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The Chaos Star
The Chaos Star

In Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy fictional universes, Chaos refers to the often stereotypically malevolent entities which live in some sort of parallel universe, known as the Warp in Warhammer 40,000 and as the "Realm of Chaos" in Warhammer Fantasy. The term "Chaos" can refer to these warp entities and their influence, the servants and worshippers of these entities, or even the parallel universe in which these entities are supposed to reside. The most powerful of these warp entities are those known as the Chaos Gods, also sometimes referred to as the "Dark Gods" or the "Ruinous Powers".

Both game worlds depict fictional fantasy and science fiction settings out of spiritual balance, where aspects (supposedly fed by emotions) of human nature in the real world are able to coagulate and gain consciousness in a mystical (or psychic) context in this parallel universe, the Warp. In the two game settings, Chaos represents the classic theme of Man vs. Himself, with the fantasy twist of giving these psychological struggles a physical form and influence. In both settings, Chaos is seen as a seductive force, capable of corrupting any who follow it; even the most strong-willed and goodly-inclined follower will gradually be corrupted and become another follower of Chaos. This corruption is not just spiritual, but also physical- followers of these Chaos Gods frequently find themselves being mutated by their masters.

[edit] The Chaos Gods

The concept of Chaos Gods has been a more or less integral part of both Warhammer universes ever since they were first conceived. In this idea there is evidently a strong influence from the British fantasy writer Michael Moorcock. Many different Chaos Gods were named in the various early miniature catalogues released by Citadel in the early eighties. But it was never clearly explained how the fictional pantheon looked like. The idea of "Four Great Powers of Chaos" i.e. Chaos Gods, were first introduced in the two Realms of Chaos sourcebooks released 1988 and 1990 respectively. To date these are the most detailed and defining pieces of work published by Games Workshop regarding Chaos. These Chaos Gods were described as being enormously powerful, and were constantly seeking to extend their power into the real world, the realm of mortals. They would do this by attracting followers amongst mortals by promising power, wealth, immortality or whatever else the potential servant desires. The gods are portrayed as capricious, selfish and vain, demanding absolute loyalty from their servants and rewarding deeds when they wish, in whatever ways they deem appropriate.

Current background material for both settings still state that there are many Chaos Gods, but the idea that there are four which are significantly more powerful than the rest is still there. The four great gods are often used as antagonists in their respective settings, frequently sparking great wars against other factions with the aim of gaining total domination over the entire setting. The names and aspects of these four great gods are:

Khorne - god of hate, blood, rage, war and killing

Nurgle - god of decay, despair, destruction, and disease

Slaanesh - god of decadence, excess, sex, pleasure and self-indulgence

Tzeentch - god of change, manipulation, scheming and sorcery

Especially dedicated worshipers of the gods can be gifted with traits associated with their god; warriors blessed in such a manner are said to bear the "mark" of their god. The effect of this mark varies by game system, army and god, but is generally beneficial to the warrior in question. These marks can then lead to further boons from the patron god, known as "gifts"- these gifts can eventually turn the warrior bearing them into a powerful daemon, such as a Daemon Prince.

[edit] Chaos Undivided

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, in both settings, 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 either.

Also, other more specialized forms of the mark of Chaos Undivided exist which are usually carried by extraordinary leaders. Archaon is marked as the "Everchosen" or the "Lord of the End Times". He has collected magical artifacts, each having been once wielded by a favoured champion of one of the Chaos Gods. He has also earned the 'Crown of Damnation', a badge of office showing his full favour with all four Chaos Gods

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