Ultimately, this appears to be a continuation of this topic
(only a few posts below, on the front page).
The short answer to the topic's title is easy. The purpose of the Liber is for hobbyists to discuss their DIYs. This might include development of their DIY
(whether just as a concept or into some sort of article format for presentation) as well as simply presenting their DIY
and how they use it in the various aspects of the hobby (modeling, gaming, fiction).
There are some widespread misconceptions about the Liber category, and while they are understandable, they sell the category and its forums short. Ultimately, there are a number of factors in play here. The first is that evoked by the topic title – the purpose
of the Liber forums. The second is shifts in participation patterns based on active membership. The third is the evolution of the Internet.
To address the purpose of the Liber forums, it’s important to understand some background. It’s a complex issue and there are a number of other elements that are relevant. These include the Librarium and a number of other resources here at the B&C.
The Liber Astartes forum didn’t exist in the original ezBoard days. It was created later when it became apparent that there were many hobbyists that wanted to discuss their DIYs instead of the official Chapters and Legions. Prior to the creation of the forum, DIYs were brought up in a variety of places, including Amicus Aedes as well as the parent Legion’s forum (when one existed). So we created the forum so that members didn't have to muddy the other forums up with their DIYs.
At roughly the same time, GW
started publishing the 3rd edition Index Astartes articles and hobbyists were encouraged to use that format for their own DIYs. Prior to that, hobbyists used a variety of formats to present their DIYs. An outgrowth of this was that many members started to see the crafting of an article as the purpose of the Liber Astartes forum. Despite the recommendations of a number of hobbyists over the years, we have never
required members to use the Index Astartes format (and I say this as the first member to advocate for the use of that format here).
The Librarium was created later with two purposes in mind. First was to reduce the number of pinned/stickied topics at the top of forums. We were starting to see a lot of dead space at the top of forums, forcing members to scroll down in order to get to active discussions, so transferring useful articles to the Librarium was a way to clear a lot of that space and reduce the scrolling. The second purpose was simply to serve as a repository of useful articles about the hobby. It’s important to note that our original intent was simply to provide “finished” articles that met a basic standard for publication, not to serve as a trophy case for the “best” articles. The initial batch of articles that we published via the Librarium were deliberately of a high level of quality in order to inspire
a similar level of effort for authors of later articles.
articles were very popular at that time, we ensured that there was a place for them in the Librarium. For many, having their finished DIY
article published in the Librarium was seen as the acme of a "good" article, though this was never the intent. Somehow (and understandably) the deliberately high level of quality of our initial batch of example articles became conflated with the minimum level that we would accept, creating an unreasonably high standard of expectations. While that was a
natural progression of the relationship between the two functions, it was never supposed to be the only
use of them.
Worse was that too many hobbyists were pushing for adherence to [their interpretation of] the lore as one of the criteria for a “good” article worthy of inclusion in the Librarium. The tone became very oppressive – either you did things the way they wanted, or you were ridiculed and insulted and your work was dismissed as trash or derivative or whatever. That mentality was poisoning the Liber Astartes forum at that time, and much of that was spilling over into the Librarium. While many members provided sincere and constructive criticism, too many were providing toxic feedback that was rude, pushy, and sometimes flat-out inaccurate.
With our efforts at course-correction failing, we were forced to dismantle the Librarium. Our intent was to retrain everyone and bring the Librarium back, not as a trophy case, but as a repository of useful articles about the length and breadth of the hobby. In the interim, a few other developments took place, greatly diminishing the need for the Librarium.
The first development was the creation of the resource topics. These exist in almost every one of our forums and sub-forums now, and there are a few more in the preparation. These resource topics allow us to give top-of-the-forum visibility to any number of useful discussions/articles, providing a list of links to anything and everything, including resources that are external to that forum and/or the Bolter & Chainsword. These topics fulfill one of the primary reasons for the initial creation of the Librarium – cleaning up the tops of the forums.
The second development was better leveraging of the Downloads
function. This function existing previously but was approached simply as a method of providing files the hobbyists could download. This capability has always been available for us to use for DIY
articles, but there wasn’t a concerted push until 2018
. The downside to this alternative is that articles that are solely forum/BBCode-based have to be converted into the word processor format of your choice, which often affects layout and content (and then you need to convert that to a .pdf so that it can be uploaded, but that’s pretty easy these days). In order to mitigate that challenge, I created templates
in a variety of formats.
The third and most recent development was the creation of the Liber Showcase forum
. That actually grew out of a desire to create a repository for DIYs because many that had been submitted to Phil Sibbering’s A Thousand Chapters
project and/or the Tabula Astartes had disappeared over the years, the sites originally hosting those articles having disappeared or their authors no longer supporting them. The Liber Showcase is closest in functionality to the old Librarium, though it is clearly different. One benefit is that it is much easier to edit, and much easier to control (i.e., not just anyone can go in and edit an article).
A side development that some mistakenly associate with the Librarium/Liber is the tabulae
. While it’s true that we want to see finished DIYs submitted to their respective tabulae, the tabulae serve only as an index of links. The real information for any faction/sub-faction is found elsewhere. There are actually many more tabulae than appear to be known, with active
tabulae for the Adeptus Astartes/Heretic Astartes, Adepta Sororitas, Astra Militarum, Adeptus Mechanicus (Skitarii and Titan Legions), Imperial/Chaos Knights, and Inquisitors; and a number of others that are in preparation.
All of these are under-utilized, however. These days, most finished DIYs aren't submitted to their respective tabula. To date, only a handful of DIYs have been posted in the Downloads and/or Liber Showcase, yet each is just as accessible as the Librarium ever was. So the main questions to ask concern why these are under-utilized. Do members not know about them? Do members find them difficult to use? Are there other reasons?
