Friday, 12 November 2021

The Bone March Primer

“The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil water-way leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed somber under an overcast sky — seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.”
― Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Torrents rush down from its heights. The winds blow, hardly slowed by the scattered copse that dot the spaces between its rocky outcrops. It is a harsh land. A beautiful land. Thrice paid for by the blood of those who had come before.
Once, not so long before, the Bone March was a bastion of all the Great Kingdom professed itself to be. It was a Good land, a Benign land, a Haven of the dogma and doctrine of Heironeous, and had been since it had been wrested from the embrace of the Fruztii, who had torn it from the clans of the Flan, who had taken them from the care of the elves.
Not as fertile as the plains of Aerdy, it had always been excellent pasturage. Tall grasses flow across its rolling hills, gold and green inland seas. Perhaps that is why it has always been so coveted. But the grasses have lain fallow, their potential unrealized since that fateful day when the euroz flowed out of the Rakers, laying waste to all they could see.
For centuries, the descendants of the Heironean cavalier, Caldni Vir, Knight Protector of the Great Kingdom, ruled the realm for the overkings, until Clement was knighted marquis of the March. By most accounts, Clement was a just ruler, noble and forthright, a throwback to Aerdi lords of old. But it is whispered that he was betrayed by His Grace Grenell of House Naelax, when in 563 CY, orcs invaded Spinecastle by secret ways that offered its defenders little warning or means of preparation.
The Streets of Spinecastle
It is believed that Clement is dead. It is whispered that he is not, and that Spinecastle fell, not to orcs, but, to something out of the depths of the oerth; for is it not said that the orcs and the gnolls had fled the keep, even as they howled triumph, and those that escaped, gibbered madness until their dying day? None have entered since. The victorious legions prefer to squat at the keep’s foundation, and no lure of gold, and no taunts of cowardice, can coax them to brave its black corridors again.
The March has been a dark place ever since. All manner of evil dwells here. All manner of evil flourishes here. And all manner of evil gnashes out from its borders.

Campaigning in the Bone March is for those who want to experience the aftermath of a humanoid invasion. Overrun, and despoiled. Orcs, gnolls, goblinoids, and bandits are aplenty. There is no central government, even the former capital of Spinecastle was overrun and serves as a gathering spot for their tribes. The only pockets of civilization remaining is the city of Knurrl in the southern part of the country and, potentially, the coastal cities of Bellport and Johnsport.

Country specific resources:
There are none specific to the Bone March, but most pertinent information can be found in:
The Greyhawk Folio, The Greyhawk setting boxed set, Greyhawk Adventures (concerning Tang), Greyhawk Wars, From the Ashes Boxed Set, Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, and Dragon magazine #52,55,56,57

I highly recommend the free online supplement Ivid the Undying, by Carl Sargent, available here. It's a wealth of lore for the nations that once made up the Great Kingdom.

Inspiration for campaigning can be found in Frodo’s journey, in the “Two Towers,” and “The Return of the King.”
Inspiration for Mounduiz Dephar will certainly be found in the Ringwraiths of LotRs.
Further inspiration can be had from “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” by William L. Shirer, and “Night,” by Elie Wiesel. And in the history of Poland, most specifically concerning the Partisans of the Second World War: “Fire Without Smoke: Memoirs of a Polish Partisan,” by Florian Mayevski, “Defiance,” by Nechama Tec; and the novel “The Polish Officer,” by Alan Furst.

Adventures in this country include:
In the Shadow of Spinecastle
The Stolen Seal,
 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, Ratik/Bone March
Forge of Fury
The Mud Sorcerer's Tomb, Dungeon #37
In the Shadows of Spinecastle, Dungeon #148

Recovery of items or missing persons from the invasion (This took place a while ago in the more common timelines - in 563-564 CY, so time has passed).
Investigate the fate of Alain of Ratik, the Marquis Clement, or any person from the past personae dramatis. The country fell rapidly and anyone could have been trapped here.
Possible locations/items could be Ur-Flan sites or political items such as the Key of Spinecastle or any MacGuffin in a ruined country (family heirlooms, items from Knights Protector, etc).
Working on behalf of the Count of Knurl (or refugees/gnomes/dwarves) to stave off humanoid threats.
Carving out a niche of civilization and defending it.
Limited city adventure possibilities, mostly in the humanoid teeming overrun capital, but also in Bellport, on the coast.
The Death Knight Mounduiz Dephar, Scourge of the Fruztii has carved out a domain here.
Ferrendar Keep in the North is infested with hobgoblins.

