Galactic Civilization


Despite the use of faster than light warp drives, the enormous size of the galaxy means that it remains almost entirely unexplored. Even the Imperium of Man, by far the largest of all stellar empires, contains a very small number of the galaxy's stars. New star systems are constantly being discovered and investigated along with their native creatures, natural resources and alien civilizations. Even so, there is no possibility of humans exhausting the galaxy's potential to provide new worlds for habitation and exploitation.

The spiral arms of the galaxy contain recent stars and gas clouds where new stars are born. It is within these arms that the majority of the galaxy's habitable worlds lie, between ten and forty thousand light years from the galactic centre. Earth lies approximately 30 thousand light years from the galactic core in the main western spiral arm.

Not all human-settled worlds are global conurbations like the Earth. Some are relatively sparsely settled. Different worlds have different social structures, different economies, and different levels of technology. The same is true of alien worlds, although as most aliens are less mobile than humans their worlds tend to be self-supporting and less specialized.


Worlds belonging to the Imperium are ruled by a planetary governor called an Imperial Commander. The Imperial Commander may be appointed and replaced by the ruling body of the Imperium, the Administratum, but in almost all cases he is a hereditary ruler whose family was appointed to the governorship hundreds or thousands of years ago. The Imperial Commander is a feudal ruler. He holds his world for the Imperium - in return he must meet his feudal obligations.

These obligations vary from planet to planet depending on the arrangement made when the ruling family was installed. Common to all these conditions are certain obligations. Imperial Commanders must always help and cooperate with Imperial officials and Inquisitors. They must maintain the rule of the Imperium over their domain. They must provide troops for the Imperial Guard as required by the Departmento Munitorium. They must control psykers within their domain and provide a levy of psykers for the Adeptus Astra Telepathica. And they must pay the tithes set by the Administratum. In other respects Imperial Commanders are free to govern their worlds exactly as they please.


A major factor in the social, economic and technical development of human and alien worlds is the relative isolation of each solar system. Interstellar travel is not rare, but the vastness of the galaxy means that most worlds are distant and sometimes difficult to reach. The continual threat of warpstorms sometimes results in worlds being cut off for indeterminate periods of time and sometimes for good. In the Imperium, interstellar shipping remains the preserve of the Adeptus Terra. Imperial Commanders ultimately rely upon the Imperium for external contact. Due to all of these factors most settled worlds are insular. Their inhabitants may well acknowledge the existence of the Imperium, but this is hardly apparent in their daily lives.


Civilized Worlds

The majority of human and advanced alien worlds may be described as civilized - although the term refers to their urban landscapes rather than to any pretence of social decorum. These are worlds with large but balanced populations centered in large cities. They are self-supporting worlds where factories turn out the majority of their needs, and carefully managed farms produce sufficient food to feed the inhabitants.

Agricultural Worlds

These are little more than farming planets where most of the world's surface is given over to producing food. The food they produce is shipped to the hungry hive worlds and the technological materials they require are imported in return. These worlds are difficult to protect from food pirates and interstellar raiders. It has been known for rival Imperial Commanders to raid and steal grain and cattle barges from each other. The resulting skirmishes sometimes break out into full-scale war.

Industrial Worlds

These are factory planets given over to manufacture or mining. They are sparsely populated as most functions are accomplished mechanically. Only worlds possessing quantities of rare material are really worth developing in this way. Like agricultural worlds, they are difficult to defend.

Hive Worlds

Hives are huge urban conglomerations which can stretch across continents and which may reach miles into the sky. A planet may comprise many individual hives divided by areas of polluted waste - in some cases the world is completely built-up forming a single planet-wide hive. Hive worlds have huge, unmanageable populations and rely upon constant recycling to produce food. Such planets are usually rife with anarchic and destructive forces and as a result provide the richest source of fighting men for the Imperial Guard.

