The Races of Men in Warhammer Fantasy

The Races of Men in Warhammer Fantasy.

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The Races of Men in Warhammer Fantasy

The Races of Men

The Races of Man are one of the last of the intelligent races of the Warhammer Fantasy World to become ‘civilised’.

In spite of this they are now counted as one of the most advanced and populous races spread across the Earth and are the dominant intelligent race of the Warhammer World – a fact due in no small part to the decline of the Elven and Dwarf societies in more recent times.

The Races of Men whose habitat is known as the ‘Old World’ pay homage to the Imperial god Sigmar, and stoically resist the incessant Chaos forces sweeping down from the Northern Wastes into their region of the Warhammer Fantasy World.

Paradoxically the Race of Men have proven to be relatively easy to corrupt in their desire to receive ‘the gift of Chaos’, and in fact it is the Race of Men’s dominance on the Warhammer World that has shaped the Realms of Chaos and much of the form the Chaos Gods currently take – in reality these ‘Chaos Gods’ are likely just psychic manifestations of the collective psyches of all the intelligent species of the Warhammer Galaxy.

Compared to the Elven Races, the Races of Men have only just begun the evolutionary path into a race that can truly harness the Winds of Magic. At this stage of the Warhammer World’s timeline relatively few amongst the Races of Men possess the necessary genetic mutation that enables them to become wizards; though this number appears to increase as the centuries pass. Instead the majority of aspiring wizards find themself lacking the mental discipline to prevent them-selves from becoming “daemon hosts” and have yet to develop the capability to access all the Winds of Magic powers simultaneously, a skill known to have been attained by the highest of the Elven Archmagi.

 

The Realms of Men

The Realms of Men located in the Warhammer Fantasy World include (but are not limited to):

Albion

Albion is an island surrounded by mist and fog. It is home to the mysterious Ogham Stones and tribal, woad-wearing human barbarians.

Araby

Araby is a desert nation that lies to the west of the Land of the Dead in the Southlands and is comprised of both highly sophisticated commercial urban centres and tribes of desert nomads.

Amazonians

Though the continent-spanning empire of the Lizardmen encompasses all the jungles of Lustria, these reptiles are not the only intelligent beings that dwell there. Although the accounts that return from explorers to that region are often contradictory and generally dismissed as nonsense, it does seem reasonable to conclude at least two distinctive Races of Men also live in and around the jungles of Lustria.

The first appears to be a race of diminutive in stature, copper-skinned tribesmen akin to the Halflings of the Empires Moot, barbaric in culture known as the Pygmies.

The second is a warrior nation known as the Amazons, who live on an island in the centre of the great river Amaxon that penetrates the heart of Lustria. The island is heavily overgrown with vines and brush that make it difficult to view the interior of the island, save for the pyramidal ruins that can be seen over the treetops. The Amazons are fierce hunters that stalk Skinks and game in the surrounding swamps. They use the hides of Skinks for clothes and it should therefore come as no surprise that the Amazons and the Lizardmen are bitter enemies. In addition they clothe themselves with animal skins of the forest and wear plumes of exotic tropical birds for headdresses.

The Amazons defend their island vigorously and bravely. They despise men, so often encountering them as would be conquerors or tricksters. Any man they find lost, or wounded in the jungle ends up being sacrificed to their savage gods. From time to time though, they will venture forth into the ruins in search of more ancient Slann artefacts that they know still lie in the long-forgotten tunnels and caves. It is these artefacts that they use as weapons to defend their island.

Bretonnia

Bretonnia is the human kingdom located directly west of the Empire whose people are ethnically related to the nomadic tribes of Men that founded the Empire. Bretonnia is the Empire’s chief military rival, and the knights that comprise its heavy cavalry remain the best in the Old World.

Cathay

Cathay is the largest nation of the Eastern Lands on the far eastern edge of the Old World’s continent. Like the people of the Old World, the Cathayan’s are in constant conflict with the mortal and daemonic servants of the ruinous powers of the Chaos Wastes. Other enemies the Cathayan’s deal with on a regular basis are the Hob-Goblin wolf riders living out on the Eastern Steppes where they are ruled over by the Khans. So regular are raids by the Hob-Goblins the Cathayan’s have found it prudent to erect a great bastion the length of their border with the Eastern Steppes.

The Empire

The Empire was founded some 2,500 years ago, by Sigmar Heldenhammer. Originally the Empire was little more than a series of unified nomadic tribes settled in a common geographical region; in time the territories of the tribes unified by Sigmar came to be imperial provinces. Following the passing of Sigmar, a system of either hereditary or nominated Electors was established, with the provincial rulers entitled to elect a new Emperor from amongst them-selves.

The Empire is not a centralised nation, but rather a feudal confederacy of 11 large and semi-independent provinces, bound together by common interests, history, language, religion, and culture.

The Empire is proclaimed as the mightiest nation of the Old World – although in reality it is also a corrupt and sometimes unjust human society where many have succumbed to the ruinous powers of Chaos. The Empire benefits from a great diversity of military units and the various orders of wizards who comprise the Colleges of Magic, and it is the home of the Cult of Sigmar.

The Border Princes

The Border Princes is a natural destiny for emigrating peasants and nobles alike – all seeking a better life than they had in the Old World (most come from The Empire while others come from Tilea and Bretonnia). Many are political or religious refugees, but the Border Princes region is also the natural destiny for military deserters or criminals on the run.

Before the races of men arrived the Border Princes region was mainly inhabited by Orcs – now the land is fiercely disputed by the hardy human colonists and the Orc and Goblin tribes. The Border Princes is divided into small kingdoms, principalities, and independent city-states, although some are little more than fortified villages. All are targets of regular Orc raids and maintain standing armies (of varying sizes, or employ mercenaries from Tilea and farther abroad) and shelter behind fortified walls in times of trouble.

The colonist populations are concentrated more to the north-west of the Border Princes region while the Orc tribes remain dominant in the south-east (although it should be noted some Orc and Goblin tribes remain in the North – typically in hard-to-reach places like dense forests and mountain plateaus despite efforts by the Border Prince armies to drive them out).

