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“The Gunnery School is a centre of excellence, where the nation's greatest artillerymen are trained and cannons forged.”
—Description of the Gunnery School[4a]
Warhammer Imperial Gunnery School Banner

Banner of the Gunnery School

Nuln is famed as the home of the Imperial Gunnery School, a sprawling network of forges, smelteries and industrial factories where veteran gunsmiths manufacture and maintain the Imperial artillery trains. Now, they even maintain Altdorf's engineering treasures, the remaining steam tanks, which is something of a coup! Many armies send their artillerymen to the Imperial Gunnery School to learn the art of ballistics, as crews trained inside the smog-shrouded city are highly valued by their commanders.[4a]

Overview

The Imperial Gunnery School in Nuln is the biggest cannon foundry in the Empire and nearly every artillery piece employed by the Emperor's armies is cast there. It is a gigantic complex of forges and workshops, and the Elector Counts spend much of their wealth to acquire the Gunnery School's finest artillery pieces. In addition, it is there that the majority of the Emperor's gunners and artillery crews receive their training.[3a]

Far more successful than the ill-conceived College of Engineering, the Imperial Gunnery School is not only Nuln’s most famous attraction, but it’s also the most breathtaking example of Nuln’s innovative architectural skills. A huge sprawling building with towers kissing the clouds, leering gargoyles, and gigantic flying buttresses, the Imperial Gunnery School draws visitors who just wish to see it, to say nothing of the nobles who send their sons to study here. Created for the purpose of training artillery crews and Pistoliers, the finest soldiers receive their training in these celebrated halls.[2a]

The School itself dominates the centre of the Universität, dwarfing the College of Engineering and the lesser institutions crowded in its shadows. A large part of the school’s grounds are given over to shooting ranges, and throughout the days the crack of gunfire echoes throughout the city. Cannon are test-fired from Aver Island or beyond the city walls. In addition to the ranges, the school also has several large lecture halls, dormitories, and smaller classrooms.[2a]

In addition to the training, the Imperial Gunnery School is where the city casts artillery, taking ore from the Industrielplatz and constructing new cannons here. The finest cannons in the world come from the forges of Nuln, as do the best master gunners who serve in the armies of all the Elector Counts.[2a]

The citizens are very proud of the school, celebrating the day of the school’s founding, and bragging to visitors of its excellence and importance to the Empire. Part of the reason for the loyalty to the school is because of the school’s efforts to care for orphans. Called “sons of the guns,” these unwanted children serve as workers and apprentices.[2b]

Description

Imperial Gunnery School coutyard

The entrance to the courtyard of the Imperial Gunnery School

The Gunnery School is an imposing sight. An 18-foot high wall surrounds the grounds on three sides, with the 20-foot high city wall making up the fourth. The School overlooks the Aver River and has a commanding view of Aver Island, where much of the actual gunnery practice takes place. The walls are cut limestone blocks, blackened from two centuries of soot and river air. Two 25-foot high towers mark the intersections of the shorter north and east walls with the longer east wall, which also features the main gate. The school grounds form an uneven rectangle in front of the walls, widening slightly where the city wall follows the line of the river. Inside the walls are barracks-style dorms, a large courtyard for drills not involving the discharge of weapons, and smithies lying in low buildings along the riverside. The entire length of the wall bristles with cannon and several mortars are mounted on wheeled carriages in the centre of the courtyard, with large stacks of heavy stone cannonballs nearby. A pair of Hellblaster Volley Guns guards the front gate from within. A large multi-story building occupies the north wall; within its basements are the kitchens, the great hall (which doubles as the students’ mess hall) on the ground floor, the classrooms on the next level, and the quarters of the staff on the top floor. The west wall has only one gate: a man-sized door leading out to a narrow wooden staircase that descends to the river. A small dock is located there, with two or three small rowboats moored to the dock at any given time.[1b]

History

“Three things make The Empire great – faith, steel and gunpowder
Magnus the Pious, Emperor of Nuln[3a]

