- "Order. Unity. Obedience. We taught the galaxy these things long ago, and we will do so again."
- —Imotekh the Stormlord, Phaeron of the Sautekh Dynasty, Regent of Mandragora
A Tomb World is one of the worlds across the Milky Way Galaxy where the ancient and terrible xenos known as the Necrons chose to go into hibernation over 60 million standard years ago, deep beneath its surface in their specially prepared catacombs and tombs. Many Tomb Worlds are now settled planets of the Imperium of Man and their status as a Necron Tomb World remains unknown until the Necrons beneath its surface begin to awaken, much to the detriment of all life on the world. An unknown number of these planets exist across the galaxy in the 41st Millennium. Some Tomb Worlds were once the settled worlds of the ancient Necrontyr species that eventually became the cybernetic Necrons after their enslavement by the C'tan, and Necrontyr ruins are sometimes found on or beneath the surfaces of such worlds. Many Necron Tomb Worlds are now Dead Worlds, largely lifeless and barren deserts. Whether this is a result of the Necrons having cleansed all life from the world millions of years before during one of their foul "red harvests" or whether such climates were the preferred homeworlds of the Necrontyr civilisation, is unknown. Many of these worlds are often the sites of archeological expeditions carried out by Adeptus Mechanicus Explorator teams looking to uncover ancient xenos or STC technologies or Rogue Trader expeditions hoping to turn a profit from what they discover. Many of these exploratory teams are never heard from again once they begin to explore Necrontyr ruins that inevitably lead them to the tombs of the dormant Necrons that lie beneath the sands.
The Necrons' underground tombs are generally quite large and cavernous, containing repair facilities that are manned by Canoptek Scarab robots that repair the Necrons that were critically damaged in recent battles. They have stasis units, in which the dormant Necrons hibernate. They also usually have a large room in which either the Necron Lord or Necron Overlord that commands the Tomb World (occasionally called a Platinum Lord or a Tomb Lord) sleep in a massive and ornate black stone sarcophagus.
For many of the galaxy's myriad intelligent species, the re-emergent Necrons are but one terror amongst many in the darkness between the stars. Even within the Imperium of Man, the Necrons are only dimly understood, with just a handful of individuals aware of the true scale of the threat they represent to Mankind's dominion over the galaxy.
Just as Necron society is rigidly hierarchical, so too are its Tomb Worlds. The most important are the crownworlds, oldest and proudest of all the Necron-held planets and the sites from which their dynasties and planetary clusters are governed. Crownworlds were once hubs of galactic power in the ancient days of Necron might, buttressed by tithe and tribute sent from elsewhere within the territory of their ruling dynasties. With access to such great resource-wealth, crownworlds were able to construct the most reliable stasis-crypts for their inhabitants. As a result, crownworld inhabitants that have weathered the slumbering millennia, without falling afoul of external circumstances, have done so in excellent condition -- though this only dampens the tragedy for the Necron race when a crownworld is lost to galactic calamity.
Next in importance for any Necron Dynasty are the coreworlds, planets which together form the heart of a dynasty's interstellar territory. The rulers of coreworlds would inevitably be the close kin to the regent of their dynasty's crownworld, ensuring a bond of dynastic loyalty endured between the often diverse planets. Though neither so majestic nor so mighty as crownworlds, the coreworlds were great powers to be reckoned with in their heyday and, barring disaster, are so again in the late 41st Millennium.
Finally, Necron fringeworlds are planets of tertiary importance to their ruling dynasty, not viewed as being of high enough status to be numbered amongst a dynasty's coreworlds. Fringeworlds were often poor or distant colonies of a dynasty, able to contribute to the wider realm only in terms of manual labour or as a location for penal institutions. Some fringeworlds will once have counted amongst the coreworlds of a different dynasty, but have since been conquered or otherwise subsumed into the dominion of their current ruler, thus descending in status.
