Factions with their own pages:
open/close all folders
The Officio Assassinorum
For those that defy the Imperium, only the Emperor can judge your crimes. Only in death can your receive the Emperor's judgement.The Officio Assassinorum (Office of Assassins) is one of the Imperium's most closely guarded secrets. Consisting of a series of Temples on Terra, each one dedicated to creating and training its members in a particular style of wetwork, the Assassins work in stealth and subterfuge, slaying enemy targets and (it's rumored) Imperial targets who have exceeded their bounds. The Grand Master of the Assassins is one of the High Lords of Terra.The Temples of the Assassins are:
- Callidus: Specializing in infiltration, subterfuge, and impersonation
- Culexus: Dedicated to eliminating psykers
- Eversor: Berserkers used for shock and awe assaults
- Vanus: Data gatherers and manipulators par excellence, skilled in using other people to make their kills
- Venenum: Master Poisoners
- Vindicare: Peerless snipers and sharpshooters.
- Abnormal Ammo: Vindicare assassins are equipped with a variety of specialized shells used in their Exitus weapons. Expensive and very rare, these shells are capable of one-shotting a tank, nullifying Deflector Shields, or injecting the target with a lethal neuro-toxin.
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: The Phase Swords used by Callidus Assassins are able to cut through absolutely anything by phasing in and out of realspace.
- Anti-Magic: The specialty of the Culexus. In addition to them being able to mess with psykers just by being near them (due to the Pariah gene), the Animus Speculum weapon mounted on their helms draws power from nearby psykers to shoot bolts of anti-psychic energy that are especially lethal to psykers. In-game, they have the Psychic Abomination rule which severely cripples psykers.Specifics
- Amazon Brigade: The vast majority of Callidus assassins are female, as Polymorphine works better for women.
- Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: The Assassins were founded so that The Emperor would never have to get his hands dirty. They also have vaults containing forbidden alien technology which the Adeptus Mechanicus would consider heretical.
- The Berserker: Eversors, who are pumped so full of performance-enhancing combat drugs that their bodies explode if the drug flow stops. Because these drugs enhance lethal aggression and cannot be shut off without killing the addicted assassin, putting them into cryo-stasis is necessary to keep them alive between deployments.
- Bloody Murder: This is the inevitable result of using Eversors; anything in their path that can't stop them is guaranteed a violent, messy death, and the things that do stop them often get the same (see Taking You with Me below).
- Brain–Computer Interface: Vanus assassins are equipped with specialized augmetics that increase their brains' ability to absorb data, essentially turning them into human computers.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Some of the more... "volatile" Imperial assassins are subject to this, being mindwiped after every mission and having their next mission subliminally programmed into them while kept sedated. Eversors are a common example, though this is not necessarily limited to them.
- Charles Atlas Super Power: While there is some element of augmentation common to many assassin temples, much of an assassin's abilities come from their long Training from Hell as much as anything else.
- The Chessmaster: The Vanus Temple consists entirely of these. As one of their members said, 'the cleanest kill is one that another performs in your stead with no knowledge of your incitement'.
- Cold Sniper / Improbable Aiming Skills: Assassins of the Vindicare temple are expert marksmen and infiltrators, complete with special guns and ammunition allowing them to potentially one-shot a tank from kilometers away. They are currently the only units in the game that allows the player to pick the target (as oppose to letting the opponent or randomised methods).
- Cool Helmet: Culexus assassins have virtually all their equipment mounted in their helmet. Said helmet is necessarily so over-sized to accommodate this that one speculates they get neck-reinforcing augmentations to wield it effectively.
- Eye Beams: Culexus assassins' primary weaponry are built into their skull-shaped helmets, with point of discharge being mounted over the eyes. Their looks can literally kill.
- I Work Alone: Assassins are deployed at maximum number of three and they never work with anyone else.
- Kill and Replace: Callidus assassins not only kill their targets, they frequently assume their roles and duties in order to cause subtle disruptions and destablize the entire operation.
- Master Poisoner: The specialty of the Venenum Temple.
- Murder, Inc.: The Officio Assassinorum provides elite assassins used by Imperial organizations such as the Inquisition. The Grand Master of Assassins, the head of the Office, is one of the High Lords of Terra, and is heavily monitored by the other High Lords, as the Grand Master could (and at one point did) easily wipe the others out.
- Our Founder: The Assassin Temples are named after the people who built them.
- Our Souls Are Different: Culexus assassins are horrifying creatures that seem to lack a soul, thanks to the Pariah gene. Ordinary people find them quite disturbing, but the assassins are trained to prey on enemy psykers, who are especially sensitive to them. Their wargear fires what has been described as bolts of anti-soul.
- Psycho Prototype: Legienstrasse, the lone assassin created by the now-defunct Maerorus Temple, went rogue and took an insane amount of effort to kill, including multiple attempts by the Space Marines, Inquisition, and other Assassin temples.
- Rule of Seven: There are seven Assassin Temples.
- Shape Shifter: Callidus assassins have access to Polymorphine, allowing them to disguise themselves as a member of just about any race. They are employed to infiltrate enemy organizations, supply them with false intelligence or bad advice, and surgically remove the leadership.
- Skull for a Head: Eversor and Culexus helmets resemble glaring skulls.
- Spy Catsuit: The stereotypical garb of an Imperial Assassin is a layer of "synskin", a kind of semi-organic body sheath applied directly over the assassin's flesh. Multiple variations of it exist, some of which enhance strength, others of which have chameleon qualities, and some are capable of changing shape (along with the wearer).
- Straight for the Commander: During the 32nd millennium, Drakan Vangorich (then-Grand Master of the Assassins) orchestrated the deaths of all the other High Lords in a bid to take control of the Imperium. He was eventually killed by a Space Marine strike force, but not before an extremely bloody conflict.
- Super Reflexes: Imperial Assassins of all stripes have their reflexes trained to such a level that they can literally Dodge the Bullet in combat.
