The skaven, also called the "skaventide," and the "ratmen," are true creatures of Chaos, a teeming species of mutant, humanoid rats with a megalomaniacal desire to rule over all. They are anarchic, conniving creatures, self-serving back-stabbers who proliferate in the dark corners of the Mortal Realms and beyond.
They are the chosen race of the Great Horned Rat, one of the five major Chaos Gods, who sees their ascendancy over all the other mortal races of the realms as the key to its own triumph over the other Ruinous Powers in the Great Game played between them for influence and power.
In the last days of the World-That-Was, a fifth deity rose to join the dark pantheon of the major Chaos Gods. The Great Horned Rat was the pestilential father of the skaven, that teeming race of ratmen that had long gnawed at the roots of mortal civilisation. As the mortal world died, so the skaven feasted upon its corpse in numbers beyond count, before being annihilated in turn by the final victory of Chaos.
Yet this was not the end for the children of the Great Horned Rat. Empowered as never before, the skaven deity snatched clawfuls of his screeching brood and saved them from final destruction. Then, skittering through the shadows of the void with eyes a-glow, he scattered them into the darkest corners of the newborn Mortal Realms and bade them multiply and conquer the new realities. Such is the myth that persists amongst the skaven to this day, and such is their singular goal.
Throughout the Age of Myth the skaven burrowed, built and multiplied. From their verminous metropolis, Blight City, they gnawed tunnels through the void into every realm. Emboldened by the coming of the Age of Chaos, skaventides burst forth in terrifying numbers, bringing horror and ruin to all they touched. They enslaved and murdered, consuming all before them in their maniacal quest for power with never a thought to the price.
Now, with the dawning of the Age of Sigmar and the onset of the Soul Wars, the races of the realms battle like never before. For the skaven it is a time of plenty as they fall upon the weakened victorious and the bloodied defeated alike, leaving naught but bones and wreckage in their wake...
Scuttling through the shadows, the skaven infest the Mortal Realms in numbers so great that – were they known – they would drive the other races to madness and despair. In foetid tunnels and war-torn ruins, amidst shadowed forests and beneath crumbling peaks, the skaven multiply by the day.
As ingenious as they are cowardly and spiteful, the deranged ratmen tamper with the very fabric of reality. They concoct monstrous plagues and invent appalling weapons of war, gnawing tunnels through the roots of the realms to spy and slaughter where they please. Every skaven holds the unshakeable conviction that he is a genius, born to lead the swarming armies of conquest to war – from an honoured position at the rear, of course.
This maniacal desire for power stems from the skaven deity, the Great Horned Rat. skaven legend tells that, during the last days of the World That Was, he became so powerful that the gods of Chaos themselves were compelled to admit the Horned Rat to their ranks. Thus was he able to spread his children across the Mortal Realms, and though the other Dark Gods see this newcomer as little more than an amusing distraction, the rat-god plans to prove them wrong.
The verminous empires of the skaven have grown great during the dominion of Chaos, and the Horned Rat’s children see much. Each day they lay new plans for conquest and domination, and it may be that before long, the Horned Rat will provide his mocking allies with a terrible surprise.
The history of the skaven is an anarchic tangle of lies, half-truths and exaggerations in which every ratman believes himself the hero and all others fools. From epic events to distorted fiction, all skaven seek to claim responsibility for their race's victories.
Age of Myth
- The First Clans - At the dawning of the Age of Myth, the Great Horned Rat slinks from the shadows of the void. In his jaws he holds the first skaven, saved from the destruction of the World-That-Was, and these he scatters throughout the darkest corners of the Mortal Realms. These skaven form the first Great Clans, and it is claimed that as many as thirteen were released into the realms, along with the Grey Seers, the chosen mage-priests of the Great Horned Rat who would guide them. The Great Horned Rat charges his myriad children to multiply, to consume and to ruin other mortal civilisations, and they do so with frenzied vigour.
