Saturday, 30 May 2020

History of the South-East, Part 6: A Continuance of Sorrow (300 to 475 CY)

“Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is that man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another.”
― Homer, 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]
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 CY
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. 430s CY
House Naelex reached its zenith with the ascension of Herzog Ivid I in the North.
ouse 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]

435 CY
Truth, Trust, and Transparency
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]

437 CY
The Turmoil Between Crowns
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.

The Art:
All art is wholly owned by the artists.
Bath by armsav
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
Dragon Magazine
OJ Oerth Journal, appearing on Greyhawk Online
LGJ et. al.
Greychrondex, Wilson, Steven B.
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer

Saturday, 23 May 2020

On the Ratik That Was, Wasn’t, Then Was Again

"Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can find his way by moonlight,
and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world."
― Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist

A rumination on Ratik:
Ratik is a small but prosperous nation located in the northeastern corner of the Flanaess. It is seated in a cultural crossroads between the otherwise civilized south of the former Aerdi Great Kingdom and the barbaric north of the Suel on the Thillonrian Peninsula. Ratik stretches between the Rakers and the Solnor Coast, where the modest city of Marner, the capital, is its only major port. Its southern border is marked by the fortified hills separating Ratik from Bone March. These extend east all the way out to the Loftwood, where the hearty woodsmen are allied with the archbarony. Ratik's northern border divides the Timberway between itself and the Frost Barbarians, a long-standing informal boundary that has been respected by both sides for centuries and only recently was acknowledged by formal treaty. While these barriers have profoundly isolated Ratik from the rest of the Flanaess, they also have served to protect it from invaders for centuries. [LGG - 89]

The last “civilized” land, clinging to a narrow patch of land between towering mountains and an “endless,” mysterious, deep blue sea? Barbarians to the north, hordes of orcs and gnolls to the south? What’s not to like?
As to the Timberway being split between the Fruztii and Ratik, I pushed the border north, to the widest river in the region, the likely most defensible border. Canon? No, but the border seemed far more natural there, and it fit in with what I had planned in my campaign.

The Keep on the Borderlands
I’m getting ahead of myself. I do that. To begin, then. What was my introduction to Ratik? Not with the Folio. The World of Greyhawk boxed set. ’82? Thereabouts. That’s not right, either. My introduction was with B1, B2, and B3. B2, Keep on the Borderlands, specifically. Not Greyhawk, you say? Not Ratik? I beg to differ. There was a time that modules were not tailored to specific sites. They were meant to be slipped into your own campaign, as you saw fit. And as to whether B1 and 2 were ever meant to be placed in Ratik, I give you exhibit B1, from B1:

Anyway, those were the modules we began with, and B1 suggested that Ratik was one of the places it could be set. My DM had mentioned as much, and added a town to the keep, and a campaign began.
Then, after a time, and a few modules, he and we parted ways. Henri wanted to run modules. We wanted more narrative. I became the DM.
It was only after we had parted ways that I discovered how difficult DM’ing could be. Henri did a great job, in my opinion. The time spent in his game was fun, thrilling, magical. We were also winging it. We began playing with an incomplete set, with the Players handbook, the original Red Box, and B2. Henri made up a lot of rules on the fly, and we were none the wiser, seeing that none of us had any books at the time. We were all learning. And forgiving, then, too, at the beginning. Less so when we parted company.
Our town had not been named. So, I named it: Riverport. I nicknamed it Malice, after a song by the Jam (not terribly imaginative, but the name set the tone for the campaign to come). I look back now and have to laugh at how naively it began. What to name things? I stole from everywhere: books, songs, movies, myth, wherever. I had no maps, no source material at the start, so I concocted a greater empire, and named it Pengarde, an obvious rip-off of Arthur’s surname.
Needless to say, it was messy. These days we refer to Greyhawk as a messy setting; but Greyhawk was a streamlined wonder compared to Pengarde. A word to the wise. Do not, and I mean never, use fantasy fiction as an inspiration for world creation. I most certainly did in those early years. The maps within those tomes are ridiculous for the most part, so too the names given to forests and rivers and deserts. I blame Tolkien and his Mount Doom for kicking off the trend. I was inspired by such earnest and evocative names, and seeded them throughout, only realizing afterward that no forest would ever be named Limitations, and by then I was stuck with them.
But I also see a level of sophistication developing. It was built upon, layer by layer, likely how most campaigns begin, if one is not playing modules. Modules were expensive, and we did not have a game store yet that sold such things at the time. And when we did, there were LPs to buy. And novels. Etc. And I only made $3.30/hour at the time. So many priorities.
Someone finally did open up a comic/gaming shop. I picked up the Gold Box, and read what there was to be had about Greyhawk. It was then that I came upon Ratik for the first time in print:

