Thursday, 30 December 2021

Thoughts on B2 The Keep on the Borderlands

 

“Yea though I walk through the Valley of the shadow of Death, I shall fear no evil...because I am the meanest motherfucker in the Valley.”
― Bruce H. Norton, Force Recon Diary, 1969: The Riveting, True-to-Life Account of Survival and Death in One of the Most Highly Skilled Units in Vietnam


The Realm of mankind is narrow and constricted. Always the forces of Chaos press upon its borders, seeking to enslave its populace, rape its riches, and steal its treasures. If it were not for a stout few, many in the Realm would indeed fall prey to the evil which surrounds them. Yet, there are always certain exceptional and brave members of humanity, as well as similar individuals among its allies — dwarves, elves, and halflings — who rise above the common level and join battle to stave off the darkness which would otherwise overwhelm the land.
[B2 The Keep on the Borderlands – 6]

Ahead, up the winding road, atop a sheer-walled mount of stone, looms the great KEEP. Here, at one of civilization's strongholds between good lands and bad, you will base yourselves and equip for forays against the wicked monsters who lurk in the wilds. Somewhere nearby, amidst the dark forests and tangled fens, are the Caves of Chaos where fell creatures lie in wait. [B2 – 6]

Those passages set the stage for B2 The Keep on the Borderlands. And the mood. Civilization ends here.
And it most certainly does.
So, where should one place B2? When the adventure was first published, it was pretty vague about where one would. No mention was made at all, in fact. Why? Because it was the plug and play, introductory adventure included within the Basic Dungeons and Dragons Boxed Set, the replacement for Mike Carrs’ B1 In Search of the Unknown.
B1 was out, B2 was in; but there’s an interesting passage in B2 that links those two adventures:

51. BOULDER FILLED PASSAGE:
Large rocks and boulders have been placed here in order to seal off this tunnel. It will take 100 man-turns to open a way large enough for a human to pass through into the area beyond. (You have the option of allowing this passage to lead to the outside somewhere to the southwest of the Caves of Chaos, or you may choose to have it go all the way to the Cave of the Unknown. If you opt for the latter case, you must, of course, prepare an appropriate underground area map and stock it with monsters and treasures.) [B2 – 21]

So, where was Quasqueton? The Brown cover edition of B1 is generic. Not so the original monochrome edition:
Note: In the mythical WORLD OF GREYHAWK (available from TSR) the stronghold can be considered within anyone of the following lands - the Barony of Ratik, the Duchy of Tenh; or the Theocracy of the Pale. [B1 – In Search of the Unknown monochrome – 6]

Before it was moved to Moldvay’s “Known World”, later Mystara, all content was considered homebrew, or set in Greyhawk. To my reckoning, it was intended to feature the Northern Barbarians, and says as much:
Some years ago, Rogahn and Zelligar apparently decided upon a joint foray into the lands of the hated barbarians. Taking most of their henchmen and associates along in a great armed band, the two personages disappeared into the forbidding alien lands to the north, far from the hills and forests surrounding Quasqueton. [B1 – 6]
It's because of that passage that I believe its best fit is Ratik. What lies north of Ratik? The Frost Barbarians, and beyond them, the Snow Barbarians, and the Ice Barbarians.
The Pale, on the other hand, is surrounded by Nyrond and Tenh and the Bandit Kingdoms, civilization and not Barbarians. Tenh is surrounded by the Pale, the Bandits. The Rovers and The Hold of Stonefist are within reach, but are they barbarians? One might argue that the Rovers are. One might argue that the Fists are, too.
Myself, I choose Ratik.

And it is because of those words that I disagree with TSR’s decision to set Return to the Keep of the Borderlands in the Yeomanry. One might argue that the Yeomanry is narrow, that it lies on the edge of the realms of mankind, and that it is beset by the forces of Chaos, namely Giants and such. But its maps show a clear passage to the southeast, leading to Quasqueton.

K2.
Passage to Quasqueton [Return to the Keep on the Borderlands – 58]
The left-hand passage has an arrow and the word "QUASQUETON" engraved at eye level only a few feet in; this way once led to the secret fortress of Quasqueton, but the tunnel has completely collapsed; characters can only go this way thirty feet or so before having to turn back. In just that space, however, they discover unmistakable signs that the patient undead are working to clear the passage—a task that will probably take them several years to complete.  [RttKotB – 31]

Quasqueton is not detailed in the Silver Anniversary’s scope. Rogahn and Zelligar are not even mentioned. It’s a shame, really. There’s so much can be read into those NPCs.
To the module itself.
It’s assumed that the module begins with the PCs entering the keep, but that seems a little blasé to me. Dull, in fact.
Begin with an ambush! Show the players how dangerous this borderland is! There’s a raider camp nearby, almost on the keep’s doorstep, after all. After a heated exchange, the PCs take flight, making for the only refuge in sight, the Keep. During the chase, they catch sight of a figure in the distance, clad in a black robe with a maroon colored cowl. [B2 – 22] Once they are safe, they find that the Keep is undermanned. Poorly funded. Barely capable of defending itself. The Baron is beset! There are bandits in the woods, lizardmen in the marsh, and his supply chain is constantly under attack. There hasn’t been a caravan in weeks! He has sent out patrols, but they have fallen pray to the bandits, and orcs! Or hobgoblins. Or gnolls! Whichever. He needs your help!
He kits them, maybe he presents them with rooms at the inn. The keep has just about everything one would need. Walls, inns, taverns, a smithy, traders, and a bank, etc; all the sundries to keep you going; not bad for someplace that doesn’t deserve a dot on the map. There’s no town to speak of, just what’s to be had within the keep. I’d upgrade that, and place the keep and the town it would require to support it at it’s base. I’d add some farms around it too. The soldiers have to eat after all. But this was an introductory module, and I imagine Gary Gygax didn’t want to overwhelm fledgling DM’s. Upgraded, or not, the PCs have a base of operations. They meet a few of the townsfolk, including a friendly priest.
The western portion houses the jovial priest who is taking advantage of his stopover at the KEEP to discuss theology with learned folk and to convert others. Everyone speaks well of him, although the two acolytes with him are avoided, as they never speak — the priest says they must follow vows of silence until they attain priestly standing. His well-appointed chambers are comfortably furnished and guests are always welcomed with a cozy fire and plenty of ale or wine. The priest is a very fine companion and an excellent listener. He does not press his religious beliefs upon any unwilling person. He is outspoken in his hatred of evil, and if approached by a party of adventurers seeking the Caves of Chaos, he will certainly accompany them. [B2 – 9]
Thus begins your campaign.

Where might you begin? With idle chat? The townsfolk would have a thing or two to say about their town and their valley, wouldn’t they?
Which brings us to the rumour table. There was always a rumour table in a module back in those early days. We did love rumour tables then, didn’t we? They can add insight to any module, if used. But I suggest perusing them carefully, and working out which NPCs know what. Imagine if a fairly well-placed NPC relates something false. Should they do, you can figure out beforehand whether the falsehood was a fib, misdirection, a red herring, or misunderstanding.
These are pretty standard fare for an early dungeon module.
Italics denote a false legend or rumor.
  1. A merchant, imprisoned in the caves, will reward his rescuers.
  2. A powerful magic-user will destroy all cave invaders.
  3. Tribes of different creatures live in different caves.
  4. An ogre sometimes helps the cave dwellers.
  5. A magic wand was lost in the caves' area.
  6. All of the cave entrances are trapped.
  7. If you get lost, beware the eater of men!
  8. Altars are very dangerous.
  9. A fair maiden is imprisoned within the caves.
  10. "Bree-yark" is goblin-language for "we surrender"!
  11. Beware of treachery from within the party.
  12. The big dog-men live very high in the caves.
  13. There are hordes of tiny dog-men in the lower caves.
  14. Piles of magic armor are hoarded in the southern caves.
  15. The bugbears in the caves are afraid of dwarves!
  16. Lizard-men live in the marshes.
  17. An elf once disappeared across the marshes.
  18. Beware the mad hermit of the north lands.
  19. Nobody has ever returned from an expedition to the caves.
  20. There is more than one tribe of ores within the caves. [B2 – 7]

The question is, where did these rumours come from? Has an army of adventurers already pitted themselves against the Caves of Chaos? They shouldn’t have. No one should know about the caves. They ought to be secret, lest the Keep would have already stormed their gates, so to speak. There are foul humanoids gathering there. There is an evil temple there! The baron would have put an end to it, had he known it existed. But there might have been a group or two who’d ventured out already, never to return…

The PCs set out, and after a few heated battles against the raiders, and against a scattering of goblins (just for foreshadowing…), they can discover that the lizardmen in the hills and hollows may not be as slandered. I would suggest more sightings of black robes commanding goblins or orcs or some such, was well, tight-lipped cultists who refuse to speak at all if captured. They can discover the mad hermit, a survivor of an earlier adventuring group that had already come across the Caves of Chaos, much to their dismay, having escaped potential sacrifice with his life, if not his sanity. Feed him, give him succour, and he could be a valuable source of information that leads them to the caves.


