Races and nations of Warhammer Fantasy
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In the fictional Warhammer Fantasy setting by Games Workshop, there are a number of different races and nations. The most important of these feature are individual armies in the Warhammer Fantasy Battle table top game.
Realms of Men
All of the featured human nations are based in the Old World.
Kingdom of Bretonnia
Bretonnia is based on real-world medieval France; its name is clearly derived from the French province of Britanny and it draws heavily from Arthurian legends which are associated with Medieval Brittany; for instance with The Lady and The Green Knight who both have parallels in Arthurian lore. Though originally received by the Warhammer community as too idealistic for the Warhammer atmosphere, further source books have revealed the underlining arrogance of Bretonnian knights and their casually cruel treatment of their lowborn citizens.
Bretonnia was founded when the Knight Lord Giles drove the hordes of orcs and chaos out of Bretonnia in the name of the Lady, the goddess the Bretonnians place their faith in. Since then Bretonnia has been divided and collectively ruled by the King of Bretonnia and his twelve Dukes and their families. Each Duke, in turn, rules over several barons and earls, each having great swathes of land and are able to call upon dozens of knights from the lesser nobility they rule.
Bretonnia's official religion is the worship of The Lady. However, this religion is only exclusive to the aristocracy, as peasants are considered unworthy to worship Her and any caught doing so are brutally punished.
Bretonnian knights train extensively from boyhood in riding and heavy armor combat, specializing in two kinds of weapons, the longsword and the lance; completely abstaining from using ranged weapons, which they consider dishonorable. Their blacksmiths are the best human armorers in the world, second only to the elves and dwarfs in craftsmanship. Though indoctrinated in the art of knightly chivalry (similar to that which is practiced in Arthurian legend), Bretonnians generally believe that chivalrous acts and responsibilities only apply to their fellow aristocrats and do not extend the same courtesies and respect to their peasant citizens. Bretonnian knights are born exclusively from the nobility of Bretonnia as peasants cannot afford the cost of the armor and weapons required to be a knight, as well as the upkeep necessary to keep horses and maintain equipment.
Some more well-off peasants may still serve as Men-at-arms in their lord's forces, each aristocrat being able to raise a few hundred men-at-arms from their peasant tenant families. These part-time soldiers are paid a marginal wage and are provisionally given basic armor and carry pikes or spears as their armaments. Each is also required to wear the livery of their lord's house. Though organized and markedly courageous, they are mostly poorly trained and under-supplied as their lords will rarely spare the time and resources to properly equip them. As such, men-at-arms often rely on salvaged or captured arms and other war gear from the battlefield.
Additionally, Bretonnian armies are supplemented by the Fey Enchantresses (women who are mysteriously abducted by fey spirits when they are young, raised by the Lady and endowed with magical powers) and the famed Pegasi Riders (knights trained to ride highly-temperamental winged horses exclusively raised by Bretonnian breeders and serve as the kingdoms aerial forces). For heavy firepower, Bretonnia has only one major siege weapon, the Trebuchet. While boasting impressive range, the siege weapon is as inaccurate to fire as it is cumbersome to load. These are usually kept far to the rear of Bretonnian armies along with their peasant long bowmen who rank even less than Men-at-Arms.
Thus, Bretonnian armies rely on powerful charges from their many heavily armed and armored knights in order to achieve victory. Bretonnian knights are arguably the best heavy cavalry in Warhammer Fantasy, along with being the most varied. For support units, they have the Pegasi and the Enchantresses and for basic units, Bretonnian armies can also contain cheap and expendable peasant longbowmen and men-at-arms to serve as fodder.
- The Empire is one of the largest nations of the Old World. The Empire is based upon the real-world Holy Roman Empire with heavy Germanic influences, especially during the early modern period. The Empire benefits from a great diversity of units and magic. They also field an extensive variety of black-powder weapons, but its core troops are quite weak in comparison with those of other races.
Smaller states of the Old World
- The Wasteland – Akin to the Low Countries, this low-lying land at the mouth of the River Reik is home to Marienburg, one of the largest cities in the Old World. This region used to belong to the Empire when it was referred to as Westerland, but is now fiercely independent. Marienburg is a single city-state and is not covered by its own army book for Warhammer Fantasy Battle. Although the previous edition of Empire Army book contains a listing for a Marienburg army.
- Tilea – South of the Irrana Mountains and the Vaults. The fractious city-states of Tilea embrace trade, exploration and civil war with equal passion. The bulk of armies in these lands are made up of powerful Legions, fighting on behalf of the wealthy rulers of the many republics and principalities, but there are also wandering mercenary armies who serve the self-proclaimed Merchant Princes and often fight further north in the service of the Empire. Merchant Prince armies can be represented by the Dogs of War army list, but the main Tilean armies have no official book, relying on unofficial sources written by independent players. Tilea roughly corresponds to the real world's Roman Empire, while the nature of the gypsy-like Merchant Princes more resemble Renaissance Italy.
