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Chapter as a society


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#1 Polaria

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 11:05 PM

I recently came to think about the serfs... Well, it all started when I looked at Space Marine Codex and found out a description of a Adeptus Astartes Destroyer which had the personnel capacity of 5 Marines and 150 Serfs. Now a ship of this size would be a perfect base of operations for a player-character strike team of 5 (or so) Marines.

Now, the other thing that really struck me there was the cheer amount of serfs aboard. Not that I didn't expect marines to have a huge population of serfs around (I actually pretty much expected there would be at least 20+ serfs for each full marine), but it actually got me thinking... The vast majority of any chapters population is composed of personnel who are not marines. Thus it makes sense that even though majority of the activities is aimed at keeping the 1000 (or less) borthers in fighting shape and gear the actual society of the chapter is serf-society. Its not like the marines even have much time to be around the fortresses and ships since they are urgently and constantly needed where serfs don't wander (in effect, in combat). So basically everything else except the actual tip-of-the-spear fighting is in the hand s of the serfs inducted to chapter cult.

Now, what I want to hear is your vision on serfs and bondsmen in marine chapters?

How they view the marines and how the marines see them?

How closely the serfs work with marines in day-to-day work?

How closely do they associate in the chapter-society?



#2 ThenDoctor

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Posted 28 June 2010 - 02:35 AM

this is actually a very interesting concept good find!

i woud think that the serfs have a much better than most idea about the space marines, their relationships with their personal marine must be very good for the marine to let them even near 3/4 of the things they would have to take care of, and the fact that a marine would probably get bored occasionally and tell the serfs about old war stories, who knows since marines live for so long the serfs may have long histories to a personal marine.

Their society i suppose would sort of be one of worship, i guess, they might worship their "angel of death" as a personal saint in a way, or if they are really on par with the marines they wouldn't venerate the emperor at all, as set down in his edict he isn't a god and his angels arent gods either. I dont think the marines worship the emperor anyways even if they do have chaplains.

the marines would also have to watch out for the serfs, if they anger them the serfs could possibly sabotage the marine, or worse start an uprising in the chapter and then the marines would have the larger problem of ever dwindling supplies to serfs that know and maintain the stuff and use it against them.

i would picture serfs as normal workers for a noble, when the marines are away they maintain their living quarters and possibly make appointments and such if needed (i doubt it though as the only people to be allowed to see marines have incredible sway in the first place) when the marines come back from a good old baddie fight they become butlers that do everything from getting food to cleaning armour or weaponry. Serfs could possibly be people that the marines are thinking of turning them into a marine as well so they pick up on the culture faster. (actually that makes a lot of sense now that i think about it)

The marines would probably see them as any other normal worker, treat them with respect and they will help you live another day. they wouldnt take any crap from them however and if you get a particularly angry marine they would go through serfs like slices of bread. the serfs would see them as a boss or stated earlier a saint.

day to day they would probably work with them occasionally like a butler would his lord. if they are candidates they would probably work a lot closer spending time going over the chapter history and their Index Astartes, and missions that they had been on.

Over time the serfs probably become one with the society protecting the honor of the chapter as a whole and their lord's honor fiercely. a serf from a Space Wolf wouldnt take crap at all from anyone, a blood angel's serf may get angry easily, an ultramarine's would know what to do and what not to do and always do the right think.

an interesting concept however would be that if the serf had enough sway over the marine and turned to chaos buwahahha


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#3 Tarkand

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Posted 28 June 2010 - 03:14 AM

The novel Rynn's World has quite a few Serf as character before the second act.

The Crimson Fists called their Serf 'Chosen'. They get to wear the colors of the chapter, they get to walk among the Astartes and can even talk to them on a rather informal basis. The Chosen get to see stuff that no normal human would ever be allowed to (Such as religious ceremonies and stuff). Individual Chosen are estimated enough to be able to develop friendship with individual Marines (i.e. Marines don't see them as Slaves or Cattle or what not :P) - Pedro Kantor himself (The Chapter Master) considered one of the Chosen a close friend.

After all, being a Chosen is an honor. When the planetary governor comes and visit, she is escorted by a Chosen and while the Chosen is polite and respectful, but so is the governor... as if being a Serf for the Crimson Fists makes you a peer with a Planetary Governor 0_o.

