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Genestealers by Paul Murphy (White Dwarf 114,115)


The Genestealers are a race of aliens from another galaxy who seek to conquer the Imperium from within. They infiltrate a planet, infecting citizens with their genetic material, causing their children to be born Genestealer-Human hybrids. A Stealer and its victims form a secret cult on the planet, wherein the Stealer's monstrous progeny can mature in safety and secrecy, until they are in a position to challenge the planet's rulers.

These cults seek to gain control over the host planet subtly, through hidden manipulation of the populace and subversion of the planetary government. However, they can put a potent force into battle if threatened. The Stealer cults sometimes form alliances with other cults, and they can be found fighting alongside Chaos or Vampire cults or warbands - or, if it suits their purpose, against them.

The Genestealers are among the most unusual of creatures Humanity has yet encountered, combining extraordinary intelligence and subtlety of mind with remarkable strength and quickness of body. Their torsos and extremities are protected by a deep blue carapace. Their sinewy muscles are purple-red. They are bipedal, standing in a perpetual crouch atop hooved feet, and they have two sets of arms, one equipped with Human-like hands, one with powerful ripping claws. The Genestealers' hairless heads are bulbous in shape, coloured the same deep purple-red as their muscles, with the creatures' fang-filled mouths and hypnotic eyes at the front.

Genestealers are stronger and hardier than Men, able to withstand even the most hostile environments - including hard vacuum - unprotected. They live for centuries.


The Genestealers' method of reproduction is as alien as their appearance. There are no male or female Genestealers: the Stealers do not mate with each other; they do not bear their own young. Instead, the Stealers infect' members of other races with their genetic material.

Genestealers are equipped with oviposters, or egg-layers, in their tongues. They have the ability to mesmerise their victims with their gaze, in much the way a snake can paralyse a bird with terror. Once the victim is subdued, the Stealer pierces the victim with its tongue, which deposits an egg beneath the skin.

The Stealer's egg never hatches - in fact, 'egg' is something of a misnomer; it is more like a cancer than an egg. When implanted, the egg begins to alter the host's genetic structure, cell by cell, wreaking particular damage to the victim's reproductive system. The victim shows little outward sign of the infection - in fact, he gains some of the Stealer's remarkable strength, resilience, and longevity, becoming healthier than he was before. However, the damage is horribly evident in the victim's children.

When someone infected by a Stealer mates, his offspring are hybrids - part Human, part Stealer, with the Stealer traits predominating. Once mature, these hybrids infect other Humans with eggs: their children are also hybrids, though they will look more like normal Humans.

Perhaps the most horrifying aspect of the entire cycle is that the Human hosts appear not to notice - or care - that their children are monsters. The parents love and cherish the creatures, above and beyond even normal parental affection. Whether this is because of some power of the child or because the parents are psychically dominated by the purestrain Genestealer is unknown.

Once the Genestealers begin to infiltrate and infect a new race, that race's days are clearly numbered. A single Genestealer can infect hundreds; their children can infect millions. Unless the infection is spotted early and ruthlessly countered, in short centuries the original race is all but extinct. This makes the Genestealers terrible, implacable enemies - they must constantly seek out new races to conquer, or their race will perish with their victims.


Though equipped with flexible, sensitive hands, purestrain Genestealers are mentally incapable of using even the simplest of tools and weapons. Apparently, the very concept of manipulating their environment through tools is entirely alien to their psychology, and they are not able to comprehend the workings of the lever, the spear or the blaster. This is extremely fortunate for the Imperium, for in every other way they are deadly warriors.

However, their hybrid children are not so limited. The first generation tends to have the same mental shortcomings as pure Stealers, but further generations - where the Human genes apparently have more influence - gain some of Man's facility with tools and weapons. Though not technological innovators, these later hybrids can use equipment others have designed and built.

The cycle of infection continues until about the fourth generation, when the hybrids are all but indistinguishable from purestrain Humans. The fourth generation hybrids have no oviposters and mate in the normal Human fashion, but they may spawn Humans, hybrids, or purestrain Genestealers.


Space hulks are massive, derelict vessels, locked in a strange, eternal voyage through the warp. These mysterious vessels appear only very rarely in Imperial space - and they bring either great wealth or great calamity to those who find them.

