Adeptus Custodes

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Paladins of the 31st millennium. The 41st ones are marginally less clad in gold and a lot more naked.

"Each one of the Ten Thousand represents genetic lore acquired over many lifetimes. Each one of you is unique, a work of art never to be repeated. I am miserly with your lives, where I would spend so many others without a thought."

Big Emps making it absolutely clear who his favourite creations are.

"We were never soldiers... To them, it must seem as if we are wrath incarnate. To them, it must seem as if we were created for destruction and nothing else. But we were His companions, once. We were the ones in whom He confided. We were His counselors, we were His artisans. We were the first glimpse at what the species could become, if shepherded aright and unshackled from its vicious weaknesses. Of course, we were taught to fight. He knew that war would come. It was a necessary part of the ascension, though it was never destined to last for eternity. We were the guardians of a new age, and had to be strong enough to keep it secure."

– Shield Captain Valerian, explaining what Custodians were meant for

The Adeptus Custodes are the guardians of the Emperor of Mankind and the most badass group of genetically engineered/enhanced warriors/motherfuckers the galaxy has ever known (with the exception of the Thunder Warriors, the Assassins and the Primarchs). So badass in-fact that they can get away with dressing like drag queens and transvestites (they love skirts). Well, the skirts are actually a bit closer to the ancient Roman Legionaries, which is pretty awesome in itself, and on the whole they come off as elite and badass. They are essentially Space Marines ex machina, their chapter master equivalent being their Captain-General, and their equivalent of a Primarch being the Emperor of Mankind.

Origins & Design[edit]

And people bitch about Space Marines and Grey Knights having overdone armor....

The Custodians are warriors unmatched in the galaxy, genetically-engineered by the Emperor himself. The Emperor first created these elite warriors back in the old days of his conquest of Terra, making them souped-up and more long-lived versions of the already hilariously OP Thunder Warriors. In a somewhat dickish move, his preferred recruits for the Custodians were the children of his conquered enemies. In the "present", they are instead taken from Terran nobility. While the Thunder Warriors were eventually replaced by the far more stable but slightly and far less brawny Space Marines, the Custodians apparently still use those ancient methods (but geared towards producing far more stable warriors) and as such lack a gene-seed. Instead, they use a much more complex process of bio-alchemy to attain their superhuman abilities that affects them down to the cellular level. Unlike Space Marines, prospective Custodians are selected in infancy, long before they have any ability to prove themselves as Space Marine aspirants might be able to. As a side-effect, many candidates are driven mad or killed in the process of becoming a Custodian. Also, the process of creating Custodians is only partly standardized: certain unorthodox-but-useful traits may be created or amplified if an initiate shows the unique potential (making Golden Bodyguards quite a internally-diverse bunch of matchless warriors) - much less like Space Marines and much more like the witchers from Sapkowski's books.

Although the Adeptus Custodes were among the first genetically-modified warriors to be created by the Emperor, they were never intended to be part of a conquering army (though The Wolf of Ash and Fire shows that the Emperor sometimes rolled with a hundreds-strong posse of Custodians in battle); such a role was to be filled by the latter Adeptus Astartes armies. This is revealed both in their mindset and training: While Custodians share a semblance of kinship with one another within the formation, they do not foster the same spirit of brotherhood that is instilled within the Astartes in order to function together as a unit. Indeed, when the Emperor remarks that it is humanity's nature for brother to fight brother, one of His Custodians responds that he wouldn't know anything about it, because he has no brothers.

As far as personalities go, Custodians can be as wide and as varied as Astartes. Some, like Diocletian Coros, were single minded to the point of myopia, and considered the nameless masses not worth his time. Others, like his contemporary Aquillon, were shown to be capable of bonding with a Space Marine and regretting the human costs of a Compliance action. Ra Endymion didn't give a shit about saluting Jenetia Krole because only the Emprah deserves it, but at the same time he tried to look kind with the Souless Queen's nine-years old aide by giving her his best smile, which result in a fail of epic proportions. Tribune Maldovar Colquan in Dark Imperium is a contemptuous bastard while Valerian and Navradaran from Watchers of the Throne are surprisingly tolerant and level-headed when dealing with mere mortals showing blatant weakness.

When preparing for war, each Custodian prepares and inspects his equipment individually, rather than on military parade. The individuality of each Custodian is further promoted by the fact that the processes required to produce them is not as refined or as simple as that of the Astartes and thus they are not "mass-produced" as the Astartes are; meaning that each Custodian is a unique investment for the Imperium.

One ritual that the Adeptus Custodes do share with Adeptus Astartes is the recognition of mighty deeds, manifested in their case with the awarding of names, which are added to the Custodian's title to represent the actions he has performed in service to the Emperor. (Constantin Valdor obtained 932 names prior to the assault of Horus upon Terra.) Such names were inscribed onto the inside of the warrior's battle armour as marks of individual pride. The first name of a Custodian is supposed to be taken from various elements from Old Earth such as mythological figures (Ra, Amon, Aquillon...), historical ones (Constantin, Diocletian, Arcatus...) or places (Beyreuth). Now open a book and try to catch all the references.

The training of the Custodians also differed immensely from the Adeptus Astartes, since they were intended to be bodyguards rather than soldiers. It is clear from their Blood Games that Custodians are trained in the arts of assassination -- both improvised and professional -- in order to counter possible assassination attempts on the Emperor. It is common for several Custodians to be on detached duty for these Blood Games so that the organisation remains vigilant against developing threats. Even pre-Heresy, they were clued up enough to recognise Warp-sorcery for what it was.

Furthermore it is clear that the Custodians are also well-versed in the political etiquette of Terra, and have been known to act outside of Imperial law, to infiltrate influential Noble Houses and to investigate any potential threats. (A role that a Space Marine would never be expected to fulfill.) This aspect of the Custodian mindset is advantageous, given that the Captain-General of the order often shares a seat with the High Lords of Terra and thus allows him to navigate the political maneuverings of the Imperium's various agencies, while still remaining an awe-inspiring warrior.

