"The very stars once lived and died at our command, yet you still dare oppose us?"The Eldar are Warhammer 40,000's race of Space Elves, haughty and sophisticated aliens who were nevertheless laid low by their hubris and forced to cede control of the galaxy to lesser creatures.Though superficially human, Eldar have Pointed Ears, are lanky and long-limbed, and move with a speed and grace that others find unnerving. Over their million-year history the Eldar mastered anti-grav engines, devastating energy weapons, and even more wondrous technologies. Their race is inherently psychic, moreso than any other race in the setting. As a result, many Eldar devices are based on psychotropic engineering, while their psykers are among the most potent beings in the galaxy. However, with this mental power comes a mind capable of far greater extremes, passions and obsessions than other species, and this is what doomed the Eldar.The history of the Eldar is ancient, poorly understood, and didn't survive the downfall of their galactic empire. What little remains is passed down through oral tradition, allegory and song, mutating their history and making it more fanciful with each retelling. All the Eldar know is that they were long, long ago created by an ancient race to combat the Necrons and their C'tan masters, but both their creators and their enemies fell, and the Eldar were left as the dominant force in the galaxy, before mankind had even mastered fire. With no real challenges facing them, the Eldar grew decadent, and began amusing themselves through increasingly extreme acts as they searched for new sensations to savor. Some far-sighted individuals warned of disaster, and many, disgusted by the depravities they had witnessed, fled for the hinterlands of their domain, but it was no use. The psychic energy produced from this millennia-long orgy of debauchery coalesced into a new Chaos God of Excess, Slaanesh, whose birth devoured the souls of much of their race, killed most of their pantheon, and left the Eye of Terror as a permanent blight upon the galaxy. In the blink of an eye their empire was completely gutted, and the Eldar found themselves on the brink of extinction, struggling to survive at any cost.The Age of Technology saw humans spread across the galaxy in the Eldar's shadow, but the rapidly expanding numbers of human psykers, combined with the psychic feedback in the Warp from the savage hedonism of late Eldar society, created vast storms that made the Warp impossible for humans to traverse, contributing greatly to the Age of Technology's collapse into the Age of Strife which almost wiped out humanity. Ironically, Slaanesh's birth expended a titanic amount of energy in the Warp, calming it enough for human psykers to begin to navigate it again, paving the way for the Emperor's Great Crusade and the rise of the Imperium as the Eldar became a fragment of their former power. In the current setting, humanity's relationship with the Eldar could generously be called tumultuous. Neither side likes or trusts the other, and much blood has been spilt between, but temporary alliances can and do happen as circumstances arise, as many of the other factions threaten both species equally and the Eldar's enigmatic scheming does allow for trading with and fighting alongside the upstart mon-keigh when it's needed.In the tabletop game, while the various Eldar factions play in very different ways, they are all fast and hard-hitting but are also relatively fragile with weak armor, and playing them well requires more finesse and strategy than more straightforward factions like the Space Marines or Necrons.More about these enigmatic aliens can be found in The Path of the Eldar books.
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General Eldar tropes
- Abnormal Ammo: Eldar weapons can fire hundreds of mono-molecular shuriken, shards of glass impregnated with virulent and painful toxins, strands of monofilament wire, or all-consuming spheres of Warp energy.
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: As usual for the setting, Eldar swords are described as having monomolecular edges and "micro-crystalline blades."
- The Aesthetics of Technology: Every aspect of Eldar technology is built around flowing curves and, for the Craftworld Eldar and Harlequins, an almost organic appearance. Dark Eldar technology is similar but much more focused on blades, hooks, and other more cruel touches. Compare, for instance, the sleek, curved profiles of the Falcon grav-tank and the various Wraith golems to the lumbering, smoke-belching tanks and mecha of the humans. Craftworld Eldar vehicles look more like armed speedboats than conventional war machines, while Dark Eldar skimmers resemble flying, sharp-edged sailing skiffs.
- Slaanesh, who developed quite a taste for Eldar souls during the Fall and seeks to feast on the survivors. The Eldar refer to hir as She Who Thirsts.
- The Eldar were created by the Old Ones as tools against the Necrons, and in the modern setting they see the Necrons as horrifying abominations by the nature of their very existence, fighting them with the same fervor as they fight Chaos.
- Balkanize Me: The Eldar once ruled over the vast majority of the galaxy. Then their empire fell when the Eye of Terror swallowed their homeworlds and the birth-scream of Slaneesh killed most of their race, except for those safe in the Webway or far enough from the homeworlds to avoid the psychic backlash. The major Eldar settlements in the Webway eventually fused into the Dark City of Comorragh. The Eldar who crewed the Empire's massive, self-sustaining and semi-nomadic trading ships still drift along the cosmos in their mutually independent Craftworlds. Still others, such as the Harlequin cultists of Cegorach, the Exodite colonists on the edge of the galaxy, and the roving Corsairs, survived by either method and formed their own independent factions. Each group underwent a fair degree of cultural evolution, and now they bear little similarity to each other or the old Eldar Empire.
- Body to Jewel: Eldar blood crystallizes rather than forming scabs.
- Breast Plate: The Eldar and Dark Eldar kits are the only ones in the game that come with clearly female variant torsos. It helps that their arms and legs work equally well with either gender.
