A particularly large Kindred is typically run by a Master Shaper, while a group consisting of multiple Kindreds may be headed by a Shaper Council comprised of three to five Kroot Shapers, who act as overseers to the other Shapers, and ensure that Shapers do not lead their warriors down a dangerous or dead end evolutionary path.
Occasionally a so-called "Shaper Chief" may rise to power in times of crisis, such as Anghkor Prok, and unite hundreds of Kindreds into a single Kroot army.
Shapers command their underlings on the field of battle much like a Sergeant of the Imperial armed forces and perform most of the functions associated with interaction with other groups such as the T'au. However, more significantly, they play a vital role within Kroot society which shapes the fate of the entire species.
The Kroot have at some distant point in their past gained the ability to absorb the genetic characteristics of their prey, inheriting many of their physiological and anatomical features. This is achieved by way of the Kroot's unique DNA, which is able to store far more information than that of other species, allowing them to incorporate useful DNA strands into their own genotype in Lamarckian fashion.
It is the task of the Shaper to oversee this process. At some point in the species' past, the riot of uncontrolled evolution must have produced the ancestors of the current incarnation, and they, uniquely amongst their entire genus, were sentient and capable of exerting some control over their own genetic fate.
Were they not, they would have been a short-lived passage in the species' genetic history and would no doubt have succumbed to random evolution. When some quirk of evolution blessed the Kroot with sentience, they gained the ability to control their own destiny, and the Shapers are those in whom responsibility for this process is vested.
Shapers have the instinctive ability to sample and analyse the genetic characteristics of any creature they eat. They are able to isolate the prey's DNA so that it does not corrupt their own, and interpret which of its characteristics might be favourable to Kroot evolution and which might be detrimental. The Shaper then warns his Kindred against eating particular prey, and directs them towards others.
By carefully guiding his Kindred's breeding, the Shaper can navigate the species' turbulent development. He is as much responsible for guarding against regression as he is for ensuring the development of new, favourable genetic traits. For instance, a Shaper who wants his Kroot to gain muscle mass will take on campaigns against Orks to acquire the right DNA, while extensive feeding on flying predators will allow the Kroot to grow wings.
Kroot are possessed of an overwhelming urge to consume the corpses of those they have slain in combat, a trait over which they have very little control and is a throwback to earlier stages in their evolution. The Shapers are the only Kroot capable of curtailing this instinct, and they can with a single hiss warn their underlings away from consuming the flesh of an undesirable creature.
Having determined that a particular prey is safe to consume, the Shapers invariably allow their Kindreds to obey their primal urges. Thus, Kroot will consume the bodies of fallen humans and other creatures if the Shapers have already determined that it is safe for them to do so.
There are three known types of creature that the Kroot will not prey upon, the Shapers having forbidden it. The first are Tyranids, who the Shapers have declared "inedible" (the term has far worse connotations to a Kroot than to a human). Something in the function of Tyranid evolution causes utter revulsion in the Shapers, perhaps because Tyranids also modify the genetic inheritance of other species towards their own development, though in a very different manner.
The second group the Kroot avoid preying upon are those humans who have turned to the worship of Chaos. This is a very hit and miss affair, for the Kroot are barely able to tell the followers of the Ruinous Powers from any other type of human. This proscription stems from an incident when the Kroot defeated a warband devoted to Slaanesh, and later developed a number of entirely undesirable mutations.
The last group the Kroot are forbidden by the Shapers to feed upon are the T'au themselves. Even though the Kroot comport themselves as savage mercenaries and rely upon the T'au for material support in many matters, they are, as a species, deeply indebted and devoted to the T'au, for Pech would have fallen to Ork invasion were it not for the T'au's aid. To taste the flesh of the T'au is to earn the swift and deadly retribution of the Shapers.
Kroot Shaper Shamanistic Abilities
One of the many roles of a Shaper within Kroot society is to act as a focus for the practice of ancestor worship. Kroot Shapers have a great mastery of rituals that call upon the ancestor spirits of their Kindred. These rituals often have unusual effects that lend Shapers a reputation for supernatural powers within their society. Each must be activated by the Shaper, usually involving a sonorous chant and access to the powders, rocks and bones kept within the Shaper's fetish pouch.
- Ancestral Blessing - The Shaper's rituals are attuned to asking the warrior spirits of his ancestors for aid in battle, who make them more potent and skillful.
- Blood of the Stalker - The Shaper daubs the blood of a local predator upon his exposed skin and those of his allies, cawing a prayer to gain the favour of his ancestors in the coming hunt.
