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In an empire of a million worlds, how much can one man truly matter? Only one being is truly essential to its continued existence, hail his name, the Master of Mankind. And he has not spoken in ten thousand years...


The Imperium of Man, ruled from Holy Terra, is The Empire of Warhammer 40,000, and a particularly brutal and dystopian one at that. After the collapse of galactic civilization, a being known only as The Emperor of Mankind led his Great Crusade to reunify humanity in an enlightened new order. But just when a new golden age seemed imminent, the newly-forged Imperium was wracked by civil war as half of the Emperor's sons turned against him. The Horus Heresy was ultimately quashed, but at a terrible price: countless worlds were left in cinders, untold trillions were dead, and the Emperor himself was mortally wounded and forced to "ascend" to the Golden Throne, an arcane life-support machine.

Ten thousand years later the Emperor is venerated as a God, the Imperium's technology has barely progressed, Witch Hunts are commonplace since every rogue psyker is a potential gateway to the Legions of Hell, each day thousands of souls are sacrificed to power the psychic navigational aid known as the Astronomican, planets deemed tainted beyond salvation are subject to Exterminatus, and the sheer size of the Terran bureaucracy means that entire planetary populations can be forgotten due to filing errors.

Though it is by far the largest and most powerful faction in the galaxy, the Imperium is nonetheless an empire under constant siege from the rival powers of the galaxy. But its greatest threats come from within, in the form of heretics undermining the authority of High Lords of Terra or Ecclesiarchy, recidivists who understandably want to get the hell out from under the heel of such an oppressive government, or mutants and rogue psykers who threaten the purity of the human race itself. This siege mentality makes the Imperium a paranoid and superstitious place, but also keeps much of the populace in line—though it is a far cry from the Emperor's original vision, it is the only thing standing between mankind and extinction. At least, that's what the various higher ups like to believe...

Tropes associated with the Imperium

  • A House Divided: Many Imperial institutions were deliberately designed to monitor and check the others' power, which reduces their effectiveness but keeps one man from seizing control. For example, the Ecclesiarchy is banned from keeping "men under arms" to stop cardinals from becoming warlords, while the Imperial Guard is wholly reliant on the Imperial Navy for troop transport for the same reason.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: A billion isn't even considered a significant loss for the Imperium.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: ...kind of. Since Warhammer 40K's magic system is based on Clap Your Hands If You Believe, belief can have power. It should be noted that while belief isn't treated nicely, outright atheism is treated as even worse. The reason no one saw the Horus Heresy coming and didn't believe it once it started was because the Imperial Way had outlawed all belief in demons, magic, etc.
    • Well, it would be silly to not believe in the Emperor—his existence is a simple matter of fact.
      • The question wasn't whether or not he existed, but whether or not he was a god incarnate. The Emperor vehemently said no, to the point of ordering the Ultramarines to wipe out Imperial citizens who's only crime was being taught by the Word Bearers that they should worship the Emperor as a god.
    • Of course, part of the reason the Imperial way had outlawed such beliefs was because the Emperor had determined the relationship between the Warp and physical beings, and wanted to avoid making the Chaos entities stronger.
      • Which, in the most recent additions to the Horus Heresy series, is revealed to have backfired rather badly, since, even without active belief/worship, the Chaos gods are still strengthened simply by humans going about their day-to-day existence of fighting, loving, planning, sickening, and dying. The only effective way to combat this is fervent belief in something else (i.e. the Emperor).
        • This feeding off of emotion has been present in the fluff for much longer, actually—since at least Slaves to Darkness, released back in 1987. Granted, the metaphysics of it has changed somewhat.
    • When compared to the Elder or the Interex (a human/alien alliance from the first Horus Heresy novel), the Imperium seems to have swung directly from the two extremes of this trope (fanatically denying there is anything other than what strict real-world science teaches to just as fanatically revering the God-Emperor) without hitting the interim point. This point, where the society in question doesn't worship anything but, at the same time, openly recognizes and seeks to guard against Chaos, tends to be shown as being just as effective at fighting against Chaos as the Imperial Cult.
  • Blind Seer: Astropaths, sanctioned psykers that act as the Imperium's communications network, are rendered blind (and sometimes even more crippled than that, to the point of losing other senses) by the Soul Binding ritual that reshapes their minds.
  • The Caligula: More than a few Planetary Governors (Herman von Strab of Armageddon was pretty blatant), but at the Imperial level, we have High Lord Goge Vandire, who became Master of the Administratum and Ecclesiarch in the 36th millennium, causing the Reign of Blood during the Age of Apostasy. Completely insane and prone to wandering about the Palace in the shadows, he was guarded by a sect he co-opted called the "Daughters of the Emperor". Eventually, the Adeptus Mechanicus and the Space Marines rebelled against him, but the Daughters managed to hold the line, until the Adeptus Custodes were able to turn the Daughters against Vandire. The Ecclesiarchy was subsequently stripped of military power except for the Daughters, who became the Sisters of Battle we know and love today.
  • Catch Phrase: "For the Emperor!" and "the Emperor protects!"
  • Central Themes:
    • The Fallen Greatness of Man: Everywhere in the Imperium, there is decay of mind, body, and spirit. Once, the armies of Man were led by Demigods; now, the forces of the Imperium are fragmented and distrustful of each other. The God-Emperor conquered the galaxy in a few centuries, but the Imperium now struggles to merely survive. Men once rearranged the stars to better suit themselves, but Imperial technology has been largely stagnant for over ten thousand years.
    • Mortality and Insignificance of the Individual: The Galaxy is a big place, trillions battle for humanity's survival, thousands of wars rage unchecked, and against this backdrop, the death of millions and destruction of entire worlds is rendered insignificant. Imperial Dogma reflects this; there are death and skull motifs everywhere, and Imperial culture is an especially fatalistic one. "Serve the Emperor, for tomorrow you may be dead."
    • The End Justifies the Means: The Imperium's war is ultimately one of survival; merely living to see the next day is hailed as victory, and the price of defeat is extinction of the human race and destruction of the very fabric of reality. Against that, what is a few million lives, or even an entire world? What mercy can one afford to those who would bend knee to the Xeno or Daemon? Better that they all die. And of the loyal souls lost? Well, "The Martyr's Grave is the Keystone of the Imperium."
  • Career Killers: The Officio Assassinorum, which provides elite assassins used by Imperial organizations such as the Inquisition. The Grand Master of Assassins, the head of the Office, is one of the High Lords of Terra, and is heavily monitored by the other High Lords, as the Grand Master could (and at one point did) easily wipe the others out.
  • Civil War:
    • The Horus Heresy was what caused the Imperium to be the barely functioning husk that it is.
    • The Age of Apostasy started as a struggle for dominance between the Administratum and the Ecclesiarchy, which Goge Vandire ended by becoming head of both, and then became a Civil War when the Space Marines and the Adeptus Mechanicus rebelled against Vandire's increasingly repressive and bloody rule.
  • City Planet: The Imperium has two types. The first type are Hive Worlds, planets whose surfaces have been covered with Hive Cities. Life on these worlds are especially unpleasant for the lower classes living in the under hives, even for the Imperium. The second type are Forge Worlds, planets devoted wholly to building the technology the Imperium needs.
  • Church Militant: The Adeptus Ministorum, or Ecclesiarchy, exhorts Imperial citizens to kill and die in the Emperor's name. Though restricted from having their own armies, they do supply priests and preachers to help whip the Imperial Guard into a zealous frenzy.
    • Corrupt Church: As the Ecclesiarch became the most powerful of the High Lords, the Ecclesiarchy became wealthy and at times corrupt. This "Temple Tendency" is considered heresy by the Inquisition following the Age of Apostasy, and is purged with extreme prejudice.
  • Common Tongue: The Gothic language, which has two major branches: High Gothic, which is hieratic tongue used to keep formal records (and sounds like Latin) and Low Gothic, which is used for everyday conversation (and is translated into English for the sake of convenience).
  • Do Not Go Gentle: The Imperium is going down, and they're taking everyone they can with them.
  • The Empire: Pretty self-explanatory.
  • Fantastic Racism: Fantastic in that how bad it can get. The Imperium will only show you any niceness if you're human. A lot of times, not even then if you're not human enough.
    • A degree of genetic deviation is tolerated; abhumans like Ogryns and Ratlings are useful. However, the human genome is sacred, and creating retroviruses that seek to change it is among the greatest of sins.
    • For a non-fantastic example of racism, there's that famous joke about the Imperium: "In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only white people."
    • There's also the fact that the Imperium's most hated foes are the Gue'Vesa infantry, of all people. Not because they're especially vicious or anything, but rather because they're viewed as race traitors.
  • Forever War: Ten thousand years and counting.
  • Feudal Future: A necessity, given the Imperium's sheer size and the unreliability of interstellar communication. But note that a planetary overlord is not necessarily a baron or other hereditary title: so long as a governor provides the necessary tithes in manpower, sends their psykers to the Black Ships, and keeps things in some semblance of order, the High Lords of Terra don't care if it's a monarchy or republic.
  • The Government: The Adeptus Terra, the "Priesthood of Earth", an umbrella organization which includes the major Adepts, or government servants. In practice, though, the organizations of the Adeptus Terra are autonomous (and seriously distrustful) of each other.
  • Hopeless War: The Imperium is dying, the vultures are circling, but it has a lot of fight in it yet. A mere hundred years ago, it was at its strongest ever, conquering a thousand worlds in a mere decade, and it still has men and tanks enough to throw into the meatgrinder.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: With the Imperium's religious fanaticism, aggressiveness in taking over the Galaxy, overzealous anthropocentricism (see above), and their ability to make Nineteen Eighty-Four look like the cliched portrayals of 1950s America, it doesn't take a genius to see why fans sometimes call the Imperials "Catholic Space Nazis."
  • Humans Are Morons
  • Humans Are Warriors: This is why humanity is still alive in a galaxy where everything wants them dead.
  • Human Resources: Psykers are rounded up on the Black Ships and taken back to Terra for testing. Those with potential are trained as battlefield psykers or astropaths, while others are sacrificed to power the Astronomican or maintain the Golden Throne.
  • Intrepid Merchant: Rogue Traders are starship captains who seek fame and fortune on the galactic frontiers, discovering long-lost human settlements, exploiting alien species before the inevitable genocide campaign, or searching for ancient archeotech. The more successful ones own military-grade capital ships, if not their own worlds to govern.
  • Judge, Jury, and Executioner: The Adeptus Arbites are basically expies of Judge Dredd, although instead of pounding a beat, they act as Internal Affairs, to frequent resentment, to planetary police and governments; otherwise, they concentrate on rebellion, civil unrest, smuggling, and interplanetary organised crime.
  • Just Before the End: The current epoch has optimistically been labeled The Time of Ending.
  • Kill It with Fire: This is official policy to all threats to the Imperium—which is everyone.
  • Low Culture, High Tech: The Imperium of Man is basically the culture of Medieval Europe with technology far beyond it.
  • Light Is Not Good: Uses quite some angelic imagery and themes, but it's not really that much better to any other side. Of course, the Imperials say they're the good guys.
  • Martyrdom Culture: This telling line of wisdom from the Imperium: "Even a man who has nothing can still have faith. Even a man who has nothing can still offer his life."
    • ...AND MANY MORE!
    • Within the Imperium, there are lines known as "Thoughts for the Day", sayings attached to official documents. To sum it up, the Thoughts tell you that life sucks, something horrible is going to kill you in a horrible way, so you might as well kill as many of them for the Emperor before you die.
  • Messianic Archetype: Sebastian Thor, who lead the Confederation of Light against High Lord Goge Vandire and succeeded him as Ecclesiarch, ending the Age of Apostasy. Believed to possess some of the power of the Emperor, he gave rise to a Puritan belief in the Inquisition which holds that the Emperor will be reborn if he dies.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The Administratum has planets of them, one of which is on the verge of a civil war on where to store the files.
  • Order Versus Chaos: Staunchly on Order's side.
  • Orphanage of Fear: The Schola Progenium, run by the Ecclesiarchy, is an orphanage for children of Imperial soldiers and officials, where they receive a strong Imperial Cult upbringing. Not really a terrifying orphanage (at least by 40K standards), the Schola's graduates often go on to become various Imperial officials, such as Commissars, Inquisitors, and Imperial assassins, while a number of the girls go on to join the Adepta Sororitas.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: The Imperium was founded as an enlightened, secular society disdainful of "daemons" or afterlives, not because the Emperor thought such things didn't exist, but because he was trying to starve the Chaos gods and keep his people from delving into matters best left unknown. This backfired spectacularly, and today the Imperium clings to their belief in the God-Emperor because they know damn well what's out to get them.
  • Planet Terra: Well, they call it Holy Terra, but still played straight.
  • Praetorian Guard: The Adeptus Custodes are golden-armored warriors who guard the Imperial Palace on Terra, and are elite even compared to Space Marines.
  • Putting on the Reich: The Imperium has always had shades of this, but when the Emperor actually reigned, things were a lot more pleasant. After the Horus Heresy, well...
  • Regent for Life: The High Lords of Terra, who rule the Imperium of Man in the name of the God-Emperor. Since the Emperor isn't likely to get off the Golden Throne anytime soon, they've been running the show for the last ten thousand years. They include, but are not limited to, the Master of the Administratum, the Ecclesiarch, the Fabricator-General of the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Grand Master of the Officio Assassinorum, the Lord Commander of the Imperial Guard, the Lord High Admiral of the Imperial Navy, the Grand-Provost Marshal of the Adeptus Arbites, and representatives of the Navis Nobilite and Inquisition.
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand: This was institutionalized after the Horus Heresy to make sure no one man could ever topple the Imperium again. A constant, low grade civil war is a small price to pay for this balance in the eyes of the high lords.
  • Tarot Motifs: The Imperial Tarot is occasionally consulted as another manifestation of the God-Emperor's will and foresight.
  • Treachery Cover-Up: After the Horus Heresy, attempts were made to excise that dark period from history with varying success. Some worlds are dumbstruck when they are confronted by Traitor Marines, while on others Horus's fall to darkness is common knowledge.
    • This has actually had subtle effects on virtually all of Imperial society. For example, all canonical Space Marine chapters have Chaplains, Badass Preachers of the Imperial Cult whose primary task is to keep their charges from falling to Chaos. But, pre-Heresy, the Chaplains only existed amongst one Legion, the Word Bearers, and this intense devotion to religion made them the very first Legion to fall to Chaos.
  • Vast Bureaucracy: The Adeptus Administratum (the Imperial Bureaucracy) is this in a nutshell. As the administrative and bureaucratic arm of the Adeptus Terra, the Administratum assesses the tithes worlds must pay to the Imperium, takes census data, and maintains copious records of virtually everything. Unfortunately, ten thousand years has resulted in bureaucratic incompetence unforeseen. Whole planets can be lost due to rounding errors, Imperial Guard reinforcements can be anywhere from months to centuries late because of bureaucratic inertia, and departments will continue to function long after they're obsolete. The Master of the Administratum is its head and generally regarded as the most powerful of the High Lords, something the Ecclesiarch has had problems with a few times.
  • The White House: The Imperial Palace, a massive construct made of gold which covers most of Europe and is not only visible from orbit, but also visible from Mars. The heart of the Administratum and, most importantly, the site of the Golden Throne.

The Emperor of Mankind


The Emperor protects...


