Skaven are the humanoid rat-men of the Under-Empire, and the secret shapers of the world. Skaven live in a phenomenally vast and intricate network of underground tunnels called the Under-Empire, which extends all throughout the Old World and beyond. They hide themselves away from the eyes of surface-dwellers, particularly the humans of the Empire emerging only to carry out their secret schemes and to gather the massive amounts of warpstone needed to sustain their magic users and the arcane machines of their warlocks. On rare occasions the Skaven clans gather in vast swarm armies to wage sudden war on the other intelligent races of the Warhammer World in the name of their foul God; the Horned Rat.
A Society of Hunger: Civilizations of Man from every banner, expand over vast swathes of the land of the Old World, becoming beacons of culture and industry. But these human civilizations always face disaster, whether it is the invasions of the followers of the Ruinous Powers, the elemental rampage that is the Greenskins' WAAAGH!, or the pirating and pillaging of the Dark Elves. They forever live in the shadow of this threat, preparing for the inevitable, uniting as the beacons of hope against the forces of destruction. However there is a threat far closer and far more insidious. At the heart of these beacons of hope lies a rotten festering core. A civilization not unlike the civiliazations of light, it breaths and grows. However that is all that is similar between the two; for whatever these "beacons of light" achieve, whether it is culture and or industry; this civilization from within achieves the same, except it is twisted, representing all that is foul and wrong. As the civilizations of hope grew higher on the surface, this doppelgänger civilization dug itself deeper into the depths of the earth becoming the "Under-Empire." The denizens of this under empire walk on their hind-legs in foul mockery of man, whose visage is that of the common rats that infest the streets of human cities. They are an uncaring kind, who are just has cruel and malicious to other races as their own kind, vying for every scrap of meat ready to back stab their own kin. To live in such world is to live by tooth and claw, a world where no one is unscathed, thus as the rat-like denizens are aptly named, Skaven.
The Skaven race go by many names however some of the most common names ratmen, or Children of the Horned Rat. These ratkin are a society which spans across most of the world, and it is arguable the largest empire the world has ever known. To match the size of this land is a population of Rat-kin far larger than even the already huge greenskin populations. Like the ebb and flow of the tides, so too does starvation run rampant in Skavendom. Many of these rat creatures will starve out, certianly adding to the mentality of a skaven to look out for ones' self. However the most dangerous rat, is when its cornered. The same is true for Skaven, like the ebbing of Morrsleib to the hordes of chaos (Skaven sometimes respond to this lesser moon also), it is during these cycles of famine the Skaven will look else where for "food-stuffs." This is a mixed blessing for the civilizations on the surface. On many of these cycles the Skaven will war amongst themselves. But dire times for the Skaven, become dire times for the surface world. The Children of the Horned Rat will march on the surface world, during these times, taking as they please. There are tales of the aftermath of such attacks, of the nightmares of childhood given form to wreak ruin on the surface. However such tales are seldom, and are usually considered the imagination of the insane, or the greed of Dwarves. For when the Children of the Horned Rat march, they leave nothing in their wake except the husks of once proud cities and towns. The citizens of such cities and armies of every banner to cross the Skaven's path would simply disappear, where not even a single scrap remained of their presence. Little did these once proud people or soldiers know, that those supposed final moments were the last moments they would ever see the light of day. And instead of waking to whatever divine paradise they believed in, instead they found an eternal hell, driven by whips, prolific machines of insane minds, and the sadistic pleasure of their slave-masters.
The majority of Skaven society is made up in slaves, most of who are Skaven themselves, who were either born into it, or forced into by a winning party. Like all Skaven, and especially slaves, life for them is "...evil, wicked, brutish, and short" (Skaven life being the epitome of Thomas Hobbes' philosophy). So thus individual Skaven see everyone but themselves as expendable and potential rivals. However there are some rivals who are useful, but are simply "less" expendable then the next Rat-kin (Skaven slaves being the least). And this is reflected in both Skaven hierarchy, industry, and culture. This is also reflected in skaven society as a whole as well, for being unbound by morality, there are no limits to Rat-kin's intellect, only the planet's core is the limit. The maniacal Warlock Engineers of Clan Skyres have created several mechanisms which harnesses powerfully unpredictable forces that transform the under-empire like never before. However due to their incompassion to their fellow Skaven, these mechanisms can be potentially harmful to the user of these mechanisms, such has radiation poisoning, leaking of harmful gases, and sometimes the forces locked up in the machines can be too much and will explode. But fortunately for clan Skyre such devices can simply be made again, as long as the device has the intended results, so such a loss in life is truly not even considered as a factor in the creation of such insane devices. The Plague-ridden fanatics of Clan Pestilens take several slaves for experiments for their various plagues, and Clan Eshin also tries to find better ways to kill their prey also from fellow Skaven and the slaves of other races. While Clan Moulder captures fellow Skaven either for a food-stuff for their mutant creations or to turn them into mutants themselves, to follow up on the idea of another creation.