The North Coast
When the Bone March was created by the Overking, a further outpost was desired and the Aerdi banners pushed northward as far as the Timberway. A military commander was appointed to see to the establishment of a secure territory and lumbering was gotten underway, as the great pines of the area were highly desirable in shipbuilding. The active commander soon sent such a stream of riches southward (he was a just man, friendly with the Dwerfolk, and an able tactician, too) - accompanying them with detailed reports of successful actions against the last of the Frost Barbarians in the area - that the Overking took notice. After a raiding fleet was roundly beaten, the Overking elevated this general to the nobility, creating him Baron Ratik. Thereafter a succession of his descendants have ruled the fief, bravely combatting raiders so as to gain their respect and even friendship from some, while humans and demihumans alike prospered. 'When the hordes of humanoids began attacking, Ratik had ample warning from the dwarves dwelling in the mountains. Companies of men and gnomes hurried west to aid their countrymen against the invaders, while couriers were sent south (and north) to alert the people there. Resistance was so fierce that the area was bypassed, and· the attackers fell instead upon the Bone March. The isolated barony has since been ruled as a fief palatine. [WoGA - 32]
That’s not much to go on, but it was enough to spark the imagination. I stole from that boxed set. Suloise, Oeridians, Flan. Cultural affectations. Gary’s encounter charts. This and that. The names within were far better than the Forest of Limitations, that’s for certain. Would that I had picked up the “Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire,” and Herodotus, and Roman, Celtic myth. Beowulf, Gilgamesh. Cuchulainn. No matter, I picked up that boxed set and fell in love with that map.
I was buying modules then. Those I could get my hands on, anyway. Those that were not too expensive, that is. G1-3, D1-3, S1-4, N1, I1,6-8, A1-4. Enough to stoke the imagination, though not as many as I wished to and wanted. LPs, novels, cinema tickets, the arcade, pop and chips. You remember.
In time, we left for school (as did I), and then to begin lives and careers elsewhere. These things happen.
I found myself without a group for a time. What to do to fill the void? I took the time to adapt my campaign to Ratik, which was obviously the inspiration for the original.
B3 Duchess and Candella
I wanted the newly adapted campaign to have a frontier feel. Easier to handle, I believed. Towns were scaled down. What used to be concentrated in Riverport was spread about, giving the characters the need to travel. And ultimately renamed The James Bay Frontier (the bit above the North Bay), to differentiate it from the more settled, and presumably stable south (full disclosure, I live in the James Bay Frontier; maybe doing so was less than imaginative, but I thought the moniker was pretty cool, and it was far better than the Forest of Limitations). There was wildcat mining in the north. Stone circles and ‘henges. A felled Flan civilization underfoot. Bandits. The mystery of Rogahn and Zelligar. And eldritch horrors of eons past. And giants in them thar hills.
Duchess and Candella
Candella and Duchess homage
I found those old modules invaluable, especially B1-3, N1, G1-3. Duchess and Candella became staples in it. Allies. Love interests. Foils. And remained so even unto G1-3.
G3 Duchess

A new campaign arose from the ashes of the old, with some old players, with some new.
And in time, that too faded away as the lives of players overwhelmed them and they moved away.
Enter 25 year hiatus. Did I buy more RPG material? You bet I did. Did I read much of it? No. I leafed through some, not all, and rarely completely.
Sadly, I purged a lot of that original material, years later. That means dumpster. Not my D&D stuff. I was never going to dumpster that. As to the rest, much of it was never used: Boxed sets for Star Trek RPG, Doctor Who, Traveller 2300, Space 1889, I cannot remember what else. And reams of my old campaign notes. I regret that. But it was just unused paper in my mind at the time of the purge, the flotsam of childhood become jetsam; but I felt the wrench of small death as I chucked it, watching a precious portion of my youth discarded with it.

