Saturday, 19 September 2020

On the Green God and the Elder Evil, Part 1

 

On the Green God and the Elder Evil, Part 1

 “Turn him to any cause of policy,
The Gordian Knot of it he will unloose,
Familiar as his garter”

— Shakespeare, Henry V, Act 1 Scene 1. 45–47 

The Elder Faith
I thought I might write about what was the eldest of the eldest in Greyhawk, and in my imaginings, that was the Old Faith and the Elder Evil. It’s all in the name, I thought. This will be easy, I thought.
Iwas wrong.
There has been much said and written about the Elder Eye, the Elemental Evil God, Beory and Obad-Hai, and the Old Faith. But what does it all mean? And where does it all fit within Greyhawk canon?
Canon has become a muddy mess of contradiction as each edition sought to either reimagine or rewrite what came before, shoehorning what was into its narrative. Some of that lore was written by Gary Gygax. Some of it was adapted from Frank Mentzer’s BECMI. From BECMI? Yes, some of Frank Mentzer’s Immortals Boxed Set made it into Greyhawk lore. No matter, lore is lore. We can pick and choose what we wish, as it were. And we ought to, because over the years, it has become a gordian knot, begging for Alexander’s sword.
What is to be made of it all?
And where to begin?
Let’s begin with the Old Faith. That might be easier than Elder Evils.

 

The Old Faith

Obad-Hai
“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more”

― Lord Byron

 

The Old Faith, by its very name, must predate all others; yet its origins are forever muddied by what followed.

Beory

Oerth's natural fertility has inspired the devotion of its people. The cult of the Oerth Mother (Beory) once dominated the entire Flanaess, and the traditions of her worship persist in many lands. The present hierarchy of the Old Faith is built upon the ancient religion of the druids, though deities in addition to Beory are worshiped. Of course, other "nature" religions exist outside the Old Faith, even different branches of the druidic heritage, but few of these are in the Flanaess. The druids of the inner circles of the Old Faith gain far more prestige and respect than these other groups. Mistletoe, oak leaves, and holly leaves are their common emblems. Druids of the Old Faith are completely neutral in philosophy and personal alignment. They yield only to the world-spanning authority of the legendary Grand Druid.

Dark Legacy

The practices of the Old Faith are generally in accord with those of other nature priesthoods. The druids do not engage in the sacrifice of sentient creatures, yet there is a dark legacy within the Old Faith. The druids of antiquity allied themselves with the sorcerous Ur-Flan, who once held whole tribes in bondage to their evil. The unspeakable rituals performed by the Ur-Flan went unchallenged by the druidic hierarchy of that era, so long as the former were not so prevalent in any region as to threaten the balance of nature. Eventually, the Ur-Flan sorcerers waned in power and vanished. Some of their magical secrets are still preserved by the Old Faith.

The Old Faith is still widely practiced in the Flanaess, and not only in those regions dominated by descendants of the Flan peoples. The age-old sacred groves and monolithic circles of the Old Faith may include shrines dedicated to any nature deity the resident druids permit, but most often they are unadorned. While Beory the Oerth Mother is the best known deity associated with the Old Faith, any druid of purely neutral alignment may matriculate through the Nine Circles of Initiation, regardless of which nature god that druid venerates.

The most junior druids must first serve as Ovates, simple administrators and readers of auguries who govern only the aspirants who seek admission to the hierarchy. Above the Ovates and the Initiates are those who may claim the title of Druid. They, together with the three Archdruids and the Great Druid, provide tutelage to their underlings (there are nine Great Druids in the Flanaess, one representing each of the geographic divisions outlined in Chapter One). Legends also speak of a Grand Druid and a cabal of ascended mystics called the Hierophants, but complete knowledge of these masters is hidden from those outside the hierarchy. [LGG]

It's odd that it is Beory and not Obad-Hai mentioned. She comes and goes throughout the editions and gets the barest mention on the God box: Beory FC Oerth Mother, Nature, Rain N f.

That’s not much to go on.

Obad-Hai gets more love.

Obad-Hai FC Nature, Wildlands, Freedom, Hunting N m

Obad-hai, "The Shalm," is an archaic deity of nature and wildlands, one of the most ancient known, having been worshipped by the Flan prior to the arrival of invading Aerdi. [WG boxed set]

Obad-Hai rules nature and the wilderness, and he is a friend to all who live in harmony with the natural world. [Deities and Demigods, 3e]

It’s implied that druids would worship them. And that the all who would serve them would be druids. The thing is, not all clerics of these faiths are druids:

Clerics who follow Obad-hai usually are druids. A few others are of the normal sort, although they wander as pilgrims in most cases. Such clerics wear russet garments and carry staves. [WG boxed set] 

Closely associated with the Old Faith is the Old Lore:

The Colleges of the Old Lore are an order of bards appended to the druidic society of the Old Faith. Very few of these archetypal bards are left, as their traditions are primarily those of the ancient Flan. Bards of the Old Lore are distinguished from today's common bards and minstrels by their noble origins, their tradition of scholarship, and their use of druidic magic. The prospective Old Lore bard must be of human descent and noble birth, although half-elves are permitted, as well. Tradition demands that each candidate have proven skill in warmaking and stealth, in addition to surpassing grace, in order to receive druidic training. The Old Lore legacy also includes a small number of magical, stringed instruments crafted specifically for each of the seven colleges of the Old Lore. Recovery of any such instrument is of prime concern to the remaining members of these colleges, and the true enchantments worked by the ancient craftsmen come alive only at the touch of a bard of the Old Lore. [LGG] 

One would think that summed it up: The worship of Beory and Obad-Hai is the Old Faith, or is very closely linked to the Old Faith—or is within Flan culture, anyway. 

If that were so, then where did the Green Man from UK1 Beyond the Crystal Cave come from? He too is a nature god. But he’s not Obad-Hai, is he….

Is he a little nature god, where Beory and Obad-Hai are major ones? Is he Beory’s and Obad-Hai’s son? There’s nary a mention of him anywhere else, so I doubt that. Is the Green Man something entirely different?

The Green Man is an inhabitant of the prime material plane who concerns himself with the plants and creatures of the natural, mundane world. He is also interested in the produce of nature, especially that used in the making of beers, ales and wines. This is reflected by his symbol which is the hop — foundation of the finest ales. He adopts many guises (gardener, brewer, forester, etc.) for his dealings with mortals amongst which he favours the simple folk of the countryside. Known by many regional names (of which the Green Man, John Barleycorn and Mother Nature's Son are but three) he is often called upon by peasants and smallholders dependent on the whims of nature to increase their crops and to help them celebrate harvest home in the manner that only he can. They enjoy his appearances as a welcome break from the harshness of daily toil. [UK1 Beyond the Crystal Cave]

The Green Man has few permanent worshippers. Some, however, choose him as their patron deity, although he takes little interest in his followers and will only influence the spheres of natural abundance and then only rarely. [UK1]

Regardless who the Green Man is, he wields power, much as Beory and Obad-Hai do. But where Beory and Obad-Hai are Flan gods and widely known, the Green Man is not.

I’ll repeat: The Old Faith is most firmly rooted wherever the Flan reside.

The Old Faith (druidism), as practiced by the common folk throughout the central Flanaess, was the center of culture [in the County of Ulek]. The sovereign was always a member of the druidic hierarchy, whose position was respected by both the human and nonhuman inhabitants of the county, regardless of the ruler's race or patron deity. [LGG]

It is strong in the Viscounty of Verbonbonc, as well.
Many of the humans of Verbonbonc […] are god-fearing souls, worshiping the Old Faith (druidic or reserving their prayers for St. Cuthbert of the Cudgel. [WG8 Fate of Istus] 

So, the Old Faith was worshipped alongside the new faiths, even if in Hommlet [most] of the local folk are of the Old Faith—the druidical—and consider the Druid of the Grove […] to be their spiritual caretaker. [T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil]



 What can be said of the people of the Old Faith. They are close to the land. They are an industrious folk. They are brewers, cabinet makers, millers, and stonemasons, but for the most part, they are farmers and herdsmen, the common folk, the peasant folk.