Origin of the Name[edit]

The name Adeptus Custodes comes from the custom of filling the armour with Custard before each battle. This has been confirmed by Games Workshop

Jokes aside, however, the word "custodian" means someone who is charged with looking after and maintaining someone or something; the Custodian Guard exist to protect the Emperor and the imperial palace. When this name is "latin-ized" as the Imperium does, they become the Adeptus Custodes. Nobody would ever expect that from GW but Custodes is actually the unaltered (!) and even correct (!!) Latin declension for "watchers / defenders / guardians". Whoah.

Combat Effectiveness[edit]

Custodians getting shit done during the 5 years spanning War in the Webway, giving the Death Guard and Iron Warriors resilience envy.

It is known that Thunder Warriors, even when not at their best and heavily outnumbered, were capable of tallying 4 or 5 kills in melee battle with the World Eaters. So if Custodians are even better than Thunder Warriors, they should be able to dispatch huge numbers of Space Marines each without trouble. However, all is speculation, as most stories so far only provide specific instant in which the participants are not proper representatives of their class. Of those which provide estimations, the specificity is low, and the reliability is not sufficiently demonstrated. In short, the martial capabilities of the Adeptus Custodes remain largely unknown. What is known is that they possess skill beyond even a 'normal' member of the Adeptus Astartes. It has been said that the Adeptus Custodes are to a Space Marine what a Space Marine is to a member of the Imperial Guard. They are similar to the Grey Knights, the militant arm of the Ordo Malleus branch of the Inquisition, in that both are elite, secret organisations with close ties to the Emperor. Custodians are unique as they have neither a known Primarch nor do they use gene-seed to produce their genetic modifications. They stand a full head taller than a Space Marine and it is said that they were almost the same size as a Primarch. In fact it was said that Constantin Valdor, Chief Custodian to the Emperor during the Horus Heresy, was the same size as the traitor Primarch Alpharius of the Alpha Legion (not a great achievement after all, considering Alpharius was the shortest of Primarchs - the size of a tall space marine. Maybe.)

Dan Abnett's Blood Games, however, provides a different version of the relationship between the Astartes and Custodians. Abnett claims that, although Custodians are slightly larger on average than Space Marines, to an observer it would be a tough bet on who would win in a fight based on strength and size alone. Which is at odds with the Burning of Prospero in which one squad of ten Custodians lead by Constantin Valdor kill more than one thousand members of the Thousand Sons legion without suffering even a single injury. Though to be fair, Valdor was described as being near a Primarch level fighter so he most likely added to that tally greatly.

James Swallow's Sword of Truth sees Captain Nathaniel Garro fight a one-on-one duel with a mid-level Custodian (if there is such a term), which he finds is one of the toughest battles of his life and only wins by playing to his opponent's overconfidence and manages to exhaust himself in the process.

Aaron Dembski-Bowden's The First Heretic further expands on the Legio Custodes fighting style and armoury. Each weapon used by the Custodians is gene-coded to only be used by only that Custodian (Argel Tal stole some and used his demonic powers to unlock them and then kill loyalists. Even funnier when you remember that certain bloody magpies have working Custodian bolter in their armory and some Greeks have a Halbard). The weapons are given to them personally by the Emperor (or at least they were in the 31st millennium, they've probably dropped this rule by the 41st) and as such one of the highest heresies possible is to allow a non-Custodian to handle the weapon. Perhaps the most notable thing about the Adeptus Custodes is the radically different combat approach between them and the Adeptus Astartes: Custodians are not brothers. While Space Marines are trained to support their battle-brothers in combat, each Custodian fights by himself, never intending to receive support from their fellow Custodians. The Word Bearers who observed this were utterly dumbfounded by this approach, thinking the fighting was just "wrong", despite their fighting being individually perfect. They are "tigers" compared to the "wolves" the space marines represent. Ironically though, one becomes good friends with a Word Bearer to the point that they end up fighting in lockstep like true Astartes (even more ironically, that Word Bearer is possessed by a daemon). Also, he has a Custodian named Vendatha kill 3 Word Bearer Chapter Masters in a second, and then survive a full bolter magazine and sword to the face. Just before that, Vendatha believed he even had a tiny but very real chance at taking out Lorgar since the Primarch was unarmored at the time. And on top he has 3 Custodians kill 7 out of 11 the original possessed marines the Gal Vorbak, including a beautiful final kill. Winning.

But in Graham McNeill's The Outcast Dead, an armed and armoured Custodian fights an unarmed and unarmoured World Eater and loses when the World Eater breaks open his armour and rips out the Custodian's spine through his chest, something he threatened to do earlier. So fuck knows how good Custodians are, since Black Library's writers can't get their collective shits together and decide. That or Khorne just felt like trolling the Emperor that day. To be fair, said Custodian was crippled so his physical capabilities were just under what was required for active duty guarding the Emperor, hence the reason he was stuck on guard duty (also to be fair the main reason he lost was the he got blood in the face which gave the world eater time to beat the shit out of him). Besides that, McNeill has an annoying habit of dumbing down Space Marines (and apparently Custodians) to be more like super-stormtroopers than nigh unstoppable killing machines.

The Outcast Dead also provides an example of a Custodian taking on two Astartes at the same time. While Saturnalia dies, he does succeed in killing both of his opponents.

In Anthony Reynolds The Purge, Word Bearer Captain, Sor Talgron makes his personal assessment on Custodians, where while he figures that a single Custodian would likely have little problems dispatching a single Legionary, the larger the theatre of war became, the more the odds would tip in the Astartes favour. Because although Custodians might be peerless warriors, they are not soldiers.

In Guy Haley's Throneworld, a Shadowseer and a Death Jester kill a dozen Custodians between the two of them, before being brought down by "hundreds" more. Note that, although Throneworld is set 1500 years after the Horus Heresy, it's clear that the Adeptus Custodes were still equipped with golden armour, so inadequate equipment is not an excuse for their poor showing. Perhaps Haley simply did not do the research to find out how powerful to make them (or got the Adeptus Custodes mixed up with the Lucifer Blacks who would have been on guard duty within the Palace in this time in history). Especially since an especially skilled Astartes is capable of defeating an average Shadowseer or Death Jester (probably not both at once) and basically a Guardsman compared to a Custodian.

Custodians are still individuals, just as the Astartes are. Despite some level of genetic normality their gene-seed can bring among the Marines, some Astartes may be more skilled, tougher or faster than their brethren and the same applies to Custodians. While an 'average' Custodians will be far deadlier than an 'average' Astartes due to intensive training and physical and biological superiority, the mightiest warriors among the Legions may be able to beat one of their golden cousins.

