22 September 2009 | Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

Cultural Puzzle Pieces

How the Four Character Races in WFRP Fit Together


Whether the player characters are altruistic champions of justice, self-serving anarchists, or simple folk just trying to stay one step ahead of impending doom, they are often the focal point of the game’s stories and adventures. While the characters' abilities are rated to provide a mechanical measure of their aptitudes, a character is more than a series of numbers or list of skills.

One of the elements that help make characters feel distinct is their race. In the Warhammer Fantasy setting, the four main races fulfill different roles within the Empire. Their cultures, environment, and upbringing often provide the foundation for the character’s motivations or personality – either by reinforcing their racial preferences and inclinations, or showing how this character is truly unique by going against established expectations.

The four races available for player characters in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay are Empire humans, dwarfs, high elves, and wood elves. This designer diary takes a closer look at each of these four races and what makes them distinct, including details on a few of the special abilities available to members of each race. An adventurer’s race also influences their starting characteristic values, as well as the number of creation points they have available during character generation.

The EmpireMen of the Empire

The Empire is the preeminent realm in the Old World, a wealthy nation with powerful armies, inhabited by a dynamic race of men who hold the fate of civilisation in their hands.

Men are not as long-lived as the elder races of dwarfs and elves, but their mortality drives them to stamp their mark on the world. The folk of the Empire are renowned for their endless creativity, and are insatiable adventurers. Imperial engineers strive to improve upon the clockwork and steam-powered technologies borrowed from the dwarfs, and explorers traverse exotic lands across the ocean. A few men and women have recently begun to master the dangerous art of magic, introduced by the high elves to help humankind defend itself against the warped sorceries and armies of Chaos.


Forest-swathed Reikland is the foremost province of the Empire. Reiklanders tend to be richer, better educated, and more urbane than other provincials, and the province’s merchants vie with the nobility for power. Reikland’s inhabitants truly believe that Sigmar favours them as the true heirs of the Empire.

Reiklanders are renowned for their flamboyant nature and eagerness to impress. The men’s clothes are slashed in military style, and their floppy hats are festooned with feathers, while the women dress in equally extravagant fashions. Despite appearances, Reiklanders are hard workers and brave fighters when duty calls. Their success is due to their natural ability to adapt to any situation.

The city of Altdorf attracts visitors from all over the Known World: and Reiklanders are a cosmopolitan people, rubbing shoulders with foreigners, dwarfs, and elves. They are more open-minded than other Empire folk, and because Altdorf is home to the Colleges of Magic, they are slightly more tolerant of magical activities which would have unsophisticated provincials reaching for their pitchforks and torches – outside the Reikland, even sanctioned magic is tantamount to Chaos sorcery to many.

Reiklander Characters

To reflect their upbringing and individuality, Reiklander characters have the following racial abilities:

  • Adaptable: Career transitions for Reiklanders cost one less advance, which may reduce a career transition to zero advances
  • Favoured by Fate: Once per session, a Reiklander may add two fortune dice to any single check

The Dwarf GrimDwarfs

Dwarfs are a sturdy race: four and a half feet of solid muscle. They wear tough leathers, chainmail, and horned helmets, warhammers or axes slung at their belts. A dwarfs most prized possession is his beard – its length and whiteness reveal age and experience, and its adornments and the weave of its braids denote rank. Dwarfs live in mountain strongholds bordering the Empire, and are adept fighters, even in the gloom of tunnels. Unless they die in battle, they live for centuries.

Every dwarf can recount his lineage back through numerous generations, and remembers every insult endured by his ancestors – the settling of a grudge is a serious issue. Dwarfs seldom back down or change their mind, but they always honour their pledge. They do not waste words on trivialities, and their gruff manner wins them few friends outside their own race. But a dwarf’s friendship, once given, is absolute.

Most dwarfs have an insatiable lust for wealth, and are loath to part with the smallest treasure. Expert miners, they delve deep underground for precious stones and metals, including rare gromril, tougher yet lighter than iron.

Dwarfs of Karak Azgaraz and the Reikland

Until recently, only scattered communities of dwarfs lived in the Grey Mountains – there are few rich mineral deposits to attract them. However, an exodus of young dwarfs from the eastern mountains have founded a new small stronghold among the peaks south of the Reikland town of Ubersreik. They have named it Karak Azgaraz – the Hold of the Fearless Axes. It has attracted ambitious short-beards keen to make a name for themselves away from the shadows of their elders, who thoroughly disapprove of the venture. The main function of Karak Azgaraz is a military base of operations from which the dwarfs plan to eradicate the greenskins that plague the mountains, and thus win themselves glory.

Dwarfs are not an uncommon sight in the Empire, especially in larger cities. The craftsmanship of dwarfs is renowned, and a dwarf can find work as a blacksmith, brewer or craftsman throughout the Reikland. Some dwarfs from Karak Azgaraz frequently visit towns and villages throughout the Reikland, trading their wares to restock the karak’s stores while learning more about the land around their new home. In many cities, dwarfs and men work side by side, both in commerce and trade, as well as in defence of the land against encroaching foes.

