The Warhammer 40,000 universe is a massive place, and the “Narrative Forge” hobby articles encourage thinking outside the box (literally) when putting models together and stretching yourself out in the hobby. They aim to make hobbyists and players comfortable growing beyond imitating the models they see in their Codexes and playing the rulebook missions, and serve as a source of inspiration for anyone wanting to forge new experiences in the hobby. This week, Charlie Brassley of the Beard Bunker blog is continuing our series on creating characters by offering you a way of procedurally generating your own.
Welcome to the Mk.1 Random Personality Generator (patent pending)! This ridiculous series of tables will enable you to procedurally generate pretty much any character’s personality, as long as that character isn’t a Tyranid, or otherwise completely mindless. Don’t worry, I have thrown a couple of token bones in to the ‘Nids in this post. Then, at the end, there’s an extra-stupid series of tables in which I take the piss out of almost every faction.
How does this work, and what do I need to do?
First, grab your favourite set of polyhedral dice, or go to https://diceroll.fun/ if you don’t own anything other than normal six-sided dice. Roll on the tables in this article, in whatever order you want, and write down the results to generate a character.
You might also want to go to the Goonhammer name generator to name your creation afterwards.
Pfff, you cannot possibly make compelling 40K backstories and characters out of some random tables.
Indeed; this will give you the bare bones of an idea, which you can take as far as you like.
Can I just pick whichever things I like on the tables?
Go for it! Make up more options too, if you like. This is just a resource to help give you some core ideas. If you want to breathe more life into it, see my previous post on writing good characters, and the first post in this series on how to approach making rules for your characters.
What’s with the colour coding later on?
There are a lot of things that say 1,2,3 in this post; the colour coding is there to help you parse the information since this is a blog, not a carefully laid out page in a rulebook. I know, I know, a bad workman blames his tools.
Determining allies and adversaries
Whenever you see <faction> in these rules, that indicates you should roll a D8 to randomly determine one of the other 40K factions, or choose one if preferred. If you roll your own faction, count them as rebels or a civil war.
- Imperium (roll a D6: 1-2 Imperial Guard, 3 Mechanicus, 4 Sororitas, 5 Astartes, 6 niche space fascists – your choice)
- Chaos (roll a D6: 1-3 renegades, 4-5 heretic astartes, 6 daemons)
- Genestealer Cults
- Eldar (roll a D6: 1-2 Craftworlds, 3-4 Drukhari, 5 Harlequins, 6 Ynnari)
Part One: Backstory
Roll a D6 to find out which of the 6 backstory types your character has (1 Triumph, 2 Disaster, 3 Relic Hunter, 4 Betrayed, 5 Mourning, 6 Faction-specific). You can do this multiple times if you wish. By necessity this section is the most abstract – specific details would be very restrictive.
1: A career-defining triumph
This character is credited with a spectacular success that has earned them the respect of their allies. But was the credit really theirs to claim? Roll a D3 and consult the results below:
1: An honest victory
The character deserves every accolade thrown at their feet.
2: I definitely meant to do that
The character was just in the right place at the right time, and now everyone thinks they’re the actual best. And their name definitely isn’t Ciaphas Cain.
3: Thunder Thief
The character knows damn well that this was really an ally’s accomplishment, but deft politics or brutal betrayal have allowed them to claim the credit.
And what was this great deed? Roll another D3:
1: [PLANET] stands!
The character is credited with ensuring that, despite dire odds, they prevented a world falling into the hands of <faction>.
2: Illustrious saviour
The character managed to rescue a large group of their allies from certain destruction at the hands of <faction>. The friends they made in so doing will always be willing to do them a favour.
3: Bane of the <faction>
The character is credited with slaying a mighty hero of <faction>. It is said that if you need to strike fear into the hearts of <faction>, this is the leader you need. Needless to say, the <faction> are out for revenge.
