Friday, 27 January 2023

On Ethnicity


“I'm trying to think, don't confuse me with facts.”
― Plato

Ethnicity. I’m referring to what the original Greyhawk sourcebooks called “race.”
Race is an obvious misnomer. Race is an older, and rather unfortunate, tag from another age, a term that should have only been applied to dwarves and gnomes, elves and halflings. And orcs and goblins and gnolls. Am I forgetting half-elves and half-orcs? No. I expect we could refer to them as hybrids, which then opens another, far more perplexing, and possibly polarizing, discussion as to whether elves and humans and orcs are really the same thing, seeing that they can procreate. The less said about that the better, I imagine. It’s fantasy. ‘Nuff said.
What I wish to explore here is Greyhawk ethnicity and not race: The Baklunish, Flannae, the Oeridian, and Suloise. Little is said about the Rhennee, early on, less still about the Olman, and nothing at all about the Tuov. I suppose that was because Greyhawk was focussed on the Flanaess and not outlying regions like the Amedio and Hepmonaland. Page count might have had a great deal to do with that, too, I imagine. So who, or what, are these ethnicities? Building blocks: The stuff that settings are made of.
Prior to world creation there was no need to consider national or ethnic differences, not if all you were doing was sallying forth from the Keep on the Borderlands to plunder the Caves of Chaos. It was enough, then, to know that this PC is an elf, that a dwarf, and this one a human.
What did it mean to be human?
Human characters are neither given penalties nor bonuses, as they are established as the norm upon which these subtractions or additions for racial stock are based. Human characters are not limited as to what class of character they can become, nor do they have any maximum limit – other than that intrinsic to the class – of level they can attain within a class. As they are the rule rather than the exception, the basic information given always applies to humans, and racial changes are noted for differences as applicable for non-human or part-human stocks. [PHB 1e – 17,18]
Humans were what it meant to be unrestrained in levels or attributes, but that also meant no special abilities or bonuses.
There was no need for ethnicity when the adventure is set on the edge of an unnamed Humancentric Kingdom that apparently harboured elves and halflings and dwarves. And gnomes; let’s not forget about them, although I expect a great many did, especially if your game migrated over from Basic D&D and there were none to speak of. It was only when the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide was released that a possible panoply of Human nations was broached in the upcoming World of Greyhawk: Keoland and Ket and the Bandit Kingdoms. Surely these nations were not homogenous; surely, they might be as varied as Tolkien’s Gondor and Rohan and the town of Dale. Details were teased in the Dragon magazine prior to its release. The World of Greyhawk would be vast, indeed, a veritable continent as varied as your imagination might make it; and that world was inhabited by peoples as varied as Europe was and is. With Baklunish, Flannae, the Oeridian, and Suloise.
To divine what these people were took a little work when the World of Greyhawk Folio was published. Their details were scattered throughout. The salient and relatively contemporary history was laid out at the beginning of the sourcebook, so too their aged disused languages; but further inspiration had to be excavated from the paragraphs detailing the individual nations.

One might say: In the beginning, so far as the Flanaess is concerned, there was the Flan.
The Flan tribesmen were hardy and capable hunters but not particularly warlike, and their small and scattered groups made no appreciable civilizing effect. [Folio – 5]
But events were afoot in the west that would shake the setting to its very foundation.
The Suel Imperium was located in what is now the Sea of Dust. [LGG – 8]
-486 CY Beginning of the Baklunish-Suloise Wars [Folio – 5]
It was fierce, and long. So long and fierce that people fled it.
Migrating bands began settling the eastern portion of the Oerik Continent, Flanaess, over a millenium ago. [Folio – 5]
-458 CY
Oerid migrations east at peak point [Folio – 5]
The Oerid migrations were similar in cause to those of the Suel, in that the Baklunish-Suloise Wars, and the hordes of Euroz and associated humanoid groups used as mercenaries by both sides, tended to pillage northwards and eastwards, driving the Oerids before them. [Folio – 5]
After inhabiting what is now Ull for generations, barbaric Oeridians were driven east by orcs and goblins employed as mercenaries by the Baklunish and Suel. [LGG – 6]
-447 CY Suloise migrations begin [Folio – 5]
The Suel Peoples, mainly fleeing from the great wars in the Suloise Empire, moved northwards through the Kendeen (Harsh) Pass of the southern Crystalmist Mountains (now known as the Hellfurnaces) and spread out in all directions. [Folio – 5]
However heinous the war may have been, blows were struck like none ever seen before. Or again.
-422 CY
When the Invoked Devastation came upon the Baklunish, their own magi brought down the Rain of Colorless Fire in a last terrible curse, and this so affected the Suloise Empire as to cause it to become the Sea of Dust. Meanwhile, sufficient numbers of the Baklunish remained to hold the northern plains to maintain their small states against all comers – Euroz, High Jeblinc, Jebli, Celbit, and such humanoids alike. [Folio – 5]
One might surmise that the Great Migration was launched by the Twin Devastations, but they had already begun long before the lethal “exchange.”
The fierce Oeridian tribes likewise moved east, thrusting aside Flan and Suloise in their path. [Folio – 5]
The migrating Oeridians were able fighters and battled their way across the Flanaess, driving the Suel before them and allying with the Flan, elves, dwarves, and other peoples. [LGG – 6]
As the migratory Oeridians ranged eastward in their search for a land that would support them, they passed through many regions of inhospitable climate, infertile land, and unfriendly local populations. Chief among these lands were the rugged plains north of the Nyr Dyv, which resisted meaningful human settlement for centuries, even as a strong Aerdi empire created the Viceroyalty of Ferrond to the west. [LGG – 31]
Perhaps the biggest asset the Oeridians had, however, was the vileness of the Suloise – for the majority lied, stole, slew, and enslaved whenever they had inclination and opportunity. There were exceptions, of course, such as the Houses of Rhola and Neheli – late migrants who settled and held the Sheldomar as already mentioned. [Folio – 5]
What did we learn? That the Balkuni and Suloise destroyed the ancient world, that the Suloise were largely evil, the Flan were of no true consequence, and that the Oeridians were the heroic conquerors of the New World. That’s well and good for a fairy-tale, but as things turned out, it was and is more complex than that.
I’ll extoll Gary Gygax’s setting design in that his human “races” were not specifically European: Each group has a distinctive look. Let’s look at each in turn, adding detail from later sourcebooks and supplements, where necessary:

