Monday 28 June 2021



“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
― Oscar Wilde 

“I am so clever that sometimes I don't understand a single word of what I am saying.”
― Oscar Wilde, The Happy Prince and Other Stories 

Forever Searching for Inspiration
Yeah, wow. 100! I never would have thought I’d make it this far; but I never once thought about it, either.
My original intent was never what this blog was going to be. I presumed I would tackle Ratik, that supposedly lonely, isolated spot on the Greyhawk map, after hearing Mike Bridges and Anna Meyer call out to others in the community to fill in those undeveloped spots on the map. The works I was familiar with were all crammed into the Core, and the Western half of the map, with nary a delve into the East at all. Surely no one has done anything with Ratik!

The Ratik That Was, Wasn't, and Was Again
I can do this, I thought. I had run a campaign there. Kinda. See my earlier post: The Ratik That Was, Wasn't, and Was Again, for details about my dubious history with my isolated pinprick on the map.
Such hubris! I soon discovered I’d taken a bite too big to chew for one so long absent from gaming. I had no idea how much work had been done to develop this make-it-your-own setting in my absence. I had to postpone my original intent as I refamiliarized myself with a history I had never known. There is so much of it! I’m still learning, even now. And man, I’ve so much yet to absorb.
I very soon met others in the Greyhawk community, and am humbled by a great many of them. Truly. Their depth of knowledge is as expansive as mine is meagre—and still largely myopic at present, if truth be told. Some had been regular contributors to Dragon Magazine. Indeed, some had actually written the lore I was immersing myself in, and until now, altogether oblivious to their effort.

Shall I give them thanks?
All gratitude goes to Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson for having created this game and this world, without whom we would be immersed in something else entirely, I imagine.
I’m equally in debt to Lenard Lakofka, who I was fortunate to have met and engaged with briefly—albeit only virtually, sadly—before his passing. Few know how great his contribution was in those early days of TSR and D&D; he was too humble to admit to it, even if his fingerprints are everywhere.
Other notables are Roger E Moore, Carl Sargant, Jim Ward, Eric Mona, Gary Holian, Sean K Reynolds, Laurence Schick, and Tom Moldvay, without who’s collected works this hobby would be a very dull thing indeed. This list is far from exhaustive.

Endless Inspiration
My heartfelt thanks to those who’ve both inspired and influenced my humble work.
None of this would not have existed at all if it weren’t for Mike Bridges (who we all hope will once again take up the reins if his Greyhawkery blog, should he ever be so inspired to do so), and Anna Meyer (whose map has likely surpassed Darlene’s as the quintessential version).
Special thanks to Jason Zavoda (Hall of the MountainKing, and Canonfire!), whose prolific imagination has also inspired, and without whose celebrated Index (now hosted by Greyhawk Online) my work would be impossible; and without whose timely paraphrased advice of, “Fuck ‘em. You have to enjoy what you are doing. Don’t concern yourself with whether anyone else likes what you do,” saved me when I needed those words most.
Thanks also to Jay Scott (Lord Gosumba on for encouraging my efforts and hosting the roundtable discussions I’ve participated in; to Tom Kelly (Greyhawk Stories) for his adding to the wealth of Greyhawk fiction when there is so little of it; and to Kristoph Nolen for inviting me to contribute to the Oerth Journal and its wealth of wonder. To Gary Holian, whose writings and enthusiasm and efforts to his chosen fandom is unparalleled, in my opinion.
And I forgetting someone. Obviously. You know who you are; or maybe you don’t; if you don’t, I thank you too. But these are those most deserving of my thanks.

Below, these are not just the lyrics of a song, or the ode all lyrics inevitably are, when they aspire to be the work of art they are.
These lyrics are dedicated to you, dedicated readers, whose continued visits have silently urged me to continue having the fun I’ve most definably had in the past year and some, entertaining you.
And maybe enlightening you.

Ahead by a Century
By The Tragically Hip
Gordon Downie, Johnny Fay, Robert Baker, Joseph Paul Langlois, Robert Gordon Sinclair

First thing we'd climb a tree and maybe then we'd talk
Or sit silently and listen to our thoughts
With illusions of someday cast in a golden light
No dress rehearsal, this is our life

And that's where the hornet stung me
And I had a feverish dream
With revenge and doubt
Tonight we smoke them out

You are ahead by a century (this is our life)
You are ahead by a century (this is our life)
You are ahead by a century

Stare in the morning shroud and then the day began
I tilted your cloud, you tilted my hand
Rain falls in real time and rain fell through the night
No dress rehearsal, this is our life

But that's when the hornet stung me
And I had a serious dream
With revenge and doubt
Tonight we smoke them out

You are ahead by a century (this is our life)
You are ahead by a century (this is our life)
You are ahead by a century
You are ahead by a century (this is our life)
You are ahead by a century (this is our life)
You are ahead by a century

And disappointing you is getting me down.

No dress rehearsal, this is our life...

The Art:

Friday 25 June 2021

On King Hundgred Rälffson

“What is the son but an extension of the father?”
― Frank Herbert, Dune


Hundgred Rälffson
Is the son the measure of the father?
No, never. One is never the equal of the other. Some prove greater. Others not. Some sons must walk in the footsteps, or in the shadow, of great men, and their boots may be too large to be filled, their stride or shadow too long, their fame too widespread—either in light or shadow—for those who follow. Yet some do rise to the occasion.
In this we might measure Hundgred Rälffson. Rälff was indeed a great king. He raised his people up form the vassals they were, to the truly independent people they became, even if the Schnai would declare otherwise. They might declare what they wish, but they never once pressed the point whether they still kept the Fruztii under heel, as they had for decades, if not generations. Is Hundgred Rälff’s equal? He may be. He may not. But Hundgred is heroic. And Hundgred would surely have been his father’s match in hand-to-hand combat; but as a stateman, Hundgred has never been tested as his father was.
Has he?

