The Skaven are a race of man-sized rat-like creatures in Games Workshop's "Warhammer Fantasy" setting. They live in a series of overpopulated tunnels beneath the surface of the world, plotting for the day when they will rise up and overrun the surface realms. Humans remain mostly ignorant of the Skaven, a state of affairs which the ratmen take great effort to maintain. Those who do know of their existence tend to mistakenly classify them as merely a sub-breed of Beastmen rather than as a unique race. The Skaven appear to have been modelled after Ottoman Turkish infantry, word "jezzail" meaning musket in Turkish language.

kaven in Games Workshop products

Skaven were introduced for Warhammer Fantasy Battle in the Spring 1986 issue of the "Citadel Journal", billed as "a new Chaos race". However, the race's actual first appearance was a few months earlier as a free 'giveaway' Blood Bowl team in an early 1986 issue of White Dwarf. The original 1986 Skaven range of Citadel miniatures was sculpted by renowned sculptor Jes (Jeremy) Goodwin, who also provided the original background in the 1986 "Citadel Journal". The elements he introduced include the Clan structure, the Council of Thirteen, the Grey Seers, and the Horned Rat. The miniatures proved very popular, and the range was expanded by Goodwin over the next few years. Today, they are one of the main fourteen armies of Warhammer Fantasy Battle.

Skaven also formed the core opponents of Games Workshop's popular "Advanced Heroquest" adventure game, released in 1990.

kaven in Warhammer

The background and character of the Skaven race in the Warhammer setting has been developed by various authors since their introduction in 1986. The most significant additions were made by Andy Chambers in the army list for the fourth edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battle.


The origin of Skaven are for the most unknown. The only background-information is a poem called "The Doom of Kavzar" which loosely describes how the first Skaven came to be.

In the Warhammer universe long ago, before the founding of the Empire, a great city was built in the place now known as the Blighted Marshes. Men lived above ground and a great dwarven city was also built below the ground. Men and dwarves lived in harmony for many years.

One year, a council of the wisest men and dwarves of the city decided to build a great tower in honour of their gods. The tower was to touch the sky and pierce Heaven itself; it would be the greatest building man or dwarf had ever created. So construction of the tower was duly started. Men and dwarfs worked on it for years; years turned into decades, and generations passed with the builders passing their great task on to their sons. After almost one hundred years of construction, the tower was nowhere near finished. One day a hooded man appeared at the gates of the city. The stranger conversed at length with the council and offered to help them finish the tower within a night as long as he could add a small part of his own design to the massive construction. The council agreed.

Sure enough, the tower was finished by the end of the night. The townsfolk crowded round, gazing in awe at the giant wonder. When the council inquired what the stranger had added, he replied that he had added a huge bronze bell to the very top of the tower. The stranger demanded payment for his work, but the council refused — there had been no mention of payment in their deal. The stranger warned that if he did not receive his payment by midnight the next day the bell would ring thirteen times and a terrible curse would be placed upon the city. The council laughed at this statement and had him thrown out of the city.

On the stroke of midnight the following night, the bell at the top of the tower began to chime. It was a terrible sound that would wake the dead; all the townsfolk rushed out of their houses, alarmed at the disruption. The sound caused some men to go mad. The bell struck thirteen times and then stopped abruptly. The stranger appeared at the top of the tower, appearing like a tiny speck on its surface.

The next morning, rats began to swarm around the city, eating people's food and causing a nuisance. On the second day, foul warpstone began to rain down upon the city. The city's crops were ruined and the rats began to mutate and grow fat under the influence of the foul substance. On the third day, rats began to gather in groups and attack humans, dragging the weak or young off to devour them. Food was in short supply and the citizens began to worry.

On the fourth day, with the warpstone continuing to rain down upon the town, the dwarfs began to grow wary, and retreated to their underground city to ride out the danger. They entered through the gates that morning, magically sealing them behind them. The Men within the city became furious at what the dwarfs had done, abandoning them to face this plague alone. after two long days of locking themselves within there halls, the men of the city demanded to be alowed within there tunnels for refuge. To which the dwarfs blindly refused. However, after the third day passed, and the men returned to demand refuge once more, there was no reply from the dwarven halls. Only Silence.

On the fifth day, several of the rats began to walk on two paws and managed to start simple communication. Many of them roamed the streets devouring corpses and sometimes — if they were bold — entering houses and slaughtering their inhabitants.

On the sixth day, the bell tolled a final thirteen times. All humans and dwarves within the city were dead or dying. The city had been completely taken over by the ratmen, and Skavenblight, capital of the Skaven Empire, was born.

