Necromunda's great forges produce Lasguns, Autoguns, Shotguns and Bolters, among other weapons. The planet also levies huge numbers of troops for the Astra Militarum, most notably the regiments of the Necromundan Guard, as well as other crucial supplies.
Necromunda is one of the worlds from which the Space Marines of the Imperial Fists Chapter recruits new neophytes, often from the vicious criminal gangs of the planet's hive cities. The Imperial Fists maintain a recruitment-keep on the world in one of its hive clusters.
Necromunda is typical of most large Imperial Hive Worlds, in that the lower portions of its hive cities are rife with powerful gangs. The world is also the setting for the original Necromunda and Necromunda: Underhive tabletop skirmish war games, as well as multiple video games.
Araneus Prime was first settled over 15,000 Terran years ago during the Age of Technology as a mining and manufacturing colony. It became the capital of a small stellar empire known as the Araneus Continuity.
The worlds of the Araneus Continuity were a series of planets close to the Sol System in the Segmentum Solar which had maintained commercial and communications links to one another even during the vast Warp Storms of the Age of Strife due to the existence of a series of ancient Warp Gates of unknown origins.
Ruled by a caste of Technobility from the world of Araneus Prime at the heart of the network of Warp Gates, the Araneus Continuity was a kingdom of iron and hungering industry.
Contact between the Imperium and this pocket of Humanity occurred by accident. A lost squadron of warships returning from the Gehenial Prosecution of the Great Crusade in the late 30th Millennium was forced from the Warp into one of the Continuity's peripheral systems.
Before they could jump back into the Warp, the squadron was surrounded, boarded, and overwhelmed by cybernetically-grafted warriors. The cries of the squadron's astropaths echoed through the Immaterium, and far away the Imperium heard and turned its gaze upon the worlds of the Araneus.
An envoy fleet was sent, and was allowed to return bearing the Continuity's answer to the Emperor's demand of fealty. The Technobility flatly refused to bow to the Emperor, but instead invited Him to join their empire as a tributary.
A superlative warrior, Yonnad was reckoned by many to be one of the Imperium's greatest strategists. Called upon many times as fleet commander and siege master, he planned meticulously and executed his plans with brutal swiftness.
Marshalling his fleet at Tallarn, thousands of warships carrying over 20,000 Imperial Fists, alongside millions of troops of the Imperial Army and the ancient Mechanicum, launched their assault upon the unsuspecting systems of the Araneus. Within two solar months the Continuity was reduced to the single core world of Araneus Prime.
Their empire cut from around them, the Technobility in their iron towers looked to the night sky and saw the darkness stolen by the light of the Imperial fleet. They surrendered then, and the sun rose the next day on the seat of yet another stellar empire brought to Imperial Compliance.
But even as the Imperium moved in to claim their prize, the worlds of the Araneus Continuity were beset by an unknown menace.
A few accounts speak of a darkness deeper than the void, of living lightning and flame-wreathed chrome. Six systems burned, their stars igniting to terrible life before crumbling to cold embers.
Commander Yonnad made the terrible decision to defend only some of the worlds, otherwise they would lose all. As the unknown enemy appeared in system after system, they met the Imperial Fists.
As more of the enemy came the Imperial Fists detonated warheads they had attached to each Warp Gate. Without their gates, the unknown enemies simply vanished. Their advance had been halted on Araneus Prime when its gate exploded.
All but one of the star systems of the Araneus Continuity died, and at the cost of thousands of Imperial Fists and billions of Human lives Araneus Prime survived, but barely.
The death of the Warp Gate and the cluster of xenos craft which had penetrated the Imperial Fists' lines had changed the shape of the planet.
Its surface had been ravaged by unnatural fire, its world-city cracked and rendered to dust and ash, from which the shattered roots of its great towers rose like broken teeth.
Looking upon the charred remains taken from the pyre, the Imperium gave the world of Araneus Prime a new name, one that echoes with a world brought to the threshold of death but one that still lived -- "Necromunda" they called it.
The ensuing millennia have not changed its basic purpose very much; Necromunda is still a world of mines, factories, refineries and processing plants. The planet is a vast powerhouse of industry, making thousands and thousands of different items for use throughout the nearby Imperial planetary systems of the Segmentum Solar.
Nothing which can contribute to the planet's output has been left untouched. From the tops of the highest mountains to the depths of the oceans, the wealth of Necromunda has been extracted.
Mountains have been reduced to rubble for the ore they contain; oceans have been turned into little more than chemical sludge ponds by the constant industrial pollution.
The once-fertile plains of the world have disappeared under huge urban developments of imposing housing and factory arcologies, forming new ranges of man-made urban mountains every bit as tall as the long-since flattened natural topographical features.
These huge towering urban arcology complexes are known as hive cities, or simply "hives," and their individual peaks or towers are called city spires or "spires." A close group of urban hives is known as a "hive cluster."
Between the hives, deserts of industrial ash cover the surface of the planet with a mobile, corrosive skin. Over this desert lies a cloud layer of airborne pollution, so that the great spires of the city hives rise from a drifting mist of tainted vapour like islands appearing out of an ashen sea.
The hives and hive clusters are connected through the Ash Wastes by so-called ash trains, long trains of transport cars outfitted with reinforced balloon wheels that can travel between the wastes on a system of tracks, delivering passengers and goods.
These trains are often attacked by the nomadic tribes of mutants called "Ash Raiders" who have somehow adapted to life in the poisonous Ash Wastes.
Despite being reduced to such a hellish environmental state, Necromunda is still a valuable world to the Imperium. Although little of Necromunda's original resources remain, the waste-heaps of previous generations have become a new source of riches.
Necromunda lives on the accumulated wastes of its past: its people have learned to scavenge, reclaim and recycle everything in order to squeeze a living from their exhausted world.
Necromunda's population has increased well beyond the planet's capacity to support it. As a consequence, it is wholly reliant on synthetic and imported food.
Each hive city has its own recycling plants which convert previously used organic matter and waste into synthetic food like corpse-starch. Real food is imported from off-planet, but is an expensive luxury which only the most wealthy and prestigious Necromundans from the world's aristocracy can afford.
There are probably more people now on Necromunda than ever lived in the entire history of Terra up until the end of the twentieth century in the 2nd Millennium.
