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Warhammer 40000: W40k Tropes A To H
By the will of the Immortal God-Emperor, the great reliquary, or "page" as it is known, of tropes has grown to the point that it shall be broken up into three different pages. These pages are divided by the letter that starts the trope, and misplaced tropes shall be returned to their proper place. This page is for those tropes that start with the letter A through the letter H.

Venerate the God-Emperor. To deep-strike back to the main page, click here.


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    A 
  • Absolute Xenophobe: Humans, by official policy of the Imperium of Man, are not supposed to tolerate the existence of Xenos. This is possibly justified in that 9 times out of 10 any alien in the known universe will kill a human on sight, though this is in turn because humanity has a terrible reputation for exterminating any sentient aliens they can. On the other hand, it's not always strictly adhered to: being an absolute xenophobe eliminates any hope of alliance with the remaining 10%, which is why the policy of "Kill the Alien" gets tossed out when an Enemy Mine situation happens.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Nearly every faction has an example; many races' basic close combat weapons have monomolecular edges, and it only gets sharper from there.
  • Absurdly Sharp Claws: Any tyranid strain from the genestealer up has zero problem cutting through Powered Armor, and the big ones can tear open tanks.
  • Abnormal Ammo: Guns which fire razor-edged molecule-thick ninja stars, guns which fire nets of Razor Floss, guns which fire wooden stakes, flamethrowers which squirt holy napalm, biological guns which use, um, muscle spasms to fire flesh-eating beetles/maggots or exploding tumors, guns which open holes into hell, guns which fire tiny goblins through hell, grenades filled with tears collected from a thousand crying statues of the Emperor...
    • Space Marine Sternguard Veterans ONLY carry abnormal ammo: rocket-propelled anti-armor rounds, rocket-propelled flaming airburst rounds, rocket-propelled vials of flesh-eating acid, and rocket-propelled miniaturized fusion bombs.
    • The Necrons have guns which literally flay your skin, flesh, organs, then bones into their molecular components with bolts of green lightning.
    • Melta weapon don't shoot plasma as much as they are nuclear meltdowns with little shutters on them.
  • Abusive Precursors: The C'tan definitely qualify.
    • The Old Ones are responsible for a lot of the horror of this setting in the first instance. They refused to help the Necrontyr even though they easily could've, prompting the War in Heaven and making them indirectly responsible for the Necrons. They created the Eldar and said "you guys are our favourites and you'll claim the galaxy when we're gone" before throwing them at the Necrons as Cannon Fodder. They created a race of green-skinned monstrosities who reproduce at an exponential rate and have hostility ''hard-wired'' into their DNA, decided "nah, we like our pointy-eared psychic soldiers better" and, rather than destroy them like any reasonable being would, instead let them loose on the galaxy. They dabbled in humanity's creation, but again decided to scrap us, leaving us with a lot of very dangerous psykers that we can't control. And they and their creations created Hell. Thanks, Old Ones.
  • Action Girl: Commander Shadowsun, Inquisitor Amberley Vail, and every Sister of Battle ever. Most Howling Banshees, as well; there are a few token males, but even they wear armor with feminine curves and identify as female.
  • Adventure-Friendly World: One of the big reasons the 40k world is so insane is that every faction needs to be able, in canon, to fight every other faction, including itself.
  • The Aesthetics of Technology: Averted for the Imperium. That huge, boxy, primitive-looking Leman Russ? That tank is so damn maneuverable it can practically tap dance. Played straight for Eldar and the Tau, whose tech is every bit as advanced as the inhuman sleekness suggests. Embraced by the Orks going the other way: their vehicles look like rickety pieces of barely functional shit because they are. In fact, it's suggested that Ork technology only works through the sheer willpower (and latent psychic ability) of its users.
  • After Action Report: Battle reports, a long-standing feature in White Dwarf magazine.
  • After the End: Though there have been about five "ends" for humanity alone, each more awful than the last.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The first true human-created artificial intelligences, the Iron Men, wiped out humanity's first great interstellar civilization and plunged the human race into a galaxy-wide dark age. The Adeptus Mechanicus outlawed sentient AIs as a result, and for the most part the Imperium's modern-day "machine spirits" are pretty well-behaved(If you treat them right).
    • Tau drones are also entirely well-behaved. Mind you, their AI is approximately the same as a squirrel (OK, pterasquirrel).
  • A.K.A.-47: Some vehicles were quite clearly based on certain real-life vehicles:
    • The Imperial Guard's Bombard siege mortars (particularly the old Epic versions) were based on Nazi Germany's Karl-Gerät super heavy mortars (one of the few cases where the real vehicle is more excessive than its 40K counterpart). Their Chimera was based on the old [pre-Desert Storm] Bradley and on the Soviet BMP 1 and 2, including having Lasguns as firing port weapons. And the Leman Russ bears an uncanny resemblance to a turreted version of the British Mark I tank from WWI, though it has a laundry list of other influences including the Panther, Tiger and T-72. Forgeworld's Hydra Chimera variant looks to be based on the Ontos, and the Cyclops demolition vehicle is a barely-altered Goliath Tracked Mine. The Epic Armageddon Imperial Ragnarok Tank is a Soviet KV-2 heavy tank(which was a very crappy tank).
    • The Basilisk with armored crew compartment is based on the configuration of gun carriers used by the Germans during WW2, such as the Marder III, Hummel, Grille and Wespe. The Basilisk gun itself is basically a long-barreled Soviet B4 Model 1931 howitzer. Forgeworld's cruciform base variant is based on the infamous 8.8cm FlaK.
    • The Thudd Gun was a copy of the QF 2 pounder naval gun or "Pom-Pom" gun on a wheeled carriage.
    • The Space Marine Rhino is a clone of the M113 APC; the original all-plastic Predator has a T-55 turret stuck on top. The Vindicator is based on the Sturmtiger.
    • The new-look Landraider bears an almost perfect similarity to the early tanks of the First World War. The older version had huge lozenge treads with a tiny box hull suspended between them, and was apparently based on a snow crawler of some kind.
    • This thing with a couple of Leman Russ on the back seems an oddly common "40K Vehicle" entry at Golden Daemon events. White Dwarf once praised such an entry "even including tiny chains" which are actually a stock part of the kit in question.
    • The Baneblade (barring the excessive amounts of weapons on it) is loosely based off the Abrams.
    • The Centaur is a dead ringer for the British Universal Carrier.
    • The Ork Fighta-Bomma looks very much like a Mig-15, while the Imperial Thunderbolt has the profile (if a different powerplant) of the WWII-era Mig-1 (its role, toughness and firepower make it similar to its namesake, the P-47 Thunderbolt). The Marauder has the profile of a US WWII medium bomber such as the B-26 Marauder, except with four engines instead of two.
  • Akashic Records: The Warp. It has a tangential relationship to causality, at best, and is most often used as a medium for divination of the future in that context, although few try to read the past.
    • In Mechanicum, the Akashic Reader was a psychic machine meant to read past innovations from the Warp, and would enable humanity to regain the technological peak that slipped away after the Dark Age of Technology. It was an important plot element, although it's near-completion was set to the backdrop of the Horus Heresy, and it never really got off the ground before it was destroyed entirely.
  • Alien Blood: Tau have blue blood and Tyranid fluids are generally described as "ichor". Eldar and Orks have red blood, although Eldar blood crystallizes instead of scabbing, and Ork blood used to be as green as their skin before Games Workshop retconned that. The Orks are now considered green due to thick amounts of algae that grow beneath their skin.
  • Aliens and Monsters: Everyone qualifies as both.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: Generally true, so long as one remembers that humans are alien to non-humans.
  • The Alliance: The Tau Empire, who are the only faction with significant allies outside their own species. This being 40K, they don't always get along. And then there's the people who suspect brainwashing, and the evidence from Dawn of War of forced sterilization and concentration camps for populations that rebel... though compared to everyone else this is a pretty good deal(as long as you don't rebel).
  • All Crimes Are Equal: citizens of the Imperium may find themselves condemned to death or forced life conscription for crimes as heinous as dumping rubbish on the streets, failing to return a book to a public library or making unauthorized use of a photocopying machine.
  • The Alleged Boss: Orks think humans employ this trope, as there is no easy way (for orks, the leader is automatically the biggest ork, an humans are all the same size to them, or led by smaller men) to tell one from another save their clothes.
  • All There in the Manual: Numerous rulebooks, novels, magazines, supplemental sourcebooks and spinoff games with their own sets.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Chaos and the Dark Eldar. Conversely the Imperium is Always Lawful Extremist, Craftworld Eldar are Always Lawful Manipulative, the Orks are Always Chaotic Rambunctious, the Necrons are Always Lawful Omnicidal, the Tyranids are Always Neutral Hungry, and the Tau are Always Lawful Utopian. All subject to interpretation, of course.
    • And get this: in spite of all the atrocities they commit, the Imperials still consider themselves to be Lawful Good. Or at least Lawful Neutral, for those who aren't Space Marines or Grey Knights.
      • To some extent, this feeds into the Crapsack World of the universe. There are plenty of instances demonstrating how horrific it is if some of those atrocities are not committed. To some extent, the Imperials generally get more opportunity to go between Good, Evil and Neutral, but rarely will not be Lawful.
      • The Imperium is always depicted as knowing they are committing a necessary evil, although the alternative would possibly be creating a second Negative Space Wedgie at the heart of itself (which is kind of what happened with the Eldar). Taking the lesser of two evils means that they think of themselves as good in comparison to the alternative.
      • However, individuals within the Imperium may have a slightly different view of things. In For The Emperor, Commissar Cain reflects on how, to him, Tau society appears extremely rigid and rulebound by comparison to the more laissez-faire attitude of the Imperium towards its citizens. Unless they're heretics of course...
  • Amazon Brigade: The Sisters of Battle.
  • Ambiguous Robots: Necrons look like skeletal robots, but are apparently more Haunted Technology, or metal golems, or something.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: All over the place.
    • A key example of this is a multi-racial, super secret Illuminati-like group called the Cabal, an organization of various elder (and Eldar) aliens whose entire goal is to rid the universe of Chaos. And what, do you ask, is their genius way of doing this? Aid Horus in every single way so he kills the Emperor, hopefully relying on the fact this will trigger the last ounce of guilt in him, effectively driving him mad with remorse, and cause him to trigger a civil war that eventually rids the universe of humanity and leaves Chaos' strongest pawns destroyed. They recruited the Alpha Legion to this end but their success is... unclear, to say the least. As for Horus, he got a nasty headache at the hands of the Emperor.
  • Ancient Tomb: Many varieties of these within the setting, including an entire race revolving around their use. Most of these places are fatal to wander into.
  • Ancient Order of Protectors: The Sensei in older editions were the (normally born, not lab-grown) sons of the Emperor, and the Illuminati a secret society devoted to protecting them from the Inquisition's attention.
  • Ancestral Weapon: Almost everyone's equipment seems to be ancient to some degree, most notably Eldar and Marine war gear and Necron everything. Somewhat justified by the fact that a lot of the more advanced wargear has to consist of ancient hand-me-downs, because humanity has largely forgotten how the technology works and considers it magical. More progress would be made in regaining that lost knowledge, but the Adeptus Mechanicus, the priesthood of technology, guards all their secrets zealously and takes a dim view of innovations that aren't based on pre-existing technologies.
  • And Man Grew Proud: Human history up until and through the war with the Iron Men that destroyed the first great era of human civilization lingers as myth and cultural superstitions.
  • Animesque: The Tau and the Eldar, albeit in two diametrically-opposed fashions, the Tau having grabbed the Power Armour, but they act like Mecha, and the Eldar being firmly espoused to Crystal Spires and Togas.
  • Annoying Arrows: Zigzagged - there's at least one instance of alien bows and arrows going straight through Space Marines, but failing to harm them because of their superhuman toughness.
  • Another Dimension: The Warp, natch.
    • The Webway, used by the Eldar, called the Labyrinth Dimension, is technically within yet entirely separate from the Warp. One could go from one entrance to another, by walking if they needed to, and come out in a location across the galaxy. Though it's relatively peaceful compared to the Warp, the Webway still finds itself inhabited by strange monsters and bizarre phenomena.
      • Dark Eldar Mandrakes are hinted to have a connection to another dimension, with some tantalizing hints that it may not be the Warp at all...
    • Necrons (especially in older editions) were mentioned to use transference of energy between realspace and other dimensions the other races were entirely ignorant of, including a dimension of endless darkness.
  • Anti-Air: Post Titan Legions, aircraft and specialized AA vehicles with a rule called "Snap Fire" started to show up in Epic. Not really applicable to 40K outside Forgeworld products, since most things in the sky are "skimmers" as opposed to true aircraft, and pretty much anyone can shoot at them; however, special mention does go to the Imperial Guard Hydra Flak Tank, which is better at shooting down aircraft and skimmers due to the sheer amount of lead it can put into the air. Now that the game has entered 6th Edition this trope has made a determined entry to 40k, in response to all the new flyer models. Skyfire and Interceptor special weapons are the new hotness.
  • Anti-Magic: Pariahs, Blanks and Untouchables nullifying psyker abilities. Which means you're immune to all the psychic and sorcerous nastiness out there, but everyone hates you because you have no soul, and the Necrons will do unpleasant things to you if they find you. Oh, and some Pariahs will actually harm psykers just by standing close by.
    • Interestingly, blanks are a phenomenon exclusive to the human race (previously attributed to Necron genetic engineering but since reconned into ambiguity).
  • Apathy Killed the Cat: Imperial domestic policy. "Only the awkward question; only the foolish ask twice."
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: Played straight by the Tau. Thoroughly averted by everyone else, who gladly maim, torture, kill, and even eat members of their own race, and claim no moral superiority from avoiding such acts.
  • Apocalypse Cult: The Genestealer cults, who prepare the planet for the Tyranid invasion. Their apocalypse involves the Tyranids devouring anything that offers resistance, then turning everything alive on the planet (including the Tyranid forces and surviving Genestealers) into soup so it can be absorbed by the hive fleet.
  • Apocalypse How: Class 0-5 apocalypses happen due to rounding errors on tax forms or when an Inquisitor has to make sure. This sounds pretty bad, until you consider that if they weren't so extreme, the nastier factions like the Orks, Dark Eldar, Tyranids and Chaos would soon gain more and more power until an entire sector gets destroyed.
  • Apocalyptic Log: A few have cropped up from doomed Imperial research expeditions.
  • Apologetic Attacker: The Tau claim to always be this, at any rate. Then again, this could be doublespeak...
  • Arbitrary Gun Power: Averted in most cases - a failed To Wound roll with firearms means the target was hit, but was wounded non-fatally and not incapacitated. A failed armor roll either means the firearm pierced the target's armor or hit them in a place where the armour couldn't protect. Since most infantry only have one wound, this means they can be killed by a good hit easily. On the other hand, there are infantry which have more than one wound. They may be very Bad Ass non-humans which served as a more reasonable justification, but may be simply very Bad Ass humans that play the trope straight.
    • Taken to ridiculous extremes with Commissar Yarrick, who is apparently a normal human pushing 70 and can not only survive three consecutive blasts from a fusion gun, but still get back up and give the opponent a Power Fist to the face.
  • Arbitrary Minimum Range:
    • In earlier editions, barrage weapons had a minimum range. In the 6th edition they still have a minimum range for indirect fire, but can still fire at targets closer than that if they have line of sight to them. However since te rules forbid you from intentionally placing blast markers on your own units (barring a few specific exceptions), blast weapons (which include all barrage weapons) still have a minimum range in some cases; if the entire enemy unit can get so close that you can't place a blast marker on them without hitting the firing unit as well, you can't fire it.
    • The Deathstrike Missile has a minimum range of 12 inches on the tabletop, equivalent to 60 feet in real life.
    • The Basilisks despite being a cannon with plating has to be using the secondary weapons if the weapon gets close despite the fact that the enemy warlord can be in front of the cannon.
    • The Tau are very poor at close ranged combat (because their reflexes are much slower than humans). As a result, most of their weapons have a great deal of trouble locking onto targets at close range.
  • Archaeological Arms Race: This is often the case when different factions in the Imperium of Man end up fighting each other, as they've become technologically stagnant and most of their best technology is either relics they've dug up (or stolen from each other) or created by the few xenos they haven't killed on sight.
  • Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age: The franchise positively delights in this, mixing melee weapons like swords and warhammers up with Frickin' Laser Beams, Tank Goodness, and dueling starships among other things. Of course, the old-school weapons are almost invariably updated with current technology (it's not just a sword, it's a chainsword or power sword). Depending on the army and unit, fighting in melee may actually be preferable. Note that many close-combat weapons are used because they are easy to wield weapons that can penetrate through armour with relative ease. For example, a power sword can slice through armour very easily, while ranged weapons capable of doing so are cumbersome and impractical.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: ...or just corrupt and really stupid. Various background pieces have members of the Imperial upper classes joining Chaos cults out of boredom, smuggling xeno artifacts, using Dark Eldar as mercenaries to sort out their rivals, trying to cut a deal with the Physical God of death...
  • Arm Cannon: Chaos Obliterators are this all over: their bodies are partially made out of weapons.
  • Armour Is Useless: Generally averted - armor and force fields can and do make a difference most of the time. However, there's no shortage of weapons that make a mockery of even the toughest physical armor: AP2 and AP1 ranged weapons, rending weapons of all sorts (on a good roll), power weapons and their variants, and literally anything used by a Monstrous Creature in melee. And then there are weapons so powerful they could not care less about any conventional protection, including vortex weapons, C'tan phase weapons, warscythes, and certain daemon weapons.
    • As an example, the standard flak armour issued to Imperial Guardsmen is roughly equivalent to modern bullet-resistant armour, like those used by any modern military. In the context of the game this is considered pretty weak, but that's largely due to the widespread availability of man-portable weapons capable of punching through tanks. It'll still save a guardsman from shrapnel, explosions, and friendly fire though, so every little bit helps.
    • Some psykers use Force Weapons which can kill any model which suffers an unsaved wound and doesn't die (like a multi-wound model for example) after a successful psychic test. This is because their attacks hit the soul and are not actually physical attacks.
    • There are also weapons with the "Instant Death" special rule, which is exactly what it says on the tin.
  • Armor-Piercing Attack: A specific stat in more recent editions, a somewhat more complex one in older ones with various dice rolls. Some weapons like Phase Swords and Warp Missiles skip the system entirely and just get straight on to dealing damage.
    • The Second Edition Earthshaker Artillery Gun had a fun special rule that even if the impressive set of dice for its AP roll failed to beat the target's armor, you would still roll a D3 on the vehicle's location damage table; since most vehicles had at least three hit locations and the blast marker would hit all of them, it was statistically likely that any vehicle hit would be at very least crippled by the shot regardless of whether the round actually penetrated the armor.
    • Taken to extremes with some weapons mounted on Titans in Apocalypse. In a game where most weapons have Strength ratings from 1 (puny) to 10 (bunker-busting), Titan weapons can have a Strength value of D: short for "Destroy everything under the blast marker automatically" (and some of these weapons use a blast marker that's a full 12" in diameter). Apocalyptic indeed.
  • Army of the Dead: The Legion of the Damned, a Space Marines chapter that got lost in the Warp and became a bunch of spectral beings. They occasionally emerge from the warp to turn the tide of a battle in favor of the Imperium before disappearing again.
  • Army of Thieves and Whores: The Lost and the Damned are a villainous (well, more villainous than usual) version - they make up various Chaos armies, and are composed of mutants, murderers, heretics, and assorted scum of the Imperium.
    • Also, the Imperial Penal Legions follow this trope straight, being armies primarily conscripted from the inmates of Imperial prisons. When the Planetary Defense Force contributions to the Imperial Guard from worlds that serve as incarceration centers, the line between "penal legion" and "PDF" become indistinct.