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 include

  • A Father to His Men: Subverted. Monstrously. 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.
  • 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.
    • Though he kept his youth back before the Horus Heresy.
  • 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?[1]
    • 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?
  • 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, but the Imperium he left behind is the only place Chaos can't completely defile,[2] allows trillions to live unmolested, and even allows for something resembling a heaven of sorts.
  • 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.

  • 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 wrong if anything hadn't gone to hell. Or it might have failed epically. 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.
  • Bling of War: His armor during the Great Crusade was golden Terminator armor.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: He is far more powerful than his guards.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • The Dreaded: It's implied that he is this for Chaos Daemons, if not the Chaos Gods themselves.
    • Of course, to other daemons, such as a certain one from Dawn of War, he's just a 'corpse on a throne, who cannot protect anyone', so possibly subverted.
  • 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.
    • God-Emperor: Tried to deny this during the Great Crusade, but cults deifying him were constantly springing up during the Great Crusade and, after the Horus Heresy, the Imperium became a theocracy dedicated to him as its god-figure.
  • 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.
  • 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 Is Good: To an extent. While he was still lived, 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 arguably much, much weaker.
  • 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. Mostly the thousand psykers.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: While the Emperor sometimes provided a bit of a push towards it, ultimately, he was perfectly willing to recruit and fight alongside many individuals who not only sold 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.
  • Hypocrite: In The Last Church, he claims that religion is evil because deeply held beliefs lead to violence. And he cites 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.

  • Humans Are White: Averted, artwork shows him as noticeably tan. He was born in Ancient Turkey, in fact.
  • 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.
  • Jerkass: 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.
    • Let's put this into perspective. It speaks volumes about the kind of setting we're in, when the guy that obliterated an entire world (because he perceived them to be failures) is only listed as a Jerkass.
  • 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 races helps, too.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch/Pay Evil Unto Evil: Regardless of his intentions, due to the sheer volume of the atrocities he had committed and his titanic arrogance, it is hard to resist having a sensation of joy when Horus tears the Emperor limb from limb.
  • 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 only seen him in Terminator armor.
  • Light Is Good: He single-handedly saved Mankind, united them, developed an empire and rediscovered many of Humanity's lost sciences!
    • Light Is Not Good: ...But he killed billions of people in the process, among other things.
  • 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 Astronomicon, 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.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • Several Traitor Primarchs got their Start of Darkness because the Emperor was such a Jerkass. 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 smouldering 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.
  • 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.: According to Imperial propaganda.
  • Parental Favoritism: After Horus, the Emperor's favorite Primarchs were (in no particular order) Sanguinius, Roboute Guilliman, Rogal Dorn, and Fulgrim.
  • The Patriarch: The Imperium portrays the Emperor as the spiritual father of humanity, as he rather invoked this image during the Great Crusade.
  • Pro-Human Transhuman: 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 Seven Hundred Years Old: During the Horus Heresy, he was around 40,000 years old, but merely looked as if he was in his late to mid 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. On the other hand, they're not very reliable.
  • Stop Worshipping Me!: And he enforced that decree. Violently. This is indirectly the cause of the Horus Heresy, also.
  • Super Intelligence
  • 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. The only thing that stops him from being a Complete Monster is the fact that what the Emperor does is for the betterment of the human race and the Galaxy as a whole. Though others in his time did speculate that the other part of his motivation was lordship over the galaxy.
  • 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.

The Primarchs


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 [dead link], created from his very own DNA. 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 associated with the Primarchs include

  • An Axe to Grind: Angron. He had two.
  • 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.
  • Bald of Awesome: Ferrus Manus and Vulkan. Horus, Mortarion, and Perturabo as well, before they became the other variety.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Sanguinius was perhaps the noblest of the Primarchs, but he was an absolute killing machine on the battle field.
  • Bishonen: Sanguinius and Fulgrim.
  • The Blacksmith: Vulkan. Ferrus Manus to a lesser extent.
  • Blade on a Stick: Many of the Primarchs were given Spears as gifts by the Emperor.
  • 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.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: They had bodyguards of mere Space Marines.
  • Broken Ace: The Primarchs were humanity's greatest heroes and leaders, but they had some issues. The Traitor Primarchs take it Up to Eleven.
  • Cain and Abel
  • Can Not Tell a Lie: Rogal Dorn would not lie under any circumstances, even if it helped his cause. Really pissed off Perturabo because of this.
  • 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.
  • Carry a Big Stick: Lorgar's crozius.
  • 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.
  • Crisis of Faith: Lorgar has such a massive one following the Emperor's rebuke of his worship that he started worshiping the Chaos Gods. He dragged the rest of the Primarchs in for fun.
  • Curb Stomp Battle: Leman Russ earned such a brutal reputation during the Great Crusade that the Space Wolves were nicknamed "the Rout".
  • Dead Guy on Display: Roboute Guilliman and Rogal Dorn.
  • Deal with the Devil:
  • Drop the Hammer: Horus, Ferrus Manus, Perturabo, and Vulkan.
  • The Dutiful Son: Horus (pre-heresy) Rogal Dorn, Sangiunius, and Roboute Guilliman.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Corvus Corax and Konrad Curze.
  • Evil Former Friend: Horus for Sangiuinius, Fulgrim for Ferrus Manus.
  • Fangs Are Evil: Subverted with Sanguinius and Leman Russ. Possibly played straight with Konrad Curze.
  • Fiery Redhead: Leman Russ, Magnus the Red, and Angron.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: Sanguinius, Leman Russ, Rogal Dorn, Lion El'Jonnson, and Jaghatai Khan.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Juggernaut: Angron and Leman Russ. You could not beat them, you could only hope to out run them.[3]
  • 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.
      • Hell, the Iron Hands have stories about Ferrus Manus returning, and 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.
  • Parental Issues: Out the wazoo.
  • 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.
    • A little bit of Fridge irony and Fridge symbolism here. Ferrus Manus and Fulgrim 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. 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 each other's weapons. Ferrus Manus uses the sword he forged for Fulgrim and slices the hammer made for him by Fulgrim in half. This reveals that A) Manus was the perfect one the whole time, having forged a weapon that was, in the end, superior and B) Fulgrim's hammer breaking is symbolic of his own flawed perfectionism, and obsession with the aesthetic.
  • Power Fist: Roboute Guilliman's Gauntlets of Ultramar, Horus's Talon of Horus, and Konrad Curze's Power Talons.
  • Psychic Powers:
    • Magnus was the second most powerful Psyker in human history, surpassed only by the Emperor.
    • Konrad Curze was constantly plagued by visions of the Emperor murdering him.
    • Sanguinius had Prophetic Dreams that allowed him limited foresight.
  • 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.
  • Our Angels Are Different: Sanguinius.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Sinister Scythe: Mortarion.
  • The Strategist: Horus, Roboute Guilliman, Rogal Dorn, and Perturabo.
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: Mortarion and Vulkan.
  • Vigilante Man: Taken to its logical and horrific extreme with Konrad Kruze/The Night Haunter.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Leman Russ and Lion El'Jonson.
  • Warrior Prince: By the time the Emperor found the Primarchs, most of them had united their homeworlds or overthrown its corrupt rulers.
  • Winged Humanoid: Sanguinius.
  • White-Haired Pretty Boy: Fulgrim, very much so.
  • Wolverine Claws: The Raven's Talons of Corax.

Malcador the Sigillite

Serving the Emperor at 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 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 include

  • Cool Old Guy
  • The Good Chancellor: Read the Horus Heresy books and you learn that he had his shit down.
  • First-Name Basis: With the Primarchs. Both Space Marines and regular Adepts are both somewhat surprised by the informality between them in the Horus Heresy.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Taking up the reigns 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 following silent.
  • In the Hood: A non-villainous example.
  • The Magnificent: The Sigillite, 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.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Subverted. He may be the founder of the Administratum, but he himself worked to get things moving along well enough.
  • 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.
  • Staff of Authority: And it's on fire. Why? It looks cool.

The various Imperial Factions are:

Space Marines

File:Baldwin3 1687.jpg


And They shall know no Fear.


Ten thousand years ago, when the Emperor led his Great Crusade to reunify humanity, he did so at the head of twenty legions of genetically-engineered super men: the Adeptus Astartes, also known as the Space Marines or the Angels of Death. Each of these legions was based off of and led by one of the Primarchs, the Emperor's clone-sons who were blessed with the strength, wisdom, and charisma to become great leaders of men. But in the hour of mankind's greatest triumph, fully half of these legions turned upon the Emperor, and nearly undid all that he had accomplished. After this grand betrayal, the loyalist legions were reorganized into thousand-man strong organizations called chapters, and new ones were founded to help protect the Imperium. Today there are around a thousand chapters of Space Marines, either based on specific homeworlds, ruling entire regions of space, or patrolling the stars in formidable fleets. Recognizing no authority other than the Emperor himself, Space Marines either lead their own crusades to fight the enemies of mankind, or answer petitions for assistance. They stand apart from the Imperium despite serving it, just as they protect humanity despite transcending it.

The Space Marines are the iconic faction of 40K; they are power armored, genetically-engineered Super soldiers, and fanatics to the Imperial creed to a man. Fear and doubt are cast aside, and pleas of mercy and terror-inspiring battle cries alike fall on deaf ears. They will never compromise, never surrender, never tire; the Emperor demanded the galaxy be his, and the Space Marines have fought for the past ten thousand years to make it so. They have become figures of religious awe and terror: the Emperor's Angels of Death. "The enemies of man fear many things," goes the Imperial slogan. "They fear discovery, defeat and death. But most of all, they fear the wrath of the Space Marines!"

The Space Marines can be split in terms of style among their founder legions:

Chapter Armor color Primarch Institutionally: Specialties Chapter Master
Dark Angels Dark Green Lion El'Jonson Paranoid Fast Attack, Terminator armor, Hunting Renegade Angels Azrael
White Scars White Jaghatai Khan Mobile Fast Attack, Warbikes Jubal Khan
Space Wolves Gray, Yellow and/or Red Pauldrons Leman Russ Viking Assault Logan Grimnar
Imperial Fists Yellow Rogal Dorn Fortified Siege warfare Vladamir Pugh
Blood Angels Red Sanguinius Vampiric Close Combat, Deep Striking Dante
Iron Hands Black and Silver Ferrus Manus Mechanical Bionics Kadran Stronos
Ultramarines Blue Roboute Guilliman Institutionalized Generalists Marneus Calgar
Raven Guard Black Corvus Corax Tricky Precision Attacks Unknown
Salamanders Green, Black Pauldrons Vulkan Forging Close-Quarter Fire-Fights, Protecting Civilians, Kill It with Fire Tu'Shan
Grey Knights Unpainted Ceramite N/A Pure Battling Chaos Kaldor Draigo
Black Templars Black, White Pauldrons Rogal Dorn Crusading Close Combat Helbretch
Deathwatch Black, Silver Pauldron Various Xenocidal Battling Aliens, Special Ops Unknown
Blood Ravens Red, Bone Pauldrons Unknown[4] Knowledge-Seeking Psychic Powers Gabriel Angelos
Soul Drinkers Purple, Gold, Bone Rogal Dorn Rebellious Assault, Deep Striking, Boarding Sarpedon
Lost Legions Unknown Unknown Gone RECORDS DELETED None
Legion of the Damned Black with Flame and Skeleton imagery Roboute Gulliman Doomed Appearing in the nick of time N/A

Some other notes regarding the chapters:

  • Almost two thirds of the Space Marine chapters are descended from the Ultramarines.
  • There are two Legions that have apparently been stricken from all records, and nobody knows what happened to them.
  • The Black Templars are an offshoot of the Imperial Fists.
  • The Grey Knights are the chamber militant of the Ordo Malleus of the Inquisition, and owing to their specialization, have no successor chapters.
  • The Deathwatch is the chamber militant of the Ordo Xenos of the Inquisition, composed of Marines from various chapters and used against alien invasions.
  • Many chapters do not have their primarch identified in game materials; indeed, some, such as the Blood Ravens, canonically do not know which founder legion they came from.

Depending on which version of fluff you read, they can be invincible gods of war or just gene-enhanced elite soldiers.

On the tabletop, Space Marines are a well-rounded and forgiving army. They are a very popular starting army, coming in the box sets and with a decent ten-man squad coming in at £19.95/$35. The average Space Marine is very effective in both ranged and close combat, not to mention as well-armed and -armored as most armies' elite soldiers. Needless to say, elite Space Marine soldiers are terrifying prospects to face, be they veteran marines in hulking nigh-invulnerable armor, or critically-wounded soldiers entombed in a walking tank. However, this makes Space Marines expensive in terms of point costs, so they are almost always outnumbered by their opponents. Not that this should particularly worry them...