And in the centre of the whole region lies Barak Varr, the great seaport of the Dwarfs at the top of the Black Gulf flowed into by the river’s Treblecz, Skull, Stacnek, Blood and Howling. Another notable geographical feature is the Old Silk Road running from the Apuccini Mountains, skirting along the Black Gulf, through Barak Varr across to Black Crag and over the World’s Edge Mountains.

Estalia

Estalia is a peninsula southwest of Bretonnia in the Old World, far from the threat of Chaos. This land is home to a number of rival Estalian kingdoms. Estalia was once occupied by forces from Araby, but the Arabyan’s were only driven out by a combined effort known as the Arabyan Crusades by other Old World human realms like Bretonnia, the Empire and the Tilean city-states.

Khuresh

Khuresh (or more correctly – the Hinterlands of Khuresh) is in the Far East of the Warhammer World.

Kingdoms of Indhya

Ind is an eastern nation southwest of Cathay and west of the Ogre Kingdoms composed of many different competing kingdoms.

Kislev

Kislev is a northern nation and an ally of the Empire that lies under constant threat due to its close proximity to the northern Chaos Wastes and the maddening Realm of Chaos.

Nippon

The Empire of Nippon is the easternmost of the Realms of Men, and is a group of islands off the eastern coast of Cathay – ruled over by feudal warlords.

Tilea

South of the Irrana Mountains and the Vaults in the Old World, the fractious city-states of the peninsula of Tilea embrace trade, exploration and civil war with equal passion. Mercenary companies form the bulk of the armies that see combat in these lands, often fighting on behalf of the wealthy rulers of the many Tilean republics and principalities or further north in the service of the Empire.

Marienburg

Marienburg – or the Wasteland as it is generally referred to, is a low-lying land at the north-western edge of the Empire that lies at the mouth of the River Reik, and is one of the largest cities and commercial centres of the Old World. This realm was once a province of the Empire, when it was referred to as the province of Westerland – but seceded from the grip of Altdorf several centuries ago and remains fiercely independent.

Soon after Marienburg’s separation, the common folk of the Empire took to referring to this notoriously marshy region as the Wasteland.

Norsca

The Norse are great sea borne race of explorers, traders, reavers and slavers who have almost certainly travelled to and explored all the distant lands of the Warhammer World, they are known to have built and maintain port colonies in Lustria (Skeggi)- and likely other lands such as Araby, Khuresh and the Southlands.

The Norse live in a structured society, where those of noble birth are known as ‘Jarls’; whereas the chieftains are referred as ‘Jerg’. A Jerg may have one or more Jarls under his jurisdiction. In Norse society the highest tribal rank is King. And the High King is the leader of the Norscan Realm – who is usually drawn from one of the bigger or more powerful tribes.

Northern Chaos Wastes

Typically referred to simply as ‘the Northmen’, this Race of Men is a loose collection of tribes from three separate ethnic groups which are drawn to inhabit the Northern Chaos Wastes. These separate groups are namely the Hung, the Kurgan and some of the Northern Tribes of Norsca – collectively referred to as the Chaos Marauder tribes. A mountain range between Norsca and the Chaos Wastes separates the two realms.

Although technically a Race of Men still, many of these Chaos Marauder tribesmen have been so mutated and corrupted by the constant influence of the Chaos Gods (often referred to as ‘the ruinous powers’) that they can no longer be compared to the more civilised Men of the southern continents of the Warhammer World, not physically or in any other way.

Their frequent raids into the southern realms of men are due (at least in part) to the harsh environment and lack of resources of their native land – the Chaos Wastes. So the Northmen constantly raid the more prosperous regions of the Old World and as far South as Cathay for slaves and any other resources they can carry away.

Many in the Old World (post raid) are left to speculate as to why the Chaos Marauders always return to such a desolate and vastly barren environment as the Northern Chaos Wastes, but the truth of things in the desolate northern wastelands is not as simple as it may seem to those living in the south. The Chaos Marauders are ultimately minions of the Chaos Gods and their daemonic servants and will always return to their master’s domain.

The Southlands

The Southlands lie south of the Land of the Dead and are dominated by dense swamplands and rain forest. The southlands are inhabited by Lizardmen, savage Orcs and forest Goblins, and tribes of what Old World adventurers and explorers refer to as the ‘Dark Men’.

Lizardmen are the primary power in the Southlands and have five temple-cities, though one was ruined. Due to centuries of separation from their Lustrian kin the spawning of Saurus have become rare and Skinks dominate in both civil life and warfare.

Similar in climate and culture to Lustria, the Southlands remain less explored by Man or Elves, although of note is that the Southlands are believed to be the original homeland of the Dwarfs, where they began as simple cave dwellers using crude stone tools, before following the chain of mined riches up the mountain chain towards the north. Indeed the “Lost Hold” of the Dwarfs, Karak Zorn, is said to be located somewhere in the mountains of the Southlands.

When the Skaven Clan Pestilens ravaged Lustria, they were driven out by Sotek and they migrated to the Southlands. Sotek also took action against them here by sending jungle swarms to destroy the clan.

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How the Warhammer World began…

How the Warhammer World began….

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How the Warhammer World began…

In the Beginning

Creation of the Lizardmen

The creators of the Lizardmen nation were an interstellar race known only as the Old Ones, these beings were known to possess immeasurable power and intellect – they were able to twist the very fabric of time and space at will. They could summon energies they used in the form of magical spells.

Travelling in mighty silver ships they could travel great distances in seconds, one day they touched down on the Warhammer world – bringing with them their servants and slave races.

Of these servants – most favoured were the Slann, who also possessed considerable abilities of mind in their own right. The Slann were gifted creators, also able to manipulate matter, time and space – with the aid of their interstellar masters.

And so it came to pass that the Slann implemented the designs of the Old Ones – building two immense structures that hung (like moons) over the Northern and Southern Poles. These structures, known simply as ‘the gateways,’ allowed the Old Ones travel through space instantly utilising rifts in space to innumerable worlds and other dimensions.

The World before the arrival of the Old Ones

Before the arrival of the Old Ones the Warhammer World had been a primitive land inhabited by unevolved life forms. A place of harsh extremes in climate, ice covered much of the land masses, blizzards and storms raged unchecked, in other area’s volcanoes poured hot lava and poisonous ash choked the air.