"See also: Tower of Babel, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Moria (Middle-earth)"

This is the only source of information on the origin of the Skaven, but there are theories and speculations on who the hooded figure could have been.

Appearance and culture

A skaven is essentially what looks like a crossbreed of a rat and a man - in that they are in appearance large bipedal rats with intelligence sufficient to use weapons, make tools, and converse in a developed language. Most skaven stand four to five feet tall and have brown fur although this can vary. White and grey-furred rats are prized among Skaven litters, as grey and white-furred skaven often become grey seers. Black fur is looked upon as the sign of a true killer and members of the elite Stormvermin corps and assassins all have black fur. Most skaven have luminous eyes and long tails. Albino skaven are rare but not unheard of. The Stormvermin who are in charge of protecting the Council of Thirteen, the Skaven ruling body, are all albino. An average skaven has a lifespan of about 20 years but higher members of the Skaven society can live much longer, even hundreds of years (possibly owing their extended life to drugs/magic or to the effects of warpstone).

Male skaven are workers and warriors. Females are docile and barely intelligent, and spend much of their lives hidden away in the nest to breed. Female skaven typically produce three to five litters a year, each containing 20 or so young.


The Council of Thirteen is the ruling body of the Skaven race. They sit at a long table with the seats at top and bottom empty. The top seat is the symbolic seat of the Horned Rat. Therefore, the most powerful members sit to the left and right of the Horned Rat and share equal power. Each member is the equal of whomever sits opposite him. The council are constantly shifting allegiances, backstabbing, cheating, lying, and hiring assassins to kill each other — much to the amusement of their malevolent god. It is often noted that, if the Skaven organized themselves properly, they could probably rule the world. However, they are far too paranoid to ever band together. Each member of the council is open to replacement at any time. The applicant must simply challenge his rival to a fight to the death; if he wins, he takes the place of the loser on the council.

The current Lords of Decay have been in their seats for over 200 years. The current Council members include:

*1.Lord Kritislik (Seerlord)
*12.Lord Morskittar (Lord-Warlock of Clan Skryre)
*7.Nurglitch VII (Arch-Plaguelord of Clan Pestilens)
*Kratch Doomclaw (Clan Rictus)
*Warlord Gnawdwell (Clan Mors)
*Lord Sneek (Nightlord of Clan Eshin)
*9.Lord Verminkin (Packlord of Clan Moulder)
*4.Lord Paskrit ("Warlord-General of all Skavendom")

Kritislik occupies seat number 1 on the Council, Morskittar seat 12 — hence these two are the most powerful of the Lords of Decay. Verminkin occupies seat 9 and Paskrit seat 4. Nurglitch I brought Clan Pestilens to prominence by defeating Lord Vask for a place on the Council of Thirteen.

Below the council are the Grey Seers, prophets of the Horned Rat himself, and powerful sorcerers. Grey Seers have prophetic powers and are usually grey-furred; hence the name. While the Grey Seers are often physically weak, they make up for this in cunning, guile, and the use of magic. Most other skaven fear and hate grey seers in equal measure. The most feared symbol of the Seers is the "Screaming Bell," a massive, horned bell mounted on a carriage and pushed into battle, the daemonic chimes enthusing the skaven hordes.

The rest of skaven society is organised into innumerable clans. Four clans are traditionally more powerful than the rest: Clan Pestilens, Clan Moulder, Clan Eshin, and Clan Skryre. These four are collectively known as the Great Clans.

Clan Moulder

Clan Moulder is based in the far north, where Master Moulders use warpstone in a mad combination of alchemy and genetic engineering to breed all sorts of monstrous beasts for war. They are a very wealthy clan, and rent out their beasts for other Skaven to use in battle. Their most common war-beasts are the wolf-sized Giant Rats and the enormous Rat Ogres, anthropoid vermin four times the size of a man whose massive, filthy claws can take down even a heavily armoured knight. Their lair, known as "Hell Pit" greatly resembles hell from Dante's "Inferno", consisting of nine levels of laboratories, a barracks, and a giant colosseum hanging from chains and a level where their most powerful creatures are kept in pitch darkness.

Clan Pestilens

Clan Pestilens is based in the southern part of the world, and has been the cause for both of the two Skaven civil wars. The clan was considered lost in the jungles of Lustria, but when it resurfaced, it was changed. The rats of the clan had become completely devoted to The Horned Rat in his role as the harbinger of disease and plague. They are immune to most diseases and use the very plagues they worship as deadly biological weapons against the other races. Due to their diseased bulk, their plague monk troops are extremely tough, and deliriously fanatical in combat. They also use rats infected with various foul contagions, and the deadly plague censers, flails laden with burning warpstone, that emit lethal poison gas. Their own leaders are subject to the diseases and includes the Plague Lord and the plague Pontifex.

