Information about the playability of any of these races can be found in Rulebook Chapter 4: Characters – what follows is a quick summary of the races and factions known about in the Stygian Abyss so far, and what we consider to be “common knowledge”. If you have any questions about the exact lore on any of these groups, please get in touch and ask – specifically please don’t dig up a semi obscure canon piece and assume we’re running with it. Membership of any of the groups below – the Reclaimers, any of the Navigator houses and the like – is quite possible. If you want to have a background connection to any faction or NPC, please let the refs know, and we’ll be happy to talk about it.
A note on humanity’s relations with the Xenos: For those unfamiliar with the setting, Xenos are considered abominations in the Imperium, and interactions with them are specifically viewed as religious crimes. Rogue Traders possess warrants that permit them to undertake communication and trade with the Xenos, but even for them to consider Xenos (as a whole) as worthy, or that they might be worth as much as a human would be radical thinking that would have someone killed in most of the Imperium – where Xenos are forbidden. Arkangel, however, is a freeport outside the Imperium. There are Xenos on board, and they trade, run business, and, even as distant second class citizens, contribute to the whole.
That said, individual Xenos have been known to become companions, friends, and close associates or crew members of individual Rogue Traders. When a xenos is a member of a crew, it is likely that they have shown their reliability, their loyalty, and have stood with their crewmates in danger, bleeding with them and for them against common foes. We encourage players to remember that the fires of experience forge tight bonds, and that when they see a Xenos that is trusted enough to join the crew of another Rogue Trader to remember that the crew may view hostility towards that individual as hostility – or disrespect – to the crew as a whole.
The Imperium of Humanity is the greatest civilisation that the galaxy has ever known; just ask pretty much any human. Founded by the immortal God-Emperor more than ten millennia ago, it is a vast polity spanning the entire Milky Way Galaxy, home to countless trillions of souls who live in more-or-less willing bondage to the Byzantine hierarchy – or more accurately hierarchies, for there are several – that govern this unwieldy empire. The Rogue Traders who ply the fringes of the Imperium do so in service to the Emperor, but also in order to escape from the rigid social structures of the Imperium.
Rogue Traders and their crews tend to have an independent streak that borders on heresy, even to the most liberal interpretations of the Imperial creed, but they also have their warrants of trade, near-sacred documents, some passed down from the hand of the Emperor himself, basically giving them vast autonomy in their mission to scout out uncharted regions of space. They operate at their own expense, but in return are free to enrich themselves and work outside most of the restrictions of Imperial law (although those hoping to someday return and buy a nice, civilised planet for their retirement are unlikely to push this too far.) As with so many things within the Imperium, the autonomy of a given Rogue Trader often exists as far as their ability to enforce it – which makes collections like the Captains Table a useful – and important – tool to prevent the institutions of the Imperium from interfering with the freedom of the Rogue Trader Dynasties.
The Adeptus Mechanicus – the Iron Priests of Mars – understand and repair the technology of the Imperium. Only those who are initiates of the Machine Cult, worshippers of the Omnissiah, the aspect of the Emperor as the Machine God, understand more than the most basic mysteries of technology, and can employ the sacred rites that keep voidships functioning, and calm unruly machine spirits. A race apart, the Adeptus Mechanicus worship differently than the rest of the Imperium – outwith the ecclesiarchy in their own rites and observances, and forsake the flesh, traditionally replacing much of their biological material with iron.
On ArkAngel the largest group of AdMech are the Reclaimers – who maintain the salvage yard, brokerage, and handle most of the “macro scale” repairs and refits. Lead by Magos Adan Bracht, the Reclaimers are the people to talk to about ship maintenance, seeking a new vessel, or when looking into the mysteries of ancient technology.
The Navis Nobilite – The Navigators. The Imperium is bound together by Warp drive technology, a form of faster than light travel which involves diving briefly into the Warp, protected by a thin bubble of normality, and emerging far, far from where you started. Finding your way by this means requires more than a compass and chart, and more than just a supercomputer. It needs a Navigator (at least if you are human.)
