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Octavulg's Guide to Creating an Excellent DIY Chapter That Will Make Even Beautiful Women Go, "Hey, That's Pretty Cool!"


Updated: March 10th, 2013


For a long time, I have had a view on what IAs should and should not be. Over time, that view has been reinforced in many areas and changed in many others. It has changed as I wrote my own IAs, read more and more of others, and was forced kicking and screaming into the role of Lexicanium. And in all that time, some things have not changed. I have noticed that I will repeat the same piece of advice or criticism over, and over, and over, and over. Sometimes it will be a universally applicable anecdote. Sometimes it will be a specific criticism of an aspect of an IA that I end up making a hundred different times to different people. Sometimes it will be a simple observation about spelling. Nonetheless, I say these things a lot, and sometimes I explain them well, but sometimes I just don't have the energy to say the same thing for the hundredth time. That isn't fair to that particular author (who deserves a good explanation for why I'm telling him this), and it isn't fair to me (for when I try and do things without full explanation, people often get snippy).


So now, there is the Octaguide, a simple hundred-and-thirty-nine part program that can help you (yes, you!) know what I would say about your IA were I to read it! You don't even have to necessarily write the IA! You will also find advice on writing IAs: advice on concepts, advice on colors, advice on spelling, grammar, and editing. It's all here. At least when I remember to put it in.


I even included a guide to not using this guide, which I recommend to anyone who isn't really sure if they want to write an IA in the first place, or who hasn't done this whole "write about a DIY chapter" thing before.


Enjoy the guide, feel free to ask any questions, violently disagree, or send me gushing praise offering to bear my children. However, note three things: Firstly, this guide assumes you care what I think. If you do not, this cannot be helped. Letters and replies to the effect that I am not the boss of you so you don't have to listen to any of this will be dissected for logical inconsistencies and replied to with corrected grammar and spelling.


Secondly, I am sarcastic, occasionally cruel, and a little conceited. However, I strive to compensate for this last by directing the first two at everyone impartially, including myself. I assure you, any success I have attained I have attained because of a combination of hard work and repeated stupidity. I think everyone on this forum has the ability to produce excellent IAs - the only real difference is the amount of work and time it will take in each case. I am not offering this material in an attempt to make you feel stupid.


Third, this guide provides advice that is focused on writing IAs, and assumes that that is what you want to do. IAs are not the only viable format for producing a DIY article, though they are one of only two demonstrated official ones and are by far the most popular in the Liber Astartes. The advice contained within should be generally applicable to other DIY articles, however. There is also a brief guide to writing the little blurbs from Codex: Space Marines, which I recommend to any new DIYers or anyone who's become bored with IAs.


A Note on Guides

No guide can be absolute (though most try their very best). Consider what any guide has to say carefully before ignoring it - anything in a guide was something someone felt was worth including. However, they are general tools, and can often miss specific flaws. A guide is no substitute for caution, good planning, and a willingness to improve – but an obvious component of caution would be reading all the guides you could get your hands on.


With that out of the way, the guide proper will now commence.


List of Sections in Order of Appearance


On criticism

-Everyone is the boss of you

-Nobody is the boss of you

-The two kinds of criticism

-Reacting to criticism

-Acting on criticism

-What to do when you get no responses


On IAs and the philosophy behind them

-What is an IA?

-You never actually told us what an Index Astartes is

-What is an IA not?

-Thou shalt be all that you can be


On the the planning of an IA

-Answer Mr. Morden


-Think it through


-Do not piggyback on the official

-The Black Library does not really exist

-Reasonable innovation is key

-Do not destroy the shared universe

-Do not overgild the lily

-The Index Traitoris problem

-Begin at your goal


On the outlining of an IA


-Tearing down that which you have built

-Follow the format

-The Chapter Name

-There's nothing wrong with adjective-noun


-You don't need ten thousand years of history

-Devastate your Chapter uniquely

-Jesus was derivative

-Later History

-Home World



-Geneseed sources and their effects

-You are not the [blank] Templars

-Ensure your Curse makes sense

-Combat Doctrine


-Understand what the Codex is and isn't


-Your color scheme is important

-Resources for writing and construction

-When in doubt, turn to GW

-Recognize the limits of GW

-Developing your outline


On the construction and writing of an IA

-Only if you need to

-Focus on the differences, not the similarities

-Present things in order, and explain yourself well

-Battles are boring

-The Title

-Introductory Paragraph



-You don't need that many color schemes

-Use the right amount of mystery

-Subtlety, not sledgehammers


On writing

-Read it aloud

-Learn to spell and to gramm

-Don't write in your browser

-However, be self-aware

-Stick to the established length

-Shorter is almost always better


On painting and colors

-Applying your paint scheme with a shotgun will make people's eyes bleed

-Do not paint your marines' feet in brighter colors unless you want people to stare at their feet

-Black and red are not cool and unique


On offering criticism

-And sometimes I like to sing little songs

-The Fine Grit Approach

-The Rough Grit Approach

-My Own Recommendations


Supplementary resources

-Recommended Reading (Official)

-Recommended Reading (DIY)

-A brief history of my own work

-Links to other resources


A (very) short and eclectic course in grammar and spelling


On Codex divergence and changes to a Chapter's character

-What is the Codex Astartes?

-What this means about your own Chapter's views on the Codex

-How to diverge naturally

-What about other changes?


Octavulg's Guide to Not Using the Rest of the Octaguide Right Now

Edited by Octavulg
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On criticism

This first section, as the title suggests, covers the idea of criticism of your IA, whether it be the individualized criticism of someone responding directly to you, or the more impersonal (but somehow more aggravating) criticism of a guide or article.

Everyone is the boss of you
Firstly, anyone can criticize anything. You need not have written an IA to understand when one is bad, much like you do not need to be an author to tell if a book is bad. However, the more a criticism can be justified, the better it will be received, and it is never wrong to ask someone to further explain and support what they have said about your IA.

But you are not a unique and beautiful flower who deserves to be protected from the world. You are writing about a universe where millions are routinely slaughtered by ravening horrors from a dimension inconceivable to man - you should have a certain strength of character by now. Stiffen your spine, bite your lip, and try not to take it personally. Even if people are telling you everything about your IA is wrong, remain calm and collected. Be polite to them. Feel free to point out inconsistencies in their logic, of course, but do not stick your fingers in your ears and start singing "I'm So Lonely" just yet.

At minimum, every person on Liber knows what they, personally, hate to see in an IA, and generally speaking, they post because they feel this IA has redeeming qualities that can be improved. You posted your IA here in the hopes of making it better and finding help with the development of your ideas (OK, so you posted it to show off how awesome you are and have people praise you, just like everyone else did. Fixing it to their standards is the quickest route to that). When you ask for a response, you will often get one. Take advantage of it. Find out what they object to. Find out why. Consider their opinions objectively - are they right? If you saw this in someone else's IA, would you agree with it? Do not let your affection for your ideas blind you to their flaws. These opinions are being offered because the people in question think that your IA can be improved. It is important to listen to them and treat them with respect.

No one is the boss of you
It is also important to remember that these criticisms are the opinion of others (though sometimes they can be the opinions of a lot of others). No one can force you to change your IA. It is yours and you must be happy with the final result, or your time was wasted. These people are usually telling you what they would do - but what matters is what you will do. You must determine for yourself what advice to follow and why.

The two kinds of criticism
There are two kinds of criticism of an IA, and each should be treated somewhat differently. The first, and most important, is criticism based on conformity with the 40K universe – does something fit within the fluff? One of the primary goals of any IA should be to fit well into the existing 40K universe – and if people are telling you that what you are doing violates some particular tenet of fluff, or is chronologically inconsistent, or creates an organization that would have been mentioned, or goes against various in-universe precedents, this is important. Other things can be handwaved away easily be personal taste, but if your IA doesn't fit in the universe you have lost. Consider very, very, very carefully any possible inconsistencies with the universe people point out – especially if multiple people point them out and no one seems to disagree. At a barest of minimums, you must justify why what you're doing isn't really inconsistent with the universe.

The other kind is more general – criticism of everything else about the IA. Color choices, writing, story progression, word choice, names, characters – all of this is far more subjective than the admittedly hazy 40K fluff. Criticism in this area will likely be far more a product of personal taste, and can be considered less seriously (though, as always, the more something is pointed out, the greater the chance it really is a problem). Presumably you do want to satisfy the audience, and this kind of advice can be a valuable guide to doing so.

Reacting to criticism
Reacting to criticism is the most important part of writing an IA on the B&C. Your interactions with fellow members of the forum will be critical in improving your work and in interesting people in it. If you treat your fellow forum members badly, they will swiftly lose interest in helping you and in your IA. This should be simple, and yet often is not - but at its most basic terms behaving appropriately in the Liber Astartes means making the assumption that everyone is attempting to help you. Until that assumption is clearly in error, you must remain polite and respond as such - and even at that point, you should attempt to verify that your suspicions of malice are correct. It does not matter if you are tired, angry, or resent something in particular about what has been suggested - you must be polite. You are asking people for help - comport yourself as such. If you want people to simply cast plaudits toward you and bow down in awe, I recommend some one-on-one time with the mirror, because that is not why people come to the Liber Astartes, and it is not why people remain there.

Make sure you do not take the criticism too seriously, or too lightly. Just because someone is joking around a little doesn't mean they're not taking your IA seriously, and just because they're treating it with seriousness doesn't mean they're putting too much importance on it. Different people have different styles of criticism and different standards for what they think IAs should be - responses will be varying in character.

Under no circumstances whatsoever take someone to task for not knowing something about your chapter that was not in the IA. Not only is it your responsibility to convey the information you wish people to know, acting as though you're more intelligent than they are for knowing something you came up with but didn't tell them is incredibly rude, and is one of the fastest ways I can think of to earn yourself an enemy on these boards.

It is also important to remember that, while most Liberites will provide criticism for a while, having no idea what changes have been made, why, or what the goals for the IA are can be disheartening to the critic. Most Liberites post in expectation of a dialogue with the author - it is best to reply to people explaining what you think of their ideas and why. This will both ensure you get criticism that is helpful to you and allow those who expect something different from your IA to bow out gracefully and not waste their efforts.

When the time comes and you flat out don't want to take advice, explain why. Not only is it polite, it will make it clearer to people where you want to go with the IA and what your assumptions are, which will help others provide you with better advice on what to do and where to go with your ideas.

Acting on criticism
Acting on criticism can be difficult to do. The mechanics of revision are dealt with later in this guide, but this section will try to cover how you should deal with critics and treat criticism generally. Determining which ideas are good and which are bad is simultaneously a matter of suppressing and listening to your instincts. Sometimes you will think an idea is good and it will be bad, sometimes you will think an idea is bad and it will be good, and just as often you'll be right on the money. The most important thing to do is this: in any circumstance where you are uncertain, ask for more information. No Liberite can resist the opportunity to pontificate. People will almost always be willing to try to explain their ideas further and explain to you why they say what they have said, even if they did not initially.

It is important to remember that many Liberites often don't comment on things that are good - there are only so many quote tags available, and it is generally seen as more important to get the whole house together before trying to hang the wallpaper. I subscribe to this view myself. Pointing out individual flaws does not mean that the whole is flawed, and it is important to remember this. Do not throw out whole sections because someone criticized a sentence - that is an overreaction, and now they have to read something new and check that for flaws, too, which they will not appreciate.

Try not to completely revise the IA too frequently. When the IA changes every few hours, it can feel like an overwhelming task to reread it each time. Take it a little slowly, and make only minor revisions at first - sentences, misspelled words, removing things that are completely ridiculous. Save the big revisions for the next draft - that's what drafts are for.

Of course, all that assumes you get criticism in the first place.

What to do when you get no responses
Life is not fair, and neither is the Liber Astartes. Sometimes perfectly good IAs get ignored, while their contemporaries are deluged in responses and advice. Such are the vagaries of the forum.

When you get no responses, ask yourself a few questions:

Have I been posting too often? If your IA has been revised twice daily for five days and people have been posting each time, you've likely tired the denizens out. Take a break for a week or two (or even a little longer) before asking for more help.

Have I participated in the community? Often, participating in the community will draw attention to your DIY thread (it is generally best to include a link to it in your sig). The link by itself will draw attention. Making yourself visible in the forum will help draw attention to any project you attempt. This, however, means real participation. If your post is clearly just an attempt to draw attention to your own chapter, people will be less likely to help, not more. Provide honest, sincere criticism without strings attached and you will receive attention.

