Characters / Warhammer 40000 Tau Empire
For the Greater Good!

A thousand fibres connect each of us with our fellow Tau and along those fibres our deeds run as causes which come back to us as effects. Everything we must do must be in furtherance of the Greater Good, lest we return to the Mont'au, the Terror.

In Warhammer 40,000, the Tau are a race of blue-skinned, hoofed humanoid aliens controlling a small empire located at the eastern edge of Imperial space.

A young, dynamic, and somewhat naive race, the Tau have come a long way very quickly. A few thousand years ago they were a bunch of primitives who had just discovered fire, and were targeted for extermination by the Imperium, but a miraculous warp storm destroyed the fleet sent to their homeworld, and the Imperium lost interest. Within scant centuries, they had discovered firearms, evolved into distinct subraces, and were proceeding to destroy each other, until a cadre of mysterious strangers convinced the various factions to work together for the benefit of all. Now the warriors of the Fire Caste, pilots of the Air Caste, artisans of the Earth Caste, and diplomats of the Water Caste serve the philosophy of the Greater Good, under the wise and watchful eyes of the Ethereal Caste.

The Tau are known for two things: their advanced technology, and their Greater Good. The Tau have embraced technology in a way the Adeptus Mechanicus deems blasphemous, and even their basic infantry are armed with energy weapons the envy of Imperial soldiers, while their elite warriors wear flying battlesuits that can lay waste to entire squads. However, it is the philosophy of the Greater Good that is the Tau's most dangerous creation, as they actively try to recruit other races into their empire. The barbaric Kroot, a species of bird-like aliens that seek evolutionary upgrades by feeding on their enemies, were an early success, and the insectoid Vespid have been brought into the fold as well, along with several other races. Many humans also fall prey to the promises of Tau technology and a society less transparently brutal than the Imperium. This leads many to label the Tau the "good guys" of 40K, which is true to some extent—the Tau will at least offer you a chance to surrender before dragging you into the fold by force, and will only put you into concentration camps if it's for the Greater Good. Throw in the fact that the Ethereals are suspected of Mind Control as well as the notion of a race rigidly divided into castes, and you have a classic Crapsaccharine World. Compared to the rest of 40K though, this is normal, or even better than the rest of the factions.

The tabletop Tau army is perhaps the shootiest in the game. Basic Tau firearms outclass the equivalents of most other races in terms of power and range and are capable of shredding light vehicles, while their heavy weapons make mockeries of enemy armor. Tau battlesuits can also be customized to deal devastating ranged damage to a specific type of unit, and are mobile enough to make hit and run attacks. On the downside, the Tau are simply pathetic in close combat, and have no dedicated assault units besides Kroot kindreds. Success with the Tau means learning how to make the elements of your army work in harmony - using the Kroot to shore up your flanks, drawing the enemy into a killing zone with a unit of Pathfinders, or having your Drones pin down attackers before they can reach your lines, and remember, if you bring along an Ethereal, keep him alive.

Their 7th Edition codex was released in November 2015. Additionally, a narrative campaign pitting the Tau against the Raven Guard and White Scars chapters of Space Marines was released that contains all of the new material featured in the 7th edition codex, essentially making it a companion to the 6th edition codex.

