Vital statistics
Inhabitants Humans, Dwarfs, Halflings
Type Capital city, City-State, Provincial Capital
Location Old World, Empire of Man, Reikland
Population 105,000
Allegiance Emperor Karl Franz
Industry Trade, Government

Altdorf is the seat of Emperor Karl Franz, and it has been the Imperial capital since the accession of Wilhelm III, Prince of Altdorf, almost a hundred years ago. As the current seat of the Imperial Court, Altdorf supports a flourishing economy, which attracts all kinds of people. It is a bustling city with a substantial community of merchants, adventurers, mercenaries and fortune seekers from all across the Old World. The wealth passing through Altdorf's gates and the political intrigues that unfold within its courts also support a rotten underbelly, a den for thieves, corrupt city officials and assassins. There are certain streets that even the city watch avoids at night for fear of finding a dagger stuck between their shoulder blades.[1a]

The city is renowned as a centre of learning and the University of Altdorf is the most highly respected academic institution in the Empire, where lords and princes from many lands come to sit at the feet of Mankind's foremost thinkers. Altdorf is also home to some of the most important organisations in the Old World such as the Colleges of Magic — the centres of magical lore and learning that are justly famous throughout the Empire and beyond. It is here that the Old World's finest mages learn their art, and where the Empire's deadly Battle Wizards are trained. Another great institution is the Imperial Engineers School, founded by the Tilean genius Leonardo da Miragliano.[1a]

Altdorf stands astride the confluence of the rivers Reik and Talabec, and is renowned for the numerous bridges that traverse these waterways. Many of these bridges were designed by the Imperial Engineers School, and are equipped with hissing steam-driven pistons that raise and lower them in all manner of unusual ways, allowing the many trade ships to travel further up the Reik. The Reiksport, home of the Imperial Navy, is a deep-water harbour built on the shores of Altdorf, where even ocean-going ships can unload their cargos. The city also boasts the famous Imperial Zoo, which houses all manner of large and fearsome monsters, some of which are trained and harnessed as beasts of war. These creatures have been captured from every corner of the Empire, as well as a few more curious specimens from the Northern Wastes.[1a]


Altdorf heraldry

Banner and heraldry of Altdorf

Altdorf began its life as a small Unberogen settlement on an islet in the River Reik. Known as Reikdorf (the city of the river), it offered good fishing, fertile farmland, and an excellent defensive position. Over time, this tribal capitol began to grow, spilling out of its islet home to cover the nearby western shore and many other small islands in the Reik. By the time Sigmar journeyed into the east, Reikdorf claimed to be the largest settlement in all the lands of men. Bridges were built, and the basic structure of the city formed. As Sigmar’s Empire spread, trade began to blossom. Farmland was claimed from the woods and the Goblin tribes. Many small settlements appeared across the Reikland, and the prosperity of the area began to grow. Most of the spare food from these farms found its way to Reikdorf, where it was shipped upriver for fine profits. Reikland wool, leather, and timber also moved across tribal borders. As this trade matured, attracting money and craftsmen to the settlement, Reikdorf began to specialise in forging, cloth, and fine ales.[2a]

War and Fortification

From 300 IC onwards, the character of Reikdorf changed, as the prosperity of the surrounding lands began to wane. Long years of Goblin Wars, internal strife, poor harvest, and social decline took their toll on the rich town. The sturdy stone temple of Sigmar was soon joined by defensive walls, as Reikdorf learned to fend off hard times. The strong walls attracted many folk to the town, and by 500 IC Reikdorf had more than quadrupled in size. The ruling powers attempted to persuade the people to build in stone, rather than flammable wood, but this directive was cheerfully ignored. Despite all his efforts, Emperor Sigismund “The Conqueror” could not break the Reikdorf instinct to do things on the cheap. The warrior emperor formally named the place Altdorf (the old city) and ordered the place fortified in stone to better defend against the local warlords and bandit tribes. He died before his vision could be completed, and in 557 IC his son, Siefried “The Lawgiver”, moved to Nuln in disgust.[2a]

