Tuesday 4 August 2015

Rites of Battle: The Blades of Sanguinius

I don't play pen and paper RPGs. I don't have the knack for roleplaying, I come over all self-conscious. However, I find roleplay manuals to be fantastic sources of inspiration, especially the ones for Fantasy Flight Games' Warhammer 40,000 RPGs. Rites Of Battle, for instance, has a wonderful system for creating your own Space Marine chapter.

The following was written using the headings and questions in Rites Of Battle, filling in the details I'd already decided and picking off the menu when I didn't have an answer. Later I'll write this up in a more narrative form, probably as an old-style Index Astartes article, but for now it's just the facts, ma'am.

Chapter Name
The Blades of Sanguinius.

Trials of the Aspirant
Given the options I've decided the chapter tests its aspirants using a mixture of the Exposure Trial and the Knowledge Of Self. The exposure trial takes the form of a trek through a forbidden region of their home world that is supposedly home to the Chapter's fortress-monastery. This is a lie. The chapter is based on a warp-capable star fortress in orbit of their home world and monitors the progress of aspirants from afar, both through technological means and deploying of Battle-Brothers in scout armour.

Those aspirants who survive the forbidden zone's many dangers (ravenous predators, poisonous fauna, the usual...) and show sufficient fortitude in their observer's sole estimation are rescued at the point of near-death and brought to the fortress-monastery. Once aboard the star fort the aspirant is treated for whatever symptoms of exposure and such they are suffering but are kept sedated. In this state they are brought before the chapter's Librarians for the final test. The Librarians induce a dream state within the aspirant with which to test their worth. The nature of the dream depends on the mental qualities of both Librarian and aspirant and may be different every time. Few ever speak of their experiences in the dream state and the Librarian's word on the aspirant's worth is final: to be inducted into the chapter, returned to their home or executed on the spot is entirely up to them.

When was the Chapter founded?
The chapter was founded in early M38 as part of the 23rd or “Sentinel” Founding because I like the name. I like the foundings with names and that's the only one I know other than the Dark and Cursed Foundings, neither of which particularly attract me because you have to make the chapter massively flawed for the Cursed Founding and I rather like the Exorcists being the last survivors of the Dark Founding.

Why was the Chapter formed?
Given the name of the Founding I'm going to say the chapter was intended as a Standing Force guarding the Imperium's borders from outside attack. As a standing force they have a certain area of responsibility within which they are required to maintain the Emperor's rule, though their deployment can take them far across the galaxy.

How pure is the Chapter's gene-seed?
Let's just go with the standard Sanguinary flaws, the Black Rage and the Red Thirst, with just the usual level of degeneration later founding Blood Angels chapters tend towards. So, more Blades fall to the Rage and they feel the Thirst a bit more strongly than the Blood Angels but they aren't all frothing nutters like the Flesh Tearers or actively craving blood at all time like the Blood Drinkers or Flesh Eaters.

Codex Demeanour
There are a series of these Demeanours in Rites Of Battle and I wasn't going to pick one but I gave them a look and this one really called to me:

Swift As The Wind

The Battle-Brothers of the Chapter may excel at rapid strikes and lightning raids, but the trait extends to every facet of their character. They are as quick to anger as they are to jest. They can be impatient, yet display great personal initiative. Whilst not rash or foolhardy, such a Battle-Brother believes in the value of immediate action over protracted planning, and chafes at the bit to engage the foe.

I love the bit about being quick to anger and jest. I want funny Space Marines.

What type of planet if the chapter's home world?
The Blades' home world, which I've decided to call Tsubasa Minoris (Japanese for “wing”), is a planet whose society is about the social and technological level of the Renaissance.

Home world predominant terrain
I have this mental image of huge mountain ranges across the whole planet with vertical cities built up the sides. The different mountain states are in a state of perpetual warfare, exactly the sort of social condition favoured for Space Marine recruitment. Naturally, any attempt to make a lasting peace are thwarted by Scouts from the Blades of Sanguinius with sniper rifles.

Relationship with home world
Aside from the assassinations mentioned above and whatever else is needed to keep the eternal wars of Tsubasa Minoris going, I've decided the chapter maintains a “Stewardship” level of control. By and large the mountain cities are ruled by their own kings, prime ministers and diverse other lords. Each of these rulers acts as a client king to the Chapter-Master, who holds the title and rights of Imperial Governor. Usually there won't be much contact between the chapter and the local lords except for states of planetary emergency and demanding the lords send recruitment candidates to the forbidden zone.

How closely does the chapter follow the codex?
Again, the standard Blood Angels divergences: the extra Assault Company, the Sanguinary Guard and Priesthood, the Death Company and unique wargear items. Otherwise they're very much a Codex chapter. I'll probably come up with funky names for individual companies and such but it's just the standard ten company system.

Combat Doctrine
Combined arms with a bias towards close combat. I don't tend to like “specialist” chapters, I think a Space Marine is a Space Marine and they should have the clear damned common sense to train as generalists able to handle any situation. They are Sanguinary, though, so combat and aerial assault are going to highly favoured.

Also I have an idea, given the chapter name, that sergeants and officers will favour power swords over other specialist melee weapons.

Speciality Restrictions
The book gives a list of roles (Apothecary, Techmarine, Assault Marines, Devastators and Librarians) and pick one that the chapter doesn't use. Another option offered is to “pick something truly unusual”, so let's pick something unusual as none of the other options really inspires me...

Given the terrain of their home world the chapter tends to favour Land Speeders and Stormravens for vehicular support. They do maintain an armoured vehicle pool as any chapter would but in small numbers than would be standard.

The chapter, as was common in the background when I started playing but isn't as common now, reveres the Emperor as their creator but not as a literal god. They also venerate the memory of Sanguinius as the sacrifice that secured the future of the Imperium they serve.

Current Status
Nominal. A full chapter of ten almost full strength companies. Their tendency towards lightning hit-and-run engagements lessens the usually high level of attrition Sanguinary chapters tend towards.

Friends and Enemies
Friends: the chapter has strong ties to the local Mechanicus forge worlds because I want to have some Skitarii and Cult Mechanicus detachments in the army. I also prefer the more bellicose, honour culture view of Skitarii from Graham McNeill's novels to the emotionless cyborgs their codex prefers and I think those sorts of Skitarii would get on well with the Blades as I envision them.

Enemies: Like all Blood Angels successors, the Blades have a fraught and cautious relationship with the Inquisition. I'm not sure if the Blades have done anything major to deserve it or if it's just their attitude of edgy caution that have made the Holy Ordos suspicious.

Naturally, I intend to have my Ordo Xenos Inquisitor, his retinue and his Deathwatch Kill-Team teaming up with the chapter for all sorts of happy fun.

Battle Cry
Blood! Fire! Steel!” chanted in unison as the chapter advances, blared out of helmet and vehicle-mounted vox-casters at maximum volume to terrify the enemy.

The chapter symbol will be a sword, downthrust or, to put it another way, the shoulder pad from the Dark Angels Veteran Squad of which I have ample spares.

I'm not sure, except that there'll be a lot of red and, I think, some steel to make them look more knightly. I'll have to be careful not to just copy the Knights Of Blood colour scheme. Perhaps through the use of some gold elements and making sure the body is a solid red?

Okay: red torso and shoulder pads; silver arms and legs, gold aquila and pauldron trim unless I think of something better when I come to start painting. Death Company and Sanguinary Guard in their usual colour schemes.

Tomorrow: tying it all together. 

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