Necromunda is a Hive World in the Imperium of Man's Segmentum Solar, and a major producer of munitions for the Imperial Guard. Necromunda's great forges produce Lasguns, Autoguns, Shotguns and Bolters, among other weapons. The planet also levies huge numbers of troops for the Imperial Guard (most notably the regiments of the Necromundan Spiders), as well as other crucial supplies. Necromunda is one of the worlds from which the Imperial Fists Space Marines Chapter recruits new Neophytes, often from the vicious criminal gangs of the planet's hive cities. The Fists maintain a Recruitment-Keep on the world in one of its hive clusters. Necromunda is typical of most large Imperial Hive Worlds, in that the lower portions of its hive cites are rife with powerful gangs. The world is the setting for the Necromunda tabletop skirmish war game.
The Two Wars of Araneus
Araneus Prime was first settled over 15,000 Terran years ago during the Dark Age of Technology as a mining and manufacturing colony. The worlds of the Araneus Continuity were a series of planets close to the Sol System which had maintained links to one another due to the existence of a series of ancient Warp Gates of unknown origins. Ruled by a caste of Technobility from the world of Araneus Prime at the heart of the network of Warp Gates, the Continuity was a kingdom of iron and hungering industry. Contact between the Imperium and this pocket of humanity occurred by accident. A lost squadron of warships returning from the Gehenial Prosecution was forced from the Warp into one of the Continuity's peripheral systems. Before they could jump back into the Warp, the squadron was surrounded, boarded, and overwhelmed by cybernetically grafted warriors. The cries of the squadron's Astropaths echoed through the Immaterium, and far away the Imperium heard and turned its gaze upon the worlds of the Araneus.
An envoy fleet was sent, and was allowed to return bearing the Continuity's answer to the Emperor's demand of fealty. The Technobility flatly refused to bow to the Emperor, but instead invited Him to join their empire as a tributary. For its response, the Imperium turned to the Imperial Fists Space Marine Legion. It fell to Hashin Yonnad, Commander of the 39th Household (Chapter) of Inwit, to prosecute the war. A superlative warrior, Yonnad was reckoned by many to be one of the Imperium's greatest strategists. Called upon many times as fleet commander and siege master, he planned meticulously and executed his plans with brutal swiftness. Marshalling his fleet at Tallarn, thousands of warships carrying over 20,000 Imperial Fists, alongside millions of troops of the Imperial Army and the Mechanicum, launched their assault upon the unsuspecting systems of the Araneus. Within two solar months the Continuity was reduced to the single core world of Araneus Prime. Their empire cut from around them, the Technobility in their iron towers looked to the night sky and saw the darkness stolen by the light of the Imperial fleet. They surrendered then, and the sun rose the next day on the seat of yet another stellar empire brought to Imperial Compliance. But even as the Imperium moved in to claim their prize, the worlds of the Araneus Continuity were beset by an unknown menace.
A few accounts speak of a darkness deeper than the void, of living lightning and flame-wreathed chrome. Six-systems burned, their stars igniting to terrible life before crumbling to cold embers. Commander Yonnad made the terrible decision to defend only some of the worlds, otherwise they would lose all. As the unknown enemy appeared in system after system, they met the Imperial Fists. As more of the enemy came the Imperial Fists detonated warheads they had attached to each Warp Gate. Without their gates, the unknown enemies simply vanished. Their advance had been halted on Araneus Prime when its gate exploded. All but one of the star systems of the Continuity died, and at the cost of thousands of Imperial Fists and billions of humans Araneus Prime survived, but barely. The death of the Warp Gate and the cluster of xenos craft which had penetrated the Imperial Fists' lines had changed the shape of the planet. Its surface had been ravaged by unnatural fire, it world-city cracked and rendered to dust and ash, from which the shattered roots of its great towers rose like broken teeth. Looking upon the charred remains taken from the pyre, the Imperium gave the world a new name, one that echoes with a world brought to the threshold of death but one that still lived -- Necromunda they called it.
