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"Most people hide behind their walls and stay in their villages, fearful to step out onto the roads that connect our settlements like islands of light in a sea of darkness. We are the watchful eyes that keep these slender threads of civilisation safe."
Marco der Alt.[2a]

A vigilant Roadwarden.

Roadwardens are the local law-enforcement force created and assigned the important duty of protecting valuable trade and commercial travel within the Empire's web of roads and trade routes. Shortly after Sigmar ordered the construction of the roads to Talabheim and Nuln, it was immediately clear that unless there were soldiers to protect these routes, travel would be impossible. In those days, the gravest threats stemmed from the Greenskins who proved a constant source of destruction for both the Humans and the Dwarfs. But the Emperor, in his wisdom, also realised that not all provinces were as densely populated as Reikdorf, and many lacked the manpower and resources to provide constant security. So the Emperor dispatched his personal soldiers to patrol the roads during their construction, empowering them with the authority to mete justice in accordance with the law.[2a]

Since the heady days of the early Empire, the guardians of the roads and rivers changed. No longer were these men and women an extension of the Emperor's will. The Elector Counts funded these individuals from their own coffers, and gradually the Roadwardens as they came to be known, evolved into the lawmen they are today. In a sense, Roadwardens are the State Army of the wilderness. They patrol the roads in small groups, searching for signs of Beastmen and outlaws, doing their best to establish some semblance of order in the land. Unfortunately, the Roadwardens are too few on their own to effectively contain Chaos and the threats of the wilderness. So, most make use of local militias and garrisons to aid them. Failing that, Roadwardens must face the darkness alone—depleting their numbers even further.[2a]

Fighting the horrors of the night is a dangerous business, and the effects of long service take their toll on these men. Many Roadwardens become vicious zealots, condemning the accused to death on flimsy evidence. Others go mad and embrace the Dark Gods, joining those they oppose. Each moral failure adds to Old Worlders distrust and suspicion, making the job of the uncorrupted soldiers all the harder. In addition to the Roadwardens, the Empire makes use of a specialised force that operates fast-moving boats to patrol the Empire's waterways. Where Roadwardens fight outlaws and brigands, the River Patrols combat pirates and smugglers. Though slavery is nominally illegal in the Empire, there are some disreputable merchants who buy Bretonnian Peasants and smuggle them into the country to work in their fields or factories. The River Patrol tends to operate on the River Reik near the larger cities, and leaving the stretches between all the more dangerous.[2a]


"Indeed, these men mean well but lack the conviction and the resolve to face down anything more than brigands. Why, Roadwardens are little better than the outlaws they hunt! But, in a fight, they're good companions."
Kleber Reinhard, Witch Hunter.[2a]

The Empire is an enormous and wild place. Outside of the major cities, the impact and presence of its citizens drops off quickly, giving way to mile after mile of untamed forest and lonely hollows. All manner of danger lurks in these savage places, waiting to prey on the unwary and ill prepared. Normal bandits and highwaymen are easily the most common, but least dangerous threat that travellers can expect to encounter. Greenskins, Beastmen, and even minions of Chaos hold sway in the places avoided by good citizens of the Empire.[1a]

The trails and roads that cut through the wilderness are a double-edged sword for the Empire. While these narrow paths help connect distant towns, villages, and cities together, they also serve as a magnet for evil creatures, thieves, and murderers alike. In order to protect the roads and those who travel on them, the citizens of the Empire rely on the Roadwardens to patrol, acting as troubleshooters that allow the goods and people to travel safely from place to place. These brave Roadwardens are few in number, but vitally important. Without them, the Empire would surely falter and succumb to the many enemies that seek to see it and all of Humanity destroyed.[1a]


The Roadwardens patrol the roadways that interlink the far-flung villages and cities of the Empire. They serve many roles: scouts for larger forces, sheriffs empowered with the might of the law, and warriors who take on bandits, Orcs, Beastmen, and worse threats head on. Some Roadwardens claim a single stretch of road as their charge, while others place a vast swath of land under their protection. Their knowledge of the land and its inhabitants means that Roadwardens are often consulted for information or asked to do dual duty as couriers, shuttling messages from settlement to settlement as they make their rounds.[1a]

