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Ariolan

Space Marine chain of command - galactic level

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Hello there, to all the experts in WH40K fluff.

The chapter structure looks very logical to me. However, while designing our future campaign, I find myself hard-pressed for facts on the command structure of the chapters themselves. Who tells a Space Marine Chapter what to do ? Does the Chapter Master get a say in those assignments ? How are conflicts resolved at the upper level ?

 

Thanks very much for an answer and some creative prose how these things should, then, actually work.

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to all intends and purposes it is the chapter master who decides what the marines under his command do. they are beholden only to the emperor who hasn't gotten his lazy ass off his throne in millenia. they will give more consideration to a request from a source such as the high lords and certain trusted inquisitors over say a planetary governer but in the end the one person who decides is mr chapter master.

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 The Adeptus Astartes (Space Marines) on paper answer only to the Emperor Himself. As Drake56 said, He's been a bit busy being kept on the edge of death upon the golden throne for the last forever. Any governer, lord general, Inquisitor, other Chapter Master, senior Magos of the Mechanicus can submit a request for aid to a Chapter Master. The High Lords of Terra, the Inquisition, other chapters; these are the sources that are likely to receive swift and forceful responses and help. Whether an Inquisitor can order a Chapter is a politically difficult question, it all depends on the orders, the relationship the Chapter has with the Inquisition, that branch of the Inquisition and the Inquisitor personally. In theory the High Lords of Terra speak for the Emperor, so a 'request' from them is an order from Him; 99% of the time a Chapter will obey, sometimes slowly, sometimes with what they feel to be an appropriate commitment rather than what was requested; sometimes, a Chapter will ignore or 'not receive' these 'requests'; it all depends on the Chapter and it's state of affairs at the time.

Of course the Deathwatch and the Greyknights are Space Marines who, in the case of the Deathwatch, are temporarily, or, in the case of the Grey Knights, are always, under the command of the Ordo Xenos (Deathwatch) or the Ordo Malleus (Greyknights). Other Chapters have differing philosophies on cooperation. The Dark Angels are a secretive bunch, cruising the Galaxy on their fortress-homeworld-starship; whereas the Ultramarines are a numerous, poster-child, photogenic chapter, always at the forefront and ready to help.

Then you have the successor chapters, the chapters who, when the Legions were disbanded after the Horus Heresy, are the successor chapters of the chapters from the first founding; an example:

First Founding: Blood Angels

Second Founding: Angels Encarmine, Angels Sanguine, Angels Vermillion, Blood Drinkers, Flesh Tearers

The chapters from the Second Founding (and there have been many, many, foundings: the latest recorded founding being the 26th [White Dwarf 98 / Index Astartes: Emperor's Shield]) or later have strong ties to their parent chapters. Many with oaths of fealty and kinship. In the case of the Blood Angels the successor chaptors were recently ordered recalled, to tithe Marines back to the Blood Angels after a particularly costly series of engagements that would have left the Blood Angels at the brink of dissolution. It's entirely likely that the other First Founding chapters have similar standing orders and traditions that let the Chapter Masters of the First Founding compel Marines, material or other forms of aid from their successor chapters.

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It sort of depends if you are asking about how the Deathwatch organisation works, or more "normal" Space Marine Chapters. The unique way that the Deathwatch operates in means they work totally unlike any other Space Marine Chapter.

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Thanks drake56 and idDoomer, that was very helpful and it is clear to me know,

it also fits the idea of vastness and ancient bindings etc.

I think I like the description of 'doomer a lot on how the chapters actions are subject to very relative political relationships, that goes very well with the general feel of the universe.

 

Thansk for the input !

 

Ariolan

 

 

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 At the end of the day, it is a vast empire of interconnected organisations dependant on each other. The Astartes protect the Imperium from it's enemies. The Adeptus Mechanicus supply them with arms, armour and training their Techmarines. The Astropaths, the navigators, provide guidance through the Warp, and their guilds must be kept mollified. The merchant navy supplies some of the homeworlds with food, prometheum, and other supplies. The Impetial Navy, Imperial Guard and the Adeptus Titanticus provide weight of numbers and massive firepower; more often than not providing cover for the Astartes to go where they can't and provide the tipping point for an engagement. The Inquisition guards the Imperium, and by extension, the Astartes from Heretics, Mutants, Aliens, Traitors and many other threats that could destabilize any one part of this finely balanced monolithic organisation.