- Taking You with Me: The Eversor assassins, in addition to their dangerously unstable cocktail of chemical enhancements, also have two-part explosive chemicals in their body. As long as their heart keeps circulating blood, the two parts will not come into contact, but once the Eversor is killed the blood stops circulating and the chemicals join, causing the assassin to explode and ensure that their target is killed even if the Eversor only survives long enough to get near the target.
- Training from Hell: All Assassin candidates are selected as children and go through 10 years of harsh, intensive training just to become novice assassins, with tests and trials continuing throughout their lives.
- Who Watches the Watchmen?: This happens in two different ways:
- The Inquisition's Ordo Sicarius monitors the Assassins to keep another major power grab from ever happening.
- Certain elements of the Inquisition have secretly sought ways to police or even eliminate the Space Marines, and the Assassins are privy to these machinations.
The Adeptus Arbites
To serve the Emperor. To protect His domains. To judge and stand guard over His subjects. To carry the Emperor's law to all worlds under His blessed protection. To pursue and punish those who trespassed against His word.The Adeptus Arbites are the enforcement arm of the Adeptus Terra. It is they who ensure that Imperial laws and Administratum decrees are followed, and most importantly, that the Imperial Tithe is met. Most Imperial worlds of any significance at all will have an Arbites precinct house somewhere, and larger worlds will have several. Local crime is beneath their general jurisdiction (that falls to local planetary law enforcement) but they help track crime that spans multiple worlds and violates laws from authorities beyond that of the local government. When rabble-rousing citizens get in the way of the Imperial tithe being fulfilled, the Arbites are summoned to break them up and suppress riots. If it goes so far that a planet goes into full rebellion, the Arbites are the ones expected to be a loyalist holdout, sealing their precinct houses for siege and getting the message out to the wider Imperium.The Adeptus Arbites have never had a full published codex book, only unit information and models in various additions released as supplements or as allies for other Imperial forces. For the most part though, they are almost never seen in the tabletop game itself, but they are well-represented in the fiction.
- Awesome Personnel Carrier — Arbiters used variations of Standard Template vehicle patterns, such as Chimeras and Rhinos. In particular, they often use the Repressor pattern of the Rhino chassis, which has an extended transport bay with additional firing slits for riot suppression. They are especially fond of these because the wide surfaces and heavy armor make it an excellent mobile blockade.
- By-the-Book Cop — Arbites are selected very carefully for those who will take their duty extremely seriously, many of them coming from the same Schola Progenium programs that train Commissars and Storm Troopers. One who goes Cowboy Cop on them will find themselves hauled before a panel of their comrades to answer for their behavior.
- Carry a Big Stick — Power Mauls are common weapons for Arbiters to be equipped with, taking the form of large truncheons. They mount a power field generator with adjustable power settings. At low levels, they function as a Stun Stick, while at higher levels they can shatter armor under impact.
- Expy — Go look up what "ego legis sum" translates to.
- Heavily Armored Mook — The Arbites tend to wear carapace armor, which is about the best purely physical protection the Imperium can provide short of Powered Armor. Among the Imperial Guard, this armor is restricted to only heavy infantry or elite forces, but the Arbites mission scope requires them to be more survivable and put their own equipment at less risk anyhow.
- Judge, Jury, and Executioner — On an institutional level, the Arbites are charged to hand out justice without being accountable to other local agencies, though they are expected to do so only within the strictest interpretation of law and precedent. For the most part though, these roles are divided up between members of the organization, being the role of "Arbiters" to bring in suspects and "Judges" to sentence them.
- Jurisdiction Friction — Happens very infrequently, if only because the Arbites automatically override local jurisdictions, and few would dare challenge them on that. That said, it is often inverted in that Arbites are not charged to investigate lesser crimes, and it often takes pleading on the part of the local enforcement agencies to get the Arbites involved in the first place if they can be convinced that the crimes are sufficiently disruptive to the normal flow of business.
- Non-Lethal Warfare — While they are willing to use deadly force, their mission typically involves battering down agitating elements rather than killing them outright. Not that this makes their employment any more family-friendly, said non-lethal warfare typically involves lots of clubbing, shocking, broken bones, and chemical-burned mucus membranes.
- Police Brutality — The Lex Imperialis overrides any local law, which means that if an Arbiter has accused you of a crime, you have no rights. Incidentally, obstructing Arbiters fulfilling their duty is a crime, stay the heck out of their way. "Always err on the side of harshness," is sanctioned policy, after all...
- Robot Dog — Cyber-Mastiffs, a kind of servitor made from canines. They are used to help Arbiters hunt down hiding criminals, where their robotic components make them more reliable, more durable, and better trackers than their purely organic counterparts.
- Shield Bash — Arbiters often wield suppression shields for this very purpose. In addition to functioning as personal protection, the suppression shield contains an electrical discharge unit that can incapacitate anything struck by (or striking) it.
- Shotguns Are Just Better — Shotguns are another common piece of equipment for Arbiters. Mainly because most of what they go up against are expected to be more lightly armed and armored than them, but also because a shotgun provides a great deal of versatile utility with different kinds of specialized shells.
- State Sec — To a lesser degree, but greater visibility, than the Inquisition. Each precinct house is equipped to fight a small war, with vehicles, weapons, and barracks housing the Arbiters to use them. They even have a few of their own space ships, though these are (relatively) small patrol cruisers used for things like customs enforcement.
The Adeptus Custodes
The Adeptus Custodes (The Guardians, Watchers of the Throne, The Thousand Companions) are the guardians of the Imperial Palace and the Golden Throne, as well as being the personal bodyguard of The Emperor.
- Awesome, but Impractical: Invoked in-universe. While each Custode is an undisputed badass even by 40k standards, they are exceedingly expensive to produce. Each Custode requires roughly the same cost as a whole Astartes Chapter and while a single Custode is to an Astartes as an Astartes is to an Imperial Guardsmen, it's simply easier to drown the enemy in corpses (this being 40k and all). Thus they are allowed to remain the Emperor's praetorian guard simply because it's not feasible to use them for any other purpose.
- Blade on a Stick: Custodes wield Guardian Spears as their Weapon of Choice.
