World of Warhammer – No, Really, It’s An Actual Book

June 25, 2008

Because it was cited as one of the artistic and inspirational sources behind the current incarnation of Warhammer Online, I ordered an out-of-print copy of “World of Warhammer: The Official Illustrated Guide to the Fantasy World” a few weeks ago. It came in the mail and I triumphantly waved it at my wife, who has long since stopped calling the special doctor every time I showed a quirk of dementia. “A-HA!” I said. “IT’S HERE! SIGMAR BE PRAISED!”

Then I had to put the book down and take my quiet time pills.

One of the challenges of trying to indoctrinate yourself into the Warhammer Fantasy world is that there really is no one main source for everything Warhammer. Sure, there’s the Games Workshop website, the fantasy RPG guide, the tabletop guides, but since this fantasy world is a bit more fluid and changing than others, it’s hard to peg down exactly who does what where and why and to what extent. I think this 1998 book might be the best overview of the Warhammer fantasy world you could hope to find, and yet it still left me unsatisfied.

I think it’s partially because I got it for the art, which is decent yet a little too… cartoony… for my tastes. And also because it was less on technical specs (“classes” and such) and more on general overviews of each race.

Since we’ve heard a lot about the six/seven races being implemented into WAR — the Greenskins (Orcs and Goblins), Dark Elves, Chaos, Empire, High Elves and Dwarfs — what interested me most was to take a peek at the OTHER Warhammer fantasy races… which we might very well see come expansion time.

Lizardmen: Children of the Old Ones

  • This race is composed of a variety of humanish reptiles who live in the jungle of Lustria (the Warhammer equivalent of South America).
  • Three main sub-species of Lizardmen: Slann (fat toad/frog creature), Saurus (crocodile creature) and Skinks (giant newts/chameleon).
  • Possible classes: Mage-Priest, Totem Warrior, Scouts, Skirmishers, Dino-Riders
  • Lizardmen ride Cold Ones (mini-dinos), the same mounts as the Dark Elves use
  • Destruction or Order? Possibly Destruction, but since their enemies include Dark Elves and the Undead, Order might well be in the cards too.

Wood Elves: Defenders of the Forest

  • Occupy Athel Loren, much more beatnik and nature-loving than the High or Dark Elves.
  • More like the elves of Tolkien than the other elven races.
  • Possible classes: Dryad, Treemen, Tree Kin, Bowman, Spellsinger, Waywatcher (elite ranger), Glade Guard, Wardancer.
  • Destruction or Order? They hate dwarfs, so Destruction. They are friends with Bretonnia, so Order.

Bretonnia: Land of Chivalry

  • The “other” Warhammer human race, Bretonnia is more modeled after Britain/King Arthur than the Empire’s Germanic slant. Bretonnia is more rustic and more medieval than the steampunky Empire.
  • Possible classes: Knights, Knight Errant, Grail Knight, Archer, Grail Pilgrim, Damsel, Prophetess, Wizard
  • Destruction or Order? Can’t see them being Destruction, but will be weird to have two human races on the Order side.

Skaven: Children of the Horned Rat

  • Hordes of rat-men born out of Chaos who mostly live underground.
  • They have a capital — Skavenblight — that they nearly destroyed with magic.
  • Possible classes: Head-Taker, Grey Seers, Clan Rat, Stormvermin, Plague Monks
  • Destruction or Order? Most definitely Destruction.

Chaos Dwarfs: The Sons of Darkness

  • Like Dwarfs, just angrier and darker. They’re not very popular with the Warhammer crowd, and has thus been in decline lately.
  • Possible classes: Sorcerer-Priest, Sorcerer Engineers, Dawi-zharr, Hobgoblin, Sneaky Git
  • Destruction or Order? Destruction, although their creation of the Black Orcs — who turned on them — casts this into doubt.

Undead: Bane of Life

  • The Undead have two major factions: The Tomb Kings and the Vampire Counts
  • This faction covers pretty much all the horror staples — werewolves, vampires, mummies, zombies, skeletons, wraiths
  • Possible classes: Necromancer, Skeleton Warrior, Greater Undead, Banshee, pretty much any of the horror “creatures”
  • Destruction or Order: Um… let me think… Destruction.

Other Races:

  • Dogs of War – Mercenary groups
  • Kislev – Nordic-themed, don’t have a big tabletop presence
  • Ogre Kingdoms – might be another fun race to go alongside of the Greenskins

So what looks likely for the first expansion? Unless Mythic eschews adding new playable races in favor of increasing the level cap and/or providing new areas of conquest, I think that a new racial pairing is likely in the works. Skaven are highly popular, but problematic to include (and will already be present in the game as NPCs). Chaos Dwarfs are so low on the radar as to be non-existent. Wood Elves are solid, but would represent a third elf race in a game already 1/3rd elven. Bretonnia is a bit medievalish and bland, and they’d be competing with the Empire for the human mindshare.