This wood and plaster house is well kept, and the barn beyond is bulging with hay, grain, and so forth. Several fat animals are about. Two large farm dogs bark at your approach, and a rosy-cheeked goodwife appears at the doorway.
The large goodwife is friendly, greeting all who call, while her four children look on. Inside, a young girl and her old granny do various chores. The lintel over the front door is carved with acorns and oak leaves. If politely asked, any adult in the family will state that the family is of the Old Faith (i.e. druidical).
The head of the house and his two full grown sons are at work in the nearby fields. These three are members of the town militia. [T1-4] 

This rustic abode houses the local woodcutter, who is a member of the local militia. He lives with his wife and three young children. He has nothing of interest to characters, and is not interested in adventuring. He keeps his leather armor, battle axe, and heavy crossbow (with 30 quarrels) in a chest in the bedroom. He is of the Old Faith, and will report anything unusual to the druid [….] [T1-4] 

The house and barn show that this farmer is doing well, and the stock in the fenced-in yard are very fine-looking. You see a fetching feminine face in a window.
A widow and her two grown sons (members of the Militia) dwell here, the latter with their wives and eight children. They are interested in neither trade nor adventuring. These folk are all of the Old Faith. [T1-4] 

This place is the home of a strapping farmer and his equally large son, the farmer's wife, and six daughters—one of whom has a small child. They are friendly but have nothing of interest to [say.] These folk are of the Old Faith and have lived here all of their lives. The farmer and his son are both militiamen. [T1-4]

All in all, the people of the Old Faith are hardworking and fruitful, if those excerpts are any indication. Family and community are very much in the forefront of their daily lives. 

The druid is their spiritual leader.

Jaroo Ashstaff
This is obviously a place of worship. The trees are neatly pruned, and the grass is well tended. A carefully placed line of bluish stones sets off the path leading to a rock cairn where flowers, nuts, berries, and garlands of leaves are placed. A small path leads beyond the shrine to a low-roofed wooden building placed under the great boughs of the central oaks of the copse.
A call will bring forth the druid, Jaroo Ashstaff. All comers to the Grove are expected to make an offering here and there (and the druid will remind them, if necessary). If the visitors are not of the Old Faith, they are expected to give several gold pieces to Jaroo as donations towards the needy of Hommlet. The druid will listen to requests for assistance from those who contribute.
Jaroo is an agent of the druids of Gnarley Wood, sent to Hommlet to see if the Temple of Elemental Evil is totally destroyed, and to help repress any rise of evil of that sort. He will give aid by spells, but will not accompany a party. If the visitors are suspicious sorts, Jaroo will follow at a distance to see what goes on. He has a huge black bear, which is always nearby but out of sight 95 % of the time. [T1-4]

 The village elder is of the Old Faith as well.
This place has an eight foot high stone wall and a heavy gate. It is obviously the residence of some well-to-do folk, and easily defensible in times of trouble.
This is the home of the village elder, his wife, and their four grown sons. Two of the sons are married, and their wives and three children live here also. The elder is a retired farmer, and his sons now care for the fields and livestock. All of his sons have horses, and are very proud of their status. Two servant girls and a hired farmhand are quartered in the stable loft.
All the inhabitants are of the Old Faith. The four sons and the hired hand are members of the militia. In the event of attack villagers nearby seek safety in this compound.
The elder is quite wise and greatly respected. He heads a council whose other members (in order of seniority) are—Jaroo, the druid of the Grove [,] Terjon, chief cleric of the church [,], Elmo's father, Captain of the militia [,], Ostler, the Innkeeper [,] Mytch, the Miller [,] Burne, the magic-user [, and] Rufus, Burne's associate [.]
The latter two are new arrivals to the council.
The elder is also the Justice of the Peace. Once each new moon, he holds a village meeting to hear ideas and complaints. [T1-4]

What else can we glean from that passage? Theirs’s is a oligarchical, gerontocratic society, with hints of theocracy and noocracy.

I note that it was the druids of the Old Faith who kept vigilance after the Temple of Elemental Evil had been sundered, for it is the Old Faith that remembers.

Vigilance
Kella is a druid, and possesses a valuable item made by her professional ancestors, a phylactery of change. This item enables here to use her innate shapechange ability to assume monster form as well as animal. The possible forms are still limited to monstrous reptile, bird, or mammal, the latter corresponding to the hill giant form. The phylactery does not radiate magic, and Kella carries no other magic items, to avoid exposure by detect magic or other means. Kella cannot cast spells in giant form, and will do nothing to give away her disguise; she speaks only when necessary, and is so immersed in her role that she has become almost giantish in her attitudes.
Kella

Kella has taken the form and jobs of old Scorpp, spying on the Greater Temple for the leaders of the Old Faith. She fears the current rise in evil power, and knows that time is limited. She also knows that she risks certain horrible death at the hands of Iuz himself should she be discovered, but things have gone well thus far — nearly two months in all. [T1-4]

 

Grove of the Green Man



I also note that there was no mention of Beory or Obad-Hai in all that text. Not a one. That might be because T1, The Village of Hommlet was published before the World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, but I would like to think that it’s because the Old Faith is older than either Beory or Obad-Hai. Far older.


The Old Faith has no truck with ethnicity. It transcends mere culture; it transcends race. It endures, because it has always been.

 

If the Old Faith was concerned about such things, would it ally itself with the Silent Ones?

The Silent Ones have few if any allies of note: Only a few groups, such as the rangers of the Dreadwood (known as the Dreadwalkers) and certain elements of the Old Faith, share any sympathies with them. [LGJ#4]

…or the Circle of Eight?

Drawmij also consorts with the Hierophant Sverdras Meno, a powerful being who oversees the vast Azure Sea. Meno is thought to be a member of the mysterious Cabal, a congregation of the Old Faith even more enigmatic than the Circle of Eight. Few know that it is the one-time fastness of the hierophant that Drawmij has made into his private residence. [LGJ#0]

One would suggest yes. They would. The Silent Ones strive to keep destructive magics out of the hands of the uninitiated (or so they say), and the Eight have always said that they strive to maintain the Balance. It’s just that the Old Faith might look upon these through very different tinted glasses. 

What we do know is that druids are priests of nature. The 1e PHB tells us as much:

The Watchers of the Wood
Druids can be visualized as medieval cousins of what the ancient Celtic sect of Druids would have become had it survived the Roman conquest. They hold trees (particularly oak and ash), the sun, and the moon as deities. Mistletoe is the holy symbol of druids, and it gives power to their spells. They have an obligation to protect trees and wild plants, crops, and to a lesser extent, their human followers and animals. Thus, druids will never destroy woodlands or crops no matter what the circumstances. Even though a woods, for example, were evilly hostile, druids would not destroy it, although nothing would prevent them from changing the nature of the place if the desire and wherewithal existed. In similar fashion, they avoid slaying wild animals or even domestic ones except as necessary for selfpreservation [sp] and sustenance. [PHB]

There was no mention of Beory until first detailed for the Dungeons & Dragons game in the World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting (1983), by Gary Gygax. Beory is considered to be a manifestation of the Oerth itself. She does not care for anything else, and mortals or other deities only concern her if they threaten the Oerth. She is distant even from her own clerics, who wander the earth to experience the different parts of the world. They spend their time communing with nature and often associate with druids. [Wikipedia]

Or of Obad-Hai, for that matter.

