When one considers Skaven Magic, the first thing most think of is the Skaven sorcerer-priests known as Grey Seers. A perverse blend of arcane sorcery with divine inspiration, Grey Seers are powerful and unpredictable in their black arts. But magic is deeply invested in Skaven society, and the Grey Seers are not the only ones who have some degree of mastery of sorcery.[6a]
The Warlock-Engineers of Clan Skryre, for instance, learn to draw the magical energy contained within Warpstone and channel it into their perverse arcane devices. By the order of the Under-Empire's ruling Council of Thirteen, only these ratmen may practice magic but this decree is openly flouted by the Plague Priests and Plague Deacons of the heretical Clan Pestilens, who have developed their own breed of horrid spells.[6a]
What follows is a survey of the types of magic employed by the Skaven.
Skaven Laws and Edicts on Magic Use
"The first order of the Council of Thirteen prohibits the study of magic, so only Clan Skryre and the Grey Seers could pursue its use. (The enforcement of this law is not terribly exacting; Eshin Sorcerers and Pestilens Plague Priests often flout it, to the dismay of the Grey Seers.)"
- —Laws on Magic in the Under-Empire
While the Grey Seers and Tinker-Rats of Clan Skryre are the foremost users of magic in the Under-Empire, they are hardly the only ones capable of manipulating the Winds of Magic. Clan Eshin and even Clan Moulder have their own wizards in Eshin Sorcerers and Harbingers of Mutation, respectively. The pestilential ratmen of Clan Pestilens are a noted exception to the law of the Under-Empire, as described on the Black Pillar of Commandments in Skavenblight. Only Grey Seers and Skryre's Warlock-Engineers are allowed to use magic by the commandments of the Horned Rat, yet Plague Priests and Plague Deacons have their own brand of plague magic, the Lore of Plague. In this way the clans that comprise the Clan Pestilens-led Pestilent Brotherhood stand starkly in defiance of the law in general and the Order of the Grey Seers in particular.[6c]
The Grey Seers are knowledgeable of what they call "heretical practices" regarding magic and some, such as Skrittar, have gone so far as to stamp out and destroy those they discover who break this commandment of the Horned Rat. Done under the guise of concern for "unchecked magical practice," the true motivation behind the Grey Seers' actions is simple jealousy towards any who might threaten their monopoly on power. [6c]
However, above all else, non-Skaven are strictly forbidden from learning any of the lores of Skaven Magic.[6b]
Skaven Lores of Magic
To the Skaven, all magic originates from their deity, the minor Chaos God known as the Horned Rat. From the terrible sorcery of the ratmen's Grey Seers to the pestilential machinations of Clan Pestilens' Plague Priests, for the Skaven all magical power comes from the same source: their fickle god. All self-serving dogma aside, the truth is that Skaven Magic still involves the manipulation of the arcane energies blowing south from the turbulent polar region beyond the Chaos Wastes, and without this energy not even the most devout and cunning Skaven could weave the simplest spell.
Skaven use Dhar, or Dark Magic, much like the Chaos Sorcerers who serve Tzeentch, necromancers, Black Magisters, witches and all other practicioners of the dark arts. Skaven differ from these other mortal casters, however, in the product and focus of their black arts. Though other variations may exist, there are three fundamental types of Skaven magic, each organised into a separate lore -- Plague, Stealth, and Warp. A rare few Skaven dabble in Necromancy and fewer still abandon the ways of their people to embrace another Chaos God. Such instances almost always result with the disintegration of the offending Skaven into a rat-like Chaos Spawn.
As with all of the lores of Dark Magic, casting spells using Dhar carries a great risk of developing unwanted or unexpected side-effects. As well, Skaven spellcasters use Warpstone heavily in their spells, which not only creates greater risk of mishaps, but also takes its toll on their bodies.