Roadwardens put their lives on the line every day. Considering the relatively dismal pay, dangerous working conditions, and long stretches of time away from civilization, only those with an iron will and solid dedication to the safety of the Empire last for long. Of course, the exploits of valiant (or notorious) Roadwardens are celebrated in legend and song, so the lure of fame and adventure helps to bring in new recruits.[1a]


While there have always been individuals and small groups of citizens that have patrolled the highways and meandering roads of the Empire, there was never a concerted effort to combine their efforts or pool together resources and knowledge. All of this changed in the year 1706 IC when Emperor Sigismund IV received numerous letters and warnings from counts in Stirland about numerous deaths, robberies, and disappearances along its roadways. By his decree, those already patrolling the roads on behalf of their local leaders were granted a new status as official Roadwardens and given writs that gave them impressive legal powers in order to help stop banditry. Little did Emperor Sigismund realize that the real reason for the problems were not Human bandits, but raids by Orcs and Goblins in preparation for their massive assault on the Empire in 1707 IC, led by the Orc Warlord Gorbad Ironclaw. Averland, the Mootland, and Wissenland (then Solland) were decimated, Nuln sacked, and Sigismund himself killed in battle a year later.[1a]

Although their patron had died, the Roadwardens helped to push back the onslaught of Orcs and protected vital supplies coming from the west. After the Orcs had been destroyed, the Roadwardens, now official and flush with men drafted to their cause, flourished and spread throughout the Empire. Every province drafted their own laws that required a certain number of Roadwardens to patrol the highways and roads of their realm.[1a]

Road Wardens.png

Over the years, the power and authority of the Roadwardens has waxed and waned, depending on who was sitting on the throne, money and manpower available, and the current political mood. Scholars have noted that the more corrupt or incompetent the Emperor, the more lax the Roadwardens who were charged in protecting His roads. For example, in the year 2101 IC, corrupt Roadwardens in Nordland brought commerce to a grinding halt when a charismatic leader named Abelhard Trachsel turned several bands into a highly competent army of brigands, known as "Trachsel's Rough Riders". It took a combination of Knights and Outriders from the Imperial Army over two years to round up the last of the Trachsel's ex-Roadwarden force. When finally captured, parts of Trachsel's body were sent to Roadwardens throughout the Empire as a reminder of what happens when they exceeded their authority. This dark time is something that every recruit is reminded of and few ever speak of openly.[1a] Otherwise, Roadwardens abound in the history of the Empire, with particularly brave and diligent individuals serving as the basis for many fireside stories and epic tales filled with hyperbole. One such example is the man known as "Felix the Black". This rakish Roadwarden dressed in the finest black clothing and carried a brace of pistols that were a gift from the Dwarf Lords of Karaz-a-Karak. According to legend, Felix the Black and has ebon horse could move a hundred miles each night and his accuracy was such that he could, from a hundred yards away, shoot the buckles off of a bandit's belt, causing his pants to fall to his feet. He single-handedly captured dozens of notorious brigands, killed the foul Beastman known as Ungeror Three Horn and his massive herd, and saved nearly a hundred young maidens from certain doom. Despite the obvious exaggerations, Felix the Black did exist, nearly two hundred and fifty years ago, and was responsible for many heroic deeds. Most Roadwardens love the stories of this legendary figure and add their own embellishments when in their cups. Most strive to be spoken of in such high regard in the years to come.[1b]


Depending on where it is located, the structure of a band of Roadwardens varies wildly. Each Roadwarden is assigned to a band, and receives aid, supplies, and orders from the leader of this band, typically called the Captain. However, by law, each Roadwarden is autonomous and truly answerable only to the Emperor himself, although in reality most Roadwardens work under the guidance of some local noble or Count. The bulk of Roadwardens are content to join into bands, although some prefer working alone and even without a preset jurisdiction.[1c]