549 CY
Hundgred Rälffson is born. Pure conjecture on my part.
Rälff had been king of the Fruztii for 7 years (also conjecture on my part), and had yet to make his mark upon his world. His people have lived under the suzerainty of the Schnai for decades, long weakened by their having spent their youth and strength upon the shield of Aerdy.

560 CY
Orcs and the gnolls had boiled out of the Rakers into the Bone March when Hundgred was 11 years old
In 560, nonhuman tribes from the Rakers and Blemu Hills struck into Bone March, subjugating the land in 563 and slaying its leaders. [LGG – 91]
Having been raised on sagas of glory, he wonders why his father does not attack Ratik. The Ratikians are the enemy, and always have been since they invaded the Fruztii’s southern lands. They were occupied, and vulnerable. Rälff agreed. Now is the time, he had said; but their Schnai overlords would have none of it. We shall raid, they commanded, but we will not invade. Let the orcs and the Aerdi kill one another, they said. Then we will see.

563 CY
The Fall of the Bone March
The orcs and gnolls proved too much for the March, and it fell.
In 563 CY, orcs invaded Spinecastle by secret ways that offered its defenders little warning or means of preparation. Within just three years, the nonhuman masses had laid low the nation from the outside in and the inside out, dominating the realm from Johnsport almost to the Flinty Hills. [LGG – 36]

It was then that Hundgred beheld what he would never have expected: his father treating with the enemy.
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 – 91]

Rälff sent his longships to the southern shores of Ratik, not to raid, but to aid.
A raid into Ratik was attempted, but an alliance between Lexnol and the Fruztii prevented its success. [LGG – 36]

Hundgred did not then understand the wisdom of his father. He had been raised on the notion that Ratik and its Aerdy masters were the enemy, and had been since their people had spilled their lifeblood upon Marner and Spinecastle. Weakened, they could never again hope to evict them from the pastures south of the Timberway. How could his father treat with them?
For years they were subject, directly or indirectly, to their Snow Barbarian cousins. It was not until the reign of the current king's father that they truly emerged from the Schnai's yoke. [LGG – 44]

The alliance with Ratik that has flourished in the last twenty years has given the Frost Barbarians greater influence in the region. [LGG – 44]

575 CY
In time, Hundgred understood his father’s wisdom. Long had the Fruztii lived under the heel of the Schnai. No more. The Fruztii had risen from their long sleep, and were again masters of their fate, even if they were still, presumably, ruled by the Schnai.
When he was 26, Hundgred spearheaded his people’s push north into the Bleufang-Kelten Pass, to rid their northern pastures of the ever-present threat of raiding Fists.
A recent pact concluded between Fruztii and Ratik saw a joint army wreak havoc in the Bone March, and during the next campaigning season [576] clear the north pass of the "Fists" (see Hold of Stonefist). [WOGA – 21]

577 CY
Word reached Hundgred that the Schnai are not as powerful as they had always appeared to be.
The flagship was occupied with the help of prisoners who broke free during the confused fighting and set fire to the vessel’s sail. Jarl Froztilth, leader of the Schnai, many of his men, and the captured ship were all taken to Asperdi. News of this success was said to have greatly heartened the Herzog. [Dragon #63 – 16]

578 CY
Rälff sent his son into the lands of his newfound allies, so that he might learn the tactics of the southerners. It was time that Hundgred made his own allies amid the Ratikians, Rälff reasoned, if his Northern Alliance was to survive his reign.
The Fruztii sent raiding bands to sea with the Schnai, but due to careful urgings, numbers of mercenary troops also moved southward into Ratik and joined the Baron’s troops there. These Fruztii returned with knowledge of organized warfare and good-quality arms and armor and formed the core of a new standing army organized by King Ralff II in 578. The four companies of foot and one troop of horse actively patrolled and brought most of the realm under order. Chief men and nobles not raiding were prevailed upon to contribute men to patrol their own territories, so that by the end of the year, the frequency of banditry and humanoid raiding bands had been reduced to an all-time low. Even the high country around the head of the Jenelrad River was peaceful, and its Jarl swore an oath of fealty to Ralff. Without actually declaring independence from Schnai overlordship, the King of Fruzti showed that he was again capable of fielding an army capable of either defending his territory or taking another’s. The Schnai conveniently ignored the resurgence, probably hoping that the involvement in Ratik would again reduce the Frost Barbarians to vassal status.
[Dragon #57 – 14]

Hundgred’s absence was deliberate. It was best, Rälff believed, that Hundgred should no longer listen to the whispers of those emissaries from the Kingdom of Shar who advised abandoning trust in the sons of Aerdy, and placing it in them, their distant kin, instead. Why should they, Rälff wondered, when these emissaries had never once had cause to prove their claim. What they had done was to seduce those who might into visiting their southern climes, never to return. Just as they whispered those very same words to the Schnai. Rälff had heard their words, but he had not heeded. But he worried that Hundgred might.
Hundgred need meet this true ally, Rälff decided. He need meet Alain, who Hundgred would need rely upon when both he, Rälff, and Luxnol had taken to the flame, and to the grave.