Time passed, the aforementioned 25 years before I was approached, lured back into nostalgia. I pulled out my old books even as I was buying the 5e stuff, and was thrilled to discover my old notes, originals as it were. Two thoughts collided as I leafed through the sacred pages, their naiveté, and my spark of imagination.
Do I remember that old material that was purged? Not all. But I remember enough. Not a lot of the town names. Those are lost to time.
So, here is a recreation, updated as it is upon referring to Anna Meyer’s map of the region. I even added Len Lakofka’s Layakeel to it.

Are they to scale? No. Not really.
Are they rough? Yes. Decidedly. Considerably. Consider them a scratchy pad rumination.
Has my penmanship improved? Not a bit. If anything, it has failed in pace with my eyesight.
I bid you be kind as I rewind.
My players loved my campaign. To this day, those I still know say that mine was the best they’d ever played in. And in the end, isn’t whether your players enjoyed your campaign all that matters?

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.

The Art:
All art is wholly owned by the artists.
B2 The Keep on the Borderlands, Cover, by Jim Roslof, 1980
B3 Palace of the Silver Princess, Duchess and Candella, by Jim Roslof, 1981
G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King, Female Thief, by David A Trampier, 1978

1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1068 Greyhawk Wars Boxed Set, 1991
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
9023 B1 In Search of the Unknown, 1979
9034 B2 Keep on the Borderlands, 1980
9044 B3 Palace of the Silver Princess, 1981
9058 G1-3 Against the Giants, 1981
Dragon Magazine

Saturday, 16 May 2020

History of the South-East, Part 5: A Descent Into Sorrow (200 to 261 CY)

“His descent was like nightfall.”
Homer, The Iliad

A Kingdom Grown Fat on Indulgence
The Great Kingdom had reached its apex; and with it, decadence. Its aristocracy had grown fat on indulgence; its throne even more so. An omen of the coming days had streaked across the sky, predicting its decline; of course, none had taken heed. Theirs was the time of unparalleled wealth, and unparalleled power. Had they looked to the past for guidance… For the Suel Imperium might have taught them the price of pride, hubris, and cruelty.

c. 200 CY
The Viceroyalty of Ferrond looked to the east, and so apathy. And a rising incomitance. The Kingdom had left them; that much was sure. But the Kingdom still demanded its tithe, for the Kingdom believed that was its due. The Viceroyalty was not as convinced of that venerable seat of power’s claim. For, did not Dyvers determine their course, did not Dyvers see to their affairs. What need did they have of the Malachite Throne then?
For three centuries the Aerdy held a vast empire which fluctuated in extent but little, until after the third Celestial House (dynasty) when the borders began to close in upon the original territory of the Aerdi. [Folio - 5]
As the power of the Malachite Throne in Rauxes waned, the Viceroys of Ferrond ruled more by their own writ and less by the leave of the Aerdi overlords. [Folio - 10]

The Kingdom, in its hubris, did not heed the stirrings of independence to the west. Trade flowed. Riches continued to arrive. But too slowly for its liking. So, Leukish was constructed to facilitate the flow.
By 200, Aerdy coin had seen to the construction of Leukish, at that time the richest and most splendid port on all the Nyr Dyv. Thirty-seven years later, the duke moved the capital to the new city, leaving Seltaren to degenerate into a swarm of old politics and run-down buildings. The duke's family established Shorewatch, a beautiful castle in the village of Nesserhead, just east of Leukish. [LGG - 125]