Do I look pathetic enough? If all else fails, play the sympathy card. Continue improving and editing the IA on your own. Make the occasional post (about once every three days to once every week) explaining what changes have been made. Eventually, sheer pity will motivate someone to provide feedback. If you are forced to do this, however, give extra weight to what they say - almost any criticism they make is likely shared by others who could not be bothered to post. Edited by Octavulg
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On IAs and the philosophy behind them

What is an Index Astartes?
The first Index Astartes was that of the Ultramarines, in White Dwarf #97. Though it little resembled its more famous fellows in Third Edition, it was still a third-person article written from a semi-omniscient in-universe perspective, with its chief goal the exploration of the character of the Chapter and the Chapter's history. The Index Astartes series from White Dwarf during Third Edition has remained popular, and with its production of an article for every known Legion and several other Chapters, is still the most complete repository of background information available on those Chapters. The Liber Astartes subforum on the Bolter and Chainsword is generally dedicated to the production of such articles for fan-made Chapters, generally in the style of those Third Edition articles. The declining availability of those articles, however, has (appropriately enough) resulted in much of IA writing becoming somewhat arcane, with many would-be authors having never seen that which they are imitating in function (if not necessarily in form).

Overcoming this is somewhat difficult, though the sufficiently dedicated always seem to locate the official GW IAs if they look hard enough. Thus, this guide now attempts to, in as complete a fashion as possible, explain what exactly an IA is and walk the reader through the process of building one from an initial concept through to final polishing of the completed work. Masochism is a family trait.

You never actually told us what an Index Astartes is
True enough. An Index Astartes is described in the Vocabularia Octavulgia (i.e. my head) as a third-person article written from a semi-omniscient in-universe perspective about a Space Marine chapter, with the chief goal as the exploration of the Chapter's character and history, and which follows the IA format produced by Games Workshop in their series of articles in third edition. Now, what, exactly, does that mean? And why do we write them, anyway?

A third-person article is an article written about "them" (a first-person would be written about "I" and a second-person one about "you"). All GW IAs follow this format, much like real-world history books. Why? Because they're frequently in-universe histories, describing the story of their Chapter.

A semi-omniscient in-universe perspective means that it's written as though the writer lives in the 40K universe, but often with information that such a person would not have access to. IAs are frequently written as though they are being compiled by Imperial historians, but this is applied with varying degrees of thoroughness, and the IA will sometimes reveal secrets no historian could be aware of (like the existence of the Fallen in IA: Dark Angels). Still, if you pretend to be a pedantic Imperial historian while writing your IA, you're unlikely to go far wrong.

Indices Astartes (it's the only logical plural form. You can see why we say IAs all the time.) are about Space Marine chapters because they have Astartes in the title. Sometimes, life is simple. They explore a chapter's history because, well, that's when most of the interesting stuff a Chapter did happened. As to why they explore a Chapter's character, well, that's a slightly more philosophical question.

IAs explore a Chapter's character because once you understand a Chapter's character, you don't need to know the rest. Once you understand a Chapter's character, you can extrapolate the centuries of their history of your own accord - we do not know every battle the Imperial Fists have fought, but that does not matter. We know how the Fists would have fought them, what would have motivated them to do so, and how they would have looked while doing it (answer: awesome). We know how the Imperial Fists fit into the universe because we understand their character. The alternative would be to actually show us how the Imperial Fists have fit into the universe, and that would take a very, very long time. Instead, we explore how the Imperial Fists work, and thus we know roughly what they have done without needing to be told. Very efficient, I'm sure you'll agree.

There is also the consideration that character can be truly unique, while battles, shiny equipment and organizational quirks simply cannot be in the same sense. What distinguishes the Iron Hands from the Dark Angels from the Ultramarines is not their organizational differences, or when and where they have fought, or what pretty toys they have acquired, but why they fought and why they differ in organization. It is the whys of a Chapter that make them interesting.

Most Chapters are Codex-adhering Ultramarine successors. What this means is that they fight the same and they come from the same background - initially, they will have been virtually the same. Under those circumstances, a well-written IA which justifies its changes will have to change the chapter's character in order to make their chapter particularly unique - and that means exploring what made that character change and what the chapter is like now. All real changes flow from changes to the Chapter's character.

What is an IA not?
There are a few things an IA is not. An IA is not a complete history of your Chapter. An IA is not a short story. An IA is not (especially not) a battle history of your Chapter. An IA is not an exploration of the important people in your chapter. An IA is not an exploration of your home world. An IA is not a Codex. An IA is not a justification for the quirks of your army on the tabletop. An IA is an IA.

Thou shalt be all that you can be
By the time you even have a good IA, you will have spent hours of your life on it. Many other people will have done so as well. There will be thousands of words about your chapter, each one of which will have been scrutinized repeatedly to determine whether it works. There is the real possibility that it may, on a word-for-word basis, be the thing in your life you spend the most time on, certainly the most effort for something you write for fun. You may want to write another IA. You may not. In either case, why are you stopping now?

If you're going to move on to another IA, you clearly enjoy writing. You enjoy using your skills and expressing your ideas. You likely like your ideas quite a bit. Why would you betray them by doing anything other than developing them to the full extent of your abilities? And why should you expect people to take you seriously as a writer if you don't do as good a job as you can? Quantity is not the same thing as quality – take the time and do all your ideas justice, even if it takes a while.

If you're not going to...why stop here? Take a break. Do something else. Then come back. After all, you're not going to write another IA - this one is the public face of your chapter, the work people will judge you by. If you're only going to do one thing, might as well make it a good one.

Either way, think back to all the people who have helped you on this IA. They poured work into it as well. They gave you their time when they did not have to, and offered ideas they could have used themselves. They did not have to help you - they did it because they wanted to, and thought you would produce something good if they did.

Prove them right. Standards are minimums, not maximums, and the only limit on your IA is you. In those circumstances, the only good enough is as good as you can. Edited by Octavulg
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On the Planning of an IA

You should always have a plan. You need not follow the plan, and success is not defined by doing what the plan tells you. But you need to have a plan nonetheless. Planning out the IA lets you find problems while they are easy to deal with, gives you goals to work toward, and generally makes things easier. Make a plan.

Answer Mr. Morden
The question I seem to find myself asking most often these days is this:

"What do you want?"

Nobody ever answers, because people are naturally unhelpful. Nonetheless, it's a good question that deserves an answer. It says so much in four little words.

What are you trying to accomplish with your IA? What things do you really want to write about? What do you want to avoid? Is there a theme or idea you really like? Is there some book or movie or character that is influencing this? Is there a particular 'feel' you'd like for your IA? Are there common aspects of Space Marine chapters you don't like? Ones you do like? What do you want to emphasize about your chapter? What kind of people do you want the Marines in your chapter to be? What do you want people's reactions to be when they read your IA?

All of these things in four words. Amazing.

This information is critical to helping people improve what you produce, yet no one ever provides it without prompting (and sometimes not even then). A paragraph on what you're trying to accomplish with your IA can do more to help a critic than the rest of the IA itself. It also can often do a lot to help you focus your ideas. Figure out what you want. Use that information. Then tell people what you wanted.

The rest of this section (and indeed, this guide) follows from this: figure out what you want.

IAs start from strange places. The Ice Lords originated as a quite-possibly-more-complicated-than-necessary attempt to create Dark Angels who didn't like Jonson, which wandered through a variety of other objectives at the same time. The Stone Hearts took their current form in part from their original concept as pseudo-Celtic marines who were short on supplies and in part from a typo in one of ecritter's IAs. The Bronze Prophets are based on what was originally a method for dealing with a DIY Chapter's Death Company and a line from Diablo. Thus, I am not even going to begin to speculate on where yours came from, nor pass any more than the most minimal judgment upon whether it is a good one.

That said, you should think about your idea - because an idea is not the same as a concept. A concept is, at least to me, how you would describe the Chapter in a sentence. For example, the Space Wolves are Viking Werewolves. The Blood Angels are Angels who succumb to vampiric madness. The Imperial Fists are stubborn, slightly-self-hating siegemasters. The Ice Lords are Dark Angels who hate Jonson. That sort of thing. Working out a concept is important - once you have a concept, you have a Chapter and thus an IA. The rest is just finalizing details.

Ask yourself whether your idea is already a concept. It doesn't have to be - lots of my Chapters have started out as "My chapter should have more Terminator armor!" or "how can I justify these modelling choices?" But that's where you need to end up for your first step - trying to build an IA off a single idea is doable, but can often end up focused on a particular detail to the detriment of the whole. Building an IA off a concept gives you more options and broadens your focus - which will let you find opportunities you'd never even thought of. The easiest way to turn an idea into a concept is by asking "why?" and "how?"

For example, take the Stone Hearts. I wanted to justify them having Terminator armor. As someone who has read far too much Battletech fiction, the obvious means for them to do that was via duelling for equipment. But why would a Chapter duel for equipment? Well, because they were forced to through circumstance because they couldn't obtain their supplies normally. Why would that happen? Due to some falling-out with the Mechanicus or Departmento Munitorum. Why would that happen? Well, the obvious point of contact between Space Marines and the Adeptus Mechanicus is the Chapter Armory, and the DA Codex mentions how Chapters often mistrust their Techmarines due to their dual oaths of loyalty - what if the Chapter Master of the Stone Hearts refused to have his Techmarines split their allegiances and the Mechanicus refused the Chapter their supplies? The Chapter would end up having to seek out other sources of equipment - and what better source of Space Marine equipment than other Space Marine Chapters? If the Chapter was poor, they might have no choice but to fight for it, rather than trading. That's not a very reliable method of getting supplies, though - so they'd likely be somewhat underequipped, and rather cautious. And thus, from "Terminators are neat, and I wish to have more of them", we move to "proud but cautious Chapter who duel to keep themselves supplied". A little more detail, and a lot more character - we can already kind of see the Chapter taking shape, and have some different directions we can move in if we want to. We can also imagine how they'll react in certain situations.

An easy way to think of the concept is as a Chapter's quirk (or a theme). A quirk is a unique element that other Chapters do not share - but is not related to a Chapter's organization or their equipment, which are expressions of the quirk/concept. The particular quirks of a chapter are often what people remember most. Note that these are not necessarily gene-seed defects or organizational oddities. The most prominent unique feature of any chapter is its quirk. The Blood Angels have the Black Rage. The Dark Angels have the Fallen. The Salamanders are humanitarian blacksmiths. These can be of varying degrees of complexity and subtlety, but every chapter has one.

However, many Chapters have relatively undeveloped concepts or themes - the Crimson Fists, Ultramarines, and Raven Guard, for example, all have relatively nebulous influences and themes. Their IAs focus attention instead on the narrative of what happens to the Chapter.

The Narrative
I have on occasion mentioned that there are two kinds of IAs - there are those that focus on story, and those that focus on concept. Both can work (and both can be combined with each other), but it is important to recognize the distinction. The more interesting your Chapter's story, the less well-developed and unique your concept needs to be (and vice versa). Indeed, the Salamanders get away with little or no story in their IA because they have a correspondingly greater amount of theme. Conversely, the Night Lords have reams and reams of story, with proportionately less theme (though the Night Lords IA is sufficiently massive it manages to include both).

IAs are not stories, but they can contain them. However, striking a good balance is important. Personally, I find that it is often easier to have a unique theme than a unique story. This does not mean that either is impossible, but it does mean that you must keep the goal of your IA in mind while you are planning it, since that is what you're really interested in developing. A truly good IA plays to its strengths - whether that be theme, story, or both.

Think it through
A chapter concept is the unique element that other chapters do not share, and a chapter's story should be unique as well. It is important, before you set pen to paper, that you consider the implications, methods and workings of your concept and ideas fully. Where did those traits come from? Does that story hang together if you think about it logically? Why did those events happen? Would there have been a simpler or more practical thing for the Chapter or other organizations to do instead? What effects has this had on individual marines, on the chapter as a whole, on their beliefs, their relationship with Imperial organizations, the way they fight, the reasons they will fight, on who they fight? Keep asking "Why?" about every aspect of your chapter, and come up with good answers. You should also remember to ask yourself if you've heard this before – there's nothing more embarrassing than accidentally recreating the Ultramarines.

