Characters: Warhammer 40000 Current Imperial Factions
While the present-day Imperium
consists of a large number of factions, the following are the most well-known.
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The Space Marines
And They shall know no Fear.
Ten thousand years ago, when the Emperor
led his Great Crusade to reunify humanity, he did so at the head of twenty legions of genetically-engineered Super Soldiers
: the Adeptus Astartes, also known as the Space Marines or the Angels of Death. Each of these legions was based off of and led by one of the Primarchs, the Emperor's clone-sons who were blessed with the superhuman strength, wisdom, charisma and the will to become both great leaders of men and the most fearsome warriors on the battlefield, all to help their Father for the glory of mankind.
But in the hour of mankind's greatest triumph, Warmaster Horus, the Emperor's most favored son, led half of the Primarchs and their legions against the Emperor
, and nearly undid all that he had accomplished. After this grand betrayal, in order to prevent anyone possessing that amount of power to threaten the Imperium, the loyalist legions were reorganized and split into thousand-man strong organizations called chapters, and new ones were founded to help protect the Imperium. Today there are around a thousand chapters of Space Marines, either based on specific homeworlds, ruling entire regions of space, or patrolling the stars in formidable fleets. Recognizing no authority other than the Emperor himself, Space Marines either lead their own crusades to fight the enemies of mankind, or answer petitions for assistance. They stand apart from the Imperium despite serving it, just as they protect humanity despite transcending it.
The Space Marines are the iconic faction of Warhammer 40K
; they are power armored
, genetically-engineered Super soldiers
, and fanatics to the Imperial creed to a man. Fear and doubt are cast aside, and pleas of mercy and terror-inspiring battle cries alike fall on deaf ears. They will never compromise, never surrender, never tire; the Emperor demanded the galaxy be his, and the Space Marines have fought for the past ten thousand years against the Imperium's innumerable foes to make it so. They have become figures of religious awe and terror: the Emperor's Angels of Death. "The enemies of man fear many things,"
goes the Imperial slogan. "They fear discovery, defeat and death. But most of all, they fear the wrath of the Space Marines!"
The Space Marines chapters can be split in terms of style among their founder legions, inheriting their original combat doctrines and culture (and in some unfortunate cases, undesirable baggage in form of defective or mutated geneseed and dark secrets), but over many millennia many of them have since deviated from their founders' tactics and traditions and created their own.
Some of the most famous chapters include:
| Chapter || Founding || Armor color || Primarch || Institutionally || Specialties || Chapter Master || Homeworld |
| Black Templarsnote || 2nd || Black, white pauldrons || Rogal Dorn || Crusading || Close combat || Helbrecht || Fleet based |
| Blood Angels || 1st || Red || Sanguinius || Vampiric || Assault, close combat, deep striking || Dante || Baal |
| Blood Ravens || Unknown || Red, bone pauldrons || Unknownnote || Collecting || Psychic powers || Gabriel Angelos || Fleet based |
| Carcharodonsnote || Unknown || Dark gray, black pauldrons || Corvus Coraxnote || Brutal || Brutal assault, close combat || Tyberos || Unknown |
| Crimson Fists || 2nd || Blue, red gauntlets || Rogal Dorn || Rebuilding || Tactical flexibility || Pedro Kantor || Rynn's World |
| Dark Angels || 1st || Dark green, white robes || Lion El'Jonson || Paranoid || Fast attack, Terminator armour, hunting the Fallen || Azrael || Calibannote |
| Deathwatchnote || n/a || Black, silver pauldronnote || Various || Xenocidal* || Battling aliens, special ops || none || Talasa Prime |
| Exorcists || 13th || Deep Red || The Emperornote || Hardened || Fighting Daemons || Unknown || Banish |
| Flesh Tearers || 2nd || Red and black || Sanguinius || Unstable || Close combat || Gabriel Seth || Cretacia |
| Grey Knights || 2nd || Unpainted ceramite || The Emperor || Pure || Battling Chaos || Kaldor Draigo || Titan |
| Imperial Fists || 1st || Yellow || Rogal Dorn || Fortified || Siege warfare || Vladimir Pugh || Terranote |
| Iron Hands || 1st || Black and silver || Ferrus Manus || Mechanical || Bionics || Kadran Stronosnote || Medusa |
| Lamenters || 21st || Yellow with black-and-white checks || Sanguinius || Unlucky || Surviving || Malakim Phoros || Fleet based |
| Legion of the Damnednote || 21st || Black with flame-and-skeleton imagery || Roboute Guilliman || Doomed || Appearing in the nick of time || N/A || Unknownnote |
| Mentors || 26th || Green, white || Unknown || Researching || Testing hardware, Elite Cadre, lending forces to other chapters || Nisk Ran-Thawll || Unknown |
| Minotaurs || 21st || Bronze, red || Classified || Berserk || Shock assaults, close combat, battling space marines || Asterion Moloc || Fleet based |
| Raven Guard || 1st || Black || Corvus Corax || Tricky || Precision attacks, covert ops, sabotage || Unknown || Deliverance |
| Red Scorpions || Unknown || Dark gray, black with yellow details || Unknownnote || Racist* || None || Carab Culln || Zaebus Minoris |
| Salamanders || 1st || Green, black pauldrons || Vulkan || Forging || Close-quarter fire-fights, protecting civilians, flamers || Tu'Shan || Nocturne |
| Silver Skulls || Unknown || Steel, silver, black pauldrons || Roboute Guilliman || Headhunting || Prognosticators || Argentius || Varsavia |
| Space Wolves || 1st || Gray, yellow and/or red pauldrons || Leman Russ || Viking || Assault, battling space marines || Logan Grimnar || Fenris |
| Soul Drinkers || 2nd || Purple, gold, bone || Rogal Dorn || Rebellious || Assault, deep striking, boarding || Sarpedon || Fleet based |
| Ultramarines || 1st || Blue || Roboute Guilliman || Institutionalized || Generalists || Marneus Calgar || Macragge |
| White Scars || 1st || White || Jaghatai Khan || Mobile || Fast attack, warbikes || Jubal Khan || Mundus Planusnote |
| Legions II & XI || RECORDS EXPUNGED |
| Loyal Chapters || Lost Chapters || Renegade Chapters |
*More than usual when compared to the average Space Marine Chapter.
Some other notes regarding the chapters:
- 1st and 2nd Founding chapters get special privileges for being part of original legions, one of most significant ones is having enough clout to tell the Inquisition to back off. May not always work, as the Soul Drinkers demonstrate.
- The 13th Founding, also known as the Dark Founding, is called so because Adeptus Terra has almost no records of the founding and lacks any gene-seed from the founded chapters.
- The 21st Founding, also known as the Cursed Founding, was an attempt by Adeptus Mechanicus to improve upon the geneseeds and to get rid of negative mutations (like the Blood Angels' Black Rage). Due to possible Chaos sabotage to the geneseed, almost every chapter of this founding has fallen to chaos or have mutations that get them branded heretics, and for this reason even the loyal 21st founding chapters are treated with suspicion and disgust.
- Fleet based chapters acquire recruits from whatever planet they visit, and while some fleet based chapters like the Blood Ravens have dedicated recruiting worlds, most do not.
- Almost two thirds of the Space Marine chapters are descended from the Ultramarines. This has to do with them possessing the biggest stock of spare geneseed by the end of the Horus Heresy, and thus could provide the most material to founding new chapters.
- The Space Wolves and the Salamanders have no successor chapters. The former, in addition of dismissing the codex, have an unstable gene-seed that doomed all attempts at creating the successor chapters, and the latter suffered heavy casualties during the Horus Heresy that reduced their numbers to less than a chapter.
- The Black Templars are an offshoot of the Imperial Fists. They do not conform to the Codex Astartes and do not limit their numbers to one thousand Marines as most other Chapters do, consisting instead of almost five times that number.
- The Deathwatch is the chamber militant of the Ordo Xenos of the Inquisition, composed of Marines from various chapters and used against alien invasions. It is the only major branch of the Inquisition not to have received an army and Codex yet.
- The Grey Knights are the chamber militant of the Ordo Malleus of the Inquisition, and owing to their specialization, have no successor chapters.
- Many chapters do not have their primarch identified in game materials; indeed, some, such as the Blood Ravens, canonically do not know which founder legion they came from.
- There are two Legions that have apparently been stricken from all records and nobody knows what happened to them. Horus Heresy authors do occasionally provide hints, and it has been suggested that the surviving members of the legions were incorporated into the Ultramarines, writers are contractually obligated to keep this a Noodle Incident.
- The "thousand only" maximum only counts the company squads not the pilots, honor guard, chaplains, techmachines, etc., so the actual size of a full-strength chapter is usually closer to 1500, though most chapters suffer casualties at a relatively constant rate, leaving most understrength to some degree. The number also doesn't count the chapter serfs and the crews of the chapter's spacecraft, of which each chapter probably has at least a few hundred thousand.
- The Space Wolves are the only 1st Founding chapter to not accept the Codex Astartes. As such, they've only had one known successor chapter, the Wolf Brothers, while the Space Wolves themselves made effectively no changes to how they were structured with each of the 13 Great Companies acting as their own chapter. While the Space Wolves were said to be one of the smallest legions, this disregard for the Codex Astartes means that they are most likely the largest chapter with only the Black Templars rivaling their numbers.
Depending on which version of fluff you read, they can be invincible gods of war
or just gene-enhanced elite soldiers
On the tabletop, Space Marines are a well-rounded and forgiving army. They are a very popular starting army, coming in the box sets and with a decent ten-man squad coming in at £19.95/$35. The average Space Marine is very effective in both ranged and close combat, not to mention as well-armed and -armored as most armies' elite soldiers. Needless to say, elite
Space Marine soldiers are terrifying prospects to face, be they veteran marines in hulking nigh-invulnerable armor, or critically-wounded soldiers entombed in a walking tank. However, this makes Space Marines expensive in terms of point costs, so they are almost always outnumbered by their opponents. Not that this should particularly worry them...
- Abnormal Ammo:
- The standard small arm for every Space Marine fires .75 caliber rocket-powered armor-piercing explosive rounds.
- The elite Sternguard have ammunition for their small arms that makes them pretty much capable of dealing with any sort of infantry threat.
- Angst? What Angst?: In-universe with the Blood Angels. Despite being cursed to relive the Genetic Memory of their Primarch Sanguinius's death when the enter battle until prolonged exposure eventually overcomes their ability to distinguish vision from reality and they turn into berserk killers, they are also one of the most optimistic chapters. They have inherited Sanguinius's idealism, and the belief that no matter how bad things are, they can always get better. The knowledge of their own flawed nature allows them to regard themselves with a certain humbleness unusual in Astartes, allowing this belief to flourish despite the kind of universe they inhabit.
- All Astartes have this trait to some extent, as part of their enhancement includes making their brains more resistant to post-traumatic stress.
- Arm Cannon:
- It's common for Power Fists to be armed with integrated Storm Bolters, but the Grey Knights typically wear their wrist-mounted Storm Bolters on their regular gauntlets.
- The Angelus-pattern boltgun is a wrist-mounted bolter issued to the Sanguinary Guard (the Praetorian Guard of the Blood Angels).
- Art Major Biology — As is common for the setting, this is the only possible reason (besides the ever-present Rule of Cool) for the physiological changes and organ implants that go into creating a Space Marine.
- Asexuality — By the time a Space Marine is done with training, they have few impulses beyond fighting and killing in the name of the Emperor, and thus have no interest in sex.
- Attack! Attack! Attack!:
- The Blood Angels in particular are known for being very aggressive, even by the standards of Astartes, and their strategies typically involve getting to grips with the enemy as soon as possible. Their forces tend to be pulled forward by their assault squads, with their other elements providing support to that offensive thrust. While they can adapt to a variety of situations and tactics like other chapters, their geneseed flaw means that any of them can be overcome by the Black Rage at any time in combat. Thus focusing on aggressively attacking tends to be their most reliable strategy since they do not have to alter their plan if one of their marines goes Leeroy Jenkins with Blood Lust. Some of their successor chapters, such as the Flesh Tearers, go even further with this.
- The Black Templars have several special rules reflecting their absolute fanaticism and hatred for the enemy, even when it might go against sound tactical logic, such as getting free moves towards the enemy when they get shot at, having to take leadership tests to shoot enemies who are not the closest to them, being Fearless in close combat, and having a Vow that forces them to charge any enemy unit they are able to, in exchange for getting Preferred Enemy against EVERYONE.
- Awesome Personnel Carrier — The Space Marines' signature ground transport is the humble Rhino, a simple but incredibly durable and versatile vehicle that serves as the basis for most of their tanks, and due to being based on a tractor template can run on almost anything. If necessarily, they'll power it with wood...or corpses.
- Badass — Officially held to be the most Badass group in the series, and with plenty to back it up, so let's get started:
- Badass Army — One of the best examples in the series.
- Badass Baritone — Space Marines are frequently described as having deep baritone voices as a result of their large sizes. In actual adaptations it varies depending on the voice actors.
- Badass Beard — The Space Wolves love their beards.
- Badass Biker — Those Marines on bikes, especially the White Scars.
- Badass Boast — "And we shall know no fear!"
- Badass Bookworm — Librarians aren't just the Chapter's psykers, they're also the Chapter's record keepers.
- Badass Cape — Captains often wear capes with their armour. The Salamanders take this one step further by having their capes made of dragon scales.
- Badass Creed — Each Space Marine Chapter has a Catechism of Battle, a war cry that invokes their Primarch and/or the Emperor in battle.
- Badass Crew — Every Company, whether it's a Veteran Company, Battle Company, Reserve Company, or Scout Company, will be made of up to one hundred Badasses. Every squad, whether it's composed of Assault, Devastator, or Tactical Marines, will be composed of up to ten Badasses.
- Badass In Charge — Space Marine Chapter Masters, Captains, and Sergeants need to be this.
- Badass Grandpa — Most Space Marine will live centuries before finally being killed. Many of the Chapter Masters are this by default, in particular Commander Dante, Marneus Calgar, and Logan Grimnar.
- Badass Long Robe — Space Marines frequently wear robes when out of their Power Armour. The Dark Angels wear their robes over their Power Armour.
- Badass Mustache — Popular with the Imperial Fists and White Scars.
- Badass Nickname — The Emperor's Angels of Death.
- Badass Preacher — Chaplains, who tend to the spiritual needs of the Chapter and are just as dangerous combatants.
- Badass Teacher — By design, the relatively young Mentors chapter are this to the Imperial Guard, and conversely consider older, more established chapters to be this to themselves. The Adeptus Mechanicus also tends to use them as field-testers for their latest designs and upgrades.
- Badass Transplant — When an Iron Hands Aspirant becomes a Neophyte, they remove their left hand and replace it with a bionic. They get more bionics the further they climb the ranks of the Company.
- Cultured Badass — Part of the hat of the Blood Angels as their long lifespans (by Astartes standards) allows them the time to practice and master art as well as war, which contrasts their more...iconic image.
- Four-Star Badass — Any Chapter Master worth his power armor is this.
- Handicapped Badass — What do you do when you find a mortally wounded Space Marine lying atop dozens of enemy corpses? Put him in a Dreadnought.
- Berserk Button — Several:
- Mention targeting civilians in front of the Salamanders. If they're in a forgiving mood, they'll place themselves in between you and the threatened civilians and tell you that you can have your massacre over the Salamanders' dead bodies. If they're not, they'll declare war on you right then and not be real concerned about whose side you're on.
- Blaspheming the Emperor (or the chapter's Primarch) within earshot of the more zealous chapters.
- Suggest shaving or haircuts to Space Wolves, or, if you're an Inquisitor, declare Exterminatus around these guys. Much like the Salamanders, murdering innocent civilians is a huge no-no for the Space Wolves, as chapter master Seth of the Flesh Tearers found out the hard way.
- Mention treachery and heresy around the Dark Angels. You'll live just long enough to regret it...because they'll torture you horrendously until you do. Then they'll kill you.
- The Blood Angels have one that causes the Black Rage, turning them from noble warriors into gibbering madmen. The problem is that after ten thousand years they still don't know what sets it off.
- Mention the Soul Drinkers near any of the other Imperial Fists successors, and see how long you can handle their Pain Glove.
- Do not, under any circumstances, threaten the gene-seed of a fallen battle-brother. Even those chapters with rules about noncombatants or honorable behavior will forget them for as long as it takes to destroy you and everything you have ever built or loved.
- Beware the Nice Ones — The nicer Chapters (mainly the Salamanders, Ultramarines, Space Wolves, Blood Angels, Imperial Fists, and Raven Guard) can be some of the most dangerous enemies in the setting.
- BFG — All the Space Marines guns are huge, because they're the only ones who can hold them.
- BFS — Power swords, chainswords, force swords...basically any sword a Space Marine will wield will be about half the height of a regular human.
- Big Book of War — The Codex Astartes
- Big Brother Instinct — The nicer chapters towards non-combatants and the Imperial Guard if they're putting up a good fight.
- Big Damn Heroes — For many of the Imperium's battles, the turning point came when the Space Marines arrived from orbit.
- This is quite literally all the Legion of the Damned do.
- Big Eater: They can eat thrice amount of food than a normal human. The best example is Leman Russ who was able to beat the Emperor in a eating and drinking contest.
- Bio-Augmentation — The source of their Super Soldier status, particularly embodied in the 19 specifically-engineered organ implants that are present in all Space Marines. See this for the entire process.note
- Bishōnen — Sanguinius, Primarch of the Blood Angels, was very handsome. The Blood Angels are also known for a refined aesthetic.
- Bizarre Human Biology — The result of all the aforementioned extensive Bio-Augmentation. Many Black Library writers and 40K characters use the term "posthuman" to define the status of the Astartes, because their physiological differences from normal humans are so vast.