- Cassandra Truth:
- A large portion of Eldar society ignored their seers' warnings that their decadence would destroy their civilization, and paid for it horribly.
- Because of its inherent xenophobia and the Eldar's well-deserved reputation for being manipulative and opportunistic, the Imperium more often than not ignores or outright rejects any kind of prophecy or advice the Eldar give. This has, on many occasions, burned the Imperium badly.
- Casual Interstellar Travel: Thanks to the Webway, an interdimensional Portal Network located between the Warp and realspace, the Eldar avoid the problems associated with Warp travel. This is not to say that the Webway is without its own perils, as sections of it have fallen into disrepair, while the Dark Eldar have built a horrifying civilization within its darkest passages.
- Chaotic Neutral: The in-universe Imperial perception of the Eldar as a whole. It doesn't help that humans have problems telling Eldar corsairs and Dark Eldar pirates apart, but even those who can keep the factions straight note how Eldar of the same Craftworld will aid them in one battle, then go back to killing them in another. The best you can say about the Eldar is that they consistently act in their self-interest.Commander Abriel Hume: Trust not in their appearance, for the Eldar are as utterly alien to good, honest men as the vile Tyranids and savage Orks. They are capricious and fickle, attacking without cause or warning. There is no understanding them for there is nothing to understand - they are a random force in the universe.
- Combat Aestheticist: The Eldar as a whole boast that other species "know the science of war, but not the art." The Dark Eldar take this further and try to make spectacular, hilarious or daring kills to win kudos.
- Combat Pragmatist: Although it is unquestionable that the skill of Eldar warriors, the sophistication of their technology, and the might of their psykers are all second-to-none, they lack the robust physiology of the Orks, the overwhelming numbers of the Tyranids, and the raw firepower of the Imperium, hence they cannot hope to beat them in straight slug-fests over open ground. The ideal engagement for the Eldar is an attack undertaken completely by surprise, with a great degree of air support and psyker involvement, directed at the enemy's flank or a weak point in their defenses. The Eldar warhost crushes their confused and intimidated opponents with overwhelming speed, firepower and ferocity, and then withdraws before the enemy force can consolidate or be reinforced, hopefully with very few to no casualties. Their reliance on guerrilla and asymmetric warfare earns them a reputation among the other races as cowardly and weak, but the Eldar laugh at these naive notions.
- Confusion Fu: An Eldar warhost's actions may seem baffling to outside observers, who lack the Eldar's psychic foresight and knowledge that these seemingly random or contradictory actions are furthering a single purpose.
- Defector from Decadence: The surviving Eldar are all over the map on this one. The Craftworld Eldar and Exodites rejected their ancestors' decadence for the discipline of The Path or a simpler existence on a Maiden World, respectively. The Dark Eldar avert this by willingly continuing the lifestyle that led to the Fall, only modified enough to save their own souls. Corsairs walk a line between these extremes, tending to live lavish and hedonistic lives while not going to the extent of the Dark Eldar.
- Do Not Go Gentle: Even the Eldar who believe they are doomed refuse to simply fade away.
- Dungeon Punk: The Eldar have sometimes been described as a Post Cyber Punk-styled take on Dungeon Punk. For an outsider their technology is inherently magical (and contains no metal sans very minor exceptions) and is highly linked to their Psychic Powers. At the same time they are in a heavily cynical setting and always on the verge of destruction but can prevail due to their technology and magic, and they are majorly racist and supremacist.
- Dying Race: The whole Eldar race must die so their saviour god can be born but Slaanesh devours Eldar souls so they choose to live as long as possible even if it means the threat of near extinction.
- Easy Road to Hell: Simply being born is enough to doom the Eldar to Slaanesh. They define themselves by how they try to avoid this fate.
- Eldritch Location: The Eldar homeworlds still exist within the Eye of Terror, but have been transformed into terrifying Crone Worlds inhabited by all manner of daemonic monstrosities. Still, many ancient artifacts remain on them (including spirit stones), so Eldar make occasional raids to recover such treasures. Many who survive such expeditions seek the solace of the Infinity Circuit soon afterward.
- Fantastic Racism: Despite the Fall and the resulting destruction of their empire and sundering of their people, the Eldar generally have a substantial superiority complex, seeing all other sapient species as, at best, tools to be used and discarded should the need arise (and ignored otherwise), or at worst, a blight to be eradicated. Even the Eldar racial term for humans, "mon-keigh," means "those who are to be exterminated." That being said, apart from the Tau, the Eldar actually have the best relations with humans, which says more about the other races than anything else. In-game, this is reflected in the Allies matrix having the the Craftworld Eldar, Harlequins, and Dark Eldarnote considered "Battle Brothers", while any other potential allies among the lesser races are "Allies of Convenience" at best.
- Fragile Speedster: The Eldar, regardless of faction, are known for being extremely fast and agile fighters and having vehicles that can practically dance around those of other factions. However, this comes at a price, as neither wraithbone nor the Dark Eldar equivalent are nearly as durable as the armor used by some other factions. In-game, Eldar have several movement-enhancing rules, such as Fleetnote and Battle Focusnote ; their tanks are all fast skimmersnote ; and their jetbikes can move much further than those of other factions. However, the typical Eldar armor save is 5+, which is very weak in comparison to, say, the Space Marines (typically 3+ or 2+/5++ for Terminators), and their vehicles' Toughness is generally fairly low as well. Dark Eldar vehicles are even weaker as many of them are Open-Topped, making them easier to destroy.