Knowledge of these spells is taught from master to apprentice, and is carefully protected amidst the ambition and treachery prevalent among all Skaven. Though a master might teach the rudiments of the Lore of Warp, he does so grudgingly, as his student must eventually contest his power and perhaps even try to overthrow him. Thus, Skaven mentors are careful to instill fear and respect in their apprentices and to play favourites, always working to pit one student against another to distract these treacherous pupils from betraying their master.
Lore of Plague
The Lore of Plague is a foul magical technique. The Plague Priests of Clan Pestilens use this magic, which is the product of their clan's generations of isolation in Lustria, to cow the Clanrats and other Skaven who swear allegiance to their warlord. Specialising in matters of disease and decay, this lore is repellent and thoroughly evil, designed to spread sorrow and death among the enemies of Clan Pestilens. Each mortal who succumbs to the ravages of these spells exalts the power and majesty of the Horned Rat in his aspect as the bringer of ruin through plague and disease.
As the Plague Priest grows more powerful, he finds his body ravaged by the very magic he employs. Commonly, this results in rotting extremities akin to those suffered by lepers, infestations of maggots and mites, and a general physical collapse of the spellcaster's body. While powerful, the Lore of Plague ultimately brings its practitioners' own deaths a little closer with every spell cast.
Lore of Stealth
Learned from the Cathayan sorcerers of the Far East, the Lore of Stealth is used by the rare Eshin Sorcerers. These spells are designed to augment the stealth, speed, and strength of the clan's attack forces, and none are quite sure whether the Clan Eshin Skaven's legendary skills at assassination have ever been completely mundane. Clan Eshin guards the secrets of this art tightly to ensure that none of their rival clans ever learn the truth.
Lore of Warp
The province of the terrible Grey Seers, the Lore of Warp allows Skaven to dabble in the Lores of Plague and Stealth as well as to harness the full power of Warpstone energy itself. The older and more practised the practitioners of Warp Lore become, the longer their horns grow, while at the same time their dependence on Warpstone to fuel their abilities becomes ever more acute.
Notable Skaven Magic Spells
Petty Spells (Warp)
- Ghostly Flame - The caster conjures a small blob of glowing green fire out of thin air. It drips viscous fluid as it burns, and can be thrown at a foe. Otherwise, this petty spell generates light equivalent to a torch and remains for one hour before sputtering out.[1a]
- Mark of the Horned Rat - A target creature gains an unsightly blemish, taking the form of an open weeping sore on his forehead or the back of his hand. Grey Seers use this spell to mark their messengers.[1a]
- Rat Thrall - The caster summons an ordinary brown rat. For a number of hours, the caster may communicate with the rat as if they shared a common language, and it must obey all of the caster's commands even if it would cause its own death to do so. Rat thralls can fetch small objects, gnaw through ropes, and other general tasks that an ordinary rat should be able to do, but such missions are limited by the rat’s animal intelligence.[1a]
- Vector - Make a single target within 12 yards more susceptible to disease for 24 hours.[1b]
- Wrack - The caster causes a single target within 12 yards to experience a jolt of searing pain.[1b]
- Air of Pestilence - The caster hacks out a cloud that magically spreads and befilths a wide area. All who breathe in its pestilent airs seem to shrivel and weaken, their bodies sagging.[3a]
- Armour of Darkness - The caster solidifies the shadows around their body. In addition to making the caster harder to see in low light conditions, this shadow armour also protects them from harm. The caster cannot use this spell while wearing normal armour, and it loses its effects if armour is donned.[1c]