- Prophetic Dream - Many Shapers seek guidance from their ancestors in visions and dreams. Often, these visions may grant the Shaper insight into the future, although such glimpses are quite difficult to interpret. The Kroot may enter a trance during his normal sleep cycle. During this trance, he may receive a vision that grants him some foreknowledge of the future.
Notable Kroot Shapers
- Anghkor Prok - Anghkor Prok was the legendary Kroot leader who first encountered the T'au and is considered one of the greatest Kroot to have ever lived. He was a key Kroot leader of the War of the Place of Union and convinced the T'au to aid him in the liberation of the Kroot homeworld of Pech from the Orks. After that campaign, Prok went to Pech's sacred oathstone and pledged the allegiance of his warriors to fight for the Greater Good -- and regular payments and technological upgrades from the T'au Empire.
- Gorok - Gorok the Shaper was present on the world of Gravalax during the so-called Gravalax Incident involving Commissar Ciaphas Cain in the late 41st Millennium. Gorox aided Cain in identifying a Genestealer infestation but was himself slain by a purestrain Genestealer during the incident.
- Griahgri - Griahgri was a Kroot Shaper who fought for the T'au on Kronus, against the Feral Orks who infested that world some twelve Terran years before the start of the Dark Crusade. During an incursion into the Rhean Floodlands, Griahgri and the Kroot hunting party he led were killed in battle with the Ork Warboss Hedkrakka. The Warboss used the Kroots' bodies as trophies for his boss hut and Griahgri's T'au Communication Beacon to inform the rest of the T'au forces on Kronus that he was coming for them next.
- Harbyx - Harbyx was an elder Kroot Shaper who fought under the T'au Commander Shas'O Kais during the Dark Crusade on the world of Kronus. A native of Kronus, he was highly respected by the Kroot there and fought ferociously to free his homeworld from the invaders who had come to assault it. Harbyx's fate is unknown, though he was likely slain by the Blood Ravens Space Marines when they defeated the T'au in Or'es Tash'n, their capital city on Kronus.
- Orak (or Orek) - A Kroot Shaper who fought in the service of Commander Brightsword and met with Colonel Schaeffer, Kage and other members of the 13th Penal Legion (Last Chancers), first helping them out of a bar fight started by Tarellian mercenaries, in which the Imperials had been badly outnumbered, and then by taking them back to his camp. There Orak tested the mettle and loyalty of the Last Chancers by making Kage eat a human brain. As a Shaper, Orak believed that both the T'au and human empires were doomed by their own stagnancy and superstition, as only constant change and adaptation could ensure survival.
- Ortrazk - Ortrazk was an elder Kroot Shaper who fought many campaigns under the command of T'au Commander Or'es'Ka and served with him during the Kaurava Conflict.
- Pechallai - Pechallai was a Kroot Shaper who commanded thousands of Kroot auxiliaries in the T'au outer defence line against as assault by the Tyranid Hive Fleet Gorgon on Sha'draig in 900-901.M41. Hormagaunts assaulted the forests where Pechallai's Kindred was positioned. Many of them ended up entangled in the forest's undergrowth where the Kroot easily dispatched them. The Gorgon's next assault wave was composed of new Hormagaunts altered to be swifter and less prone to being entangled, but they were also eventually stopped by the Kroot's savagery and sheer tenacity. A final wave, consisting of Hormagaunts once again reshaped to specifically pierce and tear Kroothide, ultimately swamped Pechallai's defences and led to the death of the Shaper and his Kindred.
- Codex: Tau (3rd Edition)
- Codex: Tau Empire (4th Edition)
- Codex: Tau Empire (6th Edition), pg. 18
- Games Workshop Website - Kroot Shaper
- Codex: Tyranids (5th Edition), pp. 18-21
- Chapter Approved 2004
- Deathwatch: Mark of the Xenos (RPG), pp. 14-16
- Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium (Omnibus Novel) by Sandy Mitchell, pp. 77-79, 204-210, 222-226
- Dawn of War - Dark Crusade (PC Game), The Rhean Floodlands campaign screen, Tau Campaign - Harbyx, Honour Guard unit description, Blood Ravens Campaign - Or'es Tash'n After Action Report
- Dawn of War - Soulstorm (PC Game), Tau Campaign - Ortrazk, Honour Guard unit description
- Kill Team (Novel) by Gav Thorpe, pp. 201-208