“Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is that man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another.”
― The Iliad
― The Iliad
|Wicked Is As Wicked Does|
Wicked is as wicked does.
The Great Kingdom was but a pale reflection of what it had been. The far-flung protectorates were falling from the fold. Were that its only concern. The Knights Protector had failed to safeguard the land they were sworn to defend. Evil had risen from within their very ranks, and threatened to overwhelm them. Hextor had risen in the east, and Heironeous had all but fled the land of the rising sun, preferring the west, where virtue still reigned.
300-350 CY As anarchy crept into the Great Kingdom, more and more of its northern provinces became increasingly independent. And in some case lawless. Petty fiefs sprang up, their rulers declaring themselves kings and barons and dukes and such. And where ruffians seized power, banditry prevailed. Those that banded together overwhelmed those that did not and became known collectively as the Bandit Kingdoms, a loose confederacy of tyrants that preyed upon one another and clung together to ward against those who’d wish to annex them. They saw themselves differently. They saw themselves as Free Lords.
The Bandit Kingdoms are a collection of petty holdings. Each little kingdom is ruled by a robber chieftain claiming a title such as Baron, Boss, Plar, General, Tyrant, Prince, Despot and even King. In all there are 17 states within the confines of the area, ruled by 4 to 6 powerful lords, and the rest attempting either to become leading rulers or simply to survive. [Folio - 8]
The Death Knights had become so powerful in the Great Kingdom that they began to hunt down the Knights Protector. Few came to the Knights’ aid. [Dragon #290 - 100 to 104]
311 CY History of the Orbs of Dragonkind
Another [Orb of Dragonkind], a larger one, was discovered and lost in 311 CY by explorers in the Hellfurnaces, though this report is confusing in details. [Dragon #230 - 12]
c. 320 CY Following the lead of the Viceroyalty of Ferrond, the outer dependencies of Aerdy too began to claim sovereignty. The Great Kingdom, ever riven by inner turmoil and its increasing decadency, was shrinking. And in its lessened state, it could do nothing to stem the tide.
Perranders, Velunians, Furyondians and Tenhas achieve success, establishing independent status one after the other in a series of minor but bloody wars. [Folio - 6]
Zagig had grown rich, and powerful. He decided he needed a place that befit his rank, where he could do what he will, away from these eyes who might disapprove. So, he set about doing just that, and laid the foundations to Castle Greyhawk.
Centuries past, when Greyhawk city was still a burgeoning riverbank trading post, Zagig was already a powerful magician. His adventurous exploits had taken him the length and breadth of Oerth and beyond—his command of magic had grown to heroic proportions. Zagig built for himself an enormous castle complex north of young Greyhawk. He used it to conduct his experiments, to build his personal guard of soldiers, and to store the treasures of his career. [WGR1 - 2]
|The Baths at Innspa|
322 CY Never say that the Aerdi were ever uncivilized. Hygiene and social grace were, and still are, very important to them. Vast public baths were built in Innspa. This is not to say that they are not above enslaving an elemental or two to ensure their comfort.
They were built in cy 322 by an eccentric wizard obsessed with personal hygiene, and the fire elemental he bound to heat the waters is still at work here. [Ivid - 77]
356 CY The founding of Nyrond marked the beginning of the Great Kingdom’s decline. One might think that the founding of Furyondy marked such, but in truth, though it did mark the beginning of its dissolution, the Great Kingdom had not looked to their Western Provinces for decades, and those provinces had not sought their aid or council for as long, so when the Viceroyalty of Ferrond declared its sovereignty, the Great Kingdom hardly took note. Its attention was firmly focused on the East; so, when its Eastern protectorates began to secede, the Kingdom chose to take note, and to act.
