The Warpstone Desert or Baleful Deserts[5a] is in the far east of the Warhammer World, on the western edge of Grand Cathay. It is a horrible wasteland, with dangerous amounts of warpstone and close to the Great Maw. Despite this, trade caravans travelling the Ivory Road cross the desert, and the city of Shang-Yang is located inside it.
The Warpstone Desert is located in the Western Provinces of Grand Cathay. The city of Shang-Yang is located in the middle of the Warpstone Desert. Caravans crossing the desert must use mirrored shields to avoid exposure to warpstone/raw magic and the accompanying chaotic mutation.[5a] For caravans arriving from the west, this is probably not a very good first impression of Cathay. Despite the danger, Cathayan Alchemists from Shang-Yang make regular expeditions into the desert, heavily shielded, to search for rare ores and elements which they use to create magical artefacts. The Wyrdstone Necklace possibly originated in the Warpstone Desert.[5b]
Shang-Yang is ruled by the Iron Dragon Zhao Ming. Zhao Ming's siblings suspect that his long exposure to the Warpstone Desert has affected his mind. It is certainly true that Zhao Ming is a much more gregarious character than his siblings, and more willing to mingle with the common people in his domain. The desert may be inhabited by the "Desert Clans", who are "kept in order" by Zhao Ming. The Warpstone Desert may have been created when a warpstone meteor crashed into western Cathay, destroying the Ogre homelands (previously a fertile region) and creating the Great Maw, and forcing the Ogres to migrate westwards across the Ancient Giant Lands to the Mountains of Mourn.
However, on Warhammer world maps, the desert is shown as being separate from where the Great Maw is located (albeit both appear to be in/near western Cathay). The Wu-Xing Compass in the Celestial City in Wei-Jin can be pointed towards the Warpstone Desert, which has certain effects on the winds of magic within Cathay. Skaven of Clan Eshin may have a nest underneath or near the Warpstone Desert.
The Warpstone Desert may be based upon the real-life Gobi Desert of Mongolia and northwestern China.
- 1: Who is Zhao Ming the Iron Dragon? Total War Blog, Ben Barrett, Sep 28, 2021
- 2: Full Interview With Warhammer 3's Lead Writer Andy Hall - Total War Warhammer 3 - Lorebeards Podcast, Oct 12, 2021
- 3: Warhammer Armies: Ogre Kingdoms (8th edition), Games Workshop, published 2011
- 4: Leading Grand Cathay - How the Eastern Empire Dominates the Campaign Map. Total War Blog, Ben Barrett, Oct 13, 2021
- 5: Warhammer Armies: Ogre Kingdoms (6th Edition)