Tuesday, 12 November 2019

History of Oerth, Part 1: Of The Grey Elves and The Suloise Empire

I thought I would be able to research the history of Ratik and its neighbours sequentially, beginning with the Greyhawk Folio, continuing on with the Gold Box, then to the Greyhawk Adventures hardcover, etc. That was incredibly na├»ve of me. The history of the Flanaess was not laid down in that manner; it evolved in leaps and bounds over decades, and not sequentially, either. Its lore grew in fractals, haphazardly through modules at first, then rather meticulously in sourcebooks. Let’s not forget the reams of articles written about the setting in Dragon and Dungeon magazine.

I invite you to search out and memorize Steven B. Wilson’s “History of Oerth” and and Len Lakofka’s “History of the Suloise” in the Oerth Journal, Steven B. Wilson’s later GREYCHONDEX, and Keith Horsfield’s “Chronological History of Eastern Oerik.” Doing so can only enrich your campaign. They’re detailed. Their exhaustive. But, their source materials’ publication dates bounce around like jack rabbits. I discovered that I would have to do the same if I were to really understand the events that led to the Common Era. What can I say? The best laid plans of mice and men, and all that.

The history I will begin to lay out here will be more a more focused one, only concerning those peoples who would ultimately settle in the far northeastern corner of Flanaess. But, after searching though those indexes for what each had on Ratik and its neighbours, and for those Oerth-shaking events of Flanaess’s past that moulded all events that followed them, I discovered that they were just bullet points and that I would have to take my exploration slowly, diving into the source material of each dated event to discover what actually happened. I’m okay with that. Doing so will only make me more familiar with that world we love and admire so much.

So, I must read broadly. Maybe I need to read everything.

And so, down the first rabbit hole I go!

A long time ago, there were the Flan…. And the Suloise…. And of course, there were the Elves….

Suffice it to say, Great things happened in the dawn of time. There certainly were great and greater civilizations that rose and fell prior to the coming of the Elves and the Dwarves, as I speculated on prior to this post. There were Dragons, most certainly; the elves wrote of them.  But what of others? Who else may have risen to power in the eons before the Elves walked the earth? The Yuan-ti? Bullywugs? Slaadi? Lovecraft’s Elder beings? Whoever, or whatever, might have walked the earth, those tales have been lost to time.

Our history begins with the Elves.

In the beginning there were the Elves and the Dwarves. They did not love one another, but they agreed to stand together against their common enemies: the humanoids, the evil giants, trolls, and primitive man.

In time, the Seven Elven Fathers learned to tap energies from other planes of existence and created what they called “New Magic.” Cherbon, chief among them, claims that he was visited by an ancient and wizened elder, who advised him that New Magic could be a path to great evil and conflict; but Cherbon, in his wisdom, dismissed the warning as the insane ramblings of a madman.  Cherbon then said that the elder transformed himself into a platinum coloured beast that took wing and flew into the heavens. He named the beast Draggonus: flying monster.

The Grey Elves were not an idle lot. New Magic intoxicated them and they quickly unlocked the secrets to greater power. They kept a watchful eye on their enemies, most notably the primitive men. Their spies reported that Men were worshipping Demonic and Diabolic Beings, and they were not pleased. They kept closer watch.

It came to pass that the Grey Elves met with Men and discovered that they were not the primitives they found centuries before. But for all their long lives and long memories, the Elves were not without their faults; they were vain and haughty, and in their wisdom they were prone to hubris; they took no heed that those humans has once worshipped Evil elder beings.

-6416 CY              The first of a group of traveling Grey Elves, exploring the South Central portion of Oerth, meet with tribal leaders of the Se-Ul (the People of Ul). They strike up a friendship and the elves began tutoring the humans in mathematics, language, art and non-clerical magic. The Se-Ul proved apt students and soon were constructing cities and delighted the elves both with their creativity and their productivity. The cities of the Se-Ul were patterned similar to those of the Grey Elves set mountain fastness, but these occupied the plains and river deltas of the southlands. [OJ1] -900 SD/-4264 FT

And their talent for magic promised to be as great.

And like the elves before them, they made mistakes. A young Se-Ul mage erred while demonstrating a spell at the limit of his skill, killing those around him. This awful incident caused the elves to rethink the wisdom of their having taught magic to Men so widely. They closed down their magic schools and many of the elves departed the Se-Ul cities for their mountains cities. The Se-Ul chaffed at this and were not pleased. They plead with the elves to return and teach them more. But their pleas fell on deaf ears. The tension between men and elves grew.

Time passed, and as spiteful children might do, the Se-Ul turned their backs on the elves. They found new friends. They met the Kersi, a beautiful dark-skinned people from an Island called AnaKeri in the south, the Orid to the east, then the Flan tribes to the southeast, and the Bakluni to their north, and they began to look to Men and not Elves for trade.

-6067 CY              The Suel began systemized trading with the tribes to the north and east. The Bakluni in the northern plains and the Flan who dwelt just west of the mountains were among these. Sea trade routes to AnaKeri are developed. The Thirteen Cities of the Suel develop into separate city-states, but all are ruled by a single council of lords under the watchful eye of the grey elves, watchfulness that men begin to dislike intensely. [OJ11] -551 SD/-3915 FT
Great prosperity blessed the Se-Ul, and Elves and Men become more distant still; so much so that when Kendaris, a young elven mage, fell in love with the Se-Ul ambassador’s daughter and asked her father for her hand, the ambassador laughed in his face. Kendaris was enraged. He decided to get revenge, and he decided that the instrument of his revenge would be the Se-Ul, themselves. He trained nine disreputable Se-Ul mages, greedy for more power, magic hitherto restricted to Men. Then he set them loose. The Nine attacked the ambassador, killing him. But they also killed Kendaris’ love as well. Then the Se-Ul mages turned on Kendaris, killing him too. And wrought terror and mayhem throughout the land until they too were brought down. But two slipped away and escaped to the north into the lands of the Bakluni, where they set up shop and spread their magic further.