Those emissaries even then urged the Fruztii to abandon the Ratikians to their fate in the Loftwood, for without the Fruztii, they surely could not hold out against the orcs of the March. How could it help the Fruztii that Ratik fall, Rälff wondered?
Rälff saw fit to sent his most courageous of champions to Ratik so that should not happen.
The Battle of the Loftwood saw considerable magical competitions in addition to the standard hand-to-hand combat between the strongest fighters on the opposing forces. The real fighting was between the masses of troops, however, and this was fierce in the extreme. At one point, a score of foreign volunteers saved the day because their leader, Queg, a Fruztii, had prepared an extensive ambush with rocks, tree trunks, pits, and trees to set fire to. [Dragon #57 – 15]

579 CY
But Hundgred had heard those whispers, and he wondered: If the Ratikians were such fast allies as they claimed, they why were their eyes set so firmly upon Knurl?
In 579 CY, Lexnol's only son, Alain IV, the heir to the throne of the archbarony, married Lady Evaleigh, the daughter of the count of Knurl. The county was the only surviving province of Bone March, and the union was arranged to improve the lot of both realms. [LGG – 91]

The Dwurfolk
And why did his father have need to buy the friendship of the dwurfolk?
CY 579 can be the year of the Fruztii if things go right. If an alliance to conquer Bone March is struck, the price to archbaron Lexnol will probably be the entire Timberway forest. If, instead, the Snow Barbarians choose to turn upon their allies, they might indeed take all of Ratik to the Loftwood. A nucleus of about 2,000 infantry and 500 light cavalry, with noble and chief contingents of about five times that number of foot, makes King Ralff a power to be reckoned with in the Thillorian area. It is also rumored that certain mountain dwarves have been won over to the king by large gifts of gems and gold taken from actions in the eastern end of the Griff Mountains. If this is actually so, then it is quite possible that Ralff has greater plans than are now evident. [Dragon #57 – 14]

580 CY
Indeed, the Ratikians could barely be trusted to safeguard their own borders, it would seem!
In 580 CY, intruders from Bone March attempted an audacious act of treachery by stealing the Seal of Marner, an object blessed by the gods of the Suel barbarians that was the symbol of the new Northern Alliance. The plot was foiled when the raiding party was captured in Kalmar Pass before making it back to Spinecastle with their prize. [LGG – 36,37]

c. 580 CY
Lexnol had been working on a treaty with the Schnai to shore up his position against Bone March and its allies in North Kingdom [….] [LGG – 89]
The Scarlet Brotherhood was not pleased by this development. They were pleased that the old king, Orvung, had always viewed Lexnol and the Ratikians with distrust. Th Ratikians were scions of the Great Kingdom, Orvung had always said, and despite the fate its mother country, its true allegiance lay with them, and not the Rhizians. Yet Orvung was treating with Ratik, potentially undermining Shar’s influence on the peninsula. The old man had to go. They panned for potential gold, and discovered Ingemar Hartensen. He is old, they whispered. Ancient, they said. Venerable. Past his time, they said.

The Old Tyrant's Fate
The old tyrant is assassinated at age 90 by Ingemar Hartensen, who seizes the throne in Soul in his 41st year. Pure conjecture on my part. He is not Orvung’s son, else he would be named Orvungsen.

[Orvung is king of the Schnai as of 576 CY, as noted in the Greyhawk Boxed Set, and Ingemar Hartensen is king in 584 CY, as noted in the from the ashes Boxed Set. References in the Living Greyhawk Gazetter hint that the Fruztii and Cruski thrones are passed down through the ruling family, and I would assume the Schnai no different. No mention was made of Ingemar’s ancestry, so I took the liberty to add a little drama to the succession.
I have placed Ingemar’s birth (in 532 CY) before Hundgred Rälffson’s, because Hundgred is referred to as the “young” king of the Fruztii in the Living Greyhawk Journal.
Ingmar is noted as a CN male human Bbn16 in the same work, and I would imagine that it should take a number of years to gain that level of experience.]

Few rejoiced at the old king’s passing. Fewer still protested. Even fewer too measures afterwards. To no avail. Few mourned their passing, either.

Rälff reeled at the news. And worried. His spies in Soull hinted at who might be behind the assassination. And why. What might this young hothead on Shnai’s throne do, he wondered? Would he press their suzerainty? At the point of a sword?
More importantly, Rälff wondered what his supposed distant kin to the south might be planning concerning his own succession.

581 CY
Although Trust had been tasked when the Seal of Marner had been stolen from Marner, the two beleaguered nations carried on out of mutual need.
The alliance between Ratik and the Frost Barbarians against the humanoids of the Bone March has born fruit over years of cooperation. The forces of Ratik now occupy the Loftwood and are preparing for a major assault on the city of Johnsport, backed by a naval attack along the coast to the east.
The other joint operation of these states has been against the Hold of Stonefist. Fruztii forces have now secured the pass south of the Hraak forest and control the land for some 20 miles around.
The Ice Barbarians have supported the Fruztii to some extent by making naval raids along the northern coast of Stonefist. The Snow Barbarians have concentrated on attacks on Great Kingdom and Sea Baron shipping, although some of the Schnai have been seen “assisting” the Frost Barbarians in Stonefist.
Ingemar Hartensen
It is rumored that the King of the Snow Barbarians was not taken with a plan for the three barbarian groups to ally with Ratik—not because he didn’t trust the Baron of Ratik who proposed the plans—but for simpler reasons. Major invasion of the Bone March would drive humanoids in their tens of thousands into North Province and might precipitate an allout attack from the Great Kingdom. The King, being wily and crafty, prefers more opportunistic and piratical actions
One final piece of the puzzle is the attitude of the Duchy of Tenh. Duke Ehyeh has become notably more friendly to the Frost Barbarians of late. The actions of Ratik and the Frost Barbarians stir up the Bone March, which causes trouble for the Great Kingdom and for the Theocracy of the Pale. Both states have hostile attitudes to the Duchy. So, Ehyeh discreetly allows Frost Barbarian emissaries across his lands to organize shipments of weapons from the best source of weaponry in the whole of Oerth—the Bandit Kingdoms.
From here, weapons make their way up the Zumker river to Calbut and then through dangerous foothill territory at the very edge of the Griff Mountains to the pass east of Kelten. The trade is discreet, but everyone knows about it. [WGS1 - 4]

