Tomes of the Librarius – Necrons 101

Hello 40k fans! Chris Morgan, Chief Librarian of the Forge the Narrative Podcast, is here again with the next weekly segment of Tomes of the Librarius. Also, check the Tactics Corner for more great articles!

Just as a reminder, in this series we will explore facets of the history and legends of the Grimdark. This is meant to be an easy summary and introduction geared towards new players or people unfamiliar with the setting, but should still be an interesting read or fun refresher for those already familiar. There’s so much detail in this lore that a bare summary seems so inadequate, but for new people this should be the right portion to get a feel for the history of the universe we enjoy our games in.

The Galaxy is old, and many civilizations have risen and fallen in the years since existence came into being. Few except the Eldar remember many of the older races, but as they say, the past catches up with you. So it is with the galaxy and the Necrons, as the tomb-worlds reawaken and legions of unliving, metal aliens stride across the galaxy they claim as theirs.

A Most Ancient History

In the beginning (about 60 million Terran years ago) the Necrons once existed as the “Necrontyr.” The Necrontyr lived on a planet that orbited a star that had a particularly harsh radiation, and the evolution of their forms (a shape now long forgotten) left them with short, painful lifespans. Despite this, the Necrontyr were gifted when it came to advancing themselves through technology. They were able to spread far and wide across the stars, creating ever more diverse and individualistic dynasties that soon warred among each other. When they began to encounter other races, they envied the kind stars that birthed them. This envy was particularly violent towards a race called the “Old Ones.” The Old Ones, true to their namesake, were already old when the Necrontyr arrived on the galactic scene. Advanced and powerful, they created beautiful paradises and engineered the creation of many species, and were tireless enemies of Chaos. The Necrontyr wanted what the Old Ones had, namely immortality, and began a war against them fueled by their spite, jealousy, and anger at the whims of a cruel universe. This war also served to unite the Necrontyr against a common foe.

Despite their technological achievements, the war was going badly for the Necrontyr. The Old Ones were powerful beyond what the Necrontyr had surmised, and after a time they could only see one conclusion – their total defeat. With much of their empire crumbled and destroyed by the Old Ones’ onslaught, they began to fight again among themselves. That was when they found (or were found by, depending on who you ask) the C’tan.

The Coming of the Star Gods

Here is where the tales vary. The old stories say that the C’tan were, for lack of a better term, incorporeal star-parasites. Latching onto a star, they feed off of its energies, altering their output and presumably the life-cycle of the star itself. It goes without saying that a creature that can feed off of a star is immensely powerful, so when a C’tan was discovered one on their own star, the Necrontyr immediately tried to find a way to use this being’s power to their advantage. They were too desperate for a way to win their war that they didn’t consider that it was likely the C’tan that had caused the change in their star that made them suffer so much. To their surprise, the C’tan was sentient and they were able to communicate with it. Soon, they found more.The C’tan wanted corporeal forms, and promised the Necrontyr great power in exchange for supplying them with bodies to walk the universe with.

The Necrontyr used their technological might to craft bodies for the C’tan made of living metal, and when the star gods fused with their hosts they were terrible to behold. They took names for themselves, such as “Dragon,” “Nightbringer,” and of course the “Deceiver.” Promising the Necrontyr great power, the C’tan known as the Deceiver devised a plan that would free them from their cursed, short-lived forms. It promised immortality in a perfect body to each Necrontyr, and that they would serve the Silent King (the leader of the Necrontyr) forever. The Silent King was allured by the Deceiver’s promises, and soon too were the rest. Combining the great power of the C’tan and the technology of the Necrontyr, each member of the species went through a facility meant to administer their ascension to immortal beauty. It was, of course, a well-dressed lie.

Only at the end, as the last one to walk through, did the Silent King understand. His people had been duped. While their bodies were indeed transformed, it came at the cost of their life force. Perfect metal replaced imperfect flesh, but they lost all individuality and spirit. Only a few retained any sense of self, the higher ranked Lords and Scientists were programmed with the echo of their old personalities, but all were subservient to the Silent King and could not act or think for themselves. They were the few necessary to execute the will of the Silent King to an entire race now reduced to mindless automata. He realized his error too late, and could do nothing to reverse what had been done. The C’tan had feasted on the life force of his entire race, and were drunk with even greater power than before. He still needed them to kill the Old Ones for him, but he would not forget the great fraud wrought upon his race. They were the Necrontyr no more, now they had become what we now know as the Necrons.

