What Are Necrons? Unraveling the Chilling Mysteries of Warhammer 40k’s Undying Machines

Necron Warhammer 40k

The Ancient Mechanical Horrors – A Guide to the Necrons of Warhammer 40k

The Necrons are an ancient race of mechanical warriors shrouded in mystery, who have lain dormant beneath the galaxy for over 60 million years. As these undying machines begin to awaken and rise from their stasis-tombs, they seek to reestablish their dynasties and rebuild their Infinite Empire across the stars once more.

Origins of the Necrons

The Necrons were not always soulless machines.

They originated billions of years ago as the Necrontyr, an organic humanoid species who evolved on a planet plagued by solar radiation from a maleficent star. Their lives were incredibly short and painful, constantly afflicted by radiation sickness, cancers and other ailments.

Their cities were built with their brief lifespans in mind, as cyclopean tomb-complexes and ancestral crypts vastly outnumbered the living population. The living Necrontyr were considered merely temporary residents walking amongst the vast cities of the dead.

This precarious existence drove the Necrontyr to desperately seek ways to escape the lethal environment of their homeworld. Under the unified rule of the Triarch, the Necrontyr expanded outwards across the stars, colonizing many worlds as their civilization and dynasties grew vast.

But as their empire grew more diverse, tensions began rising between the fractious Necrontyr Dynasties. Bloody civil wars known as the First Wars of Secession erupted as entire realms fought for independence.

Facing dissolution, the Triarch realized their people needed an external threat to unify them once more. They soon found the perfect subject for their ire – the ancient and powerful race known as the Old Ones.

The Old Ones possessed near-immortality, incredibly advanced technology, potent psychic mastery over the Warp, and the secrets to shaping life itself. Out of jealousy and hatred for their seeming perfection, the Necrontyr initiated conflict with the Old Ones.

Any dissenting separatist Dynasties quickly abandoned rebellion as this new conflict – known as the War in Heaven – gave them a unifying cause.


The War in Heaven

The War in Heaven against the Old Ones quickly turned against the Necrontyr’s ambitions of conquest. Despite wielding fearsome technologies themselves, the Necrontyr could not gain any ground against the psychic might of the Old Ones.

As the bitter wars dragged on for centuries, decimating world after world, it became apparent the Necrontyr’s dreams of victory were impossible. Their nascent empire collapsed as the war forced them back to their radioactive homeworlds.

It was here, after millions of lost lives and crushing defeats, that the Necrontyr encountered mysterious beings of immense power – the godlike C’tan, primordial predators that fed upon the energies of stars.

Transcendent C’tan like the Deceiver claimed they had fought the Old Ones as well, and offered the key to the immortality the Necrontyr so desperately craved if they constructed for them physical forms to inhabit.

Deceived by their seeming subservience, the Necrontyr came to believe the C’tan were the harbingers for all they had hoped for. The Silent King Szarekh, enthralled by the Deceiver’s words, agreed to the C’tan’s pact.

Thus began the terrible Biotransference – the process of transferring Necrontyr minds into undying mechanical bodies known as necrodermis. Entire planetary populations were converted, willingly or not, as the Necrontyr sacrificed their flesh, culture and souls to become the undying Necron legions.

As the C’tan fed voraciously on the cast-off life energy, the Necrontyr lost all personality and individuality, becoming robotic slaves bound to the wills of their new masters.

Now unleashed in undying metal forms capable of surviving the harsh vacuum of space, the newly born Necrons waged total war against the Old Ones once more alongside their C’tan overlords.

Reborn Of Metal

The C’tan empowered their armies with reality-shattering technologies and star-powered superweapons. Arcane dolmen gates granted the Necrons access to the labyrinth dimension of the Webway, allowing them to assail the Old Ones within their own domain. After eons of apocalyptic conflict that shattered countless worlds, the Old Ones were utterly defeated and scattered into the void.

But the War had taken its toll – both the C’tan and the Necrons’ forces had been severely fractured as well.

In the wake of the War in Heaven’s end, the Silent King Szarekh finally realized the terrible price the Necrontyr had paid for their immortality.

The C’tan had callously bartered away their souls and doom them to live eternally as undying machines. In an act of vengeance, Szarekh turned the Necrons’ superweapons on the C’tan themselves, shattering the Star Gods into thousands of C’tan Shards.

