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General Tactics

"It would be ugly to watch people poking sticks at a caged rat. It is uglier still to watch rats poking sticks at a caged person."

– Jean Harris


– Urist, Warhammer: Ravandils Quest

"Rodents of unusual size? I don't believe they exist."

– Free Company Sergeant Roberts, last words before being killed by a rodent of unusual size

The Skaven are technologically advanced ratfolk in the Warhammer Fantasy and Age of Sigmar settings. Ugly, evil creatures that spread plague wherever they go and topple kingdoms for fun and profit, you will be hard pressed to find a more unlikeable race out there.

Skaven are said to be the most evil race in the entire setting, and that's no idle claim. For all the Empire, Bretonnians, Dwarfs, High Elves, Wood Elves and Lizardmen's many flaws (and make no mistake, they are numerous) each of them has at least some claims to heroism that keep them out of being villains. Most undead are mindless automata executing their programming while their masters are usually capable of genuine love and altruism. Dark elves are cruel and have a culture based on torture and slavery, but they are more driven by historical grievances and living in an inhospitable homeland, and can display family loyalty along with traits that some would call decent or even questionably heroic. Orcs and Goblins are violent brutes, but they'll develop what could be considered friendships and attachments to their fellows, and even the most brutal Black Orc will cry if his pet squig dies. (Not in front of the other boyz, though because they'll all see him as nothing but a runty git.) Ogres are well-known to be gluttonous and casually cruel almost to a man, but they usually still love their families and their Gnoblar pets, and any Maneater worth his salt is usually good for his word upon payment. Despite their propensities towards killing, scheming, festering and raping, the mortal followers of Chaos are capable of honor, friendship and a warped form of love. Even Daemons, who may or may not count as their own separate race, usually respect the chain of command without constantly trying to murder their leaders and take their place. And the Beastmen, who are also inherently evil like the Skaven, respect their chieftains and shamans, deal honorably with their few allies and give worthy foes a fair fight.

Skaven have none of the above qualities, or any other that could be considered even vaguely noble or redeeming: they openly hate everyone and everything, are more cowardly and paranoid than any goblin, more cruel and hostile than Dark Elves, and more fractious than Chaos. Love, friendship and honor are completely alien to the Skaven's psyche. Due to their chronic backstabbing disorder, nobody trusts them, likes them, or wants to be 'allies' with them (except Dark Elves, who have a treaty with them that both sides betray at times). The only times they have done something that benefited non-Skaven or the world, such as helping beat the first incarnation of Nagash, are due for purely selfish reasons - Nagash did his best to enslave them and deny them warpstone. One of the only three reasons the Skaven have lasted this long and not killed themselves in an en masse fratricidal free-for-all is because their hatred of all other things outweighs their hatred of other Skaven by just enough for them to slightly function (that and their crazy-high birthrates or the direct intervention of their god, who's little better than them). However the 'just enough' cannot be stressed enough. Even with the all-out doom of their race present, as with Nagash or Chaos, they're still intent on fucking each other over. If possible, Skaven would kill each other in the womb.

And that's why we love to hate them so much.

It should be noted that there is one non-evil one in Warhammer Adventures, the Warhammer children's book series (yeah, that exists). Named Kreech, he's still the villain of that series, but by the standards of Skaven he's damn near a fucking Grail Knight. Screech actually lives in human culture, preferring it to his own people's, and has a 12-year-old human slave as his sidekick. Even in children's media they're utter bastards.

So who are they?[edit]

In a lot of science fiction going back to Starship Troopers and likely far earlier, there are races of Hive Creature. Vast beings that may have separate bodies, but have one will. One Consciousness. Each "individual" soldier or worker is akin to someone's finger, or a cell on someone's fingertip, and is ultimately an expendable resource in service to the greater whole. All march in lockstep to expand the influence of the gestalt consciousness across as far as possible, either assimilating or crushing any other they come across. The Skaven are the antithesis of this, though this fact in no way makes them nice.

The Skaven are a race of walking humanoid rats with dubious (but not to be underestimated) intelligence and a hideous feral cunning out to conquer the world in the name of their God, the Horned Rat, and also for their own personal gains. If there was one quality which defined their species, it would be raw unconstrained selfishness. By instinct, culture and the will of their asshole god, each Skaven is self-obsessed, paranoid, greedy, power-hungry, murderous and doesn't give a rat's ass (hehe) for their family or their race's well-being unless their own is at stake. They find the concepts of love, honor, loyalty and friendship to be so alien they can't comprehend them. In the prisoner's dilemma, they always defect. By nature, each of them is fundamentally evil, and this is not racism speaking here. To give context for this, a greenskin in the End Times event was traumatized by the loss of his beloved Squig, while no Skaven individual has ever, at any point, been shown to have an attachment to any living thing other than themselves. The closest example of such is Queek Head-Taker: Queek's master, Gnawdwell, raised him personally, and was notably proud of him, though this was admittedly more in the way of being proud of a well-made weapon. Queek himself also had a weird rapport with his trophies, who are sapient in his mind, and his second-in-command, Ska Bloodtail; granted, he is very evidently mentally unstable even by Skaven standards. The closest they can get is the exceedingly rare example where a Skaven can understand that certain other individuals are tools worth cultivating and protecting from outside threats, and are assets too valuable to allow their casual destruction or squandering. The only thing a Skaven hates more than other Skaven is creatures who are non-Skaven, and this gives the ratmen the vaguest ability to work together when they have a common enemy; otherwise they would fall on each other like, well, a pack of rats.

Skaven have an odd relationship with fear. On the one hand, cowardice is the order of the day. They definitely don't want to be sliced, stabbed, shot, skewered, squished, scorched or Slaaneshed. They'll do it for the prospects of rewards, killing rival Skaven or non-Skaven (which they collectively call "Things") and because their bosses WILL have them killed horribly if they don't at least try to fight, but most Skaven have a reticence to enter battle unless the odds are decidedly stacked in their favor, and they're more prone to breaking and running if things go pear shaped. On the other hand, Skaven have a weird fondness for quick routes to power. If you give a Skaven a potion which has a 25% chance of killing them quickly, a 25% chance of killing them slowly, a 25% chance of doing nothing and a 25% chance of giving them the ability breathe fire like a dragon, they'll usually take it.

Remember the saying about a bunch of monkeys with typewriters eventually producing Shakespeare? Well, at a species level they are sort of like that: keep throwing rats at the problem to try every cockamamie dunderheaded idea that said collection of drugged up hyperactive megalomaniacs desperate to get ahead can dream up until eventually they stumble on one that works, which others will shamelessly copy when it does. Each Skaven, be he a member on the Council of Thirteen or the lowliest of slaves who's used up and sent to the slaugherhouse, operates under the belief that they are the one true leader of the Skaven whose visionary insights would lead their species to domination of the universe in the name of the Horned Rat, if he can just gain the keys to power and overcome the short-sighted idiots which stand in his way. Introspection and self-reflection are not common Skaven traits, though some older Skaven like the aforementioned Gnawdwell and his former protege Sleek Sharpwit show that such qualities are possible, even if it’s exceedingly rare.

In terms of physiology, Skaven are shorter than humans, less bulky than them, slightly weaker (surprisingly not as much, considering the difference in size and mass), and generally "less" in every regard, but one. Where they do pick up is speed - Skaven live their life in perpetual super speed with all it's advantages and drawbacks - they move faster, think faster, breed faster and age faster, generally reaching adulthood at five months and growing old, gray and frail by the age of thirteen (though very few survive for that long). All that speed builds an almost insatiable appetite, and as they have no body fat reserves, they're always hungry, except maybe after the battle when they can eat the dead (of both sides). Skaven look unnervingly twitchy and energetic to other races (even Elves, who also have a kind of inherent superspeed), while Skaven see others as slow lumbering idiots. Like rats, the Skaven has good sense of smell. It is stated by Teclis in Total War: WARHAMMER 2's high elves vortex campaign that they could smell fear and "treachery" from others. According to Teclis, the Horned Rat's rat swarm smelled through the fake Galifreius' disguises, went for her while ignored Talarian.