- Bling of War — Oh, yes. Purity seals, prayer inscriptions, shiny battle honors, wolf pelts and fangs, giant fireproof lizard skins, suits of solid gold power armor... the Marines love their bling.
- Blood Brothers — Many chapters engage in ritually imbibing the blood of their fellow marines. It is believed that the Omophagea implant (which allows them to process Genetic Memories of biological material they consume) is likely a big source of why these rituals came about. In this manner, the Marines share traces of memory with each other, further solidifying their bond with each other, and the blood of the fallen will be consumed that the living might better remember them. For some geneseed strains, mutations in the Omophagea implant give them a greater thirst for blood, and their blood ceremonies are more frequent and more well known. The Blood Angels and their successors are the best known of these.
- Bodyguarding A Badass — Chapter Masters, no slouches themselves, often have bodyguards.
- Boisterous Bruiser — The Space Wolves in general. Their current Great Wolf, Logan Grimnar, is a charismatic and unquestionably heroic individual in a galaxy of Well Intentioned Extremists, who actually objects to the Inquisition killing off Imperial Guardsmen who know too much. Leman Russ, the Space Wolves' Primarch, only joined the Emperor after a Drinking Contest...and a Power Fist to the head. And the former was the reason he had a headache after, not the latter.
- Bruiser with a Soft Center - The "nicer" chapters outside of battle, namely Ultramarines (and their offshoots), Salamanders, Blood Angels, Space Wolves, Imperial Fists, and Raven Guard:
- Ultramarines are stoic yet fair rulers who treat their subjects with respect and dignity, something of a rarity in the vast morass of the Imperium.
- Salamanders are the only chapter that live with their human families outside battle, and hence have closer ties to their humanity than other chapters do. This same regard for humanity also means that the Salamanders will fight to protect civilians and non-combatants more than most Chapters, and they will often stick around to help repair the damage done to civilian infrastructure.
- The Blood Angels and Space Wolves in particular are open sentimentalists who are prone to Manly Tears and Tender Tears, and are textbook examples of the Gentle Giant when it comes to innocent civilians and children.
- The Imperial Fists and some of their successors work together with Planetary Defence Forces rather than taking over command, operate independently or counter to Imperial Forces like most Codex chapters, exceptions being the Soul Drinkers and the Black Templars.
- The Raven Guard often refuse to abandon civilians unless there is absolutely no other choice. Captain Kayvan Shrike actually doesn't abandon them even if there isn't a choice.
- Bullet Proof Fashion Plate — The Space Marine's Powered Armor is undoubtedly tough, but they rarely show any of the grime from mud, blood, and debris one would expect them to get caked with when wading through the kind of high-intensity firefights they tend to be deployed for. This is justified by some of the fluff that says they have servitors dedicated to scrubbing down and cleaning their armor and vehicles immediately after a deployment so that their heraldry is always displayed clearly when they deploy next. The official Citadel tank painting guide recommends that weathering on Space Marine tanks be kept very slight to reflect this.
- Canon Immigrant — The Blood Ravens chapter, invented for Dawn of War and embraced by Games Workshop.
- The Captain — Each company is lead by a Brother-Captain, who also usually holds some sort of logistical position within the Chapter (such as Master of the Arsenal, Fleet, Recruits, etc). The senior most of the these is the Captain of the First Company (aptly named First Captain) who serves as the second-in-command of the Chapter.
- Chainsword Good — Chainswords are a common, and arguably signature, melee weapon amongst the Space Marines.
- Less used are the Chainfist (a power fist with a chainsaw on it) and the Chainaxe.
- Church Militant — The majority of Space Marines maintain that the Emperor was a powerful man, but a man nonetheless. Their general devotion to him, though, frequently approaches the line to this trope, while other chapters, such as the Black Templars and White Consuls, are this more outright.
- The Black Templars rarely take to the field without being led by a "Joan-Of-Arc" like champion, chosen by praying until one of them receives a vision from the Emperor, only "Joan" in this case happens to be a fanatical killing machine before receiving visions from the Emperor and the awesome relics bestowed on the chosen one.
- Close Range Combatant — In general, this is the role of Assault Marines, who are equipped with jump-packs and melee weapons for close combat. Several chapters take this further:
- The Blood Angels and their successors are generally considered to be the best Assault force in the Imperium, preferring close combat over ranged combat. The fact that they suffer from the Black Rage and the Red Thirst, which turns them into berserkers, also means that they formulate their combat plans for close combat in the event that some of their Marines fall to the Flaw won't damage their overall plan.
- The Black Templars actually prefer close combat, and have special rules that encourage them to move toward an opponent that is firing on them.
- The Salamanders are masters of close combat. Their preferred weapons, flamers and meltaweapons, actually have a shorter range than bolters, so they prefer getting up close with them to use them.
- The Space Wolves are not as close combat oriented as their reputation makes them think (they use ranged weapons more than the above chapters) but are still masters of close combat. While other Space Marine chapters have their Neophytes serve as scouts, the Space Wolves have their newly implanted Marines serve as Blood Claws, the Chapter's equivalent of Assault Marines.
- Combat Medic — Apothecaries. Unlike the traditional idea of battlefield medicine, due to the nature of Space Marine physiology, almost any injury sustained in field that would need assistance in treating it is likely to be fatal for the Marine, so the Apothecary simply makes the process less painful. He then rips a massive hole in the Marine's chest and neck to remove the geneseed that is literally more precious than the Marine.
- Combat Pragmatist:
- Chapter Master Gabriel Seth of the Flesh Tearers. He has a special rule stating that anyone who rolls a 1 to hit him in melee immediately takes a Strength 4 hit as he punches them in the face or knees them in the crotch.
- Lukas the Trickster is the dirtiest fighter in the Space Wolves Chapter. He went so far to win a fight through trickery, he had one of his hearts replaced with a stasis bomb that, should he be killed in battle, will detonate, trapping his killer and he in a stasis field, where they can only hear Lukas' laughter for the rest of eternity.
- Crazy-Prepared — Their Bio-Augmentation. A lot of it makes sense - the secondary heart, ribcage-turned-bulletproof-armor, ultra-fast clotting, night vision, and increased muscle mass all make sense for improving a soldier...but the ability to darken their skin to resist radiation, go into suspended animation to as a response against mortal wounds, be treated to resist a vacuum and extreme temperatures, an extreme sense of taste to be able to identify many common chemicals in what they taste, and spitting metal-corroding acid seem like The God Emperor of Mankind kinda overdid it, despite being useful.
- Cyborg: All Space Marines connect directly with their Powered Armor. It's not uncommon for injured Astartes to have eyes or limbs replaced entirely, either. Two types in particular bear further discussion:
- Techmarines usually receive cybernetic attachments during their pilgrimage to Mars, including communication interface hardware and mechadendrites for various tools.
- The Iron Hands Chapter (and the Legion pre-Heresy) are all pathologically obsessed with swapping weak flesh for strong metal. Upon induction new Iron Hands receive cybernetic left hands and continually add bionics over time. An Iron Hand with a few centuries on him is likely to be almost entirely mechanical, save for the brain and progenoid glands, and functionally inseparable from his armor.
- Dark Is Not Evil — Well, no more evil than average.
- The Raven Guard is actually noteworthy for using subtlety in battle, specializing in covert operations, guerrilla warfare, and surgical strikes. One of the more intellectual chapters, they generally lack numbers and brute force, but prefer to disable the enemy with pinpoint strikes and leave the mop-up to others. The Raven Guard is in fact one of the most nice chapters to its home planet. It is not an uncommon sight to see a Raven Guard mixing in or helping the populace.
- Raven Guard Captain Kayvaan Shrike actually makes a point of rescuing beleaguered civilian populations and defense forces, long after all other Imperial commanders had given them up as a lost cause.
- Chaplains, period.
- Nearly averted with the Relictors; their sanctioning means they're pretty much on living on borrowed time for using Chaos Daemon Weapons and other relics the Inquisition frowns upon.
- Played very straight by the Legion of the Damned, who are Space Marines driven insane after being lost in the warp and afflicted by a strange disease there. As a result of those factors, they are all Death Seekers adorned in black, flames, skulls and bones on their equipment, but they are loyal to the Emperor still and their method of trying to die is in Big Damn Heroes actions, appearing in the nick of time to aid desperate situations for Imperial forces.
- Averted with the Black Templar, who take the violent, hyper-fanaticism of the Space Marines and crank it Up to Eleven and the Dark Angels, whose paranoia, neuroticism, and obsession over their chapter's dark secret drive them to do terrible, sometimes treacherous, deeds. The Templars and Dark Angels aren't evil, per se, but they are the most morally questionable of the major chapters. Also, for the minor chapters, the Marines Malevolent are notable for being used when the writers need a chapter of total scumbags, the kind of people who solve hostage crises with Whirlwind salvos.
- Dead Man Switch — Space Wolves hero Lucas the Trickster had one of his hearts replaced with a stasis bomb. If he's killed it goes off, freezing him and his killer into an imperishable monument to his ego.
- Death from Above:
- Destructive Savior — The Space Marines can win nearly any battle they fight, but will often leave whole cities devastated in the process.
- Determinator — "A fortress will not stop the Space Marines, although it may slow them down." The Imperial Fists in particular are legendary for their determination even for Space Marines.
- The Imperial Fists wear a device called a Pain Glove, which stimulates your senses so that you feel the strongest pain that can possibly be felt by your nervous system. The Fists wear these casually on a regular basis.
- Although background fluff implies genetic degradation has given all Imperial Fists strong masochistic tendencies, which would certainly help with their ability to fight on whilst ignoring damage.
- Drop Pod — Drop Pod assaults are a signature Marine tactic, as few foes can recover from a surprise attack that instantly drops dozens of Marines in the middle of your base camp.
- Drop the Hammer — Thunder Hammers are ginormous mallets wrapped in an electrical field that stuns whatever they don't pulverize. The Salamanders chapter in particular favors them as part of the Cult of Prometheus, rituals tied closely with their Primarch's history as a legendary blacksmith.
- Due to the Dead:
- All Chapters are fanatical about reclaiming their geneseed; individual chapters have distinctive, and often elaborate, rites and honors for their dead.
- It gets more complicated with Dreadnoughts. Tradition dictates that upon reawakening a Dreadnought the attendants read out a list of his accomplishments, which can take a long time for quite a number of them. In the event of a Dreadnought being destroyed, the chapter will hold a second funeral, only it's a little more awkward what with the size of the deceased's remains and issue of differentiating between when he was alive and when he was dead etc...
- Dungeon Bypass: Terminators are specifically designed for such tactics (primarily space boarding actions) - they have teleporters to get past the enemy lines, the heaviest armor to keep them alive when away from support, and power fists to make their own door whenever needed.
- Dynamic Entry: Assault Marines, jump pack-equipped close combat specialists, often find that hundreds of pounds of armored Space Marine is an effective weapon in itself.
- In the video games based on the franchise, Assault Marines are even shown using brief flares of their jump packs across an open surface to send themselves literally crashing into the enemy they are charging.
- Happily, this was implemented into Sixth Edition as the "Hammer of Wrath" rule.
- Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette — The Raven Guard, as a defect in one of their organs causes their skin to turn extremely pale.
- Emergency Transformation — Mortally-wounded Space Marines with enough fighting spirit are interred within life-support sarcophagi that can "pilot" the walking tanks/tombs called Dreadnoughts.
- Evil Me Scares Me — The Blood Angels and their successors will charge Chaos Space Marines, Necrons, and Tyranids without a second thought, try to kill them with swords, and love every minute of it. But the only thing that scares them is the prospect of falling to the Black Rage or the Red Thirst.
- Famed in Story — Dreadnoughts are universally renowned within their chapter. Most players can name Bjorn The Fell-Handed, Tankred, Davion Thule, and that Ultramarine one who's older than Bjorn.
- Fangs Are Evil:
- Averted with the Blood Angels and Space Wolves, who possess fangs as part of mutations in their gene-seeds, and are counted among the nicest Chapters.
- Played straight with the Cacharadons, one of the most brutal chapters. They file their teeth to be like a shark's.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: A lot of the chapters fit this:
- The Ultramarines are Greco-Romans
- The Space Wolves are Vikings
- The White Scars are Mongols on motorcycles rather than horses.
- The Black Templars are Teutonic Knights.
- The Imperial Fists are 19th Century Prussians
- The Blood Ravens are Space Gypsies.
- Depending on the Writer the Raven Guard are sometimes Native American-themed.
- The Dark Angels homeworld is also depicted as having a similar culture to the Plains Indians, but only in the Horus Heresy stories. Subsequent event end up wiping most of it away.
- The Minotaurs and Iron Snakes are basically Spartans.
- The Space Sharks are some sort of nonspecific Pacific Islanders.
- The Mantis Warriors are Japanese, more specifically a combination of ninjas and Kamen Rider.
- The Red Scorpions, with their grey uniforms, red and white insignias and fanatical obsession with both genetic purity and over-engineered battle tanks makes them the Naziest of 40k's many Catholic Space Nazis. The fact that they may or may not be descended from Fulgrim, one of the traitor Primarchs, could be a nod to the rumors about Hitler's possible Jewish heritage.
- Fans tends to paint the Rainbow Warriors as being Mayan/Aztec/Inca-themed... which makes quite a lot of sense because there was an Native American myth of a being called The Rainbow Warrior who will defend all life.
- Fearless Fool — "And they shall know no fear"...but in the tie-in novels, this is generally depicted as hyperbole: they can and do feel fear, but they have utterly mastered it, often with the explicit observation that they would be fools not to. Within the tabletop game, all Space Marines have the ability 'Combat Tactics' to choose to fail a morale test (which causes them to retreat) should their player consider it prudent - though some characters allow you to play this trope straighter and trade this ability for something else.
- It has been established that part of the Space Marines' mental conditioning has left them biologically incapable of feeling a fear response. However, it's important to note that while Primal Fears like that of death have been purged from their minds, more abstract kinds of fear (such as failure) can still be present.
- Feudal Future:
- In addition to Chapter Masters often serving as planetary governors of their homeworlds, Chapters are supported by a civilian population of Chapter Serfs, who perform the day to day duties of maintaing the fortress-monastery, farm work for the Chapter, etc. Descended from those who failed to become Space Marines, these people are generally better off than other planetary populations, with the added benefit of being on one of the most well defended planets in the Imperium. Well, as better off as one can live on the Feral/Death Worlds the Space Marines frequently call home. They also have one advantage only the Adeptus Mechanicus Forgeworlds get: They don't have to produce Imperial Guard battalions.
- All chapter recruitment worlds are these, which is not restricted to just their homeworld in some cases.note Feudal worlds are preferable to technologically developed ones because they are often governed by warlords; constant infighting and a primitive lifestyle creates a breeding ground for the hardiest of recruits.
- Fiery Salamander: A motif heavily used amongst the Salamanders.
- Five-Man Band: Your average Command Squad:
- Genetic Memory:
- The curse of the Blood Angels chapter. Combat has a chance of triggering the genetic memory of their Primarch's violent death, causing the Blood Angel to slip into the Black Rage as they start reliving the event and forgetting their own identity. Such unfortunates are grouped in the Death Company and sent into the worst fighting in search of a merciful death in combat.
- More generally, this is the function of the Omophagea implant.
- Genius Bruiser — The average Space Marine is trained under a Big Book of War that tries to predict every tactical situation ever, and how to deal with it. A Space Marine may find himself stagnant in his training and end up staying as an Assault or Devastator Marine instead of becoming a Tactical Marine, as a Tactical Marine is meant to be able to adapt and be fluid in any battle situation while the formers stick with melee and ranged combat, respectively. Commanders from Sergeants on up are even better. Then we have Librarians — as befits their name, they are record-keepers and tactical advisers to the Chapter, as well as terrifying psychic warriors just as adept with their conventional weapons as any other Marine.
- Gentle Giant — Salamanders, Blood Angels, Space Wolves, Ultramarines, Imperial Fists and Raven Guard when it comes to innocents.
- Glory Seeker — Some, though their indoctrination causes many to feel being a Space Marine is already achieving glory. That being said, Space Marine chapters are almost universally proud and only accept the missions that they choose to take on. Inevitably, they choose only the thickest of the fighting, and the most dangerous and critical of missions. When participating in joint operations with other Imperial forces, this often comes across as glory seeking, hogging the most important tasks and garnering most of the credit, regardless of how the Space Marines themselves see it.
- Good Is Not Nice — A trait of all "good guys" in this universe...
- Gunship Rescue — This is virtually the entire purpose of the Thunderhawk Gunship. While it is also used as a Drop Ship for insertion and recovery, its purpose beyond that is to remain on station and serve as the Marines' air support. Any Marine force on the ground is likely to have a Thunderhawk come to their aid when they run into something too big for even them to handle alone, and given that they are often committed to the most dangerous actions and need quick recovery once achieving their objective, it will often be used to rescue them from still-hot battle zones.
- Hand Cannon — The bolt pistol, the standard-issue Space Marine sidearm, is fully automatic and shoots rocket-propelled armor-piercing explosive rounds capable of coring a man's torso and blasting apart light vehicles. Their standard-issue longarm, the bolter, is the same thing with even better range.
- He Cleans Up Nicely — Blood Angels recruit from the nomadic scavenger tribes who roam the radioactive wasteland of their homeworld, Baal. These tribesmen generally suffer from cankers, lesions, and melanoma as the outward symptoms of the harshness of their existence. As they are inducted and implanted while sleeping in a life support sarcophagus over the course of a wakeless year, they are gradually transformed into perfect-bodied beings with a trace of Sanguinius' own beauty. In this manner, they are purified of their humanly imperfections in senses both literal and metaphorical.
