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GW's Black Library Sales are slumping slightly. (A discussion)

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40k makes it a lot easier for writers, though. Of course, nothing matters imperium-wide. But an author can invent  and destroy his own planets without clashing with the lore, just because the Galaxy is so vast. And each planet is a meaningful and relatable chunk worth fighting for and caring about, since we, the readers, are so used to a thinking that’s limited to one planet. 

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Personal opinion — BL books are bad.

I genuinely tried to get into BL. I read the usual novel recommendations (Spear of Shadows, City of Secrets, Shadespire and others), a few novellas and collections (Code of the Skies, Maledictions, a handful of others) and listened to the first Gotrek audiobook. I'm still trying to get into BL — The Dark Harvest is next on the reading list.

I read heaps of fantasy. None of the BL books I've read so far stand up to work by authors like Pratchett, Hobb, Sanderson, Jemisin, etc. Their stories tend to have little to no character growth. They rely on tropes without surprising the reader by subverting them. I've found them tedious and boring.

AOS writing's rife with my pet peeve too — with a few cherished exceptions, everyone speaks the same language. In real life, take a trip across a landmass and you'll likely hear dozens of different languages spoken. If you're lucky, in addition to their native language(s), the people will speak a lingua franca (possibly badly). In AOS, you'll travel across entire worlds and speak to people from a different era WITHOUT ANY LANGUAGE BARRIER AT ALL.

This bothers me enough to caps.

Anyway, given the hype around The Dark Harvest, I'll persevere for at least one more book. 🙂

[EDIT]

Oh, I will say that I've thoroughly enjoyed a number of AOS short stories. They tend to zero in on quirky and interesting aspects of the Mortal Realms. There's not enough room to fall into the usual formula of [travel from A to B; fight; travel from B to C; fight; and so on].

He Feasts Forever was a standout for me — a story about ghouls who have been away from their liege for too long and start to regain their senses. I loved some of the Malign Portents stories, too.

Edited by Towercap
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Just now, Towercap said:

In AOS, you'll travel across entire worlds and speak to people from a different era WITHOUT ANY LANGUAGE BARRIER AT ALL.

This bothers me enough to caps.

Interestingly the era thing is brought up in the 2016 GA:Order book as due to Azyr's strange timeflow sometimes people from the distant past may appear and speak in ancient dead languages no one knows.

As for the rest though it's hand-waved that the Order gods brought up all the fledgling tribes and races together in the Age of Myth and brought about equality. That's why no matter where you go if there's civilization then that means the Order pantheon raised it and taught it's people, be it a distant desert tribe in a Chamon desert or race of Aetar bird people at the tops of sky-towering mountains in Ghur. They worship a member of Sigmar's past pantheon and were taught that order language.

Thus you're only really gonna run into problems outside Order like a chaos tribe speaking the tongue of the dark gods.

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GIve me a good destruction book from the perspective of a Troggoth, Grot or Ogor and ill read BL The troggoth short story in Malign Sorcery is one of my favuorite things ever

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13 minutes ago, Baron Klatz said:

They worship a member of Sigmar's past pantheon and were taught that order language.

It would make perfect sense for High Azyrite (Celestial, IIRC?) to establish itself as a lingua franca. You could even argue it would become prestigious to speak it, since Stormcast Eternals would likely bring jobs with them (builders, cooks, messengers — everything required for army logistics). These jobs would require the knowledge of the language. People would come to associate speaking High Azyrite with greater socioeconomic status.

But there's no way SCE, essentially a colonial force, could make every (if any) tribe out there give up their language(s) completely. At best, you'd end up with a thousand High Azyrite dialects that combine elements of the language as it's spoken in Azyr and the regional language of the speakers.

Really, that's besides the point. Common language is a lazy fantasy trope that I'm particularly averse to. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Edited by Towercap
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2 minutes ago, Towercap said:

But there's no way SCE, essentially a colonial force, could make every (if any) tribe out there give up their language(s) completely. At best, you'd end up with a thousand High Azyrite dialects that combine elements of the language as it's spoken in Azyr and the regional language of the speakers.

Almost every race worships a god. Almost all gods were part of sigmars pantheon. If your god told you to speak a certain language you probably would do it. 

