A central idea to the lore of Age of Sigmar is the setting’s concept of its realms. Existing in stark contrast to most fantasy settings that have one extremely defined world, the realms of Age of Sigmar are a multitude of worlds that are left purposely vague. They are massive and incomprehensible in scope, places for the imagination to run wild. In the realms of Age of Sigmar, one could create any sort of setting they desire.
That being said, the intangibility of the realms may be one of the settings greatest strengths, but it is also one of its greatest weaknesses. The trade off on having an extremely malleable setting where anything can happen is a lack of stability and relatability, and as a consequence of this readers can feel alienated to these mythical worlds.
For the first year or so of Age of Sigmar’s release, Games Workshop purposely kept the definition of the realms vague. This had a lot of people who were trying to immerse themselves in the stories taking place on these realms confused. What exactly IS a realm? What is life like there? How are they all connected? What role do they actually play in Age of Sigmar?
This article will try to explain what a realm is. It will also cover the different realms in Age of Sigmar and what “they are like”.
What is a Realm in Age of Sigmar?
A realm is the manifestation of one of the winds of magic into a living, breathing world. It is unknown as to how the realms initially formed. All we really know is that after the destruction of the old world, many of the energies released from such a cataclysmic event coalesced in the cosmos, and guided by the winds of magic, took shape into the realms as we know them today.
It is unknown within the lore whether any gods or entities shaped these events at their creation, or if this is simply a natural reaction from the laws of the universe in Age of Sigmar. I personally like the latter of these explanations, as it falls in line with our real-world laws of thermodynamics… except for magic, of course. Our real-life Law of Conservation of Energy states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another. Applying this concept to Age of Sigmar makes a satisfying logical explanation on how these energies could form into the realms under magical guidance.
Each realm is described as a “sphere of reality” meaning that the realms themselves are not exactly planetary bodies like our earth is. Going off of what the core rulebook shows us, each realm seems to be a flat plane existing within a sphere. Each realmsphere can also be host to multiple other smaller worlds, such as sub-realms, moons, or other orbiting satellite bodies. When it comes to the realms, there really are no hard rules on how each realmsphere exists and functions. Within each sphere the laws of reality and magic can vary wildly from each other.
The more habitable sections of the realms that we often associate with each realm as the realm itself are generally the center points of these spheres of reality. These center points are the most magically stable and unchanging parts of the realm. The further you go outwards, to the edges of the realm, the more unstable magic becomes. Realistically, a mortal’s survival rate decreases dramatically as they head more and more towards the edges of their realm. Towards these edges, the landscape constantly shifts, physics and magics become unpredictable, and mere thoughts and emotions can become uncontrollable realities. Those who enter these churning magical maelstroms do not return.
In the space between the realms exists what is known as the aetheric void, the Great Nothing, or the Darkness Without. It is a non-realm that forms the sky of the realms. Unaligned, weak motes of magic drift through this null-space. The spherical bodies that are the realms themselves drift and orbit through the aetheric void. Some follow patterns and are bound to each other in orbit, while other realms drift more freely. There are other sub realms and anomalies that exist in this void as well, such as the realms of chaos, Skaven gnawholes, The Bad Moon, etc., but I’m not going to get into those as well or we will be here all day.
The realms also to connect to one another through realmgates. Realmgates are, quite simply, portals that connect realms together. A realmgate can connect to another portion of its own realm, or to other realms across the aetheric void. Realmgates can take many forms, and one must be careful when using them. During an event known as the Realmgate Wars (see my other articles for details) the mortal races warred for control for the realmgates with the forces of chaos. As chaos captured realmgates, their influence seeped into them and tainted them, twisting their function. A corrupted realmgate may connect to the Realm of Chaos, or even directly to the aetheric void, making them extremely dangerous. While corrupted realmgates are often destroyed or purified by those who oppose chaos, many still exist in the realms, making realm travel much more deadly.
What are the realms like? What is life like on each one?
Each of the realms are massive. The realms are not infinite, but to us mortals they might as well be. Mortals could spend their whole lives wandering a realm and never truly see it in its entirety. Here is an overview of each of the eight realms with some points of interest!
