The stalwart defenders of the Forces of Order form the Warhammer World's first and last defense. Set upon by foes bent on their total and utter annihilation, they fight a war that most of them will not see the end of but fight on they do the world be lost to shadow and despair.
From ancient strongholds along the World's Edge Mountains, the ancient race of Dwarfs cling tenaciously to their homelands, and do battle with enemies that lay siege to their mountain strongholds. Although the golden age of their people has passed into dim memory, the venerable Dwarfs refuse to pass quietly into the night.
The Dwarfs are an ancient and industrious race that is long past its prime. Their once-great empire of Karak Ankor now lies in ruins and many of the Dwarfs' mighty mountain holds have been abandoned or conquered by Orcs and Goblins, with whom the Dwarfs have warred for centuries. It is not uncommon to hear a Dwarf wistfully recall the great glories of the past, observing bitterly that nothing the Dwarfs do in this day and age can compare to the majesty of what once was.
An enormously proud people, the Dwarfs are quick to react to any slight, real or imagined, and remember any such infraction for years, even passing on the responsibility of vengeance to their heirs through their Books of Grudges. It is perhaps because of their obstinate pride that the Dwarfs refuse to openly admit that their culture is slowly creeping towards its nadir. Inwardly, however, they know that they are a doomed race. This gives them a uniquely dour outlook upon the world and perhaps explains their great fondness for drowning their sorrows in tankard after tankard of ale.
In fact, the only thing that the Dwarfs love more than a good mug of ale is gold. A Dwarf in the throes of goldlust is a thing to behold. The race's legendary drive and stamina is brought into sharp relief when they are presented with the opportunity to acquire gold. As miners and experts on ore and metals, the Dwarfs are without peer. Items of Dwarf craftsmanship and engineering are the most valuable in all the world, revered even by the Elves.
The fates of the Dwarfs and men of the Empire are inextricably intertwined. Ever since the day Sigmar united the tribes of men in the defense of the Dwarfs at the Battle of Black Fire Pass, the stout warrior-folk have honored their oath to come to the aid of men in times of need. With the fate of the Empire now hanging in the balance, it seems that this old debt may soon come to call.
Subjects of Emperor Karl Franz, the men and women of the Empire are embroiled in a continuous struggle from all sides, facing horrors that seek to wipe them from the face of the world. With steel, faith, and ingenuity, mankind wages a daily battle for its very survival.
The greatest nation of men in the Old World, the Empire is composed of the human descendants of Sigmar, who united the tribes of men at the Battle of Black Fire Pass. Sigmar was deified after the battle and his promise of eternal aid to the kingdom of Dwarfs still stands today. This action solidified the relationship between men and Dwarfs and planted the seeds for the burgeoning Empire through trade. Today, the Empire is led by Emperor Karl Franz, who rules from his seat in the city-state of Altdorf.
The life of a citizen of the Empire is a perilous one, for there are foes within every shadow and enemies around every corner. Secret cults abound, or at the very least, there are rumors of them running rampant. No one is certain who is trustworthy, and fear and paranoia are omnipresent in the isolated settlements that dot the Empire's provinces.
As the Empire rots from within, it is constantly under assault from without. Chaos Marauders from the north frequently mount massive campaigns into the Empire, pillaging and destroying all that they can. In the Age of Reckoning, such a warhost has attacked the Empire's northern borders under the leadership of a powerful Champion. The timing of the invasion is particularly ill-fortuned, for the Empire is being ravaged by a mysterious plague that is transforming the populace into murderous fiends.
Faced with such desperate circumstances, Emperor Karl Franz has been forced to call upon the Dwarfs and High Elves for aid, lest his lands be transformed forever into a nightmarish domain of Chaos.
Amongst the oldest of the races to walk the world, the High Elves of Ulthuan are a people of incredible grace, skill, and wisdom. Masters of almost every art imaginable, the High Elves are tested more and more with each passing year. Though their numbers wane, they are ever up to the challenges they face.
The High Elves are an ancient people with a history that spans millennia. While the ancestors of man were little more than cave-dwelling primitives, the Elves built magnificent cities of glittering silver and white marble on their island home of Ulthuan. Elven scholars and explorers were the first to chart the stars and sail the world's oceans. The Elves were also the first race to mount an organized defense against the invading hordes of Chaos, beginning a war that continues to the present day
Early in their struggles against the Ruinous Powers, the Elves discovered that negative emotions such as fear, rage, jealousy and greed serve to fuel and strengthen the power of Chaos. Since that time, the High Elves have struggled to keep their intense passions tightly under control. Though intelligent and enlightened, all Elves have the capacity for savage violence.. In order to suppress this dangerous and unpredictable aspect of their psyche, the lords of Ulthuan continually strive to eliminate all extremes of emotion; in High Elf society, to surrender to anger or lust is to show weakness. As a result, the High Elves live by a strict regimen of rules and codes and embrace a way of life that emphasizes harmony, balance and inner peace.