Medieval Worlds

Many re-discovered human worlds have regressed to a social and technological status usually described as medieval. When these worlds are absorbed into the Imperium they do not change much. There is little point in bringing technology to a society which is getting on perfectly well without it.

Feral Planets

Feral planets contain long-isolated populations where society has declined into complete savagery. Feral planets have a technological basis which is sub-medieval and often stone age. The Imperium regards the populations of such worlds as harmless but useless. The worlds may be explored and exploited for mineral wealth or settlement potential, in which case the natives may have to be controlled or exterminated.

Death Worlds

These are planets which are simply too dangerous to support human settlement. They vary a great deal in type. Typical worlds may be world-wide jungles which harbor man-eating plants and carnivorous animals, or barren rockscapes strewn with volcanoes and wracked by nuclear storms. These worlds are impossible to settle but must be properly explored which necessitates the provision of outposts and other facilities.

Research Stations

Worlds which contain no significant sentient population are often used by research units where dangerous experiments can be conducted into new aspects of technology. Perhaps the most common type is a Breeding Unit where local wildlife undergoes domestication and evaluation for food potential.


Each planet is responsible for its own defense. Imperial Commanders are obliged to build ground-based defenses, spaceports, and what defense fleets that can. The number of weapons and ships in any individual system will vary, depending on the enthusiasm of its governor as much as possible danger.

In addition to ships under the control of the Imperial Commander, planets lying in vulnerable positions or having a history of trouble may also have a Fleet base. Although Fleet ships are independent of those of the Imperial Commander, both would be ready to meet an emergency. Fleet ships may also be stationed in one system so that they can patrol a number of nearby star systems.

Ships built by Imperial Commanders are pure interplanetary craft with no warp drives. Fleet patrol ships would of course be interstellar ships with warp drives but they'd also have many small interplanetary ships operating from the launch bays built into their hulls.

In times of war or danger, fleet ships from all over a sector may be diverted from their normal duties to form a battlefleet. Rarely is it necessary to divert ships from other sectors, nor would it be worth moving vast numbers of ships just to defend a solitary world. A common Imperial ploy is to let a world fall, knowing that it can easily be retaken once sufficient craft can be mobilized. This is not a popular tactic with the populations of such planets, but spacecraft are valuable and difficult to replace whereas humanity is prolific


The vast majority of spacecraft in the Imperium are sub-stellar ships which travel only within the confines of their own star system. The laws governing the ownership and operating of sub-stellar ships are the concern of the Imperial Commander of each system. The Imperial authorities take no great interest in what happens on this, galactically-speaking, tiny level.

Sub-stellar ships divide into many kinds, from warships to industrial craft.


Most space warfare centres around planets, installations and other important targets within a solar system. It is therefore sensible to maintain sub-stellar craft in the proximity of vulnerable systems. These craft may be Fleet vessels operating out of a Fleet base, or they may be vessels belonging to the Imperial Commander of the system.

Cargo Ships

If a system has several inhabited planets it will need cargo ships of one kind or another. These may be owned and run by the planetary government or by private individuals, cartels or companies. Most systems would have both government- controlled and privately-owned craft.

Industrial Ships

These include all manner of ships used for maintenance, manufacture and mining, owned by governmental or private groups in the same way as cargo ships.

Research Ships

Very few systems are fully explored - there are always parts of a solar system which are uninvestigated. The exact nature of research or exploration varies from system to system. A common ship of this type is the mineral prospector which investigates potential mining areas.

Space Stations

It is not always possible to build bases or docking facilities on planets or asteroids, so space stations may be constructed instead. These are huge craft which provide all the facilities normally available on a planet.


Beacons are small space stations. They serve three functions. Firstly they act as navigational beacons by broadcasting a local signal. Secondly, they monitor passing spacecraft, sending information regarding size, course and registration signal. Thirdly, they act as emergency refuges where the crews of crippled ships can survive until they can be rescued. Beacons usually have a small crew, although some are entirely automated. The position and number of beacons in a system varies from none at all to hundreds.

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