Renegade Space Marine Chapters
Many miles beneath the Emperor's Palace on ancient Terra can be found repositories of knowledge so potentially damaging to the Imperium that they are sealed behind armoured portals capable of withstanding the most determined of attacks, and hexagrammic wards able to resist the strongest of psychic probes. One such library, accessible only to senior Inquisitors and High Lords of Terra, contains proof of the most terrible of crimes: treachery amongst the Emperor's trusted Space Marines.
The First Founding is an event of mythic proportions, shrouded in 10,000 years of legend, supposition and mystery, and even the details of the Second Founding are obscured by millennia of hearsay. Over the course of the long and bloody history of the Imperium as many as 1,000 Space Marine chapters have been created, perhaps many more. No one person or administrative body has any means of determining the exact number, as the Imperium has suffered periods of great turmoil, during which reliable records have been purged, revised, rescinded, destroyed in cataclysmic destruction or simply lost. In many cases, the only source of information regarding the Foundings, and many other aspects of the history of the Imperium, is to be found in myth and legend, which are taken, even by the most highly placed and informed men in the Imperium, as canon.
What is known, and whispered only in the safest of company, is that far more Space Marine chapters have been created than are extant today. Many of these missing chapters can be accounted for as having been lost in the Warp or having sustained irrecoverable losses in combat. Others still have vanished without trace.
The Ordo Malleus is responsible for maintaining the records regarding those Legions who turned traitor during the Horus Heresy, but the archives of the Ordo Hereticus contain details of chapters other than those turned to Chaos with Horus, Space Marines who have turned renegade in the millennia since the Great Heresy ended.
The number of chapters who have turned traitor can only be estimated. Why they do so is difficult to say, though some circumstances of such a rebellion can be theorised.
Every world in the Imperium is home to a culture unique to itself, and the people of each world worship the Emperor in a manner informed by its own characteristics. For the Helio-Cultists of Limnus Epsilon, for example, the Emperor resides in their sun, his warriors coming every century to claim the best of the world's youth to fight at his side within the fiery heart of their star. To the Apocalites of the worlds bordering the Hell-Stars of the Garon Nebula, he is the bringer of merciful death, deliverance from the evil that stalks their worlds by night. To the feral natives of Miral, the Emperor was the great beast that stalked the dark places of their forests, and to the acid miners of Mordant he is the guiding spirit-light that keeps the all-encompassing darkness at bay.
Even within the ranks of the Adeptus Ministorum, no two clerics drawn from two different worlds share the same view of the nature of the god they worship. Theosophical debates rage between men divided in their understanding of the Emperor's divinity, yet utterly united in their worship of him, though even here, debate on occasion turns to division, and division to outright aggression.
As each world express its devotion to the Emperor in a unique manner, so too does each Space Marine chapter revere him and his Primarchs in a manner unique to themselves. Many adore him not as a god, but as the founder and patron of the Space Marine legions, while the beliefs of other chapters may diverge yet further.
These deviations have on occasion led to friction and even open conflict between the Adeptus Astartes chapters and Adeptus Ministorum. Such a conflict is unlikely to arise from a simple difference of opinion, however, for no matter how abhorrent a member of the Ecclessiarchy may find the beliefs of a Space Marine chapter, there is no denying that the Space Marines are the living embodiment of the Emperor's divine wrath, and their mandate is granted by the Emperor himself. Open conflict is more likely to arise from the actions of clerics overstepping the bounds of their authority, and it can only be assumed that insanity, treachery or worse - perhaps daemonic or alien intervention - would in most cases lie at the heart of the matter.
On occasion, it may be an Inquisitor who moves against a chapter. Such action would only be considered in the most extreme of circumstances, as an entire chapter of Space Marines is a foe that few armies could hope to challenge.
Upon declaring such a chapter Excommunicatus, an Inquisitor will attempt to determine the root cause of the rebellion in order to gauge the potential obstacles to neutralising it. Should he suspect that Chaos as the reason for the chapter's fall from grace, the Grey Knights may be mobilised. Should doctrinal heresy prove the immediate cause then elite of the Adepta Sororitas may be the only force considered capable of prosecuting a War of Faith against the wayward chapter. On rare occasions, alien intervention may be suspected, and the highly skilled servants of the Ordo Xenos brought in to investigate. Such an event is of such import as to attract the attention of the High Lords of Terra themselves, and no Inquisitor would bring such accusations without very convincing evidence indeed.
