On the outlining of an IA
After you have conceived of a concept and some ideas for your Chapter, you should write an outline. I say this as though you have a choice, but I'm being misleading. You will
make an outline. Outlines are wonderful. They allow you to plan out the entire IA without actually writing the IA, force you to think about your ideas, and allow quick and easy critique which produces solutions that are quickly and easily implemented. At this stage, new ideas are easy to incorporate if people offer them. Make an outline. On the art of the outline
The point where an outline stops being an outline and starts being a first draft is, at least for me, often somewhat nebulous. I've had entire sections written while other sections were still point form notes. That's not necessarily a bad thing. What an outline does is put your ideas into the format and terms of an IA, and force you to look at the thing as a whole. Lots of people begin an IA at the beginning, and end up with thousands and thousands of words before they're out of the first section. Lots of people start writing a particular section, then write another section, then another, all without any apparent plan or cohesion, and the damn thing never gets finished.
Begin your outline as brief notes within an IA structure (a section for general notes at the end is not a bad idea, either). I recommend working in Wordpad, that most versatile of word processors. Attach the concerns and queries you may have about each note to that note. Then start looking at empty sections, and ask yourself what your other notes imply. They need not imply anything, of course. But go through this nonetheless, and create a network of interrelated notes that stretch across several different sections. Once you have this, you have the beginnings of a cohesively expressed theme. If you have more than one aspect to your Chapter's theme (the Space Wolves are both Vikings and
werewolves, for example), make sure to do this with both. Do this until you feel you are beginning to get a good picture of the Chapter (and don't worry about things like sidebars yet). At that point, I'd recommend posting your outline and notes for critique and advice, along with a prospective color scheme. If you do so, act upon that advice until
you get a fairly final outline. Then begin writing. If you don't do so, begin writing immediately (but you may be making a mistake). But writing the IA proper is another section. Tearing down that which you have built
It is important to always maintain a certain willingness to set a match to the entire thing and begin anew. You do not ever have to do
this, but you should do your best to remain objective about what you're doing. It is never too late to reevaluate what you're working on. This is especially important in the outlining stage, where you should expect to see your vision of the IA change several times in varying degrees. The outlining stage is the best time for this, because it is simple and easy to make large changes. Always ask yourself if you really want this detail or concept, or if it's holding you back, and whether the IA would be better if you removed it or changed it. Follow the format
When outlining, it makes sense to follow the established GW IA format - after all, that's what you're setting out to write. The GW IA format is fairly flexible (though I tend to end up using the same one over and over). Of the twenty-three IAs GW has produced (eighteen Legions, three Second Founding, two others), this is generally how the format works (at least for the purposes of outlining - an actual IA has a few little touches that aren't necessary for outlining).
The Origins section is invariably first, but beyond that IA format is fairly variable. Of GW's IAs, the Emperor's Children, Ultramarines, Iron Warriors, World Eaters, Salamanders, Thousand Sons, Dark Angels, Death Guard, Word Bearers, Raven Guard, Alpha Legion, Crimson Fists, Blood Ravens, White Scars and Black Legion all use the same format: Origins, Home World, Combat Doctrine, Organisation, Beliefs, Gene-seed and Battle-cry. They vary from this only in whether or not they have Later History sections between Origins and Home World and how many of those sections they have (and that seems to have less to do with length and a lot more to do with whether the author in question felt that breaking up his wall of historical text with some nice titles was a good aesthetic decision).
Five of the remaining eight IAs have only the most minor of differences. The Black Templars use the above-mentioned format, but retitle the Battle-cry section Chapter Motto and have a pronouncedly long section on history after their Motto section. The Iron Hands lack a Battle-cry section. The Night Lords have no Organisation section. The Flesh Tearers have no Beliefs section. The Relictors stick a Later History section in between Combat Doctrine and Organisation. Thus, twenty of twenty-three IAs basically follow the same format.
The remaining three are the Imperial Fists, the Space Wolves, and the Blood Angels. The Imperial Fists omit Home World, Organisation and Beliefs - and this is to the detriment of the IA. Omitting one section is arguably justifiable, but omitting three just makes it look like you got lazy - especially when they are Home World and Beliefs, two of the areas which can give us the most insight into the Chapter's character and the most color to their background. The Space Wolves use a latter order of Organisation, Gene-seed, Beliefs, Combat Doctrine, then Battle-cry. It works well enough, and demonstrates that reorganizing the format is not necessarily bad (the Space Wolves IA's flaws lie in other areas). The Blood Angels switch to a final order of Battle-cry, Beliefs, Gene-seed, presumably saving the details of the Black Rage for the end. Personally, I think they should have left Battle-cry out, since it breaks the flow of the IA, but otherwise the choice made sense.