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    The Tau Empire

  • Action Girl:
    • Commander Shadowsun, the supreme commander of the Fire Caste who led several successful raids on a Tyranid splinter fleet, eventually destroying it without losing a single ship.
    • Sub-Commander Torchstar of Farsight's "The Eight" special forces squad is only revealed to be female by her fluff blurp (mentioning her by gendered pronouns). She otherwise pilots a standard XV8 Battlesuit, but has a penchant for using two flamers to erect a wall of impassible flames. Being a member of The Eight and preferring weapons that get a Tau that close to an enemy should tell you how much action this girl packs.
    • Tau society gives no real distinction between men and women, so long as they serve the greater good. In order to show this, Games Workshop made a point to include female heads (distinguishable by their "Y" shaped noses) for the 7th Edition Tau models.
  • Airborne Aircraft Carrier: The Manta fits this, though it would be more accurate to equate it with an Airborne Amphibious Assault Carrier, since its primary function is to transport large groups of ground forces from orbit to the surface and from one surface zone to another. It is capable of transporting an entire hunter cadre (which equates to an entire tabletop Tau force deployment) and, given jetpack battlesuits and grav-tank mounted infantry, can actually deploy its entire force with one low-speed pass without ever landing. It is in the same mass category as an Imperial Titan, though its primary role is the transportation and long-range fire support of Tau ground forces, rather than being used for direct combat.
    • A Manta's max carrying capacity is 188 infantry. You can then swap up to 140 of these for tanks, battlesuits, drones, turrets...
  • Alien Blood: Due to high levels of cobalt, Tau blood is blue, and according to at least one inquisitor, smells awful.
  • Alien Hair: The Tau only grow hair in a single lock at the back of their head, which they typically let grow shoulder length on Fire Warriors and sometimes longer in other castes, typically resembling a top-knot.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Tau education involves implanting didactic modules (microchips containing databases of factual information) into the brains of Tau infants and children, and these include language data. Therefore, almost all Tau can understand and speak languages they might be expected to encounter, including Imperial Gothic. However, while those modules can give information, they cannot impart actual skill, which still requires practice. So unlike Translator Microbes, any Tau who does not have reason to practice those languages will speak them haltingly and with a heavy accent and may miss a lot of nuance when listening to other languages spoken. Because of this, Tau almost always defer to the Water Caste, which does practice speaking and interpreting alien languages, if they are to communicate with aliens. Whether or not a given Tau chooses to speak an alien language is another matter, and how pervasive this is can be subject to Depending on the Writer. Members of castes other than the Water caste tend to defer to dedicated translators when dealing with aliens. After all, that is not their area. And when a Water Caste member is not present, they still defer to another present if that person is willing to speak. The only times they will actually speak with aliens is when no other translator is available.
    • Inquisitor Oriel once warned the guardsmen he was traveling with on a Tau ship (while disguised as a diplomatic delegation) to watch what they said around the Tau. Even though the only Tau to have spoken to them directly was a Water Caste interpreter, he knew psychically that the other Tau around them understood far more of what they said than they let on. He even speculated that they might be doing so deliberately as a means of getting the humans to let their guard down and say something that the Tau could later use as leverage against them in negotiations.
  • The Alliance: They're the only ones that actually bother to get (and keep) allies, whereas the others would either wipe everything else out, or still have internal problems to sort out (often times, it's both). Amongst their allies are the barbaric, bird-like Kroot; the insectoid Vespid, who may or may not be mind controlled; the squid-like, space-faring Nicassar, who make up most of the Tau Navy; the dwarf-like Demiurg, merchants and traders; and the reptilian, Trandoshan-reminding Tarellian mercenaries, who hate the Imperium.
  • Ambition Is Evil: A core Tau value, though that only applies to personal ambition. Ambition on an empire-wide scale in following the Greater Good is considered a virtue.
  • Ancient Astronauts:
    • The Tau actually were visited by a spacefaring non-indigenous species when they were living as hunter-gatherers: humanity. Though in defiance of this trope, the Tau seem not to regard them with any particular awe. Considering that humans were planning on "sterilizing" T'au and colonizing the planet for themselves, they might also count as Abusive Precursors. Apparently the Tau's breakthrough into Faster-Than-Light Travel came about when they discovered the ruins of an alien spaceship on one of the other planets in their home system. It is not recorded if this ship was human or otherwise but given the human visitation of their system, it certainly seems probable (in Battlefleet Gothic, it's pretty much explicit that it was the crashed human ship that they learned warp technology from. But between the damage on the engines they reverse-engineered and lack of Navigators, shallow skips into Warp are the best they can do).
    • The Codex also implies that there was another: before the appearance of the first Ethereal, strange lights and sightings of slender figures were reported in the mountainous regions of the Tau homeworld. Slender figures and strange lights? Hmmmmm...
  • Animal Theme Naming: All Tau air and land vehicles are named after sea creatures, mostly shark-relatives and fish.
  • Animesque: The battlesuits are a dead giveaway.
  • Apologetic Attacker: In most cases, though if the Ethereal is dead or the Fire Caste's blood is up, they can be just as fierce as the other races.
  • Arch-Enemy: The Imperium, obviously. The Imperium of Man is the largest, most stable and well-organised faction opposing the Tau, and represent the greatest obstacle to Tau galactic conquest. As well as that, their worldviews are almost total mirror images: the Imperium believe in religious fanaticism, total extermination of all that is different and blind willful ignorance; the Tau refuse to acknowledge the (demonstrably real) supernatural elements of the universe, believe in converting enemies to their cause and have a strong tradition of scientific research.
  • Ascetic Aesthetic: Common to Tau vehicles, ships, and structures. They prefer their constructions to be ergonomic and functional, with every component designed to fit perfectly with every other component, such that it forms one common whole. Living spaces do occasionally have frescoes on the walls and floors, with abstract labyrinth-like patterns, though the colors are so subtle as to be almost unnoticeable unless one focuses directly on it, the intention being that it serves as a meditation aid. The Fire Caste in particular is known for its austere sense of aesthetics, and this is reflected in the visual simplicity of their military structures.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: While their Fantastic Caste System determines a Tau's limitations on vocation, their Fantastic Ranking System is entirely meritocratic. Everyone begins life at the lowest ranks and is given a chance to ascend to a higher rank once every four T'au years of their adult life. This promotion is based entirely on how good a given Tau is at doing their job, and for those in the Fire Caste in particular, being good at their job means being an excellent soldier and leader.
  • Attack Drone: Unlike the Imperium, the Tau make extensive use of artificial intelligences as worker or battlefield drones, and have so far avoided the robot rebellion problem.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: In contrast to what was said above, this is averted with any Tau not in the Fire Caste, particularly the Ethereals. While even the lowest ranked Ethereal has ostensible authority over the highest ranked Fire Caste, Ethereals do not train in combat (except for certain ritualistic dueling methods) and will not be much of a force in combat. Despite that, they may still accompany hunter cadres in the field, as their mere presence is a kind of combat multiplier in itself, with every Tau present clearly focused on the essence of the Greater Good and willing to lay down their life without hesitation, fear, or protest if necessary.
  • Badass Normal: OK, so they aren't normal humans like 40K's other Badass Normal Badass Army, the Imperial Guard. The Tau are, however, aliens who are physically weaker than humans and have no psykers. All the Tau have at their disposal to fight the hordes of superpowered and supernatural beings that threaten the empire is their formidable technology and their allies. However, every single member of the Fire Caste learns to wage war since childhood, which is very similar to the military culture of Cadia, which is widely regarded as one of the best worlds to recruit Imperial Guardsmen from.
  • Beginner's Luck: La'Kais, protagonist of the game Fire Warrior, manages to take on and defeat both Imperial and Chaos forces by himself, up to taking down a Lord of Change on his first day of live combat, with some help from both Tau and Ultramarine forces with Chaos. Unfortunately after that he was hit with a bad case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and was mentally broken by the experience, though it's suggested he'll get better (And he does: interviews from the developers of the Dawn of War series heavily imply that the Tau commander in Dark Crusade is the same Kais). The book also reveals that Khorne was helping him.
  • Benevolent Alien Invasion: Well...sort of. Compared to standard Imperial procedure, re-education camps and status as an underclass of society isn't so bad.
  • Berserk Button: The fastest way to piss a Tau off? Kill an Ethereal. Especially if that Ethereal is Aun'va. That is to say, if they're not all dead before the shock wears off...
  • BFG: The basic Pulse Rifle can knock a Space Marine on his back, while a Rail Rifle can punch a hole in him.
  • Big Good: High Ethereal Aun'va, Master of the Undying Spirit and Aun'o of the Tau Empire. He is the Tau equivalent of the Emperor in terms of the reverence given to him and the power he wields in Tau society, although he's not worshiped as a god like the Emperor is.
  • Blade on a Stick: Ethereals sometimes wield an Honor Blade, a staff with a pair of Absurdly Sharp Blades at either end. An Ethereal trained in its use is said to be able to spin the staff around so fast as to make the blades on the ends almost invisible. The Honor Blade is primarily used to settle disputes between Ethereals in stylized, bloodless duels, where the sharpness of the blades is used to highlight an Ethereals' restraint and self-control, rather than intent to kill. However, when someone who has no regard for the Greater Good draws near an Ethereal, said restraint need not apply.
  • Bling of War: Downplayed, especially compared to other powers in the setting. Fire Caste commanders will generally wear an additional jeweled ringlet in their scalp locks for each campaign that they have successfully led. However, a Tau of any caste who rises high in the ranks will usually be surrounded by increasingly rare and valuable pieces of technological gadgetry, which is a kind of bling in its own way if a little less gaudy than most examples. However, Cadre Fireblades do wear fancy capes.
  • Blood Brothers: While the Ta'lissera is common to all Tau castes, among the Fire Caste this takes the form of ritual self-mutilation and blood-mingling, carving bonding symbols into their chests, with the knives they used to do so kept as a symbol of that bond.
  • BrainĖComputer Interface: When booting up, battlesuits hold the pilot's head in a fixed position and insert a small hypodermic probe into the spine just at the base of the skull. The probe is thankfully flexible enough to insert itself between the vertebrae. Once making contact with the spinal nerves, the pilot experiences a moment of disorienting nausea, which then passes as the interface fully comes online. From then until they deactivate the battlesuit, they see out of its optics clusters, hear with its microphones, feel through its pressure sensors, and control it as though it was their own body, while their actual body is temporarily paralyzed as though asleep.
  • Brainwashing for the Greater Good: A literal case for those conquered by the Tau who resist the idea of the Greater Good (though the Tau prefer not to think of it as "brainwashing"). They have no prisons; any disruptive social deviancy is considered to be a psychological issue on the part of the deviant, and correctional institutions are more like a mental hospital and educational facility than a lockup. Any concentration camps they establish are holding areas to protect those who reject the Greater Good from themselves until they can be properly re-educated.
  • Bureaucratically Arranged Marriage:
    • While the Tau have no direct analogue to human marriages (the closest they come to is the Bonding Ceremony which involves a mix-gender group of several partners and is a non-sexual agápe relationship) they do have arranged breeding, with breeding couples being summoned by a "Procreation Committee" to spend a day together attempting to conceive, after which they go their separate ways. All child-rearing is done in educational/nursing facilities by professional instructors of the matching caste. However, it is not unusual for a parent to take an interest in their offspring's development and occasionally visit them, though the onus of raising the child is on the instructors rather than the parent, and Tau society places more importance on chosen family via the Ta'lissera rather than blood relation.
    • Speaking of the Ta'lissera: It's a bonding ritual between two or more Tau, usually ones who work together and have a great degree of respect. For example, members of a Fire Warrior squad, some Earth caste builders working on a long project, or some Air caste ship crew. After the ritual, all Tau involved carry matching bonding knives to signify their new-found relationship, much like how a human married couple wear rings.
  • Chummy Commies/Dirty Commies: Whether the Tau are heroes or villains depends on your perspective. Either way, there is some definite collectivist influence in their philosophy.
  • Compelling Voice: Any orders given by an Ethereal are obeyed without question. The Ordo Xenos of the Inquisition are very interested in this ability...
  • Crew of One:
    • Many Tau vehicles have crews much smaller than those used by some other galactic civilizations, thanks to their extensive use of simple artificial intelligence and automation to take the load off the crew. Even in cases where a Tau vehicle has a nominally larger crew, this is mostly for the sake of redundancy in case some members become incapacitated, and to keep any one crew from having to divide their attention between too many areas. For example, the Hammerhead Gunship has a crew of three, but the "glass cockpit" of each of the crew's stations allows any one of them to take over the task of any other if necessary, and it could theoretically be operated by a single crewmember tabbing between control screens.
    • Longstrike, an ace Hammerhead pilot, has been given a new slim-form battlesuit which synchronizes with a Hammerhead's systems to allow him to control the entire gunship single-handedly, making him a literal Crew of One.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: The basic weapon of the Tau line infantry is powerful enough that even Space Marines are cautious about trying to soak its fire up, and the Tau's anti-vehicle weapons laugh at enemy armor. However, the Tau's poor reflexes compared to other races leave them at a huge disadvantage in a close-quarters battle. They make heavy use of Kroot auxiliaries to try and make up this difference, but the Kroot's skills are primarily in assaulting from ambush rather than taking the fight to the enemy. As a result, the Tau have few options when there is a military need to swiftly storm and overrun.
    • Commander Shadowsun, having been created for the Cities of Death supplement, is frighteningly effective in urban combat but becomes a massive liability when the unwise player attempts to use her in a more open environment. (This was fixed in 6th however)
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: Tau cities are noticeably cleaner than most Imperial settlements.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique:
    • The Riptide Battlesuit's Nova Reactor can supercharge either the main cannon or shield at the risk of springing a radiation leak that can kill the pilot and everybody around.
    • In recent editions, the Tau have experimented with lifting the Power Limiters on their ion weapons. This allows ion weapons to be fired in an Overclocking Attack mode that causes the target to detonate in an explosion of plasma, but also risks fatal radiation discharges from the weapon itself.
    • They actually avert this with any standard issue piece of wargear. Most notably, their plasma rifles differ from most other races' in that they pose no risk of lethal overheating. However, special-issue wargear can be prone to malfunctions, but that's expected as they're being field-tested and "kinks" are inevitable.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: A race-wide example: the Mont'au, which does in fact mean "The Terror," when the various Tau factions were in an all-out war that threatened to wipe out the entire species before the Ethereals showed up.
  • Darker and Edgier: After their initial introduction, where the Tau were emphasized as a race of idealistic (and somewhat naïve) optimists, players began complaining that the Tau were too good and pure for the grim setting. The developers have since added some darker elements to the Tau, to the point that by War Zone Damocles: Kauyon, Tau have been shown to have mostly given up on even considering integrating belligerent Humans from conquered worlds into their Empire, and just send them to forced labor camps.
  • Dark Messiah: The Ethereals went from visionaries uniting their people with great oratory skills and charisma to a caste of Dark Messiahs, being seen as leaders of the Tau's belief system while supposedly secretly controlling the entire race through Mind Control pheromones. Essentially, they can be seen as equivalent to Covenant Prophets in Halo. How did they not piss off the folks that liked the Tau being the only source of pure goodness in the universe? By stating all this through fluff; namely, the somewhat self-serving logs of Imperial xenobiologists.
  • Defensive Feint Trap: One of the core branches of Tau tactical doctrine, called "kuyon" in their language which translates roughly as "patient hunter." It focuses on using a "lure" (either a seemingly isolated and vulnerable unit or objective or in some cases the lack of forces) to draw the enemy into the Tau's considerable crossfire.
  • Deflector Shields: The Tau possess energy shield technology, which in contrast to the "Void Shields" of the Imperium (which absorb incoming fire or stop it dead) are genuine "deflector" shields because they deflect incoming fire away from the object being protected. This has the disadvantage of not necessarily protecting against every incoming attack but has the advantage of not being subject to overloads and powerdowns. This is represented as an invulnerable save in game mechanics, as the incoming fire is either deflected completely away or manages to get through and score a hit. Also notable is that Tau often put these shields on sacrificial drones which are designed to bodyguard living Tau by throwing themselves into the path of oncoming fire and counting on their shields to protect their assigned Tau.