- Glass Cannon: Along with their increased mobility, the Eldar have frighteningly powerful weapons which have a number of devastating effects, depending on the faction and weapon in question, but this is countered by their aforementioned weak armor and fragile vehicles. In-game, the Dark Eldar are considered one of the hardest armies to play well because, while they can cause a lot of damage very quickly, even a fair round of shooting from the opponent can take big chunks out of your forces.
- Gone Horribly Right: Before the Fall, some Eldar were consciously trying to create a new deity, believing that they would be rewarded with pleasure beyond mortal comprehension. Unfortunately they got Slaanesh, who "rewarded" them by devouring their souls.
- Götterdämmerung: Not only have the Eldar lost most of their deities, they also have their own version of Ragnarok, the Rhana Dandra, which will result in the destruction of both the remaining Eldar and Chaos, as well as the material universe and the Immaterium alike.
- Harmony Versus Discipline: The Dark Eldar and the Craftworld Eldar practice each in the extreme.
- Hidden Elf Village: Eldar settlements in general, and particularly the Exodite worlds, tend to be quite insular and xenophobic (at least towards non-Eldar). An extreme example is Craftworld Dorhai, which considers itself home to the only untainted Eldar in the galaxy and refuses to deal with any others.
- Higher-Tech Species: The Eldar have been a starfaring civilization far longer than any other currently active race except the Necrons and their technology reflects that. For the Craftworld Eldar and Harlequins, it's based on a fusion of psychic powers and conventional mechanics. Dark Eldar technology is almost purely mechanical due to their lack of psychic influence but is still just as advanced as their uncorrupted kin.
- Holographic Disguise: A variant. Rather than relying on fallible energy fields, many Eldar units, particularly among the Craftworld Eldar or Harlequins, use "holo-fields" to scatter and displace their image, making it near-impossible for the enemy to land a solid hit on them.
- Human Outside, Alien Inside: Though superficially similar to us, the Eldar are most definitely not human. A dissection in Xenology reveals that the Eldar have little to no body fat, "teeth" that are outgrowths of their jawbones, ribs in the shape of fused "wings," durable yet flexible bones in general, intermeshed elastic muscles built for speed and movement, a secondary "ribcage" of bony plates beneath their abdominal muscles, and a brain with multiple lobes. Also, the Magos Biologis speculates that their Pointy Ears are an erogenous zone.
- Humans Through Alien Eyes: At best, the Eldar see humans as barbaric upstarts who are repeating the same mistakes that led to the Fall, feeding the Chaos Gods through constant war and death. At worst, humans are little better than verminous animals infesting the Eldar's birthright (a position taken by the more extremely anti-human Craftworlds), or livestock to be slaughtered (the general view the Dark Eldar take).
- Lightning Bruiser: The Eldar don't build slow vehicles. Their super-heavy grav-tanks are just as fast as their flying transports, and their Titans move with startling agility and speed. The Revenant even has jump-jets that allow it to leap and bound across the battlefield.
- Living Ship: Eldar vessels, including the massive Craftworlds, are borderline Organic Technology due to their wraithbone bases. Other vessels are Ghost Ships with no living crew, but are piloted by the spirits of the dead.
- Most Eldar technology is based on an interaction of Psychic Powers with more conventional elements. Virtually all of their technology uses a psychic interface, and some are directly animated by the souls of the dead.
- The Infinity Circuit that runs through each craftworld is, in addition to a repository for the souls of the dead, a giant database that the living can psychically interface with to ask questions to seek the wisdom of the departed, or send messages to others across the craftworld, almost like a computer network.
- Wraithbone, which comprises the majority of Eldar technology, is described to be solidified psychic energy. It can apparently carry a current, morph to any shape, and heal if necessary, making it literally Magic-tech.
- Meaningful Name:
- "Eldar" was J. R. R. Tolkien's word for elves. It also sounds like "elder," a fitting name for an ancient race.
- Isha, goddess of life, health, growth and fertility, who whispers the cures to the diseases that Nurgle tests on her, shares a name with the Japanese word for "doctor" or "physician".
- Mildly Military: None of the various Eldar faction's combat forces have anything like the military discipline and structure of other races, but for the Eldar's part they do not seem to need them. Most reject things like ranks and other accouterments as unnecessary artificial restrictions, only needed by those who lack the talent to discipline and organize themselves. They tend to coalesce around objectives and mutually understood plans, often understood via Psychic Link or other means of all hewing to the same strategy. However, this does not mean that rookie Rangers and Aspect Warriors won't listen to an Autarch or an Exarch when direct orders start getting thrown around in part of an agreed-upon military campaign.
- Moral Myopia: When the Eldar are faced with a choice between safeguarding their own kin and the welfare of another species, they will pick their own kind every time. It's perfectly understandable given their Dying Race status...it's just not much fun when you're the one getting screwed in their stead, especially after the Eldar have decided that a few thousand of their lives are worth several million of yours.
- Muscles Are Meaningless: Eldar look physically frail compared to humans, but are just as strong thanks to their extremely efficient muscles.