There is no such thing as a "typical" Necron Tomb World. Each answers only to the will of its noble ruler, and thus his proclivities define everything from its grand campaigns to trivialities such as architectural styles and forms of address between noble ranks. Nevertheless, there is one common cause that binds all Tomb Worlds: the rebuilding of the Necron dynasties of old, and the return of the Necrons to their rightful place of supremacy over the whole of the ignorant galaxy. The Tomb Worlds listed below represent no more than a handful of the many millions spread throughout the galaxy. Each revived world has its own idiosyncracies, and the number is ever growing. Who can say how many far-flung outposts of Mankind have their foundations set upon a planet long ago claimed by an immeasurably older civilisation, its inhabitants blissfully unaware of the slumbering horror at their planet's core. In these days of the Necrons' awakening, no world in the galaxy can truly rest easy...
Tomb World Activation
Hibernating deep within the hearts of their Tomb Worlds, the Necrons have been dormant for more than 60 million Terran years. Scattered Necron raiding parties heralded the undying race's awakening to full activity once more in the late 41st Millennium, but now as their thirsty Star Gods, the C'tan, rise to a hungry wakefulness for life energy, the dreaded Necrontyr have returned to claim the galaxy for their own.
Every Necron Tomb World has been constructed to accord to a complex template that was devised by the Necrontyr at the height of their civilisation. Utilising physical principles and technology that have not been rediscovered by any other intelligent species since they began their long sleep, the Necrons created immense subterranean warehouses to store their race for the millions of years they would spend inactive. Using their mastery of advanced interdimensional geometry, the Necrons built massive chambers that could house tens of thousands of their kind in a space seemingly larger on the inside than without. Deep beneath these pyramidal structures, the Necrons stored their horrific weaponry and erected powerful temporal stabilisers that would shield these warriors and their savage weapons from the ravages of time much like a stasis field.
Each Tomb World, once it has been reactivated, awakens its sleepers in a rigid and predictable algorithmic sequence that is as inevitable as the dying of the stars. First, the Tomb World releases swarms of robotic Scarab and Tomb Spyder constructs to attend to the rudimentary needs of the stasis tombs. Soon after the Necron Warriors are reawakened and begin reconnaissance patrols of the region of the world surrounding their tombs. Using the information gained by these Necron Warriors' scouting missions, the Tomb World's automated systems assess the current circumstances that dominate its environment. According to ancient, pre-determined algorithms, the stasis tombs then bring on-line other Necron machineries and weapons as the circumstances warrant. The Necron Lord or Lords present on the Tomb World are encoded with this information and the data necessary to form artificial personalities so that when they awaken they can embody the singular purpose of the Tomb World and make independent decisions.
A large population centre of one of the galaxy's younger races, usually Mankind, may have been settled unwittingly on what is actually a Necron Tomb World. When this situation is encountered, the Tomb World's encoded programming reacts extremely aggressively to defend its hibernating charges. These Tomb Worlds are the ones that have activated the most rapidly during the current awakening of the Necrons and are now hives of activity for the undying race. As their automated systems delve ever deeper into their existing archives of data and storehouses of units and weapons, the Tomb Worlds whose areas of influence have been "invaded" by the younger races are gearing up to begin what will eventually become a full-scale retaliatory action against the Imperium of Man and any other organised force that stands in the Necrons' way. This is a programmed behaviour pattern that Imperial savants have dubbed "the Harvest." When it comes to pass, it will be a genocidal-level event on a par with the War in Heaven against the Old Ones millions of years ago.
Necron Tomb Worlds appear to have no permanent organisation or command structure, nor is the interaction of the various forces altogether clear to the savants of the Imperium. The Necrons' form of warfare could best be described as a continuous process of causality, as each battle, campaign and Harvest produces preordained responses from the controlling program of the Tomb World. This evolving structure is made possible by a system similar to that used in the most complex assemblies of the Adeptus Mechanicus, which is known as Nodal Command. Nodal Command organisation allocates a strict hierarchy to all of the elements within it. This system grants greater operational and decision-making capacity to certain "nodes" whilst slaving the rest of the system to these nodes' autonomous command decisions. Necron Lords form the nodes of the command structure, allowing each Lord an allocated hierarchical value at any given time. Though the Adeptus Mechanicus can only guess at how this Nodal Command system truly operates, they have determined that there are at least four levels of hierarchy within the Nodal Command, which the Tech-priests have designated Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum levels, in ascending order of command priority. The Nodal Command system is also a communications structure and forms the basis for how intelligence information is gathered and orders issued to the necessary Necron units. The system is often likened to the ancient flow charts once used to design Cogitator algorithms during the Dark Age of Technology.