Though unkillable, these Shards could now be enslaved and used as living weapons by the Necrons. However, it was far too late for the Necron race – they could never reclaim their organic forms and lost souls.

Facing a galaxy in ruins that no longer held glory or purpose to conquer, the Silent King ordered the remaining Necron cities transformed into stasis-tombs that would weather the eons, shielding the Necrons from the passage of time until they were ready to awaken once more.

Entire dynasties entered endless slumber in great tomb-complexes threaded with stasis-crypts across thousands of worlds. Before joining his subjects in sleep, Szarekh destroyed the command protocols linking him to his people, feeling eternal solitude was the only penance for dooming his race to such an eternal curse.

Thus the Necrons entered their Great Sleep, waiting sixty million years while the galaxy slowly recovered from the War in Heaven’s devastation.

Necron lord Warhammer 40k

Hierarchy of the Necron Empire

The sprawling Infinite Necron Empire contains many powerful Dynasties that rule over clusters of Tomb Worlds scattered across the stars. The ultimate ruling body of the Empire was the Triarch, comprised of the Silent King Szarekh and two advising Phaerons. After Szarekh’s self-imposed exile, this body has been vacant, as the Silent King’s successors are unknown.

Below the empty Triarch, each Dynasty contains:

  • Phaerons – The rulers of entire Dynasties that can span dozens to hundreds of worlds. Phaerons hold near-absolute authority over their domains.
  • Overlords – Necron nobles who rule clusters of multiple Tomb Worlds within a Phaeron’s territory. They are bound by oaths of loyalty to serve their Dynasty.
  • Lords – Individual Necron nobles charged with awakening and ruling over a single Tomb World. Lords command enormous forces on their planet.

Necron royalty have Royal Courts with advising Necron Lords, Cryptek technomancers, and more. Below this are the main fighting forces like Warriors, Immortals, Tomb Blades and Destroyers.

Outliers like the Flayed Ones act independently from dynasty rulers. Canoptek constructs serve as automatons and scouts bound to their Tomb Worlds.

The war-doctrine and personalities of Necron Overlords can differ wildly across Dynasties. Some seek to reforge the ancient empire through endless conquest and extermination of “lesser races”.

Others simply protect territory already under their control. Inter-dynasty conflicts are all too common as rulers clash over resources and grudges. But ultimately, all Necrons are united in the cause of restoring their race to rule the galaxy again.

Warhammer 40k Necron Warrior

Awakening the Mechanical Legions

The process of awakening a Tomb World from eons of stasis is slow and meticulous. Upon detecting signs of life or technology above, the Tomb’s master control program begins activation protocols.

Canoptek Scarabs and Spyders are released first to maintain and repair the tomb against intruders.

Next, small groups of Necron Warriors are awakened as scouting forces to analyze the situation abroad and harvest resources. If the planet is deemed ripe for conquest, the Tomb Lord finally awakens to command the full dynasty army rising on-world.

There are still countless billions more Necrons lying dormant in stasis, as the Imperium has faced only a tiny fraction of their full forces so far. As more Tomb Worlds continue to awaken across the stars, the Necrons grow ever stronger

. Worlds thought safe by humans may suddenly find themselves battlegrounds to awakening mechanical armies from below as hidden tombs rise to the call of battle once more.

Necron Physiology and Self-Repair

The Necrons appear as skeletal automatons clad in resilient metal bodies.

Glowing emerald energy radiates from their mechanical limbs, matched by the baleful lifeless green glow in their ocular sensor sockets. Both their physical forms and minds exhibit far superior toughness and processing power compared to most organic lifeforms.

A key to the Necrons’ resilience lies in their ability to self-repair. Their living metal Necrodermis bodies contain molecular nanoscarabs that migrate to repair damage at a cellular level.

When injuries become too great for basic repairs, more grievously wounded Necrons will “phase out”, teleporting back to Tomb repair facilities for full reconstruction. However, each emergency phase diminishes their mental energy, gradually degrading them into robotic automatons as their engrams decay.

Weaponry and Technologies That Could End Worlds

The Necrons retain technologies and weaponry far beyond anything the younger races can comprehend, let alone replicate. Their mastery over quantum physics, nanotechnology, temporal manipulation and particulate physics goes unparalleled.

