THE WFRP STORY XXIII: THE KNOWN WORLD

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

In parts VII and XIX I traced how the Warhammer world began to emerge piecemeal in WFB1. In WFB2 the world was for the first time presented as a coherent whole.

Known World.jpg

The first map of the Warhammer world

The topography and nomenclature of the WFB2 map are remarkably close to later versions. Ind and Naggaroth have not yet appeared, and Ulthuan is called simply the Elf Kingdoms, but otherwise the Warhammer world is presented as it would remain for many years.

Notably it is described as part of a Moorcockian multiverse of parallel worlds.

The Known World bears more than a passing resemblance to our own. This is because the Known World exists in a parallel reality, an alternative place and time different from ours – but not unrelated.

Warhammer Fantasy Battle, second edition, ‘Battle Bestiary’, p7

This view is different from later versions of the setting. For example, in WFB3 the similarity between the Warhammer world and the real world is explained in terms of slann terraforming.

The Slann evolved a standard form of hydro-static control by means of continental alignment. As a result of their efforts, many of their worlds share a basically similar overall geography, a fact which continues to disturb intelligent space-faring races to this day.

Warhammer Fantasy Battle, third edition, p189

NORSCA

The nascent setting of WFB1 included an area known simply as “the North”, which was an analogue of northern Europe at the time of the Vikings. It remains in WFB2, but is renamed Norsca. The name was apparently taken from a brand of Nordic-themed toiletries (which in turn presumably derived the name from “Norse” and “Scandinavia”).

I don’t know if anyone else remembers this, but at the time Norsca was a brand of deodorant sold in Britain with a Scandinavian theme to its advertising.

– Graeme Davis, Strike to Stun

Advertisement for Norsca toiletries (1981)

Norsca is at this stage home to the Chaos Dwarfs (also named “Black Dwarfs” in WFB2).

THE OLD WORLD

Forces of Fantasy describes a fantasy setting based on mediaeval Europe, called “the West”. In WFB2 this region is known as “the Old World” and described in more detail.

The Old World is rather like Europe as it was during the middle-ages, [sic] it is made up of many independant [sic] states of varying sizes. … Although the Old World includes Dwarf kingdoms it [sic] is dominated by humans.

Warhammer Fantasy Battle, second edition, ‘Battle Bestiary’, p21

Some of the Old World’s independent states had already been mentioned before WFB2: Albion in Forces of Fantasy, and the Wasteland and Bretonia (sic) in WD51. Albion and Brettonia (sic) reappear in WFB2, but the Wasteland does not. However, three new states are mentioned: The Empire, the Grand Duchy (a forerunner of Kislev) and the Southern City States (which would later become the Tilean City States).

The isle of Albion is known for its barren moorlands and bogs, although even this land is now forested or under the plough….

In… the Boglands of the Isle of Albion… a few Gnomes still survive.

op cit, p7

One of the largest Old World states is The Empire, a confederation of Ducal states united by a common dialect, specific cultural traits and a single Imperial feudal lord. It lies in the central-north area of the Old World, between the land of the Grand Duchy to the north and the Brettonians [sic] to the south.

op cit, p49

Southern City States…. This assortment of (often warring) states lies upon the eastern peninsula of the Old Worlds [sic] south coast.

op cit, p52

No map is provided for the individual nations of the Old World. It is clear, though, that whatever geography was envisaged for these states differed from what came later. In later maps Bretonnia is to the west, not south, of The Empire, and Kislev is to its east, not north. The location of the Southern City States does, however, correspond to that of the later Tilean City States.

Whereas the West in WFB1 was purely mediaeval in character, in WFB2 the Old World encompasses a wider range of historical periods.