      • Most Penal Legions are formed of people that are desperately trying to clear their records by volunteering for military service, rather than accepting execution. Given that the penal legions are sent to some of the theaters where the fighting is nastiest, and they are considered expendable, this has some overtones of Redemption Equals Death. It's worth noting that there is no shortage of capital offences in the Imperium, so it's not uncommon for people to be eligible for induction into a Penal Legion for some really odd reasons, to our sensibilities (this is an setting where you can circumstantially wind up executed for standing on the same planet as a heretic).
    • One of the worst cases for the loyalist Imperial Guard are the Salvar Chem Dogs, a regiment consisting of only drug-addicted, psychopathic thieves and murderers who are only held under control by said drug addictions, and promises of large quantities of whatever stuff they crave.
    • The Night Lords are a sterling example, since they had been recruited from Nostramo, a world where the people have a seemingly-neurotic disposition towards sadism and crime. Curiously enough, while one would think this would make them highly suited to worshiping Chaos, they are the most secular of the Traitor Legions.
    • Many gangs in the Imperium teach many young men and women to be street-smart, callous, and how to handle basic weapons training from a very young age. Consequently, gangs from Hive Worlds that are large enough to fit this trope themselves, and the governing bodies will either sponsor and legitimize the most successful gangs, mostly as PDF divisions; or hunt them down and press gang them as recruits for the Guard, or an Astartes Chapter
      • Granted, much of the indoctrination and brain-washing involved in Space Marine training will inevitably white-wash much of the recruits' background, so few Chapters ever really come to fit the trope, even if Guard regiments do on occasion.
  • Artifact of Doom: By the truckload in every size and shape imaginable, from simple daemon weapons to entire planets serving as the can of Sealed Evil in a Can.
  • Artifact Title: In the past, Warhammer 40,000 was essentially Warhammer IN SPACE!, with many setting and system elements borrowed directly from the other game; however, as time went on, both the setting and the system moved away from their Warhammer roots, and the two games are now distinctly different beasts. The game developers have actively defied the "40,000" part of the title becoming an artifact, as they steadfastly refuse to advance the metaplot past the end of the 41st millennium (though some Black Library authors, particularly Sandy Mitchell, have included elements from the early 42nd).
    • They advanced the official plot into the 42nd millennium during the Eye of Terror campaign in 2004, which focused on the 13th Black Crusade of Abaddon. Canonically, the Crusade began on December 30th, 40999 and would've lasted years if not decades. However, the 6th Edition rulebook published in 2012 seems to reverse this decision, referring to the 13th Black Crusade as something that hasn't happened yet.
  • Artificial Limbs: May be the above Arm Cannon. Even in the higher echelons of pretty much every Imperial organisation, there is some discrepancy over just how damaged limbs are replaced: Sometimes there are actual flesh and blood vat-grown limbs, but most of the time it's large, mechanical, piston-driven coolness.
    • Iron Legion and Iron Warriors Chaos Marines love this trope, as do the Loyalist Iron Hands and Adeptus Mechanicus.
  • Art Major Biology: First the genetically-engineered supermen are designed to look cool, then they later explain how it (doesn't) work.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The Emperor either already has or is about to.
  • Ascended Meme: When the Blood Angels codex (written by Mat Ward) came out, a lot of people called the Stormraven a 'flying land raider'. In the Grey Knights codex, released a bit later by the same author, it is mentioned that the Stormraven in "often likened to a flying Land Raider."
    • In-universe: Commissar Yarrick heard a rumor that he could kill a man with a glare; he had one of his eyes replaced with a laser so he could do just that.
  • The Atoner: Both Cypher and the Fallen Angels, and the Dark Angels who hunt them. Also the Lamenters, Executioners, and Mantis Warriors chapters along with every chapter that's been on a penitent crusade ever.
    • The regiments of the Death Korps of Krieg are driven by their need to atone for their planet turning against the Emperor of Terra thousands of years ago.
    • Sisters of Battle, the Sisters Repentia unit are Sisters who seek to atone for their sins by going into battle wearing practically nothing, and carrying massive two-handed chainswords.
  • Atop a Mountain of Corpses: Does anything need to be said about this?
  • Attack Drone: Widely used by the Tau. Imperial servo-skulls are also somewhat like this.
  • Attack Pattern Alpha: Tau and Imperial militaries follow this.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Many Chaos leaders are warp-enhanced, the original Primarchs literally were demigods, and Ork and Tyranid leaders are Large and in Charge. Prevalent for all races in the tabletop game, though in later editions, either justified or rectified - taking away things like the unrealistically high Toughness of human characters, justifying the amazing weapon skills of certain heroes because they've literally been doing this sort of thing for centuries.
    • Also, this trope is arguably justified in that surviving to be promoted so high in Warhammer 40000 is really unlikely to be based off your luck. And if it is, you just won't survive in that position for very long.
    • Marneus Calgar, chapter master of the Ultramarines, has a special rule titled "God of War". 'nuff said.
  • Author's Saving Throw: Invoked. Any piece of fluff that ends up badly written or ends up painting any faction as a Mary Sue can be safely written off as in-universe propaganda.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: You could say 40k was BUILT on this trope. The basic heavy weapon for the Imperium is a hand held semi-automatic armor piercing grenade launcher, (Note that the boltgun, the weapon in question, is based off of a real-life weapon. It really isn't impractical!note ) chainsaw swords abound, the Orks partially function on Clap Your Hands If You Believe and duct tape, the Eldar have slightly better protection than a cardboard box while retaining maximum style points, and the space ships get around by traveling through Hell. It's all awesome, but none of it's remotely practical.
    • The Tau are the only exception, who avoid the extremes of the other factions, building up units that only support each other with minimal flashiness. They are also the only faction that doesn't have any Titans, considering the giant machines a waste of resources best put elsewhere.
    • The Tau analogue would be the Manta a small starship and the Tiger Shark Bomber. Even these vehicles can be multipurpose (troop transport), unlike the Titans which tend to be just killing machines designed to be cool.
  • Awesome Mc Cool Name: absolutely mandatory, and it should tell you how everyone here is like.
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: One or more for every species.
  • Ax-Crazy:
    • Khorne Berserkers. The worst of the bunch is Kharn the Betrayer, who's so bloodthirsty that any missed attacks in close combat hit anyone in the same squad as him. Known to randomly kill anyone in his way, even other Khorne Berserkers.
    • Lesser Axe Crazies include Imperial Penal Legion troopers, Blood Angel Space Marines in the throes of the Black Rage, and the entire Ork race, especially members of the Goff klan.
    • Eversor Assassins are crazy and constantly pumped with hyperactive drugs and bio-engineered to reach the very limits of the human physiology. They're used to destroy the enemy's command structure by killing everybody. Eversors are insane to the point that they have to be kept in cryo-stasis between their missions.

    B 
  • Badass: Oh boy, where do we begin?
    • Badass Army: Every playable army.
    • Badass Beard: Scout Sergeant Torias Telion.
      • Every Long Fang and Grey Hunter worth his salt must have one - besides, when you're a nine-foot tall, genetically engineered killing machine that also happens to be a Viking Expy, there's no way your beard can't be badass.
      • The new Space Marine squad kits now include one or two bearded heads, so now your grizzled sergeant can be even more grizzled by boasting one of these.
    • Badass Biker: How much more badass do you get than screaming green maniacs on ramshackle scrap-metal motorbikes laden with giant machine guns? Oh yeah, that would be the Super Soldiers on giant armored bikes the size of cars. Or the evil Super Soldiers on hell motorbikes covered in blades and skulls... or maybe the space-elf knights on flying bikes with laser lances... or the evil space elves that can fly their bladed flying death bikes with enough skill to cut specific arteries.
    • Badass Boast: Too many to count.
    • Badass Creed: Just about everyone barring Tyranids. Generally shouted as a battle cry.
    • Badass Grandpa: Pretty much every Space Marine will see their first century, the Craftworld and Dark Eldar can live for millennia, the original Traitor Legions are going 10,000 years and still counting, while the Necrons, being older than most other things in the universe and with regenerating metal bodies, outlive most of the opposition.
      • Commander Dante, the current Chapter Master of the Blood Angels, has led the Blood Angels for 1,100 years, and is the oldest Space Marine in the Imperium, Dreadnoughts excepted. He is so experienced, fearless, and powerful that when the Chapter Masters of the Salamanders and Ultramarines (Tu'Shan and Marneus Calgar) were asked who should head the Armageddon intervention, they picked him unanimously. Marneus Calgar is the guy with the rule "God of War", and even he picked Dante. Badass indeed.
      • Logan Grimnar, current Great Wolf of the Space Wolves. Nicknamed "the old wolf," Grimnar has led the Space Wolves for over 700 years, rivaling Dante in longevity. Furthermore, while Dante was picked to lead the Imperial forces during the Third War for Armageddon, Grimnar was named supreme commander for the Imperials during Abaddon's 13th Black Crusade: meaning the fate of over two dozen star systems was placed directly in his hands, and never once did he falter. Again, badass indeed.
      • The oldest Dreadnought in the Imperium is Bjorn the Fell Handed of the Space Wolves chapter. He's old enough to have seen the Emperor of Mankind before he was put into the Golden Throne, and probably the sole remaining non-Chaos person to do so.
      • Ghazghkull Thraka, who must be about seventy years old now. Given that no Ork has ever died of old age, that's quite an impressive feat.
      • And his rival, Commissar Yarrick.
      • The C'tan take the cake from everyone, having probably existed since the start of the universe (they only made contact with beings after Necrodermis allowed them to take physical form). In terms of badassery, the reason why the Nightbringer looks like the goddamn Grim Reaper is because he imprinted the fear of death on all sentient beings (minus Orks, who apparently were late to the party), and he's only the second strongest C'tan.
    • Badass in a Nice Suit: Some Commissars, priests of the Ecclesiarchy, and Inquisitors make a point of dressing conservatively or humbly. The rest gleefully embrace the same Bling of War worn by everyone else.
    • Badass Longcoat: Common in the Imperial Guard. Commissars, most obviously, but Generals often wear them too. For the Krieg Death Corps and Valhallan Ice Warriors, these are pretty much the uniform. Dark Angels Space Marines, loyalist and Fallen, tend to wear them as well. And let's not forget Fabius Bile, who has a pretty pimpin' longcoat that's made of human skin.
    • Badass Mustache: Basically anybody from the White Scars Chapter.
    • Badass Normal: The Imperial Guard: ordinary human soldiers, taking on enemies that can kill ordinary human soldiers by looking at them funny, and winning. Admittedly more visible in the fiction than on the tabletop... until the latest Codex...
      • Especially Catachan Jungle Fighters and other Death World regiments, and ESPECIALLY distinguished members of those regiments such as Sergeant "Stonetooth" Harker, who, in his personal Crowning Moment Of Awesome, caught a Tyranid Ravener in a headlock and crushed it's neck with his biceps.
    • Badass Preacher: All over the place. Space Marine Chaplains, Imperial Guard Priests, the whole Sisters of Battle...
    • Empowered Badass Normal: The Sisters of Battle used to be nothing more than power-armored nuns with guns; better equipment and training aside, they were just ordinary humans like the Imperial Guard. Recent Sisters lists have weaponized the Sisters' faith, allowing them to manifest battlefield miracles that protect them from enemy fire and further increase their combat prowess.
    • Retired Badass: More than can be counted. Commissar Sebastian Yarrick, any Space Marine Dreadnought, and Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM! among them. Of course, in this setting, everyone badass enough to survive that long is expected to return to arms soon. After all, "Only in death does duty end".
  • Bad Boss: Unsurprisingly more common in this setting than the other kind.
    • Imperial Guard Commissars, who are employed to keep morale up by setting a heroic example - and by shooting cowards and incompetents if necessary. Ok, maybe many Commissars have the justification of shooting fleeing men because there are a lot that can follow suit, and their infantry depend on More Dakka via their numbers to kill stuff, but...
      • Woe betide any commissar that tries this with Catachans. Commissars assigned to Catachan regiments have a disproportionately high fatality rate, noted on the tabletop by the "Oops Sorry Sir" special rule.
      • Largely averted by the novel protagonists Ibram Gaunt and Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!. Gaunt is working with a severely limited number of troops and cannot afford to be wasteful, while Cain knows that eventually his schemes to get out of trouble will fail, at which point he would prefer that his troops like him enough to watch his back rather than aim for it. He is also very aware of the Oops Sorry Sir rule mentioned above. It helps that both men are basically understanding and honorable individuals (much as Cain would deny it), attached to disciplined regiments that don't have the kind of morale problems that typically require Commissars to be Bad Bosses.
    • Commander Chenkov of Valhalla routinely abuses the Imperial Guard's reserves to overwhelm the enemy with endless waves of poorly-trained, disposable conscripts. He's also been known to use his troops to clear minefields for tanks and bog enemy units down so that the artillery can shell them, and once executed a million of his own men to build a dam from their bodies. His regiment, the Tundra Wolves, has been refounded more than a dozen times in recent decades due to casualties, and it's rumored that he's killed more of his own men than he has of the enemy. And of course, since this is the Imperium, he's routinely awarded medals and commendations for quickly defeating the enemy with these brutal tactics.
    • Ork Nobz also aren't above "krakkin' a few uv da ladz' 'eadz" (often fatally) in order to restore order, and Runtherdz maintain the "morale" of their Gretchin charges by having their squighounds devour a couple of them whenever they try to flee.
    • The grand master of this trope (insofar as the 40k universe has a grand master of horribleness) is Abaddon the Despoiler, Warmaster of Chaos. A fairly unpleasant person BEFORE he turned to Chaos, Abbadon is very much a believer in the Darth Vader approach of anger control, namely immediately killing those who displease him. However, this being the GRIMDARK setting it is, Abaddon takes it just one step further and will happily destroy ships of his own fleet if the captain of said vessel displeases him. And keep in mind his flagship is the aptly titled Planet Killer.
      • Not to mention that Abadon takes offense in any mere mortal looking at him.
    • It's stated that the Tau are like this to their mercenaries, and are definitely Bad Bosses to aliens who join their alliance, though more in the style of 1984. We have yet to see much evidence though.
  • Bad Vibrations: Justified - if you don't feel the tremors of an approaching Titan, you deserve what you get. Somehow, Titans are still able to sneak up on people despite this in Titanicus.
    • The Tyranid Mawlocs do this as well. Just before they pop out of the ground and EAT YOU, in best Tremors style.
  • Balancing Death's Books: The Legion of the Damned have a chapter artifact allowing them to use the soul of a slain foe to bring back their fallen comrade. Since their essentially permanently phasing in an out of battle, this is the only reason they haven't died out.
  • Bald of Awesome: The stereotypical look for Space Marines, except for the Space Wolves and the Blood Angels. Shaved heads are also common.
  • Bald of Evil: In Dawn of War at least, the Heretics, Cultist Squads, and Chaos Lords are shown with shaven heads.
  • Barbarian Longhair: Most Space Marines go with Bald of Awesome or crew cuts. The White Scars and Space Wolves, being Space Mongolians and Space Vikings respectively, obviously avert it.
  • Barbarian Tribe: Many Space Marine chapters, such as the Space Wolves and White Scars, recruit solely from the Barbarians of their homeworld.
  • Base on Wheels: The Leviathan, a mobile command centre on treads the size of a small city... which acts as an APC for tanks.
    • Orks have their own version - A krawla will vary in size from a tank APC to a city on wheels which may in turn contain smaller krawlaz.
    • Before the setting got rid of them, the Squats specialised in these, and it was said they built the Leviathans. Back in the days when Epic was still called Space Marine, there was also the Cyclops [a colossal anti-Titan assault gun], Land Train, Colossus [a Leviathan variant], Hellbore [a ridiculously huge drilling machine], the Ordinatus machines, and the Capitol Imperialis [the modern Leviathan is a ret-combination of this tank-carrying monstrosity and the old Leviathan which was just a mobile command post].
    • The Imperator Titan is also essentially a base on legs which carries an entire castle around on its back, particularly when the ridiculously complex Titan Legions rules are used; the same applies to the Mega-Gargant. Variant Imperators were supposed to follow the release of the Titan Legions but never did, one of which would have had an entire aircraft carrier deck on its back.
  • Battle Chant: There's quite a few (to the point of that they're practically the catchphrases for some factions). The most well known comes from the Chaos forces, more specifically Khorne's worshippers: "Blood for the Blood God! Skulls for the Skull Throne!"
  • Battle Trophy: Pretty much everyone.
  • Bayonet Ya
  • Beam Spam: Imperial Guard infantrymen almost-universally tote rapid-firing laser weapons, and they field a lot of men.
  • Bears Are Bad News: The Vostroyan Rough Riders are literal Bear Cavalry.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Often played straight by the Eldar (who have awesome medical tech), and by the Callidus Assassins (who are all shapeshifters). Generally avoided by the Sisters of Battle, who are about as ugly, scarred and broken as you might expect "realistic" battle-nuns to be, and get older, more grizzled, and meaner as you move up the chain of command.
  • Because I Said So: Frequently the only justification you'll ever get from the Inquisition.
    • Questioning an Inquisitor for a justification will get you executed for heresy...if you're lucky.
    • Repeat after me: The Commissar is always right.
    • Notice how the quote for Apathy Killed the Cat only goes as far as two.
  • Bee Bee Gun: The Tyranid fleshborer is a Beetle Beetle Gun, firing ravenous insects that chew their way into a target's insides. The Devourer does much the same thing with a horde of flesh-eating worms.
  • Bee People: Tyranids. Also the Tau's Vespid Auxilaries, though they're more like Wasp People.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: ...and keeps you alive.
  • Benevolent Alien Invasion: The Tau, when compared to any of the alternatives.
  • Berserk Button: Many, both in-universe and amongst the oft-rabid fanbase.
    • In-Universe Examples:
      • Suggesting harming civilians in front of the Salamanders.
      • Sending Tau-allied humans into battle against Imperial Guardsmen.
      • Destroying Eldar spiritstones.
      • Killing a Tau Ethereal.
      • A Berserker being in a state of consciousness.
      • An Ork being in a state of consciousness.
      • Mentioning anything about the Fallen to a Dark Angel.
      • Killing any member of a Black Templars squad triggers the Righteous Fury spacial move, in which they charge towards the closest enemy.
      • Inverted with the Tyranids: if you kill the commanders, they go from hostile to dumb, wild animals pretty quickly.
    • Meta-Examples:
      • There was a secret rule on the official GW forums before they were closed. If you ever mentioned the Squats, for any reason whatsoever, the moderators would permanently ban you and delete the thread.
      • A similar thing happens if you bring up the idea of female Space Marines.
      • Mentioning Squad Broken in a 40k forum.
      • On a similar note, the 4chan-spawned collective fapfiction "Dranon's Delight" will do the trick if you mention it or request a new one, particularly in /tg/ - Traditional Games. Pretty unnecessary to say, but NSFW would be an understatement.
      • Mention the fluff from the 5th edition Space Marine Codex to a Space Marine player that is not playing an Ultramarines-descended chapter. It gets worse if they play one of the other First Founding chapters. The 6th Edition Codex toned it down, to positive reactions.
      • You will get the same reaction by declaring that the Ultramarines are the greatest of all Space Marines, a quote that has been thrown around a lot in canon lately and is both completely random and rather insulting to anyone who likes another of the 20 founding Legions.
      • Two Words: Matt Ward. Ward is a long time fan that was hired as a rulebook writer during the last edition. He is, however, a tad biased towards his preferred army, the Ultramarines. His first work was the above-mentioned Ultramarines codex, which is responsible for nearly all the Ultramarines hate (see above). Later works include the codexes of the Blood Angels and the Grey Knights, which drew cries from players of being completely ridiculous and broken. He also wrote the Necrons codex, which was fairly well received despite completely re-writing their backstory (which in hindsight was rather bland). Ward-hate has reached Memetic Mutation levels, with Ward being blamed on forums for codexes or stories (or natural disasters) he's not responsible for.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Considered an honourable end for disgraced Imperial Guard officers and those touched by the Warp, and much preferable to being taken alive by the Ecclesiarchy or Dark Eldar or Chaos or the Inquisition or the Necrons or the Tyranids or....