The House of Rax, ruling Aerdi dynasty, was at the time sundered by an internal feud, and the junior branch, then known as Nyrond, declared its lands free of the rule of the reigning Overking [Portillan] and sovereign. [Folio - 6]
[T]he ruling dynasty of Aerdy, the Celestial House of Rax, had grown especially decadent. In response, the western province of Nyrond declared itself free of the Great Kingdom and elected one of its nobles as king of an independent domain. Armies gathered from all loyal provinces of Aerdy to suppress this brazen act. [LGG - 14]
The subsequent inexorable decline of the Great Kingdom can be seen in two stages. The first is the beginning of the many secessions from the Overkingdom, with Furyondy the first to establish independence in CY 254 and Veluna and Tenh following soon after with Perrenland re-asserting its independence. The decisive blow was the division of this royal house in CY 356 when the Nyrond branch rebelled.
The attempts of the then-overking, Portillan, to reconquer Nyrond were stymied by an assault on the North Province of Aerdy from Flan barbarians which forced Portillan to defend his own lands rather than reconquer Nyrond. With the Urnst states and the Theocracy of the Pale swiftly following Nyrond's path, Aerdy's dominance was broken. [Ivid - 3]
|Fate Takes a Hand|
Sometimes Fate takes a hand. Nyrond should have fallen. But just as the Aerdi dynasty was marching troops north to deal with Nyrond’s illegal declaration of independence, an allied host of Fruztii and Schnai invaded, threatening to overwhelm the Bone March and Ratik and sweep into the North Province. The Rax Overking Portillan had no choice but to divert his forces headed to contest Nyrond to counter the barbarian invasion. They were successful, but at a great cost. So many perished at in the kingdom’s defence that it had to accept Nyrond’s independence.
A coalition of Fruzt, Schna and mercenary barbarians mounted a major foray into the Aerdian North Province. The Overking's army, raised to invade Nyrond, swung northeast and soon the invaders were crushed. The end of the campaigning season arrived before any action could be taken against Nyrond. [Folio - 6]
Of course, Fate may not have had a hand in it, at all. Nyrond surely knew that the Kingdom would not take their declaration of independence lightly; surely, they knew that the Kingdom would retaliate. So, it isn’t out of the realm of possibilities that Nyrond may have sent emissaries to the Thillonrian Peninsula, informing the Barbarian tribes that the North Province might soon be vulnerable. And the Northern tribes just may have listened. Stanger things have happened. Of course, no one can say for certain if this really happened. But the timing is suspicious. Then again, sometimes Fate takes a hand, doesn’t it?
The Battle of Redspan
Nyrond’s secession was just the beginning. They pressed Tenh to join them in revolt, convincing them that this was the time to rise, that true freedom could be theirs. Tenh did not need much convincing. Tenh had always believed that they were independent of the Great Kingdom, had always believed that they were self-determining, but until then, they had never brazenly declared themselves so, fearing retribution, for the Great Kingdom was vast and strong, and they were small. They saw that now was the time to do so. The Aerdi were hard pressed, the Aerdi were weakened, so if not then, when? They rose up with Nyrond, and the Tenha cavalry routed the Aerdian forces at Redspan. And when that was done, the Duke of Tenh ended his fealty to Aerdian Crown.
Eventually, the Great Kingdom showed signs of decay. When the Nyrondal princes declared the end of their allegiance to the overking, the duke was persuaded to follow suit. The Battle of Redspan signaled the end of the duke's fealty to the overking of Aerdy. The Aerdy force was routed by the Tenha cavalry and pushed down the "Red Road to Rift Canyon" in an action made famous in the ballad of the same name. The army of the Great Kingdom was not actually swept into the Rift Canyon, as the ballad proclaims, but they were so thoroughly defeated that many of the Aerdi officers and soldiers chose exile in the Bandit Kingdoms over the punishments awaiting them at home. [LGG - 113]
361 CY History of the Orbs of Dragonkind
Everyone in the Flanaess must know the tale of the mad Zagig Yragerne, who is said to have taken a large white crystal ball [an Orb of Dragonkind] with him when he left this city one spring day in 361 CY and returned the following week with a hoard of treasure such as only a succession of kings would know, using some of these riches of course to build Castle Greyhawk. He returned here without the white ball, however, and never spoke of it nor even acknowledged its existence before or afterward.
