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Dark Heresy (2nd ed, 2014), p404-410 — The Callers of Sorrow

Like a cancer worming its way throughout an unsuspecting body, the Callers of Sorrow spread their corruption unseen amongst the hive populace. They have numerous aid houses under a variety of covers, where they offer assistance to the sick and injured lacking access to medicae support. They also comfort those crushed with despair, carefully hiding the cult's true nature from all those seeking help. The cult's flesh savants can tend to the pain of the sick and dying with supernatural efficacy, and can even extend life - for the right price, paid in much more than mere hive-scrip or oath-extensions.

Hive Desoleum is sometimes likened to a living thing, a great creature of metal. To the Callers of Sorrow, the hive is all but dead, and their purpose is to hasten its inevitable collapse. They look to the Underhive's decrepitude as Desoleum's ultimate fate, and see any attempts to forestall this as futile and foolish. With morose glee, they seek to accelerate the hive's fall. When first inducted, members are educated on these elements, and they often view it as an act of rebellion against their cruel masters. As they are inducted deeper into the cult's beliefs, they learn that the decay is not symbolic, but literal, as the higher echelons seek to harness the power of the Warp to bring about their goals.

The Callers of Sorrows are organised in a cell structure, each functioning as a complete cult in its own right, each subservient to a charismatic and powerful Preceptor. Only the higher-ranked members even realise there are levels beyond the bounds of their sect. Each cell, known as a Strain within the cult, centres its activities and rites on a different aspect of decay or disease. When a Strain takes action against the hive, it does so in a way that corresponds to its speciality, viewing the hive as a living creature supported by numerous organ systems. A Strain that focusses on diseases of the respiratory system, for instance, might plot to damage the hive's air-cyclers, or use them to dispense an airborne pathogen.

As if in imitation of disease itself, most Strains are content to bide their time before making a move, festering unseen as they lay careful plans, taking pains not to reveal themselves until it is too late for the hive to halt its infection. Sanctionaries and Arbites are often caught unprepared, as when nearly a decade ago the Leech Children slowly introduced a deadly affliction into a major water distillery. The total death count from this pollution of the hive's lifeblood is unknown, but still rising. To date, five districts have been placed under quarantine.

The Profane and Heretical

These humans have forsaken the Emperor's Light in the worship of the Pestilent Lord, and exist only to see Hive Desoleum brought low with decay and death. Many cultists twist their oath-bonds to the cult's ends, from a labourer slowing production to a noble funnelling his family's wealth to finance his loathsome Strain. The longer one remains in the cult, however, and the greater his dedication, the more his body reflects the decay in his soul. As the cultists engage in blasphemous rituals to call on the pestilent powers of Chaos, their own living flesh decays or succumbs to unnatural diseases, leaving them alive yet horribly afflicted. Even their oath-cogs become rusted beyond all function, decayed and layered with grime.


It takes a strong personality to lead a cult, along with the capability to twist minds against all that a good citizen of the Imperium believes. The leaders of the Callers of Sorrow are no exception. Preceptors, as they call themselves, often present an aura of morose amusement, rather than the fiery bombast other cult leaders utilise. They allege absurdity in the oath-system, providing an exit for disillusioned hivers unhappy with their lot. Some Preceptors are drawn to the worship of Chaos primarily as a way to further their personal power and influence, while others are fanatically devoted to the tenets of the Callers of Sorrow. All are charismatic and strong-willed, and extremely dangerous foes.

Preceptor (Master)

Wounds: 33

Armour: Head 6, Arms 8, Body 8, Legs 8

Movement: 2/4/6/12

Threat: 29

Boltgun: Class Basic, Rng 100m, RoF S/3/-, Dmg 1d10+5 (X), Pen 4, Clip 24, Rld 1 Full, Wt 7kg, Avl VR, Tearing

Skills: Awareness (Per), Command (Fel) +20, Deceive (Fel) +20, Dodge (Ag), Forbidden Lore (Daemonology) (Int) +10

Talents: Jaded, Peer (Heretical Cults), True Grit

Traits: Touched by the Fates (2), Unnatural Toughness (2)

Gear: Flak robes, ceremonial talismans

Look Out Sir!: Once per round, as a Reaction, after a successful attack test is made against the Preceptor (but before Hit Locations are determined), he can nominate one other allied character within 5 metres. That character becomes the new target of the attack, and the attack proceeds as normal.