  • Big Bad: Divided amongst several dozen contenders throughout. Most others are better described as forces and gods than true villains, and better fit into the Bigger Bad category.
    • Abaddon the Despoiler is the closest to the traditional concept (or, he would be if he wasn't a complete idiot).
    • Ghazghkull Thraka and Asdrubael Vect are two more strong contenders.
    • It's worth noting that the Tyranids are one of the most dreaded and relentless forces in the galaxy, although they don't have a "face", having instead the invisible Hive Mind, which is their collective brain. Maybe the Swarmlord?
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Once again, taken Up to Eleven with entire armies qualifying for this 'bull. If we get into the full details, we might have to give 40k its own page for it, so for now, we'll just settle with naming the biggest antagonists in order of threat level, from mildest to most extreme: Ork Warbosses, Chaos Lords, Necron Lords, Daemon Primarchs, the Tyranid Hive Mind and the Chaos gods.
  • Big Book of War: The Tactica Imperium and the Codex Astartes. The Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer would be this - it's actually pretty useful in some places, containing useful and informative tips such as how to make a frag grenade into a booby trap, how to field-strip and clean a lasgun, and how when you are on guard duty you should NEVER LEAVE YOUR POST EVER - were it not otherwise full of outright lies— er, uplifting Imperial propaganda.
    • As a sidenote: The Tactica Imperium is regarded with near-religious reverence by the Imperial Guard, and its description as occasionally self-contradictory and best used as a rough guideline even suggests similarity to the Bible. Conversely, the Uplifting Primer is considered extra toilet paper rations.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: ...and ready to burn you at the stake.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Happens a lot in the fluff. Possible in game via deep strike or simply charging an enemy to save the poor bastards (on your team) they're slaughtering.
  • Big Dumb Object: Space Hulks.
  • Big Eater: Used in a most horrific way with the Tyranids. They're a species that eats every last scrap of life from entire planets, down to sucking the last trace molecules of bio-matter from the soil.
    • One almost forgotten legendary figure amongst the Officio Assassinorum is the Callidus known as "Mother Gullet", who was once dispatched to slay the child of a potentially rebellious governor. She swallowed the sleeping baby whole and escaped into the darkness, her bloated stomach ensuring that there was no sign of her responsibility in the child's disappearance... or of the child's remains.
  • BFG: Way, way too many to list here. No, seriously. Don't try to add specific examples, it's ended in pain before, so save time and check one of the many wikis dedicated to this, such as Lexicanum. Let's just say that the bolter, the standard issue Space Marine gun, rapid-fires .75 caliber armour piercing rocket propelled grenades. It fires 19mm caliber grenades. That's as large as a 10-gauge shell. And that's terrible it goes upwards from there, especially considering that is also the same round the standard-issue Space Marine pistol uses.
  • BFS: Eight-foot-long chainsaw sword with bolt-on flamethrower, anyone?
    • Eviscerator, Uge choppa. Dreadnaught close combat weapon. Titan close combat weapon.
    • Special mention must go to the Dawn Blade wielded by Commander Farsight, which not only has to be mounted on a battlesuit, but can hack through tank armour. And it's got crackling energies all over it. About the only thing it lacks is a chainsaw edge.
    • Most Daemon Weapons (and most daemons' weapons, which aren't quite the same thing). Special mention also goes to the one held by the Champion Greater Daemon of Slaanesh, which is almost as long as a tank (although the daemon in question is rather huge even by daemon standards).
    • Some of the artwork floating around shows the Space Marine Primarchs using variants on the aforementioned chainsaw swords that make the ones used by regular Marines look quite puny (especially considering that the Primarchs are generally accepted as being even bigger than your "average" eight-foot tall Super Soldier). An excellent example can be seen here with Imperial Fists Primarch Rogal Dorn, holding a chainsword so wide a person could probably hide behind it.
    • Drach'nyen is probably the single biggest, baddest sword in the setting and is capable of cutting through the fabric of reality itself. It's not always a BFS, though. Drach'nyen's shape depends on what its wielder wants it to look like, it just so happens Abaddon wants it to appear as a giant sword. Why he needs such a big sword when he doesn't even have any arms is another question altogether.
  • Big Good:
    • Deconstructed with the God-Emperor for the Imperium of Man; while he most likely was the Big Good during the Horus Heresy, nowadays, he's basically been rendered as little more than a shriveled-up husk, only serving as little more than a symbolic figurehead, meant to keep the Imperium from fully collapsing in morale and structure, and the primary icon of religious worship by his subjects, to counter the corruptive daemonology of the Chaos gods. And even before that, he also happened to have the biggest body count of any given human dictator in history. Depending on how you view it, the number has only grown, to the point that we'd save time by using exponents.
    • Aun'Va, eldest and wisest of the Ethereals, serves as this for the Tau.
  • Bigger Bad: The Chaos Gods are the best example of this in the fiction. Many of the horrendous atrocities in this setting are either done in their name or to deny them victory, yet they're on such a higher order of existence that their involvement said atrocities could be compared as a passing glance.
    • The C'tan are also this, but they take it even further in that they're largely responsible for the way the Galaxy is in the first place. They killed most of (possibly all of) the Old Ones, were directly responsible for the creation of the Orks and the Eldar (and indirectly responsible for the Dark Eldar), and lead to the Warp becoming the hellhole that it is due to the War In Heaven (which would bring rise to the Chaos Gods, Chaos Demons, Chaos Space Marines, and the like). Essentially, they're the Biggest Bad. They still would be, if not for a Retcon in the Necron 5th Edition Codex that got them Demoted to Extra via a deserving Humiliation Conga.
  • Bigger Is Better: The basis for many things in this setting.
  • Bigger Stick: Leman Russ not enough? Baneblade. Then Leviathan. Then a Titan. Then a bigger Titan. Then Exterminatus.
  • Bishōnen: Lucius the Eternal before he started scarring his face to commemorate his victories.
    • Sanguinius, Primarch of the Blood Angels, was very pretty and a fairly nice guy for this setting. Fittingly, he was called the Angel, but that was also due to his wings.
    • Mephiston, Lord of Death has it in spades. Also a Blood Angel, and considered by some to be Sanguinius reborn.
      • How about Fulgrim the Phoenician, Primarch of the Emperor's Children?
      • Followers of Slaanesh in general. Nuff said.
  • Black and Grey Morality: Opinions vary between whether 40k is black and grey, black and black, or black and ALL-CONSUMING, LIGHT DEVOURING VOID.
  • Black Box: The Adeptus Mechanicus does not understand a lot of the stuff they reproduce. It's taken to a ludicrous extreme by Graham McNeill's Priests Of Mars novels, in which the flagship Speranza has unimaginably super-high-tech targeting systems that NOBODY knows about, systems capable of functioning with 100% precision in the middle of a space-time gravitational storm, fully capable of detecting and getting a One-Hit Kill on an eldar cruiser using a dorsal mounted chrono-weapon so unbelievably advanced even the necrons would have been scratching their heads trying to understand how it worked. That's right. The Ark Mechanicus ships which the Imperium already own and operate could be the answer to the missing information of the STCs and more.
  • Black Comedy: The humor in this setting is either this or very, very dry.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: Konrad Curze and his legion of Night Lords.
  • Black Magic: Everything connected to Chaos.
  • Black Market Produce: The nobles eat the best food, imported from agral worlds. The masses... not so much (yes, Soylent Green included)
  • The Blacksmith: Vulkan, who passed the trait on to the Salamanders. To a lesser and weirder extent, Ferrus Manus and the Iron Hands.
  • Blade Below the Shoulder — The Black Dragons chapter have a mutation in their Ossmodulanote  that commonly causes this. They're also (usually) retractable. What do they do with these blades? Sheath them in Adamantium of course. It can also end up making them a Horned Humanoid.
  • Blade on a Stick: A number of Grey Knights' Nemesis Force Weapons come in the form of glaives; it's the default form for them in Dawn of War.
    • The Necron warscythe is one of the most feared close-combat weapons in existence - a glaive that can cut through energy fields without slowing down.
    • The honor blades used by Tau Ethereals. The blades are swung fast enough to become invisible, and are used in bloodless duels to settle disputes. Aun'shi carries one on the battle field, and is skilled enough with it to kill enough Orks that they are to afraid to go near him.
    • The Berserker Glaive from the 3rd edition of Chaos Space Marines. Averted on occasion, though, as Daemon Weapons do not always resemble their given description.
  • Blessed with Suck: Psykers; these are also a debatable case of Cursed with Awesome, at least until a daemon eats their soul.
  • Blind Seer: The soul-binding process required to turn psykers into Astropaths - interstellar telepaths used for all long-distance communication - completely burns out their eyes, though their psychic abilities generally compensate for it. Many non-Astropath psykers are also depicted as physically blind.
  • Bling of War:There's a reason it's called "war gear". Running on Rule of Cool, if you see something Blingtastic, both the equipment and the user are badass enough to have earned this title.
  • Blood Knight: Orks and followers of Khorne, without exception. You also get a fair number of Imperial, Eldar, and Dark Eldar in this category.
  • Blue and Orange Morality:
  • Boarding Pod: The Astartes have a reusable version, small shuttlepods launched at spaceships they wish to board. These things attach to the other vessel's outer hull and create a breach that allows the troops to enter through it. The orks have a more traditional version that is shot out of a torpedo tube and penetrates by kinetic force.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: Space Marine Honor Guards are deployed to protect the Chapter Master, who did not get to his position by being a pushover.
  • Bodyguard Babes:The corrupt Master of the Administratum and dictator of the Imperium Goge Vandire had an all-female bodyguard known as the Brides Of The Emperor, who were conditioned to believe everything he said unquestioningly and practically worship him.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: Aforementioned Brides Of The Emperor turned on Vandire and beheaded him after their leaders had an audience with their god, the Emperor. They are now known as the Sisters Of Battle.
  • Body Horror:You wouldn't believe the amount of it!
  • Bond Creatures: Both natural, in the somewhat obscure Gyrinx, and the various creations serving psykers as Familiars.
  • Boring, but Practical: Or as close to 'boring' as it gets in the setting anyhow... all armies are able to field powerful special troops, amazing heroes and crazy war machines, but you generally cannot win without a good chunk of your army being made up of some variant or another of your standard rank-and-file troops, a fact often referred to as 'Boys before toys'.
    • Special mention should go to lasguns of Imperial Guard. They are mocked by fans as "flash lights", and compared to Bolt guns, Melta Guns and Plasma weaponry, they are definitely boring and weak in means of damage. But the sheer economics of this weapon makes it more awesome and practical than any of the weapons mentioned above: They are cheap and easy to produce. They don't need ammunition in common sense. Lasgun uses changable batteries that are easy to recharge, and can even recharge itself in direct sunlight or campfire. And the weapon itself is soo easy to handle that everyone can use them. The Price/Performance ratio makes this gun the most awesome weapon of 41th Millenium, and allows Imperium to have armies big and versatile enought to protect its vast territories.
    • Speaking of the Imperial Guard, many of their Elite choices (that is, Ogyrns, psykers, Sly Marbo) are awesome, but not really that points efficient, compared to simply bringing more Guardsmen and more tanks.
  • Boring Invincible Hero: Every faction tends to get this treatment in its own codex, in a manner appropriate to the race (EG the Space Marines tend to emerge triumphant against overwhelming odds, the Imperial Guard tend to win through attrition and great loss of life, the Orks tend to win by being Crazy Awesome, etc.). Conversely, if a faction appears in someone else's codex, it usually means they're getting Worfed.
  • Bowdlerization: The game's second edition. Much of the Imperium's nastiness was downplayed or went largely unmentioned. Inquisitors and Imperial Guard Commissars were described as heroic individuals. Commissars even lost the ability to restore unit morale by means of summary execution. These issues were all brutally redressed in the third edition.
  • Brain Bleach: What you'll need after reading Space Marine (the tabletop game, not the new video game). Or some of the stuff on /tg/.
  • Brain Food: Space Marines and Tyranid Lictors can gain some of a creature's knowledge by eating its brain.
  • Brainwashed: Liberally used by... well,everyone, really.
    • Brainwashed and Crazy: Much loved by Chaos. The Imperial Ecclesiarchy also likes to combine heretics with a partial lobotomy, advanced hypnosis, generic brainwashing, combat drugs and cybernetic implants to create Arcoflagellants, Ax-Crazy combat monsters which are often set against their former allies.
  • Breast Plate: The Sisters of Battle tend to wear rather...form-fitting armour.
  • Breath Weapon: Tyranid bio-plasma, certain daemons and daemonhosts.
  • Bribing Your Way To Being Able To Play: A starter army, with the rule book, matching codex, bitz for customization, paints and glues, and a case to put it all in? Expect to put down half a grand. At least.
    • Unless you get your pieces off eBay. The market's saturated.
    • Depend on what army you play. If you play World Eaters, you can get two squads of Khorne Berserkers and Kharn the Betrayer for about 50 bucks and have a pretty decent 500 point army.
  • Broken Ace: The Primarchs.
  • Broken Masquerade: The secular Imperium of the Great Crusade was founded on the idea that there were no gods, no daemons, nothing that could not be explained by science. That got disproved pretty comprehensively, and things got worse as a result: thus demonstrating why the Emperor established the Masquerade in the first place.
  • Brown Note: Chaos iconography can drive men insane. Chaos daemons are a whole world of horror beyond that.
    • Slaanesh Noise Marines carry a manner of sonic weapons that can amplify their daemonic screams, produce explosive bass notes, or rip a target to shreds from the harmonics.
    • Unaugmented humans viewing primarchs for the first time tend to react. . . badly. One boy, upon meeting pre-Heresy Lorgar, suffered from vomiting and nightmares for a few weeks. The book describes the phenomena as sensory overload.
    • To a psyker, a Pariah (someone who has no Warp presence) can serve as this.
    • Tyranid psychic chatter is this both to psykers and to the Warp, effectively jamming any sort of communication or faster-than-light travel.
  • Bug War: Whenever the Tyranids show up.
  • Bullet Proof Vest: The standard Imperial Guardsman is equipped with a flashlight and T-shirt a lasgun and flak vest. Formidable stuff by modern standards, but guess how much good it does in this universe.
    • In an interesting twist, the guardsman's flak armor is the best starting armor of any of the careers in Dark Heresy.
  • Burn the Witch!: Standard government policy.
  • Butt Monkey: Played for laughs with grots. Played straight with Imperial Guard as they were Games Workshop's favorite punching bag. Even extended to the players as they got two consequtive under-powered codexes with at least half the units being useless and had to (and still do) deal with kill points making the Annihilate mission Unwinnable. GW eventually decided to give IG players a break by releasing a codex that was actually good and giving them the lion's share of stuff in Apocalypse.
    • Case in point: meet the business end of a Baneblade. Who's the Butt Monkey now?
    • Also played straight with Ka'Bandha. Keep in mind that he's a 20-foot-tall Greater Daemon of the Blood God. Yet every time he goes up against the Blood Angels, he just ends up embarrassing himself.
      • On Signus Prime, he broke the legs of Sanguinius, Primarch of the Blood Angels. Except that by doing so, he awoke a dark rage in the Angels, and his forces were soon overrun.
      • At the Siege of Terra, he almost defeated Sanguinius a second time, but the Primarch seized the huge honking demon by the throat and broke his spine. Over his knee.
      • Later, on Khartas. At this point, Sanguinius had been dead for 10,000 years. Ka'Bandha figures he's got it made now. He then gets bodyslammed by the mysterious figure known as the Sanguinor. To death. From orbit.
      • In fairness, it's theorized that the Sanguinor is the ghost of Sanguinius. Not that this helps Ka'Bandha's rep much.
    • The Craftworld Eldar. They are notorious for suffering humiliating defeats and failures despite holding an overwhelming advantage, and any victories they do claim are mostly pyrrhic in nature. Examples include Iyanden's Avatar of Khaine being trampled by Carnifexes note , Wraithlords being slain in one-on-one combat with lowly Sergeants, whole craftworlds being utterly wiped out by a single Zoanthrope, and two Imperial Guard regiments led by an inexperienced commander note  held off the collective forces of two major craftworlds and a large force of Eldar Corsairs. C'mon, they're supposed to be hyper-advanced aliens with psychic powers, yet when said aliens outnumber the flash-light and T-shirt brigade and still lose, it's very grating.
    • The Sisters of Battle now take up the mantle left behind by the Imperial Guard. Seemingly, every time the Sisters appear, they're being horribly slaughtered by the Faction of the Week... when they aren't falling to Chaos, obviously note  or even being slaughtered by their own allies (NOTE: link is NSFW).
    • Deconstructed with the Iron Warriors, who are amongst the most bitter and hateful of all Chaos Space Marines after being treated as the Butt Monkey of the legions.

    C 
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": And occasionally Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit".
  • Came Back Wrong: Urien Rakarth, the Dark Eldar Master Haemonculus, discovered the secret of resurrecting himself so long ago, and has done it so many times, that things have started to go inexplicably wrong with the process. He now tends to come back with a small physical reminder of each previous resurrection, usually additional vestigial limbs growing from his spinal sump. Being an utterly insane genius surgeon, body modifier, peerless torturer, and obsessive experimenter, Urien regards this condition as little more than a fascinating quirk and certainly nothing to get all angsty about. Indeed, Urien is so jaded that he practically collects deaths and looks forward to seeing what new and unusual ways he will come back wrong in next.
    • Necron resurrection protocols teleport damaged units back to their tombs for repair. Necron platforms are over sixty-five million years old, their tech hasn't always weathered the aeons, they get bashed up a lot, and the lords skimped on the quality of their foot soldiers, so Necrons pick up aberrations as they get refurbished: the foot soldiers are barely sentient anymore and describing some lords as "deranged" would be putting it mildly.
    • Craftworld Altansar failed to escape the Eye of Terror during the Fall of the Eldar. It has always been thought long lost until recently, when it emerged from the swirling Eye. However, they have changed: the Eldar of Altansar never remove their helmets and speak only in whispers, causing other Eldar to wonder just what has happened to them.
  • Canis Latinicus: Conventional rendering of High Gothic; e.g., Adeptus Astartes, Adeptus Mechanicus. "Imperium," however, is an actual Roman word, according to That Other Wiki.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Several older Black Library novels have since become available for reprint, but many of them were written when the setting was in a different place than it currently is. Rather than edit them in a way which might undermine the original story or authorial intent, Black Library instead decided to slap the "Heretic Tomes"note  label on the reprints. This means that the reader should only consider these cannon in the most Broad Strokes.
  • Can't Argue with Elves: ...but you can shoot them in the face. Foul Xenos.
  • Captain Ersatz: Soylent viridians are Soylent Green, "Sly" Marbo is John Rambo, the Black Templars possess a holy hand grenade of Antioch, and the Necrons are effectively an entire army of Terminators, among others.
  • Car Fu: Tank Shock.
    • The 5th Edition rules allow you to ram tanks into other vehicles, which can potentially take out several enemies at once.
  • Card Games: There's been a few actual card games released based on the 40K universe. One could also easily count Second Edition and earlier editions of Epic, which came packaged with a whole dead forest worth of cards, counters, templates and assorted other bits and pieces, sometimes including entire decks for mechanics like the Winds of the Warp or things like the Imperator and Mega-Gargant templates and counters which were entire mini-games in their own right.
  • Cargo Cult: The Imperium of Man combines this with Ancient Astronauts in an interesting fashion, as the overwhelming majority of the technology they use predates the incident that put the Emperor on life-support, and maintenance has become more of a religious ceremony than anything else.

    Ironically, all of the equipment used by the Imperium is kept at optimal efficiency because of all this, since a clean and well-maintained machine is a happy machine, and a happy machine means a happy machine-god. It also means that there's never an issue with poor quality materials being used (although field repairs do happen, which is looked down upon by the Adeptus Mechanicus). The Mechanicus are often depicted as competent engineers despite/because of their mystical approach, who understand the workings of many things and for whom reverse-engineering the rest and discovering the physics responsible is a holy quest for enlightenment.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel:
    • Quite averted with Warp travel. Comparatively few Imperial ships have Warp engines and travel time is inconsistent. If the Gellar fields fail during transit for any amount of time, daemons can manifest inside the ship and devour its crew and complement.