The young Emperor declared, “The reeking streets of Altdorf can go to Morr!” Hereafter, the city was known as The Great Reek. From 600 IC onwards, the Cult of Sigmar began to root itself deeply in the bedrock of Altdorf society. The constant strife and battling of local warlords aided the growth of the cult, whilst growth of commerce repaired Altdorf’s fortunes. Money flowed into the cult’s coffers, and by 990 IC, the Grand Theogonist convinced Emperor Ludwig the Fat to grant the Sigmarites an electoral vote. Not content with this, the cult threw a lavish series of banquets and successfully lured the ruler’s court to an Altdorf palace. Ten years later, the Cathedral of Sigmar was completed, exactly 1000 years after the Battle of Black Fire Pass. The Dwarf stonemasons who laboured on the buildings were granted freedom of the city and settled down to create what later became the Dwarf quarter. Religious feeling flowered, and the first great illuminated tomes of The Life of Sigmar were created.[2a]

Plague and Punishment

By Boris Goldgather's reign, Altdorf was a rich mixture of races, religions, craftsmen, merchants, nobles, and peasants. The Great Reek was famous for its thieves and riches—the Emperor being the biggest crook of them all. His heavy taxes and free-spending ways resulted in a season of riots and scandals. Several Sigmarite priests were exposed in public alongside their mistresses and harems, causing outrage, shock, and further riots. Martial law was imposed, but only the disastrous Black Plague of 1111 finally beat out the flames of insurgency. The city folk cheered Goldgather’s death in 1115 and attempted to stem the tide of anarchy that followed. This attempt failed, and as the merchants feared, trade took a turn for the worse. Matters became dire with the accession of Emperor Mandred Ratslayer in 1124 IC. The new Emperor set up his palace in Middenheim, and the focus of trade moved away from Altdorf. Chaos ensued as the luxury trade collapsed, debts went unpaid, and the nobility fled like rats from a sinking ship.[2a]

Riots and fires broke out once more, and the Cult of Sigmar attempted to take control of the city. A cynical policy of “Bread for Believers” required folk to swear an oath of loyalty to the cult in return for food and protection. Altdorfers defrauded this system so extensively that the cult’s coffers were almost emptied and for little gain, as the population returned to its cheerful irreligious nature once the handouts ceased. It took over 300 years for the cult and the city to recover from this financial disaster. Around this time, the beginnings of an organised guild structure began to appear. These guilds would later dominate the political life of the capitol, but at this time, they focused on protecting their members against the harshness of the times. In the wake of plague and turmoil, many country peasants flocked to the city to fill the empty houses and join the new guilds.[2a]

This move from the farmlands, combined with many poor harvests, beggared the Reikland Elector. The ruined noble approached Altdorf for aid and eventually made a deal. The Count formally adopted the Prince of Altdorf; the Count then abdicated all electoral privileges to the Grand Prince. Vast sums of money flowed into the Reikland estates, restoring the fortunes, if not the title, of the former Count. The dual title of Grand Prince of Altdorf and Elector Count of Reikland then passed from prince to prince, though it seemed to bring little luck with it. The crippling upkeep of the Reikland and collapse of Altdorf trade meant that before the 1200s ended, the rulers of The Reek were known as “the poor princes”. From this time forward, money became increasingly important as a source of power and leverage. Bribery and corruption seeped into all aspects of city life.[2a]  

Time of the Burgomeisters

The 1500s opened with a bold move from the burgomeisters. Following the trend of the times, the guilds openly bribed the nobility to return to the city. Gifts of lands and walled estates lured some, whilst other responded to generous loans and “honour tithes”. The Elector Count of Wissenland reportedly received a gift of 50 white peacocks with gilded beaks and purple-stained feet. He promptly invited the guild masters of Altdorf to a feast and served up the birds on silver salvers as a lesson about loyalty. Despite this rebuke, by 1547 IC and the time of the Three Emperors, Altdorf managed to repair its fortunes. As the territories fought, The Great Reek learned to profit from the civil war. The guilds effectively ran most city life, and riches became the ultimate dream of every citizen.[2a]

The city continued to grow and evolve throughout this time of strife. By the first siege of Altdorf in 1701 IC, the famous ‘dorfer attitude was recognisably present. A proud and cunning people, the siege did not break their spirits; rather, it became a point of principle to ignore the hunger, death, and horror of the Orc warlord Gorbad Ironclaw’s incursion. All the temples of the city experienced a marked rise in offerings at this time, and a religious renaissance swept the city. In the aftermath of the siege, the city was rocked by the uncovering of several Chaos cults and a scandal involving a lector of Sigmar anointing a wolfhound to the office of priesthood. Outside the city bounds, Crackle Hill was established as the execution grounds for heretics and traitors, whilst Morr’s Oak remained the hanging place for ordinary criminals.[2a]

