Characters / Warhammer 40000 Forces Of Chaos
Clockwise from top left: the symbols of Tzeentch, Khorne, Slaanesh and Nurgle. The eight-pointed star is the symbol of Chaos Undivided.

This is our galaxy. Ours to corrupt, ours to enslave. The gods will not be denied their prize.
Xereth, Sorcerer of the Black Legion

In Warhammer 40,000, the Immaterium, or Warp, is a parallel dimension where the thoughts, desires, and emotions of sentient creatures are made manifest in the form of psychic entities labeled Daemons. There was a time in the distant past when the Warp was a calm and even benign place, but the galaxy's millennia-long decay into its current state of constant warfare has corrupted it into a twisted mirror that accentuates the negative - the gods of Bravery, Hope, Acceptance, and Love are also the gods of Rage, Mutation, Decay, and Hedonism. The Warp is a realm of primordial Chaos, where the laws of nature and causality do not apply, where dark thoughts congeal and evolve into diabolical gods. It is a nightmare realm that occasionally spills forth into the Materium, leaving behind madness and desolation.

Humanity has an intimate relationship with Chaos - after all, their minds feed it. Chaos is the source of the mutation that wracks the Imperium, from inhuman monstrosities to the psychically-gifted Navigators. Chaos is the key to interstellar travel, as ships traveling through the Warp move much faster than they would in a rational universe, assuming they are not lost to the storms and eddies of the Empyrean or devoured by daemons. And among humans, there are always those who turn to Chaos for various reasons: bored nobles looking for a new thrill by dabbling in the occult, radical daemonhunters hoping to turn the weapons of the enemy against him, ambitious individuals making dark pacts in exchange for power, cults and cabals plotting to turn their homeworlds over to the dark gods, bitter souls and traitors seeking revenge, or ignorant fools who don't even know the names of the gods they worship. Regardless of their motivations, very few of them end up as anything more than Unwitting Pawns to the dark gods' plans, and horrific death is an all too common fate. Even those who manage to draw the attention of one or more of the Chaos gods may be turned into monstrous abominations called Chaos Spawn, twisted and mutated by their "blessings" and driven insane. Those that don't suffer these fates, however... they can go far, becoming immortal and inhumanly powerful Daemon Princes.

Collectively, these followers are known as the Lost and the Damned: faithless traitors who have abandoned their humanity and forfeited their souls. Entire regiments of the Imperial Guard and whole Naval fleets have gone renegade, while disaffected mutants and abhumans sometimes turn to Chaos as well. But by far the worst Chaos threats are the Daemons themselves, and the heirs to a betrayal ten thousand years old that almost destroyed the human race...


