WOMB OF THE GODS, PART ONE

In the discussion following my ‘Nature of Chaos’ post, WFRP writer Robin Low mentioned an article he had written on the subject for the magazine Warpstone. The piece was ‘Womb of the Gods’ and appeared in WS29 (Summer 2009). Unfortunately, Warpstone issues are hard to get hold of now, but Robin very kindly agreed to share the article here. Even better, he has revised and updated it.

Because of its length, it has been split into two parts. The first, below, discusses ideas of the nature of the Warhammer world, magic, gods and other beings. The second part of the article, to follow, includes WFRP profiles for various creatures from the warp. The profiles have been updated and expanded to cover WFRP1, WFRP2 and WFRP4.

I would like to thank Robin for sharing the article here.

WOMB OF THE GODS

This article draws on well-established ideas, and I make no claim to having originated them, although I have added some of my own along the way. However, although much discussed, there are no definitive explanations regarding the formation of gods, where magic really comes from, the existence (or not) and fate of souls, and just what the various spirit creatures of the Warhammer World actually are or where they come from. The following attempts to provide explanations for many of these things while maintaining the feel of the setting. Although ideas have been drawn from Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, effort has been made to make them consistent with WFRP and not link the two settings directly.

The aim of the article is not to over-define or over-explain the more mystical aspects of the WFRP setting, but to provide a more coherent structure than we have at present and develop some ideas beyond the vague generalities we already have (such as gods come from emotions, magic is Chaos, and so on). The world of Warhammer is a place full of gods, magic and a wide variety of supernatural creatures, and providing a clearer idea of how these things come to be and relate to one another can enable GMs to develop more practical in-game ideas for locations, NPCs and plots. Much of what follows is personal interpretation, but it fits with previous and current official sources.

The article is not intended to be a strict guide to how NPCs and PCs understand and define their world within the setting. There are certainly elements and ideas in it that can be portrayed as commonly held views, but mostly it provides a structure to help GMs understand what’s going on behind the scenes. From it, individual GMs can describe their own visions of common belief and understanding. For example, a necromancer may perform her ritual and call forth spirits from the cold dark lands of the dead to give shambling life to the corpse before her, but the GM knows that her ritual is manipulating warp potential to open a warp portal into the warp to find and draw out a soul spark to animate the dead body. When Tzeentch’s Curse strikes her in the form of a daemonic dog, she believes her magic has angered Morr, but the GM knows her manipulation of warp potential has left a warp trail which a warp entity has used to track and attack her. However, this works the other way round, for example when the GM realises that the panic and hysteria the PCs have created in the townsfolk with their madly incautious tales of giant rats in the woods is sufficient to transform high levels of ambient warp potential into a rat-like warp entity more monstrous than the mutant rats they were so worried about to begin with.

A WARP GLOSSARY

The following terms are for the benefit of the reader, but are not suggested as terms commonly used in the Warhammer World, even by scholars and wizards. (NB Warp Gate and Warp Portal were taken directly from W40K:RT and I decided to stick with the official language. If I was writing afresh, a gate would be a simple opening, while a portal would represent a tunnel.)

Real Space: The physical world in which we find the Warhammer World. It exists alongside warp space, and although real space is finite and warp space infinite, there are points within each that correspond with points in the other.

Soul/Soul Spark: A warp-potential copy of the personality, drive and will power of a living creature. After death the soul normally enters warp space. It may survive, but many dwindle into soul sparks, barely aware warp entities.

Warp Entities: Any creature that lives for at least part of its existence within warp space. Some warp entities are created from warp potential (Astral Hounds and Spectres), while others seem to have originated in real space, but later adapted to the life in warp space (such as Enslavers and Psychneuein). The term is also applicable to gods, Daemons and Elementals, souls and soul sparks.

Warp Gate: An opening from the real world into a sealed tunnel through warp space that exits through another warp gate into a different region of real space. Essentially, a warp gate is a shortcut between two points in real space via warp space.

Warp Realm: A closed island or region of stability within the maelstrom of warp space. Warp realms are usually created by gods, powerful Daemon Princes or large groups of warp entities capable of manipulating warp potential; they might even be formed by the unconscious minds of groups of mortals in the same way gods are created. They might be heavens, hells and everything in between. Most warp realms have at least one warp portal connecting to real space.

Warp Space: A dimension of raging warp potential that exists alongside real space. Although real space is finite and warp space infinite, there are points within each that correspond with points in the other. Like real space, there are creatures and worlds existing within it. For the purposes of this article, warp space is not the Realm of Chaos – the latter is taken to be the twisted and contaminated real space regions surrounding the collapsed polar warp gates of the Warhammer World. However, warp space is equivalent to what the Human wizard Volans termed the Aethrian or the Aethyr.

