8

I've recently read Wolfsbane and it's mentioned (and not for the first time) that Leeman Russ and the Vlka Fenryka were designed with the sole purpose of being the emperor's loyal and unflinching executioners.

There have been multiple hints across other books that each of the Primarchs were built for a specific role (Magnus for his psychic powers, Horus for his leadership, and Roboute for his statesmanship).

Has it ever been laid out quite so specifically for the other Primarchs and/or legions what their assigned tasks were?

  • There is not a list in its entirely to my knowledge... If no one else does I will start an answer with the roles I know (and hopefully others can add to it if they know additional information), but it is similar to much of the other aspects in 40k; left unanswered for the sake of both GW official lore and player fan fluff. – Odin1806 Jun 12 '18 at 18:46
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    Rather than having specific roles, I often read each Primarch as embodying one aspect of the Emperor. – Brian Jun 13 '18 at 0:55
  • some guesses can probably be made based off of the legions orignial names. the imperial heralds (now word bearers) likely served either as an advance force or (more likely) as a supplement to the iterators speaking of the wonders of the imperium with meta-human physiology to back up their words. the "dragon warriors" (now salamanders) where probably supposed to embody some aspect of the dragon (perhaps the dragons eastern traditions as protectors of the people, given the salamanders current behaviour) and are thus supposed to work more closely with the imperiums civilians? – Ummdustry Jun 13 '18 at 12:24
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Note: I am not sure that each Primarch has a defined role after the Great Crusade and the complete unification of the Galaxy as the Imperium of Mankind. Besides being a charismatic leader and a deputy for the Emperor (He cannot be everywhere!) of course.

Some had a definite purpose, but it is hard to tell if it was planned by the Emperor from the start, an inevitable consequence of their creation that each of them would be heavily specialized, a consequence of their dispersion by the forces of Chaos and/or their upbringing on various worlds. Fittingly, the powerful psyker Magnus grew up on Prospero, a world far from Terra where psykers could hide and create a society emphasizing knowledge, while Gulliman was educated on a planet where the elite were keen on discussing politics and law.

More than having a specific purpose designed by the Emperor, each Primarchs represents an aspect of the perfect soldier and ruler the Emperor is. We should remember that 40k is before anything a game and, from a gameplay point of view, the philosophy of Games Workshop is to create a generic, vanilla version of each race and army, and give players enough flexibility to play with their own style. This is embodied later in the fluff. The Eldars Craftworlds, the Orks clans, the Imperial Army regiments are examples of this philosophy. The purpose of the historical articles J-files by Jervis Johnson was to encourage players to free their creativity and create the fluff for their own army.


That said, we can try to detail what aspects/purpose each Primarch embodies.

Note 2: that would be a lot to link to references for anything in that answer. The general references are Lexicanum and Warhammer Wikia. I would also have difficulties to quote the books, as I read them in French.