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    General Chaos Tropes 

  • Alien Geometries: Try not to look too hard at anything related to Chaos. Bad idea. Their writing is generally described as "sanity-blasting sigils."
  • Arch-Enemy: The Imperium actually calls Chaos the "Arch Enemy" or the "Great Enemy".
  • Artifact of Death: Most Daemon weapons lead to their owner's doom eventually.
  • As Long as There is Evil: The only way to truly defeat Chaos would be to destroy all the intelligent life that feeds it. The Necrons and Tyranids would like to make that happen.
  • Bad Powers, Bad People: While someone can start out dabbling with the Ruinous Powers with good intentions, it tends to gradually corrupt all but the strongest-willed, driving them into madness and horror.
  • Berserk Button: Don't invoke the Emperor's name in the presence of a daemon or Chaos Space Marine. It won't end well.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: This pops up for people who fall victim to Chaos. Annihilating your soul is just one of the options available, and not even the worst at that.
  • Bizarrchitecture: Common on daemon worlds, where the laws of physics are literally just another building material.
  • Black Magic: As much as the Imperium would like to deny it, without Chaos it couldn't function. The Warp is the only means of faster-than-light travel available to humanity, and the Navigators that have the ability to guide vessels through the Warp can do this because of specific mutations created by Chaos.
  • Brown Note: Common side effects of looking at Chaos symbols are mild nausea, slight bleeding, and insanity.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Anyone who's in deep with Chaos tends to wear this on their sleeve... or any other part of their body.
  • Chaos Is Evil: Though technically speaking, everyone in the franchise is evil to a degree, Chaos really takes the cake. The Chaos Gods also embody positive emotions, but with the setting what it is, these rarely get displayed.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: While it's particularly prominent with anything related to Tzeentch due to its scheming, manipulative nature, Chaos in general is well known for its followers looking out for themselves before anyone else and taking any opportunity to advance themselves, regardless of who has to be crushed to make it happen.
  • Colour Coded Armies: Red and brass/bronze for Khorne; blue, and to a lesser extent yellow and every other color for Tzeentch; sickly green for Nurgle; and purple and pink for Slaanesh. In addition, Malal was supposed to be black and white.
  • The Corruption: Both mental and physical.
  • The Dark Side: Which manages to be darker than what passes as the "Light" side in this setting, no mean feat.
  • Deal with the Devil: Pacts with Chaos in general, and to specific Chaos Gods in particular.
  • Dream Land: The Warp is an exceedingly negative version.
  • Drunk on the Dark Side: Don't stand too close to anyone powered by Chaos.
  • Eldritch Location:
    • Anywhere in the Eye of Terror or any place sufficiently tainted by Chaos.
    • The domains of the Chaos Gods are like this, especially the ever-changing Maze of Tzeentch.
  • Eviler Than Thou: Chaos is the one faction that deliberately tries to be the evilest faction in the setting, with only the Dark Eldar rivaling them.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: The presence of Warp energy usually involves the temperature dropping several degrees.
  • Evil Is Hammy: In a galaxy of ham, Chaos stands out for particular scene chewing.
    Sanguinius: Are all of your kind so in love with the sound of your own voices?
  • Evil Is Visceral: Very common, especially the "mismatched arrangement".
  • Evil Laugh: Chaos specializes in this, as most Traitor Marines have turned batshit insane over ten thousand years of war and slaughter and the mind-warping effects of the Immaterium. Dawn of War has Chaos Marines randomly break down and cackle occasionally. Subverted by the Iron Warriors legion who seldom laughs, considering such displays beneath them.
  • Evil Smells Bad:
    • Chaos itself is often described as having a nauseating stench reminiscent of rotten meat or sickeningly cloying fermentation.
    • Nurgle and his daemons and followers are particularly known for being foul-smelling due to the disease and rot that they breed and live in.
  • For the Evulz: Many followers of Chaos have actual hopes and ambitions, but whether they'll keep them rather than being addicted to the horrors they inflict or driven insane from the gifts of Chaos is a different story...
  • Genuine Human Hide:
    • It's a popular source of clothing for Chaos followers, particularly those of Slaanesh.
    • Many a Tome of Eldritch Lore is made from it.
    • Last but not least, we at TV Tropes are contractually obligated to remind you that Chief Apothecary Fabius Bile of the Emperor's Children wears a lab coat made of human skin. note 
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: When the Old Ones were battling the Necrons and C'tan millions of years ago in the conflict known as the War in Heaven, they created several psychically-attuned sapient races such as the Eldar and Krork to assist them, as their enemies were incapable of dealing with the Warp. However, those species' emotions and beliefs resonated in the Warp and created their gods. Also, their hatred, pain and suffering as a result of the War, combined with their warlike natures, corrupted the fundamental nature of the Warp, turning its once peaceful inhabitants into what we call daemons today and creating the nascent Chaos Gods. This, combined with an Enslaver plague that devastated the galaxy, either destroyed the Old Ones or forced them to flee the galaxy, leaving behind their Webway for the Eldar to exploit for their own purposes and leaving the Warp as a twisted, malevolent horror. The Eldar in turn managed to contain the situation for a full 60 million years, but when their own civilization became decadent and ultimately collapsed (spawning a new Chaos god in the process) all hell broke loose.
  • Haunted Technology: Chaos has a bad habit of corrupting, if not outright possessing, various bits of technology.
  • Hearing Voices: It's a good idea to ignore them.