- Heroic Albino — Occasionally happens when the melanchromatic organ is damaged such that their melanin production is cut off. The Death Spectres is an chapter-wide example of this due to geneseed mutation.
- The Raven Guard also have this problem. Combined with their use of tribal facepaint it serves as a Shout-Out to The Crow.
- Heroic Build — Played straight for every Space Marine. Justified, as their Bio-Augmentation enhances their physique to super-human levels, and their daily training keeps it in top form, so they can hardly have any other build but a heroic one.
- Averted in First Edition. The Rogue Trader Marines were kind of paunchy in a lot of illustrations, since they were portrayed more as bumbling, doughnut-munching Space Police than the super elite warrior monks we all know and love today.
- Heroic Willpower — All Marines have this in spades.
- Chief Librarian Mephiston of the Blood Angels succumbed to the Black Rage while trapped in rubble, but somehow remained in control and sane, ultimately fighting the bloodlust off. The Blood Angels, an army of blood-crazed eight-foot killing machines armed with chainsaw swords, call him "The Lord of Death," making him clearly a man not to trifle with.
- Chaplain Lemartes from the recent Blood Angels Codex is a close second. Like Mephiston, he succumbed to the Black Rage, but by willpower alone managed to stop himself from going completely batshit insane. The difference is that while Mephiston mastered the Black Rage, Lemartes merely keeps it in check.
- Hiding Behind The Language Barrier: Intentionally invoked with battle-cant, a language each Chapter selects for use in combat situations. Typically, it's the same language of their homeworlds (Baalite for the Blood Angels, Fenrisian for the Space Wolves, Macraggian for the Ultramarines) but because the average Imperial enemy will have only bothered to learn Imperial Gothic (if even that), this ensures that the Astartes have a means to transmit sensitive tactical information without letting the enemy learn anything.
- Highly Conspicuous Uniform: See Bling of War above. Also, this quote pretty much sums things up:
"The uniforms of the Imperial Guard are camouflaged in order to protect their wearers by hiding them from sight. The principle is that what the enemy cannot see he cannot kill. This is not the way of the Adeptus Astartes. A Space Marine’s armour is bright with heraldry that proclaims his devotion to his Chapter and the beloved Emperor of Mankind. Our principle is that what the enemy can see, he will soon learn to fear...
- Honor Before Reason - Space Marines take pride in their chapter colors, and the overwhelming majority of them refuse to wear camouflage. This results in scouts of the Imperial Fists chapter trying to sneak through terrain in bright yellow armor...
- The Raven Guard and their successor chapters successfully avert this. If the situation calls for it, they will change their armor color, and chapter sign. However, this has caused some...disagreements among some other chapters.
- That said: When everyone else has given up on saving innocent civilians, warriors of the Raven Guard WILL stay behind to save every single last one of them, ALONE if necessary.
- Hope Bringer — For the Imperial Guard and common civilians...assuming they haven't been called in for an Exterminatus.
- I Gave My Word — Keeping oaths is an important matter to many chapters.
- I'm a Humanitarian:
- Thanks to their Bio-Augmentation, Space Marines can absorb memories from the flesh of those they eat.
- Blood Angels in late stage red thrist succumb to this but they are usually killed before that.
- In Harm's Way — Once the battle's done, the Marines are off to the next warzone.
- Interservice Rivalry — Present among many chapters.
- The Ultramarines distrust any chapter which doesn't embrace the Codex Astartes.
- The Blood Angels and their descendants are mistrusted over the Black Rage.
- Nobody likes the Marines Malevolent.
- The most famous rivalry is between the Dark Angels and the Space Wolves, where they actually select champions from each group to fight it out, which is surprisingly non-fatal.
- Jack of All Stats — Roboute Guilliman, the Primarch of the Ultramarines, penned the Codex Astartes, the book detailing Space Marine organization and tactics. His chapter tries to follow the book religiously, resulting in an extremely well-rounded fighting force that defines the Space Marines.
- The Juggernaut — The role of Space Marine Terminators, wearing ancient suits of armor that make them Nigh Invulnerable. They can approach situations that even a normal Space Marine's Power Armor would struggle to weather.
- Kill It with Fire — As befits their namesake, the Salamanders like flamers and meltaguns. Pretty much all the Space Marines will consider it, though.
- Knight Templar — Most Space Marines to some extent, but especially the Black Templars chapter. They run around the galaxy in crusades known for (occasionally) wiping out entire planetary populations, and their extreme zeal even has the Inquisition worried, especially since they ignore the recommended thousand-man maximum for Chapter size and thus might number somewhere around 50,000 or more, but no one outside of perhaps the Templars' own chapter masters can say for certain what their true numbers are, other than that if they were ever assembled in one place, they would be a force vast enough to easily constitute a significant threat to the entirety of the Imperium if they wanted to (which they very much do not).
- Meaningful Rename — Several Legions were renamed when they found their primarch.
- None more meaningful than the Grey Knights. Their name and color symbolizes the tenuous morality of the 41st millennium.
- The Medic — The Apothecaries. And as the Grim Darkness of the far future lacks anything even remotely similar to the Geneva Conventions...
- Mercy Kill:
- "The Emperor's peace."
- The motive for civilian kills committed by Grey Knights (which, given how daemonic corruption works, isn't that far-fetched).
- Mini Mecha — When a Space Marine veteran or hero is mortally wounded but recovered, he is placed in a life-supporting sarcophagus and installed in a Dreadnought. As such, Dreadnoughts are held in awe by the rest of their Chapters, and seen as links to their past. Not to mention the fact that they're incredible warriors who are basically walking tanks whose possible armament includes Assault cannons, Power Fists, built in Storm Bolters and Flamers, and have absolutely no fear of death (they already died once, so how much scarier can it be?). The most famous of all Dreadnoughts is Bjorn the Fell-Handed.
- Mysterious Past — Many chapters have their share of secrets, but the Blood Ravens' past is particularly shrouded in mystery. Their records don't extend back very far, so they have no idea where their homeworld is or what "parent" legion they were based off of. Furthermore, one of their commanders destroyed Blood Ravens relics recovered on the planet Kronus before anyone else could examine them, and in the same campaign Chaos forces mockingly called him "brother." The Blood Ravens chapter motto is "Knowledge is Power, Guard it Well." The Horus Heresy novel A Thousand Sons has all but confirmed that they are in fact a loyalist offshoot of the Thousand Sons legion.
- The Blood Ravens might not even be the only loyalist chapter descended from a traitor Primarch. There's also the Forgeworld flagship chapter known as the Iron Scorpions whose founding is a closely guarded secret because they may or may not be descended from Fulgrim. The Horus Heresy series has also implied that the Grey Knights may in fact use geneseed from either Horus or Mortarion, which adds some major Fridge Brilliance to the intensely high standards for purity the chapter holds.
- No One Gets Left Behind:
- The Space Marines take care to recover their fallen brothers' progenoid glands, which contain the genetic information necessary for creating the next generation of Space Marines.
- Captain Kayvan Shrike and his forces are known for multiple instances of saving civilians when everyone else had given up on them, and they are heroes among the citizens of the Imperium.
- Number Two — After the Chapter Master, the ranking member of the Chapter is the First Captain and usually his designated successor.
- Ominous Floating Castle — "The Rock", the Fortress Monastery of the Dark Angels chapter is a type II. It is all that remains of their homeworld of Caliban, a literal castle on a jut of rock floating in space. It has since been sealed against the void and equipped with engines to travel the stars, moving from world to world to find new recruits. Unlike a lot of other examples though, this also qualifies as Dark Is Not Evil. Well, mostly...
- One-Gender Race — Apparently all the implants just don't work right on women. Of course, the Sisters of Battle come very close to female Space Marines. Not that it stops many fans, and the outrage from suggesting such a thing.
- Even if the implants did work on women, the physiological changes they cause are so profound it might be hard to tell the difference without checking their crotch.
- One-Man Army — In the propaganda, anyway. They're powered appropriately in order to be competitive on the tabletop.
- Our Vampires Are Different — A motif played with, but mostly downplayed and Ret Conned out in recent editions.
- The Blood Angels chapter makes extensive use of blood in religious ceremonies, and as part of their transformation process spend a year in a casket-like chamber. This despite the fact that the Chapter's founder Sanguinius was known as the Angel for his good looks and feathered wings, and most Blood Angels inherit his physical beauty.
- Older fluff used to give them all pale skin, red eyes, and black hair. It's been retconned since.
- Our Werewolves Are Different — Oddities in the Space Wolves' gene-seed manifest as lengthened canines, as well as heightened senses allowing them to detect enemy locations and morale purely by sense of smell. They also carry a defect which manifests as the Curse of the Wulfen, which transforms the Marine into a slavering, bestial monster. Experiencing this is a standard part of the induction of every Space Wolf aspirant. There are three possibilities at that initial point: either their body stabilises and they become a full Marine, it doesn't and they... don't, or it appears to stabilise, only to manifest the Curse in the heat of battle.
- In the novel Battle of the Fang, the Wulfen are kept isolated inside the Fang, and are only brought out for dire circumstances.
- Fittingly, the Space Wolves and Blood Angels don't get along too well, though not to the extent of their other rivalries.
- Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions — While the Space Marines venerate the God-Emperor, building cathedrals and monasteries in his name and praying to him for intercession on the battlefield, many chapters do not see him as an actual god (a view the Emperor himself subscribed to) but a father-figure to be emulated.
- The Ecclesiarchy isn't too thrilled with this, but over the millenia, they and the Astartes have fallen into a pattern of "agreeing to disagree", where the Ecclesiarchy does not treat the Space Marines like heathens, and the Space Marines do not use their legacy as descendants of the Emperor to usurp the Ecclesiarchy's role of ministering to the masses. On very rare occasions a particularly zealous cardinal or haughty captain might say something so egregious that the other side cannot ignore. Such "disagreements" are usually resolved swiftly, but not always without blood being spilled first...
- The Paladin:
- Grey Knights. Being that this is 40K, well...
- Played much straighter with the Salamanders.
- Papa Wolf - Quite literally in the case of the Space Wolves when it comes to protecting innocents.
- Photographic Memory — The Bio-Augmentation done to the Space Marines leaves their memories as close to eidetic as possible, so they can recall potentially vital information in after-action debriefings.
- Power Born of Madness:
- Ever since Mephiston mastered the Black Rage, he seems to exist in a permanent state of Tranquil Fury. One side effect of this is being able to kill orks with his bare hands (in game terms, his strength is higher than it is even allowed for human size models, enough to treat regular humans as Made of Plasticine).
- Blood Angels and successors suffering from the Black Rage or Red Thirst in general are this. Left in an Unstoppable Rage from their gene-flaw, they become so brutal in combat that nothing short of death will stop them. Even severing limbs won't stop them, it'll just slow them down and make them even more pissed off.
- Powered Armor — A standard Space Marine has better protection than other races' elite troops. Then there's the Tactical Dreadnought or "Terminator" armor, which can carry miniguns one-handed and survive being stepped on by Titans.
- Power Fist — The trope namer is a piece of wargear usable by most characters, but standard issue for Space Marine Terminators.
- Pro Human Trans Human — Though no longer truly human themselves, the Space Marines are humanity's greatest champions and serve the Imperium with the utmost zeal and devotion. That being said, not all of them are overly concerned with the fates of the normal humans they are sworn to defend. The Space Wolves, Blood Angels, Ultramarines, and Raven Guard have been known to go out of their way to protect civilians, but the only chapter that always prioritizes saving civilian lives is the Salamanders.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy — Space Marines are an analogue of medieval knightly orders, and possess a chivalry of sorts. They don't let this get in the way of genocide or xenocide, however.
- Rage Helm — Mark VII helms. Marks II through VI are less angry looking, but no less scary.
- Rated M for Manly: Oh sweet Jesus...
- Red Oni, Blue Oni — Leman Russ and Lion El'Jonson. Their chapters (the Space Wolves and the Dark Angels) have inherited the rivalry.
- Scary Black Man — The Salamanders chapter, in a strange way. A weird interaction with their gene-seed gives them red eyes and onyx-colored skin, the latter because their homeworld has a weak magnetosphere and the gland that changes skin color to alter based on radiation is stuck in overdrive. They also love flamer and melta weapons. They also have a very nasty army list, so all such weapons count as twin-linked, and any Thunder Hammers are master-crafted.
- Sergeant Rock — Any Brother-Sergeant is this.
- Shoulders of Doom — Proudly displaying the Chapter badge.
- Space Marine — Duh. They specialize in planetary assaults. And everything else, for that matter.
- Spanner in the Works: Many a xeno and Chaos plan has been interrupted by the abrupt arrival of a Space Marine drop pod. The Space Wolves are especially noted for doing this, being the main rivals of the Thousand Sons.
- Spiteful Spit: Even this is weaponized with the Betcher's Gland, which turns a Space Marine's saliva into an acidic compound. Whether it simply reacts with flesh or can outright dissolve ceramite depends on the writer. Some Chapters, like the Blood Angels and the Iron Snakes, consider this a dishonorable form of attack. Other Chapters, however...
- The Stoic:
- The Dark Angels, a trait inherited from their Primarch, Lion El'Johnson.
- Because of this, he initially didn't get along with Leman Russ, seeing him as a boisterous idiot while Russ thought the Lion was an insufferable pompous prick. They eventually became Vitriolic Best Buds, but their respective chapters are still bitter rivals.
- Very nearly canonical, especially since the Imperial Fists and Salamanders Legions were equally, if not more, stoical than the Dark Angels, and there's no indication that the Space Wolves have ever had any problem with them.
- The Iron Hands.
- Stronger with Age: Spaces Marines just get more and more Bad Ass as time goes by. The Chapter Master of the Blood Angels, Dante, is held to be the oldest living Space Marine who hasn't been confined to a Dreadnought, has lived for over 1300 years, and certainly isn't showing any signs of slowing down.
- Super Soldier — Eight feet tall, a lifespan measured in centuries, spending every waking moment either in battle or training for it... and those are your basic Space Marines. Now consider their veterans...or Chapter Masters...or the Primarchs.
- Super Toughness — As a result of several of their Bio Augmentations.
- Take Up My Sword — All Space Marine arms and armor are built to the highest standards of quality, with each construction being personally overseen by artisan tech-marines. Understandably, this means that their rate of equipment construction is fairly slow. As a result of this, most chapters recycle their old equipment, refurbishing the weapons and armor of fallen Space Marines to functional condition, and passing them down to new generations of Astartes. Many chapters develop elaborate rites and rituals surrounding this practice, and will do things like engrave the accomplishments of the previous owner of a piece of kit into it or adding decorative reliefs. As each piece is further passed down, these become increasingly elaborate and valuable to the chapter.
- Tank Goodness — While the humble Predator tank is a versatile fighting vehicle, the baddest thing on tracks beyond the Imperial Guard's super-heavy vehicles is the Land Raider, the Space Marines' transport from hell. Essentially a rolling bunker, it packs a punch with two twin-linked lascannons and a twin-linked heavy bolter, has the highest armor rating in the game on all facings, and can carry a squad of Space Marines (or worse yet, Terminators) right to the enemy's front line.
- Time Abyss — Space Marines can live for centuries or millennia. Dante has been Chapter Master of the Blood Angels for 1,100 years, and Bjorn the Fell Handed of the Space Wolves fought during the Great Crusade ten thousand years ago.
- Token Minority — The Salamanders have the majority of black Space Marines (see Scary Black Man above), while the White Scars have the Asians.
- In the latest Space Wolves codex one of the Wolf Lords is noted to be dark skinned, belonging originally to a dark skinned people living in the southern oceans of Fenris who are mostly traders rather than warriors. As a result dark-skinned Fenrisians are rarely chosen to serve in the Chapter. This would make them Black Vikings IN SPACE.
- Training from Hell — Starts when aspirants are in their early teens, and tries to whittle down a hundred to a single neophyte. They're actually deployed as Scout squads before they've finished the transformation into full-fledged Space Marines.
- Treachery Cover Up — The reason the Dark Angels chapter call themselves the Unforgiven. During the Horus Heresy, a faction of their soldiers rebelled out of confusion or jealousy. These Fallen Angels are hunted mercilessly by the Dark Angels, so that they may grant them absolution after vicious torture, and finally restore the chapter's honor. There is also the theory that the Dark Angels are the traitors, who sat out the Horus Heresy to see who would win.
- True Companions: For all the moral ambiguity in the franchise, this is one virtue that the Space Marines generally espouse and embrace. From day one of training, Space Marines are taught the value of working with their fellow Marines and refer to each other as brothers. Since they share organs derived from a single being, and grew up together during training, this is as close to family as they actually have. It's actually one of the few psychological weaknesses that a Space Marine can have—the need for the companionship of their fellow Astartes.
- Vitriolic Best Buds — Surprisingly, Lion El'Johnson and Leman Russ. They hated each other for a while, but eventually patched things up, becoming firm friends while paradoxically remaining bitter rivals. Their descendants however, lack the 'best friends' part of the relationship.
- Warrior Monk — Not only do Space Marines possess nigh-unshakable faith in their role as favored champions of the God-Emperor, they also live in Fortress-Monasteries and refer to each other as "Brother."
- Weirdness Coupon — Space Marines in general have this. Many of them are jerks, mutants or have exotic beliefs, but the Inquisition glosses over their minor heresies because of their necessity. And then you get into individual examples:
- The Space Wolves wouldn't open the Codex Astartes in a dire toilet paper shortage, worship Fenrisian spirits alongside the Emperor, and defy Inquisition orders. They also lack any successor chapters, although this has more to do with the fact that Space Wolf Gene Seed is much less stable in non-Fenrisians because only Fenrisians have a unique genetic abnormality left over from a genetic experiment the original colonists tried. The less fortunate Fenrisians, on the other hand, are the anscestors of Fenris's Big Badass Wolves.