The Oldest Faith

So, what is the Old Faith, if not Beory or Obad-Hai? Might it not be the worship of the Green God and the Earth Mother then, of the sacred male and female, of nature, whatever its manifestation?

Might I suggest that it is OLD. The Oldest faith. Older than even the Gods themselves, and that it finds its origins in the spark of creation, that it is the force behind creation, itself.

Might I suggest that those gods that followed this creative force are only pale imitations of this ancient creative force, creations of our imaginations given form and power by our very need to understand the unknown, and have congress with it.

Pelor, Pholtus, Phyton, Breeka, or Obad-Hai, or Beory.

What’s in a name, anyway?

So, how ancient is the Green God, anyway? And what might it look like, if anything?

What might it look like, if anything?

If I may be so coy:

Jaroo leans forward and says, “Well, the Green God is what gives a druid his power. It is the divine force created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the Oerth, and the Multiverse, together.”

 

 

 

One must always give credit where credit is due. This History is made possible primarily by the Imaginings of Gary Gygax and his Old Guard, Lenard Lakofka among them. Thanks to Steven Wilson for his GREYCHRONDEX and to Keith Horsfield for his “Chronological History of Eastern Oerik.”

Special thanks to Jason Zavoda for his compiled index, “Greyhawkania,” an invaluable research tool.

Primary sources for this history were the DMG 1e, The World of Greyhawk Folio, and The World of Greyhawk Gold Box, Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, Ivid the Undying, the Greyhawk Adventures hardcover, The Living Greyhawk Journals, Dragon Magazine.

 

The Art:

 A-Tree-Song by wakingofskytree

Obad-Hai by lookamoose

Amalurra by sarima

Druid-wanderer by thiago-almeida

Obad-Hai, by Kyle Anderson, from Deities and Demigods, 3e, 2002

The Green Man, by Timothy Truman, from UK1 Beyond the Crystal Cave, 1983

Hmmlet, by Dave Trampier, from T1 Village of Hommlet, 1979

Druid by  asahisuperdry

Druid-of-the-forest by bobkehl

Blue-Feathers by nikivaszi

Green-Man-Ruins by runique

The-shadows-of-the-dark-forest by ellysiumn

the-green-man by southaustinstudios

On-The-Other-Side-Of-Death by wakingofskytree



Copyright:

All source material presented within this chronology is owned and copyrighted by WotC.

The use of this material is not intended to challenge the rights of WotC.

This document is fan content and presented solely for the personal use of those individuals who game within the Greyhawk Setting.

 

Sources:

1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983

1068 Greyhawk Wars Boxed Set, 1991

2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1977

9066 UK1 Beyond the Crystal Cave, 1983

9147 Temple of Elemental Evil, 1985

9253 WG8 Fate of Istus, 1989

Dragon Magazine

11743 Living Greyhawk Gazeteer, 2000

Deities and Demigods, 3e, 2002

 

Friday, 11 September 2020

Thoughts on A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity


Thoughts on A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity

“Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise.”
― Horace

Slave Pits of the Undercity
It is time to put a stop to the marauders! For years the coastal towns have been burned and looted by the forces of evil. You and your fellow adventurers have been recruited to root out and destroy the source of these raids. But beware, hundreds of good men and women have been taken by the slavers and have never been seen or heard from again! [A1]

For those of you who are of a certain age, or those who have read my thoughts on A0 Danger at Darkshelf Quarry, and Lowdown in Highport, you know the events leading up to this module. For those who haven’t, this is how the adventure was introduced:
For several years, organized bands of pirates and slavers have made a living by raiding the coastal towns on the Sea of Gearnat. Ranging from Onnwal to the Wild Coast, they have descended quickly and ruthlessly on the small towns and villages, and carried off innocent citizens into the night. Although these marauders were not approved of by the lords and rulers of the lands they raided, they were allowed to continue their depredations. Feuding amongst the lords and lack of funds prevented all but an occasional naval battle with the villains and the slow fortification of towns. Bribery was often a more effective method of protecting one’s lands from the incursions of these avaricious seawolves.
Recently, however, the slavers’ attacks have become more frequent and vicious. Believing their prey to be weak and helpless, the raiders have burnt entire villages and pulled down the walk of towns. Women, children, and whole families have disappeared; and though bribes are accepted, the agreements are ignored. Vast tracts of coastline have been reduced to ashes, left barren except for packs of wild dogs.
Highport
The lords have finally become determined to take action, forgetting their petty squabbles to unite against the marauders of the yellow sails. Through information gained from escaped slaves, and those fortunate enough to have been found and bought by families or friends, the lords have traced the slavers to a port from which they launch their swift attacks on the coast – the despoiled city of Highport in wasted Pomarj. Some who have lost kin and fortune to the reavers have advised taking a fleet and crushing the outpost, but cooler heads have prevailed. They have pointed out that such a base is undoubtedly well-defended and that the slavers, if alarmed, might arrange that loved ones and kin are never seen again. Instead, they have chosen a plan of stealth. Several bands of adventurers have been gathered together and will be sent to infiltrate the base and destroy the leaders of this evil band. Caution is recommended, for the true strength and extent of this slave ring is not known, but they seem to be stronger and better organized than encounters with their small raiding parties would indicate.
Highport was once a human city, but the land and town have been overrun by humanoids - orcs, goblins, kobolds, ogres, and gnolls. Looted, burned, and ill-kept, the city has become a base for human outcasts wishing to deal with these unsavory creatures. Your party, provided with transport, has managed to arrive in Highport and pose as one of these groups come to deal. [A1]
The PCs have been hired to investigate and put an end to these dastardly foes. Sounds exciting.

It’s been forty years since David Cook penned Slave Pits of the Undercity. Has it held up? That’s a matter of opinion.
Modules have certainly evolved since it was released, WotC preferring to publish long adventure paths in preference of their shorter cousin, the tournament module. In truth, the tournament module is alive and well, and has evolved as well, leaving their initial format behind long ago.
Personally, I don’t think that A1 has aged well. It was released during the Monte Hall era, when PCs required a lot of magical items to face down those enemies they were sure to meet. But that isn’t, exactly, what dates it—although that does, as well, when one considers the lack of magic treasure to be found in those epic modern adventure paths; it’s the lack of verisimilitude and what we might call dungeon ecology.
Tournament modules were meant to be short, completed, if possible, in the four-hour timeslot allocated it at a convention. (Full disclosure, I’ve never been to a gaming convention, let alone participated in one of these competitions, so I can only repeat what I’ve heard from those who have.) They were meant to be challenging. To be so, the designers invariably included a couple new monsters to trip up those players who had memorized the Monster Manual. Those monsters were pretty “trippy,” in my opinion, many of them never to see the light of day again, except maybe in someone’s home campaign.

Upon rereading the module recently, I was of mixed mind as to how it held up. It’s not horrible. It’s not bad, either. For a classic tournament module, it’s really good, in fact.
But I must say that I was never a fan of dungeon crawls, and far too many classic modules were inundated with them.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved them when I began playing AD&D all those years ago. And were I thrown back into one, I’d likely feel the same thrill I did then, too. But why are they there? Was there a classic period of dungeon building when all kings and nobles and Ur-Flan priest-wizards wouldn’t be caught dead without having one tucked under their estate?
“How’s the dungeon coming, Acererak?”
“Great! I’d love to tell you about it, but…secrets, traps, you know the drill. I wish you could see it; it looks like a grinning skull when viewed from on top!”
“Cool!”
“I shouldn’t have told you that.” Casts Finger of Death.
So, if I were to run this classic now, what would I do to “fix” it? I’d ditch the dungeon. Keep the action above ground. Okay, I’d throw in a basement or two, if you must know. Nothing scales a PC more than plumbing the depths.
My complaint aside, is it good? I thought there was a lot to recommend it. Hordes of orcs guarded it; there were a number of undead scattered about it. Tortured slaves to rescue. And dastardly villains to defeat.
But the layout has to go. The temple looks like a dungeon and not a temple. And don’t get me started on the aspis. Were they ever used again?


