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Characters: Warhammer 40000 Current Imperial Factions
While the present-day Imperium
consists of a large number of factions, the following are the most well-known.
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The Adepta Sororitas
The Adepta Sororitas are a major organization of zealous nuns within the Ecclesiarchy, with their many Orders aimed to provide administrative support, education, and health care, but their most famous Orders are the militant ones, known as the Sisters of Battle, the power armor-wearing warrior nuns whose fanatical faith in the Emperor pulls them through impossible odds.
Their origins go back to the Age of Apostasy, where they were a minor but devout order of warrior women called the Daughters of the Emperor. High Lord Goge Vandire desired them to become his own personal army, and through deception he made it so, renaming them to the Brides of the Emperor. As Vandire's Reign of Blood intensified, the rebellion known as the Coalition of Light rose and fought its way to Holy Terra itself, with the mad High Lord holed up in the Imperial Palace. Thinking that Vandire's army consisted only of fanatical but untrained mobs, the Coalition stormed the palace expecting it to fall easily. To the surprise of many, the well-entrenched Sisters proved more than the match to the Coalition, which included the Imperial Fists chapter and its successors, the premier siege-specialist force of the Imperium. Seeing this stalemate, the Emperor's Praetorian Guard
, the Adeptus Custodes, arranged that Alicia Dominica, the leader of the Brides, would meet the God-Emperor. What happened during the meeting is unknown, but Alicia, now full of righteous fury after emerging from the Emperor's chambers, wasted no time in executing Vandire, ending the Age of Apostasy. After that, they were reorganized as the Adepta Sororitas, and continued to serve as the Ecclesiarchy's militant arm through a loophole in the Decree Passive (no "men" under arms).
As of the 41st millennium, the Adepta Sororitas consists of six Major Orders and numerous minor ones:
Tropes specific to the Sisters of Battle:
- Amazon Brigade — The Sisters of Battle are basically Space Marines who make up for not having any kind of genetic enhancement with pure zeal.
- The Atoner:
- The most well known branch of the path of the penitent is the Sisters Repentia, who seek to atone for their own sins by charging into battle wearing nothing except purity seals, hoping for a redemptive death on the battlefield.
- A lesser known branch of the path of the penitent is that of the Sister Oblatia, a Sororitas who seeks to atone for the sins of another. She assumes another's sins as her ownnote , then leaves her sisters to Walk The Galaxy as a Knight Errant, seeking out and defeating the enemies of the Imperium so that those sins may be absolved in the eyes of the God Emperor.
- Of all the Orders, The Valorous Heart is the most repentant about them being tricked into Vandire's servitude, and also has a larger-than-normal amount of Sisters Repentia in their ranks.
- Badass Cape — Saint Celestine's model has a cape held up by Cherubs, looking like Cape Wings with an Angel motif.
- Sci-Fi Bob Haircut — Most Sisters seem to have this.
- Bodyguard Babes — They were this to Goge Vandire during the Age of Apostasy, until they finally turned on him. Needless to say, they do not look back on those days in that role with much fondness.
- However, they can still fill this role on occasion. They sometimes act as bodyguards for important Ecclesiarchy clergy.
- Celibate Hero — A popular image of the Sisters of Battle is that their are chaste warriors, cloistered together and fully devoted to the Emperor to the exclusion of anything else, including physical desire.
- Depending on the Writer: While that is the common image, Sandy Mitchell points out that though the Sisters are supposed to be above base desires, they do not technically take oaths of chastity, though the kind of lifestyle they keep typically precludes intimate relations and having one exposed would be considered an embarrassment. In his retirement Ciaphas Cain works alongside a senior Sister who drinks, gambles proficiently, and whom he discovered was involved with the schola progenium's bursar.
- Chainmail Bikini:
- Normal Sororitas infantry are a rare aversion, clad head to toe in Powered Armour, albeit often modeled closely on the figure underneath.
- Sisters Repentia play it straight, but only because they're not allowed to have armor.
- Chainsaw Good — Aside from their lack of clothing, Sisters Repentia are also known for carrying enormous chainswords into battle as their only weapons.