Thus, where the average Astartes would be a take-all-comers warriors some Custodians will specialize in infiltration, some will specialize in war, some go more into politics. With enough Custodians, this means that they eventually cover nearly any possible route to attack the Emperor. This would ensure that any opponent attempting to penetrate the Custodians' defenses (being bodyguards of the Emperor and all) would run into fighting the Custodians who specialize in countering their plan, whatever it may be. Anyway, the overall martial superiority of Custodians makes no doubt for the Astartes themselves, and facing one is generally seen as a death sentence. But because of the lack of exclusive focus on military and strategic matters compared to what Astartes get, if two large forces of equal size came together, it is likely that the Custodians would be cut to pieces due to the Astartes superior coordination and battlefield control.

Or would they be ?

The Master of Mankind by Aaron Dembski-Bowden shows how Custodians deal with real battles. While fighting as individuals, they seem to have an instinctive sense of coordination without needing hierarchy or orders, each warrior knowing exactly how to fight alongside his peers without burdening them. It is also implied that Custodians apply the logic of Blood Games to warfare, gathering and assimilating any information they can about their adversaries as they fight, and probably spending thousand of hours studying the strategies of every opponent met during the Great Crusade. Astartes included? Very likely. In fact, the Legio Custodes probably knows more about the Legions than the Legions may think, while only a few Astartes have fought alongside Custodians, let alone against them. This book also shows Ra Endymion mowing through hordes of proto-Khorne Berzerker World Eaters, chewing through captains with little difficulty. The custodians compare so favorably to the Space Marines, a loyal Blood Angel wonders to himself whether trouncing space marines was in fact the real reason they were created in the first place.

Forge World's recent depiction of the Battle of Prospero in Inferno is probably the most violent example of how Custodians are supposed to be OP as fuck against any living thing no matter the scale of the battle. 500 of them - with almost a thousand Sisters of Silence, but still - against 6000 of the Thousand Sons' most elite troops? They win. Psychically boosted Sekhmet Terminators and no Sista around ? One banana guy can kill four of them before dying. Thirty of those badass Khenetai swordmasters at once against a lone Valdor? Golden boy #1 doesn't give a shit, get wounded but murdered them to the last like a boss. And if you wonder about the Custodians' tactical acumen, said Valdor was de facto in charge of the whole imperial strategy once the Thousand Sons began to retaliate. Nasty motherfuckers.

All this means that Custodians as individuals are arguably among the most dangerous warriors and tacticians in the entire Imperium, both well-prepared and adaptable. As an army, it is safe to assume that they would enter battle with enough planning, strategic insight and tactical support to face even the Legiones Astartes. GW and FW themselves also seem to consider Custodians considerably superior to Astartes if the golden rapestorm of death they are on tabletop is anything to go by.

Funnily enough too their tabletop counterparts in 7th edition showed even better teamwork than any of the Astartes rules, at least as far as close combat goes where Custodes could team with the block rule to practically guarantee that whatever attacks hit and could've hurt them were successfully stopped anyway. They could also use this rule to cheat in challenges, as you'd have beings like Chaos Lords and Ork Warbosses failing to cause even a single wound in a challenge due to the assholes outside of the challenge blocking all of their blows successful hits.

In the 41st Millennium[edit]

The face of a Black Legionnaire regretting every single decision he has made in his lifetime.

Occasionally you see questions raised on forums regarding their effectiveness after apparently spending 10,000 years on guard duty, suggesting that despite their biological augmentations; without any actual combat experience they might have simply become a symbolic organisation since Terra is so well defended by other means. In fact the Custodians sat through most of the Age of Apostasy, not participating until the last moment to bring order when the fighting made it to the Imperial Palace. They also were mysteriously absent during The Beheading when the Officio Assassinorum started leveling city blocks. Added to the fact that the admittedly very old pictures of Custodians show them not even bothering to wear their armour any more indicates that they don't actually have very much to do these days.

For all that, they have grown detached from the greater Imperium, something which they believed was part of their duty (their function being to serve the Emperor rather than the Imperium) but ends up proving to be a problem nonetheless. When Guilliman returns, he orders the old orders rescinded, and the Adeptus Custodes starts being dispatched to various warzones, including Guilliman's own Indomitus Crusade.

Adeptus Custodes and the Grey Knights[edit]

The Emperor's Legion gives us more than a glimpse into the Adeptus Custodes of M41. We discover several things: that they didn't choose to be confined to the Imperial Palace, but were bound within it by Imperial law enacted by Guilliman, Dorn, and Valdor after the Heresy; that they never fully respected this limitation, sending brothers on missions abroad and maintaining their own network of informants, spies and allies all over the galaxy; and that their martial capabilities have been maintained in top shape by constant training against all manner of opponents (often by capturing dangerous foes, like Chaos Space Marines or Tyranids, and then releasing them inside deserted and cordoned portions of the Imperial Palace for a Custodian to hunt down).

Shield Captain Valerian thinks it possible that M41 Custodians are individually more skilled than their Great Crusade era counterparts, owing to ten thousand years of extra experience and information gathering on mankind's enemies. However, he does recognize that the Custodians are not a self-contained army the same way as Space Marine Chapters are, since that was never their intended function, nor are they possessed of any prescient gifts or supernatural abilities that would assist them against the Great Enemy. In this way he compares the Custodians to the Grey Knights, both being descended from the Emperor directly, were incorruptible and immune to the temptations of Chaos; the key difference is that the Grey Knights are a weapon of singular purpose against the Warp while the Custodians had been intended to be the guardians of mankind in a future without the Warp. Valerian privately believes that it might be the Grey Knights who more faithfully embody the Emperor's final legacy considering how the Imperium eventually turned out, and isn't so sure about which agency is the finest or most faithful, and that shared sentiment skulks around the other Custodians like a foul odour.

The missing element in their deployment had always been the Sisters of Silence, noting that they were always intended to fight together. Sister Tanau Aleya believes that there is no physical opponent that the Custodians could not destroy, thus it was the role of the untouchable Sisters of Silence to anchor supernatural or warp tainted enemies into the physical realm where they can be wounded and destroyed. Thus they act on the opposite end of the scale to Grey Knights, who fight against the warp on its own terms, where the Talons of the Emperor deny the warp any purchase in reality.

