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Warhammer 40K: Rogal Dorn – Primarch of the Imperial Fists

12 Minute Read
Jul 18 2022

Delve deep into one of the most loyal and stalwart sons of the Emperor – the Primarch Rogal Dorn – master of the Imperial Fists.

Rogal Dorn was the Primarch of the Imperial Fists Space Marine Legion. He was one of the twenty Primarchs created by the Emperor in the earliest days of the Imperium, just after the end of the Age of Strife. Dorn, like the other Primarchs, was randomly transported across the galaxy by the Gods of Chaos and placed on a far-away world in an attempt to prevent the coming of the Age of the Imperium.


Very little is known about Rogal Dorn’s youth. It is believed that that he was raised on the planet of Inwit in the system of the same name by an ice-caste native to the Ice Hives of the world. The patriarch of the clan that raised him became as a grandfather to him, and taught him much of tactics. Even after he discovered he was not blood-related to his ‘grandfather’ Dorn held his memory in high value; he kept a fur-edged robe that had belonged to the man and slept with it on his bed every night. Eventually Rogal Dorn became the leader not only of his caste but of the whole world and then the surrounding region of space, ruling the Inwit Cluster as Emperor of the House of Dorn. But as the history goes, 40 years after his grandfather’s death, the Great Crusade reached the Ice Hives of Inwit. Dorn greeted the Emperor at the helm of his enormous starship, the Phalanx, the seventh Primarch to be found. The Emperor welcomed Dorn, and returned the Phalanx to his care, making it the Fortress Monastery of the Imperial Fists


Great Crusade

Dorn himself was fiercely loyal to the Emperor, and never once sought any favour from him. He exemplified the truth, and could never tell a lie, even if it would have aided his cause. Because of this, Dorn’s statue stands as one of four on Macragge, next to that of Roboute Guilliman, Primarch of the Ultramarines.

Dorn commanded his Legion and Expeditionary Fleets with peerless devotion and military genius. It was said that he possessed perhaps the finest military mind of the Primarchs, as ordered and disciplined as Roboute Guilliman’s and as courageous as Lion El’Jonson‘s, but still inclined to the flashes of zeal and inspiration which marked the successes of Leman Russ and Jaghatai Khan. Indeed, the Warmaster had said that he esteemed Dorn and the Imperial Fists so highly that he reckoned if the Fists, noted masters of defence, were to hold a fortress against him and his Luna Wolves, the resultant conflict would result in a never-ending stalemate.

Commonly dressed in armour of burnished copper and gold, Dorn also wore a red velvet cloak and unfurled eagle-wing motif. It was heavily present on most parts of his gear, most notably on a decorative section of his armour that rose above his shoulders. He had a stern and naturally unsmiling face, topped with an unruly shock of short, bone-white hair.

Sentinel of Terra

When the Emperor returned to Terra to build a capital worthy of ruling a million planets, Dorn went as well. Always having excelled in the construction of fortresses, he was tasked with designing the defences for the Imperial Palace. These would prove to be magnificent, and would be well tested in the following years. Fulgrim once asked if Rogal Dorn thought it could withstand the Iron Warriors legion, and Dorn’s truthful answer infuriated Perturabo to such a degree they would almost destroy each other in battle years later. Later, upon reflection, Dorn considered his overly competitive relationship with Perturabo to have demonstrated personal weakness, presumably including the exchange which resulted in Perturabo’s outburst.


Dorn also clashed with his brother Konrad Curze. Having been informed by Fulgrim of Curze’s vision of what would eventually become the Horus Heresy, Dorn kept this secret from his brother until they were on a joint mission. Curze was so enraged by this revelation that he attacked his brother and slashed his face with his Lightning Claws. Dorn would have died if not for his endurance as a Primarch.

In the aftermath of the Ullanor Crusade Dorn and the entire Imperial Fists Legion were recalled to Terra to take up guard stations there as the Emperor worked on his new project.

The Imperial Palace

Horus Heresy

Before the Imperial Fists could arrive at Terra in full complement, the events of the Horus Heresy overtook them. Stranded for some considerable time by severe Warp storms, the Imperial Fist fleet eventually discovered the badly damaged Death Guard frigate Eisenstein, and so learned of Horus‘ betrayal. At first unwilling to believe it, Rogal Dorn was eventually convinced by several members of the Eisensteinsurvivors, notably Captain Nathaniel Garro and remembrancer Mersadie Oliton, that his brother Horus was staging a full-scale rebellion. Dorn therefore despatched the bulk of his Legion to the Isstvan III system on a war-footing. He himself returned to Terra with his veteran companies to bring word of the events personally.

