I've been avoiding this book a long time
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Sigmar's Heirs
I've been avoiding this book a long time
Well, it's finally time for the official Empire Book. Sigmar's Heirs is the first book written for the line past the Core and man does it show. In a line that got considerably better as it went on, Sigmar's Heirs stands out for not really knowing what the hell it wanted to do. Worse, a bunch of important content for it got chopped out to be put in other books; you remember the huge writeup of Middenheim that accompanied Ashes of Middenheim? Middenheim, Talabheim, Nuln, and Altdorf all have big mini-campaigns or campaign chapter books written for them, and all the details on those cities are there. There is jack and shit on the most important cities in the Empire in this, the Empire book, and this, the Empire, the nation with the largest and most important cities in the setting. You'll get more information on random villages in the middle of nowhere than you will on the Empire's capital. The organization of this book is also a mess, and this is the one book in the line that tries to publish a 'demographic' list of the populations of every random town in the Empire. It ends up putting the Empire at a population, total, of about 478,000 or so people (I counted! I lost my notes on it because I did it months ago) when added up. By contrast, the actual HRE during the 17th century often had about 20 million or so. This is why they stopped doing this in later books; it wastes a ton of page space for something no-one will ever use and it's ludicrously underpopulated as is.
You remember how the Bret and Kislevite books had themes and strong ideas running throughout? The Empire book doesn't really know what to do with the Empire. It's too short to be detailed (If you clip out the adventure included with it, it's less than 100 pages of actual content) but it still tries to cover every province and everything about the Empire, ending up doing it all in a very cursory style. Its adventure hooks aren't particularly interesting, and it lacks the later style where they really nailed down adding 'and here's a way to play with it!' in all of their content. The main theme running through the Empire in Sigmar's Heirs is mostly 'Archaon wrecked it' and the main suggestion for alternate timelines in the front is 'Well what if he's still around and super dangerous'; there's no real solid sense of Imperial culture or daily life. Each individual province gets a short write-up, but these are fairly short and not very exciting. We also get a hodge-podge of classes in the back of the book that don't really have any rhyme or reason to them; there's nothing that yells 'Imperial' the way the Bret Careers and Kislevite Careers got their countries across.
The book opens with a brief description of the geographical regions of the Empire; it's a huge place, and climate and character change a lot depending on what province and which region you're in. The Empire's borders are mostly formed by natural barriers, save the northern border with Kislev and the Sea of Claws, and most of those barriers are mountains. The Grey Mountains to the west separate it from Bretonnia, while the huge swampland of the Wasteland separates the parts where the Grey Mountains end from the coast and Marienburg. The Vaults separate the southern border from the roads to Tilea, and the Black Mountains keep the eastern borders of the Empire. The most important geographical features of the Empire are the massive rivers that run all through it; the Empire literally couldn't exist as a polity without them. The Reik, the Stir, the Talabec river, and all their associated smaller rivers are more essential to the Empire's logistics, transport, and communication than any human-built road. River traffic is absolutely vital to the Empire's existence, because the Empire is very heavily forested. Those forests are mostly unexplored; going too deep means you run into swarms of Goatman Prime and all manner of monsters and no-one wants to do that. So while the Empire is one of the most developed regions in the setting, never forget there are vast swaths of forest that no human has ever mapped. Hell, no wood elf has ever mapped some of it. You want to have a hidden place for players to explore in the Empire? Put it in the forests and drop vague clues about it.
The only relatively unforested area of the Empire is in the southeast. Parts of Reikland (The south-central main province) are perfect agricultural territory and feed much of the Empire, and the Southeastern province of Averland has most of the Empire's grazing land and livestock. Ostermark (eastern middle province) has some unforested veldt, too, which serves as a raising ground for Imperial horses. The northern Empire is very heavily forested, and the furthest north sections are quite cold; one reason Ulricans prefer to live in the north. The farthest north parts of the Empire are also off the river network, and have to rely on much more dangerous and slower roads through the northern forests; travel is much more dangerous when you can't sail, much slower, and much more expensive, so towns and villages in these regions are much more isolated.
One important bit of Imperial character that DOES come across in this book is that the Empire is the most multicultural society in the setting. Elf, Dwarf, Human, and Halfling all live there, and the Empire's central location and huge size and development mean that international trade and travel is more common here than anywhere else in the setting. Humans are, of course, the main inhabitants of the Empire, and tend to have a slightly benign stereotype of the other species; 'Oh those halflings, all such good cooks! And elves are such good dancers!' that kind of thing. Dwarfs and humans get along quite well; this is the book that likened the relationship between dwarf and human to an uncle with a favorite nephew. Humans respect the dwarfs and their role in Imperial history, though human engineers and smiths sometimes grumble about their dwarven neighbors 'taking jobs' from them (since dwarf-craft is always in high demand). The dwarfs like to remind the humans of how much they owe them, but in a good-natured way; they think of humans as proteges, and the Imperials as the best of the lot. After all, dwarfs are short, bearded folk, fond of drink and industry. Imperials are, to them, tall, bearded folk, fond of drink and industry; a natural sign of the good influence of the dwarfs.
Elves generally don't see themselves as part of the Empire, even if they live there, and their nervousness about its comparatively meteoric rise back to stability and importance after they helped Magnus is hidden behind a veneer of scorn. The elves who actually live in the Empire, the wood elves of the Laurelorn forest, still maintain their independence but have increasingly admitted that their fate is tied to the Empire and that if it really turned against them, it would be extremely inconvenient
. They try to get along with their human neighbors for the most part, and hope to be left alone. Some of them go further, entering the Empire to try to safeguard it and make sure the humans don't fuck everything up, never admitting that they do this because they're reliant on the humans for protection from truly overwhelming threats. This is quite a different relationship than the Bret have with their wood elves! We get a sidebar telling you to make elf characters relatively rare in the Empire, and promising more on elfs and dwarfs when they get their own sourcebook, which sadly never happened. Humans look at elves as powerful and weird, but also find them really, really annoying; elves like to speak slowly and simply when talking to humans, because they feel they need to put things in terms a barbarian's descendants can understand. Elves are generally particularly scornful of Sigmar; maybe they're jealous he's way less of a total asshole than their shitty chief God.
Halflings claim that Sigmar saved them from something, but they don't really remember what, and neither do the humans. As long as the Empire has existed, there have been halflings. And the halflings have always backed the humans; they really like the way the humans will just forget about them and do all the serious fighting while the halflings continue on making pies. They contribute, of course, and they're proud of their contributions; halflings still serve as scouts and archers for the Imperial army sometimes, and their contributions form some of the cornerstones of Imperial cuisine. They also make great spies, assassins, and thieves, because everyone knows halflings are provincial, harmless types, right? Everyone else sees the halflings as walking jokes, and elves tend to view them like adorable, favored pets, but the halflings don't mind. As long as everyone else is dying in the muck, they're happy to continue doing their thing, even if they know they'll get dragged along too whenever things get really serious.
Next Time: I'm not rewriting the entire 2522 years of fictional history for like the 4th time
An Abridged History of the Empire
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Sigmar's Heirs
An Abridged History of the Empire
What's really interesting about the history section in Sigmar's Heirs is how little it diverges. There are, however, some interesting assumptions and points of emphasis in how this particular telling of the Empire's history talks about itself. We'll be talking about the places where it goes into more detail and what those mean.
We get a little more detail on Sigmar's founding of the Empire, telling us that he began to found his Empire as soon as he had acquired Ghal Maraz when he saved the dwarf king from an incidental greenskin ambush. His mother's death at the hands of greenskin raiders seems to have driven him to think that even his particularly prosperous and successful Unberogen tribe was not safe on its own. Sigmar brought the tribes together by whatever means would work best, because he cared more about having an active confederation than almost anything else; guile, bribery, diplomacy, and killing the King of the Teutogens because Teutogens are kind of assholes and won't listen to those other three things got him his confederation. The famous Battle of Black Fire Pass tested it, where he convinced the human tribes to aid their neighbors the dwarfs before they wound up assaulted themselves. The great victory convinced the tribal Kings and Queens that Sigmar's confederation idea had had merit and had worked out.
While Sigmar had enormous authority, he was also a smart man who understood that his people had been dozens of tribes only a decade or so ago and that they had no rapid communications technology. He built his roads (and encouraged more river travel) because he hoped that trade, travel and communication would draw the tribes together, and he generally recognized that they were still separate tribes even if they all paid him homage. His original system of 12 great provinces and tribal Kings being converted to Counts was an acknowledgment of reality. He encouraged the Kings to develop and build fortresses and new holds, and was helped along by good fortune: The Empire had a long series of good years in a row while he was establishing himself. The weather cooperated and harvests were good, allowing populations to expand and people to feel prosperous. It's funny to thing that a few years of bad weather rather than good could've undone Sigmar's project, and I quite like that touch. Also, during Sigmar's life, Middenheim was the holy city of the Empire because the Emperor was a pious Ulrican, and many of his new subjects built new shrines to his chief God to try to earn his good graces.
Also interesting, it used to be the Ar-Ulric who would crown a new Emperor, and as we saw in ToS, it was a Priestess of Rhya who prevented the Empire from collapsing as soon as Sigmar left by inventing the Electoral system to keep the Counts from killing each other over succession (it was only partly successful).
This book is probably our best look at Sigmar the Man, and it paints him as a pragmatic, intelligent person who understood his authority had limits because of purely practical reasons. The hardest thing to understand about him is why he never considered succession, but that's the kind of question it's fun to answer for yourself. There's a strong element of luck in the prosperity of the Empire under Sigmar, too, and that's actually pretty refreshing.
We also get an extra detail from Helstrum and the foundation of Sigmarism: Helstrum's original vision claimed Ulric gave Sigmar HIS crown, making Sigmar Chief of the Gods. This makes the Ulrican reaction to his revelation make an awful lot more sense; the monodominism started at the source. As in ToS, there's also an assertion that Helstrum mostly caught on because his new religion preached absolute obedience to the Electors.
Much of the rest as exactly as it's been in other texts. It starts to add more when we get to the present day, telling the Storm of Chaos in a bit more detail. Interestingly, it acknowledges that there's no proof Valten was Sigmar reborn and that it's possible he was just being followed by a crusade of desperate people who needed something to believe in. Also hilariously, the entire Storm/War only actually lasted 66 days, according to this book. The northeast of the Empire is badly damaged, Archy got away and because he's a Chaos Lord everyone's worried he'll pull another of their infinite, instant armies of screaming fanatics out of his pocket despite the devastation of his forces, we do get a direct mention of 'the sudden betrayal of his Orcish allies' (lol), and the Empire is facing both the financial strain of full mobilization and a refugee crisis. Trade is disrupted, money has been lost, and in many provinces, the year's harvest has been ruined by the scale of mobilization and displacement. Also, Valten surviving his duel with Archy may not have been for the best; he died later in the temple of Shallya, and there are already accusations the Emperor murdered him and fears among Sigmarites that he was the savior and now he's dead (he was stabbed by the greatest of all rat ninjas).
The main issue presented throughout the history of the Empire in this particular telling is that the Empire is too big to hold together, but faces too much danger to go its own way. The greatest scandal of the last 100 years was Marienburg managing to buy its freedom from the Empire, something the Empire would very much like to undo and something that directly led to the overthrow of the Emperor who allowed it. Emperors are assessed as successful or not almost entirely based on how well they keep the provinces together, how well they prevent open conflict between the provincial lords, and how well they manage to centralize authority. It doesn't matter how they do it; Karl Franz's method of being a good dealer and politician who knows how to play 'neutral' mediator is just as valid as Magnus' heroic capital and inspiring religious leadership. Every Emperor and every powerful person (going back to Siggy himself) in the Empire's history is engaged in a constant game of compromise to find out how much the Empire can stick together versus allow local freedoms, and the entire thing has fallen apart several times. The Empire is, and always will be, a goddamn mess and that's one of the best parts about it.
Next Time: The structure of the Empire is a goddamn mess
Let us take strength from diversity
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Sigmar's Heirs
Let us take strength from diversity
I bet the above quote isn't something you'd ever expect from a GW God Emperor type, is it? It's a very curious and interesting quote from Sigmar himself that starts the Imperial Government section. As we've been over several times, there is simply no way to administer the Empire entirely from a central location. Even if the political situation permitted it, simple geography won't; the Empire is one of the largest states in the Old World (barring great foreign empires like Cathay). When its original laws were set down, people were just coming out of the bronze age, thanks to their new mates the dwarfs showing them this awesome thing called iron. Also, according to the book, Sigmar himself felt that an Emperor who issued rare decrees from the center would be a counter-balance on the tribal Kings and Queens if any of them got out of hand, while their independence would prevent a central Emperor from ruling by total fiat.
One of the key problems for the Empire is that the Electors have very little reason to want to elect a particularly strong counter-balance to their independence. Outside periods where there is no truly recognized Emperor (which is, if you'll recall, roughly a millennium out of the 2522 years of Imperial history, not a great track record) the Emperor is most often chosen by electing someone who will leave their Electors alone. The Imperial Office doesn't have nearly as much power as the church of Sigmar teaches; Electors can often get away with just ignoring Imperial edicts, because who is going to enforce them? I suspect one of the reasons the Empire tends to equate 'strong Emperor' with 'talented Emperor' is that actually getting central authority out of the Imperial Office takes a very able politician or a very well respected figure as it is.
In theory the Emperor is an absolute ruler. In practice, the Emperor is stopped by size and Electors as mentioned, but also by the sheer number of things a truly supreme ruler would need to be doing even if they had perfect knowledge and loyal Electors. Thus, the Emperors have created the Council of State, a cabinet of ministers and officials who ensure only the most important matters reach the Imperial Office and who deal with lesser affairs of state themselves. The Council of State is made up of some of the most powerful officials in the Empire, including the Supreme Patriarch of the Colleges of Magic and the Grand Theoganist. We get names for a lot of these people, but for the most part they don't get any plot hooks or characterization, so I'll stick to describing the offices.