- Blight City Founded - Even while Sigmar is still forming his pantheon, the skaven establish Blight City in a twisted sub-realm lodged like a splinter in the void. Legends differ as to how this occurs. Some say that it is the ruin of a former mighty skaven metropolis, its carcass fetched up upon a vast deposit of Warpstone like a wrecked ship impaled upon rocks. Others claim that it begins as a proud city of men and duardin known as Kavzar, that falls prey to the Horned Rat's terrible curse. Every Great Clan proclaims that they, and they alone, founded Blight City, though of course the truth of such assertions will never be known.
- Gnawing Doom - By the teachings of the Verminlords, the skaven gain the ability to create Gnawholes. Each Great Clan is quick to take these incantations and arcane secrets and twist them in their own fashion, eagerly "improving" upon what they have been taught as is the skaven way. From this day onwards, reality will become ever more honeycombed with the winding tunnels of the skaven.
- Tichritt's Demise - The Clans Tichritt, one of the twelve Great Clans that exist at this time, gather their entire strength and launch a vast invasion of Thandria. So confident are they in their superiority of numbers and the power of their chronomantic weapons that they openly defy Sigmar and his allies. Though more than half of the so-called Endless Kingdom is annihilated by the efforts of the Clans Tichritt, the God-King and his allies crush the skaven and purge them from existence. The eleven Great Clans that remain learn a seminal lesson of caution from the demise of their arrogant cousins.
Age of Chaos
- Rats in the Walls - During the early invasions of the Age of Chaos, several Slinktalons from Eshin Clan Nichtus aid in the attack upon the immense fortress of Obstryx. Creeping through the fortress' defences while the legions of Slaanesh batter away from outside, the Eshin operatives slay sentries, evade patrols and lace a mile-long section of the walls with gnawbombs. The resultant implosive blast gouges a mighty breach through which the howling Slaaneshi hosts pour to victory. It is a triumph their leader, Prince Sylacitous, never gets to see. He falls to the strike of a Verminlord Deceiver in the last moments before the Eshin operatives vanish without trace, their sudden breaking of faith remaining inexplicable to their former allies.
- Paradise Rots - As the Age of Chaos begins, Verminlord Corruptor Vermalanx leads a coven of thirteen ancient Plague Priests in a hideous ritual within the Vitreous Vale. Reality itself rots away before their foul magics, spilling raw Chaos into that ancient and beautiful Sylvaneth greenhold.
- The Great Civil War - The bastions of Order fall on every front. As the hordes of Chaos wreak havoc and ruin across the Mortal Realms, the Under-Empire grows fat upon the spoils. Two Great Clans, warlike Verminus and savage Ikk, make the greatest gains during this period, at one point holding an unimaginable four seats each upon the Council of Thirteen. Civil war is inevitable as the two Great Clans vie to seize absolute power, and the remaining seven Great Clans hasten to ally themselves with one side or the other while- in truth -plotting to bring down both. For twenty-six years the war rages, leaving swathes of Blight City ablaze and costing the skaven terribly in lives and territory. At last, the Clans Verminus enlist the aid of the Clans Pestilens to spread the frothjaw plague through the Clans Ikk, turning their animal ferocity into something uncontrollable and, ultimately, lethal. Over the next two years, the devolving abominations that were once the Clans Ikk run amok through skavendom, but eventually they are annihilated. Their demise leaves a power vacuum and, though the Clans Verminus ostensibly emerge from the civil war as victors, still the conflict rages on.
- War of Life- While much of skavendom fritter away more than two decades locked in a war of mutual annihilation, many of the Clans Pestilens instead turn their attentions to Ghyran and the War of Life. Virulent Processions pour across the Jade Kingdoms, billions of Plague Monks lending their frenzied fury to Nurgle's onslaught against Alarielle and her Sylvaneth. The Clans Feesik, Morbidus and Septik all gain great power from this ongoing conflict, their sub-sects and thrall clans multiplying again and again to infest ever more of the Realm of Life.
- Parasite Engines- A Verminlord Warbringer known as Gnawsoul triggers the invasion of the Scabrous Sprawl in Ghyran. Arch-Warlock Warpskreech leads the attack, unleashing city-sized walking fortresses known as parasite engines that leech the vitality of the lands. This entire invasion, which causes untold devastation and comes with a monstrous cost in lives, is in fact a bid by the Clans Skryre to undermine Pestilens' monopoly in Ghyran while accruing more might for their own ongoing efforts in the Great Civil War.