Very little is known about the warp. Some studies were undertaken during the Dark Ages of Technology, but most of the knowledge was lost in the Age of Strife, or suppressed by the Ordo Malleus in the years since. However, it is known that there are currents and eddies in the warp, which can trap a vessel in warpspace forever, or turn it from its course and deposit it back in realspace light years - or centuries - from its intended destination.

The vessels known as space hulks suffer a different, and in many ways, much more unpleasant, fate. Space hulks have been wrenched from their course, and drift helplessly through warpspace, travelling wherever the currents take them. They may stay locked in warpspace for centuries, or drop back into realspace minutes after entering the warp.

It is impossible to determine where or when - or if - a hulk will return to real space, and even the psychic Astropaths are unable to influence or predict the hulk's voyage. Once the hulk is returned to realspace, it is not free. Minutes, hours, days, or years later, it will be sucked back into the warp, to endure another uncertain, endless voyage.

Passengers trapped aboard a drifting space hulk face slow death by starvation - or quick death by madness. Possibly the most unfortunate are those whose vessels have efficient life-support systems: they may linger for centuries.

There appears to be some kind of pattern to the arrival and departure of space hulks, and periodically, two or more appear in realspace at the same place and time. If one is empty and dead and the other inhabited, the crew of the inhabited vessel scavenges the other for metal, energy, and spare parts, seeking to repair their own dying ship or expand their living space by binding the two vessels together. If both ships are occupied, the crews may fight savagely to take each other's vessel. Over the millennia, the patchwork vessels attain huge size.

It is impossible to predict when a hulk will re-enter the warp, so anyone who boards them risks eternal prison. However, there are many who are willing to take that risk. Some hulks have been in existence since the Dark Age of Technology or even earlier - though their original inhabitants are long dead, these vessels are treasure-houses of lost technology, containing secrets which could bring unimaginable wealth to anyone who dares plunder them.

Genestealers use this to their great advantage in the war against Man. They have boarded a number of space hulks, accompanied by their hybrid children. The hybrids construct cryogenic suspension chambers for the pure Stealers - though hardy and long-lived, even the Stealers cannot survive for centuries in the awful cold and vacuum of space.

Once the cryogenic chambers are complete, the hybrids depart. The purestrain Genestealers sleep, and the hulk continues its eternal voyage. Though it may take centuries, eventually - inevitably - some day the space hulk will reappear in populated space, to be discovered and boarded by foolhardy treasure-hunters.

When the space hulk is boarded, sensors are triggered, awakening the sleeping Genestealers. The boarding party is attacked, overwhelmed, infected - and then released. Several Stealers accompany the party back to their ship, infecting the ship's crew as well, and then hiding themselves in the ship's holds.

Psychically controlled by the Stealers, the ship's crew have little or no memory of the attack, and may not be aware that they have been infected or that they are carrying Stealers. When the ship reaches a Human-held planet, an implanted crewman departs, accompanied by a Genestealer. The vessel becomes a plague carrier, bringing its cargo of death and despair to each planet it visits.

Once on the planet, the Stealer goes into hiding, and the crewman under his control begins to form a cult.


There are many cults scattered throughout the Imperium. In an age where psychic power is strong, when Daemons and monsters stalk the galaxy, and the powers that be ruthlessly suppress all knowledge of these things, it is inevitable that the foolish, or curious, or power-hungry will seek this knowledge on their own. Such people often form religions, secret societies or hidden enclaves where they can experiment, plot, or worship far from the prying eyes of the Inquisition.

Some of these cults are harmless, run by religious quacks or charlatans; some are much more sinister. It is rumoured that there are millions of Chaos cults scattered throughout the Imperium, as well as other groups dedicated to the Emperor's downfall - including Genestealer cults.

When they arrive on a Human planet, the Genestealer and its Human thrall go as far away as possible from civilisation, settling in the most remote and desolate part of the planet - either in the far wilderness or deep in the bowels of the abandoned inner city. The Genestealer begins to prey on the Humans around him; those he infects join his cult. The children of the infected Humans (Human-Stealer hybrids) are kept well hidden from prying eyes.

A Genestealer cult usually masquerades as a new religion, with the Stealer's thrall as titular head. In outward appearance the religion is completely harmless, and often laudable, promoting hard work, cherishing the young and respecting the old, and encouraging extreme modesty (most of the priests and priestesses go about completely robed at all times). The religious message is simple, usually foretelling the coming arrival of the Blessed Children, who will lead their parents to eternal bliss.