Pox Magister

Whether through the emergence of psychic abilities or pacts with Daemonic entities, many Preceptors are practitioners of the dark arts. Fearsome displays of unfettered sorcery further cement their control over the cult, proving the might of Chaos. These sorcerers are horrific in action, their honeyed words and gestures able to tear reality itself apart to draw forth the Warp's corrupting energies.

Pox Magister (Master)

Wounds: 21

Armour: Head 5, Arms 8, Body 8, Legs 8

Movement: 3/6/9/18

Threat: 30

Force Sword: Class Melee, Rng -, RoF -, Dmg 1d10+71+PR+SB (E), Pen 52+PR, Clip -, Rld -, Wt 5kg, Avl NU, Balanced, Force

Skills: Awareness (Per) +10, Command (Fel) +10, Parry (WS), Forbidden Lore (Daemonology) (Int) +20, Psyniscience (Per) +10

Talents: Bastion of Iron Will, Resistance (Disease, Psychic Powers), Strong Minded, Warp Sense

Traits: Psyker (PR 3), Touched by the Fates (1), Unnatural Toughness (2)

Psychic Powers: Endurance, Enfeeble, Life Leech, Nurgle's Rot (see sidebar on page 406)

Gear: Flak robes, tomes and scrolls of arcane lore

Contagion Demagogue

These foul spreaders of untruth and heresy are one of the most dangerous enemies an Acolyte might encounter. This is not due to combat prowess, though they may indeed be formidable, but the power these traitors wield over their followers. Some were formerly loyal preachers, now turned apostate and capable of corrupting those from their flock and beyond. Even those without a background in the Cult Imperialis possess such strength of faith and oration that their speeches can draw great crowds. Poisoned in mind and spirit, the masses readily hail the demagogue as prophet.

Contagion Demagogue (Elite)

Wounds: 15

Armour: Head 2, Arms 3, Body 3, Legs 3

Movement: 3/6/9/18

Threat: 10

Laspistol: Class Pistol, Rng 30m, RoF S/2/-, Dmg 1d10+2 (E), Pen 0, Clip 18, Rld Half, Wt 1.5kg, Avl CM, Reliable

Chainsword: Class Melee, Rng -, RoF -, Dmg 1d10+52+SB (R), Pen 2, Clip -, Rld -, Wt 6kg, Avl AV, Balanced, Tearing

Skills: Charm (Fel) +10, Command (Fel) +10, Deceive (Fel) +10, Intimidate (S) +10

Talents: Hatred (Everything), Adamantium Faith

Traits: Unnatural Fellowship (2)

Gear: Cult robes, and religious or blasphemous icons

Unholy Oration: As a Half Action, the demagogue may make an Ordinary (+10) Command test to sap the will of those who oppose him. If he succeeds at this test, a number of targets (up to his Fellowship bonus) that are in line of sight and earshot suffer 1 level of Fatigue. Note that a character can only be affected by this action once during an encounter; multiple uses do not stack on the same target.

Strain Initiate

New recruits to the Callers are found everywhere in the hive, from sickly dregs in the Gorges to ailing Apex nobles fearing the emptiness of their lives. Regardless of their birth or previous deeds, each has forfeited his soul by turning to the power of Chaos. Most are able to continue in their old lives and occupations as they rise in the cult, their appearance as yet unblemished by Chaos. Many accept or self-inflict ritual wounds and brands, allowing them to fester until few can avoid noticing the stench and filth.

Strain Initiate (Troop)

Wounds: 11

Armour: All 4

Movement: 3/6/9/18

Threat: 5

Stub Revolver: Class Pistol, Rng 30m, RoF S/-/-, Dmg 1d10+3 (I), Pen 0, Clip 6, Rld 2 Full, Wt 1.5kg, Avl PL, Reliable

Skills: Medicae (Int) +10

Gear: Dirty robes

Strain Infector

Full Strain members gain further access into the mysteries of the Callers of Sorrow, and their minds and souls become twisted beyond redemption as their devotion deepens. They often wear concealing clothing, for their forms are marked with the infections and diseases they eagerly share as ordered. Knowing the fate that awaits them at the hands of the Sanctionaries, infectors refuse to surrender, and are rarely taken alive.

