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This article, How to make a fanon Tau Sept, is part of 40k Fanon's "Guide" articles. It is treated as community project and serves as both hints and guidelines. You are free to edit it, if seemed appropriate.

A guide for Tau Septs was suggested, so I started this page: I'm not very familiar with the Tau(less than I am with Marines and Traitor Marines), so I hope people more familiar with the Tau will expand it.

If you do, please don't try making some sort of 'ultimate guide'; just a few friendly tips to help make a canon-friendly Sept. Jochannon 09:53, November 2, 2010 (UTC)

Note: much of the text here has been copied from Lexicanum under the Fair Use doctrine

What is a Tau Sept?

A Sept is a term used to refer to world (and/or star system) colonised by Tau forces that operates as a fully-functional, independent, habitable world within the extents of the Tau Empire.

Each sept has its unique cultural identity wholly integrated within the greater Tau culture. Often, this cultural identity seems to mainly derive from which Tau caste is more numerous and influential in the given sept, however many other factors including periods of isolation, location, warfare history and other landmarks of historical development can alter this. Currently there are over twenty fully developed septs.

Each sept has its own sept symbol. Tau Sept Symbols are circular, feature at least one smaller circle within it, and are coloured black and white, with black being the dominant colour. The defining lines are always white, and are typically neatly and evenly spaced throughout the entire symbol.

Example Sept Symbols

Just be wary of the canon in regards to how powerful you make your Sept. A good bar to measure your sept against would be the military powerhouse of Vior'la, as is mentioned in the 6/7th edition Codex Tau Empire: "None can rival T'au for prestige, and only Vior'la can match its power". You can similarly compare your Sept against other key worlds to ground it in something more canonical, i.e. Tau'n in spatial exploration technology and spacefleets, Bork'an for universities, Fal'shia for technological prowess, Sa'cea for military output and discipline, T'olku for the diplomatic skill and achievements of its water and ethereal castes, or Au'taal for its beauty. At most, your sept stands with these canon septs on equal grounds, it should not dwarf them in power.

The Tau Empire

The Tau empire is loosely divided in 'Expansions' or 'Spheres' denoting when the Sept was founded, when the world was conquered, and how advanced the Sept is, loosely centred on T'au, the Tau's homeworld.

First Phase Expansion

The Tau homeworld and the First phase colonies are of major importance and form the hub of the empire.

Second Phase Expansion

The Second Phase Expansion began shortly after the end of the Damocles Crusade (742.M41); there are many Humans here who have joined the Tau: Tau forces here are likely to contain Human auxiliaries, and it is possible that Imperial loyalists still hold out in secret.

Third Phase Expansion

The Third Phase Expansion was convened on 977.997.M41 on the word of Tau'n by the great Ethereal Aun'va. Commander Shadowsun was placed in command, and has secured at least two new septs for the Tau Empire. During the Zeist Campaign of 999.M41, Space Marines forces counterattacked against the expanding Third Sphere, drawing the Third Sphere to a, perhaps temporary, halt.

Farsight Enclaves

Commander Farsight broke from the Tau Empire after revelations on Arthas Moloch of the true nature of the Ethereals and the universe as a whole, and four Tau worlds have joined him beyond the Damocles Gulf, rejecting the caste system in favor of democracy and meritocracy. The Enclaves are notable in battle for their use of battlesuits in roles Fire Warriors would normally play. Further, the Enclaves are at war with the Tau Empire, supported by insider Tau sympathizers such as Aun'va who provide them with supplies, weapons, and defectees.

Smaller Tau worlds

Besides the populous septs, there are also sparsely populated colonies. Of which only a few names are known.

Non-Tau Worlds

There are a number of non-Tau worlds allied with the Tau Empire, including the Kroot and the Vespid, and even some Human empires, such as the fanon The Collective of Tau Allied Worlds.


When was your Sept conquered and added to the Tau Empire? what have they done in the past to advance the Greater Good? What setbacks have they had? What victories have they achieved?


Who is the commander of the Fire Warriors? The lead Ethereal? Who are the heroes and villains, the visionaries and pioneers who drive your Sept onward for the Greater Good?

Allied races

While no single Sept would make any alliances separately from the rest of the Tau Empire, some do have better or worse relations with certain races than the average.

Sept symbol

For a few examples, I suggest you go check out Lexicanum: http://wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki/Sept_Symbol

Sept Colours


Tau colourations

It is not the colour of their armour that denotes from which Sept Fire caste teams originate, but rather the stripes, applied to weapons and armour. The leaders of infantry are identified by the Sept colour applied to their sensor vane and left shoulder pad. On battlesuits, the Sept colour reflects a Tau's rank - colour on the sensor vanes for Shas'Ui, full Sept colour helmets for Shas'Vre and inverted colours on their helmets for a Shas'O.

To help work out your Sept's colors and uniforms, I suggest the Bolter and Chainsword's Fire Warrior Painter: http://www.bolterandchainsword.com/fwpbeta.php

World description

What is the world of your Sept like? Is there more than one?


The Fire and Air Castes; what is your Sept's army and navy like? What ships and equipment do they have?


It is important to note that Tau have a very distinct culture that is in many regards vastly different from the typical practices and traditions of the Imperium.


Tau count in an octal numerical system (as is hinted to in the canon alphabet sheet detailing no symbols for numbers 8 and 9), most likely having evolved from the Tau having only eight fingers in comparison to a human's ten.

