The Slann, also called Old Slann or Slanni, are an intelligent, amphibious alien race who have some close but unknown connection to the Old Ones, a mysterious alien species or possibly a group of distinct species who may have been the first intelligent beings in the Milky Way Galaxy. The Slann and the Old Ones played a pivotal role in the history of many of the current intelligent races of the galaxy, including the Eldar, Jokaero, Humans, Orks and Necrons.
Of all the races in the galaxy, the Slann claim to be, and may actually be, the oldest. The days of their bright empire are gone, but still they remain amongst the most enigmatic creatures of known space. The Slann evolved, matured and spread throughout the galaxy many hundreds of thousands or even millions of Terran years ago. During the heyday of their empire they discovered and nurtured many primitive creatures, encouraging the evolutionary process on countless worlds, eradicating or moving dangerous species, and seeding many planets with promising stock. For millennia they experimented and played with the galaxy, possibly creating many of the races of modern times in the process. But their empire dwindled, the pace of their civilisation slowed, and their genetic experiments were largely abandoned. The Slann retired from an active role in galactic affairs, falling into a long dream of indolence and introspection. They do not seem to have suffered from any physical conflict, there are no records of destructive wars or disasters. Instead, their racial motivations appear to have undergone a sudden and drastic change, so that they have lost all interest in material conquest and power. Their true reason for this retirement from galactic affairs remains unknown; some believe that the Slann discovered some unknown secret of the cosmos or even gained a supreme spiritual insight. In the realms of psychic-philosophy and mystic-technology the Slann certainly have no equals, fulfilling themselves by study of spiritual life-forces and the secret powers of other realities.
It is known that the Old Slann were conscious of the existence of Warp entities, which they called the "Powers of Chaos". The Slann warned the ancient Aeldari of the dangers they would face in the future as a result of their own natures, including the cataclysmic Fall of the Eldar. Some of the Aeldari later heeded their warnings, leaving their homeworlds for the Craftworlds. During this time, the Old Slann not only taught the Aeldari about the dangers inherent to the Warp but also of the extraordinary benefits to be had from exploiting psychic abilities. When the Aeldari later expanded the Webway, they would refine and perfect much of the Old Slann's knowledge of the Empyrean.
Some savants have also speculated that the Slann are the creators of the Jokaero species, given that the Slann are believed to have visited Old Earth on numerous occasions, coupled with the Jokaero's uncanny resemblance to Terra's orangutan primate species.
After their retreat from the galaxy, the Slann resided in the galactic north, living upon a number of proximate, prosperous worlds. Their society remains closed to other intelligent races, but appears to be homogenous throughout, with a similar technical base, language and culture on each planet. Exceptionally, groups of Slann live as primitive Neolithic savages on a number of worlds beyond Slann space, including within Imperial space. Strangely enough, these primitive Slann are scattered throughout the galaxy, and probably comprise the remnants of what was once a much larger pattern of Slann settlement. These primitives have little or no contact with their technologically advanced kin and possess a culture reminiscent of that of Mesoamerica on Old Earth. The Slann are a curious people, rarely trading with other races and unpredictable when dealing with territorial disputes or any form of rivalry. There is little that the Slann want or need, and off-world traders often get the feeling that they are being watched and studied, and that the exchange of goods is of no importance to the Slann.
Slann warriors are called "braves," and a number of braves plus a leader makes up a warband. The number of warriors in a band varies, but is usually between 6 and 8, although it can vary between 2 and 12. A senior officer called a Warleader commands a group of warbands. Where armies are large it will have many Warleaders, all of whom will meet before a battle to make plans and exchange ideas with experienced Warleaders, chiefs and mages. The Warleader in overall charge is the Warchief -- selected from and by the other Warleaders. The greatest and most respected individuals in Slann society are the Great Mages. Their aid would be sought in battle, for their knowledge of sorcery, philosophy and the arcane sciences is formidable. The Great Mages remain aloof from society, although their advice is constantly sought by the social leaders. Slann society is tribal, and the leader of each tribe is known as the Mage Chief. Except amongst primitive Slann, tribes never fight each other and tribal relations are peaceful.
The concept of the warband is important to the Slann attitude to life. Every Slann is expected to live its life according to a strange, mystic and largely unfathomable ritual, as part of which the individual passes through life-stages. The calling to a life-stage would seem a real and almost unstoppable thing to a Slann, and can happen at any time, so that a peaceful technician may become a wanderer, a warrior, a hermit, etc. Once a Slann feels the call to become a warrior it joins one of its tribe's warbands, or forms a warband of its own. Because of this unpredictable recruiting method, warbands change all the time.