- Estalia – A peninsula southwest of Bretonnia. They are far from the threat of Chaos, this land is home to a kingdom, akin to the Iberian peninsula prior to the Reconquista along with some Renaissance Italy influences. The name "Estalia" is a mix-up of the names España (Spain) and Italia (Italy). Estalia was once occupied by forces from Araby (which mirrors the real life Iberian peninsula which was once under Moorish control) but these were driven out by a combined effort by other Old World human realms. There is no official Estalian army book or list published by Games Workshop at this time. However, one could use a Dogs of War army list as a basis for a royal or mercenary force from the peninsula or use one of the unofficial books published by independent players. Estalia's position in the Old World mirrors that of Spain and Portugal in Europe.
- Norsca- Bordered to the North by the Chaos Wastes, to the South by the Sea of Claws, and to the East by Troll Country. Norsca is a wild country based on Scandinavia. The tribal and Viking like Norse worship a large pantheon of gods, the most significant of which are the Chaos Gods, and are often found among the ranks of the Warriors of Chaos forming the majority of the Hordes as both marauder foot soldiers and Chaos Warrior shock troops.
- Kislev – A northern nation and an ally of the Empire under constant threat due to their close proximity to the maddening Realm of Chaos. This nation is reminiscent of medieval Muscovy, Ukraine, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and relatively similar to the Slavic countries. In the most recent incarnation, the Kislevites are remarkably similar to the renaissance Polish with their winged lancers, and gryphon legions being adaptations of the historical Polish winged hussars, and medieval Russians, with Boyars, Kossars and the Tsar and Tsarina all being very similar adaptations of Russian realities. Kislevites can be taken as allies by some armies, and can be fielded as their own army through an Army Book published as a supplement with White Dwarf (in 2004) .
The North, East, and South
- Albion - based upon the British Isles. Albion is an island surrounded by mist and fog. In 2001, Games Workshop ran a worldwide summer campaign based around control of the Isle of Albion which included rules for adverse weather conditions and stone circles, which enhanced the abilities of magic users. Unofficial army books produced give army lists reminiscent of the Ancient Britons and Anglo-Saxons.
- Cathay - based upon ancient China.
- Nippon - based upon ancient Japan
- Araby - based on the Islamic Near East during the medieval period with units based largely on Arabian Nights style fantasy. Earlier background describes it as being divided into several theocratic states comprising a large empire ruled by the "Sultan of All Araby".
- Kingdoms of Ind - The Kingdoms of Ind are a fictitious location in the Warhammer Fantasy role playing games. They are the equivalent to the Indian Subcontinent in the real world. In the relevant Army Books of Warhammer, there is little reference to the Kingdoms of Ind. The southern half of Ind is covered in forests containing a high concentration of Beastmen.
There is an island just off shore of Ind, the equivalent of Sri Lanka, mostly covered by forests on which a High Elf fortress known as the Tower of the Sun is situated. A collection of smaller islands are bunched up close to Ind, one of which has another High Elf outpost known as the Tower of Stars. Separating the Kingdoms of Ind from Grand Cathay is a leg of mountains from the Ogre Kingdoms, the equivalent of the Himalayas, where the Land of the Celestial Dragon Monks is. Just inside the nation of Ind is a coastal city called the City of Spires. The rulers of Ind are said to be attended by many servants and slaves, as well as being wealthy and generous.
The Sea of Claws is roughly equivalent to the real world Baltic Sea. The Sea is mentioned in many of the settings sourcebooks and maps. Its name comes from its abundance of sea creatures. On the shores of Sea of Claws are Empire, Kislev, Bretonnia, Norsca and also the great city of Marienburg roughly equivalent to 17th century Amsterdam. On the shores of sea is located Norsca city of Olricstaad.
The Elves were the third civilized race to walk the world. Brought from creation by the Old Ones, the Elves showed an adeptness to magic. Torn asunder many thousands of years ago by a great civil war, there are three major nations of Elves.
- Dark Elves – The relentless and bitter Druchii of Naggaroth still follow Malekith, who was exiled but still claims to be the rightful heir to the throne of the Elven Kingdoms of Ulthuan. The dark elves are sworn enemies of the high elves and try incessantly to invade their former homeland. Dark elves enjoy nothing more than inflicting pain and suffering on others, and they frequently launch raids throughout the Old World in order to capture more slaves to feed their hunger for cruelty. Their preistesses, the Witch elves of Khaine, perform blood rituals to rejuvenate their youth.
- High Elves – The Asur carry on the ancient traditions of the Elven people on the island continent of Ulthuan, as well as the burdens of many millennia of arrogance and warfare. Without them the daemons of chaos would overrun the entire world.