As the centuries wore on, the increasingly empty purses of the counts allowed the rich to buy themselves titles and coats of arms from the nobility. Heraldry became deeply fashionable, and Altdorf introduced Mercier laws to govern which colours, cloths, and cuts could be worn by each class. Later repealed as unenforceable, these laws did manage to set custom (and fashion) for some time to come. By the turn of the millennium, the burgomeisters marshalled the guilds and seized the opportunity to become self-governing. Huge gifts of money surreptitiously flowed into the coffers of the Princes of Altdorf, enabling the once-mocking title to again become a reality. The city became a self-governing state, and the newly empowered burgomeisters engineered huge tax breaks for themselves.[2a]  

Siege and Reconstruction

This prosperity was smashed by civil war and sieges. The vampire lords of the von Carstein family laid siege in 2051 IC and 2132 IC. Both attempts came at a great cost to the city. The walls were breached in several places, and the loss of life was tremendous. The city brazened the sieges out, mockingly adopting the “shade of death” as the banner of Altdorf. This gallows humour did not disguise the tolls the sieges exacted. The von Carstein habit of catapulting rotten zombies into the city brought many winters of plague, while crippling taxes created an era of poverty and desperation. By the Battle of Hel Fen in 2145 IC, Altdorfers no longer cared that the von Carstein line had been crushed. Every able-bodied man was expected to aid in the rebuilding of the defensive walls or lose their citizenship. Many protested, but they lacked the spirit to riot. The next 300 years are known as The Great Reconstruction. Gradually, pride, money, and comfort returned to Altdorf.

Even the indignity of the Great Boil Plague of 2302 did little to deflate the growing sense of recovery. The citizenry laws were revised, and Altdorf gathered thousands of new taxpayers to her bosom. The early seeds of the Imperial menagerie began when the fashion of gifting rare beasts became popular amongst the nobility. The Great War Against Chaos brought further money to Altdorf merchants as weaponry and supplies became scarce. The fall of distant Praag in 2303 caused minor alarm, but The Reek believed itself immune to serious change. It came as a shock when Magnus the Pious announced that Altdorf would become home to the Orders of Magic. Riots erupted throughout the summer of 2304 IC, and few were prepared for the martial law that followed. Many abandoned the city when the time came for the High Elves to warp the fabric of Altdorf to accommodate the College buildings. They eventually returned to find the city much the same, yet utterly different. Becoming thoroughly unmappable, pandemonium ensued as ‘dorfers learned to navigate by landmarks rather than sense of direction. Street guides became common, and martial law remained as anti-wizard sentiments remained high.[2a]

Founding of the Magical Colleges

The Orders of Magic quickly set out to court the guilds and their leaders. The Grand Prince grew alarmed at this, for the wizards seemed to quickly enmesh themselves in the complex web of negotiation and extortion that passed for Altdorf politics. Magister, a separate state of citizenry, was created to curb the power of the Orders. Complex laws on trading, land ownership, and voting rights served to keep the wizards in line, at least for a while. A vital distraction occurred in 2324 IC when the water system collapsed. Wells filled with foulness from the midden heaps, sewers clogged, and the river ran black with filth from thousands of privies, tanneries, and graveyards. The “Summer of Cess” united the guilds for the first time as they banded together to sink new wells, line sewers, and create aqueducts.[2a]

The Clean Water Company was created with money from all craftsmen; however, it was riven with infighting, rivalry, and virtual ineffective for many years. A political tool of the guilds, the company was pushed from pillar to post for over 100 years, gradually accomplishing its goals at a great cost to the people. By 2429, Altdorf was rich, settled, and powerful. Despite its own past, the city was scandalized by Marienburg’s announcement of independence. After an emergency session of the aldermen and guild masters, a series of trade sanctions were applied to the new city-state. Fearing that their status as a tax haven would be challenged, many of the upper echelons of Altdorf loudly protested the move. Many privately lent their influence to aid in deposing Emperor Dieter IV, which was accomplished shortly thereafter. A month of celebrations ensued as the Prince of Altdorf was elected to the throne. The guilds publicly swore allegiance to Wilhelm III, offering huge gifts and revenues to the once impoverished office of Princedom. Merchants and institutions scrambled for Imperial patronage, and under the advice of the Grey Order, Wilhelm auctioned off his favours and appointments for huge sums.[2a]

