I understand that the Space Marines of Warhammer 40K undergo rigorous psychological & behavioral conditioning as part of their transformation. That said, however, what specific measures are taken by the Imperium to ensure that an individual Space Marine never goes rogue or AWOL should they decide to? Or is this just such a incomprehensible scenario that no safeguard is needed? Personally, I would have to believe that the idea of a safeguard became tons more feasible after the Horus Heresy.

So, as a VERY hypothetical example, let's say Bob Imperius - a 200 year veteran - is tired of combat and, despite all odds, decides to just vanish in the night, find a pretty gal, then shack up somewhere and live out the rest of his unnaturally long life growing vegetables.

Psychological conditioning & loyalty aside, are any PHYSICAL safeguards in place to prevent a Space Marine from going rogue like this?

Potential answers would be a biological timer, bomb in the head, tracking device, etc.

  • 2
    This is pretty weird, I was just thinking about this very topic the other day. Do any Space Marines get sick of war and want to live the quiet life. I don't think there are any physical safeguards in place though, entire chapters can turn away from the Emperor and follow Chaos. If there's no safeguards in place to stop that, I doubt there would be for going AWOL.
    – Daft
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 16:44
  • I also doubt there would be any safe guard against a Space Marine going awol. Since they are taught loyalty to each other before the empire, because of this I imagine the Space marines would never normally leave their brothers and to go awol. Although this is what also allows them to fall to Chaos
    – Iankill
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 17:20

3 Answers 3


The closest thing to a physical safeguard would probably be his own brothers.

You'd have to imagine if there was any secret explosive device implanted in a Space Marine, the Emperor would have triggered a few during the Horus Heresy.

If a Space Marine can turn traitor and fall to Chaos, then he could certainly go AWOL if he felt like it. Although his brothers would surely hunt him down if he did either. A Space Marine abandoning his chapter would be a huge insult to the chapter as a whole and his brothers would have to kill him for it.

The Lexicanum lists the 19 major implants a Space Marine receives during initiation. While they all provide some sort of benefit, none of them seem to inhibit the marine in any way or have any second function, like blowing off a Marine's head for not following orders.

I've read about Deathwatch squads that are equipped with special armour and weaponry that will self destruct if the squad fails it's mission. But that's not really the same thing and would be incredibly rare as the Marine's gene seed would be lost.

I think it's down to the reasons you already list in your question: psychological conditioning & loyalty.

  • 1
    I'm actually quite surprised there isn't some kind of failsafe following the Heresy, but your answer does cover the known implants so I'll accept. I'll look up the hypno-suggestion that occurs at the neophyte level, since that would logically be the place for any hypnotic triggers to be implanted.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 17:55
  • @Omegacron I was considering that myself, but how would the remaining loyal Marines feel if, after surviving the horrors of the Hersey, they all had explosives implanted in their heads as a thank you?
    – Daft
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 18:39
  • I was thinking more along the lines of a tracking device or some kind of biological control, maybe something that causes a seizure if an order is disobeyed. A post-hypnotic suggestion would serve the same purpose, though, and isn't something that could be removed by the marine themselves.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 18:43
  • @Omegacron good idea, maybe enforced by the Inquisition? I can't see a chapter like the Space Wolves doing somthing like that to their own brothers. They'd probably consider it a weakness.
    – Daft
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 18:47
  • @Omegacron or the ultimate safeguard against the forces of Chaos? It's hard to tell!!
    – Daft
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 18:47

While there are many mentions about chrono warriors,arco flagelants, various stimms/chemicals used on ordinary people there is no mention of this ever beeing used on Space Marines. Most of the ones that turn from the Imperium do so because of extraordinary circumstances.

  • Bloodquest, Where Captain Leonatos and 2 other Blood Angels go into the Eye of Terror after a sword that is stolen. One of the Blood Angels gets seduced by Chaos after many, many trials the Space Marines go through.
  • Salamanders Trilogy where the arch nemesis is a former Salamander.

A Space marine doesnt think or have the same needs as an ordinary person. Courage, honor, Chapter, Primarch, Emperor. This is what is most important to them. Beeing too tired to keep fighting and purging the enemies of the Imperium is as abstract to them.

The only real "security" measure I have read about is in the latest Dark angels trilogy where the Chaplains can force Space Marines to go into catatonia by speaking a phrase.

( High Chaplain does it to the First captain in the 3rd book of the trilogy )

This makes the said captain forget everything that happened and it makes it easy for the Chaplain to "redo" the Captains memories.


It's really just boils down to the indoctrination and constant checks of loyalty and commission of oaths of moment. In other words, the strength of the marine's faith in his Chapter, Primarch, the Emperor and the Imperium is rigorously examined through every ritual and deed the marine practices. It's hard to just fall off the wagon because they want to settle down and start a family.

There have been numerous marine characters in fluff that have mentioned they would rather be scholars/healers/farmers than soldiers, but even they acknowledge the ethical and even biological imperative to serve the Emperor takes precedence.

This is why exposure to Chaos is such an interesting element in marine psychology. A marine is not going to just shack and live of the of the land because he's been brainwashed and genetically programmed to serve. However, Chaos perverts. It's the corruption of Chaos that turns a marine away from his rigorous life of piety and service, not just simple lust or laziness. Rather, it's the Chaotic infection of lust (Slaenesh) or sloth (Nurgle) that will truly pervert a marine because it's fundamentally changing the way they're wired and thinking.

A marine on his own will be unlikely to every conclude that going AWOL makes sense. Rather, the exposure to Chaos is what drives them renegade and causes them to abandon all they previously held dear. Even the Souldrinkers, who turned against the Imperium but not all the way to serving Chaos only abandoned the Imperium after Chaotic machinations had seeped into their Chapter's culture.

  • Interesting. If you can expand on the bit about loyalty being programmed in at the biological (genetic) level, and cite a source for it, I'll accept this as the answer.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Aug 15, 2015 at 2:49
  • I've read loads of fluff and I've never read about any marines that say they'd rather be scholars/healers/farmers... Can u provide any sources for this?
    – Daft
    Commented Aug 15, 2015 at 7:03
  • @Daft: Lorgar, Primarch of the Words Bearer, didn't like the idea of being of soldier, and hoped to be a scholar when the Crusade would finish. Obviously, the Pre-Heresy Thousand Sons saw themselves as scholars before being warriors. Many Blood Angels and Emperor's Children, pre and post heresy, are accomplished artists, though I never read any of them denying their nature of warriors.
    – Taladris
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 7:27
  • (continued) Also, part of the discussions between the members of the Mournival at the beginning of the initial trilogy of the Horus Heresy series are to know if they are just "weapons in the hand of the hand of their Primarch/the Emperor" (IIRC, the expression is from Garviel Loken) and if they will be useless after the Crusade is over and the galaxy pacified.
    – Taladris
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 7:30
  • @Taladris this is a common theme amongst Imperium Space Marines: what will become of us after the fighting ends, but never do they say I wish I was a farmer. And Lorgar doesn't count, he's a Primarch and completely insane.
    – Daft
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 7:43

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