Tomes of the Librarius – The Black Rage

Hello again 40k fans! Chris Morgan, Chief Librarian of the Forge the Narrative Podcast, is here again with the next weekly segment of Tomes of the Librarius. Also, check the Tactics Corner for more great articles!

Just as a reminder, 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. There’s so much detail in this lore that a bare summary seems so inadequate, but for new people this should be the right portion to get a feel for the history of the universe we enjoy our games in.
Today, I am feeling angry. So what does that mean? That means we are going to talk today about RAGE! In this instance, we are going to talk about the angriest of the angry (and that isn’t Angron – there, I said it!). The Black Rage is one of the twin curses of the Blood Angels chapter, and of the two it strikes the most fear into the hearts of their enemies. What is it about this curse that makes it so deadly? Let’s explore!

The Red Thirst is Different

There are two curses that plague the Blood Angels and their successors. The first one is the Red Thirst, which is a flaw in the gene-seed of the Blood Angels that makes them thirst for blood. Sometime later, I will do another article to break down a bit more in detail as to what this entails, but suffice to say that while it adds ferocity to the Blood Angels and gives them a fierce edge in combat, for the most part it can be held under control and does not typically drive people insane. The Black Rage, on the other hand, is more of a spiritual curse, and it is always associated with sheer, uncontrollable madness.

Origin of the Black Rage

The Black Rage did not exist until after the Horus Heresy. When Sanguinius, the Primarch of the Blood Angels, went with Rogal Dorn and the Emperor to storm the flagship of Horus Lupercal, he was separated from his warriors and the Emperor. He was led first into the command bridge of the Vengeful Spirit, and confronted his fallen brother alone. Horus, having sold himself to the dark gods, was bloated with power, and killed Sanguinius after a brief battle. He did not simply kill Sanguinius, but tortured his soul in ways unimaginable for daring to defy him.

The incredible pain and agony of that moment was transferred through a psychic link to the Blood Angels warring on the planet below. Sanguinius’ psychic connection to his sons drove them temporarily mad, and they stormed off the walls of the Palace of Terra and nearly broke the siege in a blind rage as they felt their father’s pain in his last moments. After the battle was over, and Horus was dead, something had changed in the Blood Angels forever. From that point on, all of them were are risk of reliving their father’s last moments again, and falling into an inescapable madness that made them a danger to friend and foe alike.

What Does it Do?

A warrior who has fallen to the Black Rage sees himself as Sanguinius in the moments leading up to his death. He will see enemies as demons – or even Horus himself – as they experience the pain of their dying primarch’s last moments. The gene-seed responds, and puts their bodies into a mad frenzy. Their speed, aggressiveness, and resilience goes beyond what even a space marine should be able to do. They become strong enough to rip apart strong foes with their bare hands, and tough enough to keep fighting despite being half-disintegrated. Roaring lost oaths of rage and vengeance, and unable to tell friend from foe for the most part, the Death Company are often unleashed upon foes either too overwhelming to face normally, or in situations where victory comes hand in hand with death. As time has gone by, the Black Rage has increased its toll on the chapters of the Blood, taking a greater and greater portion of warriors and driving them to mad oblivion.

How Does it Happen?

On the eve of battle, the Reclusiam lines up the warriors of the Blood Angels for inspection and battle prayers. As they lead the warriors in the meme-chants of war and death in preparation for the fight, they pay attention to the warriors there. Twitching, muttering, tensing of the muscles, and bloodshot eyes can all be signs that a warrior is beginning his fall to the rage. Warriors discovered on the verge are marked by the chaplain, and taken away to join the Death Company – a unit that is formed completely from warriors who have fallen to the Black Rage. These marines are treated with reverence and respect, bedecked in scripts of their battle-honors, and daubed in black and red armor. Every Blood Angel would rather have their madness directed at the foe in glorious death than to risk destroying all of their good works and the honor of the chapter by killing an innocent they are supposed to protect.
The Reclusiarchs of the Blood Angels lead these warriors to battle when the time comes, often away from the main force and into the greatest points of danger. They will destroy their enemies, or die in the attempt. It is not uncommon for even the brothers interred into dreadnoughts to fall, thus becoming mad engines of destruction terrifying in both their aspect and in their capacity for murder. Should any members of the Death Company survive, they are either put in stasis or killed by Astorath’s Executioner Axe before they can kill anyone else in their madness.

Is There Hope for a Cure?

Only one person has ever fallen to the Black Rage and returned to sanity: Mephiston. Not only did he come out the other side, but he came back changed and more powerful than before. A more divisive symbol of hope or fear doesn’t exist within the Blood Angels, but now there is a new change on the horizon. As of yet, none of the new Primaris Astartes have shown signs of succumbing to the Black Rage. Could this be a new age for the Blood Angels, or are we just waiting for the inevitable?

As for me, with the coming of Abbadon the Despoiler to Vigilus, I can’t help but wonder if the Blood Angels will make an appearance. In that moment, will exposure to the weapon that killed their father awaken the madness lurking at the edges of Cawl’s new hope? I can’t help but wonder. What do you think the future of the Black Rage is? If your answer is ‘falling to chaos’ then go play Age of Sigmar. They just came out with a new faction for the trolls.


Captain Morgan

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



About Chris Morgan

40K philosopher, LVO Judge, Chief Librarian of Forge the Narrative, Blood Angel enthusiast extraordinaire, and slayer of traitors, xenos, and heretics; I'd rather be playing 30k right now or neck-deep in a good book. Follow me on my FB page - Captain Morgan's Librarius
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3 years ago


This got me flipping back through a few of the various Codices they’ve had over the years. It’s kind of interesting how these two traits have been retconned at various times. The current Codex states that they’re both consequences of Sanguinious’s death, but IIRC, the Red Thirst was known even before then, during the Great Crusade, and I know that older editions only described the Black Rage as a consequence of Sanguinious’s death and the Insanguination process the BA use to activate their Geneseed.

The current Dex also describes it as a purely psychic phenomenon, affecting even those who were already Blood Angels during the Heresy, while older sources indicated that it was specifically the fact that Insanguination has, since then, been performed using samples of Sanguinious’s blood that were taken after his death, and it was only the blood itself that carried that psychic imprint.

Another interesting divide is the fact that Cawl came up with a different method of activating the Geneseed used for the Primaris Blood Angels (since he didn’t have any of Sanguinious’s blood on hand), and as you mention, no Primaris BA have yet fallen to the Black Rage. Many of them have, however, shown signs of the Red Thirst.

3 years ago
Reply to  WestRider

Both get explored in the Horus Heresy novels centered around the Blood angels. Spoiers mostly for Signus Daemonicus and Ruinstorm.

The Red Thirst was present during the crusade, but only in very rare occasions of individual marines. During the events on Signus, the forces of chaos sort of supercharged this flaw in an attempt to draw Sanguinius on their side, which probalby put it on the levels it is in the current timeline.

The Black Rage does not yet exist, but in Ruinstorm, Sanguinius himself suffers from it in a way, as he has visions of his death on par with or even stronger than the Night Haunter.This goes as far as having Sanguinius realize what his death on the Vengeful Spirit will unleash upon his legion and still accepting it because his sacrifice will allow the Emperor to defeat Horus.

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