The north of the Old World is technically and socially primitive (11-13th century europe [sic]), whilst central areas are slightly more sophisticated (13th-15th century europe [sic]) and the south is the most advanced (15-16th century europe [sic]). Gunpowder weapons and [sic] are totally unknown in the north, but are widely accepted in the south, although even here they are crude and far from common.

op cit, p21

In many ways the Old Worlders are similar to the exploring, conquering countries of 15th and 16th century Europe. The southern parts of the Old World are already beginning to open to new ideas, science and technology. Gun powder [sic] weapons are in their infancy here, and experiments are going on with steam and alcohol power. The North of the Old World is still far poorer and more primitive, where feudal barons maintain their grip on the lives of the peasantry.

op cit, p7

Despite these comments, there is no trace of Renaissance technology in WFB2‘s rules. The only gunpowder weapon described in the rules is the mediaeval bombard.

The comments were the beginning of a shift in the Warhammer setting. WFB1 is purely mediaeval, and WFRP1 firmly Renaissance. WFB2 is an intermediate stage, which straddles the two. This was noted by Tony Ackland:

The Warhammer world sort of largely evolved by accident. Initially Battle was largely medieval whereas Role Play was more Renaissance based. The two merged over time.

– Tony Ackland, Dear Tony Blair

It is not clear why this shift took place. The intention may have been to broaden Warhammer‘s appeal and relevance to those coming from historical wargaming by accommodating more historical periods. It may have simply to differentiate the setting from others.

The idea that the northern states of the Old World are less technologically advanced than those in the south may have been arisen because the immediate juxtaposition of Norsca’s 8th-11th-century setting with 15th-16th-century nations was considered jarring.

The Worlds Edge Mountains may owe a debt to the World’s Edge in Michael Moorcock’s story ‘Master of Chaos’ (also known as ‘Earl Aubec and the Golem’ or ‘The Dream of Earl Aubec’).

OLD DWARF KINGDOMS

The Old Dwarf Kingdoms are not marked on the map of the Known World, but are mentioned in the text as lying within the Old World.

The Dwarvish Kingdom of Caraz-Adul is one of the oldest and largest of the Old Dwarf Kingdoms of the Old World that still exists. The name means ‘Land of the Tallest Peak’, because it lies within a valley amongst the tallest peaks of the Worlds Edge Mountain range. Caraz-a-Carak is the main underground city-fortress of the area, [sic] it means ‘Enduring Peak’.

Warhammer Fantasy Battle, second edition, ‘Battle Bestiary’, p52

Caraz-Adul and Caraz-a-Carak reappear from WFB1, though only the latter survives into WFRP1.

ARABY

“The East” is briefly described in Forces of Fantasy. Its replacement in WFB2 scarcely adds to that brief description.

Araby corresponds to the Near East at the time of the Ottoman Empire. It is a huge and decadent empire, comprising of [sic] many Caliphates, each under the eye of the Sultan of all Araby.

op cit, p7

SOUTH LANDS

The Southlands (sic) had been mentioned in passing in the insert which accompanied the Regiments of Renown boxed set RR7 (The Bowmen of Oreon), but was not described. WFB2 provides the first account of the region.

The South Lands are still largely unexplored and unknown. They consist of humid equatorial jungles, with northern and southern belts of dry grassland. The South Lands harbour Goblins as well as primitive tribes of humans, some still living a stone-age [sic] hunter-gatherer existence.The New Coast is the first Old Worlder settlement in the South Land [sic], comprising of [sic] a number of thriving towns and farms. The New Coast is jungle to the north and dry grass lands to the south.

The inhabitants of this area are mostly from the Old World, Norse or Dwarfs. Together these races are developing trade with the interior, and the Dwarfs are already beginning to tap the untold mineral wealth of the surrounding mountains.

op cit, p7

It is striking that the setting is described from the perspective of Old Worlders, not natives (it is “unexplored and unknown”). It is an illustration of Warhammer‘s strong Anglocentrism at this time.

The name of this area may yet again come from Michael Moorcock: in his Elric stories the Southlands are part of the Young Kingdoms.

DARK LANDS

The Dark Lands were a new addition to the setting.