They live in a massive underground empire known as, well as the Under Empire (with the Horned Rat being the God Emperor, ironically far more successfully than the OTHER Emperor) which spans through the Warhammer world like the Underdark. The only regions it fails to reach are Ulthuan because it's a giant floating island and Athel Loren because the Skaven diggers get murdered by tree roots or the soil itself refuses to be touched. Its capital is called Skavenblight, and is also one of the only visible signs of Skaven from the surface (because it is such an indescribable shithole), up until it was teleported to another dimension post End Times (it's still a shithole though). No one trusts them quite rightly, and few other races resist killing them on sight, which is reciprocated in kind. They are more numerous than any other race in the world, and only one enemy keeps them truly in check: themselves.


Warhammer Fantasy[edit]

No-one knows where they came from but it is suspected Tzeentch had a hand in their creation using Warpstone, a hideous amount of mutation, and generations of breeding with normal rats. (That is to say, breeding rats with other rats, not Tzeentch breeding with the rats. That's more Slaanesh's thing.) There's a poem in the Skaven codex, dating all the way back to their first codex in 4th edition, called "The Doom Of Kavzar". Written in-universe by an author in the Warhammer world's equivalent of Italy, it offers what is generally accepted as the most concrete explanation of their origins. To summarize;

  • Humans and Dwarfs lived together in a city, and decided to build a Noblebright Tower of Babel rip-off to thank the gods for their prosperity. But even Dorf engineering couldn't complete it, so they got some mysterious stranger to complete it in exchange of him being allowed to add a giant bell as a dedication to his own gods. Then the temple sealed itself shut, the stranger disappeared, and terrible things happened after the bell rang thirteen times. The weather turned bad with constant Warpstone-laced rain, crops failed and rats multiplied while growing bigger and smarter. Older fluff said the stranger cursed the city because the people cheated him of payment for finishing the temple, newer fluff just makes him out to be evil and mysterious. Realizing things were becoming Dwarf Fortress, the humans asked the Dwarfs for help. The first time the Dwarfs turned them down after calling them wimps for complaining about rain. The second time they were rebuffed was due to the rats eating all the Dwarfs' food. The third time the surviving humans got desperate and smashed open the Dwarf gates to demand their help. But all they found were bearded Dorf skeletons and well-fed, but still hungry, hordes of rats and the poem ends with them eating the humans to the soundtrack "...of dying screams and hideous chittering..."

tl:dr a wizard met humans and dwarfs, someone was swindled so magic happens that turns rats into tyranids. And the rest, is history...

Incidentally, this isn't the only theory presented to their origins, but it's the one most gamers take as canon. Some in-universe origin theories mentioned in the 6e fluffbook "The Loathsome Ratmen and Their Vile Kin" include:

  • An Imperial naturalist named Wilfried Schtutt argued that the skaven descend from rats warped into a semblance of the human form by some malign external power, such as Chaos.
  • A Tilean classicist, Marcelli Verdallo, argues that the skaven are living proof of the ancient philosopher-sage Proti's theorem that all things in the universe are created by the mystical interactions of cosmic archetypes from beyond time in space, being the fruit of some union between the archetypes of Rat and Man.
  • Johannes Krueger's Bestiarium mentions an ancient Estalian legend wherein shipwrecked survivors turned to cannibalism and were cursed by Manann, the Sea God, assuming rat-like forms.

Also there are a few other origin stories.

It is said that after their creation, Skaven spread across the world, learning many cultures, stealing technologies and magic technique that could help them in their conquest for Skavendom or personal power. Namely the Clan Pestilens who traveled southward and westward and ended up in Lustria, Clan Eshin who traveled eastward and ended up in Cathay, Clan Moulder who traveled northward and established a stronghold in some backwater hellish landscape known as the Hellpit near Kislev and Norsca.

Further evidence that the Doom of Kavzar is the canon origins of the Skaven is that the Skaven capital city, Skavenblight, is all but stated to be Kavzar (complete with the giant tower and the bell). This makes them a surprisingly old race, as they were actually well-established before the rise of the Tomb Kings as the undead rulers of Khemri - in fact, they had a grubby little paw in that whole sordid affair.

It was the Skaven that supplied Nagash with many slaves and warriors such as savage orcs for him to kill and raise. It was the Skaven that helped Nagash to poison the River Vitae, unleashing a magical plague to decimate every living thing in Nehekhara. It was also the Skaven who betrayed Nagash by assisting the human Alcadizaar in his defeat, which resulted in the rise of the Tomb Kings since Nagash was no longer around to control the dead Nehekharans. So, aside from the Dark Elves who taught Nagash the Lore of Darkness magic that would eventually evolve into the necromancy all vampires love, and the Nehekharans hate, the Skaven were the ones that supported Nagash, making him powerful and undefeated. (This is because every time Nagash died, he re-spawned back to his black pyramid. Although it takes a fuck load of time for him to actually get up, it allows him to grasp the mortal world while preserving his existence. Also the pyramid itself is indestructible so he has no need to trust anyone to guard it.) In the end, they still betrayed him for their own selfish desires. Classic Skaven.

The Skaven have been popping out numerous times across history, trying to weaken the forces of order to favor themselves in the long run. For example, they appeared during one of the Norseman invasions, when Sigmar was still around. In fear that Sigmar's Empire might threaten their very existence, they tried to use the invasion as an opportunity to destroy mankind, but failed nonetheless thanks to the Dwarfs that were blocking their tunnels.

After that, the Skaven didn't lay a hand on the Empire until after their own civil war. It was at this time that Clan Pestilens developed a new disease called the Black Plague (nice real life reference GW), spreading it among the Empire's population. The plague not only killed and reduced its population to less than half the size of the generation before, it also killed the current Emperor (AKA the worst Emperor, who was actually killed by an Eshin assassin's shuriken, but who cares) and every other corrupt noble in his hideout, and good riddance some say. The Skaven then launched their attack after the plague weakened the Empire, but were stopped by a pretty cool guy named Mandred von Zelt of Middenland, who gathered the rest of the elector counts and launched an anti-Skaven crusade. Ironically, the black plague played a major role in many of Mandred's victories, since the disease affected the Skaven rat bodies as well, weakening the Skaven army and killing enough of them to force their retreat. In the last battle, the Skaven launched their last counterattack, only to fail after their leader, Vrrmik, the warlord of Clan Mors, and a member of the Councils of Thirteen, was slain by Mandred. The rest of the vermin were then driven back to their Under-Empire by the Empire’s forces while suffering under their own plague from the war. What's worse for the Skaven was that the slaves they bought ended up revolting, and destroyed several already plague weakened clans while Mandred, who was declared the Emperor and sporting Vrrmik's own helmet at the time, rebuilt the Empire. The process was faster than the Skaven could expect, with the humans even installing the sewer watch to prevent further Skaven movement on the Empire. After such a humiliating defeat, the Council received many compensation notices from other disease ridden clans. But the Council decided to just assassinate them all, including our beloved Emperor rat slayer, and called it even. The assassination made mankind forget about the Skaven, even dismissing them as myth.

The Skaven are also pretty famous on the eastern side that Games Workshop refuse to talked about. Clan Eshin's ancestors once journeyed far to the east, losing contact with its society for 100 years. When they came back however, they had learned the art of NINJUTSU from some jerk-off at Nippon where they have skilled rats throwing shuriken, and frigging ninja flipping better than the Chapter Master Gabriel Angelos. In Cathay, some filthy beastman and a Sun Wukong wannabe become the Emperor of not-China and took an Eshin Skaven warlord as his right hand man. Thus began an unhealthy relationship of trading warpstones and rat shit, which means either the Cathay Emperor is nuttier than a warp fruit cake (which should be obvious since the new Emperor was mentioned to be a fucking magical monkey beastman, or probably something worse if he is also like Wu Kong born from the meteor except the meteor is made of warpstones), or Eshin Skaven are slightly more trustworthy than the rest of Skaven. (If you believe Total War, they are; they're the only clan that doesn't have to deal with warlord loyalty.) It might be true depending on how weeaboo the Eshin has become; if you look up on real world ninja, they do tend to be surprisingly loyal compared to what you might think. However, one could say that the eastern legion don't really have any experiences with Skaven betrayals, plus the Skaven did assist the Chaos Dwarves in the End Times to siege Cathay during the End Times, meaning everything the Skaven did in Cathay was but a diplomatic ploy to fool the Cathayan.

