It’s Your Noobness again. So… I just got word about the new supplements and upgrade kits for the Salamanders and Imperial Fist chapters of the Adeptes Astartes. So by now, we know what that means. Given that we just had some of those Salamanders on our painting tables last week, it’s time for Mr. WinterRose to learn all about em and see what makes them tick.
Now when I covered the Raven Guard and Iron Hands… (MANOS!!!) Ahem. Pardon me. I learned about the Shattered Legions that were part of the Drop Site Massacre on Istvaan 5 that broke those two factions so very hard. So, the Salamanders were there with the loyalists who fought alongside them for the Imperium. So we’ll start with them.
Salamanders in my head aren’t the firebreathing elementals that most RPG systems make them out to be. The first image I get is of a very specific salamander in the western marshes of Washington and Oregon. The little fellow has been in a kind of biological arms race with the garter snakes of the region for an evolutionary scaled chunk of time. The salamanders get more poisonous, the snakes get more resistant to the toxin. And nowadays, we have a salamander that is lethal to even touch. 1000 times more deadly than Cyanide.
The little guy is a survivor.
These dragon-green and fire colored space marines have that in common.
Straight up known once as the Dragon Warriors, these guys hail from a volcanic death world, and hold the protection of mankind to be their utmost raison d’etre. Hell, for that matter, these guys even stayed in touch with their families. (LET’S RAISE A FAMILY ON A VOLCANIC PLANET! READY? YOU BETCHA!) But like many jokes, to them it’s not a joke. These fellas are more like a militia than part of the Astartes. These guys are part of their world’s life and councils when they aren’t mobilized for the emperor. And they’ve been the relative GOOD GUYS WITH POWER ARMOR for something like 10 thousand years. So… only more than twice the span of actual human history.
Their primarch, Vulkan, just seemed to appear in a very incarnated god kind of fashion. (Not TOO messianic, yes?) Essentially just FOUND by smiths on a VOLCANIC PLANET and immediately grew into a super blacksmith like Hephaestus personified and crossed with Arthurian myth. He hunted ‘salamanders‘ with the Emperor, who had contests with him in disguise and honorably saved his life. And in pledging his fealty to the Emperor, was made Primarch of the XVIII’th legion. At which point, they served the Imperium REALLY honorably until the Horus Heresy. And they seem to have been so badly decimated there that they only JUST survived extinction. And Vulkan disappeared…
…or he led the remains of the Salamanders for 3 more millennia before heading off, Arthur-like, on some mission of his own and disappeared THEN. History is unclear on these points. He’s apparently also been found again? Between the sources I read, this also seems unclear. From what I get, this chapter of the Space Marines has been somewhat underwritten and stuck in development hell for a while, so things have gotten a bit murky.
The one thing that’s clear is that their habit of self-sacrifice and valour in service of those they are pledged to defend has decimated their numbers over and over again. They’ve never recovered the numbers they had before the Horus Heresy and the Drop Site Massacre. Mostly because they tend to wade right into battle, heedless of their own safety. And while they may not be many, their seemingly suicidal dedication to their fellow man is legend.
They were developed in secret to a large degree. Even more so than usual, by normal standards of the space marine program. Being from a WORLD of blacksmiths, they all make their own armors and weaponry. And of course being from a volcanic world, the whole Nocturne-ian people kind of developed a hyper-melanistic resistance to heat and radiation. These aren’t so much people of color as much as charcoal briquettes and glowing coals for eyes that walk and are generally honorable and selfless to a fault. I understand this has caused some controversy in the past. Cos I’m guessing people didn’t have enough to argue about and decided this was something to troll with. Context, folks. Do the reading, willya?
Honestly… From what I understand of the Salamanders, they’re something of a popular chapter of the marines to play. And I have to say, they’re the ones that have appealed to Your Noobness here the most so far. Nice, considerate, careful folk… Forged in fire… Retain relations with their families… It helps that there’s a kind of selfless Arthurian feel to them as well. One of the top five novel series for me is The Keltiad, by Patricia Kenneally-Morrison. Part of her novels includes going out to a Volcanic planet to find what became of the lost ‘Keltic’ king, Arthur. (If you play Games Workshop games, you’re already used to misspelled stuff. Keltic ought to be no big loss for ya.) Finding his flagship, Prydwen and the four lost treasures of Keltia. The similarities of the Salamanders needing to go out and find Vulkan’s nine treasures before he can return to them as Primarch is similar enough that it hits my buttons. I’d play some of these guys I think. At least there seems to be possibility enough to make a character with enough background to actually RP.
But, let’s get to the Imperial Fists.
First of all… I’m going to giggle to myself in a most immature manner as I internally get all the sophomoric humor out of the way. Internally, mind you. Cos the first thing that comes to mind is “FISTING FOR THE IMPERIUM! WITH FISTS!” And if you’re not sure why that’s funny to me, DON’T Google it.