As it grows in power and influence, the religion attracts genuine converts, who have no idea of the sinister cult hiding behind it. Eventually, these dupes are initiated into the deeper mysteries of the faith - and infected themselves.

Though Genestealers are driven by a ferocious and all but uncontrollable need to infect victims to ensure the survival of their species, the pure Stealer restrains itself and its progeny from infecting too many Humans too fast, recognizing that the religion's too-rapid growth might arouse the suspicion of the Imperial Inquisition.

The years pass, and eventually the third and fourth generation hybrids are born. Some are virtually indistinguishable from untainted Humans. It is at this point that the cult begins to spread its power across the planet. The titular head of the religion, the original crewmember infected by the Stealer, is removed, and his place is taken by a fourth generation hybrid. The hybrid, having some of the Genestealers' hypnotic powers, literally mesmerises those who see him, gaining new and even more fanatical members for the cult.

Other fourth generation hybrids leave the close protection of the cult and, masquerading as diplomats, religious missionaries, merchants, or other travellers, spread the infection across the planet, and throughout the Imperium.

Once the fourth generation is born, virtually the only way to stop the infection is to sterilize the entire planet, killing every living thing on it.


When a Genestealer fights, it does so as a wild beast - rending its opponents with its powerful claws, tearing at them with its razor-sharp teeth.

A Stealer is all but unstoppable in close combat; even a man protected by Tactical Dreadnought Armour is no match. Thus, close combat is at the heart of a Genestealer cult's battle tactics - a massive wave assault of Stealers, hybrids, and Human fanatics. If the attackers reach the enemy's position, the enemy is almost certainly doomed.

In battle, the cult is led by its Magus - a fourth generation hybrid who is the figurehead leader of the cult. The purestrain Genestealer continues to advise the Magus, but it leaves the actual generalship to someone who is better able to understand the opponent's weaponry.

The Magus and Genestealer are accompanied by the core of the cult - the coven, containing most of the early-generation hybrids and a small number of Humans armed with ranged weapons. The coven takes no part in the early stages of the battle, merely directing the other troops, providing a rallying point, and awaiting the moment to spring.

The cult probably won't have a good deal of ranged weaponry at its disposal - the Genestealer is indifferent to such things and they are often difficult for any but legitimate military forces to attain.

Whatever ranged weapons the cult has are concentrated in a single unit. This unit takes up a good defensive position, attempting to engage the enemy's ranged weapons, pinning them down and drawing fire away from the coven's shock troops.

The bulk of the cult's fanatic Human members are provided with close assault weapons - short-range guns, if available, rocks, clubs, swords, and the like. Forming up in massive waves, they rush out onto the field, screaming wildly, firing indiscriminately, and waving the cult's battle banner. This has two purposes: to work them up into an even greater frenzy, and to frighten and demoralize the enemy. They advance mindlessly, taking no notice of casualties - the only way to stop them is to kill them all.

When the enemy is demoralized or the battle hangs in the balance, the coven itself enters the fray. Moving close behind the fanatics, drawing protection from enemy fire by the seething mass of frenzied Humanity, the Magus, the purestrain Stealer and the early hybrids move in for the kill. When the fanatics have reached the enemy lines, the coven springs into action, ripping their opponents apart in an orgy of blood and destruction.

Of course, specific details vary from battle to battle. The cult may have auxiliary troops from allied Chaos cults or other Genestealer cults; rogue psykers or Beastmen may be fighting alongside the cult for their own purposes; the cultists may be mounted on horseback or within an armoured vehicle; the Magus may be possessed by a Daemon (an awesome combination indeed!). But whatever the circumstances, the overall tactics remain the same: get in close and tear the enemy apart.

Few can face the awesome might of a Genestealer cult at war. If discipline is at all weak, if they waver for even a moment, they are surely doomed.


Purestrain Genestealers can only reproduce by infecting a victim with their genetic material. The gene-host survives as a healthy Human being, but, upon becoming a parent, the gene-host's firstborn child is indelibly marked by the gene-infection. Once the child matures into a Human-Genestealer Hybrid, it can pass the infection on to other Humans, whose firstborn will also be born as Hybrids. It is only the firstborn child of infected parents that is a Human-Genestealer Hybrid; later offspring will always be normal Humans.

