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September 9, 2010

40k Lore: Lore Applied

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Hey there girls and boys, this week I was thinking we might try something a little different, let’s look at one way you can apply your love of the lore to the rest of your hobby…

Those of us that love the hobby and the background lore of 40k know that it is a very rich and deep universe, and that we are encouraged to explore it for ourselves.  Everyone who has ever collected Space Marines has probably at least considered making their own chapter, and GW has offered steady encouragement and advice on how to do so, Codex Chaos Space Marines describes the myriad warbands of Chaos and offers ideas on forming your own, Codex Tyranids makes sure to mention the various splinter fleets and how their appearance and behavior differ from each other, and all of the other codexes have some variation on this.  Clearly the hobby is designed to accommodate and even welcome innovation.

As anyone who has done so themselves can tell you, collecting and building a themed army of your own devising can be very rewarding.  But one aspect of this that is rarely discussed it getting really deeply into the background of your personal army.  This aspect of the hobby is much more personal and much harder to show than a well painted force, or a beautifully converted miniature, but is another way to enjoy the hobby.  Creating a rich background really makes your army come alive, and can inspire you very interesting ways.

As an example, my first army (like so many others before and since) was Space Marines.  I decided after reading through the fluff that much as I liked some of the existing chapters, I wanted something a little more personal, so I made my own.  At first this was fairly simple; I just had a different color scheme, some vague idea about how my marines were “different” but no specifics.  However as time went on and I got to know the fluff better this was no longer satisfying me.  So I started writing, and I found that my ideas changed and became both more solidified and deeper, and I started doing the same for my other armies as I gathered them until it was yet another significant part of the hobby for me.  I hope you will all bear with me if I share some of this writing with all of you here, and then talk about some of what went into it for me:

Black Gauntlets Chapter

History & Organization: The Black Gauntlets are an Imperial Fists descendant chapter, although the date of their founding is a mystery.  The Black Gauntlets themselves claim that they are a Second Founding chapter, but no mention of them can be found in the records of the Second Founding.  However, as many records from that period are incomplete this is not considered good evidence either way.  The first time they are thought to be mentioned in Imperial records is in M32; in a single account of one of the battles of the 2nd Black Crusade, Astartes warriors whose heraldry matches that of the Black Gauntlets are described as holding a breach in a fortress wall to the last man, long enough for the position to be reinforced.  They do not appear again in any known mainstream Imperial records until the Apostasy, where they are noted in several accounts as fighting alongside their brothers in the Imperial Fists and Black Templars in the Second Siege of Terra.  After this point the chapter’s name appears more frequently in the Imperium’s records.  What the chapter’s own earliest records may say of their founding, only they can say.  It is a notable and puzzling fact that the Black Gauntlets posses all 19 functioning implants, unlike the Imperial Fists who have lost the phase 12 and 17 implants, adding credence to the idea that their founding was an early one, before the Fist’s gene-seed degraded, although it is unclear why their own gene-seed has remained intact. 

The Gauntlets’ most holy relic is a single large armored gauntlet, charred and pitted as if by great heat, that they believe to be their Primarch’s, recovered from the Sword of Sacrilege along with Dorn’s skeletal hand (which is itself in the possession of the Imperial Fists), although it is unclear how the chapter came to posses it.  The Black Gauntlets adhere to the belief that their Primarch still lives, having withdrawn after his supposed “death” to avoid unwanted worship from Imperial citizenry and to attend upon the Emperor that he might better ensure the safety and health of his beloved father’s body.  The Black Gauntlets firmly believe this, despite the complete absence of any evidence to support it.

The Black Gauntlets are known, as their Primarch before them, for their adherence to duty and capacity for self sacrifice.  This has earned them a great deal of respect among the other institutions of the Imperium, similar to that afforded to the Imperial Fists.  Their chapter is also known for an intense focus on the swordsman’s art, and their veterans and assault units in particular are well known for their skill at arms.  Their powerful sense of martial pride and adherence to duty has occasionally led them to a stubborn refusal to retreat, even in the face of overwhelming enemy force.  While this has sometimes given them victory in situations where none was thought possible, it has also occasionally led to unnecessary losses. 

Believing that the Astartes have a duty to strive to serve as examples the Emperor’s ideals, the Black Gauntlets are warrior philosophers, with each marine encouraged to devote some of his time to honing his mind with scholarly pursuits.  Many of Black Gauntlets pursue history, as the understanding the battles of the past can pertain to current campaigns, but philosophy and even poetry are not uncommon.  The contrast between the tranquility of these pursuits and the ferocity of the Astartes at war is frequently considered unnerving by those few outsiders who bare witness to both, but the Black Gauntlets themselves do not see any incompatibility. 