  • Ditto Aliens: Humans often have trouble telling one Tau apart from another, or even telling which Tau are male or female. The Tau often have similar sentiments about humans.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Tau feet end in hooves, which gives them less impetus than races like humans to wear shoes, so generally they go barehoofed, including their line Fire Warriors. Stealth Battlesuits do have covered feet, but that is only because they enclose everything, and Crisis Battlesuits sidestep the issue altogether (fetal-position-shaped cockpits with mechanical legs). The Kroot and Vespid have bird-like and insect-like feet respectively, and also go bareclawed, but that is an extension of neither race wearing clothes beyond a few small items.
  • Drone Deployer: The Tau's baseline Tiger Shark Bomber has internal racks for up to fourteen drones. It often deploys these with a flyover to have them scout dense terrain or drop them in the path of an advancing enemy force to slow them down without expending living personnel.
  • Drop Ship: The Orca Dropshipnote  is the first vehicle in the setting to be referred to as a "drop ship". Unlike the Thunderhawk Gunship used by the Space Marines, the Orca is purely a transportation craft rather than a multi-mission transport and strike craft, and is only armed for suppressing a landing zone and point defense. It is capable of transporting two Fire Warrior teams, two Crisis Battlesuit teams, and a squadren of Gun Drones. While Mantas have greater carrying capacity and combat potential, the smaller Orcas allow much more strategic flexibility in force deployment than if only Mantas were used.
  • Earn Your Title: Tau who show particularly heroic dedication to The Greater Good are usually granted a title based on the deed that they did to earn.
    • Longstrike earned his title by single-handedly fighting off a regiment of Imperial Guard Leman Russ tanks.
    • Darkstrider earned his title by leading and succeeding in numerous suicide missions, culminating in being instrumental in the Great Wars for Confederation by infiltrating Ork camps and using markerlights to pick out vital Gargant components under construction.
    • Shadowsun earned her title by arranging to have Tau ships in orbit position themselves to create an artificial eclipse over an Ork base, giving her and her stealthsuit team the opportunity they need to infiltrate it.
    • Farsight earned his title for his ability to predict where Orks would be and how they would react, which he exploited to allow his forces to defeat many times their number in Orks.
  • Easy Evangelism: Played straight when the Ethereals first revealed themselves to the rest of Tau society. They ended a long and bloody siege simply by telling each side to work together, and within a matter of months had the rest of T'au coming together for the Greater Good. However, this is also Handwaved by the Ethereals use of a Compelling Voice. This trope is averted with their attempts to evangelize the Greater Good outside their species. Some do convert, setting aside their own ambitions in exchange for the protection of the Tau and the benefits and comforts of their technology, but many more do not, particularly as it is understandably difficult to overcome literally thousands of years of institutionalized Fantastic Racism if nothing else. Tau-sympathizers versus Throne-loyalists is a common source of civil divide on Imperial worlds which border the Tau Empire, and is understandably seen as a "moral threat" by Imperial authorities.
  • Empire with a Dark Secret: Propaganda aside, there are strong hints that Ethereals use pheromones to demand the unquestioning obedience of the other Tau. They still avert the Straw Hypocrite characterization that usually comes with this; the Ethereals, like their followers, absolutely believe in the Greater Good of group over self, community over group, planet over community, and race/alliance over planet. Even the renegade Farsight agrees in principle: he just disagrees, sometimes lethally, on how to achieve it.
  • Enlightened Self-Interest: Part of the philosophy of the Greater Good is that multiple species can work together and still attain their own goals (instead of killing each other, as with every other faction of The Verse). For example, the Kroot seek new enemies to diversify their genetic material, so they work with the Tau as frontline troops to get plenty of meat and DNA. Like every slightly positive aspect of 40K, it's best not examined too closely, as it's possible the Tau use mind-control devices to make sure their allies don't forget about the "benefits everyone" part.
  • The Face: The Water Caste are expert negotiators and merchants, and are a big part of the reason why the Tau Empire can form alliances between so many other species. With connections to so many other species, the Water Caste merchants have a wide variety of exotic goods to broker trades, in addition to their own high tech manufacturing, which gives them a lot of mercantile power. Many of them see this trading potential as a means of spreading the Greater Good by building up good trade relations across generations opening others up to Tau ideas.
  • Fantastic Caste System: The four main castes are part Hindu Varnas, part Four-Temperament Ensemble and part Elemental Theme Naming: the Earth Caste are artisans and engineers (most of the physical work being done by drones), the Air Caste are Ace Pilots and crew the Tau Empire's navy, the Water Caste are bureaucrats, politicians and diplomats, and the Fire Caste make up the military—the final, ruling caste are the Ethereals.
  • Fantastic Honorifics: Prefixing a Tau's personal name with the caste and rank is the formal way to address them. Prefixing their personal name with just their rank is less formal, but still polite. Addressing a Tau by only their personal name is a mark of familiarity, and doing so to a Tau you hardly know is considered rude.
  • Fantastic Rank System: Not only is Tau society divided into Fantastic Castes by vocation, it is stratified by a Fantastic Rank System too. There are six ranks, 'saal, 'la, 'ui, 'vre, 'el, and 'o. Every Tau, regardless of parentage, begins life at the 'saal (juvenile or cadet) rank, and become a 'la once reaching adulthood. After that, the Tau is evaluated at regular intervals and promoted if their capabilities warrant it in a strictly meritocratic system. The Tau attribute no stigma to being a low rank or failing to be promoted; a Tau who remains at a low rank is commended for the duties of that rank being what they are best at, and everyone is encouraged to excel in their niche. The first part of a Tau name will always be their caste, rank, and personal name, in that order, though when being addressed just by their personal name the rank will usually be prefixed to it.
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: Tau infantry typically have enclosed helmets with an optics cluster offset from the central vertical axis, and broad pauldrons, but only on their left shoulder. According to the Games Workshop concept artist who designed the Tau, the offset optics was to make them appear more "alien" than would otherwise be suggested by their human-like frames, and the pauldrons were inspired by Japanese ashigaru foot soldiers, but were only placed on the shoulder that faces the enemy when aiming a rifle in order to make the influence more subtle.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Notable in that they use a different mechanism for achieving it than most other races. Other races tend to have ships fully enter the Warp, travel to another system, then exit the Warp. The Tau use the "stutter drive" type, entering the Warp for only an instant and exiting some distance away. This brief jump is only short range (by interstellar standards) but their drives make many of them very rapidly. This has been likened to holding a buoyant ball under water and letting it spring out, or skipping a stone across a surface. The net effect is much slower interstellar travel than other methods, but also much safer and more reliable travel.
  • The Federation: Still imperialist, but quite a bit less evil than the other factions.
  • Fictionary: One of the better realized examples in the series. Tau words tend to be composed of smaller particle words combined to make up a more complex concept (much like many real world languages) with each particle separated by apostrophes. As many particles are reused between words, many patterns become evident when studying many of the words in the fluff, which can sometimes lead to understanding a few nuances on their use.
For example, the Tau word "Mont'ka" is given the translation "Killing blow" and refers to the strategy of concentrating force on a target's most critical places. Likewise, "Mont'au" is given the translation "The Terror" and refers to the period before the Ethereals brought the Tau'va, when Tau would slay one another. The Tau word "Mont'yr" is translated as "Blooded", referring to one who has seen battle. The particle "Mont" is part of each of these words, and from that we can infer that it is a core part of Tau words with connotations of death and fear.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: The Tau have next to no Warp signature and don't use it for travel except for the bare minimum, and are therefore doubtful of the existence of "daemons", at least in a supernatural sense. To them, they're just aliens. Scary, powerful aliens.
  • Flawed Prototype: The Tau are constantly innovating and pushing the envelope of their technology, so dangerous prototypes are distressingly common. In particular, early examples of their rail rifle and Nova reactor-powered battlesuits claimed the lives of several test operators. These sacrifices are considered acceptable losses if they further the Greater Good. If these initial kinks get worked out, the devices advance onto the next "test type" stage where a limited production run of them will be issued to ranking Tau on the battlefield for live-testing. If they prove worthwhile after many battles, they may see wider deployment as resources allow. However, unlike other factions, most of these tests are to ensure both maximum operational functionality and safety procedures; their prototype rail rifle and nova reactors are no more harmful than the plasma weapons wielded by the Imperium, which are prone to overheating and vaporizing their users.
  • Flechette Storm: A minor example. Tau vehicles occasionally mount a proximity defense system that bursts out a brief storm of flechettes when an enemy attempts to strike or climb onto a vehicle at close range. This system is appropriately named "Flechette Launchers".
  • Foil: The Tau were deliberately designed by Games Workshop to be a contrast with other armies. They are optimistic, idealistic, dynamic, outreaching, and hopeful, in contrast to most everyone else who is pessimistic, cynical, stagnant, xenophobic, and in decline. Their fighting style is likewise a contrast: where most armies fight like Fantasy Counterpart Cultures of historical armies, the Tau fight more like a modern high-tech one. Finally, they're even the opposites in terms of aesthetics. Imperial equipment and architecture tend to be baroque and lavishly decorated. Chaos Architecture is both alive, gruesome and spikey. Orks decorate all their homes with a crude mimicry of trophies and symbols, and both the Eldar and their dark kin share the design aesthetics of their Imperial counterparts. The Tau? Functional design and simplicity. If it's unneeded, it's coming off the wall.
  • Four-Fingered Hands: And hooves, and unique teeth. Imperial propaganda states that the Tau are descended from grazing bovines.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Went from a primitive race earmarked for destruction to a new rising power which, if left unchecked, threatens to replace the Imperium as the dominant force in the galaxy.
  • Galactic Conqueror: This is the Tau's ultimate goal, fueled by Utopia Justifies the Means. The Greater Good demands that all eventually work together toward purposes larger than themselves, and this drives Tau expansion and imperialism. They would rather have other galactic powers submit to the Greater Good voluntarily, but those who cannot or will not accept it are obstacles to be removed.note 
  • Gatling Good: The burst cannon is a variation of the pulse rifle technology with twice the barrels, set up to rotate as it fires, mounted extensively on Tau vehicles and battlesuits as their standard anti-infantry and point defense weapons.
  • Gender Is No Object: Neither the Tau nor the Kroot have any division of gender in any particular social roles, including military. It is hard enough for most races to tell the difference between the Tau sexes, as they have little sexual dimorphism beyond their primary sexual characteristics, and the Kroot have even less than that.
  • Glamour: Ethereals are seen this way by other Tau, positively radiating control and wisdom as beacons of hope and the justness of Greater Good. Humans seem them as just another one of the xenos. A Tau of any other caste who spends enough of their life around Ethereals can learn to "tune-out" the awe those Ethereals project, but will still obey any command they are given.
  • Glass Cannon: A Tau army's overwhelming firepower is offset by its weakness in close combat.
  • The Greys: Though a bit taller.
  • Gunboat Diplomacy: They use this quite often, and are happy to back up their generous offers with a grand show of force when making them. Notably, most of the other factions skip the "diplomacy" part of this trope and move directly to the "gunboat", so that should tell you something.
  • Happiness in Slavery: Used in two separate ways:
    • Other species who are absorbed into the Tau Empire are treated magnanimously whether they allow themselves to be subsumed into the empire voluntarily or through conquest. A resistant power will usually have its military partially disarmed so it must rely on the Tau for protection, and will have to prove itself trustworthy before being allowed to build it back up. The Tau help their conquests to rebuild and elevate their standards of living above that they had before. Their existence is generally quite comfortable, but despite that they have still lost their sovereignty to the Tau.
    • The other Tau castes themselves to the Ethereal caste. The Ethereals have the absolute loyalty of the other castes, and those other castes see the Ethereals as being messianic figures who hold wisdom that is unquestionable. With the noteworthy exception of the Farsight Enclaves, they are more than happy to serve.
  • The Heart: The Ethereal Caste fulfill this role in Tau society. Though they have absolute authority, they are mostly content to set broad direction for the Empire and provide advice to the leaders of the other castes. They are the ones who push the Greater Good philosophy, and ensure that the other Tau operate according to its teaching. Many other Tau themselves fear that beyond the Ethereals' benevolent guidance, they would fall back into self-destructive barbarism.
  • Heroic BSOD: The death of an Ethereal is devastating to Tau morale. If one is killed, the Fire Caste may panic and attempt an organized retreat.
  • Heroic Safe Mode: When struggling to deal with the loss of an Ethereal, the Fire Caste will continue the fight as best they can (or retreat without trampling each other) by forcing themselves to go through the motions as they process the shock.
  • Higher-Tech Species: Played with, in that the Tau have a lower maximum tech level than races like humans (especially as it concerns applications of the Warp such as long range Faster-Than-Light Travel or Teleporters and Transporters) but what technology they do have they understand very well and can manufacture easily. This means that when going up against a Schizo Tech foe such as the Imperium, the Tau will not equal their most impressive weapons, but their more common weapons will easily outmatch that of the Imperium. For example, plasma guns are rare weapons among the Imperials, being almost a Lost Technology, while similar weapons are standard issue among Tau infantry. Also, while Imperial plasma guns are highly dangerous to use, being prone to explosive overheating, Tau guns are as reliable as Imperial lasguns while packing a lot more of a punch.
  • Hollywood Atheist: To the point of Scary Dogmatic Aliens.
  • Honor Before Reason: Inverted (at least compared to some other in-universe examples) in that they consider the trope to be, well, dishonorable. They regard a Last Stand as the result of an incompetent commander. Any Tau military strategy provides extensive contingency plans for falling back and rallying. Some of their military philosophies even exploit this to lure enemies into traps when they think to press their advantage.
  • Hot-Blooded: The Vior'la sept, which directly translates to "Hot Blooded".
  • Hover Tank: One of the only two races (and 3 factions) to regularly use them. Characterized by sloping forward hulls and swiveling engine nacelles, Tau tanks lack the speed of Eldar tanks but are better armored. They have the Devilfish for infantry transport, the Hammerhead Gunship for hunting armor, and the Skyray for missile defense against aerial threats.
  • Humanoid Aliens: The proportions of their bodies are similar to humans, visibly differing mostly in skin, nose, Four-Fingered Hands, and camel-like feet. At some places in the fiction, the only way to tell whether someone in Fire Warrior armor is a Tau or a well-equipped Gue'vesa auxiliary is that the humans wear boots and five-fingered gloves.
  • Human Popsicle: During the Second Sphere Expansion, the Tau managed to develop reliably safe cryogenic technology. Primarily this is used to minimize consumable resource expenditure during interstellar transit, but it is also used to preserve exceptional individuals for more dire times. For example, many direct disciples of Commander Puretide were preserved this way, which is why Commander Shadowsun is "younger" than Commander Farsight, despite them being from the same generation. This also justifies why the short-lived Tau have some individuals whose accomplishments span a wider breadth of the Tau's history than their lifespan would normally allow.
  • Humongous Mecha: For a long time, the Tau averted this, as they considered giant robots to be impractical from an engineering and technological standpoint. They also doubted the existence of Imperial Titans, believing them to simply be Imperial propaganda to intimidate opponents, which ended very badly for them when Titans were actually used against them since the Tau had no effective way to counter them. Since then, the Tau have begun to adopt such machines. The first was the XV104 "Riptide" battlesuit, smaller than even a scout Titan but twice the height of the other large battlesuits, along with later variants like the XV107 R'Varna and XV109 Y'vahra. Later, the Tau developed enormous Ballistic Suits which are more like walking tanks than smaller battlesuits and are designed for taking on larger enemy weapons. The KV-128 Stormsurge was specifically designed as a a "Titan killer", and the massive KX-139 Ta'unar Supremacy Armour is even larger, capable of handling both Titans and large Tyranid beasts.
  • I Have Many Names: Tau names begin with the caste and rank, their sept of origin, and their personal name. As they advance in their careers, they will be given additional honorific names of their notable accomplishments or traits that have come to define them. While their full name is only used in very formal situations, their caste and rank followed by their personal name is considered the polite shorthand way to address a Tau.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: One of the uses of markerlights is to feed targeting data to other Tau units, where HUD projections, target movement prediction routines, and aim-correction computers can allow the firer to use their weapons with startling accuracy. This makes units with large numbers of marklights such as Pathfinder squads a priority target for the Tau's enemies, as they are a force-multiplier for the rest of the Tau army.
  • Invisibility Cloak: Tau Stealthsuits are one of the smaller varieties of battlesuit, fitting as Powered Armor, and equipped with an active camouflage device. Stealth team commanders are chosen from veteran Fire Warriors who show great personal initiative and are usually employed as irregulars, being given independent deployments with a broad set of operational parameters. Such missions are usually things like observing the enemy from hiding, attacking targets of opportunity, and disrupting the enemy's rear operations. When more regular Tau forces move to engage, the stealth teams will usually position themselves to assist before resuming their mission.
