THE WFRP STORY XIX: THE ELEVEN CONTINENTS

This post continues my history of WFRP1, which started here.

This post has been modified from its original form.

At the time of WFB1‘s first printing the Warhammer world scarcely existed, but it soon began to take shape.

The Seven Instruments of Laerial are now scattered across the eleven continents.

– ‘Chaos Marauders’ (August 1983)

This reference to eleven continents makes it clear that the Warhammer world was at this stage something quite different from what it would later become. There is no map or description of the eleven continents, and it is not clear that they were even defined in the authors’ minds. There are, though, a number of isolated references to places in them.

The first to be mentioned was the Empire of the Four Nations:

Some 1800 years ago, the Great Enkalon [Garusa] was Warrior Emperor of the Four Nations, Bright Star of the North, Uniter of the Goodly Races, Mighty Palladin [sic], Crusher of Goblins. Pax Gorusa held sway thoughout his huge empire. … There were four great Captains who ruled in Great Enkalon’s Empire of the Four Nations. Captains of the Warriors of the North, the Eastern Legions, the Old Elves and the Davarian Dwarf Clans.

ibid

The Four Nations are not described in any more detail, but there are clues elsewhere as to their character. WFB1 describes Northmen in a manner reminiscent of historic Norse. ‘The Duelling Circles of Khorne’ (November 1983) specifically equates northerners with the “Norse”. So the North should perhaps be seen as resembling Northern Europe in the Viking Age.

There also appears to be a historical analogue for “the Eastern Legions”. The ‘Heroic Adventurers’ insert (August 1983) describes a descendant of one of Enkalon Garusa’s great captains as “Yamato-Takishi[,] Samurai Warrior of the East”. This suggests that the East was modelled on feudal Japan.

We can surmise that the kingdoms of dwarfs and elves were probably inspired by JRR Tolkien, judging by what came before and after.

The next region to be described in any detail emerged from the travels of Richard Halliwell.

Richard Halliwell… used to intersperse periods of work at GW with long foreign excursions to Africa, Asia and South America – we never knew when we’d see him again when he took off!

– Rick Priestley, Juegos y Dados

He joined the creative team on and off, because he was a great traveller, Hal. He liked to get some money together, and then disappear to Africa. And then when he came back, he’d make a bit more money and disappear to Asia. And then he did South America. Hal was much more of an alternative lifestyle guy.

His South American trips did encourage him to create the idea of … Lustria. It was the equivalent of South America. Hal populated that world, inspired by the things he’d found out there.

– Rick Priestley, Paint All the Minis

Lustria echoed Mesoamerica in the era of the conquistadors. It first appeared in ‘The Legend of Kremlo the Slann’ in the first Citadel Compendium (around November 1983).

The same article also introduced Warhammer‘s first distinctive race, the slann. The initial presentation of the slann differed materially from that which came later. There was no trace of their extraterrestrial origins or advanced technologies, they were not the creators of races like the elves and the fall of their society had no connection with the collapse of the warp gates.

They are an exceedingly ancient race, [sic] some say they are older even than the Elves (though they are very wrong). The Slann Empire was at the peak of it’s [sic] power when the first Sea Elf explorers arrived.

– ‘The Legend of Kremlo the Slann’, the first Citadel Compendium, p14 (November 1983)

The slann acquired science fantasy elements in ‘The Duelling Circles of Khorne’ and the second ‘Arcane Ramblings’ flyer (both November 1983).

I have seen the slann likened elsewhere to AD&D‘s sahuagin or kuo-toa (themselves inspired by H P Lovecraft’s Deep Ones). However, those creatures are piscine, rather than amphibian, and seem like distant ancestors at most. It seems more likely, as Zhu Bajiee has pointed out, that the slann derive from the gowachin in Frank Herbert’s The Dosadi Experiment. There are certainly many close parallels between the gowachin and slann. They are both batrachian anthropomorphs*. They are of extraterrestrial origin. They reproduce in breeding pools. Their societies are based on distinct tribes (known as phyla in the case of the gowachin), whose members have distinct tattoos.

There are also reasons to believe Richard Halliwell might have known The Dosadi Experiment. Frank Herbert’s influence suffuses games like Laserburn and Warhammer 40,000. The name Dosadi was also used for a Citadel Miniature in 1982 (SS3 Night Elf Patrol), and at this time it was common for the names of Citadel miniatures to be allusions.

