Scavvies are humans who exist in the lowest reaches of the Hive cities and/or Starships, where the effluent of industry makes its way downward and pollutes the environment. This is also a region where the rule of the Imperium holds little influence and so there exists little rule of law and even less support or provision of food and water.
A typical Scavvy appears how one would expect any human who lives in extreme poverty to appear. They have a very poor complexion of almost yellow skin, due to the build-up of pollutants, the lack of sunlight, and disease. They also often have wasted and/or deformed limbs, probably due to poor healthcare or birth defects.
Despite these outward defects, it is important to note that Scavvies are not necessarily Mutants, although mutants do appear among them as they do among other human populations. The majority of scavvies are of baseline human stock, just horrifically deformed or inbred to the point of it being completely apparent.
While the term "Scavvy" pretty much only applied to gangs of underhive scum in the tabletop game: Necromunda, this article will attempt to cover a wider range of the lowest of the low.
While they were originally presented in the table-top battles game Necromunda, that era has long since passed.
However, that's not to say they have completely vanished. Dark Heresy has incorporated much of the pre-existing fluff into options for player characters (though that wasn't difficult, as Scavvies are simply a by-product of their environment), and if you want to field them on the tabletop in much larger battles then go no further than the Renegade & Heretics army list and choose a Mutant Overlord as your HQ choice.
Due to the nature of their environment, Scavvies must group together in order to survive. Yet due to the isolation and their anti-social behaviours, these groups invariably consist of several families that are severely inbred, no doubt increasing their rate of degeneration.
Yet loyalty to their family is not a common trait held by scavvies, and thus the group is held together through a combination of brute force and underhandedness by the strongest male of the pack (ie: the gang leader) who has to pass Leadership Tests after every battle or some of its members will wander off.
Scavvies do not organise themselves well enough to occupy or operate any territory that they might inhabit, which may or may not be a result of their lack of education. Thus any location that they move their base camp to will quickly accumulate garbage and filth as they fling food scraps all over the place and have not quite figured out how to use the plumbing and flush toilets and the like. In gameplay terms any territory they hold onto becomes Scrofulous Wastes immediately after they capture it, rendering them a one-time influx of cash as they steal anything not bolted down, and apply a layer of fecal matter to anything that is. After that, no-one else would want to capture any territory back from them.
Also, most of the Scavvy leaders have the foresight to bring support with them whenever they go into battle and will round up even less fortunate hive dwellers and goad them into battle as fodder:
Wild animals inhabit the underhives, and just like humanity have not been untouched by their environment. Scavvy Dogs are like the Scavvies themselves in that they are twisted and degenerated from their natural state and also much like Scavvies they are ruthless survivors.
Packs of these dogs prowl the underhives in search of weak prey and can be a terror to unarmed communities though they can also provide the vital function of consuming the dead in an environment with no interest in funereal rites.
Occasionally a Scavvy leader will "befriend" a pack of these wild dogs and bring them into battle. Although this level of domestication is of the lowest sort and its loyalty is entirely up to the dog remaining fed.
In game terms, they've actually got pretty good statlines, just very few special rules that make them interesting.
For an IRL equivalent, go to a music festival or better yet find out where the crust punks live in your city. There will be 1d4+1 scavvy dogs per crew.
Even Necromunda has not been untouched by the Zombie Plague although it is uncertain whether anyone realises that this is the touch of Chaos or not, though considering the sheer number of diseases existing in the 40k universe it might not even be a Nurgle-based plague; the Savvy rules simply tell that it was "mysterious", besides, Necromunda hasn't really had a history of being invaded by Chaos that we know about. Although the plague has long since passed it has not been purged entirely. Small handfuls of directionless zombies can still be found in the lowest reaches, feeding on animals or dead things.
Scavvies have learned to utilise these unthinking creatures by rounding them up and pushing them towards their enemies. This is a potent tactic as although the zombies are not the strongest of adversaries, they have no fear or sensation of pain and may yet pass on their plague to their unfortunate victims if they wound them in close combat, where after the battle the survivor must take a check to find out if he has contracted the plague or not... most of the time they are just sick and get over the illness over a few days (ie: the next battle in game-time) but if they are really unlucky they'll just get removed from play and possibly even attack their former gang-members... causing a domino effect of plague.
This can be absolutely amazing if it knocks out an entire gang after only a single wound but it's actually mathematically unlikely.
Despite this, Ghouls may not originally have been poor Scavvies at all and may have come from further up the social ladder, particularly if they have a hard-on for Slaanesh and figure that eating people might be a cool new experience. That's the sort of thing that leads to mental derangement so they would invariably find their way to the bottom of the hive and share the same spaces as the Scavvies.
