"Blessed is he who shall be given unto walls of iron and limbs of steel. Remember his comings and his goings; call upon his holy power only at need. Honour the ancestor for his wisdom and praise the machine for its battle-fury. Mark the passing of his half-life with sorrow, for his like will not be seen again."
- — Extract from the Book of Armaments, Verse IX
The rarity of a member of a Kill-team being interred within the Adamantium sarcophagus of one of these towering war engines of destruction is almost unheard of, as such an honour means that this Astartes will remain forevermore in the service of the Long Watch rather than returning to his Chapter.
Preserved within his armoured coffin the Space Marine hero is reborn as one of the Old Ones; a living holy relic who will fight on against the xenos nightmares that assail the realms of Mankind for centuries or even millennia to come.
A Dreadnought is essentially a walking tank, a piston-driven masterpiece of the Cult Mechanicus. Such is the artifice of its design it can fight much in the manner of a Terminator, but with truly inhuman strength. At its heart is the mechanical coffin in which the pilot’s crippled remains are interred, protected by a hull layered with adamantium.
This sarcophagus is filled with amniotic liquid that sustains his life indefinitely and has a suite of neural relays that enable him to move the war machine's body as if it were his own.
Upon one arm is an advanced heavy weapon system, and on the other a massive power fist capable of crushing a rockcrete wall to powder, its underslung Heavy Flamer incinerating those adversaries that skulk behind.
Despite the Dreadnought's immense physical power, its deadliest asset is its wisdom. Essentially immortal, each has centuries of combat experience, as valuable in a war council as in the heat of battle. Small wonder they are amongst the foremost heroes of the Deathwatch
Rare as it is for a Space Marine to be revered enough to become an Old One it is rarer still for a member of the Deathwatch to achieve the same honour. The circumstances of the small unit actions undertaken by Deathwatch Kill-teams often make it impossible to retrieve a fatally injured Battle-Brother and inter him within a Dreadnought's cybernetic life-support sarcophagus in time to be transported to a watch fortress.
Even if such is achieved, the Space Marine must be worthy and willing to remain with the Deathwatch, effectively renewing their vows to serve with the Long Watch in perpetuity. Finally, permission must be sought and received from the Space Marine's own Chapter so that he may remain with the Deathwatch.
Should all these difficulties be overcome, the armoured form of a Deathwatch Old One is placed in a great sepulchre with others of its kind in one of a handful of hidden Watch Fortresses. There the Old One will sleep away the centuries until the Techmarines awaken him to seek his knowledge or send him into battle once more.
The Deathwatch possess only a handful of Dreadnoughts in fortresses scattered across the galaxy, and many Old Ones have been preserved for their unique knowledge of how to combat different xenos species effectively. At other times, Old Ones remain in their sepulchre as bodiless repositories of lore concerning old campaigns against extinct xenos and Kill-team operations of centuries past.
Thanks to the ferocity and fighting skills of the venerated Space Marine hero that pilots it, a Dreadnought is more than the sum of its weapons and armour. Each Dreadnought bears the remains of one of the Old Ones, a mighty Battle-Brother who had suffered grievous wounds in past battles and been saved by internment in a life-support sarcophagus.
Within this armoured coffin the Old Ones' flesh is preserved by amniotic fluid and his mind linked with mechanical senses that allow him to perceive the world around him. When deciding to preserve a fallen Battle-Brother in this way, the decision is not taken lightly, for it is a great honour to be deemed worthy to continue to fight on in the name of the Emperor.
The creation of a Dreadnought is a matter of great ceremony for a Chapter, marking the rebirth of the Old One to the Emperor's service once more as a fighting warrior, albeit with metal limbs and a fusion reactor for a heart.
A Chapter's Dreadnoughts are among its holiest relics of a bygone era, living links in the great chain of history that binds its members together and spans the millennia since its Founding. They are walking icons, for a Chapter's Battle-Brothers will fight more furiously than ever in their presence.
Beyond this inspirational effect the wisdom and experience of an Old One is a mighty weapon in its own right. A Dreadnought has learned the enemies' ways in countless previous engagements such that every trick and stratagem is laid bare. As an icon on the attack or a bulwark on the defence a Dreadnought is of incalculable value to any commander bold enough to heed the Old One's advice and place it in the forefront of the action.