582 CY
When Hundgred turned 33, it came to pass that the hopes and dreams of the Rhizians had come to fruition. Vatun had returned! It was time, Hundgred realized, for the Fruztii and Schnai and Cruski to shrug off their presumed separate identities, and be the singular people they were always meant to be.
Rälff was not so easily convinced. He urged caution. But his wisdom was rejected, by his people, and more disturbingly, by his very son.
In 582 CY, the god Vatun appeared to his subjects among the barbarian tribes of the Thillonrian Peninsula. Ancient legend predicted that the return of Vatun, who had vanished centuries ago, would signal the birth of a barbarian empire in the north. Unfortunately, this particular "Vatun" was actually Iuz, whipping the northmen into a war frenzy. [LGG – 15]

583 CY
Lies. It was all lies!
How could they be so fooled?
[The Rhyzians] were drawn in by the false Vatun that briefly deceived them all. When it was revealed that this was a deception of Iuz the Old, the Suel barbarians withdrew from the alliance created between their nations and the Stonehold.
A major raid into Stonehold was mounted several years ago by a combined force of Schnai and Cruski, though they were ultimately driven back.  [LGG – 15]

584 CY
No man lives forever. Rälff’s great strength was failing him; and one day, his would body too. Wenta’s hold on him was waxing, he realized. He feared that Wee Jas would soon pay him a visit.
And one day, She did. He collapsed and would rise no more. Indeed, his limbs refused to heed his commands, his words frozen upon his tongue.
Healers were summoned. The Sisters of Mercy sang over his frozen form, smudging the smoke that had never failed to loosen the limbs of the stricken. To no effect.
Doctors were brought from Ratik. Even priests of Oerid.
Rälff weakened. Silently. The light faded from his eyes. He slipped away.
He was 75. That’s a ripe old age, I imagine, for a Nordic warrior. And was succeeded by his son (age 35, total conjecture; I’ve chosen this seasoned age to give him time to have risen to Bbn13).

Rälff’s Eternal Rest

Hundgred mourned his father's passing. But even as the flames cast up for his longship into the night, the jarls were demanding his attention.
What of the Schnai? they asked.
What shall be done about Ratik? The Fists?
Shall we raid? War?
Trust our council, they wheedled, as your father did.
Did he? Hundgred wondered. Did he, indeed?
Trust us, those others of the distant south implored. We are your kin.
Had his father been so counceled? Hounded?
Hundgred wondered. Can I? Trust? Hundgred truly wondered.

Ruler: His Most Warlike Majesty, King Hundgred Rälff son of the Fruztii (CN male human Bbn13) LGG - 44
Capital: Krakenheim (pop. 3400)

The Frost Barbarians are the weakest of the three Suel peoples inhabiting the Thillronian Peninsula (which they name Rhizia). For nearly 30 years, they have been under the thumb of the Snow Barbarians, but their defiant young king, only [35*] years of age, has made it plain that he regards the Fruztii as equals to their eastern neighbors. As yet, the Snow Barbarians have not brought matters to a head, because all the barbarians have happily cooperated in opposing the Great Kingdom and allying with Ratik to fight the Bone March humanoids. The Fruztii are foremost in friendship with Ratik; this has increased their prominence in the barbarian alliance.
The Frost Barbarians are a strong-willed people, stubborn and chaotic, but honorable and people of their word. They are fine seamen; their longboats are masterpieces of both construction and decoration. They are fearless fighters and suffer privations and hardship without complaint. They feast and drink to excess, and have no time for tact or manners. They do not respect book learning or wizards, but they hold their bards (skalds) in very high esteem indeed. Like the other barbarians, they feel the deception of Iuz keenly, and skirmishes against Stonefist across the Griff Mountains are currently planned by King Hundgred. [FTA – 25]
[* Note: official text states Hundgred is 20; I have taken creative liberty.]

586 CY
Infighting soon broke out between several of the nonhuman tribes, and the sides remained stalemated until 586 CY, when Alain IV, Archbaron Lexnol's son and heir, launched a raid into the fallen realm that was composed in large part of expatriates of the march, it was a doomed mission. The unusually organized nonhumans laid a trap for the force in the hills north of Spinecastle. Horrified survivors who escaped back to Ratikhill reported that the trapped raiders were dragged from their horses, torn apart, and eaten alive before their eyes. Raids into the archbarony from Bone March have resumed
. [LGG – 37]
Hundgred bewailed Alain’s passing. Why? he screamed! Why indeed had that dirty old hag, Syrul, lured his friend to such a fate.

Upon hearing of his son's demise, old Baron Lexnol collapsed. He awakened the next morning with a shock of white hair and a palsy that confined him to bed. Lady Evaleigh, now widowed, assumed the throne and has guided Ratik through the trouble that has befallen it. Raids from Bone March have become progressively stronger and more organized the last few years. [LGG – 91]
And why, had fickle fate decreed that his father’s friend should be laid so low, and that a maiden should take up the reins of Ratik?

