"Where we're going, we don't need eyes to see."
ALL THE CRAZY SHIT GOES DOWN HERE.
The Warp (also called the Empyrean, the Immaterium, or sometimes simply Chaos, or in Warhammer Fantasy the Realm of Chaos or The Winds Of Magic) is an infinite dimension of pure magic/psychic power. The Warp in Fantasy is the source of most magic in the setting and in Warhammer 40,000 is a H.P. Lovecraft-inspired grimdark answer to the "hyperspace" trend that's universally present in almost all space opera for faster-than-light travel and communication. The residence of eldritch abominations such as the Chaos Gods, the Warp is sort of an eldritch parallel dimension where the laws of physics no longer apply and is primarily composed of raw energy, shaped by the emotions, worst nightmares and most disgusting rape fantasies of those living in the real world. Think of the Warp as a mixture between Hell,
the ever-changing chaos of Limbo The Far Realm, /b/, the criminal-infested deep web, and a public toilet clogged full of shit and trash coupled with all the drugs you can think of. It works a bit like that. Except that it's worse, because thanks to the Ruinous Powers, it'll often actively try to kill you; basically like the internet, just with more anal rape, dying horribly and less sitting around.
The Warp was a realm that existed before life on the planet, with the immortal Chaos Gods already formed within it (as well as most of the beings who would enter the Warp at later points in the timeline like N'kari, Be'lakor, and Karnak thanks to the time-fuckery of the Warp). The Old Ones connected the Warp Gates to it early on in their involvement in the Warhammer World. They channeled pure magic through it in order to create the races they wanted to fight Chaos, but as they continued to be displeased with their creations they pulled more and more energy from the Warp. This caused the Warp Gates to destabilize and explode into massive portals into the Warp, flooding the world with magic and causing massive invasions of Daemons to surge forth into the material plane.
To combat the Daemon threat, the Asur established Waystones all over the world to suck the excess magic back into the Warp. As a result, the power of the Warp waxes and wanes; when the Warp swells with energy, the Chaos Gods within battle for control and the material plane is safe(er) from their influence. As the Warp empties, the world is invaded by hordes of Daemons from all corners.
What happens in the mortal plane strengthens the Chaos gods. When greenskins march in a WAAAGH!,
Khorne GorkaMorka grows in strength and towers over his neighbors. The more magic is cast, the more influence Tzeentch can exert over his pawns both within and without the Realm of Chaos. As death, famine, rot and despair become more prevalent after wars destroys the land, Nurgle becomes the dominant power in the Warp. When times of peace come and art, pride, and hedonism come to the people Slaanesh finds himself spreading his her THEIR taint across both realms.
Originally, all gods existed to a degree within the Warp. Khaine led many of the elf gods against the Chaos Gods, scarring Slaanesh permanently and cutting the forces of Chaos for many years to come. Despite this, the elf gods were forced into the material plane in a weakened state while Khaine was forced into a mortal form. The gods of the Humans were also forced from it at some point in time, eventually residing within their temples in the Empire. Dwarf gods, possibly due to the nature of Dwarfs themselves to disrupt the power of the Warp, were notably absent from mention in the Warp. In addition to the Four, there was also Chaos Gods of Order and Malal within the Warp. While they have not been mentioned in recent fluff, they were not retconned as existing either. The Horned Rat is also a Warp entity, being a Greater Daemon of Nurgle which created a race of rat mutants in his bid for godhood. He currently resides within Nurgle's realm, hiding from his former master.
In the End Times event, Nagash consumes two gods of Death and binds himself to a full eight of magic (meaning all of the Warp), becoming a Chaos entity if not outright Chaos God. The gods of the humans diminish greatly in strength as their temples in Altdorf are attacked and desecrated, while the strength of Sigmar is split between both in his reincarnation Valten and the current Emperor of the Empire, Karl Franz creating a true living God Emperor being in Fantasy.