  • It Is Beyond Saving: More recently, the Ethereals have come to realise that certain races simply cannot be incorporated into the Greater Good because their natures are incompatible with its values, and thus order the Fire Caste to exterminate these races. Examples include the Orks and the Tyranids.
  • It's Raining Men: Any Tau unit equipped with a jetpack (which includes most battlesuits) is capable of using it to do a high-altitude deep strike insertion, deploying from Mantas or Orcas (or Tigersharks in the case of drones) and using their jetpacks to arrest their fall.
  • Jack-of-All-Stats: While the Tau are exclusively dependent on shooting on a tactical level, their hunter cadres are absolutely generalists on the strategic level. Cadres are intentionally over-equipped with all kinds of weaponry, armor, and vehicles, and the Fire Warriors cross-train heavily for a variety of different mission roles and operation types. So for example, they could be moving on foot one mission to infiltrate and set up an ambush for an approaching force, or they could mount up and roll out as a heavy armored company for an offensive push the next mission.
  • Jetpack: The Tau mount these extensively on most varieties of battlesuit, giving otherwise ponderous war machines substantial mobility. They are broadly similar to jump packs used by other factions, but contain additional gyroscopic stabilization and computer-controlled thrust vectoring to ensure a stable firing platform while in mid-jump, allowing Tau battlesuits to rain down the fire while on the move.
  • Just the First Citizen: The Tau language has over two dozen subtle distinctions of the phrase "first among equals". These are used to describe the many varieties of seniority and honor among the higher ranks and castes.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: While the Tau as a whole are presented as Wide Eyed Idealists, many of the Tau characters in the fiction who have survived long enough have seen for themselves what kind of universe they inhabit (despite what the Por'hui media claims) and have come to understand just how naïve their faction's idealism is. Despite that, they remain loyal and dutiful, some philosophizing (privately) that striving toward those ideals is more important than achieving them.
  • Laser Blade: The Farsight Enclaves have developed Fusion Blades, which allow Fusion Blasters to be used as this.
  • Laser Sight: Tau make extensive use of "markerlights" that improve other units' chances to hit an enemy target, or to guide seeker missiles.
  • Law of Inverse Recoil: Used in an interesting way. Tau pulse weapons, owing to the fact that their rounds are extremely low mass (though high velocity) have almost no recoil. This tends to surprise professional human soldiers who manage to get their hands on one in the field, after seeing the effect those pulse weapons have on targets. The Burst Cannon, owing to its rate of fire, does have a noticeable muzzle-climb, but it is slight enough that vehicles' and battlesuits' firing computers automatically adjust aim to compensate for it, and even an infantry unit can (theoretically) manage it with a good grip.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: Good luck getting any Tau from the official septs to say anything about the Farsight Enclaves. While not exactly a cover-up (Commander Farsight was too big a hero in the Tau media to outright deny), the idea that there is a rogue Tau state outside the benevolent guidance of the Etheral Caste is something Tau do not like to even think about, let alone speak on. Indeed, most of the Imperium's intelligence on Farsight comes via a Rogue Trader who in turn got it from a too-drunk Water Caste merchant.
  • Lighter and Softer: The Tau were generally seen as a lighter and softer take on the 40k universe when they were first introduced, and in many ways are still such despite the various darker elements that have been added to their lore.
  • Lightning Bruiser:
    • Tau XV8 Crisis Battlesuits are large, strong, tough enough to resist lots of small arms fire, and can mount a diverse array of weaponry and combat support systems. But also thanks to good strength-to-weight ratios of their materials, neural interfaces, piloting-assist artificial intellignece, and a small counter gravity generator, they are quite nimble. Add to that a Jet Pack which allows them to navigate battlefields at speed via a series of powered leaps, and the only thing that keeps them from being complete Game Breakers is that they are terrible when swarmed in close combat.
    • Taken Up to Eleven with the XV104 Riptide Battlesuits, which is twice the size of a Crisis suit, while being better protected than a Space Marine Dreadnought, able to absorb more punishment, mounts heavier weaponry, and is still able to quickly Jet Pack around. It is practically a Flying Brick.
    • Commander Farsight's personal Battlesuit has all of the above perks of the XV8 and the power of the Dawn Blade, giving him the distinction of being the only Tau that can tear his enemies a new one in combat. It's also powerful enough that it allows him to cleave through tanks like a hot knife through butter.
  • Long-Range Fighter: To the point of Crippling Overspecialization, but damn if they are not good at it. Only the Imperial Guard and the Orks can put out more shots, but the Tau hit more powerfully and, with the aid of markerlights, more accurately.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Tau battlesuits and vehicles often have multiple firing missile systems, such as the missile pod or smart missile system, both of which output several small missiles at once. The missile pod tends to be a more simply-guided direct-fire variation, while the smart missile system is capable of navigating its missiles around blocking terrain.
  • Made a Slave: Though they do not call it that, one of the darker sides to the Tau's philosophy is that everyone must serve the Greater Good eventually, whether willing or not. Some of the fluff suggests that those who resist the Tau and do not accept the Greater Good after surrendering are put into single-sex concentration camps to be re-educated. Those who do eventually accept are given more comfortable accommodations and allowed more agency to further the Greater Good. Those who do not accept are put to labor for the Greater Good, with the hope that their labors will teach them something about working not for the self but for the many. That said, the Tau make sure all their prisoners' basic needs are met, do not engage in unnecessary torture, sacrifice, arbitrary executions, or work the prisoners to death, which puts them above a lot of the other users of this trope in this setting.
  • Magnetic Weapons: This is the Tau's signature for weaponry.
    • Their pulse rifles are technically coilguns, albeit ones that cause their physical ammunition to break down into an energy state while in transit down the barrel. They are only distinguished from "plasma guns" (when the term is used in the rest of the setting) in that the ammunition being excited to a plasma happens in the weapon itself, rather than in a reactor that "bottles" it for later discharge.
    • Railguns are mounted on their Hammerhead Gunships. A lighter version with two barrels is carried by XV88 Broadside Battlesuits and Pathfinder snipers carry an even smaller variant.
  • Meat Versus Veggies: Tau are herbivorous while Kroot are carnivorous. It's zigzagged how much the two races resent each other over it, with the Tau's shame-happy propaganda and the Kroot's snarky, pseudo-sadistic demeanor. As a whole the trope lands somewhere on the subverted side oft things, since the Tau are aware the Kroot can only eat meat.
  • Mecha Expansion Pack: The Crisis and Broadside battlesuits have a common chassis, simplifying their logistics somewhat as they share parts. Both models (though the Crisis suits moreso) have universal hardpoints designed to accommodate a wide variety of weapons and combat support systems, allowing the suits to be configured for different mission types and to counter a variety of different threats. In an interesting twist, Crisis suits are one of the few Games Workshop models that are seemingly intentionally designed for players to swap out equipment packs, as their slots are tight enough to hold the weapons and wargear in place with pure friction as well as come with every possible upgrade (at the time) the suit can take.
    • This has since changed partly with 6th edition, and thoroughly so with 7th edition. The current generation of the XV88 Broadsides, are described as being completely independent chassis of its own now, designed from data collected from the original which had its Railguns mounted Shoulder Cannon style as mentioned abovenote . The current version, while heavily influenced by the Crisis suit, is now its own machine that's significantly larger, and replaced the railguns with heavy railrifles in a side by side Arm Cannon mounting and aimed like a sniper rifle, moving the secondary weapons to a single shoulder hardpoint mount. Because of these changes however, current generation Braodsides have their own Mecha Expansion Pack equipment what let's them replace the heavy rail rifles for high-yield missile pods for anti-infantry duty, and they can also now mount a single-shot seeker missile mounted on the backpack.
    • The Crisis suit in the meantime, thanks to its versatility, has allowed for a wide variety of Ace Custom variants, and experimental equipment to be tested on it. Likewise, a series of new XV8"x" suits that are heavily based upon the Crisis have been produced, such as the XV85 "Enforcer", a Command variant that put's emphasis into protection, and loadout capacity, or the XV86 "Coldstar", a full-fledged flight capable suit with rapid reaction in mind, with a high-output burst cannon, both of which retain the ability to quickly tailor weapons or support systems as needed.
  • Mechanistic Alien Culture
  • Medieval Stasis: Averted. The Tau are the only race who have made significant technological advances in the last 10,000 years (besides the Tyranids, who are constantly evolving).
  • Mind Over Manners: Something that the Ethereals regularly engage in. Though they can give a command to any other Tau and will be obeyed without question, they generally prefer to explain their orders when they can, occasionally using koans or trick debates to allow other Tau to reach the conclusion they already had in mind. This is done because the Ethereals' Compelling Voice only seems to work when talking in person (giving credit to the "mind-control pheromones" theory) and since Ethereals cannot be everywhere at once, they have gradually cultivated Tau culture to obey them even without compulsion.
  • Mini-Mecha: Any Tau battlesuit with an "8" in the first digit of its designation will classify as this.
  • Missile Lock On: Tau seeker missiles are very fast, have great endurance, and their programmable warheads allow them to serve in both an anti-air and anti-armor capacity, but they require a lock-on from a markerlight designating their target before they will fire. The usual usage of this trope is subverted though, as seeker missiles fly so quickly that all but the most attentive pilots will not even realize they have been locked onto before they have time to attempt a High-Speed Missile Dodge.
  • Monochromatic Eyes: Tau eyes are always depicted as being of a solid color all the way through. However, depending on the depiction, they are portrayed as being red in official artwork model painting, but solid black in some of the fiction. Presumably because red looks more obvious than black on a model on the tabletop (where black might suggest missing eyes.)
  • Mysterious Benefactor: The Ethereals. However good or bad they are aside, not even their detractors know where they come from or how they came to be. One fan theory is that the Eldar created them to organise the Tau into a potential subservient allied race.
  • NaÔve Newcomer: Though reality is beginning to sink in.
    • Their natural resistance to Warp phenomena due to their lessened Warp presence, combined with the relatively low amounts of Chaos raiders in their sector of the galaxy, means they are especially naive about daemons and Chaos worshipers. One early fluff article actually references them facing against a Slaaneshi warband and misunderstanding the references to their patron god to instead be references to the warband's leader.
  • The Needs of the Many: The Greater Good is, as far as it's been explained, a sort of patriotic utilitarianism; rather than literally counting who will benefit, it demands that the Tau choose to benefit the largest idea of "us" possible.
  • Neural Implanting: A part of the Tau's education system, and a way in which they manage to cram enough learning into their relatively short lives to keep their technology advancing at the rate it is. "Didactic modules" are implanted in Tau at various states of maturity beginning as infants with others implanted at various stages. The limitation is that these modules can only impart factual data, and the access speed of them is generally slower than something learned organically. Thus, Tau education supplements these with lots of drilling and practice of the information most pertinent to each Tau's particular caste (Fire caste members train with weapons, Water caste members train in speaking languages, Earth caste members train operating and maintaining equipment, Air caste members train in flight simulators, etc.)
  • The Noseless: The Tau are almost Rubber-Forehead Aliens, except that their nose is concave instead of convex as it is in humans, as a single slit running up and down the center of their face from above the mouth to well past the eyes. There is some variation in it though. For example, the Etheral caste is distinguished by a diamond-shaped crest of bone in the center of their slit. Commander Shadowsun has a slit that parts halfway up into a Y-shape, though it is unknown if this is characteristic of all female Tau.
  • Not So Different: Expect this trope to come up in any story with interaction between the Tau and the Imperium of Man. Each side convinced of its own virtue and the wrongness of the other, each one holding its adherents up to an impossible ideal. Some characters will even bring this up, though the tone will shift depending on who says it and why. Tau will often use it as a Hannibal Lecture about how it would not be a large step for a human to accept the Greater Good. Humans by contrast will use this in a Hannibal Lecture of their own, cynically explaining that the Tau are no better than the Imperials, the Imperials just admit their darkness more freely than the Tau.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Inverted with the Water Caste. Their role as bureaucrats is to make the other castes function more comfortably and efficiently. As a rule, they are very good at this job too.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. There are at least three, possibly four, different distinct characters in the fluff all named "Kais". One from the Tau codex, one from a novel, and one or two from Video Games, all refering to different characters. "Kais" means "skillful" in Tau, and is presumalby a common given name among them.
  • Our Souls Are Different: Tau, like all sentients, have a presence in the Warp. However, that presence is duller and dimmer than that of humans, and orders of magnitude less than that of Eldar. This has the effect of giving them some degree of natural resistance (though not necessarily immunity) to daemonic influence. This is also the reason why no psykers have ever been born to the Tau—their connection with the Warp is too weak for such powers to manifest among them.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: The Tau cop this attitude, looking down on races like humans as being crude and superstitious. Except in this setting, those superstitions are true. Some of the writing from Tau perspective suggests that many Tau do get an inkling of what unexplainable horrors lurk in the galaxy, but it is not considered politically correct to mention it.
  • Perilous Power Source: Fire Caste leaders had been asking for a battlesuit which was bigger, tougher, and more heavily armed for a long time to help bridge the strategic gap between the Tau's forces and enemy war machines like Ork Stompas and Imperial Warhounds. However, the proposed designs were unworkable until a power source both small enough and strong enough could be manufactured. The Earth Caste eventually discovered such a power source in the form of the nova-reactor, a small dark-matter based power plant which was sufficient to support the power needs of the new enlarged battlesuits like the XV104 Riptide series. While it is perfectly safe while running at normal levels, when the demand for output gets too high, the power surge scales up quickly and unpredictably, risking an emergency discharge which can potentially damage the Riptide. Thus, running its systems at full power capacity is something to be done only when the risks of not doing so outweigh the risks of doing so.
  • Phlebotinum-Handling Requirements: Tau armored units use a genescanning system to prevent hijacking, as demonstrated when an Imperial commando tried to use a battlesuit and got electrocuted for his trouble.
  • Plasma Cannon: Like forces such as the Imperial Guard, the Tau make wide use of energy weapons, but unlike the laser-based weapons of the Guard, the Tau use more powerful plasma-based weaponry:
    • Pulse rifles (including their carbine, burst cannon, and pistol variations) are the most common Tau weapon, issued to line infantry. Unlike most plasma weaponry technology, the ammunition is inert until fired, at which point the induction of the firing mechanism causes the solid-state ammunition to excite to a plasma state as it transitions down the barrel, becoming almost Pure Energy by the time it leaves. The result hits a little less hard than most kinds of plasma weaponry, but with better reliability and effective range, and still exceeds the stopping power of most other non-plasma small arms, including bolters.
    • The Tau also make use of more "conventional" plasma technology, similar to that of other races where the ammunition is put into a volatile plasma state and then stored in high pressure magnetic bottles. While this lacks the range of the pulse rifle, it does have a more powerful effect and is better at cooking a hard target inside its own armor. The model most favored by the Tau is often mounted as a primary weapon on battlesuits, and is a little underpowered compared to other races, but is also much more reliable and does not suffer nearly the failure rate or user-endangerment that characterize most other plasma weapons.
    • Ion weaponry (which instead of shooting plasma at a target, turns the target itself into plasma) was given to the Tau by the Demiurgnote . Traditionally mounted on vehicles as a medium weapon for dealing with heavy infantry or light vehicles, the Tau have recently developed smaller models for infantry use. In an attempt to further close the power gap between them and their adversaries, the Earth Caste has experimented with increasing the power fed into the weapons. This can produce a much more devastating effect when overriding the power governor by causing targets to literally burst from within in an explosion of plasma, but also exposes the firer to much more risk as the ion cannon runs beyond its operational safety limits.
  • Power Fist: The Tau avoid melee whenever possible, so it is surprising that they have developed their own version, but they have. It was originally developed as a battlesuit weapon during the Damocles Crusade to deal with Imperial armored vehicles in extended campaigns where ammunition became scarce, and it remains very uncommon out of preference. However, when a battlesuit strikes with it, it hits with the force of a full railgun.
  • Praetorian Guard: Bodyguard Teams decked out in XV 8 suits protect Tau commanders.
