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Thread: Warhammer Lore: The Empire

  1. #1
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    Default Warhammer Lore: The Empire

    The Empire of Sigmar

    I thought i would start a series of threads giving a detailed description of the races in warhammer. Any lore heads out there feel free to correct me on anything.

    As they are the main "good" faction out there, i'd figured i'd start off with the Empire.

    Like much of the Warhammer setting, the Empire resembles a period of European history but with the addition of fantasy elements, such as the presence of magic and non-human races. Both visually and in geography it is based on Europe during a mixture of the Dark Ages, middle-ages & Early Modern periods. There are wealthy city-states that bear similarity to Hanseatic league cities, such as Hamburg, and place and character names are Germanic in tone; for example, the capital of the Empire is the city of Altdorf, which translates as "old village" and is the name of several real-world places.

    The Empire is the largest and most powerful of all the nations of the Old World. The Empire is bordered by the nation of Kislev to the north east and the Sea of Claws, the World's Edge Mountains to the east, and the Great Ocean, Black Mountains, Grey Mountains, the land of Bretonnia to the west, and the Border Princes to the south. To the east, the Empire is threatened by the Orcs and Goblins. A large part of the Empire is heavily forested and large numbers of Beastmen can be found in the deepest forests.

    Political Structure

    The Empire is a confederation of ten large provinces: Averland, Hochland, Middenland, Nordland, Ostland, Ostermark, Reikland, Stirland, Talabecland, Wissenland, each of which is ruled by an Elector Count. There were originally two more provinces Drakwald (lands now under the jurisdiction of the Elector Counts of Middenland) and Solland (lands now under the Elector Counts of Wissenland). Another, Westerland, was originally the areas around Marienburg.

    The provinces and their counts are derived from the twelve chieftains that followed the Sigmar who would become the first Emperor, and in time, worshiped as the patron deity of the Empire. The naming of some provinces of The Empire are also derived from the river that flows through them, like the river Reik flows through The Reikland, the Talabec through Talabecland and Talabheim and such. Also, some of the major cities of the Empire became more important and as such are classed as city-states; namely:

    Altdorf, in Reikland.
    Nuln, on the borders of Wissenland, Averland and Stirland.
    Talabheim, in Talabecland.
    Middenheim, in Middenland.

    The Empire is nominally ruled by the Emperor, who is chosen by majority voting of the various electors. The electors are the ten Elector Counts, the Grand Theogonist of the Sigmarite Church, the two "Arch Lectors", who are also clerics of the Sigmar church, the High Priest of Ulric and the Elder of the Moot (representing the halflings). Karl Franz, of the Holswig-Schliestein family, is the current Emperor during the 1st edition and most of the written adventures. The Emperor is usually also one of the Elector Counts; Karl-Franz is the Elector Count of Reikland.


    The religion of the Empire is polytheistic, with the god Sigmar being the most important. Sigmar was a mortal man, who was elevated to equal status with the other gods of the Old World Pantheon after his disappearance following the establishment of the Empire. The Grand Theogonist is the leader of the Church of Sigmar and is analogous to the Pope. Sigmar's worship is strongest in Altdorf, but runs throughout the Empire. Some regions, however, have a stronger link to other older gods now known as the Old Faith, such as the Middenheimers who revere Ulric before all others and Talabecland who revere the god Taal. Other gods commonly worshipped in the Empire are Manann along coastal regions and rivers, and Morr by the grieving or those facing death. These gods of the old faith are still worshipped throughout though Sigmar is considered the patron deity of the Empire only.


    The armies of the Empire are amongst the most diverse in the Old World. Older forms of troops like spearmen, swordsmen and halberdiers, crossbowmen, and archers especially the personal bodyguard of the Elector Counts the Greatswords who fight alongside more 'modern' troops like cannon, Handgunners and Pistoliers. The inventiveness of the Empire has produced war-machines, such as a steam-powered tank, rocket batteries and volleyguns, and in the last edition such steam-punk elements as mechanical horses are also present.

    The Empire is also noted for having excellent cavalry in the form of its Orders of Knights. The Empire also often fields state-trained Battle Wizards and religious fanatics known as Flagellants. The armies can be led by Imperial Generals, Grand Masters of the various Knightly Orders, Captains chosen by the Counts, Warrior Priests and Arch Lectors of Sigmar, or even the mighty imperial warlord Emperor Karl-Franz himself.

    The historical example for this army is the Early Modern German army, especially that of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I and the Landsknechts.

    The provinces of the Empire
    Spoiler for Reikland


    Reikland is a very important western province of The Empire, being the homeland of the ancient Unberogens and Sigmar, founder of The Empire. The province is named after the river Reik, the most important river of The Empire. Reikland is located between Wissenland to the south, while Stirland and Talabecland lie in the the east. To the north are Middenland and The Wasteland. The Grey Mountains are Reikland's western border, forming a natural buffer zone between The Empire and Bretonnia. The current Emperor of The Empire, Karl Franz, is also Elector Count of Reikland.