The contrast is rather sharp when you later see in the book how civilians and even nobles react to Space Marines... with awe, wonder and even a fair amount of fear... and what more, the Marines actually enforce this, because the rare human who will not kneel is usually made to kneel.

So being a Serf/Chosen to the Crimson Fist is pretty sweet to be honest. Yeah, you got to do a lot of hard work. But you're treated with honor and respect by the elite of the galaxy, get a roof to sleep under, good food and good medical care.

 


ThenDoctor said:

Their society i suppose would sort of be one of worship, i guess, they might worship their "angel of death" as a personal saint in a way, or if they are really on par with the marines they wouldn't venerate the emperor at all, as set down in his edict he isn't a god and his angels arent gods either. I dont think the marines worship the emperor anyways even if they do have chaplains.

They do, but the dogma of the Marines is quite different from the Dogma of the rest of the Imperium. The Marines see the Emperor and the Primarch as 'father figure' to follow because of duty and honor, not as gods to follow because of Divine Right.

ThenDoctor said:

i would picture serfs as normal workers for a noble, when the marines are away they maintain their living quarters and possibly make appointments and such if needed (i doubt it though as the only people to be allowed to see marines have incredible sway in the first place) when the marines come back from a good old baddie fight they become butlers that do everything from getting food to cleaning armour or weaponry. Serfs could possibly be people that the marines are thinking of turning them into a marine as well so they pick up on the culture faster. (actually that makes a lot of sense now that i think about it)

Well, in the book, the Chosen character is actually a failed Marines... he 'passed' the test, but his body rejected the genetic enhancement. So he was given a chance to serve has a Chosen.

However, keep in mind that SM recruit need to be:

1- Young enough for the gene-seed to take... I don't think they mention an actual age, but I believe you need to be in your Teen years to younger 20s.

2 - Already of hardy stock. Either having grown up on a Death World or as a brutal Hive Gang member or what not...

This means that taking the guy that's been shining power armor boots for the last 30 years and turning him into a Marines isn't really likely (if it's even possible).

 

 



#4 RenoDM

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Posted 28 June 2010 - 05:01 AM

I would definately picture serfs as throughly indoctrinated into Chapter dogma and tradition, as much so as the marines.  I think as a whole they would have a very monastic-like existance and most likely have no understanding of "standard" imperial creed or philosophy.  I would also think that the majority of serfs are born into that role from large extended families that have served the chapter for generations.  Most marines, potentially having lifespans in the centuries, may have been associated with generations of the same serf family, developing some sort of kinship with the family. 

I'd also think that very few serfs were former marine "candidates".  It just seems to me like most who come up short also come up dead.  In fact I doubt that the marines would even consider recruiting from their own servants, those people have been born and breed for a lifetime of service.  In addition to chapter rites and traditions I would think that the serf households would also develop many of their own rites, ones that focus on devout service moreso that warriorship.

Just a few ideas about serf duties and responsibilities (considering that at any given time a majority of the chapter's marines may be in the field):

  • Tending to the needs of individual marines.
  • Assisting the chapter chaplain, maybe as an acolyte of some sort.
  • Assisting the chapter librarian and working in the chapter's archives.
  • Assisting the chapter's apothecaries and tending to battle brothers recovering in "sick bay".
  • Assisting marines in the early stages of candidate training.  Senior serfs might even be responsible for teaching new recruits the history of the chapter and explaining the chapter's many traditions.
  • Working as archivists, recording the greatest deeds of the marines.
  • I think there might even be serfs who act as "professional mourners".  Constantly tending to the chapter's crypts and chanting the gloroius deeds of fallen marines.
  • Mundane duties such as cleaning up, preparing meals, preforming inventory, restocking and acquiring supplies, etc.  In fact I would think that a marine's day is so consumed by training and ritual that the serfs really do "everything" that allows the chapter to run (because the marines simply can't be destracted by such "secular" tasks and concerns.
  • I could see some "lesser warrior" types who are responsible for mundane soldier duties, such as guarding low-priority locations within the chapter's fortress monastery.  Of course these guys may still be more capable than an Imperial Stormtrooper!