Artillery has long been in use in the Emperor’s armies. The great city state of Nuln has forged much of it’s wealth from the booming cannon that are the pride of many an Imperial regiment. Despite the terrible reputation for explosions, jams and failure, blackpowder weapons are regarded with affection by many a nobles, both for their impressive noise and their Dwarf origin. Developed and perfected by the Dwarfs as a response to the devastating incursion of a massive Greenskin horde under Gorbad Ironclaw, blackpowder weapons look very effective, and that alone, for some folks, is enough to justify their presence within the Imperial arsenal.[1a]

At first, Imperial guns were entirely the product of Dwarf Engineers expelled from the Dwarfen Engineers’ Guild for spreading radical ideas. Offered substantial amounts of gold and land by powerful Imperial nobles, these expatriate Dwarfs set about to construct the best guns possible under primitive conditions and often with only clueless Humans to assist them. Eventually, Humans learned the art of their manufacture and began to design their own weapons. Some recent developments include the Hellblaster Volley Gun and Imperial Steam Tank.[1a]

Nuln was selected as the site for the Imperial Ordnance Foundry for several reasons. First of all, it was a prosperous town on several trade routes, meaning that raw materials were easy to obtain and that finished products could be transported to all corners of the Empire with reasonable speed. Nuln also had a large bell foundry for the manufacture of church and municipal bells, which was easily converted to the casting of guns. In addition, Dwarfs had by this time become a well-established minority in the city, so qualified labour was in ample supply there.[1a]

The first foundry and gunnery school was established in the century leading up to the Great War Against Chaos. The Dwarf engineers were permitted by the Dwarfen Engineers’ Guild to share their casting secrets with the Humans so long as the magical Runelore was kept secret from them, never to be used to embellish Human weapons. In addition, a hefty tithe was required of the exiled engineers by the Guild. The Empire paid it happily, for they were desperate for an edge against the hordes of Orcs that routinely overran Imperial borders in the south. The coffers of the Count of Wissenland were completely emptied several times in a span of 10 years by the demands of the construction, but in the end he was able to recoup his costs threefold in less than a decade following its completion. Today, the Imperial Gunnery School is the best place for a Human to learn to operate guns, particularly artillery pieces, and is also nearly the only place outside of Dwarf foundries where such guns are manufactured.[1a]

Sons of the Guns

The Gunnery School has had a long relationship with the city’s orphaned boys, teaching them the necessary skills to be tradesmen, artisans, and gunners, and seeing to it they not only receive training and upkeep, but also a modest education in the basics of math and literacy. Besides the many who go on to become soldiers, engineers, gunsmiths or artillerists, many are hired on as secretaries, scribes and heralds by noble houses, and more than a few serve with distinction in government circles as clerks and secretaries in the vast Imperial bureaucracy.[1b]

Typically, Sons of the Guns have already been up for an hour by the time Morning Salute is fired, and have had breakfast, tended the forges to bring the fires back up to full, and taken care of dozens of small chores necessary for the day’s learning to proceed smoothly.[1b]

Sons of the Guns are as much apprentices as they are students, and their chores help them earn their education. Sons may also take on extra chores to reduce their debt to the school; particularly ambitious Sons might even work hard enough be debt-free upon graduation, but those cases are extremely rare.[1b]

The Temple of Verena handles most of the city’s orphaned girls, but it’s not unheard of for a girl showing sufficient interest or aptitude to be sponsored at the school by one of the Masters or by an interested noble. She may then learn any of the various trades taught at the Gunnery School—even gunnery itself. Great care is taken to ensure her safety, including her separation from the rowdier male students and the granting of a level of privacy lacking in typical all-male dorms.[1b]