- Church Militant — The primary reason for the Sisters of Battle's existence, and one of the more blatant examples of this trope in a setting where it is almost ubiquitous. The reality is slightly more complex than that though, as not every Sororitas is necessarily a Battle Sister. In addition to the Orders Militant, there are the Orders Famulous, the Orders Dialogous, and the Orders Hospitaller. Regardless of vocation, each Sororitas is expected to draw strength and courage from her faith and lay down her life if need be in the Emperor's name.
- Deadly Doctor — While their primary focus is on healing, Hospitalers can also turn their hands to torture.
- Exact Words — In a ruling that's either rather sloppily or very precisely worded, the Decree Passive bans the Ecclesiarchy from maintaining any men under arms. So, they raised an army of women: the Adepta Sororitas.
- Expy — The Orders Famulous are terribly similar to the Bene Gesserit.
- Flaming Sword — Saint Celestine's Ardent Blade, said to be the manifestation of the Emperor's wrath. It can also be used as a flamethrower.
- Girl with Psycho Weapon — The Sisters Repentia wield the enormous Eviscerator model chainsword in battle.
- Good Wings, Evil Wings — Saint Celestine sports angelic wings in her artwork instead of a cape.
- Guns Akimbo — Seraphim. Most wield two bolt pistols, but they can also dual-wield hand flamers and inferno pistols.
- Heel-Face Turn — As said above, their turning on Vandire ended the Age of Apostasy.
- Heroic Spirit — Their Shield of Faith is this. Their belief in the Emperor's protection is so strong that they can shrug off the most severe wounds and resist psychic attacks.
- Internal Affairs — Early editions has them being exclusively this for the Imperium, which the later editions toned down. They still have this role within the Ecclesiarchy itself.
- Kill It with Fire — Aside from the Salamanders Space Marine chapter, few other Imperial forces are more associated with flame weapons than the Battle Sisters.
- Leeroy Jenkins — Generally averted in works where they appear, although they tend to get this portrayal in the Ciaphas Cain books. Cain himself is of the opinion that the closest you can get Sororitas to follow any actual battle plan is to point at the enemy, yell "Heretic!" and get the frack out of the way.
- Macross Missile Massacre — The Exorcist is a combination tank, pipe organ, and multiple missile launcher. It fires as a Battle Sister plays a keyboard on top of it.
- Martyrdom Culture — As expected from one of the Imperium's most fanatical warriors. In-game Saint Celestine and the Canoness have the Martyrdom special rule that, should they die (even if temporarily in the former's case), all Acts of Faith are successful for the reminder of the turn.
- My Greatest Failure — The Sisters, and the Order of Valorous Heart in particular, are really sorry about their role in the Age of Apostasy.
- Of Corsets Sexy — Played with. While not an actual corset, the front torso plates of Sororitas powered armor are designed to resemble a metallic bustier, drawing on the trope's imagery to give the impression of the female form while still providing fully covering protection. Given the reasons for the Sororitas' existence, projecting the image of female warriors by the shape of their Powered Armor could be quite justified for reasons of doctrinal adherence.
- Powered Armor — Along with the Space Marines, the Sisters of Battle are one of the few forces in Imperial service to equip their standard infantry with powered armor, offering them substantially more protection than most other human forces.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni — Whilst the Order of the Bloody Rose is characterised by its aggression, Sacred Rose is known for being cool-headed and logical.
- Resurrective Immortality:
- Saint Celestine can rise from the dead and continue fighting (and until the 6th edition there was no limit on how many times she could do it). There is a suspicion from skeptics that either the Sisters are doing an elaborate masquerade for the sake of morale, or worse, Celestine is actually a daemon.
- Ephrael Stern the Thrice-Born got this through Super Empowering from the 700 Sisters trapped in the Screaming Cage, which shares the pain they suffer with each other. Due to the Cage's nature, it also allowed them to share faith, and the trapped sisters used this fact to get back at their daemon jailor by transferring their Faith to the recently-killed Stern, who then got revived, and much later got killed again only to get up again, hence the nickname.