The Baklunish people have golden-hued skin tones. Eye color is commonly gray-green or green, with gray uncommon and hazel rare. Hair color ranges from blue-black to dark brown. [WoGA – 13]
The Baklunish, unlike the Suloise, retained much of their culture after the fall of their empire. Honor, family, generosity, and piety are fundamental virtues. Use of their classical language, Ancient Baklunish, in religious observances, higher learning, and the fine arts has preserved their ancestral traditions. [LGG – 5]

The Flan race have a bronze-colored complexion. This varies from a lighter, almost copper shade to a very dark tone which is deepest brown. Eye color is commonly dark brown, black, brown, or amber (in declining order of occurrence). Hair coloration is black, brown-black, dark brown, or brown. Also, Flannae tend to have wavy or curly hair. [WoGA – 13]
The Flan have broad, strong faces and sturdy builds. [LGG – 5]

The Oeridians have skin tones ranging from tan to olive. They have hair which runs the gamut of color from honey blonde to black, although brown and reddish brown are most common. Likewise, eye coloration is highly variable, although brown and gray are frequently seen in individuals.
[WoGA – 13]
The Suel race is very fair-skinned, some being almost albino. They have light red, yellow, blond, or platinum blonde hair. Eye color varies from pale blue or violet through deep blue, with gray occasionally occurring. Curly to kinky hair is common. [WoGA – 13]

The Olman have skin of a rich red-brown or dark brown color. Their hair is always straight and black, and their eyes are dark, from medium brown to nearly black. Olman have high cheekbones and high-bridged noses, a trait less strong in those of common birth. Some nobles still flatten the foreheads of their young, for a high, sloping shape is considered beautiful. [LGG – 6]

Rhennee resemble Oeridians except they tend to have dark brown or black [curly] hair. They are shorter than average (about 5' 6" tall on the whole) and slender but quite [wiry] and strong. [WoGG – 6]

The Touv people have dark brown or black skin; blue or brown eyes, with black eyes being rare; and straight or wavy hair. The have rounded facial features and are typically shorter than most people of the Flanaess, with the tallest Touv reaching about 5’10” in height. While most Touv males do not have facial hair, certain subgroups can grow narrow beards from the chins. Women’s figures are often rounded and lush. [SB – 36]

Details followed in the Dragon, later republished in the World of Greyhawk Boxed Set:
 The predominant racial strain and particular admixtures of each of the major states of the Flanaess is given in the list which follows. The first letter is the predominant strain. Thus, "OSf" would mean an admixture of Oeridian with a strong Suel strain and a weak Flan mix, as the "f" is uncapitalized. Had it been "OSF" (with a capital F), the indication would be that the Flan influence was only scarcely less than that of the Suel.
Almor - OS
Bandit Kingdoms - OFSb
Bissel - OSB
Bone March - (SO)
Dyvers - OSfb
Gran March - SOf
Great Kingdom - OS
Greyhawk - OSfb
Highfolk - Os
Idee – OS
lrongate - Os
Keoland - SOf
Lordship of the Isles - So
Nyrond - Os
Pomarj - (SO)
Ratik - Sof
Rel Astra - Os
Sea Barons - So
Sea Princes - SOf
South Province - Os
Spindrift Isles - So
Sterich - OFS
Ulek, County - OFS
Ulek, Duchy - (Sfo)
Ulek, Principality - (SO)
Urnst, County - SO
Valley of the Mage - OBf
Veluna - Osf
Verbobonc - Ofs
Wild Coast - Sof
Yeornanry – Sof
[Dragon # 55/WoGA – 14]

The Flanaess looks rather Oeridian-centric, doesn’t it? Followed ever so closely by the Suel, with the Flan a bit of a conquered afterthought (I’ll let you apply possible real-world parallels). That’s all well and good; it displays a basic understanding how cultural groups migrate and could mix over time.
The fleeing Suel folk were scattered in a broadcast fashion across the Flanaess, so that most tended to mix with other groups. [WoGA – 13]
But what good is it? The Folio and Boxed Set, and later supplements informed us of what the Suloise and Oeridians were, not what they are. Surely they would have evolved over time, adapting to their new environments. Wouldn’t they?
And let’s consider the Flan, that conquered afterthought, shall we? The Flanaess was Flan long before the Suel and Oerdians arrived; yet it’s doubtful that a single culture could possible have existed across an entire continent. Were the Flan, then, ever actually the Flan? I say they were not and never were. I suggest that the Flan were a vast collection of indigenous clans in the land the Oeridians called the Flanaess, just as the Romans referred to the tribes north of the Danube as Germania, and the people there Germans. The Flannae were merely the “people of the Flanaess,” the “far land.”
They were Ahlissians, Itari, Nurian, Sulm, and Tenha, and hundreds more. And that being the case, their language was one of trade, much like Lingua Franca was.
The Flan were the first known humans to live in eastern Oerik, and it is from them that the Flanaess gets its name. [LGG – 5]
As to the Flan’s omission from certain regions, how could they be absent from South Province, Ahlissa? Unless the Suel and Oeridians engaged in pogroms and ethnic cleansing wherever they set down roots, it is unlikely that there could not be at least a smattering of Flan blood in every one of the nations of the Flanaess. Slaves are taken when territories are conquered, women taken as booty, added to harems, taken as concubines. Thus, one can only expect that the Flan would never be entirely eradicated. They persist. They endure.
People of the Duchy of Tenh are pure Flan, proud of their bronze color. [WoGA – 13]
Geoff and Sterich, despite mixture, show strong Flan racial influence. [WoGA – 13]
The Rovers of the Barrens are of the copper-toned sort of Flannae, although the western tribes show the golden skin color of the Baklunish due to interbreeding with the Wolf Nomad tribes. [WoGA – 13]
The people of the Hold of Stone Fist and the citizens of the Theocracy of the Pale are primarily hybrids, the former Flan/Suel, the latter Flan/Oeridian. The inhabitants of the Pale are particularly handsome. [WoGA – 13]
Large pockets of Flan live in what are now Geoff, Tenh, and the Barrens. [LGG – 5]
The people of Geoff and Sterich also show strong Flan heritage, as do the Stoneholders, Palish, and certain Perrender clans. [LGG – 5]
Granted, one might define the ethnic mixes noted above as the most predominant bloodlines and not the totally inclusive muddle that would truly be.

