Slavery is a common occurrence in the Warhammer World and has been found among numerous civilizations throughout history.
Slavery among Chaos
Slavery is widespread among the barbaric tribes that worship the Dark Gods. Among the people aligned to Order, it is a common view to regard all servants of chaos as slaves in one way or the other.
The Kurgan are also notorious slavers. As part of the battle’s spoils, they collect the survivors and tattoo them on the face with the marks of a particular Zar. The ink used almost always includes some amount of Warpstone to start the mutation process and to dissolve the slave’s previous loyalties. A slave is considered an investment. The Zar must feed and clothe his slaves, keeping them healthy and hale enough to serve him. In exchange for his efforts, he expects his slaves to fight. Rival tribes will pit their slaves against each other in fighting rings. Since they harvest slaves from the same places, it is all too common to have former comrades fight each other in bloody death matches. Those who win these contests are accorded more freedoms and greater status, and those with continued success can throw off the shackles of slavery to become a full member of the tribe, possibly even displacing the Zar himself.[1a]
Norscan slavers still prowl the seas in search for victims, often trading with other slave-keeping societies.[1b] Slaves, often called thralls among the Norscans, are used in multiple ways among the Norscans, and draw from people of the Empire and Bretonnia as well as subdued tribes. The life of a thrall varies depending on the capturing tribe. Mostly, thralls are used as labour, building Longships or working in the frozen fields. Some thralls are taken as fourth or fifth wives, selected for their appearance rather than their station. But for most, their fate is to be sacrificed to curry the favour of the Dark Gods. When a new Dragonship is finished, the Norsemen line the approach to the sea with screaming slaves, to crush the life out of them as the warriors push the boat into the waters. Before a new raid, a thrall may be disembowelled, his guts flung out to the seas to appease the Daemons of the waters, whilst his corpse is strung up on the mast to feed the crows and other spirits of death. Seers kill thralls with impunity, using innocent blood to conjure spirits from the Otherworld. Though some thralls may receive decent treatment, most face a gruesome fate.[1c]
Slavery among Dwarfs
The Chaos dwarf empire depends on slavery like on no other institution.[2a] No race is safe from their depredations. Slaves work in their industries and serve as sacrifices to Hashut. Slaves are exploited fully, with their workforce exhausted and their souls used in the infernal craft of the daemonsmiths.
Greenskins make up the bulk of the slaves of the chaos dwarfs, since most of them are native to the mountains surrounding the Dark Lands and their physique is able to withstand the noxious fumes and murderous conditions better than most other species.[2a] Hobgoblins, for having sided with the Chaos dwarfs during the revolt of the Black Orcs long ago, have a favoured position, often used as overseers for other slaves.[2a] Giants are broken and used as tools of war, transformed into monstrous Chaos Siege Giants. Ogres are treasured for their brute strength, as are some of the beasts of the Chaos Wastes. As neither of these beasts can ever truly be broken, most Chaos dwarfs are extra careful when dealing with enslaved specimen.[2a] Men are valued for their adaptiveness and their quick wits.[2a] Elves, when captured, find themselves subjected to torturous extraction of alchemical unguents.[2a] The one race that chaos dwarfs cannot abide for long as slaves are the Skaven, only taking them alive to be worked almost immediately to death or used as paltry mass sacrifices, as they are simply too devious and the Chaos Dwarfs have learned from bitter experience that any group taken might well conceal untold spies, saboteurs and even deliberately infected plague-carriers placed in their midst.[2b] Dwarfs, if taken alive, are often used for the darkest rites to Hashut.[2b]
Slavery among the Elves
Among the Asur, slaves and "indebtured servants" are most common in the capital Lothern, which is the only place in the Ten Kingdoms that allows their use.[9a] Officially, slaves are only allowed to be sold for the purpose of transshipment. In reality, most of the major merchant houses have switched to slave labour for menial tasks. Most of these slaves are humans.[9b]
The Asrai have been known to kidnap Bretonnian children and turn them into servants who never grow up and think the elves are their masters.
The Druchii depend on slavery as an institution to keep their dark realm in a state of war. While the people of ancient Nagarythe were peerless warriors, they had little knowledge in the ways to build a self-sufficient civilization. For this reason, Malekith's realm depends on raiding other nations for food, or capture slaves to work for them.[13a] Slaves are often treated as mere commodities and very little is done to care for their well-being.[12b] Slaves are marked with a rune that signifies their master above the heart.[12b] Some find themselves disembowled and their corpse parts used as gruesome decorations, others are sacrificed to the hunger of Khaine. Most perish from plagues, the harsh weather and malnutrition.
The Beastmasters are tasked with enforcing order among slaves, as the Druchii see races like humans, beastmen, dwarfs and Greenskins as no different from animals.[12a] Dwarf slaves are among the most valuable commodities, being as expensive as dragon eggs. High Elf slaves are especially treasured and many noble households will part with large parts of their stock or even less fortunate family members for the possession of one.[14a] Escaped slaves and rebellions are a constant threat to the dark elves and serve as another tool of Malekith to keep his followers alert and weed out the weak among them.[12c] Karond Kar serves as the capital of the Naggarothi slave trade.