Obviously you could draw a lot of inspiration from looking at the relationship between medival knight and his serfs, squires, and pages.  Just a thought; when I served in the Infantry, army doctrine maintained a ratio of around 50-to-1 non-combat soldiers to combat soldiers.  And sense I don't remember anyone cleaning up after me or drawing me a bath, I would think this ratio would go up to around 500-to-1 or even closer to 1000-to-1.

 



#5 Ranek7212

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Posted 28 June 2010 - 08:59 AM

Nice Ideas over all. I will say that most chapters most likely have many, many serfs. How they get them, ie failed marine prospect or serf households with long histories can be debated.

However in the Space Wolf Novels you do get some idea of how many serfs they have and what jobs those serfs do have.

In the books you find out that the Chapter uses Serfs in their fleet. That these serfs where Barbarian sailors on the seas of fenris before becoming a Sailor in the space navy of the Space Wolves. These Serfs run the ship and most have a captain who is a Serf as well. However they are considered Bondsmen of the Wolf, and a part of the Chapter. A valued part of the chapter. The Bondsmen captain is master of the ship. However he listens to the requests and orders of the Senior Space Marine Present. Still he orders the ship, weighs in on plans and battle tactics etc. Hell he can even speak his mind to a Space Wolf without worry of lossing his head, most of the time. As the Bondsmen are still considered Warriors of Fenris.

 

Now I do not believe that space wolves have Bondsmen in other areas. Why? Well all failed prospects at becoming Iron priests are turned into Servitors. All failed Prospects of becoming a Space Wolf are either dead (died in training) or become a Wulfen. Their are mentions of cooks and other servers at the great feasts and such, so these could be tribes men and women who are trusted. I do not believe that they have bondsmen taking care of their weapons and armor as in the books each space wolf did that himself, also I doubt a Space Wolf takes baths regularly. (reason for this is a wolf is used to the smell and stench of its fellows and helps him tell the mood of that person or brother. Also soap would add in another scent which he would have to mentally filter out)

The Space Wolves are a chapter who reveal in their freedom. Be this the freedom they had as honorable warrriors of fenris or as space wolves. They also defend common citizens and soldiers from other aspects of imperial society so long as those people are loyal to the imperium. I of course am making a ref. towards the first war for Armegadon(sp?).

In this Adventure if the Space Wolf doesnt confront the Planetary lord about running away and hidding while the rest of his loyal serfs die, then he is not a true space wolf. They hate cowards and those who would abbandon their comrades in arms, even if they are just guardsmen.



#6 Ariolan

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Posted 28 June 2010 - 10:45 AM

I pictured the serfs a little like the sergeants oin the Brethren trilogy of Robyn Young. The marines are the actual templars, and the serfs are manservants to them. The lexicanum, I believe, states that many of them are formidable fighters in their own right.

I cannot but imagine that there must be at least 20, but taken the steam-punky attitude of WH40K, more like 100, 1000 non-combattants to each Space Marine. Yes, a lot of work is done by servitors (that I picture a little like the undead from the Disney movie The Black Hole), but Chapters are ruling entire words- they must have personnel running in the hundreds of thousands (especially given the enormous populations required on their ships).

I guess it also boils down to how comfortable the GM is to make the player characters pretty much lords in a monastic order as opposed to grunts-

I find it a great storytelling device, and I find that my players end up being very protective of their underlings. Bold tales of servant loyality can be spun. I imagine that, in a way, the serfs must be close to children (the SM have this incredible perspective in time and space, whereas the serfs are mortals). This could also account for certain rules on how the serfs are deployed to prevent the SM from compromising their missions.

I gave all of my players the chance, now that we prepare of DW release, to have manservants that will accompany them from their home chapters. I felt it made them more aristocratic.

The relationship could be a little like the sterotypic wizard-apprentice one, or, as stated, like from the Brethren series.

Running a planet (the actual administration of it), fetching things, relaying messages, helping in and out of armor, supplying the marine  - all these are tasks for the personal serfs, with a lot of etiquette around what they can and can't do (touch weapons might be a ruthlessly punishable offense, a little Samurai flavor).