2: A career-defining disaster
This character is blamed for an unmitigated disaster that has irredeemably tainted them in the eyes of their allies. Roll a D3: on a 1 it was the character’s fault. On a 2 they were framed, but had nothing to do with it. On a 3 they were unfairly blamed for bad luck.
But what happened? Roll another D3:
1: [PLANET] really doesn’t stand.
The character is blamed for losing a key location or world against an invasion by <faction>.
2: Unacceptable losses
The character was charged with protecting a large group of allies against <faction>, and they failed. The strategic and psychological ramifications were disastrous.
3: Humiliating defeat
The character was soundly defeated by a comparatively lowly <faction> warlord, who has since become a bit of a big deal and is still at large in the galaxy. Had the character won rather than lost, it could all have been prevented.
And what were the consequences? Roll another D3:
Stripped of rank and sent to some lowly backwater or a hopeless section of the front lines.
Surrounded by only their most loyal followers, the character must go it alone. Maybe they’re still trying to do what’s best for their faction, maybe they’ve got to resort to piracy to survive.
3: The road to redemption
To win back the support of their faction, the character has chosen to prove their worth by undertaking a heroic journey into the teeth of their worst foes, determined to come out the other side with their pride (and rank) restored.
3: The Relic Hunter
This character is searching for the Lost MacGuffins of Antioch, and won’t let anything get in their way. This could be a mythical weapon, lost relics of spiritual significance (such as a chapter banner) or forbidden technology that might be used to their advantage. Roll a D6 and pick the appropriate result below:
1-3: What a bloody maverick.
The character is under strict orders not to waste time looking for these MacGuffins; they’re probably just a myth anyway. Not that this matters to the character; they and their loyal followers believe the undertaking is necessary. Should they return empty-handed they’ll be executed as traitors. Should they succeed, however, their faction will welcome them as heroes.
4-6: Solemn duty
The character has been given a mission of great import by their superiors. Much may be gained if the MacGuffins can come to Gondor… er… Greyskull… um… your faction. It could take years, maybe even decades. The stakes are high. It’s a long time to be away from home, and who knows what sort of a toll it may yet take on the character?
The disappointment is real. Roll a D6 and pick the appropriate result below:
1-3: Et tu, Brutus?
Stabbed in the back by their closest friend. The ignominy! Said friend is still at large in the galaxy, and was working against your faction the whole time. They must be found and made to pay if reputation is to be regained and honour satisfied.
4-6: I work for the man, but the man doesn’t work for me
The character’s own faction abandoned them. Calls for aid went unanswered. Was it negligence, or the machinations of a rival? Either way, the whole apparatus was corrupted against the character, and while they survived, they lost many of their followers in the ensuing carnage. Their faith in their faction has been wounded, perhaps fatally.
5: Mourning a loss
One of the character’s closest associates sacrificed themselves so that the character might live. How that loss affects the character will of course depend on their personality!
This character has the backstory specific to their faction – pick the appropriate one from the list below. If your faction isn’t present, re-roll your backstory.
Astra Militarum / Imperial Guard
An administrative error sent this officer’s regiment to the wrong warzone with the wrong equipment against a superior foe. Casualties were staggering. It was only through a bloody-minded refusal to just give up that this character and (some of) their troops survived. It’s left this character with an inherent mistrust of military intelligence.
This character was a researcher, not a combatant, until they dared to question the orthodox views of a senior member of their forge’s priesthood. Now, in punishment, they have been sent away from their lab on a dangerous expedition.
When this character was a young sister, she performed a spectacular miracle that she’s never equalled since. Some whisper that this must mean she’s not as faithful as she once was; others suggest she will do something similarly spectacular in the hour of true need, but of course this makes it look bad when there are heavy casualties on a mission and this character didn’t invoke the power of the almighty to the necessary extent.
Adeptus Astartes (primaris character)
This character was one of the Unnumbered Sons during the early stages of the Indomitus Crusade, and dearly misses the variety of doctrines and cultures that go with working alongside marines born of all the primarchs. Proud as they are to serve among their own Chapter, they relish any opportunity to work alongside another Chapter as well.