In other area’s humid jungles teemed with life, and here the Lizardmen can be found in their original form –building cities and growing in population long before the appearance of Elves and Dwarves.

However after the arrival of the Old Ones the Warhammer World was changed forever.

The World after the arrival of the Old Ones

Initially the Warhammer Planet was moved closer to the solar systems sun, its orbit was altered and its axis shifted to develop a warmer climate and more like the Old Ones natural habitat.

Plants and life forms of a greater variety were introduced; the single continent was split into smaller continents and islands. They diversified the make-up of the animals and plants on the newly separated continents, altering and\or enhancing the fundamental chemistry and physiological construct of life forms as they saw fit.

In the landmass known as Lustria the Old Ones took up residence as the heavy jungle climate was most like their home planet. A series of cities were erected in Lustria but also in the Southlands and Cathay – at that stage of the Warhammer World’s evolution all continents were significantly more humid and wet than they may be now. Communication and travel between the different continents was instant for the Old Ones and their Slann servants (although perhaps not quite so easily for the Slann).

In time the Saurus were created – intended as a warrior breed to act as directed to subdue any continent the Old Ones desired dominion over, and also guard the temple-cities erected by the Old Ones and to protect their Slann servants in these temples. Soon the Saurus were carrying out the will of the Old Ones invading nearby regions – exterminating any in their path.

Next created were the Skinks, useful for their dexterity and quick witted intelligence, they were used to tend to daily Temple-City activities in support of the Slann and to tend to the new races the Old Ones created as part of their master plan.

For many millennia the Lizardmen race was the dominant race in the Warhammer World. Their numbers were uncountable, their technology far advanced to any other race and their use of magic without equal – to the Old Ones magic and technology were one and the same.

Fall of the old Ones

Nurturing of new races

The Old Ones continued to encourage growth of the new races they had introduced to the Warhammer World – the Old Ones not affected by the passing of time watched unaffected as the world evolved according to their plans. They saw to it ancestors of the now prevalent races learnt to manipulate magical energy and developed civilisations of their own.

But in this time of the Warhammer Worlds founding and great catastrophe was just around the corner. The very strength of the Old Ones, their use of the pure essence of magical energy – which if not controlled could be completely destructive – the magical energy which would later come to be known as Chaos.

Unstable Gateways

And so it would seem even the Old Ones could not maintain constant control over this destructive magical energy, and a struggle for control between them and the pure energy pouring out of the inter-dimension gateways built in the skies over the Northern and Southern poles. The rampant Chaos magical energy flowing uncontrolled over the Warhammer World from these Gateways caused irreparable damage to all manner of life caught in the path.

Slowly it seemed the old Ones were regaining control of the pure energy and many attempts were made to close the Gateways – but none were successful. In a sudden explosion of darkness the Gateways imploded on themselves – their usefulness ended in seconds. It’s unknown if this was an intentional attempt by the Old Ones to stop the Chaos energy or if the sheer pressure was too much for them to contain. Regardless, shards of the Gateways were strewn across the Warhammer World – falling like great fiery comets down into the landmass, causing secondary damage to the very continent plates, prompting new volcanoes to sprout into life, earthquakes and raging tidal waves.

Huge amounts of raw Chaos energy coalesced in the shape of a new malignant moon in the sky. Magical energy rolled across the landmasses – destroying many of the Lizardmen civilisations. The very fabric of all living things on the Warhammer World were touched as the actual fabric of reality was distorted by this sudden release of Chaotic magical energy into the worlds atmosphere. All manner of demonic creatures poured forth from the holes where the holes in the North and South poles where the Gateways had once been, raw magical energy flowed from the holes washing over the natural world in tides.

Chaotic Battle

The Saurus armies of the Lizardmen rose to battle the Chaos creatures in huge conflicts involving millions with just as many slain – but to no avail, the Chaos demons and their minions were endless.

With the destruction of the warp gateways the Old Ones departed the Warhammer world, leaving the Slann and their Saurus armies to their fate. Speculation remains as to the actual disappearance of the Old Ones – whether they perished in the Chaos onslaught or whether they left in their great interstellar ships.

Children of the Gods

The Slann, still coming to terms with the sudden exodus of the Old Ones and the destruction worldwide after the collapse of the warp gateways – their use of magic became increasingly difficult to manage; the waves of chaos energy emanating from the poles disrupted the Slann Mages and in many cases destroyed them. Those that survived struggled to set up protective barriers to hold back the tide of Chaos energy. They knew if left unchecked the world would be engulfed and eventually destroyed.

They tried to re-enable the shattered gates – frantically searching for shards of the gateways around the world. During their tireless search more barriers to hold back Chaos were erected – particularly in Lustria, the jungles of the Southlands and also along the islands circling the Southern pole.

And so it was the Slann came to be protectors of the Warhammer World, as their numbers dwindled they retreated further and further into the jungles of Lustria – eventually struggling even to hold back Chaos from their Temple-Cities. Ultimately it was all they could do to retain dominion over their own nation – leaving the rest of the Warhammer World to fend for itself.

In the wake of the Old Ones

The Vortex

As all seemed lost for the Warhammer World, hope arose in an unexpected quarter, the Elven island of Ulthuan like every other landmass was fighting back an endless tide of Chaos Daemons and their minions when the Elven Mages created a powerful vortex which sucked the bulk of the Chaos magical winds in a huge electrical storm. Without the Chaos energy flowing unchecked across the Warhammer World the Daemons and their beasts of war dissipated unable to hold their form.

The Elves had originally been introduced to the use of magic by the Old Ones and their servants the Slann, in time they had proved skilful in their control of the magic without succumbing to the corrupting influence of Chaos. In creating the vortex many Eleven Mages had sacrificed themself to an eternity of torment – such was the cost to check the winds of Chaos before the Warhammer World was consumed.

The Guardians of the Warhammer World

The Lizardmen are the most ancient race on the Warhammer World, they were created by the mysterious beings known as ‘the Old Ones’ to be the guardians of the Warhammer World.