589 CY
Ruler: His Most Warlike Majesty, King Hundgred Rälffson of the Fruztii (CN male human Bbn13)
Population: 144,500—Human 96% (S), Dwarf 2% (hill 50%, mountain 50%), Halfling 1%, Other 1%
Major towns: Djekul (pop. 3,100), Krakenheim (pop. 4,500) [LGG - 44]

Time marches on.
Hundgred, now 40, has long since understood the wisdom of his father. He has renewed his faith in the Northern Alliance…for now. Ratik has proven its allegiance and held true, despite its continued desire to foster ever closer relations with Knurl. But that was to be expected, what with Lexnol’s line having failed, and its nation’s course steered by a child of that southern city.
The Fruztii are strongly allied to the Archbarony of Ratik in the south. […] Changes are already apparent in the royal court at Krakenheim, with more formal (or "civilized") trappings in the organization of the government and the military. These changes do not meet with the approval of many of the older jarls, but they remain loyal to Hundgred out of respect for his noble father. [LGG – 44]

"Kith and Kin"
But Hundgred has not seen fit to rid Friztii of the whispers from Shar, either.
Ambassadors from the Scarlet Brotherhood were spied in Djekul. [LGG – 91]

Nobles from Ratik have great influence at court but are not always trusted. Scarlet Brotherhood agents are well received but bring strange news and promises. Merchants from the Lordship of the Isles have a growing presence, offering unusually generous trade deals that make some jarls suspicious. Hundgred's court is growing isolated from other northern barbarian nations. [LGG – 44]

One wonders: How long can Hundgred withstand the sweet promises of his distant “kin”?
Or has he already been seduced by their whispers?
For many years, Ratik and the Fruztii nation have lived in relative peace under the Northern Alliance, an agreement forged by Baron Lexnol. All looked well; the monarch of the Fruztii, King Hundgred Rallfson, even married a Ratikkan noblewoman. But now, as Ratik teeters on the brink of political collapse, skirmishes have erupted between the northernmost nobles and the Fruztii clans. The [Ratikkan] crown has yet to take action, either politically or militarily, once again leaving its nobles to stand alone. This time House Ulthek and the Order of the Hart guard the border. [LGJ#3 - 29]

A Setting of Peace?

One must always give credit where credit is due. This piece 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.
Special thanks to Jason Zavoda for his compiled index, “Greyhawkania,” an invaluable research tool.

The Art:
The Death of Alain IV, by Joel Biske, from Living Greyhawk Gazetteeer, 2000

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 Gazetteer, 2000
Living Greyhawk Journal, #1
Dragon Magazine 55,56,57
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer 

Wednesday 23 June 2021

The Road Not Taken

Fingers of Light


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

By Robert Frost
Published August 1915, in Atlantic Monthly
and in Mountain Interval, in 1916

The Art:

Saturday 19 June 2021

History of the South, Part 1: Foundations (-6826 to -2266 CY)


“Since when," he asked,
"Are the first line and last line of any poem
Where the poem begins and ends?”
― Seamus Heaney


An Untold Past
Where shall I begin?
In the middle, I suppose.
Why the middle? Because, the beginning, if there ever was such a thing, is lost in the depths of time.
No record was left of Time’s creation. Nor Oerth’s, for that matter. None we’ve found, anyway. What we have is a puzzle, and not a particularly flattering one.
What came first, we wonder? The gods? Whose? No; I suspect the gods are relative latecomers, and that in the beginning there was a conflagration of being, a sundering of what was, and what could be. And only then did Time begin. And within its confines, gods formed, but not our gods.
Our gods were made in our image, and they exhibit our failings. They love. They hate. They war. Endlessly. 
The war between Corellon Larethian and Gruumsh continued throughout the ages in world after world. The battles of this war soiled each place that they touched and produced betrayals and atrocities that authored line after line in The Book of Sorrows of the elves and The Tales of Greed of the dwarves. Legend tells when this war came to Oerth it was the event that tempted Abbathor to abandon his brethren for ill-gotten gain. It was this war that may have split the drow from the other elven peoples. Though the drow were punished and marked by Corellon for their fabled alliance with Shargaas, the purity and single purpose of the elves was forever shattered. When this war spilled onto Oerth, it began this world’s Epoch of Myth.
Thus, elves and orcs predate the Oerth. They must, unless our myths are wrong; and they may very well be. Those myths may be our desire to place our gods at the centre of our universe, a place they may have no right to presume. 

The Age of Reptiles
I suspect that before our coming, the reptiles reigned. Not the reptiles we know, but those who came before, the proto-lizards—where they came from, we can only guess. From light, from shadow, from the stars… it matters not. They came. And they created. Indeed, it may be that it was from their creation that all else issued…
Magic, for instance. Magic most certainly stemmed from them, despite what we might think. What else? The elder yuan-ti. The bullywugs. The troglodytes, and the lizardfolk. And dragons.
[Dragons] were exceedingly skilled at magic; baneful extraplanar powers supplied them with secret knowledge of spellcasting in return for great sacrifices of wealth. Worse yet, certain of those red dragons had undergone sorcerous rituals that infused their living bodies with shadowstuff from the Demiplane of Shadow, granting them new and devastating powers. These were the first of the accursed shadow dragons, and they and their servants built a vast network of caverns, halls, and tunnels beneath the Crystalmists that exists even to this day. Even the great Vault of the Drow is said by some sources once to have been the cavern-hall of an elder shadow dragon of this bygone age, some treasures of which may still lie hidden thereabouts. (The gods grant us that these treasures yet remain undiscovered by the drow! [Dragon #230 – 12] 

