Nov 29, 2011

Black Templars Fluff, Part 1

Black Templars Fluff, what is it? What themes make up the Black Templars? Now, I know that if I asked this question on B&C, I would get maybe a dozen definite answers; along with a vaguer ‘the fluff is what you want it to be’. While the latter kind of answer is true to a certain extent, neither it nor the former answers are completely accurate most of the time.

Why? Because they are often tinged by personal opinion based on connotations of certain key words or personal wishes that blow up to be the dominate factor in ‘the Black Templars Fluff’. Great examples of this are claims that Black Tide is fluffy or the ideas that are the root cause to both of the Fandexes on B&C containing Bikers with Power Lances.

Okay, back to the point about those vague answers being true to a certain extent. The reason for this is that, while the fluff itself is incomplete and subjective enough to justify pretty much any army that you can come up with, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t general truths about each army pertaining to the fluff, for example Black Templars do use tactics like Drop Pod assaults and Armored Spearhead; you aren’t going to justify that, on the whole, they don’t.

Now, we’re going to start with my statement of my own preconception of their fluff and what they’re like. After that, we’re going to go through the codex systematically and examine what is actually supported in there. (Something I should point out now is that, while some consider every single picture or story related to Black Templars to be cannon, I don’t consider them to be on par with the codex itself, just like the fluff for my own Crusade isn’t.)

What I think of the fluff is that Black Templars are Space Marines, essentially. Except, rather than adhering to the Codex Astartes, they are more like the original Legions. The fight like they always have (except where they have improved), and are organized the same way they have been since their founding. The Tactics they employ are begun with an orbital drop, or ‘Death from Above’, followed by Armored Spearhead until their goal is reached, perhaps with extra support from space. Because they are still strongly attached to the old ways, they don’t employ the newer machines very much (we don’t have Whirlwinds, etc.).

(Side note here, with the Chaos Legions coming out around-ish the same time as the Black Templars, I am really excited to see if GW makes some things that are similar to these two Codices. It also makes for some almost clich├ęd battles between what have become of the Legions; contrasting the Servants of Chaos, with their Marks and hyper-elite status, and the Champions of the Emperor, with whatever spiffy stuff they get. And I might as well add that I am convinced we’re going to get some spiffy stuff because that’s what has been happening for the past three codices and it is going in a great direction as far as giving each codex a distinct playstyle and pros/cons.)

The codex begins with paragraphs such as ‘Why collect a Black Templars army?’ and ‘Space Marines’ (well, technically it begins with a cool picture, and page 1 is actually the table of contents and credits, but you know what I mean). This part is almost all metagame and has little to no fluff in it aside from the general knowledge about space marines. Next!

Page 4 is titled ‘Warriors of Legend’, but it actually begins the background about the Space Marines, the Horus Heresy, and the founding of the Black Templars. As the founding and the circumstances could have some impact on them now, we’ll take a look at that.

Okay, Dorn didn’t want his Legion spread throughout the galaxy. It almost came to war, but he finally relented and the Black Templars were formed with Sigismund leading them. Seeking to prove his loyalty to the suspicions against the Black Templars, Sigismund swore an oath that he would never rest prosecuting the enemies of the Imperium and every High Marshal since has renewed that oath.

Page 8 begins what I would consider the actual fluff, as opposed to background. Okay, there’s going to be a lot here, so I’m going to switch to a bullet-point format, beginning with the points from the background.

  • The Black Templars began with suspicion against them and are on an eternal crusade to dissuade that suspicion.
  • Every High Marshal has sworn an oath to never rest in their Crusade against the enemies of the Imperium.
  • The Black Templars do not follow the Codex Astartes.
  • The Black Templars are Fleet-based.
  • There are as many as five-to-six thousand Black Templars.
  • Black Templars are Zealots and have no Librarians due to their mistrust of anything to do with the Warp. It is thought, however, use those Astropaths and Navigators that are sanctified by other organizations and are repentant of the curse of psychic powers.
  • Black Templars are utterly ruthless towards anything that they perceive as a threat to the Emperor, mercilessly exterminating entire populations to remove heresy and going into a raging bloodlust for vengeance simply by a witch being present on the battlefield.
  • Groups of Battle-Brothers fight together out of a sense of comradeship, rather than imposed organization.
  • Black Templars prefer Close Combat to Ranged Warfare because Sigismund preferred it and so that you can make sure your enemy is truly dead, earn glory, and fight with the noblest ideals of valor.
  • Black Templars hate to run and are only spurred on by their own losses.
  • Black Templars renew a Vow before each battle, focusing on a particular aspect of their duties, encouraging extreme bravery, ruthlessness and sacred revulsion at the foe.
  • The first tactic that the Black Templars use is to come down and surgically eliminate threats by using Drop Pods and Thunderhawk Gunships, leaving the enemy unable to retaliate.
  • The second tactic that the Black Templars use is to maneuver at speed behind a screen of Bikes and Land Speeders, smashing through the weak points in the enemy line, armored columns slashing left and right before eliminating the remaining enemy strong points; they use this tactic if they can land heavy armor.
  • Black Templars are the most independent from Imperial Authorities, almost a rogue element; and like all Space Marines they do not consider themselves subject to Imperial Rule, though they may answer calls for aid.