Warp Trail: Magic performed in real space leaves emanations or trails in warp space. Some warp entities can perceive and follow such a trail back to the practitioner who created it.

Warp Portal: A simple opening between real space and warp space. With the right techniques (magical rituals or high technology) warp portals can be created from either warp or real space. Some allow one-way movement only, some both ways; some are permanent, some are temporary.

Warp Potential: The raw fluid material of warp space. Warp potential can be manipulated, consciously or unconsciously by mortal emotions, beliefs, and will power to create physical and magical manifestations within both warp space and real space. Quite literally, the stuff that dreams and gods are made of.

Warpstone: Solidified warp potential. It is dangerously unpredictable as it has the ability to transform real space and things within it (chairs, hills, people, space-time) in the same way mortal creatures can transform warp potential, but with no mortal thought driving the change. It is dangerously random; chaotic, one might say.

WARP SPACE

Warp space is a dimension that exists alongside the real-space universe in which we find the planet of the Warhammer World. It is effectively infinite in size and composed almost entirely of swirling energy, and best likened to a vast, dark and terrible ocean, storm-wracked into a maelstrom of unpredictability. In fact, it is more like the region just below the surface of such an ocean; to be within warp space is to be engulfed. It is possible for living creatures to enter warp space and travel through it, but this requires very special knowledge and great power, and even greater knowledge and power to survive the visit. It is also possible to construct permanent openings and passages between real space and warp space using high technology, such as the now-collapsed warp gates at the poles of the Warhammer World, or temporary openings through the use of magic.

The furious energy that comprises warp space is best described as a fluid potential, hereafter called warp potential. Under certain circumstances warp potential can be moulded and given form. The key issue is how warp potential can be given form: what are the tools that shape it? The answer is simple: warp potential can be given form through the emotions and beliefs of any creature that is capable of having such things. The greater the strength of an emotion or belief, the more impressive the thing that it can create from warp potential. Furthermore, there is strength in numbers, so emotions and beliefs broadly similar in nature will pool to have even greater and more profound effects on warp potential. Even having found form, anything created from warp potential remains subject to the vagaries of the forces (emotions and beliefs) that brought it into being in the first place. Additionally, it seems highly probable that random dreams, nightmares and other fancies of the living sometimes influence warp potential. However, the process of giving form to warp potential is usually entirely unconscious, at least among the vast majority of creatures; important exceptions such as gods and wizards are discussed later.

For the purposes of WFRP, the best description of warp space can be found in the original Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader.  Its ideas of warp gates (two points in real space connected by a tunnel through warp space) and warp portals (a simple entrance into and out of warp space), and its descriptions of several types of warp creature (Astral Hounds, Astral Spectres, Enslavers) are extremely useful for WFRP. The practical uses of these in WFRP games are described in part two of this article. The two original Realms of Chaos books also provide some useful ideas, although they strongly push the warp-space-equals-Chaos philosophy. This article takes the view that whilst warp space and warp potential are dangerous and unpredictable (chaotic with a small ‘c’), they are essentially neutral in nature, and subject to the vagaries of human (and non-human) nature, for good or for ill, for Chaos or for Law, and for anything in between. This certainly fits with the way Teclis described the Aethyr to human wizards. However, it’s entirely understandable that the Old World’s wizards are keen to make a distinction between the source of Magic and the sources of Chaos.

WOMB OF THE GODS

The question of how the gods of the Warhammer World come to be has been asked many times and the answer always comes back: collective emotion. The first description of this process seems to be the story of how the activities of the Eldar (Elves from W40K) gave rise to Slaanesh, told in Realms of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness. However, the beliefs of individuals and groups play a crucial part, too. It is specific beliefs and ideas that often give rise to powerful emotions such as fear, hope and desire, and have an extremely significant role in detailing form. The easiest example is that of Khorne, the Blood God. Khorne was shaped from warp potential through hatred of the enemy and the mindless rage and blood lust felt by warriors during the heat of battle. He is a blood god because there are few things more symbolic of anger and violence than blood. He is terrifying because hate and pain and death can be terrifying. It took no conscious thought on the part of living creatures to create Khorne; the intensity and frequency of such emotions were more than sufficient for the god to simply take form. However, Khorne wears black armour and wields a sword because this is a recognisable image of war and all that attends it. This image may differ between cultures, but the essential nature and power of the god remains undiminished.