-6826 CY
Cherbon and the Dragon
Dragons were old, even when we were young. Even when the elves were not.
Did the elves learn their Art at the foot of another? No. They were clever, as clever as any who came before them.
Cherbon, chief of the Seven Elven Fathers, claims that he was visited by an ancient man who advises him to quit the New Magic because it forebodes great evil and conflict. He dismisses this is the insane ramblings of a strange old man. As he watches the man leave, he reported that the man transformed into a huge platinum colored beast that took wing and flew into the heavens. As he watched openmouthed the beast simply vanished. He names the beast Draggonus, the Suloise word for ‘flying monster.’ (-1310 SD) [OJ11] 

-6810 CY
Were we as old as the elves? Surely not.
A band of grey elves send to secretly spy on primitive man discovers that some of them are worshipping Demonic and Diabolic Beings. (-1294 SD) [OJ11]

-6416 CY
A Primitive People

The elves observed these primitives for centuries before revealing themselves.
The first of a group of travelling grey elves, exploring the south central portion of Oerth meet with tribal leaders of the Suel. They strike up a friendship and find that these men are not the primitives they found almost four centuries before. The elves begin tutoring selected humans in mathematics, language, art and non-clerical magic. [OJ11] 

-6233 CY
Were the Suloise the first humans? Certainly not.
A group of beautiful dark skinned humans called Kersi from over the southern sea from a large island continent they called AnaKeri arrived on the southern portion of the Flanaess in large wooden platformed outriggers. (-717 SD) [OJ1]

-6067 CY
The Kersi surely inspired the Suloise to explore. Doing so, they discovered other tribes.
The Se-Ul began systematized trading with the tribes to the north and east. The Baklun 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. (-551 SD) [OJ1]

-5775 CY
Long did the elves teach the Suloise. But where the elves were haughty and wise, they discovered the Suloise to be haughty and cruel. And covetous. Ever more did they demand. One day they believed themselves the equal of their tutors, and more.
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.
The grey elves depart from the Suel.  The reason for leaving is the hatred of the Suel due to the death of so many elves and humans at the hands of the Nine Mages.  Also there is news of a fierce war between the grey elves and their dark kindred in the East.  (-259 SD) [OJ11]

-5774 CY
Dark Kindred
One might suggest that the war did not go well for the Grey Elves. This is not to say that it went well for their dark kindred, either.
Fire mysteriously begins to belch from the mountains in the east.  The mountains, once the place of the grey elven cities, are renamed the Mountains of Fire, and the Mountains of Hell, although the Barrier Peaks and Crystalmists remain calm.  The fire, gasses and earthquakes that continue to this very day kill Suel seeking to plunder the grey elven cities. (-258 SD) [OJ11]

-5531 CY
The Suloise waxed more rapidly than those cultures around them, thanks to their tutelage from the elves.
After a series of strong "First Protectors" and the development of the interior lands, First Protector Alianor-b-Hurn turns his eyes outward, and desires more control of the trade goods. He first attacks the settlements of the Kersi to the south, and proclaims their lands forfeit to the Seul peoples. He then begins planning "The great invasion" of AnaKeri. (-15 SD) [OJ11]

-5528 CY
Hubris reigned in the lands of the Suloise, as they sought to conquer all the peoples of the world.
Alianor sends a large naval force to invade AnaKeri.  The outriggers of the AnaKeri are no matches for the mighty warships of the Suel.  As the massive armada approaches the clerics of the AnaKeri call upon the elemental princes for protection.  The princes encircle the island continent with a maelstrom of wind and wild seas and much of the invading fleet is destroyed.  Those that do land are met with upheavals in the land itself and, at last, by beings of elemental fire.  A few of the invaders return to tell the tale.  The wall of wind and water remains behind circling the continent of AnaKeri to this very day. (-12 SD) [OJ11]

-4666 CY
In their anger at having been abandoned, they sided with the Grey Elves’ dark brethren.
The last of the Grey Elven cities in the mountains now known as the Crystalmist is discovered and destroyed by a concerted effort on the part of the Drow/Seuloise and Giantkind. The defense of the city is so great, however, that drowkind and giantkind are also nigh exterminated. The Seuloise 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 grey elves flee eastward to the interior of the eastern portion of the continent. (850 SD) [OJ1]

-4462 CY
One should mention that the Grey Elves were not the only olven people. Nor their dark kindred.
But on this date the Four Elven Realms of the East are founded. (1053 SD/1 OC) [OJ1]

-4416 CY
What secrets did the Suel learn from the dark elves, one wonders?
[Otto] and I, working with colleagues in Leukish, have strong evidence that skulks were deliberately created during the second millennium of the Suel Imperium, probably to serve their masters as House or Imperial assassins. You recall my investigation of the little-known Eight-House War of around 1100 SD, which could have sparked the inception of the skulks’ use within the empire. It is wholly reasonable that they could have gotten out of the control of their creators and spread throughout the empire thereafter, despite the best efforts of all to command or exterminate them.
—from a letter to Mordenkainen from the priestess Johanna, formerly of Almor, City of Greyhawk, Wealsun 20, 585 CY
 (1100 SD) [Dragon #241 – 47]