Adeptus Astartes (non-primaris character)
This character was originally passed over for promotion because Chapter Command wanted to ensure some command positions were filled by Primaris marines. They try not to be bitter about this; the decision serves a purpose, but it did thwart their personal ambition for a time. They have also been offered the chance to cross the Rubicon Primaris but have refused; after surviving several centuries, they consider the potential loss of their experience to be a greater cost than the benefit of increased power.
Renegades: The lost and the damned
This character was once a loyal Imperial servant, but a childhood friend who they remained in touch with fell in with a strange cult, and eventually curiosity and personal loyalty trumped piety. The slope became steep and slippery, and now there’s no going back.
Heretic Astartes – Traitor Legions
This Astartes is a veteran of the long war, having fought hundreds of battles during the Great Crusade. They were present at the Siege of Terra, and fled with their legion into the Eye of Terror following Horus’ death. In the millennia since, they’ve grown tired of toiling under the banners of other warlords and have decided to make a name for themselves. They joined a daring and mutinous revolt against their former warlord on the promise of new glory and conquest as part of a new warband.
Heretic Astartes – Renegade Chapters
This Astartes warrior was once Imperial, but that changed when he was left to safeguard a world. The mortals constantly questioned his methods, and whined about the suffering their fragile bodies were enduring. Without a chaplain to pour lies into his ear, the brother saw that the easiest course of action was not to ask for loyalty, but to demand it. If he could make all the decisions, it would be so much easier, or so he thought. Soon enough, some mortals disobeyed. They were slain for their impudence. Those killings brooked more resistance; it had to be quashed. In time, darker notions came, and the power and paranoia led to ever greater excesses. The warrior has since joined a greater force of Renegade Heretic Astartes, and must constantly prove his fealty to the dark gods so that the others think him a worthy leader.
This Norn Queen and her hive ship is all that’s left of her fleet following repeated attacks. As such, she has become evasive and cautious, attacking only the weakest targets while she regains her strength and rebuilds her fleet.
Craftworlder / Asuryani
This Aeldari spent much time on a maiden world populated by Exodites, and came to love the juxtaposition of savage predators and primordial tranquility. The rigours of the path, and the restrained nature of life on their Craftworld, seems all the more austere. Imagine their grief, then, when <faction> invaded that maiden world and put it to the torch. It is gone, now, like so many other treasures from the past.
This Drukhari is vat-born, but subterfuge and gene-splicing has allowed them to falsely claim to be trueborn. This in turn has allowed them to advance further in the Dark City’s hierarchy, but if their secret should ever come to light, a great many Kabalite nobles would look foolish, and naturally seek revenge.
This warrior was doomed, taking cover behind quickly-diminishing rubble as the forces of the Emperor’s Children and the daemons of She Who Thirsts bearing ever closer. Then Yvraine and the warriors of Ynnead intervened, cutting through the Slaaneshi forces and banishing the daemons back to whence they came with the help of the Yncarne. This warriors eyes were open and they have dedicated themselves to the cause.
This troupe member has taken a particular interest in the affairs of <faction>, though for what reasons only the Laughing God can say.
When only a lowly fire warrior, this commander witnessed the death of an Ethereal, and saw the increased savagery and fractiousness that followed. They even joined it, a little. Far from the nearest Sept, the mission continued for many more months without the ethereal’s guidance, and slowly became more and more chaotic. When reinforcements brought another ethereal to the expedition, the fire warrior was disgusted by their own conduct. At the same time, they were disturbed by how quickly they returned to normal, as if nothing had happened. Since then, while they fear the loss of another ethereal, this commander is also curious about why ethereals are so effective, and whether they can trust their own feelings.
When this warrior’s forces were pinned down and expecting annihilation by the forces of <faction>, it was not the empire but Commander Farsight who intervened to save them. Cut off from command and their Ethereal, they realized everything they had been told about Farsight was a lie. They have since joined Farsight’s cause.