Pieta
No matter. It was always meant to be a one-off, but what if it weren’t? It needs greater depth. It needs greater continuity beyond a simple map pointing the PCs in the right direction, to the next module, to the next dungeon. Luckily, everything needed to do just that is already included in the A-series. I would not rewrite it so much as retool it.
Sturm Blucholtz

Firstly, the cleric and the Slave Lord (thief) ought to play a greater role in the narrative, and in keeping with such, they ought to be named. In 1986’s A1-4 Scourge of the Slavelords, the thief Slave Lord was named Sturm Blucholtz (a member of the Slavers’ outer circle), and then in 2000’s Slavers, they were referred to as Dirk (we’ll assume that’s Sturm’s alias) and Pieta. How ever you choose to name them, I’d make Pieta an acolyte of the Elemental Eye (and not a cleric of Grummsh as suggested online in the Great Library of Grehawk) for continuity and simplicity’s sake. Why? Because I really like the Elemental Evil, that’s why. And because it was referenced in A0 Danger at Darkshelf Quarry.

Secondly, there should be cameos to link this narrative with those that follow. One might be Nerelas of A3 Assault on Aerie of the Slave Lords, there to inspect Highport’s efficiency of operations.

Thirdly, Highport needs to be developed. Unless you are running this module as a tournament and start the PCs at the foot of the temple, they are going to explore it. There’s a fair description of the sundered city in Dungeon magazine’s Lowdown in Highport.
The Temple Ruin in Highport
The town of Highport sits on a small sheltered inlet along the northern coast of the Pomarj peninsula, facing the Wooly Bay. It is divided into two main parts: numerous docks and a port district right on the shore, and a walled urban area at the top of a steep bluff. When humans controlled and lived in Highport, both sections of the town were kept in good order. Since the humanoid invasion, much of the place has fallen into ruin, either razed during the initial attacks or through subsequent neglect.
The port district is little more than a shanty town, filled with ramshackle wooden buildings constructed out of spare planks, boards, and netting. The unstable structures often lean at odd angles, and the “streets” are really narrow, twisting alleys that frequently dead end. Only a handful of original structures still stand, including a couple of inns and several warehouses. Life in the port district is a dangerous, vermin-filled affair that frequently ends in bloody death.
The High City, as the upper area is known, has more breathing room, although its conditions are little better than the port district below. It was once surrounded by a high stone wall to protect it from the depredations of the marauding humanoids that roamed the hills beyond, but much of that protective barrier was demolished in the attacks. The High City is now a wasteland of rubble-strewn streets, and one building in three is a burnt-out shell.
A switchback road cut into the face of the bluff leads from one part of Highport to the other, still protected at each turn by a gated guardhouse. Though sufficient for all the foot traffic that once traveled along it, the road was too narrow to handle all the merchant wagons that needed to move between the two sections of the town, so a number of stout cranes of dwarven design were installed along the bluff to hoist cargo up and down. These are no longer functioning, and only two even remain in place. The rest were cast down during the invasion, crushing hundreds of refugees waiting to flee Highport by boat in the port district below. Those have since been disassembled, their parts used for constructing hovels. [Lowdown in Highport]

Finally, and most importantly, the temple and surrounding buildings need to be re-mapped and fleshed out in detail. That’s where the action is, after all. It was, but I don’t like the look of the layout. The temple and the surrounding structures look like a dungeon, and they most assuredly would not.  I’d move the Slave Lords to the rectory and develop that even more fully. Infest the cemetery with undead; have quite a few of them milling about, guarding the approaches. Fill the temple with too many orcs to fight, and the basement with too many slaves to liberate. Would there be traps? Not in the temple, surely. In the rectory? Maybe on doors barring personal quarters and chests, to safeguard their personal treasures from the orcs, but not in many other places; the Slavers ought to feel secure here, if they were to feel secure anywhere. They are in the heart of the Pomarj, after all. Who could possible attack them there?

So, once again, the question need be asked. Did I like A1 Slave Pits of the Slave Lords?
I did. It might not sound like it, but I did. David Cook did a hell of a job.




The Art:
Cover Art, from A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity, by Jeff Dee, 1980
Temple Cartography, from A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity, 1980
Two Adventurers Fighting Aspis, from A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity, by Bill Willingham, 1980
Sewer Orcs, from A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity, by Jeff Dee, 1980




Copyright:
All source material presented within this blog piece is owned and copyrighted by WotC.
The use of this material is not intended to challenge the rights of WotC.
This document is fan content and presented solely for the personal use of those individuals who game within the Greyhawk Setting.

Sources:
9039A A0 Danger at Darkshelf Quarry, 2013
9039 A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity, 1980
9040 A2 Secret of the Slaver’s Stockade, 1981
9041 A3 Aerie of the Slave Lords, 1981
9042 A4 In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords, 1981
Lowdown at Highport, by Thomas M. Reid, Dungeon magazine #221, 2013

Friday, 4 September 2020

On Vlek Col Vlekzed


On Vlek Col Vlekzed

“Some are born great, others achieve greatness.”
― William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

Vlek Col Vlekzed
The Hold of Stonefist has always been an enigma to those outside looking in. It is an Evil land, most say; but those who do have suffered its raids and its crimes of War. Sol never shines there, they say; and because of it, the souls of the “Fists” are as black as pitch. Those same Fists laugh when they hear such things, arguing that they are Flan, and are born of Beory and given the breath of life by Obad-Hai; before they bear Erythnul’s witness and beat those to suggest otherwise within a hair’s breadth of death.
What is known is mainly hearsay, for few would dare to brave its harsh lands.
A frigid climate and brutal regime combine to make Stonehold one of the harshest lands in all the Flanaess. Bounded to the west and north by the Icy Sea, Stonehold's southern and eastern borders are formed by the Griffs and Corusks. The majority of Stoneholders live a seminomadic existence, moving to the northern tundra in summer and migrating south in the autumn. The remaining third or so of the population dwell in permanent settlements, mostly west of the Frozen River. Brute strength has long been the main virtue espoused by the people of this land, and treachery the byword of her leaders. All of the bordering nations are Stonehold's enemies. Stonehold has no trade, her only export being war, and in this she excels. LGG – 108, 109
Are these claims true? Most are. Some are not. The Hold is rich with the most luxurious furs, ermine and sable and mink, and the most sought-after ivory, from walrus, and the tusks of mammoths and mastodons, no less. The purest silver gleams from its rock face, although who might be mining it none can tell, as most Holders wouldn’t know one end on a pickaxe for the other, unless it were used to crack a skull or two, that is.
As I said, the Hold is an enigma. As was its founder.