- Bodyguarding a Badass: Custodes protected the mightiest human who ever existed.
- Combat Pragmatist: Custodes are versed in politicking, spycraft and even assassination; skills no self-respecting Astarte would learn.
- Depending on the Writer: One of the most inconsistently-written forces around. The writers can't seem to agree on how strong they are (one story sees a single Custodes take on three Word Bearers' chapter masters and win in seconds, while another loses to an unarmed and unarmoured World Eater), their physiology (varies between "size of a small Primarch", "significantly larger than a Space Marine", or "very slightly larger than a Space Marine"), or on certain other aspects of their equipment and job (their equipment is supposed to be gene-locked, so that only they can use it, but there are at least two instances of Custodes weapons being looted and used by non-Custodes warriors).
- Earn Your Title: Names are the only reward Custodes have for serving the Imperium. A Custodes with an Overly Long Name is not to be trifled with.
- Gate Guardian: Only The Custodes can allow anyone in The Emperor's presence.
- Interservice Rivalry: Many Space Marines envy the Custodes for being so close to The Emperor.
- Paint It Black: Black became the Custodes color to mourn The Emperor.
- Praetorian Guard: The Custodes defend The Emperor even long after his internment in the Golden Throne.
- Shirtless Scene: The Custodes abandoned armor after the Heresy.
- Small Role, Big Impact: The Custodes singlehandedly ended the Age of Apostasy first by talking the Brides of the Emperor into turning against Goge Vandire, then convincing (or scaring) Sebastian Thor into becoming the new Ecclesiarch.
- Soldier vs. Warrior: The Warrior to the Soldiers of the Space Marines and Imperial Guard.
- Super Prototype: Of the Space Marines.
- Undying Loyalty: To The Emperor, whose corpse they still guard.
Fealty, Honour and DutyThe Imperial Knights are a sub-empire within the Imperium, rulers of their own private feudal planets known as Knight Worlds. Closely allied to the tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Imperial Knights pilot massive mechanized war machines of such stature and fury that a single one can change the course of a war. Bound by ancient oaths that tie them to the Imperium, the Imperial Knights seek to fight the enemies of Man, wherever they may be found. Numerous varieties of Knights exist, with the most common being the generalized Knight Paladin and the melee-oriented Knight Errant.Originally a force in games of Epic, Knights were largely confined to fluff for a number of years before they were reintroduced into 40k proper in 2014. Their 7th edition codex was released in 2015.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: The most skilled and deadly Knights can become Knights Barons, leading contingents of Knights into battle and getting custom Knight suits with better weapons.
- BFS: Tempest Warblades, power weapons carried by Knights Castgator that can cleave another Knight in two and reduce whole enemy units to ash.
- Blade on a Stick: Some Knight variants carry Power Lances. The Cerastus Shock Lances carried by Knights Lancers double as Boom Sticks.
- Blood Knight: Knights Styrix, whose machine spirits are said to have become too accustomed to the slaughters of the Age of Strife. Some Knightly Houses avoid them, finding them too uncontrollable and malevolent, while others set them loose to slaughter enemies on battlefields where subtlety isn't a concern.
- Boring but Practical: By the standards of giant humanoid combat robots in the Imperium of Man, at least.
- The Imperial Knights are actually easy to mass produce and require only a single operator, as opposed to the centuries it takes for a Forge World to build even one Warhound Titan, not to mention the training the Princeps and his crew requires. This allows them to be far more ubiquitous than the larger Titan Legions, despite each individual Knight packing less firepower.
- Compared to some of the more esoteric weapons that other Titans pack (among them a missile that tears a Negative Space Wedgie) Imperial Knights bring humble battle cannons and melta cannons to battle. But while these weapons lack special rules or flair, they get the job done by simply drowning the opposition in sheer firepower.
- Chainsaw Good: Reaper Chainswords, a smaller version of the kind used by Titans, which can cut through enemy bunkers with ease and open tanks like tin cans.
- Feudal Future: Even more so than usual in the setting. Society on Knight Worlds is divided between the serf-like Drovers, who tend to herds and crops and are equipped with simple unarmed walkers; the Sacristans, a subset of the Mechanicus who look after the mecha and keep the peace between noble houses; and the Knightly Houses proper, who have exclusive access to the Humongous Mecha and use these to rule their worlds, and who are sworn to a number of high lords. In turn, all the lords of a planet answer to a single Princeps or High King, who is sworn to either Mars or Terra, respectively.
- Humongous Mecha: Not quite as gigantic as the Titans fielded by the Adeptus Mechanicus, but still significantly larger than the Sentinels the Imperial Guard uses.
- Lightning Bruiser: Knights Lancers, a rare type of Knight suit notable for being much faster and more powerful than other kinds, in addition to having better close-combat weapons. The main reason they’re only used as scouts and flankers instead of being the default type is because they’re too difficult to manufacture to make in large numbers.
- Low Culture, High Tech: Even by this setting's standards. The Knight Worlds are generally on a medieval tech level, apart from the Knights and any other toys the Adetpus Mechanicus feels like giving the local rulers.
- Mighty Glacier: The Knights Crusaders and Castellans are bulkier, slower and less nimble than other varieties, but pack increased firepower and armor to compensate.
- Plasma Cannon: Meltaguns and the larger Thermal Cannons.
- Power Fist: The massive Thunderfists the new Knights have access to are this, which beats out the old Reaper Chainsword. There are also Reaper Chainfists that combine this trope with Chainsaw Good.
- Sword and Gun: The Knight Paladin, Knight Errant, and Knight Warden all have a chainsword mounted on one arm and a gun on the other in their default loadout.
- Total Party Kill: In-game, when a Knight is dealt enough damage to Explode, the diameter of its blast is 15 inchesnote and can scatter (representing the Knight staggering and falling), so it has the potential to take out a large chunk of your army if it goes boom.
