The World of Swordcraft

Exploring Althea


The Althean Empire

Arguably the greatest nation in the Circle of the World, the Althean Empire, or more simply the Empire, is in fact riven with conflict and division within and beset by barbarians without.  The myriad dukes, princes, petty kings, and free cities of the Empire together with the temples and colleges of magic all vie for power and ultimately the right to elect the Emperor or Empress.  The conflict ranges from overt clashes of armies on the field of battle to trade, diplomacy and politics. This is the Sagas of Althea.

The Empire is made up of its great Elector States, numerous smaller states and free cities, the Temples, and the Colleges of Magic.

Elector States

  • The Grand Principality of Aris

Aris is a land of chivalry, glory and romance, brave knights in shining armour, damsels, tangled forests and fearsome dragons. The Elector is titled Grand Prince/Princess.

  • The Free Cities of Asturia

The Free Cities are a place of grand passions, fiercely independent city states, and merchant princes vying for power. Elector is titled The Doge.

  • The League of Aumar

Aumar is a wind swept land of fields, marshes and fens, home to the Empire’s greatest trading league. Elector is titled the Syndic.

  • Carpathia

A land of fierce horsemen, brow beaten peasants, and the accursed restless dead, Carpathians value honour, feats of daring horsemanship, and drinking. Elector is titled Tsar/Tsarina

  • The Territory of Cressida

A wild and lawless land of primitive tribes folk, hardy miners, pioneers, and pirates. Elector is titled the Grand Captain.

  • Dalriada

Dalriada is land of mist shrouded hills, fens and moors inhabited by the marcher barons and wild clansfolk. Elector is the Steward

  • The Hodenwold

A land of thick forests, deep dales, rangers, bandits, and it is rumoured, the mysterious Fey. Elector is titled the Warden

  • The Grand Duchy of Middlemark

A land of great cities, knights, soldiers, witch-hunters and engineers hardened by their endless battles against the inhabitants of the Endless Expanse who invade through Capathia and the insidious powers of Chaos. Elector is titled Grand Duke/Duchess

  • The Old Empire (Estra)

The remnants of the former Estran empire on the island of Estra; surrounded by the great works of a lost age. Elector is titled Consul

  • Alfheimr

A land of fierce seaborne raiders who both ravage and trade with the Empire in their dragon prowed long ships.

  • Chung Kuo

A large and powerful nation said to lie far to the east. Ruled by the Monkey King.

  • Boshudan

A mysterious land far to the east riven with turmoil as the various warlords vie for power and the title Shogun.

  • Eastern Expanse

An endless steppe inhabited by savage human and orc khanates to the east of Carpathia, Middlemark and the Nine Deserts.  To the north it blends into the endless forest at the top of the Circle of the World, while to the south it meets the Nine Deserts.

  • High Elven Citadels

Great towers scattered throughout remote parts of the world inhabited by the last of the High Elves.

  • Baile Iska

A great forest located to the west of Aris, and Hodenwald, Baile Iska is the Wood Elven realm, a place jealously guarded from intruders by its savage wardancers and from where the Wild Hunt rides forth.

  • Nasgaroth

A remenant of the ancient Elven Empire, Nasgaroth is inhabited by merciless in-human raiders who it is rumoured seek to enslave the rest of the Empire.  The terrible Endless Stair of Chaos is also said to lie on a island off its coast.

  • The Nine Deserts

A land of oasis cities, baking deserts, pyramids and the ancient ruins of a long forgotten civilization.

  • The Dwarf Holds and their capital Karak Kazlid

The vast underground lands of the dwarves in the Spine of the World Mountains.

  • Kush

A land of grim forbidding jungles far to the south.

  • Kachamrith

A rugged land far to the north west, closed to most of the rest of Althea and little known.

  • The Plains

A land of sweeping grasslands far to the south west of Althea.  Home to some of the most ancient cities of the Empire.

  • The Chaos Wastes

Spanning the northern reaches of the world are the terrible Chaos Wastes.  A place where daemons roam and the very land is malleable with the whims of the Nine Lords of Chaos.