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1 minute ago, Eevika said:

Almost every race worships a god. Almost all gods were part of sigmars pantheon. If your god told you to speak a certain language you probably would do it. 

Christian missionaries were highly successful in spreading a religion, but they hardly wiped out languages in their wake.

The other thing that tends to happen to languages — given time and separation, they'll drift apart. Without constant communication between communities, High Azyrite spoken in one community will eventually become a different dialect to High Azyrite spoken in another community. Add realms and you'll multiply this effect a thousandfold.

There's a story in Maledictions I find particularly jarring. It's got an Idoneth Deepkin aelf washing up on strange shores. Of course, when a villager finds him, they're able to have a conversation, as if they're from the same village. 🤦

Again, lazy tropes, personal pet peeves.

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1 minute ago, Towercap said:

Christian missionaries were highly successful in spreading a religion, but they hardly wiped out languages in their wake.

The other thing that tends to happen to languages — given time and separation, they'll drift apart. Without constant communication between communities, High Azyrite spoken in one community will eventually become a different dialect to High Azyrite spoken in another community. Add realms and you'll multiply this effect a thousandfold.

There's a story in Maledictions I find particularly jarring. It's got an Idoneth Deepkin aelf washing up on strange shores. Of course, when a villager finds him, they're able to have a conversation, as if they're from the same village. 🤦

Again, lazy tropes, personal pet peeves.

I get what you mean but damn would it suck to read a book where the characters spend 75% of the time trying to figure out what everyone is trying to say. 

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Just now, Towercap said:

But there's no way SCE, essentially a colonial force, could make every (if any) tribe out there give up their language(s) completely. At best, you'd end up with a thousand High Azyrite dialects that combine elements of the language as it's spoken in Azyr and the regional language of the speakers.

They're not colonial, Stormcasts are natives going back to their lands to liberate them.  They are those builders, cooks, messengers from distant lands that thanks to the order pantheon are able to come together and only find differing accents in all their languages like Azyrite is more musical sounding while Aqshy is gruff and quick.

Eevika said it best that it's how the gods brought every individual together.

Basically Sigmar perfected the tower of Babel before chaos broke it.

Fine though if it annoys you but it's just not a problem the realms have as it's not civilization dependent but God dependent. Everyone literally speaks the language of the Gods.

Edit: Another thing to consider is how King Fisher the gods are upon their people and realms. They can see through the eyes of all their followers, speak with them and even affect them in strange ways. Regulating all speeches for a more connected Order would not be out of the realms of possibility.

 

 

Edited by Baron Klatz

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1 minute ago, Eevika said:

I get what you mean but damn would it suck to read a book where the characters spend 75% of the time trying to figure out what everyone is trying to say. 

Each to their own, for sure! Some books handle this well. The Goblin Emperor and Kushiel's Dart come to mind. Tip the hat to having an interpreter or speaking a lingua franca like High Azyrite (pretty sure it's called Celestial, right?), and consider my disbelief suspended. 🙂

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Old World fantasy and 40K both have alternative languages, however in the vast majority of stories most of the characters speak a common tongue. It's a little bit like how in the modern world you can go to many countries and most will have some form of access to speaking english - either directly or through a translator. 

 

In fact even in many fantasy stories the whole "they don't speak my language" comes up less often than you'd think. Many times there's a common tongue. I think its one of those things where unless the language barrier is a major part of the story, its something that could be a huge barrier to story progression and getting side-tracked. Stargate TV series also showed the other end which is if every BL story had a language barrier then eventually they all end up using similar tropes and tricks to try and get around it to the point where, in the end, it gets forgotten about (somewhere along the way everyone in the SG universe started speaking American). 

It's one of those immersion things that can get left to one side at times and only tends to rear its head in the extreme. For example Flesheaters appear to have their own language and don't really "talk" to other races (granted they mostly just eat other races). Skaven also have their own language, however most Skaven that interact with characters tend to be "smarter" skaven which means they likely have some basic understanding of the most common language. Plus when you read a story from their perspective its all translated for us by the writer. 

 

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17 minutes ago, Baron Klatz said:

Fine though if it annoys you but it's just not a problem the realms have as it's not civilization dependent but God dependent. Everyone literally speaks the language of the Gods.