If the Adeptus Astartes are the Emperor's wrath, and the Imperial Guard His hammer, then His Holy Navy is His mighty shield.For all the size of the Emperor's vast armies and the prowess of his Angels of Death, the Imperial Navy is what gives the Imperium of Man the force-projection it needs to be an interstellar super-power. Made up of multiple fleets of warp-capable grand ships, each with a length measured more than a kilometer and with crews that reach into the thousands on even the smallest of them, few powers can match the Imperial Navy when it musters in force. But because even the smallest ship can only be produced at relatively high tech worlds with reliable access to material and they can take anywhere from decades to centuries to construct, the vast might of the Imperial Navy is stretched thin across the galaxy, patrolling warp routes and escorting the interstellar transportation that countless worlds rely on simply for survival. When the Imperium goes crusading, the vessels of the Imperial Navy transport and escort the vast numbers of ground forces the Imperial war machine can bring to bare, supporting them with literal walls of guns so numerous and massive that not even a Titan war machine could mount them.The Imperial Navy is not often represented in the primary tabletop wargame, as that focuses on ground engagements and the Imperial Navy is by its own mandate limited in its capacity to project force there. However, it is well represented in the fiction, as well as in Specialist Games like Battlefleet Gothic.
— Cardinal Kregory Hestor
- A Taste of the Lash: A common method of enforcing discipline among the enlisted personnel.
- Bad Boss: Downplayed, in that, like Machiavelli's Prince, an Imperial Navy captain will generally prefer to be both feared and respected, but ultimately the Navy needs its captains to be feared more than they need them respected. So much so that the lives of a few ratings are considered expendable if it means enforcing appropriate discipline on the rest.
- Boarding Party: The Imperial Navy can and does engage in boarding actions, with teams of Naval armsmen piling into assault boats to raid enemy ships as they pass by, or even attaching grapnels on kilometer-long chains and winching the ships into a forced dock with each other. Some of the boarding parties might even teleport to an enemy ship if they are (un)lucky enough to be on a ship with a functional teleportarium.
- Boarding Pod: An alternative to the assault shuttles and teleporting is the boarding torpedo, launched from ships equipped with torpedo tubes. In many ways this is the most dangerous method of conducting a boarding action, as the torpedo has limited ability to maneuver to evade interception, if it misses the target it is likely to go off into deep space with every soul still trapped aboard, and even when it hits its target there is no easy line to retreat to the mothership if things go poorly for the boarders. However for all that, it is one of the quickest ways to get boarders to their target and across the furthers distance.
- Cool Spaceship: The Imperial Navy never sends out anything but Cool Spaceships. Each ship is a precious artifact, their outer hulls fitted with crenelations, gargoyles, and other baroque decorations that make them resemble starfaring battle-cathedrals.
- Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon: Due to the necessity of accelerating the shells along the length of the ship, the Nova Cannons used by some Imperial capital ships are always mounted on their armoured prow.
- Flaunting Your Fleets: Actually part of the Imperial Navy's mandate. Standard operating procedure for ships on patrol duty is to stop by infrequently visited worlds in their path to "fly the flag" and remind those worlds the grandeur of the support they are entitled to under the Pax Imperialis... and of what they would be up against should their faith stray.
- Jumped at the Call: Despite the common practice of Press Ganging to fill required crew numbers, the majority of ratings on Imperial Navy ships are willing volunteers. Partly this is because life aboard a warship is hardly any more harsh than some of the places they might be recruited from anyway, and partly because the Imperial Navy actually pays its ratings substantially well. Of course, the reason the Imperial Navy can afford to be so generous is because they know barely half the ratings will survive long enough to collect their payout...
- Lost Technology: Archeotech, technology from an earlier era that the Imperium has forgotten the secrets of manufacturing, is a matter particularly important to the Imperial Navy. Many of their oldest ships contain irreplaceable advanced systems, and each is a force-multiplier compared to more modern equivalents if such an equivalent even exists anymore. The Navy will often go out of its way to retrieve the wrecks of older ships just to plunder such components and use them in ships currently in service, even risking investigating and breaking pieces off of space hulks to get at them.
- Machine Worship: Every ship has a staff of Tech-Priests to maintain the more critical advanced systems, such as the warp engine and the plasma drives, servicing those components with all appropriate ritual. However in a more general sense, as their brand of techno-animism is Imperium-wide, and that ships being as vast and complex machines as they are, virtually all look upon the ship itself as being a holy thing. Any given ship will have an operational lifetime far longer than any of its crew, and the battle honors it accumulate and its mechanical quirks are seen to be indicative of the strength of its machine-spirit. Powerful old ships are regarded with the same veneration that Imperial citizens regard living saints.
- Officer and a Gentleman: Officers of the Imperial Navy are often from highborn stock on their respective homeworlds, sometimes being the product of entire dynasties of servicemen.
- Orbital Bombardment: One of the biggest assets a Navy can bring in support of a ground engagement. However, such "orbital artillery" is both extremely overpowered for most planetary targets and extremely inaccurate. This typically relegates the use of such power to carefully considered strategic situations to avoid excessively damaging targets the Imperium would benefit from taking relatively intact.
- Press-Ganged: A common method for fulfilling the Imperial Navy's enlisted personnel needs. Since there is rarely any return journey for someone aboard ship, the conditions are extremely harsh, and the common citizens of the Imperium are often taught to fear and shun warp travel, impressment is something the Imperial Navy frequently relies on. When arriving at a heavily populated place like a hive world and the need for new recruits is high, they will often lean on the local enforcers to institute a crackdown, with the sentences being waived for Naval service.
- Ramming Always Works: Well, not always, but with a wedge-shaped prow that is a solid plate of armor thirty meters thick, Imperial Navy ships have a good chance of pulling it off if they can get close enough. Even when not used for ramming, the heavily armored prow is designed to have a psychological effect on those commanding such ships, as it encourages them to keep the ship pointed toward the enemy up until the moment they are ready to unleash a full broadside.
