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I had a quick fluff question about space marine armor. with FW releasing all of the older styles of power armor, I was thinking of picking up a few to intermix with a space marine army and I was curious: in art and on models, marines are occasionally depicted wearing a conglomeration of different armor marks. a lot of the model kits even come with helmets from various older style suits. my question is, how accurate is that fluff-wise?
are vets allowed to chose from the older and more venerable suits, and how compatible are the different armor pieces with each other? according to lexicanum, mark 6, 7, and 8 are more or less designed to be interchangeable, but Ive seen marines with parts of mark 4 or 5 on their suits as well.
basically I want to know If I can mix the pieces of older suits with mark 7 pieces, or would it be more fluff accurate for the older suits to remain intact? and what is the fluff reason for mixed suits?
All Power Armor is based off of the same technology, so a skilled Artificer can probably make them work together, however, mixing suit parts is generally considered disrespectful to the Machine Spirit. In the oldest chapters (especially the ones with good supply) the oldest suits are put on display and revered as Chapter Artifacts, sometimes released to a marine who proves himself particularly worthy. The only ones I know who mix-and-match a lot are Chapters or Warbands with supply problems - mainly Chaos Renegades, Chapters who aren't friendly with the Adeptus Mechanicus (eg. Flesh Tearers), and the Space Wolves 13th Company (due to being stuck in the Eye of Terror).
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Most new armour designs seem to be backwards-compatible, since they're built to be sturdy and easy to repair (a Marine is pretty boned if his suit gives out on him while on an extended ground campaign.) This is a big thing for Space Marines; a lot of their gear is highly advanced, but it needs to be resilient to adverse conditions.
This means that a Marine (or a techmarine) can, if he needs to, mix-and-match the way you describe. Often it's because the company is far from supplies and he doesn't have a replacement, but sometimes, if most of an older suit is destroyed, the leftovers might be recovered and recycled. This is why you sometimes see guys in standard Aquila armour with beakie helmets or studded shoulderpads from much older models. Helmets and shoulderpads seem to be the most common reused pieces this way. Since the older suits aren't manufactured in great numbers, if a suit is partially destroyed, it's very hard to reconstruct it.
It is done hesitantly, though, since like Stradius said, it's considered disrespectful to the machine spirit. That doesn't mean the Marines won't do it. They have a similar problem with camouflage, since repainting the armour is seen as disrespectful to the armour's previous owners and to the Chapter heraldry, but they'll still do it if they really have to. They'll just feel uneasy. The techmarine might re-bless the repaired armour, as a way of christening it as a new whole rather than bits and pieces.
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They definatly mix marks, but they don't see this as disrespectful, its a good thing. Space Marine power armour is not maintained by techmarines (thier own suits apart), but rather by 'dedicated servants who spend thier lives working for the chapter', called artificiers (Codex: Space Marines, page 20). These artificiers hunt down parts of old armour to restore them, often ehancing them in the process. These will be combined with other marks to make up a whole suit and this is seen as a good thing, not a lack of respect. Such suits will be venerated for they are artifacts that have belonged to a number of heroic marines. Additionally artificers will make a custom suit for some marines, taking parts frommultiple suits, adapting them and combining them to make a new set. Some artificeirs become so good at thier work that thier artificier armour is highly sought after by space marines.
Basically a new set of armour is good, but a new set with the shin guard of an older set worn by a famous marine is much much better. Don't get me wrong, a whole set of very old armour would be best, but not because its untampered with, just because its old and respected.
Fluff aside I think GW introduced this to allow them flexability when sculpting marines,a nd us flexability when assembling and converting.
I've read the same thing as Matus. What people don't seem to realize is that most of the advanced technology that the Imperium maintains from times before the Heresy, are only available through STCs. This means that while Power Armor might vary from mark to mark, it's a safe bet that a lot of the real nuts-and-bolts of the design are unchanged. It might take a little effort to get an old helmet to seal tightly to newer armor, but the seals and fittings probably work the same way.
Newer isn't always better in the Imperium. Take the Razorbacks for example. The Mk1 "Stronos" is the only design which maintains Twin-linked Plasma Guns, and those are much sought after. The Adepts haven't found the STCs to replicate the design. I can imagine that some of the older Power Armor might have better systems for targeting or even cooling and energy production.
The only time that I can see it voiding fluff, is in very new chapters. No chapter is going to be formed from scratch anymore- they'll have a founding chapter. For example, an Ultra Marines successor might pull geneseed from the Ultramarines, Nova Marines, and White Consuls, as long as it's all pure geneseed that traces it's ties back to the Ultramarines. The chapter will be given new suits of armor however. The only exception is that honored marines from the founding chapters will be sent to train and lead the newly formed chapter. That would be the only source for older armor, unless the chapter found old suits on an abandoned battlefield (unlikely- Marines are fanatic about recovering their dead, even in 40k). So if you have a new chapter that has only been around for a few hundred years or so, it's unlikely that you're going to have Mk3 suits on many of your boys.