- My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: The Eldar language is extremely complex by most standards, where a given word can have multiple literal and metaphorical meanings depending on its placement in relationship with other words and the body language of the person saying it. Add to that the language uses metaphor extremely frequently to communicate complex ideas based on prior cultural understandingnote and full fluency becomes almost impossible for outsiders to achieve. Typically the best they can hope for is an extremely clipped and clumsy version of some common phrases and concepts.
- Not Worth Killing: The Imperium's policy towards the Eldar as a whole. While several Craftworlds were destroyed during the Great Crusade, and as recently as 852 M41 the Space Marines of the Invaders chapter were able to besiege and destroy Craftworld Idharae, other attempts to wipe out the Eldar have not gone well. One resulted in the loss of an entire sector fleet, and a reprisal from Alaitoc reduced the Invaders to three fleet-based companies. The Imperium therefore finds occasional clashes with the Eldar preferable to the losses they would sustain in a proper genocidal campaign against them. As far as many of the higher-ups in the Imperium are concerned, the Eldar are a spent force, and they don't need to expend precious men and material to hasten the Eldar's extinction when it can be better spent on things like Ork invasions and Chaos uprisings. Whether they are right or not is questionable.
- Pet the Dog: The Eldar have been known to pull the odd Heroic Sacrifice to save humans from various threats, but these are deliberate attempts to garner sympathy for a larger purpose. On the other hand, for all their arrogance the Eldar display some respect for the Tau, and after-action reports in Dawn of War mention prisoner exchanges for both sides.Eldrad Ulthran: I have followed the myriad potential futures of the Tau with great interest. Though barely even striplings compared to us, I feel a strange protectiveness towards them. In time I believe they will exceed even our greatest feats and master the darkness within their souls.
- Power Crystal: Psychic Power-enhancing technology in this setting often incorporates some kind of "mineral resonance". As the Eldar are masters of such "techno-witchery", crystals or polished stones are a recurring element among them. Either objects made of such crystals are used on their own, or crystals are incorporated into other pieces of their technology. The waystone every Craftworld and Exodite Eldar wears on their person is a common example.
- Psychic Link: Usually runs through the entire Eldar army.
- Razor Floss: Monofilament, molecularly thin polymer strands that cut flesh with ridiculous ease and can be effective against even Space Marine armor. Craftworld Eldar have multiple monofilament weapons, such as Warp Spiders' Deathspinners which fire coiled wads as a short-ranged way to puree unarmored enemy troops, while Shadow Weaver artillery platforms and Night Spinner grav-tanks fire clouds of the stuff up to drift down on the enemy. The Harlequins use the Harlequin's Kiss as a close-combat application, while the Dark Eldar have the Shredder, which fires barbed monofilament to entangle and slice.
- Really 700 Years Old: Eldar typically show signs of real aging when they're around a millennia old.
- The Remnant:
- The militaristic Craftworld Biel-Tan continue to try to reconquer the galaxy.
- The Dark Eldar style themselves as the successor of the original Eldar empire.
- Resurrective Immortality: Originally they reincarnated with their memories intact whenever they died. Even when Khorne, Tzeentch and Nurgle were active, the Eldar came back to life whenever they died, so death had little consequence for the Eldar. This ended with the birth of Slaanesh and her hunger for Eldar souls. Now if they died without something to safeguard their soul, they wind up getting absorbed into Slaanesh.
- The Right of a Superior Species:
- The Eldar are ancient, wise, and most importantly, dying out. Humans are young, idiotic, and there's plenty of them. Therefore, the Eldar see absolutely nothing wrong with using humans as meat-shields, and will betray millions of their human "comrades" the moment it becomes advantageous to do so without a second thought.
- The Dark Eldar take this to even greater - and more horrifying - extremes:Gideon: The torture, the terror, the raiding, the killing, maiming, stealing. Everything. Why?
Asdrubael Vect: Why should I not? You are of no consequence. If you had not been captured by my servants and did not fall foul of some illness or mishap, you would still die within another twenty of your planet's short years. Why should I not use such a pointless creature for my amusement and sustenance? You are prey-species. Nothing more.
- Rubber-Forehead Aliens: Zig Zagged over the years. Being Space Elves, most interpretations have the only thing physically separating them from tall, thin, angular humans is pointy ears. Some depictions have them being similar to humans, but more transparently alien◊.
- Sapient Ship: An Eldar vessel's spirit stones tend to give the ship its own personality.
- Screw You, Elves!: The Imperium routinely ignores the Eldar's warnings, and rather than arguing, just shoots them. Sometimes this is to their detriment.
- Self-Inflicted Hell: The Eldar have no pleasant afterlife waiting for them; having created Slaanesh, their souls are bound to be collected by hir. One of the main things that separates and defines each of the surviving factions is how they avoid this fate.
- Sensible Heroes, Skimpy Villains: Compare the outfits of the Craftworld and other Eldar to those of the Dark Eldar, and you will see quite the difference. The outfits of the other Eldar, while tight-fitting, tend to be relatively modest, and Farseers often wear elaborate robes over their clothes and armor. In sharp contrast, the Dark Eldar, particularly their Wych-cults, prefer to show off their bodies, as it's a mark of renown and prowess to be able to survive lethal battles while wearing minimal armor/clothing.