Sons of the Guns and sons of nobles typically don’t mix socially. Besides having their own dormitory, private cooks and better food, children of nobility tend to look down on orphans, not to mention most of the staff, as being inferior. The staff is keenly aware of the rivalry, and act quickly and decisively to dissuade it from escalating. Fights are actionable offences, resulting in extra (and particularly unpleasant) chores, suspension for a week or more, and in the worst cases, expulsion. Serious infractions (theft, murder, and other capital crimes) are turned over to the city authorities for prosecution. It perhaps goes without saying that in these cases, and often regardless of guilt or innocence, Sons of the Guns tend to fare far worse than their highborn counterparts.[1b]

The Guns of Nuln

Three types of field pieces are cast at the Gunnery School: cannons, mortars, and the Hellblaster Volley Gun, along with hundreds of smaller weapons, pistols and handguns. Since each weapon is individually cast by hand, repairs must be made to fit the piece. Cannon, Hellblasters and mortars that burst or crack cannot be mended, and are brought back to the Gunnery School’s foundries to be melted down, mixed with new metal, and cast into new field pieces. These weapons are typically made of bronze.[1b]

The Master Alchemist oversees the gunpowder mix and maintains a stock of its required ingredients from local suppliers sufficient for a year’s heavy use. Ammunition is cast on site. A shot tower is used to form the bullets for hand-held weapons, while moulds are used for the cannonballs for cannon and Hellblasters. Mortars more often use shaped stone balls rather than the more expensive iron projectiles, as well as cannon and Hellblaster Volley Guns in a pinch. Stonemasons are often hired to accompany an army expecting to lay siege, their duties being to find and work a local quarry from which these balls can be cut.[1b]

Bells are also still cast at the School foundries, helping to supplement the School’s, and thusly Nuln’s, income.[1b]

The Curriculum

Every student is taught the basics of caring for all manner of firearms: how to clean and oil them when not in use, how to prepare them for travel, and how to perform temporary field repairs. Students are also taught the art of siege craft, including making siege engines like catapults, ballistae and siege towers from scratch in the field.[1b]

Numerous skills can be learned here, but the price is high. Potential students must first meet with a senior Son of the Guns to determine the desired course of study, then compare their desires to the available openings in the given year. A person seeking to enter only one specific class to augment existing knowledge is charged at a higher rate per subject studied than one seeking to immerse himself completely in the study of gunnery, but are also less likely to be turned away if classes are full. Such students are not offered food or lodgings at the school.[1b]

Tuition

The tuition rate is decided upon by the Council of Masters of the Mechanic’s Guild—top instructors at the school who all have achieved unparalleled success at their given avocation. Typically, the Master for any given discipline sets the tuition for classes within his area of expertise.[1c]

Sons of the Guns who volunteer for extra work detail have their rate halved. Students who cannot pay at all are not thrown out if they show promise; rather, they must sign a document pledging their service to the Imperial Army as a gunner for a period of no less than 10 years. Gunners typically earn three times more than the average foot soldier. A gunner in such a situation has half of his or her wages garnished until the debt is paid.[1c]

The Daily Routine

The firing of the morning salute is the signal for the majority of students to rise. Before breakfast, students must join in mandatory callisthenics led by the Drill Master, which culminates in running three laps around the central courtyard of the school. Those who are fleet of foot may spend that much more time eating, which is seen as a significant incentive. Breakfast is immediately followed by target practice with handheld firearms. Next come lessons in mathematics and reading, followed by heavy gun drill or forge work in the afternoon, with clean-up duties preceding dinner. There is no break for lunch.[1c]

No one is exempt from clean-up or messy work; if a noble wishes to study here, he must endure the same privations as everyone else, and the sponsoring parents or nobles must sign an agreement that they understand and agree to these terms. Highborn students do have considerably more comfortable lodgings and better food, but there is no shirking work at the school.[1c]

Summer is for teaching gunnery itself: target practice, speed loading and firing drills, and learning how to best transport the guns from place to place in times of war. Winter is for maintenance: learning to repair and maintain the guns and their carriages, learning the alchemy behind producing gunpowder, forging new guns, and so forth. All students participate in the same winter routines, though not all pupils study to be gunners, so for non-artillery students the summer drill is very much the same as in winter. No matter the season, the forges are never allowed to go out, though they are allowed to burn down a bit overnight.[1c]

The Council of Masters of the Mechanic’s Guild is a lifetime appointment, barring severe injury, retirement, or departure of the master. Recommendations are made to the Council by each of the three departments—gunners, smiths and engineers— and are voted on by the Council members and subject to approval of Countess Emmanuelle von Liebwitz, the current Elector Countess and patron of the school.[1c]

The Headmaster runs the School, and is responsible for taking commissions for guns from the various Elector Counts to bolster their armies in support of the Empire. The Headmaster must not only administer the school, but must also be a shrewd businessman. His negotiating skills mean the difference between a good year and a lean one for the school.[1c]

The Foundry Master controls every aspect of casting the Guns of Nuln, and is an important member of the community for that reason. He is highly skilled in all aspects of gun production. His job is to oversee production and make sure projects stay on schedule. This is as much an administrative position as a skilled trade, and the current Foundry Master, while largely unknown outside of Nuln, is something of a celebrity inside the city’s walls. The Foundry Master is also required to be a diplomat, smoothing injured pride and easing flaring tempers fanned by 102 Chapter XI: Bring Up the Guns! the heat of the forges. The Foundry Master is the final arbiter of any disputes; his word is law within the Gunnery School, and carries weight outside of it as well.[1c][1d]

The Gunnery Master teaches his pupils the art of using artillery on the battlefield, with an emphasis on precision and safety. Students are taught how to accurately calculate distances and elevations for siege work, and how to fire effectively while under a simulation of direct attack on a battlefield. The Gunnery Master oversees physical training, makes assignments for the Daily Salute schedule, makes recommendations of students worthy to take on field assignments as gunners in the army, and sees to it that gunnery students receive no less than an adequate education in the use of all standard Imperial artillery weapons.[1d]

Traditions

What follows is an overview of the important traditions recognised by the School.[1d]

Daily Salutes

Students of the gunnery school have the importance of timing impressed upon them from an early age. One of the most longstanding traditions of the school is the morning and evening salute. One hour after dawn and one hour before sunset, the largest gun in the school is fired to signal the time to all within hearing distance. The report is easily heard by everyone within the city of Nuln itself and the sound often carries two miles or more up and down the Reik and Aver rivers, depending on weather conditions. No projectile of any kind is loaded into the weapon for this purpose; the explosion of the powder and wadding alone is loud enough to mark the time, and the lack of ammunition reduces the chance of injury. Each student is assigned a day to man the gun for the daily salutes, with senior students typically acting as supervisors and standing duty for a full week. Those standing the daily salute watch are typically treated well during their term; extra food and beer rations are provided for the day or week.[1d]

Black Powder Week

This festival marks the end of the full gunnery season and the cessation of outdoor gunnery practice for the winter. The Mechanic’s Guild spends months leading up to the event procuring the necessary supplies for the event. Every day for Black Powder week, the Sons come to the gates of the Gunnery School at noon with baskets full of firecrackers, sparklers, and smoke bombs, and pass out handfuls of fireworks to anyone who asks. The Senior Sons spend the time after dinner and before bed cramming gunpowder and fuses into paper wrappers for the next day’s handouts, all under the watchful eyes of the Council of Masters. Originally designed as a means to get rid of leftover powder before it grew old and unstable, it’s now a celebration of the end of the year and the coming of winter.[1d]

Feast of Verena

Once a year, the Countess Emmanuelle holds a great feast to honour the Mechanics Guild for bringing so much trade and prestige to the city. The school practically empties out for this feast, held in her palace ballroom. First-year students are not invited, though many sneak in anyway, and the palace guards tend to turn a blind eye to such infractions. Guild members are expected to turn out in their best finery for this event, and many Nuln tailors make a nice living off their commissions for the feast.[1d]

Iron Silence

Tradition states that when a gun cools, any loud noise could cause a flaw in the cooling metal. Just before a newly cast gun is set to cool, special bells with highly recognizable tones ring out in the Industrialplatz, and for an hour afterwards, the city is mostly silent—no carts, wagons, or carriages move, conversations and business are transacted in whispers, and gunnery practice is suspended until the hour has past. Then the Silence Bells ring out once more, and everything returns to normal. During time of war, the Silence Bells ring several times a day. Typically, though, they ring three to five times a week.[1d]

Gun Christening

Each time a new gun is finished, the Mechanics Guild holds a brief ceremony of naming. The Countess sends the name by special courier to the Foundry days in advance so it can be inscribed on the gun, and the reigning Guildmaster, Erich Stahlheim, arrives to dribble a bit of sacred oil over the barrel. If the oil runs off the right side of the barrel, the gun will be a great siege weapon, inflicting great destruction on buildings and structures. If the oils runs to the left, the gun will be ferocious in battle, sending many foes to their end. If the oil should pool on top of the barrel, disaster is foretold. This omen heralds flaws in the gun that will most likely claim the lives of her crew as well as any other targets. Those guns are frequently retired from active service immediately.[1d]

Siege Parades

Siege trains herald a time of increased revenue for the city, and are carried off with great fanfare. All businesses close for the day except public houses, which open after the parade has cleared the city gates. Nulners come out by the thousands to send off a siege train and to bid farewell to their loved ones going off to war.[1d]

The School and Nuln's Economy

In addition to the direct monetary contribution it makes to the coffers of Nuln, the Gunnery School provides a substantial indirect boost to the economy of the area as a whole. Many people travel to Nuln to attend the school or to purchase firearms, and they need food, lodgings and supplies while travelling. The school itself provides jobs for dozens of woodcutters, miners, coopers, wheelwrights, carpenters and other skilled tradesmen not in residence at the school. Farmers sell tons of grain, produce, milk and meats to the School’s kitchens to keep the students well fed. The Gunnery School is the lynchpin of Nuln’s economy.[1d]

Notable Locations

The Imperial Gunnery School affects every part of Nuln, but its influence can be most strongly felt in proximity to the campus grounds.[1d]

Aver Island

This island is used for live practice with the heavy guns. Strict rules of conduct must be followed while on or near the island during practices, as injury and death come too easily under such circumstances. Practices follow a set schedule, which is posted a week in advance in the town square.[1e]

The Gunner's Arms

This public house is the favourite of off-duty artillerists and gunners. Underage Gunnery School students are forbidden to enter the premises on pain of suspension (though they are only ever turned in for this infraction if involved in a fight or other serious offence), but adult students, soldiers and members of the School staff are more than welcome. The beer here is good, the food average, and the company pleasant if boisterous.[1e]

House of the Yellow Boot

This cosy rooming house features comfortable rooms and quiet meals. Alcohol is not served here, which makes it unpopular as a local social spot, but which makes it a perfect place of rest for adventurers desiring peace and quiet. The second and third floors have guest rooms, while the ground floor boasts a small dining area and common room. The family running the inn sleep in a small ground floor room separated from the front desk by a discreet curtain. Horses may be brought into a courtyard for the night via the hallway between the front desk and the stairs. Rooms range from a place in the common room on the far side of the courtyard to a large sleeping room with attached parlour. Prices include a hearty breakfast, and are not negotiable.[1e]

Notable Members

The Imperial Gunnery School is home to many students and faculty. Notable individuals of the school are described below.[1e]

Sources

  • 1: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: The WFRP Companion (2nd Edition)
    • 1a: pg. 99
    • 1b: pg. 100
    • 1c: pg. 101
    • 1d: pg. 102
    • 1e: pg. 103
    • 1f: pg. 104
    • 1g: pg. 105
  • 2: Warhammer Fantasy RPG - Forges of Nuln (2nd Edition)
    • 2a: pg. 21
    • 2b: pg. 22
  • 3: Warhammer Armies: The Empire (8th Edition)
    • 3a: pg. 48

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