As you can see, there is a fairly defined format for IAs - but there is also room for change. Omitting a section or two is permissible, as is moving one or two around. Personally, I usually use a format of Origins, Later History, Home World, Beliefs, Combat Doctrine, Organisation, Gene-seed, Battle-cry. This packs the "this is the Chapter" information into a solid block, leaving the end free for a sprinkling of details and a solid finish with a Battle-cry that ties in well with the Chapter's nature. There are other ways to do it - generally, doing whatever works best for presenting the information in a rational and interesting order is what is ideal. Just don't move Origins around. The Chapter Name
Despite what I said above, in many ways the first section is the Chapter Name. It is, after all, part of the title. Chapter names take four forms – the unduly-mocked adjective-noun (Stone Hearts, Iron Hands, Doom Eagles), the Blanks of X (the Sons of Orar, Angels of Absolution), the X Chapter (Aurora Chapter, Genesis Chapter, Mentor Legion) and the less-common one-word (Marauders, Rampagers, Praetors of Orpheus (Orpheus is their home world
. They're the Praetors who live on Orpheus
)). It should be noted that the Blanks of X is basically adjective-noun turned around so it sounds better.
All of these have their merits and disadvantages. The important thing is that the Chapter name is often used to encapsulate the Chapter's character in a nutshell – Space Wolves? Space Werewolves. Blood Angels? Angels with a thing for blood. Dark Angels? Allusion to a poem about a deep, dark secret. Angels of Absolution? Dark Angels who believe they are absolved of spiritual guilt for the Fallen. It's fine to just choose something you like the sound of, but a name that says something about the chapter's character is another opportunity to present the themes of your chapter and draw the reader's interest. Your choice of name is either the first or second thing people will encounter about your Chapter (the other is your color scheme). You should put as much thought into it as any other aspect of your IA. There's Nothing Wrong With Adjective-Noun
Adjective noun takes a lot of stick from some quarters. Nonetheless, it's my favorite kind of Chapter name. It's simple, it's effective, and it admirably gives you immediate insight into the Chapter's theme. It's better at this than other methods because it also let's you have more than one theme while it's doing that – the Marauders may maraud, but the Blood Angels are about both blood and
angelicness. You can present your chapter to the reader and create three impressions – that of the adjective, that of the noun and that of the two together.
The Blood Angels, to really harp on this example, demonstrate their angelic nature (with Angels), their obsession with blood (with, well, Blood), and their nature as ravening forces of destruction who really like jump packs (with Blood Angels). 'Ice Lords' demonstrates the cold of their home world, their duty, and the loneliness of Taramant and company (Ice), while also demonstrating their relationship with the people (Lords). The two together create impressions that they are either cold and detached (which nicely covers one faction of the Chapter) or that they have somehow mastered the cold (which, assuming it's a metaphorical cold representing duty, covers the other). The Dark Angels set up expectations of perfection with Angels, counter it with expectations of secrecy and mistrust with Dark, and as the rounded Dark Angels exemplify the inherent danger of their allegiance. As can be seen from these examples, adjective-noun is a good way to show off a Chapter's character and subtly (or not-so-subtly) give people an impression of what they will be like.
Using a one word Chapter name gives you the same opportunities, though in a slightly more limited fashion which is arguably balanced by the ability to stand out by having a more unique name. However, using one word Chapter names can often result in the use of a word that could also be used in the traditional "Adjective-noun" arrangement - the Marauders, as mentioned above, are a good example. I feel this is to be avoided. For better or worse, people who make the Iron Marauders, or Red Marauders, or what have you, are going to be associated with the Second Founding White Scars successor. While your DIY Chapter will presumably be less famous than that, I find that I thus prefer it when people use particularly esoteric names when creating a single-name Chapter - it feels more reasonable within the shared universe. The Castigators, for example, suit this purpose admirably - the name lends itself poorly to adjectives, and is nice and long to further discourage it. While the Hounds and the Red Hounds and the Hounds of Deimos could all co-exist, it would feel a little weird for them all to be in the same universe, and so I recommend that single-word names be long and esoteric, for the good of everyone (and so you stand out).