It's about the suspension of disbelief. If that's the explanation they choose to provide for using this (lazy, overused) trope, it's their prerogative. I find it jarring because it goes against what we know about real world linguistics, and it goes about it in such a lazy manner.

A language changes all the time. Only dead languages stay the same. English you speak now is drastically different to English spoken a couple of hundred years ago. Unless Sigmar himself talks to you every day to make sure something like the Great Vowel Shift doesn't happen, the "language of the god" explanation is rubbish.

Not to mention that, say, Christians don't speak the language their holy text was written in originally.

Edited by Towercap
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In the mortal realms the Gods can speak to their people everyday though.

That the setting has the Gods literally walking amongst their people and keeping the civilizations together is where the "real world linguistics" falls apart as a problem. xD

Slight shifts do happen though as I said, the realms affect their natives to have accents in different manners while the ancient dead and Anvils of Heldenhammer do speakin more archaic forms.

Edit: An important thing in warhammer religion is that what you worship both changes the god and changes you. Just by worshipping Sigmar multiple civilizations will find their people shaped by his power, just as Nagash shapes his people and Chaos extremely changes theirs.

Edited by Baron Klatz

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1 minute ago, Baron Klatz said:

In the mortal realms the Gods can speak to their people everyday though.

By and large they don't. 

Most Chaos Tribes don't speak direct to their god(s) save through a prophet or similar gifted one. There's more than a few stories (in inferno) where Stormcast aren't just god warriors, but a myth (remember AoS is already at least a few hundred years on) from generations past. Dwarves even lost their god. 

I'd say the only god that speaks regularly to their people is the Everqueen and that's through their great link system. Even that has shown that whilst all are connected, her attention only focuses on limited areas and not the whole of everything. A bit like Nagash has control over all Death, but his will and focus are only within a limited scope. There are likely whole swathes of the Dead who never hear nor feel Nagash's control on them. 

 

Gods appear more common only because they are active in fiddling with the world and we, the readers, tend to read the epic stories that focus on the gods more so. Even Stormcast themselves consider just seeing or meeting Sigmar to be quite a major occasion. 

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5 minutes ago, Baron Klatz said:

In the mortal realms the Gods can speak to their people everyday though.

That the setting has the Gods literally walking amongst their people and keeping the civilizations together is where the "real world linguistics" falls apart as a problem. xD

Slight shifts do happen though as I said, the realms affect their natives to have accents in different manners while the ancient dead and Anvils of Heldenhammer do speakin more archaic forms.

An important thing in warhammer religion is that what you worship both changes the god and changes you. Just by worshipping Sigmar multiple civilizations will find their people shaped by his power, just as Nagash shapes his people and Chaos extremely changes their.

All sound like excuses for lazy writing to me! 🙂 I'd honestly much rather read at least one story about overcoming cultural (and language!) differences between denizens of two realms than another shallow pulp.

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I think we really need a clear storyline, instead of random unrelated stories 

One of the reason I really enjoyed Josh’s work is that there is clear timeline in them and hence enough space for character and environment development, eg, Manny. There are also some moments readers come across several familiar names or places, which greatly help to make setting valid and vivid. 

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This is true but the gods can be very discreet in how they communicate with their people.

It doesn't have to be an actual conversation but just the act of worship brings a connection between realms that connect the followers with their God. (To such an extent that Stormcasts refused to interrupt a little girl's prayers to Nagash because it could open a rift).

It's between that, how the gods can warp their people and just how they can personally view and see through them that can cause a more cosmic King Fisher effect that I mentioned.

There's a good conversation in the comments here on how even a "dead God" of the duardin can be effected by his worshippers and vice-versa with even Nagash being susceptible.

 

Just now, Towercap said:

All sound like excuses for lazy writing to me! 🙂 I'd honestly much rather read at least one story about overcoming cultural (and language!) differences between denizens of two realms than another shallow pulp.

To each their own. At least it can happen outside order like a Grot translating order tongue for a Ironjawz warboss or a Tzeentch beastmen acting as a mediator for the dark tongue.

 

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Yeah in some books there are definitely language barriers between each realm or even remote places, eg: Scourge of Fate. it just seems writers don’t want to spend too much time on these details, I personally am fine with that but would be happy if they notice this problem

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Stormcast have permanent comprehend languages and tongue spells infused on them when reforged.