The primary religions of Althea are:

  • Ulric, the All-Father (aspected to benevolent Law)
  • Rhea, the All-Mother (aspected to benevolent Chaos)
  • The Trickster (aspected to the Balance)
  • Morn, Lord of the Underworld
  • The Sigmarian faith: followers of Sigmar
  • The Avalonian faith: followers of the Lady of the Lake
  • The 7 Lords of Law (aspected to unyielding Law)
  • The 9 Daemon Lords of Chaos (aspected malevolent Chaos)

Many other cults and faith exist in the world.

A common curse or oath in Althea is: “By the seven and the nine!” referring to the Lords of Law and the Lords of Chaos.

Colleges of Magic

  • Earth
  • Air
  • Fire
  • Water
  • Life
  • Chaos

Free Companies

Mercenary bands from the Asturian Free Cities, the Free Companies can be found fighting on either side in the Empire’s many civil wars and on its borders fighting the barbarians.


Said by some to be the dispossessed descendants of the ancient Akhenaten Empire, the Travellers rove across the Empire in their colourful wagons trading and thieving, and bringing blessings and curses wherever they go seemingly at whim. Many of the travellers seem touched with traces of the Fey.

The Senate

Each season, the great powers of Althea gather in the Senate to determine the Emperor or Empress and pass the laws of the land.



  • Over a thousand years ago, the Estran Empire after centuries of decadence and decay fell to a great horde of barbarians invading from the Eastern Expanse.  What followed was known as the dark ages, during which the light of civilization across Althea flicked and grew dim as war, pestilence and decay stalked the land. It is even said that the Nine Daemon Lords of Chaos walked the land in human form.
  • Now the great Houses of Althea have come together and declared the age of a new Empire – the Althean Empire. But who will rule and who will serve?

Ancient history

It is said that many empires had risen and fallen over the ages before the establishment of the Althean Empire.  Some notable examples include:

  • Before recorded human history, the Elves established a mighty empire that spanned the Circle of the World.  What happened to that realm is now lost in the mists of time and only the pale remnants remain: forbidding high elven citadels, the cruel empire of Nasgaroth, and the haunted forest of Lorien.
  • The underground Dwarven Empire that once spanned the length and breadth of the Spine of the World Mountains and from which now only isolated holds remain.
  • The Akhenaten Empire of the Nine Deserts in what is thought to have been the cradle of human civilization and has now been swallowed by the desert sands.
  • The Estran Empire that arose on the island of Estra and whose iron legions and mages ruled half the world for millennium.  An empire based on logic and magic in balance, but which ultimately collapsed due to the decadence and decay of its rulers and was engulfed by barbarian orc hordes erupting from beyond its borders.


Dating and Time

The Althean Empire counts time as since the fall of the Estran Empire, over a 1,000 years ago. The current year is 1018.

Law and Chaos

Sages tell that the world of Althea is one balanced between the powers of Law and Chaos. All gods, daemons and avatars are aligned with one or the other of these forces.


Chaos (disorder, entropy) expresses the principle of possibility unfettered by rules and is represented by the 8 pointed star.

In general, magic and sorcery draw on the powers of Chaos because they break the laws of nature. The effects of Chaos can be beautiful, but left unchecked, they become too disruptive for life.

The Lords of Chaos have the powers of gods but the behaviour, and often the appearance, of demons. When they appear at their worst, they deliberately inflict pain and suffering on mortals for amusement; even at best, they are not concerned with the harmful effects of their creations.


Law provides order, structure, and justice to the world and is represented by the arrow of time. Without it, nothing material could exist. Law appears friendly to life, but a realm controlled by Law alone becomes just as stagnant as one overrun by Chaos and would be a barren wasteland. Without wrongs to right and injustice to correct, Law becomes meaningless. Ordinarily, however, Law is benevolent and beautiful in its perfect regularity.

The Lords of Law are usually more benevolent than the Lords of Chaos (who are seductive and destructive) – but can be sinister, and prone to losing their temper. Mortals who meet with the Lords of Law are wise to remember that what benefits the gods does not always suit the aims of mortals.