Should the hermit be a Temple survivor, the jovial priest’s presence complicates things. The jovial priest is not what he appears to be, after all:
Note: All are chaotic and evil, being in the KEEP to spy and defeat those seeking to gain experience by challenging the monsters in the Caves of Chaos. Once in the caves the priest will use a cause light wounds (does 2-7 points of damage to the creature touched, a normal "to hit" roll must be made to touch the victim) or a light spell as needed to hinder and harm adventurers. Betrayal will always occur during a crucial encounter with monsters. [B2 – 9]
The hermit may betray the priest’s true nature, or the priest may silence him. If the hermit does not, the priest will lure the PCs into danger, or betray them while they confront the Temple.

Let’s add a twist, shall we?
What sort of twist, you ask?
Candella and Duchess
Duchess and Candella. You remember them, don’t you? They were featured in B3. I’m inclined to use them here, because I do so love them, and this is an excellent place to introduce them into a long-term campaign.
The party has made their first foray into the caves, and find the goblins or kobolds a whole lot more tricksy than they anticipated. There were traps everywhere, and before long, the “goblins” called for help. There were too many hobgoblins to fight, and the party took flight. They slipped into a copse of trees, only to discover that they aren’t the only ones hoping to defy detection. They hear a sharp, “Psst!’ They look up and there were two young ladies high in the adjacent foliage. One holds a finger to her lips and winks at them. She smiles. She’s beautiful. They both are. They gesture for the PCs to climb into the trees, and not long afterwards, the hobgoblins pass beneath, unaware that their quarry is mere feet above them.
Candella and Duchess
These two thieves will act friendly toward the party. They will pretend to be young inexperienced fighters in search of adventure. They will politely ask to join the party, saying that they are not quite as tough or as prepared for adventuring as they had originally thought.
If they join the party the two thieves will wait for a good chance to steal whatever they can (either by trying to pick pockets or just grabbing any loot in sight), and then run away.
If the thieves are not allowed to join the party, but are not attacked, they will try to get close enough to a character to try to pick that person's pockets. If discovered, they will claim that the person made a mistake, that they merely bumped into the person by accident. If successful they will leave with their loot. [B3 Palace of the Silver Princess – 24]
Weave those glorious ladies into your campaign. They help. They join the party. The PCs fall in love with them. The girls abscond with the loot. Only to be rescued later on in the midst of another adventure. The PCs are wrongly accused of some crime, the girls break them out. They need to rescue the girls time and time again. The girls have the key to solving whatever conundrum the party find themselves in. The possibilities are endless.

What lies ahead? The usual dungeon fare: entry, skulking, hiding in shadows, the odd combat, potential retreats and maybe the occasion running for one’s life, and the like.
There’s a lot of good dungeon ecology. Not in that all those species are within a stone’s throw of one another, but in how some of them interact. They have guards and secret chambers, and ways to double back and attack from behind; that their numbers will not replenish when they die, but they will retreat to other caverns if depleted. And that they will be ready for further forays by the party. I love how the goblins have worked out a deal with the ogre.
There’s an owlbear that should be avoided at all costs at such low level. All the other monsters do, but every now and again a gnoll or some other unfortunate is made a meal. I’m sure it would love a taste of PC.
If there were any doubt that these gathered humanoids were up to no good, the party would soon discover otherwise when they find the slave pens (potentially from where the hermit escaped from), where captured caravans are awaiting their final fate, and maybe an earlier party of adventurers that was not as lucky as the PCs thus far (replacements, if necessary).
I especially love this passage:

BUGBEAR LAIR: The group of bugbears is not numerous, but what it lacks in numbers, it makes up for in strength and cunning. There are signs beside the entrance cave in kobold, orcish, goblin, etc. Each says: "Safety, security and repose for all humanoids who enter — WELCOME! (Come in and report to the first guard on the left for a hot meal and bed assignment.)" [B2 – 19]

Personally, I think the numbers might be too high. Were there that many humanoids in residence, they might already have cut the keep off and starved it out; conversely, the keep might not be the primary reason as to why they are there. Besides, do most evil humanoids have the restraint and the cunning to not destroy humans in such close proximity? They wouldn’t if some higher power were controlling them. Which brings me to the finale.

The adventure culminates in the discovery and assault on the evil temple complex high above the rest of the complex. It’s too elaborate to my mind for it to have been excavated by the Priests and the Acolytes, without drawing the keep’s attention to their doings long ago.
Who excavated it then? Rogahn and Zelligar? Maybe.
Or maybe, just maybe, it is a relic of an earlier age, when Keraptis ruled over all the lands that could be surveyed from long-forgotten Tostencha. These new residents were drawn to this site, much as Rogahn and Zelligar were, and Keraptis before them. Something drew them there. Something old. Something incredibly old. And evil.

B2 will take a ton of work to prep. Most early modules do. Okay, they all do. They packed a lot into 30 pages, but there was a prevailing DIY attitude then, and only so much room between the covers. NPCs need naming. Encounters ought to be prepped beforehand; unless you want play to bog down while you think about who prisoners might be, and what they might say while under scrutiny. Etc. Even today’s 400+ page tomes require work; but these slim volumes always seemed way denser once you dove in than the weighty volumes do today.
But it needs a town. Keeps do not exist in a vacuum, and what passes for its community within the keep just doesn't cut it. It needs farms too. Etc.

Do I like B2 The Keep on the Borderlands? Yes. I love it.
Would I run it as written? Probably not. It’s an introductory module, and I find it implausible that so many disparate species of humanoids could be gathered in one place and not kill each other.
I would choose: goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears (the goblinoids); or kobolds and orcs, and not the patchwork quilt of enemies as presented. In either case, I would definitely keep the ogre. If the PCs were higher level, I’d swap the orcs or hobgoblins for gnolls and flinds.
Would I include the minotaur? Maybe. Probably. It has a nice tie-in to B1:

28. WORSHIP AREA. The stronghold's worship area is no more than a token gesture to the gods, it would seem. On the back wall of the room, opposite the door, is a rock carving of a great idol which is actually sculpted from the wall itself. The image (of a horned head with an evil visage) appears about 4' wide and 6' high, and is surrounded by religious symbols and runes. [B1 – 16]

Is this a perfect module? No. But it is damn close, isn’t it?
It’s a nearly perfect module insofar as it is a campaign waiting to happen.






One must always give credit where credit is due. This post 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.
Very special thanks to E. Gary Gygax, without whose imagination, this adventure, and this review, could not have been possible, to say nothing of Mike Carr, and Jean Wells and Tom Moldvay.


