Characters: Warhammer 40000 Imperial Founders
In Warhammer 40,000
, the prehistory of the Imperium of Man is best noted by the following figures.
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The God-Emperor of Mankind
At the center of the Imperium of Man is a being known only as the Emperor of Mankind. The mysterious ruler of the Imperium, and a seemingly immortal being of incredible scientific knowledge, psychic powers, and charisma, the Emperor emerged from out of nowhere at the end of humanity's Age of Strife. Gathering a massive army of Super Soldiers
, the precursors to the future Space Marine
legions, he reunited an Earth that had fallen into pointless civil war, then led humanity back out into the galaxy once more, seeking to reclaim all of the worlds that humanity had settled before the Age of Strife. With the aid of twenty Primarchs, Super Prototype
versions of the Space Marines, he conquered untold thousands of worlds for mankind, and it looked as if humanity would, indeed, claim the entire galaxy for themselves. Then, ten thousand years ago, came the Horus Heresy
, in which half of his Primarchs, under the leadership of Horus, his most trusted son, went rogue and swore themselves to the Dark Gods of Chaos. The Emperor killed Horus, but was mortally wounded and placed on his Golden Throne, and has been suspended at the brink of death ever since
- Age Without Youth: The Golden Throne has kept the Emperor alive for ten thousand years, but he's gone from a mortally wounded man to a shriveled, mummified husk.
- Alternate Character Interpretation: As the most mysterious and enigmatic, and yet vitally important figure, to the setting, he invites a lot of this. Was he a Physical God? An emissary from the future intended to lead humanity to a golden age? A unique mutant who further obscured the truth through his incredible psychic powers and mastery of lost technology? A gestalt embodiment of every human psyker to have existed before the birth of the Chaos Gods?note
- Even after the Emperor's entombment in the Golden Throne, these questions still persist. Is he still watching over the Imperium to this day, casting his mind into the warp to defend human souls from damnation as the mainline Ecclesiarchy dogma claims? Or did he "die" centuries ago and the Golden Throne is only maintaining the appearance that he has some semblance of life? Does the Golden Throne empower him in ways he could not be while he walked among men? Or is it limiting his potential by keeping him shackled to his mortal shell instead of ascending to true godhood?
- On a more terrestrial level, it is conversed whether or not the Emperor was truly the messianic figure he claimed to be, or was rather a deranged dictator with delusions of grandeur and desired power for its own sake. Angron, before his fall to Chaos, reflected it was probably the latter due to the fact the 'choice' the Emperor gave (join me, accept my beliefs and serve me unreservedly or DIE) wasn't much of a choice at all, and also of how the Emperor just as often ordered the deaths of those who didn't agree with them as much as he did the deaths of actual tyrants who deserved what they got.
- And I Must Scream: The Emperor is trapped mere inches from death, and has been that way for ten thousand years, his once-glorious physique withering into nothing more then a skeletal carcass intricately intermeshed in a mountainous machine-throne, his psyche locked within his skull and unable to communicate with the outside world. If fate was merciful, he would be oblivious to everything going on in the outer world. As this is Warhammer 40000, he's more likely perfectly aware that the Imperium has descended into a nightmarish techno-barbaric theocracy... and all of its madness and evil is done in his name.
- He is said to be shedding microscopic tears for each man who dies in his service. The Custodes collect them in tiny vials.
- And It Worked: It's true that during his life he killed a ton of people, and made highly objectionable decisions, exterminated entire intelligent races (something that would become a habit for the Imperium later on) but the Imperium he left behind is the only place Chaos can't completely defilenote , allows trillions to live unmolested, and even allows for something resembling a heaven of sorts. So yes, the Imperium worked. However, without the Emperor to oversee the Imperium, it worked in the absolute worst way possible.
- Anti-Hero: What point on the scale depends on the individual, but the Emperor was equal parts wonderfully heroic and terribly flawed.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: The Emperor became Emperor because he had the mightiest armies, and he acquired many of those armies because of his own incredible physical and psychic strength.
- Badass: Say what you will about the Emperor, but he was Badass.
- Badass Boast: Many, but the creation of the Space Marines deserves a mention.
They shall be my finest warriors, these men who give themselves to me. Like clay I shall mould them and in the furnace of war I shall forge them. They will be of iron will and steely muscle. In great armour shall I clad them and with the mightiest gun shall they be armed. They will be untouched by plague or disease, no sickness will blight them. They will have tactics, strategies and machines such that no foe will best them in battle. They are my bulwark against the terror. They are the defenders of Humanity. They are my Space Marines... and they shall know no fear.
- Badass Bookworm: Almost 50 thousand years will make one this.
- Badass Cape: A long red one.
- Badass Grandpa: Around 38 thousand years old by the time of the Horus Heresy.
- Badass In Charge: "Emperor of Mankind" kind of says it all.
- Cultured Badass: The Emperor wasn't just out to save the human race, but also its historical and technological achievements. The Imperial Palace had a massive museum dedicated to housing various bits of historically important machinery, ranging from ancient pottery to parts of the first Warp-capable engine.
- Four-Star Badass: He didn't just win his battles by overwhelming force.
- Belief Makes You Stupid: The Emperor believed this, in part because he knew that all gods were ultimately tied to Chaos, and ruthlessly pushed a secular worldview on the budding Imperium in hopes that it would starve the Chaos Gods. This might have worked in the long run if anything hadn't gone to hell. Or it might have failed epically, since the Chaos Gods are empowered by emotions as well as belief, and humanity isn't the only game in town. We don't know for sure.
- Big Good: The Imperium viewed him as this, and still views him as this. At best, though, he's a case of Good Is Not Nice; tough to be a good guy when you order whole intelligent races be made extinct.
- Bling of War: His armor during the Great Crusade was golden Terminator armor.
- Bodyguarding a Badass: He is far more powerful than his guards. Though they're not so much bodyguards as companions (similar to Alexander the Great's companion cavalry), an elite cadre that can be committed at a critical time and place.