    The province has a relatively large population and it is crossed by important trade routes; one crosses the Grey Mountains through Axe Bite Pass, connecting The Empire with Bretonnia. Another trade route uses the river Reik; several ships carry their cargoes between the cities and towns of The Empire and Marienburg. All this trade and the accompanying tools and taxes make Reikland a wealthy and cosmopolitan province. The capital of the Empire, Altdorf, is also in Reikland.

    Spoiler for Altdorf
    Altdorf is the Imperial capital, the seat of Karl-Franz; home to the Great Cathedral of Sigmar, the Colleges of Magic the School of Engineers, and the Imperial Zoo. The city is a centre for trade and learning; its docks teem with merchants, its taverns with students. From the strange creatures housed in the Imperial zoo, to the majestically solid, dwarf-built walls, Altdorf is a city of great beauty and variety.
    The city’s official ruler is Karl-Franz; Emperor, Elector Count of Reikland and Prince of Altdorf. Naturally, the Emperor has other duties to occupy him; as a result, Altdorf is really governed by an oligarchy of rich merchants and minor nobles. Corruption is rife; if the Emperor is aware of it, he does nothing.

    Colleges of Magic
    Altdorf has been the home of magical study since the time of Magnus the Pious. There are eight colleges of magic, one for each of the colours of the winds of magic: Amber Order (beasts), Amethyst Order (death), Bright Order (fire), Celestial Order (heavens), Gold Order (metal), Grey Order (shadow), Jade Order (life), and Light Order (light). The three most spectacular college buildings – the flame-topped towers of the Bright college, the lofty spires of the Celestial college and the mystic pyramid of the Light college – are magically concealed so that few residents of Altdorf are even aware of their presence. The Jade college, a thing formed from living trees, is hidden behind high stone walls. The Grey college is a run-down building located in the city’s poorest slums, and allegedly connects to many secret tunnels. The college of the Amethyst order overlooks the infamous haunted cemetery of Old Altdorf, the resting place of the plague victims, and few dare go near it. The Alchemists of the Gold college maintain a vast, smoke-billowing forge complex, and pollute the river Reik with their arcane chemicals. Only the Amber order has no college within the city, preferring instead the caves of the Amber Hills, away from the civilisation that is the antipathy of their magic.

    The School of Engineers
    The School of Engineers has been responsible for some of The Empire’s most amazing technical breakthroughs, especially in the field of warfare. The School’s founder was the legendary genius Leonardo of Miragliano, whose Steam Tanks are still repaired, maintained and refitted here (though it has so far proven impossible to create new tanks from scratch). The weapons produced by the engineers range from the deadly the infamous Helblaster Volley Gun to the useless von Tropp’s Spring-assisted Chain Lasso, though most lie somewhere in between. Many of the engineers are Dwarfs, banished from their holds for showing too much innovation – a trait not popular among the traditionalist dwarfs. Altdorf has a large Dwarf population, not only engineers but merchants, workers, and indeed members of all branches of society. Dwarfs fight in their own units rather than being recruited into state regiments – they will often wear uniforms of their own design, and favour Imperial fashions over the sombre clothing of other Dwarfs.

    The River Reik
    Though far inland, the river Reik is still phenomenally deep and wide at Altdorf. Even ocean-going war vessels can dock here, and do so at the Reiksport. The ships of the Imperial fleet lack the grace of those of Bretonnia or Marienburg; they are boxy, practical constructs laden with heavy weaponry. Of particular note are the Hellhammers – wargalleys that mount a solitary, massive cannon capable of sending a Man o’War to the bottom with a single shot.

    Altdorf is the centre for the worship of Sigmar, founder and patron of The Empire. Fittingly, it boasts a tremendous cathedral dedicated to the god. The cathedral is octagonal in shape, very richly decorated, and is said to be built upon the very spot where Sigmar was crowned as the first Emperor. A large palace nearby is the official residence of the Grand Theogonist.

    Knightly Orders
    There are four major Knightly Orders based in Altdorf. Foremost amongst these is the Reiksguard, founded during the reign of Wilhelm III of Reikland as the bodyguard of the Emperor. Their ranks include nobility from every corner of The Empire. The High Helms are a new order, regarded as one of Karl-Franz’s more extreme eccentricities – the order accepts only very tall men, and is said not to be overly concerned if the recruits lack even the most basic degree of intelligence. The Knights of the Fiery Heart are fanatical templars of Sigmar, and form the personal guard of the Grand Theogonist. Finally, the Knights Griffon were formed by Magnus the Pious in 2305 to protect the Temple to Sigmar in Nuln, but moved to Altdorf after it became the Imperial Capital in 2429. There is some rivalry between the Fiery Heart and the Knights Griffon, as each sees the other as impinging on their duty.

