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"New to the hive my noble sir? No, don’t take me amiss! I’m here to help you, see? Outworlder are we? I can tell of course, not just the accent you understand, or the dress. Not used to the crowds are we sir? Getting buffeted and pushed along like that? Confused? Lost? Why if I hadn’t found you you’d be dipped and clipped in the blink of a scarab’s eye! You’ll feel better out of the press, come along, this isn’t a safe level you know?! What a fine specimen you are sir, if you don’t mind me saying… ‘long of limb and clean of skin’ as we say in the inhumation business… this way sir, down here, just one more stairwell… I know some friends of mine that will take to you right off, well, parts of you anyway..."

— Vargo "Redjack" Heit, Hive Sibellus Viscerator
Hive city

An Imperial hive city

A Hive World is the most populous type of Imperial planet, of which there are approximately 32,380 currently catalogued by the Administratum in the Imperium of Man. The populations of these planets are so great that the people live in huge urban arcologies called "hive cities," truly immense, self-contained, many-layered structures that reach high into the sky, each housing billions of individuals. Hive Worlds often provide much-needed industrial labour, their manufactoria producing mountains of materiel and other goods to meet the Imperial Tithe's demands, though the technological sophistication of these goods is nowhere near that produced by the Adeptus Mechanicus' Forge Worlds.

Most Hive Worlds started out as relatively hospitable places to live but have become severely polluted, the areas outside the hives reduced to ash wastes or radioactive desert by the never-ceasing industry of the great cities. Equally dangerous can be the hive cities themselves. The crime-ridden, poverty-stricken areas, almost always found in the most polluted and decrepit lower levels of the under-hive, are home to violent gangs, criminals and assorted scum as well as mutants and heretical cults who hide there from the authorities.

It has been said that the sacrifice of over a million Imperial soldiers is worth "one day's Hive World production" in weapons and armour. Perhaps even more valuable is what at first glance seems to be a byproduct of the monolithic hive city's design. The population of any given world approximately doubles every 100 Terran years. With each hive housing between 10 to 100 billion people and 5 to 20 hives per planet, the sheer number of Imperial citizens on a Hive World is staggering. And each of those citizens is a potential soldier for the Emperor's already uncountably vast armies.

Thus, hive cities manufacture far more than mere steel and silica; they are vast factories for the most useful possible resource, people. Almost every recruit into the Astra Militarum from a Hive World will already know how to handle a weapon. Hive Worlds also serve to populate newly discovered planets. Imperial citizens are gathered from various Hive Worlds (willingly or unwillingly) by the Administratum and shipped off to distant colonies first discovered by the Adeptus Mechanicus' Explorator fleets or Rogue Traders.

Hive world City

Another view of a hive city

In common with most other Imperial worlds, Hive Worlds are often based on a very obvious class system, with a ruling noble class and a bureaucratic middle class, although with populations so tightly packed there always develops a lower working class that often fuels the explosive growth of violent street gangs.

As can be expected, the upper classes are situated in the affluent upper areas of the hive cities, whilst the middle classes are situated in the middle areas, and the working classes are packed together in the lower areas. The very bottom sections of a hive city, the "Underhive," are often areas where the underclasses and criminals are sent to be forgotten about and anarchy rules.

Some extensively developed Hive Worlds do not even consist of various enclosed arcologies surrounded by wasteland, jungle, ice, or plains. These Hive Worlds are completely urbanised and stacked with hundreds of layers of arcologies, covering the entirety of the planet, effectively becoming an ecumenopolis. Terra is an example of this type of "Super Hive World".

Life on a Hive World


A hive city on the Imperial Hive World of Armageddon.

Hive cities are ancient constructions, each Terran century slowly growing wider across the barren ground and higher into the polluted air. They dominate worlds where the local environment has all but collapsed from long standard years of mining, harvesting, and waste-dumping. These are nearly sealed ecosystems, where billions of people live stacked on top of each other in the close confines of what is in essence a great metal tomb.

A hive worlder lives out their life never seeing the sky, never knowing what the surface of their world looks like, and often never even leaving the city level on which they were born. Most Hive Worlds have scores of these constructs, each existing in isolation from each other, rising up from the toxic fog and cursed earth of most Hive Worlds like monuments to its demise.

Hive worlders are often born into a house or family with their vocation already decided before they were born. Thus they work endlessly at their task in the manufactoria and industrial habs of their hive city, producing goods to be shipped off-world, or maintaining the many systems of the hive so that its population might continue to survive and another generation be born to take their place.

