Realm of Chaos (Warhammer)

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The first version of Realm of Chaos is a two-volume publication by Games Workshop concerning the forces of Chaos. The hardback books contain background material and rules for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (1st edition), Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader and Warhammer Fantasy Battle (3rd edition).

It consists of the 1988 book Slaves to Darkness and the 1990 follow-up The Lost and the Damned. Each of the two volumes describe the background and associated rules for a pair of antagonistic Chaos gods but each also had material that was germane to Chaos in general in the game settings. Both were written by Rick Priestley, Bryan Ansell, Mike Brunton and Simon Forrest although many more people contributed material, both writings and illustrations. The cover art of Slaves to Darkness was painted by John Sibbick and The Lost and the Damned by Les Edwards. The process in sketching and designing the cover for The Lost and the Damned was investigated within the volume. This was not the case for Slaves to Darkness.

The second version of Realm of Chaos was a boxed set released in 1995 covering all of the rules for the Chaos armies (Beastmen, Warriors, and Daemons) in Warhammer Fantasy. The box also contains the magic spell cards and items for the army.

Slaves to Darkness

Slaves to Darkness features extensive descriptions of the gods Khorne and Slaanesh, complete with a pantheon of their Daemons and rules for including these in tabletop battles as demonic armies.

It also features rules on the creation of Chaos Champions and their warbands, Daemon weapons, demonic possession and the Horus Heresy of WH40K. To give flavour for the background and attributes of followers of Chaos it contained material such as a list of over 120 "Chaos Attributes" - mutations that the followers of Chaos were often afflicted by. This included some mutations that were advantageous, such as those that made the mutant extra strong or taller, and those that confer a disadvantage, such as ones that made the mutant small, weak or stupid. Other mutations were purely cosmetic, such as giving the mutant brightly coloured skin or eyes on stalks, whilst some mutations were clearly comical, such as one that gave the mutant a silly walk (possibly inspired by the Monty Python sketch The Ministry of Silly Walks) and even a mutation that bestowed the "gift" of uncontrollable flatulence.

It introduced the Imperium's Daemonhunters of the Ordo Malleus and their associated Space Marine chapter - the Grey Knights.

The volume is also notable for having provided the first complete and coherent narrative of the Horus Heresy, an event which, albeit mentioned as the background justification of the internecine battles featured in the 1/300 scale boxed wargames Adeptus Titanicus and Space Marine, lacked a proper explanation in the WH40K milieu at large.

The Horus Heresy firmly locked the concept of chaos and demon influence in the SF universe of WH40K for good, establishing, as a consequence, that the "Realm of Chaos" was actually the Warpspace that intergalactic farers had to traverse in order to defeat the relativistic distances involved in space voyage.

The link between the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 worlds is explicitly stated in the first pages of the book.

The Lost and the Damned

The Lost and the Damned covers the background material and Daemons for the other two major Chaos gods Tzeentch and Nurgle. In addition, it contains rules that allow players and game masters to create their own gods and appropriate Daemons. The additional section introduced important elements for Warhammer 40,000, giving background on the early life of The Emperor as well as rules for the Sensei, immortal children the Emperor fathered during his thousands of years of life before he ascended the Golden Throne, who are champions of the cause of "good". The Sensei have since been written out of the Warhammer 40,000 background, although an explanation for their extermination was given as an Easter egg of sorts in the third edition of the Warhammer 40,000 rulebook.

Both volumes also have army lists for Chaos armies and painting guides for miniature figures. They also introduce the idea of daemonic battles, which consist of armies formed primarily from daemons and other immortal followers of Chaos and fought within the realms of Chaos itself.

Each was heavily illustrated and interspersed with many short stories related to Chaos. The Lost and the Damned featured the tale of the Horus Heresy's climax and an illustration of the Emperor's climactic battle with Horus. [1]

The two books contained a significant amount of violence and sex (although the latter was implied rather than explicit), particularly Slaves to Darkness, which featured Khorne, the god of violence and killing, and Slaanesh, god of pleasure and sensation. Though in the UK Slaves to Darkness carried the note "suggested for mature readers" on its cover, The Lost and the Damned did not. Labelling it as "mature content" was a guide for vendors as sales to minors was not legally restricted.

Slaves to Darkness features grotesque illustrations by artists such as Ian Miller, Adrian Smith, John Blanche, Tony Ackland and Tony Hough. As the subject matter of the book focused on the gods of violence and pleasure, the illustrations were likewise violent or perverse. The Lost and the Damned featured much more toned down artwork, although some was reused from Slaves to Darkness.

Games Workshop stopped publishing the books within a few years. It has been suggested that this was because, in the mid-1990s, Games Workshop began to try to appeal to younger gamers (hence diluting the mature content), rather than only to adults, and the explicit violence of the Realm of Chaos books was seemingly inappropriate for the younger market. Another suggestion is a more prosaic explanation: the Warhammer Fantasy game was revised and re-released in its fourth edition in 1992, an edition which rendered the rules in all the third edition supplements, including Realm of Chaos, obsolete. Warhammer 40,000 was revised along similar lines in 1993. The books are consequently quite rare, with The Lost and the Damned being much the rarer of the two. The reason for this is that a copy of Slaves to Darkness was required to use much of the material in The Lost and the Damned, whereas the former book could be used on its own, and was also released two years earlier than its companion volume. Hence Slaves to Darkness was reprinted twice after its initial release whereas The Lost and the Damned received only a single print run. For more extended and deeper reference lore material on the nature of the Hordes of Chaos, the Realm of Chaos books have been replaced by the newer volume The Liber Chaotica, published by Black Library Publishing.

Realm of Chaos Box


  • Brunton, Mike; Ansell, Bryan (1988). Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness. Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-869893-51-4. 
  • Ansell, Bryan; Priestley, Rick (1990). Realm of Chaos: The Lost and the Damned. Nottingham: Games Workshop. 
  • Williams, Richard; von Staufer, Marijan (2006). Liber Chaotica. Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-84416-394-6. 
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