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EDITORIAL: It’s So Fluffy I’m Gonna Die. Part II of V: Make Your Own Codex

14 Minute Read
Oct 11 2011
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a guest series by Douglas Hildebrand

Sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves and show that fluff who’s boss. Time to make your own codex.

In my last fluffy article I talked about writing a line or two to give your force character beyond the original guidelines of the codex. What if you want to take a codex in a completely different direction? What if you want your own codex?

You could write one, but you couldn’t really play it legally (that wouldn’t be bad at home, but wouldn’t fly on the tournament circuit). What if you want to take an established codex and make it your own? Can it be done?

Warhammer has a host of fantastic models out now (No, I’m not off topic. I will circle back to the original point). There are numerous models that I want just to paint. Don’t know exactly what I would do with them, but that comes later in the thought process. I only play 40K, but I have numerous fantasy models that I have integrated into my forces. Actually, a lot of fantasy models have formed the core of my 40K armies. I pick armies, and much of my army composition, based on the models involved. I pick what will look good, or what I want to play, and then flesh it out to make it competitive. Just because I enjoy the fluff doesn’t mean I’m not competitive. It just means that when I crush you, I want to do it with flair.

I could get into a shooty Tau army from a player standpoint, but I don’t like the models. Hence, no Tau for me.

One army that I wanted was Beastmen. Cool models with a feral aggressive feel. The beasts invoke images of fantasy realms and demonic influences. Did I mention I only play 40K? One army in 40K that I always liked the rules behind was the Black Templars. Zealots with guns is always a nasty combination – the initiates and neophytes fighting side by side in massive armored mobs. I liked the look and feel of that. This project started before the Black Templar upgrade sprues were available. So, making a Black Templar army entailed painting everything black. Primer black. Boring. Very, very boring. I had a bit of a quandary – a set of rules that I liked, but a boring modeling proposition; and models that I wanted, but I didn’t play that game. I just took two areas that I liked and paired them up — one’s draw compensating for the other’s shortcomings. I wanted visually striking models with a great back story. This brought about the birth of the Beast Templar.

Okay, I now have models that I believe look cool on the table top and an approved codex with approved rules. I just have to justify why. I could just say “piss off, I like them. They count as Black Templar”. Honestly, that would be good enough for me. Though I know there are those out there who that wouldn’t be enough of an answer (“What are you doing with a Landspeeder? Chaos can’t have a Landspeeder. That is obviously Chaos. They don’t get Landspeeders….blah blah blah whine whine whine). I really don’t care, but I don’t want to listen to the whining and I want to do more to own this codex.

I could have easily called these troops Chaos and be done with the complaining,but I said before that I wanted to use the Black Templar codex. Come hell or high water I was going to use the Black Templar codex.

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What I had to do next was create my own bit of fluff to link my creation to the 40K world and the codex that I wanted to use. Not all that hard really. Here is the story as I wrote it. It is a bit long, so grab a cup of coffee first and then begin.

Origin and History of the Templar Beasts.
The Black Templars had been tracking an excess of Ork movements into a portion of uncontrolled space over a period of years. After plotting the vectors, extrapolating the convergences, and extensive use of unmanned probes they had found several systems that could sustain life and act as a rallying point for a sizeable force. This could have been an unmonitored staging area for an assault on the Imperium or something of great value to the Orks. Either way, it was worth denying it to the green skins.

The Black Templar Expeditionary Task Force Cruiser Lapis Exillis had been sent to this uncharted Arcadia sector to investigate a potential ork presence and catalogue various systems suspected of supporting life. It was assumed that the life-sustaining planets had sentient life because why else would the orks be there, other than to fight someone or something?

Upon arrival in the sector it was found that the ork presence was considerably larger and tenacious than anticipated, but was dealt with in the characteristic efficiency and ruthlessness typical of the Black Templars. Apparently, a huge Ork Waaagh had been foiled by the proactive pursuit of the Black Templars. The size of the force and typical lack of consistent ork organization made it difficult to determine the status and/ or demise of all ork forces. The follow-on mission of investigating the surrounding systems commenced to determine why the Orks selected this location and rout out any ork stragglers.

The force went into orbit around a small feral planet inhabited by beastlike humanoids to begin the cataloguing of resources and potential for Imperial exploitation. Initially the beast men were thought to be the works of chaos, as the inhabitants had the appearance of a goat that walked upright, but it turned out not to be so.

Imperial protocol dictates that investigations take place to determine the root cause and purpose of Chaos infestations. These investigations will better enable forces to extinguish the threat and prevent further blasphemy. Upon investigation of this alleged chaos infestation it was discovered that this beastlike race had inhabited this planet for millennia and was natural – in the most liberal use of the word by Imperium standards. They had come to develop the basic traits of a civilization at an Iron Age level (crude tribal government, pagan religion, writing, farming, military, but, interestingly enough, not philosophy).

Most think of religion and philosophy as developing hand in hand. For the Beast Men their religious beliefs are considered facts. The term “faith” is not in their vocabulary, and it proved impossible to explain the concept. “That is the way” is a term used by them to describe their pagan religion, why they war with one another, why the sun rises, why members die of disease and everything else in between. Their belief in their pagan goddess and unwillingness (almost belligerence) to accepting the emperor god would need the most brutal of Imperial persuasion and conversion procedures.