A quirk is the basis of your Chapter. Thus, it is important that a chapter's concept not fall apart if thought about too hard. Consider it very, very carefully. Not only will this consideration preserve you from mockery and revision, it will also help you write the rest of your IA by showing you the natural consequences of the way your chapter is. Though a good IA will give a Chapter dimensions beyond the simplest expression of its concept, developing that simplest expression properly is critical.

There are, however, some pitfalls that must be avoided when conceiving of a Chapter. Some of these are enumerated below.

Do not piggyback on the official
Your deep and abiding affection for Logan Grimnar and Dante is understandable. However, they did not personally drag your Chapter Master's wounded body from the fray after he saved their lives. Nor was Calgar your Chapter Master's mentor, or his secret godfather. Your chapter should stand on its own - dragging in official characters or organizations simply so your chapter can show off only makes it seem like you can't write interesting and exciting characters without relying on someone else's work.

GW has in the past produced several campaigns that your DIY Chapter could actually have participated in – the Thirteenth Black Crusade and the Third War for Armageddon most notably. Though your Chapter obviously can have participated in these events, you should be careful to not draw attention to them particularly – do not mention them as too important, and ensure that you also mention other events they have participated in so that this example is not the focus. Personally, I feel it's bad form to claim your Chapter was present at campaigns you did not participate in, but that's a more personal caveat.

The Black Library does not really exist
The Black Library has produced some fine products. Good luck getting agreement on what those are. The Black Library's wildly varying quality and sometimes contradictory claims mean that its status and acceptance varies from canon to toilet paper. Basing your chapter off something in the Black Library risks both rejection by the audience and that you're using something that is flat-out stupid. Be cautious. Consider how the particular piece of information fits into the rest of the 40K universe, and whether you might not be better off leaving the idea out or creating your own, unique version of it. Remember that no matter how much you like it, a significant portion of the audience will hate it for the exact same reasons.

Reasonable innovation is key
It has been said that there is nothing new under the sun. While this is true, this does not mean you should embrace being derivative. When writing an IA, it is important to separate your chapter from the herd while still keeping them a normal chapter. Everything that came from somewhere else, try to present it in a new way. The more places you have seen it, the harder you should try to make it a little unique and integrate it well into the IA. If you've seen it too many other places, consider leaving the idea out. Reduce your chapter to quirk form, and then think of a few other famous chapters - is your chapter too similar? How about your chapter's story, or the plot devices in it? Although IAs are often created using very old parts, it is important to clean the parts first. Otherwise the IA chokes, dies, and has to be sold for scrap at pennies on the dollar. File the serial numbers off, paint them another color, and maybe use parts from several different sources, and you'll be retired in a tropical country before you know it.

Do not destroy the shared universe
Try not to do things that narrow down grey areas of the fluff (like pinning down founding dates, setting a number on something previously un-numbered, or explaining what an official organization's view is in regard to something not immediately related to your chapter). Half the fun of writing an IA is making it fit into the existing GW universe and, speaking personally, half the fun of that is making it fit with everyone else's attempts to do the same thing. The more things you dictate about the way the universe works that conflict with someone else's preconceptions, the harder it becomes for other people to see your chapter and theirs running through fields of flowers together. And if I can't see your boys and mine cleansing a Space Hulk together (or swearing to eternally hate each other), why would I want to comment?

Do not overgild the lily
You should also ensure the chapter is not too different. As a general rule of thumb, if their differences cannot be explained simply and quickly, your chapter is too different for easy acceptance by people in the Liber. Notice the way quirks were expressed above - that's a pretty good base to start from. The logical implications of a quirk will fill an IA quite full without any further additions. The chapter should fit into the universe while still being unique. It is a careful balance, and can be difficult to find (not least because it lies in different places for different people). As another good rule of thumb, if you're breaking more than one of the cliche suggestions in the Liber Astartes DIY Guide, you're trying too hard.

A chapter with a dark secret will be able to have more depth and character than a Cursed Founding chapter with a dark secret, five home worlds, a secret weapon, a secret mission from the Inquisition, three battles which nearly destroyed the chapter and lead to massive military reforms each time, a lost Chapter Master, traitor gene-seed, and who worship the Emperor as a Chaos God. Exploring a few ideas well is always a better choice than exploring many poorly.

The Index Traitoris problem
The casual observer may notice that there are far fewer Indices Traitoris than Indices Astartes in the Librarium (and that there is a corresponding disparity in the number in the Liber at any one time). The more observant observer may have noticed that I tend to read ITs only when I have to. There is a simple reason for this (well, there are several, but I'm acknowledging this one).

An IT is much harder to write well than an IA. Instead of creating an interesting chapter, you have to create two. You have to create a natural progression between the two. You have the same amount of space to do it in. And GW has already produced nine examples which are, to varying degrees, iconic and memorable. It is thus unsurprising that the method by which one character becomes the other almost always boils down to “the Space Marines did something the plot demanded and were corrupted forever”.

I have little advice to offer on how to overcome these difficulties (other than practice, caution and thought). But authors should bear in mind the difficulties inherent in trying to produce an IT before they set out to do so. Equally, they should try to avoid the oh-so-common trap of “and then he touched the evil relic and the Chapter turned to Chaos!” The pitfalls of unoriginality are even more pronounced here – and so more care must be taken to dodge them.

Begin at your goal
The final thing to bear in mind when planning your IA is an error that many new authors seem to make - many seem to feel that they are obliged to plan and write their IA in order from the creation of the Chapter through to its current state. This is self-defeating - you know what you want. How you get there should be kept flexible for as long as possible - not least because what you want may change. Plan your IA around the things you like about the Chapter, then fill in the rest of the Chapter by working from those points, rather than trying to pin down things that simply may not matter yet. Edited by Octavulg
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On the outlining of an IA

After you have conceived of a concept and some ideas for your Chapter, you should write an outline. I say this as though you have a choice, but I'm being misleading. You will make an outline. Outlines are wonderful. They allow you to plan out the entire IA without actually writing the IA, force you to think about your ideas, and allow quick and easy critique which produces solutions that are quickly and easily implemented. At this stage, new ideas are easy to incorporate if people offer them. Make an outline.

On the art of the outline
The point where an outline stops being an outline and starts being a first draft is, at least for me, often somewhat nebulous. I've had entire sections written while other sections were still point form notes. That's not necessarily a bad thing. What an outline does is put your ideas into the format and terms of an IA, and force you to look at the thing as a whole. Lots of people begin an IA at the beginning, and end up with thousands and thousands of words before they're out of the first section. Lots of people start writing a particular section, then write another section, then another, all without any apparent plan or cohesion, and the damn thing never gets finished.

Begin your outline as brief notes within an IA structure (a section for general notes at the end is not a bad idea, either). I recommend working in Wordpad, that most versatile of word processors. Attach the concerns and queries you may have about each note to that note. Then start looking at empty sections, and ask yourself what your other notes imply. They need not imply anything, of course. But go through this nonetheless, and create a network of interrelated notes that stretch across several different sections. Once you have this, you have the beginnings of a cohesively expressed theme. If you have more than one aspect to your Chapter's theme (the Space Wolves are both Vikings and werewolves, for example), make sure to do this with both. Do this until you feel you are beginning to get a good picture of the Chapter (and don't worry about things like sidebars yet). At that point, I'd recommend posting your outline and notes for critique and advice, along with a prospective color scheme. If you do so, act upon that advice until
you get a fairly final outline. Then begin writing. If you don't do so, begin writing immediately (but you may be making a mistake). But writing the IA proper is another section.

Tearing down that which you have built
It is important to always maintain a certain willingness to set a match to the entire thing and begin anew. You do not ever have to do this, but you should do your best to remain objective about what you're doing. It is never too late to reevaluate what you're working on. This is especially important in the outlining stage, where you should expect to see your vision of the IA change several times in varying degrees. The outlining stage is the best time for this, because it is simple and easy to make large changes. Always ask yourself if you really want this detail or concept, or if it's holding you back, and whether the IA would be better if you removed it or changed it.

Follow the format
When outlining, it makes sense to follow the established GW IA format - after all, that's what you're setting out to write. The GW IA format is fairly flexible (though I tend to end up using the same one over and over). Of the twenty-three IAs GW has produced (eighteen Legions, three Second Founding, two others), this is generally how the format works (at least for the purposes of outlining - an actual IA has a few little touches that aren't necessary for outlining).

The Origins section is invariably first, but beyond that IA format is fairly variable. Of GW's IAs, the Emperor's Children, Ultramarines, Iron Warriors, World Eaters, Salamanders, Thousand Sons, Dark Angels, Death Guard, Word Bearers, Raven Guard, Alpha Legion, Crimson Fists, Blood Ravens, White Scars and Black Legion all use the same format: Origins, Home World, Combat Doctrine, Organisation, Beliefs, Gene-seed and Battle-cry. They vary from this only in whether or not they have Later History sections between Origins and Home World and how many of those sections they have (and that seems to have less to do with length and a lot more to do with whether the author in question felt that breaking up his wall of historical text with some nice titles was a good aesthetic decision).

Five of the remaining eight IAs have only the most minor of differences. The Black Templars use the above-mentioned format, but retitle the Battle-cry section Chapter Motto and have a pronouncedly long section on history after their Motto section. The Iron Hands lack a Battle-cry section. The Night Lords have no Organisation section. The Flesh Tearers have no Beliefs section. The Relictors stick a Later History section in between Combat Doctrine and Organisation. Thus, twenty of twenty-three IAs basically follow the same format.

The remaining three are the Imperial Fists, the Space Wolves, and the Blood Angels. The Imperial Fists omit Home World, Organisation and Beliefs - and this is to the detriment of the IA. Omitting one section is arguably justifiable, but omitting three just makes it look like you got lazy - especially when they are Home World and Beliefs, two of the areas which can give us the most insight into the Chapter's character and the most color to their background. The Space Wolves use a latter order of Organisation, Gene-seed, Beliefs, Combat Doctrine, then Battle-cry. It works well enough, and demonstrates that reorganizing the format is not necessarily bad (the Space Wolves IA's flaws lie in other areas). The Blood Angels switch to a final order of Battle-cry, Beliefs, Gene-seed, presumably saving the details of the Black Rage for the end. Personally, I think they should have left Battle-cry out, since it breaks the flow of the IA, but otherwise the choice made sense.

As you can see, there is a fairly defined format for IAs - but there is also room for change. Omitting a section or two is permissible, as is moving one or two around. Personally, I usually use a format of Origins, Later History, Home World, Beliefs, Combat Doctrine, Organisation, Gene-seed, Battle-cry. This packs the "this is the Chapter" information into a solid block, leaving the end free for a sprinkling of details and a solid finish with a Battle-cry that ties in well with the Chapter's nature. There are other ways to do it - generally, doing whatever works best for presenting the information in a rational and interesting order is what is ideal. Just don't move Origins around.

The Chapter Name
Despite what I said above, in many ways the first section is the Chapter Name. It is, after all, part of the title. Chapter names take four forms – the unduly-mocked adjective-noun (Stone Hearts, Iron Hands, Doom Eagles), the Blanks of X (the Sons of Orar, Angels of Absolution), the X Chapter (Aurora Chapter, Genesis Chapter, Mentor Legion) and the less-common one-word (Marauders, Rampagers, Praetors of Orpheus (Orpheus is their home world. They're the Praetors who live on Orpheus)). It should be noted that the Blanks of X is basically adjective-noun turned around so it sounds better.

All of these have their merits and disadvantages. The important thing is that the Chapter name is often used to encapsulate the Chapter's character in a nutshell – Space Wolves? Space Werewolves. Blood Angels? Angels with a thing for blood. Dark Angels? Allusion to a poem about a deep, dark secret. Angels of Absolution? Dark Angels who believe they are absolved of spiritual guilt for the Fallen. It's fine to just choose something you like the sound of, but a name that says something about the chapter's character is another opportunity to present the themes of your chapter and draw the reader's interest. Your choice of name is either the first or second thing people will encounter about your Chapter (the other is your color scheme). You should put as much thought into it as any other aspect of your IA.

There's Nothing Wrong With Adjective-Noun
Adjective noun takes a lot of stick from some quarters. Nonetheless, it's my favorite kind of Chapter name. It's simple, it's effective, and it admirably gives you immediate insight into the Chapter's theme. It's better at this than other methods because it also let's you have more than one theme while it's doing that – the Marauders may maraud, but the Blood Angels are about both blood and angelicness. You can present your chapter to the reader and create three impressions – that of the adjective, that of the noun and that of the two together.