- Schizo Tech: In full force. When the Imperial Navy was started (as part of the Imperial Army during The Great Crusade) it had powerful and advanced ships. But as entropy and battle have taken their toll, and the knowledge of how to construct much of that technology has been forgotten, even those older ships would sometimes end up replacing a critically damaged advanced system with a much lower tech version, and newer ships rarely get anything so advanced to begin with. This leads to situations where a ship might be capable of traversing the warp, but have cannons that fire multi-ton shells which are loaded by hand by teams of laborers pulling on chains.
- Space Fighter: Some Imperial Navy ships mount launch bays for these. Exact loadouts can very depending on the ship and the local manufacture, but the best known are the Fury interceptors, the Starhawk bombers, and the Shark assault boats.
- Space Is an Ocean: The Imperial Navy has a virtual monopoly on warships capable of sailing the "sea of souls" which ensures that any system that goes rogue does so in isolation.
- Space Navy: Goes without saying.
- Space Plane: Although primarily intended for atmospheric operations the Thunderbolt and Lightning fighters, as well as the Marauder bombers, operated by the Imperial Navy are also capable of operating in a vacuum. This is mostly due to the necessity of being deployed from carriers in orbit, when ground bases are unavailable, but there are many instances where such craft have been used in space combat when dedicated space fighters and bombers were unavailable.
- Standard Sci-Fi Fleet: Fits the standard, but with the scale turned Up to Eleven. Even "small" escort craft such as destroyers and frigates would match battleships in many other settings taken just on their size alone, while battleships in the Imperial Navy are kilometers long with crews over a hundred thousand strong.
- Starship Luxurious: Averted for the vast majority of any ship, where accommodations can be described as "spartan" at best and Industrial Ghetto at worst. However, this is played very straight by a ship's command decks, where the passages are broad and tall, roofed with in decorative archways, enormous windows give vistas of the stars, and are often paneled with wooden or stone facades such that walking through them is like walking through a cathedral planetside. This is taken Up to Eleven by the Navigators' quarters, which are said to embarrass a planetary govern in their opulence, and are often built into tall spires jutting from the ship so that the Navigators aboard can better see what they are doing while performing their absolutely critical task.
- We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: Mainly because the automated systems which would otherwise fulfill those functions have long since broken down or those who known how to build and maintain them forgotten. As a result, Imperial Navy ships have huge crews of menial laborers to do everything from load the cannons to "stoke" individual valves coming from the ship's plasma reactors. Actually controlling a machine as vast as an Imperial Navy ship would either require a sophisticated artificial intelligence (which is forbidden) or vast numbers of people working under a single set of orders (which is not.) And of course, the bigger crew it has, the more it can continue to fight on despite taking horrific damage.
- Wooden Ships and Iron Men: ... In Space! The technology and practices of the Imperial Navy heavily mirror age of sail warfare, with ships lining up to fire broadsides, and crews scrambling to ready weapons or manually handle individual maneuvering stations to bring the ship to bare, all coordinated by officers screaming orders over the chaos.
Mutants and Abhumans
Twisted flesh, twisted soul.The Imperium does not simply worship the Emperor, but also the holy human form. Part of the Imperium's Manifest Destiny states that humanity has a right to rule the galaxy. However, the simple fact is that after thousands of years on other worlds, various human populations have evolved into different types of humans. These are referred to as Abhumans or Mutants, variously; Abhumans are fairly minor, stable strains of mutation that are effectively the result of natural evolution caused by different environments, while Mutants are far more bizarre in form and stem from the wide variety of genetic degeneratives at loose in the galaxy at large — radiation, genetic warfare, toxic chemicals, et cetera. While the Imperium officially disdains them, some are useful or even necessary. In the time of the Emperor, the view of Abhumans and Mutants was more lenient, but after ten thousand years, the Imperium has taken a more draconian approach.In the background, the most important of mutants are the Navigators, families who were genetically engineered in the distant past to navigate the Warp with psychic powers. Collectively, they form the Navis Nobilite, wealthy families who are necessary for the Imperium to survive. On the tabletop, certain Abhumans are useful to the Imperial Guard for specialist skills. Mutants, in the background and to an extent on the tabletop, are typically executed on sight for their genetic damage or kept as slaves — as a result, they are eager worshipers of Chaos, aided by the fact that Chaos tends to both cause mutation in its followers and treats those bearing mutations as being blessed by the Gods.
General Abhuman and Mutant tropes
- The Atoner: Beastmen who followed the Imperial Cult were ruthless in purging the Emperor's enemies as penance for the "sin" of mutating.
- Body Horror: Generic mutants. Even those who haven't been touched by Chaos can sport all manner of strange and unnatural features, including but not limited to: extra eyes/mouths/limbs, rotting flesh, atrophied bodyparts, unnaturally swollen musculature, oversized bodyparts, scales, fur, fangs, claws, slime-oozing skin, blisters and warts, tentacles... Essentially, a mutant is living Body Horror and may or may not have Lovecraftian Superpowers as a result of it.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Originally, many Abhumans were transplants from Warhammer, but as time went on, they stopped being updated or even mentioned. The Squats are the most famous example of this, though they get a rather nasty sendoff.
- Dumb Muscle: Increased size, strength and toughness at a cost of lowered intelligence is a fairly common mutation. Some, however, are bigger, stronger, and tougher than regular humans while being just as smart or smarter than humans.
- Evil Albino: Downplayed with the Afriel Strain, a failed experiment in creating non-Space Marine super soldiers. Not only are they albinos, they have horrible luck.
- Extra Eyes: They're a common mutation, and can turn up in the strangest places.
- Fantastic Racism: The Imperium typically takes a very dim view of mutation from the accepted norm of the "Holy Human Form", though the degree to which a typical citizen subscribes to this will vary. One major reason for this is that mutation is often a sign that one is becoming corrupted by the Warp, potentially becoming a vessel for the Ruinous Powers. However, this hatred extends to those whose mutations are caused by more "mundane" sources, such as generations of exposure to radiation or industrial waste, leading to widespread hatred and distrust of all mutants. Since mutation can continue to appear generation after generation, killing all mutants tends to be impractical, so most are allowed to exist as an oppressed underclass, looked down upon by all.
