Chaos refers to the energy which exists in an immaterial parallel universe, or alternate reality, known as the "Realm of Chaos". The Realm of Chaos is an endless sea of energy - energy which is the raw matter of the Chaos Gods, as well as of all magic.
The greatest individual manifestation of Chaos are the Chaos Gods, creatures of unimaginable power and resources. They are manifestations in the Realm of Chaos of collective character traits, formed from common beliefs and emotions. Unlike the raw energy of Chaos, which is mindless, unthinking and undirected by intelligent purpose, the Chaos Gods have achieved intelligence, personality and purpose.
Chaos is a seductive force. Those who embrace it find themselves increasingly corrupted by it, both spiritually and physically.
History of Chaos in the Warhammer world
Chaos first entered the world upon the collapse of the polar warp gates of the Old Ones. The matter which flooded into the world from the Realm of Chaos was the solidified Chaos known as warpstone. In the form of dust it rained down upon the world, warping many species into monstrous new forms, as well as leaving a far more subtle and insidious mark upon other races.
At the moment of the collapse, the polar areas of the world were engulfed by the flood of Chaos. This created the seething regions of unnatural darkness known as the Chaos Wastes, where Chaos overlaps upon the material world, creating zones of dimensional instability. These zones continue to act as uncontrollable gateways between the world and the dimension of Chaos.
The northern zone ebbs and flows, expanding as it becomes more active, and causing widespread upheaval among the creatures and forces of Chaos to the north, which are driven south towards the Old World. These times are known as Incursions of Chaos.
The worst incident in recent history was the great Incursion of Chaos 200 years ago, when the Chaos hordes burst forth from the Chaos Wastes upon Kislev.
The pantheon of Chaos
The Four Great Powers of Chaos
The most powerful of the Chaos entities are those known as the Chaos Gods, also sometimes referred to as the "Dark Gods" or the "Ruinous Powers". These entities are described as being enormously powerful, and seeking to extend that power into the realm of mortals. They do this by attracting followers amongst mortals by promising power, wealth, immortality or whatever else the potential servant desires. The gods are typically capricious, selfish and vain, demanding absolute loyalty from their servants and rewarding deeds when they wish, in whatever ways they deem appropriate.
There are many Lesser Powers, but only four Great ones:
- Khorne - god of hate, rage, and bloodshed
- Slaanesh - god of decadence, excess, pleasure and self-indulgence
- Tzeentch - god of change, manipulation, scheming, deception, and sorcery
- Nurgle - god of decay, despair, and disease
Each of the four Great Powers has its own opposite number, another Chaos God who draws its power from a diametrically opposing concept. The most dedicated worshippers have devoted their souls to the Chaos Gods in hopes of gaining power only Chaos can grant. These Champions are marked by their patron, and as they progress on their path gain mutations which increasingly reshapes them more closely to the god's favored image.
Other Chaos Gods
Besides the Four Great Powers, there exists a multitude of lesser Chaos gods. It is impossible to say whether this apparent multitude are actually distinct entities, or whether they are no more than aspects of the same being. Many are minor gods with very little background material, such as Khakkekk (goblin god of blood), Atagro (god of beasts), Meneloth (elven god of pleasure), and Mermedus (god of the sea).
The lesser Chaos gods who have been mentioned are below.
- Be'lakor - also known as The Dark Master, Be'lakor was once a mighty champion of the Dark Gods, but he fell from grace and was stripped of his power. He is now considered a Daemon Prince, but has attempted to attain godhood. His power is such that he can grant his followers "Dark Emissaries" magic spells similar to other gods.
- Hashut - Hashut, the Father of Darkness, is the god of the Chaos Dwarfs.
- The Horned Rat - the Horned Rat is the god of the Skaven. He embodies decay, and by extension anything that furthers the process of decay, most notably, disease, pestilence, rats, and other characteristics of the Skaven race.
- Malal - the renegade god, enemy of the Chaos gods.
- Necoho - a renegade minor god known as the "Doubter", representing aspects of agnosticism and atheism.
- Zuvassin - a renegade minor god known as the "Great Undoer", representing a desire to foil the efforts of others.
In addition to the individual gods, some followers of the Dark Gods worship Chaos in other ways. Some followers worship the gods as a pantheon rather than following one particular god. Other followers worship Chaos as a single great entity, with the various Chaos Gods simply manifestations of that entity's aspects. Still others may simply follow one god briefly and then switch allegiance to another, owing more to convenience than actual faith. Regardless of the nature of their worship, all of these are grouped together as Chaos Undivided; followers of Chaos Undivided may bear a mark, similar to the followers of the four great gods.
Generals who bear the mark of Chaos Undivided, have more freedom from the effects of the difficult relations between the Chaos Gods. As an example, while warriors who worship Slaanesh would not serve a general who worships Khorne, an Undivided general can convince these gods' warriors to fight for him, without fear of reprisal from Khorne or Slaanesh.
Also, other more specialized forms of the mark of Chaos Undivided exist which are usually carried by extraordinary leaders. For example, Archaon is marked as the "Everchosen" or the "Lord of the End Times".
The forces of Chaos
Although Chaos is firmly entrenched within the heart of every nation of the Old World, working to gradually bring about the collapse of human order from within, there are also external forces which represent the more direct threats of Chaos, the kind faced on the battlefield. There are several facets of the external Chaos enemy:
- Beastmen - the bestial creatures of Chaos, which include all forms of hybrid creatures.
- Chaos Dwarfs - corrupted Dwarfs who serve the god Hashut
- Daemons - the daemons of the Realm of Chaos who are the most direct servants of Chaos.
- Warriors of Chaos - the marauding hordes of the Northmen barbarians of the Chaos Wastes, born to the worship of Chaos.
- Skaven - a race which appears to be a cross between men and rats, serving their own Chaos God, the Horned Rat.
- Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness
- Realm of Chaos: The Lost and the Damned