Notable Space Marine tropes include

  • Abnormal Ammo:
    • The standard small arm for every Space Marine fires .75 caliber rocket-powered armor-piercing explosive rounds.
    • The elite Sternguard have ammunition for their small arms that makes them pretty much capable of dealing with any sort of infantry threat.
  • Arm Cannon:
    • It's common for Power Fists to be armed with integrated Storm Bolters, but the Grey Knights typically wear their wrist-mounted Storm Bolters on their regular gauntlets.
    • The Angelus-pattern boltgun is a wrist mounted bolter issued to the Sanguinary Guard (the Praetorian Guard of the Blood Angels).
  • Art Major Biology—As is common for the setting, this is the only possible reason (besides the ever-present Rule of Cool) for the fact that part of the process of turning a man into a Space Marine is fusing his rib cage into one solid lump of bone.
  • Asexuality—By the time a Space Marine is done with training, they have few impulses beyond fighting and killing in the name of the Emperor, and thus have no interest in sex.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!:
    • The Blood Angels in particular are known for being very aggressive, even by the standards of Astartes, and their strategies typically involve getting to grips with the enemy as soon as possible. Their forces tend to be pulled forward by their assault squads, with their other elements providing support to that offensive thrust. While they can adapt to a variety of situations and tactics like other chapters, their geneseed flaw means that any of them can be overcome by the Black Rage at any time in combat. Thus focusing on aggressively attacking tends to be their most reliable strategy since they do not have to alter their plan if one of their marines goes Leeroy Jenkins with Blood Lust. Some of their successor chapters, such as the Flesh Tearers, go even further with this.
    • The Black Templars chapter has several special rules reflecting their absolute fanaticism and hatred for the enemy, even when it might go against sound tactical logic, such as getting free moves towards the enemy when they get shot at, having to take leadership tests to shoot enemies who are not the closest to them, being Fearless in close combat, and having a Vow that forces them to charge any enemy unit they are able to, in exchange for getting Preferred Enemy against EVERYONE.
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier—The signature ground transport for Space Marines is the humble Rhino, a simple but incredibly durable and versatile vehicle that serves as the basis for most of their tanks, and due to being based on a tractor template can run on almost anything. If necessarily, they'll power it with wood...or corpses.
  • Badass—Officially held to be the most Badass group in the series, so let's get started:
    • Badass Army—One of the best examples in the series.
    • Badass Beard—The Space Wolves love their beards.
    • Badass Biker—Those Marines on bikes, especially the White Scars.
    • Badass Boast -- "And we shall know no fear!"
    • Badass Bookworm—Librarians aren't just the Chapter's psykers, they're also the Chapter's record keepers.
    • Badass Cape—Captains often wear capes with their armour.
    • Badass Creed—Each Space Marine Chapter has a Catechism of Battle, a war cry that invokes their Primarch and/or the Emperor in battle.
    • Badass in Charge—Space Marine Chapter Masters, Captains, and Sergeants need to be this.
    • Badass Grandpa—Most Space Marine Chapter Masters, in particular Commander Dante, Marneus Calgar, and Logan Grimnar.
    • Badass Long Hair—Popular among the Blood Angels.
    • Badass Long Robe—The Dark Angels wear their robes over their power armour.
    • Badass Nickname—The Emperor's Angels of Death.
    • Badass Preacher—Chaplains, who tend to the spiritual needs of the Chapter and are just as dangerous combatants.
    • Badass Teacher—By design, the relatively young Mentors chapter are this to the Imperial Guard, and conversely consider older, more established chapters to be this to themselves. The Adeptus Mechanicus also tends to use them as field-testers for their latest designs and upgrades.
    • Cultured Badass—Part of the hat of the Blood Angels, which contrasts their more...iconic image.
    • Four-Star Badass—Any Chapter Master worth his power armor is this.
  • Berserk Button—Several:
    • Mention targeting civilians in front of the Salamanders.
    • And don't get us started on anyone who dares blasphemize the Emperor (or the chapter's Primarch) within earshot of the more zealous chapters...
    • Suggest shaving or haircuts to Space Wolves, or, if you're an Inquisitor, declare Exterminatus around these guys. See how long you survive. Much like the aforementioned Salamanders, murdering innocent civilians is a huge no-no for the Space Wolves, as chapter master Seth of the Flesh Tearers found out the hard way.
    • Mention treachery and heresy around the Dark Angels. You'll live just long enough to regret it...because they'll KEEP YOU ALIVE THROUGH HORRENDOUS TORTURE UNTIL YOU DO. Then they'll kill you.
    • The Blood Angels have one that causes the Black Rage, turning them from noble warriors into gibbering madmen. The problem is that after ten thousand years they still don't know what sets it off.
    • Mention the Soul Drinkers near any of the other Imperial Fists successors, and see how long you can handle their Pain Glove.
    • And in the name of all things holy, do not, under any circumstances, threaten the gene-seed of a fallen battle-brother. Marines from other Chapters will tear you a new one if you do. And that doesn't even get started on what the Chapter the battle-brother belonged to will do.
  • Beware the Nice Ones—The nicer Chapters (mainly the Salamanders, Ultramarines, Space Wolves, Blood Angels, Imperial Fists and Raven Guard) can be some of the most dangerous enemies in the setting.
  • BFG—All the Space Marines guns are huge. Because they're the only ones who can hold them.
  • BFS—Power swords, chainswords, force swords...basically any sword a Space Marine will wield will be about half the height of a regular human.
  • Big Brother Instinct—The nicer chapters towards non-combatants and the Imperial Guard if they're putting up a good fight.
  • Big Book of War—The Codex Astartes
  • Big Damn Heroes—For many of the Imperium's battles, the turning point came when the Space Marines arrived from orbit.
  • Bio Augmentation—The source of their Super Soldier status, particularly embodied in the 19 specifically-engineered organ implants that are present in all Space Marines. See this for the entire process.[5]
  • Bishonen—Sanguinius, Primarch of the Blood Angels, was very handsome. The Blood Angels are also known for a refined aesthetic.
  • Bizarre Human Biology—The result of all the aforementioned extensive Bio Augmentation. Many Black Library writers and 40K characters use the term "posthuman" to define the status of the Astartes, because their physiological differences from normal humans are so vast.
  • Bling of War—Oh, yes. Purity seals, prayer inscriptions, shiny battle honors, wolf pelts and fangs, giant fireproof lizard skins, suits of solid gold power armor... the Marines love their bling.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass—Their chapter masters, no slouches themselves, often have bodyguards.
  • Boisterous Bruiser—The Space Wolves in general. Their current Great Wolf, Logan Grimnar, is a charismatic and unquestionably heroic individual in a galaxy of Well Intentioned Extremists, who actually objects to the Inquisition killing off Imperial Guardsmen who know too much. Leman Russ, the Space Wolves' Primarch, only joined the Emperor after a Drinking Contest...and a Power Fist to the head. And the former was the reason he had a headache after, not the latter.
  • Bruiser with a Soft Center - The "nicer" chapters outside of battle, namely Ultramarines (and their offshoots), Salamanders, Blood Angels, Space Wolves, Imperial Fists, and Raven Guard:
    • Ultramarines are stoic yet fair rulers who treat their subjects with respect and dignity, something of a rarity in the vast morass of the Imperium.
    • Salamanders are the only chapter that live with their human families outside battle, and hence have closer ties to their humanity than other chapters do.
    • The Blood Angels and Space Wolves in particular are open sentimentalists who are prone to Manly Tears and Tender Tears, and are textbook examples of the Gentle Giant when it comes to innocent civilians and children.
    • The Imperial Fists and some of their successors work together with Planetary Defence Forces rather than take-over command, operate independently or counter to Imperial Forces like most Codex chapters, exceptions being the Soul Drinkers and the Black Templars.
    • The Raven Guard often refuse to abandon civilians unless there is absolutely no other choice. Captain Kayvan Shrike actually doesn't abandon them even if their isn't a choice.
  • Bullet-Proof Fashion Plate—The Space Marine's Powered Armor is undoubtedly tough, but they rarely show any of the grime from mud, blood, and debris one would expect them to get caked with when wading through the kind of high-intensity firefights they tend to be deployed for. This is Justified Trope by some of the fluff that says they have servitors dedicated to scrubbing down and cleaning their armor and vehicles immediately after a deployment so that their bright heraldry is always displayed clearly when the deploy next. The official Citadel tank painting guide recommends that weathering on Space Marine tanks be kept very slight to reflect this.
  • Canon Immigrant—The Blood Ravens chapter, invented for the Dawn of War video game and embraced by Games Workshop.
  • The Captain—Each company is lead by a Brother-Captain, who also usually holds some sort of logistical position within the Chapter (such as Master of the Arsenal, Fleet, Recruits, etc). The senior most of the these is the Captain of the First Company (aptly named First Captain) who serves as the second-in-command of the Chapter.
  • Chainsword Good—A most common melee weapon amongst the Space Marines that is arguably signature of them.
    • Less used are the Chainfist (a power fist with a chainsaw on it) and the Chainaxe.
  • Church Militant—The majority of Space Marines maintain that the Emperor was a powerful man, but a man nonetheless. Their general devotion to him, though, frequently approaches the line to this trope, while other chapters, such as the Black Templars and White Consuls, are this more outright.
    • The Black Templars rarely take to the field without being led by a "Joan-Of-Arc" like champion, chosen by praying until one of them receives a vision from the Emperor, only "Joan" in this case happens to be a fanatical killing machine before receiving visions from the Emperor and the awesome relics bestowed on the chosen one.
  • Combat Medic—Apothecaries. Unlike the traditional idea of battlefield medicine, due to the nature of Space Marine physiology, almost any injury sustained in field that would need assistance in treating it is likely to be fatal for the Marine, so the Apothecary simply makes the process less painful. He then rips a massive hole in the Marine's chest and neck to remove the geneseed that is literally more precious than the Marine.
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • Chapter Master Gabriel Seth of the Flesh Tearers. He has a special rule stating that anyone who rolls a 1 to hit him in melee immediately takes a Strength 4 hit as he punches them in the face or knees them in the crotch.
    • Lukas the Trickster is the dirtiest fighter in the Space Wolves Chapter. He went so far to win a fight through trickery, he had one of his hearts replaced with a stasis bomb that, should he be killed in battle, will detonate, trapping his killer and he in a stasis field, where they can only hear Lukas' laughter for the rest of eternity.
  • Crazy Prepared—Their Bio Augmentation. A lot of it makes sense - the secondary heart, ribcage-turned-bulletproof-armor, ultra-fast clotting, night vision, and increased muscle mass all make sense for improving a soldier...but the ability to darken their skin to resist radiation, go into suspended animation to as a response against mortal wounds, be treated to resist a vacuum and extreme temperatures, an extreme sense of taste to be able to identify many common chemicals in what they taste, and spitting metal-corroding acid seem like The God-Emperor of Mankind kinda overdid it, despite being useful.

"Remember, you cannot ambush a Space Marine. They expect treachery at every turn. The most you can do is confirm their suspicions."

  • Determinator -- "A fortress will not stop the Space Marines, although it may slow them down." The Imperial Fists in particular are legendary for their determination even for Space Marines.
    • The Imperial Fists wear a device called a Pain Glove, which stimulates your senses so that you feel the strongest pain that can possibly be felt by your nervous system. The Fists wear these casually on a regular basis.
      • Although background fluff implies genetic degredation has given all Imperial Fists strong masochistic tendencies, which would certainly help with their ability to fight on whilst ignoring damage.
  • Dark Is Not Evil—Well, no more evil than average.
    • The Raven Guard is actually noteworthy for using subtlety in battle, specializing in covert operations, guerrilla warfare, and surgical strikes. One of the more intellectual chapters, they generally lack numbers and brute force, but prefer to disable the enemy with pinpoint strikes and leave the mop-up to others.
      • Raven Guard Captain Kayvaan Shrike actually makes a point of rescuing beleaguered civilian populations and defense forces, long after all other Imperial commanders had given them up as a lost cause.
      • The Raven Guard is in fact one of the most nice chapters to its home planet. It is not an uncommon sight to see a Raven Guard mixing in or helping the populace.
    • The Dark Angels aren't evil so much as paranoid, neurotic, and obsessive over their chapter's dark secret.
    • Chaplains, period.
    • Nearly Averted Trope with the Relictors; their sanctioning means they're pretty much on living on borrowed time for using Chaos Daemon Weapons and other relics the Inquisition frowns upon.
  • Dead-Man Switch—Space Wolves hero Lucas the Trickster had one of his hearts replaced with a stasis bomb. If he's killed it goes off, freezing him and his killer into an imperishable monument to his ego.
  • Death From Above:
  • Destructive Savior—The Space Marines can win nearly any battle they fight, but will often leave whole cities devastated in the process.
  • Drop the Hammer—Thunder Hammers are ginormous mallets wrapped in an electrical field that stuns whatever they don't pulverize. The Salamanders chapter in particular favors them as part of the Cult of Prometheus, rituals tied closely with their Primarch's history as a legendary blacksmith.
  • Due to the Dead:
    • All Chapters are fanatical about reclaiming their geneseed; individual chapters have distinctive, and often elaborate, rites and honors for their dead.
    • It gets more complicated with Dreadnoughts. Tradition dictates that upon reawakening a Dreadnought the attendants read out a list of his accomplishments, which can take a long time for quite a number of them. In the event of a Dreadnought being destroyed, the chapter will hold a second funeral, only it's a little more awkward what with the size of the deceased's remains and issue of differentiating between when he was alive and when he was dead etc...
  • Dynamic Entry: Assault Marines, jump pack-equipped close combat specialists, often find that hundreds of pounds of armored Space Marine is an effective weapon in itself.
    • In the video games based on the franchise, Assault Marines are even shown using brief flares of their jump packs across an open surface to send themselves literally crashing into the enemy they are charging.
  • Emergency Transformation—Mortally-wounded Space Marines with enough fighting spirit are interred within life-support sarcophagi that can "pilot" the walking tanks/tombs called Dreadnoughts.
  • Famed in Story—Dreadnoughts are universally renowned within their chapter. Most players can name Bjorn The Fell-Handed, Tankred, Davion Thule, and that Ultramarine one who's older than Bjorn.
  • Fangs Are Evil:
    • Averted with the Blood Angels and Space Wolves, who possess fangs as part of mutations in their gene-seeds, and are counted among the nicest Chapters.
    • Played straight with the Cacharadons, one of the most brutal chapters. They file their teeth to be like a shark's.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: A lot of the chapters fit this:
  • Fearless Fool -- "And they shall know no fear"...but in the tie-in novels, this is generally depicted as hyperbole: they can and do feel fear, but they have utterly mastered it, often with the explicit observation that they would be fools not to. Within the tabletop game, all Space Marines have the ability 'Combat Tactics' to choose to fail a morale test (which causes them to retreat) should their player consider it prudent - though some characters allow you to play this trope straighter and trade this ability for something else.
  • Feudal Future—In addition to Chapter Masters often serving as planetary governors of their homeworlds, Chapters are supported by a civilian population of Chapter Serfs, who perform the day to day duties of maintaing the fortress-monastery, farm work for the Chapter, etc. Descended from those who failed to become Space Marines, these people are generally better off than other planetary populations, with the added benefit of being on one of the most well defended planets in the Imperium. Well, as better off as one can live on the Feral/Death Worlds the Space Marines frequently call home.
    • And they have one advantage only the Adeptus Mechanicus Forgeworlds get: They don't have to produce Imperial Guard battalions.
  • Genetic Memory:
    • The curse of the Blood Angels chapter. Combat has a chance of triggering the genetic memory of their Primarch's violent death, causing the Blood Angel to slip into the Black Rage as they start reliving the event and forgetting their own identity. Such unfortunates are grouped in the Death Company and sent into the worst fighting in search of a merciful death in combat.
    • More generally, this is the function of the Omophagea implant.
  • Genius Bruiser—The average Space Marine is trained under a Big Book of War that tries to predict every tactical situation ever, and how to deal with it. A Space Marine may find himself stagnant in their training and end up staying as an Assault or Devastator Marine instead of becoming a Tactical Marine, as a Tactical Marine is meant to be able to adapt and be fluid in any battle situation while the formers stick with melee and ranged combat, respectively. Commanders from Sergeants on up are The Same but More. Then we have Librarians—as befits their name, they are record-keepers and tactical advisers to the Chapter, as well as terrifying psychic warriors just as adept with their conventional weapons as any other Marine.
  • Gentle Giant—Salamanders, Blood Angels, Space Wolves, Ultramarines, Imperial Fists and Raven Guard when it comes to innocents.
  • Glory Seeker—Some, though their indoctrination causes many to feel being a Space Marine is already achieving glory. That being said, Space Marine chapters are almost universally proud and only accept the missions that they choose to take on. Inevitably, they choose only the thickest of the fighting, and the most dangerous and critical of missions. When participating in joint operations with other Imperial forces, this often comes across as glory seeking, hogging the most important tasks and garnering most of the credit, regardless of how the Space Marines themselves see it.
  • Good Is Not Nice—A trait of all "good guys" in this universe...
  • Gunship Rescue—This is virtually the entire purpose of the Thunderhawk Gunship. While it is also used as a Drop Ship for insertion and recovery, its purpose beyond that is to remain on station and serve as the Marines' air support. Any Marine force on the ground is likely to have a Thunderhawk come to their aid when they run into something too big for even them to handle alone, and given that they are often committed to the most dangerous actions and need quick recovery once achieving their objective, it will often be used to rescue them from still-hot battle zones.
  • Hand Cannon—The bolt pistol, the standard-issue Space Marine sidearm, is fully automatic and shoots rocket-propelled armor-piercing explosive rounds capable of coring a man's torso and blasting apart light vehicles. Their standard-issue longarm, the bolter, is the same thing with even better range.
  • Heroic Willpower—All Marines have this in spades, but Chief Librarian Mephiston of the Blood Angels takes the cake. He succumbed to the Black Rage while trapped in rubble, but somehow remained in control and sane, ultimately fighting the bloodlust off. The Blood Angels, an army of blood-crazed eight-foot killing machines armed with chainsaw swords, call him "The Lord of Death," making him clearly a man not to trifle with.
    • Chaplain Lemartes from the recent Blood Angels Codex is a close second. Like Mephiston, he succumbed to the Black Rage, but by willpower alone managed to stop himself from going completely batshit insane. The difference is that while Mephiston mastered the Black Rage, Lemartes merely keeps it in check.
  • Highly-Conspicuous Uniform: See Bling of War above. Also, this quote pretty much sums things up:

"The uniforms of the Imperial Guard are camouflaged in order to protect their wearers by hiding them from sight. The principle is that what the enemy cannot see he cannot kill. This is not the way of the Adeptus Astartes. A Space Marine’s armour is bright with heraldry that proclaims his devotion to his Chapter and the beloved Emperor of Mankind. Our principle is that what the enemy can see, he will soon learn to fear..."