On other occasions, it may be sufficient for Inquisitor to approach the Masters of other chapters. To a Space Marine the very notion of a brother exceeding his Emperor-given mandate is anathema, it is to disobey the direct word of the Emperor himself, and so a simple word in the ear of a Chapter Master may bring about the censure or outright subjugation of the chapter in question. Space Marine Chapter Masters and Inquisitors are Individuals well placed to appreciate the devastating consequence of galaxy-wide sedition and rebellion, and have on many occasions worked in concert to quell such threats before any other authorities become aware of them.
Actually conducting an investigation and gaining evidence against a suspect chapter is in most cases next to impossible. Even the most loyal of chapters will be far from open with what they regard as prying outsiders. In the extremely rare instance of a chapter actually reneging on its vows to the Golden Throne, no investigation will be necessary or possible - the evidence will be clearly visible and damning in the extreme.
It is not recorded exactly how many chapters have been purged in this way, as all record of their existence will be expunged upon their defeat. It can be estimated however, that as many as a dozen chapters may have been completely destroyed and subsequently deleted from the records, while a small number of others have been declared Excommunicatus, but are still at large somewhere in the galaxy.
The Badab Uprising demonstrated that there can in fact exist degrees of rebellion. Aside from Astral Claws, three other chapters rebelled against the rule of the Imperium during that conflict - the Lamenters, Executioners and the Mantis Legion (also known as Mantis Warriors). These chapters simply found themselves on the wrong side of the conflict, and it would seem that hubris, rather that heresy, kept them fighting for over a decade. Many notable chapters have found themselves under investigation or engaged in open conflict against other factions - in an area as large as the Imperium grievances and misunderstandings are seen to be unavoidable from time to time. The chapters that sided with the Astral Claws at Badab were investigated after the war was resolved, and found to be free from treachery. Their homeworlds were forfeited to the loyalist chapters who fought against them, and the rebels sent on penitent crusades as punishments for their crimes.
Often, the progress of the fall of a chapter goes unseen until the dramatic moment at which it is judged to have crossed the line and turned renegade. Even the term 'renegade' is only relevant to outsiders, a matter of judgment rather than objectivity. For example, a Space Marine chapter may subjugate a rebel world and be welcomed by the survived populace as saviours and begged to rule over them. Such a situation is not without precedent, for the Ultramarines rule an entire realm, but this is most definitely outside of the mandate of a Space Marine chapter, and so the sin of pride may lead a chapter down the road to ruin.
The original homeworld of a renegade chapter will in many cases bear the brunt of Imperial retribution should the rebels choose to remain ensconced there. In the case of the Astral Claws (later renamed the Red Corsairs) the rebel chapter attempted to consolidate its position at the heart of its power base, turning their homeworld, and the entire Badab system, into an impenetrable fortress. Each world bristled with orbital defence stations and ground-based weapon silos. The high orbits were seeded with mines capable of seeking out invading vessels and crippling them beyond any hope of salvation.
The Astral Claws held off the Imperium's reprisal for 11 years, three of which loyal forces spent prosecuting grueling sieges to break the rebels' hold on their home system.
However, few such traitor chapters attempt to defend their homeworld, often choosing instead to flee to regions where the Imperium's retribution can be avoided. As the Traitor Legions fled to the Eye of Terror after their defeat at Terra, so too have other rebels sought to eastablish themselves in areas of the galaxy where the Imperium may not easily follow. The Sons of Malice are such a chapter. They were founded in order to guard the western marches of the eye of Terror and fled into the Eye itself after an Inquisitor of the Ordo Hereticus unveiled their gruesome heresy. After the battle at the Palace of Thorns, which saw the Astral Claws finally ousted from Badab, the survivors made for the Maelstrom, an area of space riven with naturally-occuring warp storms.
It is known that some renegades have established bases upon worlds hostile to human life, worlds on which only a Space Marine, with his enhanced physiology, could hope to survive. The Steel Cobras - a chapter whose worship of the Emperor as an animal totem prompted a puritanical crusade against them led by a particularly bombastic Cardinal - are known to have established a base of operations deep beneath the ammonia seas of Tukaroe VII. Although the Imperium are aware of the renegade's existence, nothing short of an invasion by entire Space Marine chapter is considered likely to dislodge them from their fortified seabed bunkers. The only other option is Exterminatus, a fate that may still befall Tukaroe VII should the Adeptus Astartes refuse to assault their wayward kin. Other renegades choose a nomadic existence, plying forgotten space lanes aboard their battle barges and strike cruisers, far from Imperial Navy patrols. They survive by raiding, attacking shipping and backwater worlds in order to sustain their outcast existence and to satisfy their craving for bloodshed and revenge. Of the fate of a renegade chapter's original homeworld, one thing is certain. Those left behind after the rebels are dislodged will be made to pay for the crimes of their masters. Inquisitors have it within their power to quarantine entire planetary populations and any suspected of sharing their masters' heresies are executed in very public displays of retribution. On occasion, entire worlds have been put to death, so deeply runs the taint of treachery.