- Verminking's Decree- Skreech Verminking comes forth to find the Masterburrow itself shuddering in the grip of civil war. Unleashing a horrific curse that blasts the warring clawpacks to ash, he settles himself upon the warpstone throne and glowers at the terrified Lords of Decay. The Great Horned Rat has been amused by his children's squabbles, says Verminking, but now the Great Civil War must end. The other Chaos Gods have waxed in power during the Age of Chaos but the skaven deity has lagged behind as his servants have fought amongst themselves. Skreech demands that the six surviving Great Clans follow the guidance of the Masterclan from this day forth, and strike not at one another but at the remaining bastions of Order and the servants of the other Dark Gods alike. To ensure obedience, he reduces Arch-Warlock Snitterkrit, Great Plague-speaker Ebolox, Grand Clawlord Thrakk, Things-twister Rukhtik, Lieweaver Yrkrit and Shadowmaster Pheng to sloughing rot and bubbling slime with a twitch of his tail. The surviving Lords of Decay, and those who seize the thrones of the slain, scurry to obey Lord Verminking's decree.
- Into the Beyond- As though at some silent call, the Clans Shrykt gather in Aqshy, in the howling caverns. There they dig an almighty gnawhole. They vanish into its depths clan by clan until at last it collapses behind them. No further sign of the Clans Shrykt has been seen since this day, and no skaven has ever determined where they went, nor why.
- Watching Eyes- Barricaded within the Realm of Heavens, hidden behind the most powerful occluding magics ever conjured, Sigmar gathers his Stormcast Eternals. He prepares to unleash a war that will drive back the forces of Chaos and shake the Mortal Realms to their core. Even mighty Tzeentch, the Chaos God of Fate, does not suspect the nature nor the scale of Sigmar's plans. Yet, eyes glinting in the deepest shadows of the God-King's throne room, Eshin operatives watch the final preparations. Quietly they slip away, bearing their priceless knowledge through a well-hidden gnawhole to warn their mysterious masters. The tide is about to turn. The forces of Chaos are about to suffer the greatest blow they have known in a thousand years. The skaven, surely, can capitalise upon this...
Age of Sigmar
- Splitfang's End - Clawlord Splitfang finally conquers a ruined duardin karak that he has long contested with Eshin Clan Stryk. Attributing the assassins' sudden retreat to them finally having recognized his absolute supremacy, Splitfang and his Clan Skrabb sweep through the fortress and make it theirs. Just days later, the sealed Realmgate atop the karak mountain blasts open and a force of Astral Templars storm forth. Clawlord Splitfang is slain by Lord-Celestant Proudhelm, Clan Skrabb are overwhelmed by this terrifying new foe and their ragged survivors are rounded up and dragged away into slavery by Clan Stryk's operatives.
- War in the Realms - All across the Mortal Realms, skaven clans have their schemes soured and their strongholds smashed by the onslaught of the Stormcast Eternals. In the Scabrous Sprawl, Arch-Warlock Warpskreech finds his parasite engines beseiged by the Knights Excelsior, the conflict becoming bloodier by the day. In Ghyran, Plague Priest Kratsik of the Red Boil and his Virulent Procession are overrun by a combined force of Slyvaneth and Hallowed Knights before they can unleash their rotsmog upon the Jade Kingdoms. The "lighting-things" are soon hated and feared in equal measure by many in skavendom. Yet there are those clans who receive forewarning, thanks in large part to favorable connections with one or other of the Clans Eshin, and who are able to melt away before the Stormcasts attack, or launch ambushes of their own.