The first generation Hybrids closely resemble purestrain Genestealers. But, with each new generation of Hybrids, Genestealer traits give way to Human traits, until fourth generation Hybrids arc all but indistinguishable from untainted Humans. However, a Hybrid will always display the Genestealer's primal instincts; these always remain in their genetic structure, and - no matter how Human in appearance - a Hybrid belongs to the Genestealer brood.

Purestrain Genestealers are totally incapable of passing as Human. Their multiple arms, bulbous heads, glaring eyes, and animal crouch give them away; no amount of clothing and make-up can disguise such characteristics. However, later generations, particularly the third and fourth, become more humanoid in appearance. Indeed, many Genestealers of advanced generations can appear as Humans at first glance, especially if wearing concealing clothing. However, as their sharp teeth and hypnotic eyes are somewhat of a giveaway, they tend to avoid speaking to strangers or looking at people straight in the face.

It follows that, in many ways, the later generation Hybrids are the most dangerous - they can move freely among Humans, passing on their terrible disease unnoticed.

Due to the sheer number of Humans throughout the Imperium they are the race most commonly affected by Genestealers. Nevertheless, there is no reason why any other race cannot be infected; Ork-Genestealer Hybrids are perfectly possible - indeed many exist. The appearance of such Hybrids would, of course, depend on the parent race, and they would show different physical characteristics than a Human-Genestealer crossbreed.


By infecting a victim with its genetic material, a Genestealer passes on some of its physical characteristics to the victim's first offspring. In the first generation, this gives rise to a Hybrid with a number of Genestealer traits. Through successive generations of Hybrids these traits become less extreme, until in the fourth generation the Hybrids can pass as normal Humans.

Each physical characteristic goes through certain distinct stages.

The Head

Although Genestealer Hybrids gradually lose their long bulbous craniums as the generations progress, their hypnotic, staring eyes remain; their appearance often gives away a Hybrid who otherwise looks quite Human. In the same way, fangs become shorter in later generations although all the Hybrids retain vicious sharp teeth.

The Carapace

Purestrain Genestealers have a tough, armoured carapace with a horny spinal ridge, and raised ligatures running along their limbs. They are also bent over in a perpetual crouch, as if waiting to spring, making them appear much shorter than their true height. Later Hybrids lose the carapace, and attain a more upright stance as the spine straightens out to accommodate a more Human hip structure.

The Arms

Purestrain Genestealers have four arms - a pair with hands from their midsection, and a pair with powerful claws mounted at their shoulders with which they attack. Later Hybrids lose one or both of the clawed arms, leaving only those with hands, and their hands become more able to handle manipulative tasks of an intricate nature.

The Legs

Throughout the successive generations, the Hybrids lose the long, powerful legs typical of the Purestrain Genestealers and acquire normal Human legs.

The Purestrain and Hybrid Characteristics table summarises the physical form of the Genestealer and its descendants.









Hypnotic Gaze


Psi Powers









































50% Chance
















The firstborn of a fourth generation Hybrid is a Purestrain.


Purestrain Genestealers and first generation Hybrids are extremely fast and agile when on the attack.

Purestrain Genestealers and first generation Hybrids can deliver a powerful and destructive blow with their claws, and have a considerably longer reach than most Humans or later generation Hybrids.

The Genestealer Kiss

Purestrain and early generation Hybrids have an ovipositor in their throat which is used to implant the Stealer gene into their victims.

After being implanted with the Stealer gene, the victim immediately collapses in a coma and is unable to do anything. The victim recovers after a few days and appears completely unharmed, if somewhat dazed and with no conscious memory of the Genestealer attack. There are no outward signs that the victim is host to the Stealer gene.

Obviously, a Genestealer intent on passing its genetic material on to a victim will make no further attacks, or do any harm to the victim, once the implant attack is successful. In addition, other Genestealers can identify unconscious gene hosts and will not harm them.

Third generation Hybrids have a 50% chance of having an ovipositor. If they do not possess one, they are neuter Hybrids or Drones, and are unable to mate at all (although, with the appropriate surgical equipment, they can pass on the Stealer gene by injecting a victim with their blood).

Fourth generation Hybrids always lack the ovipositor and can only mate in the normal Human manner.