A discriminating reader might divine that the peoples of the World of Greyhawk had long ago moved on from what was written about them. Indeed, new nations developed, as one would expect. With new languages. And identities.
The strongest tribe of the Oeridians, the Aerdi, settled the rich fields east of the Nyr Dyv and there founded the Kingdom of Aerdy, eventually to be renamed the Great Kingdom. [Folio – 5]
Great Kingdom - OS [WoGA – 14]
The most powerful empire in the modern Flanaess was created by a conquering tribe of Oeridians, the Aerdi, who subjugated and assimilated all who opposed them. [LGG – 6]
In time, they no longer refer to their selves as Oeridians.
Once the most powerful force for order and good, the Aerdians have declined over the last century to an unspeakable state of decadency. [Folio – 10]
What language to they speak? The “common” tongue.

A "Common" Language
A combination of Ancient Baklunish and the dialect of Old Oeridian spoken in the Great Kingdom forms the basis of this new, widely used tongue. Virtually anyone who crosses national boundaries must learn at least a smattering of Common or be greatly handicapped. It is frequently the case that translations from one language to another must be first converted into Common and then translated into the desired language. This is possible because of the universality of Common's roots. [Folio – 8]
Common – or Aerdi, as we call it – is only native to the easter parts of the Flanaess, and to the north to a lesser extent. Why then, I wonder, is Common a mix of Baklunish and Oeridian? The Oeridians migrated east a millennia ago. Wouldn’t a predominately Oeridian with Suloise/Flan influences be more likely, considering its locality, evolved from the Aerdi’s need to communicate with those they conquered? Just as Keolandish should have sprung, before it, from its cooperative cohabitation of a Suel nobility communicating with a predominant Oerdian population, and its proximity to the elves of Celene and the western Bakluni?
Keolandish: This widespread dialect of Old High Oeridian has local admixtures. It is spoken in and around Keoland. [LGG – 12] That’s the entire Sheldomar Valley, by the way, a tidy portion of the western half of the map.
Sheldomar Valley ("Old Keoland") The fertile Sheldomar Valley is almost completely enclosed by mountains until it reaches the Azure Sea. Two great rivers, the Sheldomar and the Javan, water these lands between the Crystalmists and the Lortmils. The climate here is warm and mild, and many elves, dwarves, gnomes, and halflings live in peace alongside Suel, Oeridian, and Flan farmers and lords. [LGG – 4]
Which nations are those, then? They would have been Gran March – Sof, Keoland – Sof, Sea Princes – Sof, Sterich – OFS, Ulek, County – OFS, Ulek, Duchy – (Sfo), Ulek, Principality – (SO), Yeomanry – Sof
The Pomarj – (SO) should also be included also, to my mind, those who still survive still in that orcish nation.
Keoland held sway from the Pomarj to the Crystalmist Mountains [.] [Folio – 12]
Geoff is not noted in the boxed set, amended later in the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer. FSO [LGG – 48]
One can only presume that the Valley of the Mage – Obf ought to be included due to proximity, and that fact that is must be accessed through Geoff. To say nothing of Bissel, once a vassal state of Keoland, a buttress to Ket. One might also wonder about Veluna, as its chief deity is Flan and not Oeridian….
Perhaps not, though: Veluna and Furyondy were considered part of the Great Kingdom (Ferrond) at its height.
Keoland[‘s] armies pushed into Ket and threatened Verbobonc and Veluna City (c. 350-360 CY). [Folio – 12]
Regional dialects develop, becoming languages in their own right:
Nyrondese: This High Oeridian dialect of Common is spoken in rural areas of Nyrond. It is the primary language of peasants, shopkeepers, and other common folk who distrust outsiders. [Folio – 16]
Velondi: This Old Oeridian tribal tongue is known to rural folk near the Furyondy-Veluna border. Those who speak only Common cannot understand it. It has no written form. [Folio – 16]
Lendorian: This is an obscure dialect of Suloise spoken in the Spindrift Isles. It has no relation to the Cold Tongue, and is a secondary language to those who speak Common. [Folio – 16]
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. [Folio – 16]
Dragon #52 informs us which is spoken where, but that article, “Adding Depth to the Flanaess,” by Len Lakofka, never broaches why thousand-year-old languages like Flan and Oeridian are still in common use. They would not be; no more than Latin is in common use today.
Why do new languages develop? Because it is impossible that they would not, far removed from the administrate centre of a vast empire. And with regional dialects, regional identity develops. Then a shared independent culture.
From 213 CY on, the Aerdi overkings grew lax, caring more for local prestige and wealth than for the affairs of their vassals in distant lands. This period was called the Age of Great Sorrow. As each sovereign passed, he was replaced with a more dimwitted and less competent successor, until the outer dependencies of Aerdy declared their independence. The viceroyalty of Ferrond led the way, becoming the kingdom of Furyondy. […] By 356 CY, the ruling dynasty of Aerdy, the Celestial House of Rax, had grown especially decadent. In response, the western province of Nyrond declared itself free of the Great Kingdom and elected one of its nobles as king of an independent domain. [LGG – 14]

Aerdi, Keolandish, Nyrondese, Velondi….
Why is it then that we cling to the notion of the Oeridians and Suloise, and Flan? Probably because those descriptives are raised constantly:
Unmixed Oeridians, despite claims of the Great Kingdom, are most common in Furyondy, Perrenland, the Shield Lands, and in the east and south in North Province, Medegia, and Onnwal and Sunndi.
[WoGA – 13]
Nearly pure Oeridians are seen in Perrenland, Furyondy, North Kingdom, Sunndi, and Onnwal. [LGG – 6]
The barbarians of the Thillonrian peninsula are pure Suel, as are the elite of the Scarlet Brotherhood. The people of the Duchy of Urnst and places in the Lordship of the Isles are nearly so. [LGG – 8]
The inhabitants of the Duchy of Ernst [sp] are nearly of pure Suel race. [WoGA – 13]
Except for a notable few, though, they are largely irrelevant as mentioned, for the most part.
The Frost, Ice and Snow Barbarians are perfect specimens of unmixed Suloise blood; the nearly albinoid Snow Barbarians are the best example. [WoGA – 13]
The Suel folk are quite predominant in the island groups off the eastern coast of the Flanaess as well as on Tilvanot Peninsula, in the Scarlet Brotherhood region. [WoGA – 13]
Those bands [of Suloise] that migrated into the vast Amedio Jungle and Hepmonaland are so altered as to be no longer typical of the race; they are tan to brown with heavy freckling. [WoGA – 13]
Of these, perhaps only the Order of the Scarlet Sign still refer to themselves as Suel. The Thillonrians are Rhysians, the Lordship Isles are Duxchaners. They may point to their Suloise heritage, much like someone might say, “I’m Irish American,” but they are Rhysians and Duxchaners first.