- Broken Ace: Peerless warrior and general. The mightiest human psyker who ever lived. A scientist brilliant beyond compare. An arrogant, bloodthirsty tyrant who permitted no dissent. A terrible father who drove half his children into the arms of the Ruinous Powers. A man utterly incapable of empathizing or sympathizing with the people for whose benefit and in whose name he claimed to rule. And, ultimately, a failure, trapped in the rotting ruins of his dying body while his dream dies and burns by inches around him for millenia.
- Canon Discontinuity: The original Chaos sourcebooks for Warhammer and 40K, "Slaves to Darkness" and "The Lost And The Damned", gave the Emperor an origin as the gestalt embodiment of a thousand powerful human psykers who had existed before the coming of the Chaos Gods, who realised that the dawning gods were consuming or corrupting all of their fellow Shamans and so ritually sacrificed themselves to create a single mighty Warp entity in human flesh that would be able to protect against and eventually defeat the Chaos Gods. This has been subtly Retconned out with the passing of the editions, most notably the recent emphasis that Chaos came into existence during the war between the C'tan and the Slann, making all of the Gods (bar Slaanesh) older by far than the human race. Presumably the intention is to make the Emperor even more enigmatic, unknowable and alien.
- The same sourcebooks also introduced the concept of the Star Child — in essence a nascent God created when the Emperor was struck down by Horus and comprised of his positive attributes; compassion, love, tolerance, understanding, etcetera. Closely interlinked with this were the Illuminati, a secret cabal of daemonhosts who had been freed from their possession but retained incredible psychic powers and an immunity to all subsequent daemonic possession, and the Sensei, mutant offspring fathered unknowingly by the Emperor during his years amongst humanity, who were immortal, sterile, untouchable by Chaos and invisible to their father. The Illuminati were gathering the Sensei together, planning to sacrifice them in order to fuel the birth of the Star Child into a fully-fledged God to lead humanity to safety and glory once again. In the third edition corebook, the Star Child and its attendent Illuminati and Sensei was stricken from the setting, In-Universe, by noting that the "Star Child Cult" was a minor Tzeentchian cult that was hunted down and destroyed utterly by the Inquisition.
- The concept of the Sensei as ultra-pure anti-Chaos warriors with a bond to the Emperor even stronger then that possessed by the Space Marines may, however, have eventually inspired the creation of the Grey Knights as an Imperial sub-faction in later editions.
- Create Your Own Villain: The Emperor's cruel and arrogant treatment of several of the Primarchs (especially Lorgar and Magnus) is what pushed them to turn to Chaos.
- Crystal Dragon Jesus: May have been the historical Jesus, so definitely. He even looks a little like a combination of a roid-raging Jesus and a Native American, though he was allegedly born in central Anatolia around 8000 BC, so he's probably a member of one of the extremely ancient ethnic groups from that area (one of which built Çatalhöyük, an incredibly advanced society for its time).
- Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: The first time was because the Chaos Gods had the Primarchs scattered to the stars. The second time was when he left the Great Crusade to begin working on an Imperial Webway. If he had bothered to tell the Primarchs this, he might have avoided (or at least delayed) the Horus Heresy.
- Dark Lord on Life Support: Though he's theoretically a force for good, he's stuck in the Golden Throne, a life support machine that is fed the souls of a thousand psykers every day, so that he may never truly die.
- Dark Messiah: For all his good intentions, even during the Great Crusade, the Emperor racked up a greater bodycount then every one of Earth's dictators combined and multiplied by several thousand, at the very least.
- I Did What I Had to Do: A possible interpretation for some of his more questionable actions, no matter how many good intentions were behind them.
- The Dreaded: The Chaos Gods themselves refer to him as "The Anathema".
- Expy: He's more or less a Jerkass-y rehash of Sigmar.
- The Emperor: Obviously.
- Emperor Scientist: Was a genius, as the Astronomicon, the Primarchs' creation, the Webway project, and a whole bunch of stuff can attest. The Adeptus Mechanicus doesn't worship him, but they do revere and venerate him for reasons besides not being purged by the Imperium for heresy.
- Even Arrogant Morally-Ambiguous Godlike Autocrats Have Loved Ones: The Emperor's ability to empathize was mostly pretty suspect, but he regardless had some capacity for positive emotions, with him having been mortally-injured in his fight with Horus from holding back due to failing to understand how far Horus was gone until it was too late (to say nothing of how Horus was long completely beloved by him) and forfeited his pride to throw his larger Salamander into a lava flow to save Vulkan's life, losing the contest for it (especially considering the Emperor's usual immense arrogance).
- Fan Nickname: "The Emprah", as a reference to some characters' pronunciation in Dawn of War, "Emps", or "The Big E".
- Fantastic Racism: While somewhat justified in that many alien species did oppose or literally prey upon humanity when it encountered them, the Emperor and his armies did encounter numerous civilisations where humans and aliens were peacefully coexisting... and promptly slaughtered them all.
- Fatal Flaw: Mainly arrogance. He was the pinnacle of humanity and he knew it. This caused him to never feel the need to explain himself, and assume that no one would betray or disobey him regardless of what he did. Consequently, he's a pretty lousy father, even after finding his scattered sons. This parental failure is almost entirely responsible for causing the Horus Heresy.
- He was a being of impossible power. Almost divine in nature. As more divine a man becomes, just as well his humanity fades. It is not unfeasible to believe that he was disconnected from humanity in such a way that he did not expect certain things anymore, like his sons' disloyalty. Furthermore, being right about almost everything left him with an outright inability to consider that his personal opinions might be mistaken.
- The Priest in The Last Church realized this to be the Emperor's fatal flaw; that the Emperor simply could not comprehend lesser beings' (i.e. everyone else) needs, whether to believe in something greater than themselves, or just to have their own opinions.
