Chaos in the Old World
Imperial City States
Of the Human nations of the Old World, the most important by far is that of the Empire of Man, more often called simply The Empire, forged by the warrior-king and ascended deity Sigmar from the primitive Human tribes of barbarians who inhabited what became the lands of the southern Empire more than 2500 years ago. Although not as skilled in craftsmanship as the Dwarfs or in magic as the High Elves, the people of the Empire are not beholden by the limits of tradition to the same extent as the Dwarfs or High Elves and continue to progress culturally, technologically and magically. Having yet to succumb to any threat, external or internal, it is the faith, the sense of righteousness, and the unconquerable spirit of its citizens which gives the Empire its strength, as well as the ruthless efficiency of its military and religious orders. The Empire is often represented in common iconography by a symbol known as the Imperial Cross, which is a long-standing symbol of Imperial unity. The top three arms of the cross stand for the northern, western, and eastern tribes that founded the ancient Empire, and the bottom refers to the Dwarfs, the Empire’s oldest and staunchest allies. It has connotations of unity and oaths fulfilled.
The greatest nation of the Old World, the Empire of Man is ruled by an Emperor and is composed of the descendants of the ancient tribes of Mankind united by the great Human warrior Sigmar Heldenhammer after the Battle of Black Fire Pass. Sigmar was deified after his death by his people and his promise of eternal aid from the Empire for the kingdoms of the Dwarfs still stands today. This action solidified the relationship between Men and Dwarfs and planted the seeds for the burgeoning Empire through trade between the two races. Today, the Empire is led by Emperor Karl Franz I, who rules from his court in the Imperial capital city of Altdorf.
There are ten provincial states in the Empire, each ultimately ruled by an Elector Count who owes his or her power to the unifying figurehead and ultimate authority of the Emperor. It should be noted that the Empire is not truly a single, centralized nation-state, but instead a confederation of individual, feudal states united only by the common tongue of Reikspeil, a shared faith in Sigmar and a mutual Imperial culture. The Imperial states correspond roughly to the ancient tribal territories brought together by Sigmar when he united the tribes of Man beneath one crown to defeat the Greenskins of the Old World.
The southern Imperial states – Averland, Reikland, Stirland, Talabecland and Wissenland – resemble a broad chalice, partially surrounded by near-impassable mountain ranges from which drain the mighty rivers which are the lifeblood of Imperial trade. To the west of these are the Grey Mountains, beyond which lies the Kingdom of Bretonnia and the Wood Elves’ magical forest of Athel Loren. To the south are the inhospitable Black Mountains and to the east the World’s Edge Mountains that mark the eastern extent of the Old World.
To the north, the rolling hills and rapid streams of the south and east are gradually transformed into the forested lowlands and deep waterways that define the heart of the Empire. The vast forests that comprise the central and northern Imperial lands stretch almost unbroken across the countless leagues from the state of Reikland to the northern border with Kislev and the shore of the Sea of Claws. The Great Forest, Drakwald Forest and the Forest of Shadows are all essentially part of the same dark, untamed wilderness, with the green blanket of trees punctured only by the abrupt mountain range known as the Middle Mountains. These lands are divided into the northern Imperial states – Hochland, Ostermark, Ostland, Middenland and Nordland. The inhabitants of these northern states generally have to deal with much greater hardships and military threats than those of the more civilized south, being that much closer to the daemons, Beastmen and other dangers of the northern Chaos Wastes.
The life of a citizen of the Empire of Man is a perilous one, for there are foes within every shadow and enemies around every corner. Secret Chaos Cults abound, or at the very least, there are rumours of them running rampant, as well as the legendary rat-men that some call the Skaven. No one is certain who is trustworthy, and fear and paranoia are omnipresent in the isolated settlements that dot the Empire’s provinces outside of the major Imperial cities.