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Many mention the legend of the Great Game – a mythical contest of war and wits fought between the four Ruinous Powers. The Dark Gods ally with one another only when it suits them, and often fight against each other for the most spurious reasons. Tzeentch, Slaanesh, Nurgle, and Khorne constantly compete to become the most powerful of the Chaos gods. They are united only in their determination to destroy the civilised world.[1a]

The Great Game is played out in three arenas. Within the Realm of Chaos, the four gods send armies of daemons and the most powerful of their mortal champions to assault each other's domains. However, the defences surrounding their infernal kingdoms are almost impossible to breach.[1a]

The second theatre is the Chaos Wastes of the mortal world. The slaughter takes place on battlegrounds that constantly warp and change as a tempest of Dark Magic rages overhead. Battles are won and battles are lost, and no single deity ever dominates.[1a]

These battles are testing grounds for their champions, where the weak fall and the strong are prepared for the main arena of the Great Game: the civilised realms of the Old World. The Ruinous Powers try to entice mortals living in those realms to betray their birthright and worship Chaos, and command those they corrupt to sow anarchy and desecration.[1a]

The Cults of Chaos prepare the way for an invasion of Chaos hordes not seen since the Great War Against Chaos. Even in the midst of that invasion, the Ruinous Powers competed to ensure that their own forces emerged dominant. Over two hundred years later, rumours that the End Times are nigh can again be heard in the streets and taverns of the Empire.[1a]

Bands of roaming zealots loudly proclaim that doom is at hand, and the civilised nations gird for war against the north again. The countless battles fought between the Chaos armies in the Chaos Wastes have produced a mighty champion who bows to all the Ruinous Powers with equal respect. This is Archaon, whose ruthless feats have earned him the title Lord of the End Times. Under this warlord, the Ruinous Powers hope to unite their forces to finally destroy civilisation, though no doubt the Great Game will continue unabated, and the champions of the Chaos gods will challenge each other while the Old World burns around them.[1a]

Regarding Khorne

Khorne may not be the subtlest of the Ruinous Powers but that is not to say that he does not have goals and ambitions to fulfill beyond seeing blood spilled in his name. His rage may be infinite and endless, his fury immutable, but Khorne has a savage intelligence, seeing the need to lay seeds for his destructive plans to pay off in the future.[3a]

Khorne revels in a man who seeks glory; for in Old World society, this leads frequently to feelings of anger at one’s enemies and a need to see them dead. Others may turn over to the Ruinous Powers in order to have their ambitions fulfilled. Examples include the militiaman who simply dreams of having the strength to repel his foes in order to see his wife and young child again, or the aging knight who wishes the strength of his youth still coursed through his veins. At the same time, many despair at their fate, and whilst Khorne finds this pathetic, he may still bestow blessings upon these wretched souls. Sometimes, there is no better servant than one who is picked up at the lowest ebb and given his wish. The hearts of this kind of man often burn most fiercely for Khorne. Some servants of Khorne come willingly; others are slowly drawn in. There is a fine line between justice and vengeance, and in seeking revenge many people cannot control the nihilism and anger within themselves, which spills over into a fury that cannot be purged from their body. This leads them into direct exposure to the principles Khorne espouses and far too often the wrath has so consumed the person that inevitably the Blood God then consumes their very soul.[3a]

For Khorne's order to be imposed across the Empire, he first requires anarchy. If the established order of Emperor Karl Franz, the Grand Theogonist, and the Temple of Sigmar has been overthrown, the Old World will be critically and permanently weakened. More and more it appears as if the old races, the Dwarfs, the Elves, the Slann, no longer have the numbers to withhold the advances of Chaos without relying on the relatively undeveloped but numerous humans. Anarchy itself gives special pleasure to Khorne in comparison to his rival gods because in times of anarchy, there is inevitably conflict. And when there is such widespread bloodshed, it is inevitable that skulls shall by lifted into the air by bawling, muscled warriors offering their sacrifice to the Blood God. Khorne loves to see mindless destruction and violence; the looting, decay, and devastation that come with the fall of organised society all feed his lust for wanton destruction.[3a]

