Dec 7, 2011

Black Templars Fluff, Part 2

Last time I systematically went through the codex in order to find all of the points about the Black Templars as they actually are depicted in the codex. Don’t worry, I go through all of the information gathered and then I include a better look at each point (for those curious, I am going in backwards order, and I did leave off two unnecessary ones).

I just want to make a disclaimer before we begin that I am ignoring everything in the rules sections. Why? Well, for a variety of reasons, including an article I read once about there being two different versions of Warhammer 40k, and that I consider all of the actual rules about how things work are the Crunch, rather than the Fluff I’m working on. Also keep in mind that, while there are other sources of Fluff, I’m only considering the Codex to be cannon for this (because if I include one author’s interpretations, I have to include them all, which range in various levels of similarity to what the codex says).

Now let's get started with a note that I missed about Neophytes:

  • New members of the Black Templars are first trained and given some of the implants, then are individually taken in by a single Initiate who will train and teach them during battle.
    • This relates to a point lower down about not adhering to the Codex Astartes. If we were to extrapolate this, we could make the claim that it also relates to Black Templars having stronger bonds to other individual Initiates than other chapters do, going hand-in-hand with squads fighting together out of a sense of camaraderie.
  • Black Templars are the most independent from Imperial Authorities out of all Space Marine Chapter, on the verge of being a rogue element; and like all Space Marines they do not consider themselves subject to Imperial Rule, though they may answer calls for aid, such as at Helsreach.
    • Okay, so they are very independent. This is echoed by the circumstances of their origination (they did not want to split until civil war threatened to once again ensnare the Imperium).
  • 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.
    • Notice that Black Tide isn’t mentioned? Also notice that Bikes are only used as auxiliary forces? Black Tide and masses of ‘mounted’ Templars are what people want to see, rather than what is actually in the codex. You want your Fighting Company or Crusade to be like that? Go for it. But also accept that it isn’t the norm, just like female Space Marines or traitor Templars.
  • 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.
    • They renew one of their Vows. This does give weight to the idea that we should be able to choose which Vow we take at the outset of each battle. For example, there are several witches in that army, so we are going to renew our Vow to Abhor the Witch. This also echoes back to the Knightly themes some hold, just like praying for victory before a battle in medieval times, but to the Emperor.
  • Black Templars hate to run and are only spurred on by their own losses.
    • They are Zealots. They don’t like getting shot at and they want vengeance when their buddy is killed. Makes sense, even if it isn’t always a good idea to do so.
  • 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.
    • Okay, this is a big point of contention against Gunlines. On the one hand, it is a good point; on the other, it isn’t completely accurate. Now when you think of Close Combat, you immediately think of what that means in the game, specifically assaulting into Combat. But what about the very next words? “…preferring close combat to ranged warfare.” Huh, that’s a strange way to say ‘shooting’. As a matter of fact, why didn’t they just say “prefer charging into the enemy rather than shooting them.”? Wouldn’t that have been more theatric and exciting? Well, ranged warfare can mean two things in game terms. The first thing it can mean is just ‘shooting’. The second it can mean is ‘long range’. As in, ordinance, snipers, artillery, exterminatus; you know, ranged warfare. In the Soldier’s Creed of the United States Army it specifically mentions Close Combat. Are those soldiers rushing the enemy with their knives or clubbing them with their guns? And if Black Templars have this Gunphobia that some believe they have, why does the codex list the Bolter, but not the Chainsword or any Special Close Combat weapons in the Fluff? (See text box in upper-right hand corner of page 11.) So what does this actually translate into? It means that the term ‘Close Combat’ when used here, is much more general than ‘in close combat’. It means ‘short range’. So rapid firing and actual assaulting used as the situation calls for it. That is a much more accurate assessment of how Black Templars fight. Not Charging Maniacs, but simply Short Range. Can individual groups be different? Of course they can, but they aren’t the majority according to the codex.
  • Groups of Battle-Brothers fight together out of a sense of comradeship, rather than imposed organization.
    • Okay, fighting out of familiarity rather than being told ‘you go here with these guys’. As a side note, if you wanted to make a truly fluffy army, you would need to have almost random numbers for squads to represent this. As I mentioned before, this points back to how Neophytes are trained. If they impress an Initiate, then that Initiate takes them in; compared to each Neophyte being assigned to an Initiate. Templars fight when and where and with who they want to.
  • 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.
    • All of those ideas of Honor and Valor? Yeah, this throws them all out the window, practically. Innocents? Innocence proves nothing. A single heretic on the entire world? We must wipe out all of the Inhabitants from the sight of the Emperor! I have to admit, there are some things about Black Templars that I don’t like, and this is easily the first and foremost (I’m pretty sure that any other things I think of come straight from this too). If there were one major change to the fluff that I could make, it would be this. It is the epiphany of the over-zealous and over-strict ideals that represent the Inquisition and all the evils of the Imperium. Shocked by Grey Knights killing the Sisters of Battle who held out alone on a planet ruled by Daemons? Yeah, that is exactly what this is. This says that Black Templars are not the glorified crusaders, they are the more accurate crusaders who would kill and plunder because there was no one to stop them and hey, they would be forgiven anyway just for being on this crusade.
  • Black Templars are Zealots and have no Librarians due to their mistrust of anything to do with the Warp. It is thought, however, that those Astropaths and Navigators who are sanctified by other organizations and are repentant of the curse of psychic powers are accepted by the Black Templars.
    • I can more easily get behind this, because while it is zealotry, you can claim that it has a reason behind it. The Emperor outlawed Psychic usage and he did so for a reason for it. This is just the Templars doing what the Emperor has directly commanded. Sure, they are stricter than other chapters, but that really isn’t much of an issue as they are probably in the right here and it doesn’t involve the murder of innocents for little to no reason.
  • There are as many as five-to-six thousand Black Templars.
    • This is what makes me think of them as reminiscent of the original Legions. They may not be 10,000 strong, but they are more than half-way there. Now, they could still be massive with two-thousand, but no, they have to have near three-times that.
  • The Black Templars are Fleet-based.
    • This isn’t quite such as big of a thing as some people think. The history mentions that all of the chapters chose a home-world, a fortress, or a fleet to be based from. Black Templars choose two of those.
  • The Black Templars do not follow the Codex Astartes.
    • What, you couldn’t guess from units fighting together because of familiarity and there being no regular units, such as Tactical Squads? You couldn’t guess from their long opposition to it or the fact that even after 10,000 years they still refuse to go down to a thousand members? Yeah, they’re independent.
  • 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 and, thanks to both this oath and their long history of no traitors the Inquisition mostly leaves them alone.
    • We were questioned at first, but an oath was taken and we’ve never been doubted since, even on the number of Battle-Brothers we have. We have also never given the Inquisition cause to look into our affairs, similar to the Grey Knights. They should be proud to be so much like us.

Okay, but this is all just a bunch of text, how can we make this briefer? With this:

‘Black Templars are an over zealous, fleet based Space Marine chapter from the second founding who cause concern to the Imperial Authorities by their independent ways and rumors of the immense numbers within their chapter, but by their energy in serving the Emperor and their long history of loyalty they remain unmolested by Inquisitors. They prefer close-ranged warfare using a shock assault of Drop Pods followed by Armored Columns striking where the enemy is weak. Refusing to use unnecessary psychers or follow the Codex Astartes, Black Templars are on an Eternal Crusade to mercilessly destroy the enemies of the Emperor.’

Did I leave anything out? I did ignore some small stuff, but nothing worth worrying about unless I wanted to include such trivia as their original chapter or the actual numbers of battle brothers. The important thing though, is did I add anything in? Not that I can see, but if anyone sees anything that shouldn’t be there, give a shout.

Okay, now what, if any, benefit can come from this beyond an exercise in typing for me? Well, not a whole lot actually. You could use my summation as a quick explanation of what the Black Templars are in their Fluff, or you could take it as your basis when deciding how to make your Crusade personalized (for example you could pick two or three things to add to the above, and there you go).

Possibly the best thing you could do is recognize that while there are many opinions about the Black Templars and few of them seem to match (we are one of the best Gunlines, we are one of the best Close Combat armies, we are Horde, we are best using Deep-Strike, we are best using a mix, etc.; all of which I have heard) there is a certain depth which you could get to from the codex. Once you go beyond that, you don’t have a whole lot of support. However, who reads the fluff more than once or twice? What about regularly?

Really, the codex isn’t a great read. The Crusades can be fun and exciting, but the main body of the codex is pretty bland (unless you are super-excited, like I was when I first got it). With this you can get a refresher that critically looks at various points in our codex. Hopefully that will be fixed with the new codex (and more attention given to the Crusades) and hopefully you have enjoyed these two articles.


  1. Well done, I have a few quibbles here and there about details, a lot of them about some of our traits as Black Templars actually fit quite well with our status as sons of Dorn and are shared to some extent by our fellow successors to the Imperial Fists. A bunch more are based on a conspiracy by Dorn, Sigismund and maybe others against Guilliman who they might well consider a traitor to the Emperor.

  2. Great summary Devjon, it really got to the core of what Templars are about. I particular enjoy the emphasis placed on crusades. There is a great deal more that could come out of those in terms of fluff. You said its not a great read, it could be alot more, yet do you have a favourite part?

  3. I would have to go with one of the Crusades, probably the Ophidium Gulf Crusade, but the Vinculus Crusade and the Age of Apostasy are runners up. The Ophidium Gulf does contain some of what I don't like about Space Marines (they find a bunch of planets that don't worship the Emperor, and so they begin a methodical destruction of their peoples), but it really brings up some exciting prospects, like, "where did this Black Power Armor come from?", and, "why are the Dark Angels looking for him?".

    I would like the Crusades to be taken in sort-of a direction that the Tyranid Fluff was, where each one demonstrates how the Black Templars dealt with different foes, details of heroic battles, descriptions of not only mighty beings but of mighty forces (and not that '3 Space Marines kill a thousand Orks' nonsense that has no actual representation in the game-play).

    When I read the Black Templars Crusades for the first time, I enjoyed it. When I read the Tyranid fluff for the first time, I was enthralled. Not by the Tyranids themselves, but by the descriptions. Against the Tau you it talks about how each race strove to out-evolve the other; against the Eldar you get inspiring details of how each force was evenly matched (and the part where the Avatar challenges the Swarmlord, who goes, "12 Carnifexes, LOL!"); and against the Ultramarines, there is no equal. I admit, I might be biased that there is tactical genius described, but it is just so much fun to read. If Black Templars could have that, we would be truly epic.