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Ar’sho Tau Ar'sho Enclave Sept Symbol Enclave

WH40K Tau Story Retcon

/ˈretkän/ - V, to revise (an aspect of a fictional work) retrospectively, typically by introducing a piece of new information that imposes a different interpretation on previously described events.

To be fair, we are still working through a lot of lore, and we cannot know exactly what the canon authors were thinking (or smoking)* when they wrote some of the societal details for the Tau. Still, there are some things that simply do not make sense to us, so we are going to “retcon” them until we find a good reason not to.
*hahaha it’s a joke I’m just kidding here please don’t sue me

We get this is fantasy. We are not looking to go overboard with “that violated quantum physics” or some such argument. We are only going to pick at things that are glaringly skewed in our opinion.

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Tau Ranks


Our current understanding is that every 4 years you get promoted until you get the option of being aged out. Correct us if we’re wrong about this though. A few problems we see with this:

  • Your military gets very top heavy unless you have consistent 90+% casualties at any given rank across every unit within that four years
  • Even though they are a very tradition, caste, and rule-based society, Tau still put emphasis on personal acheivement towards the greater good.
  • Requirements for battlefield experience don’t work - despite the whole galaxy being at war, not everywhere is constantly at war all of the time. It is more than likely that contingents of forces whose duty is to gaurd a Sept world may never see combat. Even if they were deployed to a frontline and returned, there is simply no logistically feasible way everyone would earn enough battlefield combat experience for every rank. And you are not going to be all “oh hey, we have a billion empty Crisis suits but we need to wait until our infantry have combat experience before we train them as a pilot.”


There are not enough ranks. Current US military has roungly 9 enlisted and 6 officer ranks, then 4 general/admiral ranks. Given that the Tau military is at least dozens of billions if not close to or in the trillions of troops, that’s unworkable. We are working in subranks (which we have seen hinted at possibly in lore, but not defined anywhere we have seen yet). The subranks would not be part of the normal Tau name except where being referred to directly by rank is important. This should keep it from destroying canon ranks and names completely.

The Tau rank re-work

  • Shas’la are the basic enlisted. They are the cannon (and canon) fodder of the Tau military. Subrank promotion here is more akin to a badge of honor and a stepping stone towards Shas’ui rank, and plays little importance in unit structure, save that the highest-subrank may take charge of a unit in the event of the Shas’ui’s death.

  • Shas’ui are the senior enlisted of the Tau forces. These are going to be split into three groups - infantry, vehicles, and battlesuits. Those will each have two subranks, accordingly. You could go straight from Shas’la to “Shas’ui battlesuit-pilot lower-subrank”, or to “Shas’ui infantry-leader lower-subrank”, then higher subrank, then transfer to the battlesuit or vehicle lower-subrank, depending on the situation and your personal aptitude. Where the infantry flavor are more akin to junior seargents, the battlesuit and vehicle roles are pilots.

  • Shas’nel (Cadre Fireblades) are basically your senior seargents, but infantry-specific. They may have responsibility over a great many units, and serve at the right-hand of higher officers. They would command a great deal of respect, and their opinions would be seriously weighed by officers. This route is an alternative to Shas’vre, and careers are most likely to be served out at this rank if taken. They are not considered commanders or strategists, but rather infantry veterans.

  • Shas’vre are the junior officers. Unlike real-world (US at least, not sure about the rest of yas) there is not a fast-path to officer - you absolutely have to go through the enlisted ranks. Like Shas’ui, there would be a few groups here - infantry officers, tank commanders, battlesuit leads, and platform specialists.

Infantry Shas’vre lower-subrank command multiple units of their experience type. For example, a breacher unit Shas’ui may be promoted to a breacher Shas’vre, who is then no longer part of a single breacher unit but is responsible for directing mutiple breacher units. This may be different from canon, where it’s not mentioned making it past Shas’nel as infantry (that we’ve seen) except for Darkstrider. The higher-subrank becomes responsible for multiple infantry unit types, reporting directly to a Shas’el.

Vehicle Shas’vre lower-subrank are “tank-commanders”, responsible for leading their immeidate unit. This may be a single Hammerhead with two Shas’ui pilots, or a full unit of Piranha. Vehicle Shas’vre higher-subrank is also acts as an executive officer over a few like units under their Shas’el.

Battlesuit Shas’vre lower-subrank are leaders for Crisis, Hazard, Stealth, or Broadside units. These leads are always attached to a larger unit, and not solo ranks. The lower subrank is responsible for their immediate unit, where the higher subrank may also act as an executive officer over a few like units under their Shas’el.

Specialist Shas’vre are in a position of piloting specialized war systems that operate as individuals. This could be a Ghostkeel, a Riptide, Y’vahra, Stormsurge, etc., where the higher subrank would be responsible for multiple like units of lower-subrank, acting as an executive officer under their Shas’el.

No Shas’vre path has direct command over another - they are considered two parts of the same rank. A higher-subrank of the battlesuit Shas’vre would have no command over an infantry Shas’vre of lower-subrank, though the proper respect would be accorded. The exception being that the most senior rank would take total command in the event all higher-ranking officers were unavailable.

  • Shas’el are sub-commanders, akin to high-ranking officers. Direct command over other units is their primary role, ensuring the orders of the commanders are executed and directing operations both on and off the battlefield. The lower-subrank will command several units of the same type - an infantry Shas’el would command several units of infantry, a battlesuit Shas’el would command several units of different battle suits, etc.. The Shas’el higher-subrank would command several units of different types.

  • Shas’o are generals, organizing battle strategies and commanding large groups of mixed units. We’re probably going to create four commander subranks: two that command progressively larger forces, a third that is the supreme commander of a major force (canonly, the “Uash’o”), and the last that is part of the Fire Caste High Command (the “Shas’ar’tol”)

Instead of fixed times for rank-ups, we’re treating them as deed and review based, as well as a minimum time elapsed under normal circumstances. So after each four years, you are eligible for the next major rank upgrade, though you don’t necessarily get it. You could also possibly get it early through battlefield promotion based on need. If you aren’t promoted after four years, you are neither stuck where you are or having to wait another four full years - you could be promoted any time from that point on as called for.

The four-year service does not include additional training time. For example, after serving as a Shas’la, when you join a vehicle unit you would need to spend some time as a Shas’ui in tank training. When you graduate that academy level, your four years at that position begin.

It will also be unusual to be promoted to Shas’el or Shas’o after only four years in your previous position, unless you actually had serious battlefield experience in that time and had earned the rank through deeds over your peers.

We will work on defining the subranks further and fiting them in accordingly to the tabletop.

Tau lifespans

Tau canon puts most Tau as living about 90 terran years. For a society that can clone new limbs on demand, has fantastic medical technology, regenerative pods, and a relatively high quality of life… that makes no sense.

We understand there may be some sinister something going on here, since Ethereals appear to regularly live longer. We might even be incorporating that idea into our stories (spoilers?) but unless someone can find an established canon reason otherwise, we are retconning the average modern Tau life span to ~160 Terran years.

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