  • Honor Before Reason - Space Marines take pride in their chapter colors, and the overwhelming majority of them refuse to wear camouflage. This results in scouts of the Imperial Fists chapter trying to sneak through terrain in bright yellow armor...
    • The Raven Guard and their successor chapters successfully avert this. If the situation calls for it, they will change their armor color, and chapter sign. However, this has caused some...disagreements among some other chapters.
      • That said: When everyone else has given up on saving innocent civilians, warriors of the Raven Guard WILL stay behind to save every single last one of them, ALONE if necessary.
  • Hope Bringer—For the Imperial Guard and common civilians...assuming they haven't been called in for an Exterminatus.
  • I Gave My Word—Keeping oaths is an important matter to many chapters.
  • I'm a Humanitarian—Thanks to their Bio Augmentation, Space Marines can absorb memories from the flesh of those they eat.
  • In Harm's Way—Once the battle's done, the Marines are off to the next warzone.
  • Interservice Rivalry—Present among many chapters.
    • The Ultramarines distrust any chapter which doesn't embrace the Codex Astartes
    • The Blood Angels and their descendants are mistrusted over the Black Rage
    • Nobody likes the Marines Malevolent.
    • The most famous rivalry is between the Dark Angels and the Space Wolves, where they actually select champions from each group to fight it out, which is surprisingly non-fatal.
  • It's Raining Men—Drop Pods are basically capsules containing a squad of Space Marines that are fired at a planet from orbit, and hit without noticeably slowing down. Drop Pod assaults are a signature tactic of the Space Marines, as few foes can recover from a surprise attack that instantly drops dozens of super soldiers in the middle of your base camp.
  • Jack of All Stats—Roboute Guilliman, the Primarch of the Ultramarines, penned the Codex Astartes, the book detailing Space Marine organization and tactics. His chapter tries to follow the book religiously, resulting in an extremely well-rounded fighting force that defines the Space Marines.
  • The Juggernaut—The role of Space Marine Terminators, wearing ancient suits of armor that make them Nigh Invulnerable. They can approach situations that even a normal Space Marine's Power Armor would struggle to weather.
  • Kill It with Fire—As befits their namesake, the Salamanders like flamers and meltaguns. Pretty much all the Space Marines will consider it, though.
  • Knight Templar—Most Space Marines to some extent, but especially the Black Templars chapter. They run around the galaxy in crusades known for (occasionally) wiping out entire planetary populations, and their extreme zeal even has the Inquisition worried, especially since they ignore the recommended thousand-man maximum for Chapter size and thus might number somewhere around 50,000 or more, but no one outside of perhaps the Black Templars' own chapter masters can say for certain what the Black Templars' true numbers are, other than that if they were ever assembled in one place, they would be a force vast enough to easily constitute a significant threat to the entirety of the Imperium if they wanted to (which they very much do not).
  • Meaningful Rename—Several Legions were renamed when they found their primarch.
    • None more meaningful than the Grey Knights. Their name and color symbolizes the tenuous morality of the 41st millennium.
  • The Medic—The Apothecaries. And as the Grim Darkness of the far future lacks anything even remotely similar to the Geneva Conventions...

"Death or healing! I care not which you seek!"

  • Mercy Kill --
    • "The Emperor's peace."
    • The motive for civilian kills committed by Grey Knights (which, given how daemonic corruption works, isn't that far-fetched).
  • Mini-Mecha—When a Space Marine veteran or hero is mortally wounded but recovered, he is placed in a life-supporting sarcophagus and installed in a Dreadnought. As such, Dreadnoughts are held in awe by the rest of their Chapters, and seen as links to their past. Not to mention the fact that they're incredible warriors who are basically walking tanks whose possible armament includes Assault cannons, Power Fists, built in Storm Bolters and Flamers, and have absolutely no fear of death (they already died once, so how much scarier can it be?). The most famous of all Dreadnoughts is Bjorn the Fell-Handed.
  • Mysterious Past—Many chapters have their share of secrets, but the Blood Ravens' past is particularly shrouded in mystery. Their records don't extend back very far, so they have no idea where their homeworld is or what "parent" legion they were based off of. Furthermore, one of their commanders destroyed Blood Ravens relics recovered on the planet Kronus before anyone else could examine them, and in the same campaign Chaos forces mockingly called him "brother." The Blood Ravens chapter motto is "Knowledge is Power, Guard it Well."
  • No One Gets Left Behind:
    • The Space Marines take care to recover their fallen brothers' progenoid glands, which contain the genetic information necessary for creating the next generation of Space Marines. ** Captain Kayvan Shrike and his forces are known for multiple instances of saving civilians when everyone else had given up on them, and they are heroes among the citizens of the Imperium.
  • Number Two—After the Chapter Master, the ranking member of the Chapter is the First Captain and usually his designated successor.
  • One-Gender Race—Apparently all the implants just don't work right on women. Of course, the Sisters of Battle come very close to female Space Marines. Not that it stops many fans, and the outrage from suggesting such a thing.
  • One-Man Army—In the propaganda, anyway. They're powered appropriately in order to be competitive on the tabletop.
  • Our Vampires Are Different—A motif played with, but mostly downplayed and Ret Conned out in recent editions.
    • The Blood Angels chapter makes extensive use of blood in religious ceremonies, and as part of their transformation process spend a year in a casket-like chamber. This despite the fact that the Chapter's founder Sanguinius was known as the Angel for his good looks and feathered wings, and most Blood Angels inherit his physical beauty.
      • Older fluff used to give them all pale skin, red eyes, and black hair. It's been retconned since.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different—Oddities in the Space Wolves' gene-seed manifest as lengthened canines, as well as heightened senses allowing them to detect enemy locations and morale purely by sense of smell. They also carry a defect which manifests as the Curse of the Wulfen, which transforms the Marine into a slavering, bestial monster. Experiencing this is a standard part of the induction of every Space Wolf aspirant. There are three possibilities at that initial point: either their body stabilises and they become a full Marine, it doesn't and they... don't, or it appears to stabilise, only to manifest the Curse in the heat of battle.
    • In the novel Battle of the Fang, the Wulfen are kept isolated inside the Fang, and are only brought out for dire circumstances.
    • Fittingly, the Space Wolves and Blood Angels don't get along too well, though not to the extent of their other rivalries.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions—While their reverence for the Emperor borders on the religious, a number of Space Marines maintain that the Emperor was not a God (a view the Emperor himself subscribed to) but a father-figure to be emulated. The Ecclesiarchy isn't too thrilled with this policy, but since their usual tactic of "kill the heretic!" won't work, what are they going to do about it?
    • It is close enough to Imperial Doctrine. The Emperor is venerated the same, with Cathedrals being built, monasteries being erected, and prayers being offered for his intercession on the field of Combat. While the Emperor is not viewed as god, he is venerated to a similar degree in a form of ancestor-worship.
  • The Paladin:
    • Grey Knights. Being that this is 40K, well...
    • Played much straighter with the Salamanders.
  • Papa Wolf - Quite literally in the case of the Space Wolves when it comes to protecting innocents.
  • Power Fist—The trope namer is a piece of wargear usable by most characters, but standard issue for Space Marine Terminators.
  • Powered Armor—A standard Space Marine has better protection than other races' elite troops. Then there's the Tactical Dreadnought or "Terminator" armor, which can carry miniguns one-handed and survive being stepped on by Titans.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy—Space Marines are an analogue of medieval knightly orders, and possess a chivalry of sorts. They don't let this get in the way of genocide or xenocide, however.
  • Rage Helm
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni—Leman Russ and Lion El'Jonson. Their chapters (the Space Wolves and the Dark Angels) have inherited the rivalry.
  • Scary Black Man—Averted by the Salamanders chapter, who are among the nicer forces in the Imperium. Well, mostly averted... a weird interaction with their gene-seed results in red eyes for a demonic appearance only heightened by their love of flamer and melta weapons. They also have a very nasty army list, so all such weapons count as twin-linked, and any Thunder Hammers are master-crafted.
    • They're not actually "Black" though. The aforementioned gene-seed mutation that causes the glowing eyes also makes their skin onyx-coloured. The Bio Augmentation of Space Marines allows their skin pigment to alter based on the local radiation; the Salamanders have the gland responsible stuck in constant over-drive. Given the weak magnetosphere of their homeworld though, it is likely that most, if not all, of their aspirants are already dark skinned.
  • Sergeant Rock—Any Brother-Sergeant is this.
  • Shoulders of Doom—Proudly displaying the Chapter badge.
  • Space Marine -- Duh. They specialize in planetary assaults. And everything else, for that matter.
  • Super Soldier—Eight feet tall, a lifespan measured in centuries, spending every waking moment either in battle or training for it... and those are your basic Space Marines. Now consider their veterans...or Chapter Masters...or the Primarchs.
  • The Stoic:
    • The Dark Angels, a trait inherited from their Primarch, Lion El'Johnson.
      • Because of this, he initially didn't get along with Leman Russ, seeing him as a boisterous idiot while Russ thought the Lion was an insufferable pompous prick. They eventually became Vitriolic Best Buds, but their respective chapters are still bitter rivals.
      • Very nearly canonical, especially since the Imperial Fists and Salamanders Legions were equally, if not more, stoical than the Dark Angels, and there's no indication that the Space Wolves have ever had any problem with them.
    • The Iron Hands.
  • Super Toughness
  • Tank Goodness—While the humble Predator tank is a versatile fighting vehicle, the baddest thing on tracks beyond the Imperial Guard's super-heavy vehicles is the Land Raider, the Space Marines' transport from hell. Essentially a rolling bunker, it packs a punch with two twin-linked lascannons and a twin-linked heavy bolter, has the highest armor rating in the game on all facings, and can carry a squad of Space Marines (or worse yet, Terminators) right to the enemy's front line.
  • Time Abyss—Space Marines can live for centuries or millennia. Dante has been Chapter Master of the Blood Angels for 1,100 years, and Bjorn the Fell Handed of the Space Wolves fought during the Great Crusade ten thousand years ago.
  • Token Minority—The Salamanders have the majority of black Space Marines, while the White Scars have the Asians. The Salamanders' skin color is justified in-universe, being a combined result of their particular geneseed and Nocturne's high radiation levels (which also accounts for their red eyes).
  • Training from Hell—Starts when aspirants are in their early teens, and tries to whittle down a hundred to a single neophyte. They're actually deployed as Scout squads before they've finished the transformation into full-fledged Space Marines.
  • Treachery Cover-Up—The reason the Dark Angels chapter call themselves the Unforgiven. During the Horus Heresy, a faction of their soldiers rebelled out of confusion or jealousy. These Fallen Angels are hunted mercilessly by the Dark Angels, so that they may grant them absolution after vicious torture, and finally restore the chapter's honor. There is also the theory that the Dark Angels are the traitors, who sat out the Horus Heresy to see who would win.
  • True Companions: From day one of training, Space Marines are taught the value of working with their fellow Marines and refer to each other as brothers. Since they share organs derived from a single being, and grew up together during training, this is as close to family as they actually have. It's actually one of the few psychological weaknesses that a Space Marine can have—the need for the companionship of their fellow Astartes.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds—Surprisingly, Lion El'Johnson and Leman Russ. They hated each other for a while, but eventually patched things up, becoming firm friends while paradoxically remaining bitter rivals. Their descendants however, lack the 'best friends' part of the relationship.
  • Warrior Monk—Not only do Space Marines possess nigh-unshakable faith in their role as favored champions of the God-Emperor, they also live in Fortress-Monasteries and refer to each other as "Brother."
  • Weirdness Coupon—Space Marines in general have this. Many of them are jerks, mutants or have exotic beliefs, but the Inquisition glosses over their minor heresies because of their necessity. And then you get into individual examples:
    • The Space Wolves wouldn't open the Codex Astartes in a dire toilet-paper shortage, worship Fenrisian spirits alongside the Emperor, and defy Inquisition orders. They have the skills, ferocity, political power, and heroic reputation to get away with it.
    • The Blood Angels are vampiric berserkers whose Death Company members have caused just as many friendly fatalities as enemy fatalities. Being descended from the most politically martyred Primarch has major advantages.
    • The Ultramarines have a massive feudal empire despite the Codex explicitly stating that Space Marines are only allowed control of a single planet at most. Being the legion which more or less rebuilt the Imperium and has the most stable gene-seed has its advantages.
    • The Dark Angels spend most of their time trying to hunt down the Fallen, whose existence is more or less an open secret within the Inquisition. Being the first Space Marine Legion means that an Inquisitor needs some damn good evidence to declare them Excommunicate Traitoris.
    • The Black Templars utterly reject the Codex Astartes, take persecution of mutants and psykers to a level beyond even other Space Marines, and are almost as large as one of the original legions. Their extraordinary zeal is such that the Inquisition can find no fault with their conduct, and their sheer size makes it impossible for anybody but their own High Marshal to exert control over the chapter.
  • Wolverine Claws—Lightning Claws are Power Weapons with three or four claws attached to a Power Fist. Very popular among Terminators in general and the Raven Guard in particular.
  • The Worf Effect—Due to the Adeptus Astartes' toughness, new threats are often expressed in terms of how many Space Marines they killed. The Tyranids for example are introduced by wiping out the Ultramarines' 1st company and nearly overrunning their homeworld, while the Necrons are shown blowing holes in both sides of a Land Raider with a single energy weapon.
  • Would Not Shoot a Civilian—Depending on the chapter.

See also Blood Angels, Space Wolf, Ultramarines, Grey Knights, Soul Drinkers, Blood Ravens, Imperial Fists, Salamanders, Dark Angels'

Space Marines Chapters By Founding

If a space marine chapter and all/most of its successors share a trope, just put the trope into its founder's category and say that both them and its successors have it. Doing this for tropes shared by all space marines is unnecessary.

First Founding

These chapters have been around since the Great Crusade, but back then they were known as Legions. A chapter was a part of a legion, just as a Battalion is part of a field army.

Tropes Shared by First Founding Loyalist Legions/Chapters
Dark Angels
White Scars
Space Wolves
Imperial Fists
Blood Angels
Iron Hands
Raven Guard

Second Founding

Tropes Shared by Second Founding Chapters

Thirteenth Founding

Tropes Shared by Thirteenth Founding Chapters

Twenty-First Founding (The Cursed Founding)

Tropes Shared by Twenty-First Founding (The Cursed Founding) Chapters

Tropes By Chapters of unknown founding

Tropes By Chapters of unknown founding

Tropes shared by Death Watch

Death Watch is not a chapter. It works in units composed of members of various chapters who get together to serve the inquisition.

Imperial Guard

File:ImperialGuard 764.jpg


For every hero commemorated, a thousand martyrs die, unmourned and unremembered.


The Redshirt Army. The Space Marines hog all the glory, but since there is less than one Space Marine for every world in the Imperium, it is the untold billions of the Imperial Guard that do 99% of the fighting. Individually, a Guardsman is your average Joe, going up against Super Soldiers and Eldritch Abominations. He's got a set of basic flak armor that can withstand outdated small arms fire; a lasgun that, while capable of blowing off limbs, is among the weakest weapons in the setting; training full of propaganda and blatant lies; commanders willing to sacrifice millions of men and machines in decade-long campaigns; and commissars ready to summarily execute cowards and deserters. His odds are not good, but the guard has trillions like him, and millions of tanks and artillery pieces.