The book is not all about Custodians being uber-powerful killing machines however, as it evokes how they spent the last ten millennia cultivating their skills as theologians, historians and philosophers, so they can decipher the Emprah's plan for Mankind before everything was screwed by Horus. They are now basically an order of warriors-scholars, more prone to mysticism than their hardcore rationalist ancestors from the Great Crusade era but still way more enlightened than most of the Imperium. They also seem to suffer some inferiority complex caused by their failing at protecting the Emperor when He most needed them, something that has dragged them even more into isolation but has also taught some of them humility when dealing with other humans. Hence most of the Custodians depicted in the book are rather nice guys to be around - by 40k standards of course - far from the "single-minded autists" stereotype which has recently become abusively prominent after Master of Mankind. Now it's up to you to decide whether it makes Custodians cooler and more subtle than before or insufferable Mary Sues.


Chest armor is for pussies anyway...

For the longest time, much like the fate of the Sisters of Silence after the Heresy, what the Custodes have been doing in the last ten thousand years have been the subject of speculation (and jokes, otherwise the Fab Custodes would not have been a thing) among the fandom. Thanks to the Carrion Throne and Watchers of the Throne novels, as well as getting their own codices for 7th and 8th Edition, the fandom FINALLY has something to chew on.

First off, the Custodians had been quietly building up strength in the wake of the Horus Heresy. Although Rogal Dorn had judged that the Custodes were spent as a fighting force, it can be assumed that the Custodes had recovered enough that, by the 32nd Millennium during the War of the Beast, a Shield Host numbering in the hundreds was on hand to intercept a strike group of Harlequins trying to get into the Imperial Precincts.

By the closing days of the 41st Millenium, a four-thousand strong army of Custodians marched out to defend the Palace during the Second Siege of Terra. While the day was won, more than half of the defending Custodes there lost their lives. According to Valerian in Watchers of the Throne, those were staggering losses; taking his comments at face value, this may imply that the Custodians (at least on Terra anyway) aren't quite at their Heresy-era numbers.

Otherwise the internal Hierarchy of the Custodes has remained (mostly) unchanged. The Ten Thousand are still led by the Captain-General, a post inherited since the disappearance of Constantin Valdor millennia ago. Although it is a martial rank, it is also a political one, as a Captain-General may elect to take a seat on the High Lords of Terra. Few Captain-Generals have taken this option over the centuries (not surprisingly, politics being messy as it is), but when they do they have had profound effect on Imperial politics -- see how Trajann Valoris being on the High Twelve was more than enough to quell a brewing coup d'etat against Roboute Gulliman.

Beneath him is the Custodian Tribunate, a group of ten veteran Custodians who act as the Captain-General's advisors. This is a non-combat role, and once part of the Tribunate a Custode is expected to serve at least a decade, where they turn all their prodigious skills to support the Captain-General strategically and diplomatically.

Below this group are the Shield-Captains, who are the war leaders of the Custodes. They lead strike forces, referred to as shield companies, on whatever mission the Captain-General deems fit. Valerian, one of the narrators of Watchers of the Throne, is a Shield-Captain, though it's noted that he's a somewhat unusual one, as he is more of a Philosopher than a warrior. Doesn't stop him from kicking ass though.

Finally after this is the line Custodian. It's noted that each Custodes are on roughly equivalent status with each other, but even then they form loose warrior bands called Sodalities -- for example, the sodality that Valerian roped in for the Battle of Vorlese was the Palaitologian Chamber. Beyond this, each Custodian gravitates to a particular strategic role, whether as members of the fast-moving Vertus Praetors, heavy support Allarus Custodians, or the grim Wardens. Otherwise the Custodes remains a meritocracy, and as such is Custodian is afforded whatever honor his peers believe him to be worthy of.

It is said that, barring rare circumstances, your bog-standard shield company will include no more than a single Shield-Captain, and maybe thirty to forty Custodians. Rarer still are the situations where more than one Shield Company is required; these bigger formations are called Shield Hosts, and feature several Shield Captains leading hundreds of Custodians. It is said that such a momentous undertaking is only assembled to accomplish a task no other Imperial force can achieve, and not to be done lightly.

Current Status[edit]

Custodians can be quite the bros once you get to know them. Just don't ask them to take a selfie. It may accidentally end in terminal damage.

Although the Heresy reduced them to about 10% of their fighting strength, they could still have reaped a kill tally far greater than their own number; it was Rogal Dorn who determined that they were ineffective as a fighting force and relegated them to defending the throne room. After the Heresy, they were bound by a decree issued jointly by Constantin Valdor, the High Lords of Terra and Roboute Guilliman that prevented them from deploying as a military formation (which a lot of the time they ignored, leaving in secret to do their own missions as Valdor was the only one able to order Custodes around, they don't give a damn about both Lords of Terra and the Primachs). The High Lords of Terra brought up the subject of abolishing this decree numerous times, but the issue was always stopped by deadlock until Our Spiritual Liege returned and finally realized how stupid his decree was, asking the Custodes to head out into the galaxy rather than sitting at home, being glorified tourist traps (but not before getting daddy's permission first).

The Custodes left the palace on their own in full force after Daemons broke out on Holy Terra itself (and Luna), which caused the Custodes to realize how stupid it is to sit behind high walls of the Palace and Trajann Valoris decided it's high time to venture out and help out their fellow meatshields comrades once in a while. Suffice to say, the Custodes are back and woe to any poor unfortunate soul who happens to have to be part of the opposing force of the Custodians. This has worked out well for the Custodes as apparently they were starting to get a little stir crazy after 10,000 years of being stuck on Terra and were more than happy to get out and start purging the enemies of the God-Emperor in His name. They also managed to restore their numbers to pre-heresy ones, so they are as numerous as ten Chapters combined. On a side note, it is not wise to ask a Custodes to take a photo op for bragging rights especially when he's in a battlefield busy using his Guardian Spear. Accidental collateral damage from attempted selfies. Too many.