Life in the realm of Aqshy, The realm of Fire
Aqshy is the realm of fire, a realm of passionate mortals who live life fast and hard. The mentality of the people of Aqshy is simple: you never know what day might be your last, so every day should be lived to the fullest. Burn twice as bright, but burn half as long. Taking risks in life is culturally expected on Aqshy, and dying young is just a common side effect of a life well lived. Those who grow old on Aqshy are often regarded with pity and scorn by their younger generations, who see their old age as a sign of cowardice. In truth, the older generations of Aqshy are like steel; tempered by flame and conflict, they are often stronger than any hotblooded youngblood who may challenge them.
Despite its namesake, Aqshy is not simply a realm composed of hot desert plains and volcanic mountain ranges – though it certainly has its fair share of these. Aqshy has diverse biomes beyond these fiery lands such as steaming tropical jungles, warm open seas, and dry plains and grasslands. The key element that unites the realm of Aqshy is the sense of energy. Everything in Aqshy is just one spark away from igniting, one word away from being riled up, one strike away from shattering the calm.
Historically, Aqshy is a realm that has been assaulted heavily by Khorne, who has laid claim to the realm. His forces have left deep scars in the people and landscape of Aqshy. Recently, Khorne’s forces have suffered heavy losses and setbacks from the emergence of the Stormcast Eternals during the Age of Sigmar. Despite these loses, Khorne does not seem to mind, and is in fact invigorated by what he sees as worthy opponents for his endless wars and violence.
Aqshy is home to many wondrous locations, here are just a few:
Also known as the twin tailed city, Hammerhal is a city that is built around a realmgate to Ghyran. Hammerhal is a city that exists in both realms, half of which lies in Aqshy.
Hammerhal is a bastion for the forces of order, erected in the great parch after the Stormcast Eternals secured the territory in a military campaign. Hammerhal is still largely governed and maintained by the Stormcast Eternals of Azyrheim, so the city is heavily fortified and militaristically maintained as a key strategic point for realmtravel.
That being said, despite its military importance, Hammerhal is a booming metropolis inhabited by a multitude of races and cultures, and its borders are constantly looking to expand to accommodate its growing population. A sanctum for the free peoples of Aqshy, Hammerhal is a beacon of hope in the Age of Sigmar for Order.
Located on the Charrwind coast, Anvilgard is a frontier port city on the borders of sweltering jungles and volcanic mountain ranges. Anvilgard is a city on the edge of Aqshy’s wilds, where the nearby volcanos constantly spew lava into the surrounding area, burning down and destroying vast swaths of jungle.
Once reduced to nutrient rich ash, the vegetation grows back with magical vigor infused with Aqshian energies that threatens to overtake Anvilgard. Anvilgard has great towers that spew out defoliants to prevent Anvilgard from being overrun by these growths; however, these chemical sprays leave a constant gray, murky shroud over the port city.
This murk suits the city’s true character as it is a den of criminal activities and underhanded dealings. The Blackscale Coil, a coven of aelves, secretly manipulates and runs the city for its own gains. Despite its criminal corruption, the port city is an important location for trade and travel in Aqshy.
A city thrumming with magic, Hallowheart is home to some of the most powerful spellcasters in Aqshy. It is built upon a huge, deep pit known as the Shimmering Abyss, which was once home to a dragon corrupted by Tzeentch. This dragon was slain by the Stromcast Eternals and Fyreslayer lodges, and now this cavernous abyss is mined for its magic infused gems and stones.
Still, corruption may still lurk in the mine’s depths, and expeditions are sent deeper and deeper into the mines in search of any remnants of Tzeentchian corruption.
The Orb Infernia
A corrupted world that hangs over Aqshy, this moon drifts over the Great Parch spreading chaos corruption as a counter attack to Order’s more recent advances in Aqshy. It rains blood as it drifts over the lands, invigorating Khorne’s forces for eternal war.
A skaven city wracked by earthquakes, the Skaven constantly rebuild after each wave of destruction. With their endless hordes, the losses are simply seen as a way of life in this city.