  1. Horus: obviously, military leadership and charisma. There were tensions between some Primarchs from the early days of the Great Crusade, but all of them liked Horus and were close to him to some extent.
  2. Magnus: the most powerful pskyer after the Emperor. Magnus was destined to seat on the Golden Throne and control a portal to the Eldar Webway, freeing mankind from having to use the Warp to travel through the Galaxy. He is also a personification of erudition and knowledge.
  3. Fulgrim: perfectionism and quest for perfection. Fulgrim and his Emperor's Children, especially Lucius, were constantly trying to improve their abilities as soldiers.
  4. Perturabo is the master of siege. Also, it is explained in Perturabo (in the Primarchs series) that one of the reasons that the Iron Warriors campaigns and sustain more losses than the other Legions is that the Emperor choose them for the most difficult missions. Perturabo then embodies tenacity.
  5. On the contrary, Rogal Dorn is the master of fortifications and defense. This includes planning before a battle. In addition, Rogal is known to be stern and to embody rigor.
  6. Roboute Gulliman also embodies planning and organization, but more as a leader and a ruler. It is said (I think in The First Heretic) that no world conquered by the Ultramarines during the Great Crusade ever revolted against the Imperium.
  7. The First Heretic explains that Lorgar is the Primarch that physically resemble the most to the Emperor. Lorgar represents faith and devotion to a cause (at first to the Emperor, later to the Gods of Chaos).
  8. As said in the OP, Leman Russ is the Emperor's executioner. In addition of being tasked of punishing the Thousand Sons, it is (not that) subtly hinted that the Space Wolves were tasked to eliminate the Second and Eleventh Legions. As a warrior, Leman Russ represents the rage of the warrior.
  9. Angron: difficult to tell as Betrayer explains that Angron was broken by his upbringing as a gladiator and the Butcher's Nails that constantly excite his nerves. A scene that I found great in Galaxy in Flames is when Lunar Wolves and World Eaters meet and Garviel Loken (I think) realize how much willpower is necessary for the World Eater to control their inner rage. To me, Angron initially represented willpower and control of emotions (in this scene, this aspect is directly put in opposition with Space Wolves' hot temper).
  10. Konrad Curze is another unknown. Not clear if he had the power of precognition from his creation, or if he was tainted by the forces of Chaos when the Primarchs were dispersed across the galaxy. In the first case, we may hope that being raised by the Emperor would have prevented Curze from being insane and the power of precognition would have proved handy.
  11. Vulkan was the master of forges. He represents the knowledge of weapons. Also, Vulkan Lives explains that, among all Primarchs, Vulkan is the one that has the truest and deepest love for his children and mankind in general. Vulkan is the symbol of love and devotion.
  12. [Edited] Ferrus Manus has a lot in common with Vulkan, in the sense that he is an expert in technology. But contrary to Vulkan, he abhors weakness. After Istvaan disaster, this leads his Iron Hands to understand the Legion's motto "The flesh is weak" too literally and use bionics more than any other Legion, while Ferrus Manus implied a search for improvement by understand human nature and body (thanks to TommyB for the link). Ferrus Manus represents also perfectionism. The fact that he waited to address the bionic problems with his Legion seems to imply a distance and difficulty to relate to inferior people, similar to the Emperor (how come the Emperor never told his master plan to anyone before everything was spoiled!)
  13. Not much is said so far about the stern Mortarion in the Horus Heresy series. He represents resilience and endurance.
  14. Corax is the master of stealth and blitzkrieg.
  15. Alpharius/Omegon represent sabotage and intelligence.
  16. More than any other Primarch, Sanguinius represents perfection and charisma. He encouraged Blood Angels to study arts and, as the Emperor, is an idealization of mankind.
  17. Lion El'Jonson: hard to tell. Lion El'Jonson has a lot in common with Horus, the main difference being that because of his cryptic behavior of the Lion (see Fallen Angels) and his arrogance, the Lion is seen as distant and didn't gain as much trust as Horus.
  18. To me, Jaghatai Khan and Leman Russ have very similar personalities. The main difference is that Leman Russ had no problem with being the Emperor's executioner while I think the Khan would have reluctantly accepted such a task. Also, as Claws explains, Jaghatai Khan values freedom and independence more than anything, which lead him to have difficulties to connect to other Primarchs and difficulties to choose a side at the beginning of Horus Heresy.
  19. All information about the Primarchs of the Second and Eleventh Legions have been expurged from archives, and thus nothing is known about them.

Finally, it is difficult to assign a specific role for each Primarch, as the authors tend to oppose two Primarchs, one loyalist and one traitor, by giving them either opposite traits, or similar traits. For example, Blood Angels and World Eaters are both specialists of direct assaults.