The Bakluni
Maybe not so the Baklunish. That ethnicity is very much alive and well in the West. Supposedly. Little is said about the West, compared with the volumes about the East.
The Baklunish once held a great empire on the western side of the Crystalmists and Barrier Peaks. [LGG – 5]
The Invoked Devastation ruined their empire, for which the Baklunish retaliated with the Rain of Colorless Fire, burning the Suel Imperium to ash. Most surviving Baklunish moved north or west, to the borders of the old empire and beyond. [LGG – 5]
Even there, though, I expect that the new regimes, regardless their citing the glorious past to cement their hold on the present, have all but erased their pastoral Baklunish identity.
Ekbir, the Tiger Nomads, Ull, and Zeif typify the straight Baklunish strain. [WoGA – 13]
Ket is so mixed with Suel and Oeridian blood as to be the least typical of the Baklunish race, for the people of Ket are pale yellow or golden-brown or tan in skin color, with virtually any hair color possible save the lightest yellows and reds. [WoGA – 13]
Both the Paynim tribes and Tusmit show occasional admixture, also. [WoGA – 13]
The Wolf Nomads are intermarried with the Rovers of the Barrens, so they show the darker Flan blood. [WoGA – 13]

Perhaps the most “pure” peoples might be the outliers, the Olman and the Tuov, mainly because of their relative isolation.
The Olman originated on Hepmonaland, raising a number of city-states from the jungles of that land. Through centuries of warfare, they built an empire that spanned northern Hepmonaland and reached across the Densac Gulf to include the Amedio Jungle. [LGG – 6]
Internal strife and wars with another human race, the dark Touv, caused [the Olman] to abandon their old cities. [LGG – 6]
Olman migrated to the Amedio, where they maintained their civilization for several more centuries. [LGG – 6]
The Olman are now concentrated in the jungles of Hepmonaland, the Amedio, and their namesake Olman Isles. Others have escaped to otherwise uncontrolled regions such as the western end of the Sea Princes' lands, which they now control and defend. [LGG – 6]
People of Suloise descent are found through out, particularly on the Tilvanot Peninsula, but other races of humanity are also present (for example, the dark Touv of Hepmonaland). [LGG – 4]

Which brings us to the Rhennee, a conundrum upon the Flanaess, if there ever was one.
The Rhennee
Calling themselves the Rhennee, the lake folk can be found in all waters – rivers and lakes which connect to Nyr Dyv – navigable by their barges, but always returning to Nyr Dyv in winter.
[Folio – 24]
Rhennee folklore claims that their race came to Oerth by accident, their home plane being quite different. Thus, legend says, the Rhennee roamed about on horseback and in wagons, but in their new home, conditions were so dangerous as to force them to take to the water to survive. Nobles claim descent from legendary leaders of the lost tribe, while the ordinary Rhennee are descended from the common folk of the tribe. [WoGG – 6]
A third sort of Rhennee folk exist, although they are most rare. They are land wanderers who claim to be the only "true" Rhenn-folk because they have not changed their way of life since coming to the Flanaess from Rhop, homeland of the lost Rhennee. [WoGG – 7]
Whomever they are, and wherever they may have come from, they are no longer what they claim to be. They, like all others, are mutts and curs upon the Flanaess.
When needed, Rhennee steal young children to fill their ranks. Stolen children are raised as and become "natural" Rhennee. Similarly, outsiders who do some great service for the Rhennee are taken into the folk and sometimes accorded great status (equal to a noble. possibly). [WoGG – 6]

Why then do we cling to those antiquated ethnicities, part and parcel of a bygone age? Peasants would not care a whit whether they were Suel or Oeridian. They might if they were Flan and suppressed by their aristocratic overlords; not at all, if not. Aristocrats might, and most definitely do if lineage guarantees their claim to rule. European aristocrats do, after all.
But insofar as most of the Flanaess is concerned, such lineage had to endure through a Dark Age of migration and conquest, when little literacy would have endured, let alone thrived. The Twin Cataclysms burned 1000 years ago, mayhap during the Iron Age, judging from our presumed mediaeval-centric setting. Literally a millennium past.
Let’s consider what nations existed in Europe 1000 years ago.
It’s familiar in that England and France and Poland exit, as do the Balkan and Scandinavian states, although these states should not be confused with those that do today. Students of history will note that the Holy Roman Empire dominates the continent, just as the Byzantine Empire still exists.
A mere 500 years earlier, the continent was in a state of flux.
The western Roman Empire had collapsed, and Celtic and Gothic tribes were migrating across the land.

In keeping with D&D’s somewhat European mediaeval bent, what nations existed 1000 years prior to this? The Roman Empire ruled the “world” in 117 AD. Disparate Germanic tribes dominated the wilds north of them, Arabic nomads the sands to the east.
When then did those people cease referring to themselves as Romans? How long did residents of the Holy Roman Empire speak of their selves as subjects of Charlemagne’s demesnes, before claiming citizenship of the panorama of Germanic states that followed?
It only stands to reason that the identity of peoples of the Flanaess might have evolved as Europeans' did. Originally, they were surely Oeridian and Suel; but as time passed, they must have stopped identifying with those antiquated labels, seeing themselves – defining themselves – as Kaoish, Kettite, Ferrondese, Velonese, Nyrondian, Aerdian and Ahlissan. Rovers. Duxchaners.