  • Propaganda Machine: The Tau Por'hui media is composed of Water Caste members who have the job of reporting on empire-wide events and evangelizing the Tau Empire with transmissions outside their own borders. While they do not fabricate information, they do only give it selectively to put the most optimistic spin on it. While the Tau Empire itself is very stable and prosperous, the reason for this lying by omission is to keep the population from realizing just how unlikely they are to reach their goal of uniting the galaxy under the Greater Good, given the Tau's slow FTL travel, lack of super-luminal communication, and the fact that most of the galaxy is simply not interested in joining.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Fire Caste, at any rate, and less violent than most.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Eight, Farsight and his True Companions. They are Farsight himself, a Tau who relies on the life support in his Battlesuit to survive, a Tau who isn't even a member of the Fire Caste, the latest carrier of a title belonging to one of Farsight's most loyal soldiers, a Tau who was saved from being lobotomized by Farsight, an AI based on Farsight's mentor, the commander who commands the Farsight Enclaves while Farsight is away and a young pyromaniac who recently defected from the Tau Empire.
  • Realpolitik: Characteristic of Tau / Imperium relations.
    • For example, in the wake of the Damocles Crusade, many Imperial worlds were stripped of their defenders in order to make a stand at Macragge against Hive Fleet Behemoth. The Tau expanded their empire in the wake of the Imperial muster, going into now-defenseless systems and offering to protect them in exchange for annexation rights. Those who would not accept the deal were simply curb stomped as most of their defenses were already removed. The Tau defend their aggressive actions by saying that if they had not "expanded defensive interests" to those Imperial worlds than other, less benevolent powers would have taken them anyway before the Imperium could build its forces back up to keep them.
    • While the Imperium of course wants to be rid of the Tau eventually, they generally refrain from taking direct offensive action against them, except to try and liberate Imperial worlds that the Tau have annexed, preferring instead a policy of trying to contain the Tau Empire's expansion. This is in part because of the huge drain of military resources that would be required to completely rout the Tau, but it also is because the Tau Empire functions as a bulwark against Tyranid hive fleets, Orks, and other local powers around the Eastern Fringe where the Imperium's power is limited. As long as the Tau Empire exists, it will distract other potential threats away from Imperial worlds, and the Imperium is only too happy to let that happen.
  • Renegade Splinter Faction: Farsight's Enclaves.
  • Reporting Names: The "XV" designation of battlesuits is an Imperial convention, derived as a phonetic truncation of their proper name, "Her'ex'vre" which translates as "Mantle of the Hero". This is why the most common class of battlesuits is "XV8", being the largest battlesuit in the single-digit size range due to the Tau counting by base eight.
  • Revenge Before Reason: If an Etheral is killed while in a theater of war, the other Tau present typically go through several stages. First they fall back in a panic, then go into stunned inactivity while they try to come to grips with what happened, then gradually try to return to their duties by numbly going through the motions, which eventually gives way to a cold anger over what was done. An opposing force had better press its advantage during this time, because at the end of this period the Tau drop their normal policies of allowing a retreating enemy to withdraw or accepting their surrender, and their new objective becomes to kill as many of the foe as they can.
  • Roboteching:
    • The Tau's seeker missles function like this. A unit somewhere on the battlefield requests a seeker missile launch via a markerlight, the missile launches off its mounting on a nearby vehicle, shoots up into the air (regardless of original orientation) then cruises along until it can fly straight into the target.
    • Likewise, the Tau's smart missile systems, which fire a salvo of several missiles at once. These missiles are small, low velocity, short range, and have a very modest payload, but are self-guided and capable of nimbly weaving around blocking terrain to seek their targets, making them ideal for clearing out infantry hiding in heavy cover that would otherwise protect them from the Tau's more typical high power, long range weaponry.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: There is a good reason why they are sometimes referred to as "Blue Space Communists."
  • Schizo Tech: Averted with the Tau themselves, but present with the allied societies inducted into the Tau Empire.
  • Seppuku: The Tau call this Malk'la, and it might be demanded by the Etherals of a high-ranking Tau who causes a serious breach of conduct. The ritual is not described, but is said to scar all who see it.
  • Sergeant Rock: A Cadre Fireblade is a high ranked Fire Warrior who declined the offer to pilot a Battlesuit, either preferring to continue to fight along side their Fire Warrior unit or feeling it to be a practical necessity. Though a Fireblade is unable to attain the Shas'O rank, he still is considered extremely important to the Tau Empire.
  • Series Continuity Error: A minor example. Ace Hammerhead pilot Longstrike was said to make his reputation during the Tau conquest of T'ros by managing to Snipe The Cockpit of a Warhound Titan, breaking the momentum of the Imperial advance. While a Warhound Titan was destroyed during the T'ros (Taros) campaign, it was destroyed by a Tigershark AX-1-0 bomber equipped with Manta-scale railguns, which would have been piloted by air caste crew and not a Fire caste tank gunner.
  • Shiny-Looking Spaceships: Notable in contrast to the Imperium, which has very old space ships with baroque hulls that make them resemble space cathedrals. The 13th Penal Legion's Lt. Kage once noted to himself how odd he felt the interior of a Tau ship was, finding the cleanliness and quietness of the ship's interior to be rather unnerving in contrast to the well-lived-in state of most Imperial ships. Justified by the fact that most Tau ships are almost brand new by the standards of the setting, and have not had much opportunity to build up a history of wear-and-repair like their counterparts among other species. As well, the Tau's continued technological advancement inverts the series' usual rule of thumb that older technology is better technology, so ships that get too out of date are either refurbished with updated technology or retired and replaced with newer classes of ship.
  • Short-Range Long-Range Weapon: Concessions to the scale of the tabletop aside, the Tau try to avert this as much as possible, as they fare poorly if they are not given the opportunity to line up a good shot. To facilitate this, the small circular device near the tip of the barrel on most pulse weapons is actually a gyroscope housing that is part of a fire-by-wire system which automatically corrects for shaking hands and gravity to keep the barrel level and on target even at extreme range, so that a firer need not close the distance to ensure an accurate shot.
  • Shout-Out: The Battlesuits, unsurprisingly, contain many nods to the Gundam series in their designs.
    • The XV-88 series is an obvious homage to Mobile Suit Gundam's RX-77 Guncannon, with its similar model number and twin shoulder cannons and arm-mounted missile launchers.
      • The updated Sixth Edition XV-88s now boasts a larger hull and a standard armament in the shape of a Rail Rifle that requires both of its arms to carry... Sniper GM or Zaku, anyone?
    • Commander Farsight's Custom Crisis Battlesuit sports a red paintjob and silver helmet.
    • One of the Hazard suits' weapons is a double burst cannon which is often twin-linked, in the style of Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz's Heavyarms.
    • The Riptide, is pretty blatantly the Full Armor ZZ Gundam. Not only is it a bigger, beefier version of the classic Crisis suit, it can fire off a Macross Missile Massacre and has a super powerful energy weapon that's very risky to use.
    • Conversely, the Forge World-made KX139 Ta'unar Supremacy Armour resembles a Destroid with its multi-barrel Arm Cannons and several artillery-style over-the-head Shoulder Cannon barrels.
  • Sniper Rifle:
    • The Tau Rail Rifle is a misnomer, as railguns do not use rifling, but it does fit a marksmen's niche. Earlier Flawed Prototype models were subject to occasional unexpected capacitor discharge, potentially injuring or killing the wielder, but the Earth Caste eventually ironed out that glitch. For safety reasons, most of those rifles were mounted on special weapon drones instead of carried by infantry. Even though they are safer now than they were before, the practice of mostly using drones to carry and fire them stuck for a while.
    • Recently "Longshot" pulse rifles have come into vogue among Tau sniper teams, a variation on their traditional pulse rifle technology with an even greater range and precision. They lack the penetrative qualities of the rail rifle, but in turn can fire more rapidly and do so more effectively on the move than the rail rifle could.
  • Space Romans: The Tau culture is a pastiche of various Eastern philosophies and civilizations. Also, an important but often overlooked inspiration for the Tau is that of The British Empire IN SPACE! A small "island" nation which expands outward, claiming territory, absorbing indigenous populations as best they can, laying down infrastructure and spreading their culture where ever they go, and having an influence far in excess of their own modest numbers.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • Tau call humans "Gue'la". This is awfully similar to the Cantonese insult "gweilo" for Westerners when pronounced just right, as Dawn of War players discovered.
    • The first digit in a Tau battlesuit's designation is its size class, ranging from one for form-fitting Powered Armor to eight for Mini-Mecha. This is in keeping with the Tau's base-eight counting system, as Tau have Four-Fingered Hands. However, Forge World makes a line of questionably-canon battlesuits which are slightly larger than that and are designated with a nine. Which means that when expressed in a base-eight system, those battlesuit's sizes are taken Up to Eleven.
      • Up To Twelve if you count the new XV104 Riptide Battlesuits.
    • The way the Tau army functions is a bit of a stealth pun. In order for the army to be anywhere near effective, all the units must work together in perfect harmony. In other words, in order to succeed, your units have to work towards the greater good.
  • Super Prototype: Once Tau technology moves beyond the Flawed Prototype stage, it is often given a limited production run and issued to ranking Tau to test on the battlefield. These test types are usually only found a few in any given Hunter Cadre, and are often quite powerful. However, they may require rare materials or be difficult to manufacture, and thus their battlefield effectiveness needs to be heavily scrutinized to determine if they are worth mass producing for wider deployment. Sometimes the answer is "yes" and they become common place, other times the answer is "no" and they remain only in limited production.
  • Too Dumb to Live: What the rest of the Galaxy consider them as in regards to Chaos, the horrors of the Warp, and various other nasties.
  • Toxic Phlebotinum: The Tau were able to successfully miniaturize their ion weapon technology once they discovered an isotope of iridium which can be manufactured as a large metal slug, heavily charged up, and inserted into an infantry-portable weapon. Exposing the substance to air causes it to recharge, drawing more power from its core and readying it for use; popping open the chamber and leaving it open while readying a shot can even increase its power. Unfortunately, this process also gives off low levels of harmful radiation. For this reason, Tau who are issued ion rifles are rotated through their weapon assignments every few months to prevent excessive radiation poisoning, though one who abuses the charging properties of their weapon risks lethal exposure.
  • Tranquil Fury: Killing an Ethereal typically causes the other Tau to go into shock. Once they get over that, however, they will hunt you down, advancing boldly behind a fusillade of plasma fire.
  • Tribal Facepaint: An old practice by the plains-hunting tribes in Tau pre-history, which is still practiced by their modern descendants in the Fire Caste, except they paint their armor and guns rather than their faces. These paints usually take the form of careful parallel straight lines done primarily on helmets and rifles in Sept colors, with some secondary lines on the torso, legs, and shoulders. This is often the only clashing color alongside otherwise drab uniforms.
  • Trick Bomb: The Tau make exclusive use of this in their grenades:
    • Photon Grenades: High-tech flashbangs, either hand thrown or shot out of a pulse carbine's integrated Grenade Launcher. The Tau employ them primarily as defensive weapons to disrupt charging enemies to give their pulse weapons more time to gun them down, or offensively in the rare circumstances they have to breach and clear an enclosed area.
    • EMP Grenades: Hand-delivered anti-machine weapons. The Tau use them exclusively in an anti-equipment role, disabling tanks or parked aircraft and taking them out of the fight until they can be serviced, but without many of the risks to the operator placing them that more overtly destructive ordinance might involve. They are particularly a favorite of infiltrating Pathfinder teams when disrupting the enemy's rear operations.
  • True Companions:
    • Fire Warrior squads sometimes undergo a ritualistic blood-mingling ceremony, which translates into improved morale on the tabletop.
    • The Eight, consisting of Commander Farsight and seven of his most trusted allies.
  • The Unfavourite: Much like the Dark Eldar before them (though to a lesser degree) the Tau went more than six years and the entirety of Fifth Edition without an up-to-date codex. However, the Sixth Edition Tau Codex brought the army up to a competitive standard, with rebalanced forces and new units to employ, and the 7th edition codex has made the Tau one of the strongest armies in the game.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Tau battlesuits range in size from Powered Armor to Mini-Mecha and are as strong and tough as you would expect such combat systems to be. However, their operators are very poor at close range fighting, and will often find themselves outmaneuvered and taken down by weaker foes.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Any Tau who manages to withstand the Heroic BSOD of the death of their Ethereal becomes a truly terrifying force of plasma-spewing death.
  • Up Through the Ranks: To reach Shas'O (commander) rank, you have to start as a basic Fire Warrior and pass through multiple trials of fire (usually surviving a dangerous mission or passing a difficult combat exercise) to progress through the ranks. There are no shortcuts, so every commander has started out as a basic infantryman.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: The Tau Kick the Dog only subtly, and when they do this is almost always the motivation. Conquered populations are inducted into the philosophy of the Greater Good, their populations subject to selective sterilization to keep them from growing faster than the Tau can indoctrinate them. Troublemakers are placed in guarded reeducation camps and determined recidivists are made to simply disappear and are never heard from again.
  • Veganopia: It is stated by at least one Inquisitor that Tau apparently do not eat meat. However, it is stated elsewhere that the Fire Caste still engage in ceremonial game hunts. It appears that the Fire Caste is the only Tau caste which does eat meat, and even then only in a ritual manner. All other Tau dishes depicted in fiction have been of the non-meat variety, though starfish and other sea creatures have appeared.
  • Victory by Endurance: Most of the Tau's major conflicts with the Imperium (the Damocles Crusade, the Taros Campaign, etc.) have been resolved in the Tau's favor by this method. The Tau lack the massive material advantage that the Imperium has, but they have a much more mobile and flexible military with less of the same kind of logistics longtail that the Imperial war machine does. Thus their strategy has generally been to sap the Imperial strength with Hit-and-Run Tactics, rear-line disruption, and selectively giving ground until the Imperial authorities decide they have more pressing military business elsewhere.
  • Virtual Ghost: The Tau have at least one case: Commander Puretide. Puretide was regarded as a peerless military genius, and some of the Fire Caste's best commanders trained directly under him, including both Commander Farsight and Commander Shadowsun. In the last years of his life, Earth Caste technicians spent a great deal of time and resources mapping Puretide's brain and taking recordings of his teaching. After his passing, they carefully reassembled this knowledge and personality as exactly as possible in the form of a holographic artificial intelligence so that Puretide's experience could be preserved for posterity. Even today, the most promising Fire Caste commanders will be assigned to train under the Puretide A.I.
    • One of Farsight's True Companions is a Battlesuit controlled by an AI based on the brain of his former superior officer.
    • Neural Implanting: The Tau have also manufactured a Puretide Bio-chip, which some Fire Caste commanders voluntarily choose to have implanted within them. This chip contains some of Puretide's recorded memory and experience, and this then becomes available to the implanted Fire Caste commander, giving them a font of old wisdom, but their personalities will be forever altered by the process.
  • Walking Tank: Tau Ballistic Suits turn Tau warriors into walking artillery.
  • We Have Reserves:
    • Averted, in that the Tau do not have an enormous recruitable population or the economy-of-scale production abilities of powers like the Imperium, but they do have a universally effecient and high-tech industry. This informs their strategic doctrine, with their forces being almost entirely mechanized and committed to mobile warfare. Since they cannot hold down large areas of terrain, their forces are swiftly re-deployed from one battlezone to the next, moving to counter enemy advances or hit them where they are vulnerable. Further, if a battle is going poorly, Tau forces will do a Tactical Withdrawal rather than lose a signifigant amount of personnel, so that the survivors can be redeployed to hit a more vulnerable flank.note 
    • The various Gun Drones and Shield Drones are developed as a response to this, as they are meant to take the brunt of the damage that would otherwise cost a living Tau his life. They are wholly expendable, because the Tau themselves are not.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Unique in the setting in that the "well-intentioned" and "extremist" parts are roughly balanced.
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: Strongly averted. Tau industry and vessels are all highly automated, and even the lower ranks of the Earth caste, the ostensible laborers of their society, are more like equipment operators, often directing small teams of utility drones who do the actual labor.
  • We Will Wear Armor in the Future:
    • Tau metallurgy is capable of easily mass-producing a "nano-crystalline compound" called Fio'tak which is similar to ceramite used in armor by the Imperium, but is considerably lighter. This is what allows Tau to make tanks light enough to hover, and battlesuits light enough to nimbly Jet Pack around. This also allows them to ensure that even their infantry has fair protection against small arms without slowing them down with excessive weight.
    • The standard Fire Warrior Armor is actually one of the few practical designs in the setting, as there is a large shield on the shoulder of the user's firing side. This allows the Fire Warrior to maximize his armor while minimizing weight, much like how ancient archers would have one arm armored against the enemy.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: The Tau are young, idealistic, and wish to explore the galaxy, inviting new races into their sphere of influence. They think they're in a Space Opera. They're... Not.