As if the Skaven aren't popular enough, they have the operation worldwide. There is Clan Pestilens in Lustria, who like to infect themselves with diseases that Nurgle doesn't approve of, and throw feces at lizard-things for the lulz. Some of the rats made it into Naggaroth (probably as slaves or a few via the under-Empire) while trying not to provoke the wrath of the strongest mama's boy in Warhammer history. The only place they could never set their foot on would be Ulthuan, which is a giant continent that floats on top of the water and obviously can't be connected to Skavenblight via tunnels. It's regardless just too scary for the rat-things to deal with: flame spewing dragon-things, elf-things that shoot rains of arrows from far away, and mages that have the power to summon a giant bombardment of nukes from the sky.

The Skaven themselves have no records of their origins, and do not particularly care about their past. As far as they are concerned, the only relevant historical eras are "now, when we don't rule the world" and "soon, when we will be ruling it". Of course, any given Skaven will be plenty interested in the history of his own life, but the history of the rest of their race is dismissed as unimportant. On day to day affairs, history is whatever the Council of 13 says it is, though it wouldn't be surprising if Grey Seers keep records.

Age of Sigmar[edit]

The Skaven survived the end of the old world by teleporting Skavenblight to another dimension. When the Horned Rat became the Great Horned Rat he immediately drew Skavenblight into the Warp and created more of his Daemons. What followed was a golden age for the Skaven, where there was Warpstone everywhere to be found, they had the direct blessing of the Great Horned Rat, and unlimited space and potential around them. They then promptly did the impossible and somehow dug so deep that part of the Warp collapsed into Skavenblight which collapsed into the material realm which is now made up of eight "nearly infinite" planes made of the former Winds of Magic.

Skaven now have access to all of reality at once, and can appear everywhere from beneath Sigmar's throne to beneath Khorne's throne. As can be expected the tunnels are not stable and thus only the Skaven are willing to use them, as even immortal and deathless Daemons can somehow vanish into the space between spaces never to be seen again when Skaven are involved.

Skaven have also had an exponential population boom, which is impressive considering they damn near outnumbered insects in the old setting. Each of the four former great Clans is now a type of Clan; what were once billions of ratmen that made up clan Moulder are now billions of Clans of billions of ratmen each which all identify as a Moulder type of Clan.

Skaven thus far in the fluff have predictably allied most with Nurgle.

Despite this massive buff to their lore, the arch-enemies of the Skaven, the Lizardmen, have gotten a boost too. Slann have lost the ability to see the present and instead are nearly omniscient concerning the past and future which allows them to outplan their enemies (the statement was vague, and it may or may not include Tzeentch himself considering even Sigmar was able to create a wall Tzeentch couldn't see past). The Lizardmen themselves are now beings of pure light, whose blood cleanses all Chaos taint and turned Nurgle's most beloved champion into a clean and healthy human again while purifying an otherwise permanently desecrated pool of water (though said champion was also smashed by the Celestant Prime with Ghal Maraz, so that also helped). Their numbers are unending, and to make matters worse for our beloved ratmen there now exists an ancestral memory in all Skaven. At the sight of Lizardmen all Skaven suffer PTSD flashbacks to jungles and stalking lizards tearing out the hearts of their kin, despite having been born only a few years ago and having never encountered them before.

As a result, while Skaven were backstabbing fucks who were against literally everything in the setting including themselves, in Age of Sigmar they now have a clear arch-enemy faction akin to the High Elves/Dark Elves of Fantasy and aligned with Grand Alliance: Chaos...well, except when they're backstabbing Chaos too. Some things never change.


If you do not know much about rat social behavior, you might be surprised to learn it is fairly well developed and includes among other things evidence of rodent altruism. As you might expect, GeeDubs ignored it entirely to make the Skaven more grimdark and work on people's stereotypes of what rats are like rather than how rats interact. Skaven society is literally cutthroat when it comes to promotions (but luckily not PROMOTIONS). In a world where you have chaos warriors who can Honor the chaos gods by killing/raping/getting minions caught up in complex plots, beastmen which are in a similar lot as chaos on top of animalistic aggression who still practice a survival-of-the-fittest pack-mindset based loyalty, orcs that are hardwired to love to scrap, goblins who are no strangers to backstabbing and dark elves who've literally made assassination and treachery an art the Skaven have managed to collect the gold medal in (f)ratricide. After receiving said award they promptly began killing each other to see which Skaven individual got to keep it; the conflict continues to this day, with no resolution in sight. The only reason why their society has not murdered itself into extinction is because of a very high reproductive rate. Despite their teamkilling tendencies they obey the Grey Seers, the prophets of their god the Horned Rat. Although this obedience is done purely out of fear, it is done without question. Except for the other Grey Seers.


The Skaven race is ruled over by the Council of Thirteen, Skaven of such evil they have been chosen by their vile god and manage to survive the constant threat of assassination, most likely because everyone is too afraid of these uber-ratman to go near them. Although they squeak big about their plans for world domination, they are too busy trying to outdo and kill each other. Despite the name there are only twelve Councillors; the 13th seat is symbolic and reserved for their god and woe betide anyone that tries to sit on it! To become a member of the council all any Skaven need do is touch the sacred Black Pillar and challenge a current member for his seat in a duel. In practice it has been over 200 years since someone actually manage to pull it off, which is a minor point in favor of the current crop of leaders on it, even though a large part of it is that touching the Black Pillar has a tendency to make Rats explode.

Beneath the council of thirteen are the Grey Seers and the Warlords. Horned, grey furred skaven pups are raised to be the priests and magic users of Skavendom that act on behalf of the council. Ironically enough the Skaven are more prone to throw around claims of HERESY! than the Sigmarite Empire. Not showing proper reverence to the Horned Rat brings down his wrath on the offender and everyone around him, so they take a dim view of anyone who misses their services. Secular Rodentism is not something which is going to catch on in Skavenblight. Warlords are those lucky rats that have managed through guile, luck, accomplishment on the battlefield and the elimination of rivals to get in charge of a Clan. Sometimes you get a Grey Seer warlord with his own clan, but that's usually the exception.

Beneath them, you have an upper crust of prominent individuals within the clans: Warlock Engineers, Master Molders, Plague Priests, Assassins, high ranking officers and so forth. Either through command of some arcane skill or having armed rats behind them they have wealth, better accommodations, hosts of underlings and regular access to breeders. Underneath them are those with a modicum of cultivated value: the merchants, the technicians, the packmasters, the rank and file of the Stormvermin, the apprentices to the great ones, the Gutter Runners, the overseers, skilled workers and so forth. All of which have to some degree or another got their position by struggling tooth and claw and are with it some measure of power and authority. Most of them rose from the Clanrats. Those poor bastards live in poverty packed up like sardines and have to work hard for their daily Skavenbread™ and fight tooth and claw to keep what little they've amassed. But even these wretched rats have it better than the Slaves. They are the remnants of defeated clans, the pups deemed surplus to requirements if not quite bad enough to be culled, those that earned the ire of their overseers and those whose power struggles failed them and avoided being killed. Their status is somewhere between that of a native in the Belgian Congo and a Pig in a Factory Farm. Clanrats may be exploited but Skavenslaves are actively worked to death, thrown at the enemy to absorb arrows and are fed a meager diet of scraps, garbage and each other. That's when they are not being taken to the butcher's block so their betters can enjoy a meat dinner and and have some leather. The best they can hope for is that a good deal of their superiors fuck up and die or that their clan conquers another leading to enough shuffling in the org chart that they can get promoted to clanrat status. But while clans do wax strong and skavendom produces a lot of said fuckups it also burns through skavenslaves like nobody's business.