- Wood Elves – The ruthless Asrai abandoned their kin to both protect and restrain the strange sentient forest of Athel Loren in the Old World. They resemble the Elves of Tolkien's Lothlórien. They appear to be neither good nor bad, as likely to kill lost travelers as to aid them. They are mortal enemies to the Beastmen, and wage a mostly unnoticed war against them.
In the first edition of the game, there were two other Elven armies noted: the "Sea Elves" and the "Night Elves". Sea Elves were essentially the Elves of the more practical and worldly Outer Kingdoms of Ulthuan, and the Night Elves are now considered part of the Dark Elves.
The Dwarfs live in city fortresses dug into the mountains of the Old World. Their Chaos brethren occupy one huge towering city in the lands to the south east of the Old World.
- Dwarfs – An ancient, grim, and determined race were integral in the founding of the Empire, the Dwarfs spend their days avenging grudges and counting gold. Dwarfs are the greatest craftsmen in the Warhammer World and in addition to enjoying fine arms and armor, they implement the best heavy infantry and artillery in the game. Dwarf armies are well suited to defensive warfare, however due to their lack of mobility, they do not do well when forced to go on the offensive. Dwarfs are legendary for their ability to never forget nor forgive a wrong against them, their finely crafted weapons and armor, their ability to consume large quantities of ale, extreme stubbornness, mistrust of elves, and hatred of greenskins. Dwarfs are the closest ally to Humanity, although the Elves of Ulthuan have united with the Humans as well in the last few hundred years. Due to the horrid War of the Beard, Dwarves hold a grudge against the High Elves.
- Chaos Dwarfs – Tireless overseers of soulless industry. The Chaos Dwarfs worship their own Chaos God; Hashut, the Father of Darkness. Their braided beards and Lamassu monsters are drawn from Mesopotamian art and mythology. As of 2011, the Chaos Dwarfs are available as a Forge World exclusive army, as well as three working as the crewmen of the Hellcannon in the Warriors of Chaos army, and as one of the ships in Dreadfleet.
- Lizardmen – The Lizardmen have undergone many successive changes through the history of the Warhammer game. Originally they were the 'native' race of the Warhammer World who were driven underground by the Slann prior to their vast terraforming (which created the distinctive form of the continents compared to those of Earth). They fought an eons-long guerrilla war against the amphibian aliens whose armies were then made up of Amazons, Pygmies, Lobotomised Slaves and Slann warriors.
In recent editions they have been reimagined to have been originally created by the Old Ones, thus being the second civilization to come to the Warhammer world. Preceded by the Old Ones and succeeded by the Elves to aid in their great genetic works, the Slann now lead the Lizardmen through prophesies containing ancient instructions from their gods, who may or may not some day return. The Lizardmen are based on the Aztec and Mayan cultures and are found in the New World, corresponding with ancient Central and South America.
Orcs and Goblins (Greenskins)
The tribes of Orcs, Goblins and other Greenskins are spread across the Old World and into the east. They are mostly referred to in general as "Greenskins" for obvious reasons. The magic they use is called Waaaagh! and is drawn from the power and energy of excited, bloodthirsty Greenskins armies. A large horde led by a great Orc Leader (or sometimes a Goblin one) of Orcs and/or Goblins is called a Waaagh!
A relative of the Common Goblin is the Gnoblar, which is found living with the Ogre Hordes in the Mountains of Mourn. East of the Mountains of Mourn on the borders of Cathay live the Hobgoblins, a race of greenskins somewhere between a Goblin and an Orc, but more cunning than either. Hobgoblins can also be found as slaves or slavers within realm of the Chaos Dwarves. Smallest in size of all the Greenskin races are the Snotlings, They are considered the lowliest of greenskins and are most often bullied around by their larger, greener cousins.
The toughest and most disciplined of the Orcs are the Black Orcs. These mean beasts are "armed to da teef" and are covered in heavy black armour. This is one reason why they are called Black Orcs, the other being their unusually dark green skin compared to their brethren. The most unusual thing about these Orks is that they take care of their weapons and armour (to an extent), cleaning them after each battle, while the other orcs like to leave pieces of their foes stuck to their gear.
Another form of Orc are the Savage Orcs, who, rather than use the modern technology of armour, language, and weapons of their cousins, stayed in their primitive savage form. Using mainly stones as their weapons, the Savage Orcs rush madly into battle, some clinging upon wild boars with only their feet. The Savage Orcs put so much faith in their warpaint that it works for intimidation.
The phrase "Slaves to Darkness" is used to cover all those who have fallen under the control of, or pledged themselves to, the Forces of the Chaos gods. While the energies of chaos touch all things magical, there are those who fully give themselves to the deities of this realm, and seek to conquer not just the works of the Old Ones, but the very fabric of reality itself.
