Narrative Worldbuilding in Age of Sigmar's Realm of Aqshy

The Mortal Realms in Age of Sigmar provide an opportunity for your narrative forces. While the galaxy of 40K is vast, there are only eight Mortal Realms. Everyone had to come from somewhere and that’s an idea we can develop into a fun and unique origin story.

Let’s take a look at the Realm of Aqshy, Age of Sigmar’s Mordor. First, I’ll give a brief overview of the realm. Then, five steps you can use to develop a settlement for your Aqshian narrative force. This could be a settlement they protect, or a settlement they hope to claim.

Welcome to the Realm of Aqshy

The fire-blasted Realm of Aqshy is a wild and untamed land. Water, where it gathers at all, is typically acidic. Vegetation is sparse and hostile. Life is frequently nasty, brutish, and short; Thomas Hobbes would be thrilled.

Nomadic tribes roam vast deserts between belching volcanos. Themes of fire and passion dominate both the land and the people. If Conan the Barbarian were a Warhammer character, he’d be Aqshian.

Aqshy has dozens of continents, the biggest of which is the Great Parch. At the center of the Parch is Hammerhal Aqsha, the greatest of Sigmar’s cities. Hammerhal Aqsha is one half of the twin-tailed cities. It shares a permanent Realmgate connection to Hammerhal Ghyra, through which the life-giving Aqua Ghyranis flows.

Hammerhal Aqsha is the beating industrial heart of Sigmar’s empire. The vast city grows year over year, with the outer boundary moving to create more room. Cogforts roll or walk forward on tracks or articulated legs. They create an ever-expanding wall against invasion.

Chaos is no stranger to the Aqshian party. To the South, Khorghus Khul and the Goretide lay claim. To the West, the Timestolen Cults swear allegiance to Tzeentch. The far Eastern isle Talon of Bataax hosts the plague fleets of Nurgle.

Building A Settlement

Step 1: Setting and Location

Imagine imposing volcanic ranges, ragged cracks in the earth, frequent earthquakes. Aqshy looks like the set location for a Star Trek away team mission. Basically I’m saying it’s Southern California.

Hot winds blow sand and ash across plateaus. Deep valleys provide shelter but lack commanding views. Herds of megafauna travel between acidic watering holes. Shards of volcanic glass jut from shifting dunes plied by nomadic trade caravans.

Somewhere in this jumbled mess, a settlement. Your settlement. Is it the annual moot-place of nomadic bands of Khornate worshippers? The subterranean kingdom of the Gloomspite Gitz? The haunted former kingdom of a band of Nighthaunt? A Free City in the shadow of Hammerhal Aqsha, yet to make a name for itself?

Is it a permanent settlement, or a way stop? Does it provide shelter from the elements? Why would anyone come here? Why would they stay? If they don’t stay, what causes them to move on?

Are there resources to harvest? Who would fight for access to those same resources? Which forces covet what your settlement has?

Define your setting and location in three simple words or sentences. These are the aspects that make your settlement unique from all other settlements. Make them as simple or complex as you need to evoke a mental image of your settlement.

Step 2: History and Culture

The people who call Aqshy home are known for being passionate, warlike cultures. Life is short, and they intend to make the most of it. Many are nomadic.

Who lives in your settlement? If it’s a Free City, is it populated by many different cultures? Does one overwhelming perspective dominate?

If life is short, how do they live it to the fullest? What rituals mark the passage of time? How does one ascend to adulthood? What happens when an elder passes? Where do food and water come from? Are these viewed as gifts, or curses?

What is their view of war? Is it a necessary part of life, or something to avoid unless necessary? What is the division of labor? Where do their weapons come from?

Make three simple statements about the history and culture of your settlement’s residents. What would be on the travel brochure? Just the highlights. Enough to hint at the deeper currents rippling beneath their societal surface.

Step 3: Storytelling

Stories in the Realm of Aqshy revolve around the Dawnbringer Crusades. The forces of Order are attempting to claim places of power. Which side is your settlement on? A Free City is likely attempting to defend its borders. Borders that include a place of importance to the Sons of Behemat. Now it’s stompin' time.

How does your settlement feel about the Dawnbringers? Are they allies? Enemies? A complicated and intoxicating mix of both?

If the Dawnbringers aren’t the enemy, who is? Why are they enemies? What do their enemies believe? Is it true?

What does your settlement want? Why don’t they have it? Who stands in opposition to their goals?