Two key facts of this hierarchy is that Shit Flows Downhill and Stepping on Your Fellow Rats to Get Up. To a high ranking Skaven everyone else is a rival, either one that's an immediate threat or one in potential just waiting for the right moment to make its move against you, so you got to keep a lid on them if you can. Subordinates are to be given the minimum they need to accomplish their tasks, some rewards if they exceed expectations and nothing else. If they step out of line they can be beaten. If they cause too much trouble they can be replaced with some up and coming Rat eager to not be a skavenslave. If things are going badly for you, assert your dominance with a show of force. Even if things are going well, you should put the fear of the Horned Rat into your underlings just to remind them who's boss to be on the safe side. This comes before the fact that Skaven are vindictive little shits that have no qualms about taking out their frustrations on others. A sternly worded Letter to a Warlord from the Council of Thirteen will lead him snapping at his second in command and will eventually manifest itself in clanrats biting the tails off Skavenslaves because they'd been the subject of the ire of their overseers and need to re-assert dominance

Likewise if you want to get up (and between their megalomania and what the bottom is like ALL Skaven want to go up all the way), you need to not only excel or have some useful talent but also deal with the million other rats out there with the same ambitions. If you want to survive in the slave pits, shiv your neighbor and eat him to get enough calories so you'll have the strength to see another day. If the clawleader's favorite mug has gone missing, say the guy who's always admired it stole it to bring down the bosses wrath upon him so you have one less rival, the boss's wrath is directed elsewhere and if you happen to be right he just might throw you a bone for being (due to the lack of a better word) loyal. Apprentices could and should steal the ideas of their fellows to become Warlock Engineers Attempting to police the Skaven to stop such backstabbing is usually an exercise in futility, especially since whatever Police Rats you can scrounge up will inevitably engage in said activities on their own. Not that it matters much in most cases, there is always a fresh stream of replacements and those eager for dead rat's shoes. At most murder provides an excuse for removing individuals that they don't like in a move that is slightly less likely to spark the paranoia of your rivals. A good Skaven leader knows how to use this competition to keep his minions in line and to get the most out of them. A bad skaven leader is going to end up on the barbecue sooner rather than later. This is the case from birth, even for those whose role was determined at birth like grey seers and stormvermin have to fend off both ruthless instructors and backstabbing fellow applicants. Nobody is unscathed.


Although unintentional on the side of writers, there are circumstances where real life rats can become Skaven-like. In a series of social experiments involving overpopulation designed to see what effects human overpopulation in cities like New York or Tokyo could be paralleled, rat populations with far too many beings in far too small an area begin to go, as individuals, insane while the group becomes far more violent despite having more than enough food and water to sustain the entire population. When a high-density population that shows these behaviors is given more area to roam in by having another set of open cages attached or being shifted to smaller population cages, the behavior remains the same meaning the rats have been permanently mentally damaged; only with successive generations do they regain sanity. So in a way, Skaven have inadvertently made themselves fucking insane by choosing to live in horrible conditions and to overpopulate. Theoretically, saner and more level-headed (if not necessarily less evil) generations of Skaven could emerge if the species got access to more room and better conditions, and was completely removed from its old environment and the previous rats who inhabited it.

In fact, if the root of the Skaven's evil nature could be traced to both their terrible environment and the terrible culture that both feeds and feeds off of that environment rather than anything genetic, theoretically, there could actually be good Skaven if they were somehow separated from Skavenblight immediately after birth and raised outside of it by someone willing to give them a chance. However, seeing as how the primary…“engines” of Skaven reproduction are heavily guarded in the very heart of Skavenblight, and literally every other race in Warhammer is hard-wired to kill the mangy rat-bastards on sight (and with FUCKING good reason), such a thing will almost certainly remain purely theoretical. Especially since all that trouble would ultimately amount to little more than proving a petty point, with little to no real pay-off beyond making the Horned Rat personally pissed off at you (then again there are some that might find that outcome a goal in and of itself).


The Rank and File[edit]

  • Skavenslaves: Large numbers of starved skavenslaves are thrown at the enemy's front lines with crummy scrounged up weapons for the enemy to waste arrows, bog down enemy movements and hopefully take down a few manthings by sheer numbers. Some lucky ones get to annoy the enemy at a range with slings, which is sort of a luxury as nobody else in the army can take them.
  • Clanrats: The basic Rank and File of a Clan with some armor and better weapons (swords, shields and spears). Better fed, more durable and less likely to run than Skavenslaves, but still cannon fodder that relies on numbers against all but the crummiest of foes. Various campaign supplements would expand on the basic Clanrat with unique variations for each Great Clan, like the Rotten Rodents of Clan Pestilens, who trade their shield for an extra hand weapon.
  • Stormvermin: Black furred pups are singled out to be soldiers. They get given extra food, ruthless spartan way training, better weapons and armor than the common riff-rats and take some pride in their units (which means that they are less likely to randomly stab their fellows in the back than most skaven and any failure to meet the standards is liable to get a stormvermin executed). Basic elite units for when you want something that has more staying power than Clanrats.


  • Poisoned-Wind Globadiers: A elite corps of Clan Skryre clanrats trained in the usage of special glass spheres filled with toxic vapors. They lob said orbs at hordes of enemy troopers where they shatter disperse their poisonous payload into the air. To protect themselves, the Globadiers wear special breathing equipment on the (common) chance one of their globes is faulty. TWW2 introduces a more potent type of poison called the Death Globe, whose toxins are harmful even with the slightest of skin contact.
  • Weapons Teams: Clan Skryre’s bread and butter. A vast collection of various weapons all designed to be carried by a pair of skaven and have a staggeringly high rate of (explosive) failure. The Warp-Fire Thrower is a crude fire hose connected to a gas tank that spews a corrosive fluid that ignites upon exposure to air. It was created to melt through heavily armored dwarfen shield walls during their first wars against the beard-things. Ratling Guns are the skaven’s take on real world gatling guns; six barrels of rapid fire warpstone bullets all powered by a hand crank. Said cranking mechanism is prone to overheating and explosion should the gunners get too eager on the spinner. For more precise weaponry, the Warplock Jezzail provides. It’s an oversized rifle held in place by a rickety shield and built to deliver lethal warpstone bullets into the heads of an enemy leader from miles away. A Doom-Flayer is what happens when you take the Green Goblin’s pumpkin bombs and turn it into an armored chariot. These bladed balls were originally meant for tunnel clearance and mowing down pesky dwarf battle lines. Similarly, the Warp-Grinder was also initially made for utility purposes, serving as a quick means of excavating new underways, though it was soon repurposed for drilling into armored units and bastions. Finally the Poisoned Wind Mortar, the grown up version of the Globadier, these mini artillery pieces launch lethal spheres of toxic fumes across the battlefield to choke the lives out of enemies, though it is the only weapons team to not make the jump to Age of Sigmar. And naturally there’s also the Death Globe Mortar in TWW2 as well.
  • Night Runners: The initiates of Clan Eshin. Having yet to fully grasp the importance of discipline, stealth, and basic fucking patience, they run headlong into enemies throwing sharpened metal stars and knives at them (likely Naruto running and shouting attack names as well). They do have their uses though, serving as excellent skirmishers thanks to their ranged attacks and natural agility.
  • Gutter Runners: Those lucky few Night Runners who survive their first battle and learn how to stand still are soon claw-picked to become Gutter Runners. These elite teams are the main agents of Clan Eshin you’ll find. Often hired for sabotage, espionage, eating fromage, and of course assassination. TWW2 adds an even more elite variant of the Gutter Runners called the Death Runners, who are noted for having zero armor and simply dodging most attacks.
  • Assassin: Pretty straight forward. Picked from the most elite of Gutter/Death Runners, these expert killers are so feared among the Under-Empire that rumors spread about them having special abilities, from squeezing into a coin sized hole to having a poisonous shadow. Outlandish that may sound, Clan Eshin isn’t one to confirm or disperse these rumors.
  • Eshin Sorcerer: One of the ninja clan’s better kept secrets. Not only are they rigorously trainer in the arts of murder and sabotage like the other initiates, these Skaven are capable of wielding their own unique magic called the Lore of Stealth (likely a mixture of Shadow magic and the standard Skaven Lore of Ruin). As expected, the Nightlord doesn’t want too many people to know about their existence (Grey Seers in particular), so much so that they vanished from the lore and tabletop for a while...until TWW2 brought them back into the limelight.
  • Packmaster: Part slave-driver, part animal tamer, Packmasters are adepts of Clan Moulder who specialize in the “care” of their menagerie of beasts. Often recruited from the most bully like Skaven, they are cruel and relentless with their whips and spiked prodders which double as a means of defense as well as way to encourage their monsters to fighter harder. Some also are known to carry large snapping claws on pole arms called thing-catchers, which they eagerly use to grab new test subjects whilst on the battlefield.
  • Giant Rats: The most common/simple of Clan Moulder’s monsters. They’re just big ass rats, usually the size of a small domestic dog. They are herded into massive swarms by their Packmaster(s) to drown the foe in furry bodies.
  • Pox Rats: A step up from the Giant Rat, these boar sized rodents are commonly used as mounts for various Skaven leaders, though as their sickly name suggests, the Plague Priests of Clan Pestilens are particularly fond of them.
  • Rat Ogres: The premier product of Clan Moulder. Through a fusion of skaven, ogre, and countless other beasties, a hulking monstrosity was born. Ill-tempered, violent brutes who serve as shock troopers/bodyguards for skaven armies. Like actual ogres, they are very strong but also quite dumb. Despite this, they can be equipped with several rudimentary upgrades and weapons for more specialized needs. During the End Times, Clan Skryre improved upon the base Rat Ogre and created the even more dangerous Stormfiend. By adding a secondary brain via an tiny ass skaven slave to the beast’s back, they can now operate more advanced weaponry, such as warp fire projectors, shock gauntlets, rattling guns, and many more, while still keeping the same base level instincts and loyalty they are known for.
  • Plague Monks: The zealous followers of Clan Pestilens. Less armored than a Clanrat, these ragged devotees rush into battle with filth encrusted robes and rusted blades while chittering prayers and wishes to the Horned Rat. Each one is infected with enough viruses and sickness that just being in the vicinity of them is detrimental to your health. They gladly throw themselves onto foes to smother them in corruptive ilk and often carry tomes full of various litanies and vows to their pestilential deity.
  • Plague Priest: Looking more like champions of Nurgle rather than skaven, these pox-filled vermin are the heads of the Pestilent Brotherhood. They lead vast congregations of sickly followers on a holy mission to corrupt the world in the name of the Great Horned Rat. The most distinguished Priests often ride into battle upon massive Plague Furnaces, a rickety siege engine centered around a giant swinging censer, constantly filling the air with toxic warpstone fumes. These fumes invigorate the warriors of Clan Pestilens and choke the life out of all others.