Strain Infector (Troop)

Wounds: 13

Armour: Head 4, Arms 5, Body 5, Legs 4

Movement: 4/8/12/24

Threat: 6

Autogun: Class Basic, Rng 100m, RoF S/3/-, Dmg 1d10+3 (I), Pen 0, Clip 30, Rld 1 Full, Wt 5kg, Avl AV

Skills: Acrobatics (Ag), Dodge (Ag) +10, Medicae (Int) +10, Sleight of Hand (Ag) +10

Talents: Hip Shooting

Gear: Hive leathers

Unholy Resilience: Attacks targeting the infector's insensitive form cannot trigger Righteous Fury.


Fanatically devoted to the Callers of Sorrow, these zealots show little regard for their own lives. They are steeped in the corruption of Chaos, their bloated bodies deformed in reflection of their impure souls. Though less affected than mutants, the touch of the Warp is evident on them through festering wounds, pus-filled boils, and hideous pox-scars. In order to operate publicly, pestilentants must conceal their wretched forms completely, commonly using heavy rebreathers, enclosed furnace suits, or hooded robes. Most are far too insane to be trusted with delicate assignments, so their appearance is often the prelude to an all-out attack.

Pestilentant (Troop)

Wounds: 15

Armour: Head 5, Arms 5, Body 6, Legs 5

Movement: 3/6/9/18

Threat: 8

Sword: Class Melee, Rng -, RoF -, Dmg 1d10+6SB (R), Pen 0, Clip -, Rld -, Wt 3kg, Avl CM, Balanced

Skills: Acrobatics (Ag) +10, Intimidate (S) +20

Talents: Devastating Assault

Traits: Unnatural Strength (2), Unnatural Toughness (1), Unnatural Willpower (2)

Gear: Leather scrap armour

Exploit Weakness: When making a melee attack a target with at least 1 level of Fatigue, the pestilentant gains a +10 bonus to the Weapon Skill test for each level of Fatigue the target has.

The Twisted and Monstrous

For those afflicted by mutation, hope is a luxury long since cast aside. It is a constant problem in Hive Desoleum, often the result of toxic manufacturing by-products and ancient radiation hazards in the deep hive. Hivers are taught from birth to hate and shun the mutant, a common decree from the pulpit. They know that mutation is an outward sign of an evil nature, a punishment and mark of sin. Indeed, the touch of Chaos and exposure to the Warp cause mutation at least as surely as any toxic hazards. No matter the source, a hiver with a minor mutation might attempt to hide it and go about his life, but always knows even his family would turn on him should they discover the truth.

Mutants are common in the Gorges, where dangerous environmental pollutants combine to result in horrifically unstable genes. Entire mutant populations gather and thrive in these dark reaches. Certain manufactorums in the lowest hive levels, collectively denigrated as blighted factories, tolerate mutants among their workforce. Even by hive standards, these labourers are treated brutally. Within the Main Hive, mutants must be cautious, as wandering into the wrong hab might get them attacked and burned alive. It is no surprise that many discard their oaths and flee far downhive. Isolated in the Dark far below Desoleum, they often become the flesh-eating monsters that hivers assume them to be.


The Callers of Sorrow offer a natural home for mutants whose deformities are an obvious symptom of the hive's decay, and hail them as the blessed fleshbent. Some are motivated to join by hatred for the hive that has persecuted them, others simply to be amongst like-minded souls and individuals who care not for, or even celebrate, their mutations. Worse still are those who became mutants in the course of their service to the Callers of Sorrow. As cult members partake further in the worship of the Lord of Decay and the rituals of the Warp, their flesh rebels at the unnatural influence of the Immaterium. Many cultists view these mutations as blessings from the Gods of Chaos, and as they pay their respect to the Lord of Decay, the gifts often include writhing tentacles, jointed eyestalks, extra heads, bestial features, or crowns of flickering balefire.