In the case of the Sons of Malice, the grisly tendencies that caused their excommunication was found to be rooted in the barbaric practices of the native, feral world population of the chapter's homeworld of Scelus. The native tribes were almost entirely eradicated by the Cadian 331st in a planet-wide campaign of genocide. Scelus was declared Perdita and stands to this day a stark example to any who would test the tolerance of the duly appointed representatives of the Holy Orders of the Emperor's Inquisition.
How and why those few chapters who have rebelled fight depends on the chapter of the individual chapter, and they have no more or less in common with each other than loyal chapters do.
The Red Corsairs fight primarily as an expression of their twisted faith. As the rebel chapter fled from the aftermath of the Siege of Badab, the hideously wounded Chapter Master Lufgt Huron made a terrible pact with the Ruinous Powers, pledging eternal service in return for the blessings and patronage of Chaos. Huron sold his soul and the Astral Claws to Chaos, renaming himself Huron Blackheart and his chapter the Red Corsairs in the process.
Though piratical in the extreme, the renegade master leads the Red Corairs on savage attacks on Imperial shipping and outposts not because they have any overriding need for plunder, but because the very act of looting the regions he was previously sworn to protect pleases Huron as much as it does his diabolic patrons.
Of the motivations of renegade chapters, many observations and theories have been presented. Most have a need to replenish depleted arsenals, and those that have turned completely to Chaos raid in order to capture slaves to be sacrificed in whatever dark rituals they observe. Whether any renegades are actively seeking to replace fallen Brethren is a matter of debate, but it is known that some recruit or band together with human raiders. Another great source of concern to the Imperium's authorities is that rebel chapters may find a way of replenishing their diminished gene-stocks. Without new gene-seed they would perish, so the acquisition of more could conceivably make the renegades a threat for centuries to come.
Most renegades retain the structure they maintained prior to their fall from grace, at least until such time as circumstances dictate a change. A recently rebelled force may resemble a loyalist one in almost every detail, although certain ranks may be absent. For example, most rebels will not have any Chaplains, as these stalwart defenders of the faith will have resisted the chapters' fall to the last. In some cases, however, the Chaplains' unorthodox doctrines may in fact be the source of the rebellion. Others will not consider themselves rebels at all, as was the case when Executioners sided with the Astral Claws, and so adhere to a more traditional Codex organization, with every rank and position in attendance.
Chapters that have trodden the path to damnation for longer may well have degenerated further, deviating substantially from the dictates of the Codex Astartes. Some may resemble the Traitor Legions, fighting alongside hideous creatures summoned from the Warp, or utilising Chaos cultists in their never-ending quest for revenge against the Imperium that they have abandoned. Most rebels will have suffered considerable losses at the hands of loyal forces, and in fact represent only the small number of survivors who escaped the Imperium's retribution. These forces form small warbands rather than company (or chapter) sized formations and may find themselves fighting alongside other Chaos forces. The Damned Company of Lord Caustos is such a force, which, having been declared Traitor by an Inquisitor of the Ordo Hereticus, based on somewhat flimsy and circumstantial evidence, only later turned to the service of Chaos in order to survive in a galaxy ultimately hostile to them. Lord Caustos and his followers now sell their services to any force that will provide them with the equipment they need to continue their very existence.
The Red Corsairs are organised into a large fleet, able to deploy small, elite forces of renegade Space Marines supported by larger groups of human reavers. The Space Marines amongst the force are supremely proficient at the boarding actions favoured by the chapter whose ship-to-ship fighting prowess is infamous. Huron Blackheart maintains a substantial fleet consisting of vessels captured over numerous engagements, ranging from a single Adeptus Astartes battle barge, a number of strike cruisers, many and varied escorts and a huge number of classes of interceptors and bombers. It is claimed that the vessel used now as Huron's command ship was salvaged after having been found drifting on the edge of the Maelstrom. Some claim the ship is a vessel formerly of the Word Bearers Traitor Legion, but few give such claims any credence.
The heart of a chapter's fall is often to be found in the basis of its faith. Each Space marine chapter lives by its own dogma, and every aspect of its existence is informed by a combination of the Imperial Creed, Great Crusade lore, ever-evolving chapter legend and native belief.