All of this is tied to the ways in which members participate at the site, and some of this is affected by wider Warhammer 40,000 meta issues. The hey-day of the Liber Astartes forum was from the 3rd through 5th editions of the game. The rebirth of the Index Astartes article format and the proliferation of rules that Games Workshop gave in theses articles inspired many hobbyists to try their own hand at both Chapter and rules development. With the 4th edition Codex: Space Marines
, we saw the Chapter Traits and many players continued to work combinations of traits and drawbacks into their rules development. With the similarly flexible rules in the 7th and 8th editions, we have a springboard for the rules aspects of Chapter development. Another high period for DIY
Chapter creation was shortly after the Forge World Badab War books were published. Alan Bligh did a remarkable job in those books and the variation in the various Chapters that participated in that event is quite remarkable. In my opinion, those two books provide the benchmark that any aspiring DIY
creator should hope to achieve. Since those two periods of time, however, Games Workshop has given us relatively few new Chapters and articles. One of the best things that Games Workshop has done in recent times, however, was the series of articles on the development of the official White Dwarf Chapter, the Tome Keepers. Those articles provide a good example of a process that players might use in the creation of their own DIYs. The process WD
used wasn’t necessarily the end-all-be-all of DIY
development, but it was a solid process, nonetheless. We’ve seen a recent resurgence of Index Astartes articles in White Dwarf Magazine, but they are appearing less frequently than they were during the 3rd and 4th editions. With occasional articles in White Dwarf Magazine and a framework for sub-faction rules (not just for the Adeptus Astartes, but for any number of other factions/sub-factions), we have the cornerstone for a renaissance in DIY
development here at the B&C.
The driving factor here, though, will be whether or not a sufficient number of members want to participate in such a collaborative approach, either as a DIY
developer/author or as someone who provides feedback. Something that happened during “the good old days” was that certain individuals would present many and varied ideas, developing any number to some extent. A very few of these ideas had strong potential, but quite a few were on the opposite end of the spectrum – half-assed ideas that were presented and abandoned shortly thereafter. These members enjoyed the development process in and of itself, getting their creative juices flowing and working as both authors and feedback providers. We are seeing a lot less of this style of participation these days. More and more often, we have the core Liber membership that likes to discuss the creative process and provide feedback. The DIY
authors, however, tend to have a more singular focus, mostly working on their own creations and leaving those of others alone. We have some members that are more well-rounded in their participation, but we are seeing a much higher percentage of people that come to the Liber for help with their work, then they leave once they are satisfied with the development of their DIY
The reduced participation in the Liber forums is actually symptomatic of an issue affecting the Bolter & Chainsword at large – changing trends in Internet usage. The B&C was created at a time when discussion forums were all the rage. The Internet had evolved from the chat rooms and bulletin boards to discussion forums; and anyone that wanted to create a discussion forum could do so cheaply and easily. Over time, we’ve seen further evolution of the Internet, with other forms of social media moving into preeminence and discussion forums seeing a diminution in prestige. Overall participation at the Bolter & Chainsword is down to 1/3 of what it was just 5 years ago, in terms of both active membership and active discussion. While there are many hobbyists that enjoy the “discussion” (and I am definitely among those, as this wall-o-text response demonstrates), there are many more that are much less invested in this form of social media. The majority of B&C viewers simply read/look at posts without participating in the discussion. The proliferation of shorthand language (the abbreviations and acronyms that many of us use without thinking), use of emoticons/emojis, and use of memes further reduces the need to participate in discussions. Many people have taken to platforms like Reddit and Discord for quick feedback, then they move on without getting overly committed to a discussion.
It's important to understand that development (and feedback on) a DIY
isn't the sole purpose for the Liber forums, however. It's entirely acceptable for a member to present their DIY
as-is without the intention of "fixing" it (as others might want them to do). That member might then simply continue to post information, pictures, and battle reports about their DIY
(i.e., an ongoing living log about their DIY
). In this way, there’s no reason that a hobbyist can’t use the Liber forums to discuss their DIY
sub-faction the same way the Dark Angels are discussed in their forum, the Aeldari of Iyanden Craftworld are discussed in their forum, etc.
What can we as a community do to make the most/best use of the Liber forums? Projects are great, but they require considerable time and effort. We've had plenty of great projects in the past, though, and many of these serve as examples of the realm of the possible for future projects. There are plenty of things that I'd like to do personally, but I have to prioritize everything (including all of those pesky real-life issues like a job, school, kids, etc.). Similarly, everyone else here has goals and priorities that might limit their ability to participate in the Liber forums (and the hobby as a whole).
We can’t force people to create DIYs. Nor can we force people to give feedback on DIYs.
All we can really do is encourage both types of participation.
One idea that comes to mind is that we can implement the trophy case concept via some sort of regular periodical – collecting the favorite/best DIYs and articles about DIY
creation into a webzine. A ready example of this is the Eye of Terror
issue of the Legio Imprint that was created here at the B&C by a group of dedicated hobbyists. Similarly, we might use the Legio Imprint as a vehicle for continued work on DIYs.
Plenty of other ideas come to mind – collaborative DIY
creation projects (we’ve had several of those over the years); ongoing discussions about DIY
development issues and methods; themed challenges such as the Aegyptus Astartes (Chapters themed around Ancient Egypt) and Draco Astartes (Chapters with a dragon theme); etc.
Ultimately, we’ll never force
the Liber to be a happening place.
But we can inspire
members to want to take part in the Liber.