Their ancient civilisation is based predominantly deep within the jungles of Lustria – but also the jungles of the Southlands, it is in Lustria where their huge temple-cities rise amid ancient trees and swamps. Bloated Slann Mage priests – the original servants of the old ones are masters of magic and they oversee the entire civilisations – ever guiding and directing the Lizardmen activities.

The core of the Lizardmen armies is the Saurus who are large reptilian warriors – spawned solely for the purpose of war. The Saurus are considered holy warriors of the Lizard Gods and each site of the Lizardmen Temple-City will have an army of Saurus warriors in slumber beneath – ready to be summoned for war by the Slann Priests.

The Saurus are supported masses of Skinks that harass the enemy with blowpipe and javelin. Saurus also ride the powerful but stupid ‘cold ones’ and form devastating mounted units. Other powerful creatures such as the fire-breathing Salamanders, Kroxigor and Stegadon’s also form the armies of the Lizardmen – directed to battle by the Slann and left to allow their aggressive tendencies to drive them into the heart of the enemy and wreak carnage.

Departure of the Old Ones

Once servants of the Old Ones, the Lizardmen are left stranded with no guidance from their creator-gods, in their absence the Slann Mage-Priests continue to work on interpreting the Masters great plans for the Warhammer World. They work to restore order as it was before the Chaos winds of magic came flooding down from where the gateways once were into the world.

The master plan however has become somewhat blurred and subject to interpretation. The Slann struggle to reclaim their former dominance over the Warhammer World, the fledgling races once nurtured into independence now dally with forces far beyond their comprehension – let alone their control. The Warhammer World before the departure of the Old Ones was one of order and stability, and it is this the Slann Mage-Priests strive for again. Operating with a cold Reptilian\Alien indifference, the Slann Mage-Priests direct the Saurus and their other bests of war against any and all who stand in the way of the fulfilment of this plan.


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Wako Pirates of Nippon

Wako Pirates of Nippon.

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Wako Pirates of Nippon

Wako Pirates

One of the first accounts of Nipponese pirates came from the Samurai poet ‘Ki no Tsurayuki’ who describes precautions taken by the captain of his ship as he travelled the Nippon Seas. Pirates have long plagued the coast of Nippon, striking quickly against lone ships or coastal villages before retreating back out to sea and their hidden bases amongst small islands within view of the Nippon mainland islands.

Wako raiding parties vary in size from small bands of men to four or five thousand Waku Clan warriors. The average Waku pirate boat carries a crew of 200 men. Typical booty sought by the Wako pirates began with attacks on Koreyo granaries, but soon progressed to richer bounties on offer in Cathay where the Wako pirates seek silk and precious jewels or gold or copper – or ideally, captives, which can be sold as slaves or held for ransom.

Wako are men who have forsaken the code of bushido for a life of plunder and piracy, they may be joined by peasants who find themselves tired of the treatment of their lords. Some successful Wako pirates become so called “sea lords”, and even start small clans of their own, seizing islands as their fiefdoms and ruling them through their own clan structures. They extort tolls from passing ships for “protection” if they are feeling friendly or simply take what they want when the opportunity arises.

The Wako prowl the Nipponese coast and some inland waterways, occasionally venturing out to open sea in the hope of way-laying a Cathayan, Koreyo or Old World trading ship (they are unlikely to seek engagement with a well armed Old World flotilla – unless the odds are well in their favour). Sometimes they even conduct raids on the Nippon mainland islands, carrying off valuables and people to ransom. They sail in black boats – similar in appearance to Cathayan junks and are ruthless and well versed fighters, expert in combat at sea and the boarding of other boats. Their bases are islands or hidden ports where they can hide from justice and the admiral of the Shogun’s fleet.

These reavers and their swift craft lurk in isolated coves and remote islands along the rocky coast and swoop down on rich merchants and unsuspecting Kobune. Wako are often little better than thieves and prey upon coastal trade mercilessly. Strangely, they never prey on the fishing boats, which are perhaps just too poor to whet a pirate’s appetite. But then many a quiet fishing village holds darker secrets, and the nimble boats catch more than fish when the opportunity allows. When crushed by taxes, it is very tempting to take the riches that sail by, and some peasant fishermen turn pirate when the need takes them.

Piracy grew during periods when Cathay and Koreyo closed their ports to foreign trade. The Kotsuna clan who control several ports in their province are involved in maritime trade and make no distinction between piracy and legitimate trade. Indeed generations of Nipponese Clans have augmented their income through the lucrative practice of piracy.

The Nipponese ability to deal with their pirate problem was hindered by the Clan War and the lack of a strong central government. The Cathayan’s, who have on the receiving end of many Wako depredations, continually demanded that the Nipponese deal with the pirates, but each solution only seemed to halt them for a while. Attacks on known Wako ports, mass beheadings and even bans on foreign trade did not seem to make much difference to the Wako.

The Wako pirate clans were of such concern during their peak – a Koreyo invasion force of some 200 boats and 17,000 troops attempted to eradicate the Wako Clans, but they were simply evaded by the lighter pirate boats and harassed from the rear until they were forced to retire from the engagement.

However, with the reinstatement of a new Shogun, the Wako threat has been diminished somewhat of late. By forbidding peasants from owning weapons, fewer are able to become Wako, and thus the threat has lowered, if not disappeared. While Samurai generally hate the Wako with a passion, some Clans have seen the advantages of hiring them as mercenaries in their armies. With the promise of an Imperial pardon and a share of the enemy loot, plenty of Wako take up these offers, knowing most Daimyo are bound by their honour to make good on their promises.

In battle the Wako will typically sail around the flanks of the enemy fleet where they can strike unsuspecting enemy boats in the rear as the battle rages on. Wearing little to no armour and armed with swords and bows, the Wako can be a large threat if not countered in time.

After the battle, the Wako take their time to plunder the enemy corpses before disappearing back to their ships, with many disgruntled looks from the Samurai. Still it’s a low price to pay for being able to hire some of the most feared sea farers this side of the world.

Origins of the Wako Pirate Clans

The true ethnic identity of the Wako is subject to some debate, with various theories about the ethnic makeup and national origin of the Nipponese pirates.