Thematically, the Guard is a melting pot of inspiration from every army in history, and then some. The Catachans are both sides of the Vietnam War. Valhallans are grim but determined ice worlders reminiscent of Soviet infantry hordes. Tallarns are pious and wily desert raiders. Cadians are taught to field-strip a lasgun before they learn how to walk. The Praetorians wear pith helmets and red coats. The Mordians are Prussian-esque soldiers always in dress uniforms. The Death Korps of Krieg are everything scary and callous about the First World War ramped up to eleven. The Steel Legions of Armageddon look like WW 2 German paratroopers and fight like panzer grenadiers. The Tanith First-And-Only are scouts and woodsmen beyond compare. The Elysians are heavily-armed and armoured pastiches of every elite airborne regiment ever with Nerves of Steel and no tank or artillery support. Traditionally the Imperial Guard were depicted as being used in human wave attacks or trench warfare right out of World War I, but a recent series of novels has seen the Guard re-tooled into a sophisticated and highly-trained war machine combining infantry, armor, and air support into a fighting force the equal of any modern army. Considering what they're up against, it isn't always enough.

Few armies can field as many soldiers as the Imperial Guard, which is fortunate, as they are comparatively lightly armored, and have morale that's highly contingent on there being a commanding officer (or commissar) nearby. On the other hand, few armies can bring as many weapons to bear in a single Shooting phase as the Imperial Guard, so while a single lasgun is unlikely to get results, fifty or sixty firing in salvos will (unoffically referred to as 'the laser light show'). The Imperial Guard is also famous for their tanks which are unsophisticated and unsubtle metal monsters, deployed in numbers bordering on the absurd, and very, very good at shooting things. But the key to the Imperial Guard's popularity may be that they're basically normal people forced into unimaginably bad situations, but who can prevail with luck, faith in the God-Emperor, and overwhelming firepower.

There's also an Imperial Navy that fights battles in space and transports Guard troops, which follows similar protocol to the Guard and has a similar chain of command but separate leadership.

Notable Imperial Guard tropes include

  • Ancestral Weapon: The hat of the Vostroyan Firstborn is that the firstborn son of every family joins the Imperial Guard, each one uses a locally produced weapon, and each weapon is property of the family to whom it is issued. Where possible, weapons are brought back to the homeworld and returned to the families to which they belong, who then pass the weapon down to the next firstborn. Very old weapons are considered priceless heirlooms, and are quite valuable.
  • Armies Are Evil: Largely subverted, as the Imperial Guard are just average people who are fighting for the Imperium.
  • Badass—Quite possibly the most Badass group in the setting, given that they're normal humans going up against aliens, supersoldiers, and demons from hell.
    • Badass Abnormal: Cadian Kasrkin, selected from the most badass soldiers in one of the Guard's most badass armies and then given genetic and cybernetic augmentations in addition to much heavier armour and bigger guns. They have been known to calmly attack hulking daemonic killing machines with knives when no other options present themselves.
    • Badass Boast—Every regimental motto.
    • Badass Grandpa—Legendary Commissar Yarrick, who led the Imperium to victory during the Second War for Armageddon (which started on the day he would have retied had the War not erupted), retired, then came back again to save the day during the Third War for Armageddon. He's so incredibly badass, after he got his arm lopped off by an Ork, he killed the thing and took its power klaw for a replacement and trophy. He has a bionic eye that shoots lasers. Now he's tagged along with a Black Templar crusade to hunt down Warlord Ghazghkull once and for all.
      • Consider: one of the most fanatical Space Marine chapters took a sole unaugmented human with them on a crusade because he has the most chance of actually accomplishing their objective.
      • Consider also that most Orks will actively avoid facing Yarrick in battle, and it's heavily implied that the only reason he replaced his lost eye with a bionic one was because he wanted to feed into the already-existing rumors among them that he could kill you just by looking at you.
      • Another point to consider: Ghazghkull actually captured Yarrick, and then let him go because he relished the chance to fight him again more than the opportunity to kill him.
      • Finally, consider this: Under all that, Yarrick is still just a normal, unmodified (but extremely badass) human closing in on his 70s.
      • "Normal" is stretching it a bit. Source material rather heavily implies that the fact that Orks regard him as some sort of unkillable badass has turned him into an unkillable badass. Games Workshop paint jobs of his model always give his skin a greenish tinge. Orks actually think so highly of him that if his model is killed against an Ork army, it stands a good chance of getting back up again.
    • Badass Longcoat—Commissars. Also have a Nice Hat, specifically the much sought-after Commissar Cap.
    • Badass Nickname—The Hammer of the Emperor.
    • Badass Normal Army - Without Bio Augmentation, superhuman strength and durability, Powered Armor, Psychic Powers, or the most advanced technology, the Imperial Guard gets by on good old-fashioned combined arms warfare...and massive, massive casualties.
  • Bad Boss—A great deal of officers, commanders and generals are this. Commissars are generally always this, their job description being to execute when neccessary.
  • Base on Wheels—The Leviathan mobile command center, as well as the Capitol Imperialis, which can house tank companies.
  • Beam Spam—The only way to effectively use lasguns is in bulk.
  • Big Book of War—The Tactica Imperium is a collection of countless commanders' combined battlefield experiences, containing advice on topics from barricade construction to force organization. Imperial generals may find it useful, though they have to keep in mind that it occasionally contradicts itself, should not be adhered to too strictly, and some passages are best read as metaphors.
  • Bifurcated Weapon—The standard lasgun is usually equipped with a bayonet. That's right, forty thousand years into the future and bayonet charges are still a valid infantry tactic.
  • BFG—Heavy Weapons Platoons, the Basilisk mobile artillery's Earthshaker cannon, and then we move into super-heavy battle tank territory...
  • Bulletproof Vest -- 'Flak Armour' is standard-issue for Imperial Guard infantry... but those are way outdated for the vast majority of races in 40K.
  • Butt Monkey—A serious example, which even extended to the players, before the new codex.
  • Cannon Fodder—A popular image for the Imperial Guardsmen troops, though this varies between regiments and commanders. However, there are conscript squads in the game, of which their use is pretty much undeniably this.
  • Again, Chainswords - A common melee weapon amongst the Imperial Guard aside from standard issue combat knives.
  • Character Exaggeration—The people in charge for the Imperial Guard are frequently portrayed in fan works are being either so sociopathic or imcompetent that it would be wonder the Imperium didn't fall long ago. There certainly are cases, the Imperium being very vast, and it's likely done to emphasize how 40K is Grimdark (or is Played for Laughs as Black Humor in the Refuge in Audacity of it.). Which it is.
    • The memetic portrayal of Usarkar E. Creed, Lord Castellan of Cadia, goes in the extreme opposite direction, with his astounding displays of TACTICAL GENIUS such as ambushing Abbadon in his own bathroom and hiding Baneblades behind streetlamps.
      • He also traveled back in time and wrote the Codex.
  • Church Militant—Considered to be an aspiration for the Imperial Guard, though the success and extremity of this heavily varies between regiments. The regiments raised from Ecclesiarchial fiefdoms, or "shrine worlds", are often this in a nearly literal sense.[6]
  • Cool Tank—Baneblades.
  • Combat Medic—Anyone who has medical abilities in the Imperial Guard is otherwise trained and armed similar to standard infantry.
  • Commissar Cap—The Trope Namer, obviously. The hats worn by the commissars are so flashy that you will immidiately see that he is a man of fear and respect.
  • Crippling Overspecialization—Deliberately Invoked Trope at the company level by the Departmento Munitorium when levying Imperial Guard. Any given Imperial Guard company will be trained and equipped for exactly one role, be it foot infantry, mounted infantry, armor, or artillery. The intention being that no company can survive long going rogue, and must rely on other companies for combined arms warfare.
  • Death From Above—The Imperial Guard heavily use artillery as part of their combined arms, and probably have more of it with more possible options for it than virtually any other military in the galaxy.[7] Sure, the Imperium has plenty of ships which can devistate a world with lance fire, but that is only for very critical targets or when past the Godzilla Threshold. The Guard on the other hand, sling shells skyward as part of normal operations, and does it with much greater frequency and specific effect.
  • Death Seeker—Some of the more fanatical regiments fall into this. For example, the Death Corps of Krieg have this as part of their hat.
    • Usually as the result of the aforementioned planetary defence actions going pear-shaped.
  • Elite Mooks:
    • Imperial Stormtroopers (not those guys) are basically special ops teams outfitted with improved versions of a Guardsman's wargear (earning them monikers such as "Toy Soldiers" and "Glory Boys" from the resentful rank-and-file).
    • Cadia's equivalents, the Kasrkin, are trained and hardened to such a degree that they could be considered the Elite Mooks OF the Elite Mooks. Consider that instead of being resented by other guardsmen, they are looked up at.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero—Commissar Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!). Contrast with Commissar Ibram Gaunt, an actual hero doomed to obscurity.
    • Arguably a subverted trope by this point. Cain's protestations of non-heroism are more and more at odds with his actions in every book.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture—Not as obvious as the Space Marines, but Cadia is based on modern soldiers from various countries, whereas we have the Catachans who are based on both sides in the Vietnam conflict, while the Valhallans and Vostroyans are based on the Red Army and the Imperial Russian Army, respectively. There's also the Attilan Rough Riders, based on Mongols, Steel Legion and Death Korps of Krieg, both based on the World War II era German army to various degrees, the elite Elysian Drop Troopers, who take notes from just about every paratrooper and air-cav force in military history, and a few others that would take up too much space to describe. Many of these armies are at least somewhat nice by comparison to their real life counterparts, however.
    • There are elite troops called Grenadiers in the game - the only reason they are called that is pretty much because of the 'elite assault soldier' connotation of the word, just like in many militaries applying the term due to its past of, well, elite assault soldiers.
    • Cadia is guessed to be a reference to Canada's military (likely in World War I), though the connection isn't entirely straightforward - standard battle tactics of Cadia are frontal assaults where Canadian forces in World War I were famous shock troops (which involved specialized infiltration missions to break up the cohesiveness of enemy defences followed by a larger offensive). Further confusing, Cadia fields many Kasrkin and Grenadier troops, the former being very famous assault troops, the latter being more better trained and armoured guardsmen who are otherwise fielded as regular guardsmen - which certainly seems to fit the bill there.
    • These design elements make the Guard popular with fans of realistic tactical wargames, who tend to see this invoked by designing and painting their armies to look even more like certain historical forces.
  • Fast Roping:
    • Valkyrie transports are equipped with line spools for precisely this reason.
    • Stormtroopers in particular tend to train heavily in this technique, and are the most likely to attempt it on the battlefield, forgoing a more cautious insertion when speed of deployment is a priority.
  • A Father to His Men—No shortage in these as well.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams—The Imperial Guard is the single biggest military organization in the galaxy, and the single biggest user of laser-based Energy Weapons, coming in multiple varieties:
    • Lasguns—The most common weapon, the "old-standby" of the Imperium. A rifle-like laser weapon with greater stopping power than the majority of modern conventional projectile firearms, but still one of the most comparatively weakest weapons in the setting. There are many regional and functional variations on the design, some with different settings for rate of fire and damage, but all share certain common core parts and take the same charge packs for ammunition (which can be recharged in a few hours from field generators.) This is a big part of the reason they are so popular for a massive organization like the Guard. Tend to be easy to keep functionally clean and keep working in rough conditions. Desperate Guardsmen are known to set them to set them to overload and hurl them at the enemy as an improvised grenade.
    • Long-las—A marksmen's version of the common lasgun. These are tuned to produce a killing shot at greater distance, though they usually have a reduced rate of fire and lower shot capacity per charge pack as a sacrifice to achieve this. Experienced Guard snipers often prefer to equip their long-las with overcharge packs to increase their power per-shot, but this results in even fewer shots per pack, and they need to keep several spare barrels on hand as this wears the barrel out very quickly.
    • Hellguns—An upscaled version of the lasgun, this achieves a greater punch through the expedient of being bigger and pumping more power into it. This necessitates a much more elaborate cooling system though, making a hellgun much more bulky and mechanically complicated than a lasgun. Because the power draw is so much higher, many hellguns attach to Ammunition Backpacks to allow a wielder to pour on the fire, though there are variations which use standard charge packs as well. Because of their size, they are often only used by heavy infantry or dedicated elite forces.
    • Hot-shot Lasguns—Lasguns with overcharge packs and special tuning to increase their lethality. The combination of the stopping power of the heavier hellguns with the portability of the more common lasguns has made these weapons highly popular with special forces who need to keep their equipment light, such as para-drop storm troopers. However, they have the drawback of wearing out the weapon very quickly; it runs so hot that its components burn out and fuse together with frequent use, making it unsuited to long deployments or situations where supplies are limited.
    • Multilasers—Essentially a gatling version of the hellgun, it is a multibarrel weapon capable of maintaining a high rate of fire. These are usually too big to be used by infantry, but it is often mounted on vehicles such as the Chimera infantry fighting vehicle to supress enemy infantry and light vehicles.
  • Gas Mask Longcoat—The Death Corps of Krieg wear these as part of their hat, justified due to their planet of origin being a radiological wasteland.
  • Gas Mask Mooks:
    • Some models fall into this, with Stormtroopers being the most common source of them.
    • The Death Corps of Krieg are nothing but this.
  • General Failure—There's no shortage of Guard generals who got their position entirely through family connections and interdepartmental politicking, and who couldn't command their way out of a wet paper bag. Many follow the We Have Reserves school of Imperial tactics, reasoning that even the most Egregious tactical errors can be overcome by throwing enough men at the problem. The most incompetent of them even manage to screw that up.
  • Genre Savvy—Despite their "training", most guardsmen know precisely how bad their odds are in the universe. They compensate by employing every dirty trick in the book from camo netting to mines to snipers to good old fashioned cowardice. In the event a commanding officer insists they hold the line and fight bravely against impossible odds guardsman have been known to insist back.
  • Glory Seeker: Many COs.
  • Highly-Conspicuous Uniform: Generally Averted Trope by most regiments, who tend to wear practical uniforms with either dull unassuming colors or camouflage. However, it is played straight with a noticeable minority of them. For example, the Mordian Iron Guard wear these as part of their hat, with brightly colored uniforms to match their goose-stepping, line volley firing, parade field image.[8]
  • Hobbits—The rarely-seen but still canon Ratling Snipers, a breed of abhuman known for their marksmanship, knack at finding cover, gluttony and petty theft, and being great cooks.
  • Hollywood Tactics—Still common amongst the regiments, though Dan Abnett shows that not all commanders are that stupid.
  • Home Guard—Imperial Guard regiments are formed from the best members of the Planetary Defence Forces that are available when it's time for a planet to pay its tithes. Since planets always have to pay their tithes, the PDF are considered to be ill-disciplined and unsuitable for prolonged engagement. The Imperial Guard consider the PDF to be inferior to the Guard. The Irony is lost on no one. There are noticeable aversions, however, such as the Cadian Home Guard (as Cadians are some of the best soldiers in the galaxy) and Ultramar Auxilia (given that they're whipped into shape by the Ultramarines).
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy -- Subverted Trope. Though they have a reputation as unreliable shots, Guardsmen have average Ballistic Skill, and statistically half of their ranged attacks (of which they make very many) will hit. Actual Stormtroopers shoot as well as Space Marines and have a two out of three chance of hitting the mark.
  • Interservice Rivalry—A major source of friction, both within the guard and outside of it. You have the traditional rivalry between the Imperial Navy and the ground-pounders, between Glory Seeker COs and Spotlight Stealing Space Marine companies, between regiments from different planets, and occasionally between regiments from the same planet if their culture is particularly competitive.
  • It's Raining Men—The Imperial Guard might not have the flash of orbital combat drops like the Imperium's most elite forces, but they do still make use of more conventional air drop operations. Some regiments train more extensively in this kind of operation than others, with the Elyssian regiments in particular having this as their hat. A typical drop operation will involve a few Valkyrie transports coming in fast and low to {{Fast Rop|ing}}e stormtroopers in to secure an initial landing zone, with larger numbers of higher flying Valkyries following shortly in their wake to deploy reinforcements via grav-chutes.
  • "Join the Army," They Said—Though not all of them had a choice in the matter.
  • Made of Plasticine
  • Mighty Glacier: The Leman Russ in the 5th edition codex got a rule called Lumbering Behemoth which cripples its mobility compared to other tanks but allows its turret to be fired in addition to other weapons allowed to fire. Fitting with the trope, there are only two non-super heavy vehicles in the entire game that are harder to take down than a Leman Russ.
  • More Dakka—Taking a cue from the Orks, the newest Guard codex introduced the Leman Russ Punisher, armed with a Gatling Good cannon that fires twenty shots a round, theoretically capable of turning entire Ork mobs into goo.
  • Officer and a Gentleman—The Imperium has a convention of granting parcels of territory to ranking officers during its crusades of conquest. This has the effect of creating noble families with strong military traditions, and established noble families seeking to expand their own domains and influence via taking commanding positions in new crusades. The end result is that the upper echelons of a large scale operation are almost entirely recruited from the aristocracy. The quality of these commanders is quite variable, with the best ones usually coming from families with long histories of noblesse oblige to the Imperium, while the worst tend to be Glory Seekers more used to courtly intrigue with little regard for the forces under them.
  • One-Gender Race—Though there are the odd all-female, or even rarer mixed-gender Imperial Guard regiments, there are approximately four Imperial Guardswoman models.
  • The Political Officer—Imperial Commissars, identified by their characteristic greatcoats, red sashes, and Commissar Caps (naming that trope). They are each a product of the Schola Progenium where they are indoctrinated to hold the Imperial Creed above life itself, and given an iron will to see the Imperium triumphant. Their role is to ensure that the Imperial forces in-theater have the will to get the job done, no matter how daunting the odds are, and are granted full authority over life and death to see that will enforced. The fact that they can and occasionally do conduct field executions tends to be subject to a lot of Character Exaggeration with regard to the frequency that authority is invoked, but is simply one tool they are given to fulfill their mandate. As Ciaphas Cain[9] observed, Commissars who conduct frequent executions tend to be subject to Unfriendly Fire.
  • Power Fist—It being an Imperium weapon, many models of the Imperial Guard may use them.
  • Propaganda Machine -- The Commissariat's role of ensuring the Imperial Guard have the will to get the job done extends beyond the common image of line Commissars shooting deserters or Commissar Lords sitting in on planning sessions to ensure officers are willing to make the necessary sacrifices. They also do such things as publish information to be read to the troops educating them on the importance of the current campaign, and cutting off the rumor mill by relating news from different parts of the front. Said information and news tends to put the most optimistic spin on everything they can to keep the troop's spirits up. Even if major sections of those reports are fabrications, a few sermons from the preachers about the blessed mind being too small for doubt is enough to convince.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy—Any regiment raised from a world with a particularly strong military tradition will often be composed of a culture of them. However, the Cadians are perhaps the biggest standout example in the Imperial Guard. Their birth rate and recruitment rate are the same. Every Cadian is trained from birth to be a soldier, literally being taught to strip a lasgun before they are taught to read. Every settlement on their planet is fortified to make street-to-street combat favor the defenders, and even those citizens who work their "civil sector" jobs (such as their local industries) are technically reservists. Such is their reputation than many planetary defense forces of other worlds model themselves on the Cadians' structure and equipment patterns, which means that a lot of other Guard regiments resemble them.
  • Put on a Bus—Several regiments are no longer supported by GW, including the Praetorians, the Savlar Chem Dogs, and the Kanak Skull Takers. While they still exist in-universe and you can technically still use them if you can track down the models, they've just barely escaped going the way of the Squats.
  • Redshirt Army -- The Imperial Guard on a bad day...and the bad days outnumber the good on any given week.
  • Resignations Not Accepted—Depending on the regiment. Some keep fighting until they are too depleted to be effective, then the survivors muster out permanently; some actually have a fixed length of enlistment; some combine the two approaches in periodic reorganisations with a trickle of reinforcements between, so a given soldier might be in for two years or twenty. Officers have more of a defined length of service, but talented ones can be called back to the Emperor's service after their retirement.
  • Sergeant Rock—Probably a major factor to Guardsmen actually standing off against their enemies. Until the Sergeant Rock dies, of course. Of course again, there's more where that came from.
  • Tank Goodness—A huge appeal of the Imperial Guard. Even the standard Leman Russ is a very good tank. Then there are the dozens of variants, and the even bigger super-heavy battle tanks such as the Baneblade, with their "Eleven barrels of hell!"...
  • The Ogre—Ogryns are big, stupid abhumans sought after in Guard regiments as walking meat shields. They are armed with the Ripper Gun, a sturdy weapon specially-designed for their users to wield as a club.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone—IG players after the new codex.
  • Took a Level in Badass—Post new codex, the guard have become gods of mechanized warfare.
  • We Have Reserves -- ...that number in the trillions.
  • Who's Laughing Now?—The reaction to the new codex.
  • You Have Failed Me...—An actual rule with Commissars: Units that fail a leadership test will have the Commissar execute their leader and make them retake it. Characters actually get a leadership bonus when one joins the unit due to the intimidation.
    • At one point, if the now Commissar-led squad somehow failed a leadership test, the squad is removed from the game as the Guardsmen frag the Commissar and get the hell out of dodge.