The ensuing millennia have not changed its basic purpose very much; Necromunda is still a world of mines, factories, refineries and processing plants. The planet is a vast powerhouse of industry, making thousands and thousands of different items for use throughout the nearby Imperial planetary systems of the Segmentum Solar. Nothing which can contribute to the planet's output has been left untouched. From the tops of the highest mountains to the depths of the oceans, the wealth of Necromunda has been extracted. Mountains have been reduced to rubble for the ore they contain; oceans have been turned into little more than chemical sludge ponds by the constant industrial pollution. The once-fertile plains of the world have disappeared under huge urban developments of imposing housing and factory arcologies, forming new ranges of man-made urban mountains every bit as tall as the long-since flattened natural topographical features. These huge towering urban arcology complexes are known as hive cities, or simply as "hives," and their individual peaks or towers are called city spires or spires. A close group of urban hives is known as a hive cluster. Between the hives, deserts of industrial ash cover the surface of the planet with a mobile, corrosive skin. Over this desert lies a cloud layer of airborne pollution, so that the great spires of the city hives rise from a drifting mist of tainted vapour like islands appearing out of an ashen sea. The hives and hive clusters are connected through the ash wastes by so-called ash trains, long trains of transport cars oufitted with reinforced balloon wheels that can travel between the wastes on a system of tracks, delivering passengers and goods. These trains are often attacked by the nomadic tribes of mutants called Ash Raiders who have somehow adapted to life in the poisonous ash wastes. Despite being reduced to such a hellish environmental state, Necromunda is still a valuable world to the Imperium. Although little of Necromunda's original resources remain, the waste-heaps of previous generations have become a new source of riches. Necromunda lives on the accumulated wastes of its past: its people have learned to scavenge, reclaim and recycle everything in order to squeeze a living from their exhausted world.
Necromunda's population has increased well beyond the planet's capacity to support it. As a consequence, it is wholly reliant on synthetic and imported food. Each hive has its own recycling plants which convert previously used organic matter and waste into synthetic food. Real food is imported from off-planet, but is an expensive luxury which only the most wealthy and prestigious Necromundans from the world's aristocracy can afford. There are probably more people now on Necromunda than ever lived in the entire history of Terra up until the end of the twentieth century in the 2nd Millennium. An attempted Imperial census of Trazior Hive four thousand years ago in the 37th Millennium revealed an estimated population of a billion in the upper habitation levels alone -- no further attempt has been made to count Necromunda's population in Trazior or any other of the several thousand hives on the planet, though the world's population must be over 100 billion people.
The society of Necromund is reasonably typical of larger Hive Worlds. No attempt is made to enforce central administration upon the entire population, indeed such a thing would prove impossible on a world where most people remain unrecorded by any authority. Instead, a kind of feudal system has evolved by which individual people owe loyalty to others, who in their turn owe loyalty to other increasingly more powerful members of the hierarchy. Among the more stable elements of the population these loyalties owed on a family basis, and closely related families all support each other under the hegemony of the most powerful member of their family group. This form of urban feudalism tends to be self regulating. Weaker clans naturally seek the protection of more powerful neighbours whose powerbase then expands until it reaches the limit whereby its numbers and resources are simply too few to allow it to expand further. Where rival clans meet it is inevitable that their power will be tested in combat; the ability of a clan to exert its power being the only true measure of its influence. The endless feuds between the warrior gangs are never-ending.
The governor and ruler of all Necromunda is Imperial Commander Lord Gerontius Helmawr. His ancestors are known to have reigned for the past seven thousand years at least, records of government before that time having long since disappeared. Even the archives of the Adeptus Administratum, the bureaucracy of the Imperium, are remarkably silent on the history of Necromunda during the early days of the Imperium. Lord Helmawr occupies the very top of the Necromundan feudal hierarchy. The society he rules over is divided into many factions which continually compete and co-operate with each other, giving rise to endless changes in the feudal hierarchy. Lord Helmawr is completely unconcerned with the activities of lesser powerbrokers. He deals directly with the most powerful factions. If a major player in the power game proves weak or treacherous it is a simple matter for Helmawr to withdraw his support. The very rumour that he might be about to do this is often enough to encourage a feudal inferior's enemies to turn against him and destroy him.
The Adeptus Terra leaves Lord Helmawr to govern his domain as he pleases, as it leaves all Imperial Commanders free to administrate their worlds. The Imperial Commander forms a link in the feudal chain which extends throughout the galaxy to the heart of the Adeptus Terra. So long as Helmawr fulfills his feudal obligations to the Imperium his position remains secure. Helmawr's main obligation to the Imperium is to provide a tithe which takes the form of a percentage of all the goods Necromunda produces. As the entire production capacity of the world is given over to providing manufactured goods for the Imperium the tithe is taken as a straight discount on the revenue earned. So long as Necromunda continues to meet these responsibilities, and so long as it production capacity is sufficiently high, the Imperium remains quite satisfied. Of course, should the Necromundan economy begin to show signs of flagging then Lord Helmawr's position would be very different indeed.
