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Fantasy Counterpart Culture / Warhammer

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All right, let's get started. Though the races draw from many, many different real world cultures and it's hard to summarize them with pin-point accuracy and keep this page from doubling in length. So the following is the short version.

  • The Empire is based on the Holy Roman Empire, more specifically the German parts, with their German nouns, reliance on pike-and-shot tercio armies, Elector Counts voting for their Emperor, and the church being a dominant political force, but divided — in the Empire, religious wars between the followers of Sigmar and Ulric are common, mirroring the Catholic/Protest rivalry. Sigmar himself was basically a mixture of Charlemagne and Conan the Barbarian as a living man, and Jesus and Thor as a god. Likewise, the founding Imperial tribes are named after the Germanic peoples of Classical Antiquity such as the Brigundians (Burgundians) and the Ostagoths (Ostrogoths).
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  • Bretonnia is a combination of Age of Enlightenment ideas about medieval England and France, with Arthurian myths in there to a very large extent, the whole thing set in France. Like France, it's also known for fine wine and cuisine and naming conventions that always make sure to use five vowels even if one will do. In early editions, Bretonnia was France just before The French Revolution, known for good duelling pistols, decadent aristocracy, and all-round rot. Most recently it seems to be Norman-occupied England, the French sensibilities mostly confined to the aristocracy.
  • Kislev is a combination of Tsarist Russia (they are ruled by a Tzar(ina) and use Streltsi), the Kievan Rus (named after their capital), and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (their cavalry are basically winged hussars). Its name, as well as that of its principal city, is derived from the Jewish calendar, however. Their appearance in Total War: Warhammer III amplifies the Kievan Rus aesthetic. Likewise, the Ungols are based on the Kazan Tatars and Bashkir Turks, being a nomadic people that serves as the first line of defense against the Hordes from the East (Kurgan/Mongols). The ancestors of the Kislevites and the Ungols are known as the Scythians, inspired by the real-life tribe of the same name.
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  • Cathay is Imperial China, a Hegemonic Empire ruled by a dragon emperor and guarded by armies of clockwork terracotta warriors. It's name is taken from the European term for China. They also have a "Great Bastion" that protects their borders from the Chaos-worshipping Kurgan and Hung, Ogres and Hobgoblins, much like how the Great Wall was built for the purpose of defending China from Turkic, Tungusic, and Mongolian hordes.
  • Many of the lesser human nations. Tilea is a peninsula to the south known for its splendid leaning towers, cut-throat politics between city-states and armies composed entirely of mercenaries (Renaissance Italy). Albion is an untamed island constantly soaked by rain and mist, dotted with magical waystones and populated by few people except for naked warriors and mysterious druids (pre-Roman Celtic Britain). Marienburg is an independent city-state sandwiched between Bretonnia and the Empire, surrounded by marshlands and possessing a strong maritime and mercantile tradition (the Netherlands). Estalia is politically fractured, with rival kingdoms vying for power and influence, renowned for skilled duelists and for a time occupied by the Arabyans (Al-Andalus/Spain). The Border Princes are a region of vast wilderness home to a multitude of petty human kingdoms established by highly ambitious adventurers, infamous as a home for bandits and ne'er-do-wells (the Balkans). East of Cathay lies Nippon, a xenophobic feudal island kingdom with a complex caste system (Japan). To the south lies Araby, a desert land with djinn and flying carpets (Islamic Middle East/Arab world) and the Kingdoms of Ind, the "Land of a Thousand Religions" which lies near an important trade route (India). Meanwhile, Lustria is inhabited by the Amazons, a race of Mayincatec warrior women.
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  • The Lizardmen culture is a sort of Mayincatec, complete with Ancient Astronauts. Culturally closer to the Mayans, their jewelry is more Aztec inspired and their pantheon is based on the Aztec one. They also mummify some of their rulers and treat them as living beings like the Incas.
  • The Orcs and Goblins are British Football Hooligans crossed with Iron Age Scottish Highlanders. But mostly Football Hooligans. The Savage Orcs of the Southlands are based on Stone Age Africa. Regular Goblins possess a subdued Mongolian aesthetic (in their choice of fur-brimmed helmets), while the Hobgoblins take that even further with their leaders being named Khans and riding wolves instead of horses. Meanwhile, Forest Goblins have a subdued Native American influence, wearing feathers and their warriors being called braves.
  • The Ogre Kingdoms are Silk Road peoples, mainly those who guarded the Road as it passed through the mountains of Central Asia, with a dash of Byzantine flavor in the way the Ogres simply sit on the main trade routes and grow rich. They predominantly have a heavy Mongol influence given that they ride powerful beasts into battle (replacing the horses with monsters such as Mournfangs, Rhinoxen, Stonehorns and Thundertusks) and have an enmity with human empires in the east and the west (Cathay and the Empire). Later editions have also added a prehistoric ice age look and feel.
  • Nehekhara, the homeland of the Tomb Kings, is Ancient Egypt, with its concept of mummies and Nepharious Pharaohs taken to their logical conclusion.