If a Dreadnought should be laid low in combat it is considered a terrible stain on the honour of the Chapter for it not to recapture the wreckage so that the Dreadnought body can be painstakingly reconstructed later.
The value of an Old One's knowledge to the Deathwatch cannot be overestimated. Across the vast volumes of space overseen by the Deathwatch, contacts with some species of alien can come centuries apart, making an eyewitness to previous encounters invaluable.
On other occasions Warp Storms will slacken to reveal whole star systems unseen by Humanity for millennia but still remembered by the Old Ones that fought there long ago. In the past, xenos thought long extinct have emerged from the dust to assail humankind once more, and the Old Ones have been able to vividly recall every detail of them, every strength and weakness they revealed and each blow struck to lay them low.
In all of these circumstances an Old One can bring incredible clarity and sharp-eyed perspective to the dry reports and corrupted records that can be unearthed from musty data-vaults, when such testimony can be found at all.
It is a rare and valued Kill-team that is accompanied by a Deathwatch Dreadnought into the field. Such a precious resource is only risked at times of greatest peril and on missions that would be doomed to failure without their unique capabilities.
Most Deathwatch Dreadnoughts make use of the traditional weapon configurations handed down over uncounted centuries like the Deredo with its Power Claws and Heavy Flamers, or the Furibundus with its twin-linked Lascannon and Cyclone Missile Launcher.
At times of special need, however, Deathwatch Forge Masters have created many of their own armament variants based on these sacred designs but more suited to exceptional environments and particular xenos foes. In ages past, Deathwatch Dreadnoughts have been equipped with Siege Hammers expressly for the purpose of overcoming Ork fortifications, outfitted with quad Autocannons for bringing down Aeldari raiders and mounted with additional Flamer batteries for clearing Hrud warrens.
Such egregious interference with the sacred form of the Dreadnought does little to assuage the concerns of more traditionally-minded Chapters about the practices of the Deathwatch in this field.
A Kill-team blessed with Dreadnought support can face some unique challenges. A silent approach, for example, becomes almost impossible without extensive use of Stunners or other specialist equipment. The local terrain must also be capable of supporting the tremendous weight of the war machine.
In practice, a Dreadnought is commonly kept in reserve, coordinating operations from an orbiting vessel. Once the enemy has been located, the Dreadnought is normally inserted directly into combat via Drop Pod, Thunderhawk gunship or Teleportarium.
Despite the immense physical power of Dreadnoughts, their deadliest asset is their wisdom. Essentially immortal, each has centuries of combat experience, and is as valuable in a war council as in the heat of battle. The eldest amongst them are known as Venerable Dreadnoughts, honoured living ancestors who have seen thousands of Terran years of war.
Such timeless warriors spend solar decades at a time in hibernatory slumber, for to face the undiluted passage of time would drive even the most formidable mind to madness. Only when the need is truly great are a Watch Fortress' Venerable Dreadnoughts awakened. At such times, the ancients' profound knowledge of xenos species' strengths, weaknesses and battle plans makes them deadly warriors and strategic advisers alike.
Developed by the magi of Mars during Belisarius Cawl's creation of the Primaris Space Marines, Redemptor Dreadnoughts are huge, supercharged cybernetic war engines. Powered by hyper-dense reactors and servo-actuated fibre bundles, they exhibit strength and speed truly terrifying in such massive battle walkers.
A Redemptor Dreadnought can run as fast as a speeding tank over short distances, storming into battle before the enemy can react to its terrifying presence. The Dreadnought's massive Power Fist can crush a Carnifex's head to pulp or tear open the flank of a Necron Monolith, while with Heavy Onslaught Gatling Cannon or Macro Plasma Incinerator the Redemptor can mow down rank upon rank of aliens or annihilate their leaders in searing blasts.
Such power comes at a price, however. To the Tech-priests of Mars, a living being -- even one as noble as a Primaris Space Marine -- is but an assemblage of biological components within the frame of the sacred machine. So fierce are the energies of the Redemptor that, over time, they burn away the heroic pilot interred within. Eventually, the ravaged ruin of the pilot must be extracted and laid to rest for good, making way for the next selfless hero willing to make this ultimate sacrifice.