See also Gaunt's Ghosts, Ciaphas Cain, Imperial Guard, The Last Chancers, Only War.

The Inquisition

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When passing sentence, always err to the side of harshness. Remember: there is no such thing as innocence, only degrees of guilt.


State Sec with a side of Church Militant, Inquisitors are some of the most powerful individuals in the Imperium, working behinds the scenes to keep everything from going (further) to Hell. They can command civil authorities, the Imperial Guard, the Navy, agents of the Officio Assassinorum, even the Astartes (though they are wise enough to tread carefully in the last case, usually requesting their help instead of just ordering them around). They have the power of Judge, Jury, and Executioner over individuals or whole worlds. They are fully competent in the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique, using any method possible to root out the Imperium's enemies, though their readiness to use the "Nine Actions" varies greatly. Though presented as a unified if extremely intimidating front to the Imperium at large, in reality the Inquisition is a hotbed of backstabbing and intrigue, as patient detectives rub shoulders with frothing religious zealots, Puritans hunt Radicals foolish enough to try and turn the weapons of the enemy against them, and a variety of philosophical outlooks struggle amongst themselves for dominance.

Inquisitors fall mostly into three orders, each with a specific preferred enemy and a Chamber Militant best suited for fighting that enemy.

  • The Ordo Malleus, or Daemonhunters, fight Chaos directly, and work with the Grey Knights, Chapter 666 of the Adeptus Astartes, the people even normal Space Marines consider Badass in comparison, with holy armour and sanctified psychic weapons.
  • The Ordo Hereticus, or Witch Hunters, fight heresy against the Imperial faith, mutant scum, and unlicensed psykers. Originally established to police the Ecclesiarchy, they are closely associated with the Adepta Sororitas, or Sisters of Battle, warrior nuns armed and armoured almost as well as the Space Marines, and typically spearhead Sororitas forces. The Battle Sisters are the military force of the Ecclesiarchy, formed to get around a ban on the Church fielding "men under arms". Psykers are banned from their ranks, but they can tactically invoke minor miracles. They loooove flamethrowers.
  • The Ordo Xenos, the Alien Hunters, still haven't received a codex. They are more scholarly than the other orders, studying alien races for weaknesses, and undermining and destroying those that present a threat to the Imperium. This doesn't remove their secret-police role, as they often investigate and stop alien political and religious influence on the fringes of Imperial space. Their military backup is the Deathwatch, a force consisting of Space Marines from various chapters who are especially adept and/or experienced at battling xenos. Now they have a game of their own!

General Inquisitorial tropes include


"I carry with me an Inquisitorial Seal. It is a small, unassuming object contained in a neat box of Pluvian obsidian. It is a modest thing. Relatively plain, adorned with a single motif and a simple motto. Yet with this little object I can sign the death warrant of an entire world and consign a billion souls to Oblivion."

    • If an Inquisitor has good cause, they can demand service from anyone, be it a lowly citizen to a High Lord of Terra. The only people officially exempt from this are the Adeptes Custodes, the people guarding the Emperor on the Golden Throne. In practice, though, most Inquisitors are usually smart enough to say please when they require service from the Space Marines. Those who don't...well, there was nothing in their head anyway, so removing it wouldn't really be such a bad thing.
  • Boxed Crook—A common background for Inquisitorial retinue members. Some intrepid Radicals employ boxed Daemons.
  • Church Militant—In a nutshell.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture—Occasionally used by the Inquisition, but much less often than their reputation would suggest. They find information extracted under such duress to be of questionable reliability. Typically, they find it easier just to have a psychic interrogator forcefully extract the information from the subject's mind.
  • Drop the Hammer—Daemonhammers are consecrated warhammers that are especially potent against Warp-spawn. They are favored by agents of the Ordo Malleus, which translates to Order of the Hammer.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy—The Xanthite faction, a Radical faction, holds that the best way to defeat Chaos is to use Chaotic artifacts and bound daemonhosts against it. A lot of them (but not all) end up getting killed by said artifacts and daemons.
  • Fate Worse Than Death—Some heretics or blasphemers may be ordered to undergo the rites of Arco-Flagellation as an extreme act of repentance. This involves lopping off the condemned's hands and replacing them with power flails or other nasty weapons, sticking the guy's back full of combat drug dispensers, and lots of mental conditioning. The result is a wasted, wiry cyborg who wears a hood displaying calming religious images, but with the right command word the visor retracts, the stimm-packs activate, and the former heretic goes berserk.
  • Great Big Book of Everything—The Inquisition has an extensive library of banned, heretical, and downright dangerous musty tomes.
  • He Knows Too Much—Inquisitors are known for requisitioning Imperial Guard regiments, and sometimes ordering the grunts killed after being exposed to whatever it was they were called on to help deal with.
    • Though they're pretty cautious about doing this when Space Wolves are within earshot.
  • Inspector Javert—The less unstable and pugnacious Inquisitors sometimes end up in this role, pitted against the rare well-intentioned rebels like the Soul Drinkers, or more often Imperial servants with conflicting orders.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique—The "Nine Actions", nine stages of intensity used in interrogating suspects. The farther you go down, the more brutal the interrogation.
    • It's implied that if they choose to go as far as the Ninth Action, they have given up trying to get intel or get admittance of sin, and simply want the subject to suffer a horrific, weeks-long death.
  • Judge, Jury, and Executioner—The Inquisition's motto is "Innocence Proves Nothing." And few dare question if an Inquisitor decides someone is just guilty enough for a dangerous but high-paying retinue position, a Fate Worse Than Death, or a simple bolt round to the head.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope—Occupational hazard for any enforcer with a blank check, but far more common than betrayal or simple abuse of power as a villainous Inquisitor's Start of Darkness.
    • Also the reason for the saying "Every Inquisitor starts off a puritan and becomes a radical." The idea being that the more an Inquisitor learns about the nature of the universe, the more sacrifices they have to make to secure the Imperium, the more compromises they make to get what they need, the more radical they become. A big source of Right Hand Versus Left Hand in the Inquisition is disagreements about where the edge of that slope is, and how far down it is too far.
  • Kill It with Fire -- "Burn the Heretic, Kill the Mutant, Purge the Unclean."
  • Nice Hat—Inquisitors of the Ordo Hereticus are often show wearing rather Badass-looking capotains, in addition to Badass Longcoats.
  • No Kill Like Overkill—The Inquisition will go to any extreme to ensure that threats to the Imperium are defeated, up to and including killing untold billions of innocents by subjecting the planet in question to Exterminatus.
  • Omnicidal Maniac:
    • The Monodominant faction, a Puritan faction, which maintains that the only way humanity can survive is to wipe out everything that isn't human. While this isn't an unreasonable idea given what is lurking in the galaxy, the Monodominants take it a bit further than necessary, up to and including the psykers and mutants that the Imperium needs to continue functioning.
    • The Recongregation faction, a Radical faction, take this one step further. They include the moderate factions, the other radical factions, the Ecclesiarchy, most of the Cult Mechanicus, the Arbites etc... The Departmento Munitorium, Officio Assassinorum and Adeptus Astartes are just about the only things they don't want dead, although they would like to "streamline" these groups.
  • Only Sane Employee:
    • Inquisitor Amberly Vail of Ciaphas Cain fame shows noticeable self-awareness about the Inquisition's lack of...restraint in discharging their duties.
    • On a larger level, the Amalathian faction, a Puritan faction, who attempt to keep the established structure of the Imperium running as well as possible, rather than seeking change or trying to impose a draconian standard of purity. You'd think a group that believes the Imperium at present is perfect would be off their rocker, but they actually encourage cooperation, instead of the bureaucratic infighting so common with the Imperium.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits—The members of an Inquisitorial entourage will be...interesting, to say the least.
  • Reincarnation—The premise of the Thorian faction, a Puritan faction, which holds that the best way to save the Imperium is to bring about the reincarnation of the Emperor of Mankind.
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand—You've got your standard turf wars between the three Ordos; open violence between Radicals and Puritans; wrangling between the Thorians, Amalthians, and Monodominants; and battles by proxy between Inquisitors who don't know that they're working on the same case.
    • Supplemental materials indicate that this is actually something of a check and balance on Inquisitorial power. As an Inquisitor wields absolute authority up to and including the obliteration of entire planets, they are necessarily accountable to other Inquisitors. All the infighting, or simple potential for infighting, forces Inquisitors to use a degree of restraint in that authority, and keeps any one Inquisitor from acting unilaterally.
  • Social Darwinist—Inqusitors of the radical Istivaanian school of thought believe that the Imperium grows stronger through conflict. If a particular sector of the Imperium has had it too easy, they might arrange a conflict to hit it, just to make sure it stays on its toes. In an lot of cases, they might set up a "crucible of fire" just to ensure that only the strong survive it. They will carefully observe such conflicts for potential strong candidates that they can groom for positions of influence to further strengthen the Imperium. That said, they prefer to keep such conflict limited and controllable. After all, their goal is to strengthen the Imperium, not batter it down.
  • To the Pain—Stage two of the Nine Actions involves meticulously explaining in worrying detail what the next seven stages will involve. This is often enough to get captives to cooperate.
  • Token Evil Teammate / Hero Antagonist—On a faction level. No one in the Imperium is squeaky clean, but if someone who should be an ally is going to oppose the protagonists of a 40K story or be too extreme for them, it will be an Inquisitor.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means—The Radical Recongregator faction is defined by this, spending as much time plotting to reshape the Imperium, whether world-by-world or from the top down, as they do investigating threats. Their methods may range from involvement in political intrigues to fostering the same rebellions other Inquisitors are trying to prevent.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist—And this is one of the more pleasant ways to describe them.
    • Within the context of the Inqusition itself, this is practically the definition of a "Radical", an Inqusitor who uses means to secure the Imperium that other Inqusitors would find questionable. There is a lot of room for Grey and Gray Morality in this. For example, a Radical Inqusitor might use Human Sacrifice to form a Daemonhost bound to them to eliminate a critical threat. This is obviously a break from mainline Imperial dogma and methods, but what if they alternative is purging the entire planet so-threatened? At this point, which approach is more "extreme" is a matter of some debate, In-Universe.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness—Overlaps with He Knows Too Much. It is very hard to simply retire from an Inquisitor's retinue.