Every Slann tribe maintains a huge stock of weapons and equipment - tribes often exchange items as gifts, and many pieces are of incalculable age. Some equipment kept in this way derives from ancient alien cultures now dead or forgotten. However, very little of this equipment ever filters through to the braves, most of whom use weapons similar to those employed by humans and other races. A typical warband will be equipped with Lasguns, and may include up to three individuals with special weapons. Favoured special weapons are beamers and Graviton Guns, although heavy lasers and other weapons are used too. Slann braves all carry some sort of close combat weapon, often a simple melee hand weapon such as a mace or club. Leaders have neuro-disruptors and may have the equivalent of a Power Axe or Power Fist. The Slann prefer to rely on energy field armour rather than physical protection. Armour is worn, but has mostly a mystic rather than practical function. This takes the form of a padded chestplate, similar to Flak Armour and giving the same protection. Displacer Field Armour is standard amongst Slann braves. In addition all Slann carry communicators, and warriors are given photo-chromatic injections.
Slann costume is very exotic. At first glance this makes them look very primitive, with fur skins, feathers and religious tokens hanging from their bodies and equipment. The impression is reinforced by the skin paint with which they decorate their bodies, and by rirual tattooing and scarring. In fact, all of these practices are connected with the esoteric Slann mystical philosophies and are somehow meshed up with their whole attitude to life, the universe and their part in it. Individual warbands adopt colour schemes. As braves will often fight only for a short time, before being called to some other activity, warbands are always in a state of flux and uniforms are impermanent.
Slann use vehicles entirely of their own design, most of which are walkers or combined hoverers/flyers. As with weapons, the Slann maintain a vast reserve of vehicles which are available to those forming warbands. The type of vehicle a warband might be permitted to requisition depends upon the leader's standing in society. various aspects of his life so far, and, most importantly, upon mystic divination. Selecting a vehicle which will bring the warband luck necessitates careful calculation similar to that of casting a horoscope. The Slann regard the vehicle as a member of the warband, and have a ritualistic regard for all of their equipment.
The Slann fight for reasons beyond the understanding of other intelligent races. A warrior is fulfilling an important part of its life-cycle; it sees the immediate goal as fighting, and wouldn't think it appropriate to consider why this is. A Slann would no more think of tactics than it would question the act of war. When Slann troops are obviously doomed they will die fighting. Defeat is not a Slann concept. Slann fight for the love of fighting, not to win or lose, and a gallant defeat is just as good as a glorious victory. Many Slann believe that they are fated to die as warriors and are perfectly happy to do so.
Anatomy and Physiology
The Slann originally evolved from amphibian stock, and even today traces of their ancestry are not hard to distinguish. Their hands and feet are long and webbed, their skins cool and moist, and their heads large with protruding eyes. They are quite at home in the water, and are capable of breathing oxygen from water (or other poorly oxygenated atmospheres) directly through their skin. Slann vary in colour a great deal -- green and blue are common, yellow is fairly well-represented, and there is a scattering of other, rarer colour morphs as well as albino and melanistic forms. Brightly pigmented Slann are often extroverted, talented or especially noteworthy in some way. Skins are sometimes mottled, striped or otherwise marked. On some Slann worlds, and especially amongst primitive Slann, these markings represent tribal divisions. Height is fairly constant, with adult Slann reaching 2 metres, while females are slightly larger and bulkier. The Old Slaan were known to be extremely potent psykers, and their descendants still also possess such powers.
The 1st Edition of Warhammer 40,000, Rogue Trader, explained that the Slann actually were what would in later editions become known as the race of the Old Ones. These original Slann were called the "Old Slann," and were an ancient and advanced xenos race, the greatest of all the spacefaring species of the galaxy and potent psykers. They guided the development of the Eldar to become the inheritors of their achievements. It is suggested that the Eldar and Mankind share a common ancestor. There is little outward physical difference between Eldar and humans, and it is said the two races are genetically close enough that it is possible for them to interbreed. The Jokaero and the Orks are also suggested as being the possible creations of the Old Slann. Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness, also a 1st Edition source, describes the Slann's knowledge of the Warp being perfected by the Eldar when they created and extended the Webway.
Following the 1st Edition, the Slann made no further appearances in the setting, though a picture of a reptilian alien identified only as a "Slanni" appears in the pages of the Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook for 4th Edition. By this time, most of the Slann's lore had been given to the ancient race known as the Old Ones mentioned in Codex: Necrons (5th Edition). A possible link between the Slann and the Old Ones is implied within the lore sections of that Codex, which states that the C'tan still maintain a hatred for any of the degenerate descendants of the Old Ones, though it is never stated whether the current Slann are actually the descendants of that lost civilisation, or simply a subject race of the original Old Ones.
It should be noted that the Old Ones in the Warhammer 40,000 universe may have been based on the Old Ones of the H.P. Lovecraft Mythos. The term often applied to the Great Old Ones or the Elder Things which created life on Earth (Terra) in the H.P. Lovecraft Mythos. But this is merely conjecture and has not been definitively stated as fact by Games Workshop as one of their influences upon their development of the Old Ones and their Slann servants in both Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy.
- Codex Titanicus (1st Edition), pp. 52-53
- Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness (1st Edition), pg. 215
- Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader (1st Edition), pp. 131, 194-195
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (4th Edition), pg. 139