- The Great Scrying - A message filters through the strata of skavendom, spreading from one Grey Seer to the next via farsqueakers, couriers, scuttleclaw envoys and other, weirder vectors. Travelling alone or else at the head of duped or manipulated swarms, the whole order of Grey Seers gathers in Hysh. Their gnawholes bring them to the echoing Chasm of Shattered Questions, where they abandon their bodyguards and surviving protectors and scurry on into the depths. As they do so, Verminlords unfold themselves from the shadows and follow them down, the threat of these fearsome rat demons more than enough to ward away even the most suicidally curious underling. For thirteen nights and thirteen days, the chasm glows with unholy green witchlights as the Masterclan meets in its entirety. When the Grey Seers emerge again they do so with fresh purpose buring in their eyes.
- Beasts of Uhlmarsh - Master Moulder Skabgut unleashes his Fleshmeld Menageria upon the defenders of Uhlmarsh. Wave upon wave of giant rats and rampaging Rat Ogors are driven back from the stockades by brave Freeguild soldiery. Then the ground within the fortress buckles, bulging upwards then collapsing into a slimy pit. Amidst the rising fumes and billowing smoke, a trio of ghastly Hell Pit Abominations surges up into the stronghold. The massacre that follows is horrific, and leaves Uhlmarsh nothing more than a gore-splattered shell.
- Buboe Wars- What begins as a rabid quarrel between two Plague Priests rapidly escalates into a full-blown civil war. Soon the Clans Septik, Virulox and their many sub-clans are tearing one another to pieces all through the fire-lit labyrinth of Pyropia. Virulox develop bizarre new plague engines with the aid of Skryre Clan Phrikk, while Septik seal clawpacts with the Clans Moulder. The war escalates by the day, spilling over into nearby Moonclan lurklairs as it does so.
- The Much-Great Sky-Kill Air Armada - Inspired by captured Kharadron technologies, Arch-Warlock Steelklaw begins a truly ambitious project. For almost two years, the laboratory burrows of Skryre Clan Shyvik glow with strange lights and swarm with furious industry. At last, the newly self-titled Warlock-Admiral Steelklaw launches his fleet of Skryre airships. Built around cannibalized Kharadron craft and the fevered designs that have poured from Steelklaw's mind, dozens of armored dirigibles, lightning-ships, warpfire barges and klawbombers take to the skies. Over the months that follow, the skaven sky-pirates of Steelklaw's Much-great Sky-kill Air Armada raid Barak-Zilfin and Barak-Mhornar, annihilate Waaagh! Gutcrusha with bombing from on high, and bring their upstart rivals of Skryre Clan Ziknak to their knees. It is not long before Steelklaw's plans are stolen, copied and spread far and wide, and further skaven armadas being to menace the skies.
- A fitting End - When wasting pox spreads through their war packs, Moulder Clan Ghrubbitus suffers a severe defeat in their underground war with the Fyreslayers of the Kharzmid lodge. Apoplectic, Master Moulder Skhorj employs torture, intimidation and parasitic spy-beasts to discover that the pox was introduced into his breeding stock by his hated rival, Pontifex-Pestilent Rhaspfang of Pestilens Clan Vomix. Shortly afterwards, Rhaspfang disappears amidst mysterious circumstances. He is never seen again, but when the swarms of Clan Ghrubbitus renew their assault on the Kharzmid's magamahold it is with an especially disease-bloated and horribly disfigured war beast thrashing and screaming at the forefront of their attack.
- Anvilheim Devoured - The Anvils of the Heldenhammer lead a war of reconquest that purges the Slaves to Darkness from the kingdom of Ulhor. Little do they know that, though the taint of Chaos may be gone from the surface, the skaven war burrow of Lurkspine Deeps remains below the surface. The ratmen bide their time, watching with avaricious eyes as the forces of Order raise a rich city- Anvilheim -above their tunnels. Thirteen years to the day after the first foundations of Anvilheim are laid, the skaventide pours up from below. Verminus Claw-hordes storm up through culverts and sewers to spill through the streets. Plague smog billows, gas-masked Skryre Acolytes dashing through it to hurl their poisonous bombs at the city's reeling defenders. The Anvils of the Heldenhammer, the Freeguilds and Ironweld, even the Order of Azyr all make spirited attempts to drive the skaven back, but they are surrounded, outnumbered and caught completely by surprise. When a coven of Grey Seers summons Skreech Verminking himself to lead the final assault, the defenders of Anvilheim are doomed.