Slavery among Greenskins
Among the tribes of the Greenskins, Goblins are often forced to menial works for the larger Orcs. This system has been compared to slavery,[3a] but since greenskins have no real laws or conceptions of society, slavery is not an institution and exceptional goblins, like Grom the Paunch, can rise high above the station Goblins have in regular tribal societies.
Slavery among Mankind
The people of old Nehekhara were one of the first human civilizations to use slavery.[1b] Settra's armies enslaved numerous human tribes that lived in their path and brought them to Nehekhara to serve as workforce.[10a] The kings and dynasties that came after him followed his example, using slaves to erect magnificnet monuments for themselves and the Necropoleis they constructed. Their slave hunts reached as far north as the lands of the modern Empire.[10b] Slaves tended to the more menial duties so that the warriors of Nehekhara could concentrate fully on battle and on earning their place in the afterlife at the side of their monarch.[10c]
Even after having been risen forcefully due to Nagash's Great Ritual, the Tomb Kings still wage war to capture slaves. These are used to restore the ancient cities of Nehekhara as if still living people occupied it.[11a]
The Arabyans are one of the few human nations that still practice slavery.[1b] Copher is one of the largest slave markets in the vicinity of the Old World, and most of the various Emirs and Sheikhs that rule the Arabyans have hundreds of slaves for their every whim.[8a]
Slavery among the Skaven
The Skaven make extensive use Slave Rats, also called skavenslaves, enslaved members of their own kind as well as any other race they can overwhelm. These Slave Rats are the backbone of the Under-Empire. Without Slaves, Skaven society would collapse. These miserable wretches are bought and sold for Warpstone Tokens on the slave blocks in the major communities of the Under-Empire. When they arrive at their new homes they find endless toil and pain: clearing new tunnels, feeding the Rat Ogres, becoming food for their masters, and serving as test subjects for some new Clan Skryre or Clan Moulder enterprise are only a few of the many possible fates that await Skaven Slaves.[5a] A slave's day regardless of Clan starts when he is whipped awake from inadequate sleep, and thrown disgusting, half-rotten food, which he must fight over with his fellow slaves. The Skaven go through the ranks, pulling out the bodies of those who died in the night and cutting them out of the chain. Sometimes the living slaves are allowed to feast on the bodies of the dead; for many slaves this becomes their greatest hope.[5a]
The day is filled with hard labour, of whatever sort the overseers need. Slaves who are not quickly put to back-breaking work become terrified, because that means that they have been chosen for some experiment, or as food. Those who die during the day are pulled from the chains when the overseers notice, which may not be until the work is over. It is hard to work chained to a corpse, but any slave who lets that slow him down can expect a flogging.[5a]
When the day's work ends the survivors are thrown food to fight over once more, and then are allowed to drop into exhausted sleep where they stand.[5a]
It is a bleak, hopeless existence. For the most desperate of slaves, death becomes a more attractive option as time passes.[5a]
Little Known Facts
Many human slaves of the skaven go mad, and a few even come to believe they are skaven. Whispered rumours among the slaves say that those who go truly mad are mutated into skaven as they sleep, and that the chains are lost during the mutation. Some slaves see this as their only hope of escape, and pretend to believe they are skaven in the hope that it will break their minds.[5a]
The skaven do not separate male and female slaves, and very occasionally a female slave becomes pregnant, although the poor nutrition and hard work make this unlikely. Carrying a child to term is even more unlikely, and human babies look like tasty treats to most skaven. Nevertheless, there are a handful of children in the tunnels, protected by a group of slaves as allies unbound by chains.[5a]
Slavery among Ogres
The Ogre Kingdoms depend on the enslavement of a small, diminuative Greenskin species known as Gnoblars. Gnoblars act as servants, cannon fodder, ammunition and sometimes even food for their larger owners.[6a] As marks of ownership, Ogres mark the ears of favored Gnoblar slaves with bitemarks.[6a]
Ogres are also known to take slaves from other races. Butchers use them as sacrifices to the Great Maw, while other Ogres simply keep them around for a snack. These slaves often have miserable lives, as Ogres often resort to violence and torture to maintain order and few races are as hardy as they are.[7a]
The most treasured slaves of an ogre tribe are the Slavegiants. Possession of a descendant of the ancient sky-titans is a sign of great status for any tyrant and several try to coerce a wandering giant into their tribe by more means than simple violence.[6b]
- 1 Tome of Corruption (2nd Edition Fantasy Roleplay)
- 2 Tamurkhan: Throne of Chaos
- 3:Warhammer Armies: Orcs and Goblins (8th Edition)
- 3a: pg. 8
- 4: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Children of the Horned Rat
- 5: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Career Compendium
- 5a: pg. 193
- 6: Warhammer Armies: Ogre Kingdoms (6th Edition)
- 7: White Dwarf UK (Issue #310)
- 7a: pg. 102
- 8: Warhammer Fantasy: Rulebook (6th Edition)
- 8a: pg. 167
- 9: Sword of Caledor (Novel), by William King
- 10: Warhammer Armies: Tomb Kings (8th Edition)
- 11: Warhammer Armies: Tomb Kings (6th Edition)
- 11a: pg. 9
- 12: Warhammer Armies: Dark Elves (6th Edition)
- 13: Warhammer Armies: Dark Elves (7th Edition)
- 13a: pg. 14
- 14: Warhammer Armies: Dark Elves (8th Edition)
- 14a: pg. 10