I have counted about two dozen other confirmed or probable appearances of the orbs between the fall of the Suloise Empire and the present day. The location of only one orb is known for certain to our cozy group of the Eight: The Orb of the Hatchling is unquestionably held in Rauxes, as Mordenkainen himself was able to demonstrate to our satisfaction last year. It is almost certainly the same orb held by Aerdy’s early overkings, but we do not know yet where the orb was found, how it was recovered, the uses to which it is being put, or the identity of its true owner or master.
Unlike the sections of the fabled Rod of Seven Parts, the various Orbs of Dragonkind have never been reported to indicate the presence of any of their fellow orbs, for which I am sure we can all be thankful. No spell, not even a Wish, and some say not even a god, will reveal the location of an orb; you simply have to be lucky enough to find one and know it for what it is. They seem to function independently of one another, though tales circulate that unexpected abilities become manifest when two orbs are brought into proximity of one another. I believe most of these stories are exaggerations and falsehoods, but I cannot discount the possibility. Time, perhaps, will tell. [Dragon #230 - 13]
c. 357 CY Evil and decadence corrupted the Great Kingdom. All knew it. They cavorted with nether worlds and were thoroughly seduced by their promises.
It was at this time that the evil began to grow within the rulers of the Great Kingdom. The House of Rax became decadent, its policies ineffectual and aimed at appeasement. The powerful noble houses took this as their cue to set up palatinate-like states, and rule their fiefs as if they were independent kingdoms. [Folio - 6]
c 375-399 The Long slow fall.
|The Long Slow Fall|
Local rulers who were members of other royal houses began to use their titles of prince rather more aggressively. They began to enact more laws of their own, to administer local taxes increasingly independently of the overking, to build fortifications not only for themselves but for their own liegemen who came less and less to answer to the overking and more and more to obey only their own local lords.
Mercenary armies became more common, and some princes conquered slices of other princes' lands. The drunken, enfeebled, or effete overkings allowed this to happen.
The House of Naelax was the first to use humanoid mercenary troops around the Adri Forest for provisioning raids late in the fourth century. And it was this royal house which came increasingly to the fore.
At this time, the Great Kingdom still had a relative freedom and equality of many priesthoods, although those of Lawful alignments were dominant. In Rauxes itself, the priesthood of Pholtus still played a commanding role as advisers, judges, and mediators. However, Naelax aligned itself firmly with the burgeoning priesthood of Hextor. In a land with increasing strife and struggle, this aggressive evil priesthood became more influential as the decades passed. [Ivid - 3]
c. 376 CY All great cities have a beginning. Sometimes that founding is unassuming, a crossroads, a need of portage, the discovery of riches nearby. Sometimes, it rises from necessity; Rel Mord began as such.
Despite its location deep within Nyrond, Rel Mord is heavily defended and maintains the appearance of a huge fortress. Originally armored to protect itself against Nyrond's conquered states (the County of Urnst and the Theocracy of the Pale), the city watch now keeps its eyes toward the evil nations of the east. [WG8 - 14]
c.430’s CY House Naelex reached its zenith with the ascension of Herzog Ivid I in the North.
House Naelax reached its nadir in North Province with the rise of Herzog Ivid I of the North in the 430s CY. Over the intervening two centuries, the Naelax had grown to be the strongest individual house in the kingdom, and by this time an undeclared war was raging between Rax and Naelax. Unusual for Aerdi up until that time, the Naelax employed orc and goblin mercenaries to augment their forces. [LGG - 74]
|Truth, Trust, and Transparency|
435 CY Were the great Houses of Aerdy beloved? Were they ever? The Histories would say so, but they were written by those very same Houses. They would raise noble ideas of Golden Ages, and and the benevolence of the Celestial Houses, as though they were ordained and set upon the oerth to make it a brighter place. If that were true, then how did they fall so? Point in case, why was the House of Garasteth ousted from Roland, the Bay of Gates. And were those who displaced them any better?