Yes, the Astartes could, and some chapters do, operate entirely self sufficient, but as a general rule, they need the Imperium as much as the Imperium needs them. If for no other reason than, at the very core of their being, they have surrendered their humanity in the name of the defence of humanity. It is the entire reason for their creation.

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honestly i think the astartes only help those they have ties to. if they have say a forge world, a few recruiting worlds, and a chapter world they only hold allegiance to the High Lords because they dont need anyone else to survive and they are the emperor's will no one else's

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ThenDoctor said:

honestly i think the astartes only help those they have ties to. if they have say a forge world, a few recruiting worlds, and a chapter world they only hold allegiance to the High Lords because they dont need anyone else to survive and they are the emperor's will no one else's

 

That really depends on the chapter.

Many of the Ultramarine's successor chapters are very loyal to both their founders and the Imperium as a whole.  The Space Wolves tend to disregard requests for aid from any source higher in authority than a planetary governor unless there are already good relations.  Hell, they've even gone to "war" against the Ecclesiarchy on more than one occasion.  There have been numerous reported instances of Astartes responding to a call for help where none were expected to be near, this seems especially common among the Fleet-bound chapters.

The thing to remember is that the Imperium is ultimately a massive feudal system with complicated oaths and ties of faith, fealty, and friendship.

-=Brother Praetus=-

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Brother Praetus said:

 

ThenDoctor said:

 

honestly i think the astartes only help those they have ties to. if they have say a forge world, a few recruiting worlds, and a chapter world they only hold allegiance to the High Lords because they dont need anyone else to survive and they are the emperor's will no one else's

 

 

 

That really depends on the chapter.

Many of the Ultramarine's successor chapters are very loyal to both their founders and the Imperium as a whole.  The Space Wolves tend to disregard requests for aid from any source higher in authority than a planetary governor unless there are already good relations.  Hell, they've even gone to "war" against the Ecclesiarchy on more than one occasion.  There have been numerous reported instances of Astartes responding to a call for help where none were expected to be near, this seems especially common among the Fleet-bound chapters.

The thing to remember is that the Imperium is ultimately a massive feudal system with complicated oaths and ties of faith, fealty, and friendship.

-=Brother Praetus=-

 

 

Keeping the feudal model in mind is very helpful when considering the way Marine Chapters work.  Most Chapters are going to have oaths and agreements that bind them to certain worlds, or certain factions within other Imperial organizations.  For instance a Chapter might have close ties with a forge world that produces their weapons and equipment.  They also may have made commitments to certain worlds they use for recruiting.  Similarly they may have oaths of friendship with certain Inquisitors.  Such relationships will take precedence within the overall duties of a Chapter versus some random agriworld sending out a distress signal (not to say they would ignore such a thing, but that they would if something more "important" was afoot)..

Ultimately a Chapter is mostly autonomous.  In particular, fleet-based Chapters are going to be free to do whatever they want as the Imperium will rarely know where they are to even begin to order them around. 

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Brother Praetus said:

There have been numerous reported instances of Astartes responding to a call for help where none were expected to be near, this seems especially common among the Fleet-bound chapters.

The other thing about fleets is that FTL travel through the Warp is not by any means a science in the 41st millennium.  Even with the Astropath's beacon, ships sometimes get lost.  Showing up in a radically different place or time than they expected.  Traveling from point A to point B isn't always going to take a constant amount of time in this universe, which is one of the most compelling aspects of the fluff side to me.  Perhaps an Astartes fleet will arrive and find they aren't where they thought, so they lend a hand in the name of the Emperor anyway.  Or perhaps they think the planet they're assisting is their original destination when it isn't (or it is but it's hundreds of years later/earlier than the original distress call that brought them there.)

Things can get pretty mixed up out there in the deep.  Politics can and do bear strong motivations on what a Chapter Master decides to do, but once a ship is launched it may or may not actually ever get where it was going.  A certain amount of the actions any chapter takes is ultimately random chance and targets of opportunity.

I'm not saying it's always a crap shoot, of course.  Obviously space travel must have a reasonable success rate, otherwise things for the Imperium would be even more chaotic than they already are.  I'm just saying, random fleets can and do show up out of nowhere and I find it fun to think about how that influences a story or a battle.