What is known is that [the] original Stonefist, one Vlek Col Vlekzed, founded his chiefdom around CY 430. Vlek was cast out from the Rovers of the Barrens for banditry, deceit, and murder, but a small number of warriors and their families followed this harsh and brutal but charismatic man. FTAA – 38
Was he a Rover? Some clam he was; but I doubt the veracity of that claim. He was Flan, that much is certain. But so are a great many of the Stonefists. In fact, I believe that Vlek was a Colten, once.
The people of the Hold of Stone Fist […] are primarily hybrids, [of] Flan/Suel [descent.] WOGA - 13
Most Holders are Flan (even if they are spotted with the blood of the Suel), for so too are the Rovers and the Tenhas, and a great many of the peoples inhabiting Theocracy of the Pale.
The […] citizens of the Theocracy of the Pale are primarily hybrids, [of] Flan/Oeridian [descent.] DRG#55 – 18
So, regardless whether Vlek was a Rover or a Colten, he was Flan, and thus a product of The Old Faith.
The practices of the Old Faith are generally in accord with those of other nature priesthoods. The druids do not engage in the sacrifice of sentient creatures, yet there is a dark legacy within the Old Faith. The druids of antiquity allied themselves with the sorcerous Ur-Flan, who once held whole tribes in bondage to their evil. The unspeakable rituals performed by the Ur-Flan went unchallenged by the druidic hierarchy of that era, so long as the former were not so prevalent in any region as to threaten the balance of nature. Eventually, the Ur-Flan sorcerers waned in power and vanished. Some of their magical secrets are still preserved by the Old Faith. The Old Faith is still widely practiced in the Flanaess, and not only in those regions dominated by descendants of the Flan peoples. The age-old sacred groves and monolithic circles of the Old Faith may include shrines dedicated to any nature deity the resident druids permit, but most often they are unadorned. While Beory the Oerth Mother is the best known deity associated with the Old Faith, any druid of purely neutral alignment may matriculate through the Nine Circles of Initiation, regardless of which nature god that druid venerates. LGG – 161
A mixed legacy, indeed. Vecna was Ur-Flan. So too Keraptis, and Keraptis had reigned over the whole of the northeast for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
Did that make the Coltens evil? Not necessarily; but the Coltens had lived under Keraptis’ rule, and they would have learned and understood their lessons well: that strength must be obeyed, and the weak subjected, enslaved and plundered. They would have learned cruelty as well as the application of strength, an important lesson to those living in a harsh and unforgiving land.

Was Vlek evil? Maybe. Most likely. His actions would suggest as much. The weapon he wielded would suggest as much, as well:
Stonefist Sword of Rage +2: This two-handed sword was enchanted during the reign of Vlek Col Vlekzed. No one is sure if Vlek wielded it himself, though the warriors of the Hold of Stonefist stubbornly (and violently) claim so. No one doubts that the weapon contains the strength and ferocity upon which Vlek built his domain. GA – 87
Such a weapon would truly be favoured by one who would venerate Erythnul.

He was surely driven to conquer.
The Rovers of the Barrens
Stonefist, then Vlek Col Vlekzed, founded his chiefdom in approximately 430 CY. Vlek was cast out from the Rovers of the Barrens for banditry and lying, but a small number of warriors and their families followed him as leader. For several years he wandered around the fringes of his homeland, raiding and stealing from everyone without prejudice. These minor successes attracted a growing following of fellow outcasts, bandits, criminals and like unsavory types. Yet with this strange mixture of fighters, he mounted a highly successful raid into Tenh, swung down into the Bandit Kingdoms and recruited more followers, and then defeated a punitive expedition sent from Tenh. When threatened by a bandit kinglet, Vlek replied by surprising his stronghold, sacking it, and carrying away most of its population. Riding unmolested through the lands of his former people, but not caring to test their fighting ability, Vlek moved beyond White Fanged Bay and established a fortified settlement as a permanent camp. WOGA – 36, 37
Vlek moved them beyond White Fanged Bay, where he established the fortified town of Vlekstaad. The Coltens were very uneasy with his presence in their land, but Vlek promised a truce and offered to negotiate with their leaders. As the Coltens traveled to the appointed site, they were ambushed and slaughtered by the followers of Stonefist. The remainder of the Coltens host was routed, and Vlek settled down to rule over the whole territory. LGG – 109
As Vlek's infamy spread, malcontents from many nations came to his standard, despite his new name of Stonefist (implying both a terrible foeman and an inflexible ruler). WOGA – 36, 37

Vlekstaad
The Fists
[Stonefist established the] Mastership of the Hold [as] a semi-hereditary position and title. The descendants of Vlek (he had 219 wives and 351 male children who survived to maturity) compete in a bi-annual "Rite of Battle Fitness." The winner may challenge the Master, one of the Atamen of the three towns, or lead a warband and become a chief. The surviving losers join the standing warbands (the "Fists"), those who did best becoming chieftains, sub-chiefs, and leaders of raiding bands. These savage war and raiding bands commonly raid Fruztii, Tenh, and even the Rovers of the Barrens. About 30% or so of the population of the Hold dwell in permanent settlements, and from these people are drawn the bulk of the footmen. Most of the balance of the population are semi-nomadic, moving into the northern tundra in the summer, and migrating south in the fall. From these people come the horsemen and light infantry of the "Fists." WOGA – 36

When Ratik and the Fruztii made peace, the subsequent battles for the Kelten Pass brought several telling defeats to “fists” led by the descendant warband leaders. The Hold was then divided between those who followed the laws laid down by Vlek Col Vlekzed, and those who claimed that Stonefist’s methods are no longer appropriate and the Coltens Feodality should be restored. The nomads and settlers west and around the Frozen River championed the ways of Stonefist. The population around Kelten and the Hraak Forest wished to establish new forms of leadership. DRG#57 - 13

The Coltens folk had no place in this hierarchy, and many fled to the Hraak Forest, or beyond the Big Seal Bay and the northern thrust of the Corusks to dwell in the Taival Tundra, in the land of the Ice Barbarians).  LGG – 109
[Few] tundra-dwellers are Ice Barbarians, most having Flan ancestry and being related to the Coltens of Stonehold. They do not serve as warriors for the Cruski, instead paying tribute to their Suel overlords to be left alone. LGG – 54
Those who could not flee remained in servitude to Stonefist and his descendants. LGG – 109
Vlek ruled by terror and brutality, but his people loved him for it. FTAA – 38

Vlek fashioned his land after his own philosophy. Only the strong were fit to rule. And long did he rule, despite the challenges he had to face.
The Rovers hated him forever more.
[The Rovers] practiced their fighting skills against the men of the Hold of Stonefist and the savages and humanoids they met on raids into the Cold Marshes. DRG#56 - 22
As did the Barbarians.
The Ice Barbarians are an utterly chaotic bunch, inhabiting the bitter northern and eastern edges of the Thillonrian Peninsula. They are formidable seamen, raiding west along the northern coast of Stonefist (in summer when the break-up of ice allows this) [.] FTAA - 28
In high summer [the Cruskii often find fighting by rounding the coasts of the Hold of Stonefist, and […] have both hatred and respect for the dour inhabitants of that land. WOGA – 26

And there are dangers upon the tundra.
Legends tell of a beautiful land in the heart of [the Griff Mountains], where buildings are roofed with precious metals and gems lie about on the ground. More reliable are reports that a gigantic city of orcs lies underground here, near Stonehold. LGG – 143
Great bears and wolves roam [the] depths [of the Hraak Forest], and a fair number of white dragons unexpectedly lair within. LGG – 141
Yeti and giants scale the heights, sabretooth tigers prowl the forests. Mammoths, mastodons, woolly rhinos and wolverines.
There are others, too; horrifying things. Winter wolves, remorhaz, ice toads and trolls. A hag or two for good measure.
And truly inexplicable things, too.

The Nauskiree
Nauskiree are tall, bizarre monsters thought to have migrated to the northern Flanaess from Telchuria before the twin Cataclysms, figuring into old Flannae tales of that region. Solitary hunters, they act much like trap-door spiders, hiding for long periods of time until prey approaches, then striking out with magic and teeth. Although they hunt alone, they are sometimes enslaved by frost giants and used as guardians.
Nauskiree appear almost bipedal, their torsos being larger than their pelvis. However, their extremely long limbs and greater weight on their forward half make it hard for them to lift both forelimbs for more than a moment, and so the creature gets about on all fours. Its skin is gnarled like bark, and coloured in a random pattern od dark gray and white that resembles snow clinging to the trunk or branches of a tree. Its skull-like head and some of its joints are surrounded by stringy gray hair resembling dead grass or pine needles. LGJ#1 - 22
To come upon one is almost certain doom. A deathly cold cling to them, and those who stray too close are stricken by it, their limbs torpid, their minds clouded with confusion.

