Mutants, also known as twists and chem-dregs, can be found on almost any human world in the galaxy, and are often a fact of life that Imperial authorities (and most Imperial citizens) would rather ignore. In its most basic sense, mutation is the changing of the divine physical form of mankind into something unnatural or even alien. This twisting occurs within a person’s very genes, warping them at the deepest level and ensuring that their progeny will be tainted with mutation as well.
The degeneration of the holy human form is one of the Ecclesiarchy’s greatest concerns. Environmental pollution, deliberate genetic alteration, stellar radiation, alien diets and simple evolutionary adaptation have wrought manifold changes upon the physique of man across his empire of stars. Some of these mutants have a standard, stable, morphological type and are tolerated by the authorities---notable among them being the abhuman Ogryns and the ancient and noble Navigators. But to find whole worlds where the population has no eyes due to never-ending darkness, or unusually long legs because of millennia of nomadic living, is not unusual. Whether these aberrant populations are declared acceptable or not is the business of the Adeptus Terra.
The Magos Biologios has long striven to determine the causes of mutation, often with varying levels of success. The most accomplished Tech-priests theorize that mutation is the result of extreme environmental conditions, radiation, or toxins. It is certainly true that the largest concentrations of mutants can be found in the rad-sumps beneath hives or on heavily polluted worlds such as Solomon. However, families have lived in the blighted Interior Zones of Solomon for generations without exhibiting mutation, and some of the wealthiest spire-families on Scintilla have abominations in their family trees hidden away behind locked doors.
In the Calixis Sector, as with the Imperium as a whole, mutants are dealt with in one of two ways. If they are not exterminated, they are oppressed and controlled. Most worlds, hive worlds in particular, have sizable mutant underclasses that are employed as serfs or indentured laborers. They are often responsible for handling the jobs no one else will take, and work in hellish conditions with little in the way of rest or recompense.
It is no surprise that while the Ecclesiarchy preaches that the mutant should beg forgiveness for their sins of mutation, many mutants rebel against this line of reasoning. Some mutants take pride in their deformities, dubbing themselves the next step in human evolution. This is dangerous for the Imperium, for once a mutant believes itself superior to ‘true’ humans, it is but a short step before it actively resents its position in Imperial society. Such resentment can breed insurrection and all-out rebellion. These bitter, merciless wars are usually fought to the total annihilation of one side or the other, for the mutant knows better than to expect mercy from the Imperium, and the Imperium knows mutantkind is eager to extract retribution for a lifetime of oppression.
But mutation can also be a sign of the Dark gods. Just as they twist and destroy the minds and souls of man, so too do they toy with his flesh, bending it into profane shapes, gifting strange abilities and creating monsters for their perverse amusement. Where such mutation is present, it is rightly abhorred. Few are willing to tolerate such a aberration within their midst and fear of mutants runs through the populations of many worlds, even those where such things have happened but once in a hundred generations. Perhaps worse still is the constant fear of becoming a mutant oneself. Many folk pray that should this worst of all things occur, they will have the strength to end their own lives, before the mob or the Inquisition does it for them.
Some poor fools are willing mutants, seeing the distortion of their flesh as a sign of favor from the Dark gods. They seek out ways to gain more of these gifts, either by begging the Daemon gods for more of their touch or by doing their bidding in the hope of reward. Others, more poignantly, claim innocence of any wrong doing or foul worship. Whatever the case, a mutant is a mutant and must be feared, hated and destroyed. This is but one of the many reasons Imperial citizens tend to be highly intolerant and many innocent men, upon finding themselves on a new world, have been murdered by a frenzied mob for merely appearing to be different.
In the Calixis SectorEdit
Mutants are a common occurrence in the Calixis Sector, as with all other sectors of the galaxy. On Sepheris Secundus, one of the most economically important planets in the sector, much of the population that toils in the Shatters, the deepest part of the Gorgonid Mine are mutants and their labor is a valuable contribution to the planet's tithe. There is a cult within the mutant population, the Granite Crown.
On the war-torn world of Tranch, the oppressed mutant underclass rose up to create a bloody civil war that resulted in the birth of the Pale Throng, a mutant cult that has spread to other worlds in the interest of destroying all normal humans and propagating the mutant race.