Compare Khorne with another god of battle, such as Ulric. The fact that Ulric is commonly called the White Wolf reminds us that he is also a god of winter and wolves. The harsh winters of the northern Old World and the seasonal threat of hungry wolves during that time of year provoked understandable fear in the hearts and minds of early human tribes, which undoubtedly spurred the formation of a harsh god. In his earliest incarnation, Ulric may indeed have been a literal White Wolf. However, the need of Humans to attempt to placate these hostile elements gave rise to a Human-seeming form of the god, something less alien and easier to commune with, but still closely tied to the wolf. In those early times, wolves were also seen as noble, respectable creatures which hunted in packs, socialised together, and defended their territories from outsiders. This undoubtedly appealed to tribal Humans, who sought to emulate that united strength, especially in times of conflict. In this way, Ulric also became a god of battle, but one concerned not with mindless slaughter, but with unity, defence, and survival.

In these two examples, we see how the fears and concerns of living beings can transform warp potential into gods, and how the beliefs and needs of living beings can shape the image and nature of those gods. Of course, it is a complex process, and the precise details are far from certain. Gods themselves become aware of the process and seek to take advantage of it by encouraging intelligent beings to worship them. A god’s ability to affect real space through manipulation of warp potential (for example by the creation of Daemons or use of miracles to inspire mortals) can make this relatively simple. However, it is a two-edged sword, as the beliefs and emotions gods seek to encourage in order to strengthen themselves can change and end up reshaping them. Consequently, most gods seek to maintain a relatively stable image with a broad appeal and following amongst mortals. This perhaps explains why most gods impose a strict set of behaviours and beliefs on their priests and follows, and encourage them to share those rules with others (by example or force).

REALMS OF THE GODS

Warp space is effectively infinite, and it is possible for powerful warp creatures, principally gods and Daemon Princes, to create their own realms within it. These are islands of stability within warp space, protected from its storms and unpredictability. Each realm represents the nature of the god who created it. For example, Ulric’s realm is a place of dark forests and bitter winter snows, of wolves and battle, where tribes of souls live on as the early Human tribes once did. Verena’s realm is a vast noble city, filled with schools, libraries, and universities, where scholarly souls discuss science, philosophy, and art. Some realms have permanent or temporary portals between each other (such as those of Ulric, Taal and Rhya) or places in real space (most likely secret shrines and other sacred sites, long, long forgotten by mortal priests).

Arguably, these might sound like the planes of Dungeons & Dragons, but gods need to exist somewhere. Also, given that death and undeath are so important to WFRP, it is important there are places where the dead can go (and return from), places it might be possible for living PCs to follow. Warp realms make excellent locations for short adventures or brief encounters, especially in campaigns where religion and the divine are the central theme. However, such places should always have a grim or perilous edge to them. From a living PC’s point of view, they are strange, biased, and extreme places, probably even to a PC devoted to a given realm’s god. Ulric’s realm of wolves, blizzards and shapeshifting axemen has obvious risks, but even Shallya’s land of good health and kindness could be twisted into something threatening if the PCs are forcibly taken as patients by a crowd of Shallyan souls keen to rid them of any hint of ill-health and physical imperfection. In the business halls, warehouses and markets of Haendryk’s realm, PCs find they can achieve nothing without something to trade with and the business acumen to take on the fiercely competitive merchants and tradesmen.

SOULS OF THE DEAD

WFRP has never been very clear on the nature of souls and the afterlife, despite having a god of Death and more Necromancers and Undead creatures than you can shake a scythe at. The nature of both is really up to individual GMs to decide for themselves. What follows is designed to fit with the themes of this article as well as the setting, and provide a coherent structure GMs can build upon.

Within every living creature, even animals and plants, there resides a spirit. That spirit is essentially warp potential that enters the creature sometime between conception and birth (or germination). As the creature lives, the warp potential is shaped and changed by the creature’s life and experiences, and becomes its soul. The living creature and its soul are different; the soul is really a copy of the living creature’s personality, drive and motivation, and sense of self identity. Consequently, some souls are stronger than others.

When the living creature dies, its body decays and its soul is released. At this point, the soul has an independent existence. However, the vast majority are naturally drawn back into warp space where all but the most powerful either dissolve back into warp potential or continue to exist as mere sparks of memory floating through warp space. Those sparks may be harvested by gods, Daemon Princes or other warp creatures and used as seeds from which to grow other entities or add directly to their own power and knowledge. The same is sometimes true for the more powerful souls that retain their sense of self, but with their greater drive and motivation they are more likely to either to find their way to a realm of a god they have some affinity for. Or, they are able to carve out an independent existence for themselves in warp space, transforming into more powerful warp entities, like Daemons or something greater. Sigmar is undoubtedly the greatest example: his powerful ego, the ongoing adoration of an Empire of people, the respect of the Dwarves, and the fear and hostility of the goblinoids, all giving his soul the power to transform into a god.

Some people die unfulfilled, with a sense of outrage at the way they died or with important (if only to them) things left unsaid or undone. When someone dies feeling like this, the soul feels the same way and can find either the strength to ignore the tug back to warp space and linger in real space, or the strength to continue to survive in warp space but periodically re-enter real space, all with the intention of resolving its issues. Such souls are, obviously, Ghosts. Their periodic visible and physical manifestations in real space are a result of their ability (unconscious or otherwise) to manipulate warp potential. This ability is likely to be temporarily enhanced by symbolic connections, such the anniversary of death, environmental conditions at the time of death (thunderstorms), Geheimnisnacht, and the presence of relatives or descendants (who perhaps inherit a little of their ancestor’s soul…). Magical ability in life may also be significant, particularly in the case of dead Amethyst Wizards.

Of course, there are forms of Undead other than Ghosts, but the principal is essentially the same: the soul overcomes the pull of warp space and remains behind. The innate connection of the soul to warp space can allow it to manipulate warp potential to perform magical feats: the Wight uses warp potential so it can inhabit and reanimate its corpse; the Vampire reanimates its corpse, keeps it in a semblance of life fuelled by blood, remaining almost unaware of the distinction between its body and soul; Wraiths are the souls of powerful Wizards that have transcended their physical body. The lesser Undead, Zombies and Skeletons, are usually little more than the sparks of soul described earlier, captured from warp space by Necromancers and used to give awkward life to decaying corpses and old bones.

Additionally, the continued existence of souls and soul sparks means there is ample room for the reality of reincarnation, as well as possession of the living or just recently vacated corpses. This is an excellent source of plots, ranging from the activities of souls and soul sparks to the schemes of still-living creatures seeking to survive in real space beyond death by transferring their souls from body to body.

The funeral rites of the cult of Morr have a very specific purpose: to ensure that souls do not remain to pester the living or be used by others. The blessings and rituals performed over dead bodies are intended to open a portal between real space and the warp space realm of Morr, through which souls are drawn. In Morr’s realm all souls, from the powerful to the mere sparks can be protected from the attentions of malign warp creatures and Necromancers alike. Morr himself can decide to send souls on to the realms of other gods, transform them into his own daemonic servants, or let them dissolve back into warp potential. Of course, other races have other gods and other rites to fulfil similar functions. Souls for which such rites are not performed are subject to the hazards and vagaries of warp space or are free to linger in real space if they have the strength and drive to do so.

MAGIC

Very simply, magic represents warp potential given form or purpose in real space. Unlike the creation of gods, it is an active process requiring conscious effort on the part of a Wizard. Spells and all the different classes of magic are just techniques and methodologies performed by Wizards to shape warp potential into a specific form. Even Daemonologists and Necromancers are just manipulating warp potential when they summon the entities of their particular interest, using to it form portals between real space and warp space or realms within it through which Daemons, souls and other warp entities can be summoned. Similarly, a Goblin Shaman may believe his power comes from Waarggh energy and is tied to the number of fellow goblinoids surrounding him, but he’s still really drawing on warp potential. Of course, all the different sorts of Wizards insist their magic is superior or more demanding or simply different from the others, but the truth is their various forms of magic come from the same place, whether they know it or not. The rituals and incantations, mental visualisations and arm-waving are actually just foci. It is Wizards’ absolute belief and confidence in the techniques they feel comfortable with that allows them to unconsciously manipulate and shape warp potential and give it form in real space. The process can be compared to being able to drive a car without understanding how the engine works, or even that there is an engine.  Spell ingredients represent both symbols upon which Wizards can focus their will and a form of sacrifice, as ingredients vanish into warp space to become warp potential (or perhaps they float, lost in infinite warp space or wash up on the shores of various warp realms?). As they practise magic, Wizards become better able to utilise warp potential, enabling them to manipulate more of the stuff more effectively, and shape it into more impressive spell effects (in rules terms, the dice rolls of WFRP2/3/4 and the Magic Points of WFRP1 are simply artificial mechanisms representing how effectively a Wizard can manipulate warp potential).