If a chapter recruits exclusively from one specific culture, then a great many of the beliefs and traditions of that culture often find their way into chapter doctrine. Dozens of chapters recruited from feral world populations, where the native warrior lifestyle and naked aggression provide the most promising Neophytes, and often these primitive beliefs will mingle with the Imperial Creed.
Over time, a chapter's body of beliefs may change significally, isolated as they are from the practices of other bodies. Were a subject of the Imperium to witness the initiation rituals or victory celebrations of any number of perfectly loyal, steadfast chapters, he might recoil in horror, taking the brethren for heretics. It is equally true that what may appear perfectly normal practices on one world would be viewed with outright disgust on another, and both would undoubtedly have their place within the great church that is the worship of the God-Emperor of Mankind. And so, for one such as an Inquisitor to openly decry the religious practices of a chapter as heretical, such practices must surely have gone way beyond the pale.
The Inquisitors of the Ordo Hereticus are undaunted, however, by the cloack of secrecy behind which many chapters worship, and have on several occasions attempted to investigate those thay suspect of transgression. Often the mere suggestion of heresy is enough to force a chapter to defend itself, and many an Inquisitorial investigation fleet has found itself fired upon before it even begins its enquiry. Most such incidents are covered up, or simply go unreported, but others lead to greater conflict. A very small number may lead to the excommunication of the chapter.
It is believed that all such renegades will, in time, turn to the service of the Ruinous Powers, though few have ever been found to be worshipping Chaos while still maintaining the pretence of loyalty to the rule of Terra. It has been posited that some weakness, predisposition or perhaps basic fallibility has instead made the chapter liable to the temptations of Chaos, and it is only after this tendency has been revealed that the self-fulfilling prophecy is realised. This is a curse that the Inquisition must bear, for to identify the seed of treachery is to cultivate it, and thus nothing less than the complete destruction of the suspect chapter will eradicate the taint of heresy.
But the cause of a chapter's fall may not always be the fault of its spiritual beliefs. Other factors may lead the chapter into conflict with other bodies. On occasion, dangerous individuals have gained positions of power and responsibility within a chapter, individuals who perhaps should never have even been recruited, let alone attained rank.
Such men may suffer from flaws common to Humanity: pride, vanity or anger for example. Instead of being led by a Chapter Master whose only consideration is service to Mankind, the Emperor and the Adeptus Astartes, the chapter finds itself under the sway of a megalomaniac or an egoist who wields his power according only to the vagaries of his own ambition.
These men have caused deep schisms within their chapters throughout the long history of the Imperium. Some have been thwarted by the actions of men nobler than themselves, and knowledge of the matter kept within the walls of the fortress-monastery. Others have led their chapter into direct conflict with other bodies, and have paid the ultimate price for their folly.
When a chapter fights and defeats the forces of Chaos, those brethren who witnessed the blasphemies of the Ruinous Powers are invariably affected in some way by what they have seen. When called upon to fight Traitor Marines, a loyal brother is compelled to see himself reflected in the dark mirror of his former brethren's sin. The experience is one that can cause deep spiritual turmoil, and the Space Marine may spend many long nights in solitary vigil, praying to the Emperor for deliverance from the evil that befell the original Traitor Legions.
The chapter's Chaplains are always diligent in the aftermath of any battle fought against the minions of the Dark Gods, but still some taint may escape the rituals of purification and ablution. Should the stain of Chaos spread within the chapter, drastic measures may be required in order to avoid the slow corruption of the entire force.
The same is true of those fighting against aliens. The spore of the Xenos is a threat taken extremely seriously by a chapter's Apothecaries, who must monitor the physiology of their charges throughout their exposure to alien environments and creatures. Countless alien species exist within the galaxy, despite the measures taken by the Imperium to cleanse the stars of their presence, and each has a biology unique to itself. Natural defences, poisons, native bacteria and viruses all threaten human dominion of the Emperor's domains. Some races have unique methods of attack or reproduction that may threaten the spiritual and physical integrity of a chapter, such as psychic or genetic domination of a battle brother exposed to the aliens. Such instances can prove as dangerous as daemonic possession, and cause the tainted chapter to pursue goals utterly inimical to its duties to the Imperium.