Nearly everything within a hive city is recycled and reused, and few things are ever wasted. The air a hive worlder breathes, the water they drink, and the food they eat likely all has once passed through the bodies of countless others, endlessly restored to be consumed once again. Even when a hive worlder dies their duty to the hive and house are not done, and most hives reconstitute their dead for the resources, such as corpse starch, that they can provide. All of a hive worlder's possessions, from the hab room in which they live to the clothes on their back, likewise come from those before them, the dead gifting the living with what little they have in a continuation of the cycle of hive city life.

Even in a system where the bulk of hive city residents must subsist on what meagre resources can be divided among a billion hungry mouths and shivering bodies, there remains a definite division of class. From the spires of the hive top, where the Highborn enjoy all the wealth the Imperium has to offer, down through the heads of the guilds and houses that can still hope to live in relative comfort, to the workers and dregs, where resources become less abundant. The lower in a hive city one goes, the more decayed and dangerous it becomes, the detritus of billions drifting down to rest among the filth far below. The rule of law breaks down in the depths of the Underhive, where there is no system to govern what pitiful resources remain.

These are wild and deadly domains where some hivers come to escape the rigid structure of their lives, but usually find only death and despair among the mutants and violent gangs that lurk in these dark worlds below.

Riot, Revolt and Calamity

Hive World

A Hive World

That any Human civilisation is "three missed meals away from anarchy" is an adage that has held true since long before the Imperium existed and applies doubly in the case of a Hive World. In any given hive city, millions must live together in jostling proximity, utterly dependent on a complex and gargantuan infrastructure for the mere basics of daily life such as food, power, light and even clean air.

If widespread rioting, unrest or serious disorder is allowed to ferment, it is possible that the threads binding the hive city together may be broken and millions may suffer as a result. It is said by some that this is one reason why the phenomena of the "Underhive" is allowed to exist in some form or another on most Hive Worlds, as a vital sinkhole for the city's Human malice, sin and discord.

Despite unceasing vigilance and near-totalitarian control, catastrophic unrest does sometimes occur in even the most tightly ordered of hives, and the history, for example, of the Calixis Sector is littered with such calamities: Fenksworld's infamous Tyburn food-tax riots saw the neighboring hive city of Volg's population almost double inside a standard year (before natural attrition reduced it again in the following few solar months), while the two-solar-decade long period of petty revolts and near civil anarchy caused by the misrule of House Koba on Malfi left near a billion dead and saw the final ruination of what had been one of the most powerful noble families in the sector.

In more recent times even the mighty and prosperous Hive Sibellus, the greatest hive city of Scintilla, the capital world of the Calixis Sector, has not proved to be immune. When heavy-handed tactics by the world's local law enforcers, the Magistratum, stirred up a hornet's nest of trouble during what came to be known as the "Reinholt Blackouts," open warfare broke out between the Magistratum and the hive's criminal gangs, spilling over from the slums and no-go zones into the hive's primary infrastructure. Power was cut to several dozen middle-hive districts for solar days -- fear and anarchy took hold and tens of thousands died, with whole regions gutted by raging fires. Many sections of the hive city, damaged by the blackouts, remain as burnt-out ruins, collapsing into the Underhive; they are now the haunt of dregs and worse. As a consequence of the rioting and thanks to their loss of face and perceived failure, the Sibellus Magistratum has become even more brutal in the execution of their duties.