This warrior was raised into the Cult’s ways but seeing the brutality of the Imperium has never led them to question their teachers’ ways. The arrival of the sky gods on <planet> will be a welcome day indeed.
This warrior never wanted to become a member of the planetary defense forces, but being caught by the arbites and pressed into military service didn’t leave them much choice. They were considering going AWOL but everything changed the day they stopped to hear a charismatic revolutionary speak on the street…
There’s really only the one reason Orks do anything: To be da biggest and da strongest, and to krump ‘eadz doing it. Recognized as being particularly brutal and kunnin’, this warrior has always been a bit of a lucky git. And that was especially true when this warrior single-handedly took down a <faction> champion during the last big WAAAGH!
The days of the War in Heaven are a distant memory stored in the recesses of this warrior’s memory banks, but what it does remember is that <planet> belongs to the <dynasty> dynasty. This warrior’s tombs were awakened when automated systems detected a threat from surface war activity between the Imperium and Orks, and this warrior’s tombs quickly rose to the surface and obliterated them all before setting off to reclaim what was rightfully theirs.
Part Two: Your Character’s Mission
Roll a D6 to determine the mission your character is currently engaging with.
Roll a D3 to determine what kind of exploration the character has embarked on:
1: For knowledge!
What threats lie beyond the frontier? What treasures and resources? Be it deep space, or the remote stretches of the Imperium Nihilus, there is much to discover, and plenty of battles to be fought to get there. This character and their followers will journey far from home and bring back vital intel.
2: Search for the Lost
A fleet was sent out, and it never came back. Such a grievous loss of resources is unacceptable. This character has been tasked with taking a smaller force on the long journey to find out what happened and report back. Naturally, they’re going to have to navigate myriad threats on their journey, and engage with hostile forces when viable opportunities present themselves.
This character is participating in – or possibly leading – an invasion of a region of space to claim it for their faction. Glory to the leader who claims the most territory! Death to the enemy! Unreasonably biased historical treatises to demean their vanquished foes!
2: Answering a call for aid
The character’s allies are besieged, and call for aid. This character is leading a relief force but has a long and treacherous road to get there, through multiple enemy-held regions.
This character’s army was cut off from friendly forces by <faction>, and had to fight their way out. Isolated and running low on supplies, they seek shelter, but where? Roll a D3.
1: Reunite with allies
This character is trying to reach the closest location they know to be held by their faction, but the journey is going to be brutal.
2: Strange guests
Hopelessly far from home, this character’s army must seek shelter with an allied <faction> (choose one, or re-roll any canon-breaking results). They will of course need to earn their keep by helping to protect this ally’s colony, but how much will this experience change them, and will their own faction approve if they find out this character spent so long in the company of these allies?
3: Forge a pocket empire
After the retreat took this character’s army into an emptier region of space, they had time to lick their wounds. This character commands sufficient assets to conquer enemy-held territory and hold it. If they can take enough, perhaps they’ll harvest enough resources to fully repair their fleet and make it back to home turf? In the interim, pickets must be set, and ground held, for the transport ships cannot be moved while undergoing repairs.
4: Execution Force
This character has been given a simple brief: a hated <faction> leader is somewhere out there, and must be laid low. The character must hunt them down, and cannot return home empty-handed. But how far are they willing to travel in pursuit of their quarry?
5: Pure Aggression
This character has free reign to go forth into enemy territory and cause as much damage as possible. But what drives them? Roll a D3:
1: Preemptive Defence
The best defence is an attack. If you’re on the enemy’s turf, they’re too busy to come after you. This character has been tasked with causing as much mayhem in enemy territory as possible, all to ensure the pressure is taken off their home turf long enough to shore up the defences. They must be surgical; operating a long way from supply lines and with a great deal of independence, they must make what they have last as long as possible.
2: Mindless butchers
This character’s superiors have lost all perspective. All that matters is the numbers of enemy slain. It is the only true measure of victory. It doesn’t matter if the fighting is brief and bloody or long and drawn out; all that matters is the body count.