Bands of Roadwardens that patrol the busiest, and most important, routes of the Empire are far more hierarchical and structured than those in the hinterlands. These include the Old North Road, the Old Dwarf Road, and the roadways that follow the mighty Rivers Reik, Stir, Talabec, and Delb. The Roadwardens of these routes structure their bands to more closely resemble the military, with each Roadwarden reporting to an immediate superior. Their titles vary, but include lieutenant, Head Roadwarden, and Band Leader. These leaders in turn report to the Captain. A typical band has eight to twelve Roadwardens, divided into threes or fours. These small groups are then assigned a particular stretch of road to patrol and are tasked with familiarizing themselves with every hollow and switchback, and other important landmarks. Every Roadwarden band has some place that it uses as a base of operations, which may simply be the house of one of its members. Many are small keeps or large roadhouses, or even the castles and lodges of nobles that have given permission for the Roadwardens to take up residence within one of their outbuildings.[1c]

Roadwardens located in the more distant portions of the Empire run things a bit differently. On some stretches of road, particularly in the more remote stretches of Ostermark, Nordland, or Ostland, a single Roadwarden may be the only one working in a dozen leagues. These Roadwardens do not rely on their fellow comrades for assistance, but call upon local militiamen, young Outriders, and just about anyone else to help them out. Each Roadwarden ostensibly reports to a superior, but again, the sheer distance of these outposts means that they may only receive orders through couriers or simply dictate their own duties as they see fit. Given the desperate need for such individuals, the Empire has so far been content to let them do their work without much hassle.[1c]

The bases, or houses, of the Roadwardens have their own inner hierarchies, although the structure varies wildly depending on how many people each supports. Most are set up like typical country keeps, with a majordomo overseeing the day-to-day operations, who gives orders to the servants, who keep the place clean, fed, and protected. Large and successful Roadwarden bases are lucky to have their own small contingent of able-bodied men-at-arms who man the gates and can jump in the saddle when requested by the Roardwardens' captain. While nowhere near as proficient of riders as the Roadwardens, they are nonetheless appreciated when their comrades are in need of additional eyes and weapons when in pursuit of a fugitive, or when a mob of Orcs and Goblins has been spotted rampaging across the countryside.[1c]

Roadwardens on the Edge of Empire

Although the Roadwardens are charged with protecting the highways and thoroughfares inside the Empire, there are some brave (some say insane) individuals who patrol the passes and pilgrim trails that lead to lands outside the confines of the Empire proper. In particular, there are many routes that wind their ways through the Grey Mountains, bound for Bretonnia, Tilea, or the region of the Border Princes. The ancient roads leading into the Worlds Edge Mountains are all that connect the reclusive holds of the Dwarfs with the Empire. Small numbers of Roadwardens claim these mountain passes as their domain—they are relatively short on the map, but fraught with dangers unseen in the forests and glens of the Empire far below. These Roadwardens typically learn how to speak Khazalid (or Eltharin if their route takes them into the Loren Forest) in order to communicate with the non-Humans that they encounter. If the typical Roadwarden is a tough individual, the Roadwardens who travel the mountains are made from flinty rock, learning to deal with rockslides, harsh weather, and the strange monsters that live only in these barren areas. Some even eschew horses in favour of sure-footed mules and donkeys to navigate the narrow paths and sheer climbs that are common on the routes they protect.[1c]

Roadwardens Beyond

Most nations outside the Empire have their own version of Roadwardens. Those found in Bretonnia are the most similar in size, scope, and purpose to their counterparts in the Empire.[1c][1d]

The Roadwardens of Estalia are notoriously, even famously, corrupt, and are despised by most people who travel the roads between major cities. On the other hand, Roadwardens in Tilea have a reputation as steely-eyed gunmen who take the concept of justice very seriously. A small band of Roadwardens who patrol the highway between Remas and Scozzese keep their identities secret and are simply known as the "Men With No Names" by the locals; they are revered in story and song.[1c][1d]

Roadwardens in the Border Princes are little more than local militia, patrolling the relatively small parcels of land controlled by their liege. Travellers expecting to cross the length of the Border Princes must undergo the scrutiny of dozens of Roadwardens as they move through each miniature kingdom.[1c][1d]

Roadwardens and the Law

Roadwardens are considered "free roaming lawmen" in the eyes of the Empire, with powers that let them move freely through the internal borders of the land and give them the ability to detain and question almost everyone. However, the vast majority of Roadwardens are chosen for their ability in the saddle and skill in tracking and weapons, rather than their ability to accurately interpret the law. Indeed, few Roadwardens are literate, and most have never seen a book of law (let alone a book) in their lives. Because of this, most Roadwardens try to become familiar with laws and customs in the areas that they patrol so as not to inadvertently run afoul of legal problems. Roadwardens are content to allow local authorities capture and hold onto criminals whenever possible, whilst they focus on the dangers out on the open road far from civilization.[1d]

