Hello 40k fans! Chris Morgan, Chief Librarian of the Forge the Narrative Podcast, is here with a new weekly lore series – Tomes of the Librarius. Also, check the Tactics Corner for more great articles!
In this series we will explore facets of the history and legends of the Grimdark. This is meant to be an easy summary and introduction geared towards new players or people unfamiliar with the setting, but should still be an interesting read or fun refresher for those already familiar. Also, I’ll be using a lot of photos and visual references (more than normal for, say, a tactical article). We are so fortunate to have some very talented artists working to bring this universe to life.
With that out of the way, lets get started with our first series – Astartes 101. Part 1 will focus on the wars for unity on Terra and the great crusade.
In mankind’s storied history of war, no force has shaken the destiny of creation more than the warriors of the Adeptus Astartes.
Unification & The Thunder Warriors
After the Age of Strife where humanity was sundered and scattered across the galaxy, not even Terra – the birth-world of humanity – was united under a single banner. Mutation and techno-barbarism wreaked havoc on the human genome, and only one being could foresee the long-term disaster that waited for mankind. As the wanton and uncontrolled psychic potential of humanity drove them towards physical and spiritual doom, the Chaos gods glutted themselves on humanity’s emotions, and this being knew that they would feast until nothing was left. This was the Emperor, and he determined that he was also the only one who could steer humanity towards survival. In order to do that, he needed peerless warriors to journey among the stars and unite the shattered and divided human colonies there.
In an effort to protect humanity from Chaos, the Emperor outlawed religion in favor of a secular philosophy called “The Imperial Truth.” By eliminating worship and religions, the Emperor hoped to starve the Gods of Chaos (who considered him their greatest enemy, or “the Anathema”) of the belief and souls they needed to survive, and in so doing bring about their destruction and turn his “Imperial Lie” into Truth. Emotion was surrendered for logic, superstition for science. It was this message that he spread across Terra (and later the galaxy) as his genetically engineered Thunder Warriors swept aside his opposition on Terra in a tide of blood and muscle.
While the Thunder Warriors he made would do well enough to help him conquer Terra, the tool that the Emperor needed to reunite humanity would need to be more all-purpose. Towards the end of the Unification Wars that brought Terra under the complete control of the Emperor, the Space marines showed up.
The Space Marine Legions & The Great Crusade
The Space Marines – or ‘Adeptus Astartes’ – were organized into 20 legions, each of varying sizes from 60,000 warriors to 200,000, with additional support from human armies and the Mechanicum which supplied them with munitions. Each legion had key differences in appearance, mindset, and battlefield tactics. Adaptive and superior to the normal human in every way possible, the Space Marines were the perfect soldiers to conquer the stars. Their tactical and personal tendencies originated from the source of their genetic code: the Primarchs. The Primarchs were the key to the Emperor’s great crusade. Created from the Emperor’s own DNA and other mysterious means, the Primarchs were created to be the Emperor’s greatest battlefield generals and statesmen, second only to himself in power and authority. The gods of Chaos had other plans, however. Expending great power to break through the Emperor’s psychic wards, they took the pods the infant primarchs were in and scattered them across the galaxy. While his sons may have been lost, their genetic information was not, and it was this information that the Emperor used to create the Space Marine legions.
The Astartes were shorter and less powerful than the Thunder Warriors who fought the unification wars, but were more intelligent and adaptive; capable of not only ground warfare but void combat as well. As the Thunder Warriors died out, the Astartes filled their place in the Emperor’s armies, and the combined might of Terra (and soon afterwards Mars) was geared towards preparing these warriors to set out in the starts and reunite humanity under one banner. When all the preparations were complete, the fleets of the Great Crusade burst from the Sol system and crashed against the galaxy in an unstoppable wave of war. Their mission was twofold, to bring humanity together under one rule and also to find the lost Primarchs.
For over 200 years, the Space Marines scoured the galaxy. The Primarchs were found and reunited with the legions that bore their lineage, each one mightier than any foe that was arrayed against them. Worlds willing to accept the Emperor’s light were incorporated into the Imperium, and those that weren’t were conquered. Alien races were mercilessly hunted to extinction, and those that weren’t were forced to flee before the wrath of mankind reawakened.
At some point, for unknown reasons, two of the legions disappeared along with their Primarchs. Only the other Primarchs ultimately knew their fate, but were sworn to secrecy by the Emperor, all all records of them aside from their legion numbers were removed from the Imperial records. To this day none know the final fate of the lost legions, despite the many rumors.
The Webway Project
After the destruction of the mightiest Ork Waaagh! that ever existed during the Ullanor campaign, the Emperor decided it was time to begin the next phase of his plan to save humanity from Chaos. Leaving his favored son Horus Lupercal in charge of the remainder of the Crusade, the Emperor returned to Terra to undertake a work he kept secret even from his trusted sons: the creation of a human webway gate that would both see to the final destruction of the Eldar, and also eliminate the very need for travel through the warp. This was one more step in his plan to destroy the Chaos gods, for warp travel was the only way to traverse the stars, and by eliminating the need for it, he could better insulate humanity from their influence while he steered their evolution – now in a dangerous and vulnerable stage – to a higher form that could see the insidious lures of Chaos for what they were. His methods were brutal and accepted little compromise, but it was all done for the survival of humanity.
Continued in Part II…
I hope you enjoyed the first foray into FLG’s regular lore series. Feel free to share your thoughts or favorite bits of lore from this era in the comments! Next week we’ll wrap up the Astartes 101 by going over the Horus Heresy and a little of the creation and biology of a Space Marine.
As always, be sure to check on the FLG Store for your hobby needs should you feel the desire to bring some of these warriors to life!
And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!