- Shiny-Looking Spaceships: Due to wraithbone's self-healing properties, materials made from it will almost never show long-term wear and tear, and thus the ships of the Craftworlds look relatively pristine even after millennia of use.
- Solar Sail: Eldar vessels use these for sub-light travel. This makes them tricky to play in Battlefleet Gothic, as you have to keep track of which table edge the sun is shining from, and Eldar ships move at different speeds depending on their angle to it.
- Space Elves: The Eldar race as a whole, but in different directions:
- Craftworld Eldar are types I and II combined.
- Dark Eldar are a particularly nasty blend of types I and III.
- Exodites are type I.
- Averted with the Corsairs; they're just Space Pirates that happen to be elves.
- Space Pirates: Even Craftworld Eldar are known to turn to piracy, and many of their outcasts form mighty Corsair fleets. The Dark Eldar are basically this on a racial scale, and some of their skimmer transports even have gangplanks for boarding actions.
- Spock Speak: Eldar who speak Gothic do so in a very elevated, careful register; their own language is often translated the same way. This leads to a Crowning Moment of Funny in Path of the Warrior when a Striking Scorpion makes a masturbation joke without breaking this tone.
- The Stoic: Pretty much all Eldar are this, although Not So Stoic comes into play quite frequently.
- Superior Species: Eldar possess the usual racial advantages of stock fantasy elves. Their eyesight and reflexes are excellent to the point where humans look like they're moving in slow-motion by comparison, they're super-intelligent (in theory, less so in practice), they live for thousands of years, and they're psychic.
- Technopath: Due to most Eldar technology being constructed out of psychically-sensitive materials such as wraithbone.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Eldar-Imperial teamups are more likely to be this than anything due to the factions' mutual dislike.
- Terraform: The ancient Eldar mastered the art of subtle terraforming. Using farsight, they could figure out what minor elements to introduce to a world that would eventually lead to that world growing into a lush habitable planet with few dangers. This naturalistic terraforming takes eons, but the Eldar were patient. However, since the Fall, the Eldar have not had the numbers to settle these so-called "Maiden" worlds, or even necessarily police them. As a result, many of those now-habitable worlds were settled by other species ignorant of their origins. The Eldar consider this no less than theft and invasion, and this is the most frequent source of conflict between the Craftworlds and the Imperium.
- Time Abyss:
- Eldar tend to live at least a thousand years, though their lifespan generally correlates with psychic potential and training.
- Between the arts of the Haemonculi and their vampiric lifestyles the Dark Eldar are functionally immortal, though this is also their curse, as their souls may decay from sheer age.
- Twin Telepathy: Though quite rare, Eldar twins share such a bond that they can sense each other's location, mood, even thoughts, and if one dies the other often fades away as well.
- Uncanny Valley: Deliberately invoked in earlier editions. They looked like humans at a glance, but their gaunt features, lithe frames, pale skin, and unnatural grace made them very creepy looking. This approach is mostly gone in later editions, in favour of making them an Inhumanly Beautiful Race.
- Vestigial Empire: The undisputed masters of the galaxy for fifteen thousand years, now reduced to a handful of nomadic survivors.
- What Measure is a Non-Eldar?: The inverted case. Interestingly, various sources show that some Eldar do consider this question, but in almost all cases pragmatism wins out and when faced with the choice of saving one of their own or a number of humans, they'll pick their own kind every time.
- Although the Eldar hate the Orks, one philosopher, Uthan the Perverse, spoke very highly of them.The Orks are the pinnacle of creation. For them, the great struggle is won. They have evolved a society which knows no stress or angst. Who are we to judge them? We Eldar who have failed, or the Humans, on the road to ruin in their turn? And why? Because we sought answers to questions that an Ork wouldn't even bother to ask! We see a culture that is strong and despise it as crude.
- Although the Eldar hate the Orks, one philosopher, Uthan the Perverse, spoke very highly of them.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?:
- One of the big reason why Exarches are particularly feared by other Eldar is that, unlike many others who become trapped in their path, Exarches are not allowed to join the Infinity Circuit upon their death, lest their Blood Lust taint it. Instead, each Exarch will have their soul stored in their armor, and that soul will join with whomever takes up the armor next after their physical body dies, reincarnating in a cycle of violence until the end of time, in a bloody existence consisting of nothing but waging war and training for more war. The only way any Exarch can escape this fate and find some measure of rest is if they are ritualistically sacrificed as The Young King to awaken the Avatar of Khaine.
- The Eldar in general do very much want to live for as long as possible because they know Slaanesh is waiting for them on the other side.
- Wild Card: The Eldar have no allegiance besides themselves, they hold no planets, and they only meddle in the affairs of other races for their own long term agendas. Hence, from a narrative perspective, they are a handy tool for maintaining the status quo. Case in point from Dawn of War: if the Eldar win Dark Crusade, they not only eliminate all the other factions but their interests in the planet as well, leaving the planet a lawless, independent backwater. Considering that every other faction use it as a staging point for further campaigns/crusades/expansions/WAAAGHs if they are successful in claiming it, it's probably a smart decision.
