5 August 2014 | Dark Heresy 2nd Ed.

Building a Hive

Developer Tim Huckelbery on Creating Hive Desoleum for Dark Heresy Second Edition


“They call this the bottom of the hive. Hah! I know for a fact there is a whole lot more even farther down…”    –Omar Endish, Purveyor of Sacrosanct Salvage

Millions of planets fill the galaxy in Warhammer 40,000, and no two are exactly the same. Hive worlds, forge worlds, feral worlds, and death worlds are vastly different from each other, and even within these categories, planets differ massively. In Dark Heresy Second Edition, you and your fellow Acolytes journey to countless unique planets across the Askellon sector, including Hive Desoleum, a decaying hive held together by ancient oaths.

Today, developer Tim Huckelbery explores the process of creating Hive Desoleum and the strange peoples who inhabit it.

Tim Huckelbery on Creating Hive Desoleum

It all started with a hive ganger. Or more precisely, what she looked like.

While creating new art descriptions for The Lathe Worlds, one of the earlier Dark Heresy books, we wanted to include a hive ganger image. Hives and the vicious gangers that inhabit them are an iconic part of Warhammer 40,000, and it was natural to include them. The issue was that a firm description of a hive ganger’s appearance is non-existent. There’s no such thing as “typical” or “normal” in the 41st millennium, so we couldn’t truly say our proposed hive ganger looked typical. Each ganger looks different, depending on the gang she belongs to. Each hive has its own groups of hive gangers, unique to that hive, and each world has unique hives. For us to create a hive ganger and bring her to life properly, we had a bit of work to do – we needed to build a world.

The first thing we did was create a gang for our ganger to walk alongside. Drawing inspiration from films, we decided that most gangs in our new hive would belong to gang affiliations, with each affiliation featuring an iconic fighting method, weapon type, or even clothing style. Our new gang, the Bloodlines, would be one of the Fleshcutter gangs, all obsessed with bladed weapons and ritual scarring. With one gang affiliation down, we went on to create more gang affiliations, such as the Death Masks, Tech-Gangers, Painted Throngs, and Cloudsboys. While the gangs were still rough ideas, we stepped back to create the setting these gangs would inhabit: Hive Desoleum itself.

We wanted to make this hive unique, and we decided that the hive wouldn’t run on cash or hard currency, but instead would rely on an elaborate network of oaths that tied everyone in the hive together in a network of debts and obligations. Every citizen of the hive would carry an oath-cog to track his own oaths. Lower workers wore simple mechanical devices, as their oaths lay predominantly with their overseer. The rulers owned much more elaborate versions, more like a brass snowstorm of tiny, whirring cogs and gears, so large that servitors had to carry the intricate mechanisms. This also led to concepts for normal clothing within the hive, thus leading to refinements in what gangers wore to rebel and stand out from the crowds. The oath-cogs worn by the hive’s Enforcers could even be detached and used as brutal melee weapons. The oath system completely drove the people’s customs and the hive’s operations, adding another wonderful piece to the Warhammer 40,000 setting.

Once the hive started coming together, the planet as a whole was next. We decided Desoleum possessed vast wastelands of irradiated glass and sand, with acidic oceans and gigantic creatures drifting through the abyssal depths. We also included some primordial xenos ruins, buried beneath radioactive sand, but always attracting those who sought alien relics for sale or adoration.

Now that the hive and the planet were complete, it was time for us to return to developing the gangs of Desoleum. Each of the gang affiliations received specific, named gangs and histories, plus a detailed sample ganger to use as a development aid for each gang. We added Chaos cults, mutant enclaves, and religious sects, alongside hive nobles and ancient hive structures like the Spine to add more mystery to the setting. Everything in Desoleum got attention, from the heights of Apex, where the hive rulers lives in opulence, to the deadly ruins and slums of the Underhive. I especially liked working in the depths far beneath the surface, the lawless areas that can seem to stretch on forever. For me, the only thing cooler than a hive is what may lurk beneath it. In these dark reaches, prospectors prowl the shores of underground seas, searching for lost archaeotech amidst mutant settlements and heretical worshippers. Here, wonders and terrors beyond imagining can be found.

It was a lot of work for just one art piece, but it was truly worth it. I really enjoyed developing this wonderful setting, and found myself using it and its peoples in other books as we worked on Dark Heresy Second Edition. Hive Desoleum was our first major location for the Askellon sector, and your Acolytes should have an exciting time exploring this massive hive and rooting out its heresies and dangers!

Enter the Hive

Thanks, Tim!

Your adventures in Dark Heresy Second Edition lead you across the exotic worlds of the Askellon sector to visit worlds ranging from Hive Desoleum to worlds untouched by mankind. Prepare to investigate heresy across the galaxy, and preorder Dark Heresy Second Edition at your local retailer today!

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