- A Father to His Men:
- Subverted with the Thunder Warriors, the forebears of the later Adeptus Astartes Legions and the very soldiers the Emperor created in order to aid him in his 'unification' of Earth, despite their genuine and often fanatical loyalty to him, the Emperor decided that their violent tendencies and short life-spans made them a liability to his later plans of galactic conquest. And thus had all of them slaughtered to a man, aside from a few survivors who have managed to work around the quick expiration date.
- One theory holds that he was planning to do the same thing to most of the Primarchs...
- More or less played straight with the rest of the humanity. As long as they aren't corrupted by Chaos, that is...
- Flaming Sword: Shown as having one in the Horus Heresy artwork he appears in, though it may be a force sword he's powering with his psychic powers.
- God Emperor: Tried to deny this during the Great Crusade, but cults deifying him were constantly springing up during that time, after the Horus Heresy, the Imperium became a theocracy dedicated to him as its god-figure.
- God Is Good: To an extent. While he was still alive, his goal was to keep humanity from destroying itself in the same way that the Eldar empire did. His methods were what was morally questionable. He's still at least much more benevolent than the Chaos Gods, though generally weaker in most ways.
- Good Is Not Nice: The Emperor was/is probably the closest thing to a Big Good in the setting from a human perspective, considering his lofty goals. However, he sought to create a utopia entirely on his own terms and would not hesitate to crush anyone who stood in the way of his plans, even if they weren't necessarily directly opposing him (though especially if they were).
- Heroic Sacrifice: According to The Outcast Dead, the Emperor went into the duel with Horus well aware that he was going to die.
- Heroic Willpower: The Emperor's body is all but dead, and he's more than ready to die. The only thing keeping him alive? His own determination and love of humanity...and being fed one thousand psykers a day from his life support chair. Mostly the thousand psykers and chair, but the willpower helps.
- Hidden Heart of Gold: The Primarch Vulkan was, among his fellow primarchs, a representation of the Emperor's compassion for humanity. This fact is...just about the only way his compassion for humanity has been portrayed.
- Horrible Judge of Character: While the Emperor sometimes provided most of a push towards it, ultimately, he was perfectly willing to recruit and fight alongside many individuals who not only went on to sell themselves to Chaos, but were such utter psychopaths that the Dark Gods made them immortal in reward for being so insane.
- Humanoid Abomination/ Physical God: The Emperor is/was definitely one of these, depending on how you look at it. John Grammaticus once made psychic contact with the Emperor and had a panic attack just thinking about the experience two centuries later.
- Humans Are White: Averted, artwork shows him as noticeably tan. He was born in Ancient Turkey, in fact.
- Hypocrite: In The Last Church, he claims that religion is evil because deeply held beliefs lead to violence, citing certain historical examples such as the Crusades to argue the point. He has no qualms with leading a genocidal campaign of destruction based on the belief that Humanity Is Superior, though and called said campaign 'the Great Crusade'. Bonus points in that he was called out on it in the same story.
- I Have Many Names: While his birth name is unknown, he is variously known as the Master of Mankind, the Outlander to the Salamanders and people of Nocturne, and the Allfather to the people of Fenris. The Mechanicus occasionally calls him the Omnissiah, at least officially. Followers of Chaos refer to him as the False Emperor and the Corpse-God, while Daemons call him the Anathema. In addition it's implied that he was several notable historical figures from our time, including possibly Jesus and St. George, though his 'dragon' was the Void Dragon.
- Irony: Installed state atheism... and wound up being treated as a living god by countless cultures, the largest of which is a hardcore, prayer-heavy, fundamentalist psuedo-Catholic empire.
- Jerk Ass: The Emperor was not always the nicest of people. To be blunt, many of the Primarchs who turned to Chaos did so because the Emperor had done considerable wrongs to them in the first place, which is hinted at in the game canon and usually shown in a more detailed fashion in the Horus Heresy novels.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Admittedly, for all of the shit that he pulled, the Emperor did everything for the good of mankind. Trying to act diplomatically to some of the xeno races helps too, though never to the point of outright tolerance.
- Kick the Dog: Abducting Angron by teleporting him away against his will right before his fellow gladiators were about to begin their Last Stand is kind of a dick move.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: Regardless of his intentions, due to the sheer volume of the atrocities he had committed and his titanic arrogance, it is hard to resist the feeling that he sort of had it coming as Horus beats him within an inch of his life.
- King on His Deathbed: The state of the Emperor for the last ten thousand years is basically in a state mere seconds (maybe microseconds) away from death, only "surviving" (in a liberal use of the term) by the Golden Throne. Since 5th edition it has been established that the Golden Throne is developing problems that the Adeptus Mechanicus has no knowledge of how to fix, so the Emperor could fully die sometime in the 42nd millennium. But since that would require moving the story along, he looks safe for the time being.
- Large and in Charge: In his heyday, the Emperor was about two or three times the size of a human being, and almost as broad across the shoulders as he was tall. Bear in mind, we've usually only seen him in Terminator armor.
- A picture exists of him without it. He looks to be rather standard in height◊. This makes sense, actually, since the Emperor apparently lived many thousands of years on Earth incognito, prodding humanity in the right-ish direction. For this to be possible, he would have had to be of relatively ordinary proportions.
- On the other hand, it is also possible that he remained normally-proportioned until he revealed himself, at which point he used his godlike power to quintuple in size.
- Light is Good: He single-handedly saved Mankind, united them, developed a lasting empire, and rediscovered many of Humanity's lost sciences!
- Light Is Not Good: ...but he killed billions (if not trillions) of mostly-innocent people (humans and aliens) in the process, among other terrible crimes. His reign saw the deaths of more human beings than every earthly despot combined, and ultimately plunged the world into a new dark age.
- Manifest Destiny: His credo was that humanity had one to rule the galaxy.
- Man in the Machine: The Emperor was entombed in an incredibly elaborate life-support system known as the Golden Throne after he became mortally wounded slaying Horus. He has remained there ever since, existing in a vegetable-like state, unresponsive and uncommunicative, throughout the Imperium's history. His frame has atrophied to the point that he is almost skeletal, a wrecked shell of the man he once was.