My thinking is Lizardmen (Order) vs. Undead (Destruction). The Lizardmen would give the Order side a crazy looking race — and “good” guys rarely get the weird looking races in these games. The Undead might be overwhelmingly attractive to many players in love with horror monsters. And emo kids wanting to be a vampire with mad leveling skillz.

But really, who knows? It’s all a shot in the dark, and since we’re a looooong ways away from any solid expansion info, we’ll just sit here with flights of fancy.



  1. After just reading Oathbreaker to get a feel for the “Lore” of Warhammer more…I feel that when Skaven are introduced to the game…it will be my Dwarfen duty to go there and wipe out every rat I see….and bring along a cat as well

  2. You may be right about the Undead being an expansion race. They are quite popular on the Horde side of WoW.

  3. Have you checked out the http://www.blacklibrary.com yet?

    These stories build up the warhammer world for you.

  4. My friend, who is crazy about Warhammer, made the same guess. His guess is that in the first expansion, if new races are added, the Lizardmen will join the Order and Skaven will join Destruction.

  5. I have that book too. It’s an okay book, but I didn’t care for the illustrations either.

    I am currently reading through 3 Warhammer compilation novels… Tales of the Old World, Blackhearts, and Gotrek & Felix. I have to confess that I liked the Warcraft novels better. The Warhammer novels have lots of action and fighting, not a lot of plot, and I don’t think (so far) that they’ve covered any “huge” events in Warhammer history. It’s mostly just general stories about fighters in the land.

    It’s still good stuff though, and helps flesh out some of the Warhammer atmosphere.

    As far as an expansion goes… do you think there’s a possibility of an added 3rd faction? Mercenaries, or races that will have the ability to choose between Order and Destruction?

  6. Massively did something similar a while back, and y’all seem to have some of the same thought processes behind possible expansion races. http://www.massively.com/2008/05/22/wars-must-have-expansion-races-a-wrap-up/

  7. Ugh, I know this will never happen, but these races would make up one hell of an awesome third faction.

    Skaven, Undead, and Lizardmen.

    The lore would support it (perhaps with some minor bending), but adding a third faction into the game 1-2 years after release would probably be a monumental failure from a server balance perspective.

  8. If they go with new races for an xpac I agree with your conclusion. OTOH they could go with other and come up with new race(s) or some strange combination of existing stuff. IIRC they said they wanted to avoid level cap increases for expansions, they could add more RvR levels still possibly. Yet another idea is they could try and come up with a 5th archetype and just add more classes to the current races. Though with 24/12 classes already do they really need to add more?

  9. Although it’s just my word behind it, I really didn’t read any other speculative posts when it comes to the expansion and possible race picks — I was aware of Massively’s articles, but they were mostly before I started blogging, so I didn’t really go through them. So that’s interesting that we came to similar conclusions (of course, what do I know about the lore? NOTHING!).

    As for a third faction… yeah… that would be a headache. I know people will point to DAOC as proof it can be done in an RvR setting, WAR isn’t being set up to be a three-faction game at the core. I can’t imagine how that might work, particularly when it comes to old zones and content.

    The only thing I could speculate is that the third faction would be more of a rogue agency between Order and Destruction and have special rules because of that. If it’s like Dogs of War, it might be interesting letting your faction decide which other faction they’d want to help (or “be hired by”) that week, a kind of swing vote in the RvRscape.

    But really, the two-faction core is in place and would most likely break the game if altered. The whole “Order” and “Destruction” thing is a creation of Mythic, right? And there’s numerous tweaks to the racial backgrounds already to get them to fit in one or the other camp, so lore freaks shouldn’t hold too fast to existing Warhammer Fantasy backgrounds.

  10. […] was Werit’s prediction on future content updates. The second was Syp’s overview of potential expansion races based on information he read in The World of Warhammer lore […]

  11. Personally I’m gunning for Lizardmen for order and Skaven for Destruction since they hate each other so much. Lizardmen would never be destruction i think coz they want to restore the order of the old ones and throwing the world into choas doesnt really do that very well. also i think the xpac will, if not opening up more of the current landmass, will open up Lustria. also @ Snafzg did i mention that Skaven hate each other with a passion? well yer they would NEVER end up on the same side, neways when you say Undead there are 2 undead races Vamps (regular undead) and The ancient egypty people cant remember what they are called so yer.

  12. I have an Idea for a single new race to be introduced that could be played on either side, Ogre Kingdoms. If you know the lore of the game world Ogre’s prety much work for the highest bidder, (or there own stomachs) Now to work this into the MMO version you let the ogre choose wich realm they will be a part of Order or Destrection and from then on, on that server they can only be aligned with watever realm (for instance if you are already an order player your ogre will be order and if destrection same thing) The Classes I could see for Ranged DPS would be Lead belchers with cannons going boom all over the place. The Mele DPS would be the Hunter with a mechanic similar to that of the white lion except they could go out and train whatever pets that they would like. The Tank would be the Iron Guts Heavy armor and HUGE weapons, and of course the healer would be the butcher. Just a thought.

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