Some are horrifically altered creatures beyond even the grotesqueries of mutant wretches. With no place in society, it is natural that they flock to Chaos cults. While some retain their minds, at least as much as any servant of Chaos can, others are afflicted by madness and mental decay. They are often a great asset to the cult for their ferocity in combat, but of little use otherwise. Depending on the nature of their physical mutations, such dim-witted or insane creatures might be given a place of respect amongst the cult. Known as the Favoured of the Father, their nonsensical ramblings are taken as prophecy, and they act as advisors to the cult leadership.

Fleshbent (Troop)

Wounds: 11

Armour: Head 4, Arms 4, Body 5, Legs 4

Movement: 3/6/9/18

Threat: 7

Shotgun: Class Basic, Rng 30m, RoF S/-/-, Dmg 1d10+4 (I), Pen 0, Clip 8, Rld 2 Full, Wt 5kg, Avl AV, Scatter

Skills: Survival (Per) +10

Traits: Unnatural Strength (1), Unnatural Toughness (1)

Gear: Scavenged leather armour, broken trinkets and mementos

Fleshbent: These lowly mutants exhibit a wide array of strange and terrible alterations from the blessed form of humanity, and the GM should apply appropriate traits and entries from Table 8-16: Mutations on page 292 to create unique mutants to face the PCs.


Some mutants grow to inhuman size, their profane nature marked by impossible masses of muscle and dense flesh. The Callers of Sorrow actively seek out these creatures for their sheer physical bulk, their misshapen bodies a reflection of their Pestilent Father's corpulent bounty.

Malatant (Elite)

Wounds: 27

Armour: Head 6, Arms 9, Body 9, Legs 6

Movement: 4/8/12/24

Threat: 10

Great Weapon: Class Melee, Rng -, RoF -, Dmg 2d10+5SB (R), Pen 0, Clip -, Rld -, Wt 7kg, Avl SC, Unbalanced

Skills: Athletics (S) +20, Survival (Per) +10

Talents: Crushing Blow, Iron Jaw

Traits: Size (5)

Gear: Scavenged flak armour, gruesome trophies

Smash to the Ground: Whenever a malatant strikes with an attack, the target also suffers 1d5+5 Agility damage.


These hideous mutants have taken on diseased and even necrotic appearances. In the most extreme cases, they must even feed on human flesh to sustain their own decaying forms. They are especially favoured within the Callers of Sorrow, who see them as the most blessed of Nurgle's mortal children.

Necrophage (Elite)

Wounds: 19

Armour: Head 3, Arms 4, Body 4, Legs 3

Movement: 5/10/15/30

Threat: 10

Cleaver: Class Melee, Rng -, RoF -, Dmg 1d10+4SB (R), Pen 1, Clip -, Rld -, Wt 3kg, Avl CM, Unbalanced

Skills: Acrobatics (Ag) +10, Dodge (Ag) +10, Survival (Per) +10

Talents: Assassin Strike, Constant Vigilance (Per)

Traits: Fear (1), Regeneration (6)

Gear: Scavenged leather armour

Leaching: Whenever he successfully inflicts damage to an enemy with a melee attack, the necrophage immediately removes 1d5+4 damage from himself.


The mutants known to some as toxers often thrive amidst the noxious chemical lakes of the Dark. These impossible creatures' twisted forms exude blighted chemicals fatal to normal humans, and often house hideous nests of twisted vermin in place of internal organs.

Toxer (Elite)

Wounds: 18

Armour: Head 4, Arms 5, Body 5, Legs 4

Movement: 3/6/9/18

Threat: 12

Claws and Teeth: Class Melee, Rng -, RoF -, Dmg 1d5+5SB (I), Pen 0, Clip -, Rld -, Wt -, Avl -, Tearing, Toxic (2)

Skills: Survival (Per) +20

Talents: True Grit

Traits: Amphibious, Deadly Natural Weapons

Gear: Scavenged leather armour

Toxer Cloud: Whenever the toxer suffers damage, he immediately creates a debilitating miasma centred at his location with a radius of 3 metres that lasts for 5 rounds. While within a toxer cloud, enemy characters suffer -20 penalty on all tests; this penalty does not stack if an enemy is within multiple clouds.


