Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Strange History of the Sons of Dorn

Almost everyone who has been in the hobby has collected Space Marines at some point, and of those people most of them will probably have created their own Chapter, even if it's just a one off miniature. When I did exactly that with my Sons of Dorn back in the mists of time there was no way I could have known the strange history they would embark upon.

Let me take you back to the cargo pants wearing, emo music blaring time of around 2004 when I, a young 15ish year old 40k player, decided to create a new Space Marine chapter. Up to this point I had two main armies, a larger Ultramarines force, which was my very first army, and a purple, black, and gold clad Chaos Marine force from the 3.5 codex. There were of course many smaller projects and attempts at armies that failed to get off the ground, but those were my main two. The Ultramarines, having been my first army, were not painted that well, and having been in the hobby for around five years at this point, I thought I could do better. I decided to start a brand new Space Marine army of the only chapter that made sense, the Black Dragons of course!

The Black Dragons were a 13th founding chapter who were slightly mutated with bony growths coming out of their arms. I painted up maybe two squads like this, but then decided that they weren't interesting enough on the tabletop. Their color scheme is almost entirely black. Well I didn't want to waste these models, nor did I want to entirely repaint them, so instead I came up with my own color scheme where all I had to do was add some white areas onto the models, and thus, the first Sons of Dorn were born! My inspiration from them came from my love of the Imperial Fists, who were way too hard to paint at the time (the yellow paint then was super thin), as well as the Crimson Fists. A lot of people have thought I took the Crimson Fists and Black Templar scheme and mashed them together to make the Sons of Dorn, but actually the other main inspiration for them was the White Panthers chapter. I really liked the white faceplate on the black helmet. Add in some white shoulder trim, knee pads, one white gauntlet to honor the Crimson Fists, and a little bit of white on the top of the backpack to frame the head and you have yourself a color scheme. The red bolter was a nice splash of color, as well as a call back to when every gun casing was red.

They were now my chapter, my very own, and I began expanding them out. At this time there was also a Create a Chapter contest that Games Workshop was running nationally in the US. You had to submit a picture of one of your models, the chapter's name, and a little snippet of backstory for them. I was working at my local GW at this time, and was beyond thrilled when my Manager told me I was one of the finalists. We shipped my sample model to the US HQ so they could take some proper photos, then I got it back, and that was that for awhile. A few months later the issue of White Dwarf came out that had the winners in it. There were a number of winners, I can't remember the exact number. Most of them just had the picture of the miniature, the chapter name, and the hobbyist's name printed on the page. Two of them though were chosen to be truly showcased with all of the lore and history for the chapter printed as well and I was so excited to find out I was one of those two! My precious chapter was in White Dwarf. It was a dream come true.

The years marched on and I continued to expand my collection. I had probably close to 3,000 points painted at their peak, and began going back and touching them up at one point. I think it was sometime in 5th edition when I decided they needed a facelift. I redid their bases, refined some of the freehand symbols on them, and redid the red entirely. Same colors, just better methods to get a better result. I also started to add more character models for them, and replaced my trusted captain Agamon of the fourth company with a new model converted from Pedro Kantor. I was also heavily invested in posting on The Bolter and Chainsword forums at this point. This was all still well before the launch of Mengel Miniatures as a website. Now that I had a space where I could collect everything for the chapter I began expanding their history. I always had an idea of what was going on, and had written some stuff down before, but never all in on place. I decided they were going to get the Chapter Approved treatment and set out detailing everything I could about them.

Nurgle became their arch-enemy, which is something I had been modeling on the miniatures for awhile, but now they had a reason. Their most respected and historic chapter master had been laid low by a plague knife and ever since then they had dedicated themselves to not only fighting them on the battlefields. This hatred of Nurgle actually stems from the fact that I played a lot of games with them against my friend Chris who fielded Death Guard and beat me the majority of the time. I started adding dead Death Guard to their bases and such to mess with him and then it became part of their history.