The War of the Ancients Renewed

The C’tan’s power was godlike, and they turned its use against the Old Ones – whom they also claimed an ancient grudge against from wars in ages past – and almost instantly the war changed in favor of the Necrons. The C’tan were nigh-unstoppable. The galaxy was re-arranged and bent to their will as they waged war across space and alternate dimensions, and they feasted on the life-energy of their foes. The Necrons expanded in the wake of the C’tan’s passing, their remorseless and implacable legions of warriors crushing all resistance under their metallic feet. They were claiming the galaxy, but there were none left to rejoice in their victories save the Silent King in triumphant mourning for his lost people.

The Old Ones were caught completely unprepared. They desperately sought a way to fight off the relentless doom, and it is said that in their haste and desperation to fight off the threat they created many races to act as their warriors. Among these were the Eldar, and some have speculated that the Orks and the Humans could have also been seeds of this effort, but it was all for nought. They knew they were doomed to die before their nascent creations could save them. As the Eldar Star rose, the C’tan and the Necrons chased the Old Ones into extinction. As far as is known, not a single one survived. The C’tan had fulfilled their bargain, such as it was, and had made themselves the Gods of the galaxy. Their age of dominion had begun, but it was not to last.

The Great Sleep

As they basked in their power and victory, the Silent King struck in vengeance for the lost souls of his people. As the Necrons were slaved to his will, they ambushed the C’tan across the Galaxy. They were too powerful to be killed, but they were instead broken into many pieces and each piece was sealed in a separate vault that acted as both prison and siphon for the C’tan’s power. The Eldar were on the rise, and they were successfully pushing against the Necrons in many theatres of war. The Silent King looked at them, the hastily created offspring of his foes, and saw their doom. Rather than waste his race in a prolonged war, he devised a plan to send them all into a sleep cycle that would last millennia. Worlds were carved hollow and the Necrons were arrayed asleep inside them, hidden away from the Eldar by their most advanced technologies under the Silent King’s supervision; awaiting the signal to awaken and take the galaxy back long after the Eldar were defeated by themselves.

After the last world was sealed, the Silent King freed his people from his will, but left them with a quest: to find a way to restore them to living being again with bodies of flesh and wills of their own. He left them all with the knowledge of what had happened, and his own role in it. The Lords would awaken to their own will and power over their own dynasties. This was not enough to assuage the Silent King’s sense of guilt, however. Taking his personal guard aboard his ship, he departed from the edge of the Galaxy in a self-imposed exile.

Eons passed, and the Necrons slept, overseen and maintained by legions of robotic servants tasked with their upkeep. Empires rose and fell, and some tomb worlds were destroyed as the shape of the galaxy changed through the wars and conflicts of the ages. The appointed time to awaken was still long off when the Silent King made a discovery out in the void between galaxies – the Tyranid Swarms.

Awakening

Nothing had prepared him for the scope of this threat. The Necrons would never be able to find host bodies if all life was consumed by the ravening hunger of the hive mind by the time they had woken. He sent the activation signal out and set his course back to the galaxy he had left behind, hoping to rally the Necrons against this threat to their future. So the Necrons began to stir from their tombs as the galaxy was in the midst of perhaps its greatest age of war and strife. Sleep had not been kind to the Necrons, and many Lords had gone mad or lost huge swathes of their memories. Old rivalries from ages past barred their unification, but in one thing they all agreed:



This galaxy was theirs, and they would take it back.

Ancient (Future?) Records

Necron books are not as common as some others, but here are a couple you might be interested in finding and checking out, especially if you want to see Ultramarines lose:

 

You can blame this articles lateness on the thematic element of me sleeping in a bit… You may also notice that some of the lore concepts in here conflict a tad with the newer Necron books, but that is deliberate. Hopefully some of the ‘old lore’ helps show some of the dynamic but changeable side of this ancient foe. Keep your eyes peeled for the next Tomes of the Librarius, and let me know what faction you think I should do next, and be sure to tell me your favorite Necron stories in the comments!

Cheers!

Captain Morgan

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!

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About Chris Morgan

Chief Librarian of Forge the Narrative, Blood Angel enthusiast, and slayer of traitors and heretics, he'd rather be playing 30k right now. Follow him @sanguine_morgan on twitter and you can be twits together!

16 Responses to “Tomes of the Librarius – Necrons 101”

  1. AngryPanda May 15, 2018 9:49 am #

    I lost track if we’re in the second or third revamp of the Necrons now but I was still hoping they’d just say “oh yeah we were wrong about all that nonsense, they are just the men of iron and the Adeptus Mechanicus told no one the hoarding bastards”.