Divisions and ranks[edit]

The Legio Custodes (and later the Adeptus Custodes) are divided into five castes based on their combat roles, each with a fancy Greek-ish name:

  • Hykanatoi (from Ἱκανάτοι/hikanatoi, "the able ones", one of the regiments of the 9th century Byzantine army): These appear to be the rank-and-file Custodians, comprising the Custodian guard, the Sentinels and the Hetaeron. Based on what was seen in Master of Mankind, they function in an infantry role in battle.
  • Kataphraktoi (κατάφρακτοι, "fully covered", Greek designation for heavily armoured cavalry): The Jetbike squads, serving as mobile fast attack units. During the War in the Webway, they also served as couriers, relaying messages to other spots when the Vox was on the fritz. Other grav vehicles such as the Caladius, the Coronus transport and the Pallas speeder are also part of this entity.
  • Tharanatoi (probably a mix between the Celtic word taran, "thunder", and θάνατος/thanatos, "death"): The Terminators of the Legio Custodes and the Sagittarum Guard squads, they are the specialists among the Legio. The Aquilon were armed with Lastrum storm bolter, Adrathic destructors and flamer weapons known as Infernus "firepikes" (yes, it's also the name of the weapon used by Exarchs of the Fire Dragons) and acted as shock troops for high intensity warfare, while the Sagittarum were multipurpose support squads.
  • Ephoroi (from έφοροι, "overseers"): Those Custodians specializing in covert operations, intelligence gathering and assassination. All those engaged in the Blood Games were temporarily attached to the Ephoroi for the duration of their service.
  • Moritoi (from Latin mortis, "death", with the same Greek-ish flavour): Finally, we have the Dreadnoughts, Custodians who have been mangled too much to continue living without the Dreadnought. Being a very philosophical-minded group, the Custodians often hold debates on whether or not the warrior inside is alive or dead, and have come to the conclusion that all that matters is that the Emperor has decided to keep the Custodian living.

In terms of rank, the Legio Custodes are less rigid in their ranking structure than the Space Marines and the Imperial Guard, with "ranks" being more like signs of respect for senior veterans. Indeed, given the Legio's often solitary mindset, they rarely give orders to each other. That said, their familiarity with each other manages to avoid the destructive lack of cohesion this would entail in other armies. The known "ranks" are as follows:

  • Captain-General/Magisterium Maxima: the "leader" of the Legio/Adeptus Custodes and Chief Custodian to the Emperor of Mankind. And, yes, his Latin name does translate to, literally, Teacher Very Big.
  • Tribune: The most senior officers under the Captain-General, they are the war council of the Legio Custodes and have absolute authority on everything relating to the protection of the Emperor or the Palace. During the War in the Webway, three of them served as the senior commanders of the combined Legio Custode/Silent Sister/Mechanicum forces : Kadai, Jasaric and Ra Endymion. They were believed to be ten in number, so the seven other were probably killed in the first years of the war. The modern-era Adeptus Custodes is led by two tribunes, one of whom personally leads the Companions.
    • The "war council" aspect appears to have been taken over by the Tribunate, which sounds similar and is composed of ten Custodians who formulate policy and advise the Captain-General, but unlike the Tribunes the members of the Tribunate do not serve in combat, and must serve on the Tribunate for ten years, while the Tribune not leading the Companions is expected to see combat and will hold the post of Tribune for the rest of his life (indeed, one Tribune died during the battle of the Lion's Gate when Bloodthirsters attacked during Roboute Guilliman's return).
  • Proconsul: A senior rank below Tribune. A rank that holds martial and militairy importance. Bestowed by the Emperor to veterans of the Legio.
  • Prefect: A mid-level rank below the tribunes, the title is awarded by the Emperor and indicates veterancy. Its duties are mostly unknown at this time.
  • Lictor: A rank supposedly below that of Prefect, it, too, indicates veterancy. Its duties are are unknown at this time.
  • Shield-Captain: Within the Legio Custodes, there exists a range of ranks and seniority of commands, far from transparent to outsiders, to which the more general application of ‘Shield Captain’ is applied, During the 41st millennium, A Shield-Captain is the leader of a battle group of Custodians, charged with seeing the mission done. First among equals for the sake of said mission, a Shield-Captain can be a member of the Legio or Adeptus Custodes of any rank, for each is a peerless warrior and master tactician.

Specialty Factions and Your Dudes[edit]

The 8th Edition Codex has covered several specialty groups of Custodians, each with their own color scheme and fluff. It also briefly discussed how to customize the paint scheme for the army.

By default, Custodians are shining gold -- a "incredibly rare substance known as auramite." This can be changed -- not painted over, but changed via alchemy of all things -- to other metallic tints or changed into non-metallics altogether. Custodians often have leather pieces, especially the Jet Bikers, and also wear tabards, robes, and loincloths on top of their armor that are by default a crimson red color; this color is usually, but not always, the same between the cloth and shoulderpad. This cloth color is also used in secondary colorings on other models -- for example, the Dreadnought or Terminator shoulderpads, or plates on the vehicles. Custodians also have a variety of gems, all of which are the same color across a given army.

An Adeptus Custodes force -- known as a Shield Company or Shield Host if it's big enough -- will have a given color to the auramite bits (the armor), the auramite trim and other embellishments on top of the armour, the leather, and the cloth bits and shoulderpad. Special colors for certain aspects -- for example, the face mask -- are not unheard of.

How this all shakes out with some of the descriptions of the Specialty Factions in the codex -- for example, the Dread Host description suggests his White and Sable cloth parts are specific to "his shield host, which is itself one of several that currently wear the colours of the Dread Host," whereas the Aquilan Shield specifically mentions their cloth colors are Royal Purple -- is unknown. To this end, the cloth colors in the examples are included in parentheses.

Specialty Adeptus Custodes Groups[edit]

These are the example Adeptus Custodes Groups mentioned in the 8E codex, alongside their color schemes. It is unknown if these are intended to be canonical "chapter equivalent" like AdMech Forge Worlds, or if these are just examples of ways you could take Your Dudes. At the moment, the absence of Chapter Tactics-equivalents suggests the latter.