This money allowed the new Emperor to engage in unprecedented amounts of statecraft, ensuring loyalty amongst much of the nobility for some time. The Grand Prince officially recognised the Altdorf Press as a newspaper, hoping to gain a measure of control over the scandal sheet. Typically, this move failed as the paper remained true to the irreverent spirit of Altdorfers everywhere. The Great Fire of 2431 allowed Wilhelm to entirely rebuild Altdorf’s east side and curb the Order of Bright Wizards. The reconstructed area became a prestigious neighbourhood, having well laid out streets and stone buildings. The loss of goods and revenue hit the merchants hard, and while they were on the back foot, the Grand Prince seized many political gains. This trend continued with the accession of Karl Franz in 2502. His personal interventions eventually resulted in the Stench Act of 2506. This legislation effectively handcuffed the overweening egos of the guilds and the Orders of Magic, causing uproar and outrage.[2a]


"A government? You call that a government? Looks like the invention of a deranged Snotling!"
—Count Claude Villecroix of Parravon, Bretonnian ambassador to the court of the Emperor Karl Franz[3a]
Warhammer Altdorf Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace

The supreme ruler of Altdorf is Karl Franz, the Prince of Altdorf and the Elector Count of Reikland, who is also the Emperor of the Empire of Man. His rule over his city is almost undisputed, not only because of his statesmenship but also because he commands the adoration of his people. Yet despite his best efforts, the day-to-day demands of governance are too much for one man or woman to keep track of. Dozens of decisions each day demand the Emperor’s attention, from policy on grain taxes to the final appeal of a prisoner condemned for treason to officially opening the Grand Altdorf Fair. To prioritize this mess and make sure that only those with the most urgent business get an audience with the Emperor himself, successive emperors appointed members of prominent families to advise them on matters of law, finance, diplomacy, and military matters, among others. Over time, this group of advisors grew into a formal body, the Council of State, the membership of which almost always includes the current Grand Theogonist.[3a]

Council of States

The Council has no formal power, although Emperor Mattheus II, grandfather of Karl-Franz, tried to write a constitution for the Empire built around the Council. This was quietly quashed by the Electors, who oppose anything that would limit their authority. The Council, however, does control access to the Emperor and thus what information he receives. Their power is, therefore, quite strong—when they can make a united stand. When this happens, it is usually due to the Grand Theogonist’s behind-the-scenes machinations on crucial issues.[3a]

Prime Estates

The Prime Estates is an Imperial organization which was created to help administrate the actions and well-beings of the Emperor in person. At the end of the 11th century, when Boris the Incompetent tried to confer the title of Duke to his favorite race horse, the Electors unanimously decided that they had to administrate the emperor's actions so as to keep face with the Empire's people. So they assigned one representative each to form a watchdog body that would take the name of Prime Estates.[3a]

This institution is located within a beautiful building in the confines of the capital, ostensibly open to any person of recognized nobility, although the "lackeys" of the Emperor are carefully kept away. In fact, the Prime Estates has now become the Supreme Court. All Imperial Edicts are carefully examined "in the interest of the state", with documented reports being immediately sent to the Electors who would choose either to support or veto the edict. This organization has the powerful ability to refuse any edict that does not suit them or the Empire's interest, allowing the Prime States to have a near-complete control over what the Emperor is logically placed to decide.[3a]

Each Elector Count has ensured an established representation in the capital, embassies directed by a loyal family member or close acquaintance. These ambassadors would discuss new imperial decrees or legislation, as well as send these reports back to the Electors that had elevated them to such a position. As they have the power to reject decisions that do not suit them, it is important for the Emperor to obtain the approval of the Prime Estates if he hopes to accomplish anything. In theory, the Emperor also has a veto over the choice, but in practice, it would be very difficult for him to exercise it. Indeed, without a real majority support amongst the Electors, the Emperor has no chance to assert his right of veto. The latest attempt to do so was Emperor Mattheus II who wised to institute the first ever democracy, but the threat of civil war by the other Elector Counts was so pressing that he was forced to give it up.[3a]

Altdorf Guilds

Warhammer Altdorf Guild

The Guild of Butchers

Many hundreds of guilds find their homes within the stinking streets of Altdorf. Technically, to qualify as an official guild, an organisation must be recorded in the Civic List, but this is increasingly irrelevant. Guilds frequently operate as a law unto themselves, policing their members, protecting their interests, and attempting to gain concessions from the various political groupings of the city. Guilds are almost infinite in variety. Broadly speaking, all offer some form of apprenticeship and career progression to their members, while demanding fees and services in return.[2b]

