Founding the Chapter: how to create a new Chapter from scratch!

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Creating a Space Marine Chapter from scratch is easy. Doing it well is not. If you seek to create a living, breathing and above-all believeable Chapter, you'll need to put a good amount of hard work into it. This is an attempt at guiding you through the process in a choronoligical manner. This is referred to as the "Living History" method.

What is the Living History method?
The Living History method of creating your Chapter is simple; you start at their founding, and create events and characters of note as the Chapter progresses. You can continue to do this as much, or as little as you like, until you determine your "present" (ie: what the Chapter are now).

The advantage of this method is it creates realistic evolutions; a newly-forged Chapter is not going to have lots of die-hard Veterans, for example, or an unrelenting hatred of Eldar. It also means that the "older" you make your Chapter, the more events, characters, relics and other significent pieces of fluff information you have, which is precisely how it should be!

Finally, for those who like to base your fluff on your army, the Living History method removes the need to re-write your fluff every time you change force. For example, if you played a Vanilla Chapter, then moved on to using the Black Templar list, you can easily create a Living History, explaining how the Chapter slowly turned towards Crusading, becoming more zealotic over time, until after several "generations" the Chapter had developed distinctive non-Codex traits.

With that covered, let us begin:

1) Gene-Seed:
Without Gene-Seed, your Chapter does not exist. The Gene-Seed you choose can be important, as whilst there are not "rules" as such about what a particular Gene-Seed will do in terms of your Chapter's outlook and operational methods, it is generally accepted that where non-standard (ie: not Ultramarine) Gene-Seed is used, it will grant certain traits. For example, if you use White-Scars Gene-Seed, your Chapter should be predisposed to fast-attack strategies. If you use Imperial Fist Gene-Seed, your Chapter won't have acidic spit, or be able to shut off parts of their brain.

Of course, this is not a straight-jacket; if you want a siege-geared White-Scars Successor, feel free, but as non-standard Gene-Seed is uncommon, it makes sense to have it grant "flavour" to your list, rather than having your Chapter going against the grain.

Below are a list of Gene-Seeds, and their "flavours":
Blood Angels: Genetic Corruption, blood-frenzy.
Dark Angels: Stoic, secretive and isolationist.
Imperial Fists: Highly devout, siege-specialists / crusaders (Black Templars use Imperial Fist Gene-Seed).
Iron Hands: Love of technology.
Raven Guard: Infiltration, stealth.
Salamanders: Stoic, methodical, technologically adept.
Space Wolves: Headstrong, defiant.
White Scars: Rapid-attack.

Ultramarines, being "default", have no traits; you can use Ultramarine Gene-Seed to create a Chapter however you want! Remember; if in doubt, use Ultramarine.

Now, aside from the above, you may also decide you want to use less orthadox Gene-Seed. For example, you might decide your Chapter was founded from the Black Templars, or the Storm Lords, or the Widowmakers. This is also acceptable, but apply the above rules; if you use a Chapter's Gene-Seed, you should share their traits.

Finally, you could potentially have Gene-Seed from a very unorthadox source, such as an "experimental" Gene-Seed, or Gene-Seed made from Traitor Legion genetic data. This should be avoided as a rule, as its "canon" legality is suspect (the Blood Ravens are rumoured to have Thousand Sons Gene-Seed, but nothing is confirmed). Grey Knights are right out. Period.

Now you have your Gene-Seed, keep in mind that you are stuck with it; you can't change it later! However, remember that it can "corrupt", so if you want to justify a "Death Company" style element in your force, you can. Keep in mind, however, Genetic Corruption does not happen easily; the Chapter would have to be long-standing, and unable to properly maintain the Gene-Stock in order for such flaws to emerge.

2) Name:
There are no hard and fast rules to a Chapter's name, but try to find something that fits. For example, "Crimson Knights" won't suit a Chapter that wears bright green armour, and "Cheetah Legion" is flat-out wrong for a Chapter that likes to bunker-down and fight a trench war.

You may well decide that your Chapter goes un-named at first, only attaining a name once they have been "blooded". This is particularly suitable if the Chapter was made in direct response to a threat. For example, if your Chapter is thrown, in its entirity, straight into conquering a Tyranid Fleet, then it may well take a suitable name based on that action, such as "Mawbreakers" or "Defenders of Kamok."

Finally, a Chapter can always change its name later; though they would have to have a very good reason to do so! An example of this might be having 90% of the Chapter destroyed, and the remainder changing their name to "The Unliving" in memory of their fallen.

3) Colours:
Like the name, Colours can either be applied and kept, or granted after the "blooding". Like the name, however, Colours should not generally change without good reason. However, they are likely to be more easily altered than a name.

Changes are almost always in two forms; a single, massive change (such as to reflect a great victory, or terrible defeat), or a gradual progression (such as slowly changing the shoulder-trim from Company-colour to black).

Marines take their colours very seriously; bear that in mind when messing with colour schemes.

4) The Blooding:
Even if the Chapter is not "battle-founded," their first Campaign will always be important. After all, much of the Chapter will never have seen real combat, and though they are Astartes, their first battle will really seperate the men from the genetically-engineered Angels of Death.

The Blooding offers a lot in way of oppertunity. If the Campaign goes well, then Veterans and Heroes will emerge, and you will start to form a character-base. If it goes badly, the Chapter can take a sudden and violent turn, veering off from being a "Codex" Chapter to virtually extinct before they've had time to set up a Fortress-Monestary!

