Warhammer 40,000 Wiki
This article, How NOT to make a Fanon Character, is part of 40k Fanon's "Guide" articles. It is treated as community project and serves as both hints and guidelines. You are free to edit it, if seemed appropriate.

Making Fanon Characters is a real fun way to pass the time, but unfortunately, there are some mistakes and detractions that people often make: this will hopefully help you avoid some of them. Jochannon 13:59, August 28, 2011 (UTC)

This ought to be used in conjunction with How to Make a Fanon Character.

As always, feel free to add to or edit this if you think something's missing.

And oh hey; this is the 1,000th Article on this wiki. Wow!

'Good Guys' vs. 'Bad Guys'

One common mistake(I know I've made it) is to cast your character as a paragon of virtue, valiantly holding forth against the darkness.

There is nothing wrong with a character being virtuous. But if you make this virtue the defining characteristic of your character, then it is effectively not a character: it is a mere one-dimensional puppet.

This also sometimes seen in reverse, with characters who exist for nothing more than destruction and chaos; nothing wrong with that, but people tend to leave them with absolutely no personality.

Keep in mind the Imperium is a ten thousand year old empire that spans the entire galaxy- it's been repeatedly stated in canon that the Imperium has been pushed to its limits and is suffering from being spread so thinly. Imperial officials (most of them at least) don't commit atrocities or oppress Imperial subjects just because they find it amusing, they do it because they've been pushed to a point of absolute desperation to hold back the many evils the galaxy throws at them. They know what they're doing is wrong, they just do it because it's the best option they have.

Having characters doing bad things for good reasons, like sacrificing a few civilians to ultimately save millions more is a great way to have "good" characters AND stay in tune with the setting's grim, depressing themes. Or more interesting yet, why not try to make characters who do good things for the wrong reasons? Maybe the Planetary Governor maintains large warehouses of food and runs effective hospitals for the sake of his/her subjects only to insure their obedience and to have a bargaining chip if tensions rise? Maybe they even distribute free drugs like lho sticks to their citizens, to make them all the easier to control? Or maybe a Sororitas order that runs chapels on worlds it cleanses that offer charity for the masses, if only to keep a closer eye on suspected mutants and heretics? It has been noted that many Planetary Governors give their best men to Imperial Guard tithes merely in the interest of self-preservation instead of ideals like duty, as providing sub-standard men is an offence punishable by death.

How to avoid it

I would suggest that when you start doing serious work on your characters that you start by working out their weaknesses, their defects of character. Because these will radically effect how they act, what they do, and how other characters act toward them.


With the aspects of their personality, make sure you detail how they became that person they are today. The best way to do this is a section on their history.

With a righteous upholder of truth and virtue (good guy, etc), merely stating the fact that they are that, effectively becomes a cliché. It's boring, and is definitely not fun to read. Here are some easy methods of explaining WHY they are like that.

  • You could state that their home city was destroyed by chaos cultists, everyone brutally murdered with them being the only survivor, which burns a deep hatred of chaos that sticks with them forever.
  • Or maybe they grew up on a space marine recruitment world, where the aspects of truth and faith in the emperor were a daily aspect of life.
  • If they are not a human character, other reasons could include them being saved by an ethreal at a young age (Tau Character), or possibly being the son/daughter of a powerful far seer who dies in honour defending the craftworld (Eldar Character). And so on...

If your character is an evil destroyer, it is the same story. You cannot just say it without any reason why. Here are more easy methods of explaining why.

  • Possibly they were born into a family of chaos-worshippers, causing them to know nothing else that dedication to the dark gods.
  • Maybe they were tormented in their early days as a slave, by chaos itself, or due to the fact they are mentally unstable.


Fanon Characters can be badass; that's the whole point. But there is a disturbing trend among folks like us to make our character so badass that it exceeds the bounds of reason. I refer to this as the Hive Fleet Effect.

How to avoid it

Remember that the universe of Warhammer 40,000 is a big place; a VERY BIG place. There is plenty of room for everyone to be badass. And remember: a lowly soldier going above and beyond to save some small settlement from destruction can be just as badass as some superwarrior wiping out an invading fleet. In fact, often more so.


Nobody likes a know-it-all, but people still make them. Why? I don't know, I guess it's a psychological thing. Characters who can identify every single bolt in a starship, speak every language in the galaxy, and can identify centuries old archeotech while also mastering several dozen fighting styles and capable of piloting even xenos vehicles aren't usually very interesting; they become walking Deus ex machinas and thus their dilemmas have little sense of urgency and danger.

It is far more interesting and realistic to have a character who either mastered a specific field or dabbles a bit in several fields, forcing them to rely on others if they wish to see any complex task finished. This provides a reason for characters who would otherwise never even tolerate the other, such as an Inquisitor and a criminal overlord, to cooperate: each has or knows something the other can't do without, and this makes for not only interesting characters but also organizations, retinues, and the like.

How to avoid it

Remember that just about every job requires a fairly specific skill set: snipers do things very differently from hackers, for instance; even if someone knows a lot of things, like a savant, that does not mean they know how to do a lot of things.

One trick is not to make a single character alone: make a group of characters, each with their own skills that complement each other. Then if you want you can take one out of the group, and make him the lead.