However, most of the time Human Wizards tap into very specific forms of warp potential. There is some natural seepage of warp potential from warp space into real space, and the transition has the effect of separating it into different forms, like white light passing through a prism: the Colours of the so-called Winds of Magic. Human wizards are usually limited in their abilities and can only work with a single Colour of warp potential. However, it is possible that the High Elves are able to reach more directly into warp space itself, perhaps explaining the more impressive magical talents of the Elven High Mages. Alternatively, the Colours only represent a small part of a much larger spectrum of magical Winds: in the same way Humans can only see the visible spectrum of light, perhaps the Elves can see into the analogous infra-red, ultraviolet and more extreme ranges of the Winds, enabling them to perform mightier, stranger magic. Dark magic draws on a different part of this spectrum, which perhaps explains why some Wizards can manipulate only a single Colour, but may also cast spells relying on the dark Wind Dhar. Do not forget that Human magic may be limited because the magical techniques the High Elf mage Teclis taught Humans were deliberately designed to limit Human perception and use of the full range Colours and other regions of the magical spectrum.

It must be stressed that warp space is an unknown concept as far as Human Wizards are concerned, although the High Elf mages possess at least some understanding of it. Human Wizards refer simply to the Aethyr, while the Elves talk of the Great Beyond. However, from Teclis’ teachings Human wizards are aware that magic and the Aethyr are linked to Chaos, something few are happy talking about. Instead, they prefer to speak of the Winds of Magic and the Colours, which are a lot more socially acceptable and provoke less hostility. Other wizards talk about energies specific to their favoured fields: for example, Necromancers use phrases like ‘necromantic energies’. However, in both cases this is simply because (a) they are not aware of warp space and warp potential, (b) they like to talk-up their special interests and (c) it impresses the uninformed.

Divine magic is ultimately the same as sorcery. The significant difference it is that a Priest manipulates warp potential to contact his or her god and ask for divine assistance, and the god manipulates warp potential on the Priest’s behalf. In this way, the god is seen to be working through the Priest. However, the various clergy of the Old World are not of a mind to accept that their magic stems from the same dubious source as that of Wizards, or that that their gods might be born of the same metaphysical stuff.  Heretical and carefully hidden tomes written by scholars of various cults, particularly that of Verena, may indicate that some within the cults are aware of the link, but all cults strive to maintain a distinction between their divine miracles and sacred rites and Wizard’s ungodly spells and rituals.

The most important message to take away from all of this is that GMs can choose to add (or bring back) any form of magic they think suitable. Elementalism, Battle Magic, Illusionism, Lore of Spirit, High Elf Magic, Kislevite Ice Shamanism: each of these forms of magic represents warp potential given shape and purpose in real space through a combination of training and instinct. Their differences are not evidence of different sorts of magic, but demonstrate how philosophy and belief, as well as culture and society, affect the ways in which warp potential can be shaped.

One last thought – if warp potential is drawn from warp space into real space and transformed into a magical effect, then it could be argued that after the magical effect is over it reverts back into warp potential, which remains lingering in real space for a time. Not only does this provide a reason why places where magic is heavily practiced, such as the colleges in Altdorf, are so strange and unstable, it also means that magic is an environmentally unfriendly activity, even when it brings benefits. This is ripe for parody and adds to the whole Chaos-is-radiation-Warpstone-is-Uranium metaphor that has always existed in WFRP.

WARP ENTITIES

There are many creatures in WFRP which are magical or spiritual in some way: the Undead, Daemons, Elementals, Nature Spirits, the gods themselves. These beings have always been presented as distinct creatures in their own right. However, this article presents the idea that most are simply different classes of warp entity. The term originally comes from Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, and describes several different types of creature native to warp space. Here, its use is extended to a broader range of entities, such as those mentioned above, as well as some creatures taken from W40K:RT. Gods and souls have been discussed earlier; others are considered below, along with the aforementioned examples of W40K:RT warp entities.

Daemons

These powerful creatures are entities created from warp potential by gods to act as their servants within their realms in warp space and sometimes in real space. Daemons vary from the relatively mindless to the enormously powerful, according to the task they were created for. Generally speaking, the more powerful they are, the more intelligent and self-aware they are, enabling the stronger ones to develop personalities and aspirations – many Daemon Princes arise this way. It is likely some Daemons are created by belief and fear; perhaps it is not such a good idea to tell children scary stories before they go to a fretful sleep. The prevailing belief in the Warhammer World is that all Daemons are Chaotic and evil, but there is no reason why the non-Chaotic gods should not be able to create their own Daemonic servants from warp potential. It is reasonable to assume the animal totems and messengers of many gods are also Daemons, but ones possessing forms and natures more attractive and acceptable to mortals than the Daemons of Chaos. Additionally, there is no reason why Daemons have to appear as living creatures, natural or otherwise; they could take the form of objects or places. An example of the latter would be the strange house from The Haunting Horror scenario in The Restless Dead campaign, reprinted in Plundered Vaults.

Elementals

These spirits of earth, air, fire and water are, like gods, the products of warp potential shaped by belief. Millennia ago, it was tribal shaman who began to create these entities, based on their limited understanding of obvious forces of nature: howling winds and cooling breeze; torrential rains and stormy seas; forest fires and volcanoes; earthquakes and glittering gemstones. The earliest magic of Humans and probably many other races were based on beliefs and emotions tied to these elements, and the desire and need to control or use them. It was a tradition that lasted, in various forms, at least until the coming of Teclis and his Colour Magic, and no doubt still survives.

Today, Human scholars, alchemists and magicians who seek to understand the physical world have come to believe that all physical substances are composed of these four elements in varying quantities. However, as only natural philosophers and Wizards really have an understanding of the concept of the four elements, too small a proportion of people to provide sufficient belief and emotion for Elementals to have an ongoing existence. For practical purposes, Elementals are manifestations of a Wizard’s beliefs and understanding of a given element, and as such they spontaneously come into existence only when a Wizard performs a ritual to summon one. Any given Elemental is very much a product of the summoning Wizard’s imagination: two Fire Elementals might have exactly the same characteristics and abilities, but one would appear as a roaring sphere of fire, the other as a beautiful female figure of flame. After they fulfil the task set for them by the Wizard, they dissolve back into warp potential.

However, it seems reasonable to argue that the more powerful the Wizard, the more powerful and independent his elementals could be. This means that after being summoned (in reality, created by the Wizard from warp potential) and fulfilling a task set for it, an elemental could return to warp space and continue its existence. Perhaps enough such elementals of each type can form a group mind, powerful enough to manipulate warp potential to create their own elemental warp realm. Like the warp realms of the gods, elemental realms might seem reminiscent of Dungeons & Dragons’ various planes, but some GMs might like to pursue the idea.

Nature Spirits

This is a purely personal view, but nature spirits are Daemons with the ability to spend extended periods in real space, possibly at will, but perhaps limited to specific places and/or times of year. They can be friendly, but also capricious and dangerous: they are the faeries of the Warhammer World. They are formed through the need to explain life’s little fears and small blessings, to give a face to the rustlings in the forests’ shadows. When nature spirits are not in real space they reside in the warp space realms of Rhya, Taal, Ulric and Mannan, and probably those of other gods they feel kinship with. Wizards and Priests of various types can summon them in much the same way as Necromancers and Daemonologists summon the dead and the Daemonic, if they know the appropriate rituals to open magical paths or warp portals for them. It seems likely that the Dryads of Athel Loren are similar spirits, but ones who have become intimately associated with trees, and able to remain permanently in the material world.

Many towns and cities have existed in the Old World and elsewhere for many centuries, so it is fair to say there are a few urban spirits, too. Even the Dwarves grumble about Old Gremblin whose moulting beard fouls engines and mechanisms; offerings of greasy food and ale with oil are made to keep him happy and occupied.

Entities Indigenous to Warp Space

In the original Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader there were several examples of warp entities that lived for all or part of their existence in warp space, but possessing the ability to enter real space under certain circumstances. In Warpstone 29, three were described in this article (Astral Spectre, Astral Hounds and Enslavers), while another was in issue 10 of Warpstone’s free Legion PDF (Psychneuein). These were statted for WFRP2. In W40K:RT, they could be used as plain foes, but were designed to be particularly baneful to psykers, especially weak ones. In part two of this article they are presented as possible alternatives or additions to Tzeentch’s Curse or the Wrath of the Gods, or simply as the staring points for adventures. They are statted for WFRP1, WFRP2 and WFRP4.

FINAL THOUGHTS

For some, over-detailed rationalisation and explanation can stifle creativity; for others, it can be inspirational. Hopefully, this article achieves more of the latter. When writing an article like this the most important thing to consider is how any given explanation can be used by GMs to do something interesting in an actual game. Some suggestions are found in the text; here are some others.

  • Successive years of young children at a boarding school for the wealthy middle classes have long told one another stories about a blue lady who walks the grounds at night. The origin of this is a story made-up long-ago by older children to scare a new intake, but years of belief by young, impressionable minds have allowed a minor Daemon to form from warp potential. On nights of the full moon, the blue lady does indeed walk the corridors of the school. The idea that warp entities are created from belief and emotion enables GMs to create any number of minor beings simply from the beliefs and emotions of a group or even a single person. The nature of the being is shaped by the beliefs and emotions, so you might have the friendly spirit of a local wishing well (which can be summoned for assistance) or a daemonic cat beast inspired by a single unsolved murder decades ago (the new murders by the cat-beast Daemon can only be stopped by proving the guilt of the now-aged woman who was the original villain – the sudden loss of belief will diminish the Daemon sufficiently to weaken it).
  • After trekking up a high, forested mountain ridge, the PC pass through a thick bank of cloud. When they emerge, they find themselves looking out over a land they don’t recognise: a primal, northern wilderness, untainted by any sign of smoke or cities scarring the land. A huge noble stag trots down the slope towards them. It speaks to them, and gives them a message. Before they can enquire further, clouds cover them; when it lifts, the land below is familiar once more. Later, when they travel down, they share their story with Taal priest in his hermitage, who tells them of the sacredness of the ridge and that they have passed into Taal’s realm and absolutely must act on the words of the stag. GMs can use warp portals into warp realms to create atmospheric scenes and do things they couldn’t normally do without straining credibility. Another example is a door in one of Marienburg’s counting houses that leads into the business halls of Haendryk himself; the door is not always there and it sometimes moves, but if you need to do business with a god then it might make itself available. Of course, some things can come out of warp realms and into real space, too – an owl wise in the ways of war from Myrmidia’s realm or a sacred blade fashioned from wolf bone and teeth from Ulric’s realm.
  • An NPC Wizard suffers a bout of Tzeentch’s Curse and the Astral Spectre that possesses her finds itself very much at home. Rather than entirely sapping its host will, it takes advantage of the Wizard’s position within a college of magic to move between hosts. Over several months, the college acquires a reputation for the increasingly bizarre antics of its masters and apprentices – even by wizard standards some of the behaviour is weird, people say. The college authorities decide they need some non-wizards to track the problem, even though they don’t like involving outsiders. GMs should make use of Tzeentch’s Curse and warp entities to create scenarios and NPCs. Remember that entities expelled back to warp space are not necessarily destroyed, so they can become recurring villains. Perhaps an Astral Spectre takes a particular liking for a Wizard or Priest PC. It never completely drains the PC’s will and willingly leaves before it destroys its host, but whenever the PC suffers Tzeentch’s Curse or Wrath of the Gods, the Spectre is there, ready to attempt possession. The player might even be allowed to play the possessing Spectre during this time.
  • The Necrarch Vampire Jolyon is a Necromancer of unusual talent. Before becoming one of the Undead Jolyon was a Jade Wizard, manipulating Ghyran, the Green Wind of Magic. Following his transformation, he understandably became interested in Dhar and the Dark Magic of Necromancy. Jolyon’s discovered he could see a new Colour he termed simply as Dahrghyran, and set about developing a Lore of Necromancy all of his own. Where most Necromancers animate corpses and skeletons, Jolyon can imbue dead plant matter with a shambling form of life: dead trees stalk and protect the borders of his territory, the red moss that covers his tower drinks the blood of those who attempt to scale it, and dark ivy creeps though the windows to strangle his sleeping enemies. Warp potential is exactly that: potential. Don’t be restricted by the Winds of Colour, but mix them like a painter, and remember there are shades unseen by the Human eye, frequencies unheard by Elven ears. Remember it pools and gathers in certain places, enhancing and even changing magic performed there when different Colours mix.
  • An NPC, or perhaps a PC, was very close to his grandfather, and was present when he died. Years later, the character travels by the ruins of a castle and is struck with an overwhelmingly powerful sense of déjà vu. It’s so powerful it feels like a vision of the castle in its prime, with guards atop the walls and wagons bustling through its gates. At the nearby village, an elderly couple gasp at the character as he passes through. When asked why, it seems the character bears a shocking resemblance to another man who visited the village and castle many, many years ago… This is an example of using a soul spark. Perhaps the soul spark of the character’s grandfather passed through the character on its way back to the Warp or perhaps it lies lodged inside him alongside his own soul spark. Either way, it has affected the character’s physical development and can trigger certain memories if prompted. More generally, soul sparks provide both opportunity and explanation for a variety of useful plot devices, such as possession, reincarnation, personality transference, and even gestalt personalities.

Part two of the article describes horrors that inhabit the warp, with statistics for WFRP1, WFRP2 and WFRP4.