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    I'd say that Curze represents the sense of justice - before Emperor found him, he was a vigilante brutally killing criminals on his home world, to the point where crime level fell down almost to nothing. The fact, that his legion was made mostly from criminals broke his already fragile mind. – Yasskier Jun 13 '18 at 22:38
  • It's actually mentioned in one of the books that the 'flesh is weak' saying from Ferrus was shortened and that's not actually what his meaning was. I think he planned to address his legions fascination with replacing their flesh, but unfortunately the heresy got in the way before he could – TommyBs Jun 17 '18 at 10:38
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    You can see Ferrus's musings on it here warhammer40k.wikia.com/wiki/Iron_Hands#Ferrus_Manus I can't remember the exact book at the moment but I think it's Vulkan or another Salamander correcting an Iron Hand on the saying as they heard it first hand from Ferrus himself – TommyBs Jun 17 '18 at 10:50
  • @TommyBs: I knew only about post-Istvaan Iron Hands lore. Thank you. – Taladris Jun 19 '18 at 13:10
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    @Taladris no worries, I found it really interesting. Apparently the quote from above is from a more recent Iron Hands codex which a lot of people didn't like as a bit of a change in their lore. But as I say the full 'saying' is in a heresy book somewhere, I just can't remember which one as there's loads! – TommyBs Jun 19 '18 at 13:11
4

This is briefly mentioned in Prospero Burns, during a conversation between Heoroth Longfang and a rememberer.

"When the Allfather sired His pups," said the priest, "He gave each one of them a different wyrd. Each one has a different life to make. One to be heir to his throne. One to fortify the defenses of the Imperium. One to guard the hearth. One to watch the distant perimeter. One to command the armies. One to control intelligences. You see, skjald? You see how simple it is?"

"So what is the Wolf King's wyrd, Heoroth Longfang?" Hawser asked. "What life did the Allfather choose for him?"

"Executioner" replied the old Wolf.

Assuming Heoroth is correct, we can guess to which Primarchs he was referring. Other than that, we don't really have a concrete list of what the Emperor planned for the Primarchs after the Great Crusade finished or what their roles were supposed to be. At least not that I am aware of.

(Ignoring the Lost Primarchs)

Lion El'Jonson


Fulgrim


Perturabo

One to fortify the defenses of the Imperium. Prospero Burns


Jaghatai Khan


Leman Russ

Executioner. Prospero Burns


Rogal Dorn

One to guard the hearth. Prospero Burns


Konrad Curze


Sanguinius

One to be heir to his throne. Prospero Burns


Ferrus Manus


Angron


Roboute Guilliman

One to watch the distant perimeter. Prospero Burns


Mortarion


Magnus

The Emperor informed Malcador that the Sigillite had to take His place upon the Golden Throne while he moved to confront Horus. The Emperor's original choice for His replacement on the artefact had been the Primarch Magnus the Red, but since Magnus and his Thousand Sons Legion had sided with Horus and the Chaos God Tzeentch, Malcador was now His chosen successor and the only remaining human psyker with enough strength to carry out the duty of protecting the Throneworld from the daemonic horde that lay beyond the portal into the Imperial Webway. Golden Throne


Horus

One to command the armies. Prospero Burns


Lorgar


Vulkan


Corvus Corax


Alpharius Omegon

One to control intelligences. Prospero Burns


If anyone has anything to add, please go ahead.

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    I'd have trouble pointing you at a quote, but I think Mangus' purpose was to guard humanity in the warp. To be the navigation lighthouse the Emperor/Throne becomes after the Heresy. – Jontia Jun 13 '18 at 12:18
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    That was the quote I was thinking of! – Liath Jun 13 '18 at 13:12
  • @Jontia: there is probably a quote in Thousand Sons explaining that the Emperor's intention for Magnus is to have him seating on the Golden Throne. – Taladris Jun 13 '18 at 13:13
  • That's hard to guess what was the Emperor's initial goal for Angron. In Betrayer, the Earth-born World Eaters are quite ashamed of what Angron became because of the Butcher's Nails. We can guess that his time as a gladiator diverted him from his initial destiny. – Taladris Jun 13 '18 at 13:22
  • Curze: to bring fear of justice. Lorgar - to enlighten. Vulkan - to connect with common people. Fulgrim - to strive for physical perfection – Yasskier Jun 13 '18 at 22:44
1

I think Jaghatai Khan would have been the one to guard the distant perimeter as he seems to deliberately not want to be at the centre of things. Whereas Guilliman is more a master of logistics and statesman ship like running an empire.

  • Welcome to SFF! Could you edit in some evidence for why you believe this is the case? – TheLethalCarrot Jun 26 '18 at 13:32

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