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It is the seat of the Emperor Karl Franz; home to the Great Cathedral of Sigmar, the Colleges of Magic the School of Engineers, and the Imperial Zoo. The city is a centre for trade and learning; its docks teem with merchants, its taverns with students. From the strange creatures housed in the Imperial zoo, to the majestically solid, dwarf-built walls, Altdorf is a city of great beauty and variety.[2a]
The city’s official ruler is Karl Franz; Emperor, Elector Count of Reikland and Prince of Altdorf.[3a] Naturally, the Emperor has other duties to occupy him; as a result, Altdorf is really governed by an oligarchy of rich merchants and minor nobles. Corruption is rife; if the Emperor is aware of it, he does nothing.
The Imperial palace is a vast building, easily the largest in the city. The Emperor’s court is always filled with nobility from across the Empire, and is a hotbed of political intrigue, social manoeuvring, and hedonistic frivolity. Foremost on the political side is the Council of State, a group formed from the noble families of the most ancient lineage. Though the Council has no constitutional authority, it advises the Emperor on all matters of state. The Grand Theogonist is always a member of this council, and is behind many of the more urgent suggestions – not for nothing is the head of Sigmar’s priesthood regarded as the most powerful man in The Empire.
The Elector Counts, though physically distant from the politics of Altdorf, employ their own council of representatives. The Prime Estates, as this council is known, act as a check on the Emperor’s powers – they study the Imperial edicts, tax levies and so on, reporting their findings back to the Electors. Should an Imperial proclamation be regarded as undesirable, impractical, or just plain foolish, the Electors can simply refuse to enforce it. Even the strongest Emperor is helpless in the face of unified defiance from the Elector Counts.
Altdorf is one of the Empire's oldest cities, built upon the site of the ancient Unberogen settlement, but has not always been the capital. For example, Emperor Mandred Skavenslayer made his capital at Middenheim after becoming Emperor in 1124, and Magnus the Pious had his capital at Nuln.
During the reign of Bel Shanaar the Explorer, the Elves built a settlement, Kor Vanaeth on the site where later Altdorf would be created. The town was stormed and destroyed by the Dwarfs c.-1850 IC during the War of Vengeance. [5a]
The Uberogens built a settlement, Reikdorf assisted by a small community of Dwarfs whose quarter became known as ‘Metallschlacke’. Fortifed, the town flourished, exporting pottery and raising cattle in the fine pastureland. [5a]
By 500 IC it had grown to house thousands and defied Emperor Sigismund the Conqueror's edict to build only in stone, although the commissioned the Dwarfs to create strong white stone walls to defend the city he now called Altdorf. His son, Siegfried the Lawyer was so disgusted by the city, often called the Great Reek that he moved his court to Nuln but Altdorf remained an important trading hub. [5a]
Emperor Hasso creates the first navy, the Keepers of the Coast in 632 IC, with an important base at Altdorf. Marius Mollus, the Grand Theogonist declares that the only true god is Sigmar in 850 IC but is then dragged screaming to his death by a huge three headed blood red hound.[5a]
Grand Theogonist Zigmund II renovated the Imperial Palace in 990 IC and invited Emperor Ludwig to wild parties, finally bringing the court back to the city. In 1000 IC the great Cathedral of Sigmar was completed. After Mandred Ratslayer moved the court to Middenheim, the importance of the city began to wane and many of the nobility left. This lead to the merchant class rising in power. [5a]
The Electors meet in the city in 1359 and elect Count Wilhelm of Stirland and furious, Ottilia I of Talabecland declares herself Empress backed by the Cults of both Taal and Ulric. Emperor Hjalmar the Tyrannical creates the Pillar of Sigmar in 1416 IC. [5a]
Gorbad Ironclaw attacked the city in 1701 IC and even the death of Emperor Sigismund IV did not break the will of the defenders. Emperor Carolus I made the mistake of trusting the word of the Great Enchanter Drachenfels and died at the infamous posion feast in 1937 IC. Leonardo of Miragliano founds the Imperial School of Engineers in 2012 within the city. The Vampire Counts of Sylvania attack the city in 2051 and 2132 and although badly damaged, it remained defiant on both occassions. [5a]
The Colleges of Magic were founded in the city after the Great War against Chaos with the help of Teclis and the High Elves in 2304. Duels between rival wizards esculate in 2415 IC and result in the death of six of the eight Patriatchs of the Colleges of Magic and the teaching of magic is suspended by the Emperor Dieter IV. [5a]
Altdorf has been the capital ever since Wilhelm III became Emperor in 2429 and moved the court back from Nuln. He also reinstates the Colleges of magic following his defeat at the Battle of Grootscher Marsh. A fire destroys over four-fifths of the city in 2431 IC and in 2453, Arkhan the Black besieges Altdorf, stealing the Liber Mortis before departing and leaving his army to rot outside the walls. [5a]
The shadow of war has fallen over Altdorf many times in its long history.