In the universe of Warhammer 40,000, the Warp is the Grimdark answer to the "Hyperspace" trend that's universally present in almost all Space Opera for faster-than-light travel and communication. Unlike in Fantasy, the Warp in 40k is actually an adaptation of Carl Jung's concept of the Collective Unconscious, a conceptual Metaphysical dimension created by the common thoughts present in each sapient lifeform. Worst thing is that it is born out of our worst collective nightmares, so we can never rid ourselves of these daemons.
Every little thought or emotion affects the Empyrean to some degree. Most people can't do much to the warp on their own, but lots of people thinking similar thoughts or feeling similar things will have a pronounced effect, especially if said people are psychic, ala the world of Mage: The Ascension. Gods, who specialize in specific forms of thought and feeling, are born from this place when psychic energy accumulates with a critical mass (an example is the Emperor created by countless shamans committing suicide at the same time). This is the reason why the Chaos Gods, are well, chaotic to the extreme, because the Material Universe and everybody inhabiting it are themselves chaotic to the extreme and in need of serious psychiatric therapy and/or purging.
According to old parts of lore the Material Universe is affected by the big four Chaos Gods fighting each other for supremacy. If Khorne has taken the lead? A lot more fighting and war. Nurgle? More plagues and decay. Slaanesh? A lot more torture and rape. Tzeentch? A lot more Machiavellian scheming and JUST AS PLANNED. The validity of this is debatable as it comes from Chaos worshippers themselves, and we know how legit these guys are when it comes to information about the warp.
If you're not a Chaos god, a Chaos Spess Mehreen or a Daemon, you have no business staying here without Sanity checks (Unless you're Kaldor Draigo, Oxyotl and/or Leman Russ (according to If the Emperor had a Text-to-Speech Device), in which case you can freely stroll around, burning down Nurgle's Garden, killing Slaanesh's personal Handmaidens and breaking Canon with every step). The Imperium of Man has shitty protection against it, and effectively plays a game of Russian roulette in hopes that they wouldn't get themselves dismembered alive in 11 dimensions speeding towards wherever the Empra tells them to. Which of course means that all the races of the galaxy flock to the Warp like dumbass boy scouts to a knot-tying badge, except for the Tau (who are only just discovering these horrors awaiting their tasty naivete, with their primitive Warp-Drives only skimming the stable surface of the Warp), the Necrons (which hate it, and thus use a Star Trek-like FTL that functions in realspace and therefore does not need the Warp. FUCKING CHEATERS.), and the Tyranids who use wonky gravity manipulation to get around when they need FTL travel. The Eldar and Dark Eldar are also somewhat cheating, as they use the Webway which is like a complex network of highways through the Warp once engineered by the now-extinct Old Ones when the Warp was a lot more stable back then, a lot safer but a hell of a lot easier to get lost in. If the Warp is the deep web, then the webway is like Tor, which provide an anonymous safety from being 1337 H4X0Red by the FBI, sentient viruses or horrendous cybercriminals, only that in this Tor you'll have to encrypt all the confusing maths and find the global servers yourself.
However this doesn't mean there are no benevolent entities in warp, the problem is that either that specific benevolent entity is the Emperor (who's now catatonic while his soul is being used as a psychic navigation lighthouse in the Warp called the Astronomicon), or they interfere with Materium once in a billion years, and when they do, they actually do nothing of significance. Also, benevolent entities would get consumed by evil entities, and/or are quickly exaggerated or "Warp"ed into something evil due to the massive amount of suffering in the material world. Or since 99% of the stuff in the warp wants to kill you and eat your soul, they also tend to just get ignored.
Supposedly (according to
many theorists the most crusty and privileged Imperial historians with access to the oldest records available) one of the earliest and possibly the first encounter of Humanity with the horrors of the Warp occurred sometime during the third millennium with the 'Merican starship Event Horizon. While the ship's gravity drive did successfully open a gateway in spacetime, it leapt outside the known universe and into another dimension, described later on by Dr. Weir as "a dimension of pure Chaos, pure evil". The Event Horizon has since then gained an evil sentience, telekinetic abilities and some grimdark Gothic aesthetics, tormenting and mind-raping its occupants with the aim of compelling them to return to "Hell". The Event Horizon gradually faded in the records of spaceship accidents with the development of the Gellar field, until humanity would rediscover the true danger of the Warp 24 millennia later, stronger and more fucking horrifying than ever.