If you must
have a fairly generic one word name (like, say, Praetors), I recommend sticking the home world on the end of it. First, it gives the name a little more heft - most generic terms are fairly short, and thus having the extra syllables give the name a certain something it might otherwise lack. And second, it avoids possible confusion issues later on - all to the good.
Thus, once you have chosen a Chapter name that fits your ideas well (or that you like), it is time to move on to the actual outlining. Origins
The 'Origins' section is less than inventively named. Nonetheless, it is important – a poor Origins section can turn people against the rest of an IA (assuming they stick around to see it after a poor Origins section, of course).
Traditionally, the Origins section deals with when the Chapter was founded, how, why, and possibly who the Chapter's original leaders were, as well as some of the Chapter's early history up to and including how they got to be the way they are today. The home world is often introduced here, as well. It will then usually then set up the information needed for the next section of the Chapter's history. The Origins section can be as long or as short as is necessary to do this, depending on how important the Chapter's founding was to its modern identity and on how much the individual author likes coming up with additional section titles.
A good Origins section hits the above points in a relatively creative fashion and strives to make a very old formula new again (which can be very, very difficult). Be aware that people have seen much of this before – one Chapter's founding is much like another. There are two options to take – move past as quickly as possible to get to the interesting parts, or try and add interesting and (relatively) unique details to make the more repetitive elements palatable to the jaded Liber-ite. Both are valid, and I have used both in my time with varying degrees of success (I recommend the first, unless the founding details are particularly important to the Chapter's current form). The important thing is not to bore the reader with repetitive details of a Chapter founding that are common to every single Chapter ever founded. Move past these, and get to the bits that make the Chapter unique.
Usually, the closing paragraph(s) of the Origins section either lead into the next section, generally by introducing the influential characters, places and events of the Chapter's later history and setting the stage for what they will do, or by simply tying up the Chapter's story in preparation for the introduction of the Chapter's Home World or some other section of import.
Remember: if a Chapter's founding is not important to its modern character, do not be afraid to skip over such information and begin dealing directly with the events that shaped the Chapter into its modern form. Advice for that sort of thing and what will be expected is dealt with in the next section – just be aware that you can deal with it here. You don't need ten thousand years of history
There is no need for your Chapter to be a a lost member of the Second Founding, or Third Founding. The entirety of recorded human history spans less than ten thousand years - you will be using several thousand words at a maximum in your IA. Not only is that much time not necessary, it could not be fully utilized even in the best of circumstances, which less than one word per year most certainly is not. Make your chapter part of an early founding only if it's necessary
. Otherwise, just be part of some other Founding. You weren't founded to face the scourges of the galaxy
First, there are an incredible variety of threats to the Imperium - claiming a Chapter was founded to face a specific one is a little odd. It would seem more reasonable for a Chapter to be founded to secure a specific region. But far more important is that your Chapter was not founded to deal with the Tyranids, the Necrons or the Tau. All of these threats have arisen very recently - after
the most recent Space Marine Founding (the 26th, in 765.M41). Thus, your Chapter was not created to deal with those threats. Devastate your chapter uniquely
Devastating the chapter and having them try to deal with the effects is a versatile and powerful storytelling tool, commonly used in the Origins when explaining why a Chapter is now the way it is. It is also done unto death, for exactly that reason. Everyone uses it, and it's completely understandable. Just remember that everyone does this when you're writing your IA, and devote an appropriate amount of effort to ensuring it stands out.
There are two obvious ways to do this – either have a unique cause, or a unique effect. Both is, as always, preferable. Fully explore the disaster and what it meant to the Chapter. What happened? Why? What effect did it have upon the home world? How did the Chapter approach dealing with the problem? Did they try more than one solution? Did they ask for outside help? Why did they do what they did? Was that the best solution available? If it was, why? If it wasn't, why'd they choose that one? The unique character of the Chapter is what will make this old, old chestnut anything close to new – make sure that it is allowed to take center stage.