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1 hour ago, Eevika said:

GIve me a good destruction book from the perspective of a Troggoth, Grot or Ogor and ill read BL The troggoth short story in Malign Sorcery is one of my favuorite things ever

whilst it could (not necessarily would) certainly be interesting I can totally see why most examples of 'destruction' stories, where the Orruk, Grot, etc is the protagonist are short stories. writing 50,000 words with an IronJawz hero would frankly be utterly tiring for any writer, if you think it's painful to stand opposite a Orruk player who takes great delight in bellowing nonsense every time they roll a dice imagine having to get inside a character like that's head for MONTHS AT A TIME, writing endless, interminable, paragraphs of "Wot iz this bollox, WAAAAGH!!!!" style speech.

horrific.

no wonder that in their titular book Andy Clark only gave about 3 lines of speech in total to any of the Gloomspite characters and of all the 'destruction' races the Grots are the ones that you could imagine having the most interesting conversations.

it's tricky you go too far from the template/stereotype/archetype and you run the risk of just creating green skinned humans, you stick to close and you have painfully 1 dimensional characters whose defining personality trait is their 'race', which of course is at best lazy and at worst incredibly #problematic.

totally understandable for writers that rather than wade through that you just use them in short stories, or as foils to other characters. it's a shame of course as done well it could not only open up some really interesting themes but also just give more of a sense of purpose to those factions beyond eat ******, smash stuff up, repeat.

I've been toying, on and off, for the best part of 6 months now with a couple of short stories* that try to centre Grots and Orruks respectively and present them in a slightly different way and honestly it's hard, and that's already factoring in my own skill level! I think I've managed to get a better handle on my Grot protagonists but with the Orruk whilst I've ended up keeping him at the centre of the story, he's now become more of an enigmatic force that others revolve around rather than the main character.

 

 

* So just in case anyone's truly interested in a couple of ever evolving, unlikely to be finished, and if they were almost certainly rubbish stories, here's a synopsis... Just some funny ideas I've been playing with, trying to come up with something unlike most the AoS fiction I've read

Spoiler

 

UNTITLED GROT STORY

Life in the underdank is brutal, short and rarely ends well for any grot. So what if you just packed up and left? After rising through the ranks leading his Squig riding Boingrot Bounders into victory after victory Skraptain Razak has had enough. On one of their roaming missions he located a beautifully clammy cave system, that opens up onto a foetid fungus filled swamp, perfect for retiring to and setting themselves up as fungus farmers. Best of all the streams that leech out of the caves into the swamp filter through rich deposits of realm stone, imbuing their harvest with eldritch power and making them a prized crop for the Madcap Shamans back at the underdank.

So after a year or so of essentially becoming artisanal organic hipster fungus farmers these grots are enjoying the best, chilled out life they can imagine (the tricky part here has been representing this but at the same time trying to figure out what a peaceful, happy and contented lifestyle for Grotz is).

But then one day a long defunct realm gate opens up and an expeditionary force from one of the Cities of Sigmar comes through and start to build an encampment and scouting out the area. Obviously this is no good, so there's a minor guerrilla campaign as the Grots try to scare off the humans/duardin, but eventually engineers from the Ironweld Arsenal turn up and start building giant cog tractors and land reclamators with the aim of turning the swamp into clear land for houses etc etc.

Cue Razak having to come out of retirement, pull on his big banana helmet and lead his squig riders into one last battle as unlikely eco-terrorists out to defend the swamp and their lifestyle, defeat the colonisers and restore balance to nature.

UNTITLED ORRUK STORY

Yann Toba is a famous aesthete, art dealer and impresario, renowned for discovering some of the greatest artists in the mortal realms. He counts numerous Azyrite noble families amongst his patrons and his exhibitions can make and break new artists and set the tastes of the rich and worthy. Whilst travelling between two cities with a caravan full of new artworks and sculptures they accidentally stray into an Orruk warband camp and are immediately set upon, whilst the orruks are defeated and he is saved, his baggage train full of precious artworks is totally destroyed.