Fenksworld is home to the Volg Hive, regarded as one of the worst places to live within all of the Calixis Sector. Within its depths, pale monsters lurk and occasionally find their way up to the surface, where they are dealt with by local Reclaimators or forced into gladiatorial death arenas against each other and (sometimes unwilling) humans for the amusement of those who watch.
The arch-heretek Sar Resque is known for having created the Sinners' Plagues which ravage the Drusus Marches, creating mutations and spreading madness. Her goal is to elevate mankind through the Golden Gene-Pattern, believing she will unlock the race of Men Beyond Men---beings of infinite knowledge, each one an Omnissiah.
Hive mutants are the result of a hive population’s exposure to radiation, pollutants, carcinogens, and diseases that are circulated though a hive’s food, air and water supplies. Mutation is common in the largest hives, and relatively minor mutations are tolerated by the main population in most hives within the Calixis Sector, though the more refined circles of hive nobility are not so forgiving. A degree of mutation within a hive population is tolerated in the most part out of of necessity. A hive exists on the toil of its population, and the labor of a mutant is as good as that of any other. Indeed, in many hives where slight mutation not tolerated, the industry and wealth of the hive could not be sustained. This tolerance is, of course, not universal or without bounds; mutation, after all, is commonly regarded as a sign of sin and corruption. In many hives gross mutation is not only shunned but rooted out and purged by law. Many hive mutants flee down into the deeper parts of a hive where they can exist out of the reach of persecution.
As one descends through a hive, the levels of pollution and toxicity increase until one reaches the deep places of a hive where no true law reigns. Variously called the underhive, low hive, or waste zones, here the rates of mutation are high and it is common to find established populations of mutants. It is only in these broken margins of the hive that mutants can exist without being indentured to labor, persecuted, or killed by the rest of the hive population. These clans and tribes may have existed for as long as the hive has stood and their mutation may have stabilized, resulting in consistent mutation such as has produced the scaled ones of Hive Magnagorsk or the twist brutes of the Tranch Soot Warrens. Deeper still are the most polluted areas of hives, sometimes referred to as the hive sump, hive bottom, or deep dark. These ancient areas are so toxic that only the most disturbing creatures and fearful mutants exist here: strange pale things with orb-like eyes and soft flesh. Few of these deep-hive mutants are ever seen by any, and those who do rarely live to tell of what dwells in the deepest places of a hive.
While most hive mutants are doomed to dwell forever in the polluted dark, a few succeed in leaving to make a life amongst the stars. Almost all of these bold ‘hive twists’ exist on the shadowy margins of the Imperium. Some become affiliated with criminal organizations such as the notorious Beast House, or are bound to a heretical organization such as the Pale Throng that was born in the Soot Warrens of Tranch. A few ply their trade as hired killers or muscle and, in fact, a certain proportion of the feared Bloodsworn bounty hunters are twists from [[Malfi]an] underhives. A rare few hive mutants may come to the notice of an Inquisitor who values the hardness of soul and determination that a mutant needs to survive in a galaxy that loathes him.
Hive Mutant Player CharactersEdit
You are shunned and hated by those not of your kind, those who are willing to kill you for your twisted flesh and cripple your kind with merciless toil. You, however, have found favour in the eyes of a great peer of the Imperium, one who has eyes to see the strength of your soul and has the power to raise you to do great service to the God Emperor.
Creating Hive Mutant Characters
Use the Hive World Home World template but replace the Accustomed to Crowds Trait with the ones detailed here.
The Acolyte’s body has been mutated and his genes twisted by the polluted water and air of the underhive.
Effects: During character creation the player may select one of the following two options:
- Choose two different Minor Mutations. The player may not choose result 100 (which allows a roll on the Major Mutation Table).
- The Acolyte has one Minor Mutation determined by rolling on the Minor Mutations Table Mutations and one Major Mutation determined by rolling on the Major Mutations Table. The Acolyte reduces his initial Fate Points by 1.
Strength through Adversity
The Acolyte’s mutant status means that most people shun him, and he has little chance of being easily accepted by most within the Imperium. He is, however, physically tougher than the general hive populace, as the weak never survive in the underhive.
