When originally introduced into the Warhammer Fantasy setting, Bretonnia was quite similar in atmosphere and depth to the Empire: its ruling class were uncaring, the least caring being the King himself, while corruption in every form was everywhere, the nobility (themselves sordidly decadent) were willfully blind to it, preferring to hide their fear and corruption behind extravagance. While this concept of Bretonnia lived on in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying, Games Workshop completely abandoned it with the 4th edition; Bretonnia was ret-conned as a high-fantasy and resplendent legendary Arthurian kingdom; a bright land of plenty and goodwill for all. Consequently, this article presents now-outdated background information.
Bretonnia is a kingdom in the western Old World ruled by an absolute monarchy. The foundations of Bretonnia were laid over 1,500 years ago, when Gilles le Breton began the conquest of the many small feudal states lying west of the Grey Mountains. The campaign of unification was completed around 70 years later by his grandson, Guillaume Barbonoire.
At the time, Bretonnia was a troublesome backwater compared to The Empire. Soon however, the kingdom began to rival the Empire in power, and her cities became the model for modernity and fashion.
More recently, with the reign of King Charles I L'enorm (grandfather of the current king of Bretonnia), the kingdom has degenerated considerably. The once proud cities and prosperous ports have fallen into ruin. A national apathy has set in, and with it, corruption, inefficiency and decay are everywhere.
The King (currently Charles de la Tête d'Or III), is the least caring of an uncaring elite, living in the great royal palace at Oisillon one hundred miles northwest of Gisoreux, surrounded by favourites, sycophants and countless servants.
In stark contrast to the relatively calm and prosperous countryside, the cities are poorly administered, left to decay as money is squandered on frivolities, or funds meant for their upkeep are embezzled by corrupt officials.
The elites are willfully blind to the decay, corruption, decadence, the taint of Chaos that surrounds them; unwilling to accept its dreadful implications, they hide their fear behind extravagance. A pompous charade is carried out amid the squalor of mud and dung. Ladies sit like dolls in shining carriages, bedecked in glittering jewels and tall, white wigs, while hiding their ghastly pox-marks and worse disfigurements behind rouge and white powder.
The kings have managed to maintain their absolute power over Bretonnia, although decadence ensures that they could never entertain any serious thoughts of expanding its borders. The Bretonnian kings assisted the Burgomeisters of Marienburg in their gradual secession from the Empire, regarding the Wasteland as a potential buffer between Bretonnia and any expansionist attempts by the Empire.
Compared to the dark, oppressive and brooding forests of the Empire, the countryside of Bretonnia is relatively calm and prosperous, and the marks of Chaos less apparent. Bretonnia's rolling hills and serene valleys produce abundant crops and fine wines, while the forestlands provide solid timber and good hunting.
The Grey Mountains form the natural border between Bretonnia to the west, and the Empire to the east. The northern extension of the Grey Mountains are known as the Pale Sisters, separated from the rest of the range by the Gisoreux gap, the confluence of all the overland trade routes between The Empire, Bretonnia and Estalia.
There are a number of large cities in Bretonnia: L'Anguille with its famous lighthouse, Bordeleaux, Brionne (the "city of thieves"), the spa city of Couronne, Gisoreux, Moussillon (the "City of the Damned"), Parravon and Quenelles.
- Couronne stands upon the gentle sloping hills of the eastern bank of the Sannez river, while on the opposite bank the city's filthy suburbs and docklands sprawl. Famous for its spas, the city is blessed with numerous springs and natural baths, their steaming waters believed to have magical powers. On one of these springs stands the greatest temple to Shallya, the Goddess of Healing, to which pilgrims hobble, crawl or are carried from every corner of the Old World. As a virtue of the natural springs, the city within the walls is relatively clean, the constant water flow dispersing the foul air and filth commonly associated with Bretonnian settlements. Directed by subterranean culverts, the waters cascade down into the Sannez. In Couronne even the poor have a certain wholesome appearance.
- Gisoreux - with a population of 18,000, Gisoreux is the largest city of Bretonnia. It was from here that Gilles le Breton set out with his army, beginning the campaign of unification that would create the kingdom of Bretonnia. A huge statue of this mighty warrior towers above the seething masses thronging the central market square. Despite the city's honored place in history, the filth and decay of Bretonnia's cities is no less prevalent here than any other. Gisoreux's inhabitants are largely the poor, disabled, diseased, and politically volatile - the much feared "Gisoreux Mob" frequently taking to the streets in riots of theft and violence. Yet within the bowels beneath the city are greater, if hidden, dangers - countless miles of forgotten, dark and crumbling tunnels hide the doings of Chaos cultists, who are often thrill-seeking aristocrats corrupted by their constant pursuit of new experiences, power and exotica. Even fouler things find refuge in the labyrinthine darkness, creatures which feed upon the waste of the city above, or emerge during the night to prey upon the hapless.