In English (a.k.a Low Gothic) translations, which is most acceptable when quoting your Tau characters, this is not much of an issue, however in any instances where you desire to quote a Tau in her or his native language, then the number system must be observed.

The system operates rather simply in the fact that when a number of any decimal grows to be larger than 7 (instead of 9), it resets to zero and a 1 is placed in front of it.

For example: 7 + 2 =

  • In Imperial numbers: 9
  • In Tau numbers: 11

In retrospect, the Tau number "11" represents one lot of eight plus one.


As commonly seen, Tau names are structured very differently from standard Imperial names. Be sure to check out Lexicanum's detailed Tau Lexicon to make sure your Tau are named correctly.

An concise example name would appear as so: Shas'o Vior'La Shovah Kais Mont'yr, which is the full native name of Commander Farsight.

The language itself is a highly developed and complicated system of communication. In sound it deeply lyrical and soft, with many words and meanings varying greatly depending on a user's intonation, glottal emphasis and even posture. Its multiple arrangements of polysyllabic word groups make it difficult in the extreme for human speech organs to pronounce it correctly. Without voice translation technology, only the most skilful linguist would have any hope of speaking even the most basic Tau words and phrases.


As the race at the core of the Greater Good, the customs and beliefs of the Tau is greatly different from others of the galaxy.

Some important things to note about the Tau:

  • The concept of personal ownership is incredibly rare, and indeed any Tau who may declare that a particular object was theirs alone would very likely be frowned upon.
  • There is no distinction between genders within the Tau race. This is illustrated with the female O'Shaserra leading the Third Sphere Expansion. There is no real canon guidelines on the gender makeup of any Tau force, so it is wholly acceptable to treat your Tau armies as mixed gender.
  • Family is an alien concept within the Tau culture. Children are raised in caste institutions, with the closest thing to a family being bonded in ta'lissera, a trial by fire symbolised by the bonding knife. This is known to be the highest form of affection for one another within Tau society, symbolising the sacrifice of the individual to become part of a greater whole. A Tau would be equally distraught with the loss of close comrades as she or he would be with the loss of biological parents, biological siblings, or senior tutors and leading figures.
  • Ranks are seen more as responsibilities rather than titles that must be respected and entitled to greater amounts of privilege, for every rank - no matter how low - is seen as equally important in driving society. It is more that age and experience are the driving factors in who respects who, with a possible exception to those of the ethereal caste, being automatically deserved of greater respect and loyalty.


Your Sept's character will derive largely from the Castes it is made up of, so here's the quick lowdown:

Shas - Fire caste

Members of the Fire caste are the warriors of the Tau Empire, and as such are most often seen on the field of battle. They are taller and stronger than the members of the other castes, although still weaker and shorter than the average human. These warriors are known as Fire Warriors; they do almost all the fighting.

Fio - Earth Caste

This caste provides for the manufacturing, agricultural, industrial, and engineering needs of the Tau Empire, being the builders, farmers, scientists, engineers, etc. The largest and most populous of the castes, they are often described as plain and dour, possessing a rather stoic outlook on life in general.

Interesting Trivia: Unlike the Human Techpriests, the Earth Caste Engineers fully understand the workings of their machines, rather than being dependent of the Machine Spirit. All Tau vehicles, drones, weapons and battlesuits are seen as abominations in the eyes of the Mechanicus

Kor - Air Caste

The Air Caste is charged with holding the Tau Empire together through the Kor'vattra, the Tau Empire's merchant and warfleet. Formerly functioning as messengers, these days they are the Tau Navy. The Tau of the Air Caste are the tallest and most slender of all Tau, with long, skinny limbs and hollow bones developed due to lives lived mostly in low- and zero-gravity ships and space stations.

Interesting Trivia: Many members of the air caste spend their entire lives shipbound, never feeling real gravity on their feet.

Por - Water caste

The Water Caste serve the Tau Empire as traders, merchants, public servants, diplomats, and ambassadors. They interact with other races when such affairs are not handled by the Fire Caste. The Water Caste tend to be tall and slender compared to other Tau, however not as lithe as the air caste. Water caste diplomats and ambassadors frequently adopt the dialects and mannerisms of other alien species they make contact with to ease communication.

Interesting Trivia: Besides the Ethereal Caste and some high-ranking Tau Commanders, the water caste is the only caste which is known to be able to fluently speak alien languages, such as High Gothic

Aun - Ethereal/Celestial Caste

The Ethereals serve as "philosopher kings", and guide the other castes, as well as alien member-races of the Tau empire, towards the enlightenment of the Tau'va; the Greater Good.

Interesting Trivia: It is a topic of interest at how the Ethereals seem to receive complete and utter loyalty from the other four castes, and sometimes other races, but it is believed that the bony ridges on all Ethereal's foreheads emit pheromones which instantly make the subject prone to reason and being persuasive. In 6th edition, this power has been escalated to the point where if an Ethereal demanded that a Tau kill himself, he would comply without hesitation. It is implied however that this is not direct mind control, as it is mentioned in the codex that during the final days of Mont'au the fire caste plains dwellers took some lengthy convincing to unite with the other castes. It is most likely that such loyalty is merely the result of generations of propaganda and social expectations in addition to whatever persuasion the Ethereal's pheromone control inflicts.