Hive Worlds like Necromunda provide the Imperium with another useful resource -- namely its people. Necromunda produces generations of tough youths with a strong sense of self-reliance. They are highly valued as recruits for the Imperial Guard and even for some of the Space Marine Chapters. Providing recruits in vast numbers is another of Lord Helmawr's feudal obligations. Recruitment brings officials from the Imperium to Necromunda to inspect and in some cases conduct recruiting drives amongst the fighting gangs. Helmawr himself is obliged to provide troops from his personal guard, usually a whole regiment at a time. Because the planet supplies so many troops for the Imperial Guard the name of Necromunda is known throughout the galaxy, even by peoples who know nothing about the planet itself. Over the centuries Necromundan Regiments have fought with distinction in the Imperial Guard and have earned a fearsome reputation on many battlefronts.
Another important obligation is that Lord Helmawr successfully controls the number of dangerous mutants. These psykers, or witches, are a mutation which is becoming increasingly common on all worlds in the Imperium. On most worlds they can be dealt with fairly easily, but on a hive world like Necromunda with its vast population the matter is much more difficult. Psykers are very dangerous indeed -- probably more so than even they realise. Although some are able to control their powers and use them for the benefit of society, the majority are unable to control their powers properly with disastrous results. Some become host to daemonic powers from the Immaterium, while others attract psychically sensitive aliens or psychic diseases which can then leap into the minds of ordinary people. If psykers were to go unchecked throughout the Imperium, human society would soon collapse. Indeed, this is one of the reasons why the Emperor clings so tenaciously to life, as only He understands the dangers of possession and psychic destruction.
The society of Necromunda is reasonably typical of the larger Imperial Hive worlds. No attempt is made to enforce central administration upon the entire population by either the Imperium or the planetary government; indeed such a thing would prove impossible on a world where most people remain unrecorded by any authority. Instead, a kind of feudal system has evolved by which individual people owe loyalty to others, who in their turn owe their loyalty to other increasingly more powerful members of the hierarchy. Among the more stable elements of the population in the aristocracy these loyalties are owed on a family basis, and closely related families all support each other under the hegemony of the most powerful member of their family group. This form of urban feudalism tends to be self-regulating. Weaker clans naturally seek the protection of more powerful neighbors whose powerbase then expands until it reaches its limit whereby its numbers and resources are simply too few to allow it to expand further. Where rival clans meet it is inevitable that their power will be tested in combat; the ability of a clan to exert its power being the only true measure of its influence. The endless feuds between the warrior gangs of these clans are a fundamental part of the political workings of Necromunda.
Necromunda is very similar to many other hive worlds of the Imperium. It is a planet devoid of any remnant of its original natural beauty, its surface reduced to a wasteland of windblown ash and accumulated industrial waste. Throughout this wasteland lie the hive cities which give such planets their distinctive character and their collective name of hive worlds. The hives are grouped into clusters comprising up to a dozen or so individual hives all linked by a network of overground travel tubes and subterranean passages. These clusters are scattered over the cloud-strewn surface on the planet. From the top of any hive it is possible to see the tips of distant hive clusters projecting from the seas of poison mists like far-flung islands.
Hive clusters are connected together by roads across the wastes and transportation tubes supported on pylons and suspended from cables. With its forest of towering hive interconnected in a network of tubes, the landscape resembles a petrified forest entangled in the web of some enormous spider. Indeed, the spider and the spider's web are very powerful symbols to the inhabitants of Necromunda. The hives are the result of thousands of years of constant demolition and rebuilding. The original cities of Necromunda lie beneath the hives, many hundreds of yards below the current surface of the planet's ash wastes. Dark, forbidding ruins, often crushed by the weight of the hives above them, these old cities preserve the layered history of Necromunda. It is a popular tale that the lowest layers of some hives are built from the original transport barges which brought humanity to Necromunda all those millennia ago.
Each hive takes the form of many huge spires which rise from the base of the city. From a distance, a hive resembles a mass of stalagmites rising from the cloud strewn wastes. Each hive covers an approximately circular area some fifty to a hundred miles in diameter. The tops of the spires can rise to a dozen or more miles above the ground surface, piercing the festering clouds that surround the lower levels of the hive. The spires usually merge into each other at their bases, and smaller spires will sometimes grew out and upwards from just above the base, branching like a cactus and forming multiple spires. The spires are only the top part of the hive, comprising the upper hab zones with factory layers on or above the current ground surface. The older and partially ruined factory and hab layers still exist, although they are buried beneath the ash wastes. Though they are hidden, factories and habs are rarely abandoned until they are utterly derelict or polluted beyond use even by Necromundan standards.