- Witch Species: This is certainly how the Imperium refers to them, since every Eldar is born with psychic potential. Unlike the often-unstable human psykers, the Eldar unlock their powers gradually, and build up control and strength in a variety of disciplines, be they artist, healer, wright, or seer. The Dark Eldar subvert this, however, as their psychic potential has atrophied due to a culture that places more emphasis on physical prowess, and because the use of these abilities can attract Slaanesh's attention.
The Eldar who survived the Fall have splintered into a variety of very different ways of life to avoid the attentions of Slaanesh. The Craftworld Eldar now drift amongst the stars, while the Dark Eldar have created a society within the Webway. Other, less consequential but no less noteworthy factions, are:
"The parade. Oh, the silent but laughing. A fluttering thing. See His cloak of stars and night. This trickster, this endless jester. The Bringer of Night, fooled, diverted, mesmerized, overcome. Laugh with the Laughing God, outplay the great enemy, the great Ymgir-Star-Hungry. And his ancient horde, his data-trove, guarded by dancing shadows. The Library held in ice. We laugh beyond mirth. The punchline is a blade."The Harlequins are the devotees of Cegorach, the Laughing God, one of the very few Eldar deities to survive the birth of Slaanesh. They are the most mysterious and inscrutable of their kin, performers who make no distinction between art and war. The Harlequins are the masters of the Webway, and the guardians of the great collection of Eldar history and Chaos lore secreted within it, the fabled Black Library. They wander - or are perhaps guided - to where they are needed, at times giving performances of traditional Eldar myths and history, on other occasions joining their kin on the battlefield to apply their acrobatics in a different way. At home both on Craftworlds and in Commorragh, the Harlequins' "Great Work" is the re-unification of the Eldar and the destruction of Slaanesh.Though seemingly fragile, the Harlequins' wargear and unique psyker abilities render them difficult to target, they can navigate difficult terrain with ease, and their weapons make them lethal at both range and in close combat.Unofficial rules in the past gave the Harlequins their own (if truncated) army list, and the 6th edition Eldar codex featured them as an Elites choice. In 2015 the Harlequins received their own codex and updated model range, making them a stand-alone army (in much the same way that the Inquisition split off from the Grey Knights).
— Astropath D'Reyx
Notable Harlequin tropes include:
- Black Comedy: Death Jesters have a distinctly morbid sense of humor, fitting their place in the troupe.
- Commedia dell'Arte: A huge out-of-universe influence on their design, copying their bright patterns and use of the same characters carried over between different performances.
- Cultured Badass: The Harlequins literally see no difference between breathtaking performances and life-or-death fights.Leman Russ: Harden your soul against decadence. But do not despise it, for the soft appearance of the decadent may be deceptive. One need only consider the Harlequin dancers of the Eldar to see the truth of this proposition.
- Dance Battler: Harlequins act as dancing entertainers, horrifyingly lethal shock troops, or both at the same time.
- Enemy Mine: The Harlequins will aid anyone fighting Chaos, regardless of preexisting conflicts.
- The Faceless: Harlequins typically wear masks which can either be blank, or show their opponent their worst fears come to life. A Shadowseer's mask is always blank.
- Gratuitous Iambic Pentameter: Many of the Harlequins seem to prefer to speak this way in the novels (The Path of the Eldar for example.) Perhaps living a life as perpetual method actors influences them to work performance into their everyday conversation, or perhaps they just like the sound of rhyme.
- The Grim Reaper: The Death Jesters, the few members of a troupe who play the role of death in their productions and wield heavy weapons in battle. Unlike the colorful outfits of the rest of a troupe, a Death Jester wears a dark outfit, decorated with the bones of their predecessors.
- Highly Conspicuous Uniform: The Harlequins have bright patterns on their clothes to intentionally make them more visible on stage. However, as they also incorporate holo-fields which scatters their image about to conceal their numbers and exact location, this might not be as much of a liability on the battlefield as it first seems.
- Horrifying the Horror: The Harlequins are allowed to come and go through Commorragh as they please, because they are the only people in the Materium the Dark Eldar are afraid of.
- I Know What You Fear: In addition to Harlequins' masks having the ability to show an opponent their deepest fear, Shadowseers can do this with both their innate psychic abilities and their creidann grenade launcher backpacks, whose projectiles create holograms that can be tailored to any purpose.
- Magical Library: The Black Library contains the accumulated Eldar history and Chaos lore, and is tucked away deep in the Webway, guarded by the Harlequin elite.
- Meaningful Name:
- Solitaires are loners who only associate with troupes when their services are needed, either to perform as Slaanesh or on the battlefield.
- The Shrieker Cannon used by Death Jesters fires hollow toxin-filled shurikens which make a distinct screaming noise as they fly through the air due to microscopic pores in their surfaces.
- Monster Clown: Harlequins often affect this appearance in battle, utilizing their great speed, acrobatics, and holograms to appear everywhere at once, their expressive psychic masks reflecting their foes own fears as they look upon them.
- Only Sane Man: Ironically, they seem to be this compared to the rest of the universe.
- Power at a Price: Harlequin Solitaires surrender their souls to Slaanesh, and in doing so gain great power in return, becoming Lightning Bruisers without peer among the Eldar. Rather than be a member of specific troupes like other Harlequins, they walk the galaxy going where fortune may take them, joining other Harlequin groups temporarily to enact certain rare performances or to join them in battle. Older fluff says that a Solitaire speaks and is spoken to only in ritual fashion, as their soullessness is seen as a threat to others they interact with. In performances, Solitaires are the only ones allowed to take on the role of Slaanesh, as anyone else doing so would be to invite the Chaos God's attention (which is never a good thing).