“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.”
― Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

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:
Market, by Jeff Easley, from World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1993
Battle, by David A. Trampier, from Players Handbook 1st Ed, 1978
Migrations, from the World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
The Rain of Colourless Fire, by Erol Otus, from the World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
People, by Vince Locke, from Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
The Retaking of Grabford, by Vince Locke, from Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Countries, from the World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
The Ancient Flannae, by David A. Roach, from The Adventure Begins, 1998
The Scarlet Brotherhood, by Vince Locke, from Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Maps, Wikipedia

1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
2011 Players Handbook, 1st Ed., 1978
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
11374 The Scarlet Brotherhood, 1999
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Dragon Magazine #52, 55
Greychrondex, Wilson, Steven B.
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer

Wednesday, 25 January 2023

The Wind


Setting Sun
I listen to the wind, to the wind of my soul
Where I'll end up? Well, I think only God really knows

I've sat upon the settin' sun
But never, never, never, never
I never wanted water once
No, never, never, never

I listen to my words, but they fall far below
I let my music take me where my heart wants to go

I've swam upon the devil's lake
But never, never, never, never
I'll never make the same mistake
No, never, never, never

The Wind
– Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens)
from Teaser and the Firecat, 1971

The Art:

Friday, 20 January 2023

On Tzunk

“When avarice takes the lead in a state, it is commonly the forerunner of its fall.”
― Alexander Hamilton

Little is known about the Flanaess’ Pre-Migration history. Mayhap we have the Oeridians to blame for that. They marched across the continent, sweeping its history aside as they went, declaring “Hail the conquering hero!” There was nothing there before them, they say. A few elves, a scattering of gnomes and dwarves, a few hunter-gatherers, and one or two agrarian groups of little concern: The Flan, a people of little note or consequence.
The Flan were the first known humans to live in eastern Oerik, and it is from them that the Flanaess gets its name. [LGG – 5]
The fierce Oeridian tribes likewise moved east, thrusting aside Flan and Suloise in their path. [Folio – 5]
Migrating bands began settling the eastern portion of the Oerik Continent, Flanaess, over a millenium ago. The Flan tribesmen were hardy and capable hunters but not particularly warlike, and their small and scattered groups made no appreciable civilizing effect. [Folio – 5]
Thus, the history of the Flanaess is theirs.
That’s what the Oeridians believe, and that is what we now believe, seeing that theirs’ is the written history we have. Such is the spoils and legacy of victors.
But they could not erase what came before, not entirely. The Past persists, in song, in sagas and legends, carved in clay tablets and stone.
One persistent legend among the Flan is that of a wondrous citadel, said to have sat near the very heart of the Flanaess in ancient times, when kingdoms of the Ur-Flan spanned the length and breadth of the subcontinent. Known as Veralos, a word meaning “aerie” in the ancient tongue of the Flan, the structure was supposedly erected somewhere near the cracked and broken ridge of the Rift Canyon, in what is now referred to as the Bandit Kingdoms. According to the oral traditions, the stronghold was the retreat of princely Ur-Flan scholars, artisans, and mystics in ancient times. It was a repository of great knowledge, learning, and contemplation, drawing disciples from many neighboring kingdoms. These highly-skilled Flan were said to have created extraordinary wonders (such as magical tablets, statuary, ensorcelled jewelry, and astounding weapons) often by commission for the lords of lands such as Sulm, Itar, Ahlissa, and Nuria. The gathered lords of the citadel even paid fealty to the Wizard-Priests of the Isles of Woe, until that fell dominion sank beneath the waves early in prehistory.
[Dragon #293 – 90]
The kingdoms of the Ur-Flan?
Varalos. Sulm. Itar. Ahlissa. And Nuria. These names endure. So too the wizard-priests of the Isles of Woe, however forgotten and mysterious.

Rumors abound that the lake holds the sunken remains of an ancient pre-Migration civilization known as the "Isles of Woe," though many have explored the lake to no avail. [LGG – 149]
According to legend, the Isles of Woe once stood in the Nyr Dyv, but no reliable source catalogs their size, exact location, population, or even their number (usually put at three but ranging up to seven, depending on the story). The isles are said to be so ancient as to predate the arrival of the Oeridians. The origin of their name is unknown, but they are always said to have been highly magical. [TAB – 5]
The isles seem to be peaks associated with the easternmost branch of the Cairn Hills, just north of the Duchy of Urnst. [TAB – 5]
The lake of Unknown Depths is said to have once held a number (sources vary between three and seven) of very magical islands called the Isles of Woe, which apparently sank beneath the waves over a thousand years ago. [Slavers – 17]
Occasionally, strange silver coins and jewelry and even stranger obsidian carvings, found by lucky divers, make their way to market, but these are generally discounted as forgeries. [LGG – 149]
So much for there was nothing here before We arrived.

Indeed, there was an entire history upon the Flanaess pre-Migrations. An ancient history. None of it detailed in Oeridian annals, except what little has leaked through the cracks in the whitewash.
The Glittering Wizards
Some of the [Nyr Dyv]'s islands are likewise said to have been home to a group of very seclusive and ancient wizards as powerful as the Wind Dukes of Aqaa or the Glittering Wizards of the Isles of Woe in Oerth's pre-history. These islands are said to be almost alive as entities in themselves, assaulting those who set foot on them with hails of stone and rock as the very earth churns underfoot. Whether any of these tales are true and what remains of the long-dead wizards' magical treasures and hoards, is a matter of pure conjecture.
[WGR5 Iuz the Evil – 60] (1993)
The Wind Dukes? The Glittering Wizards of the Isles of Woe? Once one scratches the surface the Past begins to reveal itself.
Krovis’s avatar has, in the past, emerged from his crypt to bring down several empires that dominated the central regions of the Flanaess, including the dominions of the Isles of Woe and the Empire of Lum the Mad (both of which occurred more than 1,000 years ago). [Dragon #167 – 13]
What’s this? Evidence that there were empires that date from more than 1,000 years ago? But … the Great Migrations were a 1,000 years ago, at the dawn of recorded history. And the only Great Civilisations that existed prior to the Twin Cataclysms were the Baklunish and Suel empires, and those were to the west of the Crystalmist mountains.
Evidence of Civilisations of Yore
So, what empires are we referring to, then? Sulm, Itar, Ahlissa, and Nuria. And Vecna’s Occluded Empire. Could there have been other, older, empires?
That’s impossible, isn’t it? The Aerdi have informed us that there was no civilisation of note east of the Yatals and Crystalmists when they arrived. No great cities. Just migratory nomads and a few agrarian groups dwelling in adobe and sod.
Perhaps that was what they encountered. Perhaps that is what they would have us believe. Conquering heroes have little to gain by admitting to what came before, lest those who live beneath their benevolence have thoughts that they themselves are the heirs of the fields they toil for the benefit of their “betters.”