The Chancellor of the Riekland is a meaningless title to cover up that the person who holds this position is the Imperial spymaster. Karl Franz keeps a family member in this role, wanting someone he can trust. This office also technically controls the licensing and collates the reports of the secular Witch Hunters operating at the pleasure of the state. There are also the Counselors on Matters Magical and Affairs Spiritual, who are the current Patriarch and Grand Theoganist. The Chamberlain of the Seal handles matters of foreign affairs and diplomacy. The Reiksmarshall is one of the few characters who appears outside of WHFRP besides Gelt, the famous Kurt Helleborg, said to be the best in the Empire at swordfighting and growing a mustache. He had to coordinate the armies of the Empire against Archaon, a task that is said to have aged him several years during the 66 day siege of Middenheim. The Chancellor of the Imperial Fisc handles matters financial, which is very important as the Empire threw its entire central treasury at ensuring full and rapid mobilization. Also one of the positions to be held by a Baroness rather than a Baron at moment. The Supreme Law Lord is the Emperor's lawyer (and currently a High Priestess of Verena). Finally, the Chamberlain of the Imperial Household manages the actual Imperial estates; the current one is said to have been driven to drink, as the Emperor ordered many fine pieces of art and priceless works 'taken for cleaning' (auctioned off) to support the war effort.
Another interesting little bit of history: Karl Franz's grandfather tried to write an actual constitution for the Empire and formalize the Council's place in governance and decision making. He was stopped by the Elector Counts, because they worried he was trying to make a Council appointed entirely at the pleasure of the Emperor an official body with authority equal to theirs and rightly recognized that this would limit their power considerably. The Council actually has no official power, but they control access to the Emperor and have a large influence on the information the Emperor receives, which gives Councilors considerable influence.
The Electors are the other most powerful people in the Empire, each ruling their province (somewhat) like a King or Queen in their own right. In truth, they're bound by complex relations with their own vassals, made even more complicated by the addition of Freistadts and chartered lands. The Elector Counts are also limited by their relationships with one another; one of the Empire's hobbies is civil war. Each Elector also maintains a lobby in Altdorf to inform them of the decisions of the central government and try to influence what it does and does not do. Because the Electors are significantly more powerful nobles than, say, a Bretonnian Duke, the Imperial system is a much messier feudal patchwork. For instance, Karl Franz, Prince of Reikland (He is still an Elector) is also Emperor. He also holds some land in Talabecland as an old family holding, which technically makes him vassal to the Elector of Talabecland, who is also vassal to him in his role as Emperor. The same mess of purchases, fallout from civil wars, and messy marriages over the years leads to absurdities like the Cult of Ulric actually having feudal mastery of a major Sigmarite monastary in Wissenland.
Towns make matters even harder. In 1066, Kemperbad in Reikland became the Empire's first Freistadt when it gave Emperor Boris Goldgather a large quantity of very rare wine and got him to agree to relieve their feudal obligations to the province of Reikland, technically creating the town as a separate entity. Naturally, this is an appealing prospect for a town; a Freistadt can elect its own leaders, its taxes are lower, and most of the money can go to local potentates instead of being sent to a more distant potentate. Nobles hate this, but towns are often able to get away with it by making promises to a noble above their direct lord in the feudal chain. After a town has managed to free itself, its old lords will usually plot to take it back in some way or another. This whole description, by the way, is one of the examples of how the sourcebook writing changes; in other books, this description of the feudal mess of the Empire would be filled with 'And then when the lord tries to take back the town, here's an idea for how your adventurers could get involved on either side' or suggestions of missions trying to sort out messy inheritances. Here in Sigmar's Heirs, it's just a flat description of the Empire's governance.
Sorcery is another problem for the Counts. They don't like the fact that the Colleges are in Altdorf. While we know from Realms of Sorcery that wizards have some safeguards to try to prevent them being used as tools in a civil war, it's plain to see that the most important places for all the Colleges being in the Imperial Capital will give the Emperor a great deal of authority over their use. Moreover, Karl Franz has the support of the Colleges after supporting their failed bid to gain an Electoral Vote and generally acting as a patron to the mages. The Electors have two routes to deal with this problem: One is trying to establish their own magical academies in their own lands, which has met with limited success. Technically, only the official Colleges can issue licenses, and the Hunters already dislike them; the Emperor would certainly have routes to shut this down if he wished, though the costs could be high. The other route is working with the cults to undermine the overall influence of the Colleges, as the wizards and priests don't especially get along, especially the Warrior Priests.
Finally, we've a description of the foreign affairs of the Empire, but it doesn't differ from the core books at all; they're happy with Bretonnia and Kislev at the moment from winning a war together etc. The main point of interest is that Marienburg's corporate board is very concerned about the damage to the Empire and how many of their own mercenary troops left to fight in the Storm. They're worried that rather than the Empire trying to get them back, the Bretonnians might seize their port, which would be far worse than being ruled by the Emperor. They aren't quite sure what to do, and again, this should be written as a spot for PC adventure, but isn't.
Next Time: Inexplicably large amounts on the legal system that still don't tell you much
An excess of pageantry
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Sigmar's Heirs
An excess of pageantry
The Crime and Punishment section is predicated on the idea that PCs are going to end up breaking the law. Lots of things an Adventurer does are technically illegal; how many times do you have an adventure without committing at least one minor crime? The section also exists because there's an awful lot of crime in the Empire, and early modern not-Germans are a litigious people prone to lawsuit, too. The Empire has a long tradition of constant confidence tricksters, thieves, and highwaymen; when one of your Gods considers robbing the rich sacred and you have a growing merchant class with piles of poorly guarded money, you're going to have people looking to take it. The cities are full of pickpockets, gangsters, and frauds; with laws changing in every province and most people not knowing all the local officials, plenty of charlatans can make a living impersonating Imperial officials and collecting false taxes or preying on first-time visitors to the big city.
The Empire is currently suffering a breakdown of social order in its northeastern provinces that is making its crime problem worse. The refugees that fled Archaon's armies are either returning home to find that their crops and homes were burned or looted by their attackers or their lands were tainted, and clearing away the damage is going to take a lot of time. Hence many are opting to settle where they fled, which is creating strain on local resources with the Empire's finances in dire straits after spending so much to rally its armies. People are desperate for food and a safe place to live, and criminal gangs and bandit fiefdoms are filling in where the Elector Counts' armies and guards aren't. Large populations of people with few roots and large groups of people wandering the roads without protection are targets for slavers and worse. Order will probably be restored, but it may be a matter of a few years; in the meantime there's a lot of space for a party of 3-6 adventurers to make a living either beating the shit out of thugs or being those same thugs, depending on if your players like being massive dicks (though the book doesn't suggest this; I'm going to keep pointing this out because it's one of the interesting failings of Sigmar's Heirs. Later books in the line would be full of 'how do you use this information to write an adventure' and this book isn't).
Traveling Judges get their own subsection and they're just bizarre. The basic idea is fine: These are failed lawyers who didn't do very well in the cities and couldn't get into a good law firm. So instead of doing lawsuits and arguing property cases in a nice, safe, walled city they have to take the relatively undesirable job of going around and providing legal services to Imperial villages that don't have their own local judges. They are empowered to order capital punishment, levy fines, have people placed in stocks or ordered to do reparation, make final decisions on land disputes, and enter marriages into official record (or hold them, if no priest is available). Given the danger of travel, this being a shit job that lawyers would prefer to avoid makes sense; would you rather be hearing cases in a comfortable city court or dodging Goatman Prime and his pet Chaos Spawn to try to rule on whether or not someone moved a boundary stone to steal his neigbor's cow? Then it gets weird. Despite being poor and doing this job because they're poor and don't have any other good source of income, the traveling judges go about with massive pageantry. They're carried everywhere on palanquins by their massive executioners and bodyguards, and they hold their trials standing on giant books so that their feet 'touch only the law', which all seems a touch difficult to do when again: You're doing this job because they're a poor, failed lawyer. More reasonably, they wear extremely fancy hats because this advertises their services; it's common knowledge the judge with the best hat is the best judge and that's just reasonable Imperial tradition. Playing a traveling judge (with maybe the silliness toned down just a little; keep the hat, ditch the palanquin) and their entourage as you wander around the Empire and solve mysteries and try not to die on the road could be fun, but there's no such suggestion this could be an adventure seed. Like a legal Questing Knight, they can demand food from any village they provide services to, and receive a stipend from a regional magistrate based on the number and size of trials they conduct.
The idea of 'legal rights' is a new thing in the Empire. A new thing and a growing thing. Most property law currently exists to protect feudal lords and the very wealthy, not the common person. Imperial law is extremely complicated, moreso than any other nation in the setting, because there are so many different levels of legal jurisdiction and power. Not to mention all the corruption and unwritten law. For instance, Emperor Karl Franz is (as we went over) technically vassal to one of his own vassals. If a property dispute arises between him and the Count of Talabecland, both of whom are vassals of one another, who has the right to judge the case? When the outcome of these cases can be about preventing a civil war, this kind of thing gets messy. To say nothing of what happens when a Freistadt has a legal issue with a feudal lord's vassal settlement, or of how the laws shift from town to town and province to province. High Imperial Law is mostly concerned with taxes, outlawing Chaos, and providing for succession among the Counts and Election of the Emperor; everything else is local, and Imperials goddamn love making laws.
How your laws get made is going to depend on your province. Nordland and Talabecland, for instance, have Electors who traditionally have the right to make whatever law they please. We'll see later in the case of Talabecland that enforcing them is a little harder than this (and that selective enforcement forms its own autocratic power bloc) but this is the 'on-paper' default power of an Imperial Elector Count. The Reikland, meanwhile, has grown increasingly democratic; remember how Karl Franz's grandfather tried to establish a constitution for the Empire? While he failed to do so, he was still able to establish a provincial Parliament in Reikland. While the Prince of Reikland/Elector Count still technically has the final say, this parliament provides a legal (and increasingly traditional) outlet for nobles, burghers, and cult officials to advise on taxes and punishments and acts as an additional court of appeals in important legal matters. Law is also increasingly feudal as you get out into the sticks; in a rural county you might not find much difference between the Empire and Bretonnia in how much power the local ruler has over their subjects. Meanwhile, in the towns and cities, you find jury trials and well-paid lawyers handling both civil and criminal affairs.
You'll also find that temples and cults have their own courts to try matters of heresy and corruption, often doing what they can to keep it off the books. Most temples don't want to admit that some of their priests are either executed for overly heterodox views (preferring the common folk see them as unified) or Chaos cultists (preferring the common folk see them as incorruptible), and thus most cult courts are secret. Guilds also hold their own court systems for handling property disputes and professional issues without letting the local lord get involved; making an appeal to Imperial law rather than handling a dispute over guild corruption or compensation within their own organization would give the local lord or burgomeister say over the Guild, and they'd prefer not to do that. Petty courts generally only exist in cities that have established Watches, and refer to matters where a Watch sergeant can rule on the matter immediately, limited to minor corporal punishments or very light fines. In practice, the petty courts mostly exist as a way for Watchmen to get some beer money by writing you up for your small, but vicious dog widdling on the wrong person's shoes.
Law is enforced by Hunters and Roadwardens, plus the Watch in the cities. We've gone over Hunters a lot, but it's interesting to see the differences in this book and others; other books make their limitations much clearer, while this book declares their writs 'supersede any local authority, though in practice a powerful noble can defy them'. This is a big difference from Realms of Sorcery and Tome of Salvation; I think the line decided you could have more adventures with (and as) Witch Hunters if they had to deal with the law more often and color within the lines, so to speak. This book also claims they are a central and wholly secular (though often with religious backgrounds) intelligence and enforcement agency, which is at odds with the rest of the line. It does still say that their reputation for killing everyone they meet is vastly overblown, though; they're dangerous and suspicious people, but they won't have someone burned for being cross-eyed. The Roadwardens are more normal secular cops who ride the roads and fight monsters and bandits and handle rural law enforcement. They are often empowered to hold trials themselves, not needing to wait for a traveling judge, and with the breakdown of order and their numbers thin more and more of them aren't spending much time on trials. The increasing preference for a bullet to the head or a hangman's noose after a cursory 'trial' for the sake of time is a growing problem.
We also get 'rules for trials' but I'm going to be honest: They suck. They're proceeded by a section saying you should have players arrested sometimes so they don't start thinking they're immune to the law, and then you should put them on trial. The trial consists of lots of roleplaying out testimony and stuff, with more of the line's weird admonition that this should be way more important than any points put in Fellowship or skill tests. I have no idea why this is such a specific and constant blindspot in this line, the idea that social skills are a fallback and people with a 22 Fel should just be able to talk their way out of everything by 'roleplaying' well. There's seriously the suggestion that you should only use the (very thin) given rules for rolling checks (based on evidence, hostility of the court, etc) if you want to 'speed things up' in place of roleplaying out Early Modern Phoenix Wright. Once you're done playing out the trial, you decide a verdict and if the players will appeal, etc. That's all the rules given for trial.
This section is somehow too long and too thin. You don't get a great sense of the legal punishments and customs of the Empire, despite the amount of material here, and you don't really get the rules to meaningfully interact with it as a gaming concept. There's also no adventure hooks or places to insert this into your game, except as a sort of obligation 'not to make players immune to the law', and I'm not certain that's really a huge problem in most gaming groups.
Next Time: The older, off-brand, less detailed Pamphlet of Salvation
The Pamphlet of Salvation
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Sigmar's Heirs
The Pamphlet of Salvation
We're going to be repeating a normal pattern for this book of having information that's primarily a repeat from the stuff in the core book with just slightly more detail, and of repeating information I've already covered in detail elsewhere. We know the ten major Imperial Gods like the backs of our hands by now, so this is going to be a pretty short update because otherwise I'd be repeating myself an awful lot. I do that enough as it is!
One of our first interesting divergences is in the description of Morr and the subcult of the Fellowship of the Shroud. The Fellowship was a big deal in Night's Dark Masters, providing the scholarly Agent of the Shroud investigator and the extremely great Knight of the Raven warrior vampire hunter. The Fellowship of the Shroud is an active and aggressive splinter group of Morrites who want to go after Sylvania and put the Vampire Counts in the ground for good. The Fellowship actually has no direct support from the mainstream Morrite temples; its leader is a Tilean vampire hunter and ex-priest who left the church over their refusal to sanction offensive operations. They prefer to guard the graveyards and hunt vampires on a need to know basis, whil Bassanio Dutra (the leader of the Fellowship) would like to establish a bunch of Belmonts to go deal with any mighty castles and lethal vampires before
they come into the Empire with an army of the damned.