202 CY
"And it started like a guilty thing; Upon a fearful summons." [Hamlet]
During the reign of Overking Jiranen, Lord Kargoth was reputedly the greatest knight of the day. So, when the standard bearer of the Knights Protector passed into legend, Lord Kargoth fully expected to be named his successor, a fitting tribute to his long and illustrious career. When a much younger Sir Benedor was proclaimed successor, the realm gasped in disbelief, despite it being rumoured that the youth had been touched by the spirit of Johydee. Kargoth’s pride was much wounded. The Banner should have been his, he seethed!  He challenged the young knight in the Court of Essences to a contest of arms, and although fearful, the young knight accepted the challenge. The clearly weaker young knight parried Kargoth’s attacks, never giving up the floor, and held his own until sunset, upon which the challenge was called. Stalemate! According to custom, Kargoth had lost. He refused the young knight’s hand of truce and stormed from court and the sneers of his peers. He vowed revenge.

He Came Upon a Ruin
Kargoth took refuge from the deluge that accompanied his flight. He came upon a ruin, and a stair down into the dry darkness beneath it. An ancient shrine greeted his torch upon reaching its base, that and the whispered words of the demon Ahmon-Ibor, the Sibilant Beast. Kargoth knew this beast, Demogorgon, to be a fell fiend worshipped by the decadent Flan until they were pacified by the Aerdy. The whispers promised a plan of revenge and Kargoth was seduced by those whispers, and he swore a blood pact to seal his deal. Tentacles sprung out of the darkness and tore out his eyes, and Kargoth became the first Death Knight. He emerged to discover the Knights Protector riven by the slight given him. And he was pleased.
Monduiz Dephaar returned to the Great Kingdom upon hearing of his mentor’s supposed disgrace, seeking to join Kargoth in his revenge. Others joined him.Dephaar did not see Kargoth’s disfigurement. Kargoth kept it hidden at all times. He kept his distance; he held his meetings in darkened rooms, his incensed ravings woven with belching clouds of acrid incense.
Saint Kargoth
The whispers instructed him on when it was time to act upon his vengeance. When it was time, he gathered those who sided with him, and raided the Temple of Lothan, and taking its holy artifact, the Orb of Sol, in hand, he bent the Orb’s power to his will. He raised it high, and speaking words of power, summoned the draconic tentacle demon beast Arendagrost, as he was bid. And set it free upon the world. Arendagrost began to cut a swath of destruction from Rel Deven to Rauxes.
Sir Benedor rode hard to Rel Deven upon hearing the news. He arrived in time to witness those thirteen knights who’d accompanied Kargoth rise from their death sprawls, their clothing scotched, their flesh burned, their eyes aglow with malevolence. He summoned all of his courage and closed with Kargoth. He attacked with abandon, sure in the knowledge that if he did not, he was lost. Near his end, he managed to wrest the Orb from Kargoth, and instructed by it, he too spoke words of power and he scattered those deathly knights that he once called peers, and began his relentless quest to destroy them.
His victory came too late for the royal family, though. They had fallen victim to the rampaging fiend. Indeed, one had fallen and was raised by Kargoth in his own image to mock their feeble power, and set him too upon the world.
Was Benedor successful? No. The Death Knights were swift, and they laid a trail of undead in their wake to slow him. [Adapted from Dragon #290 - 100 to 104]

203 CY
The Order of the Knights Protector hunted the Death Knights, their desire to eradicate them. They were blight upon the kingdom they had sworn to protect; and truth be told, they could not abide the thought that those who had fallen to that dark path had been so easily lured from it. The Knights Protector failed. To their own detriment.
Few events shook the order as greatly as the betrayal of the paladin Sir Kargoth, who made a pact with the forces of evil and unleashed a demonic terror upon the Great Kingdom in 203 GY. The abomination was destroyed at great cost, but the fallen knight seduced no fewer than thirteen members of the order to his dark banner. Kargoth's treachery cursed everything he touched, and sunlight turned all fourteen traitors into the first and most powerful of the so called death knights.
The order went into slow decline after this upheaval, as many loyal knights spent much time hunting down the renegades. [LGG - 158]