This character’s mission is to cause spiritual or psychological damage to the foe by desecrating their shrines and assassinating their spiritual leaders, so as to sap the enemy’s morale on a strategic level. The enemy must learn that nothing they hold sacred is safe, and that the pedestals their heroes stand on are but dust and lies.
6: Faction-specific mission
This character has the mission specific to their faction – look up your faction in the list below. If your faction isn’t present, re-roll your mission.
This Techpriest is researching rumours of a non-Imperial world with pre-Imperial technology. They must travel far and wide to locate clues as to its location, and hopefully one day will be able to bring it to compliance and claim its knowledge for the glory of the Omnissiah.
Word has spread of a saint doing the Emperor’s work in this region of space. But is she a saint, or a heretic? She must be found and judged by the Emperor’s most holy servants, and if the quest to find her should take this character’s sisters past targets worthy of purging, so much the better.
The unthinkable has happened. A squad from this character’s chapter have allegedly turned renegade and have become reavers. They must be found, the cause of their heresy must be established, and they must be purged. But they will know judgement is coming and will not be an easy quarry. Inevitably, this character will encounter other enemies that must be dealt with on their way to finding their true target.
Talons of the Emperor (Custodes/Sisters of Silence)
This character is leading a Torchbearer fleet to one of the Chapters Astartes. It’s a long journey, and many threats lie between their precious cargo and their destination.
Renegades: the lost and the damned
Rather than just killing everyone, this character is determined to convert as many people as possible to the worship of the dark gods. They will promise clemency to those who surrender, and seek to break the enemy with as few casualties as possible. Surely, if they can bring enough followers into the fold, the gods will witness their efforts and reward them with daemonhood? Are their deeds not worthy of remembrance? Have they not shown their loyalty? The gods must be watching, right? Right?!
Heretic Astartes: Traitor Legions
The warband needs to replenish its numbers and that means two things: Gene-seed and slaves. This warrior is on a mission to attack Imperial worlds to replenish its numbers, and planning a daring raid on a Space Marine fortress monastery to steal their gene-seed reserves, dooming a marine chapter and ensuring their own numbers will grow.
Heretic Astartes: Renegade Chapters
Eager to demonstrate their worth to the dark gods and the powerful warlords of Chaos, this character is part of a secret mission to a backwater Imperial world to capture a powerful artefact whose existence was previously just a rumor. The scraps of ancient text they’ve secured speak of exactly the kind of unspeakable power that Abaddon and Huron will pay dearly for.
This Norn Queen is less interested in quantity but variety of biomass, so as to synthesise the finest organisms. Only when her creatures have attained perfection will they be unstoppable, and then the hive can gorge itself on the galaxy. To do this, she must track down and consume samples from as many different races and planets as possible, even if the hive doesn’t get the time to fully consume the worlds they attack.
This cultist’s mission is to shift public opinion and gather new recruits. Their goal is to infiltrate local labor organizations and help foment resentment and mistrust of the planetary governors. And when the time comes that the simmer becomes a boil, arm the dissenters and show them the path to enlightenment.
This warrior is on a spiritual mission to spread the word of Mork. And the way to do that is by showing everyone dat might makes right by krumpin’ da most ‘eadz.
This warrior is part of a diplomatic envoy tasked with adding new worlds to the empire. They are to establish contact with new species and cultures and determine if they can be added to the Empire to serve the greater good. If they can’t, then there’s always Option B.
This warrior has been programmed to root out and destroy malfunctioning units, looking for any traces of the Flayer virus. They are constantly scanning and examining other units in their tomb for signs of degradation or defective behavior.
Part Three: Your Character’s Personality
This is where we get the individual psychology of your character.
How ambitious are they?
Roll a D6: 1 Insanely ambitious, 2 very ambitious, 3-4 ambitious, 5 humble, 6 seeking less responsibility.
How loyal to their faction are they?
