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If you are not using a GW canon chapter, you should do them the honour of writing about them, they deserve at least that. I believe anyone who doesn't is cheating themselves. A lot of people whom I have talked to about this say they don't elaborate on their beautifully painted space marines because they have no inspiration, so I'll start with that.

INSPIRATION

Inspiration is quite easy to find. If you believe you have looked everywhere and have not thought up anything worthwhile, fear not! There some places I doubt you have thought of. This is where you should look for inspiration:
  • Your own personality: Think about how you yourself act. Some human emotions can be translated into Astartes ones.
  • Your style of gaming: What are some tactics you use on the game table? If you run lots of tactical squads and little or no vehicles, you should incorporate it into your chapter's style of warfare.
  • Where you live: What is the weather like in your region? You can easily translate the weather in your neighborhood into your chapter's home world, affecting the rest of the chapter.
  • Your gaming table: What type of terrain do you use on your gaming table? If your table is a slab of yellow rock only interrupted by regular sand dunes, you should think about making your home world look similar, and that would affect the rest of the chapter.
Now that you have some rough concept about your chapter, work with me to create one. You can start at any of these steps, because I believe this section influences other aspects of the chapter the most, I'll go over it first.

HOME WORLD

The home world is extremely important. It is potentially the permanent home of one thousand religious killing machines, there should be a reason for them to settle there.

Think about what the home world would mean to your chapter. Think about how the planet would affect them. Think about what kind of people it will generate. The homeworld will affect the chapter's style of warfare, their personalities and their organization.

  • Are the people on your home world sneaky, honorable, strong or fast to the extreme? A population will always have varied types of people, but which one is dominant and which one does the chapter want to recruit?
  • What do the people think of the Astartes who protect them?
  • What are the potential recruits put through to be deemed fit to join the mighty space marines?
  • What kind of cultures does your world incorporate and how does it affect the space marines individually?
  • How is it defended? If it is significant, you might want to tell us about your fortress-monastery.
  • Has something dramatic and important happened to the home world that is worth mentioning?
  • Have the Astartes carried over rituals from their mortal life?
  • Has their fortress-monastery been attacked by their most hated foe?
  • What does your home world look like? Is it dry, humid, cold, hot? Try and think of extremes as they work best with Astartes. If it is very hot or cold or dry or wet what do the people do for food and water?


  • If they don't have a home world, like the Imperial Fists and the Black Templars, you also need a reason.
  • Do they forgo a permanent position because it is vulnerable?
  • Do they want to be able to engage threats more quickly?
  • Do they stay fleet-based to get the best recruits from varying worlds? If so then tell us about it.
  • Since they don't have a stationary base, which part of the galaxy do they generally patrol? Or do they just wander through space and crush any enemies they find?
This section adds lots of flavour to your army, so think carefully about it!

BELIEFS

Next to the home world, this section affects your chapter the most.
  • Think about what your chapter thinks about what others think of them. Do Imperial commanders welcome them and appreciate their methods? Or are they disgusted by their butchering or cowardly sneaking?
  • Is your chapter ashamed of their geneseed deficiencies if they have any? Or do they shrug it off as the petty thoughts of lesser mortals?
  • Think about your chapter's rituals. Do they intentionally exchange certain parts of their bodies for mechanical replacements like the Iron Hands? Do they wear the heads of their enemies? Do they kill their foes in a certain fashion? If so then give a reason for it.
  • Think about what your chapter thinks about their first chapter master and primarch. Do they resent their chapter master for leading them astray in the early days of their history? Do they praise their primarch less or more than the Emperor? Do they believe that it was their primarch's fault that so and so happened? Or do they think that their primarch saved so and so?
  • Think about other races and how your chapter interacts with them. Does your chapter hate a certain race? Do they look at mortals with pity at their weakness?
  • What will your chapter tolerate from their charges? The Marines Malevolent will slaughter civillians for not defending themselves because they are technically aiding the enemy.
  • Why does your chapter fight?
  • For who or why do they fight? Does your chapter fight solely for the Emperor? Or do they hold their primarch in higher regard and fight for him instead? Do they fight for the people they were made to protect? Or could they care less if a human or two died in a crossfire?
This section affects the reason for everything your chapter does so be careful what you write in there.