The Stonefist
The Hold would seem a truly uninhabitable place.
Did any of these defeat the Stonefist?
Not a one.
Nor his progeny. Or his people.
From this mix of settled and semi-nomadic people, Vlek's descendants created a fierce and savage raiding force. FTAA – 38
Is it any wonder that the Fists are a fearsome people?














One must always give credit where credit is due. This History is made possible primarily by the Imaginings of Gary Gygax and his Old Guard, Lenard Lakofka among them.
Special thanks to Jason Zavoda for his compiled index, “Greyhawkania,” an invaluable research tool.

The Art:
Vlad by bardilf
Chase by mentosik8
Night-Shift by alcoholichamster
Abomination-DogSled-Run by maxd-art
Nauskiree, by Sean K. Reynolds, illustration by Sam Wood, from Living Greyhawk Journal #1
Vlad by oleolah



Copyright:
The selected art is the sole property of the artists.
All source material presented within this blog is owned and copyrighted by WotC.
The use of this material is not intended to challenge the rights of WotC.
This document is fan content and presented solely for the personal use of those individuals who game within the Greyhawk Setting.

Sources:
1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
2023 Greyhawk Adventures Hardback, 1988
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
9577 The Adventure Begins, 1998
9578 Player’s Guide to Greyhawk, 1998
11742 Gazetteer, 2000
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazeteer, 2000
Living Greyhawk Journal, #1
Dragon Magazine 55,56,57
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer

Friday, 28 August 2020

History of the South-East, Part 9: Maneuvering


History of the South-East, Part 9: Maneuvering

“The blade itself incites to deeds of violence.”
Homer, The Odyssey

The blade itself incites to deeds of violence
Life goes on in the Great Kingdom despite its Turmoil. Houses rise; houses fall. Those most likely to succeed, do, whether fate or they themselves take a hand.
The common people go about their everyday lives; they live and die, make a living, and fret about those same things people do, wherever they might be: the welfare of their house and home, their children, their aged parents. And their state within the state, without concerning themselves with the ado that forever spirals about the crown and the Celestial Houses. They know that those doings go on regardless. It was the way of the gentry. And it usually happens somewhere over there; unless one had the misfortune to have it happen in their backyard.


557 CY  His Most Lordly Nobility, Lord Protector of Rel Astra, Drax of House Garasteth becomes ruler of the city of Rel Astra.
Rel Astra is currently ruled by Lord (actually Prince) Drax of House Garasteth, who has held sway over the city since 557 CY. [LG]
The city and constabular fief of Rel Astra extends from the precincts of the city northwards to the Lone Heath south of the Mikar, including the town of Ountsy, whose mayor is subject to Rel Astra. This trading and mercantile port city is held in hereditary fief by a rival noble house of the Aerdi who are secretly conspiring against the royal house of Naelex, although they are careful to allow no proof of this to fall into their enemies' hands. They desperately seek close ties with Medegia and the Sea Barons to balance the weight of the Overking' s kinsmen in North and South Province. It is reported that the Overking views these machinations with ill-concealed delight, for they are seen as check and balance, as the monarch fears his own at least as much as he distrusts others. In any case, the lord of Rel Astra at the same time desires to check the growth of the Censor's lands and holdings, and secret plots with the freefolk of Grandwood Forest and the Herzog of the South Province are rumored. [Folio]

558 CY  The Kingdom of Shar was of two minds regarding Ivid V’s ascension to the throne. It behooved them to have a stable Kingdom to the north, but they lost their influence in his court and that did not please them at all. It would be best if his tenure was short, they decided, and took measures to ensure just that.
In the madness and infighting following Ivid I’s death, the Scarlet Sign infiltrated the Aerdi court to keep a close watch on things, but with the crowning of Ivid V in [6072 SD] the Great Kingdom settled for a time. The new Overking banished all foreign advisors from the courts of his nation, and the Brotherhood lost its foothold in Suundi.
In 6074 SD, the Scarlet Brotherhood set out to stir trouble for the Great Kingdom. In the Raker Mountain range, members whispered into the ears of humanoid leaders, encouraging them to raid the Bone March. The raids began the spring of the next year, and by the year after that the raids became a full invasion. [SB]

559 CY  Did the orcs and gnolls listen to their whispers? They did, for those whispers promised great things. Land, power and pillage. Riches beyond their imaginings. Did they trust those who whispered? No. Not in the least. But they did not let that away them.
They are not prepared, the whispers said. They look to the barbarians to the north and have not guarded against you, they said. But the orcs were cautious. For they knew not what these red-robed whisperers hoped to gain. And because they had heard the whispers of Men before, and knew that Men had always used orcish blood to blunt the swords of their enemies. The gnolls were less cautious, for the whispers promised them blood, and they do so love the smell of it.
560 CY  Finding resistance limited, the orcs and gnolls made further forays into Bone March, striking widely and deeply so as to keep the Marquis’ forces rushing to and fro across the breadth of his lands to defend against them, never once conceiving that the orcs were acting far more strategic than they ever had before. They were a savage species, after all.
In 560 CY, the northern Great Kingdom province of Bone March was invaded by humanoids from the Rakers.  [TAB]

Hordes of humanoids (Euroz, Kell, Eiger and others) begin making forays into the Bone March, and these raids turned into a full scale invasion the next year. [Folio]

In 560, nonhuman tribes from the Rakers and Blemu Hills struck into Bone March, subjugating the land in 563 and slaying its leaders. [LGG]

561 CY    The forces of Marquis Clement tired. And still the orcs came. And when the orcs found no resistance, the whisperers said, “The time is ripe. He has not the strength to defeat you!” The orcs still did not trust the whisperers from Shar, but they saw the truth in their words. And so, the tribes flowed from their mountains into the Bone March and laid waste to all that stood against them.
...and laid waste to all that stood against them.
They spilled out into the Theocracy of the Pale, and into neighbouring Nyrond. They flowed out into Ratik. That was what the agents of Shar instructed them to do. But their greatest host spilled out onto the Bone March, for the agents of the Brotherhood knew that turmoil within the Great Kingdom was so great that it could not muster effective opposition. And because they had parleyed with Herzog Grace Grennell of The North Province, and he had promised to delay his defense. But also because they had parlayed with others, far darker in purpose than Grennell.
Thus, the orcs and the gnolls made great gains into the March in so little time. But not so in the Theocracy of the Pale, Nyrond, or Ratik, for resistance there was stiff, swift and sure.

...the orcs and gnolls made great gains into the March
563 CY  The Bone March fell to the humanoids and all humans in that area were either enslaved or killed, Lord Clement among them, as he was held up within the walls of Spinecastle, waiting for succor from Ratik and the North Province, when it fell after a prolonged siege, virtually overnight. Survivors say that the orcs and gnolls had nothing to do with its fall, that it fell from within, that dark forces rose up from its very foundations, causing those within to throw open the gates in their haste to flee, and only then did the humanoids gain entry. It was the castles’ curse, they said, gesturing to ward off the Evil they claimed to witness that day.
Bone March fell three years later and has been in a barbaric state since. [PGG]

The hordes did not hold the castle for long; for they too were struck by such horrors that drove them from its halls. While within, they were driven mad; and those that survived said that blood flowed from its walls, that rooms rippled and disappeared, and that they were induced to strike one another down. Retreating from Spinecastle’s horrors, they never again entered it.
Knight Protector
The Knight Protectors of the Bone March were overwhelmed by the hordes, and those who could fled to Ratik, bolstering the defenses of Ratikhill.
[This] land fell to the horde of invaders [Euroz, Kell, Eiger and others], its lord slain, and its army slain or enslaved. Humans in the area were likewise enslaved or killed, and the whole territory is now ruled by one or more of the humanoid chiefs. Exact information is not available. The humanoids gained access to the area by moving through the mountains, and they use them now to raid the Pale, Ratik, and even Nyrond—although any movement through the Flinty Hills Is at great peril due to the gnomes still holding out there. There is continual border warfare along the Teesar Torrent and in the Blemu Hills of Aerdy' s North Province, although some say that the Overking would gladly make peace with the humanoids to the north and enlist them in his own armies. [Folio]