An attempted Imperial census of Trazior Hive four thousand Terran years ago in the 37th Millennium revealed an estimated population of a billion in the upper habitation levels alone -- no further attempt has been made to count Necromunda's population in Trazior or any other of the several thousand hives on the planet, though the world's population must now be over 100 billion people.
The society of Necromunda is reasonably typical of larger Imperial Hive Worlds. No attempt is made to enforce central administration upon the entire population, indeed such a thing would prove impossible on a world where most people remain unrecorded by any authority.
Instead, a kind of feudal system has evolved by which individual people owe loyalty to others, who in their turn owe loyalty to other increasingly more powerful members of the feudal hierarchy.
Among the more stable elements of the population these loyalties are owed on a family basis, and closely related families all support each other under the hegemony of the most powerful member of their family group.
This form of urban feudalism tends to be self-regulating. Weaker clans naturally seek the protection of more powerful neighbours whose powerbase then expands until it reaches the limit whereby its numbers and resources are simply too few to allow it to expand further.
Where rival clans meet it is inevitable that their power will be tested in combat; the ability of a clan to exert its power being the only true measure of its influence. The endless feuds between the warrior gangs are never-ending and a fundamental part of the political workings of Necromunda.
The governor and ruler of all Necromunda is the Imperial Commander, Lord Gerontius Helmawr, the leader of the ruling Imperial House Helmawr.
House Helmawr, the so-called "Imperial House," is based in the primary hive city on the world, known as the Palatine, but more often referred to as Hive Primus.
Gerontius Helmawr's ancestors are known to have reigned for the past seven thousand Terran years at least, records of government before that time having long since disappeared.
Lord Helmawr occupies the very top of the Necromundan feudal hierarchy. The society he rules over is divided into many factions which continually compete and co-operate with each other, giving rise to endless changes in the feudal hierarchy.
Lord Helmawr is completely unconcerned with the activities of lesser powerbrokers. He deals directly with the most powerful factions.
If a major player in the power game proves weak or treacherous it is a simple matter for Helmawr to withdraw his support. The very rumour that he might be about to do this is often enough to encourage a feudal inferior's enemies to turn against and destroy them.
The Adeptus Terra leaves Lord Helmawr to govern his domain as he pleases, as it leaves all Imperial Commanders free to administrate their worlds. The Imperial Commander forms a link in the feudal chain which extends throughout the galaxy to the heart of the Adeptus Terra. So long as Helmawr fulfills his feudal obligations to the Imperium his position remains secure.
Helmawr's main obligation to the Imperium is to provide a tithe which takes the form of a percentage of all the goods Necromunda produces. As the entire production capacity of the world is given over to providing manufactured goods for the Imperium the tithe is taken as a straight discount on the revenue earned.
So long as Necromunda continues to meet these responsibilities, and so long as its production capacity is sufficiently high, the Imperium remains quite satisfied. Of course, should the Necromundan economy begin to show signs of flagging then Lord Helmawr's position would be very different indeed.
Hive Worlds like Necromunda provide the Imperium with another useful resource -- namely its people. Necromunda produces generations of tough youths with a strong sense of self-reliance. They are highly valued as recruits for the Astra Militarum and even for some of the Space Marine Chapters. Providing recruits in vast numbers is another of Lord Helmawr's feudal obligations.
Recruitment brings officials from the Imperium to Necromunda to inspect and in some cases conduct recruiting drives amongst the fighting gangs. Helmawr himself is obliged to provide troops from his personal guard, usually a whole regiment at a time.
Because the planet supplies so many troops for the Astra Militarum the name of Necromunda is known throughout the galaxy, even by peoples who know nothing about the planet itself.
Over the centuries Necromundan Guard regiments have fought with distinction in the Astra Militarum and have earned a fearsome reputation on many battlefronts.
Another important obligation is that Lord Helmawr successfully controls the number of dangerous mutants. These psykers, or "witches," are a mutation which is becoming increasingly common on all worlds in the Imperium.
On most worlds they can be dealt with fairly easily, but on a Hive World like Necromunda with its vast population the matter is much more difficult.
Psykers are very dangerous indeed -- probably more so than even they realise. Although some are able to control their powers and use them for the benefit of society, the majority are unable to control their powers properly with disastrous results.
If psykers were to go unchecked throughout the Imperium, Human society would soon collapse. Indeed, this is one of the reasons why the Emperor clings so tenaciously to life, as only He understands the dangers of possession and psychic destruction.
Necromunda is very similar to many other Hive Worlds of the Imperium. It is a planet devoid of any remnant of its original natural beauty, its surface reduced to a wasteland of windblown ash and accumulated industrial waste. Throughout this wasteland lie the hive cities which give such planets their distinctive character and their collective name of Hive Worlds.
The hives are grouped into clusters comprising up to a dozen or so individual hive cities all linked by a network of overground travel tubes and subterranean passages.
These clusters are scattered over the cloud-strewn surface on the planet. From the top of any hive city it is possible to see the tips of distant hive clusters projecting from the seas of poison mists like far-flung islands.
Hive clusters are connected together by roads across the wastes and transportation tubes supported on pylons and suspended from cables. With its forest of towering hive interconnected in a network of tubes, the landscape resembles a petrified forest entangled in the web of some enormous spider. Indeed, the spider and the spider's web are very powerful symbols to the inhabitants of Necromunda.
The hive cities are the result of thousands of Terran years of constant demolition and rebuilding. The original cities of Necromunda lie beneath the hives, many hundreds of metres below the current surface of the planet's ash wastes.
Dark, forbidding ruins, often crushed by the weight of the hives above them, these old cities preserve the layered history of Necromunda. It is a popular tale that the lowest layers of some hives are built from the original transport barges which brought Humanity to Necromunda all those millennia ago.
Each hive takes the form of many huge spires which rise from the base of the city. From a distance, a hive city resembles a mass of stalagmites rising from the cloud strewn wastes.
Each hive covers an approximately circular area some fifty to a hundred miles in diameter. The tops of the spires can rise to a dozen or more Terran miles above the ground surface, piercing the festering clouds that surround the lower levels of the hive.
The spires usually merge into each other at their bases, and smaller spires will sometimes grow out and upwards from just above the base, branching like a cactus and forming multiple spires.
The spires are only the top part of the hive, comprising the upper hab zones with factory layers on or above the current ground surface. The older and partially ruined factory and hab layers still exist, although they are buried beneath the Ash Wastes. Though they are hidden, factories and habs are rarely abandoned until they are utterly derelict or polluted beyond use even by Necromundan standards.