  • The Shadowkeepers: Black Armor with Gold Trim. (Crimson red cloth bits.) Keeps watch over the various warp-terrors and archeotech artifacts that the Emperor kept locked up in his basement on Terra since the Age of Strife, each and every one something that would destroy the Imperium if they were ever let loose or even merely known about at large. After the Great Rift opened a large number were spirited away across the galaxy. Whoops. Their leader is called the Lockwarden and hasn't stepped foot back on Terra since the Great Rift occurred.
  • The Aquilan Shield: Gold Armor with Gold Trim. (Royal Purple cloth bits specifically mentioned.) Bodyguards of Fate. When the Imperial Palace's personal psykers find someone who is "likely to avert [disaster] before it threatens the Golden Throne," these people are marked for protection. These fated people are then protected by the Aquilan Shield whether they like it or not -- a small informal sect of wandering Custodians who watch over them up until the exact moment they do whatever it is that will ensure the Emperor's safety, at which point they leave. This often occurs just in time to see said now-useless person die horrifically to whatever the Custodians were protecting them from. The example given is of a Guardsman whose unorthodox tactics had him slated for execution due to "insubordination". Under the Aquilan Guard's protection, he rose through the ranks to become Warmaster of a Crusade that successfully repelled an Ork WAAAGH! that would have otherwise threatened the Sol system- at which point the Guard left him to be executed by the Commissariat in spite of his success, because Commissars are assholes like that.
  • The Dread Host: Gold Armor with Brass Trim, White Faceplate. (White cloth and "Sable" (Black) shoulder pad bits.) The Emperor's "anger and punishment made manifest." They determine direct threats to Segmentum Solar and the Emperor and wipe them off the face of the galaxy. Specifically a terrorist organization in the literal sense of the word -- once they determine a target, they attack, prevent them from surrendering or fleeing, and utterly raze everything to the ground; the goal being not just to destroy any threats they deem appropriate, but to put the fear of the Emperor into anyone who hears about what happened.
  • The Solar Watch: White Armor with Gold Trim. (Crimson red cloth bits.) The first and last line of defense of the Sol system itself. Heavily mechanized -- lots of Land Raiders. Constantly patrolling between the worlds of Sol, the various space structures, and the travel lanes from Sol to the nearby systems and back. Have been known to destroy various cults, Inquisition coups, and even the occasional Eldar or Genestealer infestation, on every world except Mars. In order to honor the autonomy of the Adeptus Mechanicus, they take a "better not to ask" approach to Mars and their... deviants.
  • Emissaries Imperatus: Gold Armor with Gold Trim. (White cloth bits and Crimson shoulder pad bits.) Originally the Emperor's gophers and messengers, now his representation in realspace. Some Custodians can supposedly hear the Emperor's voice when they meditate/sleep; they do not see this as divine inspiration but rather his human will working to direct them like he did before being enthroned. Some can hear him more than others, those that do become Emissaries Imperatus; they gather together and debate what the Big E wants them to do. This might include giving special messages to the occasional commander, or giving special wargear from Terra to someone who will need it soon. When the Primaris Marines were about to be unleashed by Guilliman the bulk of the Custodians nearly stopped him (in part because they were wary of the "flawed" nature of the Space Marines and didn't want to risk a repeat of the Horus Heresy), only allowing it once the Emissaries intervened, who made it absolutely clear that the Emperor wanted it to happen. They were also vital in making sure the various chapters accepted the Primaris Marines, going with the Indomitus Crusade and informing the Space Marines that they were a gift from the Emperor himself. (This went up to and including threatening to declare any reluctant Chapters to be traitors on the spot if they refused.)
  • Eyes of the Emperor: Not actually present on the tabletop, but represented by a Stratagem. While the Custodians are formidable, even they aren't entirely immune to old age or injury. When a Custodian judges himself no longer able to serve in combat (bear in mind that this is relative- to a Custodian, one's reaction time slowing by one tenth of a second is considered "unacceptable for active duty" even if a normal human wouldn't even notice the decline), he gives up all his gear in exchange for a black robe and travel the galaxy. Some work alone and others build networks of agents and informants, but all keep watch for any situation that might pose a threat to Terra or the Emperor. If they come across such a situation, they use special channels to inform the Captain-General in order to pre-emptively eliminate said threat.

Notable Custodians[edit]

Horus Heresy-Era[edit]

