Friday, July 8, 2011

Executioners Inspiration

One of the main reasons why I chose to make an Executioners army is the background. I liked the idea of an honorable yet barbaric chapter, combined with a grim outlook. The Space Wolves have always been the flagship for barbaric space marines, but their drunken carousing doesn't really appeal to me much.

The official background for the Executioners is cool, but there isn't much of it. The most complete source, Imperial Armor 10, has two pages about the Chapter as a whole, two pages of selected battle honors, and a detailed breakdown of their involvement in the Badab War. It's interesting, but it's hard to base an army of just that. However, the same applies to any Space Marine Chapter without its own codex. So I did what inventive players have been doing for years: I referred back to the material that inspired the games developers.

Almost all Chapters have some sort of inspiration. Ultramarines are Greek. Blood Angels combine Renaissance Italian and classical Christian imagery. Dark Angels and Black Templar are both different aspects of European knights. Space Wolves are Vikings. So what exactly are the Executioners based on?

That brings me to the photo of the gentleman at the beginning of this post. That man is Robert E Howard, and honestly, he should be shown more like this:

Howard is the creator of Conan the Barbarian and, to my mind, the greatest American adventure writer that I have ever read. He wrote an incredible number of stories during his fairly short career featuring a great many characters, and is credited as the father of the "Sword and Sorcery" genre. And really, what is 40K if not a science fiction version of sword and sorcery.

Anyway, the Executioners are quite clearly based on Conan. The extreme martial skill, barbarism, unimpeachable honor, and disregard for authority are all suggestive but not really conclusive. However, there are lots of more direct references.

1) The Executioners' twin home worlds, Stygia and Aquilon. Stygia and Aquilonia are two kingdoms in Conan's world, both south of his native Cimmeria. Eventually, Conan becomes king of Aquilonia by right of conquest.

2) Thulsa Kane. Our special character is named after a combination of two characters from Howard's work. Thulsa Doom is a sorcerer from the movie Conan the Barbarian, and Solomon Kane is another of Howard's heroes, though not from the time of Conan.

3) The Aenigmata Ferrum. This is a book carried by Thulsa Kane and containing the collected battle wisdom of the Executioners. It roughly translates from Latin as the "Riddle of Steel" (actually Riddle of Iron, but close enough). The Riddle of Steel is a consistent theme through the Conan the Barbarian movie.

Those are all the direct references I can find, but there may be others that I'm missing. Having always enjoyed the Conan stories, I was really happy to have a chance to play an officially Conan based Chapter. I'm planning to run with the reference in a few ways. I'll be naming my characters after some of Howard's characters. In addition, I'm using Chaos Warrior helmets to add a more barbaric look to some of my marines, and I'll be using large, double bladed axes as counts as power fists in my army.


  1. I thought I'd heard these references from somewhere. I love the Conan stories and of course the movies. I knew there had to be something drawing me to it.

    As I've said I'll be watching your progress closely.

    I like your ideas, my idea was to run axes as thunder hammers for my terminator squad.

  2. I'm please you thought the post was interesting. I've also thought about axes for thunder hammers, and I think I'll do it as well when I get around to building a squad. Since you can only pair one weapon with storm shields, I don't really think it will confuse any opponents.

  3. I was unaware of the references to Conan but after you explained it, Conan as inspiration makes a lot of sense. I do have one question for you "What is best in life?"

  4. To crush your enemies, see them driven over their table edge, and to hear their player feebly blame their dice.

    Or something like that.


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