The Church has a hard time dealing with the Fellowship because they're very popular. Dashing knights and investigators who fight the dark creatures of the night are thrilling figures, but the Empire also knows vampires are really goddamn dangerous and respects people who have success fighting them. Besides, these are holy templars of Morr, right? The fact that they are not, in fact, officially sanctioned is awkward and the church has benefited from their reputation, even as it's tried to petition the Emperor to ban them. For his part, Karl Franz sees no reason to ban an order of warriors and investigators whose main interest is 'find vampires, that insidious and serious threat to the Empire, then put a stake in the bastards', especially not when the Fellowship has had several notable successes. While the book isn't structured to suggest playing as a Fellowship team would be fun, it obviously would be if you want to fight some of the cooler villains in the setting.
Myrmidia and Manaan are basically as we remember them, though we get the interesting detail that no-one has any idea where Ranald actually came from. Some claim he's a Classical God, some claim he's the former God of a forgotten tribe, others claim he tricked Morr into smiling and now the Lord of the Dead is too ashamed of his levity to take him, while the most persistent myth remains that he somehow tricked Shallya into marrying him. She got out of the relationship by giving him immortality instead, in an act of mercy for herself. Shallya is much as she always is, doves and healing and generally trying to be decent to people. We do get an interesting little note that Shallyans sanction a sub-cult that believes mutation is a disease to be studied (and treated) and that mutants remain people. There's a hint that Shallyans may be protecting and hiding communities of sane mutants throughout the Empire, something the Sigmarite Hunters would dearly like to discover. I believe this is the first hint in the line of how mutation is going to be treated, so it bears mentioning. The cults protecting mutants and encouraging them to worship Shallya instead of the Dark Gods are strongest in the west and near Marienburg.
Good old Sigmar. Sigmar has the most important details compared to core and ToS because the Sigmarite writeup here focuses on the threats to Imperial unity caused by the priest Luthor Huss claiming he'd found a literal living Sigmar, then his Sigmar dying. We also get one of the amusing contradictions of the line: It can never decide if Volkmar or Esmer is currently Theoganist, only that they're in conflict with one another over Volkmar's escape and Esmer being a huge asshole monodominant. Esmer is very, very clearly set up as a major Sigmarite campaign villain over no less than three books, the conflict is just muddled by none of the three (this, Realm of Sorcery, and Tome of Salvation) agreeing on the status of where it's at or where it's going (Esmer is currently Theoganist in Sigmar's Heirs but on the verge of being forced out). The biggest problem facing the cult is that Valten, the boy Luthor Huss claimed was Sigmar, died after failing to destroy Archaon the Everchosen at Middenheim. The claim was popular enough and widely believed enough that this is causing a crisis of faith: Huss claims Sigmar merely left now that the crisis is over and will return if he's needed, but seeing as Valten both failed and died, some of the priests are beginning to fear that Sigmar has abandoned his cult. Others are terrified that their God may well have manifested and then died, and may actually be genuinely dead. This, incidentally, is why you don't run around making idiot claims that you literally found your God reborn because a 17 year old boy killed a couple beastmen with a hammer and had the right birthmark: You risk a widespread religious panic if (when) it turns out Chosen Ones aren't a big thing in Hams (at least, Non End Times Hams) and he fucks everything up at his big hero battle. But then the official Luthor Huss is a complete lunatic obsessed with sainthood and wanting to be a living saint, so him making crazy claims and errors in the name of getting to be the hero of a religious movement isn't exactly out of character.
So at least things are interesting in the cult of Sigmar. Lots of room for campaign plotlines there. The books for the RPG don't go into much detail about Valten and this is one of the most substantial mentionings of Huss in the line, merely saying that there's no real confirmation either way about his claims about Valten. I think the RPG intended to leave them very open, a bit like the Lady of the Lake, so that you could decide how you wanted to take that event if you decided to make it part of your campaign. After all, you've got a ton of ways you can do the Valten plot depending on how cynical or idealistic you want to make things: Actual avatar of Sigmar who lost (and the implications thereof), fraud, young boy caught up in things beyond himself who got by on luck and a magic hammer until suddenly he didn't, genuine hero who wasn't a God but also wasn't enough, murdered by rats (the canon explanation), murdered by Karl Franz (the fanatical explanation), etc. I like it left open like it is in the RPG; it makes for a good campaign hook.
Taal and Rhya get the interesting detail that the elves actually think Taal is a female God and that there's extensive syncretism and even crossover worship among the Nordlanders and the Wood Elves of the Laurelorn. Rhyan worship, especially, sees humans and elves worshiping together on especially holy days. The link among these popular religions and the religions of another race provide a bit of commonality that helps keep tensions down. I love the little moments where things bleed across cultures in Hams, so this is interesting.
Ulric is how he is in ToS, except for mention that the Ulricans are upset that Middenheim had to be saved by Sigmarite reinforcements and that the Myrmidian soldiers and mercenaries among the relief army are starting to set up chapels to praise their Goddess for victory over Archaon, eating into the cult further. Also a lot of space devoted to the Sons of Ulric, who are as they are in ToS, but more indication you're meant to use them as campaign villains (or comic relief nazis).
The only real difference of note with Verena is that they're busy trying to rescue whatever books and knowledge they can from the formerly occupied or raided lands of the northeast. Otherwise, they are as they are: Owls, Books, Justice.
Next Time: Hide the sheep.
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Sigmar's Heirs
Averland is our first Grand Province, down in the southeastern floodplains of the Upper Reik, the Aver River, and the Blue Reach. The regular floods make the soil fertile, and it's one of the only places in all the Empire that isn't covered in goddamn beastman infested forests. Averland is thus the best pastureland in the Empire and produces many of its sheep, wool, cattle, and horses. The province's most famous products are its wine (this is where you get the famous white wines of the Empire, almost fit for Bretonnians to throw out) and Averland Longhorn Cattle, who have to be driven across the plains to the stockyards every year by outriders and hastily hired adventurers. Yes, you can get hired on as an Averlander cowboy if you want to ride trail and get into intrigues, rustling, and the occasional gunfight. In the far east of the province, humans mine the foothills of the mountains separating Averland from the Border Princes, but only the foothills; the actual mountains are sovereign dwarf territory and trying to claim-jump dwarfs is a really bad idea. The dwarfs will take you before a human court, rather than just shooting you, but the nobility of Averland rely on trade and good relations with the dwarfs, and so those cases are almost uniformly decided in their favor. As you might guess from being one of the best agricultural and pasturelands in the Empire, with the added mineral wealth of the foothills and good access to the Empire's river networks, Averland is not a poor province.
Averland was originally the domain of the Brigundian tribe, which migrated to the region in -1000 IC or so. They were some of the only masters of horsemanship in the proto-Empire, and while they lacked stirrups and other technology necessary for heavy cavalry, many poems remain about their chariot-mounted nobles. They warred with the Unberogen, the future tribe of Sigmar, as well as orcs and goblins and other human neighbors, and established a relationship with the nearby dwarf kingdoms well before Sigmar; they would provide mercenary horsemen and noble charioteers to scout for dwarf forces in return for protection from the orcs and gifts of steel and gold. Such was the reputation of the Brigundian tribe as warriors that their chieftan, Siggurd, served as Sigmar's personal bodyguard during the decisive charge at Blackfire Pass. Modern Averlanders are still one of two major sources of Imperial cavalry scouts and outriders (the other being Ostermark, who we'll get to later).
Despite a previous sentence mentioning Averlanders have a reputation as cool-headed, the rest of this entire writeup will be about how that's total horseshit. The most famous Averlander was their prior Elector Count, who died in 2250. You might recall it's 2522 (officially) when Hams' RPG timeline ends. They've been unable to decide on an Elector ever since Marius 'The Mad' Leitdorf died, nearly 300 years ago. He was infamous for doing things at random, fearing that an attack on a certain day would be 'unlucky' or that something had to happen now for 'good luck'. While he was an extreme example, with his sudden mood swings between crippling depression and scurrying mania, Averlanders keep entire guilds of astrologers in business with the province's relentless superstition. 'Luck' is an important part of Averlander culture. So, this province has lacked for central authority for ages as it remains split between the Alptraums, an older family that had provided Electors for ages, and the bizarre and energetic Leitdorfs. People whisper that this is a function of how Averlanders can never make up their damn minds; any sane person would've had a short, sharp civil war and settled the matter after Marius died. Instead they've shifted back and forth for centuries...In part because without an Elector, the nobles and merchants both have noticed that no-one in Averland has the authority to levy any new taxes above the normal schedule.
Averheim is the capital of Averland, build on a big bluff above the Aver river to both provide it a defensible location and protect it from floods. The town is built around its ancient fortress, first constructed by King (later Count) Siggurd to fortify the traditional main camp of his people after Sigmar unified the region. Averheim's crypts date back to the earliest Imperial periods, but the local nobility won't allow scholars to document or catalogue it, for reasons unknown. One theory is that powerful magical relics lie below, and they want to keep them for themselves; who knows what the real reason is? Averheim is where the famous stockyards sit, and so it's the ending point for many of Averland's cattle drives. It's also home to the Pillar of Skulls, a monument built out of Orc skulls to mark the stopping point of a major invasion in the 18th century. This seems like a very bad idea in a world where Khorne exists, Averlanders! Averheim is seeing a conflict between the salt miners' guilds and merchants experimenting with hiring wizards to magically preserve ice and refridgerate the meat after the cattle drives, and it also sees conflict between the Leitdorfs and Alptraums (and the Leitdorfs and Leitdorfs) over who actually owns the city. Competition that is breaking down public order and allowing thieves and protection rackets to get out of hand.
There are two other settlements written up, but their only important details are that one has a large dorf population (10% of everyone living there) and watches the dorf border, and another has many dwarf ruins and can provide dungeons for PCs who aren't afraid of pissing off dwarfs (so, stupid PCs).
Streissen is the other important city of Averland. Streissen contains Averland's university and is known as a center of the intellectual elite. It was also a truly free town for a long time after it managed to trick the teenaged Countess Ludmilla Alptraum into granting it Freistadt rights. The people experimented with a prosperous and open republic for years, until their town council was overthrown by agitators following food riots in 2502 and the people attempted to establish a 'commune'. This was considered too far by the upper-class merchants of the town council, and they invited Ludmilla (now in her 60s) to send in the troops. She had hundreds of people, including the entire professorship of the university (and the town council) hung and established a brutal autocracy. 'Streissen' is a byword for 'atrocity' to this day after the Countess's brutality. No-one in Streissen dares speak openly of revolution or self-rule anymore...which has instead made it a hotbed of radical political ideas and underground movements. A dozen or more resistance organizations plot the overthrow of the brutal Alptraums, and at least a couple of them are Chaos cults trying to subvert the resistance. If you want to overthrow a ruthless autocracy while fighting Tzeentchian conspiracy theorists trying to astro-turf your resistance, Streissen's the place to put your adventurers.
We also get a simple example NPC, a fat merchant who likes dwarfcraft and pays adventurers to steal it for him, and then two minor adventure seeds: Ride trail for an old count and get his beautiful niece to Nuln for university while fighting off cattle rustlers, and get involved in conspiracy in Streissen.
Averland's fine. It's a bit of a weird place, but cowboy adventures and the mess in Streissen are good hooks for PCs.
We also get a cute sidebar in this part about how other lands view the Empire in their own words: Brets think they have terrible wine and their people don't know their place, Tileans think they drink too much but make plenty of good produce and know how to trade well, Estalians think their love of sausage and fistfights are very strange, etc.
The Elf passage on them is a little interesting. The High Elf envoy thinks they're industrious and clever people who've come a long way and who are good to do business with, noting that an Imperial business partner will wait until after they've gotten as much profit as is possible before they'll knowingly insult elves. He ends his little letter with 'If they ever manage to stop fighting themselves for a couple hundred years, they could really go places.'
The dwarfs, on the other hand, simply say this: "They know fighting, drinking, and cannon. There's a good life to be had there if you can stand to leave the mountains." I think that's as close as dwarfs get to unvarnished praise.
Meanwhile, the halflings simply note the Imperials will eat goddamn anything if you put it in a sausage casing.
Next: Hochland, the land of rifles and not being a dick.
And then the fire nation attacked
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Sigmar's Heirs
And then the
fire nation Norse attacked
Hochland is a tiny province (the smallest Grand Province) of heavy forest in between Middenland and Ostland in the northern Empire. It's southern border is the River Talabec and the Middle Mountains lie to the north, while one of the great roads of the Empire (the Old Forest Road) cuts right through it on the way to Middenheim to the west. By the gazetteer of populations, Hochland has fewer than 1000 people left in the entire province (there is a reason I haven't been quoting that thing). The Hochlanders are some of the most rural people in the Empire, and the main notable feature of their province is that it's a crossroads between the northern, southern, western, and eastern regions; most people aren't going to Hochland, they're in Hochland going somewhere else. This has had the curious effect of making Hochlanders some of the most cosmopolitan and welcoming people in the Empire. Their economy depends on travelers and people from all over the Empire pass through Hochland regularly, so they're familiar with the customs of other lands and most villages support a nearby coaching inn. By having a reputation for being friendly and welcoming, they encourage people to spend money on their way through, which supplements the trapping, lumbering and farming of the province (they have some good agricultural land along the river that can feed their small-ish population).
The problem is Hochland is currently on fire. Like, all of it. In a peaceful time Hochland would be a nice place. But its towns are on fire, its people have been driven into other provinces, and the forests are more full of monsters than ever before because it was on the main approach path *and* retreat path of Archaon's army. Though as another nod to the Storm of Chaos campaign, all of Hochland's forts survived (with terrible damage) and its capital town of Hergig gave a hell of a good accounting of itself before falling. These are the people who gave the Empire the Hochland Longrifle, after all. Hochland suffers a fair bit from much of the writing being devoted to how badly damaged Hochland is. Almost no town or village survived unscathed, with Krudenwald (one of the larger towns in Hochland, though 'larger town in Hochland' is like 'particularly fierce mouse' as a descriptor) at the Middenland border falling with only a few survivors and Hergig losing something like 80% of its people in the siege and sack.