The Death Knights:
St. Kargoth the Betrayer, Lord Monduiz Dephaar, Lady Lorana Kath of Naelax, Prince Myrhal of Rax, Sir Maeril of Naelax, Sir Farian of Lirthan [destroyed by Benedor], Lord Andromansis of Garasteth, Sir Oslan Knarren, Sir Rezinar of Haxx, Lord Thyrian of Naelax, Sir Minar Syrric of Darmen, Duke Urkar Grasz of Torquann, Sir Luren the Boar of Torquann, and Lord Khayven of Rax. [Dragon #290]

213 CY
How complacent was Rauxes? How depraved? How self-serving?
Upon the death of Overking Jiranen, his son Malev auctioned off the throne to the highest bidder. For how much? A princely sum, I would imagine, for few could meet the price Malev would accept. His cousin Zelcor could, and did.
[With] the death in the spring of 213 CY of the Overking Jiranen, a sovereign who had reigned many years, succession became a matter of intrigue. His fatuous son Malev was uninterested in the office and proceeded to secretly auction it off to the highest bidder among his relatives. Malev did not care who took the throne, and it came as some surprise when his cousin Zelcor reportedly met his price. [LGG - 23]

Royal Astrologers at Rel Astra proclaimed the coming of the Age of Sorrow, vindicating the disgraced Sage Selvor the Younger.
Selvor the Younger, an Aerdi astronomer, extrapolated its path [of the comet that passed overhead in 198 CY] back to its celestial origin and declared the fireball to be an omen of “wealth, strife, and a living death.” This pronouncement caused panic in Rauxes and throughout the Great Kingdom, where it was interpreted to mean the end of the world. The subsequent incidents and unrest foreshadowed the Age of Great Sorrow to come, in 213 CY [LT1 The Star Cairns - 2]
The Royal Astrologers proclaimed it as a great portent, confirming the sign of a coming Age of Great Sorrow prophesied by Selvor the Younger fifteen years earlier. Overking Zelcor promptly abolished the astrologers' order for trying to recreate earlier hysteria and banished the members to Rel Astra. So proceeded an inexorable decline that began as the rulers of House Rax became progressively neglectful, decadent, or dimwitted. [LGG - 23]

From 213 CY on, the Aerdi overkings grew lax, caring more for local prestige and wealth than for the affairs of their vassals in distant lands. This period was called the Age of Great Sorrow. As each sovereign passed, he was replaced with a more dimwitted and less competent successor, until the outer dependencies of Aerdy declared their independence. [LGG - 14]

The new Overking Zelcor began to distance himself from the Knights Protector, for public opinion had swayed against them and their favour. Lord Kargoth had fallen, and had seduced thirteen of their number to join him on his evil path, and the people had suffered for it. What had the Knights Protector done to stop their fallen, they asked? Nothing. Or so it seemed. The had chased that evil number hither and yon, and yet the Death Knights continued to wreak havoc. What then, were they good for, they asked? So too did Zelcor. [Dragon #290]

215 CY
Who was Wastri, the Hopping Prophet? The Malachite Throne had no idea. Neither did the Scarlet Brotherhood. Some few in the Brotherhood assumed him to be one of the original followers of Kevelli, but they had no proof of such a claim. He was powerful, to be sure; a god some thought; most believed him a heretic.
The first appearance of the frog-like demigod Wastri in 5730 SD was met with surprise, confusion and disgust. “Wastri” had been the name of one of Kevelli’s students lost in the swamp so many years before; and the demigod’s humanocentrism, and his belief that humanoids existed to seve humans, paralleled their own philosophy. Regardless of his origins, the Hopping Prophet was obviously tainted. The Brotherhood declared him an impure creature (although this was done privately so as not to offend the demigod), which kept them from working closely with him. Wastri seemed content to remain in his swamp, initiating occasional raids into the forests and hills nearby in search of demihumans to impale. [SB]
It is he who preaches the ultimate superiority of humankind. While humanoids can serve, demi-humans are fit only to be slain — especially dwarves, gnomes, and halflings. These, with the aid of his gray-clad “Servants,” he hunts with his toad packs and exterminates whenever possible. [Dragon #71 - 56]
Orcs, goblins, bullywugs, and such are sufficient to serve humans [….] Those who disagree […] are wrong and must be convinced of their error, with a weapon if need be. [LGG - 187]