Admission to a guild allows the individual a chance to earn Altdorf citizenship and, perhaps, a chance to join one of the many city councils. Some guilds are powerful enough to defy city law, having somehow won charter to try their own members by private means. Guilds offer a variety of benefits to their members from pensions and scholarships to matchmaking and widow funds. A man may easily spend his whole life within a guild; although, it is a rare day when loyalties are allowed to change. If asked (or even bribed) the average Altdorfer might say the following about the foremost guilds.[2b]

  • The Mercer’s Association: “Bunch of jumped-up tailors. Yer can spot ‘em by their fancy robes.”[2b]
  • The Guild of Stevedores: "Don’t mess with the Wharf Rats—there’s an awful lot o’ big lads in that Guild.”[2b]
  • The Mercantile Society: "The Grocers? Ah, they’re sponsoring that new weights an’ measures law, right?”[2b]
  • The Butchers' Guild: "Solid lads. Still, I wonder if they’re going ter survive that dead body scandal.”[2b]
  • The Masons' and Carpenters' Guild: “ Damn builders! They’re slow, expensive, an’ stuck up. How many qualifications do yer need to lift bricks, I say!”[2b]
  • The Blackpowder Men: "I never seen no one scareder of a Bright Wizard. Heh. Run at ‘em in orange robes an’ watch ‘em squeal! Guns or no guns, they sound like girls!”[2b]
  • The Imperial Guild of Arms and Armourers: "The A and A is a solid guild. They’re all a bit deaf, but they’re good to widows.”[2b]
  • The Lawyers' Guild: "Just like Morr, yer can’t avoid ‘em, but you don’t have ter like it.”[2b]

City Tax

A subject close to most ‘dorfer’s hearts, taxation is complicated. Not only are goods subject to levies, but certain gates, roads, and wharfs are subject to tolls. Shops and businesses can expect to pay rates, while all guild members and magisters are committed to paying their dues. Added to these legal taxes are the illicit protection rackets, charlatans, and out-and-out thieves that operate all over Altdorf. Outsiders to the city can quickly find themselves thoroughly fleeced. To survive the capitol, a certain level of savvy is needed. Ordinary folk can expect to pay out as much as half their earnings to the state. Most pay just under a third of their coin in tax, but a rare few enjoy some sort of protected status. This heavy burden means that many will riot at the drop of a hat. New taxes tend to be announced on public holidays to ensure a workday is not lost to protests.[2c]


Altdorf Dockers

The varied peoples of Altdorf

Altdorfers are a proud lot. Even the lowest citizen takes pleasure in their status as a part of the great city. They may not understand the arcane system of rights and vassalage, but that doesn’t prevent them from telling folk about it. Outsiders from the provinces are treated with a measure of disdain and pity. Whatever they say, nothing compares to the heritage of each and every citizen of Altdorf; at least, that’s what they believe. Dating from the feudal times of Sigmar, the citizenry laws originally dictated who worked where, what tax they owed, and who they served.[2b]

Complex even then, these dubious laws have grown into a bewildering variety of legal statuses that serve mostly to ensure the hegemony of the Lawyers’ Guild. Famously described as “a carbuncle upon the rump of justice,” these laws govern all sorts of activities, including who one may marry, which city gate one can use, and even what type of hat one can wear. Whilst citizenship is usually inherited from parents or granted by a guild, it can sometimes be granted as a reward. Generally speaking, advancement requires a sponsor and a great deal of money. The individual’s status must be vetted by the Lawyers’ Guild and then added to the great Civic List of Altdorf. Folk can be recognised as full, half, or even quarter citizens— temporary men of Altdorf, traders, vagabonds, and outlaws.[2b]

One might attain the status of freeman, friend, or even the infamous dastard. Wizards of course, attain the position of magister once they complete their apprenticeship. This strange status means wizards are technically vassals of their Order, each having a form of baronial status but only within the bounds of their College. In practice, the citizenry laws are seldom enforced, for they harken back to an earlier age. When it comes to tax, the collectors have a difficult enough time collecting a flat rate from people, let alone trying to apply different rates. Unless buying property or dealing in complex trade, ordinary folk ignore these laws and get by on common sense. Those involved in high finance and the like simply pay the lawyers until they receive the desired result.[2b]


