There are a lot of people here new to warhammer in general, and a series with 40 years worth of lore can be hard to dive into. So, here’s a quick writeup of some of the basics you’ll be encountering on Odyssey.
Marienburg is the largest Free city in the Old World. Formerly a part of the Empire, Marienburg seceded in 2399 IC (Imperial Calendar, more on that later) and after a failed attempt by Emperor Wilhelm III to reclaim the city, it was officially declared an independent power in 2429 IC. Since that point Marienburg has become one of the largest trading ports in the world, hosting trade from as far away as Nippon and Cathay, distant nations on the other side of the planet.
Marienburg is officially a republic, ruled by The Directorate. The Directorate is made up of the city’s leading religious figures, academics, and citizens. Without fail, the seats of the Directorate held by citizens always happen to coincide with the representatives of the ten richest merchant families. Questioning this openly may prove unhealthy. It is the official position of Marienburg that the Directorate solves the city’s problems in its weekly meetings. Realistically however the Directorate rules the city through back room deals, shady undertakings, and more than a few illegal deals with both the playable races, and others.
Formally known as the Empire of Man, the Empire was founded by Sigmar in 0 IC (see how that works?), it has since become one of the major powers of the world. Sporting technological terrors such as the Steamtank and Helblaster volleygun, backed up by powerful Knightly orders, supported by the expertly trained magicians of the Imperial Colleges of Magic and most importantly, lines and lines of disciplined professional state troops recruited from towns and cities throughout the Empire. Sigmar would later become the patron god of the Empire, replacing Ulric, the previous deity in many provinces. Despite the preference for Sigmar, many gods are worshiped openly in the Empire, from the Dwarfen ancestor-gods to strange gods from foreign lands like Myrmidia, this religious tolerance only extends so far, worship of the chaos gods or any related deity is strictly forbidden. This is enforced by the Witchhunters and Warrior priests of the Church of Sigmar.
While the varied provinces and cultures of the Empire are too complex to go into for a post like this, the provinces that border Marienburg are Reikland, Nordland (To and extent), and Middenland.
The Current Capital of the Empire, and the Domain of Prince Karl Franz, who is also the current Emperor. The people of Reikland are considered urbane, open minded, loud and arrogant among the rest of the Empire. A walk throughout the streets of a city in Reikland will give you a display of all the latest fashion trends in the Empire.
Under the Elector Count Boris Todbringer, Middenland is a far more militant than Reikland, the people worshipping the warrior god Ulric rather then Sigmar. The people of Middenland are unrelenting, belligerent, but also seen as loyal and determined. The people of Middenland are notably taller then many other citizens of the Empire, and very focused on tradition.
While there is a substantial amount of wasteland between Nordland and Marienburg, they technically do border by land. However the real connection between Theodoric Gausser’s province and Marienburg are by sea. Nordland is the gateway to the sea for much of the Empire, however its position in the North makes it a popular target for Northlanders raiding the embattled province. The people of Nordland are blunt, wild, and tactless, but when you need to navigate the sea or forest there’s no better guide.
The Kingdom of Bretonnia lies to the South of Marienburg, and widely regarded as one of the naval powers of the world. An absolute monarchy under King Louen Leoncour. The nobility of Bretonnia feels that such petty things as “gunpowder” or “any sort of ranged weaponry” are below them. Instead the noble knights of Bretonnia ride into battle with nothing but their armour, trusty steed, lance and blade. While These knights are supported by peasant levis, untrained conscripts from the lands a lord owns, some with spear and shield, some with longbows and a lucky few manning large trebuchets to siege the enemies of Bretonnia. While some may believe the nobility’s distain for modern weaponry a disadvantage, it comes with the blessing of their patron goddess, the Lady of the Lake. Bretonnian knights with the Lady’s blessing have been known to deflect cannonballs with their shield and survive volleys of handgun fire while charging.
Life for peasants in Bretonnia is hard but honest, the code they live their life by demands that they present 90% of their labour to their lords in taxes. Either in coin or goods. In return the nobility of Bretonnia A peasant may not leave their village without the express permission of their lord, and as such, inbreeding is common. In contrast, the nobility of Bretonnia are as well bred as their horses, standing on the noticably tall end for a human, and without fail broad across the shoulders. The Knights of Bretonnia are known across the world.
Each Dwarf hold is ruled by a Dwarfen King. The whole of the Kingdoms is ruled over by the High King, Thorgrim Grudgebearer, and is an extremely traditional culture. Guilds are the order of the day within the society of the Dwarfs, the two largest are the Engineer’s Guild and the Runesmiths guild. Both of these organisations are extremely conservative and traditional. An invention submitted to the engineer’s guild will often spend decades, if not centuries being debated and tested before being approved for large scale production. The Dwarf Ironclad steamship saw a remarkably quick testing period of a mere 200 years.
Despite this, the Dwarfs are more technologically advanced then humanity, fielding flying warmachines and advanced artillery. There are no Dwarfen wizards or magicians, Dwarfs are largely resistant to magic, to the where offensive spells have been known to dissipate before they could harm Dwarf warriors. The only magic Dwarfs can use is in their runes, and the secret of these creations are the domain of the Dwarfen Runesmiths.