There used to be a combined Chaos Army in the early 1990s, which was later split into the Beasts of Chaos and Hordes of Chaos army books. These books then subdivide the armies of Chaos further into Bestial, Mortal (humans), and Daemonic armies.
- Beastmen – Are either born bestial to human parents or raised among mutants. Beastmen hate all that is civilized and untouched by the glories of chaos.
- Warriors of Chaos – Primarily humans who are favored by the Four Great Gods of chaos. These marauders emerge from the areas below the Northern Warp Gate and also possess one of the strongest cavalries and infantries in the game.
- Daemons of Chaos - Servants of the chaos gods. They are made out of pure energy emerging from the northern and southern warp gates. These daemons only come out in times when the Chaos energies in the Warhammer World are strong.
Skaven or "Children of the Horned Rat", are a Chaotic race of rat-men.The Skaven have a general Steampunk motif, in that they use primitive and magic-driven science similar to alchemy and medieval proto-science.
Some Skaven concepts might be inspired by the Old World's view of technology as imbalanced, or knowledge/science not held in check by morals. This is a theme which runs through the background of The Empire, in which wizards, gunpowder manufacturers and Sigmarite priests all try to limit or free themselves from the others influence.
All undead in the Warhammer world are a result of the black sorceries devised by the first necromancer, Nagash, in the long distant past. The Undead are effectively split into two distinct armies: that of the Tomb Kings which has a strong ancient Egyptian feel with mummies and chariots driven by skeletons, and the army of the Vampire Counts which features vampires, zombies and so forth.
- Vampire Counts – Disciples of Nagash who stole his secrets of eternal life, the Vampires and their minions have spread across the Old World, furthering their own aims. There are five playable vampire families, each with different ambitions, habits and powers: Von Carsteins, Necrarchs, Blood Dragons, Lahmians and Strigoi. Their armies consist mainly of classic undead, such as zombies, skeletons, vampires, bats, and ghosts. Anthropologists such as A. Asbjørn Jøn have analysed how subgroups of the Vampire Counts - such as the Blood Dragons and the Von Carsteins - fit into vampire legends and lore.
- Tomb Kings – In the hot desert lands of Nehekhara to the south of the Old World a race was once ruled by the necromancer Nagash. After a successful rebellion against his rule, he killed every mortal being in order to raise an unassailable army of the undead to conquer the world. He was stopped by the last king of Khemri. The aftermath of Nagash's great spell awakened several thousand years worth of the buried dead and their Kings as an undead army. Their armies consist mainly of Egyptian-style units, such as bowmen, light infantry and several chariots.
- Ogre Kingdoms – Massive Eastern barbarians who will do any work for gold and will eat anything and anyone. They ride large beasts resembling mammoths and sabre-tooth tigers. Since ogres are guided solely by their stomachs, they spread devastation and destruction wherever they go. Ogres are often considered to be a "neutral" army, and can end up fighting for any side, they hire themselves out as mercenaries to feed their lust for food. They have a resemblance to humans from the ice age or cave man.
- Warhammer Armies: Bretonnia (Games Workshop, 1998) ISBN 1-869893-08-5
- Warhammer Armies: The Empire (Games Workshop, 2000) ISBN 1-84154-059-5
- Warhammer: Dark Shadows, (Games Workshop, 2001) ISBN 1-84154-198-2
- Warhammer Rulebook (Gamesworkshop, 1996) ASIN B000QGG4SA
- Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (main rulebook, 1986, reprint 1995)
- Warhammer Armies: Dark Elves (Nottingham: Games Workshop Ltd., 1998) ISBN
- Warhammer Armies: High Elves (Nottingham: Games Workshop, 1993) ISBN 978-1-872372-63-1
- Warhammer Armies: Wood Elves (Nottingham: Games Workshop, 2006) ISBN 1-872372-45-7
- Warhammer Armies: Dwarfs (Nottingham: Games Workshop, 2000) ISBN 1-84154-066-8
- Warhammer Lizardmen (Nottingham: Games Workshop Ltd., 2005) ISBN 1-84154-644-5
- Warhammer Armies: Orks and Goblins (Games Workshop Lts, 2000) ISBN 1-84154-060-9
- Warhammer Armies: Ogre Kingdoms (Games Workshop Lts, 2004) ISBN 1-84154-531-7
- White Dwarf Presents Warhammer Chaos Dwarfs (Games Workshop Lts, 1994) ISBN 1-872372-80-5
- Jøn, A. Asbjørn (2003). "Vampire Evolution". mETAphor (3): 22. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
- Jøn, A. Asbjørn (2001). "From Nosteratu to Von Carstein: shifts in the portrayal of vampires". Australian Folklore: A Yearly Journal of Folklore Studies. University of New England (16): 97–106. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
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