Who then were these Glittering Wizards of the Isles of Woe? We don’t know. We only have glimmers of who they might be.
Sages claim that the Isles [of Woe] predate the Oeridian migration. Others believe that the isles were once the location of Vecna’s spider-throne. [LGJ#2 – 19]
One could never imagine the Whispered One to be a Glittering Wizard, though. He was never referred to as such, ever. There are only a couple other names associated with the Isles: One is Yagrax.
The Isles of Woe, a small Aerdian enclave ruled by Wizard Priests (led by Yagrax), sink into the Nyr Dyv.
(5186 SD/315 OR) [OJ#1 – 15]
Aerdian? I think not! That enclave could not be Aerdian when the Isles are the sunken remains of an ancient pre-Migration civilization [LGG – 149], when the Oeridians had still to conquer the Flanaess. [Such is the difficulty of reconciling Apocrypha with accepted published canon.] If [t]he Flan were the first known humans to live in eastern Oerik, [LGG – 5] then surely Yagrax must have been Flan. [One could argue that “known” predicates the possibility of other peoples, but who might they have been? There are none noted in any published sourcebook. One might point to the Wind Dukes of Aqaa, but those fabled Dukes were declared by Skip Williams not to be human at all, but extraplanar vaati. Had he left well enough alone we might then have pointed to the Grey Elves or some long-forgotten civilisation of Flan to their origin. But alas…] Was Yagrax a Glittering Wizard?  We know next to nothing about him.
“Alterations of Tangibles and Intangibles” by Yagrax
(melt, transmute water to dust, item, material, fabricate, crystalbrittle) [Dragon #82 – 58]
Nor much about another Pre-Migration [thus presumably Flan] wizard coupled with the Isles, Tzunk, either. He too wrote a tome.
“Dissimulation and Obscuration
by Tzunk
(blink, invisibility, invisibility 10’ radius, improved invisibility, darkness, continual darkness, vacancy, avoidance, mass invisibility) [Dragon #82 – 58]

But it is not that tome with which he is most associated. He is best known by his use of Yagrax’s most famous creation, the Codex of Infinite Planes.
Codex of Infinite Planes
An ancient book containing forbidden lore and the secret to travel between planes and dimensions. Also called Yagrax’s Tome, after the fanatical wizard-priest of the Isles of Woe. [Dragon #299 – 101]

Long ago the wizard-cleric who ruled the Isles of Woe lost in the Lake of Unknown Depths used this work to gain knowledge of great power. It is told that this arcane wisdom is what eventually wrought the downfall of the mage-priest and caused the waters to swallow his domain. In any event, the Codex of the Infinite Planes somehow survived the cataclysm, for the Wizard Tzoonk, before his disappearance, recorded the following:
“. . . and thereupon the voice belled forth in tones of hollow iron and spoke of the Coming of the City of the Gods. Such future events interested me not, so I gave the command: ‘Answer in th …’ (here the fragment becomes entirely illegible) … so knowing both the secret and the spell which would unlock the Way to this horde of the Demon Prince Nql … (another break in the writing unfortunately occurs here) … gathered the nine as required and proceeded forth. With me in addition were the dyoph servants necessary to transport the Code, for I would not leave it behind on even so perilous a journey as this.” (Here the entire fragment ends.) [Eldritch Wizardry – 43]

In the distant past the High Wizard Priest of the Isles of Woe (now sunken beneath the waters of the Nyr Dyv […]) discovered this work and used its arcane powers to dominate the neighboring states, but legend also has it that these same powers eventually brought doom to the mage-priest and his tyrannical domain. It must be that somehow the Codex survived the inundation, for the archmage Tzunk scribed the following fragment prior to his strange disappearance:
“… , and the two strong slaves lifted it [the Codex] from the back of the Beast. Thereupon I commanded the Brazen Portals to be brought low, and they were wrenched from their hinges and rang upon the stone. The Efreet howled in fear and fled when I caused the page to be read, and the Beast passed into the City of Brass. Now was I, Tzunk, Master of the Plane of Molten Skies. With sure hand I closed Yagrax’s Tome [the Codex], dreading to – ” [DMG 1e – 156]

Aside from these missives, what is actually known about the life and times of Tzunk?
[I]t was reported that the archmage Tzunk once used the power of the Codex of Infinite Planes to raze the armies of his enemies and subjugate the entire region. [LGJ#2 – 19]
The Isles are reputed to have been the home of the wizard-priest Tzunk, who used the Codex of Infinite Planes to rule an empire. [Slavers – 17]
There’s that word again: Empire. One presumes an empire is a subjugation of peoples, of city states, and not a confluence of nomads and sod hut dwellers.

Empire (noun)
  1. an extensive group of states or countries under a single supreme authority, formerly especially an emperor or empress
  2. a large commercial organization owned or controlled by one person or group
  3. a variety of apple
I think we can eliminate the latter.
The Flan did indeed then have cities. There was, of course, Varalos, as noted above, and fabled Haradaragh: The founding of the first Flan city in the Lortmils "Haradaragh." This is counted as (3365 SD/1 FT)
First year of Flannae Tracking system (1 FT). [OJ#1 – 9] (-2150 CY)

Although no written descriptions of the city of Haradaragh have survived, there are cryptic fragments of songs still sung among those of Geoff, Sterich and the County of Ulek who count themselves of Flan descent. These tell of the spectacular visions of sunrise in the high plateaus of the mountains, the great wide boulevards and plazas of the city, the many-stepped pyramids devoted to the Sun-God, the agricultural terraces of the slopes, the labyrinthine walls protecting the city, and the tremendous wealth brought from the mines below. [OJ#2 – 16]
And Tostencha:
Some two thousand years ago, the wizard Keraptis established himself as "protector" of Tostenhca—a grand mountainside city of wide streets and towering ziggurats. [Return to White Plume Mountain – 3] (c. -2150 CY)
And Fleeth:
“The morning after the Feast of Himar, certain citizens of Fleeth came out of the town and entreated upon the besiegers to speak with Lord Vecna, the Whispered One, in his spidered pavilion. They told him they were ready to place the city and all their possessions at his discretion, provided their lives were spared.” [WGA4 Vecna Lives! – 3]
And Heraan [on the Isles, themselves]:
[A]ncient Heraan
– the city where the Codex of the infinite Planes was supposedly first inscribed and where countless other treasures still rest. [Dragon #294 – 90]
Sail on to the Isles of Woe
“Gone, like the three of Heraan.” – A strange saying among the Flan hillfolk of the Cairn Hills. [Dragon #294 – 90]
The long trek through the limestone caves has brought you to this strange underground cove. The cave entrance to this place is obscured by seaweed, and only a little light trickles in through the vegetation. The walls are decorated with strange symbols and artwork in a style unlike anything you have ever seen.
Upon the shore sit three longships. None have sails, and all are made of what appears to be corroded copper. In the center of each ship stands a column with a steering wheel attached. [Dragon #295 – 96]
This is the Heraan Boathouse—the once-lost passage to the strange, obscured city that dominates the Isles of Woe. [Dragon #295 – 96]