The number of Redemptor Dreadnoughts amongst the Deathwatch is, as yet, not huge. Yet wherever they fight, they have an immediate and spectacular effect. Already such names as Purgatus Rex, Zachorial the Destroyer and Gideon of the Adamant Fist have been recorded in the annals of the Watch Fortresses as heroes of the Deathwatch. Upon the killing fields of Namatoria, a trio of black-armoured Redemptors from the Iron Hands, the Minotaurs and the Howling Griffons held back a tide of Tyranid war-beasts for six solar days and nights, sacrificing themselves to defend the planet's last surviving spaceport.
Amidst the ruins of Gruk's World, it was the Redemptor Rahellion that tore through Warboss Gruk's bodyguards and ripped the deranged Greenskin leader in two, before annihilating his Doomzday bomb with a superheated plasma blast.
Becoming a Deathwatch Dreadnought
When a Battle-Brother is entombed in a Dreadnought's cybernetic life-support sarcophagus, he is permanently changed and becomes both something more and less than he was. Because of this, the Deathwatch Dreadnought will irrevocably alter the Astartes interred within.
Also, becoming a Dreadnought is not something which occurs lightly or as the result of a whim; only great Astartes heroes mortally wounded in battle are given the honour of becoming Dreadnoughts. This means that becoming one of the Old Ones happens only when a Space Marine hero is mortally wounded with little or no chance of recovery.
The process is also long and involved and takes an inordinate amount of time, changing the newly created Dreadnought's relationship with the rest of his former Kill-team. The process of becoming a Dreadnought, combined with extended periods of inactivity (when the Dreadnought is kept in a slumbering state between battles), diminishes the interred Astartes' mind, wearing away memories and jumbling up facts and time.
For an Old One, to accept that what he remembers as happening only yesterday actually happened standard centuries ago is often difficult for his mind to accept, as is waking up and realizing that all the Battle-Brothers he once knew are most likely long since lost to the Emperor's Peace.
- 1 Deathwatch Castraferrum Dreadnought
Deathwatch Castraferrum Dreadnought
A standard Deathwatch Castraferrum Dreadnought is armed and equipped with:
Any Deathwatch Castraferrum Pattern Dreadnought may replace its Multi-Melta with any of these options:
- A second Dreadnought Close Combat Weapon with a built-in Storm Bolter (This is not a standard loadout as it removes the Dreadnought's ability to engage targets at range.)
- Heavy Plasma Cannon
- Assault Cannon
- Twin-linked Lascannons
- Dreadnought Missile Launcher
Castraferrum Pattern Dreadnoughts may also have vehicle equipment such as:
Deathwatch Venerable Dreadnought
- Assault Cannon
- Storm Bolter
- Dreadnought Close Combat Weapon (Any type)
- Missile Launcher (Replacement for Dreadnought Close Combat Weapon and Storm Bolter)
- Heavy Flamer (Replacement for Storm Bolter)
- Heavy Plasma Cannon (Replacement for Assault Cannon)
- Twin-linked Lascannons (Replacement for Assault Cannon)
Deathwatch Redemptor Dreadnought
- Heavy Onslaught Gatling Cannon (right arm)
- Heavy Flamer (underslung below Redemptor Fist)
- Icarus Rocket Pod (mounted above head, personal air defence)
- 2 Fragstorm Grenade Launchers (mounted in carapace torso)
- Redemptor Fist (left arm)
- Macro Plasma Incinerator (As replacement for Heavy Onslaught Gatling Cannon)
- Onslaught Gatling Cannon (As replacement for Heavy Flamer)
- 2 Storm Bolters (As replacement for 2 Fragstorm Grenade Launchers)
Notable Deathwatch Dreadnoughts
- Horest Cain - There are very few Space Marine Dreadnoughts in service to the Deathwatch. Most who fall in battle and earn the privilege to continue their service are first returned to their Chapter of origin. Only a select few individuals become so devoted to the Deathwatch that they continue to remain in its service for centuries after their first death. The stories of the few Deathwatch Dreadnoughts within the Jericho Reach are mostly the stuff of rumour and legend. Many individuals' tales have been lost as Battle-Brothers completed their tours of service and returned to their original Chapter. The legends of Ancient Brother Cain are shrouded in mystery and uncertainty, as there are no known documents to verify the stories he recounts. It is clear that his frame bears the iconography of the Novamarines in addition to his own. It is also clear that he is a loyal member of the Deathwatch who has proven his value to the organisation countless times since he was interred within his metal frame. However, it is unknown why he never returned to his original Chapter, and it is even more curious that the Novamarines claim to have no records of ever seconding an Astartes by this name to the Deathwatch.