- The Blood Angels are vampiric berserkers whose Death Company members have caused just as many friendly fatalities as enemy fatalities. Being descended from the most politically martyred Primarch has major advantages.
- The Ultramarines have a massive feudal empire despite the Codex explicitly stating that Space Marines are only allowed control of a single planet at most, primarily because Guilliman already ruled all of Ultramar prior to coming into contact with the Emperor. note Being the legion which more or less rebuilt the Imperium and has the most stable gene-seed has its advantages.
- The Dark Angels spend most of their time trying to hunt down the Fallen, whose existence is more or less an open secret within the Inquisition. Being the first Space Marine Legion means that an Inquisitor needs some damn good evidence to declare them Excommunicate Traitoris.
- The Black Templars utterly reject the Codex Astartes, take persecution of mutants and psykers to a level beyond even other Space Marines, and are almost as large as one of the original legions. Their extraordinary zeal is such that the Inquisition can find no fault with their conduct, and their sheer size makes it impossible for anybody but their own High Marshal to exert control over the chapter.
- Wolverine Claws — Lightning Claws are Power Weapons with three or four claws attached to a Power Fist. Very popular among Terminators in general and the Raven Guard in particular.
- Space Wolves have a slightly more powerful variant in the form of Wolf Claws.
- The Worf Effect — Due to the Astartes' toughness, new threats are often expressed in terms of how many Space Marines they killed. The Tyranids, for example, are introduced by wiping out the Ultramarines' 1st company and nearly overrunning their homeworld, while the Necrons are shown blowing holes in both sides of a Land Raider with a single energy weapon.
- Would Not Shoot a Civilian — Depending on the chapter.
See also Blood Angels
, Space Wolf
, Grey Knights
, Soul Drinkers
, Blood Ravens
, Imperial Fists
, Dark Angels
The Imperial Guard
For every hero commemorated, a thousand martyrs die, unmourned and unremembered.
The Red Shirt Army
. The Space Marines hog all the glory, but since there is less than one Space Marine for every world in the Imperium, it is the untold billions of the Imperial Guard
that do 99% of the fighting. Individually, a Guardsman is your average Joe
, going up against Super Soldiers
and Eldritch Abominations
. He's got a set of basic flak armor
that can withstand outdated small arms fire; a lasgun that, while capable of blowing off limbs, is among the weakest
weapons in the setting; training full of propaganda and blatant lies; commanders willing to sacrifice millions of men and machines
in decade-long campaigns; and commissars ready to summarily execute cowards
. His odds are not good, but the Guard has trillions like him, and millions of tanks and artillery pieces.
Thematically, the Guard is a melting pot of inspiration from every army in history, and then some. The Catachans are both sides
of the Vietnam War. Valhallans are grim but determined ice worlders reminiscent of Soviet infantry hordes. Tallarns are pious and wily desert raiders. Cadians are taught to field-strip a lasgun before they learn how to walk. The Praetorians wear pith helmets and red coats
. The Mordians are Prussian-esque soldiers always in dress uniforms. The Death Korps of Krieg are everything scary and callous about the First World War ramped up to eleven. The Steel Legions of Armageddon look like WW 2
German paratroopers and fight like panzer grenadiers. The Tanith First-And-Only
are scouts and woodsmen beyond compare. The Elysians are heavily-armed and armoured pastiches of every elite airborne regiment ever
with Nerves of Steel
and no tank or artillery support. Traditionally the Imperial Guard were depicted as being used in human wave attacks or trench warfare right out of World War One
, but the Gaunt's Ghosts
novels have seen the Guard re-tooled into a sophisticated and highly-trained war machine combining infantry, armor, and air support into a fighting force the equal of any modern army. Considering what they're up against, it isn't always enough.
There's also an Imperial Navy that fights battles in space and transports Guard troops, which follows similar protocol to the Guard and has a similar chain of command but separate leadership.
On the tabletop, few armies can field as many soldiers as the Imperial Guard, which is fortunate, as they are comparatively lightly armored, and have morale that's highly contingent on there being a commanding officer or commissar nearby. On the other hand, few armies can bring as many weapons to bear in a single Shooting phase as the Guard, so while one lasgun is unlikely to get results, fifty or sixty firing in salvos will
(unoffically referred to as 'the laser light show'). The Imperial Guard is also famous for their tanks which are unsophisticated and unsubtle metal monsters, deployed in numbers bordering on the absurd, and very, very
good at shooting things. However, the key to the Imperial Guard's popularity may be that they're basically normal people forced into unimaginably bad situations, but who can prevail with luck, faith in the God-Emperor, and overwhelming firepower.
- Amazon Brigade: In the fluff, there are entire armies of Imperial Guard that are composed solely of women, but this is not supported so much in the models. Given a lampshade hanging in the Ciaphas Cain novels, where it's explained that women make up roughly 10% of the draftees for the Imperial Guard, so those women who are inducted are typically formed into women-only regiments, which among other things has certain practical benefits. Namely, avoiding certain special incidents that can only result from a mixed-gender unit.
- Ancestral Weapon: The hat of the Vostroyan Firstborn is that the firstborn son of every family joins the Imperial Guard, each one uses a locally-produced weapon, and each weapon is property of the family to whom it is issued. Where possible, weapons are brought back to the homeworld and returned to the families to which they belong, who then pass the weapon down to the next firstborn. Very old weapons are considered priceless heirlooms, and are quite valuable.
- Armies Are Evil: Largely subverted, as the Imperial Guard are just average people who are fighting for the Imperium.
- Badass — Quite possibly the most Badass group in the setting, given that they're normal humans going up against aliens, supersoldiers, and demons from hell.
- Badass Boast — Every regimental motto.
- Badass Grandpa — Legendary Commissar Yarrick, who led the Imperium to victory during the Second War for Armageddon (which started on the day he would have retired had the War not erupted), retired, then came back again to save the day during the Third War for Armageddon. He's so incredibly badass, after he got his arm lopped off by an Ork, he killed the thing and took its power klaw for a replacement and trophy. He has a bionic eye that shoots lasers. Now he's tagged along with a Black Templar crusade to hunt down Warlord Ghazghkull mag Uruk Thraka once and for all. The Templars took him on because he has the most chance of actually accomplishing their objective.
- Most Orks will actively avoid facing Yarrick in battle. It's heavily implied that the only reason he replaced his lost eye with a bionic one was because he wanted to feed into the already-existing rumors among them that he could kill you just by looking at you. Ghazghkull has actually praised Yarrick twice, and once captured Yarrick, had him tortured a bit, and then let him go because he relished the chance to fight him again more than the opportunity to kill him. Source material also rather heavily implies that the Orks' regarding him as an unkillable badass has turned him into an unkillable badass. Games Workshop paint jobs of his model always give his skin a greenish tinge, and in the game, if his model is killed against an Ork army, it stands a good chance of getting back up again.
- Badass Longcoat
- Commissars typically wear a large black greatcoat as part of their uniform.
- Valhallan Guard units have one as part of their standard uniform.
- Badass Nickname — The Hammer of the Emperor.
- Badass Normal Army - Without Bio-Augmentation, Super Strength, Super Toughness, Powered Armor, Psychic Powers, or the most advanced technology, the Imperial Guard gets by on good old-fashioned combined arms warfare...and massive, massive casualties.
- Just to make the point clear. Remember that training facility in Starship Troopers? In Warhammer 40K, it's an average PDF training ground. After serving at least two years in PDF, the best soldiers may be recruited by the Guard. After six months of extensive training on the IG training grounds, they will actually join a Guard regiment. In the regiment, all of them are considered green newbies, that will be pushed around the training course by veteran superiors. Nevertheless, statistically, less than half of them will live through their first campaign. Those who do can be considered proper Guardsmen.
- Colonel Badass — More than a few regimental Colonels, such as "Iron Hand" Straken, Ibram Gaunt, and countless others.
- Four-Star Badass — Not all of the Guard's senior commanders are complete failures. There are plenty of Guard Generals that are strategic geniuses and kick ass just as well, such as Lord Castellan Usarkar E. Creed and Lord Commander Solar Macharius.
- Took A Level In Bad Ass — Post new codex, the Guard have become gods of mechanized warfare. The most recent one (6th) also extends this to air power while buffing up their already formidable tanks and artillery.
- Bad Boss:
- Base on Wheels — The Leviathan mobile command center, as well as the Capitol Imperialis, which can house tank companies.
- Battle Thralls — The penal legions (often represented by conscript squads in game mechanics) are this of the "Enslaved Grunts" variety.
- Bayonet Ya — The bayonet is nearly as synonymous to the average Guardsman's weaponry as the lasgun that it's attached to. Being forced to use it as a Puny Earthling comparatively weaker and/or saner to one of his many enemies individually is a fairly powerful image.
- Beam Spam — The only way to effectively use lasguns is in bulk.
- BFG — Heavy Weapons Platoons, the Basilisk mobile artillery's Earthshaker cannon, and then we move into super-heavy battle tank territory...
- Bifurcated Weapon — The standard lasgun is usually equipped with a bayonet. That's right, forty thousand years into the future and bayonet charges are still a valid infantry tactic.
- Big Book of War — The Tactica Imperium is a collection of countless commanders' combined battlefield experiences, containing advice on topics from barricade construction to force organization. Imperial generals may find it useful, though they have to keep in mind that it occasionally contradicts itself, should not be adhered to too strictly, and some passages are best read as metaphors.
- Boring but Practical: Lasguns are far from the most impressive weapons in the Warhammer 40K universe, but they're cheap, reliable, and have easy logistics (they can be recharged by any light source, including campfires). Despite the reputation they have for being as good as flashlights, they are deadly weapons that can blow limbs clean off of unarmored humans.
- This is why Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!) carries around a humble laspistol when he has access to a much more potent bolt pistol or hellpistol; the difference in ammo count the laspistol affords has saved his life many times in the field. He's also so used to the weight he thinks a heavier, more powerful weapon would throw off his aim enough for him to possibly miss at a critical moment and get himself killed.
- Bullet Proof Vest — 'Flak Armour' is standard-issue for Imperial Guard infantry... but those are way outdated for the vast majority of races in 40K. It isn't entirely useless as it serves them well enough against the Chaos Cultist rabble, but it can't stand up to the higher caliber weaponry usually fielded by the rest of their foes.
- Butt Monkey — A serious example, which even extended to the players, before the new codex.
- Cannon Fodder — A popular image for the Imperial Guard, though this varies between regiments and commanders. However, there are conscript squads in the game, of which their use is pretty much undeniably this.
- Previous editions even had the Penal Legions, a place for people facing death row to serve the God-Emperor in the one way every human can... as a Human Shield. Even the regular Guardsmen regarded penal legions as Cannon Fodder.
- Again, Chainsword Good - A common melee weapon amongst the Imperial Guard aside from standard issue combat knives.
- Character Exaggeration — The people in charge for the Imperial Guard are frequently portrayed in fan works are being either so sociopathic or incompetent (sometimes both) that it makes one wonder why the Imperium didn't fall long ago. There certainly are such cases, the Imperium being very vast, and it's likely done to emphasize how 40K is Grim Dark (or is Played for Laughs as Black Humor in the Refuge in Audacity of it.). Which it is.
- The memetic portrayal of Usarkar E. Creed, Lord Castellan of Cadia, goes in the extreme opposite direction, with his astounding displays of TACTICAL GENIUS such as ambushing Abbadon in his own bathroom and hiding Baneblades behind streetlamps. He also traveled back in time and wrote the Codex.
- Church Militant — Considered to be an aspiration for the Imperial Guard, though the success and extremity of this heavily varies between regiments. The regiments raised from Ecclesiarchial fiefdoms, or "shrine worlds", are often this in a nearly literal sense.note
- Combat Medic — Anyone who has medical abilities in the Imperial Guard is otherwise trained and armed similar to standard infantry.
- Commissar Cap — The Trope Namer, obviously. The hats worn by the commissars are so flashy that you will immediately see that he is a man of fear and respect.
- Cool Tank — Baneblades.
- Special mention goes to the Hellhound family of medium tank. While they lack the sheer brutal power of the Baneblade or even the workhorse Leman-Russ tank, they win Rule of Cool superiority by being one enormous flamethrower. For those generals not afraid to get their hands truly filthy, the Imperium manufactures variants that spew poison gas or toxic waste.
- Cool Plane: The Valkyrie Assault Carrier, the Guard's air transport of choice, is also well armed with a multilaser and missiles. However, even more deadly is the up-gunned variant the Vendetta Gunship, which trades out its lasers and missiles for the massive firepower of three twin-linked lascannons while still retaining its dropship capabilities.
- Crippling Overspecialization — Deliberately invoked at the company level by the Departmento Munitorium when levying Imperial Guard. Any given Imperial Guard company will be trained and equipped for exactly one role, be it foot infantry, mounted infantry, armor, or artillery. The intention being that no company can survive long going rogue, and must rely on other companies for combined arms warfare.
- Death from Above — The Imperial Guard heavily use artillery as part of their combined arms, and probably have more of it with more possible options for it than virtually any other military in the galaxy.note Sure, the Imperium has plenty of ships which can devastate a world with lance fire, but that is only for very critical targets or when past the Godzilla Threshold. The Guard on the other hand, sling shells skyward as part of normal operations, and does it with much greater frequency and specific effect.
- Death Seeker — Some of the more fanatical regiments fall into this. For example, the Death Corps of Krieg have this as part of their hat.
- Usually as the result of the aforementioned planetary defence actions going pear-shaped.
- Drill Tank: The Hades Breaching Drill, which is used as a siege-breaker weapon to undermine fortified positions or breach into a reinforced bunker from an unexpected vector. While not a primary attack vehicle in itself (being more of a tunneling armored troop transport,) its power-drills and melta cutters spell death for anything caught in front of its cumbersome path. Note though that Fast Tunnelling is largely averted. The Hades Drill works quickly, but not so quickly it can dig on its own complete tunnel, which must be dug by other means so the Hades can use its power to quickly breach the last few meters to the target.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: When the Astartes are deployed into an ongoing conflict, odds are thousands or millions of Imperial Guard and/or PDF have been holding the line for quite some time already. More often then not the Space Marines who break the siege will ultimately get credit for victory; IG reactions to this tend to vary from relief that their asses were saved to resentment (when their point of view gets brought up at all).
- Elite Mooks:
- Imperial Stormtroopers (not ''those'' guys) are basically special-ops teams outfitted with improved versions of a Guardsman's wargear - earning them monikers such as "Toy Soldiers" and "Glory Boys" from the resentful rank-and-file.
- Cadia's equivalents, the Kasrkin, are trained and hardened to such a degree that they could be considered the Elite Mooks OF the Elite Mooks. Consider that instead of being resented by other guardsmen, they are looked up to.
- The looking up part also has something to do with how Kasrkin are recruited, Imperial Stormtroopers are exclusively made up by men who are picked from the imperial nurserys as children to become the elite, making them quite detached from the common guardmen. Kasrkin meanwhile are either picked from the best and brightest cadian recruits or from veteran guardsmen who showed exceptional performance in combat, putting them much closer to the common Guardsmen.
- Emotion Suppression — The Death Corp of Krieg, while being Death Seekers from a Martyrdom Culture (even by Imperial standards,) are not actually suicidal. In fact, they feel little depression, hope, or fear. This is because each soldier is outfitted with a small augmetic rig which keeps chemicals circulating through their blood ostensibly to help them survive in harsh environmental conditions, that also keeps their mood extremely even. This is, among other things, why they often keep to themselves during combined operations. They have little reason to even want to interact with others.
- Fake Ultimate Hero — Commissar Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!). Contrast with Commissar Ibram Gaunt, an actual hero doomed to obscurity.
- Arguably a subverted trope by this point. Cain's protestations of non-heroism are more and more at odds with his actions in every book.
- Fan of Underdog: The 5th Codex intro points out that the Imperial Guard is by far the easiest to relate to and that they might appeal to this kind of person:
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture — Not as obvious as the Space Marines, but Cadia is based on modern soldiers from various countries, whereas we have the Catachans who are based on both sides in the Vietnam conflict, while the Valhallans and Vostroyans are based on the Red Army and the Imperial Russian Army, respectively. There's also the Attilan Rough Riders, based on Mongols, Steel Legion and Death Korps of Krieg, both based on the World War II era German army to various degrees (though all the trenches involved with the latter also make them an analog of WWI German forces), the elite Elysian Drop Troopers, who take notes from just about every paratrooper and air-cav force in military history, and a few others that would take up too much space to describe. Many of these armies are at least somewhat nice by comparison to their real life counterparts, however.
- There are elite troops called Grenadiers in the game - the only reason they are called that is pretty much because of the 'elite assault soldier' connotation of the word, just like in many militaries applying the term due to its past of, well, elite assault soldiers.
- Cadia is guessed to be a reference to Canada's military (likely in World War I), though the connection isn't entirely straightforward - standard battle tactics of Cadia are frontal assaults where Canadian forces in World War I were famous shock troops (which involved specialized infiltration missions to break up the cohesiveness of enemy defences followed by a larger offensive). Further confusing, Cadia fields many Kasrkin and Grenadier troops, the former being very famous assault troops, the latter being more better trained and armoured guardsmen who are otherwise fielded as regular guardsmen - which certainly seems to fit the bill there.
- These design elements make the Guard popular with fans of realistic tactical wargames, who tend to see this invoked by designing and painting their armies to look even more like certain historical forces.
- The latest addition to the litany of goofy historical themed regiments is the Arkhan Confederates, a grey-clad, mechanized cavalry-loving bunch with absurd biblical names who are basically the Confederate States of America by way of the Inglessa and Louisiana Militias from ∀ Gundam. Another would be the Scintillan Fusiliers, comprised primarily of local elites and are essentially a futuristic version of 17th-18th Century Italy, particularly Venice, at its most decadent.
