Warhammer Fantasy: Geography Part 2 (to the West)

So, having described for you the Old World, we move West to describe the lands across the sea.

The first land mass one might come across, sailing West across the Great Sea from the Empire, would be Albion. Albion is a small, mist shrouded Island Slightly to the North West of the Old World, and clearly evokes Celtic Britain in the lore.

Albion is a marshy and subject to constant precipitation. It is inhabited by a few, almost neolithic, tribes, as well as giants, and the Druidic ‘Truthsayers’and their opponents the ‘Dark Emmisaries’. One of which, in a fen, is shown below:

Arguably the most striking (read:only) feature of the landscape are a series of standing stones known as ‘Ogham Stones’. These¬† were erected by the Truthsayers to hold back the magical force of Chaos in years past.

Beyond the misty Island of Albion lays Ulthuan.Ulthuan is a gigantic Atoll shaped Island series, with a large inland sea. It is the homeland of the High Elves, and was subject to a catastrophic magical event called ‘the Sundering’, which sunk parts of the Island beneath the waves. A map below shows the Island itself:

It is divided up into various regions with distinct terrain, from the lush forests of Averlorn to the foothills and woods of Chrace. The different regions and their unique military contributions to the High Elven armies will be discussed elsewhere. Of note is the Sea Gates of Lothern, which guard the entrance to the inner sea. Below is an image of High Elven troops amongst the foot hills of one of the great mountain ranges that are the spine of Ulthuan:

Beyond the home of the High Elves is the realm of their blighted cousins, Naggaroth, home of the Dark Elves.

Naggaroth is as dark and cruel a land as the twisted Elves who inhabit it. Much of it is bittery cold and virtually uninhabitable. A huge mountain range called the Blackspines make up much of the continent. The mountains are of black stone, and the same black stone forms the building materials for the fortresses of the Dark Elves. As travel is so difficult across land in Naggaroth, the Dark Elves use a series of underground passages to move between their citadels. Below is an image of Naggarond, the great stronghold of the King of the Dark Elves, Malekith:

Only in the South of the continent does the weather become bareable enough to allow gloomy pine forests to take root.

South of Naggaroth lays another continent, known as Lustria. Lustria’s humidity and lush jungle is in stark contrast to the bleak and freezing wasteland to the North. Lustria is the home of a huge range of wildlife, most of which are a danger to explorers of the jungle’s depths. In that sense, in some ways, Lustria is no more hospitable than Naggaroth.

Lustria is most known for the Lizardmen who have inhabited it since before even the Elves walked the world. The land itself was originally attached to the Southlands (a jungle land below Araby) but were moved to its current position by the ‘Slann’, the Mage Priests of the Lizardmen. A procession of Lizardmen escorting one such Slann through the jungle is shown below:

It is not only inhabited by the Lizardmen though, as, over time, other races have stumbled upon, or made their way to the Steamy shores of the continent. The rat men known as Skaven were the first to arive, and since then other settlements have been created along the coast, somewhat to the chagrin of the Lizardmen, whose temple cities are often the targets of raids by such settlers. One such temple city is shown below, along with the Lizardman army defending it:

The continent has a volcanic mountain range known as the Spine of Sotek. The jungles of Lustria are also criss crossed by waterways, the greatest of which is the Amaxon. Of all places in the Warhammer World, Lustria is home to some of the largest and most vicious wildlife. Many of these are harnessed by the Lizardmen and ridden or driven into battle. The smallest of these is pictured below; the raptor like ‘cold one’ that is used by both the Lizardmen and the Dark Elves as a form of cavalry.

Our journey for today ends with Lustria, our next trip will be to the East and the Southlands. Keep well til then.

Warhammer Fantasy: Geography Part 1 (the Old World)

As mentioned in the previous post, the geography of the world of Warhammer Fantasy, much like some of the nations and races, mimic real world counterparts. The mimicry is not exact of course, but as one can see in the map below, similarities certainly abound.

