Saturday, 10 September 2022

On Jotsplat

Winter is a time for culling the weak so that the strong may survive. Snow shall cover cowards and they shall be forgotten by all. The people of the north are the true survivors and will inherit the world when the Great Winter comes to cover the land. [LGG – 185]
—The Wisdom of Vatun

Is there a more remote settlement on Oerth than Jotsplat? Perhaps. Kanak upon the plains of the Paynims is certainly as remote as any other, but the way to and from there is trod by countless caravans. Surely the Temple of the Prophet deep with the Vast Swamp is as difficult to trek to as any other. And what settlements that might thrive within the Sea of Dust—any that might survive, that is—are without a doubt as isolated and as hostile as one can imagine.
But all of these might be approached in a number of ways, if you’ve a mind to.
The same might be said of Jotsplat, I suppose. One might land upon its shores and sail up its river from either east or west. One might even come upon it from the north, if one knew what might be beyond the northern polar ice, if anything. Or one could scale the Corusks from far Knudje in Schnai, too. All these are possible; but success would be dubious at best; to say nothing of the venturer’s survival.
Indeed, if Josplat is not the most remote settlement upon the oerth it is very nearly so. Bound by ice nine months of the year, its icy seas are adrift with fleets of bergs for another two. Indeed, few ships of any depth attempt the Icy Sea in the single month remaining; those that do are of the shallowest draft, and those vessels likely spied will be akin to those the Zeai ply their sea with, the qajak, gliding singly, its oars wheeling to either side. So too upon the tundra, where similar craft, the qamitik, skate upon the undulating drifts of snow under sail or drawn by tethered dogs.
Where the World Waxes White
[O]n the Icy Sea side are the Zeai, related to the Ice Barbarians.
[LGG – 154]
Few venture far when the long night descends, nor when the wind howls and the world waxes white. To do so is death. It is no wonder that only the heartiest of folk should choose to live here.
Up in these northern latitudes, the sun comes up for only a short time each day. At most, three hours of sunlight illuminates the frozen landscape. There are about two hours of twilight, and the rest of the day is spent in darkness. However, the stars are unusually bright, allowing some limited sight. [WGS2 – 16]
How then do the Cruski survive in such a place? By sheer tenacity and grit. To say nothing of obstinacy. Were it not for the dog and reindeer, life here would be impossible; and were it not for the caribou and seal and walrus, if not for char and whale, and the abundance of lowbush cranberries, cloudberry, and fireweed when the sun does not set, it is doubtful that the Cruski could.
Icy Sea: Killer Wales, Walruses
Solnor Ocean: Kraken, Walruses

It is a wonder that they should even try.
Why do they, then? Because Vatun and Wee Jas bid them so.
Jotsplat (pop. 3,200)
Provinces: Seventeen jarldoms (five around Jotsplat […])
[LGG – 54]
All the barbarian peoples of eastern Oerik are pure Suloise. [WGS2 – 5]

Rurszek: Flowing from a frigid cave at the base of the northern Corusks, this slow-running river empties into the Aldefjord north of Jotsplat. [LGG – 152]

To the north lies the great ice.
The Icy Coast
Icy Sea:
The Solnor sweeps northward around the Thillonrian Peninsula and ends in the Icy Sea. [WoGA – 47]
These northern waters, likely a part of the circumpolar Dramidj Ocean, remain frozen except in high summer. [LGG – 148]
Even in summer the Icy Sea can be dangerous due to thick fogs and floating mountains of ice. [WoGA – 47]
Whales of all sorts frequent these waters, said to be the domain of a mighty leviathan lord. Ice Barbarians take their ships into these waters to hunt whales and collect walrus ivory and seal furs on the surrounding coasts. [LGG – 148,149]

To the south the dark and inhospitable Corusks.
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). [WoGA – 52]
The ice-capped Corusk Mountains are the backbone of the Thillonrian Peninsula. While the lower reaches are farmed with difficulty by humans, giants, ogres, trolls, and other monsters dwell in the central fastness. Monsters are less numerous farther east, but freezing fogs sweep down from the heights to threaten travelers. It is thought that this range possesses little in the way of valuable ores and gems. [LGG – 142]

