As a teenager (let's say until the age of about 16 or so) the biggest drain on my time and pocket money was not girls, cigarettes or alchohol, but Citadel Miniatures (at the time a separate company from Games Workshop but which made all of its figures). I loved Warhammer. My friends and I played a lot of Warhammer 40,000 and Blood Bowl too, and we even created our own gang-warfare battle game a few years before Necromunda came out. But Warhammer was always what we came back to and what we did basically every weekday night after school and often all day at weekends. I like it just as much, if not more so, than D&D, and it's probably only because I can't cart hundreds of lead figures across Eurasia every couple of months that this blog isn't a Warhammer- rather than an RPG-focused one.
There are lots of things to love about Warhammer - the gonzo weirdness, the random generators, the endearing amorality, the sheer gothicness of the whole thing. But I think what I like most about it is the pessimism. Pessimism seeps through all of Games Workshop's lines like a sickness; from Warhammer 40,000's tagline that "In the Grim Darkness of the Far Future, There is Only War", to Necromunda's bleak vision of gangs and mutants squabbling over radioaction-scarred urban jungle, these games are not in any way nice.
Warhammer's own particular twist on that theme is the spread of Chaos, whose tendrils are gradually extending themselves over the world and who will never, can never, be defeated - no matter how hard it is fought against. Humanity will slowly be brought under the dominion of the Chaos Gods, and the best that can be hoped for is that the process will be prolonged. There is something compelling about the idea of The Empire, ramshackle and disease-ridden but having to be constantly vigilant against betrayal by its own people - almost like the USSR under Stalin - terrified of spies and fifth-columns, forever jumping at its own shadow, and doomed to inevitable failure.
I believe I am right in saying that Warhammer owes much about this incredibly bleak meta-narrative to the works of Tolkien. Many people mistakenly (in my opinion) believe that The Lord of the Rings has a happy ending, forgetting that, taken in context, it is really just an account of the last hurrah of a once mighty and beautiful civilisation that has been slowly collapsing over the course of thousands of years. Something of this atmosphere fed into Warhammer at its inception and has strongly influenced it ever since. But I also think that there is something in the British, and particularly in the English, view of the world, that influenced both Tolkien and Games Workshop (and also Moorcock and the Fighting Fantasy creators - the other points of the British fantasy square).
In comparison to people from other countries, British people are deeply pessimistic. I can say that, having grown up in the country but spent a lot of time in others. I notice it every time I go back home. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is one of their/our defining national characteristics. Of course there are many exceptions to this rule, but I don't think the sheer numb weight of cynicism and world-weariness present in British culture can really be ignored. (This can be a great quality, of course - it's what makes the British sense of humour so richly ironic, which is incidentally something else that can be noticed in Warhammer - but more on that in another entry.) And it sets the British in direct contrast to Americans, for whom a defining national characteristic is optimism.
In fact, I believe that in many ways Warhammer and D&D can be taken as representative of the cultures which created them. On the one hand you have a cynical, nasty, bleak and darkly humurous setting whose dominant idea is decay. And on the other you have a game basically founded on the principles of rugged individualism and self-betterment - in which a set of characters fight to success all on their own, without much in the way of a helping hand, or else die trying. In a strange sort of way, you don't get anything more representative of British values than Warhammer, nor anything more representative of American values than D&D.
What that shouldn't mean is that D&D campaigns can't take some of the pessimism of Warhammer and make it their own. It's perfectly possible to be a rugged individualist in a world slowly collapsing. I'm not talking about 'doing' Warhammer with D&D (why have that cotton when you can have the silk of WHFRP?) but introducing that key idea of an inevitable turn for the worse in the wheel of history... I like it and want to build a campaign around it.
This rather rambling entry doesn't have much else to it apart from that. I hope it makes at least some vague sort of sense.