There's something that's been bugging me about the WHFB universe for awhile now, and despite reading through old tie-in novels and searching search engines and wikis, I haven't been able to figure it out. And this seemed like the best place to pose a lore question.
What exactly ARE the gods of the WHFB universe? We know for a fact gods such as the elven pantheon, the human pantheon, and the Nehekharan pantheon exist - because Warhammer is full of priests and spellcasters that can channel their power into spells and abilities. We've even SEEN the direct influence of the gods in tie-in novels such as the Malus Darkblade omnibus (where characters physically travel to the realm of Khaine). But there's no good explanation for exactly why or how they exist.
I've gotten three common theories from asking hobbyist friends about this, but none of them make sense. They are:
1) The gods are GODS. They are their own unique type of powerful entity (powerful either through divinity or artificial means) intrinsically tied to the warhammer world, separate from others we know.
-----This theory doesn't work in my mind because if this is the case, then wouldn't these gods have a PROBLEM with the Old Ones coming in and totally reshaping the planet? To my knowledge there's no published backstory on the role of the gods in the creation of the world, the aeons that followed, or the reshaping of the world by the old ones. Which seems strange to me.
2) The gods are occupants of the realm of chaos, less powerful than the almighty FOUR but also less malicious, with their own little niches of the chaos realm carved out for themselves.
-----This seems to me like the most likely explanation, but it doesn't track with the lore we already have. If my understanding is correct, the daemons were unable to interact with the physical plane until the warpgates exploded. And we know for a fact that the gods (or the very least the elven pantheon) were present and actually quite active in the physical realm before that happened.
The gods and the old ones are one and the same.
----This is the theory that has the least evidence against it, although it strikes me as odd and unlikely for reasons I can't put my finger on. It certainly makes sense that the Old Ones might have portrayed themselves as gods to the races they created (all except the Lizardmen, at any rate) simply because it was easier that way. But then how do we explain the presence of gods even after the warpgates exploded and the Old Ones got the hell out of Dodge? How do we explain the existence of places like the realm of Khaine, when we have no evidence that the Old Ones possessed the ability to create "realms" or "pocket dimensions" adjacent to the warhammer world?
There are also inconsistencies between pantheons. The Nehekharan concept of the Realm of the Dead can't be written off as philosophical, because it has to be LITERALLY TRUE for *any* of the lore in their most recent book to work. But does everyone in the world go to it, or just Nehekharans? How does Morr fit in? Are Morr and the Nehekharan god of the dead the same deity that shows different faces in different cultures? Etc. etc.
I'm curious if anyone else has thought about this and come to any conclusions, or whether there are answers to these questions in old rule books or tie-in novels that I've never thought. Thoughts?