Thankfully, these earthquakes keep the Skaven numbers in check and occupied; if these earthquakes were to cease, the Skaven numbers would surely swell and pose a danger to the surrounding regions.
In comparison to all of the other realms, Aqshy is the realm that has been most developed and given attention by Games Workshop. There is much more to Aqshy then I could possibly list here!
Life in the realm of Ghyran, Realm of Life
Ghyran is the realm of life and home to Alarielle, the Goddess of Life and leader of the Sylvaneth faction. Ghyran is a realm were life in every aspect grows and thrives. Abundant in resources, Ghyran is home to thriving, thick forests and jungles, where fruits and game grow large and strong.
The air itself thrums with life, invigorating all who take in Ghyran’s energies. An incomprehensible multitude of life forms inhabits Ghyran, from the smallest of insects to lumbering behemoths, existing in a perfected cycle of nature. While dangerous, Ghyran is a paradise to those who know how to navigate its wilds and appease its gods.
However, Ghyran is a realm that had particularly suffered in the Age of Chaos. Invaded by Nurgle’s forces, the realm was almost brought to ruin over the course of its war. Verdant forests were corrupted into poisonous swamps, beasts of the wild were infected to turn into pox-ridden demons, and the azure seas of Ghyran’s coasts were transformed into oceans of ooze and sludge. Were it not for the Stormcast Eternal’s intervention at the dawn of the Age of Sigmar, the realm would surely have died a slow death at the hands of the plague god.
Ghyran is now a realm with grievous wounds that is slowly recovering.
Inhabited mainly by aelves and humans, the realm of Ghyran is protected predominantly by Alarielle’s Slyvaneth, although gods such as Sigmar and (surprisingly) Nagash also have stakes in the realm, having helped foster their own civilizations in Ghyran.
These civilizations do sometimes come into conflict with one another, though Nurgle’s recent incursions have had the realm uniting.
The realm of Ghyran itself is a diverse realm of forests, jungles, mountain ranges, and frozen tundras, with each of these ecosystems bursting with vigour. The continents themselves seem to be alive, moving and shifting, while mating with one another and causing new landmasses to emerge frequently.
Ghyran is also home to many wondrous locations, including:
The other half of Hammerhal, Hammerhall Ghyra is also a bursting metropolis of culture and a safe haven for the forces of order. As the war against Nurgle rages on in Ghyran, Hammerhal remains an important strategic point.
The Living City
A city grown by Alarielle herself, apparently in a matter of day, the living city is a testament to Alarielle’s power. The site of the city itself was reclaimed with military aid from the Stormcast Eternals, and as a result of this origin, the city is symbolic of Alarielle’s alliance with the free peoples of Order.
All members of the Grand Alliance of Order are welcome in the city, even The Wanderers, an aelven people who abandoned Alareille long ago in the Age of Chaos. Though some fear the city for its somewhat alien culture and origin, the city is a safe and welcoming place to the peoples of Order.
Built in a swampy region of Ghyran, this city of Order is an industrial fortress that stands in stark contrast to the rest of Ghyran. While most cities and civilizations in Ghyran exist in harmony with nature, Greywater Fastness is a churning factory city, cutting down forests, belching out smoke and pollution, and filling the air with the loud cracks of gunpowder.
A city known for its gun battalions, the greywater fastness is a key defensive point and offensive supplier to the free peoples of Ghyran, its technological marvels unmatched in the realm. Despite its key role in the defence of Ghyran, the greywater fastness often draws the ire of the Slyvaneth, who see the city as a blight upon the land, not so different from Nurgle’s infectious domains. Conflict between the two factions is not unheard of.
The Oak of Ages
A remnant of the Old World, the Oak of Ages manifested in the Age of Myth during the key formative years of Ghyran. A place of great magic and power, the Oak of Ages was a symbolic link between the Old World and the new realms in wake of its destruction.
In the Age of Chaos, the tree was corrupted by the forces of Nurgle, turning into a great black oak that spews forth filth; a mockery of its life-giving waters it bestowed before.
A holy sanctuary for Alarielle, the Atherwyrd is a hidden vale from which Alarielle can connect with the World Roots of Ghyran.