Clan Eshin

Clan Eshin was also considered lost for a long time, having traveled to the far Eastern lands of Nippon and Cathay. When they returned, they had changed as well.They ended the first Skaven civil war by assassinating the leaders of Clan Pestilens and their allies. They were now stealthy assassins, skilled in the art of the silent kill. They are feared throughout the Skaven Kingdoms as the long arm of the law. Their prices are exorbitant, but their results are unmatched. They played a large role during the Storm of Chaos, when they placed the Doom Hemisphere (see below) under Middenheim. They most commonly field Night Runners, cheap expendable units of skirmishers. Those night runners that survive go on to learn the skills to become the veteran Gutter Runners which are far more skilled and efficient. If a Gutter Runner survives for much longer, the very best become the elite and incredibly deadly Assassins, unparalleled in the entire Old World, even those of the Dark Elves.

Clan Skryre

Currently, the most powerful Clan is Clan Skryre. These Skaven have devoted themselves to the study of magic and blending it with insane science and engineering. Thus far, their engineers have created many deadly machines: the Ratling Gun (a warpstone-based Gatling gun with an obvious pun on rat), the Warpfire thrower (a warpstone-based flamethrower), the Jezzail (an extremely long-ranged warpstone rifle which is so large that it has to be carried by two skaven), and the fearsome Warp-Lightning Cannon. They also employ Warlock Engineers, who harness the winds of magic to devastating effect. In earlier versions of the game, there was a Skryre machine known as the "Doomwheel", something like a hamster's exercise wheel crossed with a chariot. This was replaced by the Warp-Lightning Cannon in the sixth edition rulebook, as the team working on the (then) new Army Book explained in White Dwarf 267 that it was too blatantly a hamster wheel and wanted something more serious; however, an update for the Doomwheel was recently released online as an optional ruleset for people who still wanted to use the model. []

This clan was also responsible for the creation of the infamous "Doom Hemisphere", a device much akin to an atomic bomb, which was placed underneath the Imperial city of Middenheim. The intention of the device was to destroy the city and the mountain that it was situated upon, but when the time to detonate the device came, it only partially went off. This killed countless Skaven and men who were in the tunnels at the time, and completely changed the tunnels as well, but more or less left the city unchanged. The Doom Hemisphere is reputed to still be dormant, waiting for someone to fully activate it and destroy the city.

kaven Army List

Skaven forces are currently comprised of the following units (for the standard army list)

*Lords and Heroes:Grey Seer:Warlord:Chieftan:Assassin:Master Moulder:Warlock Engineer:Plague Priest

*Core Units:Clanrats:Clanrat Slaves:Giant Rats:Night Runners:Poisoned Wind Globadiers:Rat Swarms:Stormvermin

*Special Units:Gutter Runners:Plague Monks:Rat Ogres:Warplock Jezzails

*Rare Units:Plague Censer Bearers:Warp-Lightning Cannon


:Screaming Bell

*Special Characters:Grey Seer Thanquol & Boneripper:Throt the Unclean:Warlord Queek Head-Taker:Deathmaster Snikch:Ikit Klaw

In addition, each of the 4 great clans possess their own lords, heroes, and/or troops unique to or more abundant in their clan:

Clan Eshin:

*Lords: Master Assassins
*Heroes: Assassin, Eshin Sorcerers
*Core: Night Runners
*Rare: Eshin Triad

Clan Skryre:

*Lords: Warlock Master
*Heroes: Warlock Engineers
* Core Units:
*Poison Wind Globadiers
*Ratling Gun
*Warpfire Thrower
*Warplightning Cannon
*(ratling gun and warpfire thrower are deployed with clanrats or stormvermin)Clan Pestilens:

*Lords: Plague Lords
*Heroes:Plague Priest, Festering Chantors
*Core: Plague Monks, Pusbugs
*Slightly more Plague Censers than other clans

Clan Moulder:

*Lords: Master Mutator
*Heroes: Master Moulder, Harbinger of Mutation
*Core: Giant Rats
*Special: Rat Ogres

Note that all other aforementioned troops are still available to these clans, just in different organization or less numbers.

ee also

*Giant Black Rat

External links

* [ Games Skaven]
* [ Skavenlair - Skaven community]
* [ - Skaven community]

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