The Black Gauntlets’ homeworld of Ceradin Cor is a geologically young and mountainous world in the Cygnus arm on the border between the Obscurus and Ultima Segmentums.  Classified as a Civilized World by the Administratum, it has a small population of only around 30 million, mostly concentrated in cities located in the valleys and along the coastlines.  The planet is otherwise wilderness, the mountains being too harsh and sheer to be easily settled or cultivated.  The Fortress Monastery of the Black Gauntlets is located high in these mountains.  Many of the chapter’s recruits are drawn from this world, among the population it is considered the highest of honors to become an Astartes, those who desire to take part in the trials must reach the Fortress Monastery on foot with nothing more than they can carry.  From this seat the chapter nominally controls two other systems with populated planets; the resource rich Death World of Sigattius Cor, and the Industrial World of Talis Cor, these three systems compose the Cerdium Reach and recruits are drawn from all three.  Although the Chapter Master of the Black Gauntlets technically holds command of these systems, outright rule is considered incompatible with Rogal Dorn’s concept that the Astartes not be governors themselves.  Thus while the Chapter Master bares the title of Viceroy of the Cerdium Reach, true governorship rests with the Council of Stewards, elected officials from among the nobles of all three systems, and the Chapter Master is considered head of the council, although he rarely if ever acts in this role.

Only one or two companies are ever likely to be present on the chapter’s homeworld at any one time.  For the rest of the time they are spread out in mobile fleet units.  As a result the Black Gauntlets have been involved in actions in every Segmentum at one time or another, although most of their actions have been in the Obscurus and Ultima Segmentums. 

Traditionally each company of the Black Gauntlets possesses its own Strike Cruiser and group of attendant escorts.  Of the Chapter’s three Battle Barges, one is flexibly deployed wherever it is needed most, the second is the headquarters of the 1st Company, and the third is the flagship of the Chapter Master.

The Chapter Master of the Black Gauntlets is given the title Lord Commander. The present Lord Commander is Vorkovian. At over 900 years old, he is ancient even by the standards of space marines and only a handful of other Astartes outside of the blessed hulls of the Dreadnoughts can rival his age and experience. Lord Commander Vorkovian is still very active in his role as Chapter Master, at the helm of his flagship the Malleus Caelestis he personally takes the fight to the heart of the enemy, and leads as many combat actions as his fellow chapter officers.

Battlecry: We are His mailed fist!

Colors: black, red shoulder plates, left plate trimmed in white.



Some of you may have already seen this in earlier forms, and I make no pretense of being a great writer.  However, it may be easy to see how the existing lore of the 40k universe (as well as earth’s history) shaped my vision of my chapter.  I discovered as I wrote that I had to limit myself in some ways so that I didn’t betray the existing background of 40k, and found myself scrapping some of my earlier ideas.  At the same time I found myself lead down new and interesting avenues by my research into the 40k universe, until I found that the chapter I was writing about had in some ways taken on a life of its own.  It both shaped and was shaped by my model collection, and by the rules of each successive codex and edition. 

If any of you have written or are considering writing your own armies background or stories I have a few general points of advice that I discovered while was writing that helped to enrich the experience for me;

  • Know the material; read up on your faction thoroughly, you may well find ideas you had never considered that will help you to create your own personal flavor.
  • Don’t fight the universe; let what is already there in the lore guide what you write, don’t change things just to be contrary, there is already flexibility enough to allow you to do almost whatever you want without feeling the need to attack existing official material.
  • Have a unifying idea; it doesn’t have to be a gimmick, it can be very subtle, just some concept or theme that guides you in creating your background.
  • Never set anything in stone, your background, like your collection, is usually a fluid thing it will change as your ideas change and you shouldn’t be afraid to let it.  Let go of old ideas when you move past them, and let new ones surface.
  • Create for yourself; whatever you create is at the most basic level for you, to heighten your enjoyment of the hobby.  Don’t let other people and their own concepts of the hobby or the universe tell you that you can’t or shouldn’t do something.  If an idea helps you to enjoy the hobby more, than that is enough reason to use it.

Do any of you write background for your amies?  What were/are your motivations in doing so?  What are some of the things you have discovered about the experience?  Has your fondness (or lack thereof) for the background of the 40k universe shaped and motivated your writing?  Are you all outraged by my hubris in thinking you would be interested in my thoughts on writing, or (even worse) in my writing itself, and ready to go back to the more traditional lore articles?

If you have a favorite corner of the 40k lore that would like to see featured, or just a lore question you think would interest the community, let me know, you can even PM me on the forum if you like.  New ideas are always welcome.
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