Warhammer Altdorf Map

A map of Altdorf

Warhammer Streets of Altdorf

The teeming city of Altdorf (street view)

Warhammer Docks of Altdorf

The teeming city of Altdorf (dock view)

Altdorf is an enormous place. Rumours differ on whether there are no accurate maps or if one is held by the Emperor or one of the Colleges of Magic. At any rate, no full and accurate maps of the city are generally available. People navigate by following directions from major landmarks. Asking an Altdorf resident how to get to a landmark results in a moment of blank incomprehension; normal directions would start by saying “Go to the Imperial Palace.” That isn’t to say that directions can’t be had, just that the characters will not get them immediately. A few of these locations, such as the Bright College, are magically concealed and are not used as landmarks in normal directions. Still, all residents of the city know roughly where they are.[2h]

The streets of Altdorf are narrow, crowded, and filthy. While most are cobbled, in many places the cobbles have long since lost the battle with mud, manure, and less pleasant substances, becoming little more than an additional hazard. The drains and sewers are almost always on the surface, and people pour their waste straight out of their houses into the street. The more polite give warning first. While you are on the streets, people are constantly jostling against you. This provides pickpockets with perfect cover for their activities.[2d]

The crowds make it hard to keep an eye on a single person, making it tricky to follow someone but equally hard to spot whether or not you are being followed. The crowds are also loud. Peddlers call out to advertise their wares, and people shout conversations to make themselves heard over the people shouting next to them. Overhearing a conversation in the street is all but impossible. The most overwhelming feature of Altdorf’s streets, however, is the smell. Sewage, rotting meat and vegetation, corpses of both people and animals, all of these add flavour to the overall odour. On the streets, characters become accustomed to the smell, but you should be sure to mention it whenever they return to the streets from somewhere like a noble estate or townhouse where it is less noticeable.[2d]

Altdorf is built on the banks and islands of the Reik, which means that bridges form a very important part of the city’s road network. Just mentioning to the players that their characters have to cross bridges on their way somewhere will serve as a reminder. However, sometimes things can happen on bridges. There is a massive range of bridges. The largest are made of stone and span wider channels, having houses and shops built on one side. Underneath are nets and weirs to catch the fish that manage to live in the river, and the restricted flow of water makes a mighty roar. On a couple of bridges, this noise is the only hint that you are over water, while on others there are spaces between the houses. The smallest bridges, over tiny channels between islands, might be nothing more than a plank of wood, removed when the neighbours fall out. In between are wooden bridges, decorated bridges, draw bridges, and private bridges linking two parts of a house built on opposite sides of a channel.[2e]

Markets are the heart of Altdorf’s commercial life and thus vitally important to most of the richest people in the city, as well as the poorest. While there are a substantial number of shops in permanent buildings, temporary stalls in markets are more common. Some traders might work from the same stall for years, making it much like a shop, while others might only set up for a week or so when they are in the city. The two types of stalls can be next to each other. So if the characters make a contact of a settled trader, the person who has the next stall is a good way to introduce hints and hooks to distant adventures. Markets vary in many ways, and the following three variations are the most important. First, markets can be covered or open air. A covered market is a huge building containing spaces for stalls. It may even have more than one floor. An open air market is simply a space within the city where traders can set up stalls. The buildings around an open air market tend to contain shops or warehouses, while the stalls in a covered market tend to be more permanent, but there are exceptions on both counts.[2f]

Altdorf does have underground sewers. Some of them are even effective, channelling sewage and rainwater into the river, away from the city. Others are now blocked and are little more than fetid underground pools, a breeding ground for rats, diseases, and fouler things. Still others were never quite completed and are used as hideouts by criminals and cultists. Many of the sewers are large enough for a Human to walk through as long as he bends over a bit. Dwarfs and Halflings have no problem. This is deliberate; it is the only way the sewers can be maintained and the rat population kept down. In addition, most are in more prosperous areas, having been constructed in an attempt to keep the smell down. This makes them an ideal way to move around rich neighbourhoods unseen.[2g]