- Singing Warrior — Sisters of Battle are well known for singing during battle, loudly enough to be heard over the chaotic din. They all sing Imperial hymnals in unison, often timing their shots with the song such that their bolters themselves form an instrumental backup to their lyrics. Needless to say, the sound of the Sisters chanting during a firefight has a huge positive effect on the morale of other Imperial forces in earshot.
- Warrior Nuns — They do not have the Fan Nickname "Nuns with Guns" for nothing.
- Whip It Good — Sisters of Battle "Mistresses" lead squads of Sisters Repentia, driving them along with whips.
- White Magic — Depending on the Writer. While codex fluff heavily implies that their Acts of Faith are a result of their intense belief pushing them to greater feats, some other works such as Dawn of War portray Acts as outright magical.
- Witch Hunt — The Sisters often assist Ordo Hereticus Inquisitors in hunting heretics, to the point that some people think that the Sisters are part of the Ordo Hereticus. They also ban psykers from their ranks.
The Adeptus Arbites
We Are The Law!
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.
Notable Arbites tropes:
- 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 care 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 — The Arbites were clearly heavily inspired by Judge Dredd, almost to the point of being Sincerest Form of Flattery.
- 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 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.
- 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 houses 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.
One cannot consider the fate of a single man, nor ten, nor a hundred, nor a thousand. Billions live or die by our actions, and we have not the luxury to count the cost.State Sec
— Inquisitor-Lord Kryptman
with a side of Church Militant
, Inquisitors are some of the most powerful individuals in the Imperium, working behinds the scenes to keep everything from going (further) to Hell. They can command civil authorities, the Imperial Guard, the Navy, agents of the Officio Assassinorum, even the Astartes (though they are wise enough to tread carefully in the last case, usually requesting
their help instead of just ordering
them around). They have the power of Judge, Jury, and Executioner
over individuals or whole worlds
. They are fully competent in the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique
, using any method possible to root out the Imperium's enemies, though their readiness to use the "Nine Actions" varies greatly. Though presented as a unified if extremely intimidating front to the Imperium at large, in reality the Inquisition is a hotbed of backstabbing and intrigue, as patient detectives rub shoulders with frothing religious zealots, Puritans hunt Radicals foolish enough to try and turn the weapons of the enemy against them, and a variety of philosophical outlooks struggle amongst themselves for dominance.
Inquisitors fall mostly into three orders, each with a specific preferred enemy and a Chamber Militant best suited for fighting that enemy.
- The Ordo Hereticus, or Witch Hunters, fight heresy against the Imperial faith and hunt mutants and unlicensed psykers. Originally established to police the Ecclesiarchy, they are closely associated with the Adepta Sororitas.
- The Ordo Malleus, or Daemonhunters, fight Chaos directly, and work with the Grey Knights, Chapter 666 of the Adeptus Astartes, the people even normal Space Marines consider Bad Ass in comparison, with holy armour and sanctified psychic weapons.
- The Ordo Xenos, the Alien Hunters, still haven't received a codex. They are more scholarly than the other orders, studying alien races for weaknesses and undermining and destroying those that present a threat to the Imperium. This doesn't remove their secret-police role, as they often investigate and stop alien political and religious influence on the fringes of Imperial space. Their military backup is the Deathwatch, a force consisting of Space Marines from various chapters who are especially adept and/or experienced at battling xenos. Now they have a game of their own!
Notable Inquisitorial tropes:
- Authority Equals Asskicking — "By the authority invested in me by the God-Emperor of Mankind..."
- Badass Longcoat — Favored by the Witch Hunters in particular.
- Because ≡I≡ Said So: If Inquisitors have good cause, they can demand service from anyone, from a lowly citizen to a High Lord of Terra. The only people officially exempt from this are the Adeptes Custodes, the people guarding the Emperor on the Golden Throne. In practice, though, most Inquisitors are usually smart enough to say please when they require service from the Space Marines. Those who don't...well, there was nothing in their head anyway, so removing it wouldn't really be such a bad thing. This quote from the Daemonhunters codex puts it simply:
I carry with me an Inquisitorial Seal. It is a small, unassuming object contained in a neat box of Pluvian obsidian. It is a modest thing. Relatively plain, adorned with a single motif and a simple motto. Yet with this little object I can sign the death warrant of an entire world and consign a billion souls to Oblivion.