Another major event for them is the fate of their home world of Archea. In their lore, while the majority of the chapter was off fighting against the 13th Black Crusade (because I was playing in that world wide campaign at the time), their home world came under assault by a splinter fleet of Hive Fleet Leviathan. With only a few companies worth of Marines to fend off the Tyranid assault almost the entire world was devastated. Just like their hatred of Nurgle, this came about due to a game. I played a game of Battlefleet Gothic with my Sons of Dorn fleet facing off against my friend Jacob's Tyranid fleet. The mission was to protect my home world. Needless to say, the Tyranid broke through and my fleet was destroyed, so I worked it into their lore! You can read their full lore here if you want on the 40k Wiki. Keep in mind, this was all written awhile ago, and reading it now there are definitely things I would change. It's a bit of a time capsule for me. Ah, I clearly wrote that part while I was watching the Spartacus show, and that chapter civil war was from when I was reading the Soul Drinkers series. It's definitely interesting to me now seeing how many of my interests were pulled into their lore.

Captain Agamon

Now, I'm sure many people have come up with backstories like this and have invested time into their chapter, but that's not what makes their history strange. As the years go on I see a hobbyist here or there start their own Sons of Dorn chapter, or have people message me saying how inspired they were by them and that they liked them. It's awesome to see your stuff be an inspiration to people. Years go on, I stop playing my Sons of Dorn because their paint jobs no longer met my standard. Eventually, after years of not using them I sold the majority of them, only keeping some of the newer additions and some classic models that I wanted as mementos. Then I started seeing them pop up on 40k wikis.

They were being listed alongside chapters I grew up with created by GW with their full history that I had written for them. Again, really awesome to see people this enthusiastic about them. At some point I notice that their color scheme has been changed on the wikis. A red circle has been added to their chapter symbol as well as a few other minor tweaks. I assume this was something a hobbyist did. Whoever was curating the wiki liked the Chapter and wanted to put their own spin on it and since they were creating the wiki they just inserted in their own change.

More time passes. I revisited the Sons of Dorn with the release of Dark Imperium and painted up a new Primaris version of them. I even came up with some more lore for them, but it looks like I never published it. I thought about doing an army of them, but as of today, it's still just that one Primaris Marine painted.

What could this be?

Recently I googled them to grab a picture for something. That's when I noticed the changed color scheme again, with the red circle behind the white fist. I delved deeper to try and figure out what happened and maybe find out who to contact to correct it. That's when I stumbled upon something I never expected. Most of the Wikis cited two main sources for the chapter, the White Dwarf article from years ago, and something called the Adeptus Astartes: Successor Chapters. I had no clue what the second one was so I did some more googling and then I found one of the weirdest, coolest things to ever happen to me.

There they are!

Adeptus Astartes: Successor Chapters was a limited edition booklet produced by Games Workshop and released with the Limited Edition version of the 7th edition Space Marine Codex. It was just a selection of color schemes of various official successor chapters to act as inspiration. Why was this being listed as a source for my home brew chapter? I did a bit more research and found some scans of the pages and there they were! The Sons of Dorn listed as an official successor chapter, with an official GW color scheme on the same page as the Sons of Guilliman! I had found out who had altered the color scheme, it was Games Workshop themselves! I guess since I had won that contest and they were published in White Dwarf, the Sons of Dorn must have been considered official by GW and then 10 years later they published them in an official book of successor chapters. Seriously, it's so cool that something I created when I was 15 is now an official part of Warhammer 40,000 history! They have evolved past me. There are even 40 minute Youtube videos doing deep dives into the lore and history on them that I created! It's so surreal.

It's not something I ever expected and if you went back in time and told my 15 year old self that this is what would happen to his home brew Space Marine chapter I would never have believed it. The Sons of Dorn hold a special place in my heart. They were the first hobby project I ever did to get recognition from GW with the White Dwarf article, and now this. I'm excited to see what happens for them next. Maybe they'll appear in the new Space Marine Codex or maybe I can finally convince Black Library to let me write that Sons of Dorn short story I've had percolating for 17 years.

This just goes to show, you never know what may happen with some bit of lore or a color scheme you create. It could end up being an inspiration to many hobbyists in the future or even end up printed in an official book.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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