Azgaraz Dwarf CharactersTo reflect their fierce spirit and proud traditions, Karak Azgaraz dwarf characters have the following racial abilities:

  • Children of Grungni: During character creation, a Karak Azgaraz dwarf may train one of the following basic skills – Discipline, Resilience, or Weapon Skill
  • Grudge: A Karak Azgaraz dwarf gains a fortune die to all Melee Attack and Ranged Attack actions against Greenskins, and against any target that has wounded him. This bonus lasts until the end of the encounter

The High Elf PhoenixHigh Elves

Taller and more slender than most men, high elves have pointed ears and pale, delicate features framed by long golden or ebony hair. They live for many centuries, and to stare into elven eyes is to gaze into deep wells of arcane lore. They bear themselves with noble dignity, wearing silk robes, or, in times of war, shining scale-mail and tall helms, decorated with gold and jewels.

High elves dedicate their long lives to perfecting a chosen art. Some pursue the skills of war, some become exceptional craftsmen, and others seek out ancient lore, reaching an understanding of magic far beyond human comprehension. They value learning, and consider themselves the most civilised of all races.

Their homeland is Ulthuan, ruled by the Phoenix King and the beautiful Everqueen. It is a verdant, magical isle of white-towered cities, lying across the Great Ocean far to the west of the Old World. The venerated elf deities protect Ulthuan: Asuryan the creator, Vaul the craftsman, Isha, lady of fertility, and violent Khaine. High elf citizens proudly join the ranks of Ulthuan’s armies from an early age, taking their responsibilities and duties seriously.

High Elves in the ReiklandEach year, ships from Ulthuan bring exotic goods down the River Reik to Altdorf. With them come political envoys from the Phoenix King to cement his alliance with the Emperor. Elven mages visit Altdorf to oversee the progress of the Colleges of Magic, and elven scholars and adventurers arrive to explore the ruins of long-abandoned elven colonies deep in the forests, searching for lost artefacts. Although a rare sight in the rest of the Empire, high elves are not uncommon in the Reikland, although they still provoke awe with their grace and beauty.

High Elf CharactersTo reflect their cultured upbringing and rich history, high elf characters have the following racial abilities:

  • Erudite: High elves acquire the advanced skill Education for free during character creation
  • Isha’s Chosen: During character creation, a high elf may choose one of the following basic skills to train – Discipline, Intuition, or Observation

Wood Elf IconographyWood Elves

Wood elves are physically similar to their high elf kin. They equal them in beauty and grace, and have unsurpassed agility. Wood elves wear simple hides and furs, camouflaged to allow them to fade among the trees. Their forest life teaches them to move without trace through the most tangled terrain. Their home, Athel Loren, is a great forest that hugs the southern foothills of the Grey Mountains between the Empire and Bretonnia. Outsiders dare not enter these strange woods, for a powerful magic protects the trees.

The wood elves wander in small kinbands, forever guarding their forests. They emerge from the foliage like ghosts, striking down intruders before vanishing mist-like into the undergrowth. Wood elves revere all arboreal life, and despise those who despoil the forests, whether men, dwarfs, or greenskins, but reserve their bitterest hatred for Chaos, which warps the natural world.

Wood Elves in the ReiklandWood elves seldom venture from their sylvan retreats, for they care little of the world beyond Athel Loren. However, a decade ago, Naieth the prophetess foresaw the death of the forest, and both Orion and Ariel acknowledge that the fate of their realm is intertwined with the fate of the wider world. Thus they have directed the wood elves to hunt their enemies beyond Athel Loren. Kinbands now roam the Reikwald Forest, hunting beastmen breeding in its shadowy depths. Sometimes individuals step from the trees to ally with the causes of men, when they coincide with their own concerns.

A few wood elves wander the realm of men in self-imposed exile for dishonouring their kinband, perhaps by allowing enemies to escape, or failing to save a kindred-brother’s life. Also, legend speaks of the Lost Kindred who long ago migrated across the Grey Mountains. Their descendants may yet haunt the most remote parts of the Reikwald.

Wood Elf CharactersTo reflect their ties to nature and tradition-bound culture, wood elf characters have the following racial abilities:

  • Nature Bond: Wood elves gain a fortune die to combat initiative, as well as to Observation and Stealth checks while they are in woodland terrain
  • Orion’s Favoured: At character creation, a wood elf may train one of the following basic skills – Ballistics Skill, Nature Lore, Observation, or Stealth


Set in the grim world of Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy universe, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is a roleplaying game that sets unlikely heroes on the road to perilous adventure. Players will venture into the dark corners of the Empire, guided by luck and Fate, and challenge the threats that others cannot or will not face.

Back to all news