Empire House

Warhammer Altdorf Empire House

The front gate to the Empire House

The Empire House is the administrative headquarters of the Watch in Altdorf. It deals with all aspects of law enforcement, including issuing bounties on criminals, beastmen, mutants, and greenskins, as well as arresting lawbreakers. Persistent rumours indicate that Imperial spies also operate from this building, and while no one officially confirms this rumour, it is true. There are other centres as well, but the Empire House is an important one. The building itself is large and made of stone. There is little decoration beyond the Imperial arms over the main entrance, and most of the windows are small and suitable for use as gun ports. The walls are thick, and there are storerooms and a well inside the building. It could hold off a determined siege for quite some time and has held off urban rioters on numerous occasions.[2l]

The main doors are open from dawn to dusk, and anyone may enter the front lobby. Here, the sweaty odour of crowds is overlaid strongly on that of the street, and fouler smells occasionally seem to drift up from the lower floors. The hall is large, with a high ceiling, and the room is divided in two by a long wooden counter. The counter is the boundary between the public and private parts of the Empire House, and is staffed by over a dozen watchmen while the doors are open. Even at night there are six on duty. The walls of the public area are covered with announcements of bounties, wanted posters, and other such official documents. Half a dozen watchmen mingle with the crowd at all times, keeping an eye out for trouble; there are likely to be more bounty hunters in this room than in any other area of comparable size in the Empire. People carrying severed heads are not uncommon here; the bounty hunters bring the heads in to confirm kills. Those who have killed monsters generally bring smaller body parts as proof.[2m]

The watchmen on the desk quickly become completely immune to surprise; a group of adventurers putting a dragon head on the table and asking for the bounty would provoke some response, but only because the staff wouldn’t know the appropriate bounty offhand. They are always ready for trouble to break out and aren’t worried about deaths that might occur when they deal with such events. The private areas of the building are very different. There are few differences between offices; all have a small window, need to be lit by lanterns or candles, and are much the same size. Thus, people who are assigned here are assigned an office that they keep for their entire career, no matter how far up the hierarchy they move. The Empire House has a standard policy of not interfering with what people do in their offices, as long as the work gets done and no laws are broken.[2m]

As a result, every office is different, and those that have been occupied for some time strongly reflect the personality of the occupant. Particularly prominent law enforcers attract rumours about their offices; someone renowned for his implacable hunts for heretics might be said to have the heads of those he catches preserved and mounted on the wall, or he might have an office filled with a collection of stuffed toy bears. Getting into the private areas is difficult. In theory, a visitor must have particular business with someone in the building, and that person must escort a visitor at all times while they are within the private areas. This is enforced in practice the first few times that someone visits. However, people who are known to have worked with officials on numerous occasions, and to have done a good job, are allowed in by themselves, and they may even be allowed to take their own guests. There is a second entrance at the back of the building, guarded by two watchmen and primarily used as an emergency exit.[2m]

Palace of Retribution

Near the Emperor’s Palace and the Temple of Sigmar there is a group of austere stone buildings. These are the Courts of Justice, but they are universally known as the Palace of Retribution in Altdorf. No one in the city wants to end up there, sitting under the stern gaze of a judge. While each courtroom does contain symbols of Verena that promise justice, the judges are known for harsh sentences far outweighing the seriousness of the crimes. Those caught looting, for example, are almost certain to receive a death sentence in the Palace of Retribution. While the complex contains many buildings, the most important are the Imperial Courthouse and the Tower of Altdorf.[2p]

The Imperial Courthouse dominates the surroundings, its tall walls making it look like a fortress. Inside are various courtrooms and judicial offices, as well as a hall of records. Beneath the courthouse there is a small prison complex used to house the accused during trials. Few inmates stay in these cells very long, since justice is swift in the Palace of Retribution. The Tower of Altdorf is a commandery of the City Watch. The special watch unit responsible for guarding the Palace of Retribution is stationed here. It is a prestigious posting and many aspiring watch commanders have spent time in the ranks of this unit. The tower is a simple structure of grey stone bereft of adornment, but it is sturdy, well built, and has withstood several assaults from rioters over the years.[2q]

It is rumoured that a secret dungeon exists beneath the tower for special enemies of the Emperor. If that is true, no one has ever escaped to tell the tale. While many executions are done in the gaol under the Imperial Courthouse, the complex includes the “Widow’s Plaza”, a public execution ground. Here hooded executioners carry out the courts’ sentences. While the axe is favoured for such things in the north, in Altdorf the sword is the preferred instrument. The executioners of the Palace of Retribution use razor sharp two-handed weapons and their practiced strokes can sever a head from the shoulders in one swing. Hangings are also performed in the Widow’s Plaza, but they are not as common as beheadings.[2q]

Cathedral of Sigmar

The great Holy Temple of Sigmar in Altdorf, centre of the Sigmarite cult, is easily the largest temple in the city. Facing the Imperial Palace across the central square, it represents one of the two centres of power in the Empire and has a physical presence that cannot be ignored. The temple complex includes a large number of buildings, the most important being the main sanctuary of Sigmar. This is a large hall, T-shaped to represent a warhammer, the cross bar of the T in the south. Twin spires stand at either side of the entrance at the northern end at the central square, and the door is flanked by enormous statues of Sigmarite warriors that are triple the size of a normal man.