Skaven organize themselves into Clans, through which they organize their backstabbing. The individual backstabs for position within a Clan, the Clan backstabs for position in Skaven society.

There are many Clans, far more than any being other than the Horned Rat (presumably) knows. Clans rise, fall, split, infight, reform, and even ally constantly. Each Clan seeks to have one of their members in a position in the Council of Thirteen, which runs the business of their entire race.

The Council of Thirteen is conveniently organized like a clock, with 13 at the 12 position which is representative of the Horned Rat. Members are called Lords of Decay. Each position is more powerful within the Council based on their proximity to the Horned Rat, so the Lords of Decay at the 1 and 12 position are the two most powerful, 2 and 11 behind them, while the Lords of Decay at the 6 and 7 positions are the weakest. Each Lord of Decay can outright veto the position of the one opposite them. Each Lord of Decay has their position marked by a symbol, either that of themselves or that of their Clan. The Lords of Decay have thus far remained in power for most of the existence of the Council thanks to the life-prolonging Warpstone they use (so Skeksis), although they rise and fall in power.

Skaven Clans fall into three categories: Great Clans, Warlord Clans, and Thrall Clans. The four Grear Clans are extremely powerful, and epitomize the different aspects of Skaven society (Each Greater Clan later became a type of Clans in Age of Sigmar due to an exponential population boost). Warlord Clans are essentially the middle class of Skaven, usually doing their own thing and not tied to any specific Great Clan. The Thrall Clans are weaker warrens that swear allegiance to a Great Clan to survive or grow in power. Of course thanks to Skaven backstabbing, a Thrall Clan is an expendable frontline infantry source while the Great Clans are just sources of really neat toys like Rat Ogres and Ratling Guns, and of course every Clan is waiting to betray each other while making allegiances to other Clans and to betray their REAL allies that they're of course waiting to be backstabbed by while totally being unaware of the fact that a fourth set of Clans have set up the backstabbing conga for their own benefit, and so on as far as you want to get into it (note: this describes a single day of plotting or so).

When fielding an army, one or two Clan paint jobs and multiple Thrall-Clan paint jobs are quite fluffy.

The four Great Clans are:

  • Clan Eshin, the ninja assassin Clan. {MURDER ALL OF THESE!!!!!!!!!!!!!}
  • Clan Moulder, the Clan which breeds monsters and sews them together Frankenstein style to make even better monsters.
  • Clan Pestilens, the founder of the Pestilent Brotherhood and the largest and most powerful Pestilent Brotherhood member.
  • Clan Skryre, the Clan which produces Warp-powered Tesla cannons, machine guns, vehicles, and other assorted machines.

In addition, there are the Grey Seers, silver furred Skaven with horns that represent the servants of the Council and the Horned Rat. They are above all Skaven other than the Lords of Decay and as a result tend to be somewhat free from the backstabbing conga, other than that of other Grey Seers. Any grey Skaven who do not have horns are part of the Council Guard, the elite warriors that protect the Council and the Grey Seers. However those Skaven that protect the Council of Thirteen directly are The Albino Guard, purely white furred giga-stormvermin.

Clans of the Skaven
Great Clans: Clan Eshin - Clan Moulder - Clan Pestilens - Clan Skryre
Thrall Clans: Clan Ektrik - Clan Feesik - Clan Fester - Clan Flem - Clan Gratzz - Clan Kreepus
Clan Morbidus - Clan Septik - Clan Skrat - Clan Treecherik - Clan Vrrtkin
Warlord Clans: Clan Carrion - Clan Corpulent - Clan Crooktail - Clan Famin - Clan Ferrik - Clan Festerlingus
Clan Festus - Clan Gangrous - Clan Gnaw - Clan Gowjyer - Clan Grikk - Clan Gristlecrack
Clan Gritak - Clan Gritus - Clan Grutnik - Clan Jamcreermin - Clan Klaw - Clan Krik - Clan Krizzor
Clan Liskit - Clan Makris - Clan Mange - Clan Mawrrl - Clan Merkit - Clan Mordkin - Clan Mors
Clan Rictus - Clan Rikek - Clan Rikket - Clan Scruten - Clan Skab - Clan Skaul - Clan Skitr
Clan Skitterbite - Clan Skrapp - Clan Skrittlespike - Clan Skully - Clan Skurvy - Clan Skuttle
Clan Sleekit - Clan Spittle - Clan Volkn - Clan Vruzz
Age of Sigmar Clans: Clan Verminus - Clan Brakkish - Clan Buborix - Clan Corruptus - Clan Dregg - Clan Ekkit
Clan Ezzik - Clan Fang - Clan Ghrubbitus - Clan Gnarlkyn - Clan Koniptik - Clan Krakhl
Clan Kratt - Clan Morskrit - Clan Nichtus - Clan Nullix - Clan Phrikk - Clan Pustulous - Clan Resnykt
Clan Retchid - Clan Rhukrit - Clan Scour - Clan Scurrie - Clan Shokryk - Clan Shrok - Clan Shyvik - Clan Skarrik
Clan Skrabb - Clan Slynk - Clan Snirk - Clan Sputix - Clan Stabbik - Clan Staktik - Clan Stryk
Clan Threbb - Clan Virulox - Clan Vomikrit - Clan Vomix - Clan Vrash - Clan Zikk - Clan Ziknak


The Skaven worship their creator the Horned Rat, a god as sickening and vile as they are. God of disease and vermin, thankfully he gets the crap kicked out of him by Sigmar and Sotek on a regular basis and frankly anyone that feels like having a go. He got fed up with such bullshit at the End Times, telling the Skaven to stop backstabbing eachother and get shit done, which they proceed to do by destroying many cities. He also made a deal with the Chaos Gods as he cannot defeat them.