While I will often use the term ‘Old World’ interchangeably with ‘Warhammer World’, the Old World more specifically refers to the area below:

The Empire, shown above, is usually the central stage for much of the dramas of the Warhammer World. It is a nation of humans who will be discussed in more detail later. The land that they live in is predominantly forests, with rivers and a few roads acting as the veins of trade. The great forest of the Empire, some parts of which are called the Reikwald, is pictured below in an image of Imperial troops ambushing the ‘Beastmen’ who often inhabit the forests:

To the North of the Empire lays snowy land of Kislev, which is nominally part of the Empire. Kislev has a Russian feel to it and is predominantly steppes. North of Kislev lays the Troll Country, a barren land of Tundra, rocky crags and almost no human habitation. Past the Troll Country/across the Sea of Claws from the Empire is Norsca, the Old World equivalent of Scandanavia. Norsca is a notoriously harsh land, and is the home to the tribes of the Norse, Viking like tribes who raid the Empire frequently and often lend bands of ‘Marauders’ to the human armies who worship Chaos (to be discussed in more detail later). The landscape of Norsca is pictured below, along with some of the War Mammoths that the Norse tribes are known to ride into battle:

Beyond them, to the far North, is the Chaos Wastes, which will be addressed in another post.

The East of the Empire is the World’s Edge Mountains, the great mountain range you can see in the map. The World’s Edge mountains are both a boon and bane to the Empire. There are several holds of their allies, the Dwarves that exist beneath the mountains, Karaz-a-Karak being the most important. Not all Dwarven holds however are inhabited by the dwarves, some, like Karak Ungor and Karak eight peaks, have fallen to their enemies, the Skaven rat men and the cunning Night Goblins.

The Dwarf Keep of Karak Kadrin in the World’s Edge mountains is pictured below:

In this sense the World’s Edge Mountains act as a place from whence Skaven and Night Goblin attacks can enter the Empire. The flip side of this is that they also form a shield to the lands to the East. The only way through them is several strategically important passes, Black Fire Pass being one of the more famous examples.

To the West and South West of the Empire, across the Grey Mountains, lay the lands of Bretonnia. The Bretonnians are a less technologically advanced human nation, who often wage a cold or hot war with the Empire. Their feudal society will be discussed later. Bretonnia is less heavily forested than the Empire, akin to the landscape of Medieval France. The image below shows a typical Bretonnian town

To the East of Bretonnia is the Forest of Loren, which, while technically within Brettonian territory, are actually the province of the Wood Elves, a forest dwelling race of Elves.

East of the Forest of Loren, and back into Empire territory, is the Moot, the province of the Halflings (Hobbit like humanoids), which forms the bread bowl of the Empire.

South of the Moot, across the Black Mountains (a break off range from the World’s Edge Mountains) lay the Border Princes region. The Border Princes border the Badlands, and thus is a mix of fortified towns and small princelings. This is an area of disrupted human settlement and constant war, akin to the Wild West.

To the West of the Border Princes lay Tilea and Estalia, imitations of Italy and Spain respectively. Both are more settled and slightly less fracturous than the Border Princes, but not by much. Below is a representation of Tilean farmland:

The aforementioned Badlands are a rocky, arid region inhabited by countless warring Orc tribes.

To the South of all this are the lands of Araby and Khemri/ the Land of the Dead. Araby is little touched upon in the established fiction (as is the case for Tilea, Estalia and the Border Princes) but generally represents a fantasy version of the Muslim Arab world. It is a desert land, inhabited by various Arabyan factions along with ‘Djinn’ (genies) that they bind to their will and use in battle.

The Land of the Dead on the other hand is extensively discussed, as it is home to the ‘Tomb Kings’, Undead Kings and Princes of vast, ruined cities and pyramids, full of treasure but uninhabited save for the armies of the dead. Below is an image of the Tomb City of Nekhara

To the East of the World’s Edge Mountains (technically outside the Old World, as is Khemri/Araby) is the Dark Lands. The Dark Lands are also rarely discussed, as they are unsettled by humans. The Dark Lands are a vast plain of foetid mire, ashen volcanoes and Beastman infested forest. The greatest thing of note is the Kingdom carved out there by a race called the ‘Chaos Dwarves’, the twisted cousins of the Dwarves that live in the World’s Edge Mountains. The heart of the Chaos Dwarves empire is shown below:

So ends our tour of the Old World. The next post will discuss further the geography of the wider Warhammer World, the lands of the Elves and the Lizardmen, as well as far off Cathay and the Chaos Wastes.