Effects: When generating Characteristics the character’s Home World modifier for Toughness and Fellowship are swapped, so that starting Toughness will be 2d10+25 and starting Fellowship will be 2d10+15.
The Black HoldsEdit
“Lieutenant Weems, inform the cogboys the power is still out in section 52. Still no sign of the repair team. Sir, can we confirm this was their last location? Lads, watch your footing, grav plating seems low. Opening shaft 52-Beta now... hey, what’s that?”
— Recorded Vox Transmission, Ensign Patel Carolis, Chartist vessel Steadfast Faith
As with many Imperial artefacts, most spacecraft have lifespans measured in dozens of centuries or longer. This is especially true for the truly gigantic vessels such as Chartist Greatholds or Naval capital ships. As generations pass, even regular repair and watchful maintenance leave some areas falling into disuse as decks become sealed off and entire subsections are abandoned. They become a dark home to the unwanted and forgotten, renegades and runaways. These are the “nightmare holds”, the black decks only whispered of throughout the many fleets in the sector but known to all that make their lives in the void.
In these miserable places entire biospheres have formed, despite lack of power, fresh air or even reliable footing where grav plating has failed. Flickering lights barely illuminate the dank and toxic environs where fungus and beasts thrive amidst the chemical and radioactive sludge. Unknown numbers of what were once men also congregate here to survive. Even medium-sized ships contain hundreds if not thousands of indentured workers and others pressed into service, and escaping from their oppression is a constant goal. Once free, though, many wish they stayed in the dregs of their prior station. Other habitants can include fleeing criminals, newly emerging mutants and renegades. After years in the holds, most devolve into barely human dregs as the hostile atmosphere twists them unkindly. Now they lurk as bilge-scum, flesh eating hold-gaunts and other unholy creatures, attacking any who venture into their lairs. When desperate enough they venture topsides in search of food, and woe unto anyone they find.
“Have you ever seen blood in zero-gravity my friend? It lives, it is a serpent, glorious and delightful, and how it twists and coils like a lover around your blade. It is the only thing hot enough to quench the cold, and I’m so very, very cold now my friend, so very cold...”
–Ezra Morbius, Void Reclaimator
Just as with some worlds, there are certain spacefaring vessels both great and small with a dark reputation. Although all starships have their own histories, not all of them pleasant, and many have dark secrets and half-abandoned depths where things best left unseen sometimes crawl, certain vessels hold an infamy all their own. These ships, some of them ancient and legendary in their own right, ply the dark void between the stars but often hold a deeper darkness within, couched in stories of dire curses, ill-omens, bleak fortunes, baleful massacres, cannibalism, hauntings and worse. The void born call such ships darkholds, and those that hail from them or can find a berth nowhere else have an equally shadowed reputation, shunned and considered to be unlucky and illfated by their eccentric kind. Although such distinctions are often lost on those outsiders who cannot tell the difference from one ‘spook’ void born and another, those that spend much of their lives sealed between the hulls of a great ship fear the darkholds, mistrust those that call them home, and hold their protective talismans tight when they draw close. The darkholders are a breed apart to those with the wisdom to see it, lean and hungry, with the cold black dancing in their eyes.
The Calixis Sector has several notorious darkholds of its own, from the gargantuan and blood-drenched Bountiful Beast, to the blackly storied far trader Blinded Saint whose seven-year course takes it out into the reaches of the Hazeroth Abyss, to the sinister grand mausoleum barge Pale Sepulchre and the infamous naval battlecruiser Chalice of Fire, recovered empty and adrift centuries ago and taken back into service, said still to be haunted by the thousands of souls of her former crew, disappeared without trace.
Darkholder Player CharactersEdit
You cannot escape what you are, no matter how far you travel, no matter that you put solid ground beneath your feet and endless free air above you, no matter how fervently you pray to the God-Emperor you can’t escape it. The cold black, the fathomless dark, calling to you, whispering like a shadow in your veins. Perhaps it isn’t all bad though, in a universe fraught with monsters, being a monster yourself is perhaps no bad thing...
Creating Characters from the Darkholds
In order to create characters with a Darkholder lineage, use the Void Born template but remove the Charmed Trait and replace it with those listed here.