Magic is the lifeblood of the High Elves. With millennia to hone their skills, it is little wonder that the Mages of Ulthuan are among the most powerful practitioners of magic in the world. Their thoughtful, meticulous approach to the study of combat, coupled with their patience and mental discipline makes the High Elves deadly fighters, as well. On the battlefield, High Elf swordsmen are graceful, lithe, and lethal when they detect a weakness in their adversaries.
The High Elves will need all of their wisdom and skill if they are to survive the Age of Reckoning. When Finubar, Phoenix King and ruler of Ulthuan, gathers his finest warriors and sets sail for the Old World to aid the beleaguered Empire, he is unaware that he and his allies are pawns in an elaborate plot designed to leave Ulthuan vulnerable to an invasion. As Finubar's fleet of longships pass beyond the horizon, vast shadows fall across the island of Ulthuan. The skies are darkened by a great swarm of Black Arks laden with hateful Dark Elf warriors seeking to reclaim their ancestral home and destroy forever their despised cousins, the High Elves.
Ruthless and cruel, the malevolent legions of the Forces of Destruction wage bloody war against all that defy them. They are relentless in their pursuit of the one prize that matters more than all others...domination of the world.
For countless generations, the green menace has plagued every corner of the Old World. They exist for the thrill of battle alone, and relish any chance to prove that they are the world's best and cruelest warriors. Their thundering battle cry, "Waaagh!" has signaled the demise of countless enemies over the ages.
So named because of the color of their waxy skin, the greenskins are savagery personified. They are ill-tempered, primitive, and live only to fight. In the absence of another foe, greenskins will eventually turn on one another for want of violence. In their culture, might makes right and the weakest members of society are one false step away from being dinner.
The greenskins have no homeland to speak of. They capture other race's settlements and then make those places their own, decorating them with tribal graffiti, wood and scrap materials fashioned into crude symbols, and oftentimes, the bones of those they have slain. This leads to a very unique form of architecture that is distinctively ramshackle.
Periodically, a powerful Orc Warboss will unite the greenskin tribes into a single swarming mass called a "Waaagh!", named for the common greenskin battle-cry. In a Waaagh!, the greenskins unite into a stampede of frenzied Orcs, Goblins and Snotlings bent on destroying everything they encounter. Save for pure Chaos itself, there is no force in the Warhammer world as devastating as a Waaagh! set in motion.
At the onset of the Age of Reckoning, the greenskins have been united by the Black Orc Warlord Grumlok and his diminutive counterpart, the Goblin Shaman Gazbag. Together, they have led their tribe, the Bloody Sun Boyz, to dominance. Now, they wage war upon the Dwarfs, guided by an unseen hand.
Orcs are the largest of the greenskin species. They are bigger, more aggressive, and more muscular than their smaller cousins, the Goblins, Hobgoblins, and tiny Snotlings. Orcs continue to grow throughout their lives and their skin darkens with age. The strongest and most powerful Orcs grow to become Black Orcs, marked by their increased size and darker skin.
Orcs are not bright by any means, but they do possess an animalistic awareness of social structure. They are bullies who impose their will on anyone they think is weaker than they. There is nothing an Orc loves more than to fight. If they lack other opponents, they will fight amongst themselves. Such battles are always bloody affairs, for Orcs are fearsome foes, even when wounded. They feel no pain and fear nothing.
An especially powerful Orc will rise to the top of his tribe by way of ruthless savagery and victory in personal combat. If he is able to defeat the current Warboss, he will assume that position. If he is especially strong-willed, the new Warboss may be able to lead the entire tribe into Waaagh! while still fending off challenges to his leadership from within.
Orcs fight with primitive weapons that are little more than big chunks of scrap metal. They give these weapons such descriptive names as "choppas", "bashas" and "smashas", and they wield them with brutal strength.
Goblins are considerably smaller than Orcs, but they compensate for this disadvantage with a feral cunning that their larger brethren lack. Goblins are constantly bullied and intimidated by the Orcs and this has caused them to evolve into sneaky and insidious creatures whose comical appearance belies their malicious intelligence. In many ways Goblins are the brains behind greenskin tribal society. Goblins frequently are the Shamans of their tribes and are often clever enough to use the leverage associated with this position to manipulate the larger but slower Orcs into doing their bidding.