Notable Hives of Necromunda
The hive cities of Necromunda retain the ancient names of the original cities and settlements from which they grew. Each spire within a hive is also known by a local name.
There are several thousand hives on the planet, some massive and populated by billions while others are desolate and inhabited only by the dead. There are approximately a thousand hive clusters on Necromunda; each cluster a group of up to a dozen or so individual hive cities, all linked by a network of overground travel tubes and subterranean passages.
A few of the most important hive cities and some typical examples of the various kinds and other notable locations are described below:
- The Palatine Hive - Hive Primus - The largest and oldest surviving hive city on Necromunda is the dynastic home of Lord Gerontius Helmawr, Imperial Commander of Necromunda, known across the planet as "The Palatine." The cluster it belongs to is known as the Palatine Cluster. The central and tallest spire of the Palatine hive city forms the palace of Lord Helmawr. The Palatine boasts some of the most grandiose and magnificent architecture on Necromunda, and also has the only shipyard and landing field large enough to take orbital carriers. It is thus the planet's only spaceport, a physical expression of Helmawr's monopoly in off-planet trade. The fortress-monastery of the Adeptus Astartes contingent and the headquarters of the Adeptus Arbites on Necromunda are also located in the Palatine Hive. The hive, the largest on Necromunda, is enormous in size, reaching from the surface to some 10 Terran miles into the air, and from surface level to roughly 2.8 miles underground (although only the first 1.3 miles are habitable by humans), and possesses a population greater than some of the other human-settled worlds in the Imperium. On the edge of the hive is a special spire set aside for the aliens and Abhumans who come to Necromunda from time to time in order to trade. Both Squats and Aeldari are among these visitors and they are housed on separate levels of this spire. The Palatine is thus by far the most cosmopolitan of all the hives of Necromunda. As the Palatine is the seat of Helmawr's power, the Hive's noble houses are in a constant, byzantine power struggle to gain control of the hive, and thus of the entire planet. The lower portions of Hive Primus are ruled by the so-called "Clan Houses" or "Ganger Houses," criminal syndicates of gangers which ape the organisation and style of the Necromundan nobility and which also have some influence within the higher levels of the hive. The activities of the Ganger Houses can even affect the outcomes of the true noble houses' constant struggle for power and advancement within Hive Primus. The balance of power in Hive Primus is strictly maintained and any attempt to destabilise it is shut down with brutal force. Thus, the Imperial House rules with an iron fist, while the Noble Houses and the lesser Clan Houses all hold such power that no one House dominates the others.
- Hive Trazior - Trazior means "Three Sisters" in the local Necromundan dialect. It is so called because it has three huge spires which can be seen from a long way off by any traveller coming across the Ash Wastes from the south. Trazior is located on the edge of the Great Equatorial Waste and is the southernmost "frontier" hive of the great Palatine Cluster. Many important merchant clans are based in this hive and it is the main trading depot for convoys going to or arriving from the southern hive clusters. The nomads who live out in the wastes and raid the convoys are a constant source of annoyance to its inhabitants. Trazior was also the scene of one the most prolonged and vicious gang wars in the recent history of Necromunda. The manufacturing base of Hive Trazior is dominated by the sub-clans of House Orlock, but House Goliath has a substantial and increasing presence in its furnace sectors. The up-hive spires are infamous for the many so-called "Brat" gangs -- the restless scions of nobility who take a cruel delight in engaging in gang warfare with the "commoners" of the underhive. They are particularly well-known for the brightly painted and incredibly rare Jetbikes they race through the thoroughfares and transit tubes, inflicting mischief and mayhem wherever they pass.
- Acropolis Hive - This is another old and elaborate hive city in the Palatine Cluster. It is located at a very important intersection of several great road tunnels and has always been a major centre of trade on Necromunda. The Acropolis hive is home territory for some of the most powerful merchant clans, whose widespread trading network extends across many of the hives of Necromunda. Desperate to share in this wealth, the Acropolis Hive attracts a number of large and sprawling shanties which cluster around its base like a festering sore. The Great Houses all have a presence in the Acropolis Hive, but each is generally content to support the status quo. Nonetheless, House Delaque is known to ply a rich trade in information and intrigue there, profiting immensely from the merchants' numerous internecine wars.
- The Temenos - This is another hive in the Palatine Cluster. One spire forms the headquarters of the Ecclesiarchy on Necromunda, while another spire serves as The Temple of the Emperor Deified. Colleges, libraries and chapels occupy parts of the other spires. A priory of the Adepta Sororitas is located in one of the outer spires. This spire is often called the Sisters Tower as a consequence. The population of Temenos hive are among the most pious and devout followers of the Imperial Cult. Many of the resident clans manufacture ritual items for the priesthood while others work in the scriptorium, translating the wisdom of the priesthood into the many dialects of Necromunda. The Temple spire is an architectural wonder, and its interior is a warren of naves, chapels and crypts, vaulted ceilings and pillared halls. The diffused light is stained by refraction through crystal. Incense and the sound of chanting drift across the chambers. Here and there statues and holograms of the Emperor reside in secluded shrines. From here Confessors and missionaries are sent off to Frontier Worlds in the nearby star systems. Hive Temenos is a major powerbase for House Cawdor, whose subservient gangs scour the lower levels for Heretics cast out from above and make constant war upon any rivals whose vision of faith differs even slightly from their own.
- Quinspirus Cluster - The Quinspirus Cluster is situated on the edge of a virtually solidified sludge sea called the Worldsump Ocean. At one time, when the sea was still navigable, the area included vast dockyards. These now remain buried deep within the undercity of the centrally located Quinspirus Hive. This hive city has five great spires -- hence the name which means five towers in the local dialect and which gives its name to the whole cluster. The cavernous warehouses of the ancient waterfronts have been the scene of many savage gang wars, in particular between gangs subservient to Houses Orlock and Delaque.
- The Skull - This derelict hive city is the largest of a cluster of three remote ruined hives. It is pierced by great holes and from a distance looks like a great skull lying in the wastes. It is a famous landmark and perhaps even worshipped by the local nomads. These three gigantic ruins are all that remains of the hives that were captured and occupied for a time by Ork raiders. All contact with the cluster was lost for several Terran years before the rest of Necromunda realised what had happened and a campaign was mounted to clear them. This was the original reason for the despatching of a Space Marine contingent to Necromunda, which has since become a permanent establishment on the Hive World. The hives were besieged and destroyed during the campaign. Now the tops have caved in and they lie abandoned and choked with dust. No one knows what fearful things have made their home amid the ruins of the Skull, and even the nomads and scawies fear to go near them.