Navigators are a strain of human genetically engineered to possess a third eye, with which they can see psychic phenomena, including the Astronomicon, a vast beacon of psychic energy emitted from Holy Terra, which forms the lynchpin of the Imperium. The Astronomicon is the only fixed point in the ever shifting Warp, and Navigators the only ones who can use it to pilot a ship with any kind of accuracy. In addition, the Warp Eye is essentially a gate into the Immaterium, and exposure to its gaze can cause madness, injury or death.
All Navigators are divided into dynastic houses, massively extended families that work to consolidate the power of the Houses as a group, and their own house in particular, and to maintain the precious Navigator genes through an extensive and intensive programme of selective breeding: These houses as a whole are called the Navis Nobilite. Many Navigators express secondary mutations as a result of both centuries of inbreeding and exposure to the transformative powers of the Warp, but they are not deemed to be mutants, or subject to the prejoration of being viewed as Abhumans – they are simply Navigators.
Houses Corophasian and Verity are the two Houses most commonly present in the Sector, and which are linked to Arkangel through ties of blood and profit. House Corophasian is a Magisterial House – one of the great houses of the Navigators, with gene-archives stretching back ten thousand years. They were involved and invested in the moving of the Arkangel station, and are keen to see their star remain preeminent with the wealth and discoveries of the new area. On Arkangel they are represented by Pater Theocritus Han Iulius Hana Belladonna by way of Venus, By Alexandon out of Dana,Corphasian, Pater of House Corophasian, Master of the Red Sun, Watcher of the Immaterial Sea, Navigator-Captain of the Immaculate. Pater Theocritus (Who accepts “Pater Theo” from most people of standing) is a Navigator showing the silvering of temples and the turning of black hair to star speckled that speaks of considerable age – although he remains a sybarite with a fondness for fine wines, and live music. He rarely takes the Immaculate out any more, and has no Warrant of Trade, but instead focuses on administering the House’s interests, and ensuring a healthy return for their investment.
House Verity, in contrast, is a much newer house – recognised and recorded withe last fifty years from the union of a number of smaller, weaker, and less successful houses. Rather than the galaxy spanning House Corophasian, every Verity navigator in existence works out of Arkangel, with the house being hungry for success, and desperately fighting for survival and recognition. Their Novator – the head of their House – works from Arkangel. Whilst theoretically the social superior of Pater Theo, in practise Novator Ilen by way of Seraph is a dim and distant second fiddle.
Any number of other houses operate out of Arkangel, although not to the scale of these two. If you wish a player house to have agents on Arkangel – please contact the Refs with details to add to this document..
In the long years since humanity scattered across the Galaxy, the stock has strayed far from its original phenotype. The Imperium decries the mutant as an abomination (because mutation may be a result of exposure to Chaos,) but mutation is a part of evolution, and where a deviation from the genetic baseline becomes part of a stable genetic line, it may be recognised as a sanctioned abhuman strain. The degree of tolerance expressed varies, with Squats being viewed as almost human, whilst beastmen experience a rocky welcome at best – and are more commonly killed when mistaken for Chaos creations.
Squats – During the Dark Age of Technology, many human colonists settled the planets close to the galactic core, seeing the heavy gravity conditions as an acceptable trade-off for the colossal mineral wealth of those new-born worlds. Isolated during the Age of Strife and assailed by enemies on all sides, these populations nonetheless flourished. The heavy gravity influenced their morphology and the isolation shaped their spirit into the current Squat race.
Short, stocky and powerful, Squats have a proud, warrior culture which evolved around the defence of strongholds which combine home, mine and foundry. Each stronghold is led by a Lord, whose elite Hearthguards and warrior brotherhoods defend lord and home against all comers. The greatest unifying force between the strongholds are the Guilds, engineering collectives which transcend family. They are fierce fighters, and also possess the finest mechanical knowledge of anyone in the Imperium, unclouded by the Mechnicum’s generations of superstition, yet for some reason are unable to attain the deeper communion with Machine spirits that the Mechanicum rituals and rites can attain – and neither do the rituals of the Machine God function for them.
While many have adopted aspects of the Imperial Cult, their primary religious focus is on a form of ancestor worship. Older Squats may occasionally fail to die at the usual time (c.200-300 Terran years) and undergo a strange transformation into a calmer, more spiritual being known as a Living Ancestor.
Ogryn – While the Squats adapted to high-gravity worlds by becoming short and broad, the populations of certain high-G prison planets instead became massive. Ogryn are hulking humanoids, with large, prominent teeth and incredibly thick, resilient skin. Given the limited educational opportunities of the original inmates, however, compounded by a somewhat lax attitude to rehabilitation in the founding principles of these prisons and over twenty thousand years of isolation and relentless attacks by all the horrors that the universe has to offer, Ogryn are not noted for their intellectual refinement. As part of the Imperium they are indoctrinated into a simplified version of the Imperial faith which teaches them that the Emperor wants them to obey their officers and smash anything less human than they are. Ogryns are notorious for both their earnest, blind faith, and their lack of physical hygiene.
Beastmen – The most extreme of the sanctioned abhuman strains is that of the Imperial Beastmen. Born of ancient genetic experimentation, they combine a basic human form with traits of animals, usually goats or sheep, and are noted for their agility and ferocity. Despite their herbivorous appearance, they are meat-eaters, and their home cultures typically have pack-centred cultures which honour hunters and warriors above all. They do not usually eat people, and those in Imperial service are drilled in a form of Imperial faith that emphasises their fundamental worthlessness as anything more than meat for the grinder of the Imperial war machine, instilling a reckless zeal in them that makes the most desperate penitent blanche.
Beastmen are, on the other hand, brutish, direct, and come from a social structure that is predominantly physical. Conflict to settle disputes is common, and physical dominance is important.
The Tau are relatively new players on the galactic scene. They are technically accomplished, psychically stunted, and physically underwhelming, but are utterly devoted to the philosophical precept they call the Greater Good.
The Tau are a tolerant society, albeit one obsessed with order. They see ‘lesser’ races such as Humanity as misguided, not evil. They tend to be focused and disciplined, and to view the world through their own caste lenses, seeing everything in terms of their own special purview. While not unemotional, they rarely act emotionally.
The early travellers through the Maw did not report any contact with the Tau, but as time has passed, some contact has now been experienced. It is considered likely that the Tau are not settled in this area of space, but may be reaching it even as human are.
Kroot The Kroot are a bizarre race of avian-descended humanoids with the unique ability to evolve by consuming the flesh of the deceased.. Tall and lean, they are fast and fierce hand-to-hand fighters and implacable hunters, who travel into space primarily as a member race of the Tau Empire. They also work as mercenaries for anyone who can pay and provide transport to fresh sources of meat with which to further their evolution. They are led by the shapers, who act as military commander, spiritual guide and evolutionary adviser to their Kindred (Or extended family unit).
Kroot are direct and rarely eloquent, but they are not stupid. They are highly protective of their hard-won genetic legacy, and can be resentful or suspicious of those attempting to draw blood or otherwise treat them medically. Their technological base is low, save for when they have traded or earned from another species (and they show no lack of competence with these traded weapons), and they have a shamanistic tradition of religion.
Like the Tau, there have been no reports of Kroot presence until recently, although given their poor technology level, it is quite possible that there are worlds with a feral population of Kroot out there.