An empire on Oerth wasn’t good enough for one such as Tzunk. Tzunk moved on to bigger and better things, in time: The City of Brass, for one.
Now was I, Tzunk, Master of the Plane of Molten Skies. [DMG 1e – 156]
Not bad for a scion of a people of little note.

But Tzunk, in his ambition and hubris, would reach too far. One might think that it cost him his life.
The Tomb of Tzunk's Hands: Tzunk, Wizard-Priest of the quasi-mythical Isles of Woe which sunk below the Nyr Dyv in prehistory, is said to have had his body sundered into a hundred parts to thwart any attempt at resurrection. The portions were scattered to the winds, burned in fire, dissolved in acidic waters, and buried below the earth. Great golems with special powers such as paralysis, petrification, and worse are said to guard a tomb holding his hands here. The approaches to the tomb chamber are riddled with traps, mazes, secret portals and passages, and many magical hazards. [WGR5 – 64]

What became of the mysterious Isles of Woe, and who dwelled there? [LGG – 13]
The islands now lay somewhere beneath the surface of the Lake of Unknown Depths. [LGJ#2 – 19]
Gone, but not forgotten.
Warnes Starcoat 
Concerned by stories of the resurfacing of the Isle of Woe, Warnes Starcoat is sponsoring an expedition into the Brass Hills to explore a site called the Zochal. According to the Nesser Opuscule, [the] only surviving fragment of a greater work attributed to Tzunk, the Zochal is an echo point for the planar confluence that infuses the once lost sunken isles.
[Dragon #297 – 91/ COR2-08 Echo]
I wish Warnes Starcoat luck. His sponsored expedition, as well.
I would let long-dead Flan wizard-priests lie, myself. They were/are all obsessed with the continuance of their life – the necromantic ones, anyway.
If retrieved from their resting place, the hands are said to animate themselves, serving the one who rescued them as divinatory tools, but seeking out the other parts of Tzunk's indestructible, scattered body and slowly beginning to take over the mind of their owner. [WGR5 – 64]
Tzunk, like others of his ilk, doesn’t care a whit for the expedition members’ lives. Or Warnes Starcoat’s.
Or yours, for that matter.

“You’re some kind of thief, then?”
“That’s a very narrow-minded way of looking at it. I prefer to think of myself as a merchant of delicate tasks.”
― S.A. Chakraborty, The City of Brass

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:
Veralos, by Kalman Andrasofszky, from Dragon #293, 2002
Isles of Woe map, by Sam Wood, from The Adventure Begins, Adventure Maps, 1998
Warnes Starcoat, by Sam Wood, from Living Greyhawk Journal #0, 2000

1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
9309 WGA4 Vecna Lives, 1990
9399 WGR5 Iuz the Evil, 1993
9577 The Adventure Begins, 1998
11434 Return to White Plume Mountain, 1999
11621 Slavers, 2000
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Eldritch Wizardry, 1976
COR2-08 Echo
Oerth Journal #1, 2
Living Grayhawk Journal #2
Dragon Magazine #82, 167, 293, 294, 295, 297, 299
Greychrondex, Wilson, Steven B.
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer

Friday, 13 January 2023

Appendix N.

"Classic : a book which people praise and don't read."
 – Mark Twain

The Appendix N.
I expect there are few persons of a certain age with a predilection towards tabletop gaming who are unaware of what that descriptive refers to.
For those who don’t, the question need be asked: What, exactly, is it? In short, it’s a list of fiction cited in the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide, books and short stories that “inspired” the creation of Dungeons and Dragons.
It’s best described by its creator, E. Gary Gygax:

Inspirational Reading
Inspiration for all of the fantasy work I have done stems directly from the love my father showed when I was a lad, for he spent many hours telling me stories he made up as he went along, tales of cloaked old men -who could grant wishes, of magic rings and enchanted swords, or wicked sorcerors and dauntless swordsmen. Then too, countless hundreds of comic books went down, and the long-gone EC [*] ones certainly had their effect. Science fiction, fantasy, and horror movies were a big influence. In fact, all of us tend to get ample helpings of fantasy when we are very young, from fairy tales such as those written by the Brothers Grimm and Andrew Long. This often leads to reading books of mythology, paging through bestiaries, and consultation of compilations of the myths of various lands and peoples. Upon such a base I built my interest in fantasy, being an avid reader of all science fiction and fantasy literature since 1950.
[DMG 1e – 224]

* I presume this to be “Entertaining Comics,” published from the 1940s through the mid-1950s, notable for Tales from the Crypt.