- The Eye of Selene - Locked in geo-stationary orbit one hundred kilometres directly above Hive Primus is one of the busiest orbital trading depots in the Segmentum Solar -- the so-called "Ring of Selene." The ring serves as the sole shipping nexus for the planet below, and it is the only means by which goods are authorised to be shipped to or from Necromunda, ensuring the Imperial House always receives its due. Victuals are shipped down to Primus and then sent out by land to other hives in return for manufactured goods heading the other way. Many a visiting merchant or Administratum tithe-factor has observed the seeming inefficiency of this system, but none would question its efficacy in maintaining the unquestionable power of House Helmawr.
- Hive Secundus - There was a time when Hive Secundus was, as its name indicates, the second greatest hive city on all Necromunda. This was to change just over a Terran century ago however, when Secundus fell victim to a Genestealer infestation that was subsequently found to have been the result of unsanctioned research by the rogue Adeptus Mechanicus Tech-priest Biologis Hermiatus, whose research went so disastrously awry that agents of the Inquisition were forced to intervene at terrible cost. In the destruction that followed, Hive Secundus was submitted to such punishment at the hands of Necromunda's own planetary defence batteries that its central spire was toppled, crashing down to rest as a shattered fallen column across ten kilometres of the wastes. As overpowering as this response was, it failed to rid Necromunda of the stain of the Genestealer, the ruins found to be overrun by the xenos creatures and their infected human kin among the feared Genestealer Cults. This cult was called the "Scions of the Needle." The planetary defence batteries dangerously depleted, a ring of trenches and redoubts was thrown up all about the ruin, and this has grown ever denser with each passing Terran year, manned by conscripts and penal troops from across the world. It is said that nothing can escape that ring of steel, but that it takes relentless and constant watchfulness to ensure it does not. The xenos creatures continue to this day to breed within the shattered hive, engaged in a constant war of survival with the descendants of the human survivors who now exist as feral savages long ago abandoned by their fellow Necromundans.
- Hive Mortis - Like the great dynastic houses that rule them, Necromunda's hive cities can rise and fall in their fortunes. Hive Mortis is a victim of its own success. Once an industrial lynchpin of the equatorial hive city clusters, it enjoyed great favour among the planetary elite. Its high yield of machine goods brought its rulers wealth and an enviable place among the Imperial Tithe standings. Millions of workers once filled its tunnels and domes with the ceaseless sound of their toil, while the Great Houses fought over the fruits of their labour. The first shadows of disaster were subtle in their coming -- a sickness that slowly infected the underclasses and winnowed away their numbers. At first the deaths were lost among the attrition of the work clans, discounted as seasonal spikes in mortality, but soon even the house masters could not deny their meaning. Plague had come to their hive city. When word reached Lord Helmawr his reaction was swift, and Hive Mortis was sealed by Imperial order. For Terran years the plague ravaged the hive, and soon the dead outnumbered the living. In the chaos, the Houses strove for power as they fought bitterly over what was left. As battle raged, whole sections of the hive had to be sealed off, tunnels stacked floor to ceiling with corpses. Eventually the sickness abated, having burned itself out after devouring more than twenty million souls. In his benevolence, Lord Helmawr rescinded his order and allowed the hive city to open its gates once more. Hive Mortis is a changed place that thrives no longer upon the creation of machines, but rather the industry of death. With their massive human resources gone, the ruling Houses turned to the only thing they had in abundance -- the dead. Mortuary cults were created, and manufactoria turned to the harvesting and breaking down of corpses. House Escher has risen to dominance among its peers in Hive Mortis, extracting and fermenting drugs from bodies -- though their "death-maiden" gangs do not go unchallenged. The Houses still fight just as furiously as they did when Hive Mortis was at the height of its power, though the tempo of battle has changed. Small communities shelter in the empty vastness of domes and levels constructed to house millions, their citizens still fearful of travellers and the return of the plague. Gangs rove this wasteland of hollow hab-blocks and abandoned sectors, fighting over vaults packed with corpses or else trying to force their way into sealed chambers to plunder the desiccated wealth within.
- Gothrul's Needle - Hive Primus holds a monopoly on off-world trade and is Necromunda's gateway to the stars, its keys held tightly in the hands of Lord Helmawr. It was not always so. Gothrul's Needle, its spire rivalling the height of Hive Primus, was one of Necromunda's first spaceports, and its upper levels are still festooned with docking platforms and terminus stations for orbital craft. Yet it was not just because of its place as a trade rival to Hive Primus and the ascendancy of the Palatine Cluster that Gothrul's fortunes were seized upon. Gothrul's Needle is ruled by that most dangerous and pernicious of governmental forms: democracy. A council of elected representatives control the interests of the hive city and regulate the activities of the Great Houses, ensuring the fair treatment of its citizens and safety for all. Considered as insidious as any xenos threat or Chaos Cult infestation, the Houses of other hives have tried for many Terran years to bring down the rulers of Gothrul. When cutting them off from orbital trade did not diminish their wealth and power, the Houses then began a long shadow war. Gangs and gang warfare are prohibited by the Gothrul Council, and the Clan Houses are tolerated upon the proviso that they keep their populations in check. Even so, criminal elements run rife in the lower levels of the hive, and Gothrul's citizen protection officers -- the hive city's volunteer Enforcer cadres -- are constantly tested. House Delaque is a principle player in the destabilisation of Gothrul's Needle, its subservient gangs routinely committing acts of sabotage and murder. From the sump-choked depths of the hive, Sych Guvros, the most powerful of the Delaque overlords, wages his war of terror. His gangers raid the upper levels, attacking hab parks and exchange plazas, each one a blow against the Council. Guvros has become a legend among his House, and scores of Delaque gangs have come from other hives to join his fight. Though the democratic council of Gothrul might be the Houses' ultimate enemy, it does not stop them fighting among themselves -- especially if the perceived fall of the hive city government draws near, they all want to be ready to swoop in and claim as much power as they can. Some gangs even fight on the side of Gothrul, hoping to tip the scales back against their rivals, should any of them seem too close to claiming final victory. Thus the shadow war for Gothrul's Needle rages on, never quite finding resolution.