Notable Hives of Necromunda
The hive-cities of Necromunda retain the ancient names of the cities and settlements from which they grew. Each spire within a hive is also known by a local name. There are approximately a thousand hive clusters on Necromunda. A few of the most important and some typical examples of the various kinds are described below:
- The Palatine - The largest and oldest surviving hive on Necromunda is the dynastic home of Lord Helmawr, Imperial Commander of Necromunda, known across the planet as The Palatine. The cluster it belongs to is known as the Palatine Cluster. The central and tallest spire of the Palatine hive forms the palace of the Imperial Commander Lord Helmawr. The Palatine boasts some of the most grandiose and magnificent architecture on Necromunda, and also has the only shipyard and landing field large enough to take orbital carriers. It is thus the planet's only spaceport, a physical expression of Helmawr's monopoly in off-planet trade. The fortress-monastery of the Adeptus Astartes contingent and the headquarters of the Adeptus Arbites on Necromunda are also located in the Palatine Hive. The hive, the largest on Necromunda, is enormous in size, reaching from the surface to some 10 miles into the air, and from surface level to roughly 2.8 miles underground (although only the first 1.3 miles are habitable by humans), and possesses a population greater than some of the other human-settled worlds in the Imperium. On the edge of the hive is a special spire set aside for the aliens and abhumans who come to Necromunda from time to time in order to trade. Both Squats and Eldar are among these visitors and they are housed on separate levels of this spire. The Palatine is thus by far the most cosmopolitan of all the hives of Necromunda. As the Palatine is the seat of Helmawr's power, the Hive's noble houses are in a constant, byzantine power struggle to gain control of the Hive, and thus of the entire planet. The lower portions of Hive Primus are ruled by the so-called "Ganger Houses," criminal syndicates of gangers which ape the organisation and style of the Necromundan nobility and which also have some influence within the higher levels of the hive. The activities of the Ganger Houses can even affect the outcomes of the true noble houses' constant struggle for power and advancement within Hive Primus.
- Trazior Hive - Trazior means Three Sisters in the local Necromundan dialect. It is so called because of it has three huge spires which can be seen from a long way off by any traveller coming across the wastes form the south. Trazior is located on the edge of the Great Equatorial Waste and is the southernmost "frontier" hive of the great Palatine Cluster. Many important merchant clans are based in this hive and it is the main trading depot for convoys going to or arriving from the southern hive clusters. The nomads who live out in the wastes and raid the convoys are a constant source of annoyance to its inhabitants. Trazior was also the scene of one the most prolonged and vicious gang wars in the recent history of Necromunda.
- Acropolis Hive - This is another old and elaborate hive in the Palatine Cluster. It is located at a very important intersection of several great road tunnels and has always been a major centre of trade on Necromunda. The Acropolis hive is home territory for some of the most powerful merchant clans, whose widespread trading network extends across many of the hives of Necromunda. The Acropolis Hive attracts a number of large and sprawling shanties clustered around its base.
- The Temenos - This is another hive in the Palatine Cluster. One spire forms the headquarters of the Ecclesiarchy on Necromunda, while another spire forms The Temple of the Emperor Deified. Colleges, libraries and chapels occupy parts of the other spires. A priory of the Adepta Sororitas is located in one of the outer spires. This spire is often called the Sisters Tower as consequence. The population of Temenos hive are among the most pious and devout followers of the Imperial Cult. Many of the resident clans manufacture ritual items for the priesthood while others work in the scriptorium, translating the wisdom of the priesthood into the many dialects of Necromunda. The Temple spire is an architectural wonder, its interior is a warren of naves, chapels and crypts, vaulted ceilings and pillared halls. The diffused light is stained by refraction through crystal. Incense and the sound of chanting drift across the chambers. Here and there statues and holograms of the Emperor reside in secluded shrines. From here Confessors and missionaries are sent off to frontier worlds in the nearby systems.
- Quinspirus Cluster - The Quinspirus Cluster is situated on the edge of a virtually solidified sludge sea called the Worldsump Ocean. At one time, when the sea was still navigable, the area included vast dockyards. These now remain buried deep within the undercity of the centrally located Quinspirus Hive. This hive has five great spires -- hence the name which means five towers in the local dialect and which gives its name to the whole cluster. The cavernous warehouses of the ancient waterfronts have been the scene of many savage gang wars.