Orks are a biological oddity by any stretch, a fungal lifeform that grows from spores into a hulking, green-skinned, humanoid form with large, sharp, constantly growing teeth. They possess a pervasive genetic memory from which they inherit brutal combat skills, an eclectic mishmash of technical skills, a gift for mimicry which they use to adopt or ape the fashions and technology of ‘wurvy’ opponents, and a powerful urge to compete and conquer. In addition, all orks are connected by a powerful unity of spirit which transforms a bunch of individuals into a horde under the command of the largest and strongest orks – the nobz.
Orks are aggressive and confrontational. They adopt aspects of other cultures, but invariably the most militaristic and confrontational ones. They will challenge and push, argue any point to the level of sheer contrariness, and butt heads – literally or figuratively – with anyone who doesn’t get out of the way. They will, however, fit themselves into a pecking order, and be aggressively loyal to any leader who does not reveal a hitherto unsuspected streak of blithering incompetence.
Orks are a galactic constant, and it was of very little surprise that reports back mentioned Orks as being present in the Abyss before the Maw was opened.
The Eldar are an ancient race in slow decline. The remnants of this once mighty race are scattered between isolated planetary colonies and the colossal spaceships known as Craftworlds. Craftworld Eldar strive to occupy their minds and bodies through the pursuit of absolute excellence in one field of endeavour after another, following what is called the Eldar Path. The Eldar of the planetary colonies, on the other hand, adhere to a feudal social model.
Tall, slim and effortlessly elegant, the Eldar possess an inhuman beauty that some humans find fascinating, others repugnant. They are haughty and arrogant, considering all ‘younger’ races to be little better than beasts. They are also natural psykers, attuned to the Warp. Early reports from the far side of the Maw have mentioned Eldar, both as pirates and raiders, and as space travellers, although no mention of an “Eldar world” has yet been made.
Craftworld – Inhabitants of giant – reportedly as large as planets – space ships that progress slowly through space. Craftworld Eldar are devoted to following set rituals and procedures, including a way of life that focuses on excelling at one thing at a time. Some “scouts” make their way away from the craftworlds from protracted periods, travelling and learning before returning to share information with the rest of their kind.
“Exodites” – Planetary Eldar who rarely leave their homeworlds. They often appear more primitive than their spacegoing counterparts,and frequently use beasts – most famously dinosaur like lizards – in their warfare.
Corsairs – Pirates, renegades, and smugglers. In so far as the Eldar could ever be called ‘common’, Corsairs are the most frequently encountered of the Eldar factions, and travel the voidways. One crew – the Seven Daughters – frequents Arkangel, and paid handsomely to accompany the station through the Maw.
Reavers – Also called the “Dark” Eldar. Slavers, pirates, and sadistic murderers – more than one voidsman has carried poison to take rather than fall into their hands. Operating out of the Warp itself, the Reavers plunder planets, taking slaves and leaving behind the wails of the tortured.
Before the Crusade there were reports – void dock legends – of contact with a sentient machine race who resembled metal skeletons. The contacts were always surrounded by fancy and the wildest stories, however a redacted history from the planet of Seraph mentions an unknown vessel appearing from nowhere directly next to the planets moon, then vanishing less than two hours later whilst making no effort to reach the distance warp travel would require. The Forge World of Varalax IV has made no public determination of their status as heretek – more through lack of evidence that anything else – however the enginseers and magii of the Iron Cult remind all that a soulless sentience is an abomination in the eyes of the Machine God. Whilst there have been no mentions of Necrons beyond the Maw, the technology required to create the Maw is unheard of to the Imperium, and the spatial manipulation shares traits with some of their reported technologies.
Few know much of the alien entities known as the Tyranids, but suffice to say that the devastation that they wreck has not been wrought in either the Ruhr, or the Stygian, areas of space. Genestealers, as ever, exist, and are hunted and eradicated wherever they are found, but no mention of anything more organised than that has been made. Again, there was a report from before the crusade of a series of planets being subject to the Exterminatus on the orders of the Holy Ordos, which whispers mention was as a result of contamination, but if it was, the process seems to have been successful.