     Outstanding Enforcers of The Greater Good 
Even amongst the followers of the Greater Good, some individuals have achieved unique reputations for their dedication, skill and bravery.

Commander Shadowsun

To follow any path other than the Tauíva is to doom us all. Only together and with courage and discipline shall we stand victorious. Fight with fire and courage and nothing can stand against us.

Once a contemporary of Commander Farsight, O'Shaserra was the youngest student of the legendary Commander Puretide. When that legendary Fire Caste leader perished, the Ethereal Council decided to avoid placing too much faith in mind-capture devices and hologramatic tutors, and chose to place several of Commander Puretide's best students in stasis to awaken them in a distant future, where they might be needed. O'Shaserra was one of those chosen, and after three centuries, she has been reawakened to lead the Third Sphere Expansion.

  • Action Girl: A rarity in 40k's special characters, who tend to be overwhelmingly male or genderless.
  • Close Range Combatant: By Tau standards. Shadowsun equips her XV22 with a pair of Fusion Blasters for Armor Piercing Attacks that are only effective at short range. Thanks to the stealth capabilities of her suit and its Jet Pack, she excels at moving between cover undetected to catch the enemy by surprise, do tremendous damage, and fade before they can rally for a counterattack.
  • Hearing Voices: On the world of Agrellan she started hearing warp echoes from the apocalyptic something that the Imperial Guard had enacted centuries earlier. This lasts for several weeks after she leaves...
  • Meaningful Name: She earned her title by arranging for Tau ships in orbit to position themselves to create an artificial eclipse. The enforced twilight allowed her to lead a team of stealthsuits into the middle of an Ork encampment undetected to destroy a high-priority target and shift the campaign into the Tau's favor. Thus for the creation of this innovative tactic of blocking the light, she was honored as "Shadowsun".
  • The Rival: To Commander Farsight, who she regards as an unrepentant traitor to the Greater Good and seeks to confront and defeat him one day. The Ethereal caste is manipulating her in this regard, feeding her subtle lies about how Farsight hates and mocks her, just to get her to drive herself harder. After the events of the Second Agrellan Campaign, she seems to have a new respect for Farsight after he and his forces surprisingly came to her aid, even warning him to escape before the Ethereals ordered her to chase after him.
  • Stealth Expert: Her primary expertise in combat, and the element on which she built her reputation. Her experimental XV22 armor was actually a prototype for a next-generation version of the Tau's stealthsuits, and she was judged the most fitting to put it through its paces.
  • Super Prototype: Shadowsun's iconic XV22 Battlesuit is an experimental new Stealth battlesuit system that is still being tested before it will be deployed en masse. While the Tau have yet to find a way to mass-produce the systems that went into it, the Imperial capture of several first-generation XV15 stealthsuits forced them to move up the timetable and compromise with the much bulkier XV25. For the moment, the XV22 remains a prototype superior to its more clumsy derivatives.
  • Underestimating Badassery: In War Zone Damocles: Kauyon She seriously misjudged the Space Marines, apparently thinking their Asskicking Equals Authority policy meant their leaders ruled by strength alone. After killing the Raven Guard chapter master she thought she had killed the King of Space Marines, which would leave them all disorganized for some time (possibly years) until they selected a new leader. Of course only the Raven Guard chapter itself was really affected, and they had selected a new leader by the next morning. From the same story she also seriously underestimated the scale of the Imperial military; she thought the force she was facing in that battle was the bulk of it and a loss that would set them back for decades, when it was really little more than the vanguard of the real counter-attack (which was still a fairly minor force by Imperial standards).


It burns so briefly, the light of my children, so briefly. But, by the Greater Good, it burns so bright!

Eldest and most revered of the Ethereal caste, whose hand has been felt upon many great events in the Tau's history and who is the highest member of the High Council. The Ethereal Supreme, this arch-diplomat is the spiritual heart of the Tau Empire.

  • Big Good: He is the Aun'o, the Ethereal Supreme and leader of the Tau Empire.
  • Cool Old Guy: Aun'va is older than even other Ethereals have ever managed to live. Yet, in-universe, he is seen as so Badass that this is considered only natural.
  • El Cid Ploy: After his assassination, the Ethereals create the illusion that he is alive and well via the use of holograms, knowing that morale would be utterly broken if the Tau knew the Ethereal Supreme is dead.
  • Joke Character: In 4th edition, he's widely considered to be the worst special character ever made, due to him not bringing much to the battlefield and can actually cripple your own army if he was killed. His 6th edition rules has instead made him into a support role, buffing your troops like he was suppose to in fluff.
  • Killed Off for Real: In the Warzone Damocles: Mont'ka book, Aun'Va is assassinated by an Imperial Culexus assassin. The Ethereal Caste cover up this fact to avoid the crippling effect it would have on Tau morale.
  • Support Party Member: While most Ethereals are this, Aun'va takes it Up to Eleven. His benefit to a Tau army is not from the personal power he brings to the battlefield, but from that fact that his mere presence emboldens them all, taking them to new heights of combat excellence in devotion to the Greater Good.
  • Virtual Ghost: After his death, as mentioned above, the rest of the Ethereals in the know immediately activated a hologram in his image and personality to transmit speeches to the Tau as proof of his "survival" to prevent Tau moral from being shattered.
  • Too Important to Walk: And likely too old as well; he travels everywhere in an anti-gravity hover-throne.


Shas'la T'au Sha'ng is the most heralded tank ace in the Tau Empire. His legend began when he was the sole survivor of an extended battle against multiple units of Imperial armor on the planet T'ros, culminating in making multiple kills even though he was the last pilot left, most notably destroying a Warhound Titan with a single headshot.

  • Ace Pilot: Tank pilot, but still applies.
  • Boom, Headshot: During the Taros campaign, Longstrike was credited with killing an Imperial Warhound Titan with a headshot. However, the Forgeworld-produced Imperial Armour Volume Three - The Taros Campaign cites the kill as being made by a Tiger Shark AX-1-0 with an Air Caste pilot.
  • Crew of One: Thanks to a combination of skill and his experimental Super Prototype armor, the XV02 Pilot Battlesuit. While most Tau vehicles are theoretically capable of using a single pilot crew, before La'Shang it was generally considered unfeasible.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Averted; Longstrike is still a Shas'la, roughly the equivalent of a bunk private, but is highly esteemed nonetheless. He remains a Shas'la because he excels as a tank gunner, and his talents would be wasted by moving him into more of a command position.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: His signature talent, particularly with the turret of a Hammerhead. See Boom, Headshot.
  • Not So Different: To the Imperial Guard's Knight Commander Pask. Both are highly skilled tank aces who won fame by taking out a Titan in a standard-issue tank, and both refuse to move up the chain of command despite their merits already warranting a higher rank.


An enigmatic and unsettling veteran, Sub-Commander El'Myamoto continually turns down offers to be transferred to command, despite having more than achieved it through age and skill, because he prefers fighting.

  • Attack Its Weak Point: His unique Structural Analyser wargear can identify weaknesses in a target's protection, allowing his squad to shoot at them. This manifests as lowering the Toughness of his target by 1 on the tabletop.
  • Badass: He constantly goes on dangerous missions deep into enemy territory and comes out alive.
  • Cold Sniper: Not him, but his Structural Analyser facilitates this excellently for Ion Rifle or Railrifle-wielding Pathfinders by lowering the Toughness of their target. Effectively this makes him a Cold Spotter for a sniper team.
  • Enemy Scan: His scouter eyepiece scans targets and highlights weaknesses, calculating the exact spots on a target to best place a shot to inflict maximum trauma. This data is wirelessly shared with the rest of Darkstrider's unit, effectively reducing the toughness of anything their direct their fire at.
  • Military Maverick: Despite his obvious courage, heroics and successes, he refuses to move on from his position as a Pathfinder team leader and drops subtle hints to his superiors that he does not want to follow in the traditional footsteps of the Fire Caste. Given how much importance the Fire Caste places on tradition and deference to authority, this stops just short of insubordination, and only a combination of Shadowsun vouching for him and Darkstrider's proven stellar success record keeps him in the field.
  • Sergeant Rock: Like a marine Gunnery Sergeant, Fireblades like Darkstrider form an experienced counterpoint to their technically higher-ranking officers.


An elderly Ethereal who is a master with the honour blade, he became legend when what was supposed to be his last assignment, bolstering a new colony named Kel'tyr, saw him personally taking command against an Ork assault. Aun'shi led the last desperate defense, personally hewing the Ork warboss in half with one stroke, then cutting down every Ork that came at him until relief arrived.

  • Ambadassador: As the only Ethereal still welcome in the Farsight Enclaves, he frequently finds himself playing this role.
  • Badass Grandpa: Old enough that he should officially be retired. Still capable of splitting an Ork in two with one twirl of his honour blade.
  • Close Range Combatant: No Ethereal trains with guns (that is what Fire Warriors are for) but they do train with the honor blade, and Aun'shi is one of the best. It is said that he once held a door alone against dozens of charging Orks, cutting them down one by one as they were forced to bottleneck through it to reach him.
  • Deflector Shields: Carries a shield generator.
  • Double Weapon: Aun'shi's Honour Blade is a long staff with sword-like blades at either end.
  • Good Luck Charm: He is considered to be one by any army who has the honour of having him embedded into them during a campaign.
  • Master Swordsman: Most Ethereals practice somewhat with the honour blade for ritualistic duels, but Aun'shi has devoted himself to perfecting the art of it.

    The Eight of the Farsight Enclaves 
Even among the Farsight Enclaves, Commander Farsight's personal strike team and war council, known as The Eight, are legends.

Commander Farsight

Each must find their own way. If those in our heartland had witnessed the savageries of the void as have we they would know this. The hand of each of the starfarers is turned against the other; none will join their strength together just to see their ancient enemies prosper. Neither should we.

Once a shining star of the Tau, Commander Farsight grew alienated after a brutal campaign against the Ork menace, feeling that his coalition was not receiving the continued support from the Ethereals that it deserved. This came to a climax after the battles at the Damocles Gulf, on a planet called Arthas Moloch, where mysterious aliensnote  intervened in his crusade against the Orks by killing all of his Ethereals, after which he disobeyed standard procedures and proceeded on, crossing the Damocles Gulf and founding his own empire, a string of heavily fortified strongholds upon the far side frontier that have come to be known as the Farsight Enclaves.

  • Badass: In previous editions, from what little we could gather about him, it seemed that Commander Farsight was the closest thing the Tau had to the kind of ultra-grim Badass you see so much in this universe. Now, with further revelations into the dark nature of the Tau Empire and that he's actually a good guy, he's been compared by the fandom to Kamina.
    • If you're able to fight the Swarmlord to a draw in hand-to-hand, you certainly count as this. note 
  • Badass Boast: Commander Farsight gives us this in the Sixth Edition codex:
    I've seen things you wouldn't believe - entire worlds in flames, chains of supernovas on the edge of nothingness, the great hole in space. I am changed, an outcast now...
  • Badass Grandpa: Commander Farsight has to be at least three hundred years old by now, which is elderly even for the Ethereals and well beyond the lifespan of other Tau, yet he's still fighting. The Ethereals theorized that it was a case of a series of successors taking up the mantle of Commander Farsight in turn. However, pictures from battlefields that Farsight's forces were at got back to them and proved them wrong. It's actually the same guy. Unknown to all of them, including Farsight himself, his sword leeches life from those he kills.
  • Base Breaker: In-Universe, there is a lot of debate amongst the Tau about whether or not Commander Farsight really is the closest thing the Tau have to the Imperial concepts of a traitor and a heretic.
  • BFS: Carries a massive alien sword called the Dawn Blade, which he discovered on Arthas Moloch.
  • Big Damn Heroes: When he was still a loyal member of the empire, he was known for this, and is regarded as a master of the Mont'ka "Killing Blow" form of warfare and showing up when least expected, even occasionally to the surprise of his own allies. Performed one that absolutely shocked everyone involved in the Second Battle of Mu'guluth Bay/Second Agrellan Campaign, when he and his Enclave beformed a Dynamic Entry upon the planet of the same name. Furthermore, he and his enclave appearance absolutely stunned Commander Shadowsun by rescuing her and her forces. Their combined forces managed to repel the bulk of the Imperial forces, and restored Shadowsun's respect in Farsight.
  • Broken Masquerade: Gets this big time in the incident where he discovers the Dawn Blade. He learns that there is a world outside our material universe and the supernatural is real. He also finds that Chaos can reach out to him psychically (he blacked out for several hours after hearing his name being called out in the Eye of Terror) and that the Ethereals have known and suppressed knowledge about Chaos all this time.
  • Char Clone: The paintjob's a dead giveaway, though his recent characterization has taken away some of his menace.
  • Close Range Combatant: Unusually for the Tau, he heavily favors getting in close with the enemy, and heavily trains his forces in fighting at extremely short range. His experience with Orks had a strong impact on his tactical philosophy, and his lack of access to some of the Tau's more advanced technology has enforced it. His favorite tactic seems to be dropping almost on top of the enemy from an airborne deployment while leading a squad of elite battlesuit pilots to wreck their center.
  • Commander Contrarian: He was originally presented as an isolationist and even xenophobic foil to the mainstream Tau Empire's openness to other races, but as the Tau's fluff has grown Darker and Edgier and made them more oppressive and colonialist, Farsight by contrast has been shown to be more sympathetic to humans and other aliens. It seems his only purpose in life is to be whatever the Ethereals don't want him to be.
  • Cool Sword: His sword, Dawn Blade, is a magical weapon and it's this weapon and a few artifacts that he's discovered that made him realize that technology alone can't save them from Chaos, he needs magic if the Tau are to survive the coming of Chaos to their empire.
  • Defector from Decadence: When he discovered that the Ethereals had been suppressing knowledge and were not being honest with their fellow Tau, he began questioning everything about them. However, since revealing what he knew to those Tau back in the core of the empire could cause the Tau to return to the days of Mont'au, a fate far worse than Ethereal rule, he chose self-imposed exile instead. This also allows for his forces to act as a buffer from threats the loyalist Tau are far too naive or unprepared for to face.
  • Deflector Shields: Carries a shield generator.
  • Founder of the Kingdom: Created the Farsight Enclave, thanks to how loyal his forces were to him. They were unwilling to leave their leader behind in his self-imposed exile
  • Four-Star Badass: Of the Farsight Enclaves.
  • Life Drinker: This one's so secret that no character in-universe is fully aware of it. The Dawn Blade is made of "chronophagic alloys," and whenever it is used to cut someone's life short, the years they would have lived are added to the wielder's. Farsight has his suspicions, but if he were ever aware of the truth he would probably kill himself.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Regarding the Tau's views upon other races as barbaric primitives who put too much belief into superstitions. As he's learned, the other major forces of the galaxy are that way because they're right, because there are things superior technology can't solve, and there are unseen horrors that requires use of items of a mystical sort.
  • The Paragon Always Rebels: Commander Farsight was a hero to the Tau, one of the greatest champions of the defense of Dal'yth Sept during the Damocles Crusade, who built his career on repelling Orks with a strategic insight that bordered on prescient, earning him his Meaningful Name. In the wake of the Imperial withdrawal, many questioned the Empire's strength, so Farsight was selected to lead a combined force to retake the worlds that the Tau had lost so that they might show their strength to the doubters. However, as Farsight's campaign dragged on, he began to go off-mission, diverting from his primary objectives to engage the Orks encroaching on the territory he sought to reclaim. This went unremarked at first, as the situation was fluid and he had authority to redirect forces as he saw fit for the Greater Good. However, he pressed further and further off mission, and after the Ethereals accompanying him all mysteriously died on the world at Arthas Moloch, he ignored any communication demanding his return and stopped getting any further support from the Empire. Since then, his forces have fortified several worlds and formed their own sept away from the empire, still refusing communication even generations later, pursuing an agenda known only to Farsight himself.
  • Rogue Agent: Farsight now operates on his own after the death of his Ethereals.
  • Shout-Out: The world on which he found his sword, which has been suggested to have corrupted him, shares the name of another bitter warrior-prince corrupted by a relic sword and a terrible, corruptive demon-god.
  • Start My Own: Farsight's faction is more in keeping of a traditional 40K army.
  • Zero-Approval Gambit: Heavily implied in the Farsight Enclave supplement army book that everything he's doing, including the direction of his blockade, is to protect the Tau from the Eye of Terror and thus Chaos, even if it includes being seen as the ultimate traitor.