The Blood Angels, to really harp on this example, demonstrate their angelic nature (with Angels), their obsession with blood (with, well, Blood), and their nature as ravening forces of destruction who really like jump packs (with Blood Angels). 'Ice Lords' demonstrates the cold of their home world, their duty, and the loneliness of Taramant and company (Ice), while also demonstrating their relationship with the people (Lords). The two together create impressions that they are either cold and detached (which nicely covers one faction of the Chapter) or that they have somehow mastered the cold (which, assuming it's a metaphorical cold representing duty, covers the other). The Dark Angels set up expectations of perfection with Angels, counter it with expectations of secrecy and mistrust with Dark, and as the rounded Dark Angels exemplify the inherent danger of their allegiance. As can be seen from these examples, adjective-noun is a good way to show off a Chapter's character and subtly (or not-so-subtly) give people an impression of what they will be like.

Using a one word Chapter name gives you the same opportunities, though in a slightly more limited fashion which is arguably balanced by the ability to stand out by having a more unique name. However, using one word Chapter names can often result in the use of a word that could also be used in the traditional "Adjective-noun" arrangement - the Marauders, as mentioned above, are a good example. I feel this is to be avoided. For better or worse, people who make the Iron Marauders, or Red Marauders, or what have you, are going to be associated with the Second Founding White Scars successor. While your DIY Chapter will presumably be less famous than that, I find that I thus prefer it when people use particularly esoteric names when creating a single-name Chapter - it feels more reasonable within the shared universe. The Castigators, for example, suit this purpose admirably - the name lends itself poorly to adjectives, and is nice and long to further discourage it. While the Hounds and the Red Hounds and the Hounds of Deimos could all co-exist, it would feel a little weird for them all to be in the same universe, and so I recommend that single-word names be long and esoteric, for the good of everyone (and so you stand out).

If you must have a fairly generic one word name (like, say, Praetors), I recommend sticking the home world on the end of it. First, it gives the name a little more heft - most generic terms are fairly short, and thus having the extra syllables give the name a certain something it might otherwise lack. And second, it avoids possible confusion issues later on - all to the good.

Thus, once you have chosen a Chapter name that fits your ideas well (or that you like), it is time to move on to the actual outlining.

The 'Origins' section is less than inventively named. Nonetheless, it is important – a poor Origins section can turn people against the rest of an IA (assuming they stick around to see it after a poor Origins section, of course).

Traditionally, the Origins section deals with when the Chapter was founded, how, why, and possibly who the Chapter's original leaders were, as well as some of the Chapter's early history up to and including how they got to be the way they are today. The home world is often introduced here, as well. It will then usually then set up the information needed for the next section of the Chapter's history. The Origins section can be as long or as short as is necessary to do this, depending on how important the Chapter's founding was to its modern identity and on how much the individual author likes coming up with additional section titles.

A good Origins section hits the above points in a relatively creative fashion and strives to make a very old formula new again (which can be very, very difficult). Be aware that people have seen much of this before – one Chapter's founding is much like another. There are two options to take – move past as quickly as possible to get to the interesting parts, or try and add interesting and (relatively) unique details to make the more repetitive elements palatable to the jaded Liber-ite. Both are valid, and I have used both in my time with varying degrees of success (I recommend the first, unless the founding details are particularly important to the Chapter's current form). The important thing is not to bore the reader with repetitive details of a Chapter founding that are common to every single Chapter ever founded. Move past these, and get to the bits that make the Chapter unique.

Usually, the closing paragraph(s) of the Origins section either lead into the next section, generally by introducing the influential characters, places and events of the Chapter's later history and setting the stage for what they will do, or by simply tying up the Chapter's story in preparation for the introduction of the Chapter's Home World or some other section of import.

Remember: if a Chapter's founding is not important to its modern character, do not be afraid to skip over such information and begin dealing directly with the events that shaped the Chapter into its modern form. Advice for that sort of thing and what will be expected is dealt with in the next section – just be aware that you can deal with it here.

You don't need ten thousand years of history
There is no need for your Chapter to be a a lost member of the Second Founding, or Third Founding. The entirety of recorded human history spans less than ten thousand years - you will be using several thousand words at a maximum in your IA. Not only is that much time not necessary, it could not be fully utilized even in the best of circumstances, which less than one word per year most certainly is not. Make your chapter part of an early founding only if it's necessary. Otherwise, just be part of some other Founding.

You weren't founded to face the scourges of the galaxy
First, there are an incredible variety of threats to the Imperium - claiming a Chapter was founded to face a specific one is a little odd. It would seem more reasonable for a Chapter to be founded to secure a specific region. But far more important is that your Chapter was not founded to deal with the Tyranids, the Necrons or the Tau. All of these threats have arisen very recently - after the most recent Space Marine Founding (the 26th, in 765.M41). Thus, your Chapter was not created to deal with those threats.

Devastate your chapter uniquely
Devastating the chapter and having them try to deal with the effects is a versatile and powerful storytelling tool, commonly used in the Origins when explaining why a Chapter is now the way it is. It is also done unto death, for exactly that reason. Everyone uses it, and it's completely understandable. Just remember that everyone does this when you're writing your IA, and devote an appropriate amount of effort to ensuring it stands out.

There are two obvious ways to do this – either have a unique cause, or a unique effect. Both is, as always, preferable. Fully explore the disaster and what it meant to the Chapter. What happened? Why? What effect did it have upon the home world? How did the Chapter approach dealing with the problem? Did they try more than one solution? Did they ask for outside help? Why did they do what they did? Was that the best solution available? If it was, why? If it wasn't, why'd they choose that one? The unique character of the Chapter is what will make this old, old chestnut anything close to new – make sure that it is allowed to take center stage.

Of course, in many cases, the devastating event is often the means by which change comes about for a Chapter – what gives them their unique character. And equally often, that is because of the unique reaction proposed by one single, charismatic figure within the Chapter. Which brings us to our next point.

Jesus was derivative
If the New Testament were an IA, it'd be one of the least original ever (OK, it'd be one of the first and so that would be forgivable. And either Christianity or 40K would be very different. Work with me here). Everyone's wandering along, minding their own business, when suddenly, a Single Charismatic Figure appears, sweeping all before him and totally remaking the way Things Are Done. Then he gets nailed to a tree, and things get a little morose.

Still, the point is that a single person reshaping an existing system is far older than GW, and GW used it to death as well. The (usually) first Chapter Master who totally revolutionized the Chapter is not a new concept. Thus, much like a devastating event, it must be approached carefully.

The important thing is that he not be a deus ex machina, brought in to reshape your Chapter and having no character beyond that. Give him motivations. Give him quirks. Give him reasons. If an IA is going to focus on a single character, he needs to, well, be a character. Give him a story in a sidebar. Give him some quotes – preferably one at the first of the IA. And make them interesting and unique. When he does whatever exciting thing he's going to do, make sure to explore it fully and explain why he did it. For best results, use a bit of foreshadowing earlier in the IA – make his character clear, then show us the consequences of it.

Remember – if he is the first Chapter Master, he was likely chosen by his parent Chapter to mentor these new recruits. That means he will in all likelihood be an exemplar of that Chapter's doctrine and likely think the way they do. If he does not, it must be explained why he would be chosen for this great honor in spite of this.

If your single charismatic figure is dealing with some devastating event, make sure his character was well-established before the event and make sure that both he and the event are well-explained. Think through their interactions carefully – is this how he would react to this event? Why would he react this way? Is this different from the way other Space Marines would react? If so, why is he different from other Space Marines? As always, think it through.

Later History
This can actually be more than one section, but all are much the same. This covers, well, the Chapter's later history up to the present day. Often, one encounters the dilemma of events taking place on a home world that has not yet been introduced – bite the bullet and introduce as much detail as is necessary for the events in question, but save everything else for the Home World section. They usually follow from the Origins section, and are rarely named Later History - instead, they get meaningful names which allude to the contents of the section in a fashion which will be deliciously ironic once we finish reading the section and/or hints to the contents of said section.

It should be noted, for added weight, that this section is not necessary. Use it if you need it. Indeed, at the outline stage, you should not yet need it - your story should not be so complicated that it cannot all fit into the Origins section when expressed in point form. Nonetheless, I explain this section here for completeness.

Generally, if an IA has a plot, it really gets going here. Remember – be unique. Every Space Marine chapter will fight great and decisive battles throughout the Imperium. Unless there is something particularly unique which takes place in them that is critical to the Chapter's development, there is no need to describe every engagement of your Chapter in this section - indeed, you may not need this section at all. You especially do not need paragraph long descriptions of each thrust of your Chapter Master's power weapon. Use this section to explore the relatively recent events that have made your Chapter what they are today, if any, or to further the story you began in the Origins. Explain the character of the people who were involved and the nature of the places (except the home world, as previously mentioned). Then, bring events up to the modern day and use the rest of the IA to explain how things are now in relation to the various sections (with occasional reference to how things were historically in relation to each of the various sections). It's traditional to stop just before or just after something exhilarating happens to the Chapter, allowing people to either dream of how exciting the hinted at event will be or how horrifying the hinted at consequences will be.

The rest of the IA is sections dedicated to specific aspects of the Chapter's character. Any information not directly related to one of those sections which must be included in the IA for a proper understanding of the Chapter should be dealt with here, if possible. The only exception I can think of are things directly related to the Chapter's history whose inclusion in the main text would somehow hurt the overall tone of the IA. Anything of that nature would work well in a sidebar in this section (or in Origins). An obvious example would be the secret of the Ice Lords, which is dealt with in a sidebar in the History section. This presents the information to the reader but doesn't interrupt an otherwise fairly normal account of a Chapter's history with a prolonged tale about a bunch of Fallen Angels and their skulduggery. While it is important to an understanding of the Chapter, it did not fit well in the progression of the Chapter history – so to a sidebar it went.

The important thing to remember about an IA plot is that it generally doesn't end – they usually stop just before or just after a climax, leaving either the eventual conflagration or the consequences of the just-happened conflagration to the imagination of the reader, but with lots of dark hints that it'll be awful and terrible.

Home World
The Home World section can be of varying degrees of importance to an IA. If the Chapter in question is fleet-based, this space can often be used to talk about the recruitment planets used by the Chapter.

Exploring a home world can be tricky. Most people simply pick a geographical quirk or culture they like and run with it, and there's nothing wrong with that (though exploring it in too much detail can be dangerous – no one reads IAs for physics, chemistry, biology or history lessons. Equally, the people who read in-progress IAs for fun often have too much knowledge of one or more of the above, and an annoying tendency to notice flaws in your portrayal).

Simply grabbing an ancient culture, smacking them down on a death world and knocking off for lunch is poor craftsmanship. The home world is one of the most important parts of an IA – the chapter draws its recruits from there. In many ways, the home world is the Chapter. Look at what happened to the Night Lords when their home world changed its character. The home world and the chapter will each exert an influence upon each other, and the possibilities in that are so obvious it would be easier not to explore them.

Think about how your chapter and their character would have interacted with the home world you're thinking of. Why were they drawn there in the first place? What sort of world would your chapter want? What would its people be like? Its government? Its cities and way of life? How would your Chapter go about producing this society (assuming they weren't completely satisfied with what was already there)? What would they actually get if they did? Remember that a Chapter's home world need not be its base of recruitment - the Crimson Fists with Rynn's World actually do most of their recruitment on a nearby feral world.

The home world can also be an excellent opportunity to explore a particular cultural or psychological trait – Commissar Molotov's Castigators, for example, have a tidally-locked home world populated by xenophobic religious fanatics who violently root out any trace of mutation. The world is harsh, and so are they. Fun stuff. His Home World section devotes a lot of time to exploring the population's xenophobia and intolerance and what it means for them and the Chapter.

Most important of all, however, is that the home world must have some reason the Chapter is present there. The most obvious is that the world produces the sort of people who make good Space Marine recruits. Tough, hardy, genetically pure adolescents who can pass the strenuous, dangerous tests required (and my, doesn't it sound creepy when it's put that way). Your home world must have some way of producing them. If the home world doesn't produce these recruits, there must be somewhere that does, and it should be mentioned and properly explained.