  2. VIth May 15, 2018 4:30 pm #

    This has bothered me for a while, so I’m going to go on a nerd rant and say: the reworked timeline of the Necrons – 60 million years old (!) – is one of the dumbest things GW’s lore team has ever done. It doesn’t make any sense to suggest the Old Ones created the psychically capable (Kr)orks and Eldar (and just started on the humans) to help them fight the Necrontyr (which was the original lore, at least) then say they fought them 60 million years ago. Our ancient ancestors were just then splitting off into wet-nosed and dry-nosed tree-dwelling monkeys around that time – it would be another 59,900,000 years before something like a homo sapien sapien remotely close to being helpful in an interstellar conflict would show up.

    Regarding Eldar, they have a full mythos, which we are led to believe is accurate, regarding the War in Heaven between the Old Ones and the Necrontyr. How did they come by this information? There are two options: the Eldar were around for the War in Heaven (which means their civilization is 60 million years old), or they were the Eldar version of primates but someone know all about the events War in Heaven.

    Neither one makes sense. Either proto-Eldar and proto-Orks are are ancient as the Necrons, or the reality-bending Old Ones (who supposedly handcrafted them to fight the psychic-defenseless Necrons) had waaaaayyyy too long a lead time for their new creations to be useful in their fight against the Necrontyr.

    Again, GW can’t on the one hand say the Old Ones created some of the major intelligent species in the galaxy and then go on to say they lost a war and disappeared 60 million years ago. It doesn’t make sense.

    My solution: retcon all the current timeline info and say the War in Heaven happened ~200,000 years before the 41st millennia. It’s a much better option than the nonsensical 60 million years ago ridiculousness, which was clearly just a really big number someone thought up without considering the implications vis-a-vis the *other* things the Old Ones had going on around that time. Cheers!

    • WestRider May 15, 2018 5:39 pm #

      GW has just as much trouble understanding issues of temporal scale as they do matters of physical scale. It’s not really any worse than some of the other things, like at least one occasion when ships have covered substantial amounts of interstellar distance using conventional propulsion, in a matter of months or weeks, or that the Imperial Palace canonically has chambers hundreds of miles below the surface of the earth, while the earth’s crust is only something like 18 miles thick.

    • Chris Morgan
      Chris Morgan May 15, 2018 7:38 pm #

      The Eldar did fight in the War in Heaven (both the Eldar and Necron codexes state this) but had not matured into the masters of the galaxy that they would have been. The C’tan were too overwhelmingly powerful.

      The old lore where the Deceiver stayed whole and active during the time between the sleep and the awakening was great (from the old 3rd ed book) where it talked about him finding and destroying the remaining Eldar weapons that could slay or hurt a C’tan, but that all got retconned. He had fantastic villain potential back then.

      The 60 million year thing doesn’t bother me as much. We don’t need to ascribe our own timeline to this fiction because the universe doesn’t work in the same way, just close enough to be relatable. Aside from that, that just means the Necrontyr lived that long ago, it doesn’t necessarily state the exact dates for when the war in heaven started, when the Necrontyr were driven back, and when the C’tan arrived.

      That aside, asking a Necron Overlord or Phaeron about history is comparable to asking an Alzheimer’s patient ancient history. Some holes are to be expected.

    • AngryPanda May 15, 2018 8:51 pm #

      Pretty much this. Eldar used to be a starfaring race thousands of years before humanity and pretty advanced for that but if they were around 60 million years ago and already fought an intergalactic war you gotta say Jetbike technology ain’t exactly impressive in that scale.

      • Chris Morgan
        Chris Morgan May 16, 2018 9:49 am #

        Tell that to all of the Jetbike PTSD survivors from 7th Edition 40k lol

        Still, considering that the Eldar are basically remnants and survivors, I’d say that the majority of their cool technologies were sucked into the Eye of Terror and they are basically surviving off of scraps. I bet that ‘Golden Age’ Eldar would have been much different. No aspect warriors and phoenix lords for one thing.

        • VIth May 16, 2018 9:33 pm #

          None of that detracts from the fact that their civilization is supposedly 60 million years old which is just dumb. Think of how far and how much has changed in approximately 10,000 years of human civilization. Now add 59,990,000 years to that and that’s how long the Eldar have supposedly maintained a unified-ish, cohesive society. lol, ok…

          Like AngryPanda said, the idea was they were older than humans, but not unrelateably ancient (like the Necrons). The poignancy of their story is that humans, who are now claiming the mantle of ownership of the Milky Way from the ashes of their empire, are basically making all the same mistakes they made in the not-too-recent past – which is why it’s so tragic and compelling. The Old One’s firstborns are watching the Old One’s lastborns screw the pooch the same way they did.