The decisions taken by a higher-level Necron Lord (such as a Gold-level), give a single, quick response. All relevant data and orders are then automatically disseminated to any subservient Lords -- the Silver-and Bronze-level Lords slaved to the Gold-level commander. In situations where speed is less important than processing all of the relevant information, decision-making defers across several Bronze or Silver-level Lords, and can even devolve down to the individual Necron Warriors at specific times during combat. This system allows for a great deal of coordination when required, but also still leaves room for independent action by distant combat groups should the need arise. A Platinum-level Necron Lord, also known as a Necron Overlord, has not yet been encountered by Imperial forces. Savant speculation indicates that this level of Necron Lord would command massive Necron fleets intended to Harvest entire swathes of the galaxy. Such a Necron force might prove unstoppable.
After multiple encounters with the Necrons, it has become obvious to Imperial savants that as a conflict worsens, a Tomb World will temporarily withdraw its existing forces from combat before releasing a new, more potent army led by an extended Nodal Command. Essentially, the more a foe escalates its response to Necron forces, the more devastating will become the Necron offensive. In most situations, only a few Necron Warriors and specialist support units like Destroyers or Wraiths are deployed to defeat an emerging threat. But as resistance grows, so does the strength of the forces that will be released by the Tomb World's autonomic systems to the Nodal Command structure for use by the commanding Necron Lord or Lords.
Combat escalation with the Necrons of a specific Tomb World will grow in this exponential fashion until the forces that are capable of being deployed by the Necrons represent a level of destructive power that can surpass that of any other enemy Mankind has ever faced, including the Tyranids and the Forces of Chaos. Seemingly endless ranks of Necron Warriors will be transported into combat by armadas of newly-awakened Monoliths, while Immortals and Destroyers by the hundreds will be released in relentless waves against enemy troops. Scores of horrific Flayed Ones and Wraiths will terrorise civilian populations and destroy morale behind the front lines. It is believed by many Imperial savants that some Tomb Worlds still maintain a wide variety of units more powerful and destructive than the massed phalanxes of Necron Warriors and Monoliths that have been encountered by the defenders of the Imperium to date. All that is required for these unseen units to be committed to the fight is for the combat to escalate to a level that has not yet been attained. The mind reels from imagining what kinds of horrific machines the Necrons may yet unleash upon an unsuspecting galaxy when this unknown line is finally crossed in the not-too-distant future. The Dead Worlds that have been found close to many present Tomb Worlds scoured of all life are perhaps testaments to the true fate of those who oppose the undying Necrons.
Tomb World Nodal Command Stages
- Primary Awakeners - The first elements activated by a Tomb World's autonomic systems once the outside environment has been judged to be receptive to the hibernating Necrons' awakening are the Tomb Spyders. These robotic custodians begin the initial tasks of opening and performing basic maintenance to the Necron stasis tombs. Embued with the powers of Necron resurrection, the Tomb Spyders activate the Tomb World's initial reconnaissance forces, known as Raiders. Meanwhile, the second group of Primary Awakeners, the smaller robotic constructs called Scarabs, secure the interior of the stasis tombs. In massive swarms numbering in the thousands, Scarabs seek out intruders and carry out any remaining essential maintenance on the stasis tombs' defence systems.
- Raider Force - Made up of a small number of Necron Warriors and Scarabs, the Raider forces emerge into the outside environment with complete autonomy to carry out their mission as they see fit within the limits of their programming. The Raiders' purpose is to scout the surface of the Tomb World and any nearby star systems, seeking data on the location and status of the galaxy's other intelligent races. The destruction of a Raider force will produce one of two outcomes: the Tomb World may despatch a second Raider force to determine what happened to the first or the Tomb World may proceed immediately to the second stage of activation if a threat has been identified.
- Reserve Command - After the initial data gathered by the Raiders has been received by the Tomb World, the command of all Raider forces is subsumed under the Nodal Command of a Necron Lord, usually one tasked with a Silver-level of priority. When required, the Reserve Command will enter combat led by this Necron Lord, who also serves as a reserve commander who can take control of any already-deployed Necron forces should their primary Necron Lord be destroyed or incapacitated.