Okay. Got that out of your system, Mr. WinterRose? Well.. probably not. But let’s continue, shall we?
These guys are one of the founding chapters of the Space Marines. It’s plain to see that they consider themselves the OG Space Marines in comparison to the other chapters. They don’t bark and they don’t drama. They go and do the thing that Marines are meant for and that’s that. Honestly, they’re coming across to me as the Paladin class of the Astartes. If you’re going out on a crusade, they’re the first folks you call up. Odds are you don’t even need to call em. They’re probably already outside on your doorstep; “We heard you had a war you needed to prosecute? We’re ready.” Honest. They went to the Emperor and pretty much went, “We’re your next Space Marine chapter. If you’ll just give us your investiture, we’ll get down to business.” He didn’t need to go find them. They were down for it before the Emperor Pyrrhus knew he needed em. (Yeah, I’m gonna keep calling the emperor that.)
These guys would seem to be stoic zealots and engineered for siege warfare. They’re defenders of the realm, and take it as seriously as most Space Marines take… well anything. Which is to say WAY beyond sensibility. These fellas have specific ideas about what the Imperium of Man should be like, according to the Emperor of Mankind, and they will make that happen, do or die. They are THE Loyalists among loyalists. And they make no bones about it. They’re not stealthy-stealthies. They’re not sneaky. If you want someone to lead a siege or hole against one, they’re your guys. They’re your guys who seem to wade into a battle and work on bringing THEIR idea of the Imperium into reality… WITH FISTS! (Nope… not done yet apparently.)
These guys were pretty much WRACKED with guilt over the Emperor’s fall during the Horus Heresy. Particularly their not QUITE Warmaster, Rogal Dorn. (I’m reading Commander Worf all over this guy. Complete with his Crazy Horse inspired “Today is a good day to die” rhetoric. Played of course by Michael DORN.) Roboute Guilliman, who came up with the Codex Astartes that divided the chapters all up to hold human space, tried to tell Dorn the news of how things were going to be. Dorn’s pretty much “Whatever. I’mma go hunt Horus’ traitors now. Let me know when you cease SUCKING.” And did exactly that. They went off on a crusade and did not do badly at that. But eventually, they get reigned in again and eventually accept the codex. Kinda. They still have DEFINITE IDEAS about how they ought to behave and serve the Emperor’s vision. I get the idea they’re still being the ‘bedrock of the imperium’ for the Emperor’s sake.
They weren’t at Istvaan V with the Shattered Legions, so they were spared the pain of that, but they were with the Emperor when he fell, so to some degree they’ve gone just as slightly insane as the other chapters in the wake of the Horus Heresy. So they just started doing impossible mission after impossible mission in their grief, and nearly drove themselves to extinction.
For that matter, Slaughter Koorland, being the lone survivor of an offensive against Orruks who roundly owned them came back and formed the Deathwatch after causing himself to become Lord Commander of the Imperium and getting killed afterward. So for a bit, the original Imperial Fists were entirely extinct. They were ‘reconstituted’ by some of their secondary chapters later. That job was done well enough that the news Fists went around fisting for the imperium for 9000 years.
There’s a lot of the trappings of self-flagellating monks or penitents from religious dogma. Lots of self punishment. From putting themselves into cold rooms naked to the use of ‘Pain Gloves’. Essentially these guys torture themselves with a glove that makes the rest of them feel as though they were being dipped in molten steel. (“Put your fist into the glove, young Astartes…” I hear, in a paraphrased tone of voice from David Lynch’s ‘Dune’. “What’s in there?” “Pain. And your fist.”) This kind of thing is supposed to keep them sharp and ready for battle cos of how Space Marine organs are supposed to react when subjected to extreme pain conditions. Okay. Sure. WEIRDOS.
And if the history seems a bit unclear here, it is. I’m hoping honestly that the new codexes regarding their backstory and history kind of crystallizes what may just have been ‘drift’ from different writers or variances in the retelling of the canon. Either way, the new reference material is most welcome when it comes to the mushy-ness of the history.
When it comes to the playing of the Imperial Fists, I’d probably give it a pass? These fellas are a bit too Paladin for me. And I use the word Paladin in the D&D sense of the word, in that I’m describing them as fanatically devoted to the Emperor in all the self-destructive ways I wouldn’t want to associate myself with, much less attempt to roleplay. Yeah they’re the most stalwart defenders of the realm. But from guilt and rage, not love of their fellow man or concern like the Salamanders seem to have going. The two seem to be polar opposites of the same coin.
-Edward WinterRose is a 48th level nerd, and is too soft-hearted to even play the Sith or Renegade quest lines in Bioware RPG videogames. So naturally gravitates to the Salamanders.