He continues:
The following authors were of particular inspiration to me. In some cases I cite specific works, in others, I simply recommend all their fantasy writing to you. From such sources, as well as just about any other imaginative writing or screenplay you will be able to pluck kernels from which grow the fruits of exciting campaigns. […]

Appendix N.
Inspirational Reading:
Brackett, Leigh.
Brown, Fredric.
Burroughs, Edgar Rice. "Pellucidar" Series; Mars Series; Venus Series
Carter, Lin. "World's End'' Series
de Camp, L. Sprague. LEST DARKNESS FALL; FALLIBLE FIEND; et Camp & Pratt. "Harold Shea" Series; CARNELIAN CUBE
Derleth, August.
Dunsany, Lord.
Farmer, P. J. "The World of the Tiers" Series; et al.
Fox, Gardner. "Kothar" Series; "Kyrik" Series; et al.
Howard, R. E. "Conan" Series
Lanier, Sterling. HIEROS JOURNEY
Leiber, Fritz. "Fafhrd & Gray Mouser" Series; et al.
Moorcock, Michael. STORMBRINGER; STEALER OF SOULS; "Hawkmoon" Series (esp. the first three books)
Norton, Andre.
Offutt, Andrew J., editor SWORDS AGAINST DARKNESS III.
Pratt, Fletcher, BLUE STAR; et al.
Saberhagen, Fred. CHANGELING EARTH; et al.
Tolkien, J. R. R. THE HOBBIT; "Ring Trilogy"
Weinbaum, Stanley.
Wellman, Manly Wade.
Williamson, Jack.
Zelazny, Roger. JACK OF SHADOWS; "Amber" Series; et al.
[DMG 1e – 224]

E. Gary Gygax’s list has provoked much discussion over the decades – in print, on YouTube, in person – as it should, insofar as, I believe, no other game book had ever done such a thing before it. That, itself, was groundbreaking. Moreover, it inspired others to build upon it, as Tom Moldvay did in 1980 in the initial B/X Boxed Set, expounded upon again in 5e’s Players Handbook’s “Appendix E.”
Shall I weigh in on Gygax’s, or Moldvay’s, or the lengthy 5e list? I shall not – except in that the 5e list did not edit those original inclusions that are no longer accessible. I, unlike maybe some of you, have not read the list in its entirety, nor will I ever, for the reason noted above: A number of its entries are no longer in print. I have read Robert E Howard’s “Conan” series to completion, so to Fritz Leiber’s "Fafhrd & Gray Mouser" series. I’ve read a great deal of Moorcock (Elric and Corum, and a couple other Eternal Champion stories); Tolkien’s “Hobbit,” Ring trilogy, “The Silmarillion,” and “Unfinished Tales;” and I believe all H.P. Lovecraft’s published works. That’s not much, considering the breadth of Gygax’s list, some of which I have read nothing at all. Thus, I cannot present myself as an expert. Nor will I ever be. To read his list in total would take more months than I would care to invest, now. The 5e expanded list could, in fact, take years; moreover, it is likely that a great deal of it will probably not be to my present taste. Fantasy literature took a turn in the 1980s towards ever faster, more explicitly violent fare than I preferred. That’s not necessarily bad, per say (I was a big fan of the Black Company), but it’s not necessarily good either, if one is inclined towards the mythic, as I was (I read a great deal of Celtic fantasy and what might be called eldritch fiction). TSR novels, interesting at first, being what they were, soon paled in my imagination for just that reason. I moved on, returning on occasion; but my TBR wish is long, and time seems rather more finite now than it once was.

Something piqued my interest, recently, though. I saw a title that drew my eye: Peter Bebergal’s “Appendix N. The Eldritch Roots of Dungeons and Dragons”. Eldritch? That was right up my alley! Full disclosure, I agree with Mr. Bebergal assumption. Is he right, though? Gary Gygax never once actually described the works he cited as eldritch. Not explicitly. To explore Bebergal’s presumption, we first need to define what “eldritch” is. Something eldritch is “strange or unnatural especially in a way that inspires fear: weird, eerie.” [Merriam-Webster]
By that definition, Bebergal got it right, judging from this paragraph from the eponymous appendix:
The most immediate influences upon AD&D were probably de Camp & Pratt, REH, Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, HPL, and A. Merritt; but all of the above authors, as well as many not listed, certainly helped to shape the form of the game. [DMG 1e – 224]
I was curious to see what Bebergal chose to illustrate his point.

Published in 2020, Bebergal’s book is a collection of short stories – 17 in all – that claims to explore that very eldritch nature of the list. It does, to my mind … to an extent. It is by no means inclusive: Not all the authors cited above are included, but one might suggest that the most important are: REH, Leiber, Vance, and HPL. Notable exclusions are Camp & Pratt, and Merritt. Why were they omitted? Perhaps their estates declined his request to include them in his collection. But where their works are missing, others – who many might suggest ought to have been in Gygax’s list – are, specifically Clark Ashton Smith. As are more contemporary authors like Tanith Lee. Most are from the 1930s and 1970s, the most recent from 1983 (a poem), the oldest from 1908 (Lord Dunsany).

Adventuring in a Bygone Age
Are the stories good? That might depend on what you like. The selected stories are not High Fantasy. They are not tales of heroes engaged in heroic feats. They are, for the most part, about flawed, vengeful, greedy reavers who are more interested in survival and ill-gotten-gain than daring-do; they are about sinister sorcerers and horrifying elder evils, very much, to my mind, in the vein of OD&D, B/X, and 1st Edition AD&D, where characters delve deep into decidedly dangerous dungeons, unearthing tombs, and killing all manner of grotesque and mythical monsters. Some read as myth or fables, others are akin to parable; all are written in a style older than those today, as one ought to expect, given their age; although a couple might be described as “cinematic.” One or two might be inspired by higher morals, but none are what I might describe as Tolkien-esque.

Did I like them? I did. I’d read a few before. Most were first reads. I did not, however, care for Fred Saberhagen’s poem, “The Song of Swords,” nor Frank Brunner’s graphic comic, “Sword of Dragonus,” which seemed a pale and paltry version of REH’s Conan, in my opinion. I suspect I liked those I did because, as noted, I’ve always liked “eldritch” fiction. Leiber, Moorcock, and Lovecraft were especial favourites of mine in my youth. Not Conan, you ask? No. I’ve only recently read REH’s Conan stories, and my being more mature, and more widely read now than I was then, found many of them “shallow,” and “childish.” (Granted, they are pulp fiction, and one might call pulp an artform in its own right. Not all are childish, though. I thought “Beyond the Black River” extraordinary.) Most of these stories are not shallow or childish; most are exactly what appealed to my younger self, and thus appeal to my older nostalgic self, although not all are as artful or skillful as others.

Is this collection worth the money? I believe so. It is a good time capsule, certainly, a nice cross-selection of literary styles across decades. Younger readers beware, though; I imagine that these stories are not your usual cup of tea. Maybe that is a good thing.

The Art:
Appendix N. cover: When the Mind is Open the Tower will Appear, by Arik Roper
B3 The Palace of the Silver Princess cover art, by Erol Otus, 1981

Appendix N. The Eldritch Roots of Dungeons and Dragons, Peter Bebergal, editor
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979