Goals and Motives

Although the activities of the Roadwardens are difficult and taxing, the goals of the organisation are simple—protect the citizens and goods of the Empire as they travel on its roadways. They constantly patrol the lengths of highway that connect the cities of Humans together, sometimes taking weeks to make a trek, just to turn around and do it all over again, day in and day out. The Roadwarden is first and foremost a troubleshooter, and actively finds trouble in hopes of eliminating it before it can harm others. They make contacts with the locals along their routes to gather information and learn about potential threats, or to discover the whereabouts of outposts or hiding places of bandits.[1d]

Every Roadwarden has his own personal reasons for joining the organisation. Most take up the mantle to help keep their immediate home territory safe. These are the ideologues of the Roadwardens, who see themselves as the only protection that travellers might have out on the road. They usually take pride in the work they do and see the time spent and hardships endured a small price to pay to keep their homes and loved ones from harm. Some of these Roadwardens are far more bitter and jaded, having seen what happens when brigands, bandits, and worse threats are allowed to use the roadways of the Empire against its citizens—their burnt homes and murdered kin bolster their resolve to never see it happen again.[1d]

Other Roadwardens are enamored with the freedom that comes with taking this career or the excitement of chasing down criminals, bandits, and Highwaymen. They enjoy the respect and authority that the position provides, and the pints of ale raised in their honor by grateful travellers in taverns and roadhouses. Another portion relishes the power that comes with the title of Roadwarden and takes delight in bossing around citizens and making them pay their tolls. Then there are the brutes and sadists who enjoy the impunity of rounding up, beating, and killing bandits, brigands, and Greenskins. For them, the day isn’t complete without a fight.[1d]

Symbols and Signs

The Roadwardens have their own set of symbols, signs, calls, and warnings that are used to communicate with their comrades. Most of these signs are marks set along a roadway to indicate particular dangers and the like, carved into trees or formed into branches. For example, an "X" with a line beneath it means that bandits are known to frequent a given area—each line representing 10 known enemies. A fanged maw symbolizes Greenskins. Instead of arrows marked in the ground (which proves too easy for others to interpret) to indicate a direction, stones, logs, or other natural items are stacked in a line, starting small and increasing in size to point in the desired direction. A stylized skull indicates Undead, while actual skulls lain in a particular manner tell other Roadwardens the type of foes that frequent the area.[1d]

In addition to the symbols they leave for their comrades, Roadwardens also have their own secret codes and "test phrases" that are used whilst out on patrol in order to identify themselves or convey covert information in the presence of suspects. One scenario that frequently occurs is when bandits capture a coach or caravan and then pass themselves off as the rightful owners when confronted by investigating Roadwardens. If a Roadwarden deduces the ploy, he’ll use the phrase "they seem as solid as Sigmar" to alert his comrades, who will then wait for the right moment to strike by surprise.[1d]

To aid in identifying themselves in the darkness, every Roadwarden sets out with a few known passwords and uses it to challenge lone riders who may have disguised themselves as a fellow Roadwarden. Many Roadwardens also learn a number of animal calls and bird whistles to communicate amongst their numbers.[1d]


Because of their relatively small numbers, Roadwardens must be tough, resourceful, and self-reliant. Roadwardens spend the vast majority of their lives out on the open road, constantly on the move whilst tracking bandits or scouting alongside caravans, bands of pilgrims, and coaches. Most are content to ply the roads on their own, but many prefer travelling with a companion Roadwarden or in small groups.[1d]

After a Roadwarden has passed his recruitment phase, he immediately is given a territory to patrol. Depending on the area and the particular road, a Roadwarden could be responsible for a few scant, but heavily travelled miles, or several leagues of seldom used, but still important, paths. Over the years, a veteran Roadwarden usually takes on additional territory or moves to new areas where his expertise can be passed on to newer members. Roadwardens are consummate riders and can coax their animals to the extreme end of their capabilities. When on patrol, a Roadwarden can expect to spend all day in the saddle, getting off only to feed and water his mount. Most become experts in the care of horses and are exacting in the mount that they choose, knowing that they will rely on the beast with their lives. They are skilled with surviving in the wild, and some eventually turn their back on the more civilized lands to find solace in the quiet forests.[1d]