Dorn battles Alpharius

Declared Lord Commander of the Imperium until the arrival of Roboute Guilliman, Dorn was subsequently charged with bolstering the defences of the Imperial Palace even further, and oversaw the construction himself. He felt he was marring the perfection and beauty of the existing structure in doing this, and regretted it, even though it was necessary. As the Emperor was held up with the War Within the Webway, Dorn effectively managed the loyalist war effort while Malcador the Sigillite handled the political spectrum. Dorn divided the Sol System into several spheres of defense, attempting to contain the traitor advance in the subsequent Solar War. During the Battle of Pluto, Dorn seemingly killed Alpharius, Primarch of the Alpha Legion, but lost his trusted Huscarls commander Archamus in the process. Later, Dorn appeared to greet Vulkan when the Salamanders Primarch emerged from the Webway. Vulkan sensed that Dorn was mentally and physically exhausted from his duties and the constant bad news, and embraced his brother. Dorn next held a war council with Leman Russ, Jaghatai Khan, Sanguinius, and Malcador the Sigillite during which he revealed that the Ruinstorm was weakening, and intended to exploit this by mustering his forces at the Beta-Garmon System until Guilliman and Lion El’Jonson could arrive to crush Horus from the rear. The Khan and Russ both disagreed with Dorn’s actions, and as Russ left Terra with his Legion to confront Horus directly Rogal pleaded with him to stay.

The Phalanx


The Solar War

In 014.M31, Horus finally struck at the Sol System and brought about the final phase of the Solar War. Dorn by this point had conceived a five-tiered defensive layer based around buying as much time as possible in order to stall for Guilliman’s arrival. Commanding from the Bhab Bastion with his primarily Human staff during the initial phase of the battle, as Luna and Mars came under direct attack Dorn finally decided to unleash the Phalanx into the battle and moved aboard the Battlestation. However as they were departing Terra’s orbit for the battle Garviel Loken brought Remembrancer Mersadie Oliton aboard the station with urgent news. Dorn, having been given the initial news of Horus’ treachery from Oliton years prior, trusted her judgement when Loken informed him that Oliton had to speak with the Primarch. However this was a trap by Chaos, and Oliton was revealed to have been unknowingly corrupted by Maloghurst years prior. The Daemon Samus manifested directly aboard the Phalanx, bringing with him hordes of Daemonic creatures. Dorn and the Imperial Fists aboard the Phalanx fought a desperate battle, with the Primarch even engaging Samus in direct combat and slaying the creature. However Samus was continually reborn by possessing the bodies of the fallen, and Dorn was ready to order the self-destruction of the Phalanx until Oliton committed suicide, closing the portal from which the Daemons manifested. With the Sol System falling around him due to Horus’ attacks, Dorn ordered that Admiral Niora Su-Kassen take the Phalanx to the outer reaches of the System while he returned to Terra to command the defenses of the world for Horus’ coming attack.

Dorn fights Samus onboard the Phalanx

The Siege of Terra

During the final battle on Terra’s surface, Dorn was charged with the overall command of the defenses of the Imperial Palace, personally commanding the effort from the Bhab Bastion and later the Sky Fortress. During the early stages of the battle he attempted to maintain a sense of normalcy by allowing the Council of Terra to meet within the Great Chamber of the Senatorum Imperialis, but in truth he was completely occupied by the traitor siege. He forbid his brother Primarch’s, Sanguinius and Jaghatai Khan, from leaving the Palace Walls and planned to instead bleed Horus’ forces in a protracted siege to buy time for Roboute Guilliman’s expected arrival. However he later relented on his plan to not allow the deployment of his best troops outside the Palace, opening the Helios Gate of the Palace and allowing Sanguinius to lead a counterattack by the Blood Angels, Imperial Fists, and Legio Solaria to rescue the Imperial Army conscripts being overrun outside.

During the battle for Terra’s Lion’s Gate Spaceport Dorn put Fafnir Rann in charge of the defenses, but was later forced to send in Sigismund to lead in reinforcements. During this period Dorn confronted Euphrati Keeler over her proto-Imperial Cult, but the future Saint refused to back down and insisted she would aid the defense of Terra through faith. She desired to send Sigismund on a crusade to slay Abaddon, something which infuriated Dorn. Later as Sigismund faced death at the hands of Kharn and traitors were overrunning the Spaceport, Dorn took to the field himself to allow time for the loyalists to withdraw. He easily bested Kharn, swatting away the chosen of Khorne like an insect. It was then that Perturabo set down on the field from the Iron Blood, and Dorn attempted to goad the Lord of Iron into a personal duel in order to buy time. However Perturabo refused to be baited by Dorn’s taunts, promising to only slay his brother after Terra’s defenses had been subdued. Dorn responded that Perturabo had spent an immense amount of lives to merely take the first wall, and many more awaited. Despite the fall of the Spaceport Dorn was not distraught, as he had held it longer than he expected and knew all that mattered was to hold out until Guilliman’s arrival.


After the fall of the Lion’s Gate, the strategic situation for the loyalists worsened and four key areas were now threatened: the Colossi Gate, Saturnine Gate, Gorgon Bar, and Eternity Wall Spaceport. However the loyalists only had enough resources to defend three of these sites. Dorn was thus faced with the difficult decision of abandoning one and its defenders with it, eventually choosing the Spaceport. While stopping Kyril Sindermann from a possible suicide attempt, the Remembrancer’s words made Dorn realize that he had overlooked the flaw in the Saturnine Gate that Perturabo could possibly exploit. Dorn thus set a trap for the traitors at Saturnine as he prepared to abandon the Eternity Wall Spaceport. At the height of the battle for Saturnine Dorn saved Sigismund from his fallen brother Fulgrim, the two Primarchs coming to battle. With Fulgrim in his human state, Dorn was able to resist his constant goading, match his swordsmanship, and land mortal blows. However Fulgrim quickly regenerated and laughed off the damage. Dorn then informed Fulgrim of his trap and that Abaddon‘s subterranean assault had failed. Fulgrim became fed up with his allies and quit the battle, though not before summoning his elite guard led by Eidolon to assassinate the Primarch. With the help of Sigismund, Dorn was able to survive the battle.