The Art:
B2 The Keep on the Borderlands cover, by Jim Roslof, 1981
B2 The Keep on the Borderlands back cover, by Erol Otus, 1981
B2 The Keep on the Borderlands map detail, by David S Laforce, 1980,1981
Zelligar and the Barbarians, from Into the Borderlands, by Goodman Games, 2018
Return to the Keep on the Borderlands map detail, by Todd Gamble, 1999
B2 The Keep on the Borderlands Keep map, by David S Laforce, 1980,1981
The Keep Square, from Into the Borderlands, by Goodman Games, 2018
Minotaur illustration, from B2 The Keep on the Borderlands, by Bill Willingham, 1981
Hermit illustration, from B2 The Keep on the Borderlands, by Erol Otus, 1980,1981
Owlbear illustration, from B2 The Keep on the Borderlands, by by Jim Roslof, 1981
The Worship Area, from Into the Borderlands, by Goodman Games, 2018
The Caves of Chaos map, from B2 The Keep on the Borderlands,  by David S Laforce, 1980,1981


Sources:
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979
9023 B1 In Search the Unknown, Monochrome edition, 1979
9023 B1 In Search of the Unknown, Brown cover, 1981
9044 B3 Palace of the Silver Princess, 1981
9034 B2 The Keep on the Borderlands, 1980
11327 Return to the Keep on the Borderlands, 1999
OJ Oerth Journal #1 & #11, appearing on Greyhawk Online

Saturday, 25 December 2021

The Christmas Story

 

Chapter 2

To Bethlehem
1
Now it happened that at this time Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be made of the whole inhabited world. 2 This census -- the first -- took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria, and everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.

4 So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee for Judaea, to David's town called Bethlehem, since he was of David's House and line, in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. Now it happened that, while they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first-born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the living-space.

In the countryside close by there were shepherds out in the fields keeping guard over their sheep during the watches of the night. An angel of the Lord stood over them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel said, “Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

There was a great throng of the hosts of heaven...

13 
And all at once with the angel there was a great throng of the hosts of heaven, praising God with the words:

14          “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace for those he favours.

15 Now it happened that when the angels had gone from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go to Bethlehem and see this event which the Lord has made known to us.



A Baby in a Manger
16
 So they hurried away and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. 17 When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, 18 and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds said to them. 19 As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as they had been told.

The Gospel, According to Luke


The Art:
All art is wholly owned by the artists.

Friday, 24 December 2021

Silent Night!


Glories stream from heaven afar...
Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother and child!
Holy infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Sleep in heavenly peace!

Silent night! Holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight!
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly holies sing Alleluia!
Christ the Saviour is born!
Christ the Saviour is born!

Redeeming Grace
Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth!
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth!

Silent Night
Franz Xaver Gruber & Josephus Franciscus Mohr, 1818
Translated by John Freeman Young, 1859


The Art:
All art is wholly owned by the artists





Thoughts of B1 In Search of the Unknown


“And his eyes will only know darkness,
His ears will only know hatred,
His hands will only destroy,
And from his feet,
Obscurity shall walk.”
― Anonymous


A long time ago, in a decade far, far away….
Many years ago, rumor has it, two noted personages in the area, Rogahn the Fearless (a fighter of renown) and Zelligar the Unknown (a magic-user of mystery and power) pooled their resources and expertise to construct a home and stronghold for the two of them to use as a base of operations. [B1 In Search of the Unknown – 6]

B1 In Search of the Unknown might have begun that way, but it did not.
This is how it really began:
This package forms a special instructional module for play of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS® Basic Set, and as such, is specifically designed for beginning players and Dungeon Masters. Due to its special design, it has numerous applications and services a multiplicity of purposes. [B1 – 2]
As it should. It was a teaching tool, after all. But I wish it had begun with more imaginative pizazz. No matter. It began, and to this day “B1” has a special place in the hearts of early gamers, maybe not as much as its antecedent, B2 The Keep on the Borderlands, but it wasn’t distributed as widely as Keep was.
What makes B1 so special? Is it because it was published when it was, at the dawn of D&D? Or is it something else, something attempted only once more in the initial, infamous B3 Palace of the Silver Princess: left a little blank? That might have been intimidating to some, but not all. To some, it was a stroke of genius. Here’s a blank slate. Fill it!
I for one, was a little intimidated. I would not be now. Its very blankness makes it the ultimate plug and play. It can be low level, a warren infested with kobolds. Or it can be very high level, indeed; a dragon’s lair, or the secluded base of an evil cult. It can be whatever you would like. Or need.

It wasn’t so open, to begin with. Not at first.
It began with some very concrete ideas. It was placed in Greyhawk, for one (this being those heady days when there was only one setting).
Note: In the mythical WORLD OF GREYHAWK [...] the stronghold can be considered within anyone of the following lands - the Barony of Ratik, the Duchy of Tenh; or the Theocracy of the Pale. [B1 – monochromatic edition – 6]
Or so it suggested, before it was moved to Molday’s “Known World”, later Mystara. But not then; then it was intended to feature the Northern Barbarians, and says as much:
Some years ago, Rogahn and Zelligar apparently decided upon a joint foray into the lands of the hated barbarians. Taking most of their henchmen and associates along in a great armed band, the two personages disappeared into the forbidding alien lands to the north, far from the hills and forests surrounding Quasqueton. [B1 – 6]
I suppose said barbarians could have been from the Hold of Stonefist, but my head and my heart tell me that the Fruztii were always intended.

So, what do we know about Rogahan and Zelligar? Not much. Maybe a lot.
No one knows what occurrence or coincidence brought these two men together, but tales tell of their meeting and forming a strong bond of friendship, a union that would last for the ages. [B1 – 31]
Where “they” built Quasqueton might shed some light on their character.
The location of this hidden complex was chosen with care, since both men disliked visitors and intruders. Far from the nearest settlement, away from traveled routes, and high upon a craggy hill, the new construction took shape. Carved out of the rock protrusion which crested the heavily forested hill, this mystical hideaway was well hidden, and its rumored existence was never common knowledge. Even less well known was its name, the Caverns of Quasqueton.
Construction of the new complex, it is said, took over a decade, even with the aid of magic and the work of hundreds of slaves and laborers. Vast amounts of rock were removed and tumbled off the rough cliffs into large piles now overgrown with vegetation. A single tower was constructed above ground for lookout purposes, even though there was little to see other than a hilly, forested wilderness for miles around. [B1 – 6]
Both men disliked visitors and intruders. They carved their caverns far from civilization and trade routes. It was well hidden. They were secretive, obviously.
Not much detail is given to the race of said slaves, only that orc slaves did the menial work; but one might suggest that they had human slaves as well. Slaves are slaves, and they would take what was at hand. Those humans were certainly Flan and Fruztii, given the [m]any years ago description, earlier. Their use of slaves sheds some light on their personality (maybe not; the use of slaves as systemic once, if not still), but mention of labourers suggests employment of a skilled workforce, as well. Engineers, artisans, henchmen.

General Sir Pelgrave Ratik of Winetha
How many years ago was [m]any years ago? That depends. General Sir Pelgrave Ratik of Winetha led an expeditionary force to push the Aerdy frontier to the foothills of the Griff Mountains in 122 CY, and would not push north into the Timberway Forest until 130 CY. Ratik has been relatively “tame” since then, so [m]any years ago could be as many as 400 years ago.
I would suggest that is indeed when our personages were active.
Why? Because evidence points to then.
Zelligar kept a library, some of which was left behind:

Book *1 - A historical work, this book, written in the common tongue, outlines the history of the civilized area within 100 miles of the stronghold location. It contains nothing remarkable. [B1 – 10]
This book was “written in the common tongue,” and is thus readable by the PCs.

Book *2 - This tome is apparently an encyclopedia of various types of plants. Although the various illustrations given within provide a clue to its topic, it is written in the language of elves, so it will not be understandable to a reader who does not know the elven tongue (unless a read languages spell is used).
[B1 – 10]
No clue is given to when this tome was penned, or bound.

Book *3 - This volume appears unremarkable at first glance, seeming to be a notebook with many handwritten entries of undecipherable runes and markings. It is actually a diary kept by Zelligar, and it details one of his adventures from the distant past, written in his own hand. The writing is not discernible unless a read languages spell is used. [B1 – 10]
The text is not magical. It would have been a wonder indeed should Zelligar have left it behind if it were. What is interesting is that it is not written in the common tongue, so, it may be surmised that Zelligar spoke languages other than common, besides elven, that is. The runes could be dwarven, but there are other markings as well.

Book *4 - This work, written in the common language. discusses weather. Although well-illustrated with drawings of meteorological phenomena. descriptive text is sparse. Some cryptic notes written in the margins were apparently made by Zelligar, but these are undecipherable without a read languages spell and are actually nothing more than notes such as a student would make in studying the work: to highlight important points.
No mention is made what his notes were, but as they are not describes as runes, I might suggest that these notes were penned in Zelligar’s first language.