Tropes specific to the Officio Assassinorum

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade—The C'tan Phase Weapons, used by the Callidus Assassins to cut through absolutely anything.
  • Anti-Magic—The specialty of the Culexus.
  • The Berserker—Eversors, who are pumped so full of performance-enhancing combat drugs that their bodies explode if the drug flow ceases circulating. Because these drugs enhance lethal aggression and cannot be shut off without killing the addicted assassin, putting them into cryo-stasis is necessary to keep them alive between deployments.
  • Bloody Murder—This is the inevitable result of using Eversors.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy—Some of the more... "volatile" Imperial assassins are subject to this, being mindwiped after every mission and having their next mission subliminally programmed into them while kept sedated. Eversor assassins are a common example, though this is not necessarily limited to them.
  • The Chessmaster—The Vanus Temple consists entirely of these. As one of their members said, 'the cleanest kill is one that another performs in your stead with no knowledge of your incitement'.
  • Cold Sniper—Assassins of the Vindicare temple are expert marksmen and infiltrators, complete with special ammunition allowing them to potentially one-shot a tank.
  • Form-Fitting Wardrobe—The stereotypical garb of an Imperial Assassin is a layer of "synskin", a kind of semi-organic body sheath applied directly over the assassin's flesh. Multiple variations of it exist, some of which enhance strength, others of which have chameleon qualities, and some are capable of changing shape (along with the wearer.)
  • Improbable Aiming Skills—The main talent of the Vindicare Assassins.
  • Master Poisoner—The specialty of the Venenum Temple.
  • Our Souls Are Different—Culexus assassins are horrifying creatures that seem to lack a soul, thanks to the Pariah gene. Ordinary people find them quite disturbing, but the assassins are trained to prey on enemy psykers, who are especially sensitive to them. Their wargear fires what has been described as bolts of anti-soul.
  • Shape Shifter—Callidus assassins have access to Polymorphine, allowing them to disguise themselves as a member of just about any race. They are employed to infiltrate enemy organizations, supply them with false intelligence or bad advice, and surgically remove the leadership.

Tropes specific to the Sisters of Battle include

  • Amazon Brigade—The Sisters of Battle are basically Space Marines who make up for not having any kind of genetic enhancement with pure zeal.
  • The Atoner—Comes in two forms:
  • Chainmail Bikini:
    • Normal Sororitas infantry are a rare aversion, clad head to toe in Powered Armour, albeit often modelled unnecessarily closely on the figure underneath.
    • Sisters Repentia play it straight, but only because they're not allowed to have armor.
  • Chainsaw Good—Aside from their lack of clothing, Sisters Repentia are also known for carrying enormous chainswords into battle as their only weapons.
  • Church Militant—The primary reason for the Sisters of Battle's existence, and one of the more blatant examples of this trope in a setting where it is almost ubiquitous. The reality is slightly more complex than that though, as not every Sororitas is necessarily a Battle Sister. In addition to the Orders Militant, there are the Orders Famulous, the Orders Dialogous, and the Orders Hospitaller. Regardless of vocation, each Sororitas is expected to draw strength and courage from her faith and lay down her life if need be in the Emperor's name.
  • Exact Words—The Ecclesiarchy is specifically banned from maintaining any men under arms, as stated by Decree Passive. They get around this with the Sororitas.
  • Girl with Psycho Weapon—The Sisters Repentia.
  • Kill It with Fire—Needs to be repeated.
  • Macross Missile Massacre—The Exorcist is a combination tank, pipe organ, and multiple missile launcher. It fires as a Battle Sister plays a keyboard on top of it.
  • Of Corsets Sexy -- Played with. While not an actual corset, the front torso plates of Sororitas powered armor are designed to resemble a metallic bustier, drawing on the trope's imagery to give the impression of the female form while still providing fully covering protection. Given the reasons for the Sororitas' existence, projecting the image of female warriors by the shape of their power armor could be quite Justified Trope for reasons of doctrinal adherence.
  • Whip It Good—Sisters of Battle "Mistresses" lead squads of Sister Repentia, driving them along with whips.
  • White-Haired Pretty Girl—Sisters of Battle are typically depicted with pure white hair, presumably dyed.
  • White Magic—The Sisters are known for performing Acts of Faith on the battlefield, optimistically a sign of the Emperor's favor, pessimistically a form of psychic witchcraft.

See also Eisenhorn, Ravenor, Dark Heresy.

Adeptus Mechanicus

File:Adeptus foremanrough smallv2.jpg


In ancient times, men built wonders, laid claim to the stars and sought to better themselves for the good of all. But we are much wiser now.


Mankind's golden age is long past, and many of its technological secrets have been lost. When the Emperor was reuniting humanity, he found on Mars a strange priesthood devoted to the preservation of what knowledge remained. This Adeptus Mechanicus became a vital part of the Imperium, providing technical expertise, planet-wide factories known as Forge Worlds that produce everything from lasguns to civilian goods, and incredible weapons such as the Titan Legions. They are theoretically subordinate to the Imperium, and their highest-ranking member is one of the twelve High Lords of Terra, but the Machine Cult has its own specialized army, the Skitarii, and run the aforementioned Titan Legions, standing slightly apart from the Imperium of Man despite propping it up.

The Adeptus Mechanicus are not just humanity's last source of technological knowledge; they actively worship machinery, and venerate the Emperor as an aspect of an entity they call the Omnissiah. They believe that all devices have a "machine spirit" that must be placated in order for it to function properly, and therefore the Machine Cult's maintenance rituals involve a lot of incense, sacred oils, and chanting. This is a bunch of ignorant superstition that should have no effect on how devices function... but nonetheless, it seems to help. They also hold that for humans to perfect themselves they must take on more aspects of the machine, and therefore undergo voluntary cybernetic "upgrades," be they mechadendrites or other artificial limbs, or replacing the illogical half of their brain with a computer. Calling a Techpriest "more machine than man" is a compliment, and most Imperial citizens find the Priesthood of Mars hard to relate to, yet necessary.

While gifted mechanics and craftsmen, Adeptus Mechanicus orthodoxy holds that all technological advances have already been discovered, and they therefore place more emphasis on reverse-engineering or recovering old knowledge than they do on experimentation or upgrades. Thus, the Adeptus Mechanicus has kept mankind's technology working for ten thousand years, but has made little to no technological progress in that time. In fact, they have actually regressed, making some starships or weapons or other devices irreplaceable because the Tech-Priests don't know how to build them any more. They are a parallel to medieval craftsman's guilds in the way they preserve skill but quash innovation with a monopoly on technology. The Adeptus Mechanicus has no official tabletop army, but their influence is felt in the form of Tech-Priest Enginseers in the Imperial Guard, or the Techmarines of the Adeptus Astartes. The Aforementioned Titan Legions do make an appearance in the form of Forge World (the company) produced Titan models, which can be used in Apocalypse games.

Notable Adeptus Mechanicus tropes include

  • Admiring the Abomination—Techpriests have a bad tendency in the fluff to get really worked up over Necron tombs, and will abandon all semblance of sense to poke and prod at what should, at best, be nuked from orbit. This almost always gets them in big trouble, and by extension anyone they're working with.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot—At some point in the distant past humanity dealt with a robot uprising, and therefore the Imperium operates under a strict ban on artificial intelligences.
  • An Axe to Grind / Blade on a Stick—A common melee weapon of the Adeptus Mechanicus is that of a long-handled, halberd-like power-axe with an edged blade on one side, and a half-cogwheel emblem on the other. Such things are considered badges of office, and are a sign that the tech-priest is favored by their superiors.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid—The cause of the Technological Stasis.
  • Bio Augmentation -- "Organicists" is the name given to a school of thought within the Adeptus Mechanicus that gives the same value to organic life that they do to inorganic construction. They see an organic body as its own kind of machine, taking in fuel, producing waste, and generating action like any constructed device. Much like their fellows though, they are not content to exist unaugmented, and seek to improve their bodies to become closer to the Omnissiah. The difference being that they are much more willing to graft engineered organs and other biological components to themselves in addition to more "normal" mechanical enhancements.
  • Bunny Ears Lawyer—By and large, they are good engineers despite everything. They do understand a significant fraction of their devices, and always strive to learn more—but this doesn't demystify anything, it simply brings them closer to union with the holy Omnissiah.
  • Cargo Cult—The AdMech's worship of technology is completely literal, and they attend their machines with prayers as much as with tools.
  • Clarks Third Law—Played straight, and integrated into their background. Technology achieved full Clark's-Third levels during the Dark Age of Technology, and most of that know-how has been lost to time since. Hence, the highest levels of technology for the Imperium is seen as magical by Imperial society, including the tech-priests themselves.
    • Religion Is Magic—In full force here, going along with the "magic" in question being indistinguishable from sufficiently advanced technology. The devotees of the Machine God even consider the theoretical principles on which their technology is based to be a form of theology.
  • Cloudcuckoolander—Members of the Adeptus Mechanicus that are relatively friendly tend to be...quirky at best.
  • Combat Tentacles—One of the more common enhancements is the mechadendrite, a long, flexible extra limb that is intended for delicate mechanical work, but is frighteningly handy in a fight.
  • Companion Cube—Well, who hasn't resorted to pleading and begging when dealing with a computer at some point? The Adeptus Mechanicus are simply the (il)logical culmination of such desperation.
  • Corrupt Church—The techpriests frequently apply For Science!, and their cult holds a great deal of power in the Imperium. Most do genuinely think of the progress such applications can do.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul—Subverted. As a techpriest advances in the ranks, he usually replaces more and more of his "weak flesh" with augmetics, at the same time as his mind draws farther away from normal human concerns. Some even replace half their brain with a computer, in order to approach the Omnissiah's perfect reason. But it is not the cybernetics that do the soul eating, but the Tech-Priests' beliefs.
  • Empire with a Dark Secret—It is heavily implied that the Tech-Priests may be worshipping the C'Tan known as the Void Dragon, who is possibly imprisoned on Mars.
    • The Emperor arranged things so their designs and beliefs were inspired by the Dragon without ever really focusing on it.
  • Eternal Engine—Mechanicus standard for interior (and exterior) decor. Wall-to-wall gears and electronics, only broken by the odd devotional shrine. The longer-established Forge Worlds are nothing but.
  • For Science!—The Machine Cult will do anything to find an STC or understand an ancient device.
    • Except take it apart and reverse engineer it. Partly because it would be heresy and offensive to the machine spirit, partly because they could not guarantee that they could put it back together.
  • Genius Bruiser—Techmarines combine the muscle and training of a standard-issue Space Marine with a number of tools that double as weapons and the best technology they can bring to bear. They're actually one of the most formidable units in the army list!
    • There are also Techpriests dedicated to the art of war known as Secutors.
  • Humongous Mecha -- Their God-Machines of the Titan Legions.
  • In the Hood—The standard outfit for priests of the Machine God is a hooded red robe. If a tech-priest expects to go into battle, they will usually don an armored suit, and trade their robe in for a hooded red cloak that allows them a bit more freedom of movement.
  • MacGuffin—The second-biggest prize for the Tech-Priests is a Standard Template Construct, one of many designs dating back from the Dark Age of Technology that were made to be as adaptable and robust as possible, using technology long since lost to man. The biggest would be a Standard Template Constructor, an automated factory and technical library that can build or describe any of them. So far, all they have found are partial, damaged ones that can only create one or a few—and even these are worth more than whole star systems.
  • Machine Worship—The group that inspired the trope.
  • Mad Scientist—Some Tech-Priests rather lose their perspective in seeking ancient technology or pursuing the Omnissiah's thoughts in the workings of technology and the universe.
  • Mecha-Mooks—Though rare after the various Retcons over the course of First Edition, the Mechanicum still has the "Legio Cybernetica", squads of brainless-but-tough robots (or full-conversion servitors, Depending on the Writer) each commanded by a single Techpriest.
  • Medieval Stasis—The Adeptus Mechanicus' beliefs have mostly ensured this for the Imperium. There is some innovation, but very slowly...
  • Neural Implanting—Some of the sacred implants of the Omnissiah are cogitator databases hooked directly into the brain (sometimes removing "useless" portions of the brain to make room) which contain information on how to build some of their most advanced technology. There is some speculation that this is what enables the Tech-Priests to build very complex technology without actually understanding the principles on which it works, the implants containing information on how to construct something without explaining the why of it.
    • It is worth noting that this was absolutely true of all tech-priests in the early era of the game, where low-ranking members were directly implanted with the procedures they needed. New editions have since Retconed this sort of implant to be restricted mostly to high-ranking Tech-Priests, actually authorised to design and research, for whom it is no substitute but rather an extra advantage. The more novice tech-priests must build their technology through rote memorization taught to them by their superiors, with all the religious pomp and circumstance their construction is known for. The knowledge-bearing sacred implants are only gifted once a tech-priest has been properly indoctrinated against potential misuse of the Omnissiah's secrets.
  • New Technology Is Evil—Because everything worth discovering was done so thousands of years ago, or has always existed logically implicit in the universe, to be discovered by inspired reason rather than be invented by merely human creativity, more along the lines of New Technology Is Impossible.
    • Somewhat justified as it is possible for daemons to posses not only humans but also machines. Possession can occur through symbols of any kind. (Think your new fancy microchip design is awesome because it makes the Lasgun fire more accurate? Too bad the circuits form a pattern that has just attracted a Khornate daemon. Say hello to your new possessed Lasgun.)
    • There are arguments about this, with the Adeptus Mechanicus being divided into camps fighting over whether to dedicate their resources to innovation or finding STCs.
    • And in a recent book by Black Library, the Mechanicus is suddenly pouring out newly discovered and developed weapons and technology. Must have something to do with Hive Fleet Leviathan or the 13th Black Crusade rampaging through the galaxy at the end of the millennium.
  • Redshirt Army—Forge Worlds have their own local equivalent of a Planetary Defense Force or Imperial Guard regiment known as the Skitarii Tech Guard. They often wear red uniforms as a symbol of their allegiance to the Adeptus Mechanicus. They are exempted from normal tithing practices for the Imperial Guard, as Forge Worlds contribute tithes of a different kind, but they often accompany Mechanicus Explorator fleets, or act as infantry and tank support for Titan Legions. Due to their close relationship with the Mechanicus, they are more likely to have augmetic enhancements and high-tech weaponry than the Imperial Guard, but exact practices and equipment varies between regiments.
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand—If you think academic politics are bad now, just wait a few millennia and it will get worse. The Mechanicus fight and scheme against each other almost as much as the Inquisition, for various reasons—the "invention is evil" versus "invention is discovery" positions above, various more abstruse disputes, and simple struggles over prestige and promotion.
  • Technopath—They only think they are, but sometimes it becomes true. With enough chanting, they can make Percussive Maintenance or an insane bodge job work when there's no way in hell it should, and some Techpriests are masters of "intuitive maintenance", diagnosing malfunctions by sound and touch and comforting the machine-spirit with nearly imperceptible adjustments.
  • The Red Planet—Mars is the capital of the organization, and one of the most developed planets (i.e. covered in factories and hive spires) in the Imperium. It is second in importance only to Terra itself.
  • Robo Speak:
    • This is generally true of servitors and other communicative Wetware CPU devices created by the Adeptus Mechanicus.
    • Techpriests can approach this after heavy augmentation eventually replaces their voice box and much of their brain, but they are still human (in a manner of speaking) beneath it all, and as such they tend to fall into Spock Speak with a Creepy Monotone.
  • Techno Babble—Techpriests tend to do this...a lot.
  • Techno Wizard—With emphasis on "Techno." And "Wizard" too.
  • Unwilling Roboticisation -- Depending on the Writer, some servitors are created by growing artificial lifeforms which are then grafted with mechanical components to form a completely artificial cyborg. However, it is also a common fate for those who have sinned against the Machine God to be condemned to be made into servitors themselves, their cadaver repurposed and re-animated with mechanical components.
  • Warrior Monk—Secutors are tech-priests who focus on the destructive potential of the Machine God, manufacturing and wielding some of the most potent of the Adeptus Mechanicus' weaponry, and further augmenting themselves to enhance their combat abilities, becoming vessels for the Omnissiah's wrath.
  • Wave Motion Gun—The Ordinatii of divisio reductor are some of the biggest guns in the galaxy.
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future—The Schizo-Tech resulting from all this lost technology leads to ships with warp engines and force fields requiring slave labor to manually reload cannons the size of office buildings.
  • Weirdness Coupon—The Adeptus Mechanicus disdain the holy human body, altering it both cybernetically and biologically at will. They belong to the Imperial Faith only on the slimmest of technicalities, and some make an open secret that they don't even make that effort, preferring to see the Omnissiah as a separate and older divinity than the Emperor. Most suspiciously of all, they pursue knowledge on secretive quests under a regime that adores blind faith and unthinking loyalty. Yet, while some members run foul of the Inquisition, Ecclesiarchy, or Administratum in ways that range from embarrassing to deadly, by and large they are left alone as powerful if not respected members of the Imperial order. De facto, they are simply necessary no matter how evil a zealot may think they are. De jure, they are only joined to the Imperium of Mankind by a personal union, sworn to the Emperor's service separately from the Adeptus Terra that run everything else, and subject to it only on secondment.
  • Wetware CPU—To get around the ban on advanced computers or robotics, the Adeptus Mechanicus creates servitors, which are either criminals or vat-grown humans who have their brains replaced with "bio-programming" and useful cybernetic upgrades such as tools or weapon systems grafted to their bodies. In extreme cases, servitors are wired into networks directly, forming the fleshy core of a computer system. Basically slaves, they are hopefully not sentient.