    The Imperial palace is a vast building, easily the largest in the city. The Emperor’s court is always filled with nobility from across the Empire, and is a hotbed of political intrigue, social manoeuvring, and hedonistic frivolity. Foremost on the political side is the Council of State, a group formed from the noble families of the most ancient lineage. Though the Council has no constitutional authority, it advises the Emperor on all matters of state. The Grand Theogonist is always a member of this council, and is behind many of the more urgent suggestions – not for nothing is the head of Sigmar’s priesthood regarded as the most powerful man in The Empire.

    The Elector Counts, though physically distant from the politics of Altdorf, employ their own council of representatives. The Prime Estates, as this council is known, act as a check on the Emperor’s powers – they study the Imperial edicts, tax levies and so on, reporting their findings back to the Electors. Should an Imperial proclamation be regarded as undesirable, impractical, or just plain foolish, the Electors can simply refuse to enforce it. Even the strongest Emperor is helpless in the face of unified defiance from the Elector Counts.

    The shadow of war has fallen over Altdorf many times in its long history. Gorbad Ironclaw reached the city walls in 1707, and brought about the death of the Emperor Sigismund. Centuries later, in the long and bitter wars with the undead nobility of Sylvania, Altdorf was to be besieged twice by legions of the walking dead. Vlad von Carstein, greatest of the vampire counts, came closest to taking the city in 2051. It is said that the entire population sought surrender, but Wilhelm III, Grand Theogonist, rekindled the true spirit of Sigmar within them and convinced them to fight. Wilhelm knew the secret of Vlad’s invulnerability: he dispatched the great thief Felix Mann to break into the vampire’s pavilion and steal the Carstein Ring. Deprived of his magical protection, Vlad was slain at the cost of Wilhelm’s own life and Altdorf was saved. To this day, Wilhelm III is invoked as the patron saint of those who seek protection from the unquiet dead.
    Mannfred von Carstein, last of the vampire counts, came to Altdorf a century later to finish what Vlad had begun. It was another Grand Theogonist, Kurt III, who was to be Mannfred’s undoing. Kurt read the great spell of unbinding from the Liber Mortis, a work of vile necromancy that had once belonged to Vlad himself, and so devastated Mannfred’s army that the vampire was forced to retreat.

    As the largest and richest city in The Empire, its troops are perhaps the best equipped of all the state armies. Altdorf maintains not only its own army, but also the Emperor’s guard. In time of war, the Emperor can call upon the Elector Counts, and also the Burgomeisters of the city-states, to supply troops directly, and thus form the Imperial army.
    The Moot also supplies troops to the Imperial army at Altdorf: these constitute the Imperial Halfling corps. However, Halfling regiments are generally assigned to foraging and provisioning rather than actual fighting – though they make excellent baggage train guards, willing to fight to the last to protect the food. The Halfling Hot Pot, invented by master chef Gambo Hartstock and first used against the goblin warlord Grom, is a key part of the corps. Hartstock was unable to reveal the secret of Hot Pot preparation to the Imperial Engineers, since it would have meant betraying the Chef’s code. Thus the weapon remains a uniquely Halfling one.

    Famous regiments from Reikland
    Spoiler for Altdorf's Company of Honour
    Altdorf's Company of Honour
    The Altdorf Company of Honour, also known as the Sons of the Reik, are a Reikland regiment of highly-trained and highly-equipped troops dedicated to the service of the Emperor and the city of Altdorf. This highly distinquished regiment recruits exclusively from other Altdorf regiments, picking only the best and bravest men out of the many units that garrision the city in order to keep up with their fearsome reputation as an elite fighting force. Other soldiers instantly recognize the regiment thanks to their distinctive appearance of yellow plumes and black steel armour, as well as being a crack-fighting force, with their battlefield history soaked in tales of glory and victory. Traditionally led by the youngest son of one of the city's noble houses, the current captain of this regiment is Otto Helstein, a valiant warrior eager to make his mark upon this world. Every Altdorf native knowns the distinctive trumpet blast that annouces when the regiment leaves the city gates for a distant campaign, and all of them offer praises to Sigmar to ensure the safe return of Altdorf's most favoured sons.

    To be continued... the rest of the provinces and a detailed history of Empire as well.

  2. #2
    HigoChumbo's Avatar Definitely not Jom.

    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    Default Re: Warhammer Lore: The Empire

    Cool post, and nice edition, but there is already another thread on Warhammer lore in this forum, I think one independent thread for each faction is unnecesary, specially considering that this is not a dedicated Warhammer subforum (by the way, what's with the dedicated subforum oh mighty overlords?)

    Check it out:

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