Notable Hive Worlds

Planet Name Segmentum Sector Sub-Sector System Population
Absolom Reach Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Acheron IV Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Aerius Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Algol Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown 18,000,000,000
Amarah Prime Segmentum Tempestus Orpheus Sector Unknown Unknown Unknown
Amenophis IV Segmentum Ultima Jericho Reach Unknown Amenophis System Unknown
Aralan Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Arcadia Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Archaos Segmentum Obscurus Calixis Sector Drusus Marches Unknown Unknown
Argoth Segmentum Ultima Jericho Reach Arkalas Cluster Unknown Estimated 61 Billion
Armageddon Segmentum Solar Armageddon Sector Armageddon Sub-sector Armageddon System Unknown
Aryand Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Aurelia Segmentum Ultima Korianis Sector Sub-sector Aurelia Aurelian System Unknown
Avellorn Segmentum Solar Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Badab Primaris Ultima Segmentum Badab Sector Unknown Badab System 5,170,000,000
Beseritor Segmentum Ultima Jericho Reach Unknown Beseritor System Unknown
Carcharias Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Castobel Segmentum Ultima Jericho Reach Unknown Castobel System 109,000,000,000 (est.)
Coronis Agathon Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown 120,000,000,000
Cyclopean Prime Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Delaphina Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Derondii Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Fenksworld Segmentum Obscurus Calixis Sector Josian Reach Fenksworld System 22,000,000,000
Gehenna Prime Unknown Unknown Unknown Gehenna System Unknown
Greyshroud Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Hermetica Segmentum Solar Chonma Sector Unknown Hermetica System Unknown
Hexis Alpha Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Ichar IV Segmentum Ultima Unknown Unknown Ichar System 500,000,000,000
Ichorax Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Ironfound Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Jones Crispin World Ultima Segmentum Charadon Sector Unknown Eydolim System Unknown
Kado Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Landunder Segmentum Obscurus Calixis Sector Malfian Sub-Sector Landunder System 1,000,000,000
Lastrati Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Lavantia Segmentum Tempestus Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Malfi Segmentum Obscurus Calixis Sector Malfian Sub-Sector Malfian System 23,000,000,000
Medusa V Segmentum Ultima Unknown Unknown Medusa System
Meridian Segmentum Ultima Korianis Sector Sub-sector Aurelia Unknown 32,000,000,000
Minea Segmentum Ultima Unknown Unknown Unknown 154,000,000,000
Mordian Segmentum Obscurus Unknown Unknown Mordian System Unknown
Necromunda Segmentum Solar Unknown Unknown Necromunda System Unknown
Nonimax Segmentum Pacificus Sabbat Worlds Unknown Unknown Unknown
Nova Sulis Segmentum Solar Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Persepolis Segmentum Pacificus Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Praedis Zeta Ultima Segmentum Vidar Sector Unknown Unknown Unknown
Regallus Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Rheelas Segmentum Ultima Jericho Reach Arkalas Cluster Unknown Unknown
Sagacity Segmentum Ultima Jericho Reach Unknown Unknown Unknown
Scintilla Segmentum Obscurus Calixis Sector Golgenna Reach Scintilla System 25,000,000,000
Solomon Segmentum Obscurus Calixis Sector Golgenna Reach Unknown 25,000,000,000
Targus VIII Segmentum Obscurus Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Terra Segmentum Solar Sector Solar Sol Sub-sector Sol System Unknown
Temperis Segmentum Pacificus Unknown Unknown Cabulis System Unknown
Vanaheim Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Vanity Segmentum Ultima Jericho Reach Unknown; Cellebos Subsector (pre-Age of Shadow) Unknown Unknown
Verghast Segmentum Pacificus Sabbat Worlds Unknown Unknown Unknown
Vorlanthus IV Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown

See Also


  • Codex: Crimson Slaughter (6th Edition), "Echoes of War - Regallus Under Siege," pp. 153-156
  • Codex: Dark Eldar (7th Edition), "Dark Eldar Raid on Greyshroud," pp. 46-48
  • Codex: Imperial Guard (3rd Edition, 1st Codex)
  • Codex: Imperial Knights (6th Edition) (Digital Edition), pg. 44
  • Codex: Necrons (5th Edition), pg. 25
  • Codex: Space Marines (4th Edition), pg. 46
  • Dark Heresy Second Edition: Beta Core Rulebook (RPG), pg. 25
  • Dark Heresy Second Edition: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 38-39
  • Dark Heresy: Core Rulebook (RPG), pg. 249
  • Dark Heresy: Disciples of the Dark Gods (RPG), pp. 228-229
  • Dark Heresy: Inquisitor's Handbook (RPG), pg. 108
  • Dataslate: Storm Wing, pp. 8-9
  • Deathwatch: Rites of Battle (RPG), pg. 43
  • Hard Choices: What Happened on Algol? by Dan Abnett (Graphic Novel)
  • Imperial Armour Volume Two, Second Edition, pg. 8
  • Imperial Armour Volume Nine - The Badab War - Part One, pp. 15-16
  • Imperial Armour Volume Ten - The Badab War - Part Two, pp. 31, 40, 48-49, 53-54, 56, 60-61, 87, 109, 119, 127, 136
  • Imperial Armour Volume Twelve - The Fall of Orpheus, pg. 58
  • Index Chaotica: Possessed, "Daemonic Steeds - Screams of the Dying"
  • The Sabbat Worlds Crusade (Background Book) by Dan Abnett, pg. 56
  • Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader (1st Edition), pp. 212-213
  • Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (6th Edition), pp. 153, 385-399
  • Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (5th Edition)
  • Warlords of the Dark Millennium: Khârn the Betrayer, "An Eight-Fold Path"
  • Blood Gorgons (Novel) by Henry Zou
  • Necropolis (Novel) by Dan Abnett
  • Helsreach (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
  • Hidden Depths (Short Story) by Sandy Mitchell
  • Ragnar's Claw (Novel) by William King
  • Victories of the Space Marines (Anthology), "The Long Games at Carcharias," by Rob Sanders
  • Fantasy Flight Games - The Calixis Sector (Dead Link)
  • Games Workshop - Warhammer 40,000: Campaign Weekend - Vidar's Fate: Praedis Zeta (PDF Download)
  • Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon (Video Game)

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