Indeed, the stark north is sacred to them.
Dokkhulder, The Dark Tower
Vatun made his home here, once. And the Cruski believe that this hostile coast is favoured by Wee Jas.
A single stark tower of volcanic stone overlooks the Solnor Ocean, 90 leagues north of the Sablewood, at the very tip of the Thillronian Peninsula. Called the Dokkhulder, or Dark Hall. Studiously avoided by the local Cruskii barbarians, this fell structure is somehow tied to the Dark-Eyed Goddess [Wee Jas], for mages in service to her are sometimes seen making their way there, usually in the company of a bardic Keeper. [OJ#7]
It behooves them, then, to defend these shores from any who would desecrate it.
The Ice Barbarians are unsteady allies of the other barbarians, raiding where and when they please. [WGS2 – 6]
They raid Stonehold when the opportunity presents itself. [LGG – 149]
The Ice Barbarians have supported the Fruztii to some extent by making naval raids along the northern coast of Stonefist. [WGS2 – 6]
The other joint operation of [Fruztii, Cruski, Schnai, and Ratik] has been against the Hold of Stonefist. Fruztii forces have now secured the pass south of the Hraak Forest and control the lands for 20 miles around. [WGS2 – 6]
Territorial disputes with Stonehold that predated the wars were finally brought to a head three years ago, when a combined host of Cruski and Schnai entered the eastern hold. They were unable to capture the town of Kelten, but the Cruski reinforced their control of the Taival Tundra. [LGG – 55]

They are not without allies. They’ve the Zeai. And the Fruztii, so long as the Kelten Pass remains open to them. They also have villeins, vassals, and slaves.
The Coltens folk had no place in [the Stonefist] hierarchy, and many fled to the Hraak Forest, or beyond the Big Seal Bay and the northern thrust of the Corusks to dwell in the Taival Tundra, in the land of the Ice Barbarians). [LGG – 109]
Cavalry is not unknown on the western tundra, but few tundra-dwellers are Ice Barbarians, most having Flan ancestry and being related to the Coltens of Stonehold. They do not serve as warriors for the Cruski, instead paying tribute to their Suel overlords to be left alone. [LGG – 154]

Arctic Druid
Who came first to this far and isolated tundra, the Coltens or the Cruski?
WORLD OF GREYHAWK® campaign (Flanaess only): Beory and Obad-Hai, the latter also known as “The Shalm,” are the major gods of the druids here. [Dragon #209 – 11]
Arctic druid: WG: Thillonrian Peninsula (on which lies the Corusk Mountains).
Forest druid (cold): WG: forests along Thillonrian Peninsula (Hraak). [Dragon #209 – 13]
Mountain druid: WG: Corusk-Griff-Rakers chain [Dragon #209 – 14]

Accepting the Challenge
But the Cruski know it was them, no matter what the Flan clans say. Vatun drew them there. He bid them, challenged them, to thrive there. And they have. But Vatun’s blessing is not certain; it never has been: for does not Wee Jas’ most holy pinnacle hold vigil at the confluence of the Solnor and Icy Seas to remind them so?
The Cruski accepted their challenge all those centuries ago. They, Josplat, and their northern jarldoms will endure, come what may.

Respect those who came before you, left their knowledge, and died to make room for you; there will come a time when your life is over and those who come after will honor your learning and your memory. [LGG – 187]
—Wee Jas proverb

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
1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
9317 WGS1 Five Shall Be One, 1991
9337 WGS2 Howl from the North, 1991
11742 Gazetteer, 2000
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Living Greyhawk Journal, #1
Oerth Journal #7
Dragon Magazine, #209
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer

1 comment:

  1. This is one of my favorite regions! I have a love for the fringe areas of the Flanaess and yes you are right, Jotsplat is as remote as it gets. I've ran more than one campaign in the Ice Barbarians and its survival of the fittest for sure. Enjoyed the article, and the mention of Dokkhulder was a nice touch too.