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Fellow 40k fluff-lovers, this is something one of my pal's asked me and I've had lengthy discussions about it at local GW spots with staff and players there... time to ask what you all think.
When we look back at the Great Crusade, the Emperor created his Space Marine legions to free humanity from the encroaching aliens and threats to preserve our race and ignite our streaks of conquest that led to the creation of the Imperium of Man. As despotic as it might seems, the question does not lie there...
Looking at the attitudes of certain Space Marine chapters of later foundings that are currently in service around the Imperium, we can observe that the great guardians of man sometimes look down upon "normal" humans (especially Guardsmen, notably Penal Legionnaires). Their sacred mission to defend the populations of the Imperium may have shifted, becoming a quest for revenge against the xenos and ruinous powers that have crossed the chapter's line, or aggravated them in some ways. A few examples exist in 40k litterature, notably the Howling Griffons chapter that would gladly sacrifice a whole contigent of penal guardsmen along with their commanders to simply "occupy" their enemy. Another example comes from the hit game Dawn of War, where the Blood Ravens' 2nd Company Brother-Captain Davian Thule sees no problem in purging a world to ensure the secrets of the chapter are preserved, clearly knowing it is not tainted and possesses a thriving human populace, instead of hearing out the decrees and pleas of Segmentum Command and the guardsmen dispatched there.
So, my fellow fluffers, the ball is in your court: Space Marines, superiority complex or hardened defenders?
What do Khorne Berzerkers say to Necrons after chopping some of their bits off? "BLOOD FOR... Eh? Come on! You just take the fun out of it... Scream! Yell! Awww... not even a trace of guts..." *sniffles and kicks dirt*
"You can go far with a smile. You can go even further with a smile and a gun"
I truly believe the truth is hidden somewhere in between... Yes they were started as defenders of humanity and releivers of the enslaving xenos but somewhere in the road and especially after the Horus Heresy this role somewhat changed...
They have the superiority complex even if they started as human beings before getting all the implantations into them but they keep on forgetting it. Sometimes though their zeal to clean the universe of xenos is so strong and they outdo themselves... Cleansing a planet of life even if it is not tainted is one of them... That is not the rule but the exception though as I think there are cases where the Chapters go along together well with the populace of the world.
Thanks to all the people showing faith in me
I sometimes feel that everyone will leave me and they will be on their own...
They have a fool me once/fool me twice mentality, and they don't want to be fooled again.
Karmoon: "well.. any kore = good kore" 12:35pm PST 23 May 2007
I actually think you've got it the wrong way round.. Before the Heresy, Space Marine chapters ruled mini-empires, were given command of billions of men, vast battlefleets and titan legions, and were pretty much the social elite as well the military elite of the Emperor's forces. When Horus fell, he was able to bring half the Imperium with him because all the men under him followed him.. He, and the other rogue chapters, had been in direct command of half, if not more than half, of the Empire's military resources.
Thanks to the reorganizations following the heresy, a space marine commander can tell a lone Imperial Guardsman to jump and the guardsman can merrily laugh in his face. Space marines have no formal power at all beyond their own ranks.
So in fact, the Emperor seems to have envisioned space marines as overlords for humanity, and later on, when it was obvious that was a retarded idea, it was scrapped and reorganized to ensure it couldn't happen.
I keep going on about this but the Great Crusade wasn't a golden era.. Fulgrim ordered half his legion to die just to exterminate a particularly tenacious alien race. The Emperor ordered the Thousand Sons wiped out and their homeworld purged because he was pissed at Magnus the Red. The Emperor's reign wasn't all puppies and lollypops, lots of people still died for questionable reasons.
"This sure ain't no pansy Eldar Armor, Son"
185th Cadian Armored Div.
"One Shot, One Kill"
Western Border Patrol of Athel Loren
Well, you've got to remember the more practical concerns. Like resiliance and world-view.
Space marines sometimes had people under them. But the thing about space marines is that they're hard as nails. Humans arn't. Many of the SM commanders simply forgot that, and ended up working their human underlings to death. And I would think that most SMs would happily lay down their lives for the good of the chapter and the Imperium. I think that would have been the reasoning that they used. SM history is filled with last stands for a reason.