Roll a D6: 1 loyal to a fault, 2-3 loyal, 4-5 loyal out of necessity, 6 disloyal.
How trusting are they?
Roll a D3: 1 Trusting, 2 cautious, 3 paranoid.
To what extent do they follow the traditions and beliefs of their faction?
Roll a D6: 1-2 zealot, 3-5 typical for their faction, 6 non-believer/atypical.
What is their sense of humour?
Roll a D6: 1 banter, 2 anecdotes, 3 schadenfreude, 4 observational, 5 cynical, 6 utterly humourless.
Do they enjoy the company of others?
Roll a D6: 1 gregarious, 2-3 sociable, 4-5 tight circle of comrades, 6 antisocial.
What is their response to trauma?
Roll a D6: 1-2 stoic, 3 haunted… but stoic, 4 haunted… but hiding it, 5 occasional outbursts, 6 fully nuts, even if it’s not immediately obvious.
What are their qualities?
Use a D10 to randomly determine two qualities from the list below:
What are their flaws?
Use a D10 to randomly determine two flaws from the list below:
What makes them an effective commander?
Roll a D6:
- Bold attacker
What is their weakness as a commander?
Roll a D6:
- Warrior first, strategist second
- Underestimates the foe
And you’re done! Or at least, you’re done rolling dice. You might like to flesh out the concept, either by reading the DIY version from last week, or by just making stuff up, or by stealing something from that book/film/game you love.
Appendix: Goon Mode
The comedy potential for a random personality generator cannot be ignored. Here, then, are some tables where you can ignore all the detailed bullshit above and get a one-sentence (or possibly even one-word) character concept for your faction (I’m lying, this next bit isn’t even trying to help you).
Roll a D3 to discover your Space Marine’s favourite thing:
- Standing on rocks and pointing
- Shaving heads
Roll a D3 to discover your Chaos Space Marine’s favourite thing:
- Standing on rocks and doing air guitar
- Growing horns that won’t fit in your helmet
Roll a D6 to discover your boss’ main strength:
- Cunning but brutal
- Brutal but cunning
- An inability to pronounce any word other than WAAAGH!
- Brewing craft squig ale and arguing about why it’s better than grog, the drink of choice for filly-stains.
- Secretly dreaming of riding a warboar like those weird Snakebites and naming said glorious mount one of the following: Snoop Hogg, Notorious P.I.G, Piggy Smalls.
- Once killed a space marine with a shoe. The shoe was stuck to his battle wagon’s deffrolla, but this is a minor detail.
Roll a D3 to discover how dreadful your reanimation protocols are, with 3 being the most dreadful:
- The Mummy
- The Mummy Returns
- The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
All the jokes I can think of have more trigger warnings than punchlines.
Roll a D3 to determine your hive fleet’s main goal:
Roll a D4 to determine the future of your people, because D4s are rare and pointy:
- You should already have known what the dice would say.
- In fact, you should already know what your character is.
- That’s literally the point of Farseers.
- Or is it?
Roll a D3 to find out how edgy you are:
- Trent and the Reznors
- Robert Smith
Roll a D3 to find out which dance you were forced to abandon during your “creative period”:
- The squeaky shoe dance
- The pratfall dance
- The pissing flower dance
Roll a D3 to find out how successful your next door-knocking campaign will be:
- Do you have a flyer?
- Piss off.
- [sound of shotgun priming]
Roll a D3 to find out what drives your commander:
- The Greater Good
- The Greater Good
- The village flower sh–the Greater Good.
+ END OF APPENDIX +
Right, hopefully that helped lubricate the wheels of creativity, or gave you a starting point, or something. If there’s any interest, maybe we’ll do a Mk2 at some point with more faction-specific stuff. Maybe I’ll even get a mate to code a version where you just smack a button and it gives you the results, and couple it with the Goonhammer name generator, because that’s the kind of effort:reward stupidity we like to pursue around here.
That concludes our initial series on creating your own characters. If you have any questions or feedback, or want to share a character of your own making, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.