- Sexy Jester: They're extremely flexible and wear clothing that is usually skintight, and they're elves, so they're probably good-looking under the masks. Most people are too busy screaming in pain or terror to be Distracted by the Sexy, though.
- She-Fu: Used by both sexes. Harlequins equip themselves with "flip belts", a kind of wearable anti-gravity suspensor that lowers their effective weight. They use this to do elaborate leaps, flips, and cartwheels in combat, often jumping right over enemy's heads and out of range of their weapons. Combined with the holo-fields, an attacking Harlequin appears to be everywhere at once.
- Skeletons in the Coat Closet: A Death Jester's outfit is adorned with the bones of his/her predecessor.
- Super Wrist-Gadget: The "Harlequin's Kiss", a wrist-mounted weapon that functions something like a punch dagger, but instead of a blade it shoots a line of monofilament into the target then spins it around rapidly, pureeing the target from the inside.
- Team Switzerland: Harlequins are welcome among all Eldar groups, and often broker truces and alliances between Craftworld and Dark Eldar.
- Trickster Archetype: Cegorach the Laughing God, patron of the Harlequins, is one of the few of the Eldar gods to have survived the Fall. He is a trickster extrordinare, laughing at those he fools. It is said that only he knows all the secrets of the Webway, which he uses to lead his enemies on wild but fruitless chases. Occasionally he may succeed in saving a Solitaire's soul from its appointed damnation to Slaanesh, but this is rare. He is rumored in Eldar myth to even have tricked one of the C'tan to eat another. In the Harlequin codex, a newly-revealed prophecy reveals that the Harlequins are now working to set up the circumstances for Cegorach to trick Slaanesh hirself into saving the Eldar in the Rhana Dandra.
"Willing exiles. Forwent the horror, purist and apologist and ascetist. Veterans of Isha's war, ventured into shadow. Fled before the bow-wave of excess. Long lost, now long changed. Solitary with tilled soil and lizard life. In quest and quaint, we wax, we wane. We alone have changed. We alone shall see out this endless night."Not all Eldar who abandoned the decadence of their empire did so on Craftworlds. Others, the so-called Exodites, fled to the galactic east, purposefully settling on the most rugged and primeval planets on the galaxy's periphery. While some sneered at these dour survivalists, the Exodites' distance from the heart of the Eldar civilization spared them from Slaanesh's birth scream, and in the millennia since the Fall the Exodites have survived and adapted while others of their kin have failed.The Exodites have exchanged some of their race's advanced technology for a comparatively primitive existence of physical labor and simplicity. Most of their worlds boast populations of Megadons, so that many Exodites live a tribal, nomadic existence following these saurian herds. They retain close ties with their kin on the Craftworlds, and often entertain Harlequin troupes or welcome Outcasts from Craftworld society. Some Eldar, particularly those of Craftworld Biel-Tan, see in these Exodite Worlds the seeds of a new Eldar empire, but any Craftworld is quick to come to the aid of Exodites under attack by an alien race.Despite their importance to the Eldar, the Exodites have not have rules in Warhammer 40,000 since a single Eldar unit choice in Second Edition, and have never had dedicated models. They did however supply Eldar Knights for the large-scale Epic 40,000 Gaiden Game.
— Astropath D'Reyx
Notable Exodite tropes include:
- The Atoner/Defector from Decadence: They're descended from the Eldar who realized the horrible depravity of their pre-Fall civilization, and left to live new, spartan lives on the Maiden Worlds on the far-flung borders of their interstellar empire.
- Badass Native
- Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: The original groups who left to colonize the furthest rim worlds who would become the Exodites brought with them a variety of large, dinosaur-like creatures they call dragons. The Exodites use them as beasts of both burden and battle. Their best-known warriors are the Dragon Knights, bands of warriors who ride smaller dragons as cavalry and wield laser-lances.
- Hidden Elf Village
- Genius Loci: Exodite Maiden Worlds are outright stated to be sentient, due to The Lifestream.
- The Lifestream: The "Planet Spirits" of the Exodites are directly equivalent to the Infinity Circuits of the Craftworlds, being a repository for the spirits of their dead. The Planet Spirit grows thin crystalline tendrils through the crust of the planet, encompassing the entire world. In this regard, it is larger with more total psychic power than the Infinity Circuit of a Craftworld. However, because of this size that power is much more dispersed and thus less able to be guided and harnessed by living Eldar into purpose. This also makes Exodite Worlds very tough to invade, as when hostile troops land on the surface, the entire planet turns from a verdant paradise to a Death World. Luckily, for themselves, the Imperium has a solution to this.
- Recycled In Space: They're the 40K equivalent of Warhammer Fantasy's Wood Elves.
- Redemption Earns Life: When the Fall happened and the Eldar empire was obliterated, the Maiden Worlds escaped the cataclysm due to being so far away.
- Schizo Tech: They only forbid technology that eases their way of life, not military hardware with which to defend themselves. However, lacking the industrial base of other powers means that most of their military hardware has to be imported, usually from craftworlds, which means they have less of it to go around. This results in things like one of their most iconic units being lizard-riding cavalry clad in chainmail and armed with lances that shoot high powered (though short ranged) laser beams.
