“I'm trying to think, don't confuse me with facts.”
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.
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
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]
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.
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.
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 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
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?
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]
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|
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:
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 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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