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The beast men of this planet had shown no significant technological advancement for the past ten thousand years, or the promise of any further advancement. It appeared that the race had the intellectual capacity to understand higher-level thinking and technology, but never transcended into it. The race seemed very intelligent, but not innovative. They simply accepted things as they were. When something was working there was no desire to make it better. When we see barren land we irrigate, improve the soil, and plant crops; they simply accept it is barren and go elsewhere – that is the way. Where necessity is the mother of invention, these beast men just didn’t see the necessity.

The sight of the marines coming to the planet surface at first scared, and then fascinated, the “people” of this world. Apparently the thought of other races or beings living beyond their planet didn’t concern them greatly. When presented with the fact that other races existed beyond their world, it was accepted with an air of indifference and life went on as usual. They apparently didn’t see any significance in the revelation; since this was the first time it had happened in their millenias of history and they didn’t perceive it to be happening more frequently.

Much to the chagrin of the marines, the Black Templars were treated as equals by the beasts, and not with the usual awe and respect they were accustomed to from other species found in deep space. The race was exceptionally inquisitive to the point of rudeness and showed quick mastery of the simple tools offered as gifts of the Emperor (better plowshares, writing implements, agriculture methods, etc). They even picked up a small vocabulary of Imperial language to better communicate with the Black Templar leadership. The decision was to leave the planet, catalogue the species as “mostly harmless”, and move on to allow the Inquisition to make the decision to either bring their culture under the control of the Emperor, move expeditionary parties for human settlement to the planet to subjugate the populace and exploit the rich natural resources, or destroy it outright. This is when disaster for the Black Templar task force struck.

The last communication from the Cruiser Lapis Exillis was that it was transitioning to warp travel for its next expeditionary mission. When entering the final phases of leaving the planet orbit, an unaccounted for Ork spacecraft exited warp space and slammed into the Templar ship. It can be assumed they were trying to attack, or exact revenge on, the Templar forces for the defeat of the ork forces in the region; not seeing the suicidal nature of their actions.

The Ork ship was destroyed on impact and the Black Templar ship was sent hurtling into the planets atmosphere and crashing onto its surface. The communications systems had been shattered, the ship had received massive damage from the planet fall, and the casualties were atypically high. Because of the warp disruption caused by the Ork craft the Imperium had mistakenly determined the Lapis Exillis had entered warp space and was lost in warp travel. The Imperium followed Imperial protocol to allow sufficient time for the craft to exit Warp Space. If the craft failed to emerge from warp travel in a respectable amount of time they would then send assets to investigate when the bureaucratic red tape allows (pretty much never).

The vessel came hurtling into the planets surface with a huge fireball of destruction. It impacted in the center of a heavily populated area leaving a large crater where a large tribe was thriving. The marines reacted immediately to the situation and began to establish a command headquarters and acquire the resources needed to repair their ship and to return to the service of the Emperor’s Glory indifferent to the pain and suffering caused to the beasts of the planet. The beasts were, irrespective of their minimal culture, just inferior animals to the marines.

The sight of the fireball and the impact with its aftershocks were experienced across the small continent it struck. This event drew considerably more attention than the initial contacts made by the Templars. The beast men saw the planet fall as an assault on their populace (considering the death and damage caused by the crash, it wasn’t a stretch) and a message from their goddess. The carnage caused by the wreck enraged the local populaces. The beast men interpreted the crash to mean that it was fated for the Black Templars to share all of their technology, and not just the few trinkets given out. For failing to do so the goddess hurled the spacecraft and the marines back to the surface.

The beast men viciously attacked the marines that survived the crash in order to take what the goddess had deemed to be destined for beast men. The Black Templars had not seen the Beast Men in combat and were unaware of their tactics. Though initially straight forward, they matured rapidly.

The one surprise for the Black Templar force was the presence of the “Warrior Spirit Baphomet” as the leader of each assault. The beasts fell back, regrouped, and assaulted unceasingly; each time led by this mysterious figure Baphomet. It was unclear to the Black Templar commanders if Baphomet was a mantle held by one of their warrior chieftains or a demon summoned by the savages.

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The Templars fought with the valor attributed to their chapter and the initial waves of beasts were repelled. The losses to the beasts were astronomically disproportionate compared to the few marines that suffered injury. Evidently learning through a very costly method of trial and error, with each assault their tactics grew more advanced, and they began to utilize captured weaponry against the marines. Eventually, the numbers became so overwhelming that the marines simply could not kill them fast enough to repel the assault. The marine force was massacred to the man.

Though not terribly innovative, the beast men were excellent mimics, as seen in their adaptation to the use of Imperial gifts. They looted the spacecraft for weaponry, technology, and information. The beast men hastily mastered the language of mankind using what little they knew from the previous contact and what was on the ship. With this, they were promptly able to learn the width and breadth of the Imperium’s influence, and the demand to protect their race from it. The most damning information was the reports sent back to the Imperium declaring them “savage beasts” and recommending, “they would be, at best, adaptable as slaves for colonists”.