Most Knight Protectors of the Great Kingdom live now in Ratik, refugees from Bone March, where Clement was a powerful member of the order until the province's fall in 563 CY. Those Knight Protectors stationed in Almor are now in Rel Deven. Some purportedly hide in the Grandwood and Adri Forests, and a few joined the Iron League and are in Sunndi. The order's old heraldry, showing the great crowned sun of Aerdy guarded by a white axe and red arrow, is no longer used. [LGG]

Blood Frenzy
The orcs and the gnolls continued to flow out of the Rakers, betraying and attacking the North Province in their blood frenzy, even as Spinecastle held out against them.
Grennell expected as much and was prepared. He met them within the March, and drawing them into defensive redoubts, he slowed their advance, and then halted it altogether; and having done so, he parleyed with them and allied with them against Nyrond and Almor, for he believed that such a force could not be defeated until it had blunted itself against hard resolve, and he much rather it do so against that of other lands and not his. Then he would turn on the humanoids, and take their spoils as his own.
In 560, nonhuman tribes from the Rakers and Blemu Hills struck into Bone March, subjugating the land in 563 and slaying its leaders. Herzog Grenell of North Province reached out to these usurpers, seeing an opportunity. Ratik and its baron, Lexnol III, had been forewarned and deflected most of the invaders, but could not prevent the disaster that befell the march. Lexnol, a skilled leader and tactician, realized that he was now isolated and no succor would be forthcoming from the south or the court of Overking Ivid V. He approached the lords of Djekul, who had grown less wary of the proud Aerdi in the intervening years and were even grudgingly respectful. With the Fruztii, Lexnol forged an affiliation called the Northern Alliance. Ratik subsequently became fully independent of the Great Kingdom and had the might to both hammer the orcs and gnolls of Bone March and dissuade an invasion from North Province. [LGG]

During the rule of the House of Naelax, large standing armies have been maintained. This was primarily due to the desire on the part of North and South Provinces, and Medegia, to have security for their independence.
Of course, it was natural for the overking to respond in kind, and the one area where the overking undoubtedly had supremacy was naval (the Sea Barons being under Ivid's control, unenthusiastically). Most of these armies had, in fact, relatively little to do most of the time outside of North Province, where the need to secure the Bone March and to maintain patrols and mount skirmish raids after its fall to humanoids in CY 563 kept troops busy. [Ivid]

What did the Scarlet Brotherhood think about their success? They were elated. They were infuriated. The orcs slaughtered their agents along with all the other humans, for the orcs understood that those red-robed whisperers were not their friends. They understood that they were pawns in a greater game that was not their own. And they recognized the scent of slavery when they smelled it.
The Bone March fell to the humanoids in 6078 SD, and all humans in that territory were slain or enslaved. The plot misfired. The Bone March’s new rulers severed all ties with their human co-conspirators, and few Brotherhood agents escaped with their lives. [SB]

Bone March is now steeped in discord, ruled by a coalition of invading nonhuman tribes, particularly orcs, gnolls, and ogres. Humanity, which once thrived here, is generally enslaved and subject to the capricious whims of petty bandit chiefs and nonhuman warlords who raid Ratik and even North Kingdom at will, going as far as Nyrond and the Flinty Hills to pillage. Nomadic bandit gangs, survivors and descendants of the once proud human culture, prey on one and all. [LGG]

The Death Knight Lord Monduiz Dephaar made good use of the chaos that ensued, craving a kingdom for himself out of the lands surrounding his stronghold somewhere in the Blemu Hills in the wake of the collapse of the Bone March, and even now commands legions of humanoids and bandits, who call him Dreadlord of the Hills. [D291]
Both Prince Grenell of the North Kingdom and the humanoids of Spinecastle give the Dreadlord wide berth.

571 CY  Was Nyond safe? Was Nyrond secure? Nyrond never assumed as much. There were those less high-minded or enlightened as they might have wished within their fold.
                The Celadon Forest lies within Nyrond and the Duchy of Urnst, but is unclaimed by either. Duke Karll enjoys great friendship with the generally peaceful elves and woodsmen of the western woodlands, and southwest Urnst is well served by rangers from the Celadon, mostly humans and halfelves trained at Stalwart Pines, the only known "organized" ranger school in the Flanaess. However, the situation in Nyrond now borders on civil war. The former baron of Woodwych conducted extensive logging operations here, igniting an anti-Nyrond rebellion. The new king has provided hope to the woods folk, but the new baroness appears every bit as ruthless as her predecessor.
Mighty oaks and elms grow here, tended by treants, sylvan elves, and similar beings. These folk prevent the cutting of any live tree from the forest; the humans and elves who trade with the outside world are generally herbalists. Keoghtom's ointment is said to derive from reagents gathered here. A great fire of mysterious origin damaged the western half in 571 CY. [LGG]
Who started that fire? Did Baron Bastrayne of Woodwych? I wouldn’t put it past him.
Why?
The rebellious Baron Bastrayne of Woodwych had found the Celadon a fair source of bounty, and the local Nyrondese people look at the trees burgeoning in spring, young tender rabbits ready for the pot hopping in the woods, and they decide to take what they can get. [WGR4 The Marklands]
Because he did what he wished. Without the knowledge and consent of the king.
Did his people support him? I think they did.
The western lands comprise the Celadon Forest, the lands around the city of Woodwych, and the Gnatmarsh together with the southern lands around Beetu. These lands were farthest away from the wars, which increases the anger of ordinary people at paying high taxes and tithes since they haven't directly experienced the threat of war. [WGR4]

But I doubt that the elves let him do as he wished. These were their woods, and not his; an opinion he disagreed with. He might have wished to rid himself of them, once and for all.

[…] the flashpoint of the Celadon Forest, where woodsmen and elves fend off the insurrections of the brutal and corrupt Baron Bastrayne of Woodwych. [D191]
               
                Taxes. It always comes down to taxes, doesn’t it? Baron Bastrayne of Woodwych rebelled because of them. And oddly, so did religion within the Duchy of Urnst.
                The dynasty of House Lorinar began in 497, and has provided Urnst with a number of capable rulers. The primary exception to this was Justinian, Karll's older brother, who ruled briefly in 570-571 CY. A devotee of the philosophical school of "Skepticism," realized in the writings of Urnst-born scholars Daesnar Braden and Elbain Hothchilde, Justinian questioned the divinity of the gods, increasing temple taxes some three hundred percent upon gaining office. The duchy had never been a particularly religious place, but the subsequent razing of Leukish's defiant temple of Zilchus triggered the Temple Coalition Revolt, during which great riots embroiled the capital. In 571, most churches withdrew from Urnst, declaring the duke and his noble advisers, the Honorable Chamber, heretics. When Justinian found himself sorely wounded in battle with Bright Desert dervishes later that year, no cleric in the land would heal him. His youngest brother, Karll, a ranger at Stalwart Pines, reluctantly gained the throne in 572 CY. [LGG]