    • Tau have a slightly easier time of it, due to their smaller warp presence, but their current warp drives only allow short "dives", so while safer it's comparatively slow (although still far faster than light).
    • The Tyranids have it easy enough: point fleet at star, mess with star's gravity to create an FTL tunnel and ride on in (not to mention the natural disasters this causes often tenderize the local defences).
  • Catch Phrase: The Emperor protects!/Death to the False Emperor!/For the Greater Good!/WAAAAGH!/OMNOMNOMNOM!
    • It's worth noting that all the catchphrases are battlecries. And all battlecries are catchphrases (Blood for the Blood God! Skulls for the Skull Throne!/For the Emperor!/Harriers for the cup!)
  • Cat Girl: Would YOU expect these to show up in a setting as grimdark as Warhammer 40000? As of the 6th edition, there are cat people serving the Imperium, with fanart and custom armies portraying them, naturally, as Cat Girl amazon brigades.
  • The Cavalry: This is the only thing of the Legion of the Damned can do.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: People often forget that the first edition was a parody. Some feel like it practically is, though.
  • Chainsaw Is God: Warhammer's love of chainsaws can be summed up in this quote:
  • The Chains of Commanding: Sergeant Lukas Bastonne of the Cadian Shock Troops probably feels it harder than most on account of his eidetic memory stopping him from ever forgetting the troops he's commanded who have died.
  • Chandler's Law: When in doubt, have another Tyranid/Ork/Chaos/Necron invasion.
  • Char Clone: With his customized silver-helmed red Battlesuit and Mysterious Past, Commander Farsight is most definitely A CHAR.
  • The Chessmaster: Ongoing manipulation contest between the Chaos god Tzeentch, the C'tan Deceiver, and the Eldar Seers. Chances are any major galactic happening is going to have at least one of them cackling "just as planned."
    • The Emperor is also a likely candidate for this trope, as it is hinted at in several texts that he knew the Horus Heresy would happen and planned for it and all future events leading up to the present and probably beyond so as to (presumably) prepare the galaxy for an ultimately happy fate.
  • Chicken Walker: Imperial Sentinels and Warhound Titans, Eldar War Walkers and Sisters of Battle Penitent Engines..
  • Chunky Salsa Rule: One of the two ways to invoke the game mechanic Instant Death.
    • Quote from the 5th ed. Codex: "It can be imagined that the creature is vaporized, burned to a pile of ash, blasted limb from limb, or otherwise mortally slain in a suitably graphic fashion."
  • Character Exaggeration: The Imperial Guard's leaders are generally considered General Rippers who care very little about their troops because We Have Reserves by fans, as well as Commissars being complete sadists who will kill Guardsmen at the drop of a hat. Naturally, the Imperium doesn't encourage death - the 3rd edition 2nd Imperial Guard Codex says itself "A good general does not lead an army to destruction just because he knows it will follow." The Imperium just has lower standards of 'pointless' compared to us. However, that is usually done for Gallows Humor, and helps them say Warhammer 40000 is a World Half Empty very well. Which it still is.
    • It's understandable that Guardsmen lives are treated like that; considering most worlds where guardsmen are recruited from, they're actually considered an exportable product rather than living human beings.
    • You could say this about many factions. Eldrad Ulthran screws over Armaggeddon and suddenly every single Eldar ever is a clairvoyant human-hating Magnificent Bastard; heck, Idranel from Dawn of War is basically a gender-flipped version of him. Likewise, mention how Ork technology runs on belief and suddenly all Orks are Crazy Awesome man children who can pick up bits of piping and immediately shoot bolter rounds out of them.
  • Child Soldiers: Yet another way the factions in 40k violate the Geneva Conventions.
    • Space Marines are inducted at 10-14 and become Scouts by 15 at the latest. They have to inducted that early because puberty interferes with assimilating the implants and children assimilate dogma easier than teenagers.
    • Cadian education and military training are the same thing, and they're typically full soldiers (which requires earning a medal) by some time in their teens: assuming they live that long.
    • Orks incubate in their underground wombs until adolescence and are ready to fight and kill the moment they break the soil.
    • Tyranids are also ready to rip your face off the moment they leave the womb, a fact the Tyranids often take advantage of by firing the wombs at planets.
  • Church Militant: The Imperium's Cult of The Emperor asks of you: KILL THE MUTANT! BURN THE HERETIC! PURGE THE UNCLEAN!
    • ... and it has more. So many that we couldn't chose which ones were best and had to give Warhammer40000 its own section in the page.
  • Citadel Planet: Cadia, protected by warships, with three-quarters of its population in the military. Children are taught to use a weapon before being able to read.
  • City in a Bottle: Some hive cities get like this.
  • Civil Warcraft: Absolutely everywhere.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Adeptus Mechanicus rituals appear like this to the casual in-universe observer. Tech-priests on the other hand are taught genuine mechanical skills, just in an odd and highly-ritualised way. Maintenence operations often include what appears to be unnecessary prayers, which may actually be machine control codes, timing routines, or mnemonic devices.
    • Ork tech is more likely to work if enough Orks are around to believe that it will. If the Orkish consensus is that a red paint job makes a trukk go faster, then it goes faster after they slap enough red paint on it.
  • Clever Crows: Two heroic Space Marine Chapters named themselves after ravens: the Raven Guard and the Blood Ravens. The Raven Guard are noted for emphasis on speed and tactical strikes (their Primarch was Corvus Corax, a contender for the least subtle Theme Naming in all 40K), and the Blood Ravens for valuing and seeking out knowledge and having many Librarians in their ranks.
  • Clingy Costume:
    • Chaos Obliterators are fused with their armor and weapons.
    • Eldar Exarchs can't remove their armor once they've bonded enough with the spirits of their armour's previous wearers.
    • The souls of the rank and file Thousand Sons are trapped inside their power armor. They are called "Rubricae" after the Rubric of Ahriman that turned their bodies to dust.
    • Some Orks, only caring about war, will often pay the tribe's mek to have themselves sealed in a suit of mega armour. If that's not far enough, they can also be sealed inside a Deff Dread, a crude mini mecha.
    • In times past, it was said that Khorne Berserkers' armour fused with their flesh, to the point that it would bleed when struck.
  • Clone Army:
  • Clothes Make the Maniac:
    • Chaos-corrupted suits of armour. Granted, in most cases this is more a case of Clothes Make the Maniac Worse.
  • Coat, Hat, Mask: Commissars, although most don't wear masks. Gas masks on the other hand...
    • Similarly, the Armageddon Steel Legion and the Death Korps of Krieg are Coat Helmet (Gas) Mask.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture:
    • Most typical of the Inquisition - the torturers of other races usually have far too much fun to be called cold-blooded.
    • Interrogator-Chaplains. There's a reason they're named that. Especially be careful of the ones with many black pearls.
    • The Night Lords legion has a special fondness for this.
  • Cold Sniper: Vindicare Temple Assassins pack rifles and ammunition that let them take out tanks from absurd distances.
  • The Collector of the Strange: Chaos, the Orks, and the Dark Eldar collect the skulls (and occasionally other body parts) of their enemies as trophies. The Imperium collects the skulls of particularly pious servants for use as relics and Attack Drones.
  • Colony Drop: Deconstructed, if you can believe it, but also used straight on occasion. "In close consultation with his advisors, Orkimedes determined that the best solution to the tactical flexibility of Imperial forces was to drop big rocks on them." A surprisingly common Ork technique to both deploy close to the enemy [in fact on top of a portion of them] and weaken aforementioned enemy.
  • Colour Coded Armies: Space Marine chapters, Chaos Space Marine legions, Eldar craftworlds, Ork klanz, Tyranid hive fleets, Necron tomb worlds, Tau septs: practically every major army has a set of color-coded subdivisions, and many of these have associated composition themes and stereotypes. Only the Imperial Guard defy color-based pigeonholing, and even they have certain color schemes they tend to favor.
    • Space Marines especially; many chapters feel that adding camouflage patterns to their armor would be "dishonoring the colors of the chapter," and intentionally dress in bright and highly-visible colors so that their enemy can see them and quake in terror at their approach.
    • Eldar are colour coded to the extreme- not only does each army have their own colour schemes, but each DIFFERENT KIND of soldier has their own colours- orange for Fire Dragons, green for Striking Scorpions, blue for Dire Avengers, and so on...
    • Within most space marine chapters, Librarians traditional wear blue armor, Tech-marines wear deep red, Chaplains were black, and Apothecaries wear white. Most chapters' specialists will wear their chapter's color on their shoulder pad.
  • Combat Aestheticist:
    • The Thyrrus, a minor insectoid alien species, view war as a performance. They'll always seek heavy casualties on both sides, with lots of flash and spectacle. Their extremely advanced plasma-based weapons reflect this.
    • Lucius the Eternal is known to get extremely excited (and much better at fighting) on meeting a Worthy Opponent, but against Mooks, he enters a state akin to lethargic boredom.
  • Combat Medic: Space Marine Apothecaries, Ork Painboyz, and pretty much anyone else with a medkit or the equivalent.
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • Tau provide a Subversion. True, they may not believe in meatgrinder assaults and pointless Last Stands, but they avoid defending ground or melee combat. note 
  • Combat Sadomasochist: Worshippers of Slaanesh.
  • Combat Stilettos: See for yourself.
  • Combat Tentacles:
    • Tyranids mount these on everything from mooks to spaceships.
    • The Slaaneshi weapon aptly named "Lash of Torment".
  • Comes Great Insanity: A rich tradition among leadership figures within the Imperium, from Horus to High Lord Vandire. Generally, reforms follow in their wake to stop similar incidents happening. For example, after the Horus Heresy, the Space Marine Legions were divided into smaller Chapters. In the case of Vandire, no-one was ever allowed to become both the head of the Administratum and the Ecclesiarchy again. And the Ecclesiarchy couldn't keep men-at-arms. Which they got around.
  • Commissars: Fielded by the Imperial Guard in all their CommieNazi Bling of War (including the black and silver Commissar Cap). Their job is to inspire the Guardsmen under them with propoganda, riveting speeches, and battlefield bravado, but they also mete out harsh discipline, shooting the sloppy, the heretical, and the cowardly without mercy. In Dawn of War, this is not only a valid tactic but an essential one, as using Execute temporarily increases the firing rate of all nearby infantry. In fifth edition they will summary execute the squad's leader if the squad fails a leadership test; when assigned to command squads this can cause much more harm than good.
  • Commissar Cap: Trope Namer, and not entirely restricted to Commissars - a few regular regular officers and the odd Inquisitor wear similar hats, and some Orks love looting them.
    • In fact, Nork Deddog, a (comparatively) super intelligent Ogryn bodyguard was rewarded a Commissar Cap.
  • Communications Officer: The Imperial Guard has "vox operators" with radio backpacks.
  • Companion Cube: The Adeptus Mechanicus and their treatment of any machine.
  • Concepts Are Cheap: "The Greater Good" of the Tau is never explained, leaving the reader to fill in the details about what it is. When you think about it, the Tau get called the good guys because they keep saying "We're the good guys!", not because of anything they do.
    • Actually, it is explained; it's basically Utilitarianism...in space!
    • The Tau's xeno policy of "Join or die!" could be considered a lot nicer than the choices "Die!" or "Die or become some sort of slave, but we'll choose for you!" that the other races give.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Operates in full force.
  • Confusion Fu: Chaos has this as their hat. There is only a 66% for any given piece to actually start the game on the board. This, and may other factors makes the Chaos faction the bane of any laid down plan from EITHER player.
    • Could be a possible deconstruction, as Chaos Daemons (the army that does this) is fucking awful. If you want to win, don't play Daemons.
  • Continuity Nod: Forge World, Games Workshop's daughter company that specializes in producing resin miniatures for collectors and hardcore fans, has released a number of Space Marine miniature conversion packs designed to evoke the feel of old 1st and 2nd Edition models using the modern kits. Examples include the Land Raider Proteus (designed to evoke the old Land Raider model from Rogue Trader), the MkIc Deimos-Pattern Rhino (designed to resemble the 1st and 2nd Edition Space Marine Rhino, with its round smokestacks and dual bolters), and various special and heavy weapon packs crammed full of old-school guns.
  • Cool Bike: Examples include the enormous combat motorcycles ridden by Space Marines (particularly the White Scars); the enormous spiky combat motorcycles ridden by Chaos Marines (particularly Doom Rider); the enormous, ramshackle, and very loud combat motorcycles ridden by Orks (particularly Wazdakka Gutzmek); the flying combat motorcyles ridden by Eldar (particularly the Shining Spears); and the ridiculously fast flying combat motorcycles ridden by Dark Eldar (particularly... err, only the Reavers).
  • Cool Starship: Millennia-old kilometres-long battle cathedrals in space.
    • Eldar Craftworlds are massive Generation Ships the size of dwarf planets, and hundreds of thousands of Eldar live comfortably on them. Also, Prince Yriel's personal ship, the Flame of Asuryan, is an Ace Custom Eldar Dragonship that serves him well as a pirate vessel. In fact, Eldar ships in general.
    • Necron vessels are just as badass. A few of their cruisers managed to sneak through Imperium space and threaten Terra itself. One even landed on Mars, which is probably the second most heavily defended planet in the Imperium. Notably, the Cairn-class Tombship, which is bigger and tougher than any human space cathedral, and carries a weapon which can Mind Rape the crews of said space cathedrals from thousands of miles away.
    • In stark contrast to the rusty, ancient space-borne cathedrals of the Imperium, the spaceships of the Tau Kor'vattra are sleek, shiny and every bit as advanced as they look. A notable example is the Custodian-class carrier, which is bristling with railgun and ion cannon batteries and contains launch bays for Manta dropships and Barracuda bombers.
    • The Phalanx is as large as a moon, and is the battle barge of the Imperial Fists.
    • Warmaster Abbadon's flagship is named "Planet Killer". Guess why.
  • Cool Plane:
    • The Thunderhawk gunship. Capable of functioning as a drop ship, a bomber or a ground attack vehicle, the Thunderhawk is the workhorse of the Space Marines, able to deliver up to 30 Space Marines into battle while also raining support fire onto enemy forces with their own deadly armament. It also has heavy ceramite armour, making it able to take as good as it dishes out.
    • The Imperial Guard Valkyrie. Armed with a Multi-laser and two Hellstrike missiles, while also able to deliver 12 Guardsmen to their target. Not as strong as the Thunderhawk, but as with many things in the Imperial Guard, the quantity more than makes up for the quality, and the Valkyrie can be upgraded with a number of amazing options. The Vendetta gunship swaps out the troop transport space for extra missiles and bolter gun emplacements, and swaps the multi-laser for three deadly lascannons, making it an unrivalled tank hunter.
      • What about the Imperial Navy Lightning? An air-superiority jet bristling with autocannons, lascannons and missiles. It's armament combined with it's deceptive speed and agility make it a peerless dogfighter.
    • Move aside, mon'keigh. The Eldar Nightwing deserves a special mention for coolness. Faster and more manoeuvrable than anything in the skies, in one campaign a mere four Nightwings accounted for the destruction of 66 Chaos Helltalon fighters. Without taking a single loss. Also, unlike the crude, boxy-looking Imperial planes, the Nightwing looks like "something Batman would fly" in the words of one reviewer.
    • The Tau Razorshark Strike Fighter. Apart from the awesome name, the Razorshark is far more powerful and technologically advanced than any crude Imperial fighter. It's dual anti-gravity drive and jet propulsion system allow the craft to turn on a dime, and it possesses the ability to house interceptor drones.
    • Da Ork Fighta-Bommer. While admittedly no match for an Imperial, Tau or Eldar aircraft, the Fighta-Bommer remains a versatile and effective combat aircraft. Described as massive engines with a load of guns strapped to them, no two Fighta-Bommers are the same, with Meks constantly seeking to experiment and one-up each other with the latest designs. The Deff Skwadron have achieved near-mythical status for their impressive kill tallies and (relative) longevity.
  • Cool, but Inefficient: Imperial Navy spaceships are hypertech vessels decorated with gargoyles and other morbid sculptures on the outside (which are completely functional, they usually hide weapons or other projectors, as well as that they keep out the Warp, if you believe in their capability to do so...), and crewed mostly by throngs of press-ganged deck-hands that must do most everything by muscle power.
    • Many elite options for the Imperial Guard on the tabletop are statistically considered to be not worth the cost of just getting even more basic guardsmen.
  • Corralled Cosmos: Beyond the light of the Astronomican warp travel becomes effectively impossible for the Imperium. That would be good enough for any other setting but with 40k being what it is the light of the Astronomican is fading, meaning humanity's corral is shrinking.
  • Corrupt Church: The Ecclesiarchy. Chaos cults go rather beyond "corrupt".
  • The Corruption: Chaos, if not the ur-example, is one of the most developed in any setting.
    • An even closer example is the Legion of the Damned, warp lost space marines who are slowly being driven mad by their contagion while simultaneously growing more and more powerful. They appear out of the warp and steamroll over whatever army is hopelessly outmatching the Imperium today before dropping some trinket of their chapter and vanishing again.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: It's a universe where even death won't save you from an eternity of torture.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Humanity: we're something of a favorite species to mess with for the Chaos gods, and pretty much everything wants to kill us for some reason, or no reason. The Eldar might also qualify, nearly getting wiped by Slaanesh, and always facing threats from everything else including the Imperium. Probably most everyone might fit into this except for the Tau, if only because they haven't been around long enough to. (It is suspicious, though, how they were able to evolve faster than possible while their planet was isolated by a warp storm.)
  • Crapsack Universe: Every sentient race, including the gods, is made up of terrible people and is doomed. The 40K universe is so much of a crapsack that a new word, "Grimdark", was needed to explain how bleak the setting is.
  • Creepy Child: The Apex Twins, a minor but memorable background note. Think the girls from The Shining, except omnipotent and deadly.
  • Creepy Monotone: Necron Lords, and techpriests of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Servitors are independently creepy and monotonous.
  • Creepy Souvenir—Many warriors keep skulls of their slain enemies, some in shrines, some carried around with them.
  • Crew of One: Played straight by the Space Marines, averted by the Imperial Guard.
  • Crippling Overspecialisation: Meta-example; The Tyranids always had a gimmick of large, powerful Monstrous Creatures with high Toughness scores and multiple wounds. In come the Dark Eldar with their new codex full of mass poisoned (Toughness-ignoring) shots and weapons with the Instant Death rule, and...
  • Critical Failure: Hope you don't roll a 1 while carting that plasma gun around.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Every way to die.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Ecclesiarchy is a Torquemada-era Roman Catholic Church in space, with the Emperor as its god. Oddly enough, the Inquisitors are not a religious institution.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: Eldar and Tau only.
  • Cthulhumanoid: Tyranid Lictors come with feeder tendrils by default, and they're an option for many other Tyranid units.
  • Cult: Plenty serving Chaos, and plenty of others devoted to the Emperor. At least one devoted to Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!!
  • Culture Police: The Inquisition and Adeptus Arbites are pretty laid-back about culture, so long as planets revere the Emperor and pay tribute to the Imperium. However, if they see anything that could possibly be interpreted as a sign of Chaos, the purge will be swift and without mercy - and not all Inquisitors agree on what constitutes a sign of Chaos.
    • The Tau are all about this trope, even before their grimdark revision. All Tau (and their allies) must work, fight, and live for the Greater Good. Deviation lands you in a concentration camp. The Tau do not see it this way, though. According to the novelization of Fire Warrior, they see imprisonment-as-punishment as an (ironically) alien concept. Those who deviate from the right and just path are poor misguided people worthy of sympathy and help. If said sympathy and help involves some "tough love" in a re-education facility then so be it.
  • Curse That Cures: The whole point of worshipping Nurgle, if you are already covered in diseases and rotting flesh, you can't get old, and you won't feel pain. You also have a the patronage of the only kind god in the entire galaxy.
