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Revision as of 21:01, December 26, 2010

Hive city

A typical Hive City as seen from the Outskirts


A dilapidated Hive City as seen from the Ash Wastes


A battle raging in the upper levels of a Hive City

A Hive City or simply a hive, is a massive arcology, or self-contained city, that is home to millions of human beings loyal to the Imperium of Man and which are often found in clusters on the densely populated urban planets known in the Imperial lexicon as Hive Worlds. Hive cities have been built up over thousands of years, in many cases stretching back into the Dark Age of Technology long before the founding of the Imperium. Hive cities are layered constructions, comprising thousands of residential and industrial blocks leveraged one atop the other, forming a massive, man-made mountain usually capped by a crown of great spires that stretch thousands of metres into the sky. In general, the higher up one goes in a hive city, the more wealthy and powerful the residents, until one reaches the hive's spires where the nobility live, work and play. Conversely, the lowest levels of the hive, down below in the great tunnels that catacomb a hive's foundations even below the industrial and forge levels, lies the Underhive, a massive slum inhabited by violent gangs and vicious mutants who have never seen the light of their world's sun. Hive cities often exist in closely-spaced groups known as hive clusters and there can be several thousand hive cities on a single Hive World. These arcologies are largely economically self-sufficient, producing all the industry and oods needed by the tens of millions of people who call them home. Each hive also produces millions of metric tons of trash and industrial waste that is directly pumped out into the surrounding world's environment. Given the massive population of most Hive Worlds, this means that they are usually reduced to industrial wastelands covered in toxic deserts where nothing can live or grow save for the hardy mutants who call these "ash wastes" home and often raid the covered train-like transports that move passengers and cargo between hive clusters.

Hive City Geography

Hive Cities are worlds unto themselves, where the populace has never seen the outer world, and concepts such as the ground and sky are completely alien. There are entire regions inside the hive city blocked off by the ruins of sections or layers that collapsed. These ruined areas of the hive often hide treasures beyond price: Archeotech hoards, ancient stores of advanced technology saved in caches on many Hive Worlds during the upheavals of the Age of Strife to preserve the technological wonders that existed during the Dark Age of Technology on many human worlds.

The Underhive is the region of a hive city where the poorest of the poor and those citizens of the hive city who have been exiled for committing crimes or for political reasons live. In the Underhive, there is no law save for that created by the gangs that rule this dark ghetto. The Underhive is a difficult place to live where the power was long before turned off by the hive city's authority and the only rule is that might makes right. All manner of crimes go unpunished every day in the seething, violent anarchy of the Underhive. Working technology is the only real currency that matters in the Underhive and the recovery of the right equipment can transform a lowly ganger into the ruler of all he knows - until he is displaced by someone bigger, stronger, smarter or just possessed of a working Lascannon. The People of the Underhive rule through fear and shun the rich and even the working classes above them in the better levels of the hive.

The Outskirts of a hive city are not as terrible a place to live as the Underhive, but carries its own terrible risks. There is, of course, no power of any kind beyond the few portable generators the residents can provide and running water and a constant food supply or advanced medical care is sporadic at best. The biggest problems are dealing with the toxic environment of the ash wastes that surround most hive cities and the constant threat of attack by the fearsome mutants of those wastes. Yet the people of the Outskirts are also free to live their lives outside the rigid confines of social class and decorum that constrains all the people of the hive cities, high-and lowborn alike or the Hobbesian struggle of all-against-all that defines the short and brutal lives of most Underhivers. Though life is difficult and extremely dangerous for the intrepid souls who decided to live outside of the hive cities all together, their lives are still their own and they serve no masters but themselves.

The Lower Hive is the layer of the hive city that lies just above the Underhive. It is comprised of the city's industrial sectors and working class residential housing. The people of this level make up the majority of any hive citys population and are responsible for maintaining and operating the hive's manufacturing and agricultural enterprises to keep the rest of the hive fed, clothed and productive. Even though the Lower Hive is home to the massive fusion plasma generators that provide the entire hive city's power production, the people of the Lower Hive must pay a premium for every watt of power they consume. This means that very few people in the Lower Hive can afford any luxuries. In general they do their work, raise their families as best they can, seek to keep clear of the machinations of the upper classes, maintain a deep if simple faith in the Emperor and the Imperial Cult and above all are grateful that they do not live in the Underhive.

The Upperhive is the region of the hive city in which the bureucrats who administer the hive on a day-to-day basis, top industry managers and various important people connected to the Hive World's political and economic nobility live. The residences are better, space is abundant and power is free for all. Life is much easier here than in the lower levels and this level's people might be considered middle-class or even upper middle class on an Imperial socioeconomic scale.

The Hive Spires are the furthest from the horrors of the lower levels and as such are the most luxuriously outfitted, serving as the homes of the wealthiest and most powerful people in the city, including the planetary Imperial nobility, the wealthiest merchants, industrial barons and any visitors of importance from off-world. Some hive spires pierce through the cloud barriers of their world, providing a stunning vista of the planet to watch over. The Spires provide plentiful food, power and the most advanced medical care available. Every family in the Spires has access to what what is essentially the hive city equivalent of a mansion or villa. But in some ways the Spires are even more dangerous than the Underhive due to the political machinations that are hatched and carried out there. In the Underhive you may be murdered for a piece of bread, but in the Spires your enemies may seek to steal your very soul.


  • Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (5th Edition)
  • Warhammer 40,000: Dark Heresy Core Rulebook (RPG)
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