They were noted as “noted,” so they were known, their exploits followed, as it were.
Rogahn and Zelligar lived in their joint sanctuary for quite some time, conducting their affairs from within except for occasional adventures in the outside world where both men attempted to add to their reputations as foremost practitioners of their respective arts.
The deeds and adventures of these two characters were never well known, since they both kept their distance from civilization. Some say, and perhaps rightly so, that their motives were based on greed and some kind of vague (or chaotic) evil. No one knows for sure. [B1 – 6]
So, they were vain. They enjoyed being known, but not “known.” Why? Because they were cruel, vainglorious, and evil. And being evil, their exploits would surely have attracted the attention of the druids, the rangers, or the concern of the jarls, all of whom might have found it in their best interest to put an end to their exploits.

Despite being evil, Rogahn and Zelligar were not stupid. They understood that to draw that sort of attention to their selves might not be healthy, so they made themselves “useful,” insofar as their usefulness furthered their ends: seclusion, secrecy, and the fear of those who might disturb them.
What is known more widely is the reputation of each. Despite their questionable alignment, both Rogahn and Zelligar capped their reputation of power when they joined forces to stop a barbarian invasion threatening the great valley below. In a crucial battle at a narrow pass in the hills, the two combined powerful forces and decisively turned back the invasion. Rogahn slew a horde of barbarians single-handedly and Zelligar's powerful magic put their army to flight.
[B1 – 6]
When might that be? Probably when Sir Pelgrave Ratik of Winetha pressed north of Marner.
It's doubtful that Rogahn slew the horde of barbarians single-handedly, but such is legend. Zelligar’s magic might have put them to flight, though. The barbarians are a superstitious lot, and they are not adept in arcane magic, legend suggesting that Slerotin himself set the Houses of Pursuit to flight. Such terror would definitely linger.
A grateful populace rewarded the pair and their henchmen with considerable treasure, after which the two retired to their hideaway. Most of the reward treasure was apparently used to finance the further construction of Quasqueton, although some of it may yet be hidden somewhere.  [B1 – 6]
Who might the grateful populace be? The Kingdom of Aerdy? Certainly not the Fruztii who inhabited Ratik. The Flan population would be pretty sparse, and I doubt they would be pleased to see yet another conqueror lay claim to their ancestral lands.
In any case, the hill stronghold was not completed in its entirety when, years later, the intrepid pair apparently embarked on their last adventure. [B1 – 6]
Were they in residence long enough to excavate such a vast maze? Maybe. Or maybe they too were drawn to this very spot, as were the cultists of our time. I believe they erected the tower, and expanded upon what was already there: the Hall, the Temple, the Throne room.

They ventured north one last time, taking with them their henchmen and associates.
Word just reaching civilization tells of some great battle in the barbarian lands where Rogahn and Zelligar have met their demise. This rumored clash must have occurred some years ago, and there are few details—and no substantiation of the story. The only thing certain is the Rogahn and Zelligar have been gone far too long. […] [B1 – 6]

Long, yes; but not interminably long:
Zelligar's closet lies through a door on the south wall of his chamber. The room is rather large for a closet, but is actually somewhat barren for its size. In one corner of the room, several bolts of cloth are stacked, well covered with dust and partially moth-eaten and deteriorated. These are of no particular value. [B1 – 10]
Not so long for the cloth to disintegrate, as might have happened unless the caverns were sealed, and there are far too many rumours regarding their caverns for that to have been the case.

Did they die? I don’t think so, but I’ll leave that to you to decide.


So, what were Rogahn and Zelligar? I’m referring to their ethnicity, not their callings. Not Fruztii, obviously. The Fruztii are not fond of arcane magic, not are they fond of consorting with its practitioners. Evidence might be hidden within their very names. Of course, that does not rule out their being Suel, what with there being large Suel enclaves up and down the Solnor coast.

Zelligar the Unknown
Zelligar is easy. He is/was a Suel wizard. Why do I say this? Because his name is all too similar to another famous Suel.
5069 SD 
Zellifar-ad-Zol, son of the emperor, mage/high priest of Beltar, breaks with his father and takes over 8,000 Seuloise loyal to himself, and flees the kingdom, eastward. (-447 CY) [OJ1]
5071 to 5093 SD
The Zolites scatter the Flannae before them, and move south to the Tilvanot Peninsula. [OJ11]
5093 SD
The First Division occurs. One of Zellifar's minions, the High Priest Pellipardus, slips away from the Zolites and takes his minor family to the Ratik area, in the North. (-493 CY) [OJ1]
5094 SD 
Zellifar parleys with the Houses of Pursuit. His Arch Mage, Slerotin, unleashes a Mass Enfeeblement on their house mages, and a Mass Suggestion upon the other members of the Houses. (-492 CY) [OJ1]
5097 SD 
Zellifar enters the Griff Mountains alone. None know where he goes or what he does there. (-419 CY) [OJ1]
5100 SD 
Zellifar, last scion of emperors, teleports from the Griff Mountains back to the remains of the Seuloise Empire. He is destroyed by the lingering magics and final throws of conflict in the area. (-416 CY) [OJ1]

Zellifar. Zelligar. The similarity is too striking. Could they be one and the same? Not likely. Zellifar was a priest, not a mage, even if many wizards of the time were referred to as wizard-priests, and frescos within his chambers are described banally, if self-congratulatory.
The east wall is a similar sectioned fresco showing cameos from the life of Zelligar: a boy gazing upward at a starry night sky. a young man diligently studying a great tome, on earnest magician changing water to wine before a delighted audience, and a powerful wizard casting a type of death fog over on enemy army from a hilltop. [B1 – 21]
The images are rather repetitive, and seeing how vainglorious Zelligar seems to be, you’d think there would have been far more and more varied wonders depicted should Zelligar been around for 800 years, give or take.
Zelligar's personal chamber is actually a rather austere abode. The most noticeable feature seen upon entering is a very large and fairly detailed stone carving which runs most of the length of the north wall of the room. Some 70 feet in overall length, the wall carving depicts a mighty wizard (obviously Zeiligar) on a hilltop casting a spell in the air over a valley below, with an entire army fleeing in confused panic. [B1 – 9]
My guess is Zelligar is contemporary Suel. That would make the indecipherable language in his journals, Suloise.

Rogahn the Fearless
Rogahn is not as easy to pin down. Could he be Flan? Personally, I would prefer that he be Flan: a lone warrior a-boil with rage over the Suel Barbarians’ displacement of, and further foul treatment of his people.
Tenh, Tostenhca, Colten…Rogahn. It’s close, but it’s not a perfect fit.
When considering Suel names: Gordegar, Kelson, Renho, Rehno, the disparity widens.
Oeridian names, on the other hand: many Oeridian names do sometimes end with -an: Robann; Strychan; Toran; Renderan. Oeridan is certainly closer than Suel. And structurally, Rogahn is fairly close to Fharlanghn.
Much to my displeasure, Oeridian seems the best fit for Rogahn.
I would have liked to place them in a more distant past, strengthening Rogahn’s possible Flan ethnicity, but evidence is largely against it. Zelligar’s tomes are written in the common tongue, after all (in this case Aerdi) when not indecipherable (ancient Suel).
Rogahn’s ancestry appears set in stone.
Rogahn
He most certainly would have been “contemporary,” as well. His greatest achievement would seem to be the very same as Zelligar’s: the routing of the barbarians.
The west wall is a sectioned fresco showing various events and deeds from the life of Rogahn, and the several views pictured are: a young boy raising a sword, a young man slaying a wild boor, a warrior carrying off a dead barbarian, and a hero in the midst of a large battle hocking barbarian foes to pieces. [B1 – 21]
Like Zelligar, his were simple tastes.
Rogahn's personal quarters are rather simple and spartan. showing his taste for the utilitarian rather than regal. [B1 – 16]
And as one might expect, his desires were less esoteric than were his companions. He had friends, or should I say that he had, at the very least, one friend.
Home for Erig, Rogahn's friend and comrade in arms, is a rather simple room with few furnishings. [B1 – 16]
And he had a mistress.
Rogahn's Mistress


This room is more tastefully decora ted than the rather spartan living quarters found elsewhere in the stronghold. It is the personal chamber of Rogahn's mistress and lover, who apparently lived at the stronghold for some time. But now it appears that she, along with so many others who lived here, has long since been gone. [B1 – 15]

We do know that they did not act alone. They had loyal servants, one very likely an elf.
The walls are barren rock, except for a framed picture hanging over the desk showing two figures standing side by side: a warrior of Impressive proportions, and a wizened magic user in a purple robe. This is actually a full-color painting, beautifully rendered, and in one corner is written in the elvish language the words: "To wise Marevak. worthy advisor and counselor, from a grateful Zelligar and Rogahn". These words are readable only to those who know the elven language (or via a read language. spell), but the signed names of Zelligar and Rogahn will be apparent upon a close examination. In another corner of the painting is the signed name Tuflor – this being the artist who pointed the picture, but this fact certainly not obvious to anyone finding the painting other than through deduction or by a character "asking around" once back in the civilized world. [B1 – 19]
That was unexpected. Who’d have thought that much thought could go into characters who don’t make an appearance in a module?
Mike Carr, apparently.