- Black and White Insanity — Monodominants. Not that the less ultra-Puritan types are necessarily paragons of rationality, but the Monodominants would do away with all psykers and mutants, including the Astropaths and Navigators that allow the Imperium to function.
- Boxed Crook — A common background for Inquisitorial retinue members. Some intrepid Radicals employ boxed Daemons.
- Burn the Witch! — Oh, my, yes. Some particularly Knight Templar Inquisitors are infamous for having ordered entire planets burned.
- Church Militant — In a nutshell.
- Cold-Blooded Torture — Occasionally used, but much less often than Inquisitorial reputation would suggest, as information extracted under such duress is often of questionable reliability. Typically, it's easier just to have a psychic interrogator forcefully extract the information from the subject's mind.
- Drop the Hammer — Daemonhammers are consecrated warhammers that are especially potent against Warp-spawn. They are favored by agents of the Ordo Malleus, which translates to Order of the Hammer.
- Enhanced Interrogation Techniques — The "Nine Actions", nine stages of intensity used in interrogating suspects. The farther you go down, the more brutal the interrogation.
- Perp Sweating: The First Action involves simple verbal interrogation of the suspect, with no particular duress...directly by the Inquisitor him/herself, instead of through a proxy. Their fearsome reputation is often enough to get most to spill the beans.
- To the Pain: The Second Action involves explaining in meticulous, worrying detail what the next seven Actions will involve, though the interrogator might share more or less depending on how much pressure is needed. This is often enough to get captives that the First Action didn't faze to cooperate.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: The Third Action is more verbal interrogation, punctuated by "light" physical coercion, such as striking the subject.
- Virtual Reality Interrogation: The Fourth Action is continued physical torture, combined with psychological manipulation such as a Jedi Mind Trick, Faked Rip Van Winkle scenario, and other options.
- Mind Probe: The Fifth Action involves a psyker delving into the surface thoughts of the suspect, as further questioning and possible torture is going on. This helps to expose that they may still be hiding something or are telling a lie.
- Sense Loss Sadness: The Sixth Action is sensory deprivation and physical isolation. This gives the suspect time to think and consider, while the interrogators secretly monitor them.
- Mind Rape: The Seventh Action involves intensive psychic probing of the suspect's mind. This is often quite painful on a fundamental level, and the suspect may not necessarily survive.
- Truth Serums: The Eighth Action involves chemical assistance in an interrogation, allowing a suspect to be more conducive to verbal interrogation and psychic probes.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: It's implied that by the time the Ninth Action is reached, the Inquisitor(s) have given up trying to get intel or admittance of sin, and simply want the subject to suffer a horrific, weeks-long death.
- Evil Is Not a Toy — The Xanthite faction, a Radical faction, holds that the best way to defeat Chaos is to use Chaotic artifacts and bound daemonhosts against it. A lot of them (but not all) end up getting killed by said artifacts and daemons.
- Fate Worse than Death — Some heretics or blasphemers may be ordered to undergo the rites of Arco-Flagellation as an extreme act of repentance. This involves lopping off the condemned's hands and replacing them with power flails or other nasty weapons, sticking his back full of combat drug dispensers, and lots of mental conditioning. The result is a wasted, wiry cyborg who wears a hood displaying calming religious images, but with the right command word the visor retracts, the stim-packs activate, and the former heretic goes berserk.
- Government Conspiracy — Expect the Inquisition to be in on several, unless they are investigating one. Of course, those two states are not mutually exclusive.
- Great Big Book of Everything — The Inquisition has an extensive library of banned, heretical, and downright dangerous musty tomes.
- He Knows Too Much — Inquisitors are known for requisitioning Imperial Guard regiments, and sometimes ordering the grunts killed after being exposed to whatever it was they were called on to help deal with. See Why Did It Have To Be Space Wolves below for one instance of this going very wrong.