Dorn later joined the Emperor and Sanguinius in the assault on the Vengeful Spirit, Horus’ flagship. Helping bring the bodies of the Emperor and Sanguinius back to Terra, he was among those who received the Emperor’s final instructions before being interred on the Golden Throne.

Post Heresy

After the fall of the Emperor, Dorn was stricken with grief. He felt the Emperor’s near demise to be his fault and led his Legion on a crusade of penitence across the Imperium. He was summoned back to Terra when Roboute Guilliman announced the adoption of his Codex Astartes, turning Legions into Chapters. Dorn was initially outraged at this proposal, feeling that the Imperium blamed him (and rightly so, he thought) for the fall of his brother marines. But realizing what damage another internal conflict could do to the fragile peace of the Imperium, Dorn agreed. This was a dark period in Rogal Dorn’s life; he had both failed the Emperor and his legion faltered without the guiding light of the Emperor.


Some controversy exists about the next event in Rogal Dorn’s life. What is clear is that the Imperial Fists could not be as easily divided into chapters as, for example the Ultramarines could. The total commitment to the legion was bred into each marine and many didn’t wish to form their own chapters. Dorn found the answer to this problem in meditation through self-inflicted pain, using a device known as the Pain Glove. The pain-induced vision revealed that his legion had to be redeemed in the eyes of the Emperor, and that the way to salvation was through pain and self-sacrifice.

The Iron Cage

The ‘collective pain’ needed to cleanse the Chapter was decided by Dorn to be an Iron Warriors’ fortress, the Iron Cage. Perturabo had built the massive fortifications to mock the Imperial Fists, and Dorn led his most die-hard followers in a siege that would last for several weeks. Followers of the Iron Warriors claim that the Imperial Fists suffered a crushing defeat, and that Dorn and his legion would have been wiped out if Perturabo hadn’t prolonged Dorn’s suffering so long that the Ultramarines managed to intervene.

Imperial records indicate otherwise. The Imperial Fists had always been masters of siege craft, and even unprepared and at a disadvantage they fought like lions. Dorn stood as a giant in their midst, his mind clear with purpose after years of doubt and guilt. The Iron Warriors would have had to sacrifice their lives and Primarch to destroy the Imperial Fists, a price they weren’t ready to pay. The arrival of the Ultramarines cut the conflict short and the Iron Warriors fled for the Eye of Terror. The Imperial Fists had suffered staggering losses, but they had proved their loyalty to the Emperor and cleansed themselves of earlier failures.

What remained of the Legion was divided into three Chapters. The most zealous marines formed the Black Templars; the more rational and newly recruited marines the Crimson Fists and the ones most devoted to their Primarch and Legion remained the Imperial Fists. Rogal Dorn spent the next twenty years rebuilding and reforming his chapter according to the standards of the Index Astartes. (There were other chapters, like the Soul Drinkers for instance, though it is unclear when they came into existence.)


Rogal Dorn is missing and presumed dead after attacking the fleet of Abaddon the Despoiler during the 1st Black Crusade with a vastly outnumbered force. Seeing the importance of attacking the enemy fleet while they were still preparing he relied on hit-and-run attacks until his reinforcements could arrive. Dorn went missing on board the Despoiler Class Battleship Sword of Sacrilege after leading a desperate attack on its bridge. Only his hand was recovered which is kept in stasis by his chapter.

Dorn’s skeletal fist is kept within the shrine, the bones intricately engraved with the heraldry of all the Chapter’s previous Masters. Only the Chapter Master has the right to engrave his name upon the bones. Each bone corresponds to former commanders. Left hand, the first metacarpal: Lords Bronwin Abermort, Maximus Thane, Kalman Flodensbog, the first phalanx of the thumb, Ambrosian Spactor, etc.


Rogal Dorn’s primary weapon was the massive Chainsword known as Storm’s Teeth, said to have been constructed on Inwit before the coming of the Emperor. For long range combat, he was equipped with the ornate Bolter Voice of Terra. This firearm was given to him as a gift by the Adeptus Custodes to honor his appointment as defender of Terra. For protection, Dorn wore a massive suit of Power Armour known as The Auric Armour which was constructed from the same auric-adamantium alloy as the Emperor’s own armor. After several attempts on his life during the Heresy, Rogal Dorn was often seen being transported in a specialized Thunderhawk known as the Ætos Dios.  Another device associated with Dorn is the Soulspear. Later on in his career, Rogal Dorn took up the Pain Glove as an act of atonement.

Learn more of the Imperial Fists



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