Time to tackle the module itself.
Do I like it? No. Do I love it? Yes. I love what it can be.
What I don’t like about it is its crazy quilt layout. It appears to have been designed using the random dungeon generator from the 1e DMG. Were I to lay it out, I would have the tunnel and guard nooks as presented, followed by a vast temple, then the trophy/banquet hall, its floor a detailed map that doesn’t quite match what lies outside (rivers would flow other courses, the coastline undulating slightly differently, with only the Rakers standing where they ought to). Storage and sundries would be to the right of the Hall, pantry and kitchens to the left. A “throne room” would follow, with Rogahn’s demesnes behind that and to the right, Zelligar’s to the left.
Rogahn’s would entail training facilities, barracks, guest and rooms, his mistress’s in the far corner, his before hers.
Zelligar’s would entail laboratories, studies, along with the Room of Pools, and the Garden Room. For effect, have the fungi encroaching on the surrounding rooms, roughly 20% less each room out from the epicentre, that way the room is what it ought to be, an experiment gone wrong, or having escaped its initial confinement.
What lies within the dungeon? Whatever you’d like, for much the same reason Mike Carr left it blank, to make your own.
What would I do? I would tie it into B2 The Keep on the Borderlands, or something similar. Evil cultists have found the caves, and are still seeking the motherlode, Quasqueton. That’s what they’re drawn to, why they’ve come. But they didn’t find it, so, they created their own, a stone’s throw away. This is not to say they’ve quite looking, but they have lost a number of their acolytes trying, so, they’ve gone as far as to caste rumours about, baiting adventurers to come and look for them, to clear away the bandits, and blunt those humanoids who have not heeded their call.
I’d remodel the temples, theirs and that within Quasqueton to match those in the Giant and Drow series, to be consistent.

Below lists the rumours. I like rumour tables. They can add insight to any module, if used. But I suggest perusing them carefully, and working out which NPCs know what. Imagine if a fairly well-placed NPC relates something false. Should they do, you can figure out beforehand whether the falsehood was a fib, misdirection, a red herring, or misunderstanding.
These are pretty standard fare for an early dungeon module.
Italics denote a false legend or rumor.
  1. The name of the stronghold is Quasqueton.
  2. Zelligar had a wizard's workshop in the stronghold where he worked on magic stronger than any known to man.
  3. Rogahn owned a fantastic gem as big as a man's fist that was worth over 100,000 gold pieces; he kept it hidden in his personal quarters.
  4. Zelligar and Rogahn had orc slaves to do the menial work, and some lived permanently at the stronghold.
  5. The complex has two levels.
  6. Part of the complex is unfinished.
  7. The complex has a rear exit which is secret and well hidden.
  8. No outsiders have ever entered the complex and returned to tell the tale.
  9. Troglodytes have moved into the complex in the absence of its normal inhabitants.
  10. The place is protected by the gods themselves, and one member of any party of intruders is doomed to certain death.
  11. The treasures of Zelligar and Rogahn are safely hidden in a pool of water.
  12. The entire place is filled with guards left behind by Zelligar and Rogahn.
  13. Rogahn's trophy room has battle relics and slain monster remains from his adventures.
  14. There is a room with many pools of water within the complex.
  15. The very walls speak to visitors.
  16. An enchanted stone within the stronghold will grant a wish to anyone who chips off a piece of it and places it within their mouth.
  17. All treasures of Zelligar and Rogahn are cursed to bring ill to any who possess them.
  18. Zelligar and Rogahn have actually returned to their stronghold, and woe be to any unwelcome visitors!
  19. There are secret doors, rooms, and passageways in parts of the complex.
  20. The complex has more than one level.

The Tinkerer
The big take-aways are that Rogahan and Zelligar are not in residence, and the complex is not filled with their guards. It’s filled with orcs, the descendants of those Rogahan and Zelligar had enslaved, and grimlocks, too, in keeping with the descendants’ theme.
And maybe something akin to those unfortunate side affects a la Doctor Moreau. I wouldn’t put it past Zelligar to tinker.
But they have been gone 400 years. Surely, they must be dead.
But then again, Zelligar liked to tinker....










One must always give credit where credit is due. This post 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.
Very special thanks to Mike Carr, without whose imagination, this adventure, and this review, could not have been possible.


The Art:
B1 In Search of the Unknown cover, by Darlene Pekul, 1981
B1 In Search of the Unknown monochrome cover, by David C Sutherland III, and David A. Trampier, 1979
Quasqueton Tower, by Glenn Brewer, from Return to the Keep on the Borderlands, 1999
Wizard's Workroom Illustration, from Into the Borderlands, Goodman Games, 2018
The Borderlands Map, by Todd Gamble, from Return to the Keep on the Borderlands, 1999
Zelligar and the Barbarian Horde Illustration, from Into the Borderlands, Goodman Games, 2018
Upper Level map, from B1 In Search of the Unknown, 1979

 
Sources:
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979
9023 B1 In Search the Unknown, Monochrome edition, 1979
9023 B1 In Search of the Unknown, Brown cover, 1981
9034 B2 The Keep on the Borderlands, 1980
Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
OJ Oerth Journal #1 & #11, appearing on Greyhawk Online

Friday, 17 December 2021

On Soull


“But injustice breeds injustice; the fighting with shadows and being defeated by them necessitates the setting up of substances to combat.”
― Charles Dickens, Bleak House


The Soul of the Rhizians
The Schnai have always believed that Soull is the soul of the Rhizians.
Were they not the most pure?
The Frost, Ice and Snow Barbarians are perfect specimens of unmixed Suloise blood; the nearly albinoid Snow Barbarians are the best example. [WoGA – 13]
They are also considered the best example of the unmixed Suloise race, many being as pale as their namesake northern snows. [LGG – 105]
Do they not build the strongest and most lithe ships?
The Schnai perfected the art of building longships[.] [LGG – 54]
And are they not themselves the strongest?
The Snow Barbarians are the strongest and most numerous of the northern peoples. [Folio – 15]
It matters not what any others think.
As a people, [the Rhizians] were always distinct from the high culture of the civilized Suel. They were thought of as a mere rabble, with a primitive dialect and no magic. In the north, they became the strong masters of their own land, from which they would never be cast out. Thus, they called it Rhizia, which means immovable. [LGG – 54]
The Cold Tongue: This dialect, also known as Fruz, is primarily Suloise with Flan admixture. It is spoken commonly by the Ice, Snow. and Frost Barbarians. It has no relation to Common, and even speakers of Suloise find it hard to understand. [WoGA – 16]

They are Mariners
The Schnai know who and what they are.
They are mariners.
[T]he Schnai explored the seas and the northern isles. Their discovery of Fireland during the early years of Fruztii raids southward was a great distraction. Rather than seek conquest in the Flanaess, they chose to explore the Lesser and Greater Isles of Fire, while they built settlements on the more habitable islands of Sfirta and Berhodt. [LGG – 106]
They are warriors.
The warriors of the Schnai are typical of the Suel barbarians. They usually ply axe or sword in battle, and wear sturdy chainmail coats. All use round shields, including the berserkers, who otherwise go unarmored except for skins. Those berserkers dedicated to Vatun wield shortspears or battleaxes, while the followers of Kord favor the broadsword. The king himself favors Kord and has a company of berserkers among his household. [LGG – 105]
They are the chosen of Vatun and Kord both.
For they live in a land that would cower most not born to it.