Of course, in many cases, the devastating event is often the means by which change comes about for a Chapter – what gives them their unique character. And equally often, that is because of the unique reaction proposed by one single, charismatic figure within the Chapter. Which brings us to our next point. Jesus was derivative
If the New Testament were an IA, it'd be one of the least original ever (OK, it'd be one of the first and so that would be forgivable. And either Christianity or 40K would be very different. Work with me here). Everyone's wandering along, minding their own business, when suddenly, a Single Charismatic Figure appears, sweeping all before him and totally remaking the way Things Are Done. Then he gets nailed to a tree, and things get a little morose.
Still, the point is that a single person reshaping an existing system is far older than GW, and GW used it to death as well. The (usually) first Chapter Master who totally revolutionized the Chapter is not a new concept. Thus, much like a devastating event, it must be approached carefully.
The important thing is that he not be a deus ex machina, brought in to reshape your Chapter and having no character beyond that. Give him motivations. Give him quirks. Give him reasons. If an IA is going to focus on a single character, he needs to, well, be a character. Give him a story in a sidebar. Give him some quotes – preferably one at the first of the IA. And make them interesting and unique. When he does whatever exciting thing he's going to do, make sure to explore it fully and explain why
he did it. For best results, use a bit of foreshadowing earlier in the IA – make his character clear, then
show us the consequences of it.
Remember – if he is the first Chapter Master, he was likely chosen by his parent Chapter to mentor these new recruits. That means he will in all likelihood be an exemplar of that Chapter's doctrine and likely think the way they do. If he does not, it must be explained why he would be chosen for this great honor in spite of this.
If your single charismatic figure is dealing with some devastating event, make sure his character was well-established before the event and make sure that both he and the event are well-explained. Think through their interactions carefully – is this how he would react to this event? Why would he react this way? Is this different from the way other Space Marines would react? If so, why is he different from other Space Marines? As always, think it through
. Later History
This can actually be more than one section, but all are much the same. This covers, well, the Chapter's later history up to the present day. Often, one encounters the dilemma of events taking place on a home world that has not yet been introduced – bite the bullet and introduce as much detail as is necessary for the events in question, but save everything else for the Home World section. They usually follow from the Origins section, and are rarely named Later History - instead, they get meaningful names which allude to the contents of the section in a fashion which will be deliciously ironic once we finish reading the section and/or hints to the contents of said section.
It should be noted, for added weight, that this section is not necessary
. Use it if you need it. Indeed, at the outline stage, you should not yet need it - your story should not be so complicated that it cannot all fit into the Origins section when expressed in point form. Nonetheless, I explain this section here for completeness.
Generally, if an IA has a plot, it really gets going here. Remember – be unique. Every Space Marine chapter will fight great and decisive battles throughout the Imperium. Unless there is something particularly unique which takes place in them that is critical to the Chapter's development, there is no
need to describe every engagement of your Chapter in this section - indeed, you may not need this section at all. You especially do not need paragraph long descriptions of each thrust of your Chapter Master's power weapon. Use this section to explore the relatively recent events that have made your Chapter what they are today, if any, or to further the story you began in the Origins. Explain the character of the people who were involved and the nature of the places (except the home world, as previously mentioned). Then, bring events up to the modern day and use the rest of the IA to explain how things are now in relation to the various sections (with occasional reference to how things were historically in relation to each of the various sections). It's traditional to stop just before or just after something exhilarating happens to the Chapter, allowing people to either dream of how exciting the hinted at event will be or how horrifying the hinted at consequences will be.
The rest of the IA is sections dedicated to specific aspects of the Chapter's character. Any information not directly related to one of those sections which must be included in the IA for a proper understanding of the Chapter should be dealt with here, if possible. The only exception I can think of are things directly related to the Chapter's history whose inclusion in the main text would somehow hurt the overall tone of the IA. Anything of that nature would work well in a sidebar in this section (or in Origins). An obvious example would be the secret of the Ice Lords, which is dealt with in a sidebar in the History section. This presents the information to the reader but doesn't interrupt an otherwise fairly normal account of a Chapter's history with a prolonged tale about a bunch of Fallen Angels and their skulduggery. While it is important to an understanding of the Chapter, it did not fit well in the progression of the Chapter history – so to a sidebar it went.
The important thing to remember about an IA plot is that it generally doesn't end – they usually stop just before or just after a climax, leaving either the eventual conflagration or the consequences of the just-happened conflagration to the imagination of the reader, but with lots of dark hints that it'll be awful and terrible. Home World
The Home World section can be of varying degrees of importance to an IA. If the Chapter in question is fleet-based, this space can often be used to talk about the recruitment planets used by the Chapter.
