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Skaven are creatures of Chaos, and generally not permitted within human lands. That Skaven are even allowed as Heroes in these house rules is something of a stretch -- but one made simply because some players actually enjoy the idea of playing oversized rats running around with sharp pointy things. (Maybe it's just the excuse to get to talk in that absurd "rat voice".) As always, such a choice is only permissable at the GM's discretion. (It's certainly understandable if a GM familiar with the Warhammer setting thinks the very idea of putting a Skaven in the party is beyond silly.)

That said, it might be conceivable that a Skaven might join the Heroes under extraordinary circumstances ... and any true Heroes will always find themselves in extraordinary circumstances now and then. Perhaps a Hero, in an amazing act of mercy, spared the life of a Skaven who possessed the rare ability to keep his word (or perhaps the Skaven in question simply deemed it more profitable to travel in the company of heavily armed warriors, rather than to trust his welfare to backstabbing fellow rat-men).

Origin of the Skaven
Magic in the Warhammer world is a blessing and a curse ... and generally more of the latter than the former. Above the north pole is an ancient Warp Gate created by an ancient race known as the Slann, who used it to link this world to others in their interplanetary empire. They thought -- wrongly -- that the Warp was bereft of any life of its own, and were thus caught by surprise when creatures of the Warp were roused by the many passings of Slann ships through their realm.

What happened to the Slann empire of the stars is unknown, but the Warp Gate was closed to travel between the worlds as it destabilized, and the poisoning, reality-warping effects of Chaos spread outward to engulf the arctic region.

The flows of Chaos are inextricably tied to the Winds of Magic, though the latter are more mild and controllable in their powers. When Chaos flows more freely, the Realms of Chaos creep slowly southward, and so do monsters and servants of Chaos ... while the Winds of Magic blow more strongly, and thus wizards are able to use more powerful spells.

  Where Chaos is strongest, it warps the very nature of reality, and the Realms of Chaos at the north pole are far from being featureless plains of ice -- Rather, they are wastelands of madness, where the landscape itself is alive and twisted into strange forms drawn from the nightmares of men.

Reality is malleable, and magic is so potent where Chaos flows freely that it is able to coalesce into material form. Most of this will melt away when the powers of magic wane again, but occasionally the powers of the Warp collect in small fragments of warped reality. Warpstone is an example of this -- a black stone that seems to draw light into it, surrounded by a haze of shadow, and cold to the touch.

Sometime in the distant past, in an age when Chaos flowed more freely, fragments of Warpstone were scattered amongst the lands of the Old World in some great cataclysm, and rats living underneath the cities of Mankind gnawed upon chunks of it. These rats were mutated by the concentrated powers of Warpstone, most of them poisoned and dying horribly, but some of them growing larger, more hardy, and more intelligent, and passing these traits to their even more mutated young. In time, the race of the Skaven was born of Chaos, combining the savagery of their rodent instincts with traces of intellect forming a dark parody of that of the humans whose cities they dwelt under. Even to this day, Warpstone is cherished by the Skaven, used to power infernal contraptions, and occasionally gnawed on by power-hungry sorcerers too maddened by ambition to be concerned about the dire risks they put themselves at by doing so, for but a short burst of increased magic.

The Undercities
Skaven are subterranean in nature, and live in cities deep within the ground, generally corresponding in size to that of the human cities they scavenge from. These cities are connected by a vast network of tunnels -- partly burrowed by themselves, and partly stolen from the fallen empire of the Dwarves and other subterranean empires. Although their power comes from the forces of Chaos -- and from time to time they may forge unholy alliances with the other Chaotic races -- they do not dwell in the Realms of Chaos, but rather in the realms of Man -- albiet a bit further beneath the surface.