- Fast Roping:
- Valkyrie transports are equipped with line spools for precisely this reason.
- Stormtroopers in particular tend to train heavily in this technique, and are the most likely to attempt it on the battlefield, forgoing a more cautious insertion when speed of deployment is a priority.
- A Father to His Men — No shortage of these, either.
- Frickin' Laser Beams — The Imperial Guard is the single biggest military organization in the galaxy, and the single biggest user of laser-based Energy Weapons, coming in multiple varieties:
- Lasguns — The most common weapon, the "old-standby" of the Imperium. A rifle-like laser weapon with greater stopping power than the majority of modern conventional projectile firearms, but still one of the most comparatively weakest weapons in the setting. There are many regional and functional variations on the design, some with different settings for rate of fire and damage, but all share certain common core parts and take the same charge packs for ammunition (which can be recharged in a few hours from field generators). This is a big part of the reason they are so popular for a massive organization like the Guard. Tend to be easy to keep functionally clean and keep working in rough conditions. Desperate Guardsmen are known to set them to set them to overload and hurl them at the enemy as an improvised grenade.
- Long-las — A marksmen's version of the common lasgun. These are tuned to produce a killing shot at greater distance, usually sacrificing rate of fire and shot capacity per charge pack to achieve this. Experienced Guard snipers often prefer to equip their long-las with overcharge packs to increase their power per-shot, but this results in even fewer shots per pack, and they need to keep several spare barrels on hand as this wears the barrel out very quickly.
- Hellguns — An upscaled version of the lasgun, this achieves a greater punch through the expedient of being bigger and pumping more power into it. This necessitates a much more elaborate cooling system, making a hellgun much more bulky and mechanically complicated than a lasgun. Because the power draw is so much higher, many hellguns attach to Ammunition Backpacks to allow a wielder to pour on the fire, though there are variations which use standard charge packs as well. Because of their size, they are often only used by heavy infantry or dedicated elite forces.
- Hot-shot Lasguns — Lasguns with overcharge packs and special tuning to increase their lethality. The combination of the stopping power of the heavier hellguns with the portability of the more common lasguns has made these weapons highly popular with special forces who need to keep their equipment light, such as para-drop storm troopers. However, they have the drawback of wearing out the weapon very quickly; it runs so hot that its components burn out and fuse together with frequent use, making it unsuited to long deployments or situations where supplies are limited.
- Multilasers — Essentially a gatling version of the hellgun, it is a multibarrel weapon capable of maintaining a high rate of fire. They are usually too big to be used by infantry, but are often mounted on vehicles such as the Chimera infantry fighting vehicle to supress enemy infantry and light vehicles.
- Plasma weaponry — Not as commonly used as the lasgun, these fire superheated bolts of energy that cuts through or vaporises the target. Unfortunately, they are much more difficult to manufacture, with only a few forge worlds still capable of doing so. Also, plasma weapons have a tendency to overheat and explode (shown in the game as the "Gets Hot" rule), but sometimes the extra firepower they provide outweighs the risk. The Leman Russ Executioner variant uses a plasma cannon.
- Gas Mask, Longcoat — The Death Corps of Krieg wear these as part of their hat, justified due to their planet of origin being a radiological wasteland.
- Gas Mask Mooks:
- Some models fall into this, with Stormtroopers being the most common source of them.
- The Death Corps of Krieg are nothing but this.
- General Failure — There's no shortage of Guard generals who got their position entirely through family connections and interdepartmental politicking, and who couldn't command their way out of a wet paper bag. Many follow the We Have Reserves school of Imperial tactics, reasoning that even the most egregious tactical errors can be overcome by throwing enough men at the problem. The most incompetent of them even manage to screw that up.
- Note that due to Character Exaggeration and Flanderization, these types of leaders get over-represented within the Imperium. If every last general and officer was that incompetent, sociopathic, bloodthirsty, etc., the Imperium would probably have collapsed long ago. The few extreme outliers can be chalked up to any sufficiently large organization having some less-than-ideal leaders in its chain of command.
- Genre Savvy — Despite their "training", most Guardsmen know precisely how bad their odds are in the universe. They compensate by employing every dirty trick in the book from camo netting to mines to snipers to good old fashioned cowardice. In the event a commanding officer or commissar insists they hold the line and fight bravely against impossible odds, Guardsmen have been known to insist back.
- Glory Seeker: Many COs.
- Heroic Build: They breed them pretty big on Catachan, and the Catachan Jungle Fighters are infamous for their tall frames and muscles. Being born on a planet in which surviving to adulthood is a major accomplishment will tend to select for this.
- Highly Conspicuous Uniform: Generally averted by most regiments, who tend to wear practical uniforms with either dull unassuming colors or camouflage. However, it is played straight with a noticeable minority of them. For example, the Mordian Iron Guard wear these as part of their hat, with brightly colored uniforms to match their goose-stepping, line volley firing, parade field image. note
- Hold the Line: How an Imperial Guard campaign will probably play out at some point or another. A common sardonic joke among the fans goes to the tune of "The Imperial Guard. It's a thankless job, but if you're willing to stand your ground and give it your all... you just might be able to buy enough time for the Space Marines to take all the credit."
- Hollywood Tactics — Still common amongst the regiments, though Dan Abnett shows that not all commanders are that stupid.
- Home Guard — Imperial Guard regiments are formed from the best members of the Planetary Defence Forces that are available when it's time for a planet to pay its tithes. Since planets always have to pay their tithes, the PDF are considered to be ill-disciplined and unsuitable for prolonged engagement. The Imperial Guard consider the PDF to be inferior to the Guard. The irony is lost on no one. There are noticeable aversions, however, such as the Cadian Home Guard (as Cadians are some of the best soldiers in the galaxy) and Ultramar Auxilia (given that they're whipped into shape by the Ultramarines).
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy — Subverted. Though they have a reputation as unreliable shots, Guardsmen have average Ballistic Skill, and statistically half of their ranged attacks (of which they make very many) will hit. Actual Stormtroopers shoot as well as Space Marines and have a two out of three chance of hitting the mark.
- Interservice Rivalry — A major source of friction, both within the guard and outside of it. You have the traditional rivalry between the Imperial Navy and the ground-pounders, between Glory Seeker COs and Spotlight Stealing Space Marine companies, between regiments from different planets, and occasionally between regiments from the same planet if their culture is particularly competitive.
- It's Raining Men — The Imperial Guard might not have the flash of orbital combat drops like the Imperium's most elite forces, but they do still make use of more conventional air drop operations. Some regiments train more extensively in this kind of operation than others, with the Elyssian regiments in particular having this as their hat. A typical drop operation will involve a few Valkyrie transports coming in fast and low to Fast Rope stormtroopers in to secure an initial landing zone, with larger numbers of higher-flying Valkyries following shortly in their wake to deploy reinforcements via grav-chutes.
- Jack of All Stats — The basic Leman Russ tank is not the the most powerful tank, or the toughest tank, or the fastest tank out there. However, it is capable of dealing with a variety of threats, fairly tough, and while not especially quick it can maintain fire while moving at a constant speed forward, and all for a very cost-effective price. Its only particular weakness is a vulnerability to hits from behind, but even that is not a big issue so long as it is deployed in vehicle formations or with infantry to cover its flanks. For commanders who need tanks for more specific purposes, several variations of the Lemon Russ exist which trade in a few of its advantages in some areas for advantages in other areas (price being a common sacrifice.)
- "Join the Army," They Said — Though not all of them had a choice in the matter.
- Made of Plasticine: The standard-issue flak armor the Guard wears is only enough to protect against other lasguns and even then not reliably. Other than that, the only protection a squishy human has is a prayer to the Emperor God. On the tabletop, guardsmen can survive 1 wound like all other infantry but toughness 3 and a poor armor save make them die by the droves under enemy fire.
- Mighty Glacier — The Leman Russ in the 5th edition codex got a rule called Lumbering Behemoth which cripples its mobility compared to other tanks but allows its turret to be fired in addition to other weapons allowed to fire. Fitting with the trope, there are only two non-super heavy vehicles in the entire game that are harder to take down than a Leman Russ.
- More Dakka — Taking a cue from the Orks, the newest Guard codex introduced the Leman Russ Punisher, armed with a gatling cannon that fires twenty shots a round, theoretically capable of turning entire Ork mobs into goo.
- Officer and a Gentleman — The Imperium has a convention of granting parcels of territory to ranking officers during its crusades of conquest. This has the effect of creating noble families with strong military traditions, and established noble families seeking to expand their own domains and influence via taking commanding positions in new crusades. The end result is that the upper echelons of a large scale operation are almost entirely recruited from the aristocracy. The quality of these commanders is quite variable, with the best ones usually coming from families with long histories of noblesse oblige to the Imperium, while the worst tend to be Glory Seekers more used to courtly intrigue with little regard for the forces under them.
- One-Gender Race — Though there are the odd all-female, or even rarer mixed-gender Imperial Guard regiments, there are approximately four Imperial Guardswoman models.
- The Political Officer — Imperial Commissars, identified by their characteristic greatcoats, red sashes, and Commissar Caps. They are each a product of the Schola Progenium where they are indoctrinated to hold the Imperial Creed above life itself, and given an iron will to see the Imperium triumphant. Their role is to ensure that the Imperial forces in-theater have the will to get the job done, no matter how daunting the odds are, and are granted full authority over life and death to see that will enforced. The fact that they can and occasionally do conduct field executions tends to be subject to a lot of Character Exaggeration with regard to the frequency that authority is invoked, but is simply one tool they are given to fulfill their mandate. As Ciaphas Cainnote observed, Commissars who conduct frequent executions tend to be subject to Unfriendly Fire.
- Power Fist — It being an Imperium weapon, many models of the Imperial Guard may use them. Because everything else is usually faster than them and stronger, this at least lets them stand toe to toe with some of the scarier foes, although it's nowhere near as effective as in the hands of other, stronger races.
- Propaganda Machine — The Commissariat's role of ensuring the Imperial Guard have the will to get the job done extends beyond the common image of line Commissars shooting deserters or Commissar Lords sitting in on planning sessions to ensure officers are willing to make the necessary sacrifices. They also do such things as publish information to be read to the troops educating them on the importance of the current campaign, and cutting off the rumor mill by relating news from different parts of the front. Said information and news tends to put the most optimistic spin on everything they can to keep the troop's spirits up. Even if major sections of those reports are fabrications, a few sermons from the preachers about the blessed mind being too small for doubt is enough to convince.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy — Any Guard regiment raised from a world with a particularly strong military tradition will often be composed of a culture of them, but the Cadians are perhaps the biggest standout example. Their birth rate and recruitment rate are the same. Every Cadian is trained from birth to be a soldier, literally being taught to strip a lasgun before they are taught to read, and even civilian fashions are military camouflage. Every settlement on their planet is fortified to make street-to-street combat favor the defenders, and even those citizens who work their "civil sector" jobs (such as their local industries) are technically reservists. Such is their reputation than many planetary defense forces of other worlds model themselves on the Cadians' structure and equipment patterns, which means that a lot of other Guard regiments resemble them. However, the trope is ZigZagged as Cadians are not glory-hungry Blood Knights but rather disciplined, coordinated soldiers.
- Put on a Bus — Several regiments are no longer supported by GW, including the Praetorians, the Savlar Chem Dogs, and the Kanak Skull Takers. While they still exist in-universe and you can technically still use them if you can track down the models, they've just barely escaped going the way of the Squats.
- Red Shirt Army — The Imperial Guard on a bad day...and the bad days outnumber the good on any given week.
- The Penal legions are made up of nothing but convicts who would be executed but are sent on suicide missions as little more than meat shields for the real infantry. In the unlikely case of survival, their crimes are forgiven. In the much more probable case of hideous, hideous death, their crimes are forgiven.
- Resignations Not Accepted — Depending on the regiment. Some keep fighting until they are too depleted to be effective, then the survivors muster out permanently. Some actually have a fixed length of enlistment. Some combine the two approaches in periodic reorganisations with a trickle of reinforcements between, so a given soldier might be in for two years or twenty. Officers have more of a defined length of service, but talented ones can be called back to the Emperor's service after their retirement.
- Sergeant Rock — Probably a major factor to Guardsmen actually standing off against their enemies. Until the Sergeant Rock dies, of course. Of course again, there's more where that came from.
- Tank Goodness — A huge appeal of the Imperial Guard. Even the standard Leman Russ is a very good tank. Then there are the dozens of variants, and the even bigger super-heavy battle tanks such as the Baneblade, with their "Eleven barrels of hell!"...
- Took a Level in Badass — Since the 5th Codex, the Imperial Guard as a fighting force went from being the laughingstock of the tabletop to a credible threat with even more Tank Goodness and the new Orders system directly buffing infantry. Not that the men themselves needed bigger balls of steel.
- Throw the Dog a Bone — IG players after the new codex.
- We Have Reserves — ...that number in the trillions.
- Who's Laughing Now? — The reaction to the new codex.
- You Have Failed Me — An actual game rule with Commissars: Units that fail a leadership test will have the Commissar execute their leader and make them retake it. Characters actually get a leadership bonus when one joins the unit due to the intimidation.
- At one point, if the now Commissar-led squad somehow failed a leadership test, the squad is removed from the game as the Guardsmen frag the Commissar and get the hell out of dodge.
- You Kill It, You Bought It — Or more accurately, You Conquered It, You Settle it. Imperial Guardsmen rarely have the opportunity to return to their homeworlds, and may not even find a place for them there if they do. Death in battle is usually the end of service with the Guard. However, troops with nothing to gain tend to fight ineffectively, so the Imperium has a practice of granting territory on conquered worlds to those in the Guard who survived fighting to take them. This can create new noble families in time, or found settlements who regard the founding soldiers as ancestor-saints.
- In a lesser case, most liberated planets become home to a series of bars filled with middle aged scar covered man with blank stares and names like "The 105th". Robbers or street gangs who venture into said bars, can consider themself lucky getting out with all limbs attached.
See also Gaunt's Ghosts
, Ciaphas Cain
, Imperial Guard
, The Last Chancers
, Only War
Also see the Abhuman section below for information about Ogryns and Ratlings and their uses in the Guard.
The Adeptus Arbites
To serve the Emperor. To protect His domains. To judge and stand guard over His subjects. To carry the Emperor's law to all worlds under His blessed protection. To pursue and punish those who trespassed against His word.
The Adeptus Arbites are the enforcement arm of the Adeptus Terra. It is they who ensure that Imperial laws and Administratum decrees are followed, and most importantly, that the Imperial Tithe is met. Most Imperial worlds of any significance at all will have an Arbites precinct house somewhere, and larger worlds will have several. Local crime is beneath their general jurisdiction (that falls to local planetary law enforcement) but they help track crime that spans multiple worlds and violates laws from authorities beyond that of the local government. When rabble-rousing citizens get in the way of the Imperial tithe being fulfilled, the Arbites are summoned to break them up and suppress riots. If it goes so far that a planet goes into full rebellion, the Arbites are the ones expected to be a loyalist holdout, sealing their precinct houses for siege and getting the message out to the wider Imperium.
The Adeptus Arbites have never had a full published codex book, only unit information and models in various additions released as supplements or as allies for other Imperial forces. For the most part though, they are almost never seen in the tabletop game itself, but they are well-represented in the fiction.
Notable Arbites tropes:
- Awesome Personnel Carrier — Arbiters used variations of Standard Template vehicle patterns, such as Chimeras and Rhinos. In particular, they often use the Repressor pattern of the Rhino chassis, which has an extended transport bay with additional firing slits for riot suppression. They are especially fond of these because the wide surfaces and heavy armor make it an excellent mobile blockade.
- By-the-Book Cop — Arbites are selected very carefully for those who will take their duty extremely seriously, many of them coming from the same Schola Progenium programs that train Commissars and Storm Troopers. One who goes Cowboy Cop on them will find themselves hauled before a panel of their comrades to answer for their behavior.
- Carry a Big Stick — Power Mauls are common weapons for Arbiters to be equipped with, taking the form of large truncheons. They care a power field generator with adjustable power settings. At low levels, they function as a Stun Stick, while at higher levels they can shatter armor under impact.
- Expy — The Arbites were clearly heavily inspired by Judge Dredd, almost to the point of being Sincerest Form of Flattery.
- Heavily Armored Mook — The Arbites tend to wear carapace armor, which is about the best purely physical protection the Imperium can provide short of Powered Armor. Among the Imperial Guard, this armor is restricted to only heavy infantry or elite forces, but the Arbites mission scope requires them to be more survivable and put their own equipment at less risk anyhow.
- Judge, Jury, and Executioner — On an institutional level, the Arbites are charged to hand out justice without being accountable to other local agencies, though they are expected to do so only within the strictest interpretation of law and precedent. For the most part though, these roles are divided up members of the organization, being the role of "Arbiters" to bring in suspects and "Judges" to sentence them.
- Jurisdiction Friction — Happens very infrequently, if only because the Arbites automatically override local jurisdictions, and few would dare challenge them on that. That said, it is often inverted in that Arbites are not charged to investigate lesser crimes, and it often takes pleading on the part of the local enforcement agencies to get the Arbites involved in the first place if they can be convinced that the crimes are sufficiently disruptive to the normal flow of business.
- Non-Lethal Warfare — While they are willing to use deadly force, their mission typically involves battering down agitating elements rather than killing them outright. Not that this makes their employment any more family-friendly, said non-lethal warfare typically involves lots of clubbing, shocking, broken bones, and chemical-burned mucus membranes.
- Police Brutality — The Lex Imperialis overrides any local law, which means that if an Arbiter has accused you of a crime, you have no rights. Incidentally, obstructing Arbiters fulfilling their duty is a crime, stay the heck out of their way. "Always err on the side of harshness," is sanctioned policy, after all...