  • Hermetic Magic: Most warp-sorcery takes this form (usually involving Eldritch Locations, Geometric Magics, and Human Sacrifices) in contrast to Psychic Powers which are the other major way of warp-driven reality manipulation. Combining the two approaches results in Explosive Overclocking, and some psykers may turn to sorcery to further empower themselves.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Generally the case with Chaos-inspired madness, though in most cases those afflicted were already violent.
  • The Legions of Hell: Fed by your every thought and emotion.
  • Limited Advancement Opportunities: Most mortal Chaos followers find themselves offered as human sacrifices, die in battle, succumb to mutations, or become mindless Chaos spawn. Nurgle's mortal followers are the major exception, as they have the opportunity to become Plaguebearer demons, either by contracting Nurgle's Rot or taking part in the planet-encircling dance on Bubonicus.
  • Made of Evil: Warp energy is inherently corrupting, and anyone not a Space Marine or Inquisitor exposed to it on a regular basis is killed for fear of spreading corruption. Even during the Great Crusade, before the existence of the Chaos Gods was known, the Legiones Astartes had standing orders from the Emperor to subject planets with Warp-taint to Exterminatus, and the Legiones Astartes were trained to recognize and combat psykers bloated with Warp madness.
  • The Mad Hatter: Occasionally seen as a symptom of corruption by Chaos, particularly by Tzeentch.
  • Madness Mantra:
    • MAIM! KILL! BURN! MAIM! KILL! BURN! etc. etc.
    • In the spinoff game Battlefleet Gothic, an entire starship gets a Madness Mantra: the Chaos cruiser Killfrenzy is so named because, whenever it draws near, all that can be heard on every comms frequency is its captain endlessly screaming +++KILLFRENZY KILLFRENZY KILLFRENZY KILLFRENZY KILLFRENZY+++
    • In the novel Titanicus, Chaos Titans are depicted as constantly screaming their names in corrupted code language.
  • Malevolent Mutilation: Chaos cultists commonly mortify their flesh with carvings of symbols representing their patrons. Those practicing their faith in secret limit this to small carvings, easily covered up. Once they are operating in the open and know there is no more need to integrate themselves with Imperial society, many will start covering their entire body with such symbols as a symbol of how faithful they are.
    • In Brothers of the Snake, one such cult has a way to etch Chaos sigils on their bones without disturbing the flesh over them. An Inquisitor is very curious to know how they manage this.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Sometimes, when they really want to have fun with their once-heroic followers, the Ruinous Powers will peel away the comfortable veil of madness from before their eyes and let them see the full horror of what they've become, then force them to admit that there's nothing else they can do to make it right. During the Horus Heresy, it happened to Fulgrim, after killing Ferrus Manus and Horus, after the Emperor mortally wounded him.
  • Negative Space Wedgie: Warp Rifts, tears in spacetime where the Warp and realspace gel together. The Maelstrom and Screaming Vortex are two well-known rifts, but the biggest and most infamous is the Eye of Terror. Formed by the birth of Slaanesh, it covers nearly all of the original Eldar empire (an area of space roughly the diameter of a galactic arm), has irredeemably corrupted every planet it touches, and the Eldar Craftworld Ulthwe is trapped in its gravity. It also serves as a home and headquarters for the Iron Warriors, Death Guard, Thousand Sons, and Word Bearers.
  • Power-Upgrading Deformation: Most Chaos mutations gifted to its followers.
  • Religion of Evil: Chaos Undivided, formed by Lorgar, Primarch of the Word Bearers, who was chastised by the Emperor for spending so much time building cathedrals rather than campaigning. In response, Lorgar began worshiping the Chaos Gods as a pantheon, and today his legion is known for being darkly devout. Chaos Undivided holds that worshiping all the Chaos Gods allows one to draw the strengths of all without any of the weaknesses (Khorne's all-out hatred, Slaaneesh's need for sensation, Nurgle's corrupting influence, and Tzeentch's mutations). The fact that Chaos Undivided's greatest champion is Abbadon makes this claim... questionable. Or not, considering some alternate interpretations.
  • Reality Is Out to Lunch: Warp rifts are the Warp made manifest in realspace, and inside them things like physics and causality generally take a long lunch break.
  • Red Right Hand: Marks of Chaos.
  • Sense Loss Sadness:
    • One crafty Inquisitor figured out that the only way to effectively torture Slaaneshi cultists is to stick them in a sensory deprivation tank.
    • Any Chaos Marine entombed in a Chaos Dreadnought will eventually go insane for the same reason (reflected in the rules, even). In more recent editions, the Chaos Dreadnought has been replaced by the Hellbrute. Entombment in a Hellbrute is more tolerable to the Chaos Space Marine because they will eventually fuse with the machine, regaining sensory information.
  • Skele Bot 9000: The Chaos Androids from the first two editions of the game (as well as the early Gaiden Game Space Crusade) were daemonically-possessed automatons that take the form of shining plasteel skeletons. Unfortunately they were removed from the game and background material, along with the Chaos Squats who created them.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: The only way the Forces of Chaos know how to work together. Comes up especially often when the forces of rival gods join forces, such as those of Khorne and Tzeentch.
  • Time Dilation: Time moves differently in the Warp, both faster and slower than the rest of space. Justified because the Warp sneers at such things like "causality" and "logic".
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Many lesser followers of Chaos expect to be paid with the 'blessings' of the Chaos Gods. They usually are turned into barely-functional mutants that serve as meatshields for Daemons.
    • A number of their actions that they do also require great sacrifice to the Gods... though they're things that could've been done without bloodshed, and in some cases, technology.
  • Warrior Heaven: The Warp. To them, though, it is heavenly, in contrast with how hellish it is for others.
    • It's also heaven for the Orks, for how much combat they can find.
      Great Boss Tuska: Told yer I knew where da best fightin' woz.