Amethyst College

The Amethyst College is home to those wizards who study the Lore of Death, and it fully looks the part. The building stands overlooking the haunted cemetery of Old Altdorf where in the time of the Red Plague, thousands were buried with more concern for haste than ceremony. The main temple of Morr in Altdorf is only a few streets away, and the area around the two institutions is filled with shops of a more solemn nature, such as undertakers, monumental masons, and lawyers. There are very few homes since few people, even the poor, are willing to live in such an ill-omened area. Those who do live here tend to be eccentric, but no necromancer would be so foolish as to live that close to two concentrations of his mightiest foes.[2h]

Bright College

The Bright College is the headquarters of the Bright Order, wizards who study the Lore of Fire. Its members are often Battle Wizards of the Empire, frequently on the front lines. As a result, fewer wizards of journeyman level and above reside here than at any other College apart from the Jade. Apprentices, however, are more plentiful; the College needs to replace losses, and the Bright Order has a correspondingly bright reputation as warriors opposing the eternal foe.[2j]

Celestial College

The Celestial College lies close to the centre of Altdorf, a few steps from both the Palace and the Temple of Sigmar. However, despite the bustle around it, powerful sorceries ensure that almost no one ever notices it. The Celestial College is neither invisible nor disguised by illusions. Instead, spells subtly prevent people from looking in the College’s direction or from paying attention to what they do see. Clouds and mist intervene at crucial moments, and the wind blows flags, awnings, and light pieces of rubbish across the line of sight to the College’s spires.[2k]

Jade College

The Jade College, home to wizards who study the Wind of Ghyran and the Lore of Life, is surrounded by an immense wall, unbroken by windows or towers. The wall reaches over 60 feet in height and is taller than any of the surrounding merchants’ houses. It is built of brick, the outer face is glazed green, and in every block is a College symbol: a spiral, a triskele, or an oak leaf. The wall is roughly circular but actually forms the first ring of a clockwise spiral, about 200 yards around. Thus, at one point there is a step, where the face of the wall steps 20 feet backwards. The only entrance to the College is located here, a simple wooden door set in the base of the wall.[2n]

Light College

Much like the Bright College, the Light College is mystically hidden within Altdorf. However, the way in which it is hidden differs significantly. There is no magical barrier surrounding the Light College and no spell hiding it from prying eyes. Instead, it is built where lines of arcane convergence have created a location hidden within folds of space. The Light College can be found on the left bank of the Reik in an area that a mere century ago was the home of many rising merchant families. Fortunes change, and the area is now lower class and sinking even further. The alleys and roads crossing the folds of space link up, but mapping them is impossible; the folds left by the Light College mean that the geometry of that area cannot properly be represented in three dimensions, let alone two. People who live there get used to finding their way around and try not to think too hard about the strangeness. Those who do are rumoured to either go mad or become wizards.[2o]


  • 1: Warhammer Armies: Empire (8th Edition)
    • 1a: pg. 20 - 21
  • 2: Spires of Altdorf (2nd Edition Fantasy Roleplay)
    • 2a: pg. 5 - 7
    • 2b: pg. 8
    • 2c: pg. 9 - 17
    • 2d: pg. 18
    • 2e: pg. 19
    • 2f: pg. 20
    • 2g: pg. 21
    • 2h: pg. 22
    • 2i: pg. 23
    • 2j: pg. 24
    • 2k: pg. 25
    • 2l: pg. 26
    • 2m: pg. 27
    • 2n: pg. 28
    • 2o: pg. 29
    • 2p: pg. 30
    • 2q: pg. 31
    • 2r: pg. 32
    • 2s: pg. 33
  • 3: Sigmar's Heir (2nd Edition Fantasy Roleplay)
    • 3a: pg. 23
    • 3b: pg. 24