-5775 CY              The Grey elves departed the lands west of the Crystalmists after the events of the Nine Mages. They had grown to dislike the Se-Ul, but the true reason was that they’d begun to wage a great war with their dark cousins in the East. Smoke and ash begins to rise up from the mountains, where the Grey Elven cities stood, and the Southern Crystalmists were renamed The Mountains of Fire, and The Mountains of Hell. -259 SD/-3393 FT

-5739 CY              The Se-Ul grew cruel. They cities began to wage war against one other, and as each one fell to the might of those who were stronger and luckier, one city grew in prominence: ReAtryniBa. Once all the Se-Ul cities were under its control, the ReAtryniBa was renamed Seula, the City of the Seuloise. Then the “Seuloise” began to subjugate the peoples around them.
Relations between the Se-Ul city states, deteriorate. The last council of the cities is held. Each city arms itself against the other. [OJ1] -223 SD

-5537 to -4463 CY             The Suel continued to gain greater power, but it cost them dearly. They trapped Genies with bindings. They imprisoned Elemental Kings. The Elementals struck back and placed a curse over the Suel lands. The Dead rose all over the Empire. The Nine Binders were hidden away. The Emperor died without an heir and the Regency Wars began and the Great Houses tore the Empire apart for centuries as they vied for control of it. Travel outside the Empire ground to a halt as the Regents and Houses exerted more control over their people. The Cult of Tharizdun rose, the worship of Good and Neutral Gods was suppressed, then banned outright as the worship of Tharizdun took hold of the Empire. The Empire was wooed by the Drow and they fell in with them against the Grey Elves. That alliance would cost them though. In fact, it would almost destroy them. [OJ1, OJ11] -21 – 1005 SD/-3385 to -2359 FT

-5011 CY              Arinanin and Tilorop mount a campaign against the Regency, but are defeated in the Second Regent War. Tilorop uses arcane energy to transform himself into the first lich on Oerth. Arinanin is blessed by Tharizdun to become the Oerth’s first vampire. His creation plagues all of mankind to this very day. 505 SD/-2859 FT

-4666 CY              The last of the Grey Elven cities in the Crystalmist Mountains is discovered and is destroyed by a concerted effort on the part of the drow/Suloise and giantkind. The defense of the city is so great, however, that drowkind and giantkind is also nigh exterminated. The Suloise army, which aided in the destruction of the elven city, is destroyed to a man, and no word of them can be obtained. The remnant of the elves flee eastward to the interior of the eastern portion of the continent. 850_SD/-2514 FT

-4616 to -4516 CY             After years of quiet plotting the remaining chief houses of the Suel rise up in unison to overthrow the Priest Regent. This is commonly referred to as the Century War of the Houses. 900 – 1000 SD/-2464 to -2364 FT

-4514 to -4511 CY             Using the Binders Alberk drives Arinanin and the priesthood of Tharizdun from the Suel Empire. The Council of Noble Families is formed to rule the Suel and the Binders are distributed among nine of them. Alberk is unaware of whom the Binders hold prisoner; he only sees them as items of great power to be used in his struggle to save the empire from evil. 1002 - 1005 SD/-2362 to -2359 FT

-4463 CY              The Grey Elves retreat from the Hellfurnaces and rebuild their civilization in the East.

The four “Elven Realms of the East” are established, and a new calendar is used for the first time among the elves to count the days of these realms. Highfolk is established in the Northwest to guard the northern ways, Celene the Central Kingdom, Aliador in the Griff Mountains, and Lendore in the Southeast Aerdi Sea (then called the Lendore Sea). 1053 SD/-2311_FT

The Suel were injured, but they were not done. In fact, they were just getting started.

But our narrative need shift now to another People, as the Suloise were decidedly focused on the West, and ours must now look East of the Crystalmists.

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, and the new old guards, Carl Sargant, James Ward, Roger E. Moore. And Erik Mona, Gary Holian, Sean Reynolds, Frederick Weining. The list is interminable. 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.
Special thanks to the contributors to the Oerth Journal, without whose efforts, this piece would not be possible.

The art is solely owned by the artists.
All material presented within is owned and copywrite by WotC.
The use of this material is not intended to challenge the rights of WotC.
This document is presented solely for the personal use of those who game within the Greyhawk Setting.

1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
OJ Oerth Journal, #1,#11
Greychrondex, Wilson, Steven B. 
The map of Anna B Meyer


  1. Great compilation, David! I've been looking for something like this for a long time. Thank you for sharing it sir!

  2. Your opening paragraph was why I gave up running Greyhawk.

    1. You don't really have to. All worlds get that complex after a while. You could always just reboot the world back to the Folio and start anew. Homebrew the whole thing. Or ignore what you wish to: Lord Gozumba's Greyhawk campaign had been going so long (40 years to date) that his timeline was further along than TSR's "From the Ashes" when it came out, so he mined it for what he liked and ignored the rest.
      Thanks for reading my post and commenting. It's greatly appreciated. Good gaming!