Still, if you're skipping the Storm or writing well after it (or before it), Hochlanders are nice folks and the book talks about it enough to still run them just fine. The ancestors of the Hochlanders were the Cherusen Tribe, a small clan that had split off from the founders of Talabheim because they weren't as fond of raiding and killing. They preferred to fall back into the forest and set traps when raided, and preferred a more peaceful hunting and gathering existence when they could get it. They served Sigmar with such distinction as scouts that he granted them leave to be a province of their own and made their tribal King Aloysis into a Count, much annoying the Talabeclanders, who had felt they should be given rule of Hochland, too. Still, even back in the old days, Hochlanders were chill.
Modern Hochlanders are known as some of the best hunters in the Empire, and the province is responsible for many of the most famous game dishes in Imperial cuisine. Halflings might be better chefs, but Hochlanders are the undisputed masters of game and cookouts. They're also known to be excellent shots, as evidenced by the province producing a variant firearm that is far beyond the common musket, using grooves in the barrel to give the bullet enough spin to stay accurate over long ranges. Jokes abound (both by Hochlanders and others) about huntsmen who get into trouble for loving their longrifle or bow more than their wife, but the truth is they produce the best bows in the Empire in addition to the famous rifle, and the riflemen of Hochland were critical in helping to defend the Empire during the Storm. There's sadly no mention of how they ended up producing rifles that reload as fast as an early musket, because that's a hell of an achievement, though there is note given to the fact that the Hochlanders appreciate education and intellectuals and the Count had been encouraging private academies to form a university in Hergig. Count Ludenhof had also been trying to encourage enough wizards to come by to found his own small wizard school, and the students and handful of instructors were very helpful in keeping parts of Hergig alive during the siege.
So yeah, Hochlanders were kind, honest people who liked visitors, respected all the Gods (though Taal and Rhya and Sigmar the most), and were generally improving their province and setting things up to be better in the future. Then a swarm of angry hellvikings showed up and burned most of their province to the ground. They remain relatively optimistic, but now they have to contend with lawlessness and devastation, and with hosts of crazed flagellants running around their province trying to use its ruin as disaster porn and proof that even with Archy beaten THE END IS NIGH. These flagellants are also likely to see Chaos everywhere and burn down more of Hochland to 'cleanse' it unless stopped. 2522 is a tough time to be a Hochlander, let me tell you.
The main place of note in Hochland is Hergig, the capital, which was doing SO WELL until those jerks set it on fire. Count Ludenhof survived the sack, and has bent everything his family has towards rebuilding his town and his province; the damage is just very extensive. It was even one of the first places outside the normal Colleges to receive an Imperial sanction to set up a wizard school! They were going to build a university! The economy was going well! Goddamn hellvikings! If you want to help rebuild Hergig and fight off insane doomsayers and Chaos Remnants this isn't a bad place to set a campaign (though of course, in the persistent flaw of the book, it doesn't mention it this way); the Count is hard up enough for people that he'd be happy to have 3-6 weirdos with Fate Points helping out. They don't have much on Ludenhof, but given all the school and infrastructure building and how he's gotten right back on the horse after surviving a major Chaos sack, I'd say he's probably a decent boss.
Our example Hochlander is an Outlaw Chief who used to be nothing but a brigand. In the wake of the Storm, though, Markus Eldebrandt both used his gang to go after vulnerable parts of Chaos supply lines and has found himself having a change of heart as he sees the plight of the refugees. His men have taken to robbing wealthy travelers and giving some of the food and clothing to the refugees instead of keeping all of it for themselves like they did before the war. They especially try to leave gold for the surviving Shallyans of the province in hopes that they'll do a better job of purchasing and distributing supplies than a bunch of outlaws. They don't have any official sanction for any of this, though, and as order gets restored they'll likely end up in conflict with State Troops over the robberies. PCs could be members of Markus' gang, or (in one of the actual adventure seeds!) could be hired to deal with them, only to find the situation is more complicated than simple bandits and end up having to choose what they do. The other adventure seed has the Count sending the PCs into the mountain town of Esk to try to verify rumors of a dark sorcerer there, because he doesn't need a goddamn necromancer moving in when his province is already flooded with bandits, insane Sigmarites with whips, and Chaos Remnants.
Hochland is a nice place and I like it. I've had an unusual number of Hochlanders in my games and they've always been good characters. There's certainly adventure to be had there, and if you're setting the story in happier times, it's actually really nice to see a part of the Empire that's friendly and hospitable without being run by Halflings.
Next Time: Middenland, The Province of Dicks.
Just wall to wall assholes
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Sigmar's Heirs
Just wall to wall assholes
Middenlanders are dicks. Really, I could end the summary right there, because it's all the book will be telling you over and over again the entire Middenland section. Middenland is one of the alternate centers of Imperial power, being to the northern Empire as the Reikland is to the southern, containing a huge amount of territory after absorbing the province of Drakwald during the 12th century collapse. Middenland is also weird because it's off the river networks outside of Carroburg in the south, but it has some of the most important roads in the Empire and a direct link to the Wasteland and Marienburg just west of its border. Middenland is, by geographical area, one of the largest provinces in the Empire. It likes to consider itself the most important of all provinces, and Middenlanders tend to feel they should rule the Empire. They are also the heart of Ulrican worship in the Empire, containing the eternal flame and the first High Temple of Ulric, and Middenheim itself is one of the most powerful defensive positions and most important historical cities in the Empire.
Middenland was founded by the Teutogens. You might remember them as the people who exterminated or enslaved most of the pre-existing human population of the norther Reik Basin during the great migrations. The Teutogens were brutal warriors who warred with pretty much everyone, trying to conquer anyone they came across. They are also the only tribe to refuse to join Sigmar until he killed their tribal king, Artur, in single combat. Modern Middenlanders consider this a point of pride rather than a sign that Artur was kind of an idiot, given that his peers ended up powerful nobles and important components of a larger tribal confederation while he took a runic warhammer to the skull and then a stint as worm food. Middenlanders carry forth being violent, stubborn reactionaries to this day as the main 'hat' of their province. They love rioting and street violence, they hate foreigners (the Middenland accent is refusing to use loan-words from other human languages) and people from other provinces, and they're known to jump people over ordering a Bretonnian vintage in a Middenland bar. The second someone actually stands up to them or fights back, though, they'll usually back off and claim the person 'must have some Teutogen in 'em, eh, Ulric knows our ancestors got around' (direct quote from the book). This is because they're kind of losers in addition to being bullies by nature.
Like I said, Middenlanders: Dicks.
Now we run into one of the other big problems of this book: Middenheim is really fucking important, right? Worthy of a big write-up, especially with it being central to the big story event since it was key to the Empire winning its war against Archy? It gets like 3 paragraphs of cursory description. So does Altdorf, Talabheim and Nuln. These are the biggest urban centers in the Old World, places whose culture is absolutely essential to the Empire as a setting. The problem is, they're also the location of big campaign adventures, published separately, and a decision was made to hold off on the city descriptions and put them there. You can refer to my abandoned Ashes of Middenheim stuff for Middenheim's detailed writeup, but over there it got tons of plot hooks and flavor, such that you could easily set a game there without using the attached mini-campaign. A lot of material that should be in this book is cannibalized into other books; Realms of Sorcery, Tome of Salvation, even Tome of Corruption and the pre-made adventures contain stuff that I really would have wanted in an Empire book. Instead, the Empire Book is a tiny book rather than the huge 200+ page tomes of some of the other sourcebooks. This is one of the reasons Sigmar's Heirs on its own just doesn't feel complete or especially useful.
You might recognize Untergard from the intro adventure in the core book, as far as 'important' places in Middenheim. It's really only important for that, being a small town founded by peasants fleeing the unjust taxes of Graf Sternhauer, who can somehow lose his entire castle to a Lesser Demon a starting PC party could beat in a fight if they mess up the intro adventure (while never meeting him or having any reason to care about him, really; Through the Drakwald is a miserably bad introduction to WFRP).
Middenheim is Middenheim; refer to the archived Ashes of Middenheim material for it, because all you get in this book is 'It's very defensible' 'it's important' and 'ULRIC!'
Carroburg is interesting, being the southern city (and one time Imperial capital) sitting along the north bank of the Reik. Carroburg is known for its excellent greatswords, its school of oratory, and its liberal ideas and character, in defiance of the province's norms. Duke Leopold von Bildenhofen has shocked his peers by openly supporting a charter and constitution for the town and its surroundings, saying that such ideas are the wave of the future. He is extremely popular with his subjects as a result of his support for their self rule, and his use of much of his personal fortune for charity and the city's temples, even as his noble peers think he's gone mad for talking about the rights of the common man (and especially for lending them legal weight and limiting his own power without even being forced to). As it avoided the worst of the fighting, Carroburg is suffering some disorder from the huge number of refugees fleeing south. The city has been able to keep the peace and mostly provide for fleeing citizens, but there's no telling how long that will last, especially with the damage done to agriculture by having to call up so many citizens to war rather than harvest this year.
Our example Middenlander is actually a Knight of the Blazing Sun, a Middenlander woman who joined the church of Myrmidia after attending a service while visiting the city. She liked the idea of a Goddess that would permit her to be a soldier, and with her martial bent, ended up a Templar rather than a Priest. Dame Agnetha Weiltraub is now a full Knight of the Blazing Sun, but missed the battle at Middenheim. She tries to make up for it by recruiting PCs as mercenaries and allies to help her ride about and defend refugees or clear out overrun villages so people can return to their homes. I should mention all these characters have a full stat-line/character sheet. She's an Initiate, Squire, Knight of the Blazing Sun (we'll be getting their career later in this book) and a very respectable fighter, but she doesn't really feel representative of Middenland (especially as her background states she's from, uh, Wissenland. Which is a ways away. Just operating here). In general there's sort of no rhyme or reason to the 'example' characters from each province, but at least most of them have decent plot hooks and a bit of 'how to use as a replacement PC if someone's dead or a pre-made or an ally/enemy/patron'.
Our hooks for Middenland are similarly scattershot: A woman kidnapped by bandits whose kidnappers are all found dead and then the PCs have to save her from being sacrificed by whatever kidnapped her a second time, and a mission about an archeological dig that ends up stumbling on human traitors trying to work with Skaven. Note this is the first mention of Skaven in the entire book, and nearly the only one.
Middenland is a province full of annoying people, but at least they're fun to punch in the face.
Next Time: The Only Genuine Democratic State In The Old World
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Sigmar's Heirs
Hey, look. It's the hobbits. They have a shire, because of course they do. The Mootland is an area of absolutely primo agricultural land taken from the provinces of Averland and Stirland by Emperor Ludwig the Fat. This isn't (despite the popular legend) solely
because of the sheer amount of butter his halfling chef managed to pack into his meal; he was upset at the Electors of those lands for refusing to pay him massive bribes and the halfling was just in the right place at the right time. Still, the butter did have a say in things; this is the same Emperor who granted the Grand Theoganist of Sigmar an Electoral Vote, after all. That time specifically because of a series of suppers and banquets so rich that the original Theoganist maneuvering for the vote died of heart failure. Thus, we can see that Ludwig the Fat may have had other political objectives but was clearly still affected by the provision of pies.
Averland got over the loss fairly gracefully. Averland is a rich province and the Aver March wasn't their absolute best land. In fact, some of the Aver land was known as 'the fallow hills' because no food crop would grow there. The halflings figured something out, though, and now it's the main source of their famous tobacco instead of food. They compete mightily to get more of the Empire to pick up the smoking habit, and to beat out Bretonnian producers. Stirland, on the other hand...well, the portions of the Mootland that came out of Stirland were their best farming land. Stirland has never gotten over it. We'll get to that when we get to Stirland. Still, 'Auld Styrland' produces enough food to properly feed an entire province of halflings, and still have enough that the leftovers are some of their most profitable exports. That should say something about its productivity.
Halflings are mostly irrelevant to the world. Halflings are very happy
to be mostly irrelevant to the world. Let everyone else go out and fight in epic wars; they kind of figure they wouldn't make much of a difference either way. They're known for their love of a good smoke, a good lunch, and a hell of a lot of sex talk. They love talking about scandal and romance and the up and down social dances of courting and family affairs. And they love doing it with anyone. A halfling will happily tell you about how his aunt is fucking the councilman from the next town over, which is causing trouble with her husband, who is responding by courting the gardener, whose brother is married to the councilman's sister, who fancies the husband in the first place, all to 'pass the time'. They love being able to worry about these silly love octahedrons and familial spats while everyone else tries not to get stabbed to death by satanic goatmen. They also love parties. Any excuse for a party. But that's really a trait they share with most of the setting's humans, so who can blame them? Parties are a good excuse for eating, drinking, smoking, and
starting new affairs, after all.
The Empire usually regards the halflings as farmers who make fine chefs and domestic help, as long as you keep an eye on your silverware. This is partly because halflings really do provide a rich and diverse (as long as you're willing to die of heart failure at 45) culinary tradition, and partly because the halflings have a strong social safety net and extensive familial ties back home. If you need food, you can take food. If you need a tool, it's fine to borrow a tool. They know they're stealing from humans when this comes up outside a halfling context, they just think it's silly that that's the case and so carry on as if it wasn't. They're also the only functional democracy in the Old World, electing their Elder (who holds the Electoral Vote) as well as their own town councils and sheriffs. There are no halfling nobles, even as they keep massive genealogies and consider matters of relation and bloodline to be of paramount importance. The halflings are generally sure any new trouble will pass by without noticing them, the same way the rest of the Empire does.
The halflings still worship Imperial Gods, or at least, they'll say they do. They think of Sigmar as a great protector and tell stories about how he guarded the halflings during his life; stories not backed up by any other historical source. No-one actually knows where the little guys came from. They don't worship him (or their own Gods) the way humans do, but they consider him a good lad who got up to good things, so good on him. Their own Gods are more of folk-heroes than divinities; stock characters with magic pouches always full of tobacco or a farmer who can make anything grow no matter what, that sort of thing. Larger than life heroes of the kinds of stories halflings care about rather than great warriors or cosmic forces. That said, the halflings have managed to resist conquest from Sylvania (partly for not being worth it), and they truly are resistant to Chaos; who knows? Maybe the little guys are on to something in how they live.
Elder Hisme 'rules' from the main town of Eicheschatten, where the Electoral Palace (a two story sod-roofed country home, often with a goat perched atop it to graze) stands. She considers it too big for her needs and rents it out as a bed and breakfast since her husband passed, living instead in a 'cozier' private residence that's easier to clean and where she can keep her own garden. It's said that Magnus the Pious stayed in the Electoral Palace on his way to Kislev, and there enjoyed the one truly untroubled sleep of his life. Every 3 years, the halflings hold a Moot at Eicheschatten to decide on the Elder (they've elected Hisme for 30 years, much to her annoyance; she's thinking of retiring since they don't seem to be getting the hint that she's tired of it, but doesn't want to be a bother) and swap cider recipes. They also handle farming and territorial disputes at this time.
Gipfel feels a little out of place; it's a cult town. Yes, a cult town. Not a Chaos cult town, a town devoted (secretly) to an evil nature spirit that makes the tobacco grow right so long as the halflings living there kill someone in the fields each year. This was brought about by an ex-adventuring halfling named Dagobert, who brought the spirit with him and told the town it could make them extremely wealthy. They originally drew lots, but decided to start killing an out of towner and stealing their goods each year, instead; they could always say they died on the road. They don't know what will happen if and when they fail a sacrifice, or if this spirit is leading them towards a darker deal. Just feels a bit odd for hobbits to go all Wicker Man, really.
The Altern Forest is another weird place. There's still traffic in it, but the halflings and traders avoid going there at night. Ever. You see, the last folk who went in there at night were a big adventuring party, with knights and a priest of Sigmar and everything, and the only thing that came back out was one really terrified horse. The common knowledge is if you stick to the road and get through the woods before dark, you'll be fine. Otherwise, people who come back tend to be too insane to describe what happened to them. This comes up in the adventure seed for the Mootland, where there's a party of dumb young halflings trying to pull a Scooby Doo trick with the forest's reputation who hire the PCs to help with their robberies...before they get jumped by spirits of an 'older' faith (not Chaos), terrible eldritch things that demanded the original tribesmen of these regions shed blood for them. The idea being to have the players stuck in a hell forest being haunted by very real and extremely dangerous creatures they've never encountered before (no stats or anything given, though honestly I'd just use Dryads or something. They're mean as hell).
The example character for the Mootland is Samuel Fellbelly, a former toll-keeper turned halfling fieldwarden who is starting to think of getting into adventuring. He wants to do this because he's scared out of his mind of undead, and fieldwardens have to fight undead. He comes with reasonable ranged combat skills and some okay gear, plus a pet raccoon, and is specifically intended to be used as a pre-made character or replacement for a dead PC.
The Moot's a weird place. Funny, but weird. You're not likely to have too many adventures there, but as the center of all hobbit business in the world, there's a good chance you'll have a PC who came from there and it does a good job of getting across Hams Hobbits, who are quite close to the original Hobbits but with somewhat less reverence for 'honest' English Country Gentry in their creative DNA.
Next Time: SHOUTING
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Sigmar's Heirs
Ah, Nordland. I'll always have a soft spot for Nordlanders, because one of my favorite PCs was a Nordlander Outrider. Like much of the Northern Empire, they're foresters and rangers and all that. However, they've got the odd twist of being direct neighbors to the Laurelorn forest and having regular contact with the saner Wood Elves that live inside the Empire. They also have the twist that their tribe didn't join Sigmar originally, because they were conquered by the Norsii and only liberated later; lots of Nordlanders are part Norse. Nordland's Elector has a huge number of inherited titles that should make him (or her, depending on the time) one of the most powerful Imperial nobles. The problem is about half those titles are only nominal, especially the ones that deal with ruling the Laurelorn regions. With the forest denser and half of it more occupied than usual, Nordlanders mostly live along the coast and in fortified lumbering towns. They export a lot of the best wood in the Empire, and the Electors constantly have to deal with their people trying to push east into the edges of Laurelorn to get the best timber.
Now, you might remember wood elves as murderous baby-stealing monsters from the Bret book; while the Laurelorn elves won't get their own name until 4e, they aren't really associated with Ariel and her band of killer ninja hillbillies from the Loren. And the Empire aren't the Brets, and aren't totally dependent on a (probable) Wood Elf trick for their most powerful nobles and their royal succession. The relationship is a lot more complicated; the elves know if the Empire ever really came at them in full it would probably win. The Empire knows the elves mostly spend their time killing beastmen and Chaos marauders and are generally willing to trade and leave each other alone; Nordland is one of the few places in the Empire you can buy Wood Elf goods in the province's larger marketplaces. Nobody would directly benefit from a full on pissing match war and they both know it, so Elector Count Gausser tries to keep things from escalating. Meanwhile, the elves know that if they just start shooting random humans (outside of some really clearly delineated no-go zones agreed on by both sides) they'll trigger a crisis of legitimacy for Salzenmund (the provincial capital) and might leave the Imperials with few choices but a confrontation.
Another interesting aspect of the elf tensions up in Nordland is that Rhya is more important than Taal among their nature worshipers, specifically because it's easier to syncretize Rhya worship and Isha worship. This leads to shared religious ceremonies and commitments to protect some of the same sacred places that help relations and ease tensions. Ulrican worship is also very important in Nordland specifically because the pre-Nordlander tribes didn't join Sigmar, but also because Nordland was conquered and colonized by the Norse again in the 1111 crisis. Nordland has been ruled on and off by Imperials or Norsemen for most of its history, often falling when the Empire as a whole falls apart again, which has led to Nordlanders being an interesting fusion of Norse and Imperial. Trial by Combat is an important part of the local legal appeals process. Coastal settlements build longhouses and older buildings still have Norse runes of protection and luck carved into them (though they've erased any related to the Ruinous Powers). Similarly, Nordlanders picked up the Norse tradition of exaggeration and bragging, which has given them a reputation as great storytellers and novelists. A surprising amount of the growing market for popular fiction in the Empire is filled with Nordlander-style tall tales, historical epics, horror stories, and lowbrow comedies.
They also picked up the Norse habit of shouting. A lot. Nordlander accents are harsh, fast and loud, and local songs are gravely and have a lot of throat singing to them. Nordlander culture prizes honesty and volume as persuasive measures, as long as you aren't working with fiction or telling a story (in which case, exaggerate like mad), and so their merchants are infamous for forgoing double-dealing and lying in favor of shouting their desired price until someone is brow-beaten into taking it. This leads most of the rest of the Empire to think of them as yokels and backwoodsmen, especially their Middenlander neighbors, who deride them as mongrels who can't trace their pure bloodline back to a founding tribe or original king. With Marienburg's secession, Nordland also finds itself trying to house and support the Imperial fleet, which it really isn't well suited to. It's also still regularly raided by the Norse, because it's right there, across the extremely easy to cross Sea of Claws. Seriously, at its shortest point, it's a 70 mile passage from Norsca to Nordland; Raiders can hit them fast and the population is concentrated along the coast as it is.
Our important places for Nordland are a miserable fishing town called Neue Emskrank, which was built when a charlatan managed to convince the Empire it could totally become a huge and powerful fleet anchor that could permit them to outcompete Marienburg. He collected vast consulting fees and the town was built before the Empire realized the harbor it was built on was terrible, and the dumb bastard stuck around a few days too long and ended up arrested rather than escaping with his loot. Now the place is so depressing and miserable for the people who live there that the other Imperials speak of it having a 'look' or a 'taint' to it (thankfully, there are no fishmen that I know of, so we avoid an Innsmouth situation).
Another is Salzenmund itself, which is a very prosperous small city and one of the only places in the Empire where you can openly trade with Wood Elves. The markets there have fine silver-work, the best timber and woodworks in the Empire, and despite the province being considered a backwater its capital produces goods in demand as far away as Araby. Count Gausser hopes to use this prosperous city to expand Nordland's importance to the Empire, helped in this by his friend Erich Granholm, High Priest of Ulric and master of one of the oldest Ulrican Temples in the Empire. You might also remember Nordlander Ulricans as being one of the few sources of female priests and templars for the cult. Gausser wants to make Salzenmund and his province more important to the cult and siphon resources from Middenland, and a game about trying to undermine asshole Middenlanders hardly seems like a bad idea.
The village of Schuten is also interesting for acknowledging another part of the cost of the war with Archy: While Nordland wasn't hit by the enemy, Nordland did see plenty of forces pass through. Imperial ones, claiming forage and property on their way and issuing promissary notes that the bankrupt Imperial government (from the costs of raising and organizing a huge army to counter Archy on short notice) can't fulfill. The town should be prospering, but the upkeep of Imperial forces and the way most of the men of fighting age are going to miss this year's harvest threaten to bankrupt the sleepy little settlement. It's otherwise a very standard Imperial town, but I like the acknowledgement that an Early Modern Army moving through your homeland can bring economic ruin even when they're on your side. The Empire is a lot less brutal about raising money and supplies than the actual Early Modern 30 years war armies would've been, but it's still difficult to support thousands of soldiers at a time.
The village of Schlugel is a mystery. Settled awhile ago on the edge of Laurelorn, the elves didn't mind it, the humans traded with them, everything was fine, and then one day five years ago everyone was just gone. No signs of violence, no signs of where they went. Just a few old runes for 'fog' and 'mercy' carved in some of the village's doors. The adventure seed for this has the people of the town come back, not even noticing they were gone, save that their town's priest didn't return with them and now there's an open door in an old stone ring around a local hill. Who knows what the adventurers will find poking around there?
Nordland's a fun place. I'll always remember it fondly as the birthplace of Wilhelm Metzger, Outrider and later Blood Dragon, but it's got enough hooks and flavor to make a nice place to adventure in. The tensions with the elves are a really interesting contrast to the situation in Bretonnia, and would be fun to play with from both the elven and Nordlander side. And who doesn't love tall tales, throat-singing, and shouting matches?
Next Time: Vampire Hunting, Performative Grief, and Horses
The Endless Sadness of Fantasy Eastern Europe
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Sigmar's Heirs
The Endless Sadness of Fantasy Eastern Europe
You remember how Kislev is Eastern Europe and Russia? Ostermark is also Eastern Europe, except in Germany. The League of Ostermark is the furthest east point of the Empire, and it's a mixture of the normal heavy forestation of the Empire in the western part of the province and wide open plains that are used to raise fine horses in the east. Kislevite influences, particularly of an Ungol bent, have been an important part of the province since the 18th century; Kislevites often cross the border and resettle in the Empire when there's a particularly nasty famine or a political group runs afoul of the Tsar. Thus, also, are most of the Kislevites in Ostermark Ungols; much more likely to piss off the Gospodar Tsars, and they brought with them their talent for horse husbandry and a love of vodka that have marked the province every since. Similarly, most Ostermarkers speak at least a little Kislevite, and loan words are very common in the province.
The original inhabitants of the region were the Ostagoth Tribe, who were really a dozen or so smaller tribes that had come together around agreements to defend one another's fortified camps against other human tribes, orcs, and beastmen. When Sigmar came to the Ostagoths, he was welcomed with open arms; they were already doing the thing he talked about doing, and with his assurances that the other tribes were willing to come to an agreement similar to the ones the Ostagoths made with one another, they agreed almost instantly to send an army to join him. King, then Count, Adelhard is said to have laughed at hearing the future Emperor explain the idea of how the tribes had to come together as though it would be unfamiliar to his people; you have to imagine it was a relief for old Siggy to finally run into some other folks who got what he was talking about right away and joined without a fight or long negotiation.
Ostermarkers are known for being very dramatic people, to the point that the Ostermarker accent is often used to mark a hammy character in Imperial theater. They like to dance, and ride, and drink, and they love elaborate costumes and passionate courtships. Imported Ungol customs and costumes both lend extra color to the province and its people. They're also known for their elaborate ability to complain and mourn. They love to talk about their troubles, and most Ostermarkers are very pleased to get any opportunity to monologue. While they don't adopt the pre-emptive funerary rites of Kislev, living near Sylvania and in a border province that is often raided or attacked, they have some of the more elaborate funerals in the Empire. Ostermarker tradition speaks against remarriage, because they fear that a jealous spouse might come storming back from Morr's Realm as a ghost (or worse) should their widow (or widower, I'd imagine, particularly as they describe Ostermarkers as somewhat more egalitarian between the sexes than most Imperials, probably due to Kislevite influence) remarry. Further adding to all this flamboyant despair and death imagery is the fact that they have a long standing alliance with the eastern dwarf-hold of Karak Kardin. The book doesn't explain why this would be so, just throwing around the name of Ungrim Ironfist a bit, but I will: That's the dwarven Slayer King, a man who makes bad decisions and likes being pulled between conflicting oaths. Karak Kardin is a hold that is just plain full of Slayers, and as you might imagine, such a place isn't very cheery.
Ostermark was also the home of Mordheim, which you might recognize from the skirmish wargame, Mordheim. Mordheim was hit with a giant warpstone meteor about 500 years ago and reduced to dust; it used to be the capital of Ostermark. Now nobody goes there except crazy people, because the site is cursed as all get out and most of the good looting (and warpstone) that could be easily done was done centuries ago. You'd think there'd be more talking about a place full of dark magic, old secrets, and powerful treasure in an RPG book, but Mordheim barely gets a mention here.
Ostermark wasn't nearly as badly damaged as Ostland and Hochland (we'll get to Ostland next). They may be in the east, but they weren't on the primary path of Archy's armies. His lieutenant Crom was supposed to hit Ostermark and then continue west to link up at Middenheim, but you might remember him from Night's Dark Masters: He took a flanking route through Sylvannia
. This was not a good plan, and while the Ostermarkers are still worried he'll show up, he's no longer an issue. The Ostermarkers are still on edge, though, and that worry is causing some trouble. Especially when it changes shape and the locals start worrying that somehow Kislev is going to invade from the north, despite Kislev being busy with its own problems.
Ostermark is also unique in that the Elector Count is the Chancellor of the League, though since 2000 this has always been the Prince of Bechafan, the most populous and prosperous of the remaining towns in the League. Still, every new Chancellor has to be confirmed by election among the League, because the Ostermark is basically a smaller Empire electing an Elector to elect an Emperor for the bigger Empire. Bechafen is prosperous because it makes some of the best river-craft in the Empire, courtesy of their friendship with the dwarfs of Karak Kardin. The dwarfs gifted the town a set of highly efficient water-powered saw-mills that have helped them produce fine timber products for years. The town is currently nervous, since Count Hertwig took most of the province's army west to join the Emperor. They fear that Crom fellow is going to show up any minute, having just been waiting for their army to leave, and the town's watch and council are struggling to keep the rumors and doomsaying to a minimum to prevent panic.
The various places of Ostermark get very, very sparse descriptions; for whatever reason, the area just seems less filled in and detailed than most of the other Imperial entries, which are already thin enough as is.
Our example Ostermarker is a dashing idiot nobleman pistolier who wants to fight the undead and who has tried repeatedly to join the Knights of the Raven and failed, because it turns out a glory-hounding nobleman with a huge mustache isn't Morrite material. He's decided the problem is he needs to kill some vampires first, before the blighters will take him seriously enough to let him in. To that end, he's trying to recruit PCs to raid Sylvannia. This probably doesn't lead anywhere good. He's actually a pretty serious fighter and very good with his pistols; he wouldn't make a bad temporary ally for a team mid-way through their second careers. He has an additional adventure seed when he shows up while the party is trying to quietly infiltrate Sylvannia and tries to 'help' in their investigations about whether or not Mannfred is going to be a problem this decade, and they have to deal with the mustachioed idiot almost blowing their cover.
Ostermark really needed more material. There are hints of good hooks here, but in a book where the provinces and material are already generally too thin, it doesn't get enough to hang on to.
Next Up: BULL OF OSTLAND!
Oh my god everything is on fire!
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Sigmar's Heirs
Oh my god everything is on fire!
So, Ostland is not doing well. Ostland was rarely doing well; they're the furthest north province of the Empire, bordering Kislev to their east. They used to have plenty of good land in southern Kislev, but those expansions were lost when the modern Kislevite state took them back during the Time of Three Emperors. Now most of Ostland is covered by the Forest of Shadows, which is infested with giant spiders, goblins, and goatmen. Ostland had a significant Chaos presence even before a giant army of the bastards came sweeping through on their way to raze Hochland and besiege Middenland, and Ostland suffered more from the Storm than any other province in the Empire. Every major town and city was destroyed, with only a few fortifications surviving and some of the population managing to escape. Ostland was always a poor province, but now there's an open question as to whether or not they can survive, period.
The Ostlanders descend from the Udose tribe, and it's said that even dwarfs found the Udoses argumentative and stubborn. When Sigmar came to convince them to join him, it took him 3 days of arguing (presumably without pause) with their Chief Wolfilia before the Udoses joined his confederation. The Ostlanders proudly carry this forward to this day, thinking of themselves as cool-headed and thrifty people. They have a very strong conservative streak, but it comes of their relative poverty; when you have almost nothing, it's hard to keep updating to the latest and greatest every couple of years. Ostlanders do what they can to make do with what they have; sometimes this is a good thing in times of crisis, sometimes it leads to the province spending a couple centuries not bothering to adopt 'newfangled' guns because 'a crossbow was good enough for my grandfather'. Being a border region full of monsters, Ostlanders are also known as especially good soldiers, and the province is very proud of its military history.
One of those military adventures, the legend of which is helping the province keep going, is the Battle of Bohsenfels. During the Storm, Archaon's entire army tried to sweep past the fortress at Bohsenfels, a fortification built atop a large pile of rocks and a cave system. Bohsenfels was always called 'little Middenheim' by the locals, and when the war hit, the garrison of 350 soldiers proved that quite true; Archaon lost so many men trying to take it that he eventually gave up and was forced to bypass the fortress rather than take it, leaving the 150 survivors bloodied but victorious. They've already entered the popular lexicon of Ostland, with a common toast of 'Bohsenfels, bloodied but unbowed!' accompanying much of the beer and vodka flowing in the province. All through Ostland, the people made similar stands wherever they could; Bohsenfels is simply one of the few places where they won. Ostland's resistance significantly weakened the armies of Chaos even as their province burned, and what was supposed to be a 'minor' obstacle on the path to the 'real' battle at Middenheim instead bled the enemy for every inch. Whatever happens to their province, Ostland did everything it could to help win the war.
Ostland also originally contained one of the largest eastern temples of Sigmar, at the city of Wolfenburg. Ostlanders are unusual for eastern Imperials in that they give the highest prominence to Sigmar, rather than worshiping Taal, Rhya, or Ulric and then also honoring Sigmar. They claim this is because Sigmar came to their land and personally aided their chief in killing a dragon during the early Imperial period when no-one else would help them. Cynics say this is because Ostland is a very poor province, and the great eastern temple provided pilgrims (and their money) as well as investment by the church. Similarly, Ostland's nobility have always depended on Reiklander and Wissenlander loans and money when times are hard; building pious shrines to the chief God worshiped in the southern Empire improved relations and made it easier to get good terms. The great temple of Wolfenburg is in ruins, now, along with the rest of the city. Its Lector fled to Ostermark, and it's become a scandal that he escaped so soon rather than dying at his post in defense of the city.
Our significant places for Ostland are the Blood Fane, which is a terrible shrine to Khorne tended by a Champion who went AWOL from Archy's army. Bogoslav Tammas is a Kurgan warrior who was drawn to this dark glen, and killed the Beastman shaman that tended it before his arrival. Now he's gathering beastmen to his side and planning to raid the refugee camps near the few surviving towns, hoping to find slaughter and collect blood and skulls as Khornates always do. He's one of the adventure seeds for the region, with the PCs having to navigate an insane Flagellant Order that is taking root with the refugees before organizing people to fight off Bogoslav and his goatmen.
Salkalten is a small fishing town in the north of Ostland, near Erengrad. Much like Neues Emskrank in Nordland, it was established to try to build a port to compete with Erengrad and Marienburg, and failed miserably. Unlike Neues Emskrank, it was content to fade into obscurity and just be a normal, sleepy little Imperial town on the Sea of Claws. However, the invaders bypassed much of the coastal region of Ostland and so this is one of the largest towns that wasn't destroyed in the war. It was never even besieged. Count Vladimir von Raukov has made it his new center of operations and declared it the temporary provincial capital, and it has suddenly found itself extremely important to the future of Ostland. Building is going on day and night, as Count von Raukov organizes troops and sends scouts to see what's still there, what's still on fire, and where he needs to send his remaining soldiers. Being the temporary capital, it's also become the hub of regional diplomacy, where the Count sends emissaries (like your PCs, I wish the book would mention) out to negotiate loans, to ask the Emperor if he can borrow the Reiksguard, and to check the the intentions of neighboring Nordland and Talabecland. Meanwhile, Chaos has tried to put spies and saboteurs in the area under the cover of the influx of people, hoping to sabotage rebuilding efforts. Nordland and Talabecland have also sent spies and agents, wondering if they can expand into prostrate Ostland and trying to check on just how bad the damage is. It certainly seems an exciting place to drop some PCs.
Wolfenburg was the capital and site of the great Temple, and now it's a ruin. A ruin so bad that the people who survived are afraid to actually enter the city, for fear that it's going to turn out like Praag in Kislev after Kul had his way with it. The ruins are (supposedly) infested with monsters and left-behind corruption, and the thousand or so refugees camped outside of the city don't know what to do. Count von Raukov doesn't have the soldiers to spare to re-establish order, and apocalyptic doomsaying and strange cults risk taking root among the refugees. A good place for PCs who want to go in and help clean up. Our example Ostlander is a mercenary captain named Bruno Haupleiter who survived the sack with only a few of his men, and who is now trying to maintain order among the refugees. The kind of guy who, seeing as he's only got like 8 men left, could really use 3-6 trustworthy and effective PCs helping him out.
Finally, Wurzen wasn't sacked in the war and is one of the most prosperous towns still remaining in the region. Baron von Wallenstein of Wurzen has shown tremendous ability in keeping his home safe, managing to somehow force a Slaaneshi army to bypass the town and somehow finding enough food and supplies to care for the thousand or so extra refugees swelling the small walled town's population. He's done so well that he's caused a plot hole: The Elector of Talabecland is said to be supporting him for a coup against Raukov. The Elector of Talabecland, we'll find later, is, uh, missing since the war and presumed dead, so this is a bit of a plot hole. We could just say that Talabecland's nobles are backing him and be done with it. They're quietly helping him with the supplies necessary to show his 'organizational skill'. They don't realize they aren't the only thing backing him, and that von Wallenstein is more of a traitor than they know: He sold out the defenses of a nearby fortress and converted to Slaanesh worship to get the Champion passing through his lands to bypass him. He hopes to push Talabecland into trying to make territorial gains in Ostland to increase the chaos and disorder of the province, plus being made Elector Count (while also receiving the blessings of Slaanesh for his service) once it's all done would be a nice bonus. This is a decent setup for a campaign villain.
You might notice, Ostland actually has a lot going on! The places are all decent campaign seeds and it seems like a pretty fun place to have adventures. Monster infested forests, intrigue, Chaos traitors, remnants of the enemy armies, and an active and involved Elector Count who is in the kind of straits that will get PCs to get his attention would make for a good setting for a campaign about trying to put things back together after the Storm.
Next Time: The Jewel of the Empire, According To Themselves
Actually, literally Sigmar's Heirs
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Sigmar's Heirs
Actually, literally Sigmar's Heirs
So, the Reikland. Those who have seen Mor's 4e writing will note Reikland is so big and important that it can serve as an entire campaign setting on its own and sod the rest of the Empire. This is a sentiment sometimes shared by Reiklanders, who tend to consider themselves something of a country above the rest of the country. Reikland is the richest and safest province in all of Sigmar's Empire, with rich mining in the Grey Mountains, fertile fields, much of the province within a reasonable distance of the great trade artery that is the River Reik, and good lumbering in the northern Reikwald forest. The last 200 years have seen Altdorf as the center of the Empire's government, as well, which has brought investment, infrastructure, and plenty of trade. Reikland has an actual, formal network of proper roads and canals that make travel much safer and easier here (though something can always go terribly wrong), and the river itself is a massive and productive highway between most of the prominent towns and cities of the region.
Really, part of the reason the Unberogen Tribe came to dominate the Reik Basin is because Reiksdorf (later Altdorf) was one of the first actual human cities in the region, which came about because Reikland is some of the best land in the Empire. Sitting at the juncture of River Talabec and the River Reik, almost every truly major city in the Empire (including Marienburg, secession or no) can be reached on the river routes meeting at Altdorf. The people of the Reikland have always been a center of regional diplomacy; the Unberogen were already one of the most prosperous tribes and rivals to the militant Teutogen to their north long before Sigmar was born. Sigmar didn't have a hard time convincing the Unberogen of his plans because he was their king, his mother having been killed in a Greenskin raid when he was a boy and his father falling in battle against the Norsii tribes, who Sigmar had driven into the north in vengeance. The Reiklanders of the modern world point to their most famous ancestor and his tribe and see themselves as the natural leaders of the Empire. After all, Sigmar was a Reiklander!
Other people tend to see them as busy bodies and know it alls, always saying 'something should be done' in some far-flung province and quickly sending money and workers who taper off as soon as the next 'crisis' pops up. Reiklanders have a reputation for meddling from safety and then wandering off when they get bored. Reiklanders made up much of the Emperor's relief army at Middenheim, and the Emperor now struggles to convince them they need to stay mobilized and keep on Archy until they deal with his army's remnants; agitators fill the streets of Reikland's towns saying the Emperor has already won his great victory, the war is over, and it's time for the soldiers to come home. Middenlanders also despise them as 'effete' (book's words) for being relatively cosmopolitan and open to foreign customs, visitors, and inventions. Reikland prides itself on its tolerance and worldliness, because the Imperial capital is legitimately one of the largest centers of international diplomacy in the entire setting. Altdorf is one of the few places where a common citizen is likely to see High Elf Princes, Imperial Wizard Lords, Dwarven Kings, Bretonnian Barons, Kislevite Ice Witches and Imperial officials all arguing over who breached what treaty and why. Reiklanders are also very common as officers in the Imperial army, with a Reikland noble's pedigree making it much easier to advance in rank regardless of merit.
Reikland also sees an interesting touch: The merchants and freistadts of the region want to see power centralized and the Emperor strengthened against the Electors. The Electors, of course, don't want this. The merchants hope that weakening local authority will give them more free reign and allow for the passing of unitary trade laws, helping to ease their tax burden when moving goods between provinces and simplify trade. The freistadts would like to see their potential feudal masters and local lords weakened because it will make it easier for them to maintain their charters without threat.
We don't get much on dear Karl Franz in this book; Fantasy 2e generally tries to avoid spending too much page count on Big Important Setting NPCs. You'll get enough for character with the rest left blank, rather than long recountings of their deeds and the sense that the setting is about them. What we do get is mostly earlier in the book, but I thought I'd put it here. He's a good politician and diplomat, a competent general, and like most Imperial special characters, not the greatest of warriors. The thing is, you kind of don't need to be when you have A: A huge army and an international coalition of asskicking and B: Ghal Maraz. We obviously never got game stats for the hammer of Sigmar, but if you infer from TT stats? Yeah, anyone who is even halfway competent at fighting who has that thing will be a terror. Anyway, Karl's whole deal is being very good at judging what people want, and where their 'line' is, so to speak. He's a good haggler with a sense of what others value and what they'll give up for it; honestly, he sounds like the kind of guy who would've made a good charlatan or Ranaldan 'merchant' if he hadn't been born Prince of Reikland.
Reiklanders love fashion. They love fashion a lot. While slashed sleeves and outrageous codpieces are always
in style and can be counted on no matter the social season, everything else changes rapidly. One year it will be in fashion to go cleanshaven and wear a Bretonnian half-cape like their knights do, the next everyone will be going wild for increasingly impressive feathered hats. Clothes make the man in Reikland, and keeping up with the changing demands of fashion keeps the clothing industry in business and puts a serious strain on the finances of the burgher class (and petty nobility, but they'd never admit they can't afford the fanciest pants).