Constantin Valdor, murdering stuff for the Emprah since the Unification Wars.
  • Constantin Valdor- The big cheese of the Custodian Guard, Constantin Valdor was the Captain-General of the Legio Custodes during the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy, the first of the Ten Thousand and personal bodyguard of Big E since his debuts as a bloody-handed and megalomaniac tyrant the Unification Wars and His glorious crusade to make Mankind great again. A monster of a man, he was described as being a head taller than Amon (who was already significantly larger than an Astartes) and the size of a Primarch (Alpharius to be exact). At one point he defeated Horus himself in a sparring match, however, it is never stated how old Horus was when the duel took place. Valdor was one of the Emperors closest friends and his second most trusted advisor (Malcador the Sigillite being #1). He was described as being the mightiest warrior in the entire Imperium with the exception of the Primarchs and Big E himself (he was almost killed by a warp-boosted Phosis T'Kar on Prospero however, only surviving because Phosis accidentally rolled 22 on Chaos Boon and realized he'd become the 'flesh-change' monster he so hated). Naturally he shared a close relationship with a number of the Primarchs, the most notable being Horus, Rogal Dorn, and Leman Russ. Also, he rolls with the Officio Assassinorum, so he earns massive bonus points there. At the end of the Heresy, he was one of the high lords of Terra, but stepped down sometime after that to be able to look after the Emperor personally. He has since been replaced as Captain-General: in M32 the Custodians are commanded by a new guy called Beyreuth. According to the Codex, he disappeared without a trace some time after the Emperor was ensconced on the Golden Throne; rumor has it that he is still alive and serving the Emperor. It is hinted in Master of Mankind that Valdor is named after an "ancient king" of Old Earth, probably Constantine the Great, famous for being the first Christian Emperor of Rome. The Apollonian Spear and sun-shaped iron halo worn by Valdor foster the reference to Constantine, whose tutelar deity before his conversion was Sol Invictus.
  • Amon Tauromachian- One of the most notable Custodians. In combat, unarmoured, versus three " Migou" (I see what you did there) or Genestock Ogres from Nei Monggol (Ogryns anybody?) Amon is impressive, he is apparently strong enough to effortlessly break an Ogryn's arm, relieving it of its punch-dagger, then ram it through the poor sods skull. One of them grabs him from behind in a bear hug, which he literally shrugs off, then punches his hand through the Ogryn's chest and rips out its heart. Mary Sue you say? All this is from Dan Abnett himself from his short story Blood Games. Also, he is probably refered to in The First Heretic as an instructor of at least 2 other Custodians, even though the "last" (well, gene-stock/family) name of said Amon is not revealed.
  • Aquillon Marithamus- the "Oculi Imperator" (eyes of the Emperor) and Prefect who was charged with leading four other Custodians, watching over Lorgar and the Word Bearers after the Monarchia kerfuffle. They were kept in the dark about the Heresy until Isstvan V, but left alive because Erebus wanted their blood. Aquillon embarked on a tragic bromance with Argel Tal. Tal seems to have been born for tragedy in general, and perhaps the most perfect example is how, having already become friends with the Custodians and seen one murdered on Lorgar's orders, he had to spend four decades getting closer to Aquillon and pulling the wool over his eyes. In contrast with how most Custodians viewed Space Marines, Aquillon actually came to view Argel Tal as a close friend (well, for Custodians, anyway)... until Istvan V, accompanied by the revelation that the Word Bearers had been ritually torturing astropaths to keep Aquillon's messages from reaching Terra. It ended badly - Aquillon killed Argel Tal's mortal waifu Cyrene, and the possessed Astartes bit his head off.
  • Ra Endymion:A veteran Custodian (871 names bitch !) among the thirty first members of the Legio, and perhaps the only person truly privy to the Emperor's whole plan to elevate humanity into the webway and cut them off from Chaos. Told to him in a series of psychic dreams gifted from the Emperor. One of the three Tribunes, he was left in command of the Webway armed forces after his two predecessors were killed while fighting the forces of Chaos that forced their way through in the wake of Magnus's Folly. When the Emperor briefly rose from his chair to burn out the Daemons and give time for his forces to fall back, Ra was forcibly possessed by Drach'Nyen, the undivided daemon born from humanity's first act of murder. Since the Emperor couldn't kill it, he figured it would be safely stored in a Custodian's body, and the reason Ra was told the Emperor's plan was to give him a reason to keep fighting against the Daemon in his mind. By 40k we can assume something went horribly wrong, as Drach'Nyen is now literally in the hands of Abaddon as his sword and was given to him by some "golden figure". He is also an absolute beast in battle, slaughtering Astartes legionaries like Astartes do with regular humans (fluffy as hell considering the Legio Custodes Tribune's rules for 30k).
  • Diocletian Coros: The big cheese in charge of the Terran side of the War in the Webway. An unapologetic arsehole with zero time for anything not covered by his orders, to the point of almost shooting child refugees because they minorly delayed him. He makes it abundantly clear that the Custodians fight for the Emperor and NOT the Imperium, and considers that if enough of the Astartes felt the same way then the Horus Heresy would never have happened. Basically, he is the reason why people think that Custodians are all heartless autistic bastards. Still, have to feel a bit sorry for him, as he was told by the Emperor that the dream of humankind was dead after the webway was sealed. That's got to be rough. He also wrote a book about the Emprah, the Master of Mankind (no fucking joke), wich is apparently still a best-seller among the nowadays Adeptus Custodes.
  • Sagittarus Malacque: One of the original Custodians and the first to become a Dreadnought. Noted to be choleric and wild, he was nearly killed during the battle in the Webway but survived.

41st Millenium Onward[edit]

  • Trajann Valoris: In the novel Watchers of the Throne: The Emperors' Legion Valoris is the Captain General of the Custodian Guard during the time of the 41st millennium, because there are no records of him in the Imperial banks and no details on his conquests or ascent into the order, he could be a 100 years old, or 5000 years old... nobody outside of the Adeptus Custodes know. Rumour has it he also has over 1000 names inscribed on the inside of his armour and before the return of the Primarch, was the most powerful and deadly individual in all of the Imperium both martial and militarily. Only a handful of the greatest warriors, mightiest Inquisitor Lords, and a few High Lords gained an audience to speak to him. He killed 20 huge vat-grown rampaging combat servitors as large as enrage groxes armed with heavy chainglaives and other assorted heavy weapons in literally seconds, after kicking a really big door inwards within the Imperial Place. It doesn't really need to be said, but this guy's a fucking badass. Is also the only named HQ in the Custodes' codex.
  • Valerian: Protagonist of Watchers of the Throne. An intellectual among the Custodes, he does not consider himself to be a warrior but a philosopher, and spends most of his free time studying the Emperor's acts and motivations. Was originally slated to join the 300 Companions, but he failed the first ritual when his body locked up and froze when the time actually came to visit the Golden Throne in person. Its implied later on that this was because the Emperor had another purpose for him, as he eventually ends up going rogue, leaving Terra with a squad he convinced to come with him, and establishing the precedent for the Custodes to finally get their asses out of the Imperial Palace and join the Indomitus Crusade. Says that if violence could solve the Imperium's problems, it would've started working after trying it for ten thousand years, making him one of the few individuals in the Imperium to have common sense.
  • Navradaran: A member of the Ephroi featured in the Carrion Throne and Watchers of the Throne. He specialized in covert operations outside the Imperial Palace, which is quite an achievement for a giant in golden armor. His time seeing more of the Imperium than just the Palace led to him appreciating regular humans for their potential and not their weakness (compared to other transhumans). He was a mentor for Valerian. Before Guilliman returned, he spent a lot of his time trying to reunite the Silent Sisterhood.
  • Maldovar Colquan: A Tribune, newly elevated to the position on the death of Italeo during the Second Battle of Terra, he was assigned to be the Custodes to the newly-returned Guilliman. Given a passing mention in Watchers of the Throne, and a cameo in Devastation of Baal, Maldovar gets some focus in Dark Imperium, where it is shown that he's rather pissed at just how much the Imperium has lost over the last ten millenia. Often comments on minor shortcomings of the common humanity under Guilliman's command, which just strengthens Guilliman's opinion that the Custodes' experience as actual leaders had dulled.
  • Heraclast Vadrian: Mentioned in the 8th Edition Codex, Vadrian watched across centuries as the Adeptus Mechanicus slowly forgot how to maintain and repair the Golden Throne, leaving it slowly starting to break down with no one left alive anywhere in the Imperium knowing how to fix it. He decided that despite the AdMech claiming dominion over everything technological in the Imperium that the AdMech being this stubbornly ignorant was a direct threat to the Emperor, and got permission from Trajann Valoris to figure out a solution. Vadrian then gathered a Shield Host in the cruiser Scion of Argo and set off following a lead to a lost forge world named Morvane, which presumably has knowledge of the technology needed to fix the Golden Throne, created components of it and thus might have blueprints, or might have Hereteks on it that can figure out how to fix it.