For an even more detailed examination, maps are invaluable. I sourced mine from ‘Gitzman’s Gallery‘ and I highly recommend perusing the resources there, as they are great and even include a massive, detailed map of the Old World, which can be zoomed in and out like Google Earth!

Warhammer Fantasy: Themes and Concepts

So to start off our explanation of Warhammer Fantasy, we should start with what kind of world we are talking about here. Well to start, the Warhammer Universe is ‘speculative fiction’, specifically ‘Fantasy’. Spec-Fic is a broad term that refers to fiction genres that use the most imagination. Fantasy is one type of speculative fiction, usually one that uses magic or supernatural themes as a central part of the storyline.

The Warhammer world, the Old World, is further defined as ‘High Fantasy’, as the arcane/supernatural plays a central (as opposed to periphery)¬† role in the stories set within the world.

The Warhammer world, unlike, say, Tolkein’s Middle Earth, is not so much characterised by a stark contrast between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. The ‘good’ factions/races/nations in the Warhammer world are to a fault brutal and often cruel. Even the ‘heroes’ of the world are usually deeply bigoted, genocidal or psychotic.

Another interesting element of the Warhammer Fantasy world is the use of dark humour. This is a legacy of the creation of the setting in the 80s, where the setting incorporated more of the bizarre.

Through the Human nation known as the ‘Empire’ , along with the engineers of the race called ‘Dwarfs’, there are also elements of ‘Steam Punk’ technology. With modern inventions (for example tanks) run by steam and present in a fantasy, old technology, setting.

Classical mythology is also evoked, beasts from Pagasi to Chimerae inhabiting the bestiaries of the various nations, often being ridden into battle. Importantly, the Old World also imitates real world geography, and the cultures/nations clearly evoke real world counter parts. The Empire is a fantasy echo of the Holy Roman Empire. The Bretonians make one think of medieval France and Arthurian legend. The Lizardmen the Aztecs and the Tomb Kings the Egyptians, but that will all be discussed later.

The most obvious comparison to make of course is between Warhammer Fantasy and the world of Tolkein. Indeed few can miss the comparison. The Dwarves, Orcs and High Elves are all very familiar. However it would be a mistake to label the world of Warhammer Fantasy as merely derivative of Tolkein. As you will see, there are subtle and not so subtle differences between the two worlds that make Warhammer unique and valuable in its own right.

Indeed some of the differences have formed the foundation for other franchises. The first to spring to mind is the PC Game ‘Warcraft’ and all of Blizzards subsequent similar releases. Dwarves with guns was a Warhammer thing first.

So to summarise. The world of Warhammer is a dark, high fantasy with a wide range of influences, from previous fantasy lore to history.

Introducing the Old World

Greetings traveller!

If you have stumbled across this site, you are most probably a person with a new found, or long standing, interest in Warhammer Fantasy. I intend this to be a good place to start with an exploration of what is commonly called the ‘fluff’ of the Warhammer universe. I begin this in an attempt to bring a PC in my gaming group up to speed, but I also think that it is good to have this kind of resource around more generally.

In the blog there will be posts about the races/nations of Warhammer Fantasy (WHF), about geography, concepts and history. We will start with a short discussion of the idea of WHF and go from there.

Hopefully by the end of my resources, tether or procrastination, any reader will have a good grasp of the Old World, something I have gained through years of being a nerd, playing Warhammer Fantasy battles, reading Black Library novels and hanging with the red shirts in GW stores.

Have a seat traveller, help yourself to a cup of Bugman’s, and enjoy your stay!

-Will