Lexicanum states that to create Space Marine the candidate after passing all the trials has to go through extensive surgery that will implant him with specialized organs- from secondary heart to black carapace. Yet (if my memory is right) in the "Space wolf" series Ragnar Blackmane (and his comrades) only drank from some special chalice left by Russ which turned them (slowly and painfully) into Astertes. Does it mean that Space wolves have different, more efficient method of creation future marines, completely different than other chapters/legions?

I understand that in normal case single marine can "father" two new marines, because he has two progenoid glands, used in case of his death to create future astartes. If Space Wolves are indeed different, why they aren't the biggest chapter in existence? I know that they are plagued by mutation and (as every other chapter) take only "the best of the best" but they could easily multiply their number even if just to create the (very efficient ans superhuman) cannon fodder

  • How do all the mutated half-wolf savages count in terms of efficiency? Many of their aspirants end up mutated beyond control.
    – Theik
    Aug 13, 2015 at 7:22
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    The Lexicanum also states "Once they have passed all of their preliminary trials, (...) the initiate[s] [are] given the first strand of the Canis Helix gene (...). If they overcome the deadly side effects of their chapter's geneseed, (...) they are accepted into the ranks of the Space Wolves with open arms, and the remaining procedures are undergone to turn the recruit into a full fledged warrior of the Emperor.". This suggests that all organ implants have to be done nonetheless.
    – user36219
    Aug 13, 2015 at 8:17

2 Answers 2


It's probably the opposite: the Wulfen defect reduces the replenishment rate of the chapter's neophytes.

Most chapters have progressively harsher culls of candidates (i.e. standardized testing, death matches, feats of strength, etc.). It just so happens that once you reach the stage of gene enhancement, it's a bit of a crapshoot to predicate how even a worthy aspirant will respond to the particular geneseed they're receiving.

Sure, the Ultramarines have a predictable, stable geneseed but then again so did the Word Bearers. Many loyalist chapters suffer aspirant failure at the geneseed stage due to the quirky flaws inherent to their founding legions. In fact, the Space Wolves are generally considered to be among the worst in terms of geneseed successfully taking (perhaps because of the high failure rate of the Cup of the Wulfen ritual alone).

It's also been stated in multiple editions of the SW codex that either the Inquisition or High Lords of Terra aren't thrilled with the Space Wolves non-codex organization and behaviour, but not much is done to control their numbers because the chapter's attrition rate is high while their successful neophyte recruitment rate is low.


  • The rituals differ, but Space Wolf recruitment is not much different than other loyalist chapters.
  • The Curse of the Wulfen, inherent to all Space Wolf geneseed, probably makes their recruitment effort yield less successful candidates than less exotic loyalist chapters.
  • If they indeed have to go through the remaining procedures (implanting organs) then you are indeed correct.
    – Yasskier
    Aug 16, 2015 at 21:36
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    they do! extra lung, heart, black carpace, laramans, catepilars node etc dont just grow from magic juju-juice! Space Wolves OFC get implanted like any other Space Marine chapter.
    – Cherubel
    Nov 6, 2015 at 10:17


  • All Space Marines must undergo various stages of surgery to fully complete their transformation with each of the essential implantations.
  • Many chapters do have their own traditions and methods of recruitment and transformation. Some are more efficient than others, technically speaking.
  • There is a very high instability in the Space Wolves geneseed, the Canis Helix; more so than most, if not all, other chapters.
  • Progenoid glands can be removed before a Space Marine has died, ten years after implantation, to be used for current initiates.
  • The instability of the Canis Helix is why the Space Wolves are not a larger force; though they were always small, even as a legion. (Perfection is kept in small packages… that’s not fluff, just life!)
  • They cannot recruit beyond their current “success rates” because of Magnus…

All Space Marines must undergo various stages of surgery to fully complete their transformation with each of the essential implantations. The space Wolves are no different. I do not know much of the other chapters recruitment traditions, but this is the Space Wolves process.