Allowing her to attune to the realm itself, Alarielle sees all and knows all that happens within her realm. Alarielle retreated here in the Age of Chaos when all hope seemed lost in the war against Nurgle.
A place that exemplifies the cycle of life, Decrepita is a land in Ghyran where every year, when winter comes, all the inhabitants of the land die, only to be reborn in the following spring. Coveted by Nagash, Decreptia was gifted to Nagash as a diplomatic move by Alarielle in the Age of Myth.
Now it is a land that is inhabited by the undead, and while this would initially be seen as a slap in the face to the realm’s values, the undead has proven to be an effective deterrent to Nurgle’s forces.
Life in the realm of Shyish, Realm of Death
Shyish is the realm of death, and is ruled over by Nagash, god of undeath. When mortals on any realm die, their soul, if it is not claimed by any god, travels to Shyish. Shyish is composed of multiple pocket realms and lands formed by the beliefs of mortals; whatever mortals believe awaits them upon their death is possible in Shyish. If enough mortals share a common belief on their cultural afterlife, it will form in Shyish and await them upon their death. As a result, Shyish is land formed of afterlifes and underworlds of all kinds, along with native cultures and lands cultivated by Nagash.
The cultures that exist in Shyish are constantly shrouded in death. Spirits, undead, and other reminders of one’s mortal coil are common sights in Shyish. As a result of this, the people of Shyish are generally a grim folk; all know what awaits them upon their death, and life is often seen more as a prelude to the rest of their existence then the main focus of it. That being said, life can still hold joy here, and if one plays their cards right, death is not an end but merely a new beginning.
Shyish was once a realm filled with hundreds of thousands of gods of death. Once Nagash claimed dominion over the realm however, he sought to be the one and only undisputed ruler of the dead. Nagash hunted down and slew all the gods of death he found, and with each god he slew, his power grew. Remnants of these gods still sometimes exist in one form or another, but on Shyish, all pay tribute to Nagash in one form or another or suffers the consequences.
Recently, Shyish has undergone a fairly sizable change. After the Necroquake, the polarity of Shyish was reversed, with magic being drawn inwards towards the center of the realm instead of outwards towards the edges. As a result of this, the realm is being drawn inwards towards the mouth of the Shyish Nadir, a sinkhole in reality to which all death magic of the realms is drawn.
Fittingly enough, the realm of death is dying.
Here are some locations of interest on Shyish:
The Silent City lies at the heart of Shyish, and is Nagash’s personal capital city in the realm of Shyish. Home to the great Black Pyramid, Nagashizzar is a fortress of great power for Nagash and his Mortarchs.
Ruins of Shadespire
Once a city of Opulance that defied Nagash, Shadespire is now but a ruin of bone bleached stones in Shyish. Great riches and magics are said to be contained within its walls, so often travellers will attempt to brave the haunted ruins in search of glory.
Unknown to these adventurers is the fact that Shadespire is a city that is now trapped between realms. Those who enter are doomed to wander its halls forever.
That being said, there are those who have been able to escape Shadespire as of late due to disturbances in the flow of magic caused by the necroquake; although these escapees often find themselves in other realms.
A lake within the underworld of Stygxx, the waters of this lake devour one’s memories. This lake, and the nearby city of Lethis the Raven City, were recently the site of a large battle between the forces of Death and Order over one of Sigmar’s lost Stormvaults.
A city of Order in Shyish, the Glymmsforge has been assaulted by the forces of Nagash many times over. The city is a valuable strategic point for the free peoples in the realm of Shyish.
Housing a realmgate to Azyr, the Stormcast defend the city religiously. The novel “Soul Wars by Josh Reynolds” details this city quite a bit more (and the book is one of the better AoS reads)!
Life in the realm of Chamon, Realm of Metal
Chamon is the realm of metal, a realm rich with resources and opportunity. As malleable as its namesake, the realm of metal is a realm in constant change, the landscape itself transmuting and shifting with the passage of time. As a result, the people who live in this realm an adaptive folk, using complex magics and technologies to survive the challenges Chamon presents.