Particularly for Chapter which are unorthadox, a bad-Blooding is a great way to explain much of your oddities... Genetically Corrupt? The Orks burned all your Gene-stock. Use the Dark Angels rules? Half the Chapter was sucked into the Warp, and corrupted, the remainder fighting to purge these Traitors, and hide the truth from the Imperium. Use a lot of Commandos and Guerilla-warfare? An Eldar Fleet destroyed almost all your ships, and the survivors have fought a covert-campaign on an Exodite World ever since.

Just try to keep in mind that Marines are gods of war; they rarely lose, and especially not severely enough to cripple the Chapter's basic structure!

Another element to consider for the Blooding is allies; it is likely another Chapter will have aided your untried warriors, and this could easily be used. For example, if you fought beside the Salamanders, perhaps your Chapter picked up their love of Flamers and Meltas? If you fought with the Ultramarines, you may well have become puritanically driven to adhere to the Codex Astartes.

On the flip side, it could well form a rivalry; did the Dark Angels abandon you at a critical hour? Did your "allies" turn out to be corrupt servants of the Ruinous Powers? As you can see, there's a lot to be gained from your opening battles.

5) Heroes and Villains:
By now, you should have a few characters to work from. If, however, you somehow got through your Blooding without anyone of note, hurry up and get one!

Obvious characters include the Chapter Master, Master of Sanctity, Chief Librarian and other high-ranking characters. Equally, however, Sergeants and other "low rank" Marines could easily become Heroes in their own right. Namaan, for example, is a Veteran Sergeant character for the Dark Angels, and Lysander began as a Special Character who was a Sergeant. Just because you're not high-rank doesn't mean you're not important!

You may also have a villain or two by now... some might still be around, others mercilessly crushed. Consider well your enemies, and don't just write them off as faceless; a Chapter that crushes the Waaagh! of Warlord Tugznak Eatwhacka is always more heroic than a Chapter that "killed the Orks on Semerine Secundus". Name your enemies, even if it's just for their obituary.

Your Heroes, such as they are, should now become more Heroic; start getting some characters to take centre-stage and really make them shine! Find things that make them stand out beyond there peers... and if you don't have any reasons, go out and find some! Your Chapter is founded and ready to take the Word of the Emperor to those that oppose Mankind Bolter-first, so let your Heroes take point and show their stuff!

6) Let the Bolt-shells fly!
It's not just brave Captain Vindictus of the 4th Company whose killing Xenos out there you know, the rest of your Chapter is at it as well!

Start to think about what happens in the background whilst your Heroes are having fun. What, for example, did that nameless Captain of the 9th Company achieve whilst the Chapter Master led that all-Terminator army in the cleansing of a Necron Tombworld? Even if it's just three lines in a foot-note, at least give the rest of your Chapter recognition. Another way to help with this is to keep your "main" characters moving around. For example, first their Company purged a Hrud Nest, then they teamed up with two other Companies against the Word Bearers, then another Company helped them crush a rebellious star-system.

By "dragging along" other Companies, you start to get a feeling of cohesion. For example, if the 2nd and 7th both saved the Shrineworld of St. Paxtria from the Y'rkzi the Arch-Defiler of Khorne, then perhaps both Companies harbour a deep hatred for Chaos, forming a bond between them that is not shared with their fellow Marine. This could be as simple as both Companies sharing a campaign badge, or as deep as only allowing Marines who have served in the 7th to be "promoted" to the 2nd Company upon attaining Battle-status.

Finally, think about what else may be picked up along the way besides victories; Marines do lose sometimes, unfortunately, and consider how those losses affect the Company. If a Captain dies, for example, it can lead to a significant change in command structure, and potentially even combat-doctrine! Items may be recovered as Relics of the Chapter, be they salvaged artefacts from lost Imperial Chapels, or the wargear used by a venerated Captain slain in war. Even the greatest Marines die sometime, bear that in mind.

7) When in doubt, move forward:

If you're still not happy that you have enough background, go make some more! You have ten millennia to fight over, after all! There is always one more world to conquer, one more star system to save, one more decade-long crusade to wage in fire and blood. Just remember to keep track of your Heroes, and don't be afraid of letting them fall by the wayside; the beloved Captain 'Sanguine' Jerrus serves his Chapter just as well as a Martyr as he did a front-line fighter.

And if all else fails, those Dreadnoughts need pilots...

Cool Grab a rulebook:
At some point, you will decide you've written quite enough background, and it's time to roll some dice. Fortunately, you'll quickly find all the hard work is done for you!

Think about it; you have your Colour Scheme, you have names, histories and probably even wargear for your Heroes, maybe even some of the Squads, and you've got a clear concept of how the Chapter fights, making choosing Traits a walkover, if they're needed at all. With all that information at your disposal, you're not just pucking out some nicely-painted miniatures with an interesting name, you are bringing forth the unholy might of the "Heartseekers", a Chapter feared across the Segmentum Tempestus for the unerring accuracy of their heavy weapons, and their savage close-combat skills!

A final note: never be afraid to change your Chapter's history. Over the years, you will no doubt amass a great deal of victories, and you may well decide the Chapter you now play doesn't really fit with the Chapter you invisioned at the beginning... but this is the advantage of the method you're using! Bring your fluff up to date, introduce new characters, kill off the old ones, wage some new campaigns and give the Librarians a lot more to write about!

Follow this advice, and you'll quickly have a massive compendium of Fluff for your Chapter, and let's face it, when you're creating an army of a thousand super-human champions of Mankind, you can never have too much.

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