When speaking of the Roadwardens as an organisation, it is easy to assume that all its members belong to the Roadwarden career path. While it is easily the most common career, the strange circumstances in which the organisation finds itself mean that some of its members belong to other careers, where their skills are seen as assets. Coachmen, messengers, and outriders are also viable members, serving the organisation as necessary.[1d]

More sedentary individuals help serve the Roadwardens in an ancillary fashion. Every band of Roadwardens has a base of operations where they can rest, tend wounds, and receive new orders. Hunters and peasants are necessary to help provide food, soldiers and militiamen are required to protect the grounds, and even the rare scribe is coveted for crafting letters and keeping the books.[1d]


Because of the nature of their work and the high mortality rate, the Roadwardens are constantly on the lookout for new recruits. Many Roadwardens are drawn from the small towns, villages, and farms that line the roadways of the Empire, as their intimate knowledge of the immediate terrain is considered a vital asset. Anyone interested in joining the Roadwardens must first show his skill on a horse and undergo a series of tests to see how he handles his mount. Recruits are tested on handling in difficult terrain, on long and boring patrols, and under fire. Only those who show complete mastery of riding are allowed to move on to additional testing.[1d]

Next, a recruit must show his skills with the weapons of the trade. In most cases, this is done on horseback, at high speeds. He must prove that he can fire and reload his weapon, even at a high gallop whilst moving through twisting woods. If he proves his worth with a firearm, his temperament is assessed. Recruits must show that they do not balk under fire, but also are smart enough to run when the numbers are against them. Plus, recruits must show their own ability to lose pursuers or to outflank the enemy when they themselves have become the target.[1d]

Although every area has their own methods of testing recruits, some techniques are common enough to be considered universal. One such test is known as "The Hunter and the Prey." The recruit is given a horse, enough food and water for two days, and a firearm with two shots. He is then tasked with hunting down one of the veteran members of the band, who tries to act in the manner of a bandit. This hunt can go on for days, with the veteran running the recruit in circles, through seemingly impassible terrain, and doubling back to make mock attacks on "caravans" or against lone travellers (other Roadwardens or allies tasked with putting on a good show). If the recruit manages to overtake the hunted Roadwarden, the tables are then turned and he must run and hide, trying to avoid being captured by the prey he once chased, with the goal of returning to the Roadwardens' base. These tests can be dangerous and deaths are not out of the ordinary, as the recruit takes his mount through treacherous woods, on top of the likelihood of encountering actual bandits, Mutants, or some other threat.[1d]

Upon passing these tests, the Roadwarden recites the vows of his position and swears an oath to uphold the laws of the Empire, to protect its citizens as they traverse on its roadways, and to be vigilant, brave, and perseverant in their pursuit of its enemies. The recruit is then given his Writ of Law (see Member Benefits and Responsibilities) and is then considered a Roadwarden from that point on. This ceremony is usually followed with a great feast, with many Roadwardens drinking huge amounts of ale and performing crazy stunts on their mounts to the delight of any onlookers.[1d]

New Roadwardens rarely get much time to reflect on their promotion and are immediately given an assignment and territory, typically assigned to work alongside a veteran who begins their real education about life on the road, the tricks of the trade, and the best ways to hunt down the enemy.[1d]

Member Benefits and Responsibilities

"So, I was stopped by a road warden t'other day. She said I should beware an unscrupulous character out patrolling the roads and charging hapless travellers a thruppence to let them pass. I thanked the warden for the valuable advice. "Taal guide you," she said, "that will be thruppence."
Ullrich the Pedlar.[3a]

Road Wardens 2.png

One of the largest appeals to becoming a Roadwarden is the freedom that it provides. By law, a Roadwarden is free to travel anywhere in the Empire, including many places that are otherwise protected by treaties and agreements against trespassing.[1d]