- Necron Line Formations - The majority of the units that make up a Necron field army are placed under this extension of the Nodal Command. Led by up to 4 Bronze-level Necron Lords, the Line Formations are made up of a wide variety of Necron fighting units. Ground forces are organised into units called phalanxes, which are made up of a core of Necron Warriors transported by Monoliths and supported by secondary fire support units like Destroyers, Immortals and so on. These phalanxes are often accompanied by units comprised of more specialised Necron troop types known as cohorts. The Necron Lords of the Line Formations serve as a battlefield command circuit that is able to pass data between themselves, upload data to the Platinum-level Necron Overlord or call upon the Reserve Command for reinforcements or a more in-depth analysis of tactical information. Each Tomb World may have dozens of full Line Formations, which are activated as needed by Tomb Spyders and inserted into or removed from the Nodal Command as the flow of combat dictates.
- Priority Command - Three Gold-level Necron Lords form the highest Necron command structure yet encountered by the forces of the Imperium on the battlefield. These Necron Lords are responsible for all strategic decision-making and can override the command and communications of Bronze or Silver-level Necron Lords. They are also capable of committing and commanding the most powerful Necron units known to exist to combat, including the Pariahs, larger war machines like Tomb Stalkers, aerial forces and starships.
- Platinum-level Commander - No Platinum-level Necron Lord, known as a Necron Overlord, has yet been encountered by the Imperium and their existence has only so far been hypothesized from observing the actions of the Gold-level Necron Lords. It is still speculation amongst the few Imperial savants who have been trusted with data about the Necrons whether the Platinum-level Nodal Command is still hidden on a Tomb World or might perhaps even be the Tomb World itself. The Adeptus Mechanicus' Tech-priests, however, are quite confident that the Platinum-level Necron Overlord is not the C'tan, who do not interact with the Nodal Command structure in any obvious way.
List of Tomb Worlds
The list of known Tomb Worlds in the galaxy is delineated below:
|Cardrim||Unknown||Unknown||Unknown||Unknown||Unknown||Imperium of Man|
|Cthelmax||Ultima Segmentum||Unknown||Unknown||Unknown||None||Imperium of Man|
|Drazak||Ghoul Stars||Unknown||Unknown||Drazak System||Population of Necron Flayed Ones||Necron|
|Gehenna||Unknown||Unknown||Unknown||Unknown||Unknown||Necron (Silent King)|
|Gorkamorka (Angelis)||Ultima Segmentum||Unknown||Unknown||Unknown||Orks||Orks|
|Kaurava III||Ultima Segmentum||Lithesh Sector||Unknown||Kaurava System||Unknown||Imperium of Man|
|Kronus||Ultima Segmentum||Lithesh Sector||Unknown||Unknown||Unknown||Imperium of Man, Tau Empire|
|Lorn V||Ultima Segmentum||Unknown||Unknown||Lorn System||None||Imperium of Man|
|Naogeddon||Ultima Segmentum||Segmentum Obscurus||Unknown||Unknown||Unknown||None|
|Pavonis||Ultima Segmentum||Unknown||Unknown||Pavonis System||300,000,000||Imperium of Man|
|Phaethon IV||Unknown||Unknown||Unknown||Phaethon System||Unknown||Imperium of Man|
|Rahe's Paradise||Unknown||Unknown||Unknown||Unknown||None (Exterminatus eliminated the population)||Imperium of Man|
|Sanctuary 101||Unknown||Unknown||Unknown||Unknown||Unknown||Imperium of Man|
|Selaaca||Segmentum Pacificus||Veiled Region||Unknown||Selaaca System||Human population harvested by Necrons||Necron (formerly Selaacan Empire)|
|Simia Orichalcae||Unknown||Unknown||Unknown||Simia Orichalcae System||Unknown||Imperium of Man|
- Codex: Blood Angels (5th Edition), pg. 16
- Codex: Necrons (5th Edition), pp. 14-15, 22
- Codex: Necrons (3rd Edition), pp. 7, 19, 24, 58-59, 65
- Warhammer 40,000: Apocalypse, pp. 162-163
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (5th Edition)
- Nightbringer (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- Caves of Ice (Novel) by Sandy Mitchell
- Echoes of the Tomb (Short Story) by Sandy Mitchell
- Dawn of War - Dark Crusade (PC Game)
- Dawn of War - Soulstorm (PC Game)