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The game play of Rogue Trader was heavily oriented toward role-playing rather than strict tabletop wargaming. This original version came as a very detailed, though rather jumbled, rulebook, which made it most suitable for fighting small skirmishes. Much of the composition of the units was determined randomly, by rolling dice.
A few elements of the setting Bolters , Lasguns , Frag Grenades , Terminator Armour can be seen in a set of earlier wargaming rules called Laserburn produced by the now defunct company Tabletop Games written by Bryan Ansell. These rules were later expanded by both Ansell and Richard Halliwell both of whom ended up working for Games Workshop , although the rules were not a precursor to Rogue Trader.
Soon the Games Workshop hobby magazine, White Dwarf , started making army lists and devising strategies for people to use in these Rogue Trader games.
Like clay I shall mould them and in the furnace of war I shall forge them. They will be of iron will and steely muscle. In great armour shall I clad them and with the mightiest guns shall they be armed. They will be untouched by plague or disease, no sickness will blight them. They will have tactics, strategies and machines such that no foe will best them in battle.
They are my bulwark against the Terror. They are the Defenders of Humanity. They are my Space Marines Terrible wars engulfed the galaxy at this time, and as human civilisation fragmented, alien races and vile Warp predators seized their chance to plunder unprotected worlds and enslave their populations. Planets were sacked, their peoples slaughtered, and those that survived the onslaught largely descended into barbarism. Alone and beset by internal strife, Humanity was on the verge of extinction.
The Emperor has reigned over the Imperium for more than ten thousand years. To the innumerable billions of humans in the galaxy, the Emperor is a god; the saviour of Mankind and its eternal guardian. The Space Marines do not worship the Emperor as a divine being, however. They recognise the Emperor as their founder and the glorious ruler of the Imperium.
They consider the Emperor to have been the ultimate example of Mankind, an aweinspiring man that they venerate, praise, and pledge unflinching dedication to — but a man nonetheless. From the ashes of the Age of Strife arose a mighty leader, the man who would become known only as the Emperor. His origins are unrecorded and unknown, but it was on Terra, the cradle of the human race, that he founded an empire that would unite the worlds of the galaxy.
From the outset of his campaigns, the Emperor employed genetically engineered warriors, the earliest precursors of the Space Marines. Within shrouded vaults far beneath the surface of Terra, the Emperor began the creation of the next generation of super-warriors.
These were the Primarchs, twenty extraordinary individuals who would be his generals and conquer thousands of worlds in his name. Mustered into the great, ten thousandstrong Legions of the First Founding, they were warriors of immense strength and unbreakable will. At the head of his Legions, the Emperor set out to conquer the galaxy, a mission known as the Great Crusade.
World after world was reconquered, alien oppressors were annihilated, order was brought to anarchy and human civilisation once again flourished. With the Primarchs at the fore, the power of the Legions was at its zenith and nothing could stand in the way of the Emperor and his armies. Fully half the Primarchs and their Legions sided with Horus, plunging the Imperium into a civil war that set the whole galaxy afire.
Worlds burned and a terror unlike any seen before was unleashed. Much of the truth of this bloody age has been lost, obscured by the mists of time or embellished to the point of myth.
The forces of darkness pressed in around the guttering flame of Humanity. In this desperate hour, the Emperor and his most trusted warriors took the fight to Horus upon his flagship, facing the traitor in his inner sanctum. Sanguinius of the Blood Angels, most angelic of the Primarchs, was slain and the Emperor cast down, broken and wounded almost unto death. The death toll numbered in the billions.
Uncounted worlds had been left as little more than corpse-haunted wastelands as the raging inferno of the Heresy was finally extinguished. In those dark times, many human renegades and predatory aliens sought to plunder the reeling and mournful worlds of the Emperor. Together with his surviving Primarch brothers and their Space Marines, Guilliman held the scattered defenders of Humanity through the nightmare that followed. As a result, the Ultramarines had come through the Horus Heresy largely unscathed.
Yet even these mighty warriors were stretched to the limit in downloading time for other loyalist forces to regroup and rearm. Legends tell that Guilliman was everywhere in these times, rallying defenders on one world and leading them to victory before moving on to another where his awe-inspiring skills would best serve Humanity.
Though invaders, human and xenos alike, circled like vultures, the Space Marines and their Primarchs stood firm.
Darkness looked sure to overwhelm them at every turn, but not one amongst them took a backwards step. So began the Age of the Imperium. They had powers and skills rivalling those of the Emperor and, like gods, they bestrode the battlefields of the Great Crusade.
Twenty such beings were forged, and each commanded a Legion of Space Marines created from their own flesh. The personality of each Primarch was reflected in the traditions and doctrines of his Legion.
Even today, the descendants of those Space Marines are characterised by qualities derived from their gene-sire. With the threat of extinction held at bay, Guilliman turned to ensuring that such a catastrophe could never happen again, distilling his formidable wisdom into a mighty tome known as the Codex Astartes. This text became a major part of his legacy and the cornerstone upon which the future of the Imperium would be based.
Of special interest is the volume of the Codex devoted to the Adeptus Astartes, describing in detail the tactical roles, equipment specifications, uniform markings, command protocols and countless other aspects of Space Marine doctrine. Though for all its multitudinous topics, the most lasting and contentious decree of the Codex Astartes was that the existing Space Marine Legions be broken up and reorganised into smaller organisations known as Chapters. Thus were the Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes born.
In addition to a name and heraldry of their own, each of these new Chapters would take for itself a home world or fortress-monastery, and use it as a bastion from which to defend the Imperium from all threats.
The Codex Astartes stated that each Chapter would be one thousand battle-brothers strong and look to its own recruitment, training and equipment. Never again would one man be able to command the awesome, terrifying power of a Space Marine Legion. These defects had been exacerbated by the accelerated gene-seed cultivation techniques needed to keep the huge Space Marine Legions up to strength.
One of the key objectives of the new Codex Astartes was to recognise and expunge these genetic weaknesses. As a result, the Codex Astartes decreed that Space Marines would forever more be created and trained slowly.
The genetic banks used to create Astartes implants would be carefully monitored and scrutinised for any defects. Cultivated organs would be subject to the most stringent tests of purity. Young initiates would undergo trials of suitability before they were accepted, and only those of the very sternest character would be chosen. As a final safeguard, Guilliman tasked the Adeptus Terra on Earth with setting up and maintaining genetic banks to produce and store tithes of Space Marine gene-seed.
These banks were to provide all new gene-seed for subsequent foundings of Space Marine Chapters. To prevent cross-contamination, the genetic stock of each Legion was isolated whilst that of the Traitor Legions was placed under a time-locked stasis seal, though at the time many believed they had been destroyed.