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miss dee said:

The Ecclesiarchy started it by 'Invading' thier space. And the space wolves blew them out of the sky.

 

I presume we are both referring to the events of 886.M41 and 887.M41, Miss Dee?  When a Quorum of Ecclesiarchy officials came to "inspect and assess" the Space Wolves on the grounds of suspected "paganism."  And then the ensuing three weeks of battle a year later when the Wolves forced the Ecclesiarchy and three Orders of the Adepta Sororitas to withdraw after trying to force their way into Fenrisian space?

There's a reason I like my Space Puppy-Vikings.  gran_risa.gif

For more information on the events described, the curious are asked to please refer to the current iteration of Codex: Space Wolves, page 19.  Thank you.

-=Brother Praetus=-

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You know, the idea of a multi-chapter/galactic level command structures for the Marines is an interesting one.

There is no real fluff about post-heresy structures of this type, other than ad-hoc command structures that are temporarily formed around particularly influential or respected Chapter Masters. For example, during the Armageddon conflict, Chapter master Dante of the Blood Angels was given field command of all Astartes forces, and Logan Grimnar of the Space Wolves was given the same honour in the 13th Black Crusade.  

So basically, what seems to happen is that where there are conflicts large enough to involve multiple chapters, a single commander will be appointed for the duration of that campaign. It's clear however that unusually independent chapters probably won't pay too much attention to this structure: the Dark Angels tend to do what the hell they want, and the Relictors notoriously failed to follow any instructions from Logan Grimnar during the Black Crusade.

But what if a particularly respected, charismatic...DANGEROUS Marine Chapter Master actively sought to create stronger, permanent bonds between chapters? What if he was looking to create a tiered structure of cooperative pacts during peacetime? Perhaps he starts to create overlapping treaties of mutual defence and obligation between chapters, a bit like the treaties which inevitably led to World War One? Such a chapter master, if devious, could end up embroiling multiple chapters in what is, in effect, a chain of command, with him at the top. 

This is, to some extent, what happened with the Badab War: multiple chapters appeared to turn against the Imperium in order to defend a single chapter, led by Lufgt Huron, later known as the Tyrant of Badab. So this stuff happens...

It would no doubt be of great interest to the Inquisition therefore to learn of such ties between chapters. If united, the Adeptus Astartes are the most powerful military force in the Imperium. Who knows how many attempts have been made by individual Chapter Masters to create such a network of bonds between chapters? Perhaps some of them actually had good intentions, but many of them equally would be power hungry or tainted in some way.

Establishing the fact of the creation of such ties between chapters, discovering the motives for such alliances and then acting in order to sever such ties (perhaps by assassinating a particularly ambitious chapter master) would make a brilliant Ascension level Dark Heresy/Deathwatch crossover campaign, involving high level intrigue, politics, dangerous investigations and conflict on a massive scale....gui%C3%B1o.gif    

   

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 It would no doubt be of great interest to the Inquisition therefore to learn of such ties between chapters. If united, the Adeptus Astartes are the most powerful military force in the Imperium. 

They aren't. United, all the Astartes chapters would be one million (ok, possibly a few more due to certain chapters ignoring the "1000 and no more" restriction) supersoldiers. Without corresponding Guard regiments and Navy flotillas, that means almost nothing - an Imperial Crusade would simply bury them in numbers.

A crusade supported by most of the Chapters, now that would be something to watch out for...

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Cifer said:

 

United, all the Astartes chapters would be one million (ok, possibly a few more due to certain chapters ignoring the "1000 and no more" restriction) supersoldiers. Without corresponding Guard regiments and Navy flotillas, that means almost nothing - an Imperial Crusade would simply bury them in numbers.

A crusade supported by most of the Chapters, now that would be something to watch out for...

 

 

This is true in sense, but also highly unlikely.

Chapters themselves are frightfully short on actual main-line warships. Yes, they have enough to transport themselves and a huge number of serfs around and bomb planets into black-an'-crispy, but if you compare the amount of battleships, destroyers and frigates an average chapter has you quickly notice that simple sub-sector fleet is well capable of shooting the whole chapter into atoms before they ever get anywhere near a planet... However, and this is the big thing:

Most people worship their local Adeptus Astartes chapter.