- Goremann the Elder - Goremann is a celebrated Veteran of the Crimson Fists Chapter who served honourably in the Deathwatch on fifteen occasions prior to his installation into Dreadnought armour. Goremann's craft and cunning as an Ork fighter were legendary and it is said that at the battle of Urkano Rift even the Orks chanted Goremann’s name to honour him after he slew their Warboss in single combat. During Goremann's last Vigil five standard centuries ago (ca. 300.M41), he suffered mortal wounds and at his request the Deathwatch petitioned the Crimson Fists for his remains to be kept at Watch Fortress Erioch in the Jericho Reach. Now he rests in the cyborganic web of an armoured sarcophagus so that in time of need he can fight alongside his Battle-Brothers once more. Goremann's favoured Dreadnought armour is the war machine called Furiuosa Rex which is outfitted with twin Power Fists and underslung Flamers. In battle, Goremann's devastating charge can level a horde of lesser foes, crushing them beneath a terrifying avalanche of Adamantium fists and steel limbs. Thankfully, such heavyweight support is seldom required in the field and Goremann's experience more often serves the Deathwatch in tactical analyses and threat assessments. In truth, the old warrior chafes at such mundane work and will seize on any opportunity to see action one more time.
- Szobczak - Szobczak is an ancient and cantankerous Deathwatch Dreadnought formerly of the Imperial Fists Chapter's 5th Company. Extremely gruff and bitter, he has a tendency to relate everything to his past war experiences, and can find even the most tenuous parallels between current events and his actions years before. If and when he becomes attached to a Kill-team, he will, at every opportunity, ramble on about battles long since fought, lost Battle-Brothers, and the particulars of why, in his day, Space Marines were simply better at everything. He also has a tendency to react with surprising and often inappropriate anger or violence to even the slightest provocation. He can escalate any situation, and excels at making mountains out of molehills. In all, Brother Szobczak is a very trying, capricious, and frankly dangerous companion, traits that are only just made up for by his unwavering loyalty, his prowess in battle, and his incredible skill and breadth of experience.
- Xenomortis - To become a Dreadnought is to make a sacrifice beyond mortal comprehension. Perhaps if the being that came to be known as Xenomortis had understood what would become of him, he would have chosen death instead. Known only by the motto that appears upon his scrollwork, Xenomortis lost his identity long ago. Theories abound as to why. The most enduring is that this venerable machine could store only so much information within his bionically enhanced mind, and that the hatred he bears for the alien is so profound that he has put aside all knowledge other than that which pertains to its destruction. This claim gains credence with every engagement, for Xenomortis always seems to pursue the course that brings the swiftest doom to the alien. His plan of attack is invariably directed at the lynchpin of the enemy host and his weapon requisitions are geared to breaking the specific breed of xenos that forms it. It is said his wrath is pure enough to stave off death forever, though the Chaplains of the Deathwatch worry that madness may claim him instead -- the blood of a thousand alien species has anointed every square inch of his form, yet still it is not enough to quench his violent obsession.
- Codex Adeptus Astartes - Deathwatch (8th Edition), pp. 46-47, 74-75
- Codex Adeptus Astartes - Deathwatch (7th Edition), pp. 41, 51, 80-81
- Deathwatch: Honour the Chapter (RPG), pg. 75
- Deathwatch: Rites of Battle (RPG), pp. 110-113, 235-236
- Deathwatch: Rising Tempest (RPG), pp. 79, 132