CORUSK MOUNTAINS
The Corusks form a bow. the backbone of the Thillonrian Peninsula which runs from the Solnor Ocean in the east, north and west and then southwest where the range terminates (Hraak Pass). While the lower parts of the mountains are inhabited by humans, various bands of evil humanoids and monsters of all sorts dwell in the central fastness. It is thought that this range possesses little in the way of valuable ores or gems. [WoGA – 52]

Spikey Forest: This smallish woodland divides the lands of the Frost and Snow Barbarians. Its tall pines are used by both peoples for ship masts and spars. [WoGA – 59]

Schnabel: This river falls from the high Corusks north of Soull and runs into the deep Schnafjord. [LGG – 152]

109 CY
Life has always been hard on the Thillonrian peninsula. Survival was never certain, despite the shoals of plenty off their coasts, for the tribes of Rhizia were forever vying for what might be had. The thanes of Soull knew this. They were not destined to burrow into the oerth as others might be: dwarves and gnomes, and those lesser men in the south; so if hard steel was to be had, they must take it.
Through the Dim Years
Several centuries after the founding of Aerdy, the Suel barbarians began their sea raids. Apparently, they had been content to war with each other through the dim years that preceded their attack on the Aerdy coasts. The Fruztii were the dominant nation in these early raiding expeditions, even going so far as to establish settlements south of the Rakers, on the border of the Great Kingdom. Their raiding became so chronic that eventually the Aerdi sent troops to deal with the settlements directly. Many battles were fought over the years, but the Fruztii resisted all attempts to dislodge them. Eventually, the armies of the Great Kingdom overwhelmed the combined force of Suel barbarians, and the Frost Barbarians took most of the losses. The Fruztii were never again dominant in the north.
[LGG – 44]

128 CY
Nor were they to be displaced, either. Or kept from what they might take. As the southerners sought to do.
The Frutzii and Schnai launch a concentrated naval attack on Marner. This force is defeated by General Sir Pelgrave Ratik of Winetha. [LGG – 90]
In 128 CY, the Fruztii and Schnai allied to create an invasion flotilla. They launched a concerted attack on Marner during the spring that almost caught the Aerdi by surprise. In defense, General Ratik set the major approaches to the port ablaze, forcing the armada through a narrow approach where it was cut to pieces by the siege engines of the fort and a squadron of the imperial navy. [LGG – 90]

316 CY
As they ventured ever further south, their purity was remarked upon; and noticed by those who would look to such a thing: The Scarlet Brotherhood, for instance. They took note of these northern Suel; and soon established relations with them. (SD 5831)
Travelers from the south...
Travelers from the south came to call at the courts of the barbarian Suel. Calling themselves the Brothers of the Scarlet Sign, they claimed to be kin of the Fruztii, Schnai, and Cruski. By blood, perhaps they were kin, though distantly—but, in spirit, they were the same devious manipulators who claimed to rule the ancestors of the northern Suel. They came with tales of the lost glory of the Suel race and its ruined empire.
[LGG – 55]
We are your brothers, they said.
By 5831 SD, relations were established with the Suel tribes of Schnai, Fruztii, and Cruskii in the northern lands. The people of the Thillonrian peninsula had adapted their original culture for their cold new homes, and the representatives of the Kingdom of Shar (actually Brotherhood members) took some getting used to. The southerners’ gifts of exotic woods and fine weapons eventually won over the barbarian kings. Culturally primitive by Brotherhood standards, the northern barbarians were beautiful examples of unpolluted Suel bloodlines, and many specimens were lured to Shar as “emissaries.” With the intent of improving the southern Suel stock. [SB – 4]

356 CY
The Rhizans took note that the peoples of Aerdi were not content with their foothold south of the Timberway. Indeed, they spawned like rabbits, and began to erect cities and palisades within those lands that the Rhizians had long claimed to be theirs.
Barbarians from the North invade the Aerdy’s North Province, forcing the Overking to divert troops from the western front thus insuring Nyrond’s survival. [WGG3e – 3]
[A] massive invasion by a unified host of Fruztii and Schnai threatened to overwhelm the nations and sweep into North Province in 356 CY. The Rax Overking Portillan was concurrently embroiled in a struggle over the secession of Nyrond and had assembled an invasion force to head west, which he was forced to divert north to counter the new threat. The attack was soon turned back, though at great cost. So fierce was the defense of the men and dwarves of Ratik that even the Fruztii were impressed. [LGG – 90]

When the Kingdom of Aerdy became an empire, its leaders determined to crush the troublesome barbarians pushing down from the Thillonrian Peninsula and settling in the strip of land between the Rakers and Grendep Bay. Being indifferent sailors, the Aerdians opted to attack overland, and began sending strong parties northward to drive the invaders from the north back to their homeland. After many sharp skirmishes, a large contingent of imperial troops was routed, and full-scale warfare began. [WoGA – 20]
A relief force fought a pitched battle with these barbarians, most of whom were slain - along with several thousand imperial soldiers. [WoGA – 20]
The barbarians counterattack the construction site of Spinecastle in the winter but are defeated by the forces of Knight Protector Caldni Vir in the Battle of Shamblefield. Overking Manshen names Vir the first marquis of the Bone March. [LGG- 90]
They failed. The Fruztii had spent the lion share of their strength in the endeavour. The Schnai had sent far fewer of their number, and were thus spared the same fate.

490 CY
Orvung Eldgrimsen is born. Conjecture on my part, as he is referred to as Old King Orvung in the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, and to be old, he ought to be…well…old.

522 CY
Orvung Tigerclaw
Orvung Tigerclaw ascends the Schnai throne at age 32. Conjecture.
I have also taken liberty, suggesting that when a Rhizian reaches maturity, he can claim his own name.
Their greatest kings and jarls have all been seafarers, beginning with Schoffmund the Strong, who defeated the Kraken of Grendep Bay. Since his day, all dead Schnai kings are interred in ships, which are ignited and set adrift on the sea. [LGG – 106]

532 CY
Ingemar Hartensen is born. Conjecture.
He is not Orvung’s son, else he would be named Orvungsen.
I have placed his birth before Hundgred Rälffson’s (placed by me in 549 CY), as Hundgred is referred to as the “young” king of the Fruztii in thre 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.

550s CY
The Schnai took pity upon their less fortunate brethren. The Fruztii, always impulsive, always reckless, had wasted themselves in vainglorious pursuits. They had spent themselves upon southern shields, and had brought their selves low. The Schnai knew better. Sure in their supremacy, they saw no need to conquer the southerners, when they could take what they wanted, whenever they wanted.
Weakened, the Fruztii had proved themselves unfit to guard Rhizian shores, as Vatun had decreed they should. So be it, the Schnai would ensure the Fruztii do as they were destined.
The Frost Barbarians are the weakest of the three nations (of Suel peoples) inhabiting the Thillonrian Peninsula, called Rhizia by these peoples. They have never recovered from the Battle of Shamblefield, and have been under the suzerainty of the Schnai for the past two decades - and several times previously as well. [WoGA – 21]

561 CY
Kendyra of Soull is born.
[WGR3 Rary the Traitor – 31]
More on her later.

575 CY
Orvung
Kingdom of Schnai (Snow Barbarians): Orvung, F16
[WoGG – 17]
Orvung’s gambit had failed. When the Euroz fell upon the Bone March in 560 CY, the Fruztii had demanded that the Rhizians attack Ratik en mass while they were distracted. Orvung refused. The nerve, he thought, that the Fruztii should demand anything of the Schnai when they could not defend their own shores. He would not shed Schnai blood for Fruztii glory.
The Bone March fell.
And the Fruztii betrayed their kin! They treated with their long-time enemy. And allied with them!
The newly proclaimed Archbaron of Ratik frantically organized his forces after the joint Ratiker-Fruztii foray into the Bluefang-Kelten Pass. The humanoids so soundly defeated in the campaign of 575 were again raiding over the border, and the gnomes of the Lofthills (west of Loftwood) were being continually besieged. Losses from the campaigns in Bone March and with the Frost Barbarians could be replaced by mercenaries and volunteers from foreign lands only. [Dragon #57 – 14]
Orvung waited, sure the Fruztii would suffer defeat, their youth wasted in defence of the Aerdi.