- The Skull - This derelict hive is the largest of a cluster of three remote ruined hives. It is pierced by great holes and from a distance looks like a great skull lying in the wastes. It is a famous landmark and perhaps even worshipped by the local nomads. These three gigantic ruins are all that remains of the hives that were captured and occupied for a time by Ork raiders. All contact with the cluster was lost for what had happened. In the end a campaign was mounted to clear them. This was the original reason for despatching Space Marine contingent to Necromunda, which has since become a permanent establishment. The hives were besieged and destroyed during the campaign. Now the tops have caved in and they lie abandoned and choked with dust. No one knows what fearful things have made their home amid the ruins, and even the nomads and scavvies fear to go near them.
The Ash Wastes
The Sludge Seas
The Forbidden Cities
Ganger Houses of Hive Primus
The hive cities of Necromunda retain the ancient names of the cities and settlements from which they grew millennia ago. Each hive spire is also known by a local name. There are approximately a thousand hive city clusters on Necromunda; each cluster a group of up to a dozen or so individual hive cities, all linked by a network of overground travel tubes and subterranean passages. The largest hive city is Hive Primus, and much of the lower hive of this vast arcology is controlled by the Ganger Houses listed below:
House Cawdor is the stronghold of the Cult of Redemption, a group of fanatical believers in the Imperial Creed of the God-Emperor. For this reason all of the gangers allied with House Cawdor wear masks in public to hide their faces from the 'infidels' of the other houses. They are known to hunt mutants and heretics to the point of fanaticism (part of the Redemptionist influence) which bring them into conflict with gangs who would utilize such forces.
Other hivers are justifiably suspicious of House Delaque, who specialise in spying and assassination. Their gangers often wear large trench coats, with large internal pockets for concealing weapons and other large items. Most are bald and extremely pale. Many wear visors, goggles or have cybernetic light filters implanted into their eyes, a sensitivity to light being a common Delaque weakness. Delaque territory is even more dimly lit than the rest of the hive, fitting for a people who are shrouded in mystery.
Strikingly different from the other houses, the House Escher population is almost entirely made up of women. The few men that are there are shrivelled and imbecilic and play no part in the normal affairs of the Escher. Men are held in contempt and pitied by the Escher, especially those of House Goliath who are seen as simple, brutish and unsophisticated.
Size and physical strength are everything in House Goliath. Their territory is situated in some of the harshest areas of the hive city. Their gangers favour mohawks, piercings, thick chains and spiked metal bracers.
Also known as the House Iron, these hivers mine ferrous slag pits deep in the hive city's bowels. Orlock gangers often wear sleeveless jackets and headbands. Recent events have brought them into direct opposition with the Delaques, involving the sabotage of Delaque facilities and an assassination of Lord Hagan Orlock.
The Van Saar are known for the extremely high quality of their house's technical produce. Nobles in the Spire will pay handsomely for Van Saar goods, making them the wealthiest of the noble houses of Hive Primus. The Van Saar are marked out by their tight fitting body-gloves which help to sustain the wearer in the harsh hive environment. Older gangers who serve House Van Saar are often seen sporting a neatly trimmed beard. The Imperial Guard often recruit regiments from the gangers who serve the Van Saar and present their Imperial tithe demands for new Guardsmen to the head of the house.
- Index Astartes II, "Emperor's Fist - The Imperial Fists Space Marine Chapter," pg. 13
- Necromunda Rulebook (2nd Edition), by Rick Priestley
- Necromunda: Underhive (2nd Edition)
- The Horus Heresy - Book Three: Extermination (Imperial Armour), pg. 77
- Warhammer Monthly #58, "Above & Beyond, Part 3"
- White Dwarf 130, "Confrontation - Necromunda Imperial Hive World" by Bryan Ansell, Rick Priestley and Nigel Stillman, pp. 10-25
- Space Marine (Novel) by Ian Watson
- The Redeemer (Graphic Novel) by Pat Mills, Debbie Gascoigne & Wayne Reynolds
- Necromunda Novel Series:
- Survival Insinct by Andy Chambers
- Salvation by C.S. Goto
- Blood Royal by Gordon Rennie & Will McDermott
- Junktion by Matthew Farrer
- Fleshworks by Lucien Soulban
- Cardinal Crimson by Will McDermott
- Back from the Dead by Nick Kyme
- Outlander by Matt Keefe
- Lasgun Wedding by Will McDermott