Now boil it down into three sentences. A short paragraph that answers the following three questions:

  1. Who or what are they now?
  2. Who or what do they want to become?
  3. Who or what is planning to stop them?

Here’s a sample template you could use.

The name of settlement are best known for quality or trait and natural resource. It is their hope that thing they want to become. Little do they know enemy has plans.

Step 4: Building an Army

Sadly, a settlement isn’t a unit in Warhammer. It doesn’t get to take part in the shooting phase. Although how cool would that be? The goal of developing a custom settlement is to provide story and context for an army. Some armies arrive to protect, others arrive to conquer. What is the relationship between your army and the settlement you’ve developed?

Does your army represent the founders of your settlement? Are they protectors? Invaders? Hired mercenaries waiting for a better offer? True believers defending their homeland?

Your settlement exists for a reason. Looking at the work you’ve done in the previous steps, how does that relate to your army’s goals? What does your army want, and how do they intend to get it? Is this at conflict with what your settlement wants? Who do you think will win? Who will actually win?

Write a single sentence. The smallest possible story about your army. If there were a movie about them, this is the back-cover blurb. One line to convince someone to rent it at Hollywood Video. Go.

Step 5: Painting and Basing

All that work culminates here, in the visual storytelling of your narrative force. The way you choose to paint and base your models reflects the decisions you’ve made about who they are. Where they’re from. What they did. As long as you love them. Sorry, Backstreet Boys moment.

Aqshy is the Realm of Fire. It’s Mordor. It’s hot, ash-laden winds and passionate, fiery people.

One way to represent that an army is from Aqshy is to use fire tones, either as a majority of their color palette or as a nod. Red, orange, yellow, and black. Give their armor soot stains. Use nuln oil aggressively. Thinned red contrast or shade over metallics creates the appearance of reflecting firelight. Use yellow for highlights.

Base models with red clay, or dry brush those same fire tones on top of Astrogranite. Add parched skulls or bones, baked in the never-ending heat. Small pieces of red sponge look like pumice stone. Black glass looks like obsidian. Be sure to use hobby-safe glass.


As in previous examples I’ll start with a name from the Age of Sigmar 3.0 map of Aqshy. One of the locations sprinkled about by Games Workshop with no real lore attached. Then I’ll show my work for each of the five previous steps.

Vintner’s Pledge

Step 1: Setting and Location

  1. Vintner’s Pledge used to be the largest producer of Sigmarite wine and libations.
  2. Deep valleys exposed the grapes to bright sun and protected them from harsh winds. This gave them time to mature.
  3. The Timestolen Cults were recently evicted. The land is still Strange from the effects of Tzeentchian sorcery.

Step 2: History and Culture

  1. An intrepid fleet of Kharadron Overlords have set out to reclaim Vintner’s Pledge.
  2. They intend to import Aqua Ghyranis on airships to water the fields, then trade the wine back at a profit.
  3. This is a commercial enterprise. Everyone involved is hoping to get rich.

Step 3: Storytelling

The hard working citizens of Vintner’s Pledge were once known for their Vin Ghyranis. It is their hope to resume production of this legendary wine. Little do they know the Timestolen Cults intend to reclaim the land for themselves.

Step 4: Building an Army

Long are the plans of the Flame Sect of the Timestolen Cults. For centuries they twisted the land around Vintner’s Pledge with strange magics. Where once neat rows of wine grapes had grown, seeds of change bloomed. The ground was ever-shifting, undulating like ocean waves. It was perfect, beautiful in its unpredictable way.

Now the Sigmarites have returned. The forces of Order are another kind of change. All is change. All is in service to Tzeentch. Soon they will reveal the next stage of their long-laid plans.

Step 5: Painting and Basing

The ground beneath the Flame Sect is ever-changing. To represent this, I’ll use Armageddon Dust and Martian Ironearth. Some units will have one or the other, most will have a mix. Small bunches of grapes would make a great basing bit, if I can find them.

I’ll bring in the red tones anywhere the models would have an ethereal flame. I wouldn’t usually make Tzeentchian flame normal-flame-colors. It’s a subtle choice. Nobody’s going to notice that flame shouldn’t be flame-colored. One option is to make it a “reverse flame,” where the lightest colors are at the base.

Any glass or crystal baubles will be black obsidian. Something they found or made from the local environment.


And just like that you’ve got a narrative force from the Mortal Realm of Aqshy! Easy, right?

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