-4403 CY
Although the dark elves were defeated, they persevered, warring on the whole of the surface, a war they could not possibly win.
The Wind Dukes of Aaqa, meet a gathered force of evil humanoids and drow on the Plains of Pesh (in what is now Keoland). This is the last recorded great battle between Elves and their drow cousins. The Dukes shatter the dark elven armies. (1103 SD /60 OC)
Between these times the realms flourish, the battles with humanoids are frequent, but the might of each of the realms is unchallenged. This is known as "The Time of Flowering" and much of the best of Elvendom came to pass in these days. The 12 Gray Elven cities were built, including Erieadan, the High Seat of Elvendom and The City of Summer Stars. Many mighty magics, and songs and items of beauty were crafted. The history of this time is largely hidden from humans, however, because there were few (if any) humans in the East at this time. Elves rarely speak of it today. Among the few known personages to have lived during this time were Queen Ehlissa and the Elven Minstrel Ye'Cind. [OJ1] 

The vaati, or wind dukes, are an immortal race dedicated to law. They live in a remote valley called Aaqa, in the northwestern depths of the Adribandha mountains. Vaati appear as statuesque humans, tall, muscular, and androgynous. They have smooth, ebony skin, brilliantly white eyes that sparkle with inner light, and velvety black hair (which they usually keep closely shaved). They generally wear no clothing, but they do wear belts or harnesses to carry weapons and equipment. Vaati speak their own language, and also speak Auran and Common. [The Mahasarpa Campaign 1999]

c. -2400 CY
A Troglodyte Kingdom
Had the reptiles disappeared from the Oerth? Far from it. However, they were greatly diminished with the cooling of Oerik. Millenia had passed since the continent was the hot, humid, steamy tangle of growth it once was. Ice had flowed from the northern reaches, not once, not twice, but thrice; and the reptiles had retreated to more hospitable climes, finding a more habitable home under the canopies of Hepmonaland and the Amedio. There they thrived, as they had where tundra grasses and temperate woodlands now flourished. It comes then, to no surprise, that even as humans cut their first stones, and sharpened their first sticks, and kindled their first fires, that troglodytes were erecting ziggurats amid sprawling cities, and staking empires.
The Olman and the Amedian are not the first intelligent races to rule the Amedio jungle. Fragmentary records from the Olman city of Tamoachan and other sites indicate that the earliest civilization of this region belonged to a race of reptiles almost identical to modern-day troglodytes. These beings lived more than three thousand years ago and were evil and quarrelsome. Worshipping various demon princes, they claimed trophies such as skulls and skins from their enemies—normally rival tribes that worshipped demon princes—and developed advanced means of mummification; preserved bodies of animals and the ancient troglodytes appear in certain sites, and writings imply that their sorcerer-kings had themselves mummified in hopes of continuing beyond death. [SB – 62]

c. –2400’s
The Suloise had always known they were a superior species. It was high time that those others who did not share this understanding should be instructed otherwise.
Inzhilem II 
In the ancient days of the maturing Suloise Empire, starting about -2400 CY, a great series of wars was fought between the emperor’s forces and the various monsters that populated the southern Crystalmist Mountains, what we now call the Hellfurnaces. The emperor, Inzhilem II of the House of Neheli-Arztin, was a surpassing wizard, the fifth such among the Suloise to be known as a Mage of Power. Inzhilem wished to establish mines deep within the Crystalmists to harvest rare minerals and crystals for his personal research, though he also had a niggling interest in throwing back some of the humanoid and draconic monsters that periodically raided the eastern provinces of his empire and reduced their taxable resources.
Imperial armies, even supported by military wizardry, found themselves hard pressed by their opposition. The great families of red dragons throughout the southern Crystalmists had enslaved Iimitless numbers of brutish humanoids for use as sword-fodder, originally to attack one another’s territories or bring in additional treasures. These armies of orcs and goblinkind were now turned upon the empire’s soldiers, hurling themselves into battle with great ferocity and in numbers that well made up for their lack of skill or foresight.
In addition, these dragons were exceedingly skilled at magic; baneful extraplanar powers supplied them with secret knowledge of spellcasting in return for great sacrifices of wealth. Worse yet, certain of those red dragons had undergone sorcerous rituals that infused their living bodies with shadowstuff from the Demiplane of Shadow, granting them new and devastating powers. These were the first of the accursed shadow dragons, and they and their servants built a vast network of caverns, halls, and tunnels beneath the Crystalmists that exists even to this day. Even the great Vault of the Drow is said by some sources once to have been the cavern-hall of an elder shadow dragon of this bygone age, some treasures of which may still lie hidden thereabouts. (The gods grant us that these treasures yet remain undiscovered by the drow!)
Facing such evil strength, the army commanders sent word to lnzhilem that the issue was in doubt, and they asked for his personal intervention. Angered at first that his armies could do no more than hold their own against mere dragons and orcs, lnzhilem quickly became intrigued by the difficult problem posed by the Fiery Kings, as the troublesome dragons were known in the eastern lands. He returned to the capital to remedy the situation. [Dragon 230 – 9,10]

Gods need worshippers. It is a simple fact. They diminish and die without them. So, it comes as no surprise that those who’ve misplaced theirs must find others. And it comes as no surprise that these gods should look exactly like these new worshippers. Or so they would have us believe. According to Olman legend, this is about the time that the Olman gods discovered Oerth and the Olman peoples. So, one wonders: where did these Olman gods come from? Without? Or within?
The Olman gods are not native to Oerth, having been worshipped first by beings on another prime material plane. At some point around 3000 years ago, these gods discovered Oerth and the Olman people, and revealed themselves as supernatural beings to the primitive Olman. [SB – 42]