Khorne is not associated with subterfuge, but from his Brass Tower, the will that he imposes upon his followers has been confused by many a man. In the heat of a raging battle, warriors call upon their gods for strength, but it may not always be the guiding hand of Ulric or Sigmar that answers the mortal men who petition the deities, but the Blood God. Equally, cultists of Khorne can occasionally show a modicum of patience and foresight compared to their patron. Throughout the Empire, cults such as the Crimson Skull, the Flayed Blood and the Wrath of Khorne scheme and plan. These sects secretly turn the minds and souls of warriors into mindless minions of Khorne. Often, soft-minded warriors are their target, lured into a group they initially believe worships Sigmar or Ulric.[3a]

All of the Ruinous Powers strive to achieve dominion over the world and the life that crawls about its daily drudgery with have no concept of the beings of pure power that inhabit the Realm of Chaos. Khorne, however, strives for more than simple control. He looks for utter dominance. This is a trait often found in his followers, as they have been known, even in battle, to turn upon each other, duelling till the death. For aspiring warriors of Khorne, there is no goal, no feat that is more desirable than inflicting utter defeat upon a champion of the Blood God, and Khorne actively encourages this attitude amongst his followers.[3b]

Regarding Nurgle

Nurgle, obsessed with his ceaseless foetid experiments, seems to care little about the Great Game, and when he meets to parley with his brothers at the infernal Court of Covenant, he is always portrayed as a talkative buffoon. Yet his enthusiastic humour subtly undermines the plotting and politicking of the other Chaos gods – it drives Khorne to an unthinking fury, disturbs Tzeentch's insidious train of thought, and distracts Slaanesh from his scheming. Meanwhile, Nurgle's own intrigues spread slowly like a contagious fever.[2a]

Though the walls of Nurgle's mansion look fit to collapse, they have never been breached; a vast garden, always vibrant in autumnal splendour, surrounds his fortress. The swampy ground sucks trespassers to their doom, and the overgrown plants form dense thickets of flesh-tearing thorns and venomous leaves. The air resonates with the drone of flies and is heavy with choking spores from slimy, misshaped fungi. Centipedes, slugs, and a thousand other poisonous pests infest the decomposing mulch. Nurgle's leprous daemons stalk the garden, quick to necrotise the flesh of intruders with their plagueswords.[2a]

In the Chaos Wastes, savage men worship Grandfather Nurgle as a deliverer from the very diseases he inflicts upon them, for he grants loyal followers freedom from the suffering of their afflictions. Some tribes and warbands dedicate themselves to the Lord of Decay, nurture and spread his plagues, and war against those who refuse to exalt him above other deities. The Ruinous Powers play out their game among the northern wastelands, soaking it crimson with carnage. Although Nurgle's Chaos Warriors and Champions are not as bloodthirsty as those of Khorne, or as cunning or agile as those of Tzeentch and Slaanesh, they are highly resilient fighters – it is difficult to kill someone whose diseased flesh shrugs off pain.[2a]

But it is in the third arena, amongst the cilivised nations, that Nurgle truly excels. Khorne's appeal is confined to those maddened by bloodlust, Tzeentch draws those addicted to magic or who thrive on cunning and lies, and Slaanesh attracts degenerates. In contrast, all mortals eventually feel Nurgle's presence. The Lord of Decay is a patient player, for it takes time to brew his plagues, but his influence gradually spreads throughout the world. Nurgle's cults rot the Empire's core, weakening the strength of the Emperor's armies and the morale of his civilian subjects, by disseminating disease. A single cough can lay low an Imperial general where feats of arms have failed. A sneeze can decimate an entire town. Where subtle measures fail, cultists can rip apart the veil between reality and the Realm of Chaos, summoning Nurgle's daemons to lay waste with their contagions. As pestilence grips the world, Nurgle's power eclipses that of his brother gods.[2a]

