Hive World Terra

The Warp

Warning: This definition may contain spoilers from any number of Games Workshop novels or source books.

The Warp: Here was the domain which glued the Imperium together since ships could slip through it to distant stars within days…yet here too was the…infinite region where powers of Chaos achieved a twisted consciousness and a purpose that was anathema to all that was real and true. Ian Watson, Inquisitor.

That is the duality of the Warp; the other dimension through which Imperial, Ork, Eldar, Tau and even Tyranid starships travel when they cross interstellar distances. At once it is both a lifeline for the Imperium of Man, enabling merchant craft and Imperial Fleet patrols to reach far-flung systems in days rather than centuries, and a deadly enemy; for it is the Warp which empowers and births daemons and wherein the Traitor Legions hide, free to raid Imperial space. The material universe is but one aspect of reality; the Warp is another.

The Warp co-exists with ‘real’ space. It is separate and immaterial, but underlies the real world so that travel within the Warp is travel within real space. Essentially the Warp is pure energy; carrying within it random thoughts, unfettered emotion and the memories and beliefs of all who travel within in it. The Warp is unstable, and has its own eddies, currents and storms. Warpstorms have been known to knock ships off course, cripple their engines and fling them thousands of light years of course. The Warp can have a deleterious effect on biological and inorganic materials alike; prolonged exposure to its energies causes mutation and well, warping of the original shape. The Traitor Marines who have lived in the Eye of Terror for so long have been rendered virtually unrecognisable in some cases. Imperial scholars have likened the Warp to the Universes collective sub-conscious; a simplistic but convenient analogy. Due to this psychic nature, the Warp is especially sensitive to, and dangerous for, psykers. Psykers manifest in the Warp from real-space, displaying a ‘psychic light’ which draws Warp entities like moths to flame. The Warp is reactive to emotion, and the turmoil of a young psychic’s mind is quite potent enough to affect the Warp without the psyker himself without crossing any dimensional barrier.

This principle enables the Astronomican to function: the beacon is visible in the Warp as psychic energy. The vast outpouring of emotion and belief inherent in the Chosen’s sacrifices ensures that the Astronomican is one of brightest lights in the Warp. It also assists Astropaths in the transmission of their psychic messages; the more emotion attached to a message, the greater distance it can be sent before having to be re-broadcast. Jaq Draco’s exterminatus order, for example, carrying the emotion of authorising the destruction of an entire planet bears a particularly high resonance, as Moma Parsheen observes.

The same principle necessitates special precautions during Warp travel. All Imperial ships have shields to absorb physical damage, but they must also have psychic shields to protect them from the Warp. Without these, daemons and other warp entities might be able to feed on the psychic and emotional emanations from the crew and passengers, and manifest physically within the ship itself. The Tormentum Malorum, for example, has particularly heavy warp-shields. It can be presumed that military and other Inquisition vessels have similar levels of protection. Ships travelling in the warp with less sturdy protections might actually encounter auditory manifestations of the Warp’s denizens: claws along the hull, ghostly voices and the like. When Jaq and his companions encounter the Ordo Hydra, the Ordo have employed especially heavy psychic shielding to protect their temporary base, for it exists within the Warp itself.

It is possible for ships to become lost in the Warp, whether because their crew drifted off course, their engines failed or their shields failed or for other more mysterious reasons. These ships become the infamous space hulks – ghost ships, drifting through the Warp until they are disgorged by random chance or a warpstorm. They are often infested with Genestealers and Chaos forces of some form – frequently the degenerated remnants of their former crews, changed by their long exposure to the Warp.

Source: Draco by Ian Watson, White Dwarf: Issue 139 by various, White Dwarf: Issue 140 by various, Rogue Trader by various, Warhammer 40,000 3rd Edition Rulebook by various

Submitter: Simguinus