As of Age of Sigmar, Slaanesh was kidnapped by three Elf gods that were formerly mortals (Tyrion, Teclis, Morelion) at the manipulations of Tzeentch and the newly-appointed HNIC of all Chaos Archaon. This resulted in Nurgle and Khorne immediately voting with them to boot him out of the pantheon and the Great Game and promoting Horned Rat to proper Chaos God in his place. Horned Rat immediately renamed himself Great Horned Rat, but found out that the big kids table was full of backstabbing assholes with absolutely no respect for each other, and somehow even less for him. When the Chaos Gods gave Archaon their blessings, Archaon rejected the Horned Rat's blessings and spat directly in his face for daring to presume GHR can bless the self-righteous ass that is Archaon(Though this could just be Archaon not having absolutely abysmal standards).


Skaven wield a form of Dark Magic fueled by warpstone and derived from their own inherently corrupt abilities. However, select kinds of skaven are capable of actually tapping that energy; traditionally, only the Grey Seers, rare mutants who function as the skaven's shamans and the Warlock Engineers of Clan Skryre, who use magitek devices to draw upon and manipulate Dark Magic, possess this power, but that lore has fluctated over editions.

In 4th edition, Warlocks could be 1st to 3rd level casters, with Grey Seers being 4th level casters, and both used the same "Lore of Skaven" magic system.

In 6th edition, only Grey Seers were casters, still using the Lore of Skaven; Warlock Engineers instead had to spend points on magitek weapons that also allowed them to cast a single spell, Warp Lightning. However, the optional rules for Great Clan armies in the back of the book also featured clan-based casters; these "lesser mages" were treated as level 1 casters who only knew a single pre-selected spell. Clan Eshin had Sorcerers (Skitterleap), Clan Pestilens had Festoring Chantors (Pestilent Breath), and Clan Moulder had Harbingers of Mutation (Vermintide). Clan Skyre's Warlock Masters could still only cast Warp Lightning, but could try and cast an 11+ variant that was much more powerful.

In 7th edition, things changed; now, Skaven had two different schools of magic - Ruin and Plague, with Warlock Engineers being Hero level casters of Ruin and Plague Priests getting an upgrade to be Hero level casters of Plague, with Grey Seers being Lord level casters who could mix and match spells from both lores, and had access to the unique "Dreaded 13th Spell", which could transform enemy troops into skaven clanrats.

"Children of the Horned Rat", the skaven sourcebook for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd edition, tweaked the Skaven magical lores around. Naming the two primary schools of Skaven magic as Plague and Warp, it also upgraded Eshin Sorcerers to full-fledged casters, with their own unique school of magic; the Dark Lore of Stealth, a corrupt form of Shadow Magic that lets them do more animesque ninja stuff. As CotHR was written around the time of 6th edition, it doesn't quite mesh up with either 6e or 7e fluff; instead of being masters of all the skaven styles, it's implied (it's a little hard to ascertain) that Grey Seers only use Warp Magic, whilst Plague Priests and Eshin Sorcerers only use Plague Magic and Stealth Magic respectively. Warlock Engineers, meanwhile, can't use magic at all, but instead can make unique magitek gizmos.

Also, CotHR says that rogue Grey Seers can learn Chaos Magic or Necromancy, although this paints them as skaven heretics.


Skaven are your standard easily abused horde army. Lots of cheap vermin, whose numbers allow them to easily ignore their one theoretical weakness: shitty leadership, backed up by more expensive and/or specialized units, that are in theory unreliable but will still wreck your shit moar consistently than most anything else by sheer volume. Also, DOOMWHEELS.

Under current rules they are have always been considered overpowered, except for a brief period where DoC reigned thanks to your Spiritual Liege. They have now reclaimed their mantle, since 8th edition heavily favors mass infantry blocks, and the Skaven can easily throw out a block of 100 models for less than what some other armies will spend on a lord, no, I'm not exaggerating, which under the current rules is virtually unbeatable.

Special Characters[edit]


The cast of Skaven special characters has shifted and flowed across editions, but this is the original list from 4e:

6th edition saw the creation of a handful of new characters, whose stats appeared either in White Dwarf or on Games Workshop's website - back before they turned it into a mere shopping center. In addition to converting many 4e characters who'd been left out of their 6e army book, such as Snikch and Ikit Claw, 6e saw the creation of:

7th edition added two new characters to the list:

Fluff-only, Other Games, Other Continuities[edit]

Posed like a /pol/ cartoon AND implied reverse-furry pedophile? Somehow worse than legit Skaven!
  • Kreech: FUCK, I thought we agreed never to mention him again. Exists in Age of Sigmar to be the PG version (no depicted cannibalism, drug addiction and mass murder) of Thanquol to the pacifist protagonist adolescents of Warhammer Adventures, is a complete weeb for humans, and has a slaveboy from the Realm Of Beasts named Scratch.

Fun Facts[edit]

  • They consider the number thirteen to be lucky/holy. This a reference to how thirteen is seen as unlucky in Western society. However, several real-life nations/cultures consider thirteen a lucky number.
  • Grey Seers regularly ride giant bells on scaffolds into battle
  • in ye olden days they could be led by friggin master splinter! im not kidding this was a thing
  • Their leaders lead from the back, to get a better view of the battle of course and not due to the meatshield tactic.
  • They can improve anything, with the addition of magical radiation rocks!
    • This may or may not involve improving themselves by snorting said rock.
  • Backstabbing little bastards, they'll fuck you up five different ways without you even knowing about it, if you're lucky.
  • Skaven do not abide by any codes of honor or battle etiquette, and as such, they WILL bring a gun to a swordfight (and even then they'll try to steal your sword beforehand (and poison you (and improve themselves with warpstone before (aaaaand the gun might be a DOOMWHEEL)))).
  • Skaven have a combination of ego and incompetence that would make Starscream look down his nose at them. (Bad comedy right there)
  • Skaven do NOT think about the potential consequences of anything that they do. Taken to its logical conclusion in The End Times when they blow up the motherfucking Chaos Moon and nearly destroy the planet with moon-fragments.
  • At one point they had the cheapest troops in any game setting. How cheap? It was measured in fractions of a point!
  • They can carry giant rocket launcher weaponry that will most likely explode in their own damn faces.
  • RATLING GUNS! its as cool as they sound! and yes, it does what it says on the tin
  • for the last time, master splinter did NOT teach all of clan Eshin how to all be ninja rats...only a few
  • As of Total Warhammer II, Skavens can into space. (No, seriously, go play the campaign!)
  • BTW, they also have sniper rifles. Warpstone rifles of instant brain pop, yes-yes


The above sentence clearly illustrates the quirks of skaven language: they often say certain monosyllabic words twice (words like "die-die" and "fool-fool" are popular). Skaven are also known to link similar-related words together. Some people believe these things should only be done to the most important part of a sentence. However, in some official works, such as Total Warhammer II, these quirks are applied seemingly at random in skaven speech.

Also, they often end the name of a species with the suffix -things, so men are man-things, dwarfs are dwarf-things, et cetera.

This helps indicate that non-Skaven are not people in their eyes. Although considering their backstabby natures it isn't as if they're trying to avert sense of shame or horror from killing others, which is why humans dehumanize during war... so why? Likely the Skaven equivalent of racial slurs.

Female Skaven[edit]

Canon image of a female Skaven.
The closest thing to a female Skaven model to come out of Games Workshop.

The skaven as a whole fit the idea of "ratmen" - with particular emphasis on the men part. All named skaven characters are male, and new fans invariably wonder; what about females? Where do skaven come from?