Despite its namesake as the realm of metal, Chamon is a realm quite capable of hosting life. Especially towards its more stable center, large bodies of clean water can be found, and vegetation and game can be found among the mountains and floating isles that dominate the realmscape.
The realm is also quite rich with precious and workable metals and materials. These riches have often led to fierce competition between the people of Chamon, partially because trade and commerce is central to Chamonian culture, but also for the practical use of these wonderous materials in magics and machinery. Unfortunately, these trade wars and mining competitions often create a disparity between the rich and the poor, fostering resentment.
More so then any other realm, Chamon is a realm with a multitude of sub realms within it. The complex magics that bind and weave these realms together has drawn the eyes of Tzeentcch, who has taken a keen interest in the realm and focused his invasion forces here. Drawn here by the nature of this realm magic and strengthened by the poor and downtrodden seeking change, Tzeentch quickly established a foothold on Chamon.
While Chamon is home to many races, it is predominantly home to the Duardin. The Kharadron Overlords are the most acclaimed of these Duardin, living in the clouds in great skyships to circumvent the harsh challenges of the lands below, but also as a necessity to fight the hordes of Tzeentch’s forces.
Here are some locations worthy of noting on Chamon:
The Sky Ports
All across Chamon, Sky Ports run by the Kharadron Overlords travel through the skies, plying their trade and harvesting resources where they can. The Sky Ports perform military functions as well, hunting great skybeasts and fighting the forces of Tzeentch. There are six major sky ports in Chamon, all of which feature various houses and lineages of Duardin.
Formerly known as the Godwrought Isles, these once perfectly straight isles were forged by Grungi himself as a gift to the Duardin. However, these isles were corrupted and warped when a Tzeentchian God Beast known as the Lode-Griffon descended upon the isles and warped the isles with its metallic pull. While the beast was eventually defeated, the damage it had done to the land was permanent.
The Ferrium Mountains
These metallic mountains are home to the Chaos worshipping Iron Golems, who harness the flowing magma of their mountains to forge brutal weapons of war. The Iron Golems are one of the core set warbands featured in Warhammer Warcry (which is pretty good).
Life in the realm of Hysh and Ulgo, Realm of Light and Shadow
One cannot discuss the realms of light or shadow without mentioning the other, as the two realms are forever bound to one another. Circling one another in orbit, the realms of Ulgu and Hysh are realms both concerned with the concept of knowledge – of knowledge obscured from one and hidden, or of one being illuminated to knowledge.
Ulgu, the realm of shadow, is a realm of grey mists and darkness. Whispers float on the winds of this realm, and shadows play tricks on the eyes of the unwary. Ulgu is a domain of secrets and lies, and nothing can be truly certain while in the realm of shadows – not even one’s own senses. Ulgu is divided into thirteen dominions, ruled by various leaders, but it is the godlike Malarion, the Shadow King, who is the closest the realm has to a supreme monarch. The realm is also home to the Daughters of Khaine, ruled over by Morathi, who seeks godhood herself (See my other article on factions for more details!)
Hysh, the realm of Light, is a realm of reason and enlightenment. Ruled over by Teclis and Tyrion, the Lord of Lumination and patron gods of the aelves, Hysh is a realm of scholars and philosophers, of logic and reason. While Hysh might sound like a realm of peace and advancement, the pursuit of knowledge can be blinding. In the ever-increasing thirst for knowledge, some Hyshian people become lost to their pride and usher in chaos. Even a realm as pure as Hysh has felt the drums of war against chaos, and the once limitless splendor of the realm has now been lost to ruin. Still, hope remains as the realm attempts to rebuild itself once more.
Between the two realms lies Uhl-Gysh, a prison realm for the Chaos god Slaanesh. This subrealm exists in paradox between the two realms and remains mostly hidden from the forces of Chaos, though Slaanesh’s influence still seeps from its prison.
Ulgu and Hysh are probably the two realms least explored in Age of Sigmar by Games Workshop – Hysh especially. Light aelves could definitely be a thing, as the realm has been heavily hinted at for an upcoming release.