- He Who Fights Monsters — Most Radical Inquisitors were once Puritans who later succumbed to pragmatism, using Daemonhosts and other Chaos-tainted means to fight Daemons. These Inquisitors almost always meet their end at the blade of a Grey Knight, having become the very thing they vowed to purge...if they're not destroyed by their own tools first.
- Heroic Willpower — A prerequisite for being an Inquisitor. Given the sanity-blasting horrors they must face, the awful truths they must confront, and the extreme measures they may be called upon to perform, it's necessary that they be able to carry on with absolute faith and conviction in their cause. Of course, this is also what tends to reinforce their Knight Templar tendencies as well.
- The Inquisitor General — Despite having such as an almost literal rank, this is not the primary role of the Inquisition, but it often falls under their umbrella of responsibility. An Inquisitor's job is to suspect everyone of heresy, and the more influential the person in question the more Inquisitorial scrutiny they will be under. This includes planetary governors, rogue traders, major military leaders, and other Inquisitors.
- Inspector Javert — The less unstable and pugnacious Inquisitors sometimes end up in this role, pitted against the rare well-intentioned rebels like the Soul Drinkers, or more often Imperial servants with conflicting orders.
- In the Name of the God Emperor — Inquisitors who are resolved in their cause are sometimes fond announcing their intentions with a little ceremonial declaration, usually beginning:
"In fealty to the God Emperor, our Undying Lord, and by the Grace of the Golden Throne..."
- Judge, Jury, and Executioner — The Inquisition's motto is "Innocence Proves Nothing." And few dare question if an Inquisitor decides someone is just guilty enough for a dangerous but high-paying retinue position, a Fate Worse than Death, or a simple bolt round to the head.
- Jumping Off the Slippery Slope:
- Occupational hazard for any enforcer with a blank check, but far more common than betrayal or simple abuse of power as a villainous Inquisitor's Start of Darkness.
- The main reason for the saying "Every Inquisitor starts off a puritan and becomes a radical." The idea being that the more an Inquisitor learns about the nature of the universe, the more sacrifices they have to make to secure the Imperium, the more compromises they make to get what they need, the more radical they become. A big source of Right Hand Versus Left Hand in the Inquisition is disagreements about where the edge of that slope is, and how far down it is too far.
- Kangaroo Court — Inquisitors (especially Puritans) are notorious for organizing these, although many don't even bother with going through the motions of a trial. When they do form one though, the purpose is not to determine innocence or guilt ("Innocence Proves Nothing" after all) but to make a grand and obvious show for the rest of the population so they know what to expect should they too walk down the path of heresy.
- Kill It with Fire — "Burn the Heretic, Kill the Mutant, Purge the Unclean."
- The Mole — The more extremist Radical factions often have agendas that either run directly contrary to official Imperium policy or seriously undermine its security (or both). These sorts include the Recongregators and the Isstvanians, who deliberately act to stir up trouble and undermine the government; the Polypsykana, who believe that psykers are the next phase in human evolution and not only run underground railroads to protect them but also operate Super Breeding Programs to make more of them; the Seculos Attendous, who work to destroy the Ecclesiarchy; and the Phaenonites, who actively work to destroy the rest of the Inquisition and overthrow the Adeptus Terra so they can take over (among other nasty things they like to do).
- Mutant Draft Board — The Inquisition is directly in charge of the "Black Ships" which round up psykers from different worlds and return them to Earth. They also subject the collected psykers to a variety of tests and trials during this time. Those found to have enough self-control to be useful will be trained by the Scholastia Psykana for Imperial service. Those who do not will be used to fuel the Astronomican and Golden Throne. The Inquisition gets first pick of the successful graduates, so while pskyers are rare in Imperial service in general they are relatively common in the Inquisition itself, with many eventually becoming full Inquisitors themselves.
- Nice Hat — Inquisitors of the Ordo Hereticus are often show wearing rather Bad Ass-looking capotains, in addition to Badass Longcoats.