The bulk of Hive Primus is dominated by "Hive City," the collective term for the thousands of districts, domes and manufactoria; a chaotic press of billions of souls all working ceaselessly for the nobles of the Great Houses above.
As hellish as life on the streets of Hive City is, however, transit within it remains relatively safe and easy, the millions of industrial helots going about their daily labours heedless of the horrors that beset those who live below the Wall.
Not so in the underhive. Among the ruined foundations of the hive settlements are beacons of light and relative safety among collapsed domes, abandoned industries and rubble-choked wastelands. Beyond their walls, starving predators prowl the shadows and ancient machines rumble like dying gods in the dark. These are the "Badzones."
Travellers crossing these regions keep to well-used routes watchful for bandits and monsters, or else take backways and risk sludge rivers, toxic pits and carnivorous fungi. Only Merchant Guilder caravans can cross the Badzones with any degree of certainty, hiring local gangs or itinerant Bounty Hunters to ensure the trade roads are kept open.
Settlements rely upon these trade routes and the Merchant Guilders for their survival, each one a gossamer thread across the Ash Wastes and a lifeline to the inhabitants of the underhive.
The vast effluvia of the hive cities has been dumped into the surrounding territories, sometimes creating vast seas of sludge and stinking sewage now known as the "sludge seas."
This effluent has ensured a relatively fertile farming environment and fairly bountiful fungus harvests.
Many underhive outcasts leave the hives to take up residence on the sludge seas, becoming fungi farmers who trade their products to passing ash waste nomads and back to the inhabitants of the underhives.
The military tunnels that link the many hive cities of Necromunda run deep beneath the Ash Wastes, cut into the very bedrock of the planet. This network was constructed so that military forces could be moved quickly around the planet in the event of invasion, enabling them to be concentrated wherever needed.
Access to the hives is via great ramp-shafts guarded by gatehouses, but unauthorised persons are able to gain entry through the heat sinks and air vents. Under the hives, and linked to this underground tunnel network, are cavernous storage depots and bunkers, used for stockpiles of synthetic food (in the reconstituted form of corpse-starch) and raw materials in anticipation of war or some other disaster.
The tunnel system and its associated bunkers are very ancient, dating to a time before the hives had grown to the massive size they are now. As the system is continually being renovated or enlarged, many tunnels and bunkers have been bypassed or become disused and sealed up.
Over the millennia, these unused tunnels and bunkers have been forgotten or lost, but since the discovery that these places are the only source of the valuable drug "spook," they have been secretly recolonised and are now known as the "Forbidden Cities."
If they've heard of them at all, most Necromundans don't believe the Forbidden Cities are real, thinking their existence to be yet another urban fable.
It is in these ancient bunkers that the decayed corpse-starch deposits are found which are used to make spook, and it is likely that officials of the Lord of Necromunda discovered the distinctive green deposits while supervising work on the tunnel network.
Since then the nobility and the ruling dynasty of Necromunda has always had a hand in the production and trade in spook. Only the nobles, with their ability to call on the service of subordinate clans, techs and paramilitary forces, have the diverse resources needed to process the decayed corpse-starch into spook.
As time creeps on, the cavernous vaults of the Forbidden Cities are extended and embellished with the wealth brought in by spook. Pillared halls are cut from the rock, and polished stones and mosaics adorn the floors, ceilings and walls. Each has become a palace of archaic, decadent splendour.
The Forbidden Cities' workforce is press-ganged from the scum of the underhives, supervised and guarded by savage under city gangs. If they cannot find enough willing workers, they will incite these gangs to make slave raids into the lower hab zones or offer to buy captives from nomad slavers of the ash wastes. Once introduced to the decadent life within the Forbidden Cities, most slaves are reluctant to ever be free again.
Spook exploitation brings in incredible wealth, helping to maintain the privileged life of those noble families secretly involved in its manufacture and trade. These are the so-called "Lords of the Forbidden Cities." Some are of noble origin, others are adventurers of obscure origin who have connections with the established Necromundan nobility of the Great Houses and the Clan Houses.
Frequently they are members of Noble Houses who have gone into exile because they are suspected psykers or wish to escape from political enemies. They simply disappear from the upper spires, setting up court in the hidden bunkers where the spook is processed.
Clustered at the outer edge of the shells of the spires are vast sprawls of ramshackle shanty towns. They are inhabited by all kinds of Human scum unsuited to life within the hives.
The spires, at least, offer a limited protection against the poisoned rains and corrosive ash of the world -- the best shelter a shanty dweller can hope for is one or two layers of packing material or an abandoned vehicle. To make matters worse, much of the manufactoria's toxic effluent pours directly down onto the shanties.
If a shanty remains in existence for any length of time and somehow escapes being swept away by a storm or incinerated by hive authorities, the inhabitants will excavate caves and cellars into the solidified sludge and compacted dust.
These dwellings can be reinforced by sludge baked by the sun into crude bricks. By retreating into these refuges, some shanty dwellers survive the ash storms that sweep away the more flimsy parts of their homes.
When the storm abates, they force their way through the wind-blown dust to the surface and attempt to rebuild the shanty out of the wreckage of the old one.
Conditions in the shanties are worse than anything in the hive cities, yet for most shanty dwellers even their crude home is preferable to wandering the ash wastes, where they would fall victim to the creatures and nomads -- if the heat, corrosive dust and freak storms did not get them first!
Aside from periodic population control clearances, no one from the hives bothers shanty dwellers very much -- they have little worth taking. Furthermore, the sprawling settlements are a temporary home to vicious gangs of shanty-dweller scavies and ash waste nomad bands who come periodically to the shanty to trade.
Great Web of Necromunda
Necromunda is a world forever balanced on the edge of anarchy. Only the strength of the Imperial House and the holy writ of the Imperium it wields holds the hive cities and their warring factions together.
In the shadow of Lord Gerontius Helmawr's rule, the Great Houses prosper even as they vie for position among themselves, often fighting proxy wars through the Clan Houses, who in turn are in constant competition for the attentions of their betters.
Such a state of conflict without regulation could (and has, at various points across the millennia) tear the peace of Necromunda apart, leading to a complete collapse of the system, the death of hive cities, and, worst of all, a failure to meet the Imperial Tithe.