- Abhumans are subraces of humans whose differences have manifested into stable genotypes, without the randomness seen as signs of corruption. They often suffer some prejudices related to their differences, but find a much better measure of acceptance, especially if those differences make them valuable to the Imperium in some way. Navigators in particular, while still somewhat feared, are also held in a degree of awe due to the absolutely essential role that they play in the Imperium.
- Heavy Worlder: How Ogryns and Squats came to be, even though they went in completely different directions.
- N-Word Privileges: Many refer to each other as "twists", but for a non-mutant to use that would be seen as a nasty insult.
- Radiation-Immune Mutants: One of the reasons why mutants are often employed as a labor force is that they are often willing (if only grudgingly so because Fantastic Racism and circumstances limit their options) to perform labor in and around whatever corrupting influence mutated them in the first place (caustic industrial chemicals, aggressive fertilizers, radiation-leaking reactors, toxin-laden mines, etc.) While they are not necessarily immune to further effects, they are already twisted beyond the Holy Human Form and a little more would hardly make things much worse for them.
Specific important mutants and abhumans
In my high seat I gaze into the immaterium and see the shadow that our own universe casts into depthlessness. This eye... this eye sees gentle flows of soul-stuff where the becalmed mind might starve to death, and tides and churns of genius and hate. The warp mocks the power of words to describe. But what I can never turn my back on is the power and the beauty of the Emperor. I see His soul shine out from Earth and His presence fill every corner of the immaterium. [...] I have known from the first time I beheld it that I could do nothing but follow that light with my life.The Navigators are a race of mutants that is an integral part of the Imperium's function, as their mutation allows them to actually see the fluctuations of the Warp and the light of the Astronomican, and thus guide Imperial ships (relatively) safely in Warpspace.
- Arranged Marriage: Since Navigators can only pass on their psyker genes by procreating with other Navigators, marriages among the Navis Nobilite are arranged usually between rival houses to ensure genetic stability and as a form of alliance.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: When the Paternova dies, the Heirs Apparent (the most powerful Navigators of each house) become larger, stronger, and more aggressive. They then fight and kill each other for the right of Paternova.
- Blindfolded Vision: When not actively guiding a ship, Navigators will cover their Third Eye, as looking into it can cause madness. This makes limiting others' exposure to it necessary. This covering can take many forms, from a headband, to a veil, to an eyepatch, to a low-pulled hood, or even occasionally a cybernetic shutter-like metallic eyelid.
- Body Horror: Thanks to a limited breeding pool, the possibility of imperfect genetic tampering on the part of some ancestors, and generations of necessary warp exposure, Navigators often suffer from a variety of minor mutations. As Navigators age these mutations become more obvious and extreme, with some of them even transforming into ugly frog-octopus things. It's an accepted fact of life for them and even during the brutal inter-house coldwars both sides will respect this secret and ensure that nobody breaks the masquerade. The Emperor was aware of these mutations but decided to tolerate them.
- Deadly Gaze: Staring into a Navigator's Warp Eye is commonly said to cause either insanity or death. No one wants to test it, and Navigators must wear hoods, scarves, or headbands of psyk-resistant material around normal humans.
- Extra Eyes: Navigators possess a "Warp eye" allowing them to see the currents of the Immaterium and guide ships through it. This is not a poetic turn of phrase.
- Feuding Families: Among the Navis Nobilite, there exist conflicts known as Tradewars, which include limited conflict among the families. The Administratum tolerates these to a point, as long as they're short and not too destructive.
- Go Mad from the Revelation: Averted by the Navigators when exposed to the Warp, which is what makes them unique in the setting in which this trope is otherwise played straight. Their Third Eye allows them to perceive the Warp in a way which will not overwhelm their mortal mind, enabling their ability to guild a ship through its currents. This perception is subjective, and each Navigator will see it in a different manner, so that when they try to describe it to others, the only way they can do so is through vaguely poetic metaphor.
- The Patriarch: The Paternova, the leader of the Navis Nobilite, who is called the "father of the Warp", and is somehow able to increase the Warp sense of his family's Navigators.
- Walking the Cosmos: Some Navigator families abandon their wealthy estates and take to wandering the galaxy.
- Weirdness Coupon: The Navigators are mutants whose elders begin mutating beyond the norms of the "holy human form", and yet are fantastically wealthy and have a permanent seat on the High Lords of Terra. They're so absolutely vital to star travel that they have to be given these things.
- Listen, Ordrogg, the Emperor's very pleased with all of you, OK?Ogryns are an abhuman strain, the product of high-gravity worlds with barren environments. They are large, even bigger than Space Marines, but are known for being very dumb. They are commonly used in the Imperial Guard as shock troops.
- Him? He's pleased?
- Very pleased. He's watching you now. He says he wants you to go over to the Robots and stick with them. You got that?
- Yerr. On our way.
- Him? He's pleased?
- Very pleased. He's watching you now. He says he wants you to go over to the Robots and stick with them. You got that?
- Yerr. On our way.
- Adorkable: Despite their poor hygiene, Ogryns are generally seen as lovable goofballs by the fanbase.
- Bash Brothers: When not organized into a unit unto themselves, an Ogryn will usually be paired up with a "little'un" whose job it is to stay with the Ogryn at all times and keep them pointed at the enemy during combat and make sure they do not accidentally hurt themselves or others while out of it.
- BFG: Ogryns will sometimes be employed as heavy-weapon teams, as they can easily swing around a large gun that would otherwise take two soldiers and a carriage to wheel around. Said Ogryns typically do best with weapons that have a high rate of fire and require little or very simple reloading since it is easier to hold an Ogryn's interest with such a "toy" that they continue to use it to enthusiastic effect.
- Canis Latinicus: The official Ogyrn species name is Homo sapiens gigantus. However, there are seven distinct types, including H.S. gigantus gigantus and H.S. gigantus Cranopus.
- Claustrophobia: Commonly suffer it, with enclosed spaces making them very frightened and jumpy. A nerve-wracked eight foot tall slab of clumsy muscle is generally not a good thing...