Such an incident was uncovered by the Ordo Xenos, when Subjugators chapter fought a protracted campaign against the alien cell-kin of the Technetium Belt. The unique reproductive cycle of the species made their complete eradication very difficult to achieve. The cell-kin reproduced by viral dissemination, their DNA infecting the body of another creature where it would literally reshape the host in its own image. The Space Marines' enhanced genetic make-up proved largely resilient to this threat, but 20 of the brethren of the 3rd Company were lost in the early stages of the campaign as they were slowly mutated into new, hideous forms. The chapter's Apothecaries identified the threat, but too late to save those Battle Brothers affected by the cell-kins' infection. The infected Brethren that survived the conflict escaped and are assumed to be at large in the galaxy to this day.
Every year each Space Marine chapter is required to surrender a portion of its gene-seed stocks to the Adeptus Mechanicus. Here it is held in trust and maintained on behalf of the High Lords of Terra, and, therefore, for the Emperor. There are only two locations in the Imperium considered secure enough to hold the gene-seed. These would represent the most priceless of targets should the Traitor Legions learn of them. There are very few obligations enforceable against the Adeptus Astartes, but this requirement is absolute. The reasons for this insistence upon regular examination and purify testing is rooted in the events of the Horus Heresy, and were borne out by the circumstances leading up to the Badab Uprising, one of the catalysts for which was Lufgt Huron's refusal to submit the Astral Claws' gene-seed for routine purity testing.
The gene-seed of a renegade chapter may remain pure, particularly if the cause of the rebellion is doctrinal. Where Chaos or alien influence lies at the heart of the matter then mutation may set in, debasing the chapter's gene pool more and more as time goes on. A chapter serving Chaos may begin to manifest the same mutations as the Traitor Legions: limbs become distended tentacle-like appendages, hands become talons and other more random transformations take hold. The Chaos Powers may bequeath their dubious 'gifts' upon their champions as they progress toward spawndom or Daemonhood, and entire squads of possessed take to the field.
Alien intervention may also lead to the degradation of a chapter's geneseed, as was the case with Subjugators during the Technetium Belt campaign, leading to metamorphosis, random mutation or more subtle, but equally damaging changes.
It is also the case that the processes utilised by the Adeptus Mechanicus to store and to cultivate tithed geneseed from the Adeptus Astartes may become corrupted and imperfect. Though the particulars of a new Founding are shrouded in secrecy and arcane ritual, it is known that all of a new chapter's genetic make-up is not always drawn from the seed of one donor chapter. Instead, a new chapter may represent a genetic cocktail of the geneseed of others, and although purity testing is rigorous in the extreme, it is perfectly possible that these disparate elements may react with one another at a later date, in ways quite unforeseeable by their creators, and so the seed of a disastrous mutation or character flaw is sown.
Whatever the effect, the servants of the High Lords are always vigilant against the signs of mutation, and the Inquisition is keen to punish any such signs of deviancy. This puts them into conflict with a great many loyal chapters, not least among them the Blood Angels and Space Wolves chapters whose geneseed is known to be as flawed in some respects as it is undoubtedly superior in others. The long and proud history of these and other ancient chapters has to date shielded them from the attentions of the Ordo Hereticus, but other, less renowned chapters are not so immune to the Inquisition's scrutiny, and they may find themselves under investigation should an Inquisitor suspect serious heresy.
The battle cries of renegades often go unrecorded, due in part to the fact that so many accounts are suppressed and the actual witnesses silenced.
The Red Corsairs are known to transmit a tirade of expletives and threats across all vox-caster frequencies as they ambush enemy ships and settlements. This is clearly intended to intimidate the target and put them at a psychological disadvantage from the moment the Corsairs launch their attack. The Sons of Malice reportedly fight in utter silence, and those who have fought against them cite this as the prime source of the deeply disturbing aura surrounding them.
Other renegades may retain their original chapter battle cries, seeing no reason to alter them, reasoning that it is the Imperium who is wrong. Thus many of the catechisms of Space Marine dogma may still be heard from the mouths of traitors; a source of great chagrin and sadness to the loyalists who must bear arms against their former brethren.
There are several ways in which you can field an army representative of a renegade Space Marine force, depending on your own tastes and the background of your army. If your Space Marines have only recently turned, then it is perfectly appropriate to use Codex: Space Marines, making use of the Chapter Traits system, with such drawbacks as Flesh Over Steel and We Stand Alone in play. If your force is of a more radical bent, or has been renegade for longer, then Codex: Chaos Space Marines may be more appropriate. If you decide to field a force such as the Red Corsairs, who make use of human reavers and pirates as allies, then you may consider using the rules for the Alpha Legion, with cultists representing such troops, or you could use the Lost and the Damned army list found in Codex: Eye of Terror, with all manner of Mutants and Traitors in attendance.