The Runesmiths guild makes the Engineer’s guild look like reckless progressives when compared. A new rune has not been created in generations, and even attempting to do so is considered an act of hubris and arrogance among the older masters of the guild. Many of the guild’s tests, lessons, and rituals are done without knowledge of the reason behind them, but it is merely understood that if a master was made to undertake a grueling task, his apprentice will receive the same task, even if the master isn’t sure why.
The Dwarfen people are on the decline, the Majesty of the Dwarf Empires of old are long gone. Many of the Dwarf’s runic magics have been lost to time, the source of Gromril, the metal that made the Dwarfen armies of old nearly invincible, has been lost, with only the most daring of expeditions attempting to raid the old Holds were it was mine and wrest the ore from the claws of the horrors that call the former Dwarfen cities home. This has lead to a racewide anger among the Dwarfs, they were great once, and the world should not forget that. Nor the deeds of their mighty ancestors. Behind this anger this is a sadness, many believe that the Dwarfs will never reclaim what they once had. Although they will never admit it.
Finally, any writeup of Dwarf lore would not be complete without the mention of Grudges. Grudges are a way of life for a Dwarf, every wrong against the Dwarfen people, no matter how small, is recorded by the Dwarf wronged, reported to his King, and eventually recorded in the great book of grudges. The Great book of Grudges is held by Thorgrim himself, and is enchanted with runic magic to never run out of pages. Every Grudge is recorded there in blood, and will never fade. A slight against a Dwarf is never forgotten, and will always be paid.
Home of the High Elves, although they rarely speak of it, Ulthuan has spend the last few thousand years in a bloody civil war. This conflict is not a long as it seems, as the lifespan of an elf is indefinite, and in fact the leader of the original rebellion against Ulthuan, Malekith, still leads the “Dark Elves” from a continent to the West of Ulthuan today.
Ulthuan itself is a floating continent kept from sinking by the magical Vortex at the centre. This Vortex, in addition to keeping Ulthuan from sinking, funnels magic out of the world. While I’m sure this sounds odd, there is a good reason. The more magic flows through the world, the easier it is for the Chaos gods, and their daemons, to manifest. The vortex was established during a large scale daemonic invasion of the world, it is only because of it, and the efforts of the Lizardmen and Athel loren, that the world is not a permanent nesting ground for daemonic horrors bent on destroying life.
Marienburg is one of the closest ports to the High Elves’ home of Ulthuan, but relationships have been tense. After a group of pirates found their way to Ulthuan, and raided an elven city, the High elven navy destroyed large sections of Marienburg in retribution. However trade and limited diplomacy carries on even now.
The Classes available have some in depth lore of their own.
High Elves are among the most powerful wizards in the world, the Empire’s college of magics was founded by the High Elf Teclis, and even now follows the guidelines the elves laid down for them.
However the Mages of Ulthuan go a step further, being able to master multiple lores of magic, and can even learn High magic, a lore beyond that of the magics understandable by Humans. While human wizards are restricted to a single type of magic, Archmages may practice many, making them far more versatile. Archmages have been known form bonds with the Star Dragons that reside on Ulthuan, and ride them into battle.
Elite Elven scouts, there are very few who can match a shadow warrior’s skill with bow and shadow. Their training spans decades, even centuries, and are universally the decendents, or contemporaries, of loyalists from Malekith’s home territory. They are broodier, and more dour then other high elves, and see their kin as weak and soft. Many high elves do not trust shadow warriors, however they have a habit of appearing when needed to aid their kin against any who would threaten Ulthuan.
Dwarfen Engineers are the envy of the world over. Keen minds who meld Dwarfen stubbornness with a spark of innovation. The creations of Dwarfen engineers include massive airships, train systems, and artillery like the world has never seen before.
The first, and last, defense the Empire has against the more insidious aspects of Chaos. Witchhunters carry with them the authority of the church of Sigmar. Even the Empire’s most powerful nobility hesitates when inconvienencing a witchhunter. While they carry black powder weaponry and proven imperial steel, their true strength lies in the mind, an intelligent witchhunter is a force to be reckoned with.
Honour is everything to a Dwarf, but what happens when honour is lost? Simply put, it can not be reclaimed. When a Dwarf takes the oath of a slayer, they are dead. A funeral is held, mourning happens, and their families move on. But vitally, they ‘died’ before they lost their honour. This boon comes at a terrible price however, a Slayer has sworn to die in battle, but he must make his life worth as many his enemies as possible. He can not allow himself to be struck down, he can not wait outside city walls during an attack, he must fight to the best of his abilities until the end.
Slayers dye their beard bright orange, in order to show other Dwarfs at a distance that they have lost their honour and are attempting to reclaim it. They also shave their heads, allowing the hair to regrow in a Mohawk. The larger the Mohawk the greater the warrior, but the less successful the slayer.
Every priest of Sigmar is a warrior, against the evils of the world. Many take this oath more literally than others, taking up a hammer, the preferred weapon of Sigmar in life, and fighting against anything that dare threaten the Empire. These priests do not fight alone, however, Sigmar is with them in a very real way, answering their prayers in the heat of battle, healing wounds, smiting foes, and watching over those who fight beside his chosen warrior priests.