Was Wastri Iuz? Is that possible? Might that master of mayhem and deceit begun to weave his web that far south of his domain?
When Tarkhan [of the Wolf Nomads] arrived to raise the siege [of Eru-Tovar], Lord Choldraf was forced to screen the withdrawal of the luzites, since the humanoids under the wizard Mellard-Plict were too undisciplined and unreliable to handle the assignment. In fact, most of the wizard’s troops had deserted, or merely decided to wander off on a raid of their own, by the time the Battle of Black Water Bend was fought. The high priest is in disgrace now, but it is likely that Choldraf will find some way to redeem himself with luz. It is reported that the wizard fled immediately upon the loss of the battle, going far south and now raising companies of bullywugs in the Vast Swamp, supposedly at the behest of Wastri, the Hopping Prophet. [Dragon #56 - 19]
This beg the question to be asked: Why did Choldraf flee to the Vast Swamp of all places? To redeem himself there? Why there, unless that was where Iuz was to be found.

There are those who say that Wastri was a but a man, a zealot dent on finding the path of spiritual perfection through isolation, privation, and meditation. In this he was encouraged by all who met him, for he was unpleasant and out of place in any normal society. It was as much ostracizing as choice that sent the zealous seeker forth to find the path to his “enlightenment.” The religious hermit found what he was seeking in the vast wilderness of mires and marsh. The experience was not what he expected. Wastri found he disliked being alone, so he made friends with the denizens of the swamp and sought converts—simply because he wanted the company of servants. Instead of contemplating the mysteries and seeking the greater truth, the fellow grew bored, since all he discovered within himself was shallowness.
Rthe community of his followers grew, and as things developed, Wastri’s main interest centered on the first friends he’s made in the bogs, the giant toads. Over the course of decades, the Hopping Profit grew more powerful, even as he and his faithful following assimilated certain characteristics of a strange sort as a result of their mingling.
To this day, Wastri has continued to evolve to a point where he is no longer human. [Dragon #300 - 16]

230 CY
Zelcor looked ever inward, slowly withdrawing those imperial troops that had stood steadfast upon the Kingdom’s borders. Did he believe his borders secure? I doubt he gave them much thought, what with his having ignored the prophesy of doom that preceded his “ascending” to the throne—ascending?—suppressing said prophesy might be a better description. I would make the brazen assumption that he recalled his forces in hopes of protecting Rauxes, any himself, from the Death Knights that had plagued his kingdom for decades.
This period was […] marked by a noticeable decline in the quality of Aerdy rulership from Rauxes. This time, called the Age of Great Sorrow, led to an important change in 230 CY, when Aerdy soldiers were withdrawn from Greyhawk [City] and the landgraf was charged with defending the Selintan region using local militia. [TAB - 58]

233 CY
Was Zelcor a good and just king? Was he competent? Was he corrupt? As to the fist two questions, who can say; he had sat upon the Malachite Throne for decades, so he was certainly proficient at keeping that seat. As to the third? Most certainly. And that would certainly call into question the veracity of the first two.
House Naelax finally regained the throne of North Province in 223 CY, after the untimely death of Herzog Atirr Movanich. Some say this was accomplished by paying off the heavily indebted Overking Zelcor I, who had no aversion to procuring his own berth over a decade earlier. [LGG - 74]

237 CY
One might think that Seltaren was well situated upon the Plains of Palentine, central to all it oversaw. A bastion of Suloise culture. And so it was, and had been for centuries. [Gifted] with a moderate climate, the farms of [the Dutchy of] Urnst produce crops in all but the deepest winter Summer rains commonly flood the banks of the Nesser well south of the capital; wise farmers construct low stone walls around their fields, building outbuildings on short stilts. The famous rolling foothills of the north prevent serious flooding there, and make for breathtaking landscapes remembered in travelogues read across the Flanaess. [LGG]
Despite all that, the cool breezes flowing off the Nyr Dyv called to the Duke of Urnst. He moved his capitol from Seltaren to Leukish and established the castle of Shorewatch, in Nesserhead just east of Leukish.
Thirty-seven years [after the the construction of the port of Leukish], the duke moved the capital to the new city, leaving Seltaren to degenerate into a swarm of old politics and run-down buildings. The duke's family established Shorewatch, a beautiful castle in the village of Nesserhead, just east of Leukish. [LGG - 124]

247 CY
The Knights Protector persevered, despite their having failed to destroy Kargoth and his chosen few. Lord Kargoth’s castle walls were pulled down by the Knights Protector, in a desperate bid to deny Kargoth any haven, any succor within the kingdom. Were that true; they razed it to erase the his memory from those who dwelt under its shadow. Were that possible. What secrets it may have held have remained buried ever since.
Rumours persist that he settled on the Isle of Cursed Souls, but if truth be told, Kargoth had only been seen once upon that northern coast, and that during the Flan Festival of the Bloody Moon. [Dragon #290]

252 CY
Some seed take decades to germinate: the Theocracy of the Pale, for instance. Who would have thought that its first seed was planted a century prior to its Emancipation? But it was. And it was first seed was sown by Overking Toran II, a paranoid, suspicious soul, if there ever was one. He saw enemies everywhere, he heard whispers in the far corners of his court. And knew that he had tenuous hold on the length and breadth of his Great Kingdom. None should rule but him. And to that end, those with any influence need be uprooted. Replaced. With those more loyal.
Centuries before the founding of the Pale, when the Great Kingdom spanned nearly the length and breadth of the Flanaess, the church of Pholtus had the appointed task of administering the courts for the realm on behalf of the overking and the Celestial Houses. Its highest ranking member was given the title of Holy Censor and granted a fief to administer from the old city of Mentrey in Medegia, where judges of the law from all faiths were trained and appointed. When the order of Pholtus fell out of favor with the overkings of House Rax in the mid-third century CY, it was largely due to the perception that its leaders were attempting to impose their doctrine on the kingdom and create a theocracy through their control of the courts. While this may have been true of some its more outspoken leaders, the accusation undoubtedly owed more to the apathy of the Pholtans to the evolving politics at court. So it was with the near concurrence of all other sects, that its highest ranking cleric was removed from the Holy Censoriate by Overking Toran II in 252 CY and replaced with the priesthood of Zilchus, which was then closely allied with the Houses of Rax and Darmen. This was considered a reasonable compromise, as no consensus could ever be achieved between the faiths of Heironeous and Hextor, the most individually powerful sects of the Great Kingdom at the time. [LGG - 81]

254 CY
The Crowning of Thrommel I
Thrommel I was crowned in the city of Dyvers.
And thus it began. Far from the influence of the Malachite Throne, the Viceroyalty of Ferrond declared independence from the Great Kingdom, and was thereafter called Furyondy. This marks the beginning of the dissolution of the Great Kingdom. Never again would their influence reach as far. In truth, its influence had not swayed Ferrond for some time.
The viceroyalty of Ferrond [was the first of the Great Kingdom’s outlying protectorates to break from the fold], becoming the kingdom of Furyondy. Other regions also broke away from the ineffectual government of the overking over time, creating their own governments after achieving success in their wars of rebellion. [LGG - 14]

The heir to Viceroy Stinvri (the Viceroyalty had become hereditary some years previously) was crowned in Dyvers as Thrommel I, King of Furyondy, Prince of Veluna, Provost of the Northern Reaches, Warden General of the Vesve Forest, Marshall of the Shield Lands, Lord of Dyvers, etc. [Folio - 10]