At first he's utterly dismayed and facing total ruin, but then as the dust storm clears and they pick through the Orruk camp he sees the crude artwork, rock sculptures and banners of the Orruks and instantly falls in love.

Back in civilisation he organises the first exhibition of Orruk artwork, a show of brutal primitivism that is an instant sensation with the well heeled. "After this all is decadence" exclaims one perfumed Azyrite as he fingers a crude leering, rusted depiction of Gork.

He sells all the artwork and there is a clamour for more. Realising he needs a recognised 'artist' to really drive the market he hires a crew of mercenaries and  sets out to capture an Orruk "artist". After trailing one tribe for days and a vicious fight they kidnap a Weirdnob shaman, bring him back to a city in Aqshy and lock him away to create more art. Locked away the inscrutable Orruk regards the humans with a mixture of amusement and disdain, but finally he gets to work creating his 'art'. 

Toba organises a grand exhibition, to unveil his greatest find to date, a real life Orruk artist, surely to become the leading light of this new primitive art school. Again it's the hottest ticket in town with noble families fighting to get tickets. They enter and the shaman has painted the marble walls in crude daubs and glyphs and in the centre of the room stand a giant effigy of Gork/Mork made from boulders, scrap and the like.

Whilst the great and good eat canapés drink wine and jaw jaw, the shaman paces around in his guardian built cage, chanting and dancing much to the amusement of the people, that amusement that is quickly cut short though as Waugh energy builds up, added to the native Aqshian temperament and fights start to break out, as the aggression mounts the rogue idol at the centre of the exhibition, as it obviously is, lumbers into life and wreaks havoc and devastation on everyone, before smashing their way out of the town with the shaman riding on top.

Cue Yann Toba needing to leg it out of town with the great and good in hot pursuit.

 

 

Edited by JPjr
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4 hours ago, JPjr said:

UNTITLED ORRUK STORY

YES. I mean, both of these sound good  but I would read the Orruk one in an instant.

Regarding your issue with the shaman as more of a force than a character,  do he and Yann ever actually interact and have conversations? Having Yann come to gradual realisation (and maybe appreciation?) of orruks via the shaman (not in time to stop the rampage,  of course!) could help keep him as an actual character rather than just a narrative necessity. 

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10 hours ago, JPjr said:

* So just in case anyone's truly interested in a couple of ever evolving, unlikely to be finished, and if they were almost certainly rubbish stories, here's a synopsis... Just some funny ideas I've been playing with, trying to come up with something unlike most the AoS fiction I've read

  Reveal hidden contents

 

UNTITLED GROT STORY

Life in the underdank is brutal, short and rarely ends well for any grot. So what if you just packed up and left? After rising through the ranks leading his Squig riding Boingrot Bounders into victory after victory Skraptain Razak has had enough. On one of their roaming missions he located a beautifully clammy cave system, that opens up onto a foetid fungus filled swamp, perfect for retiring to and setting themselves up as fungus farmers. Best of all the streams that leech out of the caves into the swamp filter through rich deposits of realm stone, imbuing their harvest with eldritch power and making them a prized crop for the Madcap Shamans back at the underdank.

So after a year or so of essentially becoming artisanal organic hipster fungus farmers these grots are enjoying the best, chilled out life they can imagine (the tricky part here has been representing this but at the same time trying to figure out what a peaceful, happy and contented lifestyle for Grotz is).

But then one day a long defunct realm gate opens up and an expeditionary force from one of the Cities of Sigmar comes through and start to build an encampment and scouting out the area. Obviously this is no good, so there's a minor guerrilla campaign as the Grots try to scare off the humans/duardin, but eventually engineers from the Ironweld Arsenal turn up and start building giant cog tractors and land reclamators with the aim of turning the swamp into clear land for houses etc etc.

Cue Razak having to come out of retirement, pull on his big banana helmet and lead his squig riders into one last battle as unlikely eco-terrorists out to defend the swamp and their lifestyle, defeat the colonisers and restore balance to nature.

UNTITLED ORRUK STORY

Yann Toba is a famous aesthete, art dealer and impresario, renowned for discovering some of the greatest artists in the mortal realms. He counts numerous Azyrite noble families amongst his patrons and his exhibitions can make and break new artists and set the tastes of the rich and worthy. Whilst travelling between two cities with a caravan full of new artworks and sculptures they accidentally stray into an Orruk warband camp and are immediately set upon, whilst the orruks are defeated and he is saved, his baggage train full of precious artworks is totally destroyed.