The Olman
Who are the Olman People, anyway? They are an old people, indeed, as old as the Suel, as old as the Flan. Are they an off-shoot of the Flan? Who can say? The origins of man and elves, as is the origins of Oerth and Oerik are a mystery.
Most agree on this: The gods created Oerik. The gods created Man. The gods created etc. Maybe. Then again, maybe not.
The Olman might have shared a common ancestor with the Flan, but they are not Flan.
The Olman originated on Hepmonaland, raising a number of city-states from the jungles of that land. Through centuries of warfare, they built an empire that spanned northern Hepmonaland and reached across the Densac Gulf to include the Amedio Jungle. [LGG – 6]
They do look somewhat like the Flan.
Pure Flan have bronze skin, varying from a light copper hue to a dark, deep brown. Flan eyes are usually dark brown, black, brown, or amber. Hair is wavy or curly and typically black or brown (or any shade between). The Flan have broad, strong faces and sturdy builds. [LGG – 5]
A little. But not entirely.
The Olman have skin of a rich red-brown or dark brown color. Their hair is always straight and black, and their eyes are dark, from medium brown to nearly black. Olman have high cheekbones and high-bridged noses, a trait less strong in those of common birth. Some nobles still flatten the foreheads of their young, for a high, sloping shape is considered beautiful. [LGG – 6]

-2360 CY
The Suloise understood that dragons might not adhere to Suloise superiority. Dragons can be that way, egotistic, officious, arrogant. They had to be negotiated with. Paid vast tithes to not attack, or to side with them against their enemies. Inzhilem would not have it. They were only wyrms. Reptiles. Lizards. So what if they could fly? So what if they could cast magic. So could the Suloise, having applied the right magics…. He directed his Imperial Congress to aid his wizards in enchanting Orbs of Dragonkind, to put an end to the dragon problem, once and for all. He referred to it as his Final Solution.
It was calculated that eight orbs [of dragon control] would be enough to deal with matters in the east. According to one record [Otto] examined, lnzhilem secretly directed the Imperial Congress about the year -2360 CY to produce such wizards as would be necessary to assist him in the mighty enchantments that would have to be cast. [Dragon #230 – 11]

-2354 CY
Inzhilem II never saw the application of his Final Solution. He was killed in internal feud of the NeheliArtzin, in which the Junior Branch Artzin was destroyed. Such is they way of family feuds in the Imperium, though. (3162 SD)
A smoldering feud within the House of Neheli-Arztin flared into violence in -2354 CY, and lnzhilem II was slain and destroyed beyond recovery before the struggle had ended. The partial house of Arztin ceased to exist as a result of retaliation, and the victorious partial house of Neheli kept the throne. Ubrond Thrideen (“Third-Eye”) became emperor. [Dragon #230 – 11]

-2350 CY
Although Inzhilem did not see it, his Final Solution saw fruition when the Eight Orbs of Dragonkind were completed sometime after this year (c 3166 SD)
A devoted but unremarkable ruler, Ubrond apparently continued the project to produce the orbs and saw it through to its finish, but considerable interference took place and the original plan for the project went inexplicably awry. Eight orbs were still made (the date of their completion has been lost, but it was after -2350 CY), but the orbs were now of differing sizes and powers, each oriented toward the control of dragons of differing ages. The reason for this alteration has never been made clear, as it certainly reduced the effectiveness of these orbs when used in battle against dragons of ages older than allowed for by any one orb. [Dragon #230 – 11]

Once finished, the eight orbs were given names corresponding to the age level of the dragons they were meant to fight. In order from the smallest orb up, they were the Orb of the Hatchling, the Orb of the Wyrmkin, the Orb of the Dragonette, the Orb of the Dragon, the Orb of the Great Serpent, the Orb of the Firedrake, the Orb of the Elder Wyrm, and the Orb of the Eternal Grand Dragon. [Dragon #230 – 11,12]

-2269 CY
The Years of Conquest and Prosperity
Now that the Suloise claimed dominion over dragonkind, their command of all humanity was within their grasp.
The years of Conquest and Prosperity begin. No major foe opposes the might of the empire of the Seuloise, although they do not push Eastward, because of some fear of the Elven hosts. Magic is rigorously pursued. Old Grey Elven texts are discovered and studied. The might and haughtiness of the Elves is copied in manner in the courts; their wisdom is not. Slavery becomes common and widespread in the Seuloise lands; this continues for many centuries. The Flanae in the southeast (just west of the Hellfurnaces), the Oerid to the east, the Kersi (the long distant descendants of those who first sailed from AnaKeri) to the south, and the Baklun to the north, and several unnamed small tribes to the west all fall under the grip of the Seuloise fist. The entire of the western half of Oerik, is controlled by the Seul. But the drow and darker forces, and a fear of other elves, halt the eastern expansion. (3247 SD) [OJ1]

-2266 CY
The Flan escaped Suloise dominion. Not all. But most. They poured over the Hellfurnaces, where they met the elves, and the dwarves, who took pity on their suffrage.
The Flanae, under the protection of Beory, Pelor and Rao flee their lands in mass, making a perilous crossing of the Hellfurnaces. They move North into the lands of Eastern Oerik, later called the Flanaess, as the first human inhabitants of the area. Initially, they are well received by the demi-humans. (3250 SD) [OJ1] 

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:
Gruumsh by jeffdee, originally published in Deities and Demigods, 1980


1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
9577 The Adventure Begins, 1998
11374 The Scarlet Brotherhood, 1999
The Mahasarpa Campaign, 1999
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Dragon Magazine, 230
OJ Oerth Journal 1,2,11, appearing on Greyhawk Online
LGJ et. al.
Greychrondex, Wilson, Steven B.
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer