In the Empire of Man, the Golden Order (or just the Gold Order) is comprised of those Magisters who study and embrace the Yellow Wind of Magic, Chamon. The Gold Wizards are also commonly referred to as "Alchemists." Chamon is attracted to metals in both ore and refined forms. The heavier the element or metal, in its natural state or otherwise, the more Chamon is drawn to it.
It has been suggested this attraction accounts for the almost magical effect gold has on even the most intelligent races, inspiring greed, violence, and sometimes war. Of all the peoples of the Warhammer World, the Dwarfs seem most affected by gold, and some Magisters of the Golden Order have wondered whether the Dwarfs have some unknown affinity with Chamon. Dwarfs do, after all, pursue many of the same goals and interests as the Magisters of the Golden Order. The issue remains unresolved.
Unusually for Imperial magisters, many members of the Gold Order take interest in mundane studies, such as physics and chemistry.[3a]
Symbols & Appearances
The Mortar and Pestle. Smithing Tongs. The Smoking Brazier. Forge Bellows. The Soaring Eagle. The Eagle’s Wing.
The Gold College chose a soaring eagle as the symbol of their magical wind, Chamon. It is an odd choice in many ways, for whilst eagles soar high above the world, Gold Magic is heavy and dense, and quickly sinks into the ground. Yet the eagle was ever a symbol of power and nobility to the Elves of Ulthuan from whom the knowledge of Gold Magic was learnt, and it is this tradition that the Gold College claims to follow.[2a]
For outsiders (who are often less than inclined to be charitable about the Gold College) the soaring eagle is considered more an indication of the wizards' aloofness, and their assumed superiority over their fellow men. In truth, Gold Wizards are egotistical in the extreme and their actions do little to dispel such beliefs. There is some speculation that the Gold Wizards indulge in intellectual vanity by way of compensation of their marred physique. Constant tinkering with acids and molten metals has left many a Gold Wizard heavily scarred, burned and mutilated, leaving only their minds with any claim to perfection.[2a]
While in their College and working on their experiments, even the greatest Magister Alchemists of the Golden Order wear simple clothes: leather aprons, gloves and sometimes skullcaps, and goggles or glasses. Essentially, they dress in a way suitable to protect them from heat and acid burns, just as any alchemist or metallurgist would. But this does not mean that the Magister Alchemists always dress this way. Their art and College tend to make Magister Alchemists quite wealthy, and when it comes to state occasions, or when mobilised for war or some other activity beyond the bounds of their College walls, the Magister Alchemists try to create an awe-inspiring impression on all that see them.
Their robes are cut from the finest materials, tastefully embroidered with heavy gold thread and brocade. The preferred colours and tints reflect the name of their Order and the colour of the Wind of Magic they have dedicated themselves to, gold and yellow.
The oldest and most experienced of the Order’s Lord Magisters sometimes wear exceptionally elaborate and finely crafted articulated gauntlets of a gold alloy, as well as gold masks. These items often spawn rumours that the Magisters are slowly turning to magically articulated statues of pure gold, that they are hiding a lifetime of burns and scars from their experimentations, that they are simply copying their current Patriarch, or even that the items are purely for show as a slap in the face to normal citizens who have to earn an honest living.
The Magisters of the Golden Order are renowned practitioners of magic, runecraft, and alchemy. Like most definitions in the Articles of Imperial Magic, “Alchemical Thaumaturgy” is a somewhat limited description of what Magisters of the Golden Order study and practice. It is true their studies and interests are mainly in the manipulation of chemicals, but they are also metallurgists and herbalists without peer.
Fool's Gold & True Transmutation
Some question the potential abuse the ability to create gold, even temporarily, opens to the Golden Order. But for a Magister Alchemist to do such a thing would break several of the Articles of Magic and would doubtlessly, if actually used to purchase goods, lead to public outcry when it eventually transmuted back into its original form. This dishonest act would defame the good Orders of the Colleges of Magic, a serious crime indeed.
Any Gold Magisters found guilty of abusing their skills by swindling retailers with gold that will change back into lead after a few days, are punished publicly. Although they are unlikely to be exiled or Pacified for such a crime, they will be flogged in a place and at a time where the public can view the punishment. Such things are incredibly rare, with only the occasional Apprentice, and even rarer Journeyman Wizard, trying to con people with fake gold.
Having said all this, Apprentices to the Golden Order are taught that discovering a means of and for True Transmutation is one of the prime goals of the Golden Order — whether it's lead to gold, nickel to iron, or copper to platinum. The Order also pursues the knowledge of how to smith the exceptionally hard metal gromril (the near-unbreakable metal mined and manufactured by the Dwarfs) and create the semi-magical alloy ithilmar, (the super-light metal that is as harder than the finest human steel and is able to hold enchantments longer than almost any other metal). This research is one of the Golden Order's most closely guarded secrets, and the masters will go to almost any lengths to ensure that it is kept from the public, especially the Dwarfs and the Elves.
So in addition to being magic users of extraordinary skill, the Magisters of Chamon are also students of the sciences, seeking to explore the natural order of the universe, the unnatural orders of magic, and their effects upon one another. The Magisters of Chamon seek to find traces of the Aethyr they believe reside in all physical things and unlock its specific potential.
Magisters of Chamon are regarded as the finest and most accomplished alchemists in the Old World. They work closely with the Empire’s engineers and gunnery schools, seeking to create more efficient forms of black powder and stronger, lighter iron alloys for the casting of the Empire’s great cannons. They are also among the most capable manufacturers of magical weapons in the Old World, with the exception of the Dwarfs whose skills at weaponsmithing, magical or otherwise, eclipse even the greatest achievements of humans.
The Alchemy practised by the Golden Order is a blend of magic and chemistry, though the College’s Magister Alchemists regard it as a single field of study. Though Alchemy’s greatest scholars spend much of their time searching for hidden secrets of the nature of existence, in everyday terms their Alchemy is mostly used for creating potions with specific magical properties — for metallurgical research and experimentation and for creating chemical reagents and explosives. Most spells used by the Golden Order’s Magister Alchemists dismantle compounds, super-heat and super-cool elements, and create magical effects dictated and guided by blends of predictable and measurable alchemical compounds and their reactions.
Magister Alchemists tend to take a practical, scientific approach to their subject. Much of their work is not magical at all, but more concerned with chemistry, although the differences between magical ingredients and mundane ones are sometimes hazy. The Golden Order’s Magister Alchemists regard the Aethyr as the Prime Reagent; it reacts with everything and can cause change in absolutely everything. So they are interested in using the tiniest controlled amounts of magic in very specific ways to see if any predictable rules can be observed, such as whether a particular change will occur the same way and on the same substance if exactly the same amount of magic is used in exactly the same way.
This is not quite the same as weaving magic into a spell, which is a Magister imposing his will and desire upon magic to form it into something specific. In their research, the Magister Alchemists of the Golden Order do not seek to impose their will for a specific outcome onto a reaction between magic and some physical element because that defeats the purpose. They want to scientifically observe and record natural laws rather than create something from their own imaginations by using magic, something they regard as an art.
Because of the particular nature of their studies and because they are permitted and able to use magic to aid their investigations, the Magister Alchemists of the Golden Order have made advances in alchemical theory far beyond those of any other human civilisation in the Old World. Whereas the mundane alchemists of the Empire still harbour such traditional views as the Four Elements of Existence (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water), the Gold Magisters have used their magic to discover deeper physical truths.
Over the last two centuries, the great Magister Alchemists of the Golden Order have deduced all physical existence is made up of far more elements than the four of folklore and traditional science. Senior Gold Magisters have discovered and recorded what they refer to as the “True Elements” of existence: the simplest substances that all matter and gas can be broken down into. Through their obsessive analysis and magical experiments, the Golden Order’s Magister Alchemists have identified about ninety naturally occurring elements. They have also created a further sixteen compounds that are mixtures of True Elements and various Aethyric elements they have either released from within the elements or have bound to them (though gromril, ithilmar, and True Transmutation are still out of their reach).
Obviously, only Lord Magisters of the highest rank and experience are aware of these magnificent alchemical discoveries. Most initiates to the Order, not to mention the majority of its Magister Alchemists, still entertain various superstitious notions as to the elements of existence and the possibilities of science. Only the very greatest of these students of Magic and Alchemy will ever learn otherwise.
Rumour has it some of these great secrets have been stolen from the Golden Order in the past, most visibly when a pamphlet was released over ninety years ago by members of the Guild of Physical Alchemists discussing and mocking the “fantasies and delusions” of the “mystics and wizards” of the Golden Order. The few facts revealed in this pamphlet about the Golden Order’s studies were jumbled and poorly explained, but it was clear to the Lord Magisters of the Golden Order that these mundane alchemists had read or heard something of the Golden Order’s secret researches. Over the next few months, the people who wrote and printed the pamphlet met with terrible accidents in their laboratories: two gassed themselves with noxious fumes, one irreparably damaged his face and eyes in a minor explosion, and two more died in a fire that gutted only their laboratory and no others. Nothing was ever proven against the Golden Order, but afterwards, overt criticisms of their work dropped to a murmur.
Duties & Contracts
The Golden Order is the wealthiest of all the Colleges of Magic, but in many senses, they have to be. Because the College requires so many raw materials and substances to carry out its research and train its Apprentices, they are the net consumer of all raw and refined chemicals and compounds in the Empire.
The Golden Order has, over the last two and a half centuries, come to own the majority of respected alchemical schools and guilds across the Empire. These have become a kind of pre-College training ground for would-be Magisters where the lowest level Apprentices can perfect their basic alchemy skills by learning how to extract and purify chemicals and compounds from raw materials, and how to manufacture basics like pigments, inks, dyes, soaps, and glues. The more experienced and skilful of the mundane alchemists (those close to being accepted as being full apprentices to the Golden Order) produce large quantities of antidotes, medicines, and fine spirits and wines in between their more arcane studies. All the above, from the pigments to alcohol, are sold in bulk to merchants, noble houses, and other large organisations that know they can rely on the quality of products purchased from the Golden Order.
Only the Empire’s legitimate armies are permitted to benefit from the Gold Magisters’ expertise at making war substances like black powder and the resin and pitch mix that produces liquid fire.
Different Magister Alchemists specialise in different areas — some are more like chemists, dedicating their studies to the creation of potions, elixirs, and strange Aethyrically charged chemicals. Others run forges, smelting mundane and enchanted ores. Yet there are many different areas of study and expertise in the Golden Order, and almost every science, material and immaterial, is studied and practised to some degree within its walls.
The Gold Magisters work closely with the Imperial Engineers’ School and gunnery schools, always trying to create more efficient forms of black powder amongst other things. As the most capable human manufacturers of magical weapons on the continent, the Gold Magisters’ endeavours sometimes end up in the hands of powerful generals and nobles on the larger battlefields of the Empire where Imperial armies fight against foreign invaders, revolutionaries, secessionists, and the various beasts and creatures of the world that threaten the Empire. In battle, the scarce and highly valuable items manufactured by the Golden Order are usually distributed only to commanders and soldiers who might have special missions to fulfill. Other than these, the only people likely to be able to afford, or be permitted by law, to carry such enchanted items are those crucial to preserving Imperial lands and culture, such as nobility.
The Gold College
The Golden Order is the most financially successful of all the Colleges of Magic. Because it manufactures goods desired and needed by commercial, civil, and military establishments, the Golden Order earns a considerable amount of money, which, when added to the large endowments given by lords and merchants hoping to curry favour with the Magister Alchemists, results in the Gold Order being one of the wealthiest organisations in the Empire.[1e]
Unlike the buildings of the other Colleges of Magic in Altdorf, and contradicting the considerable wealth that its members can call upon, the buildings of the Golden Order are not rich, flamboyant, or mystical from the outside. They are more like several great and conjoined laboratories and foundries with many furnaces and tall chimneys, which belch coloured and sometimes bizarre, glowing smoke and steam into the air. The building is five stories high at its tallest point, and it’s a jumble of towers and courtyards with a maze of passages, laboratories, dormitories, forges, and reception halls. Near the back of the building, overlooking the River Reik from the fourth storey, are the private rooms of some of the great Lord Magisters of the Order, including the newly renovated laboratory of the Magister Patriarch himself, Balthasar Gelt.[1e]
It is much to the relief of the citizens of Altdorf that this College is not near the centre of the city but on the perimeter, by the River Reik. The fast-moving waters of the river have been diverted through well-protected underground channels to meet the needs of the laboratories and forges within, cooling the foundries and turning water wheels of uncertain purpose. As the waters flow back out to the river, they sometimes run with fantastic colours, likely after an elaborate, arcane experiment deep within the bowels of the College.[1e]
Unlike some of the other Colleges of Magic, the Golden Order’s College building is not hidden from view. Even so, few go near it because of the evil smells and thick vapours that perpetually surround it, vapours that Magister Alchemists appear unaware of and impervious to. Despite these circumstances, a small crowd of beggars often drift around as close as they dare to the College gates, even though the College’s guards sometimes chase them away. The beggars never try to solicit anything from those they think are Magisters but do beg from everyone else that goes to and from the College building. The College tends to receive many wealthy and important visitors, and the word on the street is that if you can tolerate the occasional clouds of noxious fumes and do not mind being too close to where witcheries are used, there are rich pickings near the Golden Order.[1e]
Contradicting its utilitarian appearance from the outside, the College’s formal reception rooms are luxurious, having rich carpets, heavy velvet curtains, deep, comfortable couches, and gilded statues of previous Patriarchs of the Golden Order. At the very centre of the College is a massive library with thousands of books dealing with everything there is to know about physical and metaphysical sciences, especially alchemy, metallurgy, and herbalism, as well as copies of the latest research papers of alchemists from across the world. Most of the books in this library are hand-copied—the market for them doesn’t justify the cost of printing—and many rare volumes in this library could sell for hundreds of Gold Crowns to a specialist buyer.[1e]
Beneath all this and in other wings of the College are dozens of laboratories full of strange devices and corridors scorched and pitted by spilt corrosives and molten alloys. These are where the Magister Alchemists of the Order do all their research into the realms of alchemical magic.[1e]
The laboratories are long, well-lit rooms. They may have rows of windows or skylights to let in as much light as possible and let out the numerous noxious vapours that build up inside. Some of the College’s Magister Alchemists working on particularly risky experiments do so in lead-lined cellars to control accidents. There are always workbenches in the laboratories and at least one furnace. If there is only one furnace, it is invariably of a two-chamber design, suitable for extracting ore, mixing, and purifying alloys. All the laboratories have good ventilation but still posses a noxious chemical odour.[1e]
The laboratories tend to be cluttered with shelves of equipment and racks of bells jars and other containers. These containers are generally made of glass or ceramics and are either made by a Magister Alchemist or specially commissioned from skilled craftsmen. This equipment includes, but is not limited to ceramic tiles and jugs, a bellows, several copper or brass cauldrons, a collection of stills, a mortar and pestle, at least one alembic, a water-bath, an ash-bath, an extremely large lamp, dishes, beakers, jars, phials, filters, strainers, ladles, stirring rods, and several pairs of hinged tongs of various sizes. There will also be glass bottles containing hundreds of chemicals in the form of liquids, salves, and powders. These supplies are considered the absolute minimum equipment for a working alchemist.[1e]
Apprentices to the Golden Order will spend the body of their apprentice lives actually studying in the College building, as opposed to with one mentor wherever that mentor lives. Yet many Gold Magisters keep their own households in the city and only come to the College to teach, study, and experiment. All the same, despite its massive size, the College’s dormitories are overcrowded.[1e][1f]
All apprentices are expected to spend their waking hours working in the laboratories as an assistant to a Magister and studying in the College’s huge library. As most Apprentices will have already been taught alchemy to a reasonable level in one of the lesser schools of mundane alchemy run by the Golden Order, apprentices will be expected to know the names and component parts of most of the chemicals the Magister asks for. Besides learning how to perceive and channel magic, as is the most pressing concern of all full apprentices to the Colleges, they will be expected to quickly learn all the beliefs of the Golden Order.[1f]
As with all the Colleges of Magic, long before an Apprentice is permitted to learn much of spells and how they are cast, they must first study and understand the theories of what magic is and how it works, spending long hours learning all the many dangers of magic and spellcraft and the history of their Order.
With few exceptions, the Golden Order tends to only accept apprentices with a background in alchemy, metallurgy, or herbalism, or those with a truly exceptional gift with the Yellow Wind of Magic. As such, the Golden Order recruits mostly from the smaller schools and guilds of alchemists they control throughout the Empire.
Just like their mentors, senior Apprentices are expected to take part in alchemical and magical research, discussion, and criticism. Those who embrace and study Chamon find themselves drawn to teaching as well as acquiring knowledge, which mean that it is standard practice throughout the Golden Order for senior apprentices to teach the basics of various alchemical processes to newer apprentices.
- Balthasar Gelt - Current Magister Patriarch of the Golden Order, and Supreme Patriarch to the Colleges of Magic.
- Benedict Stross - Magister who tried replacing his missing limb with living gold.
- Gotthilf Puchta - previous Magister Patriarch of the Golden Order.
- Theodor Habermas - 3rd Magister Patriarch of the Golden Order, created the Empire's first Power Stone.
- Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Realms of Sorcery (pg. 89-98).
- 2: Warhammer Fantasy Storm of Magic
- 2a: pg. 37
- 3: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 4th ED -- Core Rulebook
- 3a: pg. 230