The average Skaven are usually fairly cunning and always malicious, but prone to cowardice (It is a common insult among Skaven to claim that another has "squirted the musk of fear" - this presumably means that skaven squirt various musk and pheromones depending on their emotional or mental state, Clan Eshin however removes their warrior's musk glands for various reasons) - confident only in large numbers (when greatly outnumbering their opponents) and won’t hesitate to stab an opponent (or ally) in the back if the opportunity presents itself. However any Skaven, due to their innate cowardice (another mixed blessing for the Rat-kin), will acknowledge that working together no matter how short, is usually the best idea then going at it alone (like throwing your rival in front you, he will take the death blow and with your rival dead, that’s the best of trade-offs by Skaven Standards, its only higher, with the more rivals you implicate). So thus skaven generally divide themselves among clan members, although showing no particular loyalty to their fellow clan-mates, they would still rate their clan-mates somewhat higher then say, another Skaven from another clan and so on. There are also skaven united by common interests, such has the Warlock Engineers of clan Skyre. An average Skaven has a lifespan of about 20 years (Although this is simply caused by their culture, not their biology.), but higher members of the Skaven society can live much longer, even hundreds of years (possibly due to drugs, magic or warpstone). These rat-kin in comparison to humans are slightly shorter on average, while being weak, they are very agile and fast, traits often trained upon by Clan Eshin, who excels in assassinations. the individual skaven have a high metabolism rate, however, it is assumed that their short average lifespan is caused by simple infighting and starvation, however, their fast metabolisms do result in their increased food consumption compared to other races, which brings with it the danger of prolonged fights. As was spoken earlier about cycles of famine, this plays well into the effects it has on individual skavens. Over a prolong state of hunger or exertion of thier physical body over a long period, the skaven will go berserk! And thier hunger would be so great, they would go through extreme lengths to feed themselves, even feasting thier fellow ratkin, ignoring thier innate cowardice and throwing themselves in dangers way. They will tear at anything near them, to feed upon. However thier hunger won't be satiated until their physical body cannnot move, either through over consumption or death. This phenomenon is known as "Black Hunger." And Greyseers (Ratkin sorcerors), often weave spells which use this state of mind, for a regiment of skaven be it slaves or clanrats, suffering from "Black Hunger" they will take out anything near them, even a squadron of mounted Bretonnian knights. Well whether they reach that state or not, it is not uncommon seeing Skaven in the aftermath of the battle feeding on the dead. Male Skaven are workers and warriors, while females are docile and barely intelligent (however this may vary). They spend much of their lives hidden away as breeders producing three to five litters a year, 20 or so young per litter. It is rumoured that the pack-masters of Clan Moulder, have breed females who can produce the absurd amount of five-times has many litters.
By far the most popular commodity (item) among Skaven is the chaotic and volatile Warpstone. The substance is corrosive to mind and body, highly addictive, and can cause mutation, death, or amplified powers. In fact, Warpstone is so popular that it is often considered to be currency among the rat-men - there is talk of them dealing in "warp-tokens". Skaven speak a language called Queekish, which includes lots of screeching, spoken very rapidly and hence is almost incomprihensible. When Queekish is represented in English, Skaven will often add two synonymous verbs together in a sentence (for the most part, in place of one active verb) - for instance: "The man-things hunt-seek something in the stink-bog". Occasionally this is done with active nouns as well.