During the time of the dinosaurs and before, the Old Ones were cranking out powerful psykers like there was no tomorrow, shitting out creatures like Orks, Eldar, Slann, and who knows what else to fight the endless tide of mummy robots and star eating, life energy nomming lovecraftian energy gods, and they still lost. All the RRRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAEEEEEEEGGGG!!!!!! felt during the fighting by all those powerfully psychic races as they fought and died changed the warp in the milky way from a calm place where you could get anywhere you wanted without much trouble transformed into the hell hole it is now, minus the daemons. Instead, there were squid jellyfish parasites called Enslavers who would mind control psykers and eventually turn them into a warp portal which would both kill the psyker and allow more Enslavers to come out. (They still show up every now and then to make life miserable for everyone else in the galaxy.)
The Eldar hid like a bunch of pussies in the webway system while the few remaining old ones who weren't killed by the Necrons and the C'tan were wiped out by the Enslavers; the Slann... did something; and the Orks survived and made their own gods.
After a while Humanity evolved and were once led by powerful psykers known as the Shamans. They used to reincarnate, but the gestation of who would soon be the Ruinous Powers of Chaos rendered them unable to do that and instead their souls were consumed by the Warp. These Shamans were forced to commit mass suicide at the same time so that all their souls would merge into a single entity able to protect Mankind from the Ruinous Powers: The Emperor. He guided Mankind under various guises until the Dark Age of Technology when Humans invented the Navigators and the Gellar Field to go through the Warp and colonize the galaxy.
Unfortunately the Eldar fell into massive debauchery and being an entire race of psykers caused the Birth of Slaanesh and the Age of Strife where the Warp was turned into the daemon-and-tentacle-rape-infested shit-pit it is now. The Emperor created the Astronomicon as a guiding beacon for Navigators but that was just a metaphorical Band-Aid for his real solution to conquer the Webway using a psychic amplifier called the Golden Throne and exterminate those damned space elves once and for all. They did deserve it for birthing Slaanesh. Unfortunately, during the Horus Heresy, Magnus the Red just had to make that psychic phone call that damages the Throne forcing Malcador the Sigillite to clog the Throne with his psychic powers while the Emperor and Horus brutalized each other. Malcador crumbled to dust just as the Emperor's massive golden ass was placed on the Throne and now in the 41st Millennium he is in a perpetual state of eternal torture trying to clog the daemon-infested Webway with his ass so that Terra would not turn into a second Eye of Terror, while Humanity now has to sacrifice thousands of psykers just to keep the Throne running. And for all his troubles, Magnus was made a Daemon Prince and the eternal pawn of Tzeentch. Grimdark.
Just as with Earth's oceans, the Warp occasionally has storms here and there that block all shipping within the neighborhood. Warp storms were largely responsible for the collapse of 40k's pre-Imperial human civilizations, when every planet was suddenly isolated and left to the mercy of daemon-possessed psykers. In Fantasy, Warp Storm cause a massive swell in the strength of any magic used, allowing great and terrible feats as the world itself warps and mutates.
The Warp also plays havoc with space and time. Journey times through the Warp are variable and not possible to predict with great accuracy. A given journey could take days or weeks depending on your luck. If you're really unlucky, a journey that usually takes days may take centuries, while you only experienced a few hours of travel time, so the war you came to fight is long over and everyone you know is dead. You might even wind up at your destination several weeks before you set off, and enjoy the priceless looks of horror on the faces of the inhabitants of the planet below that they're about to be hit by an Ork WAAAGH! You can also end up popping out few hundred years in the past and get yourself executed by the Inquisition for trying to impose someone who does not exist yet. Time is so flexible in the warp that at one point an Ork Waaagh arrived before it left and the Warboss killed himself to get two of his favorite gun, or guns. This is certainly a great way for shitty writers to resolve plot holes and inconsistencies. "Timey-wimey, warply-darply, stuff." Ordo Chronos used to do something with these time-travellers, but disappeared for some reason.