Exploring a home world can be tricky. Most people simply pick a geographical quirk or culture they like and run with it, and there's nothing wrong with that (though exploring it in too much detail can be dangerous – no one reads IAs for physics, chemistry, biology or history lessons. Equally, the people who read in-progress IAs for fun often have too much knowledge of one or more of the above, and an annoying tendency to notice flaws in your portrayal).
Simply grabbing an ancient culture, smacking them down on a death world and knocking off for lunch is poor craftsmanship. The home world is one of the most important parts of an IA – the chapter draws its recruits from there. In many ways, the home world is
the Chapter. Look at what happened to the Night Lords when their home world changed its character. The home world and the chapter will each exert an influence upon each other, and the possibilities in that are so obvious it would be easier not
to explore them.
Think about how your chapter and their character would have interacted with the home world you're thinking of. Why were they drawn there in the first place? What sort of world would your chapter want? What would its people be like? Its government? Its cities and way of life? How would your Chapter go about producing this society (assuming they weren't completely satisfied with what was already there)? What would they actually get if they did? Remember that a Chapter's home world need not be its base of recruitment - the Crimson Fists with Rynn's World actually do most of their recruitment on a nearby feral world.
The home world can also be an excellent opportunity to explore a particular cultural or psychological trait – Commissar Molotov's Castigators, for example, have a tidally-locked home world populated by xenophobic religious fanatics who violently root out any trace of mutation. The world is harsh, and so are they. Fun stuff. His Home World section devotes a lot of time to exploring the population's xenophobia and intolerance and what it means for them and the Chapter.
Most important of all, however, is that the home world must have some reason the Chapter is present there. The most obvious is that the world produces the sort of people who make good Space Marine recruits. Tough, hardy, genetically pure adolescents who can pass the strenuous, dangerous tests required (and my, doesn't it sound creepy when it's put that way). Your home world must have some way of producing them. If the home world doesn't produce these recruits, there must be somewhere that does, and it should be mentioned and properly explained.
Regardless of what direction you take to inspire the character of your home world, you should take the time necessary to consider how that world would interact with your Chapter and ensure that the relationship between the two is plausible. If you have any existing needs for how the Chapter should interact with its home world, its best to build the home world around them rather than try to force the issue.
Note that the results of this can be
an ancient culture on a death world – but what matters is that the results be a natural fit with the Chapter, and the consequences of any incompatibilities be plausible. Fenris is hardly complicated conceptually, but it fits perfectly with the character of the Space Wolves. Even if the Home World looks simple, you should have thought it through. Beliefs
Commissar Molotov, at the slightest provocation, was wont to opine that the Beliefs section was the most important section in the IA. He had a point. The Beliefs section is the one section that gives the reader direct insight into how your Chapter thinks. It is the opportunity to present your Chapter's unique view of the universe and give real insight into their character.
Take advantage of this. A good Beliefs section will lay out what the Chapter believes and clearly link that to the Chapter's history. Most IAs will have already introduced many of the Chapter's basic beliefs at this point – they should be expanded upon and further explained. It also is traditionally used to explain details about their religious practices and the particular quirks by which they express their beliefs. Interesting rituals and ceremonies are conventional in this section, and add greatly to a Chapter's character.
However, what is important here is to get into the meat of how the Chapter thinks and interacts with others. What do they think of the Imperium? The Emperor? Other Chapters? How do they philosophically approach the universe? What really
goes on in their heads?
These sections can be tricky - I find it best to first figure out how the Chapter works, then come back to the Beliefs section and extrapolate from my newfound knowledge of the Chapter to what they must believe on various subjects. The reverse can also work, of course. The important thing is that the beliefs mesh well with the rest of the Chapter and the IA.
use this section to explore their views toward warfare and combat. That goes in Combat Doctrine. Gene-seed
The Gene-seed section usually explains where the Chapter's gene-seed originated, how well its purity has been maintained, any unique quirks that have developed in either the gene-seed itself or the Chapter's attitude and practices relating to it, and occasionally some of the Chapter's recruitment practices.
It does not need to be long. Indeed, most of the remaining sections should probably top out at two paragraphs. Much of what follows, including in this section, will be common to all Space Marine chapters – do not devote too much time to presenting such information. As always, highlight the differences.