- No Kill Like Overkill — The Inquisition will go to any extreme to ensure that threats to the Imperium are defeated, up to and including killing untold billions of innocents by subjecting the planet in question to Exterminatus.
- Omnicidal Maniac:
- The Monodominants, a Puritan faction, which maintains that the only way humanity can survive is to wipe out everything that isn't human. While this isn't an unreasonable idea given what is lurking in the galaxy, the Monodominants take it a bit further than necessary, up to and including the psykers and mutants that the Imperium needs to continue functioning.
- More extreme elements of the Recongregationists, a Radical faction, take this one step further. They include the moderate factions, the other Radical factions, the Ecclesiarchy, most of the Cult Mechanicus, the Arbites etc... The Departmento Munitorium, Officio Assassinorum and Adeptus Astartes are just about the only things they don't want dead, although they would like to "streamline" these groups.
- Only Sane Employee:
- Inquisitor Amberly Vail of Ciaphas Cain fame shows noticeable self-awareness about the Inquisition's lack of...restraint in discharging their duties.
- On a larger level, the Amalathians, a Puritan faction, attempt to keep the established structure of the Imperium running as well as possible, rather than seeking change or trying to impose a draconian standard of purity. You'd think a group that believes the Imperium at present is perfect would be off their rocker, but they actually encourage cooperation, instead of the bureaucratic infighting so common with the Imperium.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits — The members of an Inquisitorial entourage will be...interesting, to say the least.
- Reincarnation — The premise of the Thorians, a Puritan faction, who believe that the best way to save the Imperium is to bring about the reincarnation of the Emperor of Mankind.
- Right Hand Versus Left Hand — You've got your standard turf wars between the three Ordos; open violence between Radicals and Puritans; wrangling between the Thorians, Amalthians, and Monodominants; and battles by proxy between Inquisitors who don't know that they're working on the same case.
- Supplemental materials indicate that this is actually something of a check and balance on Inquisitorial power. The power Inquisitors wield makes them necessarily accountable to other Inquisitors, with the infighting, or simple potential for infighting, forcing them to use a degree of restraint in that authority, and keeping any one Inquisitor from acting unilaterally.
- The 2013 Inquisition codex mentions two new Ordos: The Ordo Originatus is dedicated to finding information about the orginization's origin and past to better protect mankind, and the Ordo Redactus is dedicated to erasing all records of the Inquisition's actions to prevent it being used by the enemies of mankind.
- Social Darwinist — Inqusitors of the radical Istivaanian school of thought believe that the Imperium grows stronger through conflict. If a particular sector of the Imperium has had it too easy, they might arrange a conflict to hit it, just to make sure it stays on its toes. In an lot of cases, they might set up a "crucible of fire" just to ensure that only the strong survive it. They will carefully observe such conflicts for potential strong candidates that they can groom for positions of influence to further strengthen the Imperium. That said, they prefer to keep such conflict limited and controllable. After all, their goal is to strengthen the Imperium, not batter it down.
- Stop Being Stereotypical — Other Inquisitors feel this way about Monodominants, but don't speak up too loudly about it because the fear the Monodominants create with their excessive and indiscriminate tactics helps make their own jobs easier.
- Token Evil Teammate: — On a faction level. No one in the Imperium is squeaky clean, but if someone who should be an ally is going to oppose the protagonists of a 40K story or be too extreme for them, it will be an Inquisitor.
- Utopia Justifies the Means — The Radical Recongregator faction is defined by this, spending as much time plotting to reshape the Imperium, whether world-by-world or from the top down, as they do investigating threats. Their methods may range from involvement in political intrigues to fostering the same rebellions other Inquisitors are trying to prevent.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist — And this is one of the more pleasant ways to describe them.
- Within the context of the Inqusition itself, this is practically the definition of a "Radical", an Inqusitor who uses means to secure the Imperium that other Inqusitors would find questionable. There is a lot of room for Grey and Gray Morality in this. For example, a Radical Inqusitor might use Human Sacrifice to form a Daemonhost bound to them to eliminate a critical threat. This is obviously a break from mainline Imperial dogma and methods, but what if they alternative is purging the entire planet so-threatened? At this point, which approach is more "extreme" is a matter of some debate, in-universe.