Psykers who do not submit to the Black Ships of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica are universally dangerous, for even the least of them can still be the doom of an entire world. Every unprotected mind is a potential gateway through which the Daemons of the Warp can enter reality.

Unsanctioned psykers can hope for no peace in Hive Desoleum. Eventually, their nature is discovered, and they must fight or flee death by fire at the hands of a fearful mob. Some turn to the Dark Gods, for Chaos promises a path to power and perhaps even safety. A cult is one of the few places where rogue psykers are welcomed; the Callers of Sorrow in particular seek them out eagerly. From minor Warp-callers to terrifying Warp-priests, they are often used in cult rituals to beseech the Plague Father for new blessings to inflict on their foes.

Warp-Caller (Troop)

Wounds: 9

Armour: Head 2, Arms 3, Body 3, Legs 3

Movement: 3/6/9/18

Threat: 7

Staff: Class Melee, Rng -, RoF -, Dmg 1d10+3SB (R), Pen 1, Clip -, Rld -, Wt 3kg, Avl PL, Balanced, Primitive (7)

Skills: Psyniscience (Per) +20

Traits: Psyker (PR 2), Unnatural Willpower (2)

Psychic Powers: Enfeeble, Hallucination, Misfortune

Gear: Robes, assorted talismans and fetishes, malefic texts

Warp-Priest (Elite)

Wounds: 16

Armour: Head 4, Arms 5, Body 5, Legs 5

Movement: 4/8/12/24

Threat: 12

Force Staff: Class Melee, Rng -, RoF -, Dmg 1d10+8PR+SB (E), Pen 62+PR, Clip -, Rld -, Wt 2kg, Avl ER, Force

Skills: Dodge (Ag) +10, Psyniscience (Per) +30

Talents: Constant Vigilance (Per), Warp Sense

Traits: Psyker (PR 4), Unnatural Willpower (1)

Psychic Powers: Assail, Fiery Form, Iron Arm, Life Leech, Smite

Gear: Robes, false oath-cog

Psy Drain: As a Free Action, once per round, the Warp-priest may target one psyker ally within 10 metres who possesses a psy rating lower than his own. The target immediately suffers 1d5+5 Willpower damage and the Warp-priest then increases his psy rating by 1 for the remainder of the round.

Spawn of Chaos

The Ruinous Powers reward their followers with all manner of gifts. These twist bodies and minds in ways impossible to imagine, perhaps adding acidic saliva, an exoskeleton of red-hot rock, or leathery wings. To follow the Path of Chaos is to accept these gifts, no matter what deformities they bring, for at the end is the ultimate blessing of ascension to a Daemon Prince. There is, however, only so much mortal flesh can withstand before sanity and physical control is forever lost. If a mortal is not transformed into a Daemon, there comes a time when the mutations become overwhelming and he becomes a Spawn of Chaos.

A Spawn is a monstrous sight, each a unique, gibbering mass of tissue that should not possibly live but still does, powered through the unholy energy of the Dark Gods. Some might have multitudes of oily tentacles, or have grown insectoid eyes, or even sprouted new faces along their body that scream their pain with each motion. The Callers of Sorrow often have small numbers of Spawn chained in the lower depths of their strongholds, where they are worshipped as divine revelations of the power of Chaos made manifest. Often the Spawn are fed with captured enemies, or set loose to cause terror as part of larger cult actions.

Spawn of Chaos (Elite)

Wounds: 35

Armour: All †

Movement: AB/2AB/3AB/6AB

Threat: 11

Clawed Tentacles: Class Melee, Rng 2m, RoF -, Dmg 1d10+†SB (I), Pen 1, Clip -, Rld -, Wt -, Avl -, Flexible, Snare (1), Toxic (1)

Traits: Deadly Natural Weapons, Fear (3), From Beyond, Regeneration (12)

†Constant Mutation: Roll 30+3d10 to determine each of the Chaos Spawn's characteristics at the start of each new encounter. GMs should feel free though to alter these as desired to create specific Spawn, and are encouraged to apply traits and results from Table 8-16: Mutations on page 292 to fashion even greater variety for these monstrous creatures.