The Dark Lands lie within, [sic] a huge natural basin formed by the eastern side of the Worlds Edge Mountains and the Mountains of Mourn. The wall thus formed comprises many active volcanoes, which pour their molten lava over the land. The constant smoke and air-bourne [sic] ash is so thick that very little light reaches the ground, and the Dark Lands have become barren and eternally dark.

The Dark Lands are not thickly populated by any creatures, although they are home to most of the evil, black hearted [sic] and unpleasant species that wouldn’t be tolerated anywhere else. The surrounding mountains are riddled with Goblin tunnels, or fortresses built by the Dwarfs and taken over by Goblins years ago. Within these tunnels live all sorts of Goblinoid creatures, as well as other nameless creatures that like to hide away from the sunlight. Deep below the deepest Goblin tunnels are the caverns of the Lizardmen, where few venture and from whence [sic] even fewer return.

op cit, p7

It is not difficult to trace the inspiration for the Dark Lands.

They came to a cleft between two dark crags, and passing through found themselves on the very edge of the last fence of Mordor. Below them … lay the inner plain stretching away into a formless gloom beyond their sight. …Still only a grey light came onto the dreary fields of Gorgoroth. There smokes trailed on the ground and lurked in hollows, and fumes leaked from fissures in the earth.

Still far away … they saw Mount Doom, its feet founded in ashen ruin…. Between them and the smoking mountain, and about it north and south, all seemed ruinous and dead, a desert burned and choked.

– JRR Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Book VI, Chapter 2

WFB1 had plundered Tolkien for ideas and the Dark Lands are a clear continuation of this. They replicate all the principal features of Mordor. They are a volcanic desolation, surrounded by mountains and infested with goblins. Sunlight is obscured by smoke and ash. Even the name has the same meaning; Mordor means “Black” or “Dark Land” in Tolkien’s invented language Sindarin.

Mordor, showing Barad-dûr and Mount Doom, by JRR Tolkien

The dwarf fortresses captured by goblins are also an obvious derivative of Tolkien’s Moria.

The only element of the Dark Lands description that does not owe a debt to Tolkien is the mention of lizardmen. This seems to come from the earlier Citadel flyer ‘Dorian Redhorn & the Lair of the Lizard King’.

CATHAY AND NIPPON

Feudal Japanese elements were present from the earliest days of Warhammer. The Empire of the Four Nations in the ‘Chaos Marauders’ flyer included “eastern legions” of samurai, Forces of Fantasy contained army lists for “the Orient” and The Book of Battalions named the area Nippon.

In WFB2 Nippon is described in greater detail and placed next to a larger region called for the first time Cathay.

Cathay is a huge land corresponding to the far east of our own world. The mid-coastal areas are temperate and fertile, whilst to the west and north lie great deserts, and to the south impenetrable jungles. The Old Worlders have only just established trading contacts with this land – and are not always welcome.

Cathay is dominated by humans, although remoter areas are still under the control of goblinoids, especially Hobgoblins. There are many states and cultures within this area, of varying sophistication and technology. The largest state is Imperial Cathay, where gunpowder technology is known, but not fully exploited. … The large island off the coast of Cathay is called Nippon; an independent state of tough, sea-going peasantry and stern feudal overlords called Shogun.

Warhammer Fantasy Battle, second edition, ‘Battle Bestiary’, p9

Apart from the primative [sic] tribes and a few independantly [sic] minded states, the Orientals worship a common god called The Orange Simca. Simca corresponds closely with the worship of Buddah [sic] in our world. Monks wear orange robes and spend most of their time in contemplation. Vimto is the martial version of Simcism.

op cit, p22

Vimto is a pun on a British soft drink of the same name, and the Orange Simca one on a GW staffer’s car.

The Orange Simca was a car belonging to either Rick or Hal at about that time. Before I joined GW I wrote an Oriental-themed battle pack (rejected for publication) in which I translated Vimto as “the way of martial vigour.” Groan.

– Graeme Davis, Strike to Stun

THE NEW WORLD

The New World is another region that appeared for the first time in WFB2.