Regardless of what direction you take to inspire the character of your home world, you should take the time necessary to consider how that world would interact with your Chapter and ensure that the relationship between the two is plausible. If you have any existing needs for how the Chapter should interact with its home world, its best to build the home world around them rather than try to force the issue.

Note that the results of this can be an ancient culture on a death world – but what matters is that the results be a natural fit with the Chapter, and the consequences of any incompatibilities be plausible. Fenris is hardly complicated conceptually, but it fits perfectly with the character of the Space Wolves. Even if the Home World looks simple, you should have thought it through.

Commissar Molotov, at the slightest provocation, was wont to opine that the Beliefs section was the most important section in the IA. He had a point. The Beliefs section is the one section that gives the reader direct insight into how your Chapter thinks. It is the opportunity to present your Chapter's unique view of the universe and give real insight into their character.

Take advantage of this. A good Beliefs section will lay out what the Chapter believes and clearly link that to the Chapter's history. Most IAs will have already introduced many of the Chapter's basic beliefs at this point – they should be expanded upon and further explained. It also is traditionally used to explain details about their religious practices and the particular quirks by which they express their beliefs. Interesting rituals and ceremonies are conventional in this section, and add greatly to a Chapter's character.

However, what is important here is to get into the meat of how the Chapter thinks and interacts with others. What do they think of the Imperium? The Emperor? Other Chapters? How do they philosophically approach the universe? What really goes on in their heads?

These sections can be tricky - I find it best to first figure out how the Chapter works, then come back to the Beliefs section and extrapolate from my newfound knowledge of the Chapter to what they must believe on various subjects. The reverse can also work, of course. The important thing is that the beliefs mesh well with the rest of the Chapter and the IA.

Do not use this section to explore their views toward warfare and combat. That goes in Combat Doctrine.

The Gene-seed section usually explains where the Chapter's gene-seed originated, how well its purity has been maintained, any unique quirks that have developed in either the gene-seed itself or the Chapter's attitude and practices relating to it, and occasionally some of the Chapter's recruitment practices.

It does not need to be long. Indeed, most of the remaining sections should probably top out at two paragraphs. Much of what follows, including in this section, will be common to all Space Marine chapters – do not devote too much time to presenting such information. As always, highlight the differences.

It should be remembered (though this is not specific to the geneseed section) that Chapters branch from each other - vast differences from progenitor Chapters, especially in Chapters from early foundings, require some degree of explanation. It can make a lot of sense to simply pick the stable geneseed source that is closest to what you want your Chapter to be.

Geneseed sources and their effects
There are ten possible gene-seed sources for Space Marine Chapters. The most common of these is the Ultramarines - their gene-seed, through them and their descendants, makes up two-thirds of all Space Marine Chapters. When in doubt, it is good to go with them. Their genestock is strong, their doctrine is Codex but they have successors who diverge in a variety of ways, and thus you can basically get away with anything. Most of the other sources make less sense, for various reasons.

The Imperial Fists are the second most common, despite their two non-functioning organs. Their geneseed carries a hint of stubbornness and self-sacrifice. People love them to pieces, mostly because they're not the Ultramarines, but as the second-most common geneseed source, you're still being plausible.

The Salamanders geneseed is described as pure, though their reflexes may be slow. Recent fluff has them all dark and demonic-looking, which is tied in part to the gene-seed, but plenty of people have ignored that. Their lack of numbers is likely responsible for their relative lack of successors - the Storm Giants and Cursed Founding Black Dragons are thought to be related to them, so there is precedent for successors as well.

The Dark Angels geneseed is described as one of the purest and least degraded, but the High Lords are apparently "reluctant" to use it in the founding of new Chapters. The DA Codex mentions a number of Dark Angels successors beyond the Second Founding ones, and also mentions the Disciples of Caliban being founded at the request of the DA Chapter Master. Though this presumably took place within the context of the next Founding, the debate that resulted suggests that the DA geneseed may have been frowned upon even at that time. Thus, if making a DA successor, an earlier date makes more sense - though any date can work.

The Iron Hands are widely believed to be crazy because of their geneseed (and boy, are they crazy). On the other hand, the Mechanicus quite likes them. Thus, while successors would seem unlikely, they are still possible.

The White Scars are believed to have contracted a hint of savagery from their tribal recruits, which has apparently entered the geneseed. All the successor Chapters demonstrate the same traits, so it is possible that they have had no more successors. Certainly, it seems likely that their geneseed is less common than the more pure ones.

The Blood Angels geneseed has fallen into disuse as their Flaw became more pronounced. The Lamenters, of the Cursed Founding, were an attempt to correct this flaw - considering how the Cursed Founding went, it seems unlikely that many (or, indeed, any) Blood Angels Chapters have been founded since. It also seems likely that the use of the seed would have tapered off some time before an attempt to fix it.

The Raven Guard have mutations to the Melanchromic Organ that make their skin lighten and eyes and hair darken over the years, so that they eventually look like Corax. The Mucranoid and Betcher's Gland both do not exist. Additionally, their geneseed is so damage they require regular supplementary shipments from Terra, which has a corresponding effect on their recruitment cycle. Presumably their three successors (the Revilers, the Black Guard and the Raptors) suffer from similar problems. Thus, they would seem to make a very poor choice for a gene-seed source in a new founding.

The Space Wolves are generally felt to not be used to found new Chapters - their geneseed is unstable, their only known Successor chapter collapsed in genetic instability, and they're cranky and iconoclastic. It has been a long-standing tenet of the Liber's DIY Guide that Space Wolf Geneseed Is Not Used, and I find it hard to differ with their reasoning.

The tenth source is unknown. I recommend against this, since unknown geneseed runs full-tilt into the wall of the Adeptus Mechanicus, who apparently can analyze gene-seed but can't compare it to other gene-seeds to work out its source. This seems a little...odd (though a better explanation is that the cogboys aren't talking). In any case, it generally comes across as laziness, an attempt to hide traitor geneseed, or an attempt to seem special. None of which are necessary.

The most likely geneseed sources would thus appear to be, in an approximate order: the Ultramarines, the Imperial Fists, the Salamanders or Dark Angels, the White Scars, the Iron Hands (who may be more or less common depending on how much you think being friends with the Mechanicus profits them), and the Blood Angels or Raven Guard. This would vary somewhat, depending on when your Chapter was founded - the non-Ultramarine seeds would have presumably been more common earlier in the Imperium, when there were (proportionately) fewer Ultramarines relative to everyone else.

You are not the [blank] Templars
Many DIYers like to have the Black Templars be their training cadre (and gene-seed source). However, there are a number of both in-universe and out-of-universe problems with this. Why would the High Lords choose the Black Templars? They're headstrong, violate the Codex, and are completely outside Imperial control, even moreso than the usual Astartes independence. The High Lords would not trust them. Nor would they be a good choice for a training cadre, precisely because of their particular quirks – they'd pass them on to the new Chapter, which would provide the High Lords with another problem chapter. Added to this, there's the fact that most people seem to simply take the opportunity to recreate the Black Templars, thus raising the issue of why the exercise was undertaken in the first place. The Black Templars as a Chapter cadre raise far, far more problems than they solve. If you want a crusading Chapter, both the Imperial Fists and Crimson Fists were such (the Imperial Fists still are). Both use the Emperor's Champion (indeed, even non-Dornian Chapters have been known to do so). You do not need the Black Templars to have similar influences.

Ensure your Curse makes sense
The Cursed Founding is an excellent opportunity to do strange things. It was the second-largest Space Marine founding, so there's room to play, everyone got cool gimmicks out of the deal, you can do crazy things like use Traitor geneseed without anyone even blinking, and it's called the Cursed Founding. What's not to like? (Answer: nothing. There is nothing not to like)

One of the things people occasionally forget when writing about a Cursed Founding chapter is to have the Curse make some sort of sense. Your chapter will have undergone genetic tinkering – and there must have been a reason behind this. What effect were the mad scientists of the Adeptus Mechanicus trying to produce by meddling with your geneseed? What did they get? Why were there differences (if there are)? The Cursed Founding was an attempt to make Space Marines more dangerous – and in all the canon GW examples, it succeeded in some fashion – but carried problems with it. Don't forget to bring problems along, but don't forget the success, either.

Combat Doctrine
This section explores the way the Chapter fights, why the Chapter fights, and any particularly unique things about their views toward both. What do they value on the battlefield – courage, ingenuity, reliability, tenacity? Do they confront the enemy directly, or do they prefer to hang back and wait for opportunities? Are there particular weapons, equipment or methods they favor? Do they venerate or despise any particular part of the Codex Astartes?

In short: generally, how, where, why and what do they fight? Remember to emphasize the differences – the similarities are far less important.

The Organization section presents the structure of the Chapter's forces. There are two common pitfalls here – a representation of what it means to be a Codex Chapter, and the complete revocation of the Codex in favor of a wildly different system created by the author. Both are bad choices. Re-presenting the Codex, as I am sure anyone reading this has already guessed, violates one of the basic principle of writing a good IA – present the differences. Offering a new system provides the reader with a lot of dry, technical information which relates only to this Chapter. Generally, this organization is adopted from history, usually without explanation. Unfortunately, such information is interesting mostly to the author – it is the rare reader who wants to read a long list of alternative terms for Apothecaries and Sergeants. Furthermore, such systems rarely offer anything appreciably different from the standard Codex nomenclature – it is usually change for the sake of change. Even if you do have such changes, unless they actually change how the Chapter functions, it is usually not worthy mentioning them unless it actually arises in the IA.

Regardless of all that, the Organization section is difficult to use. Most Chapters are, to varying degrees, Codex. The reasons they violate the Codex, if they do so, will be in the Combat Doctrine section. Which means that this section generally ends up rather short. However, the best way to think of the Organization section is as the application of the Combat Doctrine section.

Use this opportunity to explore what the Chapter's Combat Doctrine has meant for the way their Chapter is structured and organized. Offer particular examples of the Chapter's quirks and how they have become institutionalized. Many Chapters have unusual command structures, which can be briefly explored here. The Organization section is a difficult one – both it and the Combat Doctrine section are in direct competition for ideas and concepts. Divide them as equitably as possible.

Understand what the Codex is and isn't
The Codex is more than a book of organizational advice (though it is that). It's more than general tactical precepts. It's more than accounts of battles. It's more than careful analyses of enemy tactics. It is the life's work of countless Imperial soldiers, philosophers and military scholars. It has been improved for ten thousand years. Your chapter may believe that they know better than it, but it would be virtually impossible to actually create something better - after ten thousand years of development, most of what needs to be added to the codex are reactions to new phenomena.

The Codex can be followed in any number of different ways - any and all parts could be ignored, misinterpreted or considered outdated. The point is that the book is so massive and overwhelming that discarding it wholly would mean discarding almost the entirety of the Imperium's knowledge on warfare and starting afresh. Your chapter might well reject the organizational methods and standard tactics of the Codex, but they'd be unlikely to also throw out the treatises on how enemies fight and the various philosophical perspectives on warfare and combat. Sun Tzu's Art of War has remained relevant even thousands of years later, and the Codex was more complete, thorough and in-depth even when it was first compiled.

In short, have a clear idea of what the book is before you decide if you're going to get rid of it, and ensure that the reasons for doing so are justifiable.

The battle cry section, despite rarely needing to be more than a line long, is somehow the one that people most often abuse, misuse and confuse. Whether it be having a battle-cry for every phase of the moon, or putting the battle-cry in Latin, or having the battle-cry be a paragraph long, people find a multiplicity of ways to end their IA with a fizzle, rather than a bang.

Firstly, what is the point of a battle-cry? It is shouted by a group of Space Marines to inspire themselves and terrify the foe. The best battle-cries are thus simple, scary, and roll off the tongue. Wait until your family members have left the house, shut all the windows (and doors), and yell your battle-cry. If you ran out of breath, burst into giggles, or felt a strange and unknowable sense of deep personal embarrassment, your battle-cry needs work. Look at the battle-cries of GW Chapters. Short, memorable, and generally fairly scary. Take some inspiration from them.

Secondly, what is the point of the battle-cry section? This is the last section in the IA. It is the last thing readers (who liked the IA) will read. It is important to close on a strong note. Thus, the battle-cry should be short, memorable, and hopefully provide a little bit of insight into the character of the Chapter. The best example for this, in my opinion, is the battle-cry of the Iron Warriors: “Iron within, iron without!” A little scary, a little inspirational, and a very good summation of the Iron Warriors. Perfect for closing an IA.