          And again, 60 million years ago our simian ancestors were splitting off into dry-nosed and wet-nosed tree-dwelling monkeys. Rather than implying humans were getting revved up to join the Eldar and Old Ones in the War in Heaven 60 million years ago, it would be much better for everyone if they shifted that to something like 100,000 BC. Have the C’tan and Old Ones fight 60 million years ago. Maybe the Necrontyr fight and lose, team up with the C’tan in their misery, turn into Necrons, sleep it off for 60 million years, then wake up much more recently (when homo sapiens were around) and win Round 2 vs the Old Ones. Makes waaayyyy more sense than having Orks, Eldar, and humans (who objectively aren’t) be 60M years old. Whomp whomp.

          • VIth May 16, 2018 9:34 pm
            #

            *not-to-distant past…

          • AngryPanda May 17, 2018 6:27 am
            #

            With their psychic powers, anything less than ascending like the Stargate Ancients would be a joke after 60 million years. That number is just so utterly ridiculous. Even humanity’s dark age of technology can’t have been impressive compared to whatever they needed to have. Or you go for development stasis and say the Eldar don’t really understand their technology and were just given the ability to be on this level by the old ones, which I see coming up a lot now, making them basically sleeker Orks and that’s just soooo bad.

          • Dakkath May 17, 2018 8:53 am
            #

            They were too busy having planets-wide massacre-orgies to advance their tech. That’s why Slaanesh happened.

          • AngryPanda May 18, 2018 3:07 am
            #

            They didn’t do anything else for millions of years? The fall is supposed to be pretty recent. A 50 million year giant orgy sounds like even Slanesh would go “guys chill, lean back, have a smoke, you know you can overdo it right?”

  3. WestRider May 15, 2018 5:31 pm #

    I seem to remember it being the Enslavers that drove the Necrons into their long sleep, not the Eldar. Did that get retconned, or am I just mis-remembering?

    • AngryPanda May 15, 2018 8:52 pm #

      Reconned in the 5th Edition Codex. Somehow it was the Eldar, making them as old as the Necrons, except not having taken a 60 million year nap.

      • WestRider May 16, 2018 7:13 pm #

        I guess I missed that due to everyone flipping out about the Blood Angels alliance thing. Thanks!

  4. JOSHBOB1985 May 16, 2018 5:24 am #

    One thing I noticed in the new dex is that it says the Necrontyr are actually BILLIONS of years old. They colonized most of the galaxy over billions of years at sub-light speeds.

    Also the C’tan had gone to war with the Old Ones, and lost, long before the Necrons fought them. They did not ally with the crons in exchange for corporeal bodies. They wanted an ally to help them fight the old ones.

    I think it was Orikan who saw the ultimate fate of the Eldar.

    I don’t think the Silent King initiated the awakening, the crons were supposed to wake up in 40k when they went to sleep.

    I actually think that the new dex explains the history far better than the previous ones.

    • Chris Morgan
      Chris Morgan May 16, 2018 9:44 am #

      Yeah, the timelines are a bit inconsistent between codexes and the Black Library novels.

      Now whether or not the C’Tan had actually gone to war with the Old Ones is very debatable, because the only source for this is the Deceiver. It’s implied that he used that as ‘icing on the cake’ for his petition to the Silent King for an alliance. While I won’t say it didn’t happen, the source makes you question the truth of it.

      You are correct about Orikan, and he certainly had his doubts about the transformation to Necron as well. He’s an interesting character. Still, the decision to go into sleep was the Silent King’s, and Orikan’s prophecies influenced his decision to do so.

      In the “Shield of Baal’ books, the Silent King straight-up says that he returned from the extra-galactic emptiness because of the Hive Fleets coming towards the galaxy. He also, interestingly enough, speaks to Dante directly. One of my favorite quotes is when he tells Dante that he was a big fan of Sanguinius and thought that Sanguinius would have made a better Emperor than the Emperor. The Silent King’s personal guardians carry trophies of BA armor and helmets as a sign of respect for worthy opponents.

      There’s definitely a lot of changes between books, and I daresay that the Necrons have the most dynamically fluid narrative out of any faction in 40k. Very few have changed direction so many times or in such a big way.

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