Skaven refer to surface cities which they dwell under as the "over-burrow" and humans as "man-things", which they often abduct as infants and raise in slavery using drug addiction to control them - then using them to perform tasks above ground that the Skaven deem to dangerous or that would call too much attention. In the Empire, and likely the other human nations the Skaven are little more than a myth to the common populace, and only the educated, or those in power know of their existance and all of them would like to keep the secret. For if human society were to truly ever learn of the Skaven's presennce beneath thier feet, the Rat-men would have to react. This would only force both sides into a war of cataclysmic porportions.
The Council of ThirteenEdit
The Skaven are ruled by the Council of Thirteen, also known as the Thirteen Lords of Decay, who make decisions for the Skaven race as a whole and keep (relative) peace among the masses. The council is formed of eleven warlords of major Skaven clans (including four members from the four greater clans), a high-ranking and mysterious Grey Seer, and a symbolic seat for the Horned Rat. The closer one is to the Horned Rat (who has incidentally never shown himself at a meeting - it is assumed he watches on) in seating arrangement, the higher the rank, and thus, the more power they wield; Lord Kritislik occupies seat number 1 on the Council, Morskittar seat 12, as they are the two most powerful. The current Council has remained the same for over 200 years.
The current Council members include:
- Seat 1 - Lord Kritislik (Seerlord)
- Seat 2 - Greylord Skrisnik
- Seat 3 - Lord Sneek (Nightlord of Clan Eshin)
- Seat 4 - Lord Paskrit ("Warlord-General of all Skavendom")
- Seat 5 - Lord Kratch Doomclaw (Clan Rictus)
- Seat 6 - Lord Gnawdwell (Clan Mors)
- Seat 7 - Lord Vittrik
- Seat 8 - Arch Plaguelord Nurglitch VII (Arch-Plaguelord of Clan Pestilens)
- Seat 9 - Lord Verminkin (Packlord of Clan Moulder)
- Seat 10 - Greylord Azarskitter (Warlord of Clan Khesherisk)
- Seat 11 - Lord Burr (Keeper of the Temple)
- Seat 12 - Lord Morskittar (Lord-Warlock of Clan Skryre)
- Seat 13 - Reserved for the Horned Rat
Over the many centuries in which the Under-Empire has spread and the rat-men have thrived, Skaven society has become split into many different "clans". The Clans constantly vie for power (particularly seats on the Council of Thirteen) and some say this vicious tendency towards backstabbing and infighting is the only reason the Skaven have not yet conquered all opposition. The four most powerful and notable Clans are:
Currently, the most powerful Clan is Clan Skryre. These Skaven have devoted themselves to the study of magic and blending it with insane science and engineering. Thus far, their engineers have created many deadly machines of which the most populare are: the Ratling Gun (a warpstone-based Gatling gun, an obvious pun on the word "rat"), the Warpfire thrower (a warpstone-based flamethrower), the Jezzail (a extremely long-ranged warpstone rifle which is so large that it has to be carried by two skaven), and the fearsome Warp-Lightning Cannon (Which fires the same kind of spells the skryre Warlocks can cast). Skyre was also responsible for the creation of the infamous "Doom Hemisphere", a device very much like an atomic bomb, which was placed underneath the Imperial city of Middenheim. The intention of the device was to destroy the city and the mountain that it was built on. However, when the time to detonate the device came, it only partially went off. This killed countless Skaven and men who were in the tunnels at the time, and completely changed the tunnels as well, but more or less left the city in tact. The Doom Hemisphere is reputed to still be dormant, waiting for someone to fully activate it and destroy the city.
Skryre maintains its strength by selling their services and war machines to all of the Skaven clans. By doing so, they further weaken and divide their political rivals, and ensure their continued place of honor among the rat-men by becoming indispensable via their vast armada of war machines. Their shining stars are the Warlock Engineers. These creatures harness the winds of magic to devastating effect, by wearing a special harness that allows them to see the ebb and flow of the Winds of Magic. This harness enables the rats to then anticipate and read the winds, allowing for full use in their destructive spells.