Particularly clever Scavvy groups can entice the ghouls into battle the same way that they do the dogs... by waving fresh body parts and calling "here ghoulie ghoulie ghoulie".
- see main article: Scalies
Essentially what you get when an Ogryn suffers mutation. Some mutations may stabilise within populations and create an entirely new form.
Scalies are so named due to their thick reptilian-like skin which grants them a built-in 5+ armour save and they also cause Fear. They are particularly massive, immensely strong (S5/T4/W2) and have the unique ability to regenerate from almost any debilitating injury and will re-grow lost limbs if given enough time.
However, Scalies are so obviously divergent from baseline humans that it is unlikely that they would be tolerated by any Imperial citizen. Furthermore, their voiceboxes have also mutated to the degree that they can no longer communicate in human languages and so their intentions and origins are almost impossible to determine. It is suspected that they live in hidden tribes in only the most polluted locations of the hive where no human can travel.
Despite all of their physical enhancements, they are dumb as door-posts and are completely incapable of command, above and beyond their inability to talk, so if the gang-leader dies, they are never counted as eligible candidates to replace him.
Scavvy gangs get a number of unique weapons unavailable to other gangs, mostly because they have to patch their own weapons together from scrap anyway, quite literally the only advanced weapons on their wargear lists are Autoguns.
However, their own wargear (and approximated 7th ed conversion) consists of:
- Blunderbuss (9", S3, AP-, Assault 1, One-Use) - the "signature weapon", is basically a tube stuffed with rusty nails, shrapnel and small rocks, along with a small explosive charge to actually fire the weapon. They actually take forever to reload, despite individuals often carrying full pockets of rubbish that can be fired away.
- Spear guns (24", S6, AP4, Heavy1) - carried by Scalies only since they are so huge, they are like giant harpoon guns that work in a very unique fashion. A model wounded by the projectile is flung D6" away from the firer, where if he interacts with another model, the hit is resolved against that model at -1 strength and is flung back the remaining distance, and this continues until there are no more targets struck or the full distance is covered.
- Discus (12" S-User, AP-, Assault 1) - another Scaly weapon, for when they want to pretend to be Xena: Warrior princess. They fling sharpened hub-caps or gaskets at the enemy, and with their immense strength are actually capable of bisecting people.
- "Tox Bomb" (6", S1, AP-, Assault 1, Blast, One-Use, Poisoned 4+) - these "bombs" are more like sealed pots containing whatever icky shit that the Scavvies can find lying around and decide would be useful by throwing at their enemies.
Ghilliam are essentially the same as Scavvies, but specifically those sub-humans who inhabit the low points of starships.
Aboard starships they are considered vermin. Unlike on terrestrial worlds where there "might" be some native flora/fauna to subsist off of, aboard a starship all the dregs can really live off are the scraps cast down from waste disposal units or maybe they get lucky and trap the occasional juicy crew-member and feed the whole family. By living in the "uninhabitable" portions of the ship they've grown resistant to the cold and most toxins as well as adept at fighting in total darkness.
Despite their disgusting departure from the rest of humanity, some starships actually find a use for them. In the Rogue Trader (RPG) there is a rank of crewman called Twistcatcher whose sole function is to descend to the lower decks and bring back small communities of Ghilliam so that they might "serve" on the crew. Fundamentally this allows PCs to replace particularly grievous crew-population losses without having to return to port, though it has a negative effect on crew morale.
Even amongst Ghilliam there is an entirely separate class of sub-deck abhuman. Usually found on Space Hulks, these creatures are more like predators rather than scavengers and will usually hunt alone, stalking down prey.
They are monsters in the Dark Heresy setting, mostly with the same stats as Ghilliam, but with more mutations thrown on the top and a complete immunity to toxic and radiation hazards.
Dark Heresy also gave us rules for native rogue psyker PCs and adversaries: those Wyrd and pathetic creatures known as "Verminspeakers" who develop their powers in solitude, after being cast out of their societies, who usually get missed by the tithes of the Black Ships.
While not "Scavvies" in the traditional sense, Verminspeakers are completely without resources and usually their powers do not give them the same amount of influence as your typical Rogue Psyker. Instead they can control native wildlife, which usually amounts to rats and insects, hence their names. On Hive Worlds they are seen as disgustingly uncivilised, which is why it's appropriate to associate them with Scavvies... amongst Feral Worlders they are seen as shamans or mystics.
Of interest to Player Characters, they do have two unique Psychic Powers: "Verminspeaking" which allows them to expand their senses through nearby creatures, and "Bestial Ally" which is a form of mental domination, that gains you control over a targeted animal.