To understand how order on Necromunda is maintained, one must first understand the nature of the relationships between the houses, or as it is often known -- the "Great Web." If it can be imagined, all of Necromunda is a spider's web, connecting every hive, house and powerful lord, with the ruling Imperial House sitting at its centre.
Like a great spider, Lord Helmawr dwells at the heart of the web, connected to the world by a thousand, thousand strands, each one a noose wrapped around the throats of his people. It is a position he and his long line of ancestors have commanded for almost seven standard millennia, and one that the House of Helmawr shows no signs of relinquishing.
Surrounding the centre of the web are the strands that make up the Great Houses. The Great Houses are the hereditary rulers of Necromunda and owners of its industries and people. At the close of the 41st Millennium seven noble houses stand within this elite circle, notably House Helmawr, House Ran Lo, House Ko'iron, House Ulanti, House Catallus, House Greim and House Ty.
Of course, over the centuries, noble houses have come and gone, and this number has grown or diminished as the fortunes of the hive cities have waxed and waned, though few can believe that there was ever a time when Helmawr did not hold the title of Imperial House.
Just as the Great Houses cluster close to the heart of the web, perhaps dreaming of the day when one of them will claim the title of Imperial House, the Clan Houses are its outer strands, forever reaching, fighting and expanding.
The Clan Houses are the feudal vassals to the noble houses, paying a tithe for the right to mine regions, use hive manufactorums or travel the ash roads owned by one of the Great Houses.
All of Necromunda's production comes from their toil, with each of the six major Clan Houses: House Escher, House Goliath, House Van Saar, House Delaque, House Cawdor and House Orlock -- working the countless manufactoria and mines of the world to meet Lord Helmawr's punishing quotas.
Because the clans are constantly at war, fighting for new territories and industries, they rarely deal directly with each other, unless it is over the barrel of a gun.
And then there is the Merchants Guild.
"'One coin in ten for the Merchants Guild.' That's what it says on their seal, but have you ever seen a Guilder take just one?"
- —Ethin Squib, Ash Town Trapper
The Merchants Guild makes up the thin strands that hold the Great and Clan Houses of Necromunda together. Within the Great Web, they are the connections along which all trade flows, and all oaths of coin are made.
Unlike the clans and noble houses, the Merchants Guild did not seize their power through hereditary right or force of arms -- in fact they did not seize power at all.
Over the centuries, they have laid claim to the spaces left between the Great Houses and their vassals among the Clan Houses, brokering deals between clans who will not speak with each other, or ensuring trade flows smoothly even when open gang war is tearing a hive city apart.
In time, as the power of the Merchants Guild grew, Lord Gerontius Helmawr recognised their importance to Necromunda and ratified their claims to power, granting charters to certain families.
This authority to handle the vital resources of the hive city does not extend to ownership of land, and Merchants Guild families rarely have permanent territories, instead constantly travelling between settlements as nomadic traders.
Though the inhabitants of Necromunda might occasionally refer to the Merchants Guild as a single entity, it is in fact made up of dozens of sub-factions, many of which are powerful bodies in their own right. To the citizens of Hive Primus they are the Water Guild, the Corpse Farmers or any of the many other names that the individual arms of the Merchants Guild go by.
Often these factions are simply referred to as "Guilders," a term synonymous with trade. Officially, each aspect of the Merchants Guild is known as a "Mercator," the High Gothic word for a mercantile conclave. This is combined with the High Gothic term for their area of dominion and operations.
For instance, the Corpse Guild, which oversees the processing of Necromunda's dead and the creation of corpse-starch, is known officially as the "Mercator Pallidus."
The power of the individual guilds varies from hive to hive, often depending on local resources. In the shadow of the spoil, the Iron Guild regulates miners and prospectors. On the Sulphurous Sea it is the Guild of Salts, while in the suffocating depths of Big Hole, Air Guild Zephermen ply their trade.
In Hive Primus, there are thousands of Guilder families and dozens of guilds, though only eight hold the greatest measure of the Merchants Guild's power. These are the Promethium Guild, the Water Guild, the Corpse Guild, the Slave Guild, the Guild of Coin, the Electro Guild, the Iron Guild and the Air Guild.
Collectively, they are known in the Palantine Cluster as the "Great Guilds" and little business is done within the walls of Hive Primus without their knowledge.
Promethium Guild (Mercator Pyros)
The Promethium Guild, sometimes known as the "Torch Bearers," the "Pyre Makers" or the "Guild of Flame," controls the light and power of Hive Primus.
They deal primarily in promethium, a catch-all term in the Imperium for a liquid fuel often made of hydrocarbons or various isotopes of hydrogen, and the principal fuel for a hive city and the settlements of the underhive.
The guild lays claim to all burnable liquids and fuels. This they measure out to the Clan Houses and hive settlements, their pipes and caravans a lifeline for hivers against the prospect of eternal darkness.
Promethium is extracted from pockets of industrial effluvium refined over the millennia beneath the Ash Wastes, and it is a potent source of power and one of the elements of life for those who hope to survive in the cold darkness of the deep hive.
In some hives, the agents of the Promethium Guild are almost a religious order, worshipping the eternal flame as an aspect of the Emperor.
This flame is kept alight, sometimes by the same family for generations, and carried with them on their nomadic journey. When such a flame is brought into a settlement, it is a great occasion for the inhabitants, it being a great honour to light furnaces or engines from its perpetual fire.
The major rivals of the Promethium Guild are the Electro Guilds, who control electricity, geo-thermal heat and even sunlight. Within each hive city one or the other of these guilds will usually be in ascendancy, determining whether the inhabitants use electricity or liquid fuel to keep their domes alight.
Within Hive Primus, the Promethium Guild long ago ousted the other power guilds by restricting the use of other kinds of energy to the Great Houses and specific manufactoria sectors.
This, combined with the abundance of promethium within the Palantine Cluster, has ensured their dominance for solar decades.
Water Guild (Mercator Nautica)
Water is an incredibly valuable commodity on Necromunda, from the imported quantum-spun ice water sipped by the nobles to the vast quantities of sluice run-off that are essential to many of the bulk industrial processes. In between this is the recycled water that most of the populace survive on, and no one wants to think too long on where that comes from.
The Water Guild, known colloquially as the "Guild of Thirst" or "Nauticans," controls every drop of drinkable liquid to drip down the hive beneath the spire. It also falls to the guild to maintain the great cisterns of Hive Primus.