Roadwardens fill an unusual niche when it comes to the law in the Empire. Upon its official founding, the Roadwardens were granted several legal powers that pertained to their skills and abilities. Every Roadwarden is granted a writ (often carried in a protective leather case) that shows his powers and legal rights. However, more than a few Roadwardens refrain from carrying their legal documents with them on the road on the chance that they are captured and killed, thus giving their attacker a chance to abuse the power that it provides. It is not uncommon for bands of Roadwardens to employ their own Litigators and experts in Imperial Law to help them interpret the numerous edicts and jurisdictional problems that inevitably arise. While they are not allowed to pursue cases involving public corruption, Roadwardens encounter such abuses of power on a regular basis and are, in theory, supposed to report such infractions to the local authorities, or even Inquisitors if such transgressions prove endemic. In reality, most Roadwardens turn a blind eye to these sorts of problems and try to do their job as best as they are able.[1d][1e]

One of the biggest headaches that Roadwardens encounter is jurisdiction. The roads that pass through the Empire cross dozens of different territories, each with its own laws, rights, and authority figures to enforce them. A Roadwarden can only use his power when "on the open Road," meaning that in many cases, he cannot legally pursue a suspect into a town, much less capture and arrest him. Also, the powers of Roadwardens do not extend to the rivers of the Empire, which are patrolled by their own sorts of lawmen and officials. Many Roadwardens just ignore these rules, doing so for the sake of "justice," and more than a few settlements are willing to overlook the breach if the Roadwarden manages to catch the perpetrator within their borders. Savvy criminals or those with access to patrons well versed in the law can have their arrest and prosecution overturned if they can prove that the Roadwarden overstepped his jurisdiction. It's rumoured that veteran Roadwardens instruct new recruits that the best way to avoid such hassles is to ensure that the perp isn't alive at the end…[1e]

Here's a sample of some of the legal powers that all Roadwardens possess (note that this power is not granted to any deputized citizens or servants of a Roadwarden base). It should be noted that some areas do not willingly abide to all the powers that a Roadwarden possesses and others have their own exceptions, meaning that every Roadwarden must be careful when it comes to interpreting and enforcing the law:[1e]

  • The power to pursue, detain, and arrest any known fugitive or suspicious person that they encounter. (Numerous exceptions apply, however, so one should be wary of abusing this power.)[1e]
  • The power to stop, question, and inspect the goods and cargo of, any citizen who travels on a road, highway, or legally recognized path of the Empire. This right does not extend to rivers and other waterways.[1e]
  • The right to freely cross into any province or private land, excluding territory directly controlled by an Elector Count or a territory that has been marked off-limits by the council of the Elector Counts. This right applies only on roadways and legally recognized paths—once a Roadwarden passes the borders of a settlement, town, or city, he is subject to its laws.[1e]
  • The right to use lethal force, both when pursuing suspects and in self-defence.[1e]
  • The right to muster able-bodied citizens for the creation of posses in order to aid in the pursuit and arrest or elimination of threats. They can deputize individuals for short periods of time.[1e]
  • No citizen may stop or hinder a Roadwarden in his duties. (Again, hundreds of bylaws and loopholes exist, so one should show restraint in invoking this power.)[1e]
  • Roadwardens who kill a suspect whilst in pursuit must answer to their superiors and explain why the death occurred. (Note that this right can be ludicrously overlooked in some jurisdictions and incredibly strict in others.)[1e]
  • A Roadwarden must report any and all suspicious activities observed during the course of their duties.[1e]
  • Priests of the recognized Cults of the Empire, as well as Cultists on pilgrimage, may not be stopped or hindered by a Roadwarden, although they must answer questions posed to them. (Many Cultists have argued that the last clause infringes on their right not to be "stopped or hindered," resulting in confusion, anger, and many legal cases).[1e]
  • No Roadwarden can allow a Greenskin, Beastman, Mutant, servant of Chaos, or practitioner of the Dark Arts to live. Willingly allowing one to escape can result in torture, interrogation and/or death.[1e]


  • 1: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Shades of the Empire
    • 1a: pg. 114
    • 1b: pg. 115
    • 1c: pg. 116
    • 1d: pg. 117
    • 1e: pg. 118
  • 2: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Tome of Corruption
    • 2a: pg. 128
  • 3: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 4th ED -- Core Rulebook
    • 3a: pg. 91