- Death of a Hero - After eighteen years of courageous crusading, the aelven drakelord Sethril Brightblade returns to Azyrheim in triumph. He is feted through the streets for his generalship and personal heroism in the war to rid the jungles of Shasmodach of skaven. Brightblade has seen many horrors, endured much personal loss and agony, yet his is a tale of triumph and courage that is trumpeted to the skies by the Grand Assembly of Azyrheim. He is a poster-child for the war to reclaim the realms, and much beloved by all. The shock and horror is so much the greater, then, when Sethril Brightblade is found in the morning after his victory parade slumped dead in a chair in his locked quarters atop the high and well-guarded Tower of Triumphs. Brightblade is eyeless, his veins clotted black with poison, the rune of the Clans Eshin carved into his chest and a look of abject horror twisting his features.
- Stormthieves - Grey Seer Kritch enlist the aid of Skryre Clan Shokryk for a secretive project. Utilizing rumbling, tracked voltovore engines, the skaven attempt to snatch departing Stormcast souls from the air during battle and trap them in Kritch's so-called 'storm-thing snatcher'. Initial experiments prove disastrous when the Celestial Vindicators of Lord-Exorcist Esmodire slaughter Kritch's hireling Clanrats and the only soul drawn into a voltovore engine overloads it and blows it sky-high before flashing back to the Heavens. Yet Kritch and his warlock followers are unperturbed and- chalking their failure up to incompetent underlings -they begin construction on new, more powerful engines that they are sure will do the job.
- Inevitable Vengeance - Several chambers of Stormcast Eternals purge Rotstump Warren in the Jade Kingdom of Veridian. Outraged at the damage done to his web of plots, the Verminlord Corruptor Pestifrious vows vengeance upon those who led the attack. The demon stalks his prey, spending untold skaven lives to see his foes sicken and die. That Sigmar's heroes can be reforged time and again only deepens and prolongs Pestifrious' furious vendetta.
- Year of the Drowned Rat - In Shyish, the Realm of Death, Nagash nears completion of his Great Black Pyramid. Raised at the heart of his capital, Nagashizzar, this cyclopean edifice will unleash the unstoppable energies of death upon the Mortal Realms and annihilate all life. Determined to prevent this occurrence, the Lords of Decay scramble to launch multiple assaults against Nagashizzar. The greatest of these is a millions-strong swarm led by the preening Master Moulder Things-master Snitterskritch. However, the Things-master's glorious assault is brought to a premature and ignominious halt when his gnawhole emerges at the bottom of the Kaphtar Sea. A zombie-choked flood tide thunders down the tunnel, a crushing sledgehammer of dark waters that kills Snitterskritch and his swarms before erupting in a mile-high geyser in Blight City. Slitwarren, the Gyredelve and Scuttlebleak are all flooded. A vast infestation of Deadwalkers pushes out into the neighboring districts, the reanimated corpses of Snitterskritch and his warriors amongst them.
- The Corpse-Thing War - Though several secondary invasion swarms continue to move against Nagashizzar, the Council of Thirteen now turn their full horrified attention to the Floodwarrens and undead hordes spilling into the heart of Blight City. The districts afflicted are only a handful of miles from the Tower of Kavzar, and many clans scramble to hurl their warriors at the invading foe. More scurry rapidly out of harm's way, Skryre engineers fleeing with their prized inventions and leaving their underlings to drown or be torn apart by hundreds of groaning zombies. Skirmishes break out amongst the defending forces as some clans attempt to capitalize upon territory lost or abandoned by their rivals, while others pull out of clawpacts at the last moment and allow their supposed allies to be overrun, only to find themselves outnumbered and dragged down in turn. For several perilous days the threat draws ever closer to the Masterburrow, and the Lords of Decay are reduced to outraged screeching and violent recrimination as their every plan to stop the invaders fails. Then comes Grey Seer Thanquol. To some he is a stranger and an upstart, to others a name out of half-remembered myth. To most, he appears an egomaniacal lunatic. However, somehow- accounts vary and confusion reigns as to his precise methods -Thanquol orchestrates a series of ever-more convoluted attacks by scrabbled-together swarms that first blunt and then drive back the undead. After several more days of desperate conflict, the threat is contained and Thanquol disappears as suddenly as he appeared. He does so driven by justified paranoia that the Council of Thirteen will want to quickly crush such a successful leader, and that a large number of Clawlords will want to 'discuss' the catastrophic cost in skaven lives that his plans entailed.