The initiate is tested and trained extensively. If he survives/passes he is sent through the Gates of Morkai where he is screened by the priests for weakness; mostly to the influence of Chaos. Upon successfully passing he drinks from the Cup of Wulfen (the chalice you refer to) to get the Canis Helix introduced to his system. Immediately after drinking he is thrown into the wild miles away from the Aett and must find his own way back before freezing, being eaten, or being overcome by the Wulfen. Upon his return he is taken to a section of the Aett where he does not really do much, but everyone watches him to see if he really has conquered the Wulfen within him. Shortly after the remaining implantations are finished and he is accepted into the fold as a full battle brother or Blood Claw (Similar to an Assault Marine in other chapters).

Ten years after the implantation rites have been finished the progenoids will have fully matured and can be removed from the living Space Wolf (or any Space Marine for that matter). While the glands can be removed prior to the ten year mark they will not have fully matured. I believe that most glands are not removed however as the SMs are usually pretty busy going from one local to another and I would think surgery on a ship in warp is not too safe regardless of your superior physique…

Though the Space Wolves have always been a smaller force even as a legion the instability of their geneseed is why the Space Wolves have no descendants. The first and only documented attempt was the Wolf Brothers who all succumbed to the Wulfen. The Wolf Brothers were disbanded (I do not believe we ever hear how…) but they were to receive exactly half of all Space Wolves armaments and so assuming that the equipment was lost it would mean that the Space Wolves Legion had the ability to arm approximately 26 full companies… Extremely small in comparison to other legions. In addition the Grand Annulus has existed since Leman Russ walked the halls of the Aett which says to me that there were always 13 companies of greater size… though that does not change the fact that they were still a small legion.

There is also a chaos warband named the Dark Wolves that is suspected to have been a former great company. Though no Space Wolves resources mention this, it would not be the first time someone has omitted something from history in the far future… though that is really just a fun fact as well…

They cannot recruit beyond their current “success rates” because of Magnus, primarch of the Thousand Sons.

(Spoilers ahead for the seriously great novel Battle of the Fang)

The Priests of the Space Wolves were extremely close to overcoming the instability of their geneseed and drastically increasing their recruitment rate with a secret research project known only to a few priests (barring even the current Chapter Master I think). Magnus had seen the progress they had made from the Warp and swore to not let them succeed. He then organized an attack plan, lured out the majority of the Chapter from their fortress-monastery, and sacrificed countless numbers to infiltrate the Aett and destroy all evidence of the research. As I said I believe this was an overzealous Priest attempting to cure the instability of their geneseed and kept the entire experimentation secret; so with the research and research starter destroyed no Wolf since has had the foresight to find a cure.

Great book if you have not read it...

I believe that answers all the questions and corrects any statements made. Let me know if anything needs clarification… I do not have time to source all my facts and provide quotes currently, but the majority of it can be found simply by looking through the Space Marines codex (under the section covering Space Marines creation), the Space Wolves coded (same section), the novel Battle of the Fang by Chris Wraight (in the first and last chapters), and maybe some from the rulebooks… I will try to find some concrete sources when I have time.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F! It's not directly clear how this answers the question of reproduction efficiency. Maybe you could clean this up a bit and add some relevant quotes from the novel you mentioned.
    – kjw
    Aug 21, 2015 at 17:06
  • The question was already answered and accepted... I just thought it was worth it to tack on another fun fact that did explain more thoroughly why the Space Wolves numbers were still so low. I will try to find some quotes if I can...
    – Odin1806
    Aug 21, 2015 at 17:11
  • @Oding1806 Sure, we try and keep the fun facts to comments instead of full answers, but I can see that you are not able to do that at this time. If you expand this answer it could get some up-votes or even be picked as the answer to this question (it's possible to change the selected answer) :)
    – kjw
    Aug 21, 2015 at 17:30
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    Gotcha. I will try to expand on it some more and make it more complete...
    – Odin1806
    Aug 21, 2015 at 17:34
  • Thank you for your answer, but in fact all I needed was information that after drinking from the Cup of Wulfen they STILL have to go through surgery. Otherwise they could just create "on demand" a mass of cannon fodder in a similar way as Corax done during the Heresy (which didn't end well for him anyway...)
    – Yasskier
    Aug 21, 2015 at 23:15

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