Many notable scholars insist that early Wako pirates were from Koreyo, in the archives of the Joseon Dynasty, Koreyo historian Sejong Sillok wrote, “I hear that in the late period of the first Koreyo Dynasty, Wako were roaming over this land Joseon and peasants could not stand against them. However, even though only 1 or 2 out of 10 incidents were caused by real Nipponese pirates, some of our peasants chose to emulate the clothes of Nippon Samurai, formed a group and caused trouble… in order to stop all evils, there is nothing more urgent than Hopae (a Koreyo word meaning ‘personal identification’).However, Lee did not live during the Koreyo Dynasty, and was likely relating rumour or legend as opposed to solid documented evidence. Moreover, the main body of Lee’s record concentrates on how national security was deteriorating and how it required special attention; it is possible he made use of unreliable information to support his point. Lee’s assertion is therefore not highly valued as an authentic source on Wako by other scholars.

Some early Koreyo records also indicate that less than 1% of reported Wako incidents were non-Nipponese in origin. Whereas in Cathay, by contrast, 100% of ships recorded as pirate boats were captained by Cathayan pirates. One Cathayan source states that none of the early Wako are believed to be actually Nipponese, rather they were Southern Cathayan and a mixture of other foreigners with whom the Cathay Empire traded.

In Nippon the accepted ‘Origins of the Wako’ record extolled by revered scholar\Samurai – Shōsuke Murai, is that ‘the early Wako came from diverse ethnic groups rather than one singular realm’. Murai claims the Wako were “marginal men” living in unstable geographic areas without allegiance to any particular realm. Supporters of this theory point out that one of the early Wako Clan leaders, Ajibaldo, has been variously claimed by scholars to be of equal parts Eastern Steppe, Koreyo and Nipponese descent – his name is apparently of Koreyo and Eastern Steppe in origin. Wako pirate activity increased to notoriety during the Warring Clans period, when the Imperial Nipponese fleet was unable to administer its ports effectively.

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Armies of Nippon

Way of the Warrior

The Warriors of Nippon have a strict code which they live by. Anyone breaking this code is forever shamed and cast out of society. Consequently, the warriors of Nippon fight with seemingly unmatched determinism and valour.

Kenjutsu is the art of sword fighting practiced by the Samurai of Nippon. This allows each warrior to quickly follow up a successful attack with another, ideally overpowering their foes in a flurry of fast swings. When a Samurai is defeated in battle, thus dishonouring himself, he may choose to perform seppuku on the battlefield to cleanse himself of his shame, or to avoid being captured as a prisoner.

Katana

To a Samurai there is no weapon so revered as the Katana. Three to four feet in length and slightly curved, the Katana is a triumph of design, the midpoint between artistry and craftsmanship. Specially forged so that the blade is hard and the inside is soft, the Katana combines a devastating cutting edge with enough flexibility so as to not shatter when cutting into armour or bone.

While the wakizashi may only be worn by those of the Samurai caste, only warriors carry the Katana. Families pass the swords down through generations; carrying a famous Katana is an honour and pledge. A Katana is not only a weapon of war; it is an expression of the soul of its bearer.

Sashimono

Sashimono are small banners worn by Nipponese soldiers for identification during battles. The sashimono are usually fitted to the backs of Ashigaru, Samurai, and in special holders on the horses of some cavalry soldiers.

Horo Cloaks

Horo Cloaks are stiffened cloaks fashioned of finely woven silk and wrapped around the body. Their primary purpose is to improve the visibility of the wearer on the battlefield, but they also serve as arrow catchers.

Daimyo

The Daimyo are the feudal lords of Nippon, outranked only by the Shogun and the Imperial family. Daimyo have almost total autonomy in the day-to of their territory, and it is therefore unsurprising that civil strife is common as Daimyo fight over resources and pursue personal vendettas. Though Daimyo follow the ‘Way of the Warrior’ like all Samurai, Daimyo tend to be more pragmatic about its application as they involve themselves in the politics of the Empire.

Although the Emperor owns all land within the borders of the Empire, he has granted members class the honour of protecting and overseeing his affairs, acting as his stewards over the vast majority of land in the Empire. Samurai that have oversight of a particular area are granted the title “Daimyo” and given permission to swear other Samurai into their service.

Rather than serving the Emperor directly, a Daimyo of this sort is usually appointed by and subordinate to the reigning Daimyo of the family or clan that controls the province within which his land falls. The primary responsibilities of a Daimyo of this sort are protecting his assigned territory and ensuring that the proper taxes are collected for the Emperor. In order to fulfil these responsibilities he is allowed to take a portion of the rice and other goods produced in his province in order to equip and maintain Samurai sworn to his service.

Each family recognized by the Emperor has a designated leader who is Daimyo of that family. Family Daimyo are the highest authority within their own family, although they are subordinate to the Daimyo of their clan. Family Daimyo are also the honorary heads of their family’s schools. The actual duties of running the schools are often delegated to someone more inclined to teaching, or in the case of families with multiple schools, someone who is more familiar with the lessons. Nevertheless, for any matter that would require the attention of the head of the school, the family Daimyo’s approval would be required, whether or not he has an active hand in the school’s day to day affairs.

The leader of a clan, whether a Great or Minor clan, is also given the title Daimyo, although they are more often referred to as the Champion of the clan. The clan Daimyo are generally also the Daimyo of their family within the clan. The clan Daimyo are the most powerful in the Empire, second only to the Emperor and Shogun, in both political and military might. Taisho is a military rank similar to a captain. A Taisho will have many Chui and their units serving beneath him, and reports directly to the Daimyo, who command the force in which the Taisho serves.

Shugenja

Most armies keep at least one Shugenja on hand, both as a potent weapon against the enemy and to call upon the blessings of the Fortunes for the battles ahead.

Once the battle is done, they give thanks to the Kami and purify the taint of blood and dead flesh that inevitably stains a victorious army. Shugenja stand out as the one exception to the Samurai’s usual aversion to surrender. As servants of the Kami, they are always treated with respect and offered the option of being taken prisoner when possible. Most Shugenja realize how rare and precious their gift is, and how wrong it would be to deny the clan their gifts, and accept the offer even if the idea of being held hostage is otherwise intolerable.