- Necroquake - Tempted by the promise of a wealth of Shyishan realmstone, Grey Seer Retchnik allies himself with Eshin Clan Slynk and contrives a way for their agents to creep down teh part-flooded gnawhole, through the bed of the Kaphtar Sea and into Nagashizzar. Neither Retchnik nor the Eshin agents survive the machinations that surround this alliance, but their meddling ensures that- as Nagash triggers his Great Black Pyramid -hapless Eshin agents are trapped with it. Their presence sours the ritual and causes it to rage out of control. The necroquake is unleashed. The dead rise in their trillions across the Mortal Realms. Endless spells are set loose to prey upon friend and foe alike. It is a matter of hours before the skaven begin to fight amongst themselves to claim credit for this clearly masterful and obviously entirely intentional act of sabotage...
- Sorcery Unleashed - At the battle of Six Twistings, Pestilens Clan Shrok unleash the Neverplague upon their Sylvaneth foes. Not to be outdone, Grey Seer Krektus summons first a Warp Lightning Vortex and then the terrifying Bell of Doom. While the spinning warp crystals whirl around the Sylvaneth and blast them with furious lightnings, the eldritch bell tolls again and again, sending shock waves of madness and terror through the plague-ridden forest spirits. Soon enough, their battle line collapses altogether and Krektus' swarm ends the day gnawing upon their shattered lamentiri.
- Death in the Deeps - A fleet of strange submersibles launched by the Clans Skryre begins a bloody invasion of the Idoneth enclave of Nautilar. The war beneath the waves rages, the skaven plundering the arcane repositories of the sea aelves and abducting several Isharann in the hope of extracting the secrets of their soul-thieving magics.
- Second Great Civil War Brews - As the Soul Wars rage throughout the Mortal Realms, it is a time of great opportunity for the skaven. Yet true to their nature, the ratmen are so caught up in trying to keep all the spoils for themselves while slaughtering their rivals in the process that a Second Great Civil War threatens. The Clans Skryre and the Clans Pestilens vie for preeminence in Blight City. Everywhere skaven swarms assail the other races of the realms, seeking to steal whatever powers or technologies may give them an edge. Meanwhile, in the deepest shadows, Grey Seer Thanquol concocts fresh plans...
Notable Skaven Clans
The skaven are divided into myriad great clans and individual clans within those greater units, each of which emphasizes one particular aspect of their schizophrenic deity, the Great Horned Rat.
The Clans Skryre, for example, are alchemical wizards and engineers whose insane creations can wipe out whole armies.
The Clans Moulder are breeders and shapers of hideous beasts, dabblers in the secrets of life and death whose abominable broods are horrific living weapons of war.
The Clans Pestilens are concerned only with plague, decay and ruin. They form the Great Horned Rat's multifarious Churches of Contagion, the uncounted billions who fanatically worship him in his aspect as the Great Corruptor.
- Clans Moulder
- Clans Pestilens
- Clans Skryre
- Clans Tichritt (Destroyed)
- Clans Eshin
- Clans Verminus
- Clan Morbidus
- Clan Scurvy
- Clan Mors
- Clan Rictus
- Clan Feesik
- Clan Septik
- Clan Ektrik
- Clan Flem
- Clan Kreepus
- Clan Krizzor
- Clan Treecherik
- Clan Vrrtkin
- Clan Carion
- Clan Ferrik
- Clan Fester
- Clan Gritak
- Clan Rikek
- Clan Mordkin
- Clan Skab
- Chaos Battletome: Skaven Pestilens (1st Edition), pp. 7, 11-12
- Chaos Battletome: Skaven (2nd Edition)