It should be remembered (though this is not specific to the geneseed section) that Chapters branch from each other - vast differences from progenitor Chapters, especially in Chapters from early foundings, require some degree of explanation. It can make a lot of sense to simply pick the stable geneseed source that is closest to what you want your Chapter to be. Geneseed sources and their effects
There are ten possible gene-seed sources for Space Marine Chapters. The most common of these is the Ultramarines - their gene-seed, through them and their descendants, makes up two-thirds of all Space Marine Chapters. When in doubt, it is good to go with them. Their genestock is strong, their doctrine is Codex but they have successors who diverge in a variety of ways, and thus you can basically get away with anything. Most of the other sources make less sense, for various reasons.
The Imperial Fists are the second most common, despite their two non-functioning organs. Their geneseed carries a hint of stubbornness and self-sacrifice. People love them to pieces, mostly because they're not the Ultramarines, but as the second-most common geneseed source, you're still being plausible.
The Salamanders geneseed is described as pure, though their reflexes may be slow. Recent fluff has them all dark and demonic-looking, which is tied in part to the gene-seed, but plenty of people have ignored that. Their lack of numbers is likely responsible for their relative lack of successors - the Storm Giants and Cursed Founding Black Dragons are thought to be related to them, so there is precedent for successors as well.
The Dark Angels geneseed is described as one of the purest and least degraded, but the High Lords are apparently "reluctant" to use it in the founding of new Chapters. The DA Codex mentions a number of Dark Angels successors beyond the Second Founding ones, and also mentions the Disciples of Caliban being founded at the request of the DA Chapter Master. Though this presumably took place within the context of the next Founding, the debate that resulted suggests that the DA geneseed may have been frowned upon even at that time. Thus, if making a DA successor, an earlier date makes more sense - though any date can work.
The Iron Hands are widely believed to be crazy because of their geneseed (and boy, are they crazy). On the other hand, the Mechanicus quite likes them. Thus, while successors would seem unlikely, they are still possible.
The White Scars are believed to have contracted a hint of savagery from their tribal recruits, which has apparently entered the geneseed. All the successor Chapters demonstrate the same traits, so it is possible that they have had no more successors. Certainly, it seems likely that their geneseed is less common than the more pure ones.
The Blood Angels geneseed has fallen into disuse as their Flaw became more pronounced. The Lamenters, of the Cursed Founding, were an attempt to correct this flaw - considering how the Cursed Founding went, it seems unlikely that many (or, indeed, any) Blood Angels Chapters have been founded since. It also seems likely that the use of the seed would have tapered off some time before an attempt to fix it.
The Raven Guard have mutations to the Melanchromic Organ that make their skin lighten and eyes and hair darken over the years, so that they eventually look like Corax. The Mucranoid and Betcher's Gland both do not exist. Additionally, their geneseed is so damage they require regular supplementary shipments from Terra, which has a corresponding effect on their recruitment cycle. Presumably their three successors (the Revilers, the Black Guard and the Raptors) suffer from similar problems. Thus, they would seem to make a very poor choice for a gene-seed source in a new founding.
The Space Wolves are generally felt to not be used to found new Chapters - their geneseed is unstable, their only known Successor chapter collapsed in genetic instability, and they're cranky and iconoclastic. It has been a long-standing tenet of the Liber's DIY Guide that Space Wolf Geneseed Is Not Used, and I find it hard to differ with their reasoning.
The tenth source is unknown. I recommend against this, since unknown geneseed runs full-tilt into the wall of the Adeptus Mechanicus, who apparently can analyze gene-seed but can't compare it to other gene-seeds to work out its source. This seems a little...odd (though a better explanation is that the cogboys aren't talking). In any case, it generally comes across as laziness, an attempt to hide traitor geneseed, or an attempt to seem special. None of which are necessary.