The various forces and factions of Chaos

Factions with their own pages


    The Lost And The Damned
More where that came from.

Fear not Chaos, for it is our salvation! Praise the sun that brings the dawn of our final doom, for is not destruction simply creation reversed in slow motion?

The Imperium... is not a happy place. It has been at war for the last ten thousand years, it has grown accustomed to think in apocalyptic terms: what is the value of life when faced with threat to their immortal souls? "We are at war for our very survival," goes another Imperial slogan, "No sacrifice is too great, no treachery too small." There are threats everywhere: cults fester in the hives, claiming dozens of planetary rulers in their membership; mutants and rogue psykers run for their lives from fanatical witchhunters; and humans in general hope for a better future.

As such, Chaos has no shortage of wretches for use as cannon fodder. The ranks of Chaos are vast: traitor regiments of Imperial Guard, renegade Admirals of the the Imperial Navy, jaded nobility forming cults for thrills, abhuman and mutant underclasses living in the ghettos of Imperial cities, slave soldiers raised in hell worlds, hordes of reanimated zombies, fallen clerics of the Ecclesiarchy, entire Xeno races fallen to Chaos, heretek tech-priests who wish to escape the confined and restrictive orthodoxy of the Mechanicus, vast mobs of peasants desperate for food, freedom fighters and revolutionaries who do not truly understand the price of their new, dark allies... they are all now the Lost and the Damned.

The Lost and the Damned play similar to the Imperial Guard, and indeed feature traitorous guardsmen as troop choices, but lack the loyalists' volume of heavy weapons, armor, or even morale. To make up for this, mobs of low-cost mutants and other rabble can be used to soak up enemy fire or swamp troop formations, while other Chaos abominations can serve as assault troops. Overall, this makes them a gimped version of the Imperial Guard, but a characterful army nonetheless and a force of extreme (evil) underdogs.

Despite being one of the most common Chaos force encountered in the background, the Lost and the Damned have rarely had their own official standalone rules for the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop game with the army mostly being represented by regular Astra Militarum forces converted to count-as Traitor Guard. The 2nd Edition Codex: Chaos included an appendix army list for representing Chaos Cults in small games or as allies for Chaos Space Marines. The 3rd Edition Codex: Eye of Terror, released as a tie-in sourcebook for Games Workshop’s Eye of Terror Summer Worldwide Campaign included a Lost and the Damned army list that combined elements of the Chaos Space Marines, Imperial Guard and Daemons alongside mutants and Chaos beasts. From 4th Edition onwards, the Lost and the Damned have been covered by Games Workshop’s Forge World department with the Imperial Armour: Siege of Varks books including Renegade Imperial Guard lists. The 8th Edition rules for the Forge World Traitor Guard are included in the Imperial Armour Index: Forces of the Astra Militarum book as the Renegades and Heretics Army.