Title art used without permission. No challenge intended to the rights holders.

15 thoughts on “WOMB OF THE GODS, PART ONE

  1. This article and those of similar ilke are the inspiration behind my own take of the gods, magic, souls and death in my own veriosn of the game settling.

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  2. Robin Low mentioned an article
    he had written on the subject
    for the magazine Warpstone …
    Robin very kindly agreed
    to share the article here

    This is extraordinary. You must have been very convincing because Robin, as fas as I remember, has been reluctant to republish online his Warpstone works. Big thanks to Robin and you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was delighted Robin offered to share it here, and even better update it. Hopefully we can persuade him to do it again some time. In the meantime, we still have part two of the article to come.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I wanted to share this one after Gideon’s ‘Nature of Chaos’ article, because it’s a subject that keeps coming up. I’m more possessive over my other Warpstone pieces in part because they’re perhaps more original or at least of greater interest from a roleplay perspective. It would be nice to use that material in an official product at some point, given the opportunity. However, I can’t imagine GW or any other company ever asking me to provide an official explanation of the nature the Warp, Chaos, and related matters, so I thought this one was worth sharing.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. If souls and living creatures are different, and if a soul is really a copy of the living creature’s personality, drive and motivation, and sense of self identity, does a living creature need a soul in order to live and have consciousness? Does it matter to someone if they know that when they die the soul attached to them will live on in some god’s realm but that they won’t? When someone becomes a Vampire is it the living creature that becomes a Vampire, or the soul, or both? If someone brings their loved one back to life have they really brought their loved one back to life or have they only reanimated the body with the (or a) soul? Does the soul copy the memories of the living creature or does it create its own separate memories? Is the soul a parasite? Is the soul trapped? There are so many questions. Also, it brings to mind daemons in His Dark Materials.

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    1. They are good, meaty questions. The lazy answer is: yes, to all of them and none. It’s your call… but don’t be afraid to mix it up. The nature of the warp is such that there is no absolute truth, so you can get variations. For example, my personal take on the vampire question is that all are true, but it depends on the vampire and how you see it. You sometimes see a debate in SF regarding humans that have their consciousness downloaded, whether into another body or a simulation. Is the copy the same as the original, or is a new being, or just an unliving digital construct? If there is simultaneous brain destruction as the copy is created, is the copy a continuation of the original entity? This is often a very personal opinion.

      Also, is the vampire in fact animated by a soul spark that originated in a totally different body? In this case, the soul spark could well be regarded as a parastate, albeit one ‘running’ a vacated corpse. Equally, our vampire could be a living creature possessed by a soul spark, in which case the the possessor soul spark is most definitely a parasite… but there might be a constant internal struggle between the host and the parasite. Not all vampires need be the same.

      The article is not intended to definitively answer every question, rather to make some broad kind of sense, which prompt questions that can can be turned into characters and plots.

      I like your Dark Materials comparison – those Daemons are excellent examples of Familiars, although perhaps more suited to Priests than Wizards.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Indeed i suppose those questions could be answered in a number of ways, and leaving that open is not a bad idea, so i don’t wish to create a discussion to define them. It’s my observation though that, as written, these souls are quite different to the SF question of ‘cut and paste’ because these souls are always distinct from, and different to, the living creature that they inhabit. I think then that the key question is the relationship of the soul to the living creature: Is the soul integral, symbiotic, parasitic, or merely coexistent?

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        1. I suppose looking at it as written, I’d have to say that the soul is initially integral, something that comes into existence at birth and develops as the creature experiences life, and is a vital part of its existence. Following death of the body, a soul spark acquires the potential to become symbiotic, parasitic, or coexistent depending on circumstances. However, I can easily see situations were you could argue it is both integral and, say, parasitic: consider a spell allowing a living wizard to project her personality and possess another living being.

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          1. Was the soul being an integral, vital part of the living creature’s existence your original intent? Is this soul also an integral part of the living creature’s consciousness?

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            1. It’s a long time since I first wrote this article, so I can’t remember my exact thinking at time, but on the whole I would say yes to both your questions. However, if you ask me, “Is the Soul Spark a soul in the Christian sense of the word?” then my honest answer would have to be, I don’t know, but probably not. All that said, the best way to view a Soul Spark is as an idea that makes just enough sense within the setting to work as an explanation for things, and is a useful plot device.

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              1. This is a topic i could see myself discussing at quite some length but i think that is a good place to leave the conversation. I appreciate you resharing the article and replying with your thoughts Robin (and Gideon).

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