Centuries later, in the long and bitter wars with the undead nobility of Sylvania, Altdorf was to be besieged twice by legions of the walking dead. Vlad von Carstein, greatest of the vampire counts, came closest to taking the city in 2051. It is said that the entire population sought surrender, but Wilhelm III, Grand Theogonist, rekindled the true spirit of Sigmar within them and convinced them to fight. Wilhelm knew the secret of Vlad’s invulnerability: he dispatched the great thief Felix Mann to break into the vampire’s pavilion and steal the Carstein Ring. Deprived of his magical protection, Vlad was slain when Wilhelm threw himself and Vlad off the walls onto stakes at the base of the wall. The undead army disintegrated, Altdorf was saved, and to this day, Wilhelm III is invoked as the patron saint of those who seek protection from the unquiet dead.
Mannfred von Carstein, last of the vampire counts, came to Altdorf a century later to finish what Vlad had begun. It was another Grand Theogonist, Kurt III, who was to be Mannfred’s undoing. Kurt read the Great Spell of Unbinding from the Liber Mortis, a work of vile necromancy that had once belonged to Vlad himself, and so devastated Mannfred’s army that the vampire was forced to retreat.
As the largest and richest city in The Empire, its troops are perhaps the best equipped of all the state armies. Altdorf maintains not only its own army, but also the Emperor’s guard. In time of war, the Emperor can call upon the Elector Counts, and also the Burgomeisters of the city-states, to supply troops directly, and thus form the Imperial army.
The Moot also supplies troops to the Imperial army at Altdorf: these constitute the Imperial Halfling corps. However, Halfling regiments are generally assigned to foraging and provisioning rather than actual fighting – though they make excellent baggage train guards, willing to fight to the last to protect the food. The Halfling Hot Pot, invented by master chef Gambo Hartstock and first used against the goblin warlord Grom, is a key part of the corps. Hartstock was unable to reveal the secret of Hot Pot preparation to the Imperial Engineers, since it would have meant betraying the Chef’s code. Thus the weapon remains a uniquely Halfling one.
There are four major Knightly Orders based in Altdorf.
- Foremost amongst these is the Reiksguard, founded during the reign of Wilhelm III of Reikland as the bodyguard of the Emperor. Their ranks include nobility from every corner of The Empire.
- The High Helms are a new order, regarded as one of Karl-Franz’s more extreme eccentricities – the order accepts only very tall men, and is said not to be overly concerned if the recruits lack even the most basic degree of intelligence.
- The Knights of the Fiery Heart are fanatical templars of Sigmar, and form the personal guard of the Grand Theogonist.
- Finally, the Knights Griffon were formed by Magnus the Pious in 2305 to protect the Temple to Sigmar in Nuln, but moved to Altdorf after it became the Imperial Capital in 2429.
There is some rivalry between the Fiery Heart and the Knights Griffon, as each sees the other as impinging on their duty.