576 CY
His Bellicose Majesty, King of the Schnai (Fighter, 16th level)
Capital: Soull (5,400)
Population: 90,000 +
Demi-humans: Some
Humanoids: Many (in mountains)
Resources: copper, gems (L II)
[Folio – 15]

Under the Thumb of the Schnai
The Snow Barbarians are the strongest and most numerous of the northern peoples. Several decades ago they captured the west coast below Glot and have managed to hold it since. For a time the Frost Barbarians were under the thumb of the King of the Schnai, but the Fruztii are now free except in pledge. This has not affected general concord with either neighbor, as all three consider the Great Kingdom and the Sea Barons as their most natural source of easy loot and profit. Although fighting invading humanoids has become a national pastime. there are sufficient men left to man the longships when campaigning season in the south is at hand. It is rumored that the Baron of Ratik has sent messages to the King of the Schnai proposing four-way cooperation to take the Hold of Stonefist and the Bone March. Supposedly this proposal offers Glot and Krakenheim as possible gains for the Schnai, while the Fruztii and Cruski would divide the Hold, part of Timberway would be returned to the Frost Barbarians, and Ratik would rule Bone March. The reaction to these proposals can not be guessed, but the Schnai are undoubtedly keeping an eye on the joint Fruztii-Ratik ventures of late.
[WoGA – 35]

The Fruztii had not failed. If anything, their alliance with Ratik had only grown more fast.
But they did not turn their backs on Soull completely. Orvung saw the Fruztii’s duplicity. They would never be seen to sever ties with their kin. Just in case their newfound ally ever saw fit to betray them. Orvung kept watch on his brethren. Wisdom knew that one had to keep enemies close.
Of late these raiders have joined with Frost and Snow barbarians in order to counter the growing strength of the coastal defenders of the Great Kingdom and the Sea Barons. [WoGA – 26]
One never knew when, or from where, betrayal might come.
[The Cruski] will raid their cousins to the south, the Snow and Frost barbarians, or raid with them into Ratik or the more tempting Great Kingdom. [WoGA – 26]

577 CY
Orvungs council of thanes pondered the future. Fruztii was ever fast with Ratik, so Soull would require allies. The King of the Cruski sent his envoy to Soull when bid, to discuss what might be done should Fruztii prove false.
Jarl Froztilth
During the season of 577, much minor activity took place along the coast of North Province and off the northern end of the Island of Asperdi. Some raiders were met and actions were fought; some slipped through, some turned elsewhere. Reportedly a squadron of seven Schnai longships were set upon whilst sinking the hulks of two provincial merchants, the vessels Marntig and Solos. Guided by the smoke and flames, a flotilla of Baronial warships surprised the barbarians. Three of the Schnai were rammed and sunk. In hand-to-hand action, the flagship of the barbarians’ fleet was captured, but the three remaining longships escaped after jettisoning all of their captured cargo.
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.
This event notwithstanding, many of the vessels from the cold north did manage to avoid patrolling warships and successfully raid North Province and the Baronial Isles. Captured cargo and undesired weapons are said to find a ready market at Dekspoint (at the easternmost tip of Loftwood Peninsula) or at Marner in Ratik. [Dragon #63 – 16]

It came to pass that Fruztii, and indeed Ratik, paid Suoll visit. We need to cooperate, Krakenheim pled. We are surrounded by enemies, they said. We need to gather our strength if we are to survive their coming. We need to fight them in their lands, and not our own.

578 CY
Events amongst the Schnai were quite similar to those of their cousins to the north, in that they generally raided southwards and carried heaps of goods back to towns of their realm. Unsettled conditions in the Great Kingdom made for rich loot; coupled with the payment made by the Cruski for the return of Ustula, the men of the region were pleased indeed with their wealth in currency, goods, and slaves (thralls). Mutual cooperation between the Schnai and Fruztii, and the Schnai and Cruskii as well, was at a high level, and the raids from the Hold of Stonefist at a very low level. [Dragon #57 – 14]

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. [Dragon #57 – 14]

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]

579 CY
Orvung had begun to see the wisdom in these new and renewed allegiances.
The Snow Barbarians, or Schnai, are the most powerful and populous group, dominating Grendep Bay and the northern Solnor Ocean with their longships. Their marauding armies, along with those of the Ice Barbarians, have made these savages a major force in the land. [WGS2 Howl From the North – 6]

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]

c. 580 CY
A major raid into Stonehold was mounted several years ago by a combined force of Schnai and Cruski, though they were ultimately driven back. Since then, the young king of the Frost Barbarians has finally declared his nation's independence from the Schnai, Old King Orvung might have gone to war over such an action [….] [LGG – 106]
But Orvung was not given the chance.
Because, there were others in the Great Hall of Soull who did not agree with Orvung’s wisdom.

580 CY
He is old, they whispered.
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 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.

582 CY
By this time, the Cruski had regained Utsula from the Schnai, to whom they had lost it several decades before.
The Schnai also made war on the Ice Barbarians, wresting the Ustula region from them and holding it for several decades. They never conquered the Ice Barbarians as they did the Frost Barbarians, however, for the Cruski are nearly as able seafarers as the Schnai. The Ice Barbarian warriors were also extremely fierce, particularly the berserkers of Llerg, who know no fear—nor much of anything else, being little more than human beasts.
By the time of the Greyhawk Wars, the Cruski had regained Ustula, and the Fruztii had nearly regained their independence. [LGG – 106]

Into the Stonehold
One must never say that the Schnai do not honour their word. They do. The sent a token force north into the Hold of Stonefist, and another into the Loftwood. However, they sent more of their scions asea, where they and the Cruski harried shipping and raided the coastlands of the Great Kingdom with abandon.
The Snow Barbarians have concentrated their attacks on the Great Kingdom and Sea Baron shipping, although some of the Schnai are assisting the Frost Barbarians in the Hold of Stonefist.
Rumors say that the King of the Snow Barbarians was not pleased by a plan for the three barbarian groups to ally with Ratik. Not that he didn’t trust the Baron of Ratik, who proposed the plan, but for simpler reasons. Major invasions in the Bone March would drive tens of thousands of humanoids into the North Province and might precipitate an attack from the Great Kingdom. The King, being wily and crafty, prefers not to attract the Great Kingdom’s full attention just now. [WGS2 – 6]

All the barbarians were inflamed by a rumor that swept their lands: that four of five legendary magical swords, the Swords of Corusk, had been found, and that when the fifth was obtained, a "Great God of the North" would rise and lead them to conquest and greatness. The fifth sword never was found, but one calling himself Vatun and claiming to be the Great God of the North appeared before the barbarians of Fruztii, Schnai, and Cruskii, and they swept west into Stonefist under his leadership. [FtAA – 6]

Under Vatun's direction, the [Rhizians] swept into the Duchy of Tenh in 582 CY and conquered it quickly. [FtAA – 6]

583 CY
Iuz’s deception of Barbarians revealed, Iuz returns home.
[The Rhizians were] drawn in by the false Vatun that briefly deceived them all. [LGG – 106]
The alliance forged by Vatun soon collapsed. The Great God instructed the barbarians to invade the small state of Ratik, but their chiefs refused; they had long allied with Ratik against the humanoids of the Bone March and indeed against the Great Kingdom itself. They began to doubt Vatun; very wisely, since Vatun was a sham and a lie, a mask worn by Iuz the Old. [FtAA – 6]

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. [LGG – 106]

584 CY

King Ingemar Hartensen of the Schnai

Ruler: His Bellicose Majesty, Ruler: His Bellicose Majesty, King Ingemar Hartensen of the Schnai

 of the Schnai
Capital: Soull (pop. 5,500)
[FtAA – 37]

Snow Barbarians 
Population: 95,000
[FtAR#2]