Magic in Nippon, is not simply a Shugenja bending the elements to her will, magic underlies all activities: the bird taking flight, and the Sun rising each morning. Man too comes from the confluence this magic projected in the blood and tears of the first Moon and Sun mixing together to create something new. Magic spirits dwell everywhere, simply waiting to be called upon. In a more common definition, however, magic is the art of Shugenja, and even the monk’s kiho. While the average Nipponese understands that magic surrounds them every day, it is still a holy practice, and something to be looked upon with wonder. Shugenja, the most common practitioners of magic, bring with their vocation the blessings of the Kami upon the Empire.

The Samurai caste holds the keys to the magic realm, proof that the greatest blessings of the Sun and Moon are reserved for the nobility. Occasionally, peasants have a strong affinity for the Kami and in all but the rarest cases this is the same inner path that the monks follow. The peasant then goes on to study among the peaceful Brotherhood of Shinsel. Peasants who show true magical affinity are quickly granted Samurai status and trained as Shugenja.

As a force, magic represents a tool and a blessing as a genuine gift from the Heavens. With the power of magic, a Shugenja can purify foul water, tell truth from fiction, hurl fire into their enemies, and convene with the wisdom of the Celestial Heavens. This immense power commands respect both for the Shugenja who wields it, and for the Kami who provide such strength. Shugenja do more than simply cast spells. They are the priests of the Kami, their very power a testament to the wisdom and truth of their beliefs. Shugenja record and keep the names of the Fortunes, act as intermediary between the world of mortals and spirits, and carry the wisdom set down by the Celestial Heavens. Though not the official keepers of the Tao of Shinsei, a duty held by the Brotherhood of Shinsei monks, almost all Shugenja are familiar with the text, and view it as a valuable guide to life.

Shugenja bless villages many times during a year, to help bring about a greater harvest, healthier livestock, and protect the village against threats both mortal and supernatural. They also commune with spirits of the dead, creating a link between the living and the ancestors of the family. Such a duty falls to them as both a great honour and a staggering burden. as many souls of the dead are troubled with unfinished business, and will seek a Shugenja’s aid for their wisdom. Shugenja tend be peaceful men. While most clans have their Shugenja trained for war and capable of casting impressive battle magic, the path of the Fortunes and Kami impresses a Shugenja with a strong reverence for life in all its forms. Shugenja believe life is a gift, and should never be squandered for any reason.

Hatamoto

Those Samurai that distinguish themselves on the battlefield become part of a Clan’s inner circle in the form of Hatamoto.

A Hatamoto, or honoured retainer, is the official representative of the family name. It is the chief aid and advisor to a Daimyo. The position commands great respect and influence, as the Daimyo has chosen the individual for When a Daimyo travels, it is common for the Hatamoto to be left in charge of the Daimyo’s estate. To be a Hatamoto means his lord regards his advice highly, and the title is so that all will know he is one of his favoured subjects. Sometimes the title brings with it a certain amount of land, where the Hatamoto is expected to live and continue in the service of their lord. Hatamoto are similar to military titles, in the way that they bring great responsibility and glory.

In the absence of his lord he can speak with authority on his behalf, and even to agree minor contracts and negotiations for their family. Many of the Hatamoto spend their time perfecting their fighting skills and cultivating a full range of meditative and artistic disciplines, and many Hatamoto have brought honour to their clan as poets or painters. One of the first recorded Hatamoto in history was Mirumoto, who became the Hatamoto of the Kami Togashi. Around this time was also the founding of the Shiba Yojimbo School, which was inspired by the Kami Shiba kneeling before Isawa and pledging to protect the Shugenja and his tribe.

The main duty of the Hatamoto on the battlefield is to protect important members or allies who were not expected to always defend themselves. People such as courtiers and Shugenja were most commonly not only trained in the sword, and as such would require someone to protect them. In the case of duels of honour, a Hatamoto can often be someone’s designated champion, although this is not necessarily always the case. At other times, the Hatamoto is usually assigned to carry his lord’s banner into battle as his personal champion. These glorious standards are rich in colour and highly detailed, made from the finest silk available. The Hatamoto takes this honour very seriously, and would rather die than see it fall into enemy hands. Above else, the Hatamoto acts as the Daimyo’s bodyguard, both on the battlefield and in the castle.

The Hatamoto take his given task extremely serious, for to them there is no greater shame than failure. Failure to protect the one they have sworn means their life is forfeit, and there is no other solution than to take one’s own life, for a life in shame is completely unthinkable to them.

Samurai Caste

The Samurai assume the highest rank of the Nipponese social system, as decreed by the Celestial Order. The word “Samurai” means “those who serve” were born in this caste and were considered Samurai regardless of their occupation. The Samurai warriors make up the bulk of Nippon’s armies. Greatly skilled with both sword and bow, and wearing heavy armour, often with accompanying battle masks, these fearsome fighters are a match for any opponent.

The Samurai wield a variety of equipment in battle, and can adapt to any situation. They represent the height of human martial prowess, and fight according to a strict code of honour, displaying fanatical bravery and loyalty on the battlefield. Unlike Old World nobles, Samurai tend to live frugal lives with little interest in riches and material things, but rather in honour and pride, though as privileged persons in society much of their needs are supplied, and respect and honour fearfully enforced. Samurai are expected to not only be great warriors but to be well versed in more classical arts such as calligraphy, mathematics, and song and dance.

However, it is often the case that these pursuits are overlooked. Though it is their duty to wear the Daisho and lead troops into combat, Samurai are more than mere warriors. They are direct vassals of the Emperor, the ruling class of the Empire. The Kuge and Buke classes enforce the law of the Emperor, and hold domain over the lesser classes. Samurai are professional warriors, members of the noble class who are trained in the arts of warfare. They are not only trained for their role in society, they are born for it – born into a system of allegiance, loyalty, and honour that influences every stage of their lives. A Samurai’s loyalty to the emperor and his local feudal lord is unsurpassed, and a Samurai that becomes master-less either from the ruin or fall of his master, after the loss of his master’s favour or privilege, or otherwise through his own will becomes a ROnin outcast mercenary for hire.