- I Am A Humanitarian/Powered by a Forsaken Child: In order to keep the Emperor alive, exactly one thousand psykers (those deemed unfit to be trained to resist Demonic Possession and made otherwise useful) are fed to the Golden Throne daily, being sacrificed so that their souls can power its psychic connection with the Astronomican, the warp-beacon that allows Imperial ships to navigate galaxy-spanning distances through the otherwise shrouded and swirling empyran. Should this connection ever go down, long-range interstellar travel would become impossible for humanity and the Imperium would fall apart.
- Merger of Souls: He is sometimes said to be the reincarnation of thousands of prehistoric shamans' souls, merged into a singular being.
- Multiple Choice Past: There are several possible stories of the Emperor's origin; none have been confirmed as canon, although at least one has been decisively stamped out in the fluff.
- Necessarily Evil: He claimed that a number of his more morally ambiguous actions were these. Which ones were and how necessary they were is up to the reader/player to decide.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
- Several Traitor Primarchs got their Start of Darkness because the Emperor was such a Jerk Ass. One of the more significant examples; the Word Bearers became the first Legion to turn to Chaos, and thus were significantly involved in corrupting the rest, because the Emperor, after having let it go by for a hundred years, obliterated an Imperial Faith World that the Word Bearers had taken great pride in and cherished for their success there. Then he summoned the Word Bearers to the smoldering ashes of the world they viewed as the jewel of their achievements and humiliatingly dressed them down for their 'failures' to himself and the Great Crusade, while using his immense power to force them all to kneel before him. The result? Lorgar ends up in a Crisis of Faith and then eagerly turns to gods that accept they are gods and expect worship — the Dark Gods of Chaos.
- For that matter, his idea of handling Chaos in the first place was a pretty stupid idea in hindsight. The Emperor strove to keep his followers as ignorant of the realities of Warp-space as possible, including that there really are beings out there that feed on human worship but have no benevolent intentions for humanity; even those who did know they existed were given a considerably naive view of just how powerful, dangerous, and intelligent they were. Result? Half of the Primarchs are corrupted, many of them unwillingly, and they took their Legions with them. The first Horus Heresy novel implicitly contrasts this to an empire called the Interex, who are open about the existence and dangers of Chaos (though they spell it Kaos) and strive to educate their populace about its dangers, making them staunch enemies of Chaos and highly resistant to its attempts to corrupt them, because they know exactly what Chaos is, will do, why it does so, and how it operates.
- No Name Given: The Emperor's true name has been lost to time. It's said that the only people who knew were Malcador the Sigilite and Eldrad Ulthran.
- Not Quite Dead:...but not quite alive, either.
- Omniscient Morality License: Sure acted like he had one.
- Our Founder
- Our God Is On Life Support, Insisted That He Was Never A God, And May In Fact Be Dead But He's STILL Greater
- Parental Favoritism: After Horus, the Emperor's favorite Primarchs were (in no particular order) Sanguinius, Roboute Guilliman, Rogal Dorn, and Fulgrim.
- Parents as People: To paraphrase a famous quote by Roboute Gulliman: For all his achievements the Emperor was a deeply flawed human being and his flaws made him a terrible, terrible father.
- The Patriarch: The Imperium portrays the Emperor as the spiritual father of humanity, as he rather invoked this image during the Great Crusade.
- Pet the Dog: The Emperor recruited Vulkan by entering a series of contest against Vulkan where the winner would swear to serve the other. The two were tied for the final event of killing the largest Salamander they could and returning with its corpse. Vulkan taking his kill back was interrupted by the mountain he was standing on turning out to be a volcano and erupting, causing him to stuck in a Literal Cliffhanger over a lava flow, holding his Salamander with one hand preventing him from climbing back up. The Emperor found Vulkan threw his (larger) Salamander into the lava flow as a bridge for Vulkan to walk on. The Emperor was declared the loser with nothing to show for the contest, but Vulkan swore fealty to the Emperor anyway, considering a man who favored life over pride worthy of service.
- Poor Communication Kills: One of the Emperor's greatest failings. He wanted to starve the Chaos Gods of worshipers, so he tried to push everyone to a secular worldview of "there are no gods"; instead of saying "what we think of as gods and demons are actually psychic-energy-creatures that want to eat your soul so DON'T DEAL WITH THEM", so people dealt with them anyway because (sometimes at least) they didn't know better. He wanted to return to Terra to finish work on establishing a permanent link to the Webway, and thus free humanity from terribly dangerous Warp travel; he said nothing of this to any of his Primarch sons, he simply left the Crusade, and the feelings of betrayal, suspicion and jealousy combined into the Horus Heresy. The list really could go on for quite a long while.
- Pro Human Trans Human: Equal parts trans and pro.
- Psychic Powers: The most powerful psyker in human history, to the extent that even the Eldar and the Daemons of Chaos were afraid of what he might do if he got... motivated.
- Really 700 Years Old: During the Horus Heresy, he was between 400 and 40,000 years old, depending on your interpretation of his Self-Proclaimed Liar statusnote , but merely looked as if he was in his mid- to late forties. His modern incarnation definitely looks 50,000 years old, though.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Personally lead the Great Crusade for centuries. His departure and retirement to the Imperial Palace actually caused a great deal of discontent.
- Shadow Dictator: The forces of Chaos insist that the Emperor is long dead, that the various functions he fulfills are purely mechanical, and that he can do nothing to help the people of the Imperium, say, enjoy an afterlife. On the other hand, they're not very reliable. Then again, the Imperium is about as reliable, so...
- Sorcerer King: Very much, though in the Imperium's present he gets called a god instead, much to his chagrin. He, among other things, was considered the greatest psyker (the franchise's term for psychics and sorcerers) of all time, capable of bending the fabric of reality and destroying much. His power was considered godlike, despite his insistence otherwise. As usual we have to note here that in any other setting he'd be a Sorcerous Overlord, as billions lie dead from his direct actions, never mind those of his followers. Did we mention that 40k is GRIMDARK yet?