- Robot Dog — Cyber-Mastiffs, a kind of servitor made from canines. They are used to help Arbiters hunt down hiding criminals, where their robotic components make them more reliable, more durable, and better trackers than their purely organic counterparts.
- Shield Bash — Arbiters often wield suppression shields for this very purpose. In addition to functioning as personal protection, the suppression shield contains an electrical discharge unit that can incapacitate anything struck by (or striking) it.
- State Sec — To a lesser degree, but greater visibility, than the Inquisition. Each precinct house is equipped to fight a small war, with vehicles, weapons, and houses Arbiters to use them. They even have a few of their own space ships, though these are (relatively) small patrol cruisers used for things like customs enforcement.
When passing sentence, always err to the side of harshness. Remember: there is no such thing as innocence, only degrees of guilt.State Sec
with a side of Church Militant
, Inquisitors are some of the most powerful individuals in the Imperium, working behinds the scenes to keep everything from going (further) to Hell. They can command civil authorities, the Imperial Guard, the Navy, agents of the Officio Assassinorum, even the Astartes (though they are wise enough to tread carefully in the last case, usually requesting
their help instead of just ordering
them around). They have the power of Judge, Jury, and Executioner
over individuals or whole worlds
. They are fully competent in the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique
, using any method possible to root out the Imperium's enemies, though their readiness to use the "Nine Actions" varies greatly. Though presented as a unified if extremely intimidating front to the Imperium at large, in reality the Inquisition is a hotbed of backstabbing and intrigue, as patient detectives rub shoulders with frothing religious zealots, Puritans hunt Radicals foolish enough to try and turn the weapons of the enemy against them, and a variety of philosophical outlooks struggle amongst themselves for dominance.
Inquisitors fall mostly into three orders, each with a specific preferred enemy and a Chamber Militant best suited for fighting that enemy.
- The Ordo Hereticus, or Witch Hunters, fight heresy against the Imperial faith and hunt mutants and unlicensed psykers. Originally established to police the Ecclesiarchy, they are closely associated with the Adepta Sororitas, or Sisters of Battle, warrior nuns armed and armoured almost as well as the Space Marines, and typically spearhead Sororitas forces. The Battle Sisters are the military force of the Ecclesiarchy, formed to get around a ban on the Church fielding "men under arms". Psykers are banned from their ranks, but they can tactically invoke minor miracles. They loooove flamethrowers.
- The Ordo Malleus, or Daemonhunters, fight Chaos directly, and work with the Grey Knights, Chapter 666 of the Adeptus Astartes, the people even normal Space Marines consider Bad Ass in comparison, with holy armour and sanctified psychic weapons.
- The Ordo Xenos, the Alien Hunters, still haven't received a codex. They are more scholarly than the other orders, studying alien races for weaknesses and undermining and destroying those that present a threat to the Imperium. This doesn't remove their secret-police role, as they often investigate and stop alien political and religious influence on the fringes of Imperial space. Their military backup is the Deathwatch, a force consisting of Space Marines from various chapters who are especially adept and/or experienced at battling xenos. Now they have a game of their own!
Notable Inquisitorial tropes:
- Authority Equals Asskicking — "By the authority invested in me by the God-Emperor of Mankind..."
- Badass Longcoat — Favored by the Witch Hunters in particular.
- Because ≡I≡ Said So: If Inquisitors have good cause, they can demand service from anyone, from a lowly citizen to a High Lord of Terra. The only people officially exempt from this are the Adeptes Custodes, the people guarding the Emperor on the Golden Throne. In practice, though, most Inquisitors are usually smart enough to say please when they require service from the Space Marines. Those who don't...well, there was nothing in their head anyway, so removing it wouldn't really be such a bad thing. This quote from the Daemonhunters codex puts it simply:
"I carry with me an Inquisitorial Seal. It is a small, unassuming object contained in a neat box of Pluvian obsidian. It is a modest thing. Relatively plain, adorned with a single motif and a simple motto. Yet with this little object I can sign the death warrant of an entire world and consign a billion souls to Oblivion."
- Black and White Insanity — Monodominants. Not that the less ultra-Puritan types are necessarily paragons of rationality, but the Monodominants would do away with all psykers and mutants, including the Astropaths and Navigators that allow the Imperium to function.
- Boxed Crook — A common background for Inquisitorial retinue members. Some intrepid Radicals employ boxed Daemons.
- Burn the Witch! — Oh, my, yes. Some particularly Knight Templar Inquisitors are infamous for having ordered entire planets burned.
- Church Militant — In a nutshell.
- Cold-Blooded Torture — Occasionally used, but much less often than Inquisitorial reputation would suggest, as information extracted under such duress is often of questionable reliability. Typically, it's easier just to have a psychic interrogator forcefully extract the information from the subject's mind.
- Drop the Hammer — Daemonhammers are consecrated warhammers that are especially potent against Warp-spawn. They are favored by agents of the Ordo Malleus, which translates to Order of the Hammer.
- Enhanced Interrogation Techniques — The "Nine Actions", nine stages of intensity used in interrogating suspects. The farther you go down, the more brutal the interrogation.
- Perp Sweating: The First Action involves simple verbal interrogation of the suspect, with no particular duress...directly by the Inquisitor him/herself, instead of through a proxy. Their fearsome reputation is often enough to get most to spill the beans.
- To the Pain: The Second Action involves explaining in meticulous, worrying detail what the next seven Actions will involve, though the interrogator might share more or less depending on how much pressure is needed. This is often enough to get captives to cooperate.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: The Third Action is more verbal interrogation, punctuated by "light" physical coercion, such as striking the subject.
- Virtual Reality Interrogation: The Forth Action is continued physical torture, combined with psychological manipulation such as a Jedi Mind Trick, Faked Rip Van Winkle scenario, and other options.
- Mind Probe: The Fifth Action involves a psyker delving into the surface thoughts of the suspect, as further questioning and possible torture is going on. This helps to expose that they may still be hiding something or are telling a lie.
- Sense Loss Sadness: The Sixth Action is sensory deprivation and physical isolation. This gives the suspect time to think and consider, while the interrogators secretly monitor them.
- Mind Rape: The Seventh Action involves intensive psychic probing of the suspect's mind. This is often quite painful on a fundamental level, and the suspect may not necessarily survive.
- Truth Serums: The Eighth Action involves chemical assistance in an interrogation, allowing a suspect to be more conducive to verbal interrogation and psychic probes.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: It's implied that by the time the Ninth Action is reached, the Inquisitor(s) have given up trying to get intel or admittance of sin, and simply want the subject to suffer a horrific, weeks-long death.
- Evil Is Not a Toy — The Xanthite faction, a Radical faction, holds that the best way to defeat Chaos is to use Chaotic artifacts and bound daemonhosts against it. A lot of them (but not all) end up getting killed by said artifacts and daemons.
- Fate Worse Than Death — Some heretics or blasphemers may be ordered to undergo the rites of Arco-Flagellation as an extreme act of repentance. This involves lopping off the condemned's hands and replacing them with power flails or other nasty weapons, sticking the guy's back full of combat drug dispensers, and lots of mental conditioning. The result is a wasted, wiry cyborg who wears a hood displaying calming religious images, but with the right command word the visor retracts, the stim-packs activate, and the former heretic goes berserk.
- Government Conspiracy — Expect the Inquisition to be in on several, unless they are investigating one. Of course, those two states are not mutually exclusive.
- Great Big Book of Everything — The Inquisition has an extensive library of banned, heretical, and downright dangerous musty tomes.
- He Knows Too Much — Inquisitors are known for requisitioning Imperial Guard regiments, and sometimes ordering the grunts killed after being exposed to whatever it was they were called on to help deal with.
- Though they're pretty cautious about doing this when Space Wolves are within earshot.
- He Who Fights Monsters — Most Radical Inquisitors were once Puritans who later succumbed to pragmatism, using Daemonhosts and other Chaos-tainted means to fight Daemons. These Inquisitors almost always meet their end at the blade of a Grey Knight, having become the very thing they vowed to purge...if they're not destroyed by their own tools first.
- Heroic Willpower — A prerequisite for being an Inquisitor. Given the sanity-blasting horrors they must face, the awful truths they must confront, and the extreme measures they may be called upon to perform, it's necessary that they be able to carry on with absolute faith and conviction in their cause. Of course, this is also what tends to reinforce their Knight Templar tendencies as well.
- The Inquisitor General — Despite having such as an almost literal rank, this is not the primary role of the Inquisition. That said, it often falls under their umbrella of responsibility. An Inquisitor's job is to suspect everyone of heresy, and the more influential the person in question the more Inquisitorial scrutiny they will be under. This includes planetary governors, rogue traders, major military leaders, and other Inquisitors.
- Inspector Javert — The less unstable and pugnacious Inquisitors sometimes end up in this role, pitted against the rare well-intentioned rebels like the Soul Drinkers, or more often Imperial servants with conflicting orders.
- Judge, Jury, and Executioner — The Inquisition's motto is "Innocence Proves Nothing." And few dare question if an Inquisitor decides someone is just guilty enough for a dangerous but high-paying retinue position, a Fate Worse Than Death, or a simple bolt round to the head.
- Jumping Off the Slippery Slope — Occupational hazard for any enforcer with a blank check, but far more common than betrayal or simple abuse of power as a villainous Inquisitor's Start of Darkness.
- Also the reason for the saying "Every Inquisitor starts off a puritan and becomes a radical." The idea being that the more an Inquisitor learns about the nature of the universe, the more sacrifices they have to make to secure the Imperium, the more compromises they make to get what they need, the more radical they become. A big source of Right Hand Versus Left Hand in the Inquisition is disagreements about where the edge of that slope is, and how far down it is too far.
- Kangaroo Court — Inquisitors (especially Puritans) are notorious for organizing these, although many don't even bother with going through the motions of a trial. When they do form one though, the purpose is not to determine innocence or guilt ("Innocence Proves Nothing" after all) but to make a grand and obvious show for the rest of the population so they know what to expect should they too walk down the path of heresy.
- Kill It with Fire — "Burn the Heretic, Kill the Mutant, Purge the Unclean."
- The Mole — The more extremist Radical factions often have agendas that either run directly contrary to official Imperium policy or seriously undermine its security (or both). These sorts include the Recongregators and the Isstvanians, who deliberately act to stir up trouble and undermine the government; the Polypsykana, who believe that psykers are the next phase in human evolution and not only run underground railroads to protect them but also operate Super Breeding Programs to make more of them; the Seculos Attendous, who work to destroy the Ecclesiarchy; and the Phaenonites, who actively work to destroy the rest of the Inquisition and overthrow the Adeptus Terra so they can take over (among other nasty things they like to do).
- Mutant Draft Board — The Inquisition is directly in charge of the "Black Ships" which round up psykers from different worlds and return them to Earth. They also subject the collected psykers to a variety of tests and trials during this time. Those found to have enough self-control to be useful will be trained by the Scholastia Psykana for Imperial service. Those who do not will be used to fuel the Astronomican and Golden Throne. The Inquisition gets first pick of the successful graduates, so while pskyers are rare in Imperial service in general they are relatively common in the Inquisition itself, with many eventually becoming full Inquisitors themselves.
- Nice Hat — Inquisitors of the Ordo Hereticus are often show wearing rather Bad Ass-looking capotains, in addition to Badass Longcoats.
- No Kill Like Overkill — The Inquisition will go to any extreme to ensure that threats to the Imperium are defeated, up to and including killing untold billions of innocents by subjecting the planet in question to Exterminatus.
- Omnicidal Maniac:
- The Monodominants, a Puritan faction, which maintains that the only way humanity can survive is to wipe out everything that isn't human. While this isn't an unreasonable idea given what is lurking in the galaxy, the Monodominants take it a bit further than necessary, up to and including the psykers and mutants that the Imperium needs to continue functioning.
- More extreme elements of the Recongregationists, a Radical faction, take this one step further. They include the moderate factions, the other Radical factions, the Ecclesiarchy, most of the Cult Mechanicus, the Arbites etc... The Departmento Munitorium, Officio Assassinorum and Adeptus Astartes are just about the only things they don't want dead, although they would like to "streamline" these groups.
- Only Sane Employee:
- Inquisitor Amberly Vail of Ciaphas Cain fame shows noticeable self-awareness about the Inquisition's lack of...restraint in discharging their duties.
- On a larger level, the Amalathians, a Puritan faction, attempt to keep the established structure of the Imperium running as well as possible, rather than seeking change or trying to impose a draconian standard of purity. You'd think a group that believes the Imperium at present is perfect would be off their rocker, but they actually encourage cooperation, instead of the bureaucratic infighting so common with the Imperium.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits — The members of an Inquisitorial entourage will be...interesting, to say the least.
- Reincarnation — The premise of the Thorians, a Puritan faction, who believe that the best way to save the Imperium is to bring about the reincarnation of the Emperor of Mankind.
- Right Hand Versus Left Hand — You've got your standard turf wars between the three Ordos; open violence between Radicals and Puritans; wrangling between the Thorians, Amalthians, and Monodominants; and battles by proxy between Inquisitors who don't know that they're working on the same case.
- Supplemental materials indicate that this is actually something of a check and balance on Inquisitorial power. The power Inquisitors wield makes them necessarily accountable to other Inquisitors, with the infighting, or simple potential for infighting, forcing them to use a degree of restraint in that authority, and keeping any one Inquisitor from acting unilaterally.
- Social Darwinist — Inqusitors of the radical Istivaanian school of thought believe that the Imperium grows stronger through conflict. If a particular sector of the Imperium has had it too easy, they might arrange a conflict to hit it, just to make sure it stays on its toes. In an lot of cases, they might set up a "crucible of fire" just to ensure that only the strong survive it. They will carefully observe such conflicts for potential strong candidates that they can groom for positions of influence to further strengthen the Imperium. That said, they prefer to keep such conflict limited and controllable. After all, their goal is to strengthen the Imperium, not batter it down.
- Stop Being Stereotypical — Other Inquisitors feel this way about Monodominants, but don't speak up too loudly about it because the fear the Monodominants create with their excessive and indiscriminate tactics helps make their own jobs easier.
- Token Evil Teammate: — On a faction level. No one in the Imperium is squeaky clean, but if someone who should be an ally is going to oppose the protagonists of a 40K story or be too extreme for them, it will be an Inquisitor.
- Utopia Justifies the Means — The Radical Recongregator faction is defined by this, spending as much time plotting to reshape the Imperium, whether world-by-world or from the top down, as they do investigating threats. Their methods may range from involvement in political intrigues to fostering the same rebellions other Inquisitors are trying to prevent.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist — And this is one of the more pleasant ways to describe them.
- Within the context of the Inqusition itself, this is practically the definition of a "Radical", an Inqusitor who uses means to secure the Imperium that other Inqusitors would find questionable. There is a lot of room for Grey and Gray Morality in this. For example, a Radical Inqusitor might use Human Sacrifice to form a Daemonhost bound to them to eliminate a critical threat. This is obviously a break from mainline Imperial dogma and methods, but what if they alternative is purging the entire planet so-threatened? At this point, which approach is more "extreme" is a matter of some debate, in-universe.
- Witch Hunt — A standard tactic, particularly for Monodominants.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness — Overlaps with He Knows Too Much. It is very hard to simply retire from an Inquisitor's retinue.
Tropes specific to the Officio Assassinorum:
- Abnormal Ammo — The Vindicare assassins are equipped with a variety of specialized shells used in their Exitus weapons. Expensive and very rare, these shells are capable of one-shotting a tank, nullifying Deflector Shields, or injecting the target with a lethal neuro-toxin.
- Absurdly Sharp Blade — The C'tan Phase Weapons, used by the Callidus Assassins to cut through absolutely anything.
- Anti-Magic — The specialty of the Culexus.
- The Berserker — Eversors, who are pumped so full of performance-enhancing combat drugs that their bodies explode if the drug flow stops. Because these drugs enhance lethal aggression and cannot be shut off without killing the addicted assassin, putting them into cryo-stasis is necessary to keep them alive between deployments.
- Bloody Murder — This is the inevitable result of using Eversors.
- Brainwashed and Crazy — Some of the more... "volatile" Imperial assassins are subject to this, being mindwiped after every mission and having their next mission subliminally programmed into them while kept sedated. Eversors are a common example, though this is not necessarily limited to them.
- The Chessmaster — The Vanus Temple consists entirely of these. As one of their members said, 'the cleanest kill is one that another performs in your stead with no knowledge of your incitement'.
- Cold Sniper / Improbable Aiming Skills — Assassins of the Vindicare temple are expert marksmen and infiltrators, complete with special guns and ammunition allowing them to potentially one-shot a tank from kilometers away. They are currently the only units in the game that allows the player to pick the target (as oppose to letting the opponent or randomised methods).
- Master Poisoner — The specialty of the Venenum Temple.
- Our Souls Are Different — Culexus assassins are horrifying creatures that seem to lack a soul, thanks to the Pariah gene. Ordinary people find them quite disturbing, but the assassins are trained to prey on enemy psykers, who are especially sensitive to them. Their wargear fires what has been described as bolts of anti-soul.
- Shape Shifter — Callidus assassins have access to Polymorphine, allowing them to disguise themselves as a member of just about any race. They are employed to infiltrate enemy organizations, supply them with false intelligence or bad advice, and surgically remove the leadership. Occasionally leads to Kill and Replace.
- Spy Catsuit — The stereotypical garb of an Imperial Assassin is a layer of "synskin", a kind of semi-organic body sheath applied directly over the assassin's flesh. Multiple variations of it exist, some of which enhance strength, others of which have chameleon qualities, and some are capable of changing shape (along with the wearer).