There was never any great emphasis placed on them. Indeed, they were left so ambiguous that the first ever description of skaven females actually came about as a result of one fan's fanfiction, during those hoary days when Gnomes and Half-Orcs were still canon. In "The Book of the Rat", a fan-made netbook of skaven lore for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st edition, female skaven were stated to exist but were hugely oppressed; they were kept as sexual slaves in segregated chambers of the warren, to which only the clan's elites were allowed access. Kept in miserable conditions, their life consisted of nothing but rough sex, pregnancy and looking after their mewling ratlings. Female skaven were described as rarer than male skaven, partially due to biology, primarily because their mothers and the bitter, infertile/elderly midwives tended to be particularly callous towards the female offspring and so female skaven have a much, much higher mortality rate than the males.

When we got official lore, however, it turned out to be far worse... in the first ever Warhammer Armies: Skaven sourcebook was released, way back in Warhammer 4th edition, fans were presented with what is the earliest known mention of skaven females: a single line describing them as being "indolent" and "semi-intelligent" in the general Skaven entry in the bestiary section (page 50). Modern lore, established in the Skaven's 6e army book and preserved since then, built upon this singular line and is considerably more grimdark than the fanon presented in "The Book of the Rat": female skaven are horrific monsters, implied to be basically female Giant Rats of enormous stature, who build upon their description in 4e by being described as feral, effectively non-sapient creatures. They are basically giant wombs, locked away separately from the males and existing only to feed and produce offspring, so monstrously pregnant and indolent that their limbs have atrophied, rendering them incapable of doing anything but wallow in the breeding pits.

Further female skaven lore, such as it is, was fleshed out by Black Library fiction and most prominently by Children of the Horned Rat, a skaven sourcebook for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd edition. In CotHR, it's theorized that only one in ten skaven are female, reaching sexual maturity at the age of 2 and spending the rest of their 2 decades of life doing nothing but breed, averaging 12-24 pups a litter and 4-5 litters per year.

What's truly grimdark however, as explicitly stated in that same book is, that skaven females are actually NOT NATURALLY LIKE THIS! They are instead this is the result of the skaven's malevolence and their need to "improve" upon nature; from a young age, skaven females are constantly dosed with Warpstone-based narcotics and hallucinogens, intended to keep them docile and segregated, so they will not protest their life of endless baby-making. There is a single line hinting that this may not be as effective as the male skaven think: "So cloistered away from the rest of their race are they that they do not learn their race’s chittering speech, nor are they proficient in even the simplest social skills…or so the Skaven believe." But still the vast majority of "Rat Mothers" spend their lives incessantly pregnant and an interminable drug-fueled haze, often blind and/or crippled, and dependent on the ministrations of the "Ratwives" - castrated skaven who serve as nurses to the female Skaven themselves and midwives to their endless litters.

TL;DR: skaven females are practically furry Daemonculaba.

Access to the females is carefully guarded. The most powerful of skaven are allowed to own one or more females for their private use - females are readily traded between clans as extremely valuable bargaining chips - and access to the communal females in the breeding pits is restricted to high-ranked or otherwise successful skaven; in one of the Gotrek & Felix novels, a Skaven is rewarded by his superior by being given permission to mate with one, whilst "Thanquol's Doom" features a skaven who partially lost their nose in an "incident" whilst mating with a breeder - apparently, she got too excited and tried to eat him.

The female Skaven's status as "bloated, indolent baby-makers" was referenced in the End Times. In "End Times: Thanquol", a Dwarf Slayer separated from the other during the battle of Karak Eight Peaks found his way into a Skaven breeding pit filled with hundreds of females in such a state, their litters and a handful of Ratwives. He killed the Ratwifes, the breeders and their litters, there being so many Skaven the Slayer's arms got sore form all the killing. Then the Slayer stumbled upon another breeding pit just as big, but by then Skaven soldiers had discovered what he did in the previous breeding pit so they swarmed him and slaughtered him. The End Times is the most recent lore on this, so it looks like the baby-factory fate is canon for most, if not all, female Skaven.

It bears mentioning that the status of the "breeders" does have some real-world basis to it. The rodent contains the only known eusocial mammals; the mole-rats, who live in colonies consisting of a single reproducing female with one (or up to three, for naked mole rats) reproducing males reigning over a large brood of sterile offspring that work as a collective to survive. In these cases, however, there are equal numbers of males and females, and it's the presence of a breeding queen and her pheromones that causes sterility into the younger mole-rats; if removed from her presence, they become fertile in turn.

It also bears mentioning that, in Blood Bowl, the Skaven team comes with cheerleaders who are non-"Breeder" females, which you can tell because they have four big breasts each. But then, Blood Bowl also has fem-Orcs, so its connection to canon of any edition after 3e is kind of dubious.

Beastmen connection[edit]

So, since this is a race made of humanoid rats empowered by Warpstone (which is officially described as being Chaos energy manifest), you may be wondering whether or not they're Beastmen. Well, the answer is that it kind of flips back and forth. Way back in the early editions, yes, Skaven were explicitly a break-away faction of relatively stabilised Beastmen, even pitching in with the Hordes of Chaos or spawning Chaos Champions of their own -- the "Design a Daemon Prince/Chaos God" rules in 3e's Slaves to Darkness - The Lost and The Damned even features a skaven turned Daemon Prince of Chaos Undivided.

Since then, the connection has been downplayed extremely; the Empire generally describes Skaven (when they acknowledged they exist) as just "Beastmen who happen to look like rats", but there's no official connection between the two other than the fact Grey Seers have horns that signal them as important (a classically Beastman trait) and the fact both are animals mutated by Chaos-stuff.

Warhammer 40k[edit]

While no direct space Skaven exist, there are ratlike mutants described in the fluff, rat-worshiping cultists in Necromunda, a mutant race called Ratlings which despite being more halfling than rat could be argued as a successor, the Imperial Guard itself which serves as uneducated and amoral xenophobes who are mass-bred and treated as currency by the Imperium with access to some nice and fancy toys which are more likely to cause teamkilling than damage to foes *BLAM* HERESY!, and lastly there are the Tyranids who are 40k's version of ungodly numbers faction crossed with the Ogre Kingdoms motivation to eat everything in sight (though for different reasons). The Hrud used to be the Space Skaven, as in giant dieselpunk rat people, but that was pretty much retconned. They look different now (on the rare occasion they are mentioned in the fluff), so the only actual space Skaven are the Veer-Myn from Warpath by Mantic games. As usual, most of their models are, well not terrible, but not the greatest things ever, there is however great potential for a fantasy warlock engineer conversions. However, it does appear that the recent Skitarii model releases may have taken inspiration from the Skaven aesthetic (though not gameplay) with their many steampunk-styled weapons, most notably the Transuranic Arquebus and Radium Jezzail. Alternatively, the Genestealer Cults are a particularly close match gameplay-wise, with lots of ambushing troops and monsters backed up by armor and artillery.


Skaven are one of the primary things in the Warhammer IPs that are actually unique to Games Workshop. As a result, its hard to obtain miniatures for them from third party companies, which is of particular irritation to Skaven players who want Skaven Slaves to actually look like downtrodden Skaven or those who refuse to give any more money to Games Workshop.

However, Reaper Miniatures thankfully has begun to produce a "Wererat" range which includes decent alternatives to Rat Ogres, Assassins, a Verminlord, and even a female Skaven with six breasts for those wanting to have the most unique Warlord in the FLGS. This is in addition to the ordinary rat models, useful for spicing up scenery or large kits (or obtaining cheap Rat Swarms). These models are produced in the "Bonesium" material in the Bones line, which while being prone to bending badly is LUDICROUSLY cheap and completely safe from being dropped from any height onto any surface. Notably, some have taken to replacing the parts notorious for bending (weapons, especially spears) and replacing them with kitbashed weapons or even greenstuff. As far as the metal range goes, Reaper also produces Barrow Rats which can be useful as Pox Rats, Giant Rats, or Rat Hounds.

