Sunday, August 2, 2020

New Greyhawk Map: Isalund the Dark Isle

Greetings Greyhawk mavens! This weekend I have an old game map to share! My 2E era vault of game stuff is very deep. As you saw in my recent 2E Greyhawk War Campaign series, we played more in that era than any other time period. In addition to great wars, high adventures and epic level characters, I hand drew a lot of maps. In this campaign, the Thillonria Peninsula was heavily featured and I mapped all of it using hex paper for a zoomed in view (1 hex = 10 miles). One extra area I did is a big island, about 180 miles off the north coast of the Ice Barbarians which first appeared in the Glossography map here:

I always wondered why this blob of a land form never made it into Greyhawk canon, maybe except that it was cut off in production of the Darlene map. It's definitely not too far away to be discovered, unlike the many islands strings to the far south. It's on the Icy Sea so I can imagine its not easy to get to, but I find it unlikely the hardy Cruskii raiders who go all the way west to Blackmoor and the Land of Black Ice cannot reach this place right above their home. So as part of a long forgotten plot, I had the players venture to Isalund "the Dark Isle". Yes, Islaund, I admit that was an unfortunately lazy name for an island, but I've yet to hear anyone else name this island? If someone has info on the island or their own name, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section.


Observations and memories:

Isalund is called the "Dark Isle" I believe because I set an ancient relic of Tharizdun here, and due to whatever effects it had, the island was considered cursed, that's why no one hardly ventures to the place. I don't yet recall what the item was (or maybe it was an avatar?), but Big T is everywhere!
On the south shore is a dot of a village named "Dokyