In the Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000 fictional universes, the Daemons are malevolent spirits born out of the destructive power called Chaos. The daemons found in both universes are very similar, although the precise natures of their creation and existence vary slightly.
Daemons in Warhammer Fantasy
Daemons in the Warhammer Fantasy world hail from the dread Hell-like place called the "Realm of Chaos", an alternate dimension, which has giant breaches into the material plane at both poles of the world. They are used in both Warhammer and Warhammer 40000. This realm is composed of pure magical energy; this energy flows into the world through collapsed gates of the Old Ones that, by collapsing, caused the breaches into the Realm of Chaos, and powers the spells cast by wizards and sorcerers. This magical energy is affected by the subconscious minds of men; their thoughts, fears and wishes become manifest as living creatures in the Realm of Chaos. According to the Daemons of Chaos Army Book, there can also be other, smaller "rifts" in the mortal world, caused by excesses of the emotions and magic that fuel Demonic life. The smaller the rift, the fewer and lower power the demons that pop out of it will be. Furies, winged monsters that are not linked with any god, come first, followed by small demons like Nurglings, followed by stronger and stronger demons. These demons will stay in the mortal realm until all of the magic that created them is used up. In the realms of the Empire this is usually less than a week, but demons can evidently manifest indefinitely in the warpstone-encrusted soil of the great northern Chaos wastes. This is one reason why the expansion of the Chaos Wastes that heralds an incursion of Chaos into the civilised world is very important to the success of the incursion.
Some of these entities have become immensely powerful over time, becoming the Chaos gods. Presumably these gods could manifest if there was a big enough rift, but this has not happened in recorded history. Less powerful entities became daemons; these are partly tied to the will of the Chaos Gods, but also remain tied to the thoughts of mankind. As most daemons serve one of the gods, when the armies of that god go to war, those daemons tied to it will often march alongside the army. In both of the Warhammer realms, there are four major gods of Chaos, each with its own personality and units.
Khorne is the god of war and violence. Khorne believes in honour and will not reward those who kill the weak or puny. Unlike the other gods, there are no cults to Khorne in the empire, and no holy places in his name. This is because Khorne does not see the use of building places of worship when his followers could be practicing their worship of him in battle. The only religious practices of his followers are the shouts of "Blood for the blood god, skulls for the throne of Khorne", and the practice of skulltaking from defeated enemies. Simply put, every battlefield is a monument to the destruction that Khorne brings. He is portrayed as a large muscular form clad in armour of black and brass with a "visage that of a fierce and snarling dog with ravaged lips". Khorne dwells in a brass citadel, within a great vault at its black heart reclining on a throne of brass, set atop of a mountain of skulls, both those of all his champions who have died in battle and all those killed in his name. He is a master forger of armor and weapons, so much so that his armor survived an attack from the Bloodthirster Skarbrand who "cut the smallest of chinks in the Blood god's armour". He is constantly angry, with a mood that ranges from simmering rage to epoch-ending fury. He is also noted as being the God most willing to engage in combat inside the Realm of Chaos. Khorne's territory in the realm of chaos is a vast and hellish blood-soaked desert, where mortals and deamons fight desperately in the name of Khorne.
Tzeentch is the god of scheming, ambition and trickery. He is most commonly referred to as The Changer of Ways or The Raven God. Tzeentch is primarily worshipped by ambitious and intelligent individuals who seek to raise themselves above others by any means necessary. Tzeentch is the most weirdly formed of all his brothers. His skin crawls with ever-changing faces that leer and mock those who dare look upon him. His actual face is puckered and formed upon his upper torso, so his head and body are one and above Tzeentch's eyes sprout two sweeping horns that crackle with arcane fire. His territory in the Realm of Chaos is a great library in the Impossible Fortress at the center of a crystalline labyrinth; constantly shifting and changing, so that none who enter it will ever escape with their sanity. The Impossible fortress has no Daemons to protect it, as almost none will make it through. Only the Lords of Change, Tzeentch's greater Daemons, can safely traverse its corridors. His realm lies at the heart of chaos, connecting the realms of the other gods. Tzeentch is not above sullying his hands with the blood of war, though he much prefers to gain victory through guile, cunning and schemes rather than brute force. The Raven God perceives every event and intention and from this information his complex and vast mind can determine how each and every possibility will serve to influence the future. Only Tzeentch can see the tapestry of potential futures weaving forward in time like multicoloured threads. For Tzeentch, scheming is not a means to an end, it is the end itself. Contradictory to this, however, is that Tzeentch seeks no ultimatum for his plans, for if he were to reach a true end then what would the schemer do?
Nurgle is the god of disease, pestilence and rot. He is usually called the Lord of Decay, though his followers affectionately refer to him as Father Nurgle, Papa Nurgle or Grandfather Nurgle, as he is the only one of the Chaos Gods who actually cares about the fate of his followers. Nurgle is predominately worshipped by those who desire to cheat death or to attain immortality. Ironically, since Nurgle is a god of disease, he will afflict those who worship him with terrible infectious 'gifts', but they will become resistant to these and in turn, be all but immune to the effects of illness, pain and injury. Nurgle's territory in the Realm of Chaos is a great garden, filled with diseased, alien plants and other creatures. At the centre stands Nurgle's mansion, made of rotted wood and crumbling stone, where Nurgle resides. Under mildewed and sagging beams, Nurgle labours for untold hours at an iron cauldron, which is said to be large enough to hold all of the world's oceans. He works to create contagions and pestilence - The most basic form of life - and every so often he will cease his work to take a taste of his newest concoction. If he is pleased, he will pass the disease on and force it to a being he keeps in his room (Poxfulcrum, in the Warhammer world, a daemon blessed with the ability to heal all infections but cursed with vulnerability to them all. In the Warhammer 40,000 universe, this being is the Eldar god Isha who is Nurgle's prisoner). Nurgle watches the effects of his latest pathogen and if he is pleased he will pour the contents of his cauldron down into a massive iron grate in the floor of this vast room. This then rains down into the mortal world to infect those in it.
Slaanesh is the god of pleasure, desire, hedonism and indulgence. Usually known as The Darkling Prince or The Prince of Pleasure. Slaanesh can take male, female or hermaphroditic form at will though he prefers the form of a young strikingly handsome male. All those who look upon Slaanesh lose their soul and become slaves to his slightest whim. He is worshiped by those who seek pleasure and to indulge their every whim, no matter how vile or debauched. Slaanesh's territory in the Realm of Chaos is a great castle that contains six concentric rings. Each ring, as you progress inwards, present different manners of temptation. The circle of Avidity forms the outermost circle, appealing to an intruder's sense of greed. The next circle is that of Gluttony, and any who taste a drop of wine or a bite of food from the banquets and rivers will become a bloated fool who will indulge themselves until their body gives out. The third circle is the circle of Carnality, where all manner of fleshly pleasures may be sampled. Lissome maidens walk the verdant fields, their face and form seemingly sprung from the heart's dearest desire, yet to trust such a creature is purest folly, for there are clawed hands and serpent's teeth beneath the glamour. Upon entering the next circle, the traveler is greeted by a cheering crowd where intruders are tempted with power and its application. Then is the circle of Vainglory; it is a garden with beautiful flowers and heavy thorns. Unseen voices whisper of past glories to tempt an interloper's pride . The final circle is that of Indolence, a serene domain of heavenly choirs and perfumed seas. All within this domain seek to lure the senses with level sands and scented winds. The sands are the desiccated husks of those who have succumbed and the choirs the tortured souls of those lost here. Upon making the journey through this circle, a traveler can ascend to the seat of Slaanesh's power.
Since Daemons are made of pure magical energy, they are difficult for weapons of the physical world to destroy. However, certain rituals (such as those performed by Imperial warrior-priests) can much more easily defeat them. Also, as the winds of magic fade, so do the daemons; this can even happen during a battle. If the daemons are overcome by their foes in combat, the magic binding them to the world begins to scatter, and the daemons can be banished back to the Realm of Chaos.
Daemons in Warhammer 40,000
In the Warhammer 40,000 universe, daemons are entities which live in the parallel dimension known as the Warp. Similar to the Realm of Chaos, this parallel dimension is made up of pure psychic energy, and this energy sometimes collects and forms living entities. As these entities gather more energy, they can become sentient, eventually even god-like in their powers, abilities and ambitions. Like their Fantasy counterparts, daemons are the lesser entities serving the Chaos Gods.
Warhammer 40,000 daemons are normally unable to enter into the physical world on their own; as beings of pure energy, they must be summoned to the battlefield by Chaos worshippers and cultists. Alternatively, they can enter the physical realm at overlaps of Warp and material space, such as the Eye of Terror, through certain gates between the material and Warp realms or by forcing itself into the mind of a psyker, especially untrained psykers.
Once in the physical realm, daemons are often found fighting alongside Chaos worshippers- mainly the forces of the Chaos Space Marines, but also Chaos-influenced Imperial Guard and rebels known as the Lost and the Damned. Less frequently, other races such as the Orks (it is hard to tell) or Eldar can be corrupted by the Chaos Gods. When this happens, they too can be seen fighting alongside daemons, although not necessarily those of the four major gods. Like Fantasy daemons, they are sometimes difficult for physical weapons to destroy, but certain specially prepared weapons do exist which can more easily defeat them, banishing them back to the Warp (or even obliterating them from existence); like their Fantasy counterparts, if they are defeated in combat, the power holding them in the physical universe can begin to fade, banishing them back to the warp. (On a side note, the current release of the Codex: Chaos Space Marines has removed the "instability" rule, thus daemons are no longer in danger of dissipating in battle.)
While in the Warp, daemons are attracted to the souls of mortals, which they like to consume, and this can aid in the process of summoning them, as they will flock to a battlefield in order to devour the souls of the recently slain. Due to their hunger for mortal souls, they are known to make the use of psychic powers by so-called "psykers" dangerous. When a mortal psyker uses his powers, he draws upon the energy of the Warp, and daemons are strongly attracted to this usage of Warp energy. Once it finds the psyker, the daemon will then attack his mind in order to devour his soul or possess his body in order to gain access to the material world. Some races' souls are more attractive to daemons, notably the psychically powerful Eldar, and these races must make use of certain rituals or equipment to protect themselves from daemonic attack. Extremely powerful psykers (on the level of the few children/grandchildren spawned by the God-Emperor) should be able to obliterate daemons from existence (both the physical body and the psychic energy). Special psykers called Blanks exist that actually block and even destroy psychic energies. In theory a daemon whose physical body is destroyed in the presence of the Blank would be permanently killed.
Lastly, some races, mainly the Imperium, are able to fly their ships into the Warp and make use of the Immaterium as a form of hyperspace in order to quickly travel across the galaxy at faster-than-light speeds. While traversing the Warp, these ships must make use of powerful protections like the Gellar Field lest they be attacked and their crews consumed by the waiting daemons.
Types of Daemons
What follows is a list of the major types of daemons, and brief description of each type. The list is not exhaustive, and where major differences exist between Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy, these will be noted. Most of the daemons shown below serve the four major Chaos Gods- Khorne, Nurgle, Slaanesh and Tzeentch, although the Warhammer 40,000 Daemonhunters army includes special rules to allow their opponent to field generic daemons not listed below, but similar to those listed.
Greater Daemons are the ultimate expression of the might of the Chaos Gods. They normally appear as massive monsters of incredible power, sometimes able to fight an entire enemy army on their own. Some Greater Daemons have shown a degree of personality and free will, notably one from Warhammer 40,000 named M'kachen, a Lord of Change of Tzeentch. The Greater Daemons of the other three major Chaos Gods are the Bloodthirster of Khorne, the Great Unclean One of Nurgle, and the Keeper of Secrets of Slaanesh. Except for the Bloodthirster, all of the Greater Daemons are also powerful sorcerers in either game setting.
In the Warhammer 40,000 universe, a Greater Daemon cannot easily maintain its great form in the physical universe, and must possess a Chaos worshipper's body, normally a Chaos Space Marine, in order to keep from returning to the warp. Once it has possessed the Chaos Marine's body (which is known as a Daemonvessel or sometimes as a Daemonhost), it takes full control of the body, and is able to reform the flesh in order to take on an appearance the daemon finds suitable. If the Daemonvessel's body is killed before the possession process is complete, the Greater Daemon will still be able to possess the body, but will have great difficulty maintaining itself in the corpse it is inhabiting.
Though each of the Chaos Gods have their own Greater Daemons who serve their will, there also exists countless others who do not belong to a particular god. Each god also has a champion Greater Daemon, who are much larger and more powerful than their lesser brethren.
Lesser Daemons are the most common types of daemons that can be encountered, the rank-and-file troopers of the Chaos Gods. They are generally sized similarly to a man, but not in form; they tend to have a monstrous appearance, which will reflect the nature of their god (for example, Khorne's frenzied daemons are normally blood-red, heavily armoured, and wield powerful axes or swords; meanwhile, Tzeench's horrors are misshapen with randomly protruding limbs). They are considerably less powerful than their Greater counterparts. Examples include the Bloodletters of Khorne, the Daemonettes of Slaanesh, the Plaguebearers of Nurgle, and the Horrors of Tzeentch.
These include more animal-like daemons. Some are used as hunting beasts by the followers of Chaos (or even the Chaos Gods themselves), and can be brought to the battlefield, where they can move quickly across the battlefield to engage their foes. These include the Fleshhounds of Khorne, the Screamers of Tzeentch, the Fiends of Slaanesh, and the Beasts of Nurgle. Also of note, there exist daemons which do not belong to a particular god; these feral, gargoyle-like beasts are known as Furies.
Each god can have other daemons that do not fit the above profiles. These include minor daemons like Nurglings (of Nurgle), or cavalry-like Seekers of Slaanesh (daemonettes mounted on daemonic steeds). Some Chaos Gods also have their own particular type of mount that they can grant their worshippers; these include the Juggernaut of Khorne, the Disc of Tzeentch, and the Steed of Slaanesh or " Chariots".
Special Relationships with Mortals
Mortal worshippers of the Chaos Gods can interact with daemons in ways other than simply fighting alongside them.
Possessed Chaos Space Marines
In Warhammer 40,000, some Chaos Space Marines willingly allow daemons to inhabit their bodies. Rather than the daemon completely taking control, as in the case of a Greater Daemon, these lesser daemons form an amalgam of Marine and daemon commonly referred to as a Possessed Chaos Space Marine, or simply Possessed. Possessed are potent warriors, combining the abilities of a Chaos Marine with the mystical powers of a daemon.
Closely related to Possessed are Obliterators, which are mysterious, warped Chaos Marines. They have become an amalgam of Chaos Marine, daemon and heavy armor, and bear the ability to transform their bodies to form powerful weapons, making them walking gun platforms. Obliterators have their own cult, with which the Iron Warriors have a special connection. It is now known, from the latest codex, that the obliterators were once the techmarines of the traitor legions.
- In the Warhammer 40k game Dawn of War: Dark Crusade, the Daemonkin Obliterator, an honor guard for the chaos commander, is referenced as being favored by the daemons of Sicarus. According to the history of the Word Bearers, Sicarus is a daemon world.
Some daemons can be forced into servitude by being imprisoned inside a weapon; these mighty weapons are thus called Daemon Weapons. Daemon Weapons are extremely rare, but also very powerful, often able to tear apart reality, shoot powerful sorcerous bolts of energy, grant the wielder extraordinary physical attributes, or perform other such unnatural feats. A Chaos warrior must exercise great caution with these weapons, however, as the imprisoned daemon will often try to rebel against his master, and attempt to devour the wielder's soul.
Chaos Spawn and Daemon Princes
As a mortal worshipper grows powerful with his many victories, his patron god will sometimes reward him with "gifts"; by the same token, with each failure the god could also curse him with the same "gifts". However, the gods of chaos are notoriously fickle and often they bestow their gifts without rhyme or reason. These gifts can include mutations (such as extra arms, tougher skin, wings or the ability to shoot fire from his hands), equipment (such as exotic weapons or powerful armor), or even daemonic followers (such as the aforementioned cavalry mounts). With each gift, the warrior becomes partly daemonic himself, being tied more and more to his god.
As the warrior continues to distinguish himself, and his god's desires, the warrior will continue to receive gifts. These gifts can grant the receiver untold powers that will make him more powerful than any Greater Daemon. As the warrior attains more and more gifts, these gifts can lead him to one of two fates:
- If the warrior receives too many gifts and is unable to endure any more, he can become a Chaos Spawn (also known as a "Spawn of Chaos" in Warhammer Fantasy); alternatively, a Spawn could simply be a warrior who has spent too much time in contact with the warping power of Chaos, and has mutated without direct action by a Chaos God. Some particularly powerful Sorcerers in Warhammer 40,000 have the ability to grant this dubious "gift" to a foe, instantly mutating them into a Spawn. A Spawn is a wildly mutated beast (meaning it can take many different forms), and is generally insane or non-sentient, living the remainder of its existence at the whim of its god or its fellow warriors.
- A particularly successful warrior of Chaos who is able to withstand the "gifts" of his god can eventually become an exalted Daemon Prince. A Daemon Prince is among the most powerful beings that can be found on the battlefields of Warhammer 40,000 or Warhammer Fantasy, some of them rivaling or even surpassing Greater Daemons. They are frequently massive in size (much larger than a man and at least 10 feet in height), are very skilled warriors with the experience of hundreds of campaigns, and have many powerful daemonic abilities. Also the daemon can use abilities such as daemon roar which has the ability to scare enemies away.