Using the data stored on the Lapis Exillis, the beast men began to organize their forces along Black Templar doctrinal lines. The doctrinal demands created a number of innovation problems the race was not particularly adroit at solving, and required many leaps in thinking the race was not accustomed to making. They had fought wars with the same equipment for tens of thousands of years, and were now making quantum leaps forward in doctrine and weaponry. Many of the changes in force organization belie their feral nature; thus much of their primitive weaponry is still carried by their troops. The manner in which they have filled specific doctrinal roles exposes the savage nature of the race and is surprisingly innovative given their history.

The beast lords who initially mastered the technology of the Imperium were quick to establish their power over the remaining tribes on the planet in what is termed in their history as the “First Hundred Year Crusade”. The short time it took to bring the entire planet under one leader is attributed to the exposure of a great and evil force traveling the heavens intent on enslaving the universe — mankind. This polarized many of the tribes into action and solidified or resurrected many treaties that facilitated the reorganization and restructuring of their way of life. In time they had created a force that was sufficient, in their opinion, to begin their first off-planet hundred-year crusade.

They saw themselves as the dominant species of their realm, and considered it a natural extension of their dominance to expand, now that it is known that there is more beyond their planet. The expansion of the Imperium into their regions was seen as an invasion, and an invasion will be met with force because that is “the way”. The goddess has presented them with the tools to meet this invasion head on, and the goddess will be obeyed. This notion of manifest destiny has brought their forces into Imperium controlled space to defend their world and claim victory for their goddess.

Reconciling Templar Beasts within the framework of the Black Templar Codex.
No exceptions or contradictions to the rules. The only changes were cosmetic to fit the theme of the army. All rules, bonuses, and drawbacks of the Black Templar Codex apply, though the names of some troops and vows are changed to fit the theme.

The Beast Men adopted the Black Templar organizational structure and naming
code as part of the assimilation of Black Templar doctrine. Easy calls were for the naming of vehicles and their role in the force. The names had no significance to them and were assumed to be just names – as in a rock is a rock, and a Land Speeder is a Land Speeder. The few changes that they made have been done to fill doctrinal roles. When the doctrine calls for the use of Dreadnought or Terminator (elite forces were not quartered on the LapisExillis) they had to fill the slot in the template as best they could
with the resources they had on hand. Using the data on the ship they replicated many of the items needed and applied them to denizens of their world (i.e. power fists grafted to the hands of Minotaurs to fill the role of Terminators). Often, they did not have to create the force type (as with Emperor’s Champion) or use the equipment provided by the goddess on the Black Templar ship (as with Bikes).

Marshal ==> Beast Marshal
Emperor’s Champion ==> Warrior Spirit Incarnate Baphomet
Terminator ==> Minotaurs of Sufi
Dreadnought ==> Prince of the goddess Sophia
Neophyte ==> Neophyte
Initiate ==> Initiate
Assault Marine ==> Elohim Assault Troop
Biker ==> Beast Centaur

I am using the Black Templar codex, but I now own this force. I have not made any changes to the codex, except now I like the models better. When I field the army I have a series of pictures along the edge of my roster that explains each piece to avoid confusion with my opponent. I created the force, so I don’t have any issues with telling the units apart. My opponent might if he can’t make the visual jump, so I will give them an answer key. Here are some of the models.

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Initiates and Neophytes:
Assault Marines (Elohim):

Terminators (Power fists came from Warmachine models, the remainder of the model went to make cybork mega armoured Orks – just swap out the head and arms):

Dreadnought:

Razorbacks (I felt like a camo pattern instead of black, so I did camo….):

Land Raider Crusader:
Land Speeder:
Emperors Champion:

Castellan – I have also done some additions to the force since the upgrade sprues have come out:

Have I impacted the game? In my opinion, not at all. I am using an approved codex without any modification to the rules. The models are even on the appropriate size bases (except the Emperor’s Champion – looked better on a 40mm). Nothing changed in the rules or game.

Have I impacted the hobby? I hope so. I have introduced a new force to fight
alongside or against in the 40K universe. I have created a distinct force to show up across the table from you without having to buy and memorize another codex.

So, it isn’t Black Library approved…big deal. Technically GW has ownership of all storylines and control of the game. In court that is true. We have ownership of the hobby and we have an obligation to add to it and the right to have fun with it (Orks in sombreros isn’t Black Library approved, but the models sure are cool).

You do not have to wait for Games Workshop to introduce a new army if you want something new. Create it yourself. If you like certain models, use them. Just apply common sense to the conversions — no, that Chimera doesn’t look like a Defiler with really really short legs. If you push the envelope, be clear with your opponent as to what is what. As I stated earlier, I put labeled images of the models on my roster that I hand my opponent. I feel the models are fairly self evident, but I created them, so I am biased.

Any constructive criticism is welcome on the storyline or models. You are
welcome to use the idea as well. I would be thrilled to meet another Beast Templar player one day.

The best part is that you get to play an army that isn’t wearing any pants.

Part III: A looser interpretation of the rules. Lizard Marines.  Have at it fellow fluffbunnies!

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