Those raised in the sinister atmosphere of a Darkhold vessel begin with the Skills Speak Language (Int) (Ship Cant) and treat Forbidden Lore (Warp) (Int) as a Basic Skill.
Some say the darkholder’s blood is tainted, that they are descended from half-human pale things that coil in the dark shadows on the deep nightmare holds, that secretly they all crave human blood and have the souls of daemons. They may be right.
Effect: The character adds +5 to his starting Toughness and Willpower Characteristics, and gains the Jaded and Paranoia Talents.
Cold-Souled and Hungry
There is something ineffably sinister about darkholders, and none feel it more than the other Void Born.
Effect: The character receives –5 to his starting Fellowship and Intelligence Characteristics and begins the game with 1d5+1 Corruption Points. Darkholders also suffer with a further –5 penalty on peaceful social interaction Tests.
Gear of the Bilge-Scum Edit
In these conditions, it is rare for regular weapons to be common, as lack of ammunition quickly becomes an issue. Instead most are crafted from the debris littered throughout the black decks, creating a wide range of primitive weapons often made of high-tech materials. Crude swords, axes and shields are the most common. While simplistic in design, they can be just as deadly as the more advanced weapons these creatures face in combat.
These are generally crude bombs containing a mix of poisonous fungi, chemical waste, and diseased flesh. The canisters burst open on impact, showering the area with caustic sludge and noxious vapours. While their effect is not very powerful, unprotected targets can be brought down by the toxins, if not by the sheer nauseating smell of the attack. Bilge grenades count as frag grenades with the Unreliable and Toxic qualities.
This phosphorescent fungus provides reliable lighting for most of the Black Holds, where it thrives in the toxic sludge lining most decks. By scraping the mould and sludge into clear containers, crude light sources can be created to offer this greenish-yellow glow in areas without other sources of illumination. Others simply use the slime as body paint, making their already unsettling forms even more terrifying. A patch of lumenmould lights an area dimly for five metres.
"Constant exposure to the Warp can taint even the strongest soul."
–From the journals of Inquisitor Felroth Gelt: 749.M41
Whether outcast, victim or fugitive, to join the Ghilliam (as the void born call them) is to leave humanity forever, descending to depths from which there is no return. Haunting the dark spaces and abandoned holds of great vessels, these debased, insane mutants and carrion eaters subsist on whatever meat they can find and aren’t too picky as to how they get it. Treated as dangerous and clever vermin, they are exterminated mercilessly where possible.
Deep in the forgotten reaches of voidship holds, scattered in countless Space Hulks drifting through space, and hidden away even in such innocuous vessels as bulk refinery and pilgrim ships lurk two breeds of highly dangerous mutants— the Ghilliam and, their more dangerous brethren, the Hullghasts. These mutants have become inured to the worst of the polluted and irradiated voidship decks and are able to thrive there, albeit with a loss of any remaining humanity.
Some Hullghast corpses have been recovered (usually from lifeless derelict vessels), and there is a clear indication that Hullghasts share an origin with the far more common Ghilliam and are a more mutated version of that wretched creature. Hullghast bodies are twisted in the extreme, with hairless leathery skin and vicious talon-like claws. Their oversized mouths are filled with layers of huge teeth, ready to rend flesh from bone. Pustules of flesh erupt in tusks and horns, covering their bodies with natural weaponry. While the more humanoid Ghilliam look like sickly and crazed men, Hullghasts appear more akin to daemons or the stuff of nightmares.
Also, unlike the wretched Ghilliam who exist primarily as furtive scavengers, Hullghasts are more aggressive and dangerous. Where the Ghilliam generally form groups to overwhelm their prey, lone Hullghasts openly attack any crewmen who dare venture too deep below decks. Often times, they also prey on Ghilliam who drift too far from their squalid hovels, though the cleaner meat of unmutated humans seems preferred.
For those travelling through the void, these horrific mutants present a danger within that matches the dangers without, as terrifying as the warp entities held back only by the ship’s Gellar Field. Just as travellers’ souls would be devoured should the field collapse and fail, so their bodies would be ripped apart as food if these terrors of the Black Holds are unleashed.