Abhumans and Mutants


Twisted flesh, twisted soul.


The Imperium does not simply worship the Emperor, but also the holy human form. Part of the Manifest Destiny of the Imperium states that humanity has a right to rule the galaxy. However, the simple fact is that after thousands of years on other worlds, various human populations have evolved into different types of humans. These are referred to as Abhumans or Mutants, variously; Abhumans are fairly minor, stable strains of mutation that are effectively the result of natural evolution caused by different environments, while Mutants are far more bizarre in form and stem from the wide variety of genetic degeneratives at loose in the galaxy at large—radiation, genetic warfare, toxic chemicals, et cetera. While the Imperium officially disdains them, some are useful or even necessary. In the time of the Emperor, the view of Abhumans and Mutants was more lenient, but after ten thousand years, the Imperium has taken a more draconian approach.

In the background, the most important of mutants are the Navigators, families who were genetically engineered in the distant past to navigate the Warp with psychic powers. Collectively, they form the Navis Nobilite, wealthy families who are necessary for the Imperium to survive. On the tabletop, certain Abhumans are useful to the Imperial Guard for specialist skills. Mutants, in the background and to an extent on the tabletop, are typically executed on sight for their genetic damage or kept as slaves—as a result, they are eager worshipers of Chaos, aided by the fact that Chaos tends to both cause mutation in its followers and treats those bearing mutations as being blessed by the Gods.

Notable Abhuman and Mutant tropes include

  • Arranged Marriage: Since Navigators can only pass on their psyker genes by procreating with other Navigators, marriages among the Navis Nobilite are arranged usually between rival houses to ensure genetic stability and as a form of alliance.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: When the Paternova dies, the Heirs Apparent (the most powerful Navigators of each house) become larger, stronger, and more aggressive. They then fight and kill each other for the right of Paternova.
  • The Atoner: Beastmen who followed the Imperial Cult were ruthless in purging the Emperor's enemies as penance for the "sin" of mutating.
  • Blindfolded Vision: When not actively guiding a ship, Navigators will cover their Third Eye, as looking into it can cause madness. This makes limiting others' exposure to it necessary. This covering can take many forms, from a headband, to a veil, to an eyepatch, to a low-pulled hood, or even occasionally a cybernetic shutter-like metallic eyelid.
  • Body Horror:
    • Thanks to a limited breeding pool, the possibility of imperfect genetic tampering on the part of some ancestors, and generations of necessary warp exposure, Navigators often suffer from a variety of minor mutations. As Navigators age these mutations become more obvious and extreme, with some of them even transforming into ugly frog-octopus things. It's an accepted fact of life for them and even during the brutal inter-house coldwars both sides will respect this secret and ensure that nobody breaks the Masquerade. The Emperor was aware of these mutations but decided to tolerate it.
    • Generic mutants are this trope incarnate. Even those who haven't been touched by Chaos can sport all manner of strange and unnatural features, including but not limited to: extra eyes/mouths/limbs, rotting flesh, atrophied bodyparts, unnaturally swollen musculature, oversized bodyparts, scales, fur, fangs, claws, slime-oozing skin, blisters and warts, tentacles... Essentially, a mutant is living Body Horror and may or may not have Lovecraftian Superpowers as a result of it.
  • Dumb Muscle:
    • Ogryns are massive, powerful, and dumb. During the Horus Heresy, it was said that they were told the loyalists had betrayed the Emperor. The smarter ones are given enhancements to increase their intelligence, called Bio Ogryn Neural Enhancement (BONE). This allows them to become sergeants of Orgyns squads, called Bone'eads (though not that much - one of the most intelligent examples of Ogryns, Nork Deddog, is simply capable of writing his name, counting on four fingers with his thumb confusing him, and speaking in full sentences.)
    • Increased size, strength and toughness at a cost of lowered intelligence is a fairly common mutation. Some, however, are bigger, stronger, and tougher than regular humans while being just as smart or smarter than humans.
  • Evil Eye: Staring into a Navigator's Warp Eye is commonly said to cause either insanity or death. No one wants to test it, and Navigators must wear hoods, scarves, or headbands of psyk-resistant material around normal humans.
  • Explosive Breeder: Ratlings procreate like there is no tomorrow. Possibly because there isn't.
  • Expy: The Navis Nobilite are pretty blatant expies of the Navigator Guild from Dune.
  • Extra Eyes:
    • Navigators possess a "Warp eye" allowing them to see the currents of the Immaterium and guide ships through it. This is not a poetic turn of phrase.
    • They're a common mutation for mutants in general, and can turn up in the strangest places.
  • Fantastic Racism: The Imperium typically takes a very dim view of mutation from the accepted norm of the "Holy Human Form", though the degree to which a typical citizen subscribes to this will vary. One major reason for this is that mutation is often a sign that one is becoming corrupted by the warp, potentially becoming a vessel for the Ruinous Powers. However, this hatred extends to those whose mutations are caused by more "mundane" sources, such as generations of exposure to radiation or industrial waste, leading to widespread hatred and distrust of all mutants. Since mutation can continue to appear generation after generation, killing all mutants tends to be impractical, so most are allowed to exist as an oppressed underclass, looked down upon by all.
    • Abhumans are subraces of humans whose differences have manifested into stable genotypes, without the randomness seen as signs of corruption. They often suffer some prejudices related to their differences, but find a much better measure of acceptance, especially if those differences make them valuable to the Imperium in some way. Navigators in particular, while still somewhat feared, are also held in a degree of awe due to the absolutely essential role that they play in the Imperium.
  • Feuding Families: Among the Navis Nobilite, there exist conflicts known as Tradewars, which include limited conflict among the families. The Administratum tolerates these to a point, but as long as they're short and not too destructive, they're allowed.
  • Friendly Sniper: Ratlings are gregarious individuals who enjoy a good feast and make excellent snipers.
    • The Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer warns however that petty crime rates in a regiment increase when a Ratling squad is attached.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Averted Trope by the Navigators when exposed to the warp, which is what makes them unique in the setting in which this trope is otherwise played straight. Their Third Eye allows them to perceive the warp in a way which will not overwhelming their mortal mind, enabling their ability to guild a ship through its currents. This perception is subjective, and each Navigator will see it in a different manner, so that when they try to describe it to others, the only way they can do so is through vaguely poetic metaphor.
  • Heavyworlder: How Ogryns and Squats came to be. Yet they went in completely different directions.
  • The Hedonist: Ratlings enjoy the finer aspects of life.
  • Hobbits: Ratlings, Abhumans who have evolved into smaller forms. Though not trusted, they make excellent snipers.
  • The Ogre: Ogryns are Abhumans who evolved on heavy gravity worlds with barren environments.
  • The Patriarch: The Paternova, the leader of the Navis Nobilite, who is called the "father of the warp", and is somehow able to increase the warp sense of his family's Navigators.
  • Ret-Gone: Originally, many Abhumans were transplants from Warhammer Fantasy Battle, but as time went on, they stopped being updated or even mentioned. The Squats are the most famous example of this.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Ripper guns used by Ogryns are shotguns which are used just as much as a club as it is a rifle.
  • Undying Loyalty:
    • Nork Deddog, an Ogryn who is absolutely loyal to his masters in the Imperium...which he interprets as the highest ranking officer.
    • The Ogryns in general. They believe that the Emperor has personally issued them every order (being worked down from the chain of command) and thus obey orders to the best of their abilities.
  • Walking the Cosmos: Some Navigator families abandon their wealthy estates and take to wandering the galaxy.
  • Weirdness Coupon: The Navigators are mutants whose elders begin mutating beyond the norms of the "holy human form", and yet are fantastically wealthy and have a permanent seat on the High Lords of Terra. They're so absolutely vital to star travel that they have to be given these things.



You people do well at war because you treat it as a religion. We do well because we treat it as a business. It is just a matter of outlook.


The lost army. Dwarfs IN SPACE. Bug chow.

The Squats were a race of abhumans—an offshoot of the human species that had adapted to subterranean life on high-gravity worlds near the galactic core. Separated from mainline humanity for tens of millenia, they grew shorter and, well, squatter, eventually coming to resemble the traditional fantasy dwarf in both appearance and temperament. Due to the difficulty of living on barren planets with radioactive surface conditions, the Squats developed extremely reliable food production systems, armor, and other technology, but also had a fatalistic attitude toward life. Over time, they made contact with the Orks and Eldar and gained a reputation for their high-quality tech, shrewd business dealings, and potent military defense. Eventually they were rediscovered by and reabsorbed into the Imperium, as their tech fascinated the Adeptus Mechanicus and made them a welcome addition to the Imperial armed forces, but they maintained a high degree of autonomy.

As a game faction, the Squats were never popular, nor did they fit very well in the increasingly Grimdark setting. They were included back in the days when 40K was a transparent In Space version of Warhammer Fantasy Battle and every race in the latter had to appear in the former, but as the setting matured the Squats felt more and more out of place. Game designers never really decided on a "tone" for the army, and depictions of them wavered between goofy space dwarfs and miniature biker dudes. In 1994, they were discontinued with the explanation that the newly arrived Tyranids had descended upon their Homeworlds and stripped them clean of all life (like they do). A handful of embittered Squats still survive spread across the vast Imperium, but as a faction they are absolutely, positively never coming back. In fact, it's Games Workshop's official position that they won't even be mentioned.

Though the Squats are extremely dead, the "space dwarf" concept itself may be in for a comeback. Games Workshop has introduced a race called the Demiurg as a member species of the Tau Empire in the 40K spinoff Battlefleet Gothic, a species that practically never leaves their rugged Stronghold-class starships, makes a living as deep-space miners, are technologically-advanced enough to introduce ion cannon technology to the Tau, and closely resembles the Squats to boot. At the moment the only Demiurg models created have been for Gothic, where they are the only faction said to be too small and isolationary to field actual fleets, and there are no plans to make a tabletop army for them, but only Tzeentch knows what the future holds...

Notable Squat tropes include

  • Badass Biker—Well, triker. This was one of the very few unique, consistent parts of the Squats' racial identity.
  • Candle Jack—An unofficial but heavily enforced rule on the old Games Workshop forums was that anyone who stated that the Squats should be brought ba
  • Canon Discontinuity—Don't mention them at GW press events.
    • This even extends to the older 40k novels - when Ian Watson's Inquisition War trilogy was rereleased, Grimm (one of the main characters) was Ret Conned from a Squat to a Techpriest.
  • Cool Train—One of the Squats' war machines for the large-scale Epic 40,000 was the Land Train, a crawling fortress each car of which had a different function, be it troop transport, landing pad, or mortar battery.
  • Dropped A Hive Fleet On Him—When 40K decides to kill you off, you are killed off with extreme prejudice.
  • Expy—The Demiurg of the Squats, who were in turn an expy of Warhammer Dwarfs.
  • Heavyworlder—Strangely enough, the Imperial Guard's Ogryns also come from high-gravity worlds, but turned out completely different.
  • Meaningful Name—Demiurg is Greek for "craftsman" or "artisan."
  • Mood Dissonance—Part of the reason Squats were problematic.
  • Old Shame—GW classifies Squats as one of those things "best forgotten."
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same—Even in space!
  • Powered Armor -- ... that makes them look like walking eggs... on bikes...
  • Private Military Contractors—See the quote above.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy—Because Dwarfs are.
  • Recycled in Space—Perhaps in more ways than one, given the Demiurg's arrival.
  • Shout-Out—In the Tau language, the Demiurg are referred to as "Bentu'sin." A very similar race of ion cannon traders called the Bentusi appeared in the video game Homeworld, which was made by Relic Entertainment, who would later go on to give us Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War.
  1. (Note that last one was canon in the earliest editions.)
  2. even though many of those who live under it are at risk of being corrupted
  3. You will not be able to out run them.
  4. Probably Magnus The Red
  5. For various reasons, some chapters have lost a couple of the implants; nevertheless, all have the most essential two, the Progenoids and the Black Carapace.
  6. Though they are not members of the clergy like Sisters of Battle, they are considered lay-members of the Imperial church.
  7. In fact, they have no less than five different kinds of tank dedicated to that purpose.
  8. Supposedly they are so regimented and disciplined that they will continue a column march with eyes forward even if they are being shot at. This seemingly era-mismatched style of warfare might be justified as their home planet is subject to frequent Chaos incursions, and the bright colors and iron discipline could very well be a method to keep the troops fighting and sane in the face of the mind-blasting horrors they are up against. Their planet is also constantly night time so the bright uniform may also be useful for identifying Friend From Foe in the darkness.
  10. Often that of a family member, an ancestor, or some other figure that they feel close to
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