Commander Bravestorm

One of the Shas'Os originally given the powerful Onager Gauntlet, Bravestorm is permanently entombed in his battlesuit by built-in life support systems due to the injuries he sustained in battle against the Imperium at Blackthunder Mesa. Despite this, he still serves Farsight as a member of The Eight.

  • Heroic Sacrifice: He valiantly fought a heavy armored force of Imperial Guard tank in the battle of Blackthunder Mesas. Even when his ranged weapons ran out of ammo or were ineffective, he ended up taking down a number of them with his Onager Gauntlet. While he was left crippled for the rest of his life and forever stuck in his battlesuit, his actions helped swing the battle in the Tau Empire's favor.
    • Does this again during the events of War Zone Damocles: Mont'ka as part of the Second Agrellan Campaign (Also known as the Second Battle of Mu'Gulath Bay), this time costing his life. He noticed a Vindicare Assassin lining up a shot upon Farsight, and quickly moved his own battlesuit in the way, Taking the Bullet for Farsight.
  • Man in the Machine: Similar to Space Marine Dreadnoughts, Bravestorm cannot leave his Battlesuit due to injuries he sustained in battle.
  • Power Fist: One of the first Tau to wield the Onager Gauntlet, a powerful weapon built into a Battlesuit's fist. On the table, the Onager Gauntlet is a one-time use weapon that has the strength of a rail gun.
  • Taking the Bullet: Took a Vindicare Assassin sniper's bullet to protect Farsight, dying in the process.

Honour-Shas'Vre O'Vesa

Not actually a member of the Fire Caste, O'Vesa is an elderly Earth Caste colleague of Farsight's who uses small drones of his own invention to keep himself alive. He pilots a heavily modified XV 104 Riptide Battlesuit.

Commander Brightsword

The original Brightsword served under Farsight while he was still fighting Orks and making his name before the Third Sphere Expansion. Since then, his successors have loyally served Farsight from the Damocles Crusade to the Farsight Expedition to now. The current Brightsword serves as a member of The Eight.

  • Combat Pragmatist: Uses the superheated barrels of his fusion blasters as swords.
  • Legacy Character: Unlike Farsight, who has the benefit of the Dawn Blade keeping him alive, there is no secret that the current Brightsword is not the original one to bear that name. There have been at least seven Battlesuit pilots to take up the mantle of Brightsword since the death of the original.

Commander Sha'vastos

Sha'vastos was the first Tau to be fitted with the Puretide Neurochip. Due to the mental degeneration caused by the chip, he was due to be forced into retirement and lobotomized, which only didn't happen because of Farsight's intervention. Despite this, he was still placed into suspended animation until O'Vesa was able to recalibrate the chip decades later.

Shas'Vre Ob'lotai 9-0

Shas'Vre Ob'lotai was the Tau that trained Farsight in the basics of piloting a Battlesuit. The Ob'lotai that serves as a member of The Eight is not this Tau. Ob'lotai 9-0 is an AI engram based on the original Ob'lotai. He pilots a Broadside Battlesuit.

Commander Arra'kon

Subcommander Torchstar

A defector of the Tau Empire, Torchstar is a young, but talented Battlesuit pilot who is well known for her love of using fire against the Tau's foes.

Allies & Mercenaries


Together we will eat them all!

  • Alien Hair: The Kroot are dissimilar to humans in that they have long quills growing out of the back of their heads, as well as many smaller quills growing about their bodies. These quills are actually sense organs - air vibrating against them provides the Kroot their sense of hearing in the same manner that ears provide humans a sense of hearing.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: The Kroot are commonly depicted in official artwork with dull green skin similar to Orks, but there canonically exist a variety of other skin tones including red and black. Coloration is usually divided up by kindred, but even the same kindred can change skin color over the course of a few generations depending on what they have been eating.note 
  • Ascended Extra: The first appearance of the Kroot was as a small drawing of a "Kroot Warrior" among a group of other miscellaneous minor xenos in an art spread within the third edition core rulebook. This actually pre-dates the introduction of the Tau, who only became part of the setting late in the third edition's life cycle. That single image was greatly expanded upon to create an allied race for the Tau, both to fill a tactical niche in their force composition and to show their willingness to ally with others. The Kroot were picked for this roll because of how well they contrasted with the Tau.
  • Beast of Battle: The Kroot employ several Kroot-descended species in combat, including aggressive Kroothounds to run down the enemy, lumbering Krootox to use as mobile mounts for heavy weapons, and even great Knarlocs they can goad into the enemy to wreck havoc.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology:
    • Kroot have no dedicated urinal or rectal orifaces; any indigestible components (which are very few to them) are regurgitated up through the mouth. This also serves as a birth canal (see below). They also have multiple stomaches, quill-like sensory organs on the backs of their head (and in other places), and distinctly unhuman musculature that makes them a lot stronger than they look.
    • They are also the only species in the setting besides the Tyranids that actively guide their evolution, and also be able to see it within a generation.
  • Bizarre Alien Reproduction: Kroot have no genitalia, as humans recognize them, instead using specialised pores to secrete and absorb genetic material: the only reason we know they come in male and female, instead of being hermaphroditic, is because the fluff says so. The gene-secreting pores are located on the palms of the hands, while the gene-receiving pores are located on the small of the back, so sex, for Kroot, essentially consists of a backrub. Once fertilised, the female converts one of her stomaches into a womb, regurgitating the offspring once the pregnancy is ended.
  • Blade on a Stick: The Kroot use long rifles with a pair of scythe-like bayonets at either end. The Kroot use these both as a rifle, and as their primary melee weapon, harkening back to their ancient bladed fighting staves before they adopted firearms. The weapon's great length, combined with the Kroot's own taut, whip-like muscles, allow it to strike with great force when swung in wide arcs.
  • Cannibal Tribe: The Kroot draw heavily on this trope for their imagery. They consider eating the flesh of another creature a way of showing respect for that creature's strength. Inevitably though, sentient creatures are what they considered the strongest. Their culture revolves around finding strong creatures to eat, which is what drives much of their mercenary aspirations. If it puts up a good fight, it will make a good meal, and that makes the Kroot stronger.
  • Challenge Seeker: Kroot prefer to avoid eating weak things, seeking as strong and dangerous prey as they can bring down. Sometimes this means apex predators of a given world, other times it means enemy soldiers who put up a good fight. The stronger their prey, the stronger their children will be.
  • Close Range Combatant: Their biggest direct-combat strength, and the primary reason that the Tau employ them. However, they are not so specialized in to to the point of being unable to do anything else, but on the other hand they are only moderately good at it by the standards of other dedicated assault troops. They are relatively fragile due to not wearing armor, but they do use their speed and quick-contracting muscles to rain several hard-hitting blows with the many bayonets on their long Kroot rifles.
  • Creative Sterility: A characteristic of the Kroot. Though not unintelligent, the Kroot's lack of creativity is what kept their technology at a crude black-powder level for a long period of time, and they were unlikely to go any further than that on their own. That was all changed when Orks invaded their homeworld, and the Kroot's own innate ability to absorb and incorporate genetic information from what (or whom) they eat allowed them to take advantage of the Orkish Genetic Memory and gain spacefaring technology. In fact, the creative portions of their brains are literally smaller and less developed than the logical-rational parts. In humans, this would be the equivalent of having a smaller right brain than a left brain.
  • Cringe Comedy: The Kroot have a sense of humor that tends toward finding amusement in making others uncomfortable. For example, turning up their natural pheromones to an obviously pungent level, and standing around Tau diplomats who cannot stand the smell but are too polite to object, or offering humans meat from their own species and acting offended if they do not accept because they find others' squeamishness about food hilarious.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Kroot who eat too much of a certain creature are locked into an evolutionary dead-end. For example, eating quadrupeds over other animals results in the Kroot lineage permanently becoming Kroot Hounds.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Though Kroot are a species widely known for eating the dead (or soon to be dead) of sentient species (including their own) they are three major exceptions to this:
    • The Kroot will not eat any Tyranic bio-forms. Some speculate that the Tyranid's capacity for LEGO Genetics might somehow conflict with the Kroot's own capacity to adopt characteristics of what they eat. The only things the Shapers say when asked is that apparently Tyranid flesh tastes awful or "tainted".
    • Though the Kroot are materially-minded, they are pragmatic and realistic enough to have picked up really quickly that there are some things in this universe that cannot be rationally explained, and thus they recognize Chaos as a threat. Because of Chaos' reality-disregarding ability to reshape the flesh of those exposed to it, Kroot avoid eating those obviously mutated by it, though sometimes it is hard to tell and in the few instances where Kroot did eat the flesh from Chaos warbands it rarely turned out well for the Kroot.
    • Because the Tau were instrumental in helping the Kroot repel the Orks from their homeworld, they are indebted to the Tau Empire and hence give them preferential terms as mercenaries. However, they like this arrangement and will not stand to see it threatened. Thus, any Kroot who eats the flesh of a Tau is considered to violate a sacred taboo and will earn the ire of the Shapers and potentially be outcast from their Kindreds.
  • Exposed Extraterrestrials: As mentioned, the Kroot have little in the way of modesty taboos or vulnerable sexual organs to protect. Their Adaptive Ability to take on the traits of their prey means that they tend to find themselves growing more comfortable with the exposure to the elements wherever they hunt. They think that humans' need for clothing and shelter means they must have little pride in their ability to survive an environment.
  • Fantastic Racism: Notable averted in a setting that otherwise usually plays it straight. The Kroot are fairly easy-going about working for or alongside other races, provided the terms of their contract are agreeable. Whether those others are as comfortable working with the Kroot, especially after seeing them eat, is another matter entirely.
  • Feathered Fiend: Though they have quills instead of feathers, the Kroot are descended from alien avians, and retain their ancestors' beaks and light bones. Unlike the vast majority of terrestrial birds, Kroot give birth (regurgitate) their young live.
  • Foil: Games Workshop included the Kroot in the Tau army list because of how their "savage" appearance and fighting style contrasted with the clean, high-tech, Animesque style of the Tau. Their mercenary culture and healthy skepticism for the Greater Good is also a contrast to the Tau. Think of them as the Sancho Panza to the Tau's Don Quixote.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Kroot's sexual organs are the pores in their skin, so they feel little modesty about the bareness of their bodies, and since the small quills scattered about their flesh are sense organs, they prefer to have them exposed to better feel and smell their environment. If they wear anything, it is usually light and utilitarian, such as belts and pouches for carrying things, or something small and ceremonial like a head dress or necklace.
  • Gender Is No Object: Thanks to having very little sexual dimorphism, Kroot have little in the way of gender role distinction.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: While Kroot have no particular nudity taboo, they do occasionally wear clothing for other more practical purposes, like warmth or modest battlefield protection. In those cases, most of their outfit will be leather, which they gather in abundance as part of their lifestyle as hunters. For the battlefield wear, they use the toughest and most exotic xeno hides to offer protection considerably above what is usual for leather, though this is still poor proof against modern weapons.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Knarlocs, which are Kroot-derived pack hunting beasts that walk on two legs and use their short fore arms to grasp prey,note  are often used as cavalry mounts by the Kroot. The Knarloc's pack mentality and relative intelligence makes them ideal for domestication and their viciousness as hunters makes them ideal for combat. A good Knarloc is a source of prestige to other Kroot.
  • I Gave My Word: Kroot have a reputation as very reliable mercenaries due to their practice of honoring their contracts in full, giving exactly what the contract stipulates, no more and no less. On the other hand, because they hold no particular allegiance, Kroot might find themselves switching sides in a battle should a poorly worded contract expire at just the wrong time and a better offer present itself immediately...
  • I'm a Humanitarian: While the Kroot are a rather agreeable sort, their dietary habits are generally a turn-off to most others. They are obligate carnivores, and they eat many kinds of meat, which alone would not be disturbing, but the meat they prefer most is that of sentient species. This drives much of their mercenary aspirations, giving them opportunity to get meat from the bodies of the fallen, where their preference for very fresh meat sometimes leads them to start eating even before a foe expires. The harder an enemy fights, the better a meal they will make, so the Kroot especially enjoy Worthy Opponents. Even when a Kroot kindred is in desperate times, they will eat the very young, the elderly, and the infirm so that their memory and genes will be preserved. They will gladly invite outsiders to come and join them in their charnel feasts, even knowing that those outsiders are unlikely to appreciate the gesture. They find others absurdly squeamish when it comes to eating, often deriving amusement from those other's disgust.
  • LEGO Genetics: Kroot are able to instinctively select DNA sequences from the prey they eat and add them to their own, so that a Kroot kindred that fights Orks for a few generation will develop a green coloration and heavy musculature (indeed, the Kroot only managed to leave their homeworld after eating some Orks and gaining the ability to instinctively build spaceships). After a messy past incident, the Tau make sure the Kroot don't eat anything Chaos-related, and Kroot leaders also make sure they don't eat any Tyranids, although since apparently Genestealer hybrids taste absolutely vile, this is a frivolous law except in emergencies.
  • Low Culture, High Tech: While the Kroot have some advanced technology, their Creative Sterility tends to land them in a Schizo Tech styled state of this. Their pragmatism gives them little use for ostentatious forms of wealth, but they gladly trade their mercenary services for useful artifacts beyond their own ability to manufacture. That same pragmatism also averts any Cargo Cult impulses that might happen in a more creative species. The Kroot might not be told how their technology works, but they understand well enough what it does, where it comes from, and what they can use it for.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: Kroot may not look at strong as Space Marines or Orks due to their slim builds, but they will fool you. Their muscles are unusually powerful, capable of more rapid contraction than an equivalent mass of muscles on most other species. They might not have as much lifting strength as someone bigger, but they can put a lot of force into each blow due to their quickness. According to their concept artist, they were designed to resemble Maasai warriors, being lithe and tall.
  • Noble Savage: The Kroot are seen as this within the Tau Empire, where the Por'hui media portray them as a race of Proud Warriors with respectable combat skills, and evidence that even primitive races can find a place in the Greater Good. For their part, the Kroot find this concept quaintly amusing at best, not giving much care to what others think of them, and happy to just go along with it as long as the Tau provide them opportunities to grow stronger. And, to be fair, there's more than a little truth to the propaganda.
    • In another sense, despite their obvious brutality the Kroot are, with their strong sense of community, wry sense of humor and healthy skepticism for the Tau's pie-in-the-sky ideals, quite charming once you get to know them. The Tau Empire may be the most unambiguously admirable faction in a setting where genocide and xenophobia are the norm but it is their Kroot allies who are arguably the most likable.note 
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: The Kroot do not make much effort to hide that their embrace of the Greater Good is tenuous at best. They are part of the Tau Empire for the betterment of the Kroot, by giving them opportunities to change, adapt, grow, and survive in a hostile galaxy. The Tau keep insisting that the Kroot will embrace the cause of the Greater Good with time, and the Kroot are content to let them go on thinking that.
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: Things like genetic re-engineering and cybernetics are both physically and culturally alien to the Kroot. While they certainly place a great deal of importance on genetic self-improvement and the expansion of their own innate abilities, their ability to incorporate the genes of creatures they eat into their own genetic structure allows them to change and adapt within a single generation via Goal-Oriented Evolution. Hence, there is less impetus among Kroot for functional self-modification, and they generally regard it as bizarre, unnecessary, and frankly unnatural to their sensibilities.
  • Omniglot: The Kroot vocal range is wide, and they pick up and imitate calls very easily. This is mostly a hunting adaptation, as it allows them to lure prey. However, this also extends to different tongues, and the Kroot pick up languages fairly quickly.
  • Power Incontinence: A flaw of the Kroot is that their ability to incorporate genetic material from creatures that they eat can only be controlled by making dietary choices, and not all choices are good ones. For example, a kindred that eats only dim-witted herbivores will find itself able to digest plant matter they could not before, but will also become more dim-witted themselves. This is a major reason for the Kroot's eating of sentients: it allows them to maintain their intelligence. The role of the Shapers in Kroot society is to understand what would be most advantageous to eat, and to direct their kindreds' diets to those.
  • Private Military Contractors: The Kroot aren't actually all that interested in the Greater Good (or rather take its doctrine of selflessness only up to the level of their own race rather than the empire as a whole), and will hire themselves off as mercenaries on the side.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: And just as much entrepreneurs as they are warriors.
  • Punch Clock Heroes: Part of their hat is that the Kroot do not fight for some higher cause like many great powers in the galaxy do; they keep their ambitions practical and temporal, and so fight mostly for reward. Older editions even had a special rule for Kroot units that tied their leadership characteristic to how many points the player spent on them, reasoning that investing in more equipment for them represented a generous down payment on their services, and so they would fight harder to get it. Absent this, their leadership was relatively low, and if things went bad they might decide that they were contracted in bad faith and getting themselves killed did not serve their interests.
  • The Quisling: Anghkor Prok could count for the Kroot, having sworn them into alliance with the Tau and therefore having enough prestige to command Tau troops, though the Kroot don't really mind working for Tau most of the time.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Kroot fieldcraft has a justly deserved reputation for excellence. Their role as hunters translates well to scouting and skirmish warfare. Their senses of sight and hearing are very sharp, and the quills on their body are extraordinarily sensitive to changes in the environment. It is very difficult to hide from an alert Kroot.
  • Schizo Tech: Not being particularly creative, the Kroot had a very slow pace of technological advancement, and their technology was jumped ahead when the Orks invaded their homeworld and the Kroot absorbed their Genetic Memory of how to build more technologically advanced devices. Couple this with technology granted to the Kroot as payment for services rendered, and Kroot societies are free mixes of advanced technology with traditional Kroot tribal crafts. For a battlefield example, the iconic Kroot rifle is a breach-loading longarm that also functions as a double-ended Blade on a Stick, yet it fires very advanced munitions provided to the Kroot by the Tau to give it a deceptively high stopping-power per shot.
  • Sniper Rifle: Recognizing their talent for quiet field craft and taking the enemy by surprise, the Tau have recently started issuing the Kroot special ammunition designed to aid in precision shooting. However, the Kroot rifles they are fired from are still crude devices, often without scopes or other aiming assistance, which limits their effective range.
  • Space Amish: After consuming Ork Mekboyz and gaining their gene-coded technical knowledge, the Kroot entered a period of rapid technological development and expansion that almost got them all killed off by an Ork fleet. Anghkor Prok, critical of a culture that led them into war before failing to defend them, has led the Kroot in looking to the past and living in a more "traditional" society.
  • Tribal Facepaint: Though the Kroot owe no special allegiance to particular Tau septs or have any particular uniform structure, some kindreds will wear warpaint in the colors of the sept that they are currently working for, at least for the duration of their contract.