- Dumb Muscle: Ogryns are massive, powerful, and dumb, even moreso than your basic Ork Boy. During the Horus Heresy, it was said that those who fought on the Chaos side only did so because were told the other guys had betrayed the Emperor. The smarter ones are given augmetic upgrades called Biochemical Ogryn Neural Enhancement (BONE) to boost their intelligence a bit more. This allows them to become sergeants of Ogryn squads, called Bone'eads.
- Evil Counterpart:
- Chaos forces also makes use of Ogryns. Ogryn Berserkers are Khornate warriors, lobotomized and driven to murderous fury by a drug called Slaught. Plague Ogryns are used by the armies of Nurgle as walking disease incubators due to their size, strength, and endurance.
- In general, "Big Mutants" tend to be depicted as being akin to Ogryns or as corrupted Ogryns.
- Human Shield: The 2014 Astra Militarum codex introduced Ogryn specialists known as Bullgryns whose functionality in the armor is to act this way. Turns out that an Ogryn inside a massive suit of carapace armor and carrying a huge tower shield or force-field projecting buckler is a pretty good mobile wall. When you arm him with an underarm-slung grenade launcher, which is reinforced so it can stand up to being used as an improvised tonfa, or else with an armor-vaporizing greatclub, he can dish out a fair amount of damage, too.
- Improvised Armor: The front plates of Bullgryn carapace armor are made from sections of tracks from Leman Russ tanks.
- The Klutz: Their great strength and poor self-control means that they tend to accidentally break things that they interact with, unless those things are large and reinforced. Hence why they virtually always use customized equipment.
- The Ogre: Ogryns are Abhumans who evolved on high-gravity worlds with barren environments. Unlike the Squats, who developed in roughly the same kind of environment but are much like classic dwarfs, Ogryns are huge, standing taller than even Space Marines.
- The Pig Pen: Ogryns are known for being flabby and having horrible hygiene, and are often called Fats, Flabs, Slobs and Stenches as a result.
- Psychopathic Manchild: Played with. Ogryn are taught to hate and kill the enemies of the Imperium, but this is usually the result of exploitation of their innocent, childlike nature more than inborn aggression.
- Shotguns Are Just Better: The Ripper gun is the Ogryns' standard firearm, and is used just as much as a club as a shotgun.
- Undying Loyalty: Ogryns believe that the Emperor has personally issued them every order (being worked down from the chain of command) and thus obey orders to the best of their abilities. In a tragic demonstration of this, many Ogyrns fought on the side of Chaos during the Horus Heresy, but they didn't knowingly do so: they all genuinely believed that they were still fighting for the Emperor and the Imperium, when really it was their superiors misleading them with lies.
- Upgrade Artifact: Ogryn BONE'eads are Ogryns who have received extensive brain augmentation by the implantation of very high-quality neural implants provided by the Adeptus Mechanicus. Such implants are rare and precious, and few outside of the Cult Mechanicus are ever blessed with them, but in the case of Ogryns the Munitorium considers it worth the expense and effort to get at least one Ogryn in every group enhanced in this manner, as having a squad leader who can fully understand orders and think independently (if not particularly creatively) is a great force multiplier for Ogryn squads.
- Weirdness Coupon: They're mutants, but they make extremely loyal soldiers who love cracking heretic and xeno skulls for the Emperor.
Little thieves! Thieves and vagabonds, the lot of them. They’re petty-minded, larcenous little subhuman scum to the last. Everyone overlooks it because they can shoot straight and can cook a decent meal. You can’t trust them... any of them. They’ll steal your chrono if you shake hands with them, and as likely to pick your pocket as praise the Emperor’s name...Like Ogryns, Ratlings are an abhuman strain commonly used in the Imperial Guard. However, they are the polar opposite of Ogryns in nature and function. Of very short stature, Ratlings are used as snipers and stealthy infiltrators, and also as cooks, roles at which they excel. However, they can be a disruptive presence as well, as they're known to be hedonistic and have a streak of kleptomania.
— Anonymous Imperial Guardsman
- Canis Latinicus: The official Ratling species name is Homo sapiens minimus.
- Dying Race: Ratling populations have suffered greatly due to Tyranid invasions of their worlds.
- Explosive Breeder: Ratlings procreate like there is no tomorrow...and there may not be.
- Fantastic Slurs: Ratlings are also referred to as Runtlings, Stunties, Halflings, or Maggots.
- Friendly Sniper: ZigZagged. Ratlings are gregarious, enjoy a good feast, and make excellent snipers, but The Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer warns that petty crime rates and illegal gambling increase in regiments with Ratling squads attached.
- The Hedonist: Ratlings enjoy the finer aspects of life.
- Hobbits: Like Tolkien's hobbits, Ratlings are very short, compactly built, and tend to be portrayed with large, hirsute feet. They also love food, both the making and the eating.
- Supreme Chef: Not exactly, but they can certainly do a lot with very little.