  • Custom Uniform: Many examples for minor characters and squad leaders, such as Imperial Guard commissars and techpriests, and Eldar warlocks.
  • Cutscene Power to the Max: The differences in power between beings are drastically diminished in the actual tabletop game compared to the fluff - don't expect those greater daemons to kill whole worlds or the space marines to be a One-Man Army... or those lasguns to punch through concrete.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Servitors, and most Adeptus Mechanicus magi. Possibly literal in the case of certain Necrons.
    • Also Chaos Marines interred inside Dreadnaughts tend to go...a little mad.
    • Possibly literally in the case of the Adeptus Mechanicus. If the Void Dragon is beneath Mars, then it slowly eats the souls of those who replace their bodies with cybernetics. More cybernetics means more of the soul eaten.
    • The Obliterator Virus transforms Chaos Marines into a horrific amalgamation of metal and guns fused together with flesh and bone. Insanity is just the cherry on top.
    • If you're a vehicle pilot and you become a traitor, you'll suffer the horrific fate of being absorbed and permanently bound to your ride for all eternity. A pretty good example of this is to look at what happened to the Traitor Titan Pilots.
  • Cyber Punk: Many hive worlds tend towards this. The Gaiden Game Necromunda is a good example of the aesthetic.
  • Cyborg: While there are "realistic" bionics, senior Mechanicus adepts often approach full-body conversion in their attempts to remove every trace of "weak flesh".

    D 
  • Dance Battler: The Masque.
  • Darker and Edgier with respect to the regular Warhammer, which was fairly grim to begin with.
  • Dark Is Evil: The Black Legion.
  • Dark Messiah: Horus. A lot of Word Bearers seem to have delusions of this, too. The Emperor of Mankind was either this or a straight Messianic Archetype whose plans were subverted by the power-seekers and paranoids who took them up after he was forced to become one with the furniture.
  • The Dark Side: Somewhat predictably, the setting takes this trope and hurls it off the deep end in the form of Chaos. The result? There's no Light Side - only a sort of Gray Side, and the actual Dark Side is sentient, extremely intelligent, masterfully manipulative, very powerful, and occasionally takes matters into its own hands when mortal pawns aren't getting the job done.
  • Data Pad: Whether Guard officers use "dataslates" or quills and parchment seems to depend on the writer.
    • Given the faded and forgotten supertech that underpins much of the Imperium, it's entirely possible that the (items that look like) quills and parchment are the more advanced option, again depending on the writer.
  • Days of Future Past: Feudal or Oligarchal planetary government is the order of the day in most of the Imperium.
  • Deadly Doctor: Mad Doks and Apothecaries are fully qualified and lethal combatants with their medical equipment.
    • Taken to extremes with the Terminator and Ravenwing Apothecaries of the Dark Angels. The former can take a missile launcher, Lightning Claws, or a Thunder Hammer. The latter is mounted on a bike with Flamethrower or Plasma Gun options.
      • Most Apothecaries do not display their role prominently, and thus they rather represent Combat Medic trope brought to its logical conclusion.
    • The most iconic example would be Fabius Bile, a Chaos Space Marine Apothecary.
  • Dead Man Switch: The facilities imprisoning a planet's psykers before they can be carted off to Terra usually have one. In case of any trouble, all held psykers are instantly gassed. Considering how much trouble "any trouble" can evolve to when you deal with several hundreds of untrained and unsanctioned psykers, this can be considered a wise precaution...
  • Deal with the Devil: Many people seek the patronage of the Chaos Gods willingly, as the Gods are known to empower their followers. Khorne gives you immense strength and insurmountable martial prowess, Tzeentch gives you sorcery and heightened intellect, Slaanesh can make your charisma and senses better, and Nurgle can improve your lifespan and make you much tougher. Most usually, the person making the deal with the deity is the one who gets screwed over: Khorne's followers become mindless killers; Tzeentch's followers become power-mad, paranoid, and trapped in their own scheming, or they are betrayed by their own patron as part of His own Gambit Roulette, or they get too many mutations; Nurgle's followers often become either mindless zombies or festering, putrid husks of men; Slaanesh's followers usually become addicted to sensation, and frequently descend into rape, torture and self-mutilation. Rarely though, someone can benefit greatly from these deals, but being Gods of Chaos, they are incredibly fickle; they are just as likely to notice and reward a bored nobleman dabbling in the worship secretly as they are to reward a mighty and reputable warrior who has spent decades fighting in their patron's name.
  • Death from Above: Jump infantry of every shape and size (half a ton of armoured super soldier approaching your face at terminal velocity, anyone?), Space Marine Drop Pods, Tyranid mycetic spores, Tau Mantas, and Ork roks.
    • Also, Exterminatus!
  • Death Glare: Common in the artwork.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: General Imperial Guard tactics - point enough "flashlights" at something and it should go down.
  • Death or Glory Attack: The Trope Namer.
  • Death Ray: Rays which cause death, rays which fire death, rays which eat death, and rays which are fired by Death.
  • Death Seeker: The Dreadnoughts of the Imperium are mortally wounded Space Marines kept on life support inside giant walkers. Referred to as "dead," they are typically honored to keep serving the Emperor. Chaos Dreadnoughts, on the other hand, feel trapped inside their walking tombs—the majority of them are incurably insane (even by Chaos standards), and prone to tearing friend and foe alike to pieces. The Defiler tank was actually created to fill the role that Dreadnoughts become too unstable to hold down once tainted.
    • Another example would be the Sisters of Battle's Penitent Engines, used only on people who have committed awful crimes. You're strapped in and forced to look at images of your crimes 24/7. When the battle comes, you're told that death in battle will absolve you. Of course, they're also given 2 Heavy Flamers and a pair of Dreadnought Close Combat weapons, so they can also repent by killing everything in their paths.
    • In a horrifyingly perverted sense, Lucius the Eternal. Being a worshipper of Slaanesh, Lucius sees death as just another experience, especially when he's bested by a greater swordsman. What's different from other death seekers is that Lucius's death is not permanent, and he knows this. Whoever kills him ends up horribly mutating into him, a fact to which he takes great delight in.
  • Death World: This is the official term used by the Imperium to designate Single Biome Planets of this description. They're depressingly common, but any native populations are automatically prime recruiting stock for the Imperial Guard or Space Marines - indeed, several such planets were colonized specifically to provide badass soldiers for the Imperium's armies. Rogue Trader characters who hail from a Death World get some serious stat bonuses, because even the biggest wimp from that planet still survived to adulthood on a world seemingly crafted to kill them. Some examples are:
    • Catachan, a jungle world where nearly every animal there is said to be a carnivore, and so are the plants, the majority of the microbes, fungi, and viruses. Wildlife includes the Catachan Barking Toad, a "jumpy" critter that detonates into a cloud of toxins that kills everything within a kilometer radius if you startle it, and the Catachan Devil, a cross between a scorpion and centipede the size of a train, and is thought to be related to the Tyranids. Also note the needle-shooting plants that turn any of their victims into more such plants. Every settlement fights a daily battle to keep its structures from being reclaimed by the vegetation, feral orks breed in the deepest parts of the jungle, and on top of everything else the planet's gravity is slightly higher than normal. Living past the age of ten on such a planet is considered an achievement akin to graduating from boot camp, making the Catachan Jungle Fighters legendary among the regiments of the Imperial Guard.
    • Fenris, a world that is exclusively Grim Up North. Its elliptical orbit takes twice as long as Terran standard and means that its long winters freeze almost the entire planet, while its summers bring lava flows and tidal waves as the world passes close to its sun. The land is constantly changing, making permanent settlement impossible, and its resources are so meager that its population must war amongst itself to survive. Other claims to fame include kraken, dragons, and wolves the size of tanks. The Space Wolves wouldn't have their homeworld any other way.
    • The Blood Angels hail from Baal, an irradiated, mutant-infested, post-apocalyptic hellhole. They seek out similar worlds for training and recruitment purposes, such as an asteroid field orbiting a black hole where quakes can send mountains falling into the void, all sorts of evil nightmares lurk about, and it's a thousand miles to the nearest neighboring asteroid. This make the recruits' transformations into the most angelic of Space Marines all the more miraculous, and may help explain the chapter's preference for shock assaults.
    • The Salamanders' homeworld is the binary planet of Nocturne, a rugged place of volcanoes, ash deserts and earthquakes, as well as fire-breathing reptiles the Space Marines take their name from. Every fifteen years the Time of Trials begins as Nocturne's moon Prometheus swings close, putting the already high seismic activity on overdrive, threatening every settlement save for the seven Sanctuary Cities. Afterward the planet is gripped by a long and bitter winter that covers the world in a frozen tundra, the only solace being the fresh veins of mineral wealth exposed by the cataclysmic upheaval. There is a reason the Salamanders fight more to preserve life than kill enemies: they know how precious it is.
    • The world of Urisarach was a storm-wracked planet covered in dense, hair-like forests, home to a nigh-extinct race of huge, armored arachnids dumped there because the monsters were just that unpleasant. It earned its nickname after a failed incursion that nearly wiped out an entire expeditionary fleet of Space Marines: "This. World. Is. Murder."
  • Decapitation Presentation: Happens a lot.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: The Emperor and some of his Primarchs.
    • Horribly subverted, of course, when about half of them decide that they're not so friendly after all.
  • Deflector Shields: Starting with personal infantry shields or shield drones and reaching up to Void Shields that defend Titans and starships.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: For the record, no, Games Workshop is not trying to condone the extreme dystopian Crapsack World of the 41st millennium as a desirable place to live.
  • Dem Bones: Servo-skulls and Necrons.
  • Demon Slaying: The Ordo Malleus specializes in hunting Daemons. In fact, their army used to be called the Daemonhunters.
  • Demonic Possession: Even the tanks can get possessed.
    • Note, however, of the main sentient races, only humans are frequently possessed. Necrons have no souls to possess, what ever little souls Tau have is to little for demons to attach to, Tyranid hive fleets have such huge psychic signature that anything lower than a Demon prince would be destroyed just going near them, Orks are too stupid, the Eldar can avert it through strict disipline, and Dark Eldar torture a person a day to keep the demons away.
  • Depending on the Writer: In a fictional universe this big, it can't really be helped, but there are tonnes and tonnes of factors that vary wildly depending on who's writing them.
    • The most notable is the Orks' Clap Your Hands If You Believe Achievements in Ignorance - some writers have this being an irresistible force of nature, to the point where the Orks can fly spaceships with no fuel if they don't realize there is no fuel, whilst others go for the more moderate interpretation that Orks can fashion functioning technologies because they think they and thus their Gods work through them, and only take this factor as far as Red Wunz Goin' Fasta. Another notable one is the Imperium's stance on technological innovation - some writers say that any and all innovation is a burnable offence whilst others say that mixing and matching existing parts is acceptable provided one doesn't create new components from scratch.
    • This is a frequent response to internet discussions of the "who will win" within 40K. The winner will be the protagonists of the story, regardless of the connotations of their faction.
    • Official GW policy is that beyond the broad strokes each author gets to choose what counts as canon. "All of it is real, and none of it is real."
  • Depleted Phlebotinum Shells: Holy hammers, holy bullets, holy stakes, holy artillery rounds, holy flamethrowers, holy hand grenades of Antioch....
  • Derelict Graveyard: Space Hulks.
  • Derivative Differentiation: It used to just be Warhammer with space ships before adding its own mythos and creatures.
  • Determinator: The Necrons and Tyranids are entire races of Implacable Determinators, but insanely determined people crop up everywhere in this universe.
    • Non-race-specific example is any unit that has the "Rage" special rule, which force them to go after the closest visible enemy when they move, run, or charge, or the "Feel No Pain" special rule, which lets them keep going despite horrific injury.
    • One of the more extreme examples is Black Templars, who are the only army that move ''towards'' the enemy when their men die. On top of this, they are literally fearless in close combat - a lone Neophyte (a warrior novice) who has just seen the rest of his squad die will stay in the fight against a monster three times his size, which just happens to have huge claws, acidic blood, head-bursting psychic powers and Emperor knows what else.
    • This is also true of Sisters Repentia in a Sisters of Battle army. Their zeal and will to repent is represented in their special rules, which attempt to ensure that they will always rush towards the enemy during their movement phase, and will always charge the enemy if they ever fail a Morale check in combat. Adding in a Priest only exacerbates the situation improves their chances of doing so.
    • On the Chaos side, the Khorne berserkers voluntarily undergo a partial lobotomisation that make them singlemindedly bloodthirsty and removes their inclination towards self-preservation. This means that they rush into melee brandishing chainsaw axes and are completely immune to morale effects.
    • Another notable example would be Commissar Sebastian Yarrick. Despite losing his left eye and his right arm, as well as being an old, old man by the time of his main exploits, Yarrick managed to inspire terror and respect in the Orks by his uncanny ability to fight in the thick of it no matter the odds (and the pain). When his right arm got chopped off he simply beheaded the offending Ork Warboss and kept on fighting, only "allowing himself the luxury of passing out" after the long battle was won. This has granted him the dubious honour of being WH40K fandom's answer to Chuck Norris, Jack Bauer and meme-makers know who else.
    • Played with by the Tau, who are physically unable to disobey their Ethereal caste leaders. If an Ethereal tells another Tau to do something, they automatically become the Determinator. If all nearby Ethereals are killed in battle, they tend to react... poorly.
    • The Blood Angels Space Marines suffer from the Flaw, which turns them from noble warriors into blood-crazed, vampiric madmen. To date, only Mephiston, their Chief Librarian, has succumbed to the Black Rage, the final stage of the Flaw, and been able to return to sanity. He does it by sheer willpower.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Units can rout, such as from failing a 'morale check' from casualties.
  • Detect Evil: Psykers can sense the presence of Chaos. Chaos itself is supposed to have a smell somewhere between rotten flesh and sugar.
  • Deus Est Machina: Taken literally by the Omnissiah, and almost literally by the Void Dragon. Then there's the part where they might be the same being...
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Daemons, C'tan, and other Eldritch Abominations can be defeated, if only by throwing absolutely everything at them - but destroying the physical form of a daemon only banishes it back to the warp for a while, and the C'tan merely need to fashion new necrodermis bodies.
    • They're not always that hard to kill. An ordinary human took down one armed with nothing but a melta and a chainsword, while backed up by a squad of marines. Admittedly this was out of the ordinary, in a firmly tongue-in-cheek take on the universe, by a character who was both Born Lucky and a Badass Normal. Said ordinary human's aide also just so happened to be a blank, whose very presence is harmful to daemons.
    • In another amusing take on the rules, it is well possible that an entire retinue of an Inquisitor, whose job is banishing daemons, is unsuccessful, but a little girl with a kitchen knife can defeat a Daemon Prince(ss) without so much as a scratch (remember a Daemon Prince(ss) is a Chaos Warrior who proved so awesome and beneficial to her/his patron deity (s)he was granted demi-godhood).
  • Diesel Punk: Everything runs on magic gasoline called "promethium". Admit it, 40k is just diesel punk with spaceships and Eldritch Abominations.
    • Well, nearly everything. It's been said in fluff that the Leman Russ uses a multifuel combustion engine which can be adapted to run on almost anything that burns, so you could potentially have a coal-powered Leman Russ.
  • Disney Owns This Trope: Games Workshop released an expansion called Space Marine to the original Adeptus Titanicus game (the scale now called Epic). Come the re-release, the entire game system ended up being released under the Space Marine name, with Games Workshop picking up a Registered Trademark for "Space Marine." Figures for Aliens will acknowledge this trademark on their packaging if you look, despite that Aliens came out the year before the original Rogue Trader book.
    • Similarly, the manual for Dungeon Keeper 2 lists "Dark Angel" as being registered under GW.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Some of the more beatific Living Saints of the Imperium can manage to pull this off.
  • Divided We Fall: Common among the Imperial armed forces, governments, the Inquisition, etc., much to the Imperium's detriment.
  • Divine Conflict: The God Emperor of Mankind is locked in endless warfare with the four Chaos Gods. The Chaos Gods are also at war with each other, and in Tzeentch's case with himself. The same conflict takes place in Warhammer, minus the God Emperor part.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Tyranid wargear. Do not examine the biology behind it too closely.
    • A non-sexual example of this trope: The Imperium, encouraged by the official state religion, the Ministorum, hates, fears, and persecutes psykers, even though the Imperium could not function at all without them, and even though the entire Imperium, under that same state religion, worships a psyker.
    • The Tactica Imperium is the most widespread manual of the Imperial Guard, with various compilations distributed all around the Imperium. Having started as a standardized work for the Emperor's vast forces raised in the Great Crusade, innumerable officers added their own thoughts to create countless more and more different versions including the mindsets and experiences of many different writers; making the entirety of the Tactica Imperium texts vast, potentially contradictory and variably interpreted. Basically, the Tactica Imperium is what religious canon would be like if the religion was a Church Militant ruling an empire across the galaxy.
  • The Dog Bites Back: According to the new codex, the Necrons have gotten sick of the Ctan's bull and have successfully rebelled against them.
  • Do Not Go Gentle: The Eldar and Imperium are entire races in the middle of this.
  • Doomsday Device: Lots, in every form imaginable, from sucking planets into Hell to simply breaking them apart from the inside out.
  • Downer Ending: There is no way it can end any other way, no matter who wins.
  • Dream Land: The Warp.
  • The Dreaded: The Holy Orders of the Emperor's Inquisition are the epitome of this trope, even outside the Imperium. One does not want to be on their bad side. In Brothers of the Snake, one especially irritating Imperial aristocrat, who has belittled and actually physically assaulted Space Marines when they attempt a Flash Badge Hijack of her skycar, breaks down in terror and runs away when a servo-skull shows her even the Inquisition's sigil.
  • Drop the Hammer: Partly named after this trope. Thunder hammers, a gigantic hammer with a tank-splitting energy release, are a favourite of Space Marine Terminators and the Ordo Malleus...which translates to "Order of the Hammer."
  • Dropped a Swarm of Alien Locusts on Them: The Squats.
  • Drop Pod: The most common way for Space Marines to enter combat.
  • Drop Ship: Many, the best known being Space Marine Thunderhawk Gunships.
  • Dual Wielding: Done with swords, axes, chainsaw swords, chainsaw axes, giant hammers and enormous bladed claws that shoot lightning; a combination of this and Guns Akimbo, with a pistol in one hand and a blade in the other, is used by virtually all close combat troops in the setting.
  • Duel to the Death: Common in the Imperium and Dark Eldar; extremely common, if informal, among the Orks.
  • Due to the Dead: Orks and Chaos forces regularly mutilate the bodies of dead foes, possibly to stick some heads on something pointy. Not that respect for the dead is exactly common...
  • Dug Too Deep: How one usually finds out that they're on a Necron Tomb World.
  • Dumb Is Good: The Imperium LIVES by this.
    • More Ignorance Is Bliss. People who enforce this trope in-universe (High Lords of Terra, Inquisition etc.) are all but dumb.
  • During the War: Though sometimes it feels more like After the End.
  • Dying as Yourself
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Really, the best you can hope for.
  • Dystopia: It really, really doesn't get any worse.
    • Although, according to the progression of the canon in the rulebooks, it is getting worse. MUCH worse.

    E 
  • Easy Logistics: Averted in the novel Helsreach, which takes place during the Third War of Armageddon. It takes three whole pages for the POV character, Grimaldus the Black Templar, to go over everything that's talked about for the nine days before the war starts. He even abridges it; going over the Imperial Guard numbers for the city alone takes two whole days.
  • Earth Is The Centre Of The Imperium: Played with. Earth (aka "Holy Terra") is the undisputed capital of the Imperium of Mankind and site of both the all-powerful government that runs it and the psychic beacon known as the Astronomican, which is absolutely necessary for humanity's faster-than-light travel to work reliably. It is however always displayed on the left side of any galactic-scale map, so the majority of the galaxy is counted as "east" of the solar system.