As you might imagine, being his actual birthplace, Sigmar is the chief God of Reikland. The Grand Temple sits in Altdorf, and most of the important business of the larger central cult structure happens somewhere in Reikland.
Like Middenhim, Altdorf barely gets an entry despite being possibly one of the most important cities in the world. This is again because important parts of this book were cannibalized for the campaign books, though the campaign book with Altdorf in it doesn't do as well with Altdorf as Ashes does with Middenheim. It's much more generalist and indistinct. Altdorf's brief description here is that it's rich, populous, has wizards, and has crushing wealth inequality.
Frederheim is only important because it has the largest Shallyan insane asylum in the Empire. There's a weird little plot hook about it being a place where they bring 'insane' heirs and people who have 'seen too much' to lock them away and keep them hidden, rather than just a place for treating the sick and bereaved, but who would ever believe the Shallyans would do such a thing? (The book even puts it this way).
Kemperbad is famous because it was the first Freistadt. The legal precedent set here has been very important to the political struggles that grow more and more central to Imperial governance. The city subsists on its wine industry and is ruled by a town council, made up of the local high priestess of Shallya, the local high Sigmarite, and 11 representatives elected by the town to represent the largest merchant concerns. They also have problems with the Tilean mafia moving into their city and their wealth has attracted all kinds of other crime. I suppose if you want a game about wandering the city, getting into trouble and occasionally breaking things over the head of a number of extremely overconfident thugs in streetfights, you could have a good time with Kemperbad.
Ubersreik is not currently infested with rat people. This was written long before it would be infested with rat people and become famous as the site of Ratfight (er, Vermintide). Ubersreik sits on the edge of the Grey Mountains and manages much of the best mining in the region, and unusually for an Imperial town, it has representatives of the local dwarf clans invited to and sitting on its town council. A genuine joint human-dwarf government manages the mining rights between the Grey Mountain Dwarfs and the humans of prosperous Ubersreik. Along with Helmgart in the west, it is also one of the prime defenses against Bretonnian invasion. Ubsereik is a good medium sized Imperial city if you want a game set somewhere besides Altdorf and want to deal with Bretonnians and international diplomacy between man and dwarf.
Our example Reiklander is Hargin, son of Thorgrim, a dwarf engineer and guildmaster intended as a patron for groups working in Ubersreik. He's a relatively open and cosmopolitan dwarf who shocked his community by moving his guild headquarters from Karak Baldrak to Ubersreik, in hopes of maintaining good relations and having better access to Imperial politicians. It has been thus for the last fifty years, and the old dwarf is unusual for his many and varied friends; most dwarfs, especially older ones, aren't nearly as eager to meet new people and make as many contacts as they can. Yes, Networking Dwarf is our example for Reikland, and he'd be happy to hire your PCs to send messages among his 'friends' or deal with affairs threatening his guild or town.
Reikland is a big place hurt badly by how little space there is for the cities, when Altdorf itself could be an entire campaign setting. Still, it's nice to see a pleasant place that's doing pretty well in the Empire. It suffers a little from a lack of actual adventuring material, too. The other thing I have to put some time to: This is where the gazetteer becomes truly ridiculous. All of Reikland, the land described as teeming with people, has less than 200,000 people in a pretty huge area. Even Altdorf, the biggest city in the setting
, is listed as having only 105,000 residents. Yes, this is the teeming, giant early-modern metropolis. The Gazetteer is worthless, but more importantly it's taking up a *ton* of page space. Reikland's entry takes up about 5 pages of writing. The Gazeteer for Reikland takes up about 2 full printed pages, while providing nothing of worth to gaming and being completely ridiculous. I wouldn't be so big on harping on the terrible population numbers and all if this wasn't taking up a ton of the very limited page space of this book; in a book where most of the entries feel too thin, a huge waste of space is a glaring problem.
Next Time: Stirland, The People Who Were Such Dicks Sylvannia Preferred The Vampires
The Other Province of Reactionary Dickheads
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Sigmar's Heirs
The Other Province of Reactionary Dickheads
Stirlanders are jerks. They're more passive aggressive than Middenlanders and more prone to spending a lot of time whining rather than forming mobs, but you have to remember: This is the province that, after it was given rule of Sylvannia after the Wars of the Vampire Counts, did such a bad job of ruling the province (because the Stirlanders hated the Sylvannians and hated being assigned to govern their land) that the local welcomed the vampires back. A popular provincial saying is that 'quick thinking makes fast mistakes', referring to the way Stirlanders hate new inventions or ideas. Also the mad bastards drink ale hot. They'll shove a heated fireplace poker into their ale before they drink it. It's one of the provincial quirks, and it drives dwarf visitors goddamn up the wall. Stirlanders will tell you any new idea or new invention is a thing of Chaos because tradition is the most important thing in the world and changing anything is Tzeentch worship. Then they'll whine some more about how they deserve to own the Moot and how unfair it was that Sylvannia rebelled against them. I think I dislike Stirlanders even more than Middenlanders and that's a high bar to cross.
Anyway, about the province, it's an eastern province that isn't nearly as underdeveloped as its reputation suggests; it's actually a good bit wealthier than people think it is and has several important towns. Just it's right next to Sylvannia and has something of a reputation as a province of sore losers, due to losing the Moot and later losing Sylvannia, and the whole 'everything modern is bad!!!' attitude makes people from the west look down on them as a bunch of country bumpkins. The Stirlanders descend from the Asoborn Tribe, whose only notable characteristic seems to have been being suspicious and insular. Stirlanders like to claim their bloodline is the 'purest' in all the Empire because of their dislike of strangers and outsiders; others point out this means their nobility is inbred as all hell, even by the standards of nobility (it is). Stirlanders actually still claim they own Sylvannia and won't admit they lost it, but they haven't been able to tax Waldenhof in years and it seems to be ruled by a completely different 'Count' than Count Alberic Haupt-Anderssen.
Stirlanders are noted for their many odd customs, which they refuse to change because again, examining a thing and changing what you do would be 'Chaos'. These customs include encouraging local children to throw shit at visitors to a village, claiming this wards off evil spirits (in reality, I imagine it mostly wards off visitors). They also love racing animals against one another; if it's an animal, Stirlanders will make it race. Goose races, pig races, rat races, small but vicious dog agility trials, Stirlanders love them all. The common prize for a winning animal is a blue ribbon that marks it as being off-limits for eating. One wonders; they give these to the small but vicious dogs, too. Does that mean Stirlanders normally eat them in hard times? Strings of garlic are a common decoration in the province, with the locals claiming they ward off 'The Count's Men' in the east of the province. When people go missing despite their garlic, the Stirlanders refuse to believe that garlic might not stop many vampires and instead blame the garlic for being too old. These are not smart people.
Most of the Empire is content to ignore or employ halflings, but Stirlanders actively hate the little guys. They think halflings stole their land and their jobs, and think the little guys will steal everything else. I bet this does wonders for the local food. It's a common practice in the province to tie up a straw halfling and then have blindfolded children whack it with sticks to knock candy it 'stole' out of it as a birthday celebration. Local drunks will sometimes tie up a real halfling and then beat them to death in the same way. Stirlanders: Dicks. They also hate their Sylvannian neighbors, but the Sylvannians hate them right back, and don't bother leaving Sylvannia most of the time.
Our first place is the town of Leicheburg, ruled by a Count Petr von Stolpe, a veteran undead fighter. He keeps trying to press people to put together an army and take out Sylvannia before Mannfred von Carstein does something stupid and/or destructive, but nobody listens to him. The Count has taken to making large donations to the Morrites in order to try to get help, and he is terrified that he will be Mannfred's first target in a war he sees as inevitable. Definitely the kind of guy who hires vampire hunting PCs.
Siegfriedhof is an odd town because it isn't ruled by normal Imperial nobility, but rather has been ruled by the splinter Morrite Templar Order of the Raven Knights. You might remember these guys as totally badass 3rd tier bow/gun-knights from Night's Dark Masters. The town was given to their Order for their help at the climactic battle of Hel Fenn 400 years ago, where Mannfred ran away and was run down and murdered after he managed to get his forces encircled. As you might imagine, these knights are pretty pissed to realize Manny is alive (ish) again and are joining voices like Petr von Stolpe in calling for retaking Sylvannia. Their town is also constantly targeted by Sylvannian and vampire-linked saboteurs, making them a bit paranoid. If your PCs can get past that, another good place for undead fighters to find work.
Waldenhof and the attendant Castle of the Count von Carstein is the capital of Sylvannia. It's basically just Castlevania, though Sylvannia is a land of many Castlevanias. A dark and dreary place where the sun never seems to shine and the people bolt their doors at night, the inns and taverns are welcoming, warm, and open at all hours. This is on order of the Count, who likes to let his men come and prey on any foolish travelers who are enjoying the unusually good service and low, low prices.
Wurtbad is the capital of Stirland, and the only place given in the places section that does not primarily have to do with Sylvannia because it's really clear Oh God Von Carsteins is the main intended plot hook for Stirland. It has many inns, it's surprisingly prosperous, and it's doing well. It also has a bunch of hot springs and a vibrant bathing culture. The nobles on vacation mean it's also full of spies. It's not especially interesting compared to fighting rad hammy vampires.
Our example Stirlander is a very generic halfling spy turned innkeeper, who is doing good business and gets no real mention of how the province she lives in has constant threats of racial violence against short people.
The plot hooks for the region are one about a bunch of the southern Electors meeting to plot to carve up Hochland and Ostland and maybe part of Middenland in the aftermath of the damage they suffered, while meanwhile a mysterious enemy (up to the GM to choose who and why) is trying to kill one of the Electors. It's a thin plot hook. The other is investigating a group of ghosts that seem to be the ghosts of a group of bandits Count von Stolpe's ancestor had hung. He thinks they've been raised by the Carsteins to harass him, but they rob travelers as if they weren't ghosts at all. Are they Old Man Withers trying to scare away merchants? Are they bandit-ghosts who are still bandits? Why do they only steal silver? All up to you.
Stirlanders are dicks and the fact that almost all the plot hooks in their province relate to avoiding the actual province proper to go bother Von Carsteins and have fun in Sylvannia instead says a lot about how little they actually have going on. Even their tribal ancestors only get like a one sentence description that leads to a joke about the local nobility being super inbred. Their main characteristic seems to be whining about all the losing they've done. My advice? Head straight for Sylvannia and have an actual plot instead of sticking around with these jerks.
Next Time: Impact Crater.
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Sigmar's Heirs
Talabecland is a weird province. Talabeclanders are originally descended from the Taleutan Tribe, another tribe that had a good claim to being one of the great powers of the pre-Imperial era, though they never seem to have been as important as the extremely aggressive Teutogens or the wealthy Unberogens. What they had was Talabheim. The entire province of modern Talabecland centers around Talabheim in a way that I'd argue is pretty unique among Imperial provinces. Talabheim is a massive city built into a huge impact crater; we're talking a crater large enough to fit the city, a lake, and significant farming and foresting land inside, with only one real passable way into the interior past the mountainous crater walls. Whatever hit this place in ancient times hit it hard as hell; there's no real speculation as to what scooped out such a massive chunk of the earth. It could be a cosmic impact, it could be the result of reality getting all goopy during the Great Collapse, it could be an intentional habitat constructed by the Old Ones like Ulthuan, or it could be the result of an Old One weapon or something; my money's on impact crater but it's a little bit of a shame that they don't present a mystery of 'what caused this thing?' Still, with only one good way into the inner ring of the crater and enough land and fresh water to supply the city in long sieges, Talabheim has been declared impregnable by both Imperial military theorists and the dwarfs they've asked to check their work. Middenheim's an impressive defensive location, but it doesn't have its own supply lines within its strongest defense like Talabheim does. Archy's probably lucky he was stopped at Middenheim and didn't have to try to think about taking this place.
Talabecland is one of the largest by land area provinces in the Empire, but almost all of it is forest. Which means the further you get from the roads, the less likely you find anything Imperial and the more commonly you find Beastmen everywhere. Talabeclanders honor Taal above all other Gods, and this province is the center of his worship (and Talabheim his holy city) in roughly the same way as Middenland is Ulric's focus. As a result, fatherhood is very important to Talabeclander culture. A father has many obligations to teach their children in the same way as Taal stands watch over the transition from child to adult, and the loss of many Talabeclander soldiers in defense of Middenheim and the rest of the northern Empire threatens to spark a cultural crisis in the province; lots of kids don't have a dad anymore.
The locals are also known for a preference for collective glory. Talabeclander regiments prefer to assign battle honors to the regiment as a whole, and it's considered impolite in the region to talk up your personal deeds. Knights of Talabecland prefer to wear their provincial rather than family colors. Noble actions are characterized as honoring a person's community and province, rather than belonging to an individual, due to a belief that it is a whole people who produce a hero, rather than the actions of a single person. Individual Talabeclanders tend to be seen as humble and self-effacing as a result, but very proud of their communities. It's an interesting little cultural quirk and feels like it relates to the importance they put on raising and watching over their children.
Talabecland is also a major crossroads of the Empire for both river and overland travel, because it centers around a solid and impregnable bastion whose edge also sits on a river route, unlike the landlocked Middenheim. You can always rely on Talabheim to provide sanctuary and safe harbor, which makes Talabecland into a sort of much larger and more politically powerful Hochland. The two provinces are very similar, being major crossroads that are full of forests and people who mostly aren't dicks. They just don't get along well because Talabecland has always thought it ought to own Hochland, ever since Sigmar surprised them by giving Hochland its own count and province rather than granting its rule to the Taleutans.
Much of the stuff about the places of Talabecland centers around the refugee crisis. Hochlanders and Ostlanders have flooded into the province and threaten to overwhelm local resources. There simply isn't space for all of them in the smaller towns and villages, and traveling even further to Talabheim is difficult. Matters are made worse by Talabheim being an insanely litigious city; the 'City of Laws' has a complicated law code that the Litigant's Guild resists any attempt to streamline, because the constant law-suits and trials make them wealthy and powerful. Also, Elector Count Feuerbach is probably
dead, given he's missing, and so Countess Elise Krieglitz-Untern has taken over in his stead. She gets a bunch of characterization (and Talabheim gets its actual description) in Terror in Talabheim, a mini-campaign, continuing the trend of the really important urban centers and all their plot hooks being chopped out of the Empire book and stuffed into the campaign books. I still hate this!