Things to do in the Warp
- If you're NOT Chaos, Chaos affiliated, or a blank, you are already dead as the yawning abyss would have ripped your body apart and torn your soul asunder the moment you got close.
- Caveat: If youz an ork ave fun krumpen all da stuff with spikez on it!
- If in Warhammer Fantasy, the Warp only holds non-Daemon attack hazards for beings who are tempted by Chaos (so mostly just weak-minded humans). In fact, there is a character lost within the Warp who the Chaos Gods have forbidden harm coming to as a parody of Dante's Inferno.
- Caveat: If youz an ork ave fun krumpen all da stuff with spikez on it!
- Stop at the warp equivalent of a truck stop, a certain chaos god may or may not be waiting to rape you in more ways than one.
- Find the nearest Eldar stranded in there and sacrifice them to eternal torture under Slaanesh for fucking everything up.
- Do remember not to attempt this while near Khornates as they will rip your entrails out use it as a garotte to kill you.
- Ride a screamer of Tzeentch like your own magical demon pony through the stars.
- Disclaimer: This action would require you to bind the daemon to your will. This may or may not result in the screamer eating your face off and drinking your soul like delicious tears.
- Eat the cookies, it's warp-tastic.
- If you're Chaos or Chaos affiliated please visit you local commissariat and file for execution.
- If you wandered into the formless wastes, find a way out. Chaos Undivided is a bit boring.
- Do be careful to avoid the furies who will gang up and kill you because they have nothing better to do.
- If you wandered into the soul forges, be prepared for remodelling. You'll soon
be a daemon engine.be fed into the soul furnaces so that your screaming, eternally tormented soul will be used to fuel the forge.
- If you wandered into the Fortress of Khorne; try to beat something up. You might become a Bloodletter.
- Do be careful not to wander into the Juggernaut pens. They will gore you without question until you're a stain on the floor.
- If you died fighting in Khorne's name and were carried off by a smoking hot daemonic Viking chick in red armour - congratulations, you may have entered Chaos Valhalla.
- If you wandered into the Palace of Slaanesh; fap. You might become a Daemonette
- If Slaanesh is feeling rather iffy, you might instead end up as his/her new sex toy for his/her newest fetishes best not described.
- If you wandered into the Garden of Nurgle; you WILL become a Plaguebearer, regardless if you do anything or not. Unless you're a Mary Sue.
- If you manage to impress Nurgle by lasting a while you might end up as a herald instead.
- If you are stuck (about to be ass raped by a super ebola) in the garden of Nurgle proceed to pop pimples/blackheads on your face and post it on youtube. Who knows you may actually gain your grandfathers favor and not end up as a complete rotted cabbage patch kid. This is a last resort though and you will still end up a plague bearer.
- Alternatively, you may be eaten by one of the garden's denizens or the garden itself before you succumb to the garden's many plagues. You may still become the Plaguebeaer after they shit you out, though.
- If you wandered into the Maze of Tzeentch; do random things. Something might happen.
- Although do note that because of the maze's purely magical nature, it is very likely you will either: have your mind broken and be forced to wander the maze for all eternity, have your immortal soul absorbed by the maze, or wander into one of the maze's continually spawning spires where you will be trapped for all eternity. Just as planned.
- If you're Oxyotl or Kaldor Draigo, troll away.
- If you're NOT a Skink or Kaldor Draigo, meet up with Oxyotl and Kaldor Draigo and troll together.
- Meet up with Leman Russ, get hammered, and troll away.
- If you're a Null... How the fuck did you manage that? Oh well, you're pretty much invincible. Have fun, troll away.
- Keep in mind that anything you touch or even approach (depending on your power) would dissolve into nothing. This includes the things you're standing on, like floors, bridges and stairs. This may even include air - so while psykers and even regular humans can get away by believing there is air around and warp being twisted by their will to manifest that believes you're stuck with what you brought with you from the realspace.
- Yes those pieces of toast are actually following you back to your warp hut. No, you're not high on warp dust.