Yep, they really do. They are Emperors children and have the Emperors (indirect) permission to throw their weight around. They have their own worlds. This, together with the feudal obligations which are at the core of the Imperial system of governing huge galaxy, the instance where a single space marine chapter is alone with only their own chapter resources to count on is rare... At bare minimum you can count the imperial navy squadrons and Imperial Regiments of the chapters homeworld to be "theirs" for all intents and purposes. More realistically half of the sub-sector is easily at chapters call if they choose to use them.

Thus if several chapters combine their forces they WILL have their Crusade if they wish. Which is exactly why Inquisition tends to banish Chapters and declare them heretic/rebellious rather than taking them on with Imperial Crusade. Going against a chapter on its home turf is highly suicidal unless you have to be a Tyranid Hivefleet. What Inquisition can do is label a Chapter heretic and see if they run. Most chapters do. Those very few that didn't were soon buried by other Adeptus Astartes chapters.

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Cifer said:

 

They aren't. United, all the Astartes chapters would be one million (ok, possibly a few more due to certain chapters ignoring the "1000 and no more" restriction) supersoldiers. Without corresponding Guard regiments and Navy flotillas, that means almost nothing - an Imperial Crusade would simply bury them in numbers.

A crusade supported by most of the Chapters, now that would be something to watch out for...

 

 

Hmmm...endlessly debatable. Crusades, consisting as they do largely of the Navy and the Imperial Guard, lack the mobility of the Marines.

I'd agree that Marines would have difficulty holding large areas of territory, but against a large, say, Guard army, they could pretty much strike at will, using their superior air power and rapid transport capability to conduct lightning raids against command units, crippling the chain of command and supply lines.

Against Naval vessels they might have difficulties in full scale "ship of the line" style conflict, but Marines have repeatedly shown their ability to tie down and inflict disproportionate casualties against larger fleets using carefully planned ambushes, raids, boarding actions and cutting out assaults.   

But all this is slightly off topic: I think we can all agree that the Astartes are an elite force! And although there are only a million of them, if they pooled their resources they could achieve great and terrible things. 

My point is (I guess) that the current system of checks and balances within the Imperium is designed to ensure that Marines only pool their resources in certain very limited situations. The Imperium doesn't want large standing armies of Marines: they want small, elite units of roughly 1,000, spread throughout the Imperium, near potential "flash points" to use as a rapid reaction force. And they don't want Marines getting ideas into their heads about accruing any more power than this. They want Chapter Masters who are obsessed with duty and honour.

But in terms of a roleplaying campaign, wouldn't it be fun to have a Chapter Master who isn't in fact so obsessed with duty and honour, but is instead clever, cunning and patient, and greedy for power? A colossal intellect who has somehow slipped under the radar (Modar?), and who lacks the absolute faith necessary for a senior servant of the Emperor? An individual cunning enough to, over centuries, create a web of treaties and pacts with neighbouring chapters that tie them into supporting him in even the most heinous actions, in order to honour their obligations? And wouldn't it be cool to be the Inquisitorial agents who discover this? Or the Deathwatch Marines sent at short notice to capture/kill him?    happy.gif      

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Interestingly enough, this sort of higher than chapter command does exist in practice. For example, it could be argued that in terms of the hunt for the Fallen, the Dark Angels and their successors never stopped acting as a Legion. There's also the case in the latest Blood Angels codex when Dante calls all the Blood Angels successors to aid the defence of Baal due to a daemonic incursion of unpredicted proportions.

A very real question is the amount of pull Marneus Calgar, the current Chapter Master has over all of the Ultramarines successor chapters (the vast majority of all space marine chapters). While there might be a few who would buck any direct summons (such as the Mortifactors, who have diverged dramatically from the legacy of Gulliman).

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Yes, this is very true, Lucifer216. If Marneus Calgar were to turn out to be a "stealth Heretic" like Lufgt Huron, the Imperium would be in very real difficulties... If he has the same degree of influence over even a quarter of the Ultramarines successor chapters as Dante and Azrael have over the Blood Angels and Dark Angels successor chapters, then Marneus is probably one of the most powerful men (supermen?) in the Imperium. 

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