- Stop Worshipping Me: And he enforced that decree, with extreme prejudice. This is indirectly the cause of the Horus Heresy, also.
Bjorn the Fell-Handed: God-Emperor? Calling him a god was how all this mess started.
- Super Intelligence: Which makes a lot of his decisions in the Horus Heresy really hard to believe that someone that intelligent could make so many bad decisions. Well, let's make it clear - the Emperor had a very high IQ, he just had a terrible EQ. Most of his decisions make sense within an intellectual perimeter; he just never understood how they would affect the emotional well-being of his Primarchs, as well as his subjects.
- Tautological Templar: His thinking, by the end. It led to many terrible problems. See Hypocrite above.
- Time Abyss: Sources indicate that the Emperor was born in 8,000 B.C., making him nearly fifty thousand years by the time of the game's setting.
- Truly Single Parent: The Primarchs were partially created using the Emperor's own DNA.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Oh yes. In a setting where the "good guys" are almost always WIEs, the Emperor goes Up to Eleven for both values of "well-intentioned" and "extremist", taking both far beyond any scale of those measures that had come before or has come since. Though others in his time believed that he was after lordship of the galaxy, the Horus Heresy books have shown that the what the Emperor does, he is doing because he genuinely believes it is for the betterment of the human race and the Galaxy as a whole.
- What an Idiot: Honestly, many of the Emperor's decisions were so obviously wrong it's hard to imagine how a sensible human being could have made them, never mind a supposedly perfect being. Take, as a perfect example, the situation with the rescue of Angron, Primarch of the World Eaters Legion. The Emperor discovers Angron in the final stages of a Spartacus scenario, poised to be wiped out by a vastly superior number of forces. Having approached Angron in secret, Angron refuses to abandon his comrades and is willing to die with them. The Emperor's options include summoning his own forces to reinforce Angron's, whisking all of Angron's army aboard his massive spaceships, or unleashing an orbital barrage to at least devastate the enemy army so that Angron's force can win. Instead, he chooses to whisk Angron away from the battlefield at the last moment and leave Angron's friends and followers to be utterly wiped out, leaving Angron bitter, resentful, hating the Emperor, and full of rage — in other words, a perfect candidate to swear allegiance to Khorne in order to take revenge.
From the left (click for full size): Sanguinius, Mortarion, Magnus the Red, Angron, Jaghatai Khan, Lorgar Aurelian, Rogal Dorn, Horus Lupercal, and Fulgrim.
Each of us carries part of our father within us, whether it is his hunger for battle, his psychic talent or his determination to succeed.
The children of the Emperor, created from his very own DNA, scattered across the galaxy by the Chaos Gods in their infancies, and each eventually recovered by the Emperor. Each of the Primarchs was the pinnacle of humanity, a posthuman demigod who commanded the full might of a Space Marine Legion
. However, half their number fell to Chaos, and the repercussions of this betrayal
led to Warhammer 40K becoming the Hell-universe we know and love.
Lion El'Johnson, Primarch of The Dark Angels.
- The Quiet One: One of the most reclusive Primarchs, preferring to let his adopted brother/best friend Luther do all the socializing.
- The Rival: To Leman Russ.
- Tranquil Fury: In direct contrast to Leman Russ. It wasn't easy to get Johnson riled up, but it was even harder to calm him back down.
- Wild Child: By all rights that jungle should have killed him. The jungle failed.
Fulgrim, Primarch of The Emperor's Children.
Perturabo, Primarch of The Iron Warriors.
- Butt Monkey: The other Primarchs and their Legions rarely respected Perturabo and his Legion with their well-worn use being breaking sieges with time and blood...and then his Legion later was relegated to garrison duty. There is literally a passage of a Sons of Horus marine talking to one of the Emperor's Children while shoveling up earthworks for the Drop Site Massacre asking why The Iron Warriors aren't the ones doing this work. Perturabo, needless to say, resented this.
- The Dog Bites Back: There's a preeeetttttty long list of reasons why Perturabo was angry and turned to Chaos and the Horus Heresy. The biggest bite was probably the "Iron Cage" incident which the Imperial Fists were drawn into attacking a heavily-fortified Iron Warrior fortress that was trap upon trap which bled the Imperial Fists such that they were unfit for combat for nineteen years.
- The Engineer
- The Rival: He hated Dorn for getting to do what Perturabo wanted while being labelled the opposite - Rogal Dorn and his Legion were creating magnificent buildings for the defense of Terra's palace while Perturabo and his Legion were pigeon-holed into destroying such things.
Jaghatai Khan, Primarch of The White Scars.
- Badass Biker
- Badass Moustache: Of epic Mongol proportions.
- Blood Knight: Jaghatai Khan's piece of the Emperor in him is his love of battle. In particular, he joined the Emperor to unite all of the stars into one empire and unlike other Primarchs, after succeeding in conquering his homeworld, he had no interest in actually ruling it.
- Expy: Pretty obviously like Genghis Khan in his background.
- Victory Is Boring: Khan found ruling your planet to be nowhere near as entertaining as conquering it.
Leman Russ, Primarch of The Space Wolves.
- Blade on a Stick: The Spear of Russ
- Boisterous Bruiser
- Canis Major: He was raised by these as a child. His army later started to use these in battle.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Leman Russ earned such a brutal reputation during the Great Crusade that the Space Wolves were nicknamed "the Rout".
- Leman himself was on the receiving end of one at the hands of Angron in a duel.
- Death World: His home of Fenris.
- Heroes Prefer Swords: Mjalnar.
- Horny Vikings: Leads an entire army of these guys.
- My Master, Right or Wrong: He doesn't care if he is ordered to kill an entire chapter of Space Marines, even if they are led by his own brothers. If the Emperor says it, he will do it without question.
- Undying Loyalty: Even after ten thousand years of the Emperor being stuck on the Golden Throne, he still travels the galaxy in an attempt to find anything that can cure his father.
- Wild Child: He was one of these when the people of Fenris found him.
Rogal Dorn, Primarch of The Imperial Fists.
Konrad Kurze, aka The Night Haunter, Primarch of The Night Lords.
Sanguinius, Primarch of The Blood Angels.
Just another day for The Pure One.
- Angelic Beauty: He is said to be rather attractive.
- The Ace: The Primarchs are all impossibly strong and capable of learning among human beings, but even so Sanguinius was The Ace above all of them - as a result, absolutely everyone liked and respected him, and Horus felt it was Sanguinius who truly should have been Warmaster when he was at risk of dying.
- Badass: Don't let his looks fool you. He was awesome enough to fight Horus evenly, even when his heretical brother had been blessed by the Gods of Chaos themselves.
- Beauty Equals Goodness
- Cain and Abel: It's hammered in pretty well that Horus was the Cain to his Abel.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold
- Heroic Sacrifice: Though he died in battle against Horus during the Heresy, he managed to damage his armor enough for the Emperor to exploit this weakness during the final battle.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: He's called The Pure One for a reason.
- Messianic Archetype: Played surprisingly straight.
- Our Angels Are Different: Well, for starters, he's probably the most badass one out there.
- Red Baron: The Great Angel, Lord of angels, The Pure One and All-Beloved.
- Winged Humanoid
Ferrus Mannus, Primarch of The Iron Hands.
- Bare-Fisted Monk: Ferrus Manus was known to use his titular iron hands as lethal weapons in their own right. He preferred his hammer, though.
- Flesh Versus Steel: Ironically, Ferrus Manus is on the former's side, reasoning that while the cybernetics do make the marines stronger, it also weakens their willpower. He planned to abolish the practice of cybernization after the Great Crusade was finished, but then Fulgrim cut his head off.
- Off with His Head!: Suffered this fate at the hands of Fulgrim.
- Meaningful Name: His name means Iron Hand in Latin. Along with his Space Marine chapter, the consequent repetition of this meaningfulness gets a bit silly.
- To Be a Master: Ferrus Manus' life goal was to never stop improving himself, trying to share the same goal with all of humanity. Unlike what you'd expect, especially considering 40K, he never quite approached Evilutionary Biologist or Cybernetics Eat Your Soul-levels from this.
Angron, Primarch of The World Eaters.
And this was BEFORE he got his power armor and demonic powers!
- The Berserker: One of the many reasons how he became the Daemon Primarch of Khorne.
- The Big Guy: Angron had little more to his skills than blood-raging force of arms compared to his other brothers. He did not lax in it.
- Big Red Devil: Became one of these after falling to Chaos.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: While he was possibly the greatest warrior amongst the company of the Primarchs, Angron also showed himself in Betrayer to be a gifted philosopher and debater when arguing the Emperor's immorality. Unfortunately, due to the Butcher's Nails essentially ripping his brain apart with killing urges and preventing him from even sleeping, he can't really capitalize on any of his talents not directly related to killing. The fact that he is, however, easily one of the best warriors out of a group of actual gods does speak for itself of his power.
- The Dreaded: Even Leman Russ knew not to get on his bad side. And he only got worse after falling to Chaos.
- Enfant Terrible: When Angron landed on his unnamed planet, he was attacked by what Imperial authorities believe were Eldar intent on stopping the rise of the future Daemon Prince. When humans finally found him, he was surrounded by their bodies.
- Gladiator Revolt: Angron's backstory has him leading one, and he was found by the Emperor the day they were going to make their Last Stand. Instead of joining his father, Angron decided to fight and die with his comrades. The Emperor departed... then teleported Angron away right as they were about to be slaughtered. Angron had issues with that.
- Paint the Town Red: During his days amongst humanity, Angron's pearly white armor got completely covered in red so often that it earned him the name "the Red Angel", and he often was told he should just paint it red. After the Heresy, the World Eaters did just that.
- Refusal of the Call: Angron refused to go with the Emperor's summons to join him, preferring to fight and die alongside his comrades. The Emperor made him answer.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The man destroyed entire planetary sectors when he left the Warp in order to kick the crap out of the Imperium of Man, still wanting his revenge against them.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Besides Magnus, he's one of the few traitor Primarchs who actually goes outside of the Warp in order to kick some major ass. In the words of 1d4chan: "He Gets Shit Done!"
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Gave a brutal one to Guilliman:
"What would you know of struggle, Perfect Son? When have you fought against the mutilation of your mind? When have you had to do anything more than tally compliances and polish your armour?" [...] "The people of your world named you Great One. The people of mine called me Slave. Which one of us landed on a paradise of civilization to be raised by a foster father, Roboute? Which one of us was given armies to lead after training in the halls of the Macraggian high-riders? Which one of us inherited a strong, cultured kingdom? And which one of us had to rise up against a kingdom with nothing but a horde of starving slaves? Which one of us was a child enslaved on a world of monsters, with his brain cut up by carving knives? Listen to your blue-clad wretches yelling of courage and honour, courage and honour, courage and honour. Do you even know the meaning of those words? Courage is fighting the kingdom which enslaves you, no matter that their armies outnumber yours by ten-thousand to one. You know nothing of courage. Honour is resisting a tyrant when all others suckle and grow fat on the hypocrisy he feeds them. You know nothing of honour."
- Sociopathic Soldier: To wit, after the Emperor abducted him and had him put in control of a Space Marine Legion, he was simply furious and uninterested. The Emperor had the Legion's Captains talk him down without laying a hand on Angron...until Kharn succeeded, Angron simply killed the unfortunate Captains that tried to talk to him.
- Unstoppable Rage: To give you an idea of how batshit furious this guy was, put this into perspective: Kharn The Betrayer, aka the guy who single-handedly destroyed two entire legions of chaos marines by himself just because they refused to fight for a few hours, was once considered to be his Blue Oni in comparison.
- To be technical though, this constant part of his character can be blamed on him having nails implanted in his brain that amplify his aggression and fury.
Roboute Guilliman, Primarch of The Ultramarines.
- Jerk Ass: He didn't get along with many of his other Primarchs, making it pretty clear he considered said Primarchs untrustworthy. His anal-retentive tendencies led to him to ignore others' feelings, most notably his mandating the Primarchs split their legions into 1000-men Chapters under the Codex Astartes, which was not taken well among his fellow Primarchs - probably both for demanding them to split their brothers-in-arms up and openly airing paranoia toward his brothers in the tumultuous times just after the Horus Heresy (Limiting Space Marine organizations to 1000-man Chapters would prevent a single treasonous uprising from corrupting as large of a Space Marine force as easily again).
- Not forgetting that some of his Jerk Ass tendencies were often seen as this by people who imagined it so. Lorgar thought for years that Roboute despised him, even though the only thing the Ultramarines primarch did was follow the orders of his father when his forces destroyed Monarchia. With Alpharius, what many thought was him being prone to othordoxy, was actually a good point, his brother way of war while effective, often caused months of unrest in the planets conquered. In the Heresy novels he even said that he didn't want the Throne because of how people often thought that he was so ambitious to the point of opportunism. Not only that, but everytime he felt that he should stop being an overachiever because others were feeling inadaquate.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Roboute Guilliman was an ass but he actually cared about the people and believed that anyone can rise to greatness through merit regardless of class. His efforts led the Ultramarines' mini-empire to becoming one of the least corrupt (and nicest) places to live in the Imperium.
- Lawful Stupid: He had issues with resorting to less conventional tactics in warfare. That being said, the man did not play it entirely straight and the Age of Darkness book in the Horus Heresy series has him state that he is entirely certain his Codex Astartes text is imperfect and not a holy writ to adhere to.
- Nice to the Waiter: Treated average individuals perfectly respectfully and clearly cared about them in his decisions of statecraft.
- Pet the Dog: Guilliman was humble and kind to normal people. His infamous rudeness was to individuals he considered chaotic or not proven worthy of their station.
- Power Fist: The Gauntlets of Ultramar.
- The Smart Guy: Outside of the man's requisite Bad Ass-ery like the other Primarchs, Guilliman's talents laid in statecraft and logistics.
Mortarion, Primarch of The Death Guard.
Magnus The Red, Primarch of The Thousand Sons.
- Amazing Technicolor Population: He's called "The Red" for a reason.
- The Cassandra: Magnus' visions were almost never wrong, and almost never believed. If the Horus Heresy books are anything to go by, the galaxy could have avoided a great deal of trouble if the Emperor and other Primarchs had heeded Magnus' advice more often.
- The Rival: To Leman Russ.
Horus, Primarch of The Black Legion
- Big Bad: Of the traitor Primarchs.
- Face-Heel Turn: The brightest hope of all humanity since the Emperor, beloved by all of mankind, a peerless warrior and sublime statesman. The very best that humanity could ever be...is almost killed and shown Scrooge-like visions of a future where he is forgotten and his Father is worshipped as a God across a million worlds. Cue instant patricidal hatred, and the beginnings of a rebellion that would eventually damn the Galaxy into a slow decay of labyrinthine bureaucracy, never ending bloodshed, and, perhaps most tragically, no future for mankind. In other words...exactly what he saw.)
- He hasn't quite been forgotten, even by the Imperial Guard; a character in the Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!) book Caves of Ice describes a recently-shot Ork as being "deader than Horus". Also, officers with the rank of "Warmaster" (Horus's old title) often change it to something else to avoid the unpleasant associations with the title.
- His name also appears to be a curse in some circles; in Damnatus Wodan comments angrily "Where the Horus are we now?", and one of the Cain books uses the phrase "and Horus take the hindmost" in the same way one might use hell or the devil.
- Abaddon made sure that, at least in the Black Legion, Horus is forgotten, by personally destroying Horus' corpse with his own hands and ordering all members of the legion to repaint their armor black to permanently bury the (grey-colored) Luna Wolves, the original name of the Black Legion. Ironically, it's hinted that Abaddon might be Horus's Cloned Son, in the same vein as Boba Fett.
- Killed Off for Real: Horus is dead in every way possible. When the Emperor finally stopped holding back (and perhaps by exploiting a small crack in Horus' armour as a result of Sanguinius' Heroic Sacrifice depending on which rendition you read) Horus started to hold back to savour his victory, he didn't just kill Horus; he destroyed his mind and soul, preventing the Chaos Gods from ever resurrecting him. The Emperor's Children reclaimed his body and Fabius Bile tried to clone him, but Abaddon destroyed the clone and Horus's body.
- The Paragon: Horus was held to be the Paragon by the other Primarchs, but Horus actually believed that the real Paragon was Sanguinius.
- Satanic Archetype: Horus was the favorite son of the God Emperor who rebelled against him and took one third of the space marines with him. Sound familiar?
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Horus rebelled against the Emperor because he had a vision of a dystopic future where the Emperor is venerated as a god. His rebellion resulted exactly in that.
- Straight for the Commander: A favored tactic by Horus.
Lorgar, Primarch of The World Bearers.
- Badass Preacher
- Carry a Big Stick: Lorgar's crozius.
- Crisis of Faith: Lorgar has such a massive one following the Emperor's rebuke of his worship that he started worshiping the Chaos Gods. It should be noted that he was not the first Astartes to worship the Chaos Gods. That was Kor Phaeron and Erebus, who actually convinced him after suffering the same Crisis themselves.
- Psychotic Manchild: As another Primarch explains:
Roboute Guilliman: He is so... changeable. He is so prone to extremes. Eager to please, so quick to take offence. He's so keen to be your best friend, and then, at the slightest hint of an insult, he's angry with you. Furious. Offended. Like a child.
Vulkan, Primarch of The Salamanders.
Corvus Corax, Primarch of The Raven Guard.
- Dark Is Not Evil
- Dynamic Entry: Started an open rebellion on his planet with a sudden attack and kept that rebellion free with sabotage and ambushes against the forces trying to suppress them. His preference for lighting attacks was spread to his Raven Guard Legion.
- Extremity Extremist: Corax one-upped the usual version of this trope and bladed the feathery wings attached to his jetpack to lethal effect.
- The Quiet One: Yeah, he doesn't say much. Probably got used to that since his youth consisted of hiding from guards while training and preparing for rebellion.
- Weaponized Exhaust: Corax was known to use his jetpack's exhaust this way.
Alpharius/Omegon, Primarch(s?) of The Alpha Legion.
- Combat Pragmatist: Alpharius' preferred subtlety and flexibility to his strategies and tactics. His first mission for the Imperium was taking back a planet which threw off Imperial rule. He delayed his attack, leaving the planet to heavily fortify with this time. When his forces did openly fight, they cut the power of the central hive, equipped Imperium-loyal citizens aided them in diversionary attacks that drew in defenders which were then cut off by series of bombings, and took the entire planet in a week and less than three dozen fatalities to the Legion.
- Complexity Addiction: After Alpharius' combat doctrine was displayed to his brothers (with many decrying them), he and his Legion threw themselves into ever more grandiose schemes of stealth and misdirection for taking worlds. They once drove a planet to surrender after receiving over 90% casualties in a week from suffering countless mishaps and ambushes from the designs of the Alpha Legion...instead of just forcing the planet's surrender by taking its capital. Alpharius is reported to have said "it would have been too easy."
- Inferred Survival: Guilliman claims to have killed Alpharius. Considering Omegon's existence and the Alpha Legion tried to make each other look alike as much as possible (Alpharius' height was also not too much more than his marines', unlike the other Primarchs)...this is pretty doubtful. Even if Alpharius is actually dead, that would leave his twin Omegon completely unaccounted for.
- Mysterious Past: Alpharius was discovered attacking Horus' flagship as a pirate. All else of his past is unknown as he refused to ever talk about it.
- Riddle for the Ages: The only really concrete thing known about Alpharius and Omegon are their combat doctrine - everything else, including their whereabouts, is up for debate.
- Single-Minded Twins: Everyone who knows about them considers them this, including each other, but ultimately subverted as the Horus Heresy went on.
- Space Pirate: What Alpharius was before Horus found them. In The First Heretic, his pod is shown to have possibly ended up on a ship (it was too dark in the vision to tell). Whether he even has a homeworld or not is unknown, but his Legion was quickly bolstered from somewhere.
- The Unfavorite: Alpharius, not that it actually bothered him any; especially when personally trained under Horus' wing.
- Twin Switch: With each other and their entire Legion.
Primarchs II and XI, The erased Primarchs.
- Adventure-Friendly World: These unknown Primarchs are another facet in the vast variance of the Warhammer 40,000 universe that lets players simply fill it in however they want and think.
- Riddle for the Ages: Don't expect to be actually knowing for sure about these guys anytime soon.
- Un-Person: The primarchs of the II and XI legions were at some point completely expunged from Imperium record, and the reasons why are completely unknown. They are alluded to a couple of times in the Horus Heresy books, but whenever they are the person who brought them up is very quickly reminded not to talk about it.
See the Black Legion character page
for Horus, the Blood Angels character page
for Sanguinius, the Dark Angels character page
for Lion El'Jonson, the Imperial Fists character page
for Rogal Dorn, the Iron Warriors character page
for Perturabo, the Night Lords character page
for Konrad Curze, the Salamanders character page
for Vulkan, the Space Wolf character page
for Leman Russ, the Ultramarines character page
for Roboute Guilliman, and the Word Bearers character page
Malcador the Sigillite
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown
Serving the Emperor at the civilian level was Malcador the Sigillite, the Regent of Terra and first Master of the Adminstratum, Grand Master of Assassins, and First Lord of the Council of Terra. Affecting the simple robes of a regular Terran Administrator, Malcador was the Emperor's right hand man. While the Emperor managed the military and technological innovation that made the Imperium, Malcador crafted the bureaucracy that would one day be the Adeptus Terra. A powerful psyker, Malcador was also the founder of the Inquisition and the Grey Knights. During the Siege of Terra, Malcador took the Emperor's place on the Golden Throne, but the strain of the effort wore him out, causing him to turn to dust as soon as he was disconnected.
Malcador was first mentioned in early background materials, but has become a major character in the Horus Heresy
series, appearing across multiple books.
- Almighty Janitor: Even after becoming the Emperor's right-hand confidant, he still wears the simple robes of a Terran Administrator.
- Badass Bureaucrat: He may be the founder of the Administratum, but he himself worked to get things moving along well enough.
- The Chessmaster: Malcador plots on a level that would make Lord Vetinari jealous.
- Cool Old Guy
- Collector of the Strange: His most treasured possessions are the Mona Lisa and Sunflowers.
- First Name Basis: With the Primarchs. Both Space Marines and regular Adepts are somewhat surprised by the informality between them.
- The Good Chancellor: Read the Horus Heresy books and you learn that he had his shit down.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Taking up the reins of the Golden Throne, which allowed the Emperor to go and confront Horus, but ultimately killed him. Even then, he still kept a small sliver of psychic strength and gave it to the Emperor, allowing him to speak again before permanently falling silent.
- In the Hood: A non-villainous example.
- The Magnificent: The Sigillite ("bearer of the seal"), and after taking on the Golden Throne, the Emperor decreed he would be known as Malcador the Hero.
- No Body Left Behind: Turned to dust after being disconnected from the Golden Throne.
- Number Two: To the Emperor.
- Old Retainer: He had been the Emperor's chief assistant and only confidant for centuries when the Great Crusade began.
- Our Founder: To the Administratum, the Officio Assassinorum, and the Inquisition. Considering that these three organizations have been keeping humanity in a repressive hell hole for ten thousand years, it may be an example of Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
- Psychic Powers: One of the most powerful psykers of his time, but nowhere near the level of the Emperor or Magnus.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: He did a pretty fine keeping the Imperium in working order.
- Staff of Authority: And it's on fire. Why? It looks cool.