A Samurai’s first responsibility is obedience to his Lord, usually the head of his family. This is simultaneously an endless source of adventures and a potential hindrance to a life of adventure. A low-level Samurai’s lord may command him to investigate a mysterious occurrence or subdue a gang of bandits. If he performs these duties well, his lord will call on him to deal with more significant problems. However, a Samurai usually cannot simply disappear on an expedition without his lord’s command or at least permission, and if a Samurai’s lord has an important mission for him, he must make that his top priority.

Samurai are distinguished from ordinary fighters by their adherence to bushido, a code of honour, loyalty, and obedience. To a Samurai, dishonour is worse than death, and the loss of his swords is possibly the worst dishonour imaginable. Bushido, the code of the Samurai, demands strict obedience to standards of behaviour and honour. Samurai learn their combat techniques and the principles of bushido in established, well-organised schools. The only measure of a Samurai that matters is living life in strict accordance with the code of bushido. This ancient code was established during the dawn of the Empire, and although the interpretation of the individual virtues it describes has changed from time to time, the code itself has endured the centuries virtually unchanged.

Mounted Samurai

Cavalry warfare is traditionally the preserve of the Samurai. Only they have the skill to wield a sword while steering a horse into battle. Being a mounted warrior requires wealth and position to sustain the expense of horses, armour and servants. Despite the fact that most Samurai go about their business mounted, generally merely as a sign of their station, only a very few have truly perfected the art of war from horseback.

The mounted Samurai are truly deadly warriors and the scourge of any commander foolish enough to incur the wrath of a Nipponese army. They eschew the heavy plate armour and cumbersome barding favoured by the knights of the Old World in favour of increased speed and flexibility. They attack in combination with infantry, using their excellent horsemanship to outmanoeuvre and strike the enemy from multiple directions at once.

Bows, spears and Katana are all used from horseback and, if a Samurai is wealthy enough, he usually has an assistant to carry and hand him his weapons as needed. The Katana, although traditionally used with two hands, can still be effective when used in a one-handed grip by a horseman. Swung downwards onto an enemy foot soldier, the sharp, curved blade could easily cut through a man. Samurai Cavalry are swift, and can deliver a devastating charge thanks to their spears, which they focus all the power of their fearsome charge into the points of as they smash into enemy cavalry and infantry alike. Samurai cavalry are extremely well trained and the weight of their steeds adds to the power of their charge.

Their speed over a battleground comes in useful when chasing down fleeing troops, or when they are needed to deliver a final blow to wavering enemies. After a charge, they remain mounted and can engage the enemy with their Katana keeping a height advantage over foot soldiers. Samurai Cavalry demoralise, harass, and cut down the enemy ahead of the foot soldiers. Units of specially trained mounted Samurai are also famous for running daring night time raids on enemy camps and fortifications, using their lightly armoured horses to cross rivers and move quickly through woods and mountains, before striking at the flank unprepared enemy.

One of the most famous cavalry charges was seen at the Battle of Xenyong, where the Nipponese cavalry charged straight into the Cathayan formations through a rain of crossbow bolts and steel tipped spears. Even though the Nipponese suffered horrible casualties, their unwavering morale managed to break the Cathayan formation, securing victory.

Ashigaru

The absolute lowest ranking members of the Buke are Ashigaru, or career soldiers. Technically peasants, they possess far keener training than the average peasant or carpenter. While hardly comparable to Samurai by any stretch of the Imagination, Ashigaru are nonetheless skilled warriors in their own right.

Many Ashigaru have served their Samurai lords for generations, and conduct themselves with fierce pride and loyalty comparable in many respects to actual Samurai. Most houses have several families of hereditary Ashigaru, serving as guardsmen, Doshin (soldiers serving magistrates), and scouts during times of peace. The majority of most Nipponese armies are composed of Ashigaru. Unlike the levies of the Old World though, the Ashigaru are armed with high quality weapons and are well drilled for battle. Though they cannot equal the martial prowess of their Samurai masters, they are effective troops. Their preferred armament is the Yari spear, but they may also march into battle with the Yumi bow and the matchlock arquebus.

Ashigaru occasionally prove to be deadly when given sufficient direction and purpose by a competent leader. After all, arrows in sufficient numbers may maim or even kill the most highly trained, armed, and armoured Bushi before he gets close enough to even wound anybody. Even then, however, most Samurai look upon the Ashigaru as mere tools: as Tsuruchi Nobumoto says, “What we do is art. What peasants do is merely adequate.”

Warrior Monks

Monks occupy a tenuous position In Nippon’s social order. As a rule, they are not forthcoming about their past, and it is considered almost blasphemous to inquire. A monk has left his old life behind. The fact that some were peasants and others Samurai makes interacting with them difficult, as one never knows what station should be afforded a monk. Given the uncertainty of their position as religious figures, the honourable thing to do when interacting with a monk is to treat him with respect and admiration. This mindset is common to all but the most dishonourable Samurai.

While Samurai feel some uncertainty when interacting with monks, the peasants simply revere them. Monks are teachers as much as anything else and they treat all people equally. Also, many monasteries send their adherents into villages and towns to aid Heimin and Hinin with menial tasks. Monks represent the entirety of Nippon’s religion which is a surprisingly diverse, eclectic, and elaborate institution with three distinct facets. While an Imperial decree technically links two of these facets together, and the third is so widely accepted that none dispute it, the truth is that the three do not fit together particularly well. Generally speaking, the average individual, including monks, selects an aspect he finds most desirable and uses that as the basis of his devotion.

Deep in the inaccessible areas of Nippon lie the many mountain retreats of religious warrior monks. In these martial monasteries, monks not only study religious and academic texts, but also a variety of martial arts. The studying of martial arts is seen as a means to improve oneself mentally and spiritually, not just physically, and these monks show a skill and dedication that surpasses even the Samurai of the military aristocracy – and indeed many Samurai abandon their feudal lord to learn from these master monks. Warrior monks are the de facto private armies of the secluded monasteries, and are fundamentally similar in many respects to the religious Templar’s of the Old World.