Your color scheme is important
Color schemes are often dismissed as an afterthought by serious DIYers with serious IAs. This is a mistake. A color scheme is important even if you never intend to paint a single model in it. It is important for two reasons – recognition, and imagination. A unique and interesting color scheme is key to drawing in some readers, and will help your chapter stand out in the minds of many others. It gives you one more opportunity to make your chapter memorable.

Meanwhile, providing an interesting and unique color scheme also makes it easier to imagine your chapter undertaking the various glorious deeds described in your IA. Picturing your chapter cleansing a Space Hulk or patrolling the Eastern Fringe will be more enjoyable if the scheme is a good one - and you may find it makes it easier for you to imagine your Chapter, as well. A unique and interesting color scheme makes the experience of an IA a better one, even though it only seems a small touch.

Despite all this, color schemes don't necessarily have to have any particular connection to the rest of the IA - it is just a good idea to have one.

When in doubt, turn to GW
Although not all of GW's IAs were created equal, they all are quality productions. They can provide valuable insight into how to present a story, what details to emphasize, and what will and will not work within the context of the 40K universe. Used carefully, they can provide valuable insight into the process of writing IAs. They are the original examples of IA writing, and what first inspired all this.

Of GW's IAs, the best for aspiring DIY writers are probably the Crimson Fists, the Relictors, the Flesh Tearers and the Blood Ravens. These IAs have a number of advantages - first, they are introducing Chapters from later foundings, not First Founding Chapters - they thus don't wax on about Primarchs until everyone's ready to take up Battletech instead. They are all of reasonable sizes and reasonably well-written. The Crimson Fists are a good example of a Chapter with a story and relatively light on theme, the Flesh Tearers have both theme and story, as do the Relictors, and the Blood Ravens have the advantage that since it was posted as a PDF for download on the GW website for a prolonged period of time, it is probably both easy to find and legal to do so. A list of DIY IAs which may be helpful are found at the end of this guide.

Recognize the Limits of GW
GW's writers work under deadlines, are paid poorly, and often do not care as much about their subject as you may about your chapter. This can (and I would say is) reflected in the quality of some IAs - many do not explore the chapter as fully as one might expect, or with any particular sophistication. Sometimes they use cliches frowned upon by the Liber community. Sometimes characters do things simply because the plot commands it. Sometimes the writers apply the chapter's theme with an overly heavy hand. Recognize that just because GW did it that way doesn't always mean it's a good idea. Edited by Octavulg
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On the construction and elaboration of an IA

Once you have a finalized outline, the next step is to further develop it into an actual IA. This is deceptively simple - all you have to do is write down the details of the events and sections in a coherent, readable fashion. Sadly, that takes more than you might think.

It is difficult to give instruction on how to flesh out an IA. Basically, you want to take your details and turn it into three to five thousand words on your Chapter, with interesting details and excitement and intrigue dripping from every word. If I could explain how to do that, I would. But I can't. A later section will give some generalized advice on writing, which should prove helpful, but beyond that I can only offer advice on how to avoid the most common pitfalls people face in this stage of developing their IA. In the process of fleshing things out, you will discover a few additional options and expectations in regard to formatting. These are dealt with below. Additionally, prioritization and recommendations for focus are also discussed.

Only if you need to
Once you have reached this part of creating an IA, you will be deciding on what you tell the reader, what order you present the information, and the details of the events and people of your chapter and their story. It is at this point that you may discover you have a lot more information than you might have first thought, and also discover that you still have all kinds of neat ideas for how to make your chapter cool and unique!

Don't believe yourself. Remember that time when you were six when you did that stupid thing? You thought that was a good idea, too. When making a decision about something going in your IA, ask yourself, "Do I need this? What does it add to my chapter?" If the answer to that question is "Not really, but it's so cool!" think twice about what you are doing. A little bit of that is fun, but a lot of it will choke the IA and make things worse, not better. Coolness is subject to the law of diminishing returns - and it diminishes fast. Even though you have (presumably) already finalized details in your outline, you should still not be putting everything into your IA just yet.

It would be good practice to finalize the important details of your chapter, then start adding the exciting little details you like so much if you have time and space. By the time you get the IA to that point, you likely will have a much better idea of what your chapter is about and your opinions on your original ideas will likely have changed.

Focus on the differences, not the similarities
Really. Your Space Marines use bolters. How exciting.

Everyone knows what the Imperium is. Everyone knows how a Codex chapter works. Everyone knows more-or-less how Space Marines fight. There are assumptions that can and will be made about any Space Marine chapter. Unless you're violating those assumptions, simply saying briefly that your Chapter is codex in their tactics and equipment will make it clear what they do. Even if you are violating them, explaining what is different will be a lot shorter than explaining both what is different and what is the same. People know the basics of the 40K universe and of Space Marine chapters – you do not need to introduce them in your IA. Dedicate that same space to exploring what it is that makes your Chapter unique.

Present things in order, and explain yourself well
If you mention something, make sure you've explained what it is first. This is a basic rule of almost anything, and yet, it is violated. Often. People read IAs in order, and if you mention things without explanation, people will start to think they've missed something, and go looking for it in the bit they've already read. If they don't find it, they're not going to be happy. Likewise, explain things well - do not describe a battle against Orks and then mention "and then the mountain which they'd been fighting next to this whole time fell on their heads". People will wonder why this mountain wasn't mentioned before.

Battles are boring
Like the book says, in the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war. By the time anyone gets to your IA, they'll have read about a lot of battles. All writing about a battle does is provide them with something they've seen before, countless times, and distract from the points that are unique about your IA. Read GW IAs, and note how they talk about battles - they set the scene, explain briefly what happened, and talk about the aftermath and what that meant. The battle is important because of what it meant, not what happened in the battle itself. There is no point in planning out a blow-by-blow description of how your Chapter Master fought his archenemy - that's not what's important about that fight. What's important is why they were fighting, who won, and what that meant to later events.

The Title
GW IAs have a lot of things to teach the aspiring IA writer. One of the most easily overlooked is that the title of an IA is virtually never simply Index Astartes: [Chapter Name]. There's almost always some nice, evocative title like “The Lost and the Damned” (Death Guard), “Masters of Forbidden Knowledge” (The Thousand Sons), “Promethean Warriors” (the Salamanders), or “Warriors of Ultramar” (three guesses). The Chapter's name is still used as a subtitle, but this is a good place to demonstrate the pronounced aspects of the Chapter's character in a simple concept. All of the aforementioned clearly and effectively demonstrate much of the appropriate Chapter's character in a few words. Some chapters just use their chapter name, of course, but a lot have these phrases as titles.

Note that your thread or article title should most definitely be some variant of Index Astartes: [Chapter Name]. Keeps things simple and clear. But the title within the article itself (and possibly the Librarium article subtitle, when you get that far) both lend themselves to something like the old GW IA titles. It is by no means a requirement, but it is always nice to see.

Introductory Paragraph
Typically, before any IA, there is a brief statement of the Chapter and who they are – almost an abstract of the Chapter. It sums up the IA very briefly, focusing mostly on their history and any particular quirks. It ends, as all such paragraphs in 40K fluff do, by assuring the reader that the Chapter is totally awesome and dangerous. Or alluding to doom in the near future. Take your pick. They're only a few lines long – don't get carried away. These are easier to write after the IA as a whole has come together, but writing them beforehand can help you focus your ideas.

Sidebars are good for several things. They are very useful for important information which does not otherwise fit well in a particular section, whether because it would disrupt the flow of the IA, is information from a source that is 'in-universe' but outside the IA, or because the information is best presented in a format other than the usual IA 'third-person pedantic'.

They are also good places for narrative accounts. If you want to explore single combat between your Chapter Master and a Champion of Chaos, or if you want to relate a conversation using actual dialogue – whatever it is, if it's not a normal part of an IA, or if it's being done in a fashion out of keeping with the rest of the IA, it goes in a sidebar.

Finally, they are useful for breaking up the IA visually. Adding a few sidebars here and there prevents the IA from becoming a massive wall of text and makes it much easier on the reader's eyes. This is a good thing.

Many people have taken to using quotes in their IAs below the various section headers, including myself. In fact, I have a worrying suspicion I may have started the practice. It adds a lot of character. But it is important to bear some things in mind. Firstly, it is generally expected that the quote will bear some relationship to the section it is tied to – quotes about mercantile practices on the Chapter's home world, for example, do not generally fit well in the Battle-cry section.

Secondly, it is best not to give too many quotes to one individual – indeed, the quotes are a good way to provide brief insight into the characters of lots of different Marines of the Chapter. Spread the opportunities to talk around – it will add the appearance of depth to the Chapter and create the impression that the Chapter contains more than just the few marines worthy of mention in its history.

Finally, quotes are opportunities to provide insight into the Chapter and occasionally a little amusement – they are not afterthoughts, and should not be treated as such. There is nothing wrong with not having quotes in an IA, and it is better not to have them than to have ones that are simply different variants of “For the Emperor!” and “Burn the heretic!” That said, you should include them if possible - they are a simple but incredibly effective way to offer a variety of different insights into the Chapter.

You don't need that many color schemes
Many of the costs for the Bolter and Chainsword are provided out of pocket by Brother Argos. It seems hard to justify the bandwidth consumed by eighteen color schemes, one for each specialist, one for each company captain, and one for all the special formations. Do one. Two if you're feeling posh. Brother Argos needs the money, and my mousewheel wears out if I have to scroll by too many images. Additionally, once you've finalized your color scheme, save the link you used somewhere and turn it into a JPG - this will also save bandwidth for the B&C, and will also load faster. It will also keep your image update-proof - a quick look through some older IAs will show you what can happen when the painter updates but the coding remains the same.

From an artistic perspective - learn from GW. Notice their IAs include one or two color schemes at most - and that they take up relatively little space. Giving your Chapter a singular visual identity will increase your chances of lodging them in people's minds. It will also help you avoid having to explain a ridiculous variety of color schemes, which is seldom interesting and always time-consuming.

Use the right amount of mystery
One thing GW does do well is telling the reader the right things and keeping the right things hidden. If your chapter has a secret, the decision of whether or not to tell the reader about it can be a hard one. If your IA relies on the reader getting something, sometimes it's best to bite the bullet and tell them. The various versions of Flintlocklaser's Steel Ghosts, whose absence from the Librarium is one of the great tragedies of our time, show a good example of the tension here, as do the various drafts of the Ice Lords. People will miss things you've told them explicitly - trying for subtlety is even riskier. It can be very difficult to ensure people get it. A decent rule of thumb is that if the point of the IA is the secret, it's probably best to tell people eventually. When you tell them is a good question - my personal recommendation would be to tell them at the point where they're going to start thinking the IA makes no sense if they don't know the secret. If you do not tell them, make sure that enough interesting things are going on that the IA can still be interesting to someone who misses the subtext.

Subtlety, not sledgehammers
References, allusions and influences should be subtle. GW IA's are often a good example of how not to do this. Lion'El Jonson, 'Nevermore', the background of the Romans Ultramarines, Vikings Space Wolves, Vampires Blood Angels, and Teutonic Knights Black Templars...all are about as subtle as bricks to the head. This isn't necessarily bad, but as a general rule you are better to underplay your references and influences than to over-emphasize them. This goes double for references - 'Nevermore' almost ruins the Raven Guard IA by itself. Use a light touch.

A good reference works even if you don't know the reference, and also works if you do know the reference – knowing the reference should not hurt the seriousness of the work or its believability. An example of a good reference is...well, actually, there's a pronounced shortage of them. An example of a good extended one is Corax's rebellion and its pronounced resemblance to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Konrad Curze isn't a bad one, either – it's an Apocalypse Now (or Heart of Darkness) reference. Edited by Octavulg
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On Writing

Writing is an important skill in creating an IA. Though I am not sure how to teach good writing, I can tell you the methods I use that help me improve my writing. And that is what this section does.

Read it aloud
If you take nothing else away from this section, it should be this. READ YOUR IA ALOUD. You will swiftly discover what sentences you have written badly. You will find when you have repeated the same word sixteen times in three sentences. You will find when the thoughts make no sense. You will find nine-tenths of the flaws in your IA if you attempt to read it aloud. Do it several times if you have to. If you read your work aloud and start changing sentences around so they sound more natural, you will find your writing improving quickly.