  • Armor-Piercing Attack: The Neutron Blasters the Vespid carry are capable of ignoring all but the thickest and most dense armor, killing the organic material such armor might be protecting like the armor was not even there.
    • Likewise, their diamond-hard claws (normally used for digging the tunnels that make up their hives) possess the rending property, allowing them a chance to rip open armor like a tin can up close.
  • Bee People: The Vespid, an insect-like race who evolved on Floating Continents in a gas giant, with their social structure centered around hive-families called strains, are one of the newer additions to the Tau Empire. Initial communication proved difficult, but once translation devices were built to breach the language barrier, the Vespid joined the Tau eagerly, as the Greater Good already meshed well with the Vespid's own values of hive-over-individual, island-over-hive, and species-over-island.
  • Insectoid Aliens: Their exoskeletons, membranous wings, and hive structure gives it away.
  • Power Crystal: The crystals in the Vespid's Neutron Blasters are mined from their homeworld. Their unique structure is absolutely essential to their function, but they can only be fired when vibrated at certain but variable frequencies. So far, only the humming of the Vespid's wings has proven effective at "tuning" these crystals to allow the weapon to function, so only Vespid carry them.
  • Punny Name: Named for "vespa", the genus of hornets and wasps.
  • Starfish Language: The Vespid are so different from other races in their mentality and the manner in which they communicate that communication is only possible through the use of a special "communion helm" translation device built by the Tau and worn by strain leaders. The Vespid joined the Tau Empire eagerly after communication was established, and there is some speculation that this might have been because the helmets do more than facilitate communication, but nothing has been confirmed...
  • True Companions: Unlike the Kroot, the Vespid genuinely believe in the Greater Good and want to find their place in it. So we're told, anyway. The exact details remain unclear.
  • World in the Sky: Their homeworld is a gas giant which has many Floating Continents, kept aloft in thin band of pressure difference and due to the strange properties of the crystals which grow on them. The Vespid burrow tunnels into these continents to make their hives. However, the delicate nature of the environment that they inhabit has led to them being very culturally careful to avoid sinking a hive-island due to excessive exploitation or provoking a war which might risk damage to their hive. This in turn led to them becoming easily integrated into the Greater Good when the Tau managed their communication breakthrough.



A race of short, semi-humanoid Asteroid Miners that make their living through mining, trade and mercenary work with and for several alien cultures. The Demiurg have been around for quite a while and actually predate Tau civilization, having been first encountered by the Imperium during the Great Crusade. A reclusive race rarely seen in Imperial space, their exact relationship to the Tau, whether as subjects, allies, mercenaries, or simply trade partners, is unknown. In recent centuries, Demiurg sightings in the Ultima Segmentum have increased, usually in association with Tau and Kroot fleets, leading many Imperial strategists to assume a link between increased Demiurg activity and recent Tau expansionism.

  • Asteroid Miners: For the most part they spend their time plying the stars and mining out asteroid belts for precious minerals.
  • Continuity Nod: To the Squats, who were retconned out of the setting following the end of the game's Second Edition. The Demiurg were Games Workshop's attempt to re-introduce the Space Dwarf concept to the game and mollify the fans who were hoping to see them return.
  • Higher-Tech Species: Their preference for space-borne living leaves them with lots of incentive to make sure their technology is reliable and always improving. In fact, they pioneered ion cannon technology which they later sold to the Tau.
  • Meaningful Name: "Demiurg" comes from the Ancient Greek word demiourgos, meaning "artisan".
  • Mighty Glacier: Demiurg mining ships are armed with powerful mining lasers, but they're rather slow.
  • Mobile Factory: Their Stronghold-class ships are massive vessels, slow but well defended with powerful short range weapons, that act as the center of Demiurg mining fleets. Smaller vessels will enter asteroid fields and break them down, collecting the ore to bring back to the Stronghold ship for processing. In addition to refining the ore, the Stronghold also uses it to produce finished goods, including other smaller ships.
  • Our Dwarves Are Different: They're short and stocky, relatively technologically advanced, and they dig through asteroids to mine out minerals.
  • Proud Merchant Race Guy: They're expert traders as well as miners.
  • Shout-Out: The Tau word for the Demiurg is "Bentu'sin" (meaning "wise-gifted ones"). This is very similar to the Bentusi of the Homeworld series, additionally both the Demiurg and Bentusi are spaceborn merchants who provide ion cannon technology to their respective allies. Considering that Homeworld's developers Relic also went on to make Dawn of War and Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, it is unsurprising that some writer at Games Workshop was a fan. Culturally they aren't all that similar to the Bentusi, but they are dead ringers for Kiith Somtaaw.
  • Space Nomads: All known Demiurg live exclusively in their starships, moving from system to system in search of trade and of mineral-rich asteroids. Itís thought they donít even have a homeworld. In a downplaying of the trope, they do colonize planets if thereís good enough mining to be worth the effort.


  • Hired Guns: They're not part of the Tau Empire proper, but form mercenary bands who sell their services to highest bidder. Which, more often than not, is the Tau Empire.

Human Auxilaries (Gue'vesa)

Not all humans in the galaxy live within the Imperium's fold. Many are subjects of the Tau Empire, working and fighting for the Greater Good. Counting among their numbers mercenaries, pro-Tau defectors, captured Guardsmen and the populations of conquered Imperial worlds, the Gue'vesa vary in their devotion for the Tau and the Greater Good, but are united in their knowledge that as far as the Imperium is concerned, they're all traitors of the worst sort. Regardless of their feelings for their alien rulers, they know very well that there's no going back.

  • Alien Hair: Some human Gue'vesa shave their heads to resemble Tau hair, a single lock at the back of the head.
  • Berserk Button: They're this for Imperium forces. Imperial Guard, Space Marine and Sisters of Battle units get a bonus in close combat against them.
  • Better Living Through Evil: Among Imperials, most defectors usually do so less because they believe in the Tau's philosophy, and more because they give better rations, treat the little guys with a bit more respect, and are less likely to ask someone to die because some distant deity demands it. It generally takes a few generations for humans to assimilate fully into Tau culture.
  • Category Traitor: Gue'vesa are considered both heretical and traitorous by the Imperium, even if their only crime was being left behind when the Imperium withdrew, or simply being born to a lineage of those who were. Many Gue'vesa fight for the Tau not necessarily out of loyalty to the Greater Good, but also out of the knowledge that there can often be no peaceful reintegration into the Imperium for them.
  • Immigrant Patriotism: Sometimes those humans who convert to the Greater Good do so fanatically, though this is not true of all of them.
  • Les Collaborateurs: Humans who fight for the Tau Empire for various reasons.
  • Melting-Pot Nomenclature: In an Aerith and Bob kind of way. Gue'vesa who have lived under the Tau Empire for generations might adopt some Tau names, mixed in with their Imperial ones. For example, they might have a Tau personal name but an Imperial surname. They generally do this out of an appreciation for the symbolism such names provide, showing both their roots and their unity with the Tau.
  • You Are The Translated Foreign Word: In Tau style, "gue'vesa" is something that gets prefixed to a human's personal name when they accept the Greater Good. In Tau, it literally means "human helper".





  • Badass Navy: They provide great deal of the Empire's space forces.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Their ships are named Dhows, making them sort of Arabs IN SPACE!
  • In Harm's Way: Again, they love exploration and scouting.
  • Psychic Powers: Nicassar are highly adept psykers. The Tau go to great lengths to hide this fact, to prevent the Imperium banging down their doors.
  • Space Nomads: They're driven by an insatiable need to explore, and are most content when traveling. As a result, they're a very nomadic species, and are often used by the Tau as explorers and scouts.
  • Ursine Aliens: There's no official art of them, but one GW author described them as looking like "flat polar bears".


  • Plant People: Not much is known about them apart from the fact that they're plant-based.


  • Berserk Button: Humans. The Imperium, following standard procedure, virus-bombed the Tarellian home-worlds and nearly pushed the race to the brink of extinction. The Tarellians have not forgotten this.
  • Fantastic Racism: They hate humans with an unbridled passion.
  • Lizard Folk: Also called "dog soldiers" due to their snouts. They are like buffed-up Kobolds.
  • Hired Guns: They are not part of the Tau Empire (and have little nationalistic affiliation anyway,) but the Tau often hire their services.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Proud Mercenary Race Guy, to be exact.

A good warrior strikes fast, but retreats faster.