The most likely geneseed sources would thus appear to be, in an approximate order: the Ultramarines, the Imperial Fists, the Salamanders or Dark Angels, the White Scars, the Iron Hands (who may be more or less common depending on how much you think being friends with the Mechanicus profits them), and the Blood Angels or Raven Guard. This would vary somewhat, depending on when your Chapter was founded - the non-Ultramarine seeds would have presumably been more common earlier in the Imperium, when there were (proportionately) fewer Ultramarines relative to everyone else. You are not the [Blank] Templars
Many DIYers like to have the Black Templars be their training cadre (and gene-seed source). However, there are a number of both in-universe and out-of-universe problems with this. Why would the High Lords choose the Black Templars? They're headstrong, violate the Codex, and are completely outside Imperial control, even moreso than the usual Astartes independence. The High Lords would not trust them. Nor would they be a good choice for a training cadre, precisely because of their particular quirks – they'd pass them on to the new Chapter, which would provide the High Lords with another problem chapter. Added to this, there's the fact that most people seem to simply take the opportunity to recreate the Black Templars, thus raising the issue of why the exercise was undertaken in the first place. The Black Templars as a Chapter cadre raise far, far more problems than they solve. If you want a crusading Chapter, both the Imperial Fists and Crimson Fists were such (the Imperial Fists still are). Both use the Emperor's Champion (indeed, even non-Dornian Chapters have been known to do so). You do not need the Black Templars to have similar influences. Ensure your Curse makes sense
The Cursed Founding is an excellent opportunity to do strange things. It was the second-largest Space Marine founding, so there's room to play, everyone got cool gimmicks out of the deal, you can do crazy things like use Traitor geneseed without anyone even blinking, and it's called the Cursed Founding
. What's not to like? (Answer: nothing. There is nothing not to like)
One of the things people occasionally forget when writing about a Cursed Founding chapter is to have the Curse make some sort of sense. Your chapter will have undergone genetic tinkering – and there must have been a reason behind this. What effect were the mad scientists of the Adeptus Mechanicus trying to produce by meddling with your geneseed? What did they get? Why were there differences (if there are)? The Cursed Founding was an attempt to make Space Marines more dangerous – and in all the canon GW examples, it succeeded in some fashion – but carried problems with it. Don't forget to bring problems along, but don't forget the success, either. Combat Doctrine
This section explores the way the Chapter fights, why the Chapter fights, and any particularly unique things about their views toward both. What do they value on the battlefield – courage, ingenuity, reliability, tenacity? Do they confront the enemy directly, or do they prefer to hang back and wait for opportunities? Are there particular weapons, equipment or methods they favor? Do they venerate or despise any particular part of the Codex Astartes?
In short: generally, how, where, why and what do they fight? Remember to emphasize the differences – the similarities are far less important. Organization
The Organization section presents the structure of the Chapter's forces. There are two common pitfalls here – a representation of what it means to be a Codex Chapter, and the complete revocation of the Codex in favor of a wildly different system created by the author. Both are bad choices. Re-presenting the Codex, as I am sure anyone reading this has already guessed, violates one of the basic principle of writing a good IA – present the differences. Offering a new system provides the reader with a lot of dry, technical information which relates only to this Chapter. Generally, this organization is adopted from history, usually without explanation. Unfortunately, such information is interesting mostly to the author – it is the rare reader who wants to read a long list of alternative terms for Apothecaries and Sergeants. Furthermore, such systems rarely offer anything appreciably different from the standard Codex nomenclature – it is usually change for the sake of change. Even if you do have such changes, unless they actually change how the Chapter functions, it is usually not worthy mentioning them unless it actually arises in the IA.
Regardless of all that, the Organization section is difficult to use. Most Chapters are, to varying degrees, Codex. The reasons they violate the Codex, if they do so, will be in the Combat Doctrine section. Which means that this section generally ends up rather short. However, the best way to think of the Organization section is as the application of the Combat Doctrine section.
Use this opportunity to explore what the Chapter's Combat Doctrine has meant for the way their Chapter is structured and organized. Offer particular examples of the Chapter's quirks and how they have become institutionalized. Many Chapters have unusual command structures, which can be briefly explored here. The Organization section is a difficult one – both it and the Combat Doctrine section are in direct competition for ideas and concepts. Divide them as equitably as possible. Understand what the Codex is and isn't
The Codex is more than a book of organizational advice (though it is that). It's more than general tactical precepts. It's more than accounts of battles. It's more than careful analyses of enemy tactics. It is the life's work of countless Imperial soldiers, philosophers and military scholars. It has been improved for ten thousand years. Your chapter may believe
that they know better than it, but it would be virtually impossible to actually create something better - after ten thousand years of development, most of what needs to be added to the codex are reactions to new phenomena.
