Warhammer 40,000

Warhammer 40,000

The Warhammer 40,000 game takes place in a science fantasy universe,whose extreme dystopianism inspired the word "grimdark" – from the game's tagline, "In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war" – as a shorthand for similarly ultraviolent or amoral fiction.

Most stories are set in the 41st millennium, ie some 38,000 years in the future. Humans have settled more than a million worlds across the galaxy, most of which are ruled by the Imperium of Man, a brutal theocratic regime united in its worship of the immortal God-Emperor of Mankind. Despite its size and power, the Imperium teeters on the brink of collapse due to a combination of escalating war, corruption, bureaucratic inefficiency, and technological stagnation.

The Imperium is in a continuous state of war with a number of hostile forces:

  • the Tau, a young, idealistic race that wants to unite the races of the galaxy under their rule, in the name of "The Greater Good." Although they prefer to peacefully absorb other races, they are quite willing to use military force, forced-sterilization, and mind-control implants to subdue resistance.
  • the Necrons, skeletal robots patterned after ancient Egypt. They are a relatively recent threat, emerging from a 60-million year slumber, and seek to restore their old empire and regain their old flesh bodies.
  • the Eldar, humanoid aliens patterned after the high elves common to fantasy fiction. Eldar are long-lived, but dying out. They often see human as lesser-beings, and may either help or fight them to suit their own interests.
  • the Dark Eldar, cousins of the Eldar who ritually torture other beings to stave off death, as the Chaos God Slaanesh will consume their souls should they permanently die.
  • the Tyranids, swarms of rapidly evolving, all-devouring creatures from outside the galaxy, controlled by a gestalt Hive Mind that seeks to consume all life.
  • the Orks, whose simplistic personalities, reckless tactics and ramshackle technology make them the comic relief of the setting, but are no less brutal and deadly for it.
  • The forces of Chaos. A combination of Chaos Space Marines, corrupted humans, and daemons, who serve the Chaos Gods.

The Chaos Gods live in the Warp, a parallel dimension of unpredictable psychic energy from which psykers draw their power and through which faster-than-light travel is possible. Chaos is central to the setting and is the fundamental cause of much of the conflict in the galaxy. Over the millennia, the forces of Chaos have destroyed all the once-glorious and enlightened civilizations of old, most recently sabotaging the Emperor of Mankind's attempt to lead humanity back into a new age of enlightenment and prosperity. It corrupts the body and soul and decimated the Eldar race. It forces the Dark Eldar to perpetually new lows of depravity, and regularly sends armies of daemons and corrupted mortals to terrorize and massacre the denizens of realspace. Chaos exists only to persist and spread, the Dark Gods delighting only in the destruction and disorder they sow.