[The withdrawal of Aerdy troops from Greyhawk] was briefly rescinded in 254 CY when Furyondy declared itself independent of the Great Kingdom, putting Greyhawk right on the Great Kingdom’s border with the Former viceroyalty. A large imperial force was stationed at Greyhawk, with a smaller force camped outside Hardby, but their skirmishes with the Furyondian army came to nothing. [TAB - 58]

The Pholtans had been betrayed. They felt supressed, banished to the fringe of the society they had guided and nurtured. And lost under the weight of the depravity that hung over the land like a shroud. The dreamed of a new land, a pure land, one free of persecution.
In the aftermath of this episode, many of the most zealous members of the faith of Pholtus began abandoning the heartlands of Aerdy, citing religious persecution and rising decadence in the empire, accelerated by the withdrawal of Ferrond in 254 CY. While there was some truth to their claims, these were largely exaggerations and considered by most the protestations of a group suffering waning power and influence.
Most of these religious emigrants traveled through provincial Nyrond, eventually settling in the western valleys of the Rakers in the Flan hinterlands. These lands were desired by few, being at the very frontiers of the Great Kingdom and located in the severe climes of the north. Here these Aerdi clerics and devout followers made a home for themselves among the native Flan, who held an old semi-independent realm to the northwest in a place called Tenh. These early pioneers struggled greatly against the depredations of a harsh land and its denizens to carve out a nation for themselves, calling it the Pale and dedicating it to their god. [LGG - 81,82]

Court Intrigue
As the Houses Rax and Darmen waned, House Naelax grew more powerful with the aid of their close connection to the worship of Hextor. The Pholtans and Heironeans had proven themselves too weak to defeat the Death Knights. The court knew as much. It was time for those with true strength to steer their course.
The Naelax grew powerful after the mid-250s CY, when their primary rival, the Heironean church, achieved independence in far-flung provinces such as Ferrond and the Shield Lands. Many of them withdrew from the increasingly decadent Great Kingdom, and no longer would these two rival orders contend equally for the attention of the Malachite Throne. [LGG - 74]

The rise of the Hextorians made the satellite states wary. So too the persecution of those deemed too powerful, too independent, in the eyes of the Malachite Throne. So too the Death Knights. They began to retreat from the core, and sometimes that meant past persecutors might become present protectors.
A half-century after the Great Council of Rel Mord, the County of Urnst became a palatine state under the protection of the richer and more powerful Duchy of Urnst, a political situation that continues to this day. [LGG - 123]

261 CY
The War That Never Was
The expected war with Furyondy never happened. There were skirmishes. There was much shield rattling. But before long, the would-be combatants settled into a wary stalemate. And even that eased. Furyondy needed their forces for what Keoland might desire. And Rauxes needed theirs for what enemies might arise within.
The Overking withdrew most of the [imperial forces from Greyhawk] in 261 CY, leaving a small garrison at Hardby until 277 CY.
As the Aerdy army left, the Landgraf of Selintan was ordered to bring his militia up to imperial standards and defend the Great Kingdom’s border with the Kingdom of Furyondy. However, the landgraf […] had been holding secret talks with […] Dyvers [and he] knew Grehawk was in no danger from the new kingdom, which believed that the seizure if Greyhawk would provoke a swift counterattack from Rauxes [….] [TAB - 58]

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.

The Art:
All art is wholly owned by the artists.
Saint Kargoth, by Greg Staples (?), Dragon Magazine 290, 2001
Wastri, by Jeff Easley, Dragon Magazine 71, 1983
King-of-the-Britons by thedurrrrian
Court-Intrigue by petite-licorne
Lay-down-your-weapons by quintuscassius

1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
1068 Greyhawk Wars Boxed Set, 1991
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979
2023 Greyhawk Adventures Hardback, 1988
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
9253 WG8, Fate of Istus, 1989
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
Dragon Magazine
OJ Oerth Journal, appearing on Greyhawk Online
LGJ et. al.
Greychrondex, Wilson, Steven B.
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer