The Skaven are a race of humanoid rat-men, who inhabit the caves, tunnels, mines, and sewers of the Warhammer world. They control a vast Under-Empire which reaches from the Southlands to Kislev and from Estalia to the Far East.
The god of the Skaven is the Horned Rat, whose high priests form the Council of Thirteen. The direct agents of the Council are an order called the Grey Seers. Most of Skaven society is organised into innumerable clans, all of which are ruled by the Council. The four Great clans mercilessly dominate the weaker Warlord clans.
Skaven are usually around four to five feet tall when they stand up straight, although the largest can reach six feet tall. Fur covers their bodies except for their ears, muzzles, hands and fleshy rat tails.1 p6
Fur colour indicates a Skaven's role in society. Most Skaven are brown or piebald. White or grey is rare and indicates leadership, intelligence and especially sorcerous ability. Those with black or dark brown fur tend to be the largest and the colour is considered the mark of a born killer, and most dark furred Skaven become elite warriors or assassins.1 p34
Skaven are twitchy, agitated creatures. Their metabolism allows them to burn energy at an incredible rate, boosting their agility and speed to unnatural levels. This effect also gives them an enormous hunger, which after heavy exertion can be so bad that the Skaven visibly weakens and dies. As a result the Skaven will feast on the dead of either side after a battle.1 p6
Female Skaven are rare and, at most, semi-intelligent but are capable of giving birth to huge litters very frequently. This means that the Skaven are probably the most numerous of all races.1 p6
|All decent folk find the common rat repulsive. Harbinger of disease, it scavenges on our waste-heaps and frightens our children. how immeasurably worse is the foul Skaven - standing on its hindlegs in foul parody of a human. Rats as tall as man, and blessed with the most vile intellect and cunning. They are the dark side of our soul, come to destroy us for our sins.|
Albrecht of Nuln
Little is known about the origins of the Skaven race. However, it is probable that they were created in the ancient city of Kavzar by a mysterious stranger who completed the unfinished temple of the gods and hung a great horned bell from the top of the tower. As the bell rang for the thirteenth time lightning lit up the sky and dark storm clouds gathered. As the weeks went on the rain never stopped and the vermin of the city grew bigger and bolder until they overwhelmed the inhabitants of the city.1 p16-17
Over the next two hundred and eighty years or so the newly born Skaven race grew rapidly. There was pressure to expand the tunnels under the city, as the surface world was too dangerous for the Skaven. Eventually they began work on a huge device that they thought would open up large rifts beneath the ground for the Skaven to inhabit. Unfortunately for them the great warpstone-powered machine failed catastrophically - releasing huge waves of magical energy across the globe. The Worlds Edge Mountains - still recovering after the Great Realignment of the Slann - were hit hardest. Tunnels opened up beneath the Dwarf holds through which lava from deep beneath the earth spilled up.1 p18
Back in Skavenblight, as Kavzar had been renamed, only a single building remained undamaged. The doors of the Temple of the Great Horned Rat opened and twelve grey-clad ratmen emerged. They called themselves the Lords of Decay and said that they were to lead the Skaven out of Skavenblight. The Skaven were divided into twelve groups, each of which set out to expand the Under-Empire. This is called the Great Migration1 p18
The rest of Skaven history is larger divided into the various wars it fought with other races or with itself. The most important of these are:
- The Goblin Wars - The time when the Dwarf realm was surrounded on all sides by the Skaven and the greenskins.1 p26-27
- The War of Cripple Peak - The war between the Skaven and Nagash.1 p20-21
- The Rat and The Serpent - The war in Lustria between Clan Pestilens and the Lizardmen.1 p22
- The First Skaven Civil War - Clan Pestilens returns to the Old World and demands a seat on the Council of Thirteen.1 p22-23
- The Black Plague and the Skaven Wars - The Skaven unleash plague on the Empire and then launch a full scale invasion. 1 p23-24
- The Red Pox - The Skaven try the same thing on Bretonnia.1 p24
- The Second Skaven Civil War - Clan Pestilens tries to seize control of the Council, prompting a three way civil war.1 p25
- The Battle of Nuln - Grey Seer Thanquol launches an invasion of Nuln.1 p28
- The Battle at the Gates of Calith - The Skaven launch their first major attack against the High Elves to date.1 p29
The Skaven are ruled by the Council of Thirteen, an assembly of their most powerful leaders, tested and approved by the Horned Rat. The council forever tries to impose its rule over the rebellious Skaven clans, often resorting to threats, terror, assassination and brutal punishment.