  • Little Kitten- known on /tg/ as the Captain-General of the group during "If the Emperor had a Text-to-Speech Device". May or may not be Constantin Valdor, it's kept deliberately contradictory, though considering that Kitten is black and Valdor is shown to be white, they may not be the same person, what's known is that he was the Custodian who brought Alicia Dominica to the Emperor during the Reign of Blood. Known for basically telling Big E what is everything. Called "Kitten" for purring up the ranks of the Custodes. Despite the vaguely British accent, he is highly American as he hates Communist fuckers with a passion. (It's actually because one was tsundere enough that she dropped him before he could tap that ass.) SHIT'S NOT CANON! What is canon though is that he is a black guy (that is, normal human black guy, not Salamander-Class black ("No, I'd call it...uh like, brownish?")). Also manage to beat up a million ton's worth of cheese in a children's card game. Twice.
  • "Fab-Custodes (Wamuudes, Custodisi, Karstodes)"- aka the Pillar-stodes, See 2nd picture for an idea of what they look like. Their whole image is based on the old post-heresy depiction of the Custodes from First Edition. They are NUTS, even more so than the dipshit who wrote Twilight. They are oily, snickering, gay as Slaanesh's hell and love it. Seriously, even Kitten knows this and is worried for the Emperor's safety around them, saying that none of this was his idea. This said they are also Tribunes with all the martial skills that go with the rank, which means they can also fuck shit up when needed. This is demonstrated when they took on Magnus the Red and did not get reduced to a smear, despite fighting almost naked and while he was raging in his Daemonic True Form.

Getting a codex[edit]

From the Burning of Prospero Horus Heresy boxed set

The Adeptus Custodes finally received their own rules at the tail end of 7th Edition, with a mini-Codex that was bundled along with the Sisters of Silence mini-dex in the Talons of the Emperor boxed set.

Suffice to say, the rules didn't disappoint. Each line-Custodian having stats equivalent to or better than your average Brother-Captain, on top of having Eternal Warrior built-in. On the flip side they were ridiculously expensive (though oddly enough cheaper than a Grey Knight Paladin), and barring catching a ride on a Land Raider or deep-striking, they were stuck foot-slogging across the table. Hmm.

The Golden Boys of the Emperor also received a much-expanded and stand-alone Codex for 8th Edition. It expands on the lore (seemingly trying to make a point that, no, the Custodians were NOT idle for the past ten millennia), introduces specialist groups within the Custodes whose paint schemes players can use, and fills out the missing Force Organization slots for the Army. Trajann Valoris also gets a tabletop-playable model plus rules as well.

As an army they're still extremely expensive per model as heck, but at least they have more options available to them now. They also miss out on the cheese of their 30k incarnation, but Forge World is planning to fix that.

See Also[edit]


Forces of the Adeptus Custodes
Command: Companions/Hetaeron - Shield-Captain
Troops: Allarus Custodians - Aquilon Terminator - Custodian Guard
Custodian Warden - Sagittarum Guard - Sentinel Guard
Vexilus Praetor - Warder
Walkers: Contemptor-Galatus Dreadnought - Telemon Heavy Dreadnought
Venerable Contemptor Dreadnought
Transports: Coronus Grav Carrier - Drop Pod - Grav-Rhino - Rhino
Vehicles: Caladius Grav-Tank - Dawneagle Jetbike - Gyrfalcon Pattern Jetbike
Pallas Grav-Attack - Venerable Land Raider
Flyers: Orion Gunship - Stormbird
Titans: Warlord-Sinister Pattern Battle Psi-Titan
Auxiliaries: Sisters of Silence
Imperial Eagle.jpg Institutes within the Imperium of Man Imperial Eagle.jpg
Adeptus Terra: Adeptus Administratum - Adeptus Astra Telepathica
Adeptus Astronomica - High Lords of Terra
Adeptus Mechanicus: Adeptus Titanicus - Explorator Fleet - Legio Cybernetica - Skitarii
Armed Forces: Adeptus Arbites - Adeptus Custodes - Planetary Defense Force - Sisters of Silence
Imperial Army: Afriel Strain - Adeptus Astartes - Gland War Veteran
Imperial Guard - Imperial Navy - Imperial Knights - Militarum Tempestus
Imperial Cult: Adeptus Ministorum - Adepta Sororitas - Death Cults - Schola Progenium
Inquisition: Ordo Chronos - Ordo Hereticus - Ordo Malleus - Ordo Necros
Ordo Sepulturum - Ordo Sicarius - Ordo Xenos
Officio Assassinorum: Callidus - Culexus - Eversor - Maerorus - Vanus - Venenum - Vindicare
Great Crusade: Corps of Iterators - Legiones Astartes - Remembrancer Order - Solar Auxilia
Other: League of Black Ships - Navis Nobilite - Rogue Traders
Abhumans & Denizens: Beastmen - Felinids - Humans - Nightsiders
Ogryns - Ratlings - Scalies - Scavvies - Squats
Notable Members: God-Emperor of Mankind - Malcador the Sigillite
The Perpetuals - The Primarchs - Sebastian Thor
Playable Factions in Warhammer 40,000
Imperium: Astartes: Deathwatch - Grey Knights - Space Marines
AdMech: Adeptus Mechanicus - Imperial Knights
Militarum: Imperial Guard - Militarum Tempestus
Inquisition: Inquisition - Officio Assassinorum - Sisters of Battle
Others: Adeptus Custodes - Sisters of Silence - Squats
Chaos: Chaos Daemons - Chaos Space Marines - Lost and the Damned - Renegade Knights
Xenos: Aeldari: Dark Eldar - Eldar - Eldar Corsairs - Harlequins - Ynnari
Tyranids: Genestealer Cults - Tyranids
Others: Necrons - Orks - Tau