These views changer from chapter to chapter. Though they do have a superiority complex (spawning from being superior) they do tend to have reasons for their doings. The Griffons that sacrifice a penal legion to "occupy" an enemy usually does so with the intent of it giving them an opening and leading to eventual victory.
Take the example of the Ultramarines. They may rule a small empire but these planets are some of the nicest int eh imperium. Additionally, though they don't have to, Ultramar does send men into the Imperial Guard. Ultramar regiments are some of the best shock troops in the guard as they are trained by Space Marines. They are well trained, well equiped, and never sacrificed unless it is going to be worth it in the end (i.e. more would die without the sacrifice.) This is a contribution to the Imperium that the Ultramarines make solely for the Imperium since, after the Ultramar regiments leave, they rarely return and aren't under the marines influence at all.
'An open mind is like a fortress with its walls unguarded and its gates wide open' -Blood Ravens
Also remember that a lot of the stringent selection procedures that are in place for Space Marines now weren't in place during the Crusade. Many of the recruits drawn for the Legions were basically those who had passed the necessary tests and were able to undergo surgery for the organ transplants. It was only after Guilliman witnessed the problems of pride and genetically enhanced super strength that he compiled the Codex Astartes. As the whole Imperial Cult took shape, the Horus Heresy became a salutory lesson in the uses and abuses of pride and so many Space Marine chapters take the extreme reactionary view and are incredibly humble. As a result of this, they often hold themselves apart from normal Imperial society and only come when they are called. The Ultramarines are more an exception than a rule in that they manage to get along well with the populace and take an active hand in their day-to-day affairs.
Most Space Marines are rather aloof and this only serves to make them that much more fearsome when normal people actually see them. The Space Marines that want to rule? Well, they've probably fallen to Chaos by this point (cf. Lufgt Huron)
Overlords? No...no, not really. I mean, think about the term overlord. It implies dominion and subjugation. The Inquisition is more of an overlord than the Astartes. The Astartes are self-sufficient and autonomous, but they gain this autonomy by not being able to rule anything past their own homeworld, which can be viewed as a small fiefdom in a vast feudal empire. They still have to come when called or their little fiefs are squishied. That's what the Ultramarines do; their lordship of the Ultramar planets will last only so long as their service is satisfactory.
In the field of battle, an Astartes' word is law, since battle is their natural habitat. If a Marine tells a Guardsman to jump, the Guardsman will jump. Because they're walking in a minefield and the Marine knows where the mines are because he can smell different types of metal with his tongue. It's a matter of expertise. Guardsmen obey Marines because Marines are pretty much their superior in all theatres of combat, and it's good to listen to the advice of someone with experience.
So if Thule lands on an invaded planet and determines that it's best for everyone if all humans jump ship, and the humans don't jump ship, this is their own fault because odds are Thule is right and the regimental commanders are wrong. They're just being stupidly brave, which is admirable, but not right. And that whole situation was just invented to explain why Blood Ravens would be fighting Imperial Guardsmen, so the point is moot.
It's like this. If a country is invaded, and the general tells the populace to evacuate, they should evacuate, because he's a general and they're at war. If a country is at its peak of prosperity and peace, the general has no such authority. Because his authority extends only to war. In this way, the Space Marines can exert no lasting power, because their rule is temporal, and confined to the battlefield. And even then, they obey orders, because it suits them to do so.
The above poster = Totally a member of the Fluff Masters Clan. Click here for fluff pwnage.
Come, sons of LO! Kneel before Poodle!
Mr_Wayne: "Some people believe that the World Eaters do not field any ranged weaponry. Those people often die at a distance."
Anyway, my own answer to this touches on the "meta" aspect of it. I think that a bunch of issues like this are left intentionally vague so that players can fit their own flavor into the game. Look at the debate over the Tau Ethereals: some take the image of the benevolent rulers, and others imagine secretive, subversive conquerors whose prey don't even realize that they're being brainwashed. Is there any fluff that explicitly states either one? No, all we see is the results of their organization. We are set up to draw our own conclusions, and we get wrapped up in the game universe a little deeper for it.