Skaven society is divided into thousands of different clans, all of which are subject to the authority of the Council. There are four powerful clans, known as the Great clans, which dominate the countless weaker Warlord clans.
The Great clans are highly specialised and have become an established part of the greater hierarchy of Skavendom. The Warlord clans, innumerable and expendable, also have a role in the greater scheme of things. The Clanrats of the Warlord clans make up most of the warriors in the armies of the Skaven, with the Great Clans lending their specialised support.
Warlord clans have a definite hierarchy, although the positions are in no way fixed. Skaven advance as far as their cunning, ruthlessness, treachery, ambition and strength take them. Skaven within the Clan constantly struggle to ascend as well as to defend their positions from would-be usurpers. At the very peak of each Clan is the Warlord. In some of the larger clans there will then be a second rank of lesser Warlords. The next level is formed by the Chieftains, followed by a warrior class composed of Clanrats and the elite Stormvermin. At the very bottom of Skaven society are the teeming masses of the Skavenslaves.
|Skaven society is a tyranny moderated by assassination.|
Bagrian, Master of La Masiontaal 
Skaven society is a lawless world where the strongest and most cunning rise to the top, while the weakest are eaten or enslaved. Every Skaven is constantly fighting for supremacy, whether to advance, or to defend his position from would-be usurpers. Fights are usually not to the death, but any Skaven who is maimed will quickly be dispatched by the victor. Treachery is not seen as dishonourable in any way, indeed it is the traditional way of advancing in Skaven society.1 p7
The god of the Skaven is the Horned Rat. Its sacred number is thirteen, and so thirteen is an important number is Skaven society. For example, there are 169 Grey Seers (13 × 13). Vermin Lords are Daemons of the Horned Rat, and can be summoned by a Grey Seer. This is often used as a threat to unruly Warlords, although no Grey Seer would dare to summon a Vermin Lord unless they absolutely had to.1 p40-41
By order of the Council of Thirteen, the study of magic is restricted only to the Grey Seers and the Warlock Engineers of Clan Skryre.1 p20 The Plague Priests of Clan Pestilens also have terrible powers of plague that are akin to magic but are gained through different methods.1 p45 Both Grey Seers and Warlock Engineers can can unleash Spells of Ruin, and both Grey Seers and Plague Priests can unleash Spells of Plague, but only Grey Seers can summon the Dreaded Thirteenth Spell.1 p78-79
It is rare for a single clan to go to war. More often a Skaven army will contain many different clans temporarily allied together to achieve some unknown goal. The core of the army will be a sea of Clanrats and Skavenslaves. Which specialist troops the army has depends on what deals the Warlord has done with the Great Clans. For example, if the Warlord got a good deal with Clan Moulder there will be a large number of Giant Rats and Rat Ogres. On the other hand, if the Warlord has made an alliance with Clan Skryre he will have many Weapon Teams to support his Clanrats and Stormvermin.1 p8-9
Skaven technology is heavily warpstone-based. Virtually everything they create has at least a tiny piece of warpstone in to increase its potency and deadliness.
The majority of Skaven weapons are developed by Clan Skryre. The Warlock Engineers of Clan Skryre create infernal engines of destruction, and then bind magically energy to the machine to increase its potency and destructiveness. Some of the most feared and deadly weapons created by Clan Skryre are the Warp-lightning Cannon and the Warplock Jezzails.1 p8
The Skaven of Clan Moulder are expert at breeding and mutating other living beings to create the perfect killing creature. Their Master Moulders create unnatural creatures to sell to other Clans. Some of the more infamous creations of Clan Moulder are the Hell Pit Abomination and the hulking Rat Ogres.1 p8
Notes & sources
- ↑ Warhammer Armies: Skaven (4th Edition) p.11 - Warhammer Armies: Skaven (7th Edition) p.7
- ↑ Warhammer Armies: Skaven (4th Edition) p.9 - Warhammer Armies: Skaven (7th Edition) p.114
- 1 Warhammer Armies: Skaven (7th Edition) p6 p7 p8 p11 p16 p17 p20 p21 p22 p23 p24 p25 p26 p27 p28 p29 p34 p40 p41 p45 p78 p79