Adventures in nearby areas include:
S4 White Plume Mountain, Bandit Kingdoms
Return to White Plume Mountain
A Slight Diversion, OJ#9, Redspan, Bandit Kingdoms
WG8, Fate of Istus, #1 Bandit Kingdoms
WGS1 Five Shall Be One, Bandit Kingdoms
Out of the Ashes, Dungeon #17, Bandit Kingdoms
Age of Worms adventure path (Dungeon Magazine, issues 124 – 135)
The Spire of Long Shadows, Dungeon, #130, Bandit Kingdoms
The Prince of Redhand, Dungeon, #131, Bandit Kingdoms
The Library of Last Resort, Dungeon, #132, Bandit Kingdoms
Kings of the Rift, Dungeon, #133, Bandit Kingdoms
Into the Wormcrawl Fissure, Dungeon, #134, Bandit Kingdoms
Dawn of a New Age, Dungeon, #135, Bandit Kingdoms
WG8, Fate of Istus, #2 Nyrond, #5 Pale
WGS2 Howl From the North, Hold of Stonefist
WGR5 Iuz the Evil
The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga
Fright at Tristor, Theocracy of the Pale
Ex Keraptis Cum Amore, Dungeon #77, Burning Cliffs
Deep Freeze, Dungeon #83, Theocracy of the Pale
Armistice, Dungeon #84, Griff Mountains
The Sharm’s Dark Song, Dungeon #87
Glacier Seas, Dungeon #87
Beyond the Light of Reason, Dungeon #96, Tenh
Raiders of the Black Ice, Dungeon #115, Blackmoor
Ill Made Graves, Dungeon #133, Jotsplat & the Icy Sea
Tomb of Zhangthe Horrific, by William Dvorak, Rovers of the Barrens
C13 FromHis Cold, Dead Hands, by Carlos Lising, casl Entertainment, 2019, Jotsplat & the Icy Sea
C14 The Sanguine Labyrinth, by Carlos Lising, casl Entertainment, 2019, Burning Cliffs
C17 The Root of All Evil, by Carlos Lising, casl Entertainment, 2021, Burning Cliffs
FB1 While on the Road to Cavrik's Cove, casl Entertainment, 2021, Ratik
Although later retconned into the Yeomanry, B1 Into the Unknown (in the monochrome edition) was originally suggested as located in Ratik, The Duchy of Tenh, or the Theocracy of the Pale. That would make either an ideal location for B2 Keep on the Borderlands, as well.

Intrigue and politics between Knurl and the near realms of Nyrond, the North Kingdom, and/or Ratik.
Explore the Caudron of Night or Causeway of Fiends (high level).
Risk exploring the ruined tower of Azal-Lan to the south in the Adri forest.

Bone March:
chaotic evil; Common
[Dragon #52 – 20]

His Nobility, the Marquis of Bonemarch (title currently held by no one)
Capital: Spinecastle (pop. 6,300)
Population: 40,000+/-
Demi-humans: Few (beleaguered gnomes of the Flinty Hills)
Humanoids: Many (gnolls, ogres, orcs in numbers)
Resources: silver. gems (I, II)
[WoGA – 20]

Ruler: none
Capital: none; largest city is Spinecastle (pop. 6,000)
[FtAA – 23]

Proper Name: Bone March
Ruler: His Nobility, Clement, the Marquis of Bone March (presumed dead—LN male human Ftr9)
Government: Formerly a feudal marchland of the Great Kingdom, now controlled by a conclave of nonhuman chiefs
Capital: Spinecastle
Major Towns: Knurl (13,500), Johnsport (pop. 3,500(?)), Spinecastle (pop. 6,300(?))
Resources: Silver, gems (I, II)
Population: 310,000—Human 37% (Osf), Orc 20%, Halfling 18%, Gnome 10%, Elf 7%, Half-orc 4% Halfelf 3%, Dwarf 1% (large number of uncounted goblins, gnolls, etc.)
Languages: Common, Old Oeridian, Orc, Halfling, Gnome, Elven (plus Goblin, Gnoll, etc.)
Alignments: LE*, LN, N, CE
Religions: Hextor, Oeridian agricultural gods, Erythnul, Kord, orc pantheon
[LGG – 35]

One must always give credit where credit is due. This Primer 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 exhaustive.
Special thanks to Jason Zavoda for his compiled index, “Greyhawkania,” an invaluable research tool.
This Primer has been expanded from the original postcard found in Canonfire’s “Touring the Flanaess” index, written by "AshurTheBear," and some passages from that scholarly work reside with this piece.

The Art:
Streets-of-Spinecastle by christopherstevens, from Dragon #148, 2007
Shadow-of-Spinecastle by robertocampus, from Dragon #148, 2007
Dungeon #17 cover, by Carol Heyer, 1989
C17 The Root of All Evil cover, by, Daniel Govar, from casl Entertainment, 2021
Bone March heraldry, from World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980

2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
2023 Greyhawk Adventures, 1989
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
9577 The Adventure Begins, 1998
9578 Player’s Guide to Greyhawk, 1998
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Dragon Magazine
OJ Oerth Journal, appearing on Greyhawk Online
Living Greyhawk Journal
Greychrondex, Steven B. Wilson
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
Anna B. Meyer’s Greyhawk Map


  1. When we first started playing Greyhawk in the early 80's, Bone March was our "home base", but as we started playing published adventures, we were drawn westward by the locations of those modules and (sadly) never returned to the Bone March....maybe that will change now. Thanks for posting this!

  2. Wonderful primer! It's always remarkable to see the adventures and resources set near a place like Spinecastle. It's an underrated place to run a campaign. I hope more people will take this post and be inspired by it.