And beginning on page 10 we get into things that are more for Hard Sci-Fi, rather than Fluff. It talks about how a Space Marine is made, what the different types of Black Templars are (Neophytes, Initiates, Sword Brethren, High Marshal, Marshals and Castellans, The Emperor’s Champion, Techmarines, Dreadnoughts, Apothecaries, Chaplains). Now, of course this stuff is connected to the Black Templar fluff, but it isn’t defining what the fluff is, only how it relates to specific units.

Page 19 begins the Crusades of the Black Templars. Mostly it highlights what has already been mentioned about Black Templars, but the Jerulas Crusade on page 43 does illustrate something new:

  • Black Templars not only refuse to flee, they refuse to give up and will continue regardless of their own losses.
  • Black Templars are not actually suspicious of new-found technology and vehicles.

Everything else in the codex is rules-oriented, not pertinent, or just enforcing much of the same things (Honor and Zeal is good, serve the Emperor, destroy heretics and mutants and witches, etc.). Although I did notice a few things that are contradictory, and some things I really liked, and some that I didn’t.

Contradictory things include the phrase “Wisdom is the beginning of fear.” on page 53 when on pages 49 and 23 wisdom is shown in a good light and almost expected in experienced Black Templars. Another one that I noticed is in the Vow ‘Suffer not the Unclean to Live’, the third line which reads “Lead us to Hid Strength and an eternity of war”. Doesn’t that really strongly imply that an eternity of war is the goal? Shouldn’t the goal be the victory at the end of the Crusade, or do they actually enjoy Crusading so much that they never want to stop, regardless of what the Emperor would want? Well, I suppose you can’t expect the whole codex to be perfectly written.

Okay, next post will be taking all of this information and trying to build a coherent summation of what Black Templar fluff actually says about them.


  1. Bullets 4/5 plus the other bullet list plus Hellsreach: I think the Black Templar are going to look like their own little self contained Imperium. "Survivalists" in a way, ready to continue the fight for the Emperor for the next billion years even if the Imperium falls tomorrow. The whole enchilada: their own Navigators, Forges, subcult of the Mechanicus subordinate to the Templar ethic, etc. I actually wouldn't be surprised at all to find out that the Templars have some truly serious Techmarines and/or Techmarine rules.

    Bullet 6: IMO, that is going to end up being a submission to the Emperor's Decree at Nikea.

    Bullet 9: It cannot be gotten around that most Templars use the bolter. Without getting into the RF silliness, IMO that is why Marines in new codicies end up with Bolter & Bolt Pistol. It effectively lets them take one shot with their Bolter, then charge in. With our troops, the choice is clear: A) don't shoot, B) don't CC.

  2. I'm not sure that the Black Templars would have a means of making new stuff, such as Power Armor, Weapons and Vehicles, and would be left with what they could keep going should the Imperium fall. However I've thought for a while that the 'new' Black Templars could be given their own unique flavor by having a strong emphasis placed on Techmarines and technology (inspired by how awesome to drawing of the Techmarine looks in the codex and the easily taken Power of the Machine Spirit).

    Master of the Forge, maybe allow Techmarines (without Servo-Harnesses) to be taken as upgrades for certain units, such as Sword Brethren. There's potential there, and that's without even getting into special rules and such (each vehicle is assumed to house an Apprentice Techmarine, and so all have the Rhino's Repair special rule).

    I didn't point it out in the post *goes to edit* at first but the codex does mention that it at least appears that Black Templars accept the use of Psykers who are allowed by other organizations and repentant of their psychic curse.

    I'm going to elaborate on this in the next post, but I have found two things really interesting about that preferring Close Combat line. It mentions 'instead of Ranged Warfare', is one thing. Not 'shooting', and so it implies relatively close combats, rather than being some miles apart and only being able to know that you hit because the shot landed where you wanted it to. The other thing interesting is in the Soldier's Creed for the American Army, which contains the line 'I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat'. That doesn't mean that soldiers go out with chainsaws to kill the enemy in Close Combat, but that they use (relatively) short-ranged guns. Again, I'll go into more detail in the next post.

