Today Loremasters – gird yourself against the Primordial Annihilator – we step into the Warp.
The Warp is a psychic dimension parallel to real space. It is known by many names: Warpspace, the Immaterium, the Empyrean, the Ether, the Sea of Souls, and also as the Realm of Chaos.
Warpspace is a dimension of random energy known as Chaos. It is the domain of the Gods of Chaos. The Warp is without form and with its own fluid laws of time and space. Its energies are in constant turmoil, subject to endless disturbances.
The common analogy used to describe Warpspace compares the Warp to a vast sea of energy, which is subject to constant movement, currents, undertows, etc. Although with its own reality, Warp and real space do bear a relationship as dimensions parallel to each other. The fact they share this relationship allows a Warp-capable craft to enter the Warp, carried for a time along the Warp flows, until reemerging into real space a distance away from its starting point. The common metaphor used for Warp-jumping compares the Warp to a fast flowing stream. Its motionless banks represent real space. A leaf dropped into the water upstream will be carried along by the currents. This is a useful metaphor in understanding Warpspace, although the Warp is far more complex in its movements than a linear stream. The Warp moves in endlessly unpredictable and convoluted patterns.
The Formless Wastes
The Formless Wastes refer to the rest of the Warp uncontrolled by one of the Chaos Gods. Other powers such as Greater Daemons and Daemon Princes who have become capable of forcing a small influence over their surroundings sometimes create their abodes here. The Wastes are also the home to Furies, grotesque gargoyles forbidden from entering the Chaos Gods’ realms. They roam the Wastes searching for new helpless souls of mortals not yet absorbed by the Warp.
The Warp is an important factor in the survival of the human race. Spacecraft, capable of voyaging thousands of light-years in a matter of days, travel across the Warp. By such fragile means, humanity is bound together in a single Imperium. The Emperor’s will may be mighty, but his reach is long only because Warpspace may be crossed by his fleets.
A spaceship may enter the Warp through the use of Warp drives. This is the means by which spacecraft effectively travel faster than the speed of light. This is achieved because Warpspace is a domain of pure energy, where spacecraft can navigate between streams, as in an ocean. Time also proceeds a great deal slower in the Warp than in the material universe, creating a form of stasis. While this solution is effective, it is far from perfect.
Long-distance journeys take months or even years, and the timing itself is unpredictable due to the very nature of the Warp.
The Warp is an extremely volatile medium. At times, disturbances can turn areas of the Warp into raging storms of incomprehensibly destructive fury. These storms can last for days, months, or even centuries. Ships caught in these storms, at best, might be blown off-course, to emerge thousands of light-years off course into uncharted areas of the galaxy, or can find themselves trapped inside the Warp, a terrible fate for its passengers as they become playthings for the dark creatures that inhabit the malign realm. Sometimes, a ship, after traveling through the Warp for only a short time, will emerge from the Warp and find that centuries have passed in real space. The storms also cut off Warp travel through certain regions, isolating systems from the Imperium for months, years, or even centuries. Some systems have always been isolated and show no hint of becoming otherwise.
A Warp rift is a weakening of the barrier between real space and the Warp, allowing its creatures to enter the material universe. Sometimes, Warp rifts occur randomly, while other times, the Chaos Gods or mortals manufacture them. Some last mere moments, others for days, years, or even centuries. They can take many forms, often a seething whirlpool of raw magic, other times they may show a glimpse into the realm of Chaos, they have also appeared as gates of green fire, clouds of impenetrable shadow, boiling lakes of pus, and other terrifying visions driving mortals mad. Examples that can induce a Warp rift include unpredictable movements of the Warp causing a break into real space, daemon possession of a mortal, deliberate rituals of daemon summoning, a focus of suffering and death from a great war, chance circumstances such as a Warp drive implosion, or most insidiously through the mind of an unprotected psychic creature.
The Warp, though utterly hostile to creatures of the material realm, is home to its own form of life. These are often voracious entities which are drawn to the psychic emanations of mortals of real space – these creatures include the Vampyre, Psychneuein, Astral Spectre, Astral Hound, Enslaver and most terrifying and numerous of all, the Daemons of Chaos.
Ships traveling in the Warp are shielded against attacks from these creatures. Without these shields, travelers through the Warp would be consumed by daemons.
The Warp is also the realm of the four Gods of Chaos: Khorne, Slaanesh, Tzeentch, and Nurgle. Though the Warp and the Chaos Gods are formed of the same energy and are practically synonymous, each god has a form that embodies their personalities and dwells at the heart of their realms.
~Knowledge is Power – guard it well.