Clan Pestilens is based in the southern part of the world, and has been the cause for both of the two Skaven civil wars. Long ago, a Skaven expedition into Lustria found itself being slowly eaten away by the myriad of diseases in the jungles, as well as the Lizardmen they came into contact with. The expedition was considered lost, but when it resurfaced, it was changed. The rats of the clan had become completely devoted to The Horned Rat in his role as the harbinger of disease and plague. Immediately, in their new religious fervour, they struck out against the Lizardmen who besieged them, wiping out many cities with virulent plagues they had concocted. Pestilens was finally pushed back by the ancient magic of the Slann Mage-Priests and the aid of the Lizardmen god Sotek. The clan were forced to escape to the Southlands. There they pushed north, and across the southern continent, until they once again reached the Old World. Upon their return to Skavenblight, Pestilens was refused a seat on the Council of Thirteen, which sparked the First Skaven Civil War. Eventually, the disease unleashed by Pestilens ravaged so much of the city's population, that the Council agreed they had earned a seat among them.
The rats of Clan Pestilens are immune to most diseases and use the very plagues they worship as deadly biological weapons against the other races, although these can turn and decimate regular Skaven, who do not possess Pestilens immunity. Due to their diseased bulk, their plague monk troops are extremely tough, and deliriously fanatical in combat. They also use rats infected with various foul contagions, and the deadly plague censers, flails laden with burning warpstone, that emit lethal poison gas. Their own leaders are subject to the diseases and includes the Plague Lord and the plague Pontifex.
Clan Moulder is based in a city the far north of Praag, where Kislev crashes hard against the Chaos Wastes. The strange home of Moulder is known as "Hell Pit", which greatly resembles the city of Dis from Dante's Inferno. It consists of nine levels of laboratories, a barracks, a giant colosseum hanging from chains, and a level where their most powerful creatures are kept in pitch darkness. Here, Master Moulders use warpstone, from the huge mines found in the area, in a mad combination of alchemy and genetic engineering to breed all sorts of monstrous beasts for war. To replenish their stock of mutable flesh, the Moulder will strike out into the Chaos Wastes and into Troll Country, to kidnap northmen and Chaos Spawn already mutated by the ruinous powers. They are a very wealthy clan, and rent out their beasts for other Skaven to use in battle. Their most common war-beasts are the wolf-sized Giant Rats and the enormous Rat Ogres, anthropoid vermin four times the size of a man whose massive, filthy claws can take down even a heavily armoured knight.
Clan Eshin is amongst the greatest of the Skaven Clans. Clan Eshin was, for a long period of Skaven history, lost in the lands of Cathay and Nippon to the east of the Old World and the Dark Lands. When they returned to Skavenblight they had mastered the arts of stealth and murder. Young recruits of Eshin are called Night Runners, formed into large units of lightly equipped skirmishers who attempt to disrupt the enemy. The night runners are famed for their invariably huge casualties, but this is the Eshin way of ensuring only the fastest, smartest, and most vicious remain to become the elite gutter runners, who are well equipped and excellently trained infiltrators who make use of multiple knives, throwing blades and deadly poisons. The greatest Eshin are the assasins, stealthy warriors who are expert fighters trained and equipped to slay the mightiest hero.
Skaven in WAREdit
Skaven have been shown to be an NPC race in WAR with a major role to play in end-game PvE content. In the Imperial (human) capital of Altdorf, players may hear rumours of strange Rat-men lurking in the sewers from superstitious commoners, including being able to fight said Rat Men who are hiding in barrels as the City level gets higher. When Altdorf reaches it's maximum level, the sewers under the city are opened for players to explore, including Skaven tunnels underneath them. It is unknown if the player will have any contact with the Skaven before this point. A WAR expansion has been confirmed to be planned, and this has led some to believe that the Skaven may be added as a playable faction, and paired against another faction (also playable) such as the Lizardmen. However this is by no means confirmed.
There is a tower located in Talabeclad, located outside the Chapter 11 Chaos camp that contains Skaven, at the very top of the tower there is a clickable banner that unlocks a tactic that gives a bonus to dodge any attack by a Skaven opponent. They range in level 21-24. There is also a friendly Skaven at the top. In addition, many deep places in the world have Skaven lurking insiduously in them, such as the Altdorf Sewers.
A magical effect, "Curse of the Horned Rat," changes the characters appearance to that of a Skaven. This is an activated effect of the Skaven Skin Cloak, an exclusive in-game item available to those who attended one of Games Workshop's Games Days, in North America, as well as in late 2008 as a special item code that was available with Warhammer online store purchases. And a special code that came with copies of Dragon Age: Origins that were bought from gamestop
- Von Staufer & Richard Williams. "Liber Chaotica"