Notable Lost and the Damned tropes include:

  • Army of Thieves and Whores: And they take that as a compliment.
  • Body Horror: Horrible mutants are a common sight in the Lost and the Damned.
  • Badass Army: In the background, they can occasionally be the superior of the Imperial Guard in terms of discipline and power, under competent leadership and backed by the infinite power of Chaos...
    • Redshirt Army - ...but more often than not they're just used as Canon Fodder by Chaos Space Marines (at least in most of the fiction).
  • Blood Knight: Any Khorne worshipers in a Lost and the Damned army. In particular, he is a popular patron for military units which go rogue and fall to Chaos, or armies raised from Chaos worlds, of which a Lost and the Damned army is likely to be substantially in part.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Considering the penalties the Imperium holds for the heresy of consorting with the Ruinous Powers, let alone the danger of getting the Ruinous Powers' attention in the first place, and the well-publicized insanity and expendablity of the lower-down Chaos followers, it is understandable that some Chaos lords have difficulty recruiting willing followers. Hence, they resort to more forceful measures instead. Certain pieces of ritual sorcery and direct exposure to daemonic influence can have the habit of breaking the will of individuals, blasting their minds into awestruck simpletons highly suggestible to the whispers of the Warp. Cults will often try to arrange such sorcery to cause a substantial portion of the planet to rise up in Chaos' name even if they would not otherwise, and many Lost and the Damned armies are composed of such thralls.
    • This is a plot point in the Ciaphas Cain novel The Last Stand. The book's Big Bad is an extremely powerful psyker who can overwrite your mind and turn you to Chaos just by looking at you. He even has a retinue of Sisters of Battle that he corrupted in this manner.
  • Corrupt Church: One of their HQ choices is a heretic leader.
  • Cult: Many Lost and the Damned are essentially Chaos cultists. In truth, the entire army list is an expansion of the Cultist choice available to Chaos Space Marines.
  • Demoted to Extra: Lost and the Damned didn't get an army codex for Fifth edition - unless you buy the Imperial Armour books.
    • Sixth Edition provided a Chaos cultist unit to represent them, but full-fledged cult armies are still Guard-based if you don't include the Forge World armies.
    • While still without a dedicated Codex, Sixth Edition's allies rules allows units to be combined from the Imperial Guard, Chaos Space Marines, and Chaos Daemons army lists fairly easily. While an informal grouping, this does allow players to build Lost and the Damned armies in an ad-hoc fashion.
      • 7th Edition removed this, and Imperial Guard may now only ally with Chaos Marines under the lowest level of alliance cohesion. The Forge World Imperial Armour army for them, meanwhile, was updated to allow them to be tailored by the player as a traitor guard army and many other options as well, which can ally with Chaos Marines or demons at the highest level of ally cohesion.
  • Everything's Deader with Zombies: One of the troops choices is a 'plague zombie horde' fielded in units of up to 50 making it possible to field up to 300 in a normal army. Given the right support they prove suprisingly effective.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Something many of these people should have remembered.
  • Feel No Pain: Khorne's followers are too furious to notice, Nurgle's followers are too rotten and corrupt to notice, while Slaanesh's followers notice and enjoy it thoroughly.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: Especially the Dark Vengeance cultists.
  • Genre Blind: Considering the (well publicized) fact that Chaos uses human sacrifice for anything more complicated than boiling water, it's a wonder anybody is dumb enough to join them...which in turn gives you some idea of just how awful life in the Imperium can get.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Many of the Lost and the Damned were not always evil and had no idea what they were getting into until it was far too late.
  • Large and in Charge: Another HQ leader choice is a Chaos Space Marine overseeing the rabble.
  • Mad Scientist: The members of the Dark Mechanicus. Free of all the restrictions of the Adeptus Mechanicus, they innovate much more than their loyalist counterparts. However some of those restrictions include "Do not put Daemons in your tech" and "Do not make evil killer robotsnote ".
  • Palette Swap: It is entirely possible (and often necessary in lieu of their own codex) to field a Lost and the Damned army of traitor guardsmen, using Imperial Guard rules, units, and equipment, different only in their allegiance to the Ruinous Powers. This is pretty reasonable in the setting, and offers a player some interesting options for converting and painting "profane" versions of normal Imperial Guard. The Forge World version shares many vehicles with the Guard, and the infantry and pilots, who are normally inferior to the guard, may be upgraded by the player to match the guard under the lore explanation that they are either traitor guard, or just really well-trained.
  • Psycho Serum: Many of the followers of Slannesh in this army will be hopped up on some cocktail of combat and recreational drugs.
  • Sorcerous Overlord: One option for a Renegades and Heretics Demagogue is a rogue Primaris Psyker who has become a warlord of Chaos instead.
  • Villainous Underdog: Seriously outgunned by both their allies and the Imperium, the Lost and the Damned have only their numbers and their madness to aid them.
  • Villainous Valor: Say what you will, but going up against a galaxy-spanning super-power, fighting for patrons who would just as soon use you as a Human Sacrifice, takes either quite a lot of guts... or quite a lot of insanity. Knowing Chaos, probably both.
  • We Have Reserves: The "Master of the Horde" Demagogue can replace dead Renegade Infantry platoons with fresh meat as soon as the platoon is destroyed.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Nurglite Plague Zombies are a troops choice. With the right build, you can have an almost entirely zombie army with which to swamp the opposition.