These vast tanks are filled with billions of litres of water to slake the thirst of the hive city, and meet the cooling and cleaning needs of the manufactoria.
Maintaining and defending these cisterns falls to the Water Guild. Guilders encased in heavy dive suits enter these flooded chambers to test the invariably mixed quality of the water, repair leaks (which, if left unattended, could drown entire domes) and clear out the inevitable infestations of creatures.
Water Guild agents and caravans are festooned in bottles and canisters, their precious cargo sloshing about as they traverse the hive. In the underhive, where locals must often survive on the meagre output of their water stills, the Water Guild is a lifeline.
Some settlements, especially those surviving out in the Badzones, rely completely on the Guild for their survival, and the delay of a water caravan by even a few solar days can spell disaster.
Pipes and cisterns are of special concern to the Water Guild, many bearing their symbol, warning away water thieves on pain of surgical dehydration.
Woe to the settlement that crosses the Water Guild, lest they find their dome cut off to die in a desert of rust and ash.
Corpse Guild (Mercator Pallidus)
The Corpse Guild regulates the trade and production of corpse-starch. This is one of the most important roles of all the Great Guilds, as millions of people are born and die each day on Necromunda.
Without the orderly disposal of corpses, plague and disease would run rampant. Without the food source that these corpses provide when rendered down in the great corpse grinder plants that dominate entire sectors in every hive city, the populace would starve.
The Corpse Guild gathers up thousands of dead each cycle, filling their mortuary caravans with piled bodies, or rendering them down in mobile grinding automata.
Few other guilds have ever challenged the power of the Corpse Guild, for the power of death hangs heavy upon them and Humans, even on a world such as Necromunda, cling to its ancient superstitions.
Some believe it is bad luck to even look upon the face of a Corpse Guilder, and when word reaches a settlement of their approach, the guild often arrives to find every door and window shut tight with only bodies laid out neatly on the streets to greet them.
Slave Guild (Mercator Sanguis)
Within the brutal hierarchy of Hive Primus there are those who are not fortunate enough to be born into servitude to one of the Clan Houses. These people are little more than serfs, resources with no more rights than a servitor. They are bought and sold by the million, claimed as the spoils of war, ownership of them sometimes changing without them even realizing.
The Slave Guild oversees all such transactions, from the selling of individual chained-gangs, enslaved gangers who do only their master's bidding, to trading ownership of entire manufactorums -- which come with their workers included!
The rattle of chains and cages heralds the arrival of the Slave Guild, its agents always carrying hefty lengths of chain or complex shackle webs with which to transport their goods.
When a ganger is sold to the Guilders it is to the Slavers they go, the guild specialising in finding the right buyer for such merchandise -- whether it is working the forge, fighting in the pits or sold to an uphiver as a curiosity.
The Slave Guild also holds dominion over much of Hive Primus' gambling and gladiatorial combat. Some Clan Houses, most notably House Goliath, have heavy stakes in such enterprises, but even they must deal with the Slavers if they want to see their champions reach the arena.
Pit slaves are a highly valuable commodity in most hives, each one augmented with cyber-weaponry, psycho-conditioning and extensive combat training.
Most hive settlements have an arena or fighting pit, ranging from the gleaming gladatoriums of the upper hive to actual pits lined with rusting spikes in the depths of the underhive.
These locations make for the focal points of a community, people gathering to watch executions and bloody pit fights. And the Guild is always there to take their cut.
Guild of Coin (Mercator Gelt)
Few individuals may travel a hive city freely, as most citizens are destined to spend their lives bound to the levels in which they were born. One of the ancient rights given to the Merchants Guild is the freedom to traverse Necromunda in the execution of their business, and extract coin from other travellers.
The Guild of Coin are the gatekeepers of the hive cities of Necromunda and the roads between them, overseeing the transportation of all terrestrial cargo and even a portion of the goods sent out through the Eye of Selene to the greater Necromundan solar cluster.
Masters of Coin forge keys for the Clan House convoys, each token a powerful seal allowing passage past the many waystations, ash gates and hive fortresses through which a convoy must pass.
The key is a potent symbol of the Guild of Coin, and each Master of Coin carries with them staves, rings and shackles hung with keys of all shapes and sizes; each one cast from the steel of a different hive or stone of a different road, and granting rites of passage for the Guilder who bears it.
Electro Guild (Mercator Lux)
The Electro Guild, often simply referred to as "the Grid," regulates and brokers electrical power on Necromunda in all its forms, from geo-thermal heat to sunlight. These Guilders measure out kilojoules and lumens, ensuring the efficient transmission of power and light from source to destination.
Every sparking joule of power must be accounted for so that the appropriate fees can be exacted for all who draw power from the hive city's thermal core. Agents clad in luminous garb and carrying flickering electro-lanterns are the heralds of the Grid, their entourages lighting up the underhive like stars traversing the night sky.
If a settlement, manufactorum or hab block wants to keep the lights on and their people warm, then it is to the Electro Guild they must go.
The main rival of the Electro Guild is the Promethium Guild, the two often waging bitter trade wars, with different gangs and factions backing each one in different parts of Hive Primus or different regions of Necromunda.
The ruling Imperial House of Helmawr does not officially back either guild, but benefits greatly from their endless conflicts and continued struggle over Necromunda's limited energy resources.
Air Guild (Mercator Temperium)
The Air Guild controls the flow of breathable air through the hive cities of Necromunda. Within the iron mountains of the hives, where air pools and stagnates in domes, passages and caverns, and the air beyond the skin of the hive is threaded with toxins and pollutants, this guild holds the threads of life itself.
Every turbine and ventilation shaft, air refiner and smoke vent is controlled by the guild, either directly, or by the cut they take from those that run them. By their command entire sectors of the hives can choke, freeze, or die slowly from breathing tainted air.
Agents of the Air Guild often carry small, many-mouthed beasts known as Zephs with them. These vicious little creatures are drawn to fresh air, squeaking and growling when they find a pure vein of oxygen.
When a Zeph finds a good source of air it grows in size, the air sacs in its muscles swelling until it becomes a floating monstrosity. The Air Guild enjoys the irony of having air thieves torn apart by packs of Zephs, the creatures growing massive on stolen oxygen.
Iron Guild (Mercator Munda)
The natural resources that established Necromunda as one of the most productive worlds in the Imperium are long played out, and so the planet's industries are fed by the recycling of the encrusted wastes of countless previous generations.
It is the Iron Guild that brokers deals between the mines and the forge, ensuring that a constant supply of reclaimed ores and extracted minerals reach the hive cities. They are the middlemen between the great mining settlements of House Orlock and the mega-forges of House Goliath among others, so the Clan Houses might never have to deal directly with each other, but may still profit from their labours and meet their quotas.
Much of the resources overseen by the Iron Guild come from ruined hive cities and the continent-spanning mountain range known as the Spoil. Clad in hazard suits, these Guilders lead groups of prospectors and accompany Clan House expeditions into perilous regions.
If it is hauled out from the Ash Wastes or dredged up from the underhive and sold on the iron markets, the Iron Guild gets a cut, though they prefer to get there first and make the claim themselves.
Writs are then sold for the right to work a ruin or a region, and all finds are molecular-branded, so that not a single lump of ferrite finds its way to the hives without the guild's knowledge.
Clan Houses of Necromunda
Much of the lower hive of the vast arcology of Hive Primus, the Palatine, is controlled by the Clan Houses, also called "Ganger Houses," listed below.
The Clan Houses are the vassals of the noble Great Houses who own most of Necromunda's wealth and people, doing the actual work that feeds the noble's coffers and allows the people of the Hive World to survive.
The Clan Houses pay large tithes to their feudal overlords among the Great Houses for the rights to use the nobles' lands and resources to do their work and make their profits.
For this reason all of the gangers allied with House Cawdor wear masks in public to hide their faces from the "infidels" of the other Clan Houses.
Other hivers are justifiably suspicious of House Delaque, who specialise in spying and assassination.
Their gangers often wear large trench coats, with large internal pockets for concealing weapons and other large items.
Most are bald and extremely pale. Many wear visors, goggles or have cybernetic light filters implanted into their eyes, a sensitivity to light being a common Delaque weakness.
Delaque territory is even more dimly lit than the rest of Hive Primus, fitting for a people who are shrouded in mystery.
Strikingly different from the other Clan Houses, the House Escher population is almost entirely made up of women.
The few men that are there are shrivelled and imbecilic and play no part in the normal affairs of the Escher.
Men are held in contempt and pitied by the Escher, especially those of House Goliath who are seen as simple, brutish and unsophisticated.
Size and physical strength are everything in House Goliath.
Their territory is situated in some of the harshest areas of Hive Primus. Their gangers favour mohawks, piercings, thick chains and spiked metal bracers.
Also known as the House Iron, these hivers mine ferrous slag pits deep in the hive city's bowels. House Orlock gangers often wear sleeveless jackets and headbands.
Recent events have brought them into direct opposition with the Delaques, involving the sabotage of Delaque facilities and an assassination of Lord Hagan Orlock.
House Van Saar
House Van Saar is known for the extremely high quality of their Clan House's technical produce. Nobles in the Spire will pay handsomely for Van Saar goods, making them the wealthiest of the noble houses of Hive Primus.
The Van Saar are marked out by their tight fitting body-gloves which help to sustain the wearer in the harsh hive environment. Older gangers who serve House Van Saar are often seen sporting a neatly trimmed beard.
The Astra Militarum often recruit regiments from the gangers who serve the Van Saar and present their Imperial tithe demands for new Guardsmen to be raised from Necromunda to the head of this Clan House.
The male gangers of Necromunda's underhives are considered especially good raw material to become neophytes of the Chapter, if they are recruited early enough in their adolescence to survive the transformation into an Astartes.
Cult of the Second Son
The spire-like edifice of Necromunda's Hive Secundus was known for being rich in spirit and enlightenment as well as material wealth, more so even than its peer structure, Hive Primus.
Scholars sought to learn the mysteries of the Imperium from its extensive archives, and were so entranced by what they found they never left. But its outward appearance was a sham, for Hive Secundus was under the sway of a vast and frighteningly influential gene-sect of the insidious Genestealer Cults.
When this fact finally came to light, the Lord General of Hive Primus ordered the bombing of the rival metropolis with high-yield rad munitions -- so thorough was this bombardment that the entire hive city, built far taller and thinner than its counterparts, toppled onto its side with an immense crash that caused seismic disruptions for hundreds of kilometres around.
The entire area was declared quarantine extremis, and the denizens of Necromunda forbidden from even talking about it.
Unfortunately for the hive lords, the bombing of the spire and its subsequent toppling did not prove enough to eradicate the cult that lurked at its heart.
So hardy and determined were the cultists that hundreds of thousands of them survived, and ventured out once more through the extensive tunnel networks that tendrilled from their old haunts.
The underhive gangs of Hive Primus, their interest piqued by the very forbiddal of raids upon the fallen arcology, entered those same tunnels.
The troglodytic creatures they found in there were mutated beyond all reason by the baleful emanations of the rad bombs -- and every bit as lethal as the Purestrain Genestealer from which they had been born.
- Codex: Genestealer Cults (8th Edition), pg. 17
- Index Astartes II, "Emperor's Fist - The Imperial Fists Space Marine Chapter," pg. 13
- Necromunda Rulebook (2nd Edition), by Rick Priestley
- Necromunda - Sludge Harbour (Necromunda Settlement Nominee) by Alex (Last name unknown)
- Necromunda: Underhive Rulebook (Specialty Game), pp. 6-30
- The Horus Heresy - Book Three: Extermination (Forge World Series) by Alan Bligh, pg. 77
- Warhammer Monthly 58, "Above & Beyond, Part 3"
- White Dwarf 130 (UK), "Confrontation - Necromunda Imperial Hive World" by Bryan Ansell, Rick Priestley and Nigel Stillman, pp. 10-25
- Space Marine (Novel) by Ian Watson
- The Redeemer (Graphic Novel) by Pat Mills, Debbie Gascoigne & Wayne Reynolds
- Survival Instinct by Andy Chambers
- Salvation by C.S. Goto
- Blood Royal by Gordon Rennie & Will McDermott
- Junktion by Matthew Farrer
- Fleshworks by Lucien Soulban
- Cardinal Crimson by Will McDermott
- Back from the Dead by Nick Kyme
- Outlander by Matt Keefe
- Lasgun Wedding by Will McDermott
- Kal Jeroco: Sinner's Bounty (Novel) by Josh Reynolds, Epilogue
- Necromunda - Book of Peril (Specialty Game), pp. 4-9
- Necromunda: Underhive Setting Video