Very few places within these regions received any description at this stage. The exceptions were the two cities Chrystol and Horvenghaast.

Chrystol is only briefly described. It is named in ‘Heroic Adventurers’ as home to Skarlos and some of his retinue. Although Skarlos is a half-elf, his companions from Chrystol appear to be human, so it can perhaps be inferred that Chrystol is primarily a human settlement. Chrystol is also mentioned in ‘The Duelling Circles of Khorne’ as a “port-city”.

We know nothing more about Chrystol than these fragments, but I wonder if it was meant to resemble Imrryr, the capital of Melniboné in Michael Moorcock’s Elric books. I base this view on nothing more than Skarlos’ resemblance to Elric, so it is highly speculative.

Unlike Chrystol, Horvenghaast is described in considerable detail:

Lying some ten miles offshore from the port-city of Chrystol, fabled haunt and training ground of Chaos Warriors, Horvenghaast is a great granite slab, some two miles square, jutting forth defiantly some hundred feet from the grey waters of the straits of Mara Longa.

The Old City of Horvenghaast was founded millennia ago by the once-proud race of reptiles known as the Slann, a northern trading center [sic] carved into the very fabric of the island. The greater part of the surface of the island has mighty roadways carved eight stories deep into the rock. The resulting monolithic blocks of granite were excavated with tunnels and chambers to become great palaces and warehouses, dark, damp hallways where cold walls displayed fabulously obscure carvings, reputably [sic] expressing the complex and unfathomable philosophy of the many worlds of the Multiverse, and the Slann’s unique place in all of them. Men have gone mad amongst the cunning reliefs of the Old Slann, though in their madness many have found paths to enlightenment or power.

The deprivations of invading Elves into the Slann’s Lustrian homelands soon weakened the reptiles’ hold over their furthest outpost. A much reduced garrison could not withstand the onslaught of Oddrin’s Great Norse Alliance, accompanied by Dwarf Engineers under the command of arch-cunning dwarfish mercenary general Dalin Crookbrow. The fierce Norse and their Dwarf allies took the island. Hairy savages slaughtered and pillaged, poisoning the sacred pools in the vast spawning chambers. They took what they could and despoiled all that was left in the oafish manner of gold-hungry northerners.

Horvenghaast was left empty for a while; [sic] until Chaos came. Chaos pirates soon arrived, bizarre crews of Beastmen and strange mutants seeking a haven between their blood drenched [sic] excursions in the seas. Then wild cults, seeking to distance themselves from ordered society, in their pursuit of the Ways of Chaos to their most extreme and perverse limits. High Priests of established Chaos Orders came too, bringing their Followers with them to establish an ideal power base off the northern coast.
– ‘The Duelling Circles of Khorne’ (November 1983)

Horvenghaast seems to have been inspired by ‘At the Mountains of Madness’, by HP Lovecraft. Its physical structures and murals echo the city in the novella. There are also similarities in the conceptions of the slann and Elder Things. Both are extraterrestrials whose societies declined and collapsed after losing control of powerful technologies (Chaos gates and shoggoths, respectively).

By the end of 1983 these fragments were all the Warhammer world amounted to. Lustria was beginning to take shape in a recognisable form, and was at this stage the setting’s most extensively described region. The barest of bones existed for what would later become Norsca, Nippon, Ulthuan and the dwarf realms. But little else existed.

In 1984 the setting was heavily revised and expanded. This process began with Forces of Fantasy (March 1984). In the Forces of Fantasy army lists the North and East survive from the earlier material (though the latter is renamed the Orient). Armies of the West and East are added, which depict Christian and Islamic fighters at the time of the crusades.

The Northmen, also called the Norse, are a numerous and influential race of Men. They are barbarians, working the land and fishing the cold northern seas. They are also great seafarers and traders, as well as hardy warriors and fearsome pirates.

It has been claimed by many so called ‘scholars of human behaviour’ that the Norse are merely an unco-ordinated gang of drunken thugs. It has even been said that they are led by psychopathic killers, and motivated only by pillage, lust and alcohol addiction. The Norse would heartily agree with all of this. They are very proud of their barbarous and violent reputation, [sic] in particular they take great pains with their personal appearance – which is invariably hairy and unclean.

Forces of Fantasy, ‘Forces of Fantasy’, p11 (March 1984)

Sundered from the greater part of humanity by great distances and terrible dangerous seas, the Men of the Orient have developed a unique and strange warrior society. The whole of their country is under the domination of warrior lords called Shogun; these Shogun are incredibly cruel, and retain power only through their use of elite warriors – the Samurai. Fortunately for the rest of mankind the Samurai spend most of their time fighting each other and have very little regard for foreigners.

The Samurai warriors are supported in battle by their followers, the Ashigaru, who form the backbone of most armies….

Another feature of Oriental society are the Vim-to monks who are universally feared and respected. They live in strict segregated temple communities and study the ways of Spiritual and Arcane Vim-to, a study which involves the worship of unnamable [sic] gods and unfathomable demons.

op cit, p12

The men of the Kingdoms of the West live in well ordered communities, with large towns and cities. Their society is highly and rigidly structured on a feudal basis; Lords, Knights, Townsfolk and lowly Peasants. ln charge of the each country is the King; who keeps a court consisting of the most valiant, chivalrous, cultured
and bigoted Nobles.

The various Kingdoms are different to a degree, and fight amongst themselves when not otherwise engaged, Of particular note are the Religious Orders; warrior monks who belong to one of the Templar or Hospitaller organisations. They are very dedicated individuals with a burning hatred of foreigners in general and non-westerners in particular.

The chief enemy of the Kingdoms of the West are the Easteners [sic] (Godless Heathens who deserve to be cut down mercilessly) and the Norse (Unshaven Barbarians who deserve to be cut down mercilessly).

op cit, p14

The Easterners live along the coasts of Araby, in mythical Arabia and the heartlands of the near east. They are a colourful people, sometimes cruel, but always involved in some exotic adventure. The fabulous wealth of Arabia comes from world wide [sic] trade, piracy and conquest.

The toughest fighters come from the great desert tribes; independant [sic] warriors feared greatly by desert travellers. Also feared by travellers and merchants are the strange eastern mages and desert demons. Araby is a very magical place, the wise men of the east are often accomplished magicians, and their powers of healing and summonation are unrivalled.

op cit, p10

The Regiments of Renown backgrounds developed the world further and introduced many more familiar names. The West became the Old World. The East became Araby. The lands of the elves were for the first time named the Elf Kingdoms. The New World and Southlands appeared. Several recognisable places appeared within these regions: Troll Country, the Badlands, the Middenheim (sic), the Black Fire Pass (sic) and the Black Mountains. There were also a few names that are less familiar, such as Zhuf Field, the Greenwoods and the Misty Mountain.

‘Watch Out, There’s a Thief About’ in White Dwarf 51 (March 1984) mentioned the first nations of the Old World: Bretonia (sic) and the Wasteland. The Book of Battalions added the names Albion and Nippon. ‘The Shrine of Rigg’ in the second Citadel Compendium (November 1984) expanded the Lustria setting to include Amazons.

By December 1984 much of the later Warhammer world had at least been named. It was based on a blend of fictional sources (such as Tolkien, von Däniken** and a little Lovecraft) with historical ones.

The prominence of historical analogues is a distinctive feature of the Warhammer setting. One factor behind this was a desire to incorporate historical miniatures, which were then an important part of Citadel’s business.

The C26 range of men at arms was Citadel’s best selling Fantasy range for three years.

– Bryan Ansell, Eldritch Epistles

But the pseudo-historical elements perhaps also owe a debt to Michael Moorcock’s History of the Runestaff (1697-1969), which Bryan Ansell had read and liked. This had a fantasy setting which featured lands such as Granbretan, Amarehk and Kamarg, which were based on Great Britain, America and the Camargue. (It also contained many punning references to contemporary British politics, which is something else Warhammer followed.)

Another characteristic of the early Warhammer setting was its inclusion of science fiction elements.

The Old Slann artificers were great builders of arcane machinery in obscure places, vast and mysterious devices of untellable function, governing the fates of worlds and races.

Millenia [sic] ago, the artificers realised that their time would soon be over, but they still wished to see their work continue. They built the Power Weapons as simple gee-gaws to attract the primitives that were to follow them, but in each killing toy they imprinted deeply the task they required of their distant Slave.

These tasks are almost exclusively functions of routine maintenance, switch pulling and lever throwing. The … slave will travel to a place where the artificers [sic] machinery lies concealed, often deep under the earth, sometimes through oddly situated dimensional gates. He will know exactly how to enter these places, and what is required of him once he is there.