Regarding Slaanesh

While the Dark Prince is as yet the least of the Four Great Powers, his potential is limitless, for it is defined only by the evils men can dream of inflicting upon one another. While none of them would openly acknowledge it, the other Chaos Powers secretly fear Slaanesh. While Khorne, Nurgle, and Tzeentch fuel wars, plagues, and machinations within the world of men, Slaanesh gains power by feeding humanity's darkest urges, stoking the fires of all that drives men forward. Ultimately, such power is self-sustaining, for heresy begets heresy. One day, Khorne will run out of foes, Nurgle's tally of plagues will be completed, and Tzeentch's schemes shall reach their conclusion. None, however, can foresee a time when men shall set aside their darkest passions and selfish desires and forego that which they most crave.[4a]

Despite the impossible heights to which Slaanesh's servants soar, all but the smallest fraction inevitably come plummeting back down to earth to be dashed against the jagged rocks of their own sins. The power of Chaos is the most seductive, powerful, and addictive drug ever imbibed by mortal souls and, like all drugs, the addicted are doomed as soon as the first taste passes their lips. Those who dedicate their souls to Slaanesh seek to draw power from their pact, power to drive them to extremes they would never otherwise experience, but the price is terrible indeed. Ultimately, the adherents experience all there is to experience, break every taboo, exceed every mortal limitation, and impose every form of suffering the mortal mind and body can endure; all that remains is a soulless husk driven by the hollow desires of one who has seen all and knows there is nothing left to see. For a time, the universe, indeed the multiverse, was a realm of limitless splendour and variation, but now it is a pale, faded, ragged remnant sucked dry and spent of all joy. To one dedicated to Slaanesh, such a fate is terrible indeed and one that all but those who achieve apotheosis and are granted daemonhood are doomed to meet.[4b]

One might wonder exactly what the Dark Prince gains by exacting such a price from his willing servants. When the mortal mind experiences extremes of emotion, Slaanesh's power within the evershifting Realm of Chaos grows at the expense of one or all of his kin. As his power waxes, so too do his territories, which encroach upon the lands of the other Chaos Gods. This process manifests in infinite forms, not least of which is the spectacle of a billion daemonettes capering through the territories of the Dark Prince's foes, slaying rival servants with graceful flicks of their razor sharp claws as they sing the praises of their master. When his power waxes so strongly that it can no longer be contained within the Realm of Chaos, the Winds of Magic turn to storms that howl outwards from the polar gates to saturate the lands of men with the fell power of the Dark Prince, driving his servants onwards and causing them to commit countless unspeakable acts in his name. One day, the storm will be unstoppable and never abate, and all the lands shall be submerged beneath a writhing, twitching blanket of sin.[4b]

Regarding Tzeentch

Tzeentch will often use his Chaos Cults to thwart the plots of those who follow the rival Ruinous Powers, but cults dedicated to Tzeentch also compete among themselves to attract the eye of their god. The Great Conspirator enjoys fostering treason and deception even among his own followers.[1a]

Tzeentch's ultimate goal is utterly unknowable. Perhaps the Great Game and even the destruction of the Old World are merely amusing diversions for the Great Schemer? The realisation of his greater plan, if he has one, is lost in the mists of the far future. His conspiracies often appear to be self-defeating and contradictory, for he has intricately planned each ineffable manoeuvre far into eternity. To even begin to unravel his intentions is to invite madness. Indeed it could be said that only the mad can truly understand the ways of the Great Schemer, for perhaps he is mad himself, and his plans are, in fact, utterly devoid of all reason.[1a]

Source

  • 1: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 3rd ED -- Book of Change
    • 1a: pg. 4
  • 2: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 3rd ED -- Book of Plague
    • 2a: pg. 4
  • 3: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 3rd ED -- Book of Blood
    • 3a: pg. 6
    • 3b: pg. 7
  • 4: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 3rd ED -- Book of Pleasure
    • 4a: pg. 3
    • 4b: pg. 7