Goblins are also the most adept of the greenskin races at using technology. Goblins build objects of simple, but effective design. As with all greenskin construction, machines and siege engines cobbled together by Goblins have a very primitive look, but a five-hundred-pound rock hurts just as much when it's hurled through the air by a crudely-fashioned greenskin Rock Lobber as an ornate Dwarf Grudge Thrower.
Only the most capable of the tribes that call the Northern Wastes home survive, for it is in the crucible of constant battle that the fell gods of Chaos select their minions. For those found worthy, there is no end to the profane gifts that their daemonic masters are willing to grant. It is these champions of Chaos that storm south to the lands of civilized men in search of glory and war.
In the icy wastes north of Kislev dwell nomadic tribes of barbarians known throughout the Empire as the Northmen. Sometimes a powerful leader will arise among these savage humans, uniting the tribes into a great warhost that marches south toward Kislev and the Empire. At such times as this, the Northmen seek only bloodshed and conquest, for they are willing servants of the inscrutable Chaos gods.
The gods of Chaos are much more active in the lives of their worshippers than are the gods of other cultures. They reward their followers immediately when they are pleased, but are no less swift when demonstrating their displeasure with a devotee. A Chaos god can often show his favor by way of "marking" an individual with his symbol. This symbol bestows powers commensurate with the sphere of influence that the god controls. Further gifts and mutations are often bestowed if the god continues to be pleased with the works of his subject.
The most powerful and favored warriors among these human worshippers of Chaos are called Champions, and are exceptionally powerful in battle. Among them, strength is authority, and so these Champions are also the leaders among their people. Such creatures are so potent and so mutated they can scarcely be called human any longer. They tend to wield massive weapons that a normal man would struggle to lift, and are clad in Chaos Armor that is bound to their skin. These Champions of Chaos are among the most powerful and terrifying adversaries in all the world.
The Northmen that accompany their Champions into battle are called Marauders and often fight beside inhuman creatures such as the fearsome Beastmen. Sometimes they will even share the battlefield with creatures borne of pure Chaos energy: Daemons.
The Age of Reckoning is ushered in as a Warhost of the god Tzeentch, the Changer of Ways, marches on the Empire. Leading this terrifying army of evil is a powerful Champion named Tchar'zanek.
Arrogance and bitter hatred drive the followers of Malekith, the Witch King, to war against any they deem inferior. To these raiders, compassion and restraint are viewed as weakness, while cruelty and deceit are held as virtues. Countless victims have been claimed by these vicious and warlike people, taken as servants or sacrificed to their blood-thirsty god, Khaine.
Long ago, when Chaos was first unleashed upon the world, the Elven champion Aenarion drew the dread Sword of Khaine from its altar and used its terrible power to save his people from annihilation. When Aenarion died, his son Malekith was deemed unsuitable for the throne. Although he was a mighty warrior, a great sorcerer , a brilliant general and the rightful heir, many Elves opposed his coronation. They feared he was too focused on war, and potentially a de-stabilizing influence on the High Elf race. In retaliation, over many years Malekith engineered a terrible civil war that divided the race of Elves into two factions.
It was the High Elves who emerged victorious and drove the evil Dark Elves out from the ancestral home of their race. Under the leadership of Malekith the Witch King and his Sorceress mother Morathi, the Dark Elves sailed across the Great Western Ocean and founded for themselves a new kingdom in the northern reaches of the New World. This land they called Naggaroth, meaning 'land of chill'.
Unlike the High Elves, who continually seek to suppress their passions lest they be overcome by them, the Dark Elves willingly embrace their hedonistic nature. Dark Elf society emphasizes individualism, selfishness, and pride. They have little regard for one another and even less for the other races of the world, whom they see as potential slaves and subjects.
In battle, the ruthless warriors of Naggaorth blend Elven discipline with savagery and ferocity, for the patron deity of the Dark Elves is Kaela Mensha Khaine, the bloody-handed God and the Lord of Murder. Nowhere is this more evident than in the beautiful and deadly Witch Elves, who serve in the Temples of Khaine and revel in violence and bloodshed.
Since their expulsion from Ulthuan, the Dark Elves have desired nothing more than to return to Ulthuan and avenge their defeat, reclaiming the land they believe to be theirs by right. In the Age of Reckoning, Malekith learns of an impending Chaos invasion of the Empire and uses this knowledge to set in motion a chain of events that will leave the island home of the Elves defenseless against an invasion. At the Witch King's command, a great fleet of Black Arks – great floating islands laden with soldiers, monsters, and engines of war – sets sail across the sea to conquer the island kingdom of Ulthuan and fulfill the destiny denied the Druchii so long ago.