572 CY  Who rules the eastern seas? The elves? They had never laid claim to its vast expanse, despite their having sailed its waters for millennia. The Flan? They were the first men to lay eyes on the Solnor, but they were content to do little more than cast nets into its banks. The Suloise? They, like the Flan before them, colonized coast and island alike, and for a time, it was they who ruled its waves. But it wasn’t until the Aerdy laid eyes on it did anyone truly laid claim to it. Ivid commanded the Sea Barons to secure his coasts, and tame those who raided it. Did they ever truly tame the Barbarians of the north? No. But they did put an end to the piracy of the south, for a time.
The Lordship of the Isles
The Duxchaners are still smarting from the battle, wherein the Sea Barons sank four of their warships and made prizes of three loaded cogs before they could gain safety in Pontylver. [Folio]

More than a century and a half of conflict has ensued between the [Sea Barons and the Lordship of the Isles], and while the names and faces have often changed, the contests are still hotly fought. The Sea Barons won the most recent encounter, the massive Battle of Medegia, fought in the Aerdi Sea in 572 CY. [LGG]
The last century and a half have seen many battles between the two naval powers, culminating in one of the largest in 572 CY. The Duxchaners and their Suel duke had grown increasingly powerful during the intervening years and finally, when an internal squabble among the Oeridian lords on Diren failed to produce a successor in 564 CY, Latmac Ranold of Duxchan became the new prince. He took an increasingly provocative stance among the lords of the Iron League, favoring open conflict against the Great Kingdom to negotiation and subterfuge. Ranold built up the navy of the Lordship and began harassing the shipping lanes of the Great Kingdom as his forebears had done centuries ago. However, this led to the Battle of Medegia in 572 CY, in which the Duxchaners suffered their greatest defeat by the Sea Barons. This action failed to get the approval and support of the Iron League, and the debacle deflated Prince Ranold greatly. As the lord grew older, he appeared to lose his once-tight grip on the islands. [LGG]

Emissaries of Shar
573 CY  Emissaries of Scarlet Brotherhood appear in the courts of the Iron League.           
The first official act of the organization was the dispatching of emissaries to the courts of the Iron League. Traveling robed and hooded in red, these strangers claimed to be ambassadors from the Land of Purity. Most were excellent scholars and sages who observed in the courts of the Iron League and generously offered their talents to those who needed them. [Wars]

In 573 CY, a secretive monastic group called the Scarlet Brotherhood was discovered living on the Tilvanot Peninsula, south of Sunndi. Despite dark rumors of this group's aims (control of the Flanaess by Suloise-descended peoples) and forces (monsters, assassins, thieves, and martial artists), the Brotherhood was ignored for a decade. [PGG]

In 6088 SD […] red-robed members of the Scarlet Brotherhood appeared in the cities of the Iron League, describing themselves as sages from the Land of Purity and offering their services. These advisors were accepted by the member-countries’ rulers, albiet with some hesitation, and soon the Scarlet Brotherhood moved into sensitive and vital offices in a handful of other nations, as well. Simultaneously, Brotherhood assassins eliminated intractable foes of the Brotherhood. In most cases care was taken to dissociate the acts from the instigators, but the removals often accelerated the advisors’ advancement. [SB]

575 CY  Blood is thinker than water. Or so the old saying goes. Far be it of Ivid to refute such a claim. He raised his family high, where and when able, and thus supported House Naelax-Selor’s claim to the throne of the South Province.
                Herzog Chelor, third of that name to rule the once-greatest fief of Aerdy, scion of the House of Naelax-Selor, spent two years securing his base of power. [D57]
               
                For nearly 30 years, three rulers of the same name —Herzog Chelor—kept Ahlissa stable. They did this through repression and fear of the magical power and fiendish aid which both they, and their relative the overking, could bring to bear on any rebelling against them.
Since South Province lacked any truly powerful nobles, with large landholdings and powerful armies, the Chelors stayed in control. [Ivid]

Lost Zar
Ivid wasn’t the only one to believe blood thicker than water. He wasn’t the only one securing territory, either.
The arrival of pure Suel from the Scarlet Brotherhood in 6090 SD was a surprise to the people of Zar, who had largely forgotten their heritage and lived in a state of barbarism. The Brotherhood won over the Zarii with gentle words, promises of power and gifts, so the people of Zar taught the Brotherhood what was necessary to survive in the jungles of Hepmonoland. In less than a year, Zar became a primitive daughter state to the kingdom of Shar, sending resources and warriors north to the main Brotherhood lands. The city of Zar is being revovated and restored from ruin.
The Zarii are content with their lot; in exchange for goods and warriors, they receive exotic (to them) cloth, weapons and food. They ferry gents of the Brotherhood along the newly built roads to Lerga, travel to strange lands, fight and pillage; most don’t realize that they are second-class people to the Brotherhood—barely above Hobgoblins. [SB]

576-582 CY         The alliance between Ratik and the Frost Barbarians was mutually beneficial. Not only had they begun to secure the Fruztii’s northern pass, they had begun to make gains against the Bone March to the south, too. But at a cost. They were small nations, their resources were limited, and were the orcs not soundly defeated, and soon, they knew all might be lost.
The humanoids so soundly defeated in the campaign of 575 were again raiding over the border, and the gnomes of the Lofthills (west of Loftwood) were being continually besieged. Losses from the campaigns in Bone March and with the Frost Barbarians could be replaced by mercenaries and volunteers from foreign lands only. [D57]

The Frost Barbarians had not turned their backs on their cousins, the Schnai and Cruski, for they had common cause. They each hated the Hold of Stonefist, as did their distant cousins, the Zeai, the whaling Sea Barbarians who dwelt upon the far Brink Isles and Tusking Strand, east of the Black Ice. And the Snow and Ice Barbarians shared common cause against the North Province and Sea Barons, for life was harsh upon the Thillonrian Peninsula, and thought their seas were plentiful, their slim growing season could not support them.
The Schnai noticed their Fruztii cousin’s absence from the seas. And they saw their cousin’s increased reliance upon Luxnor of Ratik. But they were not worried. Let them break themselves upon the Fists and the Bone March, the Schnai said. They will weaken beyond recovery, and will be forever under our suzerainty when Ratik finally fell, for fall it must, in the end. 
And in the Fruztii’s absence, the Schnai increased their raids on the Great Kingdom, knowing that they needn’t share the spoils with them.
The Schnai weren’t the only ones to note the Fruztii’s increased presence in the northeastern theatre. Tenh had heard of the Frost Barbarian’s alliance with Ratik, and they’d heard of their joint strike into the Bluefang-Kelten Pass, and they sent emissaries to treat with them, for, as they explained to them, we have common cause against the Fists of Stonehold, and the Fruztii listened.





One must always give credit where credit is due. This History is made possible primarily by the Imaginings of Gary Gygax and his Old Guard, Lenard Lakofka among them. Thanks to Steven Wilson for his GREYCHRONDEX and to Keith Horsfield for his “Chronological History of Eastern Oerik.”
Special thanks to Jason Zavoda for his compiled index, “Greyhawkania,” an invaluable research tool.
Primary sources for this history were the DMG 1e, The World of Greyhawk Folio, and The World of Greyhawk Gold Box, Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, Ivid the Undying, the Greyhawk Adventures hardcover, The Living Greyhawk Journals, Dragon Magazine.



Copyright:
The art is solely owned by the artists.
All source material presented within this blog is owned and copyrighted by WotC.
The use of this material is not intended to challenge the rights of WotC.
This document is fan content and presented solely for the personal use of those individuals who game within the Greyhawk Setting.

Sources:
1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1043 The City of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1989
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1977
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1981
9398 WGR4 The Marklands, 1993
9399 WGR5 Iuz the Evil, 1993
9577 The Adventure Begins, 1998
9578 Player’s Guide to Greyhawk, 1998
11374 The Scarlet Brotherhood, 1999
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazeteer, 2000
Ivid the Undying, 1998
Dragon Magazine
OJ Oerth Journal, appearing on Greyhawk Online
LGJ et. al.
Greychrondex, Wilson, Steven B.
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
Anna B. Meyer’s Greyhawk Map