It also makes it a lot easier to read the same thing for the fifteenth time if you read it aloud. I recommend imitating Sean Connery while you do it.

Learn to spell and to gramm
Good spelling and grammar are critical to good communication and good writing. Anyone who says differently can't do either or likes someone who can't too much. Most people are willing to tolerate a certain level of mistakes in an IA, but in the age of modern word processing there is no excuse for misspelling a word (there are excuses for using the wrong words, of course). If your spelling and grammar are weak read more, use a spellchecker, and read your IA aloud to determine when things just don't sound quite right, then change them until they do.

Don't write in your browser
Use Wordpad or OpenOffice or something. You'll be able to see more as you write, and they're both rather more stable and less prone to memory leakage than most web browsers. Also, you can easily save multiple copies. The forum has also been known to insert errors of various kinds into edited posts. Hence, cutting and pasting each edited version from a text copy would be a good idea. And if the forum decides to eat half your post you'll be fine. Just remember to put the BBCode in as you go.

However, be self-aware
Anyone who has made it this far in the guide has probably noticed my tendency to reuse certain words over and over. 'However' is one of these. Reading aloud helps catch this, but so does knowing that you do it. Rereading your work will give you an idea of what words you tend to overuse – try to avoid them, if you can. Variety is the spice of both life and IAs.

Read other IAs
Reading other IAs will familarize you with the format and style of writing, and help you develop your skills at analysing writing. Try to think about the IA as you read it - what is the author doing with themes and details, what could be done better, how is the layout used to keep the reader interested throughout; all these are considerations which will make you a better author. A list of recommended reading is found at the end of the guide.

Stick to the established length
As a note, a typical IA is between 3000 and 5000 words long. Keeping lower is usually better. It is generally better to leave the reader wanting more than to wear out his patience halfway through an article. GW IAs average about four thousand, three hundred words. Take out the three longest ones (the Night Lords, Blood Angels and Space Wolves, which average around seven thousand words each - about two thousand more than the next-largest), and that average drops to three thousand, eight hundred. The IAs I consider to be particularly good out of the GW IAs average about three thousand, nine hundred. You should not be creating IAs that are six or seven thousand words long. Especially not in early drafts. If anything, your Chapter will be less intrinsically interesting than a GW IA - people will read your IA simply for the enjoyment, rather than for the knowledge. There is no reason for your IA to be any longer than it needs to be. My longest IA is the Ice Lords - it's four thousand, eight hundred words. And honestly, it probably could be shorter if it had to be. Keep it short.

Shorter is almost always better
Find extraneous words. Cut them. Find extraneous sentences. Cut them. With every sentence, ask yourself what this adds to the IA. With every word, ask yourself whether you need it, whether you could say it better in fewer words (or as well in fewer words). Don't be afraid to expand every so often, but make sure that everything does something. Look at paragraphs. Ask why they're so long, and what you can do about it. The best writing is, to quote Mr. Croshaw, short and punchy.

Some people say it with diamonds. You should be saying it with less.

I will now tell the story of Spider Robinson.

So Spider sends this story to his editor. And his editor calls him and says "It's great. Now cut 1000 words."

Spider explains how he can't do this. The editor tells him to pretend that someone's paying him a dollar for each word he cuts. Spider succeeds in cutting 500 words, but can't do any more. He calls his editor back and tells him so.

The editor suggests that Spider pretend that someone will break a bone (one of Spider's, that is) for each word Spider's over. The joke's on the editor, of course, because Spider doesn't have 500 bones!

Spider cuts another 500, crying inside. Then he rereads it, and discovers that it's a much better story.

You can argue with me. But Spider Robinson has won three Hugos, a Nebula, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and the Robert A. Heinlein Award. He knows how to write, better than you or me or both of us put together. And cutting down his word count improved his writing.

Draw your own conclusions. Edited by Octavulg
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On Painting and Colors

Applying your paint scheme with a shotgun will make people's eyes bleed
Scattering areas of different colors all over the model makes it harder to focus on the model, as the eye is drawn to one different area after another. It also looks more than a little messy. Patterning your scheme after a GW one (in the way the colors are allocated to different parts of the model) is a very good idea - they've been making their minis look good for a long time.

Do not paint your marines' feet in brighter colors unless you want people to stare at their feet
Bright colors draw the eye to them. Putting brighter colors all over the model in various spots will draw the eye to those spots. And the feet should not be the focus of your Space Marine. If you want to paint them a different color, paint them a color darker than majority of the paint scheme. GW doesn't do this, either, and as I said before - they know how to make their minis look good.

Black and red are not cool and unique

Of the twenty founding legions and thirty-four known Second Founding Chapters, we have color schemes for eighteen legions and twenty-eight of their successors (not counting Chaos chapters/warbands/what have you). This gives us a remarkable pool to draw from. Doing some simple calculations (assigning a quartered or halved scheme 50% of a color for each and giving 25%/75% of a color for shoulders and head being one color and the rest another, while silver is counted as grey), this gives us the following results (note that having multiple schemes means they all get counted):

12% of chapters are blue. 2% are purple (that's the Emperor's Children). 23% are red. None are orange. 6% are yellow. 14% are green. 18% are black. 7% are grey. 18% are white. None are brown, and 1% are pink (that's half the Emperor's Children post-heresy). Thus, from most common to least common: Red, black and white, green, blue, grey, yellow, purple, orange.

What does this show us? Red, black and white are inordinately popular colours when GW makes chapters (with red ridiculously common). A little looking around the forums will also show that black and red are inordinately popular colors among DIY chapter creators, too. I would honestly guess that at least a third of DIY chapters are black. Grey is also remarkably popular, though not nearly to the extent of black.

What this means is that red and black are poor choices for creating a memorable chapter scheme that stands out in the crowd of IAs in this forum. Use black or red, and your chapter will start to blend together with dozens of others in people's minds. This can be avoided through the use of other colors, different patterns or particularly interesting badges (though other colors is by far the easiest method). A scheme quartered between black and another color is far more memorable than a plain black one, and so is a red color scheme with a unique and interesting chapter badge and a bit of wargear. Making your color scheme interesting helps make your chapter interesting – especially on the tabletop, where reams of prose can't save them. Edited by Octavulg
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On offering criticism

Offering criticism is a difficult art, and one that can take some practice. I seek to educate the youth of today, since of the people who first critiqued when I walked these hallowed halls, all that seems to be left are me and Ydalir. And Ferrata, but he doesn't count. He moderates the place. He has to stay - otherwise he'd have to train another forum to work the way he likes.

Also, while I'm waxing loquacious, get off my lawn, you damn kids.

And sometimes I like to sing little songs
There is eternal debate on the Librarium as to the best method to approach criticism. It can, however, be basically divided into two schools of thought. I like to think of them as the rough grit and the fine grit approaches, since that seems to also well-encapsulate the advantages and disadvantages of each. Neither is necessarily right, or necessarily wrong, and honestly which one is best has a lot more to do with the individual temperament of the two individuals in question than anything else.

The Fine Grit Approach
Most popular in the days of my youth on this forum, it now seems to be in relative decline. Criticism should attempt to be gentle, and try to accomodate the author and his wishes wherever possible. People aren't wrong - though they can be doing things that might be better not done, and can be told such. Alternatives should be offered at all times, and the author treated kindly and with every attempt to prevent him from losing confidence in his ideas.

This approach has some advantages - it tends to be much easier on those who are insecure about their ideas (and there are many of those, especially among newer authors). It often tends to be more accomodating of moving outside the established fluff. Rarely do people get defensive when approached in this fashion.

It also has some disadvantages - it tends to be quite nonconfrontational. While sometimes this is good, it can also lead to difficulties in explaining to authors just why they shouldn't do something - such admonishments always end with "but hey, it's your IA", which robs them of much of their weight. It's good for ironing out small problems, but confronting people over big ones is something that often ends up being more difficult than it needs to be because all negatives are tempered in order to rob them of their sting. People's feelings aren't hurt, but their results can be.

The Rough Grit Approach
The methodology that seems to be in relative ascendence at the moment, this tends to be much less accomodating to the individual author than the Fine Grit approach. Criticism should tell the truth, and if that truth hurts, so be it. People damn well are wrong, and when they are wrong they should be told such, while there's still opportunity for something to be done. Alternatives should be offered, but that's not as important as explaining what's wrong. The author should be treated fairly, but people writing about superhuman armies who slaughter millions can probably take a little criticism.

This has some obvious advantages - it's direct, and people are never under the impression that something is acceptable when it really isn't. Problems are found and dealt with quickly and effectively. Oddly, I think this method can often encourage individual creativity more - offering people solutions can tend to focus them on those solutions, and a lot of people tend to prefer their own solutions anyway.

However, it comes with serious disadvantages. Used carelessly, it can hurt people's feelings, discourage people from continuing with their IAs, and cause people to get defensive and react angrily to what are perceived as attacks on their IAs. It takes caution, and has blown up in my face on several occasions. There is also a tendency for some people to hide behind being 'strict' as an excuse for not paying particular attention to the feelings of the authors they are critiquing.

My Own Recommendations
When dealing with new authors, it is best to err on the side of gentleness. Explain yourself in more detail, be more clear about what is definitely a problem and what is simply something you disagree with personally, and above all say why. More experienced Liberites can take a little criticism.

No matter who you're dealing with, temper what you're saying with some indication that you're not trying to be hurtful. I try to use silliness to do this, with varying degrees of success. Smilies never hurt, though the B&C's limitation on their number in posts can hurt a prolonged critique by eliminating the possibility for their use. If possible, demonstrate some enthusiasm for points you like about the IA. Close with a summation of what is wrong and what is right, with as many positive comments as you can justify to yourself. Being fair does not always mean being harsh.

There is a difference between blunt and rude. Ensure that, wherever possible, you remain firmly on the side of the former. Always remember that the purpose of the Liber is not to destroy people's dreams - at most, it is to purify and reforge them so that they are flawless and sharp. Critique to improve, not to destroy. Edited by Octavulg
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Supplementary Resources

This section contains a variety of useful tools, resources and items of interest which should be able to help aspiring writers realize their goals and develop their skills.

Recommended Reading (Official)
These are IAs which I feel have good things to teach the aspiring DIYer and which are worth emulating.

The Emperor's Children, Salamanders, Dark Angels, White Scars, Raven Guard, Crimson Fists, Flesh Tearers, Iron Warriors, Imperial Fists and Relictors all are well executed and convey their themes well. Reading them will be educational.

The Alpha Legion, in addition this, are a good example of executing ambiguity and subtlety in an IA.

The Night Lords are, despite the fact that their IA is too long and almost exclusively dedicated to the story of Konrad Curze, still worth reading. The Night Lords IA is a particularly good example of executing a narrative well while still providing some independent character to the Chapter.

The Blood Ravens are omitted from this list Edited by Octavulg
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Octavulg's Guide to Not Using the Rest of the Octaguide Right Now

I don't think you necessarily should be writing an IA.

Whether you're new at this or not, it's just not always the right tool for the job. In this bit, I'm going to talk about writing those little blurbs in Codex: Space Marines. If you're a new DIYer, I'd recommend it very strongly. It'll give you a good handle on what's important about your chapter - and give people something they can build on in helping you make an IA. It'll also mean your first attempt at writing something isn't you trying to do an article format you probably haven't read many of and which is probably longer than anything else you've written in a writing style you're not used to. If you're an old DIYer, do it to help stave off ennui and the heat death of the universe.

Also, from now on, I'm calling these things Codex Chapter Summaries (CCS). It's awkward, and I'll totally jump on any better name, but it's easier for me than constantly calling them "those blurbs in Codex: Space Marines 5th edition".

Why do this instead of an IA?

I just told you...

It's shorter and it will nicely distill what you like about your chapter and what's unique about them, which makes a great basis for building an IA. Also, you almost certainly already own a book with a lot of examples in it, and reading them will take you an hour, tops. It is, if nothing else, a great training exercise.

Plus, if you're happy with just this, you've saved yourself a lot of time.

What goes in them?

Well, there are two formats. ONe slightly larger one (for super-important chapters) and one slightly smaller one.