    • Averted for most of the non-human races, for whom Earth is just the place those Puny Earthlings call "home", but played oddly straight for the Tyranids. That Astronomican we mentioned? That humans use as their faster-than-light beacon? The Tyranids can see it too. And they want to eat it.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Just about every large Imperial vessel is equipped for Exterminatus, the cleansing of an entire planet, which is often employed at the mere suspicion of heresy. Then there are the Eldar Akliamor, the Planet Killer, the Blackstone Fortresses...
  • Earth That Used To Be Much, Much Better
  • Eldritch Abomination: The four Chaos Gods.
  • Elite Army: The Super Soldier Space Marines.
  • Elite Mooks: Elite choices for armies. Some elite choices are powerful warriors with specialized equipment, and others are basically better versions of Troop choices, and they consequently fit the spirit of this trope better. Space Marines have Veterans, Imperial Guard have Stormtroopers, Orks have Nobz, Eldar have Dire Avengers note , Dark Eldar have Trueborn, all Chaos Daemons all have elite variants, the list can go on. Fits lore, too: Space Marines are viewed as this compared to the other Imperial forces, the Imperial Guard and PDF, who do the bulk of the fighting... and dying.
  • Embarrassing Tattoo: Oddly enough, by Lukas Bastonne. A very-decorated sergeant of the Cadian Shock Troops with eidetic memory, who is incapable of forgetting the soldiers who have died under his command. The narration of his background describes him as having tattooed his body with the names of all the said soldiers as a momument to them even if his impressive memory ever fails him, and descibes it greatly in a way that implies it true, but prior to that states it's a rumor and mentions his high-collared and tightly-pressed uniform, which would certainly be hiding it well if it were true.
  • Emotion Eater: C'tan, a lot of Chaos things.
  • Empathic Weapon: Imperial Titans, Eldar witchblades. Chaos daemon weapons are more Artifact of Doom. Imperial troops treat all weapons as empathic, respecting the "machine spirits."
  • Emperor Scientist: The Emperor, appropriately enough.
  • The Empire: The "good" guys.
  • Empire with a Dark Secret: The Tau Empire has a few skeletons in its closet. The Imperium of Mankind has entire mausoleums. To go further, since they inadvertently created an entire Chaos god, one of the most terrifying forces in the Galaxy (and in this case, the Squickiest of the four), you could say the Eldar have an entire necropolis. The other sides also have dark histories; they're just more honest about them.
    • Incidentally the same with the Necrons. Considering they gave birth to nearly a whole legion of god-like beings that are nothing but pure narcissistic malice, and lost their free will and souls to said beings, it could be said they have entire Tomb Worlds of skeletons (Pun intended). Probably only kept a secret due to the fact that they can't talk.
      • Games Workshop have retconned quite a bit of Necron history with the fifth edition Codex; now, instead of being puppets of the C'tan, the Necrons ended up blowing said beings into thousands of itty-bitty shards... AFTER using their help to defeat another, even more powerful foe, and attain immortality. With the C'tans no longer being the driving force, Necrons now only want their universe-spanning empire back. Or in one case, only want artefacts for a museum.
    • Almost each of the Space Marine chapters have at least enough secrets to fill a tomb or two. Special mention goes to the Dark Angels, who are more than willing to kill members of the Inquisition to hide their secret (which is similar to killing a judge at your own trial) and are so secretive about it within their own Chapter that it would make Happyology seem like an open book.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: This age of mankind has been dubbed The Time Of Ending, since it is believed that humanity will either be extinguished, or it will evolve into a brand new species.
  • Enemy Civil War: Ongoing between various factions of Chaos, the Imperium, Tyranids, and Dark Eldar since the beginning, and still no end in sight. Literally a way of life for the Orks.
    • Possibly subverted by the Tyranids, as they waste no ammo (they eat it back up), and the winning swarm acquires any useful genes the losing swarm picked up, thereby strenghtening the race as a whole.
  • Enemy Mine: Very, very occasionally, two factions will work together to destroy a common enemy, and may even give each other a few minutes to run when it's all over. Again, a way of life for the Orks; the only thing that can put a stop to Orkish infighting is another, more enjoyable enemy to stomp.
    • In 6th Edition, the basis of the Allies rule is this; while certain factions (such as the various space marines) are on good terms with eachother, there are allies that you can take, but are noted to only occur under really teeth-clenching situations, usually because whoever they're fighting is even a bigger threat. Then there are ones which can never be allies.
  • Energy Weapon: From the humble lasgun to the odd Wave Motion Gun, 40k has energy weapons of every size.
  • Enthusiasm vs. Stoicism
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Chaos accepts/corrupts everyone, regardless of species, though the main races are, in general, conveniently resistant or immune - Eldar know how to resist, Tau have next to no warp presence, and Orks and Tyranids have huge psychic strength and are too devoted to a single purpose (WAAAGH/OM NOM NOM, respectively) to be easily corrupted. The Necrons appear to have contractual immunity, considering Chaos comes from the Warp and the Warp is anathema to them.
    • Although Chaos Orks do appear, particularly stormboy kultz.
      • The difficulty with corrupted Orks (and, to a lesser extent, Tyranids) is that it's very difficult to tell the corrupted from the non-corrupted. They'll both try to kill you with abandon.
    • Ironically, one of the few positives of the grim darkness of the far future is that traditional forms of discrimination, such as racism of the non-fantastic kind and sexism, are almost non-existent. As long as you are human, or at least human enough, you will be treated equally. Equally poorly.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The stories and legends about the Primarchs, semi-mythical figureheads of the Space Marine legions, and the Emperor nearly all involve some establishing moment from the Primarchs first actions after being born (normally slaughtering hordes of aliens) to the first meetings between the Emperor and the Primarchs which will say something important about how they saw him or why they betrayed him.
  • Eternal Engine: Adeptus Mechanicus Forge Worlds are described as being planets covered in these. Or as planets that are these.
  • Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: Everyone calls him...the Immortal God-Emperor of Mankind.
  • Everything Is Better With Monkeys: The Jokaero.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Non-video game example: the setting in general, life on a Death World in particular.
  • The Evil Army: The forces of Chaos, the Dark Eldar, and the armies of the Imperium on a bad day (or under a bad leader).
  • Evil Counterpart: Chaos Space Marines to Space Marines, Lost And The Damned to Imperial Guard, Dark Eldar to Craftworld Eldar, although the latter only appears that way from the outside. Some Craftworld Eldar see their Dark brethren as not so much "evil twin", as just a Jerkass sibling. The "Great Work" of the Harlequins is to reunite the two factions; not necessarily through any major change either factions' lifestyles.
    • The Chaos Gods could be seen this way too; Slaanesh as a corruption of Love or Happiness, Khorne as a corruption of Bravery or Glory, Tzeentch as a corruption of Hope or Wisdom, and Nurgle as a corruption of Acceptance or Friendship.
    • The Imperium of Man who wants to destroy all Xenos and the Tau Empire who wish to convert everyone to "The Greater Good" whether they like to or not.
  • Evil Feels Good: Renegade Marines.
    • This is pretty much Slaanesh's thing.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Chaos, the C'tan.
  • Evil Is Visceral
    • Chaos — Many creatures of chaos have long prehensile tongues and various other features covered by subtropes.
      • Nurgle — The Great Unclean Ones have exposed organs, use their intestines as weapons, use vomit and pus as ranged weapons, etc.
      • Slaanesh — Daemonettes have big crab claws in place of one of their hands, and are rumored to have a nasty surprise instead of normal genitals. Keepers of Secrets are a mix of many different body parts, including breasts.
    • Tyranids — Everything.
  • Evil Overlord: Every Chaos Lord, Dark Eldar Archon and Ork warboss, and about half of the Imperium's governors.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: The tower on the Thousand Sons' adopted homeworld, Adeptus Arbites citadels, Space Marine Fortress-Monasteries, Inquisition strongholds etc.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Try and find any other conflict in this universe.
    • Maybe if we went further back in time, we could find some genuine objectively good guys. Probably before Horus's treachery, though.
  • Eviler than Thou: An ongoing contest between all the factions.
  • Evolutionary Levels: Referenced as humanity evolving into a new, psychic species. Which makes very little sense, since 1: Daemons eat psykers, and 2: the Imperium kills psykers. Evolutionarily speaking, the "psyker species" should die out before it is even born. Possibly justified by the will of the Emperor.
    • It probably means that humanity is evolving into a new breed of psyker that starts kicking Daemon ass for point 1. Point 2 is for the shitty prototypes, so to speak, and they don't kill the loyal chaos resistant ones.
      • Except that they don't really breed them either. The majority of psykers either die or are killed before the Inquisition ever gets to them. Then the Inquisition kills most of the remainder. Then the good ones get to breed and the great ones (the ones who theoretically would be the chaos resistant breed stock), are killed to keep the beacon up and running or sent off to one of the Assassin Cults or Space Marines (both options involve forced sterilization). The ones that live long enough to potentially breed are either ones that go over to Chaos, or the mediocre loyal ones.
    • 40k also has an aversion which is completely ignored in the fluff. Humans have, by the 40th century, evolved around several divergent paths. Astropaths (at least originally), Ogryns, Ratlings, Beastmen and Squats are (or were for the latter two) distinct species that were offshoots of Homo Sapiens adapted to different environments and specializations. Mutants were (along with all the other examples) listed as a sub-species, but the concept of a species entirely made of mutants doesn't really work scientifically.
  • Excessive Steam Syndrome: Stanley Steamer Spaceships and Stanley Steamer tanks.
    • It should be noted that the primary STC tank of the Imperium is of extremely basic design, so much so that the things can be adapted to run on wood with minimal adjustments. Steam is a relatively popular form of power in many tanks, especially considering the availabilities of particular fuel types can vary wildly in an empire that's lost count of how many planets it contains.
  • Exotic Weapon Supremacy
  • Expansion Pack World: Suddenly, the Tau Empire!
  • Explosive Leash: Used on Imperial Penal Legion troopers to keep them killing the enemies of the Emperor and not their fellow Imperials or each other.
  • Expy: Lord Solar Macharius is absolutely Alexander the Great in space.
    • "Sly Marbo".
    • The Navis Nobilite is the pretentious Latin version of the Navigators' Guild.
    • The majority of the Imperial Guard is designed around this trope.
    • Gaunt's Ghosts for Sharpe in the beginning, though they've moved away from that and become more original. Similarly, Ciaphas Cain (HERO etc. etc.) for Flashman, and his sidekick Jurgen for McAuslan.
    • Necrons seem to be an army made up entirely of Franchise&Terminators, complete with a special rule entitled "We'll Be Back".
    • The Arbitrators are the Law!
      • Amusingly, this went full circle, with the Judge Dredd movie featuring Judge Hunters who brazenly ripped off the Adeptus Arbites uniforms, which themselves were ripoffs of the original Judge uniforms.
    • The Imperium of Man is a fairly convincing expy of the Roman Empire taken Up to Eleven: the Imperial government is known as the Administratum, the Space Marines were formerly divided in to Legions, and the order to destroy a planet is known as Exterminatus.
      • It's also an expy of Dune's Galactic Empire. The Imperium even has a God-Emperor and a class of mutated transhuman hyperspace navigators.
    • The Xenomor- er- Tyranids.
      • Who were then Expy'd into the Zerg by Blizzard Entertainment.
      • And where then expied back to Warhammer. Tyranids before release of StarCraft look very little like Zerg, while Tyranids released after StarCraft...
    • Commander Farsight was a prominent leader of an Empire's military forces. He eventually led some of his brethren in a rebellion against the powerful ruling cast, whose whims most Tau serve their entire lives. He is also known as O'Shovah.
  • Extra Dimensional Shortcut:
    • This is used as a vital means of transportation for the Imperium and Chaos forces. The problem with this sort of FTL travel is that they have to travel through the Warp, a twisted alternate dimension where the Chaos Gods and their many daemons reside. Those ships that get lost or destroyed in there usually become Space Hulks, massive patchwork shipwrecks that drift about in space.
    • The Webway is a labyrinthine alternate dimension used by the Eldar which has no connection to the Warp, however some sections have been completely blocked off due to the Necrons invading. The Dark Eldar even have their main city of Commorragh in it, as it's the only place where they're safe from the attentions of Slaanesh.
    • Dark Eldar Mandrakes exist in a kind of shadow dimension that allows them to pop back into realspace from people's shadows.
    • The Tau have no psychic ability and thus no ability to see the Warp. Their FTL is therefore achieved by putting the ship into the space between realspace and the Warp, reaching lightspeed, and coasting out (the effect is directly compared to holding a ball underwater and letting go). While safer, it's also around five times slower than Warp travel.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Tyranids eat everything up to and including entire planets, right down to the bedrock, including the atmosphere.)
    • Space Marines, due to their various enhancements, are also able to survive by eating things most people wouldn't consider food.
    • The Kroot eat anything they can so near future generations will take on certain aspects. They also digest EVERYTHING they eat, to make up for the few things they don't.

    F 

  • The Face: A group of Tau will often have a member of their diplomat caste around that can do all the talking when they have to meet with members of another species.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: Genestealers.
  • Faceless Goons: Most troops are either alien monsters or wear full-face helmets, but most squad leaders and superior officers don't, to make them stand out more. While the idea that men in suits of Powered Armour the size of tanks are running around with their heads completely exposed leads to some serious Fridge Logic, Word of God is generally that the characters do wear their helmets, but the models representing them don't to make them more distinctive.
    • It should probably be noted that, in the case of the aforementioned Powered Armour wearing tank-sized men, being shot in the exposed skull is generally seen as a fairly minor inconvenience, both in-game and in fluff terms.
    • Space Wolves will deliberately defy this trope, as in their Space Viking culture it's not enough to single-handedly take down a giant monster with nothing but your bare hands, someone needs to see you do it. That, and they feel deafened while wearing the helmets, due to their heightened senses.
  • The Faceless: Eloeholth the Faceless, possible main villain of Dark Heresy.
  • Fainting Seer: Imperial Psykers with prophetic abilities tend to go a bit...quibbly when particularly world-shattering events, like Black Crusades, Tyranid invasions, or Ork WAAAGH!s are about to happen. Naturally, since this is 40k, the side effects are sometimes more messy and permanent than simple fainting.
  • Fallen Hero: Every Chaos Space Marine. Some (the original Traitor Legions) in a vast Chaos-inspired collective rebellion known as the Horus Heresy, ten millennia before the setting; some (Renegades) later, for various reasons. Even most of the Chaos Primarchs were once noble heroes with genuinely sympathetic backstory, and some, such as Magnus and Fulgrim, have particularly tragic reasons for their descent into damnation.
    • A particularly tragic example is the Fallen Angels, a group of Dark Angel Space Marines who were tricked into siding with Chaos during the Heresy, and are mercilessly hunted and tortured by their loyalist brothers.
    • Horus himself is the most prominent example at hand. An incredibly talented, charismatic and powerful leader, Horus was, essentially, tricked into rebelling by being shown a future where (so he thought) he had been forgotten (along with all the other traitor primarchs) and the Emperor was worshipped as a God. Ironically / tragically, this was in fact that future that his very rebellion would create.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Really, the only way to die in this galaxy.
  • Fangs Are Evil: Averted with the Space Wolves and the Blood Angels. Played horrifically straight with Chaos Space Marines and the Tyranids.
  • Fantastic Naming Convention: The Tau Empire as a whole have a very peculiar naming convention for their citizens, using [Caste]'[Rank] [Sept they were born in] [Defining traits]. For example, Shas'la T'au Kais means "Brave Fire Caste Initiate from T'au".
  • Fantastic Racism: "Beware the alien, the mutant, the heretic." The Imperium of Man is rabidly and xenocidally human-centric, but considering that the Eldar view every other species as mindless pawns to be manipulated, the Tau are divided into genetically "pure" castes based on their physical specialisations, the Orks tend to "crump any o' 'dose gits what ain't Orky enuff!" - including other Orks - and everything else is trying to kill everything else, it's fairly understandable.
    • More than understandable: due to the nature of the Imperial religion and the fact that the God Emporer is the only god that Chaos can't touch, becoming a close-minded, xenophobic bigot is pretty much the only way your soul can be saved.
  • Fantastic Rank System: The Imperial Guard have several additional ranks, such as "Lord General Militant" and "Colonel-Commissar". Non-human factions have entirely invented rank systems; see the trope page for details.
  • Fantastic Slurs: XENO!
    • In the Imperium, "twist" is often used for mutants, though the mutants have largely reclaimed the term.
    • Also, members of the Imperial Guard have used the term "cogboy" for Adeptus Mechanicus Techpriests.
    • The Eldar refer to humans as "Mon'keigh". The fact that it sounds like "monkey" is the least offensive thing about it note .
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture
    • Space Marines in general are based off of the famous Greek Spartans. More specifically, we have the Viking Space Wolves, the Mongol White Scars, the Roman Ultramarines as the most obvious examples. Blood Angels have some Christian iconography, particularly from the Renaissance period (in the form of immaculate angels). Dark Angels have a particularly monastic feel to them, reinforced by their Old Testament-style angelic names. The Dark Angel's Death Wing Company also has a sort of tribal feel to it, due to the history of their armor. Black Templars are likewise based off of The Knights Templar and The Teutonic Knights, which also affects their gameplay.
      • The Iron Warriors are based on the Spartans (their homeworld Olympia is described as impossibly mountainous) except they show what happens when a Proud Warrior Race goes mad.
    • The Inquisition shares a lot of imagery with (surprise, surprise) the Spanish Inquisition. The Witch Hunters are also very obviously based off of the witch hunters from movies, and possibly the Salem Witch Trials.
    • Imperial Guard regiments include the World War II German-inspired Steel Legion and the rather more Grimdark World War I German-inspired Death Korps of Krieg, the fur-hatted Russian Valhallans and Cossack-based Vostroyan Firstborn, the Arabic Tallarn Desert Raiders, the Vietnam War-themed Catachan Jungle Fighters, the Prussian-esque Mordians, the pith-helmeted, red-coated Praetorians, the tribal Attilan Rough Riders (just guess), and the Welsh/Scottish Tanith First-and-Only.
      • The Cadians are intended to be your standard modern/futuristic soldiers but their name is supposedly a reference to Canada's underappreciated army; their accents in Dawn of War seem to back up that theory. They are also influenced by Blitz-era Britain - Lord Castellan Ursarkar Creed is basically Winston Churchill in Space, cigar included.
    • In the Dawn of War series, the Tau are characterised by distinctly Asian accents, which rather coincides with their Taoist philosophy and rather Animesque designs. They're also commonly seen as Space Communists for their "Greater Good" philosophy.
    • Both the Necrons and the Thousand Sons Chaos Space Marines show ancient Egyptian influence in their design.
    • The Kroot have a very Aboriginal Tribal feel to them, using relatively primitive weapons and warbeasts rather than the high-tech weaponry of every other race (and it's not like it's hard for them to get the equipment either, they just simply don't want it because it's too flimsy).
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: Tau Fire Warriors wear an over-large, reinforced shoulder pad on their left shoulder to provide additional protection when they open fire on the enemy. Some older patterns of Space Marine power armor have a studded, reinforced shoulder pad on one side for the same reason.
  • Fast Roping: A tactic that was introduced in the Cities of Death expansion that allows troops to drop directly onto buildings from their skimmers. Later adopted as a standard - if dangerous - technique for exiting a Valkyrie at speed in Codex: Imperial Guard.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: through Hell.
    • Unless you're the Tau. They just "skim the surface" of hell.
  • Fatal Flaw: Everyone.
  • A Father to His Men: Literal in the case of the Emperor to the Primarchs and the Primarchs to their respective legions during the Great Crusade. Also see the image on that page for much lulz.
    • Surprisingly, Nurgle's Great Unclean Ones are described as Fathers to their Daemons. The Lord of Decay Nurgle himself even engenders a twisted affection in his followers, who refer to him as "Grandfather Nurgle".
  • Fear Is the Appropriate Response: Any unit with "fearless" will fight to the death, however, if they lose a combat, they take extra wounds.
    • Recently changed in the 6th edition rules so they no longer take extra wounds, making such units excellent tar-pits for assault armies.