The New World is a whole continent corresponding to North America in our own world. It is inhabited by humans and a host of strange native creatures. The northern areas were settled by the renegade Dark Elves many years ago, whilst the areas along the east coast have numerous Sea Elf colonies. The indigenous humans are stone-age [sic] primitives, hunters of wild game and harvesters of seasonal fruit. They occasionally trade with the Elves, but have little cultural contact with them.

Warhammer Fantasy Battle, second edition, ‘Battle Bestiary’, p9

Although Naggaroth is nowhere named, Dark Elf settlements are already present. The rest of the setting is extremely sketchy, and the “strange native creatures” are nowhere described.

LUSTRIA

Lustria features prominently in WFB2. The scattered content of Forces of Fantasy, the first and second Citadel Compendiums and various miniatures inserts is collated and expanded.

Lustria is a vast continent dominated by jungle in the north and by huge rolling grasslands to the south. The most notable feature of the land is the mighty Amoco-Cadiz river system, which penetrates most of the north of the continent.

… The Slann once ruled Lustria as the Aztecs ruled Mexico, and, like the Aztecs, they have become the victims of foreign colonialism and greed. The remains of the once vast Slann Empire now occupy only the northernmost part of the continent. The Norse and Old Worlder explorers, adventurers and traders who have ousted them have settled along the north eastern [sic] coasts. From here they launch expeditions inland in search of Slann gold or the natural treasures of the land; [sic] animal skins and mineral wealth.

op cit, p9

“Amoco-Cadiz” is a reference to an infamous 1978 oil spill.

Lustria is also the setting for the scenario included in WFB2, ‘The Magnificent Sven’. This adds some colour to the description of the continent.

The story begins in the famous “Packet Inn” in the Norse, Lustrian township of Iquitos. Iquitos stands along the banks of the Amoco river, and is the trading port for goods going out of Lustria or up river.

… An old man and a boy come through the Inn’s swing doors…. The old man takes the seat opposite Sven.

“Now,” begins the old stranger, “my name is Haarld Havangatt. I am from the village of Vastervik on the Ljunger River. The village was founded only a dozen years ago. Last year a huge brutal band of Slann Renegades moved into the hills behind Vastervik. Ever since then they have caused our village incessant trouble. At first they only raided for livestock or attacked isolated farmsteads. Then they started to ambush boats coming up river and anyone wandering too far away from the village.

“The renegades grew in number. Eventually they became as bold as to assault Vastervik itself. This was nearly three months ago. They overran the village and either killed or captured all of our fighting men and women. Since then they ambushed any boats moving down the Ljungen [sic]. Vastervik has been completely isolated.

“They have returned twice. Both times demanding twenty-three hostages. Some they keep threatening to torture and kill if we in Vastervik resist. The rest are taken back to the Slann Empire. They are either given as human sacrifices or thrown into slavery.

“The renegades are due to return in seven days [sic] time. Sven Haslefriesian [sic] your ship, ‘The Voltsvagn’, is the only vessel in Iquitos. It is certainly the only one which will take us to Vastervik in time. You must take us there and destroy this gang….”

op cit, ‘The Magnificent Sven’, p4

The Magnificent Sven Map

Map from ‘The Magnificent Sven’

ELF KINGDOMS

An elf realm had been present from early in Warhammer‘s history. “The Old Elves” were one of the constituents of the Empire of the Four Nations. “The Elf Kingdoms” were specifically named in the flyer that accompanied the Regiments of Renown set RR7, the Bowmen of Oreon. In WFB2 they became for the first time more than just a name.

The Elf Kingdoms are the original homeland of the Elves and comprise of [sic] a large ring shaped [sic] island and a number of smaller surrounding islands. The entire area is one of outstanding natural beauty, with a pleasant warm climate and abundant natural vegetation. The main island has a mountainous wooded interior, with inward facing and outward facing coastal coastal plains. The inward facing coast is populated by High Elves, living in secure cities or luxurious palaces. There is little agriculture practiced [sic] here, [sic] rather the whole area is left as far as possible in a natural state. The outward coast is used for agriculture and for what few industries exist, [sic] it is populated by the Sea-Elves [sic], and there are many trading ports and harbours. From here the Sea Elves guard the sea ways between the Old and New Worlds.

The greatest city in all of the Elf Kingdoms is Lothern, situated upon either side of the harbour entrance into the inner sea area. It is inhabited mostly by Sea-Elves [sic], and is unusual in that it is the only Elf port that will admit foreign shipping, although all foreigners are restricted in their movements within the city itself.

Warhammer Fantasy Battle, second edition, ‘Battle Bestiary’, p7

The Elf Kingdoms seem to be part of the Atlantean literary tradition. Their location in the Warhammer world corresponds with that ascribed to Plato’s Atlantis in the real world, and their topography resembles that of one of Atlantis’ conceptual descendants: Thomas More’s Utopia.

The island of Utopia is in the middle two hundred miles broad, and holds almost at the same breadth over a great part of it, but it grows narrower towards both ends. Its figure is not unlike a crescent. Between its horns the sea comes in eleven miles broad, and spreads itself into a great bay, which is environed with land to the compass of about five hundred miles, and is well secured from winds. In this bay there is no great current; the whole coast is, as it were, one continued harbour, which gives all that live in the island great convenience for mutual commerce. But the entry into the bay, occasioned by rocks on the one hand and shallows on the other, is very dangerous. In the middle of it there is one single rock which appears above water, and may, therefore, easily be avoided; and on the top of it there is a tower, in which a garrison is kept; the other rocks lie under water, and are very dangerous. The channel is known only to the natives; so that if any stranger should enter into the bay without one of their pilots he would run great danger of shipwreck. For even they themselves could not pass it safe if some marks that are on the coast did not direct their way; and if these should be but a little shifted, any fleet that might come against them, how great soever it were, would be certainly lost. On the other side of the island there are likewise many harbours; and the coast is so fortified, both by nature and art, that a small number of men can hinder the descent of a great army.

– Thomas More, Utopia (1516 in Latin, 1551 in English)

Utopia (1516, recoloured)

NORTHERN STEPPES

The Northern Steppes are based on the historical Eurasian Steppes. There are no specific mentions of the Steppes before WFB2, though The Book of Battalions briefly refers to the incursions of Tynn Khan’s horsemen, who appear to be based on the Mongols.

The Northern Steppes comprise artic [sic] wastes to the north, tundra and grassland to the south and border on desert to the far south. Over this vast and unmanaged territory wander various nomadic groups, herding their cattle and horses.

Humans and goblinoid races all roam the steppes, whilst many large monsters rely on the steppelands for their food. The eastern edge of the Mountains of Mourn provide ideal homes for creatures such as Chimera [sic] and Harpies, who are able to fly out over the grasslands in search of prey.

Warhammer Fantasy Battle, second edition, ‘Battle Bestiary’, p7

CHAOS WASTES

Another newly described region of the Known World is the Chaos Wastes.

As a traveller approaches the polar regions [sic] he becomes aware that all is not as it should be, that distances lose their perspective, that the geography seems strangely fluid and the weather and light increasingly erratic. Some distance from the pole the physical laws of nature break down altogether, so that nothing is steady or predictable, and that all direction and distance is unnaturally distorted. These are the Incursions of Chaos – areas into which ships sail and never return, or from which strange monsters or warriors emerge to weak [sic] havoc upon the Known World.

op cit, p9

Similar ideas were expressed in an early flyer.

The borders of the dominions of Chaos lie in many places throughout time and space. One such place is … the gigantic bottomless fissure known as the Crack of Desolation. On one side lies [sic] the Kingdoms of Men … – on the other only Chaos. The realm [sic] of Chaos is one of eternal mists and movement, the shifting, changing ground devoid of plants or life of any natural kind, the air swirling with impenetrable mists. In this place of ultimate insanity roam the unnatural creatures spawned by Chaos and their grotesque masters – the Chaos Gods….