The Smaller One

A Codex Chapter Summary (Small) features an image of a marine in the colors of the chapter, a shoulder pad with the chapter symbol, the chapter name, and anywhere from about twenty to about fifty words on what the chapter's like. Sometimes that information is more helpful than other times (the Silver Skulls' tells you a defining trait of the chapter, while the Black Consuls tells you only that they may or may not be dead). Of these, the Silver Skulls, Eagle Warriors, and Praetors of Orpheus, Aurora Chapter and Novamarines all seem like good enough examples.

Details that can be discussed include where your chapter's fighting, how they fight (including preferred equipment), relationships with other organizations, interesting historical tidbits, how the chapter's name came to be, areas where they fight (and why), quirks of the chapter's structure, and other such things. What matters is that it be a detail that's important to your chapter - that defines them. Something that if you don't know, you don't really know what the chapter's like.

No, a list of your unique names for different Codex ranks isn't a good thing to put here. Read the different examples and you'll get a feel for the sort of thing you should be looking to include.

The Larger One

This is where you'd get a chance to stretch yourself a bit more.

A Codex Chapter Summary (Large) contains about 200-300 words on the Chapter, a Space Marine in the chapter colors, the chapter heraldry, and quote from some notable figure, and some various images of stuff about the chapter (often company banners, weapons or someone's personal heraldry).

The 200-300 Words

A similar principle to the paragraph in the CCS(S), but bigger. It's usually two paragraphs. It can discuss any combination of tactics, home world, deployment and strategy, how the chapter is viewed, gene-seed effects, organizational quirks, equipment, personal traits, what their Primarch means to them, how they get along with their brother chapters, who they like to fight, and why they fight. And, no doubt, other stuff that's not listed here.

Pick a few, the ones that make your chapter unique, and talk about them a little. Not in too much detail. And remember - the details that make your chapter unique.

The Quote

The quote should be something that gives some insight into the chapter - the Salamanders' talks about fire, the Raven Guard's about stealth, the Imperial Fists' about the Emperor and Dorn, the White Scars' about speed, the Crimson Fists' about their refusal to lie down and die...

You get the idea.

Whatever you do, don't just do something generic. Reading the quote, all by itself, should tell us something important about your Chapter. "They like the Emperor" is not particularly important.

All the shiny visual stuff

Nice. Not, I think, strictly necessary. Don't get me wrong - I love a good banner. I just don't expect you to draw one and scan it just for me. Besides, this is supposed to be easier than an IA.

What doesn't go in CCSes?

Most importantly: long lists of pointless stuff. First, there's not room. Second, they're long lists of pointless stuff. And here's a hint: if you're putting it in a list, it's pointless. Explaining all the funny names your chapter has for things is also not a great idea.

What about the rest of the Octaguide

Still useful. Still informative. Still brilliant. Not necessarily what you need when you're just trying to write down some neat stuff about your new chapter.

How about some examples that I can compare with IAs?


I've written a short CCS and a long CCS for the Stone Hearts and the Bronze Prophets. You can compare with their IAs (the links are in my sig), and get an idea for how I think these things should work. There's no chapter banners, though. Why? Because I'm tired and don't draw that well, that's why.

Small CCSes (pictures omitted because they were running into each other - they'd be the same pictures as are used below)

The Stone Hearts

After supply difficulties prompted by a rift with the Adeptus Mechanicus brought them to the brink of collapse, the Stone Hearts allied with a Rogue Trader family to ensure their survival. That alliance, combined with prudence and caution, has allowed them to parlay their rocky homeworld and strength of arms into a mercantile empire.

The Bronze Prophets

The Bronze Prophets are obsessed with prophecy, and use the powerful precognitive gifts of their Librarians to predict their enemies' every move. The chapter delights in using this knowledge to demoralize and terrify their foes before moving in for the kill.

Large CCSes


Stone Hearts Marine in Standard Heraldry

The Stone Hearts

Shortly after their founding, a rift with the Adeptus Mechanicus threatened to starve the Stone Hearts of supplies. Desperate, the Stone Hearts allied themselves with Rogue Trader Tyrion Cathek, a scion of their home world, who promised he could secure them supplies. That alliance has endured to the present day, and has brought the chapter a mercantile empire that carries with it influence and fame of a type most Space Marine chapters never expect.

The Stone Hearts themselves are temperate and cautious, always looking for solutions to problems which will allow them to conserve their supplies. They have been known to negotiate or buy off their enemies rather than expend resources unnecessarily – a tendency some see as a weakness brought on by their commercial endeavours. Despite this, the martial traditions of their home world still appeal, and when they do join battle they do so with enthusiasm.

Their home world, Cathe, is a rocky planet that has become industrialized over the millenia the Stone Hearts have held it. However, in the highlands outside the factory-cities, the old tribes of Cathe still drill with their swords at chapter keeps, under the watchful eyes of ancient Space Marines. The children who study at these keeps are the most frequent recruits into the chapter, though some few still emerge from the smoke and hell of the factories to forge their destinies in the Emperor’s service.

"Mellior quam media." - Chapter Motto of the Stone Hearts


Bronze Prophets Marine in Standard Heraldry

The Bronze Prophets

A Cursed Founding chapter, horrific legends follow the Bronze Prophets. Their psykers are formidably powerful, especially in the realm of prediction and prophecy. Rumour has it that, generations ago, the Emperor cursed the Bronze Prophets for over-reaching their station and trying to see too much. Now, their Librarians pay the price for their predecessors’ arrogance in madness and blindness. After a century at most, the legend claims, a Librarian of the Bronze Prophets will collapse into madness, his eyes disintegrating into dust. Still darker stories speak of chambers beneath the chapter's fortress monastery, where these insane marines are kept, ranting insane prophecies with which the chapter guides the course of the Imperium.

Whatever the truth of these rumours, it is certain that the Bronze Prophets are obsessed with prophecy, seeing their Librarians as conduits to the will of the Emperor. The interpretation of visions is not limited to Librarians – all ranks of the chapter attempt to interpret the visions of their psykers, and skill at doing so is a frequent route to promotion. In battle, the Prophets use these predictions to outmaneuver their enemies. Chapter Librarians will often use their gifts to fill the minds of the enemy with frightening visions, and raids on enemy positions will be almost constant. By the time the Bronze Prophets move in for the kill, many of their enemies welcome death.

Our wars are fought on the edge of Limbo, as its winds roar around us.

The scars of our battles lie on the inside, not on our skin.

The destruction those wounds wreak may leave nothing.

We are the veterans of the wars of the mind, and we know no fear, for the Emperor is with us.

- Inscription above the entrance to the Bronze Prophets' Fortress Monastery

IA Links

The Bronze Prophets.

The Stone Hearts.

Edited by Octavulg
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Well, this version of the Octaguide has a new order, a new section or two, revised content all round, and is generally better. It also weighs in at a hefty twenty-one thousand-plus words.


Thoughts and comments very much appreciated. Thanks to all those who have helped improve it so far. ;)

Edited by Octavulg
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Very nice mate. The new bits (if my memory serves correctly as to which ones they are!) read well. Only one thing came to my mind in terms of changes/additions. Was looking at the various links to recommended DIY's (thanks, btw, although the link to the Iron Gods doesn't work atm?) and I wondered if it might be worth adding a sentence or two to each one explaining why you think they're worth looking at, how they might help the reader? Got to admit I've not read them all myself and I just wondered what I should be looking out for when I do get round to them?
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Glad you like it.


Honestly, I think I like this one a lot better. You could actually make an IA by following this one. :P


I actually think I'm doing much better thank you <_<


I'm even seeing the problems with the White Hand ... like no training cadre (will be fixed soon) :P

Edited by Ecritter
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Not to butt in, but I'm fairly sure Octavulg meant 'you' in a general, anyone could write the IA, kind of way, not to be offensive to 'you' Ecritter. :P


I know. I was just 'poking the bear' so to speak. <_<


I suggest the guide to all new IAers.

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EDIT: I did indeed mean a general 'you'.


Quick rule of thumb:


When I go :P, I'm mocking you.


When I go <_<, I'm mocking me. Or the world at large.


Also, ecritter, as a childhood in the wilds of North Carolina (where men are men, women are women, and bears are the dominant species) should have taught you, don't poke bears. It's not nice. And sometimes they eat the stick. :P


* * *



There's new bits all over, actually. Even the mostly unchanged sections have some new words here and there.


Fixed the link. Don't know why it did that.


In regards to those IAs - I originally picked five. The Steel Ghosts because they are probably my favorite IA never to enter the Librarium. The Ice Lords because I think they're pretty good (they certainly should be a good demonstration of my principles!) and they are my only IA in the Librarium at the moment (or I might have gone with another). The Castigators because they seem to be the most successful out of the Librarium/Liber IAs (or at least were when I was young and impressionable) The Astral Hawks because despite the fact that I can never remember anything other than their symbol, color scheme, and the fact that they assaulted an orbital dockyard one time they're a well-written Chapter with lots of nicely-developed little details that make them fit into the universe well but are still unique in their own right. The Imperial Castellans because they seemed a pretty good representative example of how Ferrata does IAs, and he's one of the few remaining holdouts from when the Earth was young and still smouldering. They're older-school Liber, and I thought there should be some representation of that (and are, of course, a good IA in their own right). The Iron Gods got added in later because they're the best thing I've seen in the past year or so.


In regards to why I don't explain what in particular to look for, well...they were picked for incredibly general reasons. It didn't seem quite right. They're basically there to provide examples of IAs that people can try to imitate, but enough diversity that it becomes clear the different options and possibilities that are available and people can get a good, clear picture of what an IA is generally.


That said, you should read them all, because they are all quite good.

Edited by Octavulg
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This was a very well spent half an hour. I especially liked the part about giving criticism. In my opinion approach to someone elses work should be as respectuful as possible and when pointing to mistakes alternatives or explanations should be given to show that in additon from just reading his work you care enough about this other unknown human being to be willing to help. This also reminds me that a certain indivdual is waiting for a week now on the comment on his second draft so I should better be off.



Keep up the good work and most importantly have fun!







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This was a very well spent half an hour.

Lol. I spend around 7 hours reading it. :) Ok. ok. I also did several other things during the session, but it's still 7 hours.


Octavulg, I think this the most exhausting* guide on DIYing, I have ever seen. I don't think there is anything left to say about this matter. Awesome work!!! :tu:



*In the good way.

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As usual sterling work.

However my only criticism (it's the same I'm carrying over from your older version) is concerning your dis-recommendation of using a Black and Red color scheme. I haven't seen a DIY Chapter in ages apart from my own (which is probably why I have a problem) that heavily uses black and red. It's a very bold and striking scheme, and while unoriginal, it stands out from all the oranges and purples and bones you get lately.

Like I said though, it's mostly the fact that my colors are Black and red (and gold) that I'm saying this, but perhaps you should take another look at current color trends?

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This was a very well spent half an hour. I especially liked the part about giving criticism. In my opinion approach to someone elses work should be as respectuful as possible and when pointing to mistakes alternatives or explanations should be given to show that in additon from just reading his work you care enough about this other unknown human being to be willing to help.




Keep up the good work and most importantly have fun!


How could I not, telling everyone what to do guiding others to wisdom?


* * *




Octavulg, I think this the most exhausting* guide on DIYing, I have ever seen. I don't think there is anything left to say about this matter. Awesome work!!! thumbsup.gif


Thank you. Though I fear there is always more to say. And the problem is I usually don't remember what it is until I (or someone else) say it. :)


* * *


The Normish:


However my only criticism (it's the same I'm carrying over from your older version) is concerning your dis-recommendation of using a Black and Red color scheme. I haven't seen a DIY Chapter in ages apart from my own (which is probably why I have a problem) that heavily uses black and red. It's a very bold and striking scheme, and while unoriginal, it stands out from all the oranges and purples and bones you get lately.


It was bold and striking once. Now it's dull. :tu: Plus, if you remembered the brief, dark period where sixty-percent of Chapters on the front page of the Liber Astartes used black in a significant fashion (50%+ being 'significant', IIRC), you would not be so blase...


Heh. Turns out the post where I originally said that was the one that prompted me to post the first real draft of the Ice Lords. Interesting.

Edited by Octavulg
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Having only recently taken up the - metaphorical - pen of an AI author, I can but join the chorus of jubilation!

I, and so many other liber-newbies, owe you, your apt and frequent criticism and your guide a great deal.

Thanks for making writing an AI that much easier, and for ensuring that the standards of this board are kept high.


With regards

- Malthe

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