Sunday, 3 August 2014

Spaysh Mureens!!

This image from the Rogue Trader rulebook has always intrigued me. It suggests that not all space marines were law abiding loyalists locked away in a fortress monastery waiting on the call to blow away some xenos. In fact this pair look like a couple of guns for hire, waiting in a sleazy bar for their next job to come along. We all know the way the emperors finest are portrayed these days. Noble superhumans with indefinite life spans, educated and intelligent, fearlessly defending humanity without a second thought. It wasn't that way in the days of Rogue Trader. 

In the early days the marines were depicted as being recruited from hive worlds, prison worlds, feral worlds - any where a large number of psychotic killers could be found. These dangerous scum would be rounded up and indoctrinated by whichever chapter needed them. Implanted with all sorts of bio-mechanics and using drugs and industrial scale hypnotherapy turned into controllable killers. Squeezed into suits of powered armour they were sent off to the most dangerous parts of the galaxy to fight on humanities behalf, far away from the people they were defending. No wonder they needed Field police to keep an eye on them. 

Considering their background it wouldn't be a surprise if the occasional marine slipped off during a mission and set off to see the galaxy with his new found strengths and skills. 

This guy could be an escaped marine living his own life in the galaxies arse-end. 

Inter chapter conflicts would be a lot more easily explained if we take this point of view. You can imagine the Badab war being fought as a series of grudge matches between hot headed super psychopaths egged on by their officers to uphold the honour of their adopted chapter.

It also explains the need for chaplains in the ranks, to ensure that all the hypnotised, drugged up, genetically enhanced, power armoured psychotic killers are doing the right kind of killing for the right kind reason. 

This kind of merciless use of humanities most dangerous as a bulwark against the dangers of the cosmos obviously has an effect on life expectancy. A marine that had survived 10 years would be deemed a veteran with metal studs fixed to his skull.  

I like this view of space marines. I want them to be barely controlled killing machines. I want them to be renegades without having to worship chaos. They never worshipped the emperor, why would they suddenly get religion upon becoming deserters? So from now on that's how I'll see my astartes, mentalists with big nasty guns barely managing to keep their weapons trained on the enemy. A danger to humanity as well as xenos but deemed to be a necessary evil for the imperium a sake. A army of supermen that still need to be policed, just in case......


  1. I think that the opportunity to vary what is now 'canon' lore should never be passed up to keep your games vibrant and fresh.

    Also, it is worth remembering that power armour doth not a space marine make. The whole galaxy has easy access to power armour, from Orks to pirates to mercenaries and beyond.

    My view of imperial marines partly stems from their actual real life usefulness on a tabletop battlefield (very limited, unless you have the drop on the enemy and so just like modern special forces which rely on surprise) and partly from the whole 'Thatcher's Britain' vibe in RT with the punk-hassling and riot control. I therefore like to allow for 'grades' of marine, with sharp end units who would storm the metaphorical Iranian embassy as well as lower quality thugs who police distant colonial backwaters with the butt of a boltgun.

  2. I think the whole point of Rogue Trader was that "anything goes". It's limitless out there and Marines can be anything you want them to be.

    I like the idea that Space Marines can get disillusioned with "Killing in the Name of" and instead want to go and earn some money.

    I like the idea that some Space Marines are indocrinated to the point of killing you because you smelt a little bit "Alien".

    I like the idea that in some places Orks rub shoulders with humies and no one bats an eyelid ala Mos Eisley.

    I like the idea of Dwarves and Elves in Space.

    I want to see more Space Zombies and Skelies (not androids).

    I want to see Space Crusade on sale again.

    I want Epic not Apocalypse if I want to play a HUGE game.

    I want a box of those Imperial Guard.

    I want variety.

    I want Rogue Trader.

    1. "Choose life. Choose Rogue Trader", eh, Snickit? I agree completely.

  3. This reminds me of the old sketch of Ultramarines (Ultramarines, no less!) leading a chain of Squats away. Captioned Spoils of War.

  4. I always assumed those grim chaps in the gloomy corner were regular mercs in power armour.

    Space marines were fine before Mr Priestly's account of the making of a Space Marine. I don't mind daft fantasy Science but I feel that the fantasy should have some sort of grounding in the reality otherwise leave it vague. I do medical genetics professionally but even as a kid it was obvious to me genetics was being used as a different word for magic. Fine but keep it vague Space marines are hard because of Genetics. That's all you need to know the rest is so much midichlorines. Sorry Rick love most of your work, I know many people love this piece but for my marines it just doesn't exist.

    I guess there is room for devout battle monks but perhaps they should be their own chapter, sometimes you need American style hooyah, sometimes the heroes of Commando comic in space, sometimes violent thugs in power armour. The more that gets explained or restrictively detailed the less room there is for fun.

  5. I have to say (and you all know I am a devout Rogue Trader advocate) that the Warhammer 30,000 Marines from the Horus Heresy series are a little more down to earth (excuse the pun) and fit more comfortably with what my image of a marine should be compared to their 40k equivalents. They are portrayed more as hard blokes in a military unit as opposed to singing; praying Cadfaels with shooters. I think this is why I'm feeling an uncontrollable urge to do a Space Marine Legion army now....

  6. Agreed, all of it. The Space Marines of yore were far more interesting and far more punk.

  7. That is pretty much how I feel about Marines too. They can be anything you want.

  8. See, I quite like the modern fanatics, seeing them as the Imperium's over-reaction to the more lightly conditioned Marine's of the Heresy (and we all know how that ended up). However, my "head canon" as it were has a number of more isolated Marine Chapters perhaps skimping on the indoctrination, leaving some to start slipping into that grey area that's nearly Renegade... (I see "Renegade" as separate to "Chaos", but on field of grey between the two.)

    As a side note, a good deal of your description here perfectly fits Forge World's current write up of the Sons of Horus, Night Lords, et al - I suspect they have some fans of Rogue Trader helping with the penning of some of that background!

  9. I agree with your musings, Colin. I think another thuggish/punkish element to the Space Marines was the notion that their home bases were often like feudal castles, from which the Chapter reigned over a planet or system. Like medieval knights, Space Marines benefit from a thin veneer that portrays them as holy protectors, hiding an inner core of violence and professional psychopathy.


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