They are more militant than holy, and receive very little religious instruction. Instead they are trained in the art of fighting. Warrior Monks defend their monastery against attacks and advance its political claims in the outside world. They are subject to the leader of their temple. They are often charged with defending their temples in times of conflict, but they can also expect to strike against enemy incursions, to hunt down evil monsters terrorizing the countryside, or to recover a relic that is sacred to their order. They welcome all challenges as tests of their prowess and, secondarily, their faith.

Warrior Monks mix martial prowess with divine power that grants them the ability to heighten their strength and speed in battle, and protection from mental and bodily harm. Very experienced Sohei can shrug off physical damage and ignore certain magical effects. Warrior monks live a life of strict discipline and obedience to their orders. Many join their orders as children, and become Sohei when they demonstrate strength of both body and mind that lends itself to the temple’s defence. Often, though, young men and women who show little promise for the contemplative life of the monk are the ones selected to become Sohei.

Yamabushi

Nippon is inhabited by a people who feel bound to their land by a sacred ancient duty. The structure of society is rigid; and so too are Nipponese religious observances. In monasteries scattered across Nippon shaven-headed acolytes toll brazen bells over silent courtyards. A life of study and ritual under gingko trees and behind paper panels has gone unchanged for many, many long years.

The early history of the priesthood is lost in the mists of time. As far as the peasants are concerned, the moss grown roads of heavy stone leading to the temples of the gods have existed since time began. The people of Nippon know of their religion through hearsay and grandmothers’ tales; the monks keep a certain distance from all the rest of the Nipponese, especially the peasants. Some monks wander round and preach, going barefoot from town to town, or even overseas and are fairly universally respected.

Besides their ability to affect the gods themselves, and popular opinion and morale besides, the monks’ abilities as warriors encourage the Samurai clans to keep as many monasteries as possible on their side. Monks in the monasteries are principally scholars, but train bare fisted and barefooted. They can be called on to go into battle if lands near their monastery – or their monastery itself is threatened. More deadly, up in the mountains of Nippon various warrior sects known as Yamabushi train even more rigorously and more violently, slaying Oni in the blackest depths of the forests. Their rituals include walking across beds of red-hot coals, chanting while sitting under ice-cold waterfalls and hanging from their feet from the edges of cliffs. The peasantry and even the normal monks regard these men with great respect, and fear their supposedly magical abilities.

These hermits are like wandering lay-priests who live alone in secluded mountains. Those with a smattering of Nipponese might suppose that “Yamabushi” means “mountain warrior”, but in fact the second character is written differently and means “one who walks in the mountains”. He seeks mastery of certain arcane combat techniques and magic arts, the lore of herbs and nature, and ultimately satori, or Enlightenment, through the study of Zen.

These men and women trace the origin of their tradition as a militaristic religious order back to hermits who went up to the mountain regions in search of divine inspiration and supernatural powers. They are more tactically astute and combat trained than their generally non-martial brothers, but are no less stubborn in defence of their religion. Their training as warriors helps teach them the ways of discipline and control of the mind, and this is looked on well by the Daimyo classes and Shogunate – for differing reasons.

Battle Maidens

In Nippon, a woman’s caste – not her gender constitutes her position in the Celestial Order indeed any woman who so wishes may become a Samurai, earning the same rights and respect as their male counterparts. Battle Maidens are treated with the deference due a lady of their station, unless they are dressed and prepared for war. If a Battle Maiden is dressed in ‘mannish’ attire, she is referred to with her military title. Female Samurai are treated with the same respect as their male counterparts though they are typically expected to be softer-spoken and more lady like in most clans.

This varies from clan to clan, with some families being strictly matriarchal. Some have in fact higher standards for their Battle Maidens than they have for their men, an expectation of chastity and honour not held to many men in the Empire. One of the favourite stories of Nipponese poets is of the sister of a murdered Samurai who put on her brother’s armour and took up his sword to avenge him. “Hitomi’s Tale” has moved many young women to become Samurai, and has justified the act in the eyes of many Daimyos. The Samurai ritual of changing one’s name has brought many Battle Maidens female Samurai – to take the name “Hitomi” upon taking the Daisho.

One of the vows that some Battle Maiden take during their initiation ceremony is a vow of celibacy, as a Battle Maiden cannot he devoted to both a Daimyo and a lover or husband, after all. If a celibate Battle Maiden is found to have a lover, she often renounces her station and joins the ranks of a monastery. Of course, the key word is “discovered” There are many Battle Maidens who take lovers, and every poet’s repertoire has several stories of Samurai and Battle Maidens who doom themselves for love. Battle Maidens are treated as Samurai warriors in the Celestial Order. They are no different from male Samurai in that regard.

Battle Maidens are usually armed with the Naginata, a long pole arm that is tipped with a deadly curved sword-blade. They favour a defensive strategy over assault. Since they lack the physical strength of the men, they have instead become very proficient at holding their foes at bay with their Naginata until reinforcements can arrive and finish them off. Nipponese women are trained to defend their homes in times of war but few take part in open battle. Those who do though, quickly become legends.

Yabusame

The Yabusame are a special caste of Samurai that excel in the art of Kyudo archery. They train tirelessly daily to improve their skills while firing from galloping horseback, and hold great tournaments to find the greatest of their discipline. This is done by riding past three targets and shooting at them at high speed. They wear traditional hunting attires while doing so, both in tournaments and in battle, as a way of signifying their station as masters of the bow.

The Nipponese bow is asymmetric; far longer above the grip than below, to make it easy to use on horseback while retaining power. The bow can be swung from side to side without getting tangled up in saddle furniture. It has a composite of a wooden core, covered in layers of lacquered bamboo, making it strong yet flexible, capable of shooting a wide variety of arrows. Its beautiful simplicity disguises the fact that this was a weapon that required tremendous skill, strength and grace to use effectively.

With both hands occupied by aiming and firing a bow, these men must use their knees to control and steer their mounts. Nippon has a long tradition of mounted archery and these troops remain invaluable despite the introduction of gunpowder. Matchlocks may be powerful, but they are also unreliable and inaccurate, and the Ashigaru who use them simply lack the skills and mobility of mounted Samurai. These cavalry archers can quickly move to the flanks of an enemy, or harass the enemy at a distance before retreating away.

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