"Beware of forking. I say this as an experienced bargeswain. If you approach a dangerous rock or other river hazard be sure to go astarboard and stay astarboard while laying astarboard, or go alarboard and stay alarboard while laying alarboard. Or you will fork, and you might sink. And no-one wants to sink their forking barge."
Jacob Walles, bargeswain who sank his forking barge.[3a]


The rivers of the Empire are vital arteries of communication and commerce. They provide speedy transportation and link most of the major cities of the realm. Boatmen ply these busy waterways, taking passengers and goods throughout the Empire and even into Kislev. Although the rivers are safer than the dark forest roads, they are not without danger. Many routes pass through wild country untouched by civilisation. Boatmen must be ready to protect their cargoes and fares from raiders and bandits. Experienced Boatmen are tough and resourceful, equally adept at boat handling, navigation, and combat.[1a]

A Day in the Life

Boatmen typically spend long days steering their boats downstream or rowing them upriver against the current. At journey's end, the faster the cargo is unloaded, the quicker a boatman gets paid and the sooner he can toddle off to the nearest tavern while the captain arranges cargo and passengers for the return trip.[2a]

Any downtime on board is spent mending, repairing and maintaining the vessel and equipment. The work is backbreaking and tedious, with occasional, long periods of boredom for good measure. Boatmen rarely spend much time in one place, so it’s an ideal avocation both for passable mutants and for serial criminals.[2a]

Boatmen act not only as crew to load, unload and handle the river craft en route, but also as guardians against the many threats that seek to prey on river traffic. River pirates are not unknown, and the occasional clever bandits will create traps or logjams along the rivers to hinder or halt traffic altogether, making them easy pickings for resourceful thieves.[2a]

A successful boatman must proficient in weaponry as well as the art of ship handling. Some skill in carpentry is useful as well, for submerged rocks and hidden snags can often damage a river craft; timely repairs can prevent the loss of not only the vessel and cargo, but the crew as well.[2a]


"Someday a real rain will come. So, don't forget your hat, madam."
Travis Binckel, Rivertaxi[3a]

The career of a Boatman tends to be an unfulfilling one. Boatmen who are smart will save their money to either buy their own boat or buy a piece of land and take to farming. Many boatmen become pirates or smugglers, as the pay is better and the hours much shorter.[2a]

Still, boatmen tend to know members of the Dockers Guild -- responsible for loading and unloading ships in the larger cities – as well as both merchant and military sailors. Connections such as these can help provide career exit paths as well as information and the occasional assist in not-strictly-legal acts.[2a]

It’s not unknown for a boatman particularly shrewd in handling money to become a smuggler or merchant as soon as he has a few coins to rub together, and with the connections on the docks and knowing which palms to grease, such savvy individuals might make a nice living for themselves.[2a]

Many boatmen also take work as Ferrymen.[3a]


  • 1: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Core Rulebook
    • 1a: pg. 33
  • 2: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Career Compendium
    • 2a: pg. 30
  • 3: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 4th ED -- Core Rulebook
    • 3a: pg. 93

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