- Avatar of the Horned Rat - There are stories of Grey Seers with huge horns who leap into the midst of battles and skewer their enemies. This spell may be the source of those stories. On casting, huge horns sprout from the Seer's head and his body grows in size by roughly half again the normal size. The spirit of the Horned Rat flows into him. The Seer is lost in a mad frenzy and tears at all about him, friend or foe alike - such distinctions no longer have any meaning for him. He is also immune to any psychological effects and will not stop until slain. The transformation places a strain on the Skaven's body that it is unable to sustain, and consequently there is a steadily increasing chance that the Skaven's heart will burst. When this happens, the supernatural frenzy will keep the Seer alive and fighting for a brief time, after which he collapses in a dead heap on the ground.[4b]
- Black Whirlwind - The caster summons a putrid whirlwind of vile smoke and stinging ashes anywhere within 48 yards.[1c]
- Bless with Filth - A foul mist wraps around the weapons of a nearby unit and the weapons begin to drip with toxic filth.[2b]
- Brittle Bone - One of the oldest Skaven spells, this allows a Skaven wizard to weaken the bones of an individual target. A hit to different areas of the body will cause different debilitating effects. Hitting the head will cause the victim to feel nauseous and suffers terrible headaches. If hit to the body, the victim finds it hard to breathe, their chest racked with pain. If hit to the arm, the joints in the victim's arm ache painfully when moved. If hit to the leg, the victim's leg is painful to walk upon, sending shooting pains up their spine.[4b]
- Buoyant Passage - The caster becomes as buoyant as a piece of balsa wood, allowing them to tread over liquid surfaces like water, sewage, or oil as if they were solid.[1c]
- Black Hunger - A horrifically powerful spell which consumes the minds of all Skaven around the caster, drowning their intellect with an all-consuming need to feed. [5a]
- The Chittering - Most Skaven magic corrupts the body; this spell corrupts the mind. When cast, the Seer spreads a web of insanity around him, warping the minds of all within 100 yards. Victims degenerate into a mindless horde, instinctively aiding all Skaven and the Seer in particular. They gather around the caster to protect them, follow simple instructions, and attack anyone unaffacted by the magic, using hands and teeth. Victims also lose the power of speech, communicating with gestures and the rat-like chittering noises that give this spell its name. [4b]
- Cloud of Corruption - The caster releases a stinking blast of diseased fury.[2b]
- Curse of the Horned Rat - The Dreaded Thirteenth Spell. With a sickening lurch, the fabric of reality is torn by the twisting power of the Great Horned One, turning opposition to Clanrats.[2b]
- Crackling Doom - The caster sends a single crackling arc of green energy at any opponent within 12 yards.[1d]
- Cracks Call - With the arcane incantation invoked, the Skaven ends by stamping his horrible pinkish rat-like foot, causing the very ground to split asunder. [2a]
- Death Frenzy - Gesticulating wildly the caster gifts a unit with a rabid and frothing urge to close and strike the foe. [1d][2a]
- Flensing Ruin - Green ribbons of Warp energy tear the flesh from the target's bones. [1d]
- Gnaw - A Gnaw spell is like unleashing a horde of invisible rats to attack a victim or structure. Its area of effect is only one square yard, but its ferocity is such that it continues to 'gnaw' until the target structure is no more. The Gnaw spell has many applications, but is often used for 'hole punching' in gates, earthworks or palisades during sieges. [4c]
- The Great Red Pox - The caster vomits forth a crimson mist that rapidly spreads across the battlefield, causing an instantaneous eruption of fist-sized boils and then a most painful death.[3a]
- Howling Warpgale - The caster gestures twitchingly to the skies and fierce hurricane gales begin to build until it swirls around the entire battlefield. [2a]
- Infecting Gaze - The spell infects one individual with the Black Plague. Infecting Gaze is perhaps one of the most underhanded Skaven spells. Victims rarely realize that they have had the spell cast upon them, and even once the plague takes hold, the victim may not realize that the cause is magical. Being magical, the disease will not spread beyond its intented victim, although it may well cause panic in urban areas. [4b]
- Mantle of Contagion - The caster taints a blanket, cloak, or piece of clothing with a virulent strain of Kruts. [1d]
- Musk of Terror - The caster summons a large cloud of demonic musk, forcing all creatures within to cower with terror. [1d]
- Pelt of the Assassin - By calling upon the ever-changing chaos of the Warp, the Skaven caster alters the structure of their fur so that it changes colour to match their surroundings. [1d]
- Pestilent Breath - Uttering horrible phrases the Skaven sorcerer belches forth an impossibly foul cloud. [1d][2b]
- Pit of the Underworld - The caster strains his mind to open a great rent in the earth. The target site begins to shake until the ground gives way to a vast pit that drops into blackness below. [3a]
- Plague's Source - Plague's Source enchants a water source with the Black Plague. Springs, wells and ale kegs are all common targets that Skaven sorcerers choose for this spell. [4b]
- Poisonous Pustule - The caster creates a pulsing, seeping pustule on one of their extremities. When lanced and drained, the pus from this weeping sore can be spread onto a hand weapon. If a weapon coated with this toxic secretion wounds, it additionally deals more wounds depending on how strong the caster is with magic. [1d][1e]
- Putrefy - With a flourish and a curse, the caster causes an amount of food to rot and decay, rendering it totally inedible. This spell is used with great effect to induce famine in surface populations. Any creature that eats the infected food is automatically infected with the Galloping Trots. [1e]
- Scorch - The Skaven Sorcerer thrusts his paws into the ground while chittering fiery incantations, causing a gout of flame to burst forth. [2a]
- Screech - This spell lets a Grey Seer call to other Skaven over long distances. To cast, the rat-man throws back his head and stretches his vocal cords to emit a high-pitched scream that carries half a mile per level of the Seer, especially to the sensitive ears of the Skaven. The Screech is just a call and carries no information, though the tone can convey an emotion such as desperation, anger or eagerness.[4a]
- Shadow's Companion - With this spell, a Skaven sorcerer can melt into the darkness simply by stepping into a shadow. [4a]
- Shrivel Tongue - This spell is intended as a countermeasure against other wizards. It shrivels the victim's tongue so that speech of any kind (such as incantations) is made impossible. [4b]
- Skitterleap - With a "Bamf!" the Skaven sorcerer disappears in a puff of smoke to appear elsewhere on the battlefield. [1e][2a]
- Stickypaws - The caster grants themselves the ability to walk or crawl upon walls and ceiling as fast as they could run on flat ground. Objects they carry or wear are still affected by gravity in a normal fashion, and fall to the ground if dropped.[1e]
- Swiftscamper - The caster grants themselves the ability to move at an increased rate.[1e]
- Toxic Rain - Calling upon the power of the Horned Rat, the caster conjures a poisonous cloud that drifts above a dozen feet above the ground up to 36 yards away. Soon after casting, the cloud rains a lethal poison upon all characters within the affected area, causing those affected to fall into a nightmare-filled slumber. [1e]
- Traceless Demise - The body of any creature that dies while under the effects of this spell melts away into a foul-smelling black slime. Traceless demise is commonly cast upon the assassins of Clan Eshin before they embark on a hunt, ensuring that no Skaven corpses are left behind. [1e]
- Veil of Flies - With a curse and a flailing of the caster's arms, they summon a cloud of gnats and biting flies. They swarm about the caster, biting and stinging their enemies. [1f]
- Verminous Ruin - The caster summons a living tide of voracious rats that scurry forth and carve a swathe of ruin across the battlefield.[3a]
- Warp Lightning - The Skaven points a fleshy paw and bolts of greenish-black lightning arc outward. [1f][2a]
- Warp Stars - The caster conjures up a number of poisoned warp stars and fling them at one or more opponents within 36 yards. [1f]
- Warp Storm - The caster summons a sudden storm anywhere within 48 yards, which angrily discharges greenish black bolts of warp-powered lightning. This storm is formed of pure warp energy, fuelled by the malignant power of the Horned Rat, and may appear in any locale, even underground.[1f][3a]
- Weeping World Sores - At the Plague Priest's wretched word, the world itself begins to bubble and boil with toxic pus. [3a]
- Weeping Wounds - The caster causes an enemy's wounds to become horribly infected. [1f]
- Wither - Chanting passages from the Liber Bubonicus, the wizard casts a spell of wasting, shrinking sickness. [2b]
- 1: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition: Children of the Horned Rat (RPG)