  • The Federation: The Tau Empire, who ironically would be the bad guys in most settings. In 40k, they're the idealistic ones.
  • Feed It a Bomb: As of the Sixth Edition, greanades now have a seperate strength-stat that is used when fighting Monstrous Creatures; that's right, even the Mighty Carnifex, practically impervious to Strength 4 Bolters, can be taken down by a unit of humble Tactical Space Marines, all tossing a once-humble (Strength 6) Krak Grenade down it's Toughness 6 throat.....
  • Feel No Pain: Necrons, Orks, Space Marines, Nurgle, Thousand Sons, the Dark Eldar if they kill enough people. Don't even ask about followers of Slaanesh...
    • This is a special rule in the game, described as an ability to shrug off injuries and keep fighting. Models that have the rule can make an additional dice roll to attempt to negate an unsaved wound.
  • Fetus Terrible: The offspring of the Genestealer-subverted.
  • Feudal Future: The Imperium, Ork empires, and Saim-Hann Craftworld being the most prominent, though most interstellar organizations eventually exhibit shades of this. Justified in all cases by slow and unreliable interstellar communications and travel.
  • Fiction 500: Anyone who has a "Warrant of Trade" in the Imperium is this. The poorest of these trades has to do with a single space cathedral attached to a battle ship, while the richest owns entire fleets and controls the trade of hundreds of planets.
  • Finagle's Law: Applies to everything and everyone, everywhere.
    • To the point that the rogue chaos god Zuvassin is, for the most part, the Anthropomorphic Personification of Murphy's Law; he doesn't so much as give his worshippers orders as much as just let them loose, because if he actually were to give orders, they would find some way of messing them up.
  • Final Solution: Exterminatus is a disturbingly popular problem-solving tool.
  • Five-Bad Band: While not working together, the five evil factions fill all of the archetypes.
  • Five Rounds Rapid: In background material, trying to take down warp-spawned horrors with conventional weapons usually achieves nothing, and alternative methods must be employed. Generally averted in the tabletop game; even greater daemons and star-gods can be hurt, but can take a hell of a lot of punishment.
    • On the tabletop, Five Rounds Rapid is ineffective. Five Hundred Rounds Rapid, on the other hand...
    • Star-gods and a few nasty T8+ creatures are utterly immune to most small-arms fire in-game, due to the rule that if a weapon's strength is 4 or more less than the toughness of the target, it can't hurt them (and the standard firearm is usually Strength 4, if not less). They also have a helluva lotta wounds to withstand anything that can hurt them.
  • Flamethrower Backfire: Ork weapons are designed with no safety features in mind, so shooting the Ammunition Backpack is usually a good tactic.
    • Crossing this trope with Every Car Is a Pinto, the Hellhound Flame Tank can suffer a catastrophic explosion even to a mild hit as a result of its flamer tanks going up.
  • Flat Earth Atheist: The Tau, whose lack of warp sensitivity and general inexperience and naivety makes them doubt stories of daemons and other warp-spawned horrors.
    • The Horus Heresy novels have shades of this in places too - the Emperor has promoted a society besed on atheistic secularism, so people lend absolutely no credit to stories of Chaos Gods being behind the various Bad Things that happen for the first few books. It doesn't help...
  • Flaying Alive: The basic method of Cold-Blooded Torture employed by various factions in the setting. They just get worse from there.
  • Flechette Storm: Eldar shuriken weapons, Dark Eldar splinter weapons, and at least one type of bolter shell all work like this.
    • The Tau have an upgrade for their tanks that shoot flechette storms while using tank shock rules.
    • Similarly with the Land Raider variant patterns (Crusaders and Redeemers): They have Frag Assault Launchers, which shoot a cloud of shrapnel outward from the front assault ramp, allowing those within (usually Terminators) time to close with the enemy.
  • Fling a Light into the Future: Make no mistake, 40k taken at face value is a horrible, depressing setting in which all of the various factions, good and bad, are going to annihilate each other leaving a dead, ruined galaxy in their wake. However, some of the most powerful and human moments in the series are when a small group of Astartes, guardsmen, or even civilians decide they absolutely will not give up, and fight to the last for duty, honor, to live one more day, or even for the very survival of their species. The so called hero races of 40k often lose... and many times their hard won victories cost thousands or even billions of lives, but their refusal to give up in the face of such ludicrous odds is awesome.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: The Bell of Lost Souls is located atop one of the highest towers of the Imperial Palace, and tolls once whenever a truly great hero of the Imperium dies. It is said to be audible on the other side of the planet.
    • It is hinted at in the fluff that the bell tolls for every Space Marine that died in service to the Emperor. It must be ringing nearly all day and night if that is true.
  • For Science!: Guiding star of the Adeptus Mechanicus, though their definition of "scientific progress" is tracking down and recovering ancient relics. That's the only difference; the Mechanicus will go to any ends to recover even a fragment of a STC device, no matter the cost. The Logician cult from Dark Heresy takes this creed even further, often with horrifying results.
  • For the Evulz: Dark Eldar, and Orks pretty much have this as their main motivation. A number of the Chaos worshippers, too.
    • The whole franchise strives to be as mindbogglingly terrifying as it can for no f**king reason!
  • Foregone Conclusion: For the story, no matter what new threat shows up and no matter how much its power is hyped it will never mean the end of the Imperium. In real life, whenever an army gets a new codex they will definitely win the battle report in the White Dwarf magazine or at least a second chance if they lose the first battle.
  • Forever War: That should be obvious by now.
    In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war!
  • Forged by the Gods: The Chaos Gods sometimes grant their mortal or daemonic servants powerful weapons, though usually their forging is done by daemons, not the gods themselves.
  • Four Is Death: The four chief Chaos Gods, The Corruption distilled. Massively powerful warp entities, each a reflection of one survivalist emotion as present in the collective subconscious of all sentient beings. Each has their own set of daemonic creatures and corrupted followers. Similarly, the surviving C'tan number four: The Deceiver, The Nightbringer, The Outsider and the Void Dragon.)
    • The Eldar are working on it. Only three of their gods Isha, the Goddess of Healing, Cegorach, the Laughing God and Khaine, the God of Murder survived the fall in any way. The Eldar's endgame is to create a fourth god, Ynnead, the god of death from their fallen. So in this case, their fourth god is quite literally death.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: Starting with lasguns.
  • Friendly Fireproof: Averted Trope - weapons of the Blast variety can hit allies, and single-target ranged attacks are not allowed to target enemies engaged in a melee with allies due to the possibility of hitting their own troops.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: The Blood Angels are pretty decent people. However, don't get near them when the Black Rage takes effect as they start getting Ax-Crazy and literately blood thirsty when it takes effect.
  • Frontline General: An actual game mechanic, as the minimum to play is two units of troops and a general / HQ unit. Depending on their stats, you either keep them the hell away from attack (see Tau Ethereals) or are horrifying death machines to be rushed into melee as soon as possible (orks, some Chaos leaders). In the fluff, however, the less insane armies keep their high command well out of harm's way.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: All of the Imperium's reforms and resolved civil wars since the Horus Heresy.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Sisters Repentia, Arco-flagellants, Slaaneshi daemons and daemonhosts.
  • Future Imperfect: Given that the setting takes place 10,000 years After the End, this is pretty much a given.
  • Future Spandex: Imperial Assassins wear uniforms that are quite literally sprayed on: the substance (called SynSkin) comes in large aerosol cans and provides whole-body protection from various airborne toxins and temperature variation whilst allowing the skin to breathe properly, but only if applied directly to naked flesh.

    G 
  • Gaiden Game: The various Spinoffs listed in the introduction.
  • Galactic Conqueror: Too many to count. Some evil, some really evil.
  • Galactic Superpower: Supposedly the Imperium.
  • Gambit Roulette: Everything in the galaxy, as played by: Tzeentch (who rigs the game); the Deceiver (who rigs the players); the Emperor (who knows when to call in the cops); Cegorach, the Eldar Laughing God (who keeps wandering off the floor to visit the buffet and watch the stage show); Eldrad Ulthran (who's counting cards); and Castellan Creed, who has a Warhound Titan hidden under the table.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: One of the appeals of the tabletop game is that any army can be pitted against any army and still be faithful to the story and setting. note . After all, in the Crapsack Universe the 41st millennium is, a given battle could feasibly be happening somewhere.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: No matter how absurdly powerful each faction is made out to be in the fluff, they are all brought down to some level of balance on the tabletop. Even the Space Marines, the biggest Badasses in the universe, become the Jack of All Stats infantry units.
    • The Imperial Guard have an odd case of this. The novels based around the IG state that >90% of the time, they are fighting other humans (rebels, cultists, mutants, etc.) and actually have a reasonable chance of success doing so. However, when the more powerful armies are disproportionately represented on the tabletop, with Space Marines (both types) being the most popular, it's not hard to see how the Imperial Guard gets its reputation as a Red Shirt Army that loses horribly almost every time.
    • The stats of the Humble Bolter and Chainsword would surprise anyone who was familiar with them, but not the game. The Bolter is described as basically a rapid firing RPG launcher, but in-game is little more than a powerful slug thrower and not all that intimidating. The Chainsword is a a Chainsaw in sword form, you'd expect it to have some effect on enemy armor right? Not so much. It literally has the same stats as the "butter knives" the Imperial Guard uses.
    • Also ties into Power Creep, Power Seep as, in the earlier editions, the Imperial Guard were suppose to be baseline, with other races compared to them for what was "elite". This is a holdover at the time from Warhammer Fantasy, where stuff like toughness 3 and 5+ armor on a rank and file soldier would be a godsend. This is most notable with the Eldar, who are suppose to have "elite" infantry in heavy armor that can run about unhindered (represented by having 5+ armor and the fleet rule). This, of course, was completely screwed up with Space Marines being the most popular and populous army, so they became the baseline, resulting in everything in the fluff being rather skewed when compared to the tabletop.
  • Gang Initiation Fight: Becoming a full member of the Space Marines includes a fight against current members, although applicants are not expected to win, they are judged on how well they do.
  • Garrisonable Structures: Tabletop 40K was doing this long before Video Games did. In the case of more "open" buildings such as ruins, typically the general terrain and cover rules are used, but in the case of more "closed" (as in it is hard or impossible to place models inside of them) structures, more abstract rules exist for determining how many models can fit inside, where the fire points are and how many of them there are, where the entrances and exits are, etc.
  • Gatling Good: Consider the Assault Cannon, a gatling gun which can cut through light vehicles. Next, consider the Punisher Gatling Cannon, a gatling gun the size of a main tank cannon that can slaughter entire squads of light infantry at a time. Then the Vulcan Mega-Bolter, a gatling gun the size of a whole tank that can mow down armies. Now look at the Hellstorm cannon, a gatling gun the size of a skyscraper. And that's just in the Imperium. Yep, 40k likes this one.
  • General Failure: A good number of Imperial Guard officers fit the bill.
    • Abbadon the Despoiler was this until recent codices retconned the goals of his thirteen Black Crusades from "invade the Imperium" to "spill as much blood as possible".
  • General Ripper: Imperial officers are generally this, or Colonel Badass. Sometimes both.
  • Generic Doomsday Villain: The Tyranids are the original for the this, with no established backstory, and aren't likely to get one since they've been around since the early days and still haven't gotten one, no characters with personalities, there' just Horde of Alien Locusts that devours everything they see with no goal given. GW then decided to have another with Necrons, who while having a scary backstory, they were ultimately just another faction bent on killing everything in a game that already had one, led by Jerkass Gods that were kinda rehash of the Chaos Gods as far personalities went. Since their recton they've become more interesting, but the Tyranids are unlikely to ever change.
    • Some of the earlier Tyranid fluff implies that the reason they're invading our galaxy is because they're fleeing from something even worse. Think about that for a moment.
  • Genetic Memory: Space Marines and Tyranid Lictors have the ability to absorb the memories of the dead by eating their flesh, particularly the brain. In addition, each Space Marine Chapter is based on the genetic templates of one of the Primarchs, and occasionally display traits and memories of that Primarch. Blood Angels, for example have a random chance of triggering the genetic memory of their Primarch's bloody death, which can drive them into an Unstoppable Rage. Kroot are said in designers' notes to have gained Ork technology through their ability to absorb the DNA of prey.
    • In fact, according to one version of their backstory, the Kroot started out as fairly ordinary birds, aside from their ability to absorb DNA and evolved into intelligent, humanoid lifeforms by scavenging dead Orks.
  • Genius Bruiser: A wide variety, although who, why and to what extent vary wildly depending on the setting. Of particular note, perhaps, is The Emperor, who is/was clever enough to construct his own Webway Gate, design Space Marines, and command the Great Crusade, and was badass enough to kick the crap out of pretty much anyone in the setting. His Adeptus Custodes and Space Marines are a close second - in particular, the Tech Marines, and anyone Space Marine who survives long enough to gain some experience (notably, Dante of the Blood Angels, Logan Grimnar and Bjorn the Fell-Handed of the Space Wolves). Each faction has their own representatives, as well - Fabius Bile, various Mekboyz (though they have more of the bruiser than the genius about them, they are a damn sight smarter than the rest of da boyz), most Inquisitors, various Eldar...the list goes on.
  • Genre-Busting: It doesn't matter if the tropes the series uses are from Scifi, Fantasy, Horror, or whatever, as long as they make the setting Darker and Edgier.
  • Genre Savvy: According to 1d4chan, the Space Wolves, along with the Black Templars, World Eaters and Khornate Worshipers are some of the most genre savvy people in the entire Imperium. Not that there isn't plenty of it to go around, with the Imperium's official policy of Shoot Everything That Moves being a product of them realizing they live in a universe with Everything Trying to Kill You. However, among them all, it's the three Space Marine chapters (and Religion of Evil) that really take it to an extreme, actually realizing that they all live in a fantasy universe with spaceships.
    • The Imperial Guard are so aware of their Redshirt Army status that the commissar unit was developed specifically to address their morale problems.
  • Geo Effects: Placing units in or behind pieces of terrain can greatly increase their chances of survival thanks to various rules for movement, shooting, and close combat.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Common among the Imperial Guard. Occasionally delivered via bullet.
  • Ghost Ship: Space Hulks. Also some Eldar vessels, albeit more as "ships crewed by ghosts" than the traditional sense.
  • Giant Flyer: Winged strains of the larger Tyranids.
  • Giant Mook: Squad leaders: Veteran Sergeants, Sybarites, Warlocks etcetera.
  • Giant Spider: Giant robot spiders, no less, in the form of Necron Tomb Spyders, and a Humongous Mecha-scale variant called the Tomb Stalker, which is more of a Giant Centipede.
    • The Tyranid Hierophant biotitan has elements of this as well, combined, of course, with reptilian features.
  • Girl with Psycho Weapon: Sisters of Battle "Sisters Repentia", entire squads of young women wearing scraps of parchment and carrying eight-foot-long chainsaw swords, driven on by an armoured woman with a barbed cat-o-nine-tails in each hand, who are apparently assigned to these squads to "repent" for perceived acts of immorality. Fetish Fuel much?
  • Glass Cannon:
    • The Jokaero combine this with Lethal Joke Character. They wear technomagic rings on their fingers that fire beams that can do three different types of ranged damage, but they die just about as easily as you'd expect unarmored space monkeys to.
      • Taken to extremes by the joke army build known as the "Barrel of Monkeys"note . You will murder your way across the tabletop, provided you keep up the pace and not give the other guy an opening because the second you do he'll turn you into Swiss cheese.
    • Most rank and file units that cost more than 25 points tend to be this. You wouldn't think a Grey Knight or an Assault Marine, being clad in what is essentially tank armor to be glass cannons, but their relative cost means that while they have decent survivability, you're going to feel every one of those losses as the opponent can simply outnumber you in bodies (which in turn may bring more attacks to the field).
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Everyone seems to have these.
  • A God I Am Not: The Emperor, despite what his worshippers say.
  • God Emperor: Read through the page and if you can't guess who it is by the end, we'll give you a cookie. We'll even give you a clue: his name begins God- and ends -peror, and despite ascending to literal godhood after his reign ended due to the worship of the masses he is so totally not a Dune rip-off.
    • Ironically, the guy tried to make sure that he wouldn't ascend to godhood. It didn't work. Far worse than he would publically admit to liking.
  • God Is Evil: Taken to an extreme.
    • Tzeentch: Chessmaster god of change, mutation, manipulation, sorcery, Magnificent Bastards and the long game. Daemons take the form of mutated horrible things which squirt hellfire from every orifice; followers are usually mutated-beyond-all-recognition sorcerers, or automatons reduced to dust sealed inside armour. Odds are high that everything going on in the entire galaxy is part of his Gambit Roulette. Reflection of the emotion of hope.
    • Nurgle: God of decay, disease, corruption, entropy, maggots and Body Horror. Daemons take the form of potbellied maggotridden monsters of barely-held-together rotten flesh, mortal followers aren't much better. Apparently has a sense of humour, and is called Grandfather Nurgle by his followers, who see him as a kind and loving god. Born from the emotion of despair.
    • Khorne: God of rage, violence, war, oversized weapons and the Axe Crazy. Daemons take the form of spiky muscular freaks covered with blood and brass, usually holding really big axes. Followers are uniformly psychotic axe-waving Blood Knights, although this may be something of a Flanderisation - earlier background material described Khorne as the god of martial prowess, not just blind, screaming bloodlust. Khorne embodies the emotion of rage.
    • Slaanesh: God of pleasure, excess, indulgence, Sense Freaks, Fetish Fuel and Does This Remind You of Anything?. Daemons are bizarrely sensual things ranging from seductive siren-creatures absolutely covered in breasts to enormous worms with prehensile tongues which are...also covered in breasts. Accidentally squicked from the decadance of the Eldar, its birth destroying most of their civilisation in a galaxy-wide Mind Rape. Slaanesh embodies the emotion of desire.
    • Then we have the C'tan, who are almost as good as the Chaos gods themselves on the soul eating and reality warping front.
    • Khaine, the most powerful of the surviving Eldar gods, is as much a psychotic murderer as a warrior and protector.
    • The God Emperor of Mankind, a fascist overlord who reunited humanity by Curb Stomping everyone not agreeing with him being in charge, who qualifies as less evil.
    • Subverted (finally) with Isha, the Eldar Mother Goddess. She's been Nurgle's prisoner for centuries, and he tests his plagues on her, learning something when she cures herself. When Nurgle isn't looking, Isha whispers the cures for these diseases to mortals.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Despite getting Flanderized to being a solution for any problem, exterminatus is actually treated this way within the canon.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Roll up! Gaze unprotected into the Warp! Lose your mind!
  • The Bad The Evil And The Really Really Evil: The Imperium is the Bad, the Tau, Light Eldar, and Orks are the Evil, and the Tyranids, Necrons, Dark Eldar, and Chaos are the Really Really Evil.
  • Good Is Boring: Fortunately, there's very little of it around.
  • Good Is Not Nice:
    • The Salamanders fight not for glory, but for the people. Hurting civilians is a Berserk Button for them, which a chapter master found out the hard way. Outside of that, they're ruthless in battle and are an entire chapter of scary black men who like to burn things.
    • The Space Wolves, an entire chapter of Chaotic Good Boisterous Bruisers who are scary enough to convince the Inquisition to change its operating policy.
    • Tau rule can seem restrictive to people not accustomed to it, but the Tau inhabitants like it quite a lot. Even the humans are probably better off than they would be in most other places.
    • The Eldar. A race of psychic Space Elves with hyper-advanced weapons who have dedicated themselves to fighting the genocidal Necrons and the forces of Chaos. Unfortunately, they're also douchebags. Not total douchebags, though.
  • "Good Luck" Gesture: For some Imperial troops, "thumbing one's palm," or planting the thumb of one hand in the palm of the other to produce an eagle's wing of sorts. This represents the aquila, the two-headed eagle used as the Imperium's insignia.
  • Good Shepherd: A Corrupt Church the Ecclesiarchy may be, but there are a few Imperial preachers who legitimately care about the common folk of the Imperium. You're more likely to run into the other variety, though
  • Götterdämmerung: Both literal and metaphorical.