  3. This is a pretty good summary thus far of our "fluff". I'm looking forward to seeing how you tie it together.

    Just remember, while you are correct in your point about the Black Templars preferring close combat, there are numerous references in the codex about how they have used ranged-weaponry to get the job done. Some of which you have alluded to. When I look at our codex, I see it more as a volley, volley, close the distance with the enemy, volley, then charge the remaining opposition and engage them in close combat to finish them off. But that could simply be my perception of the background. :)

  4. I do want to expand on the idea that I mentioned in the second paragraph. Nearly everyone (including myself) have read the Black Templars codex and come up with their own idea of what the Black Templars are. While you can see this a little in the people who almost claim that Black Templars are allergic to guns based off of that one line in the codex, I don't think you'll get a better example than those who hold so strongly to the 'Knights Templar' impression. I don't want to sound like I'm bashing them, as it is a pretty cool idea, but all the basis for it that I've seen is because the name is Black Templars, and that second word seems to automatically lead to everything else.

    Just like the Close Combat ranges, I want to go into more detail in the second post. As I said above, I will also be trying to use induction to determine what the Black Templar fluff actually is, and try my best to avoid personal interpretations.

  5. Ahh, there was that comment somewhere about the "Space Sharks" Chapter where it was mentioned that they resembled the Black Templars in combat (but had Librarians IIRC) by using precision gunfire at short range to kill their opponents.

    I agree, moving and shooting to get into grips with the enemy and then finishing them off with a charge works real well for me.

    Heh, if they keep the costs and rules coherent (for the sake of variety) while giving us updated choices, I'm all for adding Master of the Forge to my lists and then you will see a six Dreadnought force!

    BTW, page 8, first paragraph about the middle: "...and other craft such as training vessels and gigantic forgeships."

    On the psyker connection - that is speculation, although I think likely for astropaths since the Adeptus Astropathicus is in charge of exposing psykers to the Emperor for binding (or consumption). I can guarantee it isn't going to be anyone like the Inquisition or other such "enforcement" Adeptus.

    AFAIK, the Navigators are controlled by their various Houses and must remain so since that is the way the Emperor chartered them.

  6. I read 'gigantic forgeships' and thought "really, really, big ones" rather than "ones that build stuff". Thanks for pointing that out.

  7. Great post Devjon, its a useful summary of Black Templars are with regards to the codex.

    I am surprised that neophytes did not get more attention here. That is an exclusive feature of black templars.

    I am especially curious of how this summary would connect with black library literature of hels reach. I can recall Grimaldus incites a very zealous feeling in the reader during his speech in he defence of the hive.


  8. I neglected to include mentions of Neophytes because it talks about them in the sections specific to units. In hindsight, I probably should include them, and I will in Part 2.

    I purposefully ignored Helsreach because of two reasons:

    1) It is inevitably influenced by the author's personal view, which could be in line with the codex but it might not. If I were to include it I would have to look at including others' interpretations as well, and I have neither the time nor patience to account for everything.

    So I'm assuming that Helsreach, along with any other Black Library books mentioning Black Templars, could be cannon, but are not representative of Black Templars in general like the codex is. But yes, Helsreach is a very good book in many aspects.

    2) This is in line with the other reason, but there are several points in the book which are not in line with the codex. The first would be when Grimaldus is monologing about his squad and mentions that Nerovar is the only one he chose to stand with him while the others were appointed, and this contradicts when the codex says that Initiates fight together because they choose to, rather than out of organization. Another is that they don't seem to be using either of the tactics given in the codex (technically, Grimaldus' squad does drop from the sky out of a Thunderhawk, which matches the 'Death from Above' tactic, but most of the hundred-ish Templars are split up in small groups to bolster the general defense that the Imperial Guard are making).

    This shows that, for all of the good decisions that Aaron Dembski-Bowden made, he did take some artistic license which tells me that this is how that group ran things, rather than how Black Templars normally function.


    And on that note, I'll be trying to get Part 2 up tonight. All necessary apologies for the delays.

  9. Re: your point 2) about Helsreach

    The codex reads more like an outsider's view of the chapter, even if it an "inside" outsider. So you get the "it is assumed" comments and GW gets plausible deniability for retcons.

    The Helsreach Crusade wasn't an offensive one, it was a defensive one, with the offensive being conducted up in space by the rest of the Black Templar contribution.

    Grimaldus maybe only recruited one, but the rest still would have chosen to voluntarily accompany him and I'm sure Grimaldus could have rejected any unworthy choices. It almost seems like everyone was there for a reason, to make them grow up or as "left over" bits, like Bayard was supposed to be EC left over from another Crusade, plus there are no Neophytes around. IMO, Helsreach was all about sending Grimaldus into the furnace to see if he could be refined into the leader the Black Templars needed. Notice that both the known Templar leaders who opposed Grimaldus' elevation to Reclusiarch were part of the crusade. It was admittedly a mission that was not standard for the Black Templars.

  10. Devjon, thanks for considering my points of view.

    Recently Laeroth and I became aware that some actions by the BT community have had the impact of literally changing (saving) lives, and providing answers for people.

    I am writing with the intention to inspire a universal consideration of parties so as not to isolate forthcoming or present members of the BT community.

    In short I am looking how we can save more lives.

    The literature speaks to people in different ways. Thus one should consider how more people can be heard with your writings.

    Whilst you are maintaining order with regards to the codex, do not forget flexibility. It is not simply order and correctness - it is order and flexibility which allows one to determine the most appropriate respond to opportunities or challenges.

    There seems a great deal invested in summarizing the Codex which is potentially isolating other views because they are "not in line".

    However Black Templars do not follow a codex, they follow the oath of Sigismund.

    Therefore if they do not follow a Codex, why become focused on whether information is in line with the Codex or not?

    Black templars also do this by choice. Therefore is you are writing this for the community you may find a better position by not forgetting that choice, as it will help integrate and preserve different people.

    The literature itself and everything GW is and has written about templars is layers and layers of different views, literature and art compiled and strewn together over years.

    Apart from Hels reach let us not forget other material that may speak to some people, but not others. All of which constitute the Black Templar community.

    Damnation Crusade - great comic book
    Crusade of Armageddon - another Black templar book

    Whilst concentrating your strengths on writing this, do not forget to consider is it more about you and what you think Black Templars are - or is it about the audience you are writing for?

  11. Devjon I have something which may be of service to your endeavour - is there somewhere I can find your email? I am using

  12. You do make some good points, although strictly speaking we only know that the Black Templars do not follow the Codex Astartes, we don't know that they don't follow any codex; and I've only seen one place about oaths, and that is in a limited sense to crusading against the enemies of the Emperor and it is renewed by the High Marshals.

    Also, and this is something that I do need to make clear, at least for now my blog has one primary purpose, to help myself in setting my thoughts down about various aspects of Warhammer 40k and Black Templars. If other people are interested or can gain something from it then that is great, but for now at least it is not my first goal.

    That said, I should also point out that what I am doing with these two articles is not to get a definitive idea of what all Black Templars are. I am going through again with the intention of finding out how Black Templars are in the fluff in a generalized sense. In this post I am just finding various points from the Codex, in the next I am giving what is at least my opinion of what they mean as well as a summary (once again, for the standard or the norm of how Black Templars are portrayed). This does not mean that no other ideas of Black Templars can exist, I would be quite startled if they didn't, but they are not a part of Black Templars that I am looking for.

    However, again you do bring up a good point about not alienating possible readers, and I will be looking at how I can improve that aspect in future articles. Thanks.

    Oh, and by the way, I've been wanting to email you about that super spread sheet for a while, but I haven't known your address. I'll try and do that later tonight if I get the chance. Mine is

  13. Oh, and I forgot to thank you for those titles. I've seen a few pictures from a comic book, but I never new anything more (aside from it probably being epic). Now I'll be able to look for it at my library (I think I saw Crusade of Armageddon there and picked it up at one point, but it didn't catch my interest and I just have trouble reading more than one book in a row, so I ended up neglecting it).

  14. Ah you never know Devjon, there might be the odd line come up that could be inspiring!

    Your welcome with the titles.

    I am curious about how your information might be represented in a video of dawn of war 2, where reference to your codex interpertation could be meaningful for other Bt dow2 players.

  15. I'm afraid you've lost me. Do you mean how a player could represent Black Templars (as from the codex) as he plays? Do you mean in a tactical sense? Do you mean referencing things to illustrate a point? And even if I named what you mean there I'm not sure I could give you any advice.

  16. Hi Devjon. I was referring to your work and suggesting there may be a line or two in those books which could be of inspiration.

    What I wanted to do was - refer to your work in a BT dawn of war 2 tutorial. For example, one can play black templars in dawn of war. I would link in your work for a kind of (this is how black templars would play) - with the configurations etc.

    The advice is already in your work.
    For example
    Black Templars prefer Close Combat to Ranged Warfare

    Thus the dawn of war style will prefer CC over ranged combat - and exclude psychers from the army list models.

  17. I don't see why you couldn't, though this particular article is more centered on getting some facts about Black Templars, while part 2 (where I do my best to interpret what these facts mean and how they mesh together).

    However, I've been getting a couple of ideas for more parts to this series, such as possible lists that would closely match what the fluff says, as well as perhaps some guides on making choices when designing your own Fluffy List (ideally still competitive, but we'll see). Maybe even some articles on the Fluff as represented by various pieces of literature (Helsreach comes to mind and all I can think of is irony).