Life in the realm of Ghur, Realm of Beasts
In Ghur, nomadic pockets of mortal life exist roaming the lands and carving out their niche in Ghur’s supercharged ecosystem. Vast hordes of Orruks ravage the hills and crags in Waaaghs, Chaos warbands stalk beasts on its rugged plains, and Ogors travel in nomadic packs, always on the move. Some mortal races eke out more stable townships protected by palisades, and some even live upon the backs of the great beasts that wander Ghur.
The landscapes of Ghur are as varied as they are dangerous. Jungles filled with megafauna, forests with writhing underbrush, hills that shift and grind against one another, mountains that walk, cave systems that open like maws, and frozen tundra that migrate are all ecosystems that exist on Ghur. A feeling of hunger and the hunt permeates the air of Ghur, infectious in its primal simplicity
Worship of Gorkamorka is strong here in Ghur, and the realm is obviously quite in line with the values of the Destruction Grand Alliance. That being said, the fate of the realm has been called into question with the arrival of the Stormcast Eternals during the Age of Sigmar. With the forces of Order joining the fray, no one truly knows what fate awaits Ghur.
Life in the realm of Azyr, Realm of Heavens
Azyr is the realm of Heavens, a celestial realm that has been claimed by Sigmar as his seat of power. Here, great star formations and celestial bodies hang over vast mountains and swaths of jungles. Both the Stormcast Eternals and the Seraphon claim Azyr as their home realm, making Azyr the realm most untouched by the forces of Chaos.
Azyr’s vast cities and god forged structures awe all mortals who travel to the realm, as Azyr is one of the most technologically advanced and magically attuned realms. It is Sigmar’s pride and joy, having raised the realm from its primal beginnings when he first arrived on Azyr millennia ago upon the burning core of the Old World. That piece of the Old World still exists today, hung in the sky by Dracothian with massive structures built around it – it is known as the Sigmarabulum. It is here, upon the anvil of Apotheosis, that the Stormcast are forged anew upon their untimely deaths in the mortal realms. It is here that the Vault Celestial, home of the pantheon in times of crisis, still stands as a symbol of power. It is here that Sigmar’s power is at its apex.
Sigmar keeps an iron grip on this realm, refusing to let even the faintest trace of Chaos settle in his kingdom. His laws are strict, and the punishments for breaking them harsh.
Other realms in Age of Sigmar
Beyond these eight realms, other realms drift and dwell in the great void of reality. While I won’t be going in depth into them here, there are a couple worth mentioning.
The Realm of Chaos: A infinitely large realm that is ever shifting and moving, the Realm of Chaos is the primordial realm of the Chaos Gods. Check out my other articles for more info!
Allpoints/Eightpoints: A nexus realm that connects to all other realms through the All-Gate. Recently conquered and corrupted by Chaos, it is now known as Eightpoints. Archaeon uses Eightpoints as a testing ground for chaos worshippers, pitting them against each other in an endless battle, and hand picking the most violent and skilled fighters. This is the setting of Warhammer Warcry.
The Bad Moon: This celestial object hurls through the Great Void, erratically travelling from realm to realm in unpredictable paths. Where it appears, madness spreads, as it warps reality under its luminous glow. The Gloomspite Gits worship this entity, following it as it travels the realms. The Bad Moon spreads a fungal growth and infection wherever it goes, sprouting this growth from the ground, structures and even mortals themselves. If the Bad Moon shows up, it usually spells the doom of whoever bear witness to it.
Want to know more about the mortal realms?
If you enjoyed this article, good news! I have barely scratched the surface of the realms. There is so much more to the realms then what I have mentioned here.
For further reading, check out:
- The Core Rulebook (the big hardcover): This book has 37 pages devoted to just the realms, not to mention all the history of the wars that happen between them!
- Your favorite faction’s battletome: Each faction, more or less, seems to call a certain realm home. If you want to learn more about a faction’s preferred place in the cosmos, check out their book!
- Novels: There are tons of Black Library novels that focus on the different realms!
- Youtube: There are a lot of great youtubers who do lore videos for Age of Sigmar, so don’t be afraid to check them out! I personally recommend 2+ Tough.