In Warhammer Fantasy, a powerful warrior may be given the gift of possession by a daemon. As with the Possessed Chaos Space Marines, this grants him extraordinary power; but, because the daemon must expend a great deal of energy maintaining its presence within the warrior, the Exalted Daemon is not quite as powerful as a Daemon Prince. Like a Prince, the daemonic nature of the Exalted Daemon can render it vulnerable to anti-daemon weapons and powers, despite the mortal body.
In Warhammer 40,000, some especially radical Inquisitors of the Ordo Malleus believe that one of the best ways to defeat the Chaos Gods is to turn their own followers against them. To this end, they will force a daemon into possessing a human body, and, using powerful psychic spells, rituals and charms, bind it to the Inquisitor's will. These enslaved daemons are called daemonhosts, and they are sometimes brought to the battlefield, where they use powerful daemonic abilities to destroy the Inquisitor's foes. However, such Inquisitors are seen as dangerous heretics by their more conservative brethren, and sometimes find themselves being hunted as though they were traitorous heretics themselves.
Cultists and Chaos Sorcerers will perform exactly the same ritual, albeit for a different purpose, in order to have daemons that are able to maintain a physical form, but still possess many of the strengths of a daemon. Certain Chaos Space Marines, notably Abbadon, will bind his daemons in such a way so that they possess little free will.
Even in the arcane archives of the inquisition, the knowledge to create these creatures has been lost requiring the use of chaos tainted grimoires to accomplish the same ends which in some cases has been hinted to be the root cause of the radicalism of some of the offending inquisitors. Gregor Eisenhorn, for example, obtained the knowledge in a highly destructive book known as the Malus Codicium which appeared to possess an element of free will attempting to escape him or corrupt him on several occasions. The followers of chaos appear to be able to obtain the required information from the creatures of the warp, which is rather unusual as they perceive being bound in a host as a form of slavery.
Daemon Engines and Possessed Vehicles
Daemon Engines are similar in nature to Daemon Weapons; they are special tank-like machines which are forged in the realm of the Dark Gods, and controlled by an imprisoned daemon. They frequently carry powerful cannons which make them useful in sieges. The most common type of daemon engine is the Defiler of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, a large spider-like machine mounting the battlecannon typical of Imperial Guard tanks. Another example is the Hellcannon from Warhammer Fantasy, a barely controllable, part daemon, part machine creation, crewed by the Chaos Dwarfs.
It would seem, from the model of the Soul Grinder, that the daemon controlling a Daemon Engine can sometimes break free. This causes a strange combination of warp flesh and machine.
Similar to these are daemonically possessed vehicles in Warhammer 40,000, which are normal tanks and other vehicles which are sealed and a daemon is imprisoned within, allowing it to control the vehicle; this is advantageous because the daemon, unlike a normal crew, cannot be killed or stunned by enemy attacks. The difference between a possessed vehicle and a daemon engine is in the crafting - a possessed vehicle has already been built when the daemon is imprisoned; a daemon engine has the daemon imprisoned as part of the vehicle's creation. Possession also comes in two forms: a normal daemon possession like that of a Possessed Marine, and a possession that is more akin to a parasite. Where the former receives direct control of the vehicle the latter will become the vehicle. With a Parasitic possession the vehicle becomes a living being, able to regenerate lost armaments or treads just as a living creature regenerates a wound.
- Warhammer Armies: Daemons of Chaos
- Warhammer Armies: Daemons of Chaos
- Warhammer Armies: Daemons of Chaos
- Warhammer Armies: Daemons of Chaos
- Thorpe, Gavin; Priestley, Rick; Reynolds, Anthony; Alessio Cavatore (2002). Warhammer Armies: Hordes of Chaos (1st ed.). Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-84154-222-9. Search this book on
- Chambers, Andy; Haines, Pete; Hoare, Andy; Kelly, Phil & McNeill, Graham (2002). Warhammer 40,000 Codex: Chaos Space Marines (2nd ed.). Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-84154-322-5. Search this book on
- Chambers, Andy; Kelly, Andy; McNeill, Graham (2003). Warhammer 40,000 Codex: Daemonhunters (1st ed.). Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-84154-361-6. Search this book on
- Archaon's Horde army list, retrieved from this site 27 August 2006
- Ward, Mat (2007). Warhammer Armies: Daemons of Chaos (7th ed.). Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 978-1-84154-883-8. Search this book on
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