Of course the SM do everything themselves or have servitors do it - but then again, the Galactic Empire is supposed to hold these countless masses that do a lot of muscular work, so I vision serfs on the Watch Fortress manning the gate and opening it up as Moria in LOTR, under the command of two or three SM, I see them scurry around the training grounds, fetching towels, refreshments, carrying knocked-out scouts from the training to the medical bays, run errands with the chapter master's orders, asking Captain so-and-so to attend a meeting, opening a giant curtain in front of the observation deck's solar as the morning prayers commence, put myrrh and frankincense in the chapel, fetch stuff from the planetside, brew beer for the Space Wolves etc.

 

Anyway, just my random musings.



#7 Ranek7212

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Posted 28 June 2010 - 11:14 AM

We Brew our own beer! After all we can't have it taste like the Bud light that Smurfs drink. ;)



#8 Polaria

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Posted 28 June 2010 - 07:42 PM

I would imagine the social status of a serf is equal to feudal bondsman. In effect he or she cannot own anything and is him/herself "property" of the Chapter. However, as pointed out before, this would still put the serf into far better position than anyone outside the Chapter and it is likely that all successfull Chapters do treat their serfs quite well. Interesting point is also that serfs live their whole lives in chapter-fortresses or aboard chapters battle-barges, destroyersa dn other ships. Thus they do not really know much outside the Chapter anymore. As a matter of fact, given that Chapters can be thousands of years old institutions, I would imagine quite a few serfs are actually children of serfs themselves and raised to serfdom of their respective Chapter.

As for the combat-training several sources indicate that serfs are responsible for all shipboard operations except boarding enemy ships (which marines do) and pretty much everything in fortressess except attacking out of them (which marines do). This would pretty much mean that all shipboard weaponry and all fortressguns not operated by servitors or other automated systems would be manned by serfs and serfs would be expected to defend the fortresses and ships if they were breached. This would mean that quite a few serfs would have better training than average Imperial Guardsman if not the experience.

Brother Wooster: "Jeeves"

Serf Jeeves: "Yes sir"

Brother Wooster: "I am thinking of going hunting tyranids with my bolter today."

Serf Jeeves: "Very good sir. At what time would this hunting take place?"

Brother Wooster: "I would imagine after the night firing exercises are over."

Serf Jeeves: "May I remind you sir that you are scheduled to partake rituals of maintenance right after firing exercises."

Brother Wooster: "Rituals of Maintenance!?"

Serf Jeeves: "Yes sir. That would include cleaning the bolter fired during the actual firing exercises."

Brother Wooster: "Oh bugger. I think I must pass the Rituals of Maintenance and go hunt tyranids with bolt pistol while you clean up the bolter..."

Serf Jeeves: "May I suggest that you fire the bolt pistol in the night firing exercises and take the bolter to hunt the tyranids?"

Brother Wooster: "Splendid idea, Jeeves. I shall go hunting the tyranids with my bolter after firing my bolt pistol in nightly firing exercises."

Serf Jeeves: "Very good sir."

Brother Wooster: "With hellfire rounds."

Serf Jeeves: "But of course sir."

After which serf Jeeeves goes to explain the Master of the Forge how Brother Wooster cannot personally take part in Rituals of Maintenance at said hour today because he has been ordered to hunt tyranids by the chapter master. A small lie, yes, but what wouldn't a loyal serf do for his master.



#9 ThenDoctor

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Posted 29 June 2010 - 12:37 AM

Polaria said:


After which serf Jeeeves goes to explain the Master of the Forge how Brother Wooster cannot personally take part in Rituals of Maintenance at said hour today because he has been ordered to hunt tyranids by the chapter master. A small lie, yes, but what wouldn't a loyal serf do for his master.

only then Jeeeves is executed for lying about what a chapter master said...


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#10 Baradiel

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Posted 29 June 2010 - 06:57 AM

I think it would depend on the chapter itself.  Judging from the character of the Iron Hands and Ultramarines, something tells me their serfs are treated differently.

I also think the rank and standing of individual serfs and space marines.  I could totally see and old, grizzled armorer yelling at a newly inducted brother to hold still while he tries to get the measurments for his new armor.

There is also a lot of potential in RPing the interactions of serfs and brothers.  I am thinking of the interactions between James Bond and the guy who makes all his gadgits.  "Do try to bring the armor back in one piece, sir.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a size 29 shoulderpad?






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