- Taking You with Me — The Eversor assassins, in addition to their dangerously unstable cocktail of chemical enhancements, also have two-part explosive chemicals in their body. As long as their heart keeps circulating blood, the two parts will not come into contact, but once the Eversor is killed the blood stops circulating and the chemicals join, causing the assassin to explode and ensure that their target is killed even if the Eversor only survives long enough to get near the target.
Tropes specific to the Sisters of Battle:
See also Eisenhorn, Ravenor, Ravenor vs. Eisenhorn, Dark Heresy
- Amazon Brigade — The Sisters of Battle are basically Space Marines who make up for not having any kind of genetic enhancement with pure zeal.
- The Atoner — Comes in two forms:
- The most well known branch of the path of the penitent is the Sisters Repentia, who seek to atone for their own sins by charging into battle wearing nothing except purity seals, hoping for a redemptive death on the battlefield.
- A lesser known branch of the path of the penitent is that of the Sister Oblatia, a Sororitas who seeks to atone for the sins of another. She assumes another's sins as her ownnote , then leaves her sisters to Walk The Galaxy as a Knight Errant, seeking out and defeating the enemies of the Imperium so that those sins may be absolved in the eyes of the God Emperor.
- Celibate Hero: A popular image of the Sisters of Battle being that their are chaste warriors, cloistered together and fully devoted to the Emperor to the exclusion of anything else, including physical desire.
- Depending on the Writer: While that is the common image, Sandy Mitchell points out that though the Sisters are supposed to be above base desires, they do not technically take oaths of chastity, though the kind of lifestyle they keep typically precludes intimate relations and having one exposed would be considered an embarrassment. In his retirement Ciaphas Cain works alongside a senior Sister who drinks, gambles proficiently, and whom he discovered was involved with the schola progenium's bursar.
- Chainmail Bikini:
- Normal Sororitas infantry are a rare aversion, clad head to toe in Powered Armour, albeit often modeled closely on the figure underneath.
- Sisters Repentia play it straight, but only because they're not allowed to have armor.
- Chainsaw Good — Aside from their lack of clothing, Sisters Repentia are also known for carrying enormous chainswords into battle as their only weapons.
- Church Militant — The primary reason for the Sisters of Battle's existence, and one of the more blatant examples of this trope in a setting where it is almost ubiquitous. The reality is slightly more complex than that though, as not every Sororitas is necessarily a Battle Sister. In addition to the Orders Militant, there are the Orders Famulous, the Orders Dialogous, and the Orders Hospitaller. Regardless of vocation, each Sororitas is expected to draw strength and courage from her faith and lay down her life if need be in the Emperor's name.
- Exact Words — In a ruling that's either rather sloppily or very precisely worded, the Decree Passive bans the Ecclesiarchy from maintaining any men under arms. So, they raised an army of women: the Adeptus Sororitas.
- Expy — The Orders Famulous are terribly similar to the Bene Gesserit.
- Girl with Psycho Weapon — The Sisters Repentia.
- Kill It with Fire — Needs to be repeated.
- Leeroy Jenkins — Generally averted in works where they appear, although they tend to get this portrayal in the Ciaphas Cain books. Cain himself is of the opinion that the closest you can get Sororitas to follow any actual battle plan is to point at the enemy, yell "Heretic!" and get the heck out of the way.
- Macross Missile Massacre — The Exorcist is a combination tank, pipe organ, and multiple missile launcher. It fires as a Battle Sister plays a keyboard on top of it.
- Of Corsets Sexy — Played with. While not an actual corset, the front torso plates of Sororitas powered armor are designed to resemble a metallic bustier, drawing on the trope's imagery to give the impression of the female form while still providing fully covering protection. Given the reasons for the Sororitas' existence, projecting the image of female warriors by the shape of their Powered Armor could be quite justified for reasons of doctrinal adherence.
- Powered Armor — Along with the Space Marines, the Sisters of Battle are one of the few forces in Imperial service to equip their standard infantry with powered armor, offering them substantially more protection than most other human forces.
- Singing Warrior — Sisters of Battle are well known for singing during battle, loudly enough to be heard over the chaotic din. They all sing Imperial hymnals in unison, often timing their shots with the song such that their bolters themselves form an instrumental backup to their lyrics. Needless to say, the sound of the Sisters chanting during a firefight has a huge positive effect on the morale of other Imperial forces in earshot.
- Warrior Nuns — They do not have the Fan Nickname "Nuns with Guns" for nothing.
- Whip It Good — Sisters of Battle "Mistresses" lead squads of Sister Repentia, driving them along with whips.
- White Magic — The Sisters are known for performing Acts of Faith on the battlefield, optimistically a sign of the Emperor's favor, pessimistically a form of psychic witchcraft.
The Adeptus Mechanicus
In ancient times, men built wonders, laid claim to the stars and sought to better themselves for the good of all. But we are much wiser now.
Mankind's golden age is long past, and many of its technological secrets have been lost. When the Emperor was reuniting humanity, he found on Mars a strange priesthood devoted to the preservation of what knowledge remained. This Adeptus Mechanicus became a vital part of the Imperium, providing technical expertise, planet-wide factories known as Forge Worlds that produce everything from lasguns to civilian goods, and incredible weapons such as the Titan Legions
. They are theoretically subordinate to the Imperium, and their highest-ranking member is one of the twelve High Lords of Terra, but the Machine Cult has its own specialized army, the Skitarii, and run the aforementioned Titan Legions, standing slightly apart from the Imperium of Man despite propping it up.
The Adeptus Mechanicus are not just humanity's last source of technological knowledge; they actively worship machinery, and venerate the Emperor as an aspect of an entity they call the Omnissiah. They believe that all devices have a "machine spirit" that must be placated in order for it to function properly, and therefore the Machine Cult's maintenance rituals involve a lot of incense, sacred oils, and chanting. This is a bunch of ignorant superstition that should have no effect on how devices function... but nonetheless, it seems to help
. They also hold that for humans to perfect themselves they must take on more aspects of the machine, and therefore undergo voluntary cybernetic "upgrades," be they mechadendrites or other artificial limbs, or replacing the illogical half of their brain with a computer. Calling a Techpriest "more machine than man" is a compliment, and most Imperial citizens find the Priesthood of Mars hard to relate to, yet necessary.
While gifted mechanics and craftsmen, Adeptus Mechanicus orthodoxy holds that all technological advances have already been discovered, and they therefore place more emphasis on reverse-engineering or recovering old knowledge than they do on experimentation or upgrades. Thus, the Adeptus Mechanicus has kept mankind's technology working for ten thousand years, but has made little to no technological progress in that time. In fact, they have actually regressed, making some starships or weapons or other devices irreplaceable because the Tech-Priests don't know how to build them any more. They are a parallel to medieval craftsman's guilds in the way they preserve skill but quash innovation with a monopoly on technology. The Adeptus Mechanicus has no official tabletop army, but their influence is felt in the form of Tech-Priest Enginseers in the Imperial Guard, or the Techmarines of the Adeptus Astartes. The Titan Legions do make an appearance in the form of Forge World (the company) produced Titan models, which can be used in Apocalypse games.
Notable Adeptus Mechanicus tropes:
- Admiring the Abomination — Techpriests have a bad tendency in the fluff to get really worked up over Necron tombs, and will abandon all semblance of sense to poke and prod at what should, at best, be nuked from orbit. This almost always gets them in big trouble, and by extension anyone they're working with.
- Age Without Youth — Techpriests can be very old indeed; they tend to prefer methods of their own to the juvenat treatments used by nobles and other important figures. These methods preserve life without such niceties as removing the appearance of extreme age.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot — At some point in the distant past humanity dealt with a robot uprising, and therefore the Imperium operates under a strict ban on artificial intelligences.
- An Axe to Grind / Blade on a Stick — A common melee weapon of the Adeptus Mechanicus is that of a long-handled, halberd-like power-axe with an edged blade on one side, and a half-cogwheel emblem on the other. Such things are considered badges of office, and are a sign that the tech-priest is favored by their superiors.
- Belief Makes You Stupid — The cause of the Technological Stasis.
- Bio-Augmentation — "Organicists" is the name given to a school of thought within the Adeptus Mechanicus that gives the same value to organic life that they do to inorganic construction. They see an organic body as its own kind of machine, taking in fuel, producing waste, and generating action like any constructed device. Much like their fellows though, they are not content to exist unaugmented, and seek to improve their bodies to become closer to the Omnissiah. The difference being that they are much more willing to graft engineered organs and other biological components to themselves in addition to more "normal" mechanical enhancements.
- Brain in a Jar — After the rebellion of the Iron Men, the Emperor decreed that Artificial Intelligence was Abominable Intelligence and forbidden from study. To get around this, the Mechanicus created machine spirits and servitors, using the brains of dead individuals to serve as a CPU for more advanced hardware like Automatons, shipboard computers and pretty much anywhere where an actual CPU could be used. This is allowed because it still has the machine dependent on the Holy Human Form.
- Whether an AI that emerges unintentionally from the development of one or more systems is "abominable" or holy is yet another matter of internal division.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer — By and large, they are good engineers despite everything. They do understand a significant fraction of their devices, and always strive to learn more—but this doesn't demystify anything, it simply brings them closer to union with the holy Omnissiah.
- Cargo Cult — The AdMech's worship of technology is completely literal, and they attend their machines with prayers as much as with tools.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience — Red clothing is an almost ubiquitous identifier of devotees of the Machine God, in deference to the world on which their order originated.
- Clark's Third Law — Played straight, and integrated into their background. Technology achieved full Clark's-Third levels during the Dark Age of Technology, and most of that know-how has been lost to time since. Hence, the highest levels of technology for the Imperium is seen as magical by Imperial society, including the tech-priests themselves.
- Religion Is Magic — In full force here, going along with the "magic" in question being indistinguishable from sufficiently advanced technology. The devotees of the Machine God even consider the theoretical principles on which their technology is based to be a form of theology.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander — Members of the Adeptus Mechanicus that are relatively friendly tend to be...quirky at best.
- Combat Tentacles — One of the more common enhancements is the mechadendrite, a long, flexible extra limb that is intended for delicate mechanical work, but is frighteningly handy in a fight.
- Companion Cube — Well, who hasn't resorted to pleading and begging when dealing with a computer at some point? The Adeptus Mechanicus are simply the (il)logical culmination of such desperation.
- Corrupt Church — The techpriests frequently apply For Science!, and their cult holds a great deal of power in the Imperium. Most do genuinely think of the progress such applications can do.
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul — Subverted. As a techpriest advances in the ranks, he usually replaces more and more of his "weak flesh" with augmetics, at the same time as his mind draws farther away from normal human concerns. Some even replace half their brain with a computer, in order to approach the Omnissiah's perfect reason. But it is not the cybernetics that do the soul eating, but the Tech-Priests' beliefs.
- It should be noted that the "replace-half-the-brain-with-a-computer" augmentation does fit the trope rather nicely, since it effectively makes the Tech-Priest in question a work-driven, emotionless sociopath. It should also be noted that their fellow Tech-Preists—who would gladly lop off a limb if they could replace it with a slightly more efficient mechanical prosthetic—find this procedure a little extreme.
- Empire With A Dark Secret — It is heavily implied that the Tech-Priests may be worshipping the C'Tan known as the Void Dragon, who is possibly imprisoned on Mars.
- The Emperor arranged things so their designs and beliefs were inspired by the Dragon without ever really focusing on it.
- Eternal Engine — Mechanicus standard for interior (and exterior) decor. Wall-to-wall gears and electronics, only broken by the odd devotional shrine. The longer-established Forge Worlds are nothing but.
- Evil Counterpart: The Dark Mechanicus, which worships the Omnissiah as a form of Chaos Undivided and supplied arms and technical expertise to the Traitor Legions both before and after the Horus Heresy.
- There have also been references to other Heretek groups who don't worship Chaos but have rejected being part of the Imperium, finding it too stifling.
- For Science! — The Machine Cult will do anything to find an STC or understand an ancient device.
- Except, usually, take it apart to reverse engineer it. Partly because it would be heresy and offensive to the machine spirit, partly because they could not guarantee that they could put it back together, and partly because creativity unbound by exacting procedure opens up one's mind for Daemons. Anything sufficiently old and awesome is normally subjected to endless tests of function and non-invasive scans, making Mechanicus reverse-engineering nearly as slow as their acceptance of new designs.
- Genius Bruiser:
- Techmarines combine the muscle and training of a standard-issue Space Marine with a number of tools that double as weapons and the best technology they can bring to bear. They're actually one of the most formidable units in the army list!
- There are also Techpriests dedicated to the art of war known as Secutors.
- Humongous Mecha — Their God-Machines of the Titan Legions. They are operated and maintained by a sub-faction called the Adeptus Mechanicus Collegia Titanica, or simply "Adeptus Titanicus".
- In the Hood — The standard outfit for priests of the Machine God is a hooded red robe. If a tech-priest expects to go into battle, they will usually don an armored suit, and trade their robe in for a hooded red cloak that allows them a bit more freedom of movement.
- MacGuffin — The second-biggest prize for the Tech-Priests is a Standard Template Construct, one of many designs dating back from the Dark Age of Technology that were made to be as adaptable and robust as possible, using technology long since lost to man. The biggest would be a Standard Template Constructor, an automated factory and technical library that can build or describe any of them. So far, all they have found are partial, damaged ones that can only create one or a few — and even these are worth more than whole star systems. Just one example: in First And Only, one of the characters describes the discovery of an STC fragment for making knives as a prize beyond reckoning, and every one in the group of Guard scouts that found it was given their own planet, or so the story went.
- Machine Worship — The group that inspired the trope.
- Mad Scientist — Some Tech-Priests rather lose their perspective in seeking ancient technology or pursuing the Omnissiah's thoughts in the workings of technology and the universe.
- Mecha-Mooks — Though rare after the various Retcons over the course of First Edition, the Mechanicum still has the "Legio Cybernetica", squads of brainless-but-tough robots (or full-conversion servitors, Depending on the Writer) each commanded by a single Techpriest.
- They make a comeback within the Horus Heresy series, although it's shown that the better part of the Legio Cybernetica sided with the Traitor Legions.
- Medieval Stasis — The Adeptus Mechanicus' beliefs have mostly ensured this for the Imperium. There is some innovation, but very slowly...
- Neural Implanting — Some of the sacred implants of the Omnissiah are cogitator databases hooked directly into the brain (sometimes removing "useless" portions of the brain to make room) which contain information on how to build some of their most advanced technology. There is some speculation that this is what enables the Tech-Priests to build very complex technology without actually understanding the principles on which it works, the implants containing information on how to construct something without explaining the why of it.
- It is worth noting that this was absolutely true of all tech-priests in the early era of the game, where low-ranking members were directly implanted with the procedures they needed. New editions have since Retconed this sort of implant to be restricted mostly to high-ranking Tech-Priests, actually authorised to design and research, for whom it is no substitute but rather an extra advantage. The more novice tech-priests must build their technology through rote memorization taught to them by their superiors, with all the religious pomp and circumstance their construction is known for. The knowledge-bearing sacred implants are only gifted once a tech-priest has been properly indoctrinated against potential misuse of the Omnissiah's secrets.
- No, Except Yes — When a Techpriest develops a new design, he is not using his corruptible human creativity, he is using divinely inspired reason to extrapolate it from existing devices and the inherent order in the universe.
- New Technology Is Evil — Because everything worth discovering was done so thousands of years ago, or has always existed logically implicit in the universe, to be discovered by inspired reason rather than be invented by merely human creativity, more along the lines of New Technology Is Impossible.
- Somewhat justified as it is possible for daemons to posses not only humans but also machines. Possession can occur through symbols of any kind. (Think your new fancy microchip design is awesome because it makes the Lasgun fire more accurate? Too bad the circuits form a pattern that has just attracted a Khornate daemon. Say hello to your new possessed Lasgun.)
- Chaos forces directly state that to summon and bind a demon to a weapon, quite complicated rituals and massive human sacrifices are required. Therefore, all said above may be Imperial propaganda aimed to keep the monopoly on the technology in one hands—or it may simply harder to empower a weapon than simply corrupt it.
- There are arguments about this, with the Adeptus Mechanicus being divided into camps fighting over whether to dedicate their resources to innovation or finding STCs.
- And in recent books by Black Library, the Mechanicus is suddenly pouring out newly discovered and developed weapons and technology. Must have something to do with Hive Fleet Leviathan or the 13th Black Crusade rampaging through the galaxy at the end of the millennium.
- Obfuscating Stupidity — The Mechanicus has legitimately lost lots of valuable STC data, but some writers have implied that they have more than they're letting on.
- The Red Planet — Mars is the capital of the organization, and one of the most developed planets (i.e. covered in factories and hive spires) in the Imperium. It is second in importance only to Terra itself.
- Redshirt Army — Forge Worlds have their own local equivalent of a Planetary Defense Force or Imperial Guard regiment known as the Skitarii Tech Guard. They often wear red uniforms as a symbol of their allegiance to the Adeptus Mechanicus. They are exempted from normal tithing practices for the Imperial Guard, as Forge Worlds contribute tithes of a different kind, but they often accompany Mechanicus Explorator fleets, or act as infantry and tank support for Titan Legions. Due to their close relationship with the Mechanicus, they are more likely to have augmetic enhancements and high-tech weaponry than the Imperial Guard, but exact practices and equipment varies between regiments.
- Right Hand Versus Left Hand — If you think academic politics are bad now, just wait a few millennia and it will get worse. The Mechanicus fight and scheme against each other almost as much as the Inquisition, for various reasons—the "invention is evil" versus "invention is discovery" positions above, various more abstruse disputes, and simple struggles over prestige and promotion.
- Robo Speak:
- This is generally true of servitors and other communicative Wetware CPU devices created by the Adeptus Mechanicus.