At first he's utterly dismayed and facing total ruin, but then as the dust storm clears and they pick through the Orruk camp he sees the crude artwork, rock sculptures and banners of the Orruks and instantly falls in love.

Back in civilisation he organises the first exhibition of Orruk artwork, a show of brutal primitivism that is an instant sensation with the well heeled. "After this all is decadence" exclaims one perfumed Azyrite as he fingers a crude leering, rusted depiction of Gork.

He sells all the artwork and there is a clamour for more. Realising he needs a recognised 'artist' to really drive the market he hires a crew of mercenaries and  sets out to capture an Orruk "artist". After trailing one tribe for days and a vicious fight they kidnap a Weirdnob shaman, bring him back to a city in Aqshy and lock him away to create more art. Locked away the inscrutable Orruk regards the humans with a mixture of amusement and disdain, but finally he gets to work creating his 'art'. 

Toba organises a grand exhibition, to unveil his greatest find to date, a real life Orruk artist, surely to become the leading light of this new primitive art school. Again it's the hottest ticket in town with noble families fighting to get tickets. They enter and the shaman has painted the marble walls in crude daubs and glyphs and in the centre of the room stand a giant effigy of Gork/Mork made from boulders, scrap and the like.

Whilst the great and good eat canapés drink wine and jaw jaw, the shaman paces around in his guardian built cage, chanting and dancing much to the amusement of the people, that amusement that is quickly cut short though as Waugh energy builds up, added to the native Aqshian temperament and fights start to break out, as the aggression mounts the rogue idol at the centre of the exhibition, as it obviously is, lumbers into life and wreaks havoc and devastation on everyone, before smashing their way out of the town with the shaman riding on top.

Cue Yann Toba needing to leg it out of town with the great and good in hot pursuit.

 

 

Good stuff, I like the different angle on Orruk culture. Kudos!

Spoiler

I was pretty keen to see some Orruk stories that didn't focus on the Waaagh! myself. So I too made some fanfic a while back! Here's my stab at a short, interactive story about a boss who's deaf to the Waaagh! and believes it's all a rort: https://mendercap.github.io/twine-megaboss-morslag/

 

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Just a point - in the Ossiarch Podcast interview the guy being interviewed said that GW had been on a big Death Spree story wise within the game. He said that there was every chance that the focus was going to shift and that Destruction was very likely to get more attention moving forward. We've also seen that whilst Stormcast aren't going anywhere; GW and BL are far more keen to display other factions alongside. So I'm thinking we'll get a good few more Orruk, Goblin, Gutbuster and other stories emerging over time. 

Which I think is a good thing as its very clear that players and fans of a faction want stories and lore about their faction. Plus I think it also helps to keep the market and GW moving away from the idea of one poster-boy faction stealing all the attention. Ideally you want a more even spread - sure some armies will be more popular than others and some, like Stormcast, will get marketed as a starter force and thus will often have a higher up-pick than others. But if you can spread out attention over the whole brand that means more even sales and more even demands on production, stocking and support. It's basically good for GW as they aren't left sitting on "dead" armies with stock that refuses to sell; and its good for gamers too as it means more potential rules and model updates/releases. 

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On 1/17/2020 at 2:34 AM, TMS said:

Like others I've got trouble getting into the ungroundedness of the mortal realms in the AoS novels. Contrast with WFB stories (Ulrika and Von Carstein trilogy for me, specifically) where I know the world they describe and I can follow along on a map as they travel between locations, with more bonus points for letting me imagine what my own TT characters are up to in the vicinity at the time of the novels' happenings.

I hope that the realms will eventually create the same kind of familiarity for me as the old world has, although I'm biased with a long history of WFB behind me. The disparity has taught me that the fluff is more important to me than I thought it was.

You'd like josh reynolds stuff, theres alot of deliberate interconnection

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Does the BL sales figures also include third parties such as Audible or Amazon? Or just direct sales from the website?

Because I see the appeal in Audible: its monthly subscription is cheaper then buying direct from BL website.

Edited by Malios
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