    Khorne Daemonkin 
"You sought to cower behind your walls, weakling? Instead, by the will of Khorne, you shall die behind them!"
Reavax the Cruel, Lord of The Harvest

Khorne Daemonkin are fanatical devotees of the Blood God who worship Bloodthirsters, the Greater Daemons of Khorne, and their rampages are in the hopes of gaining enough favor with their patron god to summon a Bloodthirster to fight alongside them.

While Khornate hordes consisting of blood mad Heretic Astartes, cultists and Daemons have been mentioned in the background material for many years, it wasn’t until 7th Edition that they gained the title of Khorne Daemonkin and received their own codex sourcebook. Under the 8th Edition rules the Daemonkin return to being a Khorne aligned Chaos force chosen from Codex Heretic Astartes: Chaos Space Marines with Daemonic allies from the Index: Chaos sourcebook.

  • Anti-Magic: As well as the Brass Collars of Khorne that protect the Blood God's favoured followers and pets from witches and psykers, Daemonkin characters also have access to the Brazen Rune. This burning brand is an Artefact of Slaughter that not only protects its bearer but, when its full power is released, will burn out the mind of any psyker in the vicinity.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: As fanatical followers of the God of Blood and Rage, Khorne Daemonkin are renowned for their ceaseless assaults that drown their enemies with corpses. There are multiple pieces of background material that see the Daemonkin wiping themselves out by charging into the guns of their enemies.
  • Does Not Like Magic: Chaos Sorcerers are not permitted, as the Daemonkin's butchery and fervor are sufficient to get Khorne's notice.
  • Blood Magic: The Daemonkin take this even further than regular Chaos forces, as the more blood that's shed in battle (even their own), the more favor they build with Khorne, which can give them boons, attract various daemons to fight alongside them, and even summon Bloodthirsters. In-game, the Daemonkin's Blood Tithe rule gives them Blood Tithe points when their units kill or are killed by enemy units. These points can then be spent to give them buffs, summon units of daemons, and even summon a Daemon Prince or a Bloodthirster of Unfettered Fury.
  • Hungry Weapon: The Artefact of Slaughter Goredrinker is a mighty axe that has a powerful Daemon bound within it that continuously hungers for the life essence of its victims.
  • Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits: The Chaos version—the Daemonkin are a mix of cultists, Chaos Space Marines (especially Khorne Berserkers), and various Khornate daemons.

  • Raising the Steaks: Any species with psychic abilities can be tainted by the Warp, including animals.
  • Rogue Trader gives a rare example of an entire Eldar Craftworld consumed by Chaos: Lu'Nasad. Three "Aspect Shells" were formed from ruined Aspect Shrines, spitting out undead Dire Avengers, Warp Spiders, and Wraithguard.
    • Another Craftworld is Kher-Ys, whose Avatar was corrupted by Slaanesh.

Cast down the idols! Destroy the temples! Slay the priests! Show these fools that they worship nothing more than a rotting corpse!