All of the information in this section is commonly known, and both players and characters can choose to know it or not as they please. A setting awareness of Warhammer 40k is assumed – if you want a more basic explanation of the setting resources such as the Lexicanum can be used, or feel free to email the ref team.
For people very familiar with the source material – Games Workshop’s setting is wonderful, but in places in internally inconsistent, or overly complicated. We aren’t sticking to their timeline for any specific point, but if you wanted to place a rough idea of “What is happening”, you’re looking at a pre 8th edition galaxy, with the Necrons being less well known, and more in the first stages of being discovered. We’re in the process of putting together a “No Rest Canon Or Not” list to show things that are either Canon, not being used, or status: unknown.
The Stygian Abyss is a region of galactic space on the Eastern edge of the Centaurus spiral arm, separated from the Ruhr Expanse by the vast gulf of near-starless void between the Centaurus and Sagittarius Arms. The Centaurus Arm is sparsely populated, with little or no Imperial presence and represents the extreme Eastern Galactic Fringe. Reaching the Abyss has previously been impractical – it involved either heading into the void between the arms of the galaxy, from which ships do not return, or voyaging through the uncharted Centaurus arm.
Nearly one hundred years ago, the Hypatian Crusade started in the Ruhrort Sector when Governor Militant Achen, supported by powerful Rogue Trader Dynasties, picked up the banner of war and received sanctioning from the High Lords of Terra. What followed was half a century of bloodshed and death, as the forces of the Imperium pushed into the unknown, and drove back the Arch Enemy, firmly planting the flag of the Imperium, and moving the Sector from a border zone to an established Imperial territory.
Fighting was particularly vicious near the world of Esramir, in the region known as Eddard’s Reach, which had been taken from the Arch Enemy in the early days of the crusade, and made into a Shrine world for Saint Perit Tairay. In the aftermath of the crusade, scholars debated why such a tactically insignificant world had been such a centre for carnage, but it remained a curiosity; a paper given at Scholae to test for innovative thinking, or a question pondered by Guard and Navy Officers in their cups. It remained a curiosity, that is, until twenty years ago, when Esramir, Eddard’s Reach, and the Void Station which shared its name with the region all went dark. All astropathic communications ceased, expected ships did not appear, and none of the voidships that were dispatched to investigate returned.
The Sector Governor, Zephnir, who had replaced Achen after the Governor Militant died from wounds received in the Crusade, requested an investigation-in-force. Battlefleet Ruhrort mustered a battlegroup under the flag of Rear Admiral Adelaide Cameron aboard the heavy cruiser Nemesis, which would transport the main strength of the XVII Fold Regulars, the Chelm IX, and the Seraphi III into Esramiri space, to discover, report on, and contain, any hostile incursion. The Sector Governor also called on the Black Helms Chapter, who committed to supporting the investigation with the strike cruiser Imperium’s Flame.
The approach through the Warp was more than usually fraught. The battlegroup emerged from the Immaterium several days journey through realspace from the system; further out than any ship would normally translate. They anticipated a quiet transit to the system limits of Esramir’s star, but instead their auspecies immediately started screaming alarms.
Esramir had been the closest planetary system to the “Maw of Ni’ir”, a cosmological phenomenon that caused warp storms to sometimes scour the surrounding space, and which had been guarded by the void station of Eddard’s Reach. The Maw was famous for “spitting out” unknown materials, vox transmissions, and other strangeness, but in the years following the Hypatian Crusade the Maw had become increasingly erratic. Reports from the Station Commander of Eddard’s Reach, and from the Governor or Esramir had requested aid both in investigating the phenomenon and assessing any potential threat, and in repairing damage done by its activity. The Maw was, however, a significant distance from Esramir and monitored by the void station, and thus the Administratum had not considered it to be an active danger.
The Admistratum were in error.
The Maw of Ni’ir had changed, turning from a whirling astrological phenomenon into a twisting portal in space, several million miles in diameter, which exerted a powerful attractive force on materials across the Reach and beyond. Through this portal, augur arrays detected star systems, and uncharted space. Despite the upheaval, a few things were clear: Eddard’s Reach was gone, Esramir was gone, the planets of the system destroyed or missing and the star was bleeding plasma towards the Maw in a twisting, incinerating ribbon.
The forces from the Maw – the tech adepts claimed that they were not gravity, but were unable to offer any other description – pulled at the Battlegroup, even as they battled to break free. The light cruisers Eyes of Terra and Borras’ Gift were caught, pulled towards the rift, and ripped apart by the shifting tides of this unknown force, along with the destroyers Martyr’s Tears, Banshee, and Damnations Scourge. The rest of the Task Force fought clear, and returned to the relative safety of the Immaterium.
Admiral Cameron’s reports prompted an abnormally decisive response from the Imperium. Voidships were dispatched to gather more information, to assess the danger, and to establish as much of a cordon as possible. As the data came in, it became apparent that the Maw was now the mouth of a warp passage; a rift connecting points of realspace through a conduit in the Immaterium. The tidal forces were still a major hazard, but rift itself was a source of great opportunity.
Actual use of the rift was impossible until recently, however, as the gravitic shoals and currents leading to the passage – not to mention the warp tides of the passage itself – tore apart every vessel that attempted approach. Eventually a scholar called Avana Hjort, from the Schola Progenium of Seraph, was able to use a small Tarsis class transport (The Scholar) equipped with an archeotech Sanctus Gellar field generator and Revelatio augur arrays to navigate the Maw, and shoot through into the space beyond: Into a region of space that she dubbed the Stygian Abyss.
The route to the Abyss was still far from open The passage required the vanishingly rare Sanctus Gellar fields, and augur arrays capable of tracking the tidal shifts in real time. Passage through the Maw was thus strictly limited, but still stories of the worlds, the xenos, and of course, the riches that lay beyond started to filter back to the Imperium. This in turn lead to a fateful meeting of the most notorious Rogue Traders of the Sector.
In that meeting it was agreed to move the Arkangel Station – the long standing freeport of the sector – through the Maw of Ni’ir, and beyond Imperial tax jurisdiction once more. The Stations Gellar field generator was strong enough for the task, and with the crusade finished, the opportunities in the Ruhrort Sector were thinning. An approach from the Sector Governor offered a resupply line back through the Maw for upto a century, as long as the Rogue Traders were willing to investigate the disappearance of Esramir and the Eddard’s Reach station. With this lifeline in place, the Rogue Traders committed their fortunes and dynasties to the project. The Arkangel Station was transported to the edge of the Maw. The ships of the dynasties were secured in dock, and as the game begins, Arkangel is in transition through the Maw, a journey that has been eventful, dangerous, and wracked with equipment failures.
Arkangel is a former-Naval Ramilles-class star fortress, that was used as a forward fleet base during the Third Ruhrort Crusade, over a century ago. It was reduced to ruins following a successful strike by the forces of the Archon and abandoned in deep space in the Ruhr Expanse. Five years later, it was claimed by a trio of Rogue Trader Dynasties as legitimate war salvage, in accordance with Imperial Law (as it had remained unoccupied and unclaimed by the Adeptus, the Navy or the Guard, beyond the boundaries of the Imperium.)
Vast quantities of bribes were poured into the Admiralty Courts, and eventually the claim was upheld after the Navy abandoned their case, as they did not have the resources to repair the structure anyway. It is said that in conjunction with several outspoken radical Arch-Magoi the Dynasties repaired systems including an archaeotech Gellar field generator of unimaginable power, and invited the collected Rogue Traders of the Expanse to tow the station through the warp to a point well beyond the Line. Here it became the seat of the Council of Angels, the appointed governing body of the Rogue Traders, although few meetings of the Council actually took place on the station.
In the Ruhrort Sector, Arkangel was a hive of scum and villainy from which Rogue Traders launched their endeavours into the void in search of profit. It was a safe harbour and a still point in the storm of a dynasty’s existence.
Beyond the Maw of Ni’ir, Arkangel is the only sanctuary the Rogue Trader crews have and the last life line to the Imperium.
Law of Arkangel
Before the crusade, the Council of Angels – a collection of some of the most influential Rogue Traders in the Sector – ran Arkangel beyond the reach of Imperial Law. With the losses during the Crusade, the structure of Arkangel broke down and anarchy reigned for some time as Dynasty stood against Dynasty.
What emerged from the chaos was a bicameral division of power. “The Captains’ Table”, where the head of every Dynasty in good standing has an equal voice, took control of the business of the station, maintaining both the security and the lucrative nature of Arkangel’s business. The Captains’ Table deals with matters of policy, setting the agenda for the station and mediating disputes between the dynasties. They police their own, set and enforce expected codes and standards of behaviour, and work together for the good of the entire enterprise while, of course, furthering their own agendas, building their own legends and filling their own vaults. They are also responsible to the Imperium for keeping the space around the station open to what traffic there is and for pursuing the promised investigation into the loss of Imperial real estate, and enjoy the benefits of the main supply from Imperial Space.
The administration of the station falls under the purview of the Malakhim of Arkangel. These blank-faced, black-clad agents fulfil the role of the Administratum. They make certain that the station is stocked, that the vaults are secured, that ships are refuelled, and that the station is mechanically and logistically kept functional. Each Malakhim is a servitor, bound by tight data engram-enforced loyalty to the station, and is discrete, disposable, and often the butt of jokes for their lack of significant emotion, or conception of humanity. You can speak in front of one about murder, treason, or gross dereliction of Imperial Law, and – as long as nothing you say endangers the station itself – there will be no reaction. They serve to coordinate the “back room” activities that make the station functional, and to provide a non partisan ‘civil service’ that allows the Rogue Traders to be confident that the port will remain free. They take no sides in inter-dynastic disputes, but if they determine that an individual or dynasty is sufficiently beyond the pale – worshipping the dark powers, for example, or guilty of the blackest realms of Tech Heresy, or worse yet, of actions deleterious to the good order of the station – they will declare that individual or dynasty persona or personae non grata; no longer welcome at Arkangel. Access to central station resources – fuel, supplies, oxygen – will be cut off as and where practical, they are expelled from the station, and the defence grid will open fire on them and any vessel carrying them should they attempt to return.
What is crime on Arkangel?
Arkangel has minimal laws mostly offences against the station itself, in the form of the Malakhim and the machine spirit which controls the station’s central systems. These do not have strict definition, and the ‘law’ of Arkangel is very much to be considered a code, rather than a formal body of statute.
To actually have the Malakhim act against a person or crew unilaterally and without warning would involve crimes against the station itself. Worshipping the ruinous powers or performing daemonology on the station would certainly count, as would any direct attempt to damage the station or the Machine spirit itself, recklessly endangering the station or its machine spirit, attacking the Celestus, and other deeds which threaten both the station and the premise of the entire game season. This will be expanded on and examples provided – and refs will clearly advise players if their actions are coming close to breaking the Arkangel Code.
The ultimate sanction of the Malakhim is expulsion from the station, but before that the Rogue Traders have learnt that the Malakhim will usually give fair warning by issuing black mark. These metaphorical marks are given to those who have acted against Arkangel, not paid their debts, on in some other way disrupted the “smooth” running of the station. Who has black marks is public knowledge, and they are signal to all those on the station that the marked are not in favour, not to be trusted, and will be charged higher prices – or receive less income – from services at Arkangel. Rogue Traders are generally held accountable for the actions of their crew, and crew are tarnished when their Captain acquires marks, although the Malakhim have been known to take individual circumstances into account over this.
Black marks, on the other hand, happen. Few Rogue Traders have avoided they sanction for their entire careers, and black marks can be erased, either with the passage of sufficient time, services on behalf of Arkangel, or paying a generous weregilt. The more marks someone has, the harder they are to remove, and as the Rogue Trader amasses more marks, other penalties may accrue.
Expulsion from the Station occurs once 10 marks have been accrued.
Celestus Supply Ship
An Imperial Navy Vessel, captained by Eloise Plessner, which arrives at Arkangel once a year, bringing with it supplies, and guiding the odd wandering ship to the safe haven of Arkangel. This ship is the lifeline that the Imperium provides to resupply the station, as well as the means by which it monitors the actions of the Imperium’s quasi-official presence in this sector.
The Celestus is an archeotech design – a rare example of the Senator class voidship, and possesses a genuine relic of Mars – a Sanctus Extremis class Gellar field and Revelatio navigation array. This allows the ship to pick a safe path through the Maw of Ni’ir, as long as the Arkangel beacon is lit to guide it to home port – and to project its field a short distance beyond the hull, to carry another, smaller, ship with it.
Due to the rarity, and value, of the Senator class, whilst it is an exploration vessel, the Imperium will not send it into a known danger zone. The Captains’ Table is tasked with keeping the Arkangel station, and its immediate surrounds clear for the Celestus and her consorts to translate into.
Phenomenon Currently Known In the Abyss
These are the phenomena that the augur scans have so far revealed through the Maw – and as such are either very close by to the exist, or exceptionally large and noticeable at a considerable distance.
The Maw of Ni’ir – An unstable and changeable entity, manifesting as a treacherous portal between the two regions.
Gateway System – The system of planets which you first see through the Maw and the first planned anchorage of Arkangel for the station to be overhauled after its journey through the Maw.
Wynken – A pulsar at the centre of the Gateway System, orbited by white dwarf consorts dubbed Blynken and Nod. In addition to electromagnetic radiation, the pulsar emits a psychic signature which interferes with astropathic communication into and out of the region making long distance communication difficult at best.
The Lethian Wastes – A colossal nebula encompassing multiple systems, possibly formed by the shockwave of Wynken’s aeons-ago supernova. The nebular cloud is extremely Psy-active.
Alpha and Omega – A black/white hole pair. It seems that everything that Omega sucks is eventually returned to normal space by Alpha. The pair interact erratically with the Maw.