The Clans
Skaven are divided into many clans, and over the ages, many of them have risen in power, or fallen as rivals wiped them out. It should be noted that "clans" are not defined as purely familial ties -- If a Skaven is born to such a clan who fails to exhibit skills appropriate to his clan, he is likely to be cast out, or quite possibly killed outright. Conversely, Skaven who show special promise of interest to a particular clan are likely to be bought or stolen and indoctrinated in the clan's ways. Of special note:
  • Clan Eshin: Clan Eshin is composed of Skaven that live in the undercities beneath the oriental lands of Cathay, who have learned the dark arts of stealth and death-dealing of assassins of that realm. Theirs is a sub-society of dark intrigue, hired out by other Skaven to "eliminate" problems with rivals, all the while seeking to find ways to advance their own standing. They have crafted many potent toxins and poisons with which they coat their weapons for added effect.

    From Clan Eshin comes the stealthy Gutter-Runners, who are skilled at using the networks of tunnels and sewers of the cities to great advantage in gaining surprise on their enemies. Even more skilled are the Assassins, and the truly gifted among them are accorded the title of Deathmaster. The emblem of Clan Eshin is a Skaven's claw clenched about a curved dagger poised to strike.

  • Clan Pestilens: Clan Pestilens is based in the New World, in the hot and muggy jungles and swamps of Lustria. It is led by a theocracy devoted to the worship of the Horned Rat (the major deity of Skaven culture) in his aspect as a spreader of disease and pestilence among the enemies of Skaven-kind (most notably Man). Most blessed (and and typically short-lived) among them are the disease-ridden Plague Monks, and toxin-spreading Censer Bearers. Those who survive these "blessings" develop natural resistance to toxins and diseases, and may even rise to the exalted status of Plague Priests.

  • Clan Mors: Clan Mors is the most militant of the Skaven clans, and the producer of the fiercest warriors of Skavenkind.
  • Clan Moulder: Clan Moulder specializes in breeding misshapen monsters, such as the fearsome mutant Rat Ogres, using the warping effects of elixirs concocted from powdered warpstone. Packmasters "tame" giant rats and other monsters, driving them toward the enemy in battle.
  • Clan Skryre: Clan Skryre consists of Skaven more attuned to the flows of magic than the other clans. (Indeed, if a Skaven were to be born to another clan, with an affinity toward magic, he is likely to be snatched up by Clan Skryre in short order.) Clan Skryre Skaven are trained to become sorcerers in the ways of Dark Magic, and a very select few may be granted the exalted title of Grey Seer.
  •   Skaven Heroes
    The average Skaven would not make a very good Hero, and a Skaven member of the average adventuring party would have a hard time of it, too. A Skaven Hero has to spend twice as much money for the purchase of equipment and services as a normal hero would. In abstract, this represents the various difficulties and hardships the Skaven faces in having to deal with the lands of Mankind -- or with his own kind, as a Skaven caught between two worlds, and forever wandering from place to place.

    It is conceivable that a kindly fellow Hero might offer to purchase certain items for a Skaven character. This is wholly permissable, so long as it is an item equally usable by humans (or Elves or Dwarves) and Skaven. Please note, however, that items of armor (with the exception of shields) must be custom-made to accommodate the form of a Skaven, and therefore there is no way to get around the added cost. The same applies to services, which require the presence of the Skaven Hero.

    Skaven Equipment
    Skaven may use most items and weapons usable by other races, except where specified otherwise. Armor for Skaven must be specially tailored, so therefore they cannot use items of armor that were made for other races. They may, however, utilize weapons and armor scavenged from Skaven. They may not, however, sell off such scavenged weapons or armor -- Such items would not sell in the lands of Mankind, and if they were sold in Undercities, it would draw suspicion upon the Skaven as a traitor to his own kind.

    Skaven Professions
    For professions available to Skaven, consult the Chaos Races and Professions chart.

    Skaven are possessed of keenly developed senses specially adapted to living in subterranean environments with little or no light. A Skaven, therefore, suffers no more penalty for fighting or moving in a dark area than any monster would, and does not have need in most instances for a light source. However, please note that this is still subject to the GM's discretion. While many dungeons are bereft of light sources, and the local monsters seem to have no need of them, a Skaven character may still find that he is in need of at least a little light in order to notice a warning sigil on the wall, or to read a scroll, for instance. Dungeon denizens are usually already aware of their environment and well-prepared for surviving in it, and thus the GM usually does not need to worry about such details for them.

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