Tales tell of mumified [sic] guardians, weird artifacts of immense potency an revalations [sic] that might turn a mortal insane.

– Second ‘Arcane Ramblings’ (November 1983)

… Ornithopters and riding dragons of every kind gather like a cloud over the island…

– ‘The Duelling Circles of Khorne’ (November 1983)

Ornithopters were mechanical flying machines in Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965) and Michael Moorcock’s The History of the Runestaff (1967-1969). The influence of HP Lovecraft’s ‘At the Mountains of Madness’ (1936) and Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods? (1968) is also evident.

The inclusion of futuristic elements in fantasy games was not unique at the time. For example, Dave Arneson’s Blackmoor setting, Empire of the Petal Throne (1975) and the AD&D adventure S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (1980) had similar features. However, it was not something that generally survived into later versions of the Warhammer setting.

FOOTNOTE

* Why say “frog men” when “batrachian anthropomorphs” is available?

** I am aware that von Däniken presents his ideas as fact, but I believe they have no genuine historical basis.

APPENDIX: CHRONOLOGY

The following table summarises the evolution of the Warhammer world’s geography during this period. Rows that are shaded grey contain elements that disappeared before WFRP1. Ideas in white rows survived until then, though possibly in modified form. Bold text highlights the first occurrence of a name that survived.

Warhammer World 1

The next post looks at developments in Warhammer‘s role-playing rules.

Title art by John Blanche. Used without permission. No challenge intended to the rights holders.

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13 thoughts on “THE WFRP STORY XIX: THE ELEVEN CONTINENTS

  1. I am loving this series of posts from the past. It’s fascinating to see the evolution to how we got to 1e.

    Thanks

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  2. Indeed. I really love reading this. Two asides:
    1. Von Däniken is pure fantasy, funny, but without any historic foundation.
    2. SciFi elements in the 80s were pretty common, also the early Ultima series, Wizardy and other computer Rpgs included them.

    I really do wonder how the Old World might have been developed if it included more Clockworkpunk/SF madness. I like the idea of ornithopters and flying cities!

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  3. “Chariots of the Frogs” is one of my favorite Warhammer puns, even if it was always implied. Rick, as a former archaeologist, would have had the same reaction to von Daniken as I did, but he was a phenomenon back then, on a scale that’s hard to credit today. By 1984 he had ten books in print in English alone, and they were everywhere.

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    1. He was also a phenomenon in Germany. I remember that even my parents owned a couple of books and when I took up the profession (which seemingly 90% of the Warhammer team previously was trained in), I was frequently asked (and still am by older people) how certain things in antiquity could have been possible without aliens 😉

      I need to remember that Chariot of Frogs joke…

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      1. Aliens were the least of my worries.

        Older people (having been born in the late 19th century and believing wholeheartedly in British imperialism and the paternalistic, condescendingly well-meaning form of racism that went with it), would quite regularly try to corner me about Atlantis, the pyramids, and the cradle of the white race.

        Given their values and world-view, it was clear that these “foreigners” in Egypt and Mexico could never have organized themselves to build such things without some kind of imperial power to organize and supervise them – and when you look at a map, Atlantis was about half-way between the two places….

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    2. When did the pun “Chariots of the Frogs” first appear? It feels as though it has been around forever, but I can’t remember seeing it in any GW sources (which is perhaps unsurprising). Was it an in-joke that one of the GW staffers (possibly you) later revealed?

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      1. I don’t recall ever seeing it in print, but it was always kind of implied: the point seems to have been to make the joke, and get the joke, without ever voicing the joke in so many words: just an “I see what you did there” kind of wink and nod.

        I’m certain that it came from either Rick or Hal, and Hal seems to have written most of the published Lustria material, starting with “The Legend of Kremlo the Slann” in the first Citadel Compendium (Oct 1983). I’m not aware of anything SF-ish around the Slann until “Rigg’s Shrine” in the Second Citadel Compendium; the Old Slann must have got into WBF2 lore, because the World Guide in WFRP1 mentions them as the architects of the polar warpgates that failed and let Chaos into the world.

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      2. I had a feeling/vague memory it showed up in WFB3 (as a heading in the history of the Warhammer world section). Given your rather more extensive knowledge of these things though, I’m sure you’d have spotted it if it was there.

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  4. Clear to them, that is. And as a left-leaning but very green student from the 70s and 80s, these questions always led to a quagmire of argument that I knew I was ill-equipped to handle.

    Like

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