  • Sylvania is medieval Hungary and Romania with a big helping of Bram Stoker's Dracula. The name is actually a play on the Romanian region of Transylvania, hence it is the homeland of the Vampire Counts. The Vampire Coast sub-faction are also based on a historical culture. In this case, they're based on the pirates and buccaneers that raided and plundered the Caribbean in the 17th century.
  • According to Gavin Thorpe, the High Elves and Dark Elves correspond to the rivalry between Athens and Sparta, respectively. Byzantine influences are also present in the High Elves, as is a Varangian Guard in the White Lions of Chrace further increasing the similarity. Imperial Japan is also present in them, to some extent. The High Elves have also founded the Old World's only overseas colonial empire. Geographically speaking, Ulthuan is Warhammer Greenland. The Dark Elves, with their habitat in Grim Up North, reliance on crossbow- and polearm-armed infantry and Cold One riding cavalry, have a certain post-Viking Medieval Scandinavian flavor. Again, from a geographical standpoint, Naggaroth encompasses most of Warhammer's answer to North America, including Canada. The High Elf/Dark Elf relationship can also be interpreted as analogous to Britain and America. The former were formerly globe-spanning thalassocracies that in the present day have been reduced to the home islands plus a variety of small outposts, but are still formidable players in global politics. The latter split from the former in an act of rebellion and now reside in the northwestern continent.
  • Wood Elves are Tolkien's Mirkwood elves crossed with pre-Roman Celtic tribes of Britain. Likewise, the relationship between Bretonnia and the Wood Elves can be seen as analogous to Norman England and Wales in the Middle Ages. The former are nations of barbarian warriors with a Frankish influence who settled the Old World in the wake of a period of strife and turmoil. The latter have a Celtic influence and are remnants of an older people who were pushed into a forested region during said time of conflict, partially to avoid the arrival of the former. The latter both wear green prominently, are proficient at the longbow, and emphasize guerrilla tactics. The latter have also influenced the military doctrine of the former (the Bretonnians derive their magical power from the Wood Elves while the Anglo-Normans ended up adopting the longbow from the Welsh). The relationship in both cases is a mix between peace and conflict.
  • The Dwarfs very obviously take after Horny Vikings aesthetically, complete with actual horned helmets. Their Yorkshire accents hearken to British stereotypes about hard working, laborious Northerners. Their role in the backstory makes them out to be similar to the Roman Empire: the Karaz Ankor was the greatest empire in the Old World during its heyday and the Dwarf language, Khazalid, is implied to be the Warhammer world's equivalent of Latin since it shares so many words in common with English, and Reikspiel, the language of the Empire is rendered as English. The Dwarfs also have some similarities to Imperial China: they have a preference for crossbow and are credited with inventing gunpowder. A lot of Dwarf machines and weapons featuring dragon designs, especially the Flame Cannon, have a bit of a Chinese aesthetic. The fact that the High Elves have some parallels to Sengoku period Japan helps. Lastly, just like Tolkien's Dwarves, it's hard not to see some parallels to the ancient Hebrews, especially since the Dwarf heartland is about where Israel should be and their role in the founding the chief religion of the Empire.
  • The Chaos Dwarfs are evil and daemonic Babylonians and Assyrians who live in Mordor who trade with equally evil and daemonic Vikings and Slavic barbarians. Their religion, centered around fire and lava with a priesthood of magic-users, recalls a twisted version of Zoroastrianism.
  • The Warriors of Chaos are a fun one:
    • Norsca is daemonic mythic Scandinavia with vicious, daemonic Viking warriors in spiky, skull-studded Conan gear and imposing heavy plate armour wielding arms and armour not intended for lesser breeds of men and who worship and are fanatically devoted to the Gods of Chaos. Much like their historic inspiration, a Norscan explorer discovered the New World and established a small settlement there.
    • The Kurgan of the Eastern Steppes are evil Turkic barbarians, being burly, black-haired, slightly slant-eyed, copper-skinned, horse-riding nomadic pastoralists living on this world's equivalent of the Eurasian Steppe who usually alternate between raiding the lands of Kislev (Eastern Europe) and Cathay (China). The names of some of their tribes make this particularly unsubtle, like the Khazags (Kazakhs), Tokmars (Tatars), Draghars (Bulgars), and Dolgans (Dolgans). Not to mention the great Kurgan conqueror, Tamurkhan (Tamerlane/Timur Khan).
    • The Hung are the same thing as the above but are evil Hunnic (and Tungusic) warriors. They also have Mongolic and Tungusic tribe names like Mung, Alghol, and, particularly unsubtly, Man-Chu.
  • The Beastmen are based on the barbarian tribes who toppled the Western Roman Empire during the Migration Period.
  • The Skaven share more than a few similarities with Nazi Germany, between their Social Darwinism, cruel experiments performed by Evilutionary Biologists, and use of Deadly Gas, "Stormvermin", and other crazy advanced technology.