Some of their more common arms can reduce heavily armored vehicles to dispersing clouds of atoms in seconds. When fully awakened, a Necron dynasty commands weaponry that could crack open a planet itself.

Their signature gauss weaponry fires streams of subatomic particles that strip away matter layer by molecular layer. Warscythes employ exotic energies to phase through nearly any armor with ease.

Doomsday cannons project arcs of antimatter that destabilize molecular bonds, while particle whips sheer matter from targets at a monatomic level. Mysterious dolmen gates allow Necrons to traverse the stars without relying on the tumultuous Immaterium of the Warp. C’tan Shards wield the very power of stars, capable of unleashing energies that can obliterate titanic armies of lesser races.

The Necrons also employ countless varieties of robotic Canoptek constructs that require no crew, serving their tombs as automatons. Canoptek Scarabs devour nearly any material for conversion to repair dying Necrons.

Canoptek Wraiths phase in and out of reality, unleashing destructive beams as they serve as tomb sentinels. Canoptek Spyders oversee massive foundry-webs, increasing production of robotic forces.

Battles Against the Mechanical Tide

For most mortal races, defeating the Necrons in battle is a daunting if not impossible task. Their metal forms can recover from nearly any damage through self-repair protocols. When too grievously damaged, Necrons simply phase back to their tombs to rise again later.

To stop them requires completely overwhelming their reanimation abilities before they can escape.

Their weaponry reduces heavily armored vehicles and elite warriors to scattering atoms with impossible ease. Infantry are plagued by reanimating Necron “corpses” rising behind their lines. Their technology allows them to weather supernatural attacks as well – only by striking swiftly and decisively can an awakening Tomb World be thrown back into dormancy.

Some of the Necrons’ greatest defeats came at the hands of the Eldar and Old Ones during the War in Heaven. The Old Ones seeded new psychic races like the Krork Orks to battle the Necrons using the one power they lacked – the raw energy of the Warp.

Such psychic attacks remain one of the only reliable ways to disrupt Necron technologies and drive them back. But with the Eldar now a shadow of their former power, few defenders remain who can stand against the awakening Necron tide.\

If you are looking for a more in depth overview, head over to the Lexicanum and read up on Necrons there!

Notable Campaigns

The Necrons have begun awakening more frequently across the galaxy in recent millennia. Below are some of the most significant clashes as stasis tombs stir to life once more:

  • 763.M41 The Fall of Bromoch – Multiple Tomb Worlds awakened and brought swift destruction upon the Imperial Mining World of Bromoch.
  • 833.M41 The Rytak War – The Rytak and Kayra Dynasties entered a bitter conflict, with waves of Deathmarks assassins leaving both Planet-Lords dead.
  • 903.M41 The World Engine – A continent-sized Necron Tombship called The World Engine passed through the Koronus Expanse, ravaging dozens of systems before finally being destroyed.
  • 997.M41 The Second Damnos War – The Sautekh Dynasty awakened on Damnos, all but destroying the humans there until pushed back by the Ultramarines.
  • 999.M41 The Battle of Boros Gate – Imotekh the Stormlord nearly seized the Boros Gate space station that controls an entire sector of space. Only a last counterattack by the Imperial Navy narrowly retook it.
  • ~114.M42 The Cerberax Wars – On the fringe of the Milky Way, several Necron Dynasties united to shatter the Cerberax Sector, killing millions before being stopped.
  • ???.M42 The Pariah Nexus War – The Necrons sought a Waystone on the world of Gathalamor, but were halted by combined forces of Space Marines and Sisters of Battle.


From their tragic origins as the radiation-poisoned Necrontyr seeking solace, to their betrayal and damnation into machine bodies under the C’tan’s cruel ambition, the Necrons have survived across aeons in deathless slumber, waiting to reclaim their destiny.

Now, their ancient mechanical legions are awakening in force as stasis-tombs across the galaxy receive their silent calls to war once more. Though fractured by madness after millions of years in darkness, their soulless armies could unite into an unstoppable force.

Backed by living-metal bodies and technologies that rival magic, they have the might to crush whole sectors should the Dynasties unite under a common cause again.

As the great Necron reclamation builds momentum, it may only be a matter of time before their ancient Infinite Empire engulfs the galaxy in the cold shadow of their rule again.


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