Population: Human 79%, Dwarf 8%, Halfling 6%, Elf 3%, Gnome 2%, Half-elf 1%, Half-orc 1%
Law: CN
Allies: Ice Barbarians (sometimes), Frost Barbarians (sometimes), Ratik (sometimes)
Enemies: Empire of Iuz, evil humanoids and giants in the Corusk Mountains, North Kingdom, Sea Barons, Bone March, Stonehold, Frost Barbarians (sometimes), Ratik (sometimes), Ice Barbarians (sometimes) Gnome 2%, Half-elf 1%, Half-orc 1%
[WGG3e – 15]

The Snow Barbarians are the strongest and most numerous of the northern Suel peoples. They claim suzerainty over all the barbarian peoples, especially the Cruskii, and are rather patronizing toward them. However, they have allied with their fellows against the Great Kingdom for many decades and have been known to make occasional forays against the Sea Barons.
Their alliance with Ratik is less cemented than that of the Cruskii, but Ingemar seems amenable to continued cooperation after the events of the Wars. He also has great hatred for the Stonefisters, and wishes to mount a joint expedition with the other barbarian races through the Griff Mountains to lay waste to Kelten. Time will tell if this comes to fruition.
The Snow Barbarians share many characteristics with their brethren, but are the palest of all, many being almost albinoid. Platinum-blond hair is not unusual. [….] This is a proud and strong race. [FtAA – 37, 38]

588 CY
(Mid-Year)
Where the Fruztii and Ratik attacked the Hold if Stonefist from the Kelten Pass, Soull and Glot did what they do best and sailed the open Icy Sea, landing where the Fists clung to the coast, burning their shelter and driving them into the tundra.
Few stood against them. Who could? Sevvord had led his Fists into Tenh.
Wars on the border of Iuz's empire burned in the east as well. Iuz's control over the ruler of Stonehold ended in 588. [LGG – 16]
In 588 CY, Iuz lost his magical hold over Sevvord Redbeard [, who] largely abandoned his occupation of Tenh and restructured his land […] to better fight against outside threats. [PGtG – 12]

Reports were already filtering back to the Stonefist troops that a force of Ice and Snow Barbarians was raiding and burning its way across the eastern Hold, and all wished to go home and do battle. [TAB – 22]
Many [of the Fists] returned to Stonehold to defend their lands from attacks by other barbarians. [TAB – 22]
The Schnai were never engaged. They had not secured Kelten. Indeed, they had only remained where they landed upon the Stonefist’s shore long enough to put those they found to the sword, before setting sail again.
His army drove the barbarians back from Kelten and secured the pass, while he returned to Vlekstaad with his personal guard. The town was a smoking ruin, its inhabitants dead or fled away. The Suel barbarians he blamed for the attack left no survivors to describe the onslaught. A picked force of warriors pursued their trail into the lower Griffs, where it disappeared. He decided the Suel had obviously escaped through the mountains back to their homelands in Rhizia. [LGG – 109,110]
Who had set Vlekstaad aflame, Ingemar wondered? Surely not his fleet, although he would not deny having done so if asked.

590 CY
Capital: Soull (pop, 5,600)
Population: 209,000—Human 79% (S), Dwarf 8% (mountain 60%, hill 40%), Halfling 6%, Elf 3%, Gnome 2%, Half-elf 1%, Half-orc 1%
Languages: Cold Tongue, Common, Dwarven, Halfling
Government: Independent feudal monarchy with hereditary rulership, loosely governing powerful jarls; jarls meet yearly at the Assembly of Knudje (without king present), then send representatives to Soull to negotiate with king or have him resolve judicial disputes; king and jarls each have a retinue of advisers (clerics and skalds). [LGG – 105]

The warriors of the Schnai are typical of the Suel barbarians. They usually ply axe or sword in battle, and wear sturdy chainmail coats. All use round shields, including the berserkers, who otherwise go unarmored except for skins. Those berserkers dedicated to Vatun wield shortspears or battleaxes, while the followers of Kord favor the broadsword. The king himself favors Kord and has a company of berserkers among his household. They are usually kept at Knudje, rather than at the king's court in Soull, though the king sometimes sends them to guest at the halls of particularly troublesome jarls. The king's other troops are of a more standard variety, including companies of good archers. He has a few horsemen as well, masters of the long, scything axe. [LGG – 105]

Rhisians Raiding South
Longships of the Frost Barbarians, often in cooperation with the other Suel barbarians, raid southward in spring to pillage along the coast of the new Great Kingdom of Northern Aerdy and sometimes further south. The crews are typical examples of barbarian warriors, wildly brave but rarely disciplined. No lack of discipline afflicts the soldiers of the king of Fruztii, however; his standing army is highly organized and well trained. The king's men are also well armored with chainmail and shield, bearing swords or battle-axes. Several companies of archers and a small force of cavalry based in Djekul are present.
The Fruztii are strongly allied to the Archbarony of Ratik in the south. Their young king has even married a beautiful but headstrong Ratikkan noblewoman eight years his senior. 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]

Ingemar and his jarls pondered their future.
The Snow Barbarians, or Schnai, are the most powerful and populous group, dominating Grendep Bay and the northern Solnor Ocean with their longships. Their marauding armies, with those of the Ice Barbarians, have also made themselves into a major force in the land. [WGS1 Five Shall Be One – 4]

The Fruztii and Cruski had slipped from their grasp, for the present. But they had before. And likely would again. But the Cruski were few. And the Fruztii brash. Neither could stand without the Schnai for long. They never had. And never will.
King Ingemar
The other barbarian nations, once strong allies of the Frost Barbarians, have begun to pull away from their more sophisticated cousins. As the Scarlet Brotherhood and Ratik nobles gain more influence at court, old allies feel less welcome.
[WGG3e – 8]

An intermittent war smolders with Stonehold. King Ingemar generously feasts and rewards his chaotic jarls to insure their loyalty. Frost Barbarian jarls also being feted to gain their friendship and influence; this is viewed as blatant bribery, but it works. The king receives Scarlet Brotherhood agents at court, but privately says he does not trust them. [LGG – 106]
Nor should he.
Ingemar watched his southern “kin.” They professed that they were true to the Schnai. But they had been rumoured to have been seen in Djekul. And Krakenheim. Did they whisper those same promises there that they had to him? He also took note that he was not the only jarl in his hall they lingered nearby.
He recalled when they had first approached him. And pondered whether they might be plotting against him even now.



The Schnai are a restless people. Mariners. Inclined to see far shores.
Not all born in Soull are invited to glory, either.
Their womenfolk have an unearthly beauty and are often found as a trainers (dogs and dog-wolf hybrids), scouts, rangers, druids, or the like, despite the dominant chauvinism of their men. [FtAA – 38]
So, there are those who find glory where they might.
Kendyra of the North
Kendyra of the North
This mysterious individual was born 25 years ago [assuming Rary the Traitor is set in 586 CY, this would place her birth in 561 CY] to the Snow Barbarians of Soull. Dissatisfied with the simple northern life, she left with a merchant caravan and made her living as a mercenary warrior and scout, finally arriving in the City of Greyhawk. After making a name for herself in several celebrated adventures, she was contacted by the wizard Mordenkainen, and recruited as a special agent. Mordenkainen's somewhat suspicious nature led him to keep Kendyra's services secret from several members of the Circle, including Rary. After serving Mordenkainen well, Kendyra was eventually allowed to visit the Obsidian Citadel, the wizard's secret fortress.
When Rary founded his new kingdom in the Bright Lands, Mordenkainen immediately dispatched Kendyra to the region, with orders to gather information on Rary's progress and to organize what resistance she could to his rule. So far, she has won the friendship of a tribe of desert centaurs, as well as some of Rary's more fanatical dervish enemies.
Kendyra is a tall, slender woman, her hair bleached near-white by the sun and her once pale skin now dark, in contrast with her pale blue eyes. She dresses in buckskin and desert robes and rides a gray horse named Tinhead (her fondness for the horse is tempered by its rather stubborn nature). If encountered, she does not discuss her mission unless she is sure that the party is opposed to Rary. [WGR3 – 31]





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:
World of Greyhawk map detail, by Darlene, from the Folio, 1980

 
Sources:
1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
9317 WGS1 Five Shall be One, 1991
9337 WGS2 Howl From the North, 1991
9386 WGR3 Rary the Traitor, 1992
11742 World of Greyhawk Gazetteer 3e, 2000
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazeteer, 2000
Dragon Magazine 57,63
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer