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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 
The Emperor sees all... except what's on either side of him.

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.

Notable tropes:

  • 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: invoked 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.
  • 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.
      • However, the Inquisition has fair cause to think that they're just being manipulated by Tzeentch.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    Uriah: Didn't you just tell me about the bloodshed perpetrated by the crusades? Doesn't that you make you no better than the holy men you were telling me about?
    The Emperor: The difference is that I am right.
    Uriah: Spoken like a true autocrat.
  • 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. 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: invoked 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.

    The Primarchs 
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.

Notable tropes:

  • The Ace: All the Primarchs are fast learners and can master anything with ease.
  • Anti-Villain
    • Magnus the Red is revealed to be one in an exceptionally tragic way.
    • Possibly also Alpharius/Omegon. Or not. It's confusing.
    • Lorgar, far more so than any enthusiastic Chaos follower in the setting has a right to be.
  • Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence: The surviving Traitor Primarchs have ascended to Daemon Prince status.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: They kicked ass before they became Legion Masters.
  • Badass: Every. Last. One.
    • Badass Baritone: When speaking in the Horus Heresy books the Primarch are frequently described as "rumbling".
    • Badass Beard: Rogal Dorn. Notably averted with Leman Russ (despite the Wolves' fondness for beards).
    • Badass Bookworm: Lion El'Jonson, Roboute Guilliman, Lorgar, and Magnus the Red.
    • Badass Cape: Rogal Dorn, Fulgrim, Lion El'Jonnson, and Leman Russ.
    • Badass Family: Oh, yes.
    • Badass In Charge: Many were leaders in one form or another prior to being found by the Emperor, and each led a Space Marine Legion.
    • Cultured Badass: Fulgrim, Magnus, and Sanguinius.
    • Four-Star Badass: What they were designed to be.
    • Sealed Badass in a Can: Lion El'Jonnson and Roboute Guilliman.
  • Bald of Awesome: Vulkan. Horus, Mortarion, and Perturabo as well, before they became the other variety.
  • Battle Trophy: Most had some sort of collection of various trophies during the Great Crusade. Fulgrim presented Ferrus Manus' head to Horus during the Heresy and it is implied that Trazyn the Infinite has a primarch in stasis as part of his collection, likely Vulkan.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • Sanguinius was perhaps the noblest of the Primarchs, firmly believing that humanity should be ruled by its hopes and dreams. He sliced through Greater Daemons of Chaos like they were nothing.
    • Vulkan's compassion for civilians lead him to placing his own Salamanders in more risk to protect the humans. He could send Predators and Land Raiders flying through the air with a single swing of his Thunder Hammer.
    • Corax strongly believed in the Space Marines being the liberators of humankind, not enslavers. During the Drop Site Massacre he tore through Daemon-possessed Space Marines like they were paper.
    • Roboute Guilliman set up the most functional government of the post-Heresy Imperium due to his beliefs in the Astartes serving humanity. During the Battle of Calth he decapitated fully-armed Word Bearers by punching their heads off.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Subverted by Fulgrim, played straight by Sanguinius.
  • Bishōnen: Sanguinius and Fulgrim.
  • The Black Smith: Vulkan. Ferrus Manus to a lesser extent.
  • Bling of War: Standard battle dress for the Primarchs was solid gold power armour, ranging from Artificer to Terminator armour. Mortarion was actually notable for not have excessive bling.
  • Bling Bling Bang: The Primarchs' standard arms were master-crafted power and chain weapons. Ferrus Manus was notable for not having blinged-out weaponry.
  • Big Damn Heroes: With regards to the Siege of Terra: Roboute Guilliman and the Ultramarines (the largest Legion, also seriously pissed off) were hours away; hot on their heels were the Dark Angels and Space Wolves. Unfortunately, the Emperor didn't know this. If he had, he wouldn't have needed to directly attack Horus, and could instead have waited for relief. And the rest is history...
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: Lets just say it ended in tears.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: They had bodyguards of mere Space Marines. Lampshaded by Corax after he dissolves his honour guard during the Drop Site Massacre:
    "That was for appearance. Do you think I actually need a bodyguard?"
  • Broken Ace: The Primarchs were humanity's greatest heroes and leaders, but they had some issues. The Traitor Primarchs take it Up to Eleven.
    • None more so than Angron thanks to the Butcher's Nails.
  • Cain and Abel: The Traitor Primarchs versus those who stayed loyal to the Emperor. Literally in several cases; Horus killed Sanguinius, Fulgrim killed Ferrus Manus and mortally wounded Roboute Guilliman. Guilliman may have killed Alpharius.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: And how!
  • Captain Ersatz: Prior to their first meeting with the Emperor, you had Konrad Curze as a Darker and Edgier version of Batman, Angron as a cyber-augmented Spartacus, and Jaghatai Khan as Genghis Khan.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: All of the Primarchs found themselves on worlds where their skills allowed them to improve the lives of the fellows. Konrad Curze went insane from it.
  • Dead Guy on Display: Roboute Guilliman and Rogal Dorn.
  • Deal with the Devil:
    • Mortarion.
    • Also how Chaos claims they were made. Not that Chaos is reliable.
    • This is how Magnus essentially escaped the wrath of the Wolves.
  • The Dutiful Son: Horus (pre-heresy), Rogal Dorn, Sangiunius, and Roboute Guilliman.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Corvus Corax and Konrad Curze.
  • Evil Counterpart: Horus to both Jaghatai Khan (both supremely talented but chafes at authority) and Sanguinius (the only other primarch who could have been Warmaster).
  • Evil Former Friend: Horus for Sanguinius, Fulgrim for Ferrus Manus.
  • Fangs Are Evil: Subverted with Sanguinius and Leman Russ. Possibly played straight with Konrad Curze.
  • Fatal Flaw:
    • For the Traitor Primarchs:
      • Lorgar's need to be devoted to a higher power.
      • Night Haunter's need to enforce justice whatever means necessary.
      • Perturabo's obsession with getting glory for himself and his legion.
      • Alpharius' tendency to break the rules.
      • Angron's obsession with avenging his comrades.
      • Mortarion's lack of self-confidence which leads him to seek guidance from the wrong people.
      • Fulgrim's mistrust of the other primarchs.
      • Magnus' reckless use of Chaos magic resulting from arrogance.
      • Horus' pride.
    • For the loyal Primarchs:
      • Leman Russ's need to be in service to another.
      • Roboute Guiliman's obsessive need for orthodoxy.
      • Lion El'Jonson's inability to read or relate to others.
  • Fiery Red Head: Leman Russ, Magnus the Red, and Angron.
  • Five-Bad Band: The traitor Primarchs.
  • Five-Man Band: The loyalist Primarchs.
  • Heroic BSOD:
    • The downfall of Corvus Corax, Primarch of the Raven Guard. After his chapter suffered terrible losses in the Horus Heresy, he turned to highly dangerous growth acceleration techniques to boost its numbers. This resulted in a nightmarish horde of misshapen monsters, most of which couldn't even hold a boltgun, and who had to be herded into battle. When the Heresy was over, Corax locked himself in his tower for a year and a day, finally emerging to personally give each one of his creations "the Emperor's peace" before leaving for parts unknown, his last word being "Nevermore."
    • Rogal Dorn after the Emperor died. He went from being the beloved son to an avenging angel dressed in black.
    • Horus's BSOD was so epic, it ended up destroying the galaxy-wide empire he'd fought so hard to build in the first place.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Not on the level of the Emperor, but the Horus Heresy shows unaugmented humans suffering Brown Notes upon seeing the Primarchs. It's described as sensory overload.
  • Hypocrite:
    • When Roboute Guilliman denounced Alpharius' tactics, he pointed to his legion's admittedly illustrious record to prove that he was right, essentially telling Alpharius that he would never be able to top that. Never mind the fact that this massive, illustrious record came, not from any kind of tactical doctrine, but rather from having a 200 year headstart over Alpharius. Averted somewhat with Guilliman's point of view, he was trying to show Alpharuis the record after the battle; while Alpharius tactics were effective during battles they resulted in mass unrest compare to Guilliman's swift recovery and integration into the Imperuim.
    • Angron loves to talk about how the Butcher's Nails ruined him only to use them on his own legion.
  • In the Blood: The Horus Heresy has established that each of the Primarchs represented an aspect of the Emperor's personality:
    • Horus Lupercal represented his ambition.
    • Roboute Guilliman represented his strategic genius and statesmanship.
    • Rogal Dorn represented his determination.
    • Vulkan represented his compassion for humanity.
    • Angron represented his wrath.
    • Lion El'Jonson represented his secretive nature.
    • Lorgar Aurelian represented his ability to inspire.
    • Magnus represented his psychic powers.
    • Leman Russ represented his ruthlessness.
    • Alpharius and Omegon represented his mysteriousness
    • Corvus Corax represented his cleverness and tactical insight.
    • Perturabo represented his scientific and technological brilliance.
    • Mortarion represented his resilience.
    • Fulgrim represented his drive for perfection.
    • Konrad Curze represented his terrifying nature.
    • Ferrus Manus represented his desire to make himself stronger.
    • Jaghatai Khan represented his love of battle.
    • Sanguinius represented all of him.
  • The Juggernaut: Angron and Leman Russ. You could not beat them, nor could you outrun them.
  • King in the Mountain:
    • The Ultramarines have the poisoned body of Roboute Guilliman in stasis, and some members of the chapter insist that he is slowly healing himself and will someday reawaken.
    • Some Dark Angels similarly believe that Lion El'Jonson is somewhere deep within their traveling asteroid base, The Rock. He is, on life support.
    • The Salamanders, Space Wolves, White Scars, Raven Guard and Imperial Fists' (according to some accounts) Primarchs left their chapters behind and disappeared into myth, many saying they would return for the final battle. Someone who could be Leman Russ was spotted in unconfirmed reports during the thirteenth Black Crusade, leading the long lost Thirteenth Company.
    • The Iron Hands have stories about Ferrus Manus returning, although his head was cut off and presented to Horus.
    • The only one who is explicitly stated to not have any legends of returning is Sanguinius, but there are some theories about who exactly the Sanguinor is, and several Blood Angels have claimed to be Sanguinius reborn, which got ugly quickly.
  • Large and in Charge: The Primarchs were quite large. Fulgrim wearing nothing but a robe is remarked to be a head taller than his own First Captain in Terminator Armour. Even Alpharius and Omegon, the smallest of the Primarchs, were a head taller than the average Space Marine. Magnus was an absolute giant.
    • To give a sense of scale, the average Space Marine stands a little above 2.1 meters (7 feet) tall. Lion El'Jonson, unarmored, is said to be a little over three meters tall. Magnus? Stands a full 5 meters, almost two meters taller than the Lion, and three taller than a Space Marine!
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Magnus the Red uses sorcery to try to warn the Emperor of Horus' rebellion. The Emperor, angry at Magnus both for using sorcery and for making such an accusation at his favorite Primarch, orders Leman Russ to go arrest him. Cue an entire Space Marine legion turning to Chaos.
  • Orcus on His Throne - Of the surviving Traitor Primarchs, only Angron of the World Eaters has actually left his Daemon World to wage war on the Imperium. Magnus joined the Thousand Sons on Fenris for a full-scale assault on the Space Wolves, but that ended with the Sons being routed and Magnus defeated in hand-to-hand combat.
  • Parental Issues: A possible explanation for some of the Primarch's falls from grace. All were scattered by the Chaos gods across the galaxy as infants, leaving some of them to effectively raise themselves. Horus was the first Primarch recovered and always his favorite, and some of the later Primarchs barely spent any time with their father at all, especially the last one to be found, Alpharius of the Alpha Legion.
  • The Patriarch: Many Space Marines see their Primarchs this way, and the Emperor as that to their Primarchs. Given that all Space Marines are implanted with geneseeds descended from their Primarchs, and the Primarchs themselves were engineered with genes from the Emperor, this is almost literally the case. They have many rituals revering both Primarch and Emperor, resembling almost a form of filial piety and ancestor-worship, compared to the more distant and divine worship common to the rest of the Imperium.
  • The Perfectionist: Ferrus Manus and Fulgrim. They became friends in what was basically a perfectionism fight - who could craft the best weapon. Manus made a sword, Fulgrim made a hammer. They both inspected each other's works; neither could find a flaw, and they traded. Cue bifflehood. During a duel aboard Ferrus Manus's ship when he refused Fulgrim's offer of joining Chaos, the weapons were traded back (the sword was broken and discarded, and Fulgrim stole the hammer). At the battle of Istvaan, where Fulgrim is on the verge of accepting his new demonic nature, he and Manus go down in a duel to the death using the weapons they made.
  • Psychic Powers:
    • Magnus was the second most powerful psyker in human history, surpassed only by the Emperor.
    • Sanguinius, Leman Russ, Konrad Curze, Lorgar, Lion el'Jonson, and most if not all of the rest of the Primarchs had at least rudimentary psychic abilities, mostly manifesting in prophetic visions of the future.
  • Punny Name: Lion El'Jonson, Angron, Ferrus Manus.
  • Put on a Bus: Many of the loyalist Primarchs are either dead, disappeared, or in a King in the Mountain situation.
  • Raised by Natives: Most of the Primarchs.
  • Raised by Wolves: Lion El'Jonnson, Konrad Cruze, and Leman Russ (quite literally). Well, after he crawled out of the volcano he made planetfall in...
  • Rebel Leader: Angron, Corvus Corax, and Mortarion.
  • Religious Bruiser: Lorgar, with terrible consequences. Also, in a shamanistic variant, Leman Russ.
  • The Resenter:
    • Perturabo towards Rogal Dorn.
    • Horus suspected that Roboute Guilliman and Lion El'Jonnson resented not being chosen as Warmaster.
  • Rousing Speech:
    • Upon being introduced to his Legion and seeing that there were only two hundred Marines who had survived the augmentations, Fulgrim gave such a rousing speech that the Emperor was so moved that he renamed them the Emperor's Children.
    • Lorgar was able to give such inspiring speeches that he could turn whole worlds to the Imperial cause.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Since they're considered the Emperor's sons, they're technically royalty. Ultimately subverted however, in that he never intended them to rule the Imperium, fearing that such a trend would lead to humanity instead being ruled by a genetically enhanced ruling class (ironic, considering that the Emperor was barely human himself) instead of by its own. Forcing them to be beholden to their inferiors who did nothing to help establish the Imperium also helped contribute to the Horus Heresy.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Present and accounted for.
  • The Strategist: Horus, Roboute Guilliman, Rogal Dorn, and Perturabo. Some lore has stated that Corax was a better tactician than Horus, and that many of Horus' most acclaimed victories were actually Horus taking credit for Corax's work.
  • Super Prototype: To the Space Marines.
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: Mortarion and Vulkan.
    • Perturabo.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Leman Russ and Lion El'Jonson.
  • Warrior Poet: Magnus the Red and Lorgar. Lorgar in particular leaned so heavily on the side of the poet that he detested being a warrior, and many of his brothers did not consider him one. Magnus on the other hand was proud to consider himself a warrior, and thought it was his duty as a general to acquire the knowledge of annexed or destroyed civilizations, in the hopes of bringing enlightenment to humanity, mostly in the form of mastery of the Warp.
  • Warrior Prince: By the time the Emperor found the Primarchs, most of them had united their homeworlds or overthrown its corrupt rulers.
  • Weapon of Choice: All of the Primarchs had unique and powerful weapons. Notable ones include:
    • An Axe to Grind: Angron had a matched pair, Gorefather and Gorechild. Magnus is also frequently depicted with one despite canonically preferring sorcery.
    • Blade on a Stick: Sanguinius' Spear of Telesto. Leman Russ was known to use one, simply called the Spear of Russ. The Soul Drinkers believe Rogal Dorn used one called the Soulspear.
    • Carry a Big Stick: Lorgar's Illuminarium, described as a badge of office more than a weapon but still very lethal.
    • Drop the Hammer: Thunder Hammers were popular. Ferrus Manus's was called Forgebreaker. Vulkan, being a master smith and craftsman, had several, one called Thunderhead and another called Dawnbreaker. Perturabo also had one. Horus also had a Power Maul called Worldbreaker.
    • Heroes Prefer Swords: Lion El'Jonson had one called the Lion Sword, Leman Russ named his Mjalnar, Rogal Dorn had a Chainsword which he shattered after the Siege of Terra; part of it was used to make the Sword of the High Marshals, and his second sword was the Sword of Sebastus. Fulgrim had one called Fireblade. Alpharius, Sanguinius, and Jaghatai Khan were also known to use swords.
    • Wolverine Claws: Corax favored a pair of lightning claws called the Raven's Talons. Konrad Curze also had a set, and Horus used a single one called the Talon of Horus.
  • Windows of the Soul: No one could hold the gaze of a Primarch for long except for the Emperor, another Primarch, the Eldar, or daemons, as the intensity in their eyes was so great that even Space Marines looked away.

Lion El'Johnson, Primarch of The Dark Angels.

Fulgrim, Primarch of The Emperor's Children.

Perturabo, Primarch of The Iron Warriors.

Jaghatai Khan, Primarch of The White Scars.

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.

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.

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Guiliman:
    "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."
  • 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 considered to be his Blue Oni in comparision.

Roboute Guiliman, Primarch of The Ultramarines.

  • 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.
  • Power Fist: The Gauntlets of Ultramar.

Mortarion, Primarch of The Death Guard.

Magnus The Red, Primarch of The Thousand Sons.

  • 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.
  • 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.

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.

  • Gentle Giant: He's probably the nicest guy out of all the Primarchs.
  • Scary Black Man: At least when Dark Eldar are involved.
  • Screw You, Dark Eldar!: He fought back an entire planetary invasion army of these guys with nothing but a pair of blacksmith hammers. And this was BEFORE he even knew that he was a Primarch!
  • Ultimate Blacksmith: The weapons/relics that he created are amongst the most powerful and sought after that the Imperium has ever had.

Corvus Corax, Primarch of The Raven Guard.

Alpharious/Omegon, Primarch(s?) of The Alpha Legion.

  • The Unfavorite: Alpharius, not that it actually bothered him any; especially when personally trained under Horus' wing.

Primarchs II and XI, The erased Primarchs.

  • 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 for Lorgar.

    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.

Notable tropes:

  • 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.


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