  • Gothic Punk: The nicer Imperial worlds are like this.
  • Great Big Book of Everything: Various tomes kept by the Inquisition.
    • The Codex Astartes, written by Primarch Robute Gulliman as a foundational document for the training and doctrine of the Space Marines after the terror of the Horus Heresy. Comprehensive in scope and application, the Codex is used by the vast majority of Space Marine Chapters as their primary manual. Just how closely you should follow the Codex remains a bone of contention both in-universe and among the fans.
  • Grim Reaper: The Nightbringer is the Grim Reaper of 40k, a hooded, scythe-wielding omnicidal star-god who gave all creatures (except the Orks) the fear of death. A lot of others in the universe like to style themselves after the ideal of the hooded reaper, including Eldar Dark Reapers and their Phoenix Lord Maugan Ra, various Dark Angels, the Death Guard primarch Mortarion and a few of his champions.
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: pretty much every single race has a reason to exterminate every other race and has plans to do so.
  • Guns Akimbo: Cypher and Sisters of Battle Seraphim, mostly. Dire Avenger Exarchs can have this too.
  • Guns Do Not Work That Way: Colonel "Iron Hand" Straken's model's shotgun has both box and tube magazines.

    H 
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Genestealer hybrids, though in an unusual take the original Genestealer itself is never a parent - it infects another creature with its genetic material, and when that creature reproduces normally with another of its kind, the offspring will be part Genestealer. Necron Pariahs are horrifying hybrids of Untouchable humans and Necron technology.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: In a World of Ham where Everything Is Trying to Kill You, members of the various factions will spend as much time trying to out chew each other as they will trying to kill each other.
  • Hand Cannon:
    • Imperial bolt pistols, a few human stub pistols, plasma pistols, and inferno/infernus (melta) pistols, particularly the versions wielded by Space Marines. Ork sluggas also qualify. Other races tend to be a bit more... restrained when it comes to their sidearms.
    • Laspistols technically count; while las weapons in general are some of the weakest weapons in the 40K setting, by real world standards they are incredibly powerful, capable of severing limbs and causing massive explosive tissue damage.
  • Hanlon's Razor: Almost always inverted - never attribute to stupidity what can be explained by malice or conspiracy.
  • Happiness in Slavery: Aversions abound, but there is one straight example: The Chapter Serfs of the Space Marine Chapters. They fill all positions in a chapter not involving leadership or infantry combat, and are better trained and equipped than any non-Astartes. The Space Marine Chapters, in turn, recognize the skill and dedication of their serfs, and chapter serfs are full members of the chapter cult, and enjoy a better lifestyle than all except the richest citizens of the Imperium.
  • Hard-Coded Hostility:
    • The tyranids are ravenous insect-like aliens whose only purpose is to break everything into biomass and devouring it. As such, nobody really wants them around, so much so that in the new edition's ally rules, which measure each faction's willingness to cooperate with each other, the Tyranids have absolutely no allies.
    • Pre-5th edition retcon, the necrons (undead robots) existed only to scour the galaxy of every single living thing down to the last bacterium. Nowadays they can be negotiated with.
    • Orks. WAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!!
  • Harmony Versus Discipline
    • Elves VS Dwarves: Everyone with a motive more complicated than "must eat" or "must kill" has some ideological (or genetically-engineered) disdain of everyone else or some futile set of grudges. Within the traditional context of the trope, the best fit would be the snooty, highly cultured Eldar and their shiny weapons and hyper-advanced Hover Tanks vs. the boisterous, crude Orks and their gritty guns and smoke-belching trucks and looted tanks.
    • Emotions vs. Stoicism: There are the Chaos gods, hellish demons that embody (and are actually created by) the emotions of the sentient beings in the galaxy. All manner of cults and religions do unspeakable acts fueled by zealous fervor because it's part of their dogmas and faiths. The Messiah, which practically all of humanity worship with the same zeal, on the other hand, was a proponent of science, logic, and atheism. The greatest irony is that if there is any hope for humanity at all, said Messiah will ultimately end up literally becoming God (Belief is literally power. And there are countless trillions worshipping the Emperor.)
    • Flesh Versus Steel: The Imperium relies on mass-produced vehicles and weapons, non-disfiguring biological implants, and sheer stubbornness to face mutated Chaos monstrosities and the Tyranid swarm. The Eldar use some psychic powers and a lot of hyper-advanced technology for everything, while the Dark Eldar are vat-grown and have a fondness for growing strange monsters and grafting bits onto themselves. The Necrons and the Daemons of Chaos wage war on each other regularly, intending to destroy each other. This is good, and bad, because if Chaos is destroyed, our universe and the Warp will not become one, but the Necrons will exterminate everything in the galaxy that isn't them. If Chaos wins, the Necrons are no longer a threat but the Chaos Gods' plans continue.
    • Magic Versus Science: The battle against the Warp and Chaos (which is for all intents and purposes the "magic" of the setting) is one of the most central plot points. Faith is also used, but ridiculously large calibur guns and energy weapons also help. Of course Chaos can and does corrupt technology by stuffing demons into it. There's all sorts of scientists fallen to Chaos too since new ideas generally open someone up to the influence of the Warp and who wouldn't be slightly curious to see how it all works. The most known faction of those is the Dark Mechanicus who use more forbidden technologies like AIs and bio-tech to make very powerful potent weapons. The idea also comes to light when one considers the Tau, who stick entirely to technology and do their best to ignore the presence of sorcery and faith as active forces in the galaxy. The result, among other things, is that their ships move at a snail's pace compared to everyone else, since powerful sorcery is necessary to travel the Warp. On the other hand, the Necrons also eschew the Warp, and in fact have troops specifically to shut down psykers. Their technology involves using the Eldar Webway.
    • Order Versus Chaos: There is no real Good vs Evil. Although there are some individuals who could be considered good, as a whole the sides are basically Bad vs Worse. However, Order does come off as a slightly lighter shade of black most of the time.
  • Hat of Authority: Commissars take their hats seriously.
  • Haunted Technology: Several examples:
    • Eldar Wraithguards and Wraithlords. They are both robots that are controlled via souls of dead Eldar.
    • Many Chaos vehicles (and other technology) can be subject to Demonic Possession in lieu of an actual pilot.
    • The Adeptus Mechanicus believes that every piece of technology has a "Machine Spirit" that needs to be appeased in order for it to work. Appeasement consists of complex religious rituals. Whether the Machine Spirits are real and the rituals actually work, or are simply ancient A.I.'s and maintenance procedures, respectively, is kept rather ambiguous.
  • The Heartless: Daemons of Chaos; Dark Eldar, especially mandrakes.
  • Healing Factor: The entire gimmick of the Necrons and their "We'll Be Back" special rule, C'tan with their Necrodermis "skin", and certain Tyranid monstrous creatures.
  • He Knows Too Much: The very existence of the Grey Knights chapter is kept secret from the rest of the Imperium. If circumstances dictate that they must fight alongside other Imperial forces, then the secret is maintained after the fighting is over with executions or when the soldiers in question are valuable enough to be allowed to live (such as in the case of other Space Marines) with Laser-Guided Amnesia.
  • Hellfire: Naturally, Chaos can produce this. Only it's called warpfire.
  • Hellgate: The Eye of Terror, the Maelstrom, Van Groethe's Rapidity...
  • Hellhound: Khornate Flesh Hounds. Also, to a lesser extent, Dark Eldar Warp Beasts. The Imperial Guard also have a tank called the Hellhound, which is armed with a flamethrower.
  • The Heretic: The Ecclesiarchy, the Adeptus Mechanicus, and the Space Marines all have different ideas of what constitutes heresy, but all three agree that worshiping Chaos fits the bill.
  • Heroic Willpower: Both played straight, and inverted - Villainous Willpower determines which of the two possible One-Winged Angel routes a follower of Chaos goes down, mutating into either a mindless Chaos Spawn, or a Physical God.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Generally how the nice people in 40K die if it's on their own terms.
    • To quote von Remus from Damnatus: In this universe, one is either sacrificed, or sacrifices themself.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Happens shockingly often. One example of this: there are two kinds of Inquisitors in the Imperium; Puritans, and Radicals (no, not that kind of radical) and they both have different beliefs on how to fight Chaos. Puritans believe that daemons must only be destroyed, never consorted with or used, in fact they're willing to destroy a bolter touched by a daemon because it is considered corrupted, but by contrast, Radicals believe that the best way to fight daemons is to basically use daemons against them, and this is fine as long as the purpose is pure. The Inquisition is split down the middle, but there's only one truth; Inquisitors usually begin as Puritans and die as Radicals. This is because they start out as Wide Eyed Idealists, but after years of calling Exterminatus, expending thousands or even millions of lives and fighting losing battles with the ruinous powers, they eventually see no hope in the tactics they use and begin using tainted powers and weapons against their monstrous foes in the faint, desperate hope of finally beating them, only to be executed themselves for heresy by a Puritan, who will eventually go on and do the same thing years down the line. Grimdark.
  • Highly Conspicuous Uniform: Almost everyone save certain Imperial Guard outfits. Space Marines in particular have the saying "camouflage is the color of cowardice." Then again, being an obvious target is not particularly problematic for a human tank...
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Doombreed is among the oldest of Khorne's Champions, having been elevated to Daemon Princehood even before the Emperor first manifested himself as the Master of Mankind, and is heavily implied to have been Genghis Khan in life. His exploits in 40K include wiping out two entire chapters of Space Marines.
  • Hive Mind: The Tyranids.
  • Hive Queen: Tyranid Synapse Creatures.
    • The Norn-Queens especially, which fill the role of the classic, Mook-spawning bee queen analogue in the Tyranid hive fleets for the most part.
  • Hobbits: Seldom seen, but present as specialist snipers in the Imperial Guard. In keeping with the grimdark theme, they're called Ratlings, care only about food, boozing, stealing and fornicating.
  • Hollywood Atheist:
    • The Tau take this one so far it turns back on itself and they become Scary Dogmatic Aliens.
    • The Emperor is portrayed as one as well; in one story he goes to the last church on Terra with the express purpose of destroying it, but not before he's broken the faith of the priest living inside and offered him a chance to join the new Imperium, which ends up with the Priest at the last moment realizing how hypocritical the Emperor's argument was and telling him to his face how he'll just end up becoming the very thing he hates, before going back inside the burning church.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Generally averted by most races, barring the odd Imperial Guard regiment. Both thoroughly embraced and thoroughly subverted by the Orks, who actually make it work. Played straight in some comics and game cutscenes, though.
    • Second Edition Lord Commander Solar Macharius had the rather unique ability as your army's leader and a tactical genius to totally screw up your battle plan on the basis of a dice roll; just having him in your army might potentially lead to all your reserve units being committed immediately and skipping the devastating Preliminary Barrage step that was one of the IG army gimmicks (every artillery weapon in your army could fire before the battle actually started). Um, thanks there, mister tactical genius.
    • While Hollywood Tactics are typically averted both in written fluff and in the game itself (again barring Orks,) it is quite commonly depicted in artwork made for the game. A very common theme is to show two opposing armies of huge size standing in lines and firing at each other from practically point blank range with no cover and no room to move laterally. It looks very dramatic, but such battlefield situations almost never occur in a narrative, and will only occasionally happen on the tabletop.
  • Holy Hand Grenade: The Grey Knights have an array of weapons specifically for battling the daemonic spawn of Chaos. The Black Templars have the actual Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.
  • Homage: Tons and tons of 'em: some are minor, like planets named after games developers or deodorants, while some much more prominent. The best example of a major homage would be the Necrons, who started as an homage to the Terminator films: mysterious robotic skeletons who carried on trying to kill you even if reduced to crawling torsos with no legs, and a special rule called "I'll Be Back". Later changes departed from this, focusing more on their image as impossibly ancient servants of even more impossibly ancient monsters. Essentially now a bunch of Ancient Evil Determinators with rather too much scalpel imagery, they maintain the robo-skeleton and "We'll Be Back" rule. Eventually, "We'll Be Back" was re-dubbed "resurrection protocols" and their fluff moved them further away from the simple Terminator Expies they once were.
    • In what may be a twisted homage to the original Terminator's flesh gradually getting messed up to reveal the robotic endoskeleton (as well as a reference to the Aztec deity Xipe Totec), Necron Flayed Ones invert this: they start as machines that then drape themselves in the flayed corpses of their victims.
    • Horus' betrayal began while recovering from injury, like Benedict Arnold.
  • Holy Ground: Holy Terra, Shrine Worlds, and some Space Marine recruitment worlds are entire planets devoted to this trope.
  • Home Guard: The Planetary Defense Forces, considered as under equipped and far less competent by the Imperial Guard. Repeat, the Imperial Guard, Butt Monkey Cannon Fodder extraordinaire, believes the PDF to be beneath them.
    • Which, given their status as "imperial speedbump" (the ones who slow down the enemy until the Guard is there), might have a grain of truth. If anything, they lack a quality the Guard has: Quantity.
  • Hopeless War: For everyone.
  • Hope Spot: Why the Imperium discourages the foolish notion of hope.
  • Horde of Alien Locusts: Tyranids are possibly the ur-example.
  • Horny Devils: Slaaneshi Daemons and Dark Eldar. The latter even have elite troops called Incubi and Succubi.
  • Horny Vikings: Space Wolves are Vikings IN SPACE, though they don't wear horned helmets - those are reserved for Chaos Marines (and members of the Wolves' 13th Company, who have been in the Warp for 10,000 years and occasionally had to scavenge gear from dead Chaos Marines).
  • Horse of a Different Color: Mutant horses, cyber-horses, cyber-boars, giant lizards, daemons that look like slugs, daemons that look like metal rhinos...
  • Hostile Terraforming: "Tyrantforming" is the first stage of devouring a planet by the Tyranids - the spores dropped onto the surface merge with local plantlife, turning it into Hungry Jungle - rapidly draining the ground of all nutrients. The Tyranids then devour the plants.
  • Hot Blade: The God Emperor sported one back in his heydays.
  • Hot-Blooded: Shas'O Vior'la Shovah Kais Mont'yr aka Commander Farsight has this right in his name. He is also A CHAR.
    • The Tau of Vior'la Sept are famous among the Tau for being this, although a good number of Tau lapse into this during battle. Orks and Chaos to an extent as well.
  • House Rules: If you and your opponent agree to them.
    • The rulebook actually takes a very congenial stance towards them. Some things basically HAVE to be decided by the players (especially when dealing with terrain).
  • Hover Tank: The Tau's Hammerhead, and the Eldar's Falcon and its offshoots.
  • Humanity Is Superior: Or so they claim, using this trope as an excuse to kill the other races with fire.
  • Humanoid Aliens: Pretty much every main race except for the Tyranids. Lampshaded in Xenology.
  • Human Resources: The one resource the Imperium has in unlimited amounts, which tends to lead to... wastefulness.
    • This is hilariously lampshaded by some Hive Worlds claiming Imperial Guard troopers as their prime (and sometimes sole) export. This is also the case with Cadia, which apparently does nothing else other than pumping out battle-ready babies (although their effectiveness is no better than any other world in-game).
    • Don't forget, Cadia also helps guard against The Eye of Terror. And they're awesome, so that's that.
  • Human Sacrifice: The Golden Throne is fed, daily, the souls of one thousand psykers who weren't selected for use by the Inquisition. Chaos rituals frequently make use of this also.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Although, to be fair, so is everyone else. In addition, it has been established that the Imperium has to be terrible in order to survive. So Humans Are Bastards out of necessity rather than choice. Think of it as I Did What I Had to Do on a larger scale.
  • Humans Are Divided: Humanity is ostensibly united under the Imperium, but it is constantly plagued by rebellions, both Chaos and otherwise. Still the Orks are even worse.
  • Humans Are Morons: The Imperium of Man has hardly advanced their technology in the 10,000 years since anyone has last seen The Emperor Of Mankind. Human culture throughout their vast empire is extremely paranoid and superstitious, and the government is such a vast, inept bureaucracy that a simple filing error can lead to entire populations of people being immediately forgotten about and/or destroyed.
  • Humans Are White: In the future there is only war... and white people.
    • Though all of the Space Marines of the Salamanders chapter are black in official art, and the White Scars are distinctly Asian. The fluff states the Tau have different skin colours, although all are variants on blue/grey. We have the distinctly shh-we're-not-Arabs Tallarns too.)
    • Also, one of Inquisitor Vail's footnotes in Caves of Ice indicates that while black people are decidedly rare on Valhalla, there are several nearby planets where pretty damn near everyone is black. Of course, there are still about 100 billion times more white people in the Imperium.
    • Also a good few modern Imperial Guard armies have black soldiers, especially the Catachans. It's how the gamer paints his stuff really.
    • And Inquisitor Toth from Dawn of War is black.
    • The Emperor himself is said to have been born in central Anatolia and is usually depicted as quite tan.
    • There is some theoretical justification for this trope: Imperial policy holds that people with disfiguring mutations are heretical scum just for existing. Thus, it's likely that wild variations in stuff like skin tone isn't exactly seen as desirable for some particularly zealous places.
  • Humans by Any Other Name: We're mon'keigh to the Eldar, gue'la to the Tau, humies 'umies to the Orks, playthings to the Dark Eldar, and lunch to the Tyranids. We don't know what the Necrons call us, because they don't bother to say much before killing us. Plus, most of them are mindless.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes:
    • Eldar think that we're bumbling, hairy savages with no appreciation for the dangers of our galaxy.
    • Orks think we're fun to fight against, but get confused by how we can pick out who's in charge because we're all the same size.
    • Tau think we're promising as a species to be inducted into their empire, but they think we're superstitious and primitive.
    • Tyranids think we're delicious.
    • Necrons think we're abominations and need to be cleansed, like everything else that lives.
    • Dark Eldar... You know what, it's probably best you don't know.
  • Human Subspecies: The Space Marines fall under this trope, being so modified that they're practically a different species. Also, the various Abhumans.
  • Humongous Mecha: Titans, and to a lesser extent, Space Marine Dreadnoughts; Ork Dreads, Killa Kans, and Gargants; Eldar Wraithlords and War Walkers; Chaos Defilers; Tau Battlesuits; Witch Hunter Penitent Engines...
    • In-game, Eldar Phantoms currently take the cake, being over 4 foot tall. Miniature? Hardly.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: The Warp, or Immaterium, is a reflection of the emotions of all sentient beings, the collective Dream Land of the galaxy and home to all the nightmares there have ever been, given form. Part Spirit World, part Phantom Zone, a sea of emotion and the source of all psychic power, it's also the daemon-infested home of the Chaos Gods and is, for all intents and purposes, hell. And going through it is the only faster-than-light travel available to most races. A significant issue with travel through the Warp is the fact that unless your ship has a functional Gellar Field isolating a bubble of reality around the ship, you and the rest of the crew WILL be consumed by every nasty thing that's out there, in suitably non-euclidean ways. THEN there's the issue of time not moving consistently or in the right direction, so even if you reach your destination you might not get there when you wanted.
  • Hyperspace Lanes:
    • There are a few routes through the Warp that are both well known and well traveled enough that fleets using them have a reasonably accurate expectation of both reaching their destination and even when they'll arrive. Trying to go somewhere off the beaten path is both more difficult, slower, and more prone to the temporal vagarities associated with long-distance travel.
    • The Webway is this mixed with Portal Network. is a labyrinthine set of wormhole highways that bypass the warp entirely, accessed via webway gates. It used to cover most, if not all of the galaxy, but has since shrunken by a few thousand years of disrepair and the whole Fall of the Eldar thing. Webway gates range in size from a typical garage door to monumental structures large enough to drive a spaceship through. Originally only the Eldar and the Dark Eldar had access to the Webway, having inherited it from the Old Ones, but the Necrons managed to hijack sections for their own use. Rumor has it that the Emperor of Mankind was working on getting access and bypassing the whole "needing to fly a ship through hell to get anywhere" but the Horus Heresy put the kibosh on that project.

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