metal, as Kin are Kin, after all. The units themselves are equipped with all manner of hullabaloo Squat guns, from their Autoch-pattern bolters to ion guns to plasma axes, with Theyns serving as their squad leaders.
  • Ironkin: The League have Men of Iron now, or at least true AIs. Appears to be comparable to a Servitor, although distinctly described as being treated as equal to the fleshy Kin. The Ironkin can mimic their living counterparts’ every behavior and demeanor, but display no sense of ambition and are hard-wired with a desire to be helpful. Their bodies are all built for a unique purpose and cannot be easily replaced should they be damaged. One such purpose are the Wayfinders, which are the supercomputer, squatty equivalent of Imperial navigators, allowing the Kin to traverse the Warp without the need of psykers, and thus reduce the threat of daemonic incursions.
  • Ironhead Squat Prospectors: An off shoot of the Kin that have set up shop on Necromunda for a long time now, and are busy doing dwarrowesque things, while also dealing with the locals that sometimes try to loot their stuff. While they're only distantly related to the Leagues with no direct affiliation, they're said to get along. There is a small but not high chance the'll be options on the table top as well since Kill team has a precedent for a small unit from one box being an option like the sister novitiate, at the very least make a good proxy/conversion.
  • Cargo-8 Ridgehauler: the Squat land trains return! Well they have on Necromunda at least. These huge transport trucks with multiple trailers and strapped on weaponry are used by Squat prospectors and regular human folk to cross the ash wasteland and protect valuable shipments. They aren’t quite up to the standard of the old land trains but at least it’s something.
  • Demiurg: Largely here because of non-direct confirmation, but WarCom confirmed that the Tau received their ion weapon technology from the Kin, whereas in Battlefleet Gothic they claim that it was from the Demiurg, another race of dwarf space-miners. Logically, the term "Demiurg" may just be what the Tau call the Kin, or the Demiurg may be another offshoot culture of the wider kin race like prospectors above. After all, their clone-skein’s capability in stressing divergent phenotypes means visibly different strains could possible (like different breeds of dogs or cats). Or they could be just a League that decided to throw in their lot with the upstart T'au Empire rather than being in the bottom of the Imperium's to-do list.

Gallery


Forces of the Squats
Command: Guildmaster - Living Ancestor - Squat Warlord - Votann
Troops: Brotherhood Heavy Weapons Team
Commissar - Hearthguard - Mole Mortar Team
Squat Berserkers - Squat Thunderers
Squat Trooper - Tech Priest
Vehicles: Cyclops War Machine - Colossus War Machine
Land Train - Leviathan - Rhino - Squat Bike
Squat Trike - Tunneling Transport Vehicles
Flyers &
Bombers:
Iron Eagle Gyrocopter
Overlord Armoured Airship
Artillery: Heavy Quad-Launcher
Thunder-Fire Cannon
Heavy
Ordinance:
Goliath Mega-Cannon
Playable Factions in Warhammer 40,000
Imperium: AdMech: Adeptus Mechanicus - Mechanicus Knights
Army: Imperial Guard - Imperial Knights - Imperial Navy - Militarum Tempestus - Space Marines
Inquisition: Inquisition - Sisters of Battle - Deathwatch - Grey Knights
Other: Adeptus Custodes - Adeptus Ministorum - Death Cults - Officio Assassinorum - Sisters of Silence
Chaos: Chaos Daemons - Chaos Space Marines - Lost and the Damned - Chaos Knights
Xenos: Aeldari: Dark Eldar - Eldar - Eldar Corsairs - Harlequins - Ynnari
Tyranids: Genestealer Cults - Tyranids
Others: Necrons - Orks - Tau