- Space Amish: The Exodites choose to forgo the technological conveniences that enabled the decadent lifestyle that led to Slaanesh's creation and which are typically seen in Craftworld society. They are considered to be somewhat backward, but otherwise decent people by the Craftworld Eldar, and are frequently visited by Outcasts from the path. Webway trade between them and the Craftworlds is also common, which means that when situations become dire Exodites will still field advanced Eldar weaponry. It is by choice that they live more simply otherwise.
"The young do not desire the discipline of the Path, but rather their curiosity drives them to try every fruit from the tree. Thus it is that so many take the Path of Wandering or the Path of Damnation in their first years of adulthood, and so the great tragedy of our race is played out again and again as the number of our people shrink from generation to generation."Some Eldar, particularly the young, do not fit into the aforementioned categories. They chafe under the Path of the Craftworlds and wish to think freely, experience the full range of emotions, or just be themselves rather than a particular vocation. Others fall prey to wanderlust and tire of their existence on an Exodite world, yearning for the freedom of open space. Such Eldar leave their old lives behind to walk the Path of the Outcast, exploring the galaxy alone or in small bands.Two varieties of Outcast are particularly noteworthy, Rangers and Corsairs. Rangers remain loyal to their Craftworld of origin and serve as its eyes and ears, executing missions on behalf of its Seers, or simply supplying intelligence gathered during their wanderings. When war calls, squads of Rangers will support their brothers as snipers, picking off the enemy's leaders and hampering their movements for weeks before the battle is joined. The wildest Outcasts take to the stars, forming Corsair fleets that plunder alien worlds and vessels, or hire themselves out as mercenaries. These Eldar resemble those of the ancient empire the most closely, as the life of a pirate allows the amoral and wild character of the Eldar to surface fully, but many retain ties to their homes and are quick to provide aid to Craftworlds or Exodite planets.Some Outcasts eventually exorcise their wanderlust and return to their homeworld, and take up the Path once more. Others become enamored of their new existence and remain willing exiles, join Harlequin troupes, or fall from grace entirely and seek out the dark city of Commorragh. Many die alone under distant stars, victims of the same self-destructive impulses that destroyed the Eldar empire.In the tabletop game, Rangers are a Troops choice in the Craftworld Eldar codex. Corsairs are Battle Brothers for all Eldar factions, but their materials are exclusive to Forge World—two conversion kits for standard Guardian models, vehicle models such as the Warp Assault Walker and Hornet flyer, and an army list in Imperial Armor Volume 11.
— Kysaduras the Anchorite, Introspections Upon Perfection
Notable Outcast tropes include:
- Ascended Extra: As a space-based faction, the Corsairs didn't have much of a tabletop presence, until Forge World introduced an army list and a few unique conversion kits for them.
- Animal Theme Naming: Hornets & Wasps
- Dungeon Bypass: While craftworld-based Eldar use the D-Cannon as a light anti-tank weapon, Corsairs are known to use it in boarding actions where they have theirs specially tuned for careful short-range work. Its Sphere of Destruction can be used to cut perfectly round holes in bulkheads and allow them to bypass defensive strong points where attrition combat would work against them.
- Elaborate Space Base
- The Exile: A self-inflicted example.
- Forbidden Fruit: Part of what makes the Path of the Outcast so attractive to young Eldar, and former Outcasts too disruptive if they return to the Craftworld to tell stories of the wonders they encountered in their travels.
- Invisibility Cloak: Rangers wear chameleoline cloaks adapted from the Exodites, which help them blend in with their surroundings.
- Journey to Find Oneself: A common motivation for Outcasts from the craftworlds.
- Landmarking the Hidden Base: Averted. Hidden bases are the preferred choice.
- Multinational Team: Corsairs can come from a variety of origins. Many are outcasts from the craftworlds, but there are also exiles (voluntary or otherwise) from Commorragh and Exodites who tire of their subsistence-level lifestyle.
- Privateer: Several corsairs would qualify, usually being selective about avoiding targets that their home might take exception to pillaging, or hiring themselves out as deniable assets to other powers who want their rivals weakened.
- Private Military Contractors: Several outcast fleets take contracts to raid particular parties as privateers, or hit particular targets. Especially for ambitious individuals in the Imperium who had the wealth to spend, as they make excellent deniable assets.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: If you are willing to buy the dedicated units from Forge World. Walkers as Troops? Yes. Heavy Support and Fast Attack units as Dedicated Transports? Yes!
- Sniper Rifle: The Long Rifle carried by Eldar Rangers is a misnomer, as it is a form of laser weapon, similar to the long-las used by Imperial marksmen. However, the superior focusing crystals manufactured by the Eldar allow it to maintain better penetration qualities at range and it comes equipped with a scope designed to scan and highlight weaknesses in enemy armor so that the Ranger can better take advantage of it.
- Space Pirates: A common vocation for outcast fleets. Not all of them choose piracy, but piracy can get them some of the luxuries that they would normally miss for being off a craftworld.
- Walking the Galaxy: Most outcasts go where the winds of fate may take them.
We bring only death, and leave only carrion. It is a message even a human can understand.