Genestealers and Weaponry

Purestrain Genestealers are unable to use Human weaponry; their thought processes and aggressive instincts are entirely alien, and they rely instead on their own natural forms of attack. However, later generation Hybrids are sufficiently Human to be able to understand and manipulate weaponry designed for Human hands, eyes and minds.


Purestrain Genestealers and all Hybrids are immune to the effects of psychology.


Both Purestrain Genestealers and Hybrids possess two innate traits that are similar in operation to psychic abilities: their Hypnotic Gaze allows them to paralyse foes prior to the implantation of the Stealer gene, while Brood Telepathy allows them to transmit and receive messages.

Psychic Hybrids

Purestrain Genestealers and first and second generation Hybrids have no psychic powers except for their innate abilities, Hypnotic Gaze and Brood Telepathy. Third and fourth generation Hybrids, however, will often have additional psychic powers. Inherited psychic traits passed on from infected psykers in the Hybrid's ancestory may become apparent in the near-Human third and fourth generation Hybrids.

Purestrains and Hybrids can recognise Human psykers when they find them. Genestealers are attracted to psykers, and share none of the normal Human's prejudices against them, simply regarding them as exceptionally advanced specimens of the race. Consequently, the psykers in a community are amongst the first to be infected by the Stealer gene. This means that Human psychic traits will pass into the gene pool of the Hybrid brood, to be inherited by later generations. Thus, by the third and fourth generations, the Hybrids can develop full psychic powers in addition to possessing the two innate abilities of Genestealers.

Psychic Hybrids tap raw psychic energy emenating from the primitive Genestealer Power that exists in the warp - the shadow image of the will to survive' of the Genestealer species. Psychic Hybrids who worship a Chaos Power may of course draw psychic energy from their patron, thus tainting their simple Genestealer souls.


The ultimate origin of Genestealers remains unknown, but at any given time there are many broods of Genestealers scattered throughout the universe - either existing parasitically in a host society, dominating a subdued race, or on the move to found a new colony.

It is those broods that are at the expansion stage in the cycle of infestation and conquest, those who require new hosts to breed with, that become a Genestealer Invasion Force.

The reason why the brood has to move on is explained by a summary of its breeding cycle. The first stage is the infection of the original host by a Purestrain Genestealer. Subsequently, this infected gene-host goes on to form a family, from which his first offspring is a first generation Hybrid. This Hybrid then infects more Human hosts, who in turn engender second generation Hybrids - and so the process goes on, progressing geometrically.

After four generations of infected hosts (taking less than a century), a brood made up hybrids of various generations has arisen. The Human members' kin, the parents and untainted siblings, feel very intense bonds towards their Hybrid relations, even though they are deformed. Thus, the entire extended family forms a close-knit clan, the head of which will be the Purestrain progenitor of all the brood, known as the Patriarch.

Once it has become big enough, the clan will strive for dominance within the host society, initiating Chaos worship if it encounters difficulty, to harness power to assist in the struggle. The clan thus becomes a cult.

The fourth generation Hybrids within the clan will go on to found families like normal Humans, with their firstborn being Purestrain Genestealers. Because Hybrids live for Human lifetimes however, and because Purestrains are immortal, the early Hybrids in the brood will die out, leaving an increasing number of Purestrain Genestealers.

Once a whole new generation of Purestrains has grown to maturity, the brood-cycle is almost complete. It is now time for the Purestrain brood, led by their Patriarch, to find a new host with which to continue the cycle, and to found a new colony. In this way, with each Purestrain potentially the Patriarch of a future brood - indeed, it becomes one as soon as it breeds - the Genestealer race expands throughout the universe.

Because they require new genetic material, the Patriarch of each brood and his Purestrain descendants, along with the remaining later generation Hybrids, will either trek to another settlement, city or region, or embark on a captured starship or space hulk to travel to another planet. In the latter case, the Hybrids serve the brood by operating the controls of the spacecraft. Eventually, all of the Hybrids die off, leaving only the Patriarch and the Purestrains.

Once the brood encounters a new intelligent race, the cycle can begin again. They may either overwhelm and infect those who investigate their spacecraft, or transport an advance party on to the hosts' ship or planet. The advance party has the task of overwhelming local defences and any opposition they encounter to prepare the way for the rest of the brood. It is this advance party that is the Genestealer Invasion Force.