- Why Did It Have To Be The Space Wolves?: The Inquisition steers well clear of the Space Wolves, and especially Logan Grimnar, after their sterilization of the population of Armageddon after the First War led to all-out war with the Space Wolves, who strongly objected to such tactics (along with the Inquisition firing on Space Wolf vessels while under a truce negotiation). Some in the Inquisition and Ecclesiarchy would dearly love to have the Wolves declared traitors, and have tried on occasion, but the potential fallout of the Wolves' retaliation is too great to risk and the few efforts that have been made have come to naught.
- Witch Hunt — A standard tactic, particularly for Monodominants.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness — Overlaps with He Knows Too Much. It is very hard to simply retire from an Inquisitor's retinue. The only ones exempt from this is regular Space Marine chapters (because even inquisitors know that pulling this crap on a Space Marine chapter would mean that no one will save your ass).
Tropes specific to the Officio Assassinorum:
See also Eisenhorn, Ravenor, Ravenor vs. Eisenhorn, Dark Heresy
- Abnormal Ammo — The 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 C'tan Phase Weapons, used by the Callidus Assassins to cut through absolutely anything.
- Anti-Magic — The specialty of the Culexus.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- Master Poisoner — The specialty of the Venenum Temple.
- 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.
- 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. Occasionally leads to Kill and Replace.
- 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).
- 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.
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: Refer to each other as "twists", which is about as offensive in the 40k-verse as "n*gger" is in ours.
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 it.
- 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.
- Expy: The Navis Nobilite are pretty blatant expies of the Navigator Guild from Dune.
- 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 overwhelming 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?
- 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.
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.
- 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. During the Horus Heresy, it was said that they were told the loyalists had betrayed the Emperor. The smarter ones are given enhancements to increase their intelligence, called Biochemical Ogryn Neural Enhancement (BONE). This allows them to become sergeants of Orgyns squads, called Bone'eads (though not that much - one of the most intelligent examples of Ogryns, Nork Deddog, is simply capable of writing his name, counting on four fingers with his thumb confusing him, and speaking in full sentences.)
- 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.
- 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 heavy gravity worlds with barren environments.
- 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.
- 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:
- Nork Deddog, an Ogryn who is absolutely loyal to his masters in the Imperium...which he interprets as the highest ranking officer.
- The Ogryns in general. They 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.
- 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...
— Anonymous Imperial Guardsman
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.
- 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.
- 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 drawn with very hairy feet. They also love food, both the making and the eating.
- The Red Baron: Ratlings are also referred to as Runtlings, Stunties, Halflings, or Maggots.
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 millenia, 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's 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 edition rulebook's appendices actually lists 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 isolationary 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 — 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 rereleased, 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 rerelease of Space Marine is entirely unedited, and the 6th edition rulebook lists Squats as one of the surviving abhuman strains.
- 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.
- Cool Train — One of the Squats' war machines for the large-scale Epic 40,000 was the Land Train, a crawling fortress of which each car had a different function, be it troop transport, landing pad, or mortar battery.
- 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.
- Expy — Of Warhammer Dwarfs.
- Heavy Worlder — Strangely enough, the Imperial Guard's Ogryns also come from high-gravity worlds, but turned out completely different.
- Higher-Tech Species — The Squats were very dependant on their technology from the foundings of their Homeworlds, and never lost nearly as much of it as the bulk of the humanity did during 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.
- Old Shame — GW classifies Squats as one of those things "best forgotten."
- Our Dwarves Are All the Same — Even in space!
- Powered Armor — ... that makes them look like walking eggs... on bikes...
- Private Military Contractors — See the quote on War for Fun and Profit below.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy — Because Dwarfs are.
- Recycled IN SPACE! — Of Dwarfs.
- Reimagining The Artifact — The Squats did much better in Epic 40,000 than they ever did in Warhammer 40,000, 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:
- 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 their 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 their fundamental reliability, dislike of xenoforms, and resource and technology contributions to the Imperium.