Warhammer 40K Lore: A Customer's Perspective (Part 1)
Part 1 of 2
You confidently step into your local game store (LGS) looking for the miniature wargaming experience that will change your life (surely). You've heard about Warhammer 30,000 and it sounds like an intriguing universe! Suddenly you turn a corner and BAM... a wall of miniatures stands before you. It's immense. Truly spectacular, BUT, there is a problem–there are SO MANY OPTIONS.
Each box looks different, sure, but you don't want to make a choice without knowing anything about the universe!
What should you do? (Don't worry, we're here to help)
For a quick rundown on Warhammer 40K lore, step up, strap in, and get ready to fight for order, or for chaos.
Before we get started, a quick warning:
Some of the following information may be incorrect, as this was personally compiled by one person jumping between what can only be described as a lot of browser tabs. Also, the lore is amended by Games Workshop for consistency.
There are three sides constantly in conflict with each other all across the galaxy in the 41st century. The Universe is BLEAK–but don't worry–you're going to have a good time, at least!
There are three important groups to consider:
Getting Started – THE IMPERIUM
Led by the immortal Emperor, this is the race of Humans scattered to the winds all across the known universe. There are trillions of people, and they are all united under the banner of the Imperium. The human race has an unwavering loyalty and god worshipping level of devotion (most of which is actual god worshipping, go figure) to their leader, The Emperor. According to the lore, he was born in the 4th century BC and is, well, immortal. Over his long life he has helped humanity grow and expand to the stars while he tries to keep their chaotic nature in check. In addition, he assures that the humans follow the path of order and (admittedly repressed) sciences. It should also be noted: Psychics are a normal, and semi-encouraged part of the sciences in this future.
So a few thousand years ago, The Emperor realizes he's lonely and wants some friends (read: leaders) with the same charisma, political, and warfare sense as his own. Thus, he creates 20 super clones of himself that, like himself, are immortal. They take hundreds of years to create, and are called the Primarchs. However, before they can grow up, the forces of Chaos open a rift and scatter the twenty little-guys ALL OVER THE UNIVERSE.
Before you get too confused, if The Emperor represents order, his opponents are the Gods of Chaos. As you probably assumed, the two don't get along... hate each other, even. We'll get to the Chaos later.
So The Emperor says (to himself), "Well, darn it! Those guys took forever to clone. They're my children, and I love them! I must get them back!". What does he do? He uses his remaining DNA strands for the twenty clones and makes much stronger, dumber, bulkier clones inspired by the originals. These guys only take about ten years to create, and they become the military might known as the Space Marines! They are Buff Super Dudes™ with a ton of extra organs and anger issues. They're split into twenty or so factions, based on the original 20 Primarchs, just cooler and with different powers/fighting styles. There is also a regular Joe Shmoe called Astra Militarum, but they're kind of just cannon fodder in my personal opinion.
Back to the story–
They spread all over the universe looking for their Primarchs, and actually recover *most* of them. These Primarchs help the Emperor run the Imperium as political, social, and military leaders, and so far–everything is going smoothly! They're expanding and fighting creatures of all sorts across the galaxy..
Uh-oh. Here comes Chaos again. They start tempting the Primarchs to serve Chaos instead of the Imperium. You see, Chaos Gods are super cool.. and are the key to eternal life, probably. As I said earlier, we will get there. Over the span of decades, they convince quite a few of the Primarchs to change their allegiances. Led by the Primarch Horus and his Luna Wolves Space marines, the Traitor Primarchs start following the Chaos Gods, thus becoming the Chaos Space Marines.
The Emperor and Horus led their forces in a civil war, taking trillions of lives and eventually ending in a final showdown between the two. The emperor hesitated to kill his favorite son at first but eventually was forced to do so. Horus dies, and the Chaos Space Marines sink back into the black, plotting how they can best serve Chaos. The Emperor was mortally wounded in the fight and found himself forced to plug his consciousness into his Golden Throne to preserve his mind.
He leads humanity from this state, and battles the forces of Chaos psychically since he no longer has a functional physical form. It's technically not even known if he's ALIVE in there, or if he's just a ghost. It's creepy and sad, albeit people still worship him and things are generally bleak and bad for them so we'll let them have this one.
AND THAT'S THE IMPERIUM!
Y'all ready for some Chaos?
'CAUSE IT'S TIME FOR CHAOS!
Chaos is the turbulent psychic energy that has grown in power as humans spread across the galaxy. Representing and drawing power from the chaotic nature present in all living things, the Forces of Chaos hope to bring about the end of the universe as we know it... which SUCKS! They all come out of this alternate dimension called The Warp and are led by the Four Gods of Chaos. if daemons, corrupted men, pure evil, and Gods based on vices are your thing, you are in the right place!
The leaders of this crazy cast of characters are the Four Gods of Chaos:
- First amongst them is Khorne, the Lord of Battle, possessed of towering and immortal fury. He has anger issues.
- Tzeentch, the bizarre and ever changing Architect of Fate weaves powerful sorceries to bind the future to his will. It's kind of like a trip to Spookytown with this guy.. guard your mind!
- Third is the great Nurgle, the Lord of Decay, who labors endlessly to spread infection and pestilence. If grossing others out is your thing.. Nurgle is your guy. Seriously. So gross.
- The last god is also the newest, Slaanesh, the Dark Prince of Chaos, indulgent of every pleasure and excess, no matter how immoral or perverse. Think lust incarnate. He likes to party.
Throughout the eons, they grew and slowly poisoned the minds of beings across the universe, persuading them to join their corrupted forces. Like I mentioned earlier, Primarch Horus was corrupted by these guys, leading a revolt against the Imperium and creating the Chaos Space Marines. Along with Daemons, and other crazy psychic forces, they serve their Lords with the utmost loyalty. What they lack in normal appearance, they make up with physical and psychic enhancements that make them incredibly powerful. They could easily outmatch the Imperium if their chaotic nature didn't cause them to fight amongst themselves.. cause, you know.. Chaos, right?
With that, we close the book on Chaos! If you liked this, make sure you check out Part 2 linked below where we break down the Xenos races in the Warhammer 40,000 Universe!