A further alternative source is Mierce Miniatures, in particular their Vras faction of models. They have two warrior characters, more hamster-like than rat-like in proportions but with a paintjob serve as spectacular bloated disease-spreading characters (or just fat rat bastards). More importantly, Mierce has five large creatures that serve as Hellpit Abominations or as Verminlords. "Flint-Fang, Kill-Thing of the Infernal Pits" is preferred by some as an Abomination for its less Akira and more Frankenstein appearance (some praise or are horrified by its...anatomical correctness). "Back-Cracker, Goz-Horror" is an Abomination looking more like some kind of mad science genetic horror, while "Three-Faces, the Verminous Horror" takes the basic Games Workshop Abomination and replaces "steam-powered" with "tumor". "Scar-Claw, Rat Fiend" and "Scar-Scath, Vermin-Fiend" are alternative Verminlords, and thanks to the monopose nature of the End Times Verminlord kits make decent alternatives or just sources of kitbashing materials when fielding more than one.

Otherworld Miniatures produces both small rats and naked ratmen, although the latter sadly only come in two poses.

Mirilton Ratscum resemble Slaves or Clanrats, have ratmen gunners, and ratmen cavalry riding weasels, although the sculpts are in different proportions to the Skaven in many cases and resemble older Games Workshop models (this can be a bonus to some people however).

Curious Constructs produces weapon sets including a Gatling Gun, Mortar Launcher, and Flamethrower which could be kitbashed with any ratmen models to produce the various weapons teams of the Skaven.

Black Tree Design produces ratmen monks, assassins, warriors, a rat ogre creature, and rats in gas masks with poison bombs.

Impact Miniatures produce not-Bloodbowl ratmen models that require little to no alteration to become Skaven soldiers. Or that Skaven Blood Bowl team fielded as Stormvermin for a silly army.

Of course, Screaming Bells and Plague Furnaces can be made with balsa wood and the kinds of things one can find at any head shop or similar purveyor of hippie paraphernalia.


See Also[edit]

In Other Media[edit]

While not ripped off as much as some of the other concepts Warhammer created expanded upon from existing sources, like Mesoamerican lizard people or Orcs/Goblins with green skin, Skaven have helped popularize rat people as a more standard fantasy race in a few places. Its theorized by some that the inclusion of Nezumi in the Asiatic settings of Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering were inspired by the popularity of Skaven. Still, Skaven as a whole remain one of the most iconic things that are wholly unique to Warhammer. The League Of Legends character Twitch is clearly inspired by Skaven and has a line referencing them, although he lacks the insane flamboyancy compared to the setting he's in that Skaven have. They even had enough mainstream awareness to be referenced by British journalist Stewart Lee in the Guardian (comparing Brexit negotiations to Plague Monks, naturally).

The most direct and unexpected place for them to appear is being referenced to exist in both the Japanese and English versions of the Japanese anime Goblin Slayer, listed off as a type of monster to specialize in studying. Just the idea of a Skaven Slayer could also be nod to Gotrek & Felix.

Non-Canon Female Skaven[edit]

PROMOTIONS-small.pngThis article contains PROMOTIONS! Don't say we didn't warn you.
Commissar.gif This article or section is EXTRA heretical. Prepare to be purged.

So it's universally agreed upon both in and out of universe that the only appropriate response to meeting a skaven is to kill them on sight, right? Well in an astounding display of hypocrisy, some furries went "yeah but I kinda also want to cuddle one?" and further demonstrated just how mentally broken certain subtypes of that culture are. So, there is an undercurrent in the darker hidden recesses of /tg/ where furfags like to talk about non-Rat Mother female skaven. Many have tried arguing that, given the reverence for the Grey Seers, combined with the Chaotic tinge of the skaven, then surely there are rare female Grey Seers who are thus spared the fate of their sisters. Others have pointed that since Breeders are heavily dosed up with chemicals, then if that fate was spared for some reason, then surely female skaven would turn out to be at least as competent as their brothers. Still others note that skaven can't resist tinkering, so it's not impossible a Grey Seer or Master Moulder might make use of a "thinking Breeder".

And, in fact, this last argument one even has a dash of canon to it: in C.L. Werner's "Grey Seer" novel, Thanquol encounters a Grey Seer (Thratquee of Under-Altdorf) who owns two personal breeders he has "improved", granting them an unusual clarity of thought, freedom of motion and muscle hidden under their chub; built like a cross between a breeder and a Rat Ogre, they're essentially the skaven equivalent of amazon bodyguards, and Thanquol is simultaneously horrified and a little impressed at the realization that these "harmless females" will actually kill any skaven who dare to threaten their mate. This makes them the ultimate bodyguards in the eternal backstab-fest that is skaven society.

All of these arguments are reaching, understandably (I mean, why not just work with the idea of some developing an immunity or something?). But that hasn't stopped fans from dabbling in fem-skaven homebrew characters or more cheesecake-level artwork. One infamous skaven-loving furry even created his own homebrew clan of renegade female skaven, Clan Sniek, an offshoot clan of Clan Eshin who scavenge on the outskirts of skaven society and raid weaker warlord clans to steal away their females to bolster their own numbers. Clan Sniek is also known to "dabble" with human men, for pleasure and/or procreative purposes; there's even a named Gutter Runner female in a relationship with an Imperial human. His artwork tends to pop up whenever a ratfolk thread does or the topic of non-Breeder female skaven arises.

Thus, the argument about whether or not Rat Mothers are interesting will probably rage forever. You'd think that with the talks of non-breeder females and Clan Sniek that there would be more Sniek, fem-rats, or even Skaven related stories in general at the Smut archive, but hey what are you gonna do? You can't fap it to femskaven stories if there are no femskaven stories.

Clan Sniek
Playable Factions in Warhammer Fantasy Battle
Human Kingdoms: The Empire of Man - Bretonnia
Elves: High Elves - Dark Elves - Wood Elves
Dwarven: Dwarfs - Chaos Dwarfs
Undead: Tomb Kings - Vampire Counts
Heirs of the Old Ones: Lizardmen
Greenskins Orcs - Goblins
Ogrekind Ogre Kingdoms
Servants of Chaos Warriors of Chaos - Daemons of Chaos - Beastmen
Skavenkind Skaven
Clans of the Skaven
Great Clans: Clan Eshin - Clan Moulder - Clan Pestilens - Clan Skryre
Thrall Clans: Clan Ektrik - Clan Feesik - Clan Fester - Clan Flem - Clan Gratzz - Clan Kreepus
Clan Morbidus - Clan Septik - Clan Skrat - Clan Treecherik - Clan Vrrtkin
Warlord Clans: Clan Carrion - Clan Corpulent - Clan Crooktail - Clan Famin - Clan Ferrik - Clan Festerlingus
Clan Festus - Clan Gangrous - Clan Gnaw - Clan Gowjyer - Clan Grikk - Clan Gristlecrack
Clan Gritak - Clan Gritus - Clan Grutnik - Clan Jamcreermin - Clan Klaw - Clan Krik - Clan Krizzor
Clan Liskit - Clan Makris - Clan Mange - Clan Mawrrl - Clan Merkit - Clan Mordkin - Clan Mors
Clan Rictus - Clan Rikek - Clan Rikket - Clan Scruten - Clan Skab - Clan Skaul - Clan Skitr
Clan Skitterbite - Clan Skrapp - Clan Skrittlespike - Clan Skully - Clan Skurvy - Clan Skuttle
Clan Sleekit - Clan Spittle - Clan Volkn - Clan Vruzz
Age of Sigmar Clans: Clan Verminus - Clan Brakkish - Clan Buborix - Clan Corruptus - Clan Dregg - Clan Ekkit
Clan Ezzik - Clan Fang - Clan Ghrubbitus - Clan Gnarlkyn - Clan Koniptik - Clan Krakhl
Clan Kratt - Clan Morskrit - Clan Nichtus - Clan Nullix - Clan Phrikk - Clan Pustulous - Clan Resnykt
Clan Retchid - Clan Rhukrit - Clan Scour - Clan Scurrie - Clan Shokryk - Clan Shrok - Clan Shyvik - Clan Skarrik
Clan Skrabb - Clan Slynk - Clan Snirk - Clan Sputix - Clan Stabbik - Clan Staktik - Clan Stryk
Clan Threbb - Clan Virulox - Clan Vomikrit - Clan Vomix - Clan Vrash - Clan Zikk - Clan Ziknak
Playable Factions in Warhammer: Age of Sigmar