A despotic Garasteth ruler was overthrown in a military coup, and the leaders of that coup instituted their own despotism instead. To avoid assassination attempts, they kept their identities secret, meeting at irregular intervals in the windowless marbled keep known simply as Fortress. While The Five know who each other are, they meet masked and disguised in Fortress. [Ivid - 99]
|The Turmoil Between Crowns|
437 CY The Great Kingdom continued to tear itself to pieces during the Turmoil between Crowns. The great Houses were always very much at odds with one another, always watchful, ever vigilant, and perpetually paranoid, because they have need to be.
This name is given both to the decade of internal schisms under the rule of the last Rax overking, Nalif, and to the civil war which followed Ivid's ascension. [Ivid - 4]
What can be said of those houses? Who were they?
Naelax: Ruling Royal House, major landholders, noted for their penchant for building large-scale, formidable castles and fortifications—and for their vanity.
Rax-Nyrond: The Rax line is officially extinct, but there are some illegitimate descendants of Nasri who claim a line to the malachite throne, and historically the house is of major importance because of its junior branch and the foundation of Nyrond.
Torquann: An Oeridian-Flan-Suel mix, this house has dominated commerce and trade along the eastern coastal provinces. Traditionally aloof in politics, this house has a long, long history of dour, hard, depressive rulers whose lands suffer heavy taxation and repressive laws.
Garasteth: The House of Garasteth is feared for its mages and sages, and for its inscrutability and arcane knowledge. The house is not much given to temporal power, but sees itself as a guardian of true Oeridian culture and wisdom. The house is increasingly influential among local rulers given the threat of the Suloise Scarlet Brotherhood to the south (and in the Lordship of the Isles). Garasteth rulers are hard, cold, cruel individuals, but they are to be feared on account of their devotion to learning and their formidable intellects.
Cranden: Once the royal house, the Crandens have dominated Almor and Ahlissa for centuries. A worldly, urbane aristocracy, their prestige plummeted with the secession of Almor and the abortive attempt to ally South Province with the Iron League. The House of Naelax moved swiftly to remove control of these provinces from Cranden, but the other houses were not prepared to see Cranden wholly destroyed and exerted pressure which even the overkings could not wholly resist. The House of Cranden is important because it resists the more insane evils of the overking, and the old affinity with the Iron League is not completely lost. Irongate and Sunndi have friends they trust among the lesser princes of this house.
Darmen: Often thought flighty and trivial by the more powerful political houses, the House of Darmen has devoted itself to trade and commerce and found its niche there. Easily the richest house, Darmen has massive landholdings from eastern Ahlissa through the central provinces with their rich and fertile plains, even as far as North Province. The House of Darmen believes itself fated to be the next Ruling Royal House, with its ambitious young Prince Xavener employing a sensible long-term strategy. Xavener has no intention of wasting his armies assaulting Rauxes. Instead, he bankrolls mercenaries for competing houses elsewhere. Often, he bankrolls both sides. That way, he is certain to back the winner—who will owe him a very large favor. When the time comes, with everyone else's armies decimated, Xavener will call in those favors and march on Rauxes. Such is his plan, at any rate. However, not all in the House of Darmen support him. [Ivid - 10, 11]
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.
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.
All art is wholly owned by the artists.
Zagig Tragerne, by Franz Vohwinkel (?), Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk, 2007
1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979
2023 Greyhawk Adventures Hardback, 1988
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
9253 WG8, Fate of Istus, 1989
9292 WGR1 Greyhawk Ruins, 1990
9399 WGR 5, Iuz the Evil, 1993
9577 The Adventure Begins, 1998
9578 Player’s Guide to Greyhawk, 1998
11374 The Scarlet Brotherhood, 1999
11621 Slavers. 2000
11742 Gazetteer, 2000
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Ivid the Undying, 1998
OJ Oerth Journal, appearing on Greyhawk Online
LGJ et. al.
Greychrondex, Wilson, Steven B.
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer
The map of Anna B. Meyer