- Sapherian Embassy: A white marble tower surrounded by alabaster walls located on the north bank of the Reik in the University District, this is the offical embassy of Ulthuan to the Empire - the diplomatic delgation is headed by Farforian Whiteshore, whilst Captain Ophelion commands the embassy’s 120 Lothern Sea Guard. [4a]
- The Colleges of Magic: Altdorf has been the home of magical study since the time of Magnus the Pious. The three most spectacular college buildings – the flame-topped towers of the Bright college, the lofty spires of the Celestial college and the mystic pyramid of the Light college – are magically concealed so that few residents of Altdorf are even aware of their presence.There are eight colleges of magic, one for each of the colours of the winds of magic:
- Amber Order (beasts): The only College not within the city, preferring instead the caves of the Amber Hills, away from the civilisation that is anathema to their magic.
- Amethyst Order (death): overlooks the infamous haunted cemetery of Old Altdorf, the resting place of the plague victims, and few dare go near it.
- Bright Order (fire)
- Celestial Order (heavens)
- Gold Order (metal): Alchemists maintain a vast, smoke-billowing forge complex, and pollute the river Reik with their arcane chemicals.
- Grey Order (shadow): A run-down building located in the city’s poorest slums, and allegedly connected with many secret tunnels.
- Jade Order (life): Formed from living trees, the College is hidden behind high stone walls.
- Light Order (light).
- The School of Engineers: The School has been responsible for some of The Empire’s most amazing technical breakthroughs, especially in the field of warfare. The School’s founder was the legendary genius Leonardo of Miragliano, whose Steam Tanks are still repaired, maintained and refitted here (though it has so far proven impossible to create new tanks from scratch). The weapons produced by the engineers range from the infamous Helblaster Volley Gun to the useless von Tropp’s Spring-assisted Chain Lasso, though most lie somewhere in between. Many of the engineers are Dwarfs,[2a] banished from their holds for showing too much innovation - a trait not popular among the traditionalist dwarfs. Altdorf has a large Dwarf population, not only engineers but merchants, workers, and indeed members of all branches of society. Dwarfs fight in their own units rather than being recruited into state regiments – they will often wear uniforms of their own design, and favour Imperial fashions over the sombre clothing of other Dwarfs.
- University of Altdorf: The most highly respected centre of learning in the Empire. [2a]
The River Reik
Though far inland, the river Reik is still phenomenally deep and wide at Altdorf. Even ocean-going war vessels can dock here, and do so at the Reiksport.[2a] The ships of the Imperial fleet lack the grace of those of Bretonnia or Marienburg; they are boxy, practical constructs laden with heavy weaponry. Of particular note are the Hellhammers – wargalleys that mount a solitary, massive cannon capable of sending a Man o'War to the bottom with a single shot.
Altdorf is the centre for the worship of Sigmar, founder and patron of The Empire. Fittingly, it boasts a tremendous cathedral dedicated to the god. The cathedral is octagonal in shape, very richly decorated, and is said to be built upon the very spot where Sigmar was crowned as the first Emperor. A large palace nearby is the official residence of the Grand Theogonist.
College of the Bright Order
- 1: Warhammer Chronicles: Thanquol and Boneripper (anthology): Grey Seer (Novel)
- 2: Warhammer Armies: The Empire (4th Edition)
- 2a: The Land of the Empire, pg. 15
- 3: Sigmar's Heirs (Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (2nd Edition))
- 3a: Chapter VI: The Grand Provinces, pg. 81
- 4: Patrons of the Old World
- 5: Altdorf: Crown of the Empire
- 5a: History of Altdorf, pg. 9
|The provinces & city-states of The Empire|
|Provinces||Reikland - Middenland - Nordland - Ostland - Hochland - Talabecland - Ostermark - Stirland - Averland - Wissenland - The Moot|
|City-states||Altdorf - Nuln - Middenheim - Talabheim|
|Lost provinces||Drakwald - Solland - Westerland - Sylvania|