The Codex can be followed in any number of different ways - any and all parts could be ignored, misinterpreted or considered outdated. The point is that the book is so massive and overwhelming that discarding it wholly would mean discarding almost the entirety of the Imperium's knowledge on warfare and starting afresh. Your chapter might well reject the organizational methods and standard tactics of the Codex, but they'd be unlikely to also throw out the treatises on how enemies fight and the various philosophical perspectives on warfare and combat. Sun Tzu's Art of War has remained relevant even thousands of years later, and the Codex was more complete, thorough and in-depth even when it was first compiled.
In short, have a clear idea of what the book is before you decide if you're going to get rid of it, and ensure that the reasons for doing so are justifiable. Battle-cry
The battle cry section, despite rarely needing to be more than a line long, is somehow the one that people most often abuse, misuse and confuse. Whether it be having a battle-cry for every phase of the moon, or putting the battle-cry in Latin, or having the battle-cry be a paragraph long, people find a multiplicity of ways to end their IA with a fizzle, rather than a bang.
Firstly, what is the point of a battle-cry? It is shouted by a group of Space Marines to inspire themselves and terrify the foe. The best battle-cries are thus simple, scary, and roll off the tongue. Wait until your family members have left the house, shut all the windows (and doors), and yell your battle-cry. If you ran out of breath, burst into giggles, or felt a strange and unknowable sense of deep personal embarrassment, your battle-cry needs work. Look at the battle-cries of GW Chapters. Short, memorable, and generally fairly scary. Take some inspiration from them.
Secondly, what is the point of the battle-cry section? This is the last section in the IA. It is the last thing readers (who liked the IA) will read. It is important to close on a strong note. Thus, the battle-cry should be short, memorable, and hopefully provide a little bit of insight into the character of the Chapter. The best example for this, in my opinion, is the battle-cry of the Iron Warriors: “Iron within, iron without!” A little scary, a little inspirational, and a very good summation of the Iron Warriors. Perfect for closing an IA. Your color scheme is important
Color schemes are often dismissed as an afterthought by serious DIYers with serious IAs. This is a mistake. A color scheme is important even if you never intend to paint a single model in it. It is important for two reasons – recognition, and imagination. A unique and interesting color scheme is key to drawing in some readers, and will help your chapter stand out in the minds of many others. It gives you one more opportunity to make your chapter memorable.
Meanwhile, providing an interesting and unique color scheme also makes it easier to imagine your chapter undertaking the various glorious deeds described in your IA. Picturing your chapter cleansing a Space Hulk or patrolling the Eastern Fringe will be more enjoyable if the scheme is a good one - and you may find it makes it easier for you to imagine your Chapter, as well. A unique and interesting color scheme makes the experience of an IA a better one, even though it only seems a small touch.
Despite all this, color schemes don't necessarily have to have any particular connection to the rest of the IA - it is just a good idea to have one. When in doubt, turn to GW
Although not all of GW's IAs were created equal, they all are quality productions. They can provide valuable insight into how to present a story, what details to emphasize, and what will and will not work within the context of the 40K universe. Used carefully, they can provide valuable insight into the process of writing IAs. They are the original examples of IA writing, and what first inspired all this.
Of GW's IAs, the best for aspiring DIY writers are probably the Crimson Fists, the Relictors, the Flesh Tearers and the Blood Ravens. These IAs have a number of advantages - first, they are introducing Chapters from later foundings, not First Founding Chapters - they thus don't wax on about Primarchs until everyone's ready to take up Battletech instead. They are all of reasonable sizes and reasonably well-written. The Crimson Fists are a good example of a Chapter with a story and relatively light on theme, the Flesh Tearers have both theme and story, as do the Relictors, and the Blood Ravens have the advantage that since it was posted as a PDF for download on the GW website for a prolonged period of time, it is probably both easy to find and legal to do so. A list of DIY IAs which may be helpful are found at the end of this guide. Recognize the Limits of GW
GW's writers work under deadlines, are paid poorly, and often do not care as much about their subject as you may about your chapter. This can (and I would say is) reflected in the quality of some IAs - many do not explore the chapter as fully as one might expect, or with any particular sophistication. Sometimes they use cliches frowned upon by the Liber community. Sometimes characters do things simply because the plot commands it. Sometimes the writers apply the chapter's theme with an overly heavy hand. Recognize that just because GW did it that way doesn't always mean it's a good idea.
Edited by Octavulg, 02 November 2010 - 09:25 PM.