We have always been a race of traders. It is natural to us that we should trade the fighting skills of our Brotherhoods. As well as bringing us a profit, it also allows our youngsters to gain experience and honour, and to keep alive the skills which our strongholds may one day need for their own defence.One particular abhuman faction that has caused some controversy is the Squats. The Squats were a race of abhumans that had adapted to subterranean life on high-gravity worlds near the galactic core. Separated from mainline humanity for tens of millennia, they grew shorter and, well, squatter, eventually coming to resemble the traditional fantasy dwarf in both appearance and temperament. Due to the difficulty of living on barren planets with radioactive surface conditions, the Squats developed extremely reliable food production systems, armor, and other technology, but also had a fatalistic attitude toward life. Over time, they made contact with the Orks and Eldar and gained a reputation for their high-quality tech, shrewd business dealings, and potent military defense. Eventually they were rediscovered by and reabsorbed into the Imperium, as their tech fascinated the Adeptus Mechanicus and made them a welcome addition to the Imperial armed forces, but they maintained a high degree of autonomy.As a game faction, the Squats were never popular, nor did they fit very well in the increasingly Grim Dark setting. They were included back in the days when 40K was a transparent In Space version of Warhammer and every race in the latter had to appear in the former, but as the setting matured the Squats felt more and more out of place. Game designers never really decided on a "tone" for the army, and depictions of them wavered between goofy space dwarfs and miniature biker dudes. In 1994, they were discontinued with the explanation that the newly arrived Tyranids had descended upon their Homeworlds and stripped them clean of all life (like they do). A handful of embittered Squats still survive spread across the vast Imperium, but as a faction they are absolutely, positively never coming back. In fact, it was once Games Workshop's official position that they won't even be mentioned, although this policy has relaxed enough that the reprinted edition of Space Marine lists an encounter with Squats in the novel summary, and the 6th and 7th edition rulebooks' appendices list Squats as one of the handful of surviving abhuman strains.Though the Squats are extremely dead, the "space dwarf" concept itself may be in for a comeback. Games Workshop has introduced a race called the Demiurg as a member species of the Tau Empire in the 40K spinoff Battlefleet Gothic, a species that practically never leaves their rugged Stronghold-class starships, makes a living as deep-space miners, are technologically-advanced enough to introduce ion cannon technology to the Tau, and closely resembles the Squats to boot. At the moment the only Demiurg models created have been for Gothic, where they are the only faction said to be too small and isolationist to field actual fleets, and there are no plans to make a tabletop army for them, but only Tzeentch knows what the future holds...
- Badass Biker: Well, triker. This was one of the very few unique, consistent parts of the Squats' racial identity.
- Base on Wheels/Cool Train: The Squat's Land Trains, which are several of these linked together to form a larger mobile structure. Usually each car would have its own specialization, such as artillery platforms or flyer landing and service pads.
- Canon Discontinuity: Don't mention them at GW press events.
- This even extends to the older 40k novels - when Ian Watson's Inquisition War trilogy was re-released, Grimm (one of the main characters) was Ret Conned from a Squat to a Techpriest.
- By 6th edition, this appears to have tapered off a bit, as the re-release of Space Marine is entirely unedited, and the 6th edition rulebook lists Squats as one of the surviving abhuman strains. The 7th edition rulebook keeps this mention.
- Canis Latinicus: The official Squat species name is Homo sapiens rotundus.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: It took Games Workshop a while to decide if they wanted to keep the Squats in the setting or not, which meant that there was a long period of time where there was really no word on when the next update for them was coming out until they finally made their dropping official.
- Cool Airship: The Squats were known to field heavily-armored, rigid-bodied lighter-than-air craft in battle.
- Demoted to Extra: They used to be their own army, with their own lists, units, and models, separate from the Imperium of Man but a trusted ally to it. These days they are an obscure bit of background fluff which is barely acknowledged as even being in the setting.
- Dropped A Hive Fleet On Him: When 40K decides to kill you off, you are killed off with extreme prejudice.
- Dying Race: They're still around, but their civilization is gone and the few survivors are forced to fight on as abhuman auxiliaries.
- Elves Versus Dwarves: Downplayed. The Squats used to trade with the Eldar during their Age of Isolation before the establishment of the Imperium. But when they were attacked by Orks, they sent requests to the Eldar for aid, which the Eldar ignored. Relations between the Squats and the Eldar have been cold ever since then, with the Squats regarding the Eldar as unreliable and untrustworthy.
- Expy: Of Warhammer Dwarfs.
- Heavy Worlder: Strangely enough, the Imperial Guard's Ogryns also come from high-gravity worlds, but turned out completely different. The demands of their unbreathable high-pressure atmospheres and underground warrens may have been a contributing factor to the Squats current size.
- Higher-Tech Species: The Squats were very dependent on their technology from the foundings of their Homeworlds, and lost only a small fraction of it in comparison to what the bulk of the humanity lost from the Dark Age of Technology. Spared from the restrictions of the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Squats innovated freely, their harsh situations making such necessary. When the Imperium finally reestablished contact with them, the Squats had developed a wide variety of technologies that no one else had, such as power generators which drew directly from the warp, and neo-plasma, as well as superior metallurgy.
- Candle Jack: An unofficial but heavily enforced rule on the old Games Workshop forums was that anyone who stated that the Squats should be brought ba
- Mood Dissonance: Part of the reason Squats were problematic.
- Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Even in space!
- Powered Armor: The elite Hearthguard wore suits of Exo-armour, heavy armour comparable to suits of Imperial Terminator Armour.
- Private Military Contractors: See the quote on War for Fun and Profit below.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Because Dwarfs are.
- Recycled In Space: The Squats were 40K's take on the Dwarfs from Warhammer.
- Reimagining the Artifact: The Squats did much better in the Epic game system than they ever did in regular 40K, where the difference in scale allowed them to much better show off their potential for massive mobile construction. However, this was too little, too late to save them from slipping into Canon Discontinuity.
- Tunnel King: As a culture. The Squat Homeworlds almost never had a breathable atmosphere, and often a high pressure one at that, so the Squats became experts in underground construction and living by necessity. This in turn is part of why they were so hard to rout when invaded—their underground warrens were resistant to bombardment from above and the confined spaces would heavily favor the defenders.
- War for Fun and Profit: Best summed up by this quote:You people do well at war because you treat it as a religion. We do well because we treat it as a business. It is just a matter of outlook.
- Weirdness Coupon: The Squats were only ever part of the Imperium in the most nominal sense, the Great Crusade having fought almost to a stalemate over their worlds when the Imperium tried to forcibly absorb them. The conflict was settled with a variety of treaties in which the Squats could maintain their self-governance without Administratum oversight and were allowed to maintain their own culture, only offering the Imperium their occasional effectual support. The fact that they maintain their own culture, do not report to Imperial authorities, vary from the norm of the Holy Human Form, and do not believe in the Imperial Cult would normally be seen as an unacceptable level of deviance on the Squats' part. However, this arrangement works due to the general stability of their genome, their fundamental reliability, dislike of xenoforms, and resource and technology contributions to the Imperium.