We get two example Talabeclanders for some reason: A generic Tilean smuggler and a generic Waywatcher wood elf who hates Chaos. Neither of them are very interesting. One is your standard smuggler who might hire your PCs or who they might chase, the other is an extremely lethal 3rd tier elf ranger gal who doesn't have any real plot hooks linked to her besides 'helps people who don't like Chaos'.
Our plot hooks here are a simple crime drama about a false accusation of murder where the PCs have to step in and prove a corrupt Roadwarden is using a murder accusation to murder someone with proof of his corruption via hanging (simple, but effective plot hook), and a much more interesting one. The PCs are hired to go into the forest to investigate a 'new breed' of mutant. Instead, they encounter a completely sane and reasonable mutant, who is gathering a community of other mutants to shelter them and try to avoid working for Chaos. The PCs now have an issue: The guy is a charming, well-read, intelligent 'gentlemutant' (the book's term), but they get paid a lot if they drag him back to an order of Sigmarite monks to be tortured to death to try to 'study' him. What do they do with this? I mentioned before; the hint with the Shallyans is the first hint of how the line's going to treat mutation. The whole 'mutation is being dealt with wrong' thing goes all the way back to this, the first supplement released for 2e.
So that's Talabecland. It's an interesting place and one of the nicer 'big' provinces to be from that isn't Reikland or Middenland, but like all the major provinces it's let down by some of its most important material being chopped out for another book.
Next Time: Wissenland and the end of Provinces
Sadness, but also Bohemia!
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Sigmar's Heirs
Sadness, but also Bohemia!
Wissenland reminds me a lot of New York State. Mostly rural, lots of mountains, and then a massive cosmopolitan center that everyone thinks of as if it was the whole province. Wissenland is most famous as the home of Nuln, the 'second city' of the Empire after Altdorf. Nuln sits at the border and meeting point of Wissenland (which is itself the southernmost province of the Empire), Averland, and Reikland, and at the meeting point of multiple important river routes. Nuln has been an international trading center since pre-Imperial times, and is one of the very few Imperial cities built over an elven ruin. It was a major meeting point for the pre-Imperials and the ancient Tileans/Estalians and one of the places where Verena and Shallya worship spread into the Reik Basin. The rest of Wissenland is primarily farming country in the Reik floodplains and mining country elsewhere, with a side order of facilitating international trade by maintaining some of the Empire's foreign overland routes along the mountain passes and borders. The mountainous nature of Wissenland means that the locals have to deal with harsh, cold winters despite being in the southern Empire.
Wissenlanders are descendents of the Merogen Tribe, who were known as dwarf-allies even before the Unberogen. They may not have been as powerful, but they always traded with and spoke with the dwarfs, and there has been significant cultural bleedthrough over the years. The average rural Wissenlander adopts plenty of dwarven linguistic tics, like shorter sentences and a preference for literalism. The rural areas prefer craft to art, so to speak; something solidly made is considered beautiful, rather than something heavily decorated, and they don't have much patience for poetry. The region is also scarred by the loss of their neighboring province of Solland to Orcs 800 years back; they consider themselves to blame for not assisting the Sollanders, and consider it something of a provincial shame that they now own and govern the land their neighbors lost. They're also unusual in the prevalence of ancestor worship, with shrines to prominent families set up all throughout Wissenland. Another bit of cultural contact with their dwarf neighbors. Sigmar's cult is also especially popular in its aspect as preaching unity and friendship between man and dwarf, rather than 'hit Chaos with a hammer'.
Wissenlanders are described as having the best wine outside of Averland, but terrible food to go with it. They honestly don't get that much description; just that they're humorless, dour folk who look up to and have been heavily influenced by their dwarf neighbors.
This is because the majority of material on Wissenland would be on the very different region of Nuln, which is absolutely not dour nor literalist, and is one of the biggest centers of art and learning in the Empire. It was, in fact, the site of the very first Imperial university. It is also the site of the Gunnery School and some of the best engineering schools in the world, while having great arms and cannon factories on one side of the river and then gleaming spires and teeming art galleries on the next. Nuln is currently ruled by Elector Countess Emanuelle von Liebwitz, who adores her city and hates the rest of Wissenland. To the degree that she is currently petitioning the Emperor to create Nuln a fully independent city-state (though it is effectively already thus, just the Elector traditionally rules it and Wissenland and only has one vote) and create a new Electoral position as Count of Wissenland for another family.
I have to spare a moment here to talk about Liebwitz. She is a very, very oddly treated character. In supplementary material for this setting, I think she's accused of every single kind of depravity possible, from being a Sybarite cultist to considering using Dark Elf blood-bathing techniques to stay young to being accused of being a Lahmian agent. In the campaign book for Nuln (because of course, Nuln only gets a paragraph or two here and then is chopped up for Act 3 of the Paths of the Damned campaign), she is portrayed as a stupid embarrassment to her city who is only ever concerned with pretty dresses and costume balls. If there is a bad thing, there is a book accusing the Elector Countess of it. It's just bizarre. My group took the tack of making all the outlandish accusations a sign of general Imperial sexism towards one of the only Elector Countesses rather than Counts at the moment, because it is just weird
how many different things she's rumored to be, and had her just be a fairly normal Imperial noble.
The rest of Wissenland isn't very interesting, but Janna Colburg, the Example Wissenlander, would be a great PC or ally. She's a young Journeyman Gold Wizard from a poor family who was picked up out of non-magical university when she proved too good at engineering to be natural. She loves magic, and she loves academics, but she's got crippling student loan debts and has had absolutely no luck with legitimate business to pay them back. She's hit the point where she might lose her license and so she's gotten so desperate she's trying to plan a heist. She is a college student with absolutely no criminal experience and only minor gold magic. She has no goddamn idea what she's doing and is presented as someone your PCs could either help out with said heist (what kind of gang wouldn't want a gold wizard in their debt?) or help find the money another way; she's really intelligent and a good wizard, just not an experienced or hardened criminal.
And there we go. That's the Imperial provinces. They're...okay. They're missing a huge amount of material since it went into other books, the book wastes a lot of time with its population tracker despite it being useless, and it's just too thin, in general. Too thin and not written with the later books 'here's how to use it in an adventure' sensibility. That I can forgive, this being the first book, but the removal of almost all detail on the great cities of the Empire is really annoying. The Empire is the ostensible 'main' setting for the RPG, and it has less material and less of a setting book than Kislev or the Brets when it needed more. If ever there was a place for the huge 200+ page books you see for ToS, ToC, and Realms of Sorcery, Sigmar's Heirs should have been it. The basic ideas aren't bad, there's just not enough. Look at Wissenland. It barely has an entry because so much of its entry would be Nuln, and Nuln is cut out of the book for the most part. There just isn't enough history and material to justify the book compared to the overview in the core book; you don't get enough material to really do a big Imperial campaign without filling in a lot of gaps yourself.
Next Time: Are you tired of Chaos? Fight THESE sinister cults instead!
Cults I guess
Original SA post
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e: Sigmar's Heirs
Cults I guess
I forgot just how vestigial the 'non-Chaos cult enemies' section is. Now, cults are a sort of standard enemy in WHFRP, to the point that I'd say 'oh no a hidden cult is operating in this township' is to WHFRP what 'goblins are harassing my chickens' is to D&D. This section tries to spice that up by adding two non-Chaos cults to deal with so your early game isn't a solid mass of confused burghers in funny robes with curved daggers trying (and failing) to pronounce Dark Speech while a Rat Catcher's dog savages their leg.
It does not succeed.
The reason it doesn't succeed is because it doesn't really examine the assumptions of the cult narrative and instead just alters the flavor slightly. Our first cult is the Yellow Fang, who are a bunch of idiots who want to try to bow and scrape before the Rat Nazis in hopes of being appointed the Vichy Empire government after the Skaven Inherit-Inherit and take over the world. Yep, it's a bunch of people who looked at a group of insane, homicidally racist rat-people who are openly saying 'we enslave-enslave, eat-kill all no-furs! YES-YES! I mean, no-no, not you, treaty-pledge, promise-promise' and gone 'Yes, this is a well thought out scheme, I should do everything I can to help these people and trust their promises that they will let me rule my neighbors'.
Gee, a group of very foolish people who have given up in the face of a significant threat and who are going to secretly try to subvert the Empire's defenses in a vain hope that their conqueror will reward them later? That sounds almost like the exact narrative of a Chaos Cult, doesn't it? They even worship the Great Horned Rat (who pays them no mind, because no-furs). In the end, the only thing the Skaven angle really changes is that instead of demons, they might have the occasional ratman advisor, and the fact that one of their chief goals in life is to undermine and discredit the Rat Catcher's Guild. Which is novel enough, especially if you have a Rat Catcher. In the end, the plot against them is still going to play out as a standard cult narrative most of the time: They're just not meaningfully different from a Chaos Cult in effect despite the rat flavoring.
Our second cult is Ahalt the Drinker, who is like a shitty version of Taal that was replaced by Taal worship because Taal doesn't demand you re-enact the (specifically Nicholas Cage, Ahalt isn't cool enough for the original) Wicker Man to get back your goddamn honey. Somehow the worship of 'Basically just Taal but with more human sacrifice' survives, and is spreading through the various woodlandy and rural areas of the Empire according to the book. Effectively, again, Ahalt's plot is the same as a stock Chaos Cult story, even though his entire point is 'players run into a spooky cult, but it's not Chaos! Surprise!': The Plot Hook has the players come to investigate a missing scholar, get sucked into local intrigue, and slowly discover prominent townspeople are behind a cult of eldritch power and human sacrifice that will force them to fight or escape the populace. It's not actually meaningfully different from running into a Khorne Cult or whatever; the only thing that changes is there's less tentacles and the name they're yelling as they say 'GIVE YOUR BLOOD TO AHALT THE DRINKER!'. The specific intent, stated in the book, is to have a non-Chaos cult to prevent the threat of Chaos from growing stale for players. This is a good intent! The problem is they operate exactly like a Chaos Cult!
And...that's it. For the whole section. It's two pages long. Just a weird little afterthought that doesn't achieve its goal at all.
So I'm going to keep going. We get our Pre-Made Adventure, but like all Pre-Mades it isn't great. Players get involved in a scheme to take over the riverport of Bogenhafen, lots of random intrigue, then it ends with the halfling mafia tricking the players and taking over the town's council while the book explicitly says the players can't do anything about this should they object (I kind of imagine most PCs shrugging, taking the money, and leaving anyway). It's not bad, just kind of dull and ends with the 'clever' twist that the halfling the players helped was a shitty crook who gloats about it a bit. Also doesn't really plan on what happens if the players figure that out before handing him a major seat on the town council and dirt on two prominent merchant families that he needs to insulate himself from being kicked around by pissed off adventurer pawns, but whatever. The main problem with it is it feels like it's someone else's plot and the PCs are just kind of incidental to it.
Finally, we get some new classes. The Gambler, the Apothecary, the Raconteur, the Astrologer, the Exorcist, the Forger, the Verenan Investigator (easily the best thing in this book), and the Knight of the Blazing Sun. Most of them aren't all that interesting, and more importantly, they had some trouble finding 'Imperial' classes the same way Bretonnia's and Kislev's books could bring in 'native' new classes because the default book's classes are all assumed to be Imperials by default. Nothing about the added classes really screams 'Imperial'. There's nothing really wrong with them, but the only interesting ones are the Investigator and the Knight. The Knight is interesting because it's specifically presented as an intended guideline for altering the base Knight class to fit various famous Templar orders as a DIY guide for GMs. They get a bit less heavy combat stuff than a base Knight but are better at fencing, strategy, and a more refined, Estalian flavor to them; effectively they're very similar to the base Knight but just different enough to be worth it. The authors would later think better of this approach and just add Templar/Cult skills to the Knight class in ToS, as we saw, but this is an interesting look at their original plan for Templars.
I've talked about the Verenian Investigator before, but they bear mentioning now: They are one of the cooler 2nd tiers in the game. The class is already mechanically interesting and fun: You get some okay combat skills (and a 2nd attack), but a ton of spying, thieving, and intellectual skills and the very valuable Keen Senses talent (+20 to Per tests). They also get street fighting, so they're handy with their fists in a bar brawl or when trying to subdue a suspect. But their fluff and their Career Entries are the particularly interesting part. Verenans, in the interest of truth and justice, are trying very hard to invent criminology. Thus, they commission talented people from a huge variety of scholastic, religious, and even criminal backgrounds into church Investigators, who assist the Watch, Roadwardens and Witch Hunters with criminal cases in the interest of providing the truth and thus moving the world towards justice. You can be an ex-thief or cat-burgler who swears penance before Verena after being caught and becomes a cool private religious investigator/spy. They're useful, mechanically interesting, and they can go into Witch Hunter or Verenan Priest tracks afterwards. Just a cool class all around and they seem really fun to play.
And...that's it. That's Sigmar's Heirs. Tell me, did this book help you get a good feel for the Empire? It has a daunting task, since the Empire is both huge and central to the setting. It doesn't quite manage it, but it's failure is more a matter of being too thin and having huge, important chunks taken out to put into campaign books later rather than the material in here actually being bad. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the book on a close read for this; there's more hints of good ideas than I remembered. Nordland's complicated relationship with the elves is fun! Ostland actually has enough material for a game. Hochlanders and Talabeclanders are pretty cool people. Middenlanders are still assholes and Stirlanders are the worst, though.
More importantly, this was the first supplement book for the line. Look at how much they improved for Bretonnia and Kislev, whose setting books are two of my favorite in the whole series (Brets are probably the best book in the line, I'd say). The fact that the line's staff learned from mistakes made in the early books and continued to (mostly) improve throughout the line's life speaks well of them.
Plus, I've got the next book to show you what an ACTUAL bad Hams supplement looks like! That's right, we're going to the Warhammer Companion next, and ooooooh boy. You want some inexplicable horseshit? Because we're headed into some inexplicable horseshit!
Next Time: Inexplicable Horseshit