- Techpriests can approach this after heavy augmentation eventually replaces their voice box and much of their brain, but they are still human (in a manner of speaking) beneath it all, and as such they tend to fall into Spock Speak with a Creepy Monotone.
- Techno Babble — Techpriests tend to do this...a lot.
- Technopath — They only think they are, but sometimes it becomes true. With enough chanting, they can make Percussive Maintenance or an insane bodge job work when there's no way in hell it should, and some Techpriests are masters of "intuitive maintenance", diagnosing malfunctions by sound and touch and comforting the machine-spirit with nearly imperceptible adjustments.
- Techno Wizard — With emphasis on "Techno." And "Wizard" too.
- Two Beings, One Body: This is how operating a Titan works. The princeps, acting as the pilot, along with two or more moderatii, operators who control subsystems (such as weapons), physically link themselves with the Titan's systems, and operate the Titan as one. The princeps interacts directly with the Titan's machine spirit and must have extremely strong willpower in order to maintain control, and their sanity.
- Unwilling Roboticisation — Depending on the Writer, some servitors are created by growing artificial lifeforms which are then grafted with mechanical components to form a completely artificial cyborg. However, it is also a common fate for those who have sinned against the Machine God to be condemned to be made into servitors themselves, their cadaver repurposed and re-animated with mechanical components.
- Warrior Monk — Secutors are tech-priests who focus on the destructive potential of the Machine God, manufacturing and wielding some of the most potent of the Adeptus Mechanicus' weaponry, and further augmenting themselves to enhance their combat abilities, becoming vessels for the Omnissiah's wrath.
- Wave Motion Gun — The Ordinatii of divisio reductor are some of the biggest guns in the galaxy.
- Weirdness Coupon — The Adeptus Mechanicus disdain the holy human body, altering it both cybernetically and biologically at will. They belong to the Imperial Faith only on the slimmest of technicalities, and some make an open secret that they don't even make that effort, preferring to see the Omnissiah as a separate and older divinity than the Emperor. Most suspiciously of all, they pursue knowledge on secretive quests under a regime that adores blind faith and unthinking loyalty. Yet, while some members run foul of the Inquisition, Ecclesiarchy, or Administratum in ways that range from embarrassing to deadly, by and large they are left alone as powerful if not respected members of the Imperial order. De facto, they are simply necessary no matter how evil a zealot may think they are. De jure, they are only joined to the Imperium of Mankind by a personal union, sworn to the Emperor's service separately from the Adeptus Terra that run everything else, and subject to it only on secondment.
- Within the Adeptus Mechanicus, eccentricities tend to increase with rank, although human failings like drug use and family attachments are surefire ways not to achieve higher ranks. Beyond this, a well-connected Techpriest of sufficient status is unlikely to be convicted of tech-heresy for anything done while developing anything sufficiently useful, and may well be cleared of an existing conviction that sent him fleeing to work in the far corners of the galaxy.
- Wetware CPU — To get around the ban on advanced computers or robotics, the Adeptus Mechanicus creates servitors, which are either criminals or vat-grown humans who have their brains replaced with "bio-programming" and useful cybernetic upgrades such as tools or weapon systems grafted to their bodies. In extreme cases, servitors are wired into networks directly, forming the fleshy core of a computer system. Basically slaves, they are hopefully not sentient.
- We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future — The Schizo Tech resulting from all this lost technology leads to ships with warp engines and force fields requiring slave labor to manually reload cannons the size of office buildings.
Mutants and Abhumans
Twisted flesh, twisted soul.
The Imperium does not simply worship the Emperor, but also the holy human form. Part of the Imperium's Manifest Destiny
states that humanity has a right to rule the galaxy. However, the simple fact is that after thousands of years on other worlds, various human populations have evolved into different types of humans. These are referred to as Abhumans or Mutants, variously; Abhumans are fairly minor, stable strains of mutation that are effectively the result of natural evolution caused by different environments, while Mutants are far more bizarre in form and stem from the wide variety of genetic degeneratives at loose in the galaxy at large — radiation, genetic warfare, toxic chemicals, et cetera
. While the Imperium officially disdains them, some are useful or even necessary. In the time of the Emperor, the view of Abhumans and Mutants was more lenient, but after ten thousand years, the Imperium has taken a more draconian approach.
In the background, the most important of mutants are the Navigators, families who were genetically engineered in the distant past to navigate the Warp with psychic powers. Collectively, they form the Navis Nobilite, wealthy families who are necessary for the Imperium to survive. On the tabletop, certain Abhumans are useful to the Imperial Guard for specialist skills. Mutants, in the background and to an extent on the tabletop, are typically executed on sight for their genetic damage or kept as slaves — as a result, they are eager worshipers of Chaos, aided by the fact that Chaos tends to both cause mutation in its followers and treats those bearing mutations as being blessed by the Gods.
One particular abhuman faction that has caused some controversy is the Squats. The Squats were a race of abhumans that had adapted to subterranean life on high-gravity worlds near the galactic core. Separated from mainline humanity for tens of millenia, they grew shorter and, well, squatter, eventually coming to resemble the traditional fantasy dwarf in both appearance and temperament. Due to the difficulty of living on barren planets with radioactive surface conditions, the Squats developed extremely reliable food production systems, armor, and other technology, but also had a fatalistic attitude toward life. Over time, they made contact with the Orks and Eldar and gained a reputation for their high-quality tech, shrewd business dealings, and potent military defense. Eventually they were rediscovered by and reabsorbed into the Imperium, as their tech fascinated the Adeptus Mechanicus and made them a welcome addition to the Imperial armed forces, but they maintained a high degree of autonomy.
As a game faction, the Squats were never popular, nor did they fit very well in the increasingly Grim Dark
setting. They were included back in the days when 40K
was a transparent In Space
version of Warhammer
and every race in the latter had to appear in the former, but as the setting matured the Squats felt more and more out of place. Game designers never really decided on a "tone" for the army, and depictions of them wavered between goofy space dwarfs and miniature biker dudes. In 1994, they were discontinued with the explanation that the newly arrived Tyranids had descended upon their Homeworlds and stripped them clean of all life (like they do). A handful of embittered Squats still survive spread across the vast Imperium, but as a faction they are absolutely, positively never coming back. In fact, it's Games Workshop's official position that they won't even be mentioned
, although this policy has relaxed enough that the reprinted edition of Space Marine lists an encounter with Squats in the novel summary, and the 6th edition rulebook's appendices actually lists Squats as one of the handful of surviving abhuman strains.
Though the Squats are extremely
dead, the "space dwarf" concept itself may be in for a comeback. Games Workshop has introduced a race called the Demiurg as a member species of the Tau Empire
in the 40K
spinoff Battlefleet Gothic
, a species that practically never leaves their rugged Stronghold
-class starships, makes a living as deep-space miners
, are technologically-advanced enough to introduce ion cannon technology to the Tau, and closely resembles the Squats to boot. At the moment the only Demiurg models created have been for Gothic
, where they are the only faction said to be too small and isolationary to field actual fleets, and there are no plans to make a tabletop army for them, but only Tzeentch knows what the future holds...
General Abhuman and Mutant tropes
- The Atoner: Beastmen who followed the Imperial Cult were ruthless in purging the Emperor's enemies as penance for the "sin" of mutating.
- Body Horror: Generic mutants. Even those who haven't been touched by Chaos can sport all manner of strange and unnatural features, including but not limited to: extra eyes/mouths/limbs, rotting flesh, atrophied bodyparts, unnaturally swollen musculature, oversized bodyparts, scales, fur, fangs, claws, slime-oozing skin, blisters and warts, tentacles... Essentially, a mutant is living Body Horror and may or may not have Lovecraftian Superpowers as a result of it.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Originally, many Abhumans were transplants from Warhammer, but as time went on, they stopped being updated or even mentioned. The Squats are the most famous example of this, though they get a rather nasty sendoff.
- Dumb Muscle: Increased size, strength and toughness at a cost of lowered intelligence is a fairly common mutation. Some, however, are bigger, stronger, and tougher than regular humans while being just as smart or smarter than humans.
- Extra Eyes: They're a common mutation, and can turn up in the strangest places.
- Fantastic Racism: The Imperium typically takes a very dim view of mutation from the accepted norm of the "Holy Human Form", though the degree to which a typical citizen subscribes to this will vary. One major reason for this is that mutation is often a sign that one is becoming corrupted by the Warp, potentially becoming a vessel for the Ruinous Powers. However, this hatred extends to those whose mutations are caused by more "mundane" sources, such as generations of exposure to radiation or industrial waste, leading to widespread hatred and distrust of all mutants. Since mutation can continue to appear generation after generation, killing all mutants tends to be impractical, so most are allowed to exist as an oppressed underclass, looked down upon by all.
- Abhumans are subraces of humans whose differences have manifested into stable genotypes, without the randomness seen as signs of corruption. They often suffer some prejudices related to their differences, but find a much better measure of acceptance, especially if those differences make them valuable to the Imperium in some way. Navigators in particular, while still somewhat feared, are also held in a degree of awe due to the absolutely essential role that they play in the Imperium.
- Heavy Worlder: How Ogryns and Squats came to be, even though they went in completely different directions.
Tropes specific to the Navigators:
- Arranged Marriage: Since Navigators can only pass on their psyker genes by procreating with other Navigators, marriages among the Navis Nobilite are arranged usually between rival houses to ensure genetic stability and as a form of alliance.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: When the Paternova dies, the Heirs Apparent (the most powerful Navigators of each house) become larger, stronger, and more aggressive. They then fight and kill each other for the right of Paternova.
- Blindfolded Vision: When not actively guiding a ship, Navigators will cover their Third Eye, as looking into it can cause madness. This makes limiting others' exposure to it necessary. This covering can take many forms, from a headband, to a veil, to an eyepatch, to a low-pulled hood, or even occasionally a cybernetic shutter-like metallic eyelid.
- Body Horror: Thanks to a limited breeding pool, the possibility of imperfect genetic tampering on the part of some ancestors, and generations of necessary warp exposure, Navigators often suffer from a variety of minor mutations. As Navigators age these mutations become more obvious and extreme, with some of them even transforming into ugly frog-octopus things. It's an accepted fact of life for them and even during the brutal inter-house coldwars both sides will respect this secret and ensure that nobody breaks the masquerade. The Emperor was aware of these mutations but decided to tolerate it.
- Deadly Gaze: Staring into a Navigator's Warp Eye is commonly said to cause either insanity or death. No one wants to test it, and Navigators must wear hoods, scarves, or headbands of psyk-resistant material around normal humans.
- Expy: The Navis Nobilite are pretty blatant expies of the Navigator Guild from Dune.
- Extra Eyes: Navigators possess a "Warp eye" allowing them to see the currents of the Immaterium and guide ships through it. This is not a poetic turn of phrase.
- Feuding Families: Among the Navis Nobilite, there exist conflicts known as Tradewars, which include limited conflict among the families. The Administratum tolerates these to a point, as long as they're short and not too destructive.
- Go Mad from the Revelation: Averted by the Navigators when exposed to the Warp, which is what makes them unique in the setting in which this trope is otherwise played straight. Their Third Eye allows them to perceive the warp in a way which will not overwhelming their mortal mind, enabling their ability to guild a ship through its currents. This perception is subjective, and each Navigator will see it in a different manner, so that when they try to describe it to others, the only way they can do so is through vaguely poetic metaphor.
- The Patriarch: The Paternova, the leader of the Navis Nobilite, who is called the "father of the Warp", and is somehow able to increase the Warp sense of his family's Navigators.
- Walking the Cosmos: Some Navigator families abandon their wealthy estates and take to wandering the galaxy.
- Weirdness Coupon: The Navigators are mutants whose elders begin mutating beyond the norms of the "holy human form", and yet are fantastically wealthy and have a permanent seat on the High Lords of Terra. They're so absolutely vital to star travel that they have to be given these things.
Tropes specific to the Ogryns:
- Claustrophobia: Commonly suffer it, with enclosed spaces making them very frightened and jumpy. A nerve-wracked eight foot tall slab of clumsy muscle is generally not a good thing...
- Dumb Muscle: Ogryns are massive, powerful, and dumb. During the Horus Heresy, it was said that they were told the loyalists had betrayed the Emperor. The smarter ones are given enhancements to increase their intelligence, called Bio Ogryn Neural Enhancement (BONE). This allows them to become sergeants of Orgyns squads, called Bone'eads (though not that much - one of the most intelligent examples of Ogryns, Nork Deddog, is simply capable of writing his name, counting on four fingers with his thumb confusing him, and speaking in full sentences.)
- The Klutz: Their great strength and poor self-control means that they tend to accidentally break things that they interact with, unless those things are large and reinforced. Hence why they virtually always use customized equipment.
- The Ogre: Ogryns are Abhumans who evolved on heavy gravity worlds with barren environments.
- Shotguns Are Just Better: The Ripper gun is the Ogryns' standard firearm, and is used just as much as a club as a shotgun.
- Undying Loyalty:
- Nork Deddog, an Ogryn who is absolutely loyal to his masters in the Imperium...which he interprets as the highest ranking officer.
- The Ogryns in general. They believe that the Emperor has personally issued them every order (being worked down from the chain of command) and thus obey orders to the best of their abilities.
- Weirdness Coupon: They're mutants, but they make extremely loyal soldiers who love cracking heretic and xeno skulls for the Emperor.
Tropes specific to the Ratlings:
- Explosive Breeder: Ratlings procreate like there is no tomorrow. And there may not be.
- Friendly Sniper: ZigZagged. Ratlings are gregarious, enjoy a good feast and make excellent snipers, but The Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer warns however that petty crime rates in a regiment increase when a Ratling squad is attached.
- The Hedonist: Ratlings enjoy the finer aspects of life.
- Hobbits: Like Tolkien's hobbits, Ratlings are very short, compactly built, and tend to be drawn with very hairy feet. They also love food, both the making and the eating.
Tropes specific to the Squats:
- Badass Biker — Well, triker. This was one of the very few unique, consistent parts of the Squats' racial identity.
- Base on Wheels — The Squat's Land Trains, which are several of these linked together to form a larger mobile structure. Usually each car would have its own specialization, such as artillery platforms or flyer landing and service pads.
- Canon Discontinuity — Don't mention them at GW press events.
- This even extends to the older 40k novels - when Ian Watson's Inquisition War trilogy was rereleased, Grimm (one of the main characters) was Ret Conned from a Squat to a Techpriest.
- By 6th edition, this appears to have tapered off a bit, as the rerelease of Space Marine is entirely unedited, and the 6th edition rulebook lists Squats as one of the surviving abhuman strains.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome — It took Games Workshop a while to decide if they wanted to keep the Squats in the setting or not, which meant that there was a long period of time where there was really no word on when the next update for them was coming out until they finally made their dropping official.
- Cool Airship — The Squats were known to field heavily-armored, rigid-bodied lighter-than-air craft in battle.
- Cool Train — One of the Squats' war machines for the large-scale Epic 40,000 was the Land Train, a crawling fortress of which each car had a different function, be it troop transport, landing pad, or mortar battery.
- Demoted to Extra — They used to be their own army, with their own lists, units, and models, separate from the Imperium of Man but a trusted ally to it. These days they are an obscure bit of background fluff which is barely acknowledged as even being in the setting.
- Dropped A Hive Fleet On Him — When 40K decides to kill you off, you are killed off with extreme prejudice.
- Expy — Of Warhammer Dwarfs.
- Heavy Worlder — Strangely enough, the Imperial Guard's Ogryns also come from high-gravity worlds, but turned out completely different.
- Higher-Tech Species — The Squats were very dependant on their technology from the foundings of their Homeworlds, and never lost nearly as much of it as the bulk of the humanity did during the Dark Age of Technology. Spared from the restrictions of the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Squats innovated freely, their harsh situations making such necessary. When the Imperium finally reestablished contact with them, the Squats had developed a wide variety of technologys that no one else had, such as power generators which drew directly from the warp, and neo-plasma, as well as superior metallurgy.
- Candle Jack — An unofficial but heavily enforced rule on the old Games Workshop forums was that anyone who stated that the Squats should be brought ba
- Mood Dissonance — Part of the reason Squats were problematic.
- Old Shame — GW classifies Squats as one of those things "best forgotten."
- Our Dwarves Are All the Same — Even in space!
- Powered Armor — ... that makes them look like walking eggs... on bikes...
- Private Military Contractors — See the quote on War for Fun and Profit below.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy — Because Dwarfs are.
- Recycled IN SPACE! — Of Dwarfs.
- Reimagining The Artifact — The Squats did much better in Epic 40,000 than they ever did in Warhammer 40,000, where the difference in scale allowed them to much better show off their potential for massive mobile construction. However, this was too little, too late to save them from slipping into Canon Discontinuity.
- Tunnel King — As a culture. The Squat Homeworlds almost never had a breathable atmosphere, and often a high pressure one at that, so the Squats became experts in underground construction and living by necessity. This in turn is part of why they were so hard to rout when invaded, their underground warrens were resistant to bombardment from above and the confined spaces would heavily favor the defenders.
- War for Fun and Profit — Best summed up by this quote:
- Weirdness Coupon — The Squats were only ever part of the Imperium in the most nominal sense, the Great Crusade having fought almost to a stalemate over their worlds when the Imperium tried to forcibly absorb them. The conflict was settled with a variety of treaties in which the Squats could maintain their self-governance without Administratum oversight and were allowed to maintain their own culture, only offering their Imperium their occasional effectual support. The fact that they maintain their own culture, do not report to Imperial authorities, vary from the norm of the Holy Human Form, and do not believe in the Imperial Cult would normally be seen as an unacceptable level of deviance on the Squats part. However, this arrangement works due to their fundamental reliability, dislike of xenoforms, and resource and technology contributions to the Imperium.