ORGANIZATION

I put this section before Combat Doctrine because it affects that part of your Index Astartes. For this section, the main things you want to think about are:
  • How is your chapter organized?
  • The Codex Astartes is the model for organization of a space marine chapter, so if your army differs, why?
  • Has this special organization helped or harmed the chapter's combat efficiency?
  • Has this special organization changed the way the chapter fights?
  • If your chapter doesn't differ from the Codex in organization, tell us why they thought the Codex way to be best for the chapter.
It is worth mentioning in detail how the chapter copes with heavy casualties, whether the chapter is under- or over-strength in certain companies and such things.

COMBAT DOCTRINE

This section is all about how the chapter fights. Who leads the armies most often, what are some their main tactics and stuff like that.

  • How does your chapter fight? Do they yell out battle cries and shoot bullets into the air while they charge? Do they sneak quietly in the shadows before pouncing on their prey? Or maybe they make precision strikes at vulnerable areas to quickly dismantle the army?
  • Why do they fight this way? Do they believe hiding and ambushing is cowardly? Do they think that only fools would charge into enemies head first? Maybe they just use hit and run techniques because it is the most logical method.
  • How has this, if at all, affected the chapter's relations with other Imperial organizations? The World Eaters were known as butchers by all before the Heresy and many other Legions regarded this with disgust.
You should also give an example of the chapter's tactics. Write up a report on a battle the chapter had. Do not go into great detail about the size of the battle field, or what the weather was like. Do it in a statistical manner, explaining how large both armies were (not in specific numbers), how the Astartes defeated the enemy, what tactics they used, if they sneaked up in the middle of the night or if they announced their arrival with shouts and waving banners.


ORIGINS

In this section, you give the reader a brief overview of the chapter, as well as their beginnings, or a summary of their history.

Some points to be noted for this section, as it is quite important and should come first in your finished IA, are:

  • Who founded them?
  • Why was the geneseed chosen? This is important, because several geneseeds are defective while others are pure. Most chapters are of the Guilliman geneseed, although if your like me, you will hate to make a chapter from the Ultramarines.
  • Why were they founded? Were they created to adress a certain threat in a certain part of the galaxy? Or were they the source of an experiment sanctioned by the High Lords of Terra (13th Founding),
  • When where they founded? Make sure that they were not made in the Second Founding, unless they are of the Ultramarines, because all Second Founding Chapters (barring the several of the Ultramarines which were not named) are set in stone and cannot be changed. The Black Library occasionally throws in chapters to the Second Founding, but it doesn't mean that you should.
  • Did anything dramatic or important happen to your chapter in their early beginnings?
  • Were they helped by other Imperial Organizations?
  • Are they a young chapter created in the 24th Founding or an ancient one created in the 3rd?
GENESEED

The geneseed is genetic material from the spiritual father of your chapter, the Primarch and it is revered to the extremeby all space marines. It is the very thing that allows them to fight the enemies of the Imperium. This is the section to talk about your chapter's geneseed.

  • Are there any defects in the Chapter's geneseed?
  • If so, what are they?
  • Does the chapter feel ashamed, or do they accept it? Maybe they even encourage it, like the Space Wolves or the Black Dragons.
  • What chapter did yours come from? An original Legion or one of the successor chapters?
  • If there are defects, how has it affected your chapter's efficiency in combat?
BATTLE CRY

  • Who says what and when?
This section is one of my favorites, because battle cries have so much flavor and character. This section is a sure way of letting everyone know what your chapter is, in just one sentence. This section has no canon, every chapter's battle cry differs. The Word Bearers would chant their Litanies as they marched into the field, while the Patriarchs of Flame don't have a battle cry, and they just swear at their enemies while they hack them to bits and the Imperial Fists yell stuff about their "Primarch and Progenitor". It is worth noting as well that if you want to come up with a battle cry, the shorter the better, because long, drawn out speeches about the greatness of your chapter and its father tend to be awful to yell in battle.


WORTH NOTING

Some things that are worth noting when you write an Index Astartes are:

  • An IA is meant to be a brief summary of the chapter and how it works, so you shouldn't be too detailed. No body wants to read about the names of every squad sergeant or the exact height of the mountains on their home planet.
  • Quotes from members of the chapter that have something to do with the section can be a very flavorful way to give some insight to your chapter. It can be funny, clever, pious or outrageous, just make sure it's space mariney and useful. Quotes should be placed at the top of the section before any other information.
  • Be prepared to recieve criticism and have to change your IA accordingly if you post it online. If you cannot take some dirt in your (or your IA's) face, don't bother putting it online.
And that's the end of it. Hope this helps you create a long, illustrious history for your chapter.
 
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