– ‘The Quest for Chaos’

As for so much of Warhammer‘s conception of Chaos, the idea of the Chaos Wastes comes from Moorcock.

And not only the [Chaos Lords] themselves, but the stuff of their own weird cosmos was entering the Earth, so that where their power was the land heaved like the sea, or the sea flowed like lava, mountains changed shape and trees sprouted ghastly blossoms never seen on Earth before – all nature was unstable and it could not be long until Earth was wholly one with the Realm of Chaos.

– Michael Moorcock, Stormbringer, Book 3, Chapter 2 (1964 as novellas, 1965 as a book)

The Realm of Chaos in the Stormbringer graphic novel, by Jim Cawthorn (1976)

Chaos lay to the south. He had never been so close to the edge of the world before and wondered how the sight of unformed matter would affect his brain.

… Malador watched the churning, leaping Chaos-substance – predominantly grey, blue, brown and yellow at this moment, though its colours changed constantly – spew like sea-spray a few feet from the castle.

Nothing lay beyond World’s Edge – nothing save the swirling stuff of unformed Chaos which stretched away from the Cliffs of Kaneloon for eternity, roiling and broiling, multicoloured, full of monstrous half-shapes….

– Michael Moorcock, ‘Master of Chaos’ (also known as ‘Earl Aubec and the Golem’ or ‘The Dream of Earl Aubec’) (1964)

They were soon crossing a land of oozing stuff which flung up tendrils at them and sought to drag them down into itself. Sometimes faces appeared in the stuff, sometimes hands raised as if in supplication. “A Chaos sea,” King Noreg-Dan told them. “There are several such places in the realm now. Some say that that is what those mortals who serve Chaos finally degenerate to.”

– Michael Moorcock, The Queen of the Swords, Book 2, Chapter 6 (1971)

HISTORY

WFB2 did not just provide Warhammer with its first coherent geography, it also introduced its first history. It mines familiar influences. Much comes from Tolkien: for example, dwarf-elf wars, goblin-dwarf wars, strife among kindreds of elves and the departure of elves from the west. Moorcock provides the Incursions of Chaos. Other elements have their origins in real-world history. The hobgoblin invasions of Cathay are modelled on the Mongols’ attacks on Japan, under Kublai Khan. Religious wars between Old Worlders and Arabians recall the Crusades. Norse and Old Worlder colonisation of Lustria is based on the Age of Discovery. In truth the only element that is in any way novel is the Old Slann, and that was inspired by von Däniken.

WFB Timeline

WFB2 timeline

CONCLUSION

In WFB2 the Warhammer world emerged in a form instantly recognisable from subsequent editions. The disparate elements that had appeared in 1983 and 1984 were woven together to create a literary and historical hotchpotch. There were still blanks to fill, but the broad outline was already mostly complete.

APPENDIX: CHRONOLOGY

This table summarises the chronological development of the Warhammer world up to WFB2. 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.

WFB2 Nations.jpg

The next post in this series will look at the races and creatures of WFB2.

Title art by Ian Miller. Internal art by JRR Tolkien, Jim Cawthorn et al. Used without permission. No challenge intended to the rights holders.

5 thoughts on “THE WFRP STORY XXIII: THE KNOWN WORLD

  1. Another fine entry.

    One of the things that has confused me for some time was whether the Old Slan and the Old Ones were distinct. It appears to the be case in the newer fluff which refers to the Slan by spawnings but are distinct from the progenitors, The Old Ones. It’s given me a bit of a headache for a while that one.

    The Elf Kingdoms (Ulthuan) didn’t change as much as I thought. Added to, yes, but it seems the basic design was there for a while.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t believe there are any references to “Old Ones” in Warhammer material from this period. There are only references to the “Old Slann”. I will look out for that language, but, as you suggest, I think it appears later.

      On the subject of Ulthuan, I was also surprised in retrospect how fully formed it was at this point.

      Like

    2. I think the first appearance of the term “Old Ones” might have been in Warhammer Armies: Lizardmen (1997) for WFB5, when the Slann were rewritten.

      Like

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