Welcome back to Casual Fridays, where we tell competitive play to take a seat and let our creativity run wild. In this installment, Rocco will be discussing how he created his very own custom successor chapter and will walk you through how you, too, can be the proud owner of your own custom sub-faction for your army of choice.
Hello and welcome to Rocco’s Custom Subfaction Adventures, starring me: Rocco. I’m a huge proponent of creating your own Warhammer 40K lore. It gets me more invested in the armies I’m building and is a fun creative outlet. So today, I want to talk about how I went about doing this for my own custom Space Marines chapter: The Emperor’s Carapace.
First up, some context: like a lot of people, I got into the hobby in the wake of the pandemic and played a lot of 8th edition right before 9th hit the scene. I started out wanting to do a pure Raven Guard force, but then became intrigued by the idea of creating a successor chapter. At the time I had a deep-seated obsession with crabs (Editor’s Note: At the time? Had?), so I started looking into currently existing successor chapters. I looked high and low, but not one existing chapter had a crab theme. The closest I got was Mantis Warriors and Red Scorpions, neither of which are crabs. Don’t get me wrong, I think those two chapters are neat, but they weren’t scratching the itch.
And so, The Emperor’s Carapace was born. My vision was that they would be my very own space marine chapter obsessed with The Crab and Its Most Holy Exoskeleton, using mainly Primaris marines and specifically plenty of Gravis armor to hammer home that theme. The idea here is that Primaris marines are a product of first born marines “molting their shell” much like a crabs do. This simple idea turned into something it entirely didn’t need to and I started writing a lore document for my chapter, which I titled Codex Supplement: Emperor’s Carapace (you might recognize it from MEATWATCH: Crab).
You may have taken a short break from this article to read the lore I just linked. If so, thank you – I worked hard on that so I could shove it down the throats of strangers and receive praise. You may say to yourself “Holy crap, how can I do a cool thing like Rocco, the cool guy.” This is normal. (Editor’s Note: It is not normal, but in this specific instance I guess it can be forgiven.) Luckily I’m writing this article to help answer that very question!
To preface: this is the order of operations in which I created MY army. These steps may be done in any order you wish, but I feel that each step must be touched on in some way in order to end with something wholly yours.
The first thing you want to do is ask yourself “Do I care enough about my army to write up custom fluff?” If the answer is yes: keep reading. If not, keep reading anyway. I worked hard on this. (Editor’s Note: Or don’t, we’ve already got the pageview.)
Once you’ve decided that, it’s time to decide what your army is called. Are they an already established subfaction and this is just your group of people? Are they something entirely new? My marines were something new. Ultimately you can call your custom army anything you want, but I felt that the name of my chapter should tie very heavily to their themes. I decided that they hold a very 30k view of the Emperor (simply a man in the highest position of authority and not a god as he is in 40K) and worship the ideals of a crab’s lifestyle instead of the Emperor (unlike most of the Imperium of Man). The name reflects this. As the Emperor’s Carapace, their role is to shield Him and the Imperium as its proverbial armor.
From here you’ll need to decide how deep you want your lore to go. I am a maniac and I want my fluff to go as deep as possible. I used some documentation found in the Space Marines Codex to inform a lot of the chapter organization, and it really helped me bring my chapter to life. Specifically, I used the Chapter Organization chart found on page 16 of the codex. Other armies may have similar information in their codices, but I don’t know a lot about the contents of other army books. This step is pure research into fictional information.
For names of important characters, I tried to tie real life crab species to the characters that were named after them, using the scientific names to keep that “High Gothic” feel. This step may be more difficult for you depending on how much you care about your character names tying to the overall fluff. You can very easily just use widely available name generators, or you can go off the deep end and try to understand the fictional etymology of the characters across your army’s race. I did not do this. I looked up crabs on wikipedia and stole Latin/Greek words from their scientific names. Easy stuff if you let it be easy.
Now that you’ve got names for your army and its key characters, it’s time to decide what your army does, how they act, and what their driving principles are. Basically, you want to describe their culture. Because of the whole crab thing, my chapter lives in a monastery under water on a completely oceanic planet. To recruit new members to their ranks they scavenge from the surrounding systems in Ultramar, because crabs are known to be bottom feeders and scavengers. I also decided that they had a gene-seed flaw that emulates the idea that crabs in a bucket will pull each other down to keep them in the bucket. (Editor’s Note: This is depressing.) This mainly manifests when a marine dies, they’ll release latent psychic energy to battle brothers who witness it. This causes the witnesses to charge headfirst towards the enemy to join their fallen brother in death against all strategy and logic. I haven’t decided how the chapter counteracts this or maintains a fighting strength as a result, but I like the idea so I’m keeping it.
The next, and possibly easiest, step was deciding on a color scheme. Because my marines are based on crabs, it was pretty easy for me to settle on the stereotypical crab colors of a bright orange-ish red and a bone white. For you this may mean just picking a scheme you like if your army theme is esoteric, or figuring out how best to fit your scheme to match your army theme. Is there a color in the name of your army? Use that color on the models!
Then comes the time to actually decide how to play the subfaction on the tabletop. This may not be as important for you because a custom army can use whatever rules it damn well pleases, but I decided to figure out what the progenitor chapter was for my men. This wasn’t too difficult as I was able to quickly narrow it down to White Scars and Salamanders. Small crabs tend to swarm and have a vise grip on their prey, an attribute that fits reasonably well with White Scars speed tactics. Salamanders, on the other hand, I felt signified the resilience that crabs have with their hard shells. I ended up going with White Scars for my lore, but on the tabletop I would play them as either chapter depending on how I feel on any particular day.
Now you might want to come up with iconography for your army that you can apply to your vehicles and infantry armor. Some armies, namely Tyranids, don’t have these kinds of identifiers on their units, in which case your paint scheme satisfies this step. One thing you can do is vary the scheme slightly based on type of unit and possibly even the rank of the unit. For my men I started with a symbol that was a blue crab carapace with a laurel underneath. I wasn’t very happy with this and paid a friend to come up with something new for me, which resulted in this:
I love it. It hits on something tribal that I didn’t know I wanted to be part of my chapter and looks badass with lightning bolts to signify their progenitors in the White Scars. If you are money-conscious, I would recommend coming up with something that can be easily free-handed onto your models. Otherwise go nuts and start printing transfers!
Congratulations! You made it to the end. Here are three more models I painted as a reward.
To the 5 of you that stayed awake through this, I thank you. You probably finished the article and thought “Wow, that sounds like a lot of work!” And it was! For me that is. It doesn’t have to be a lot of work for you. It only has to be as much work as you want to put into it. In the interest of maybe helping it be a bit less work, I made this neat template you can use to get started. All you have to do is download a copy of it to your Drive account. Good luck! The battle-brothers of the Emperor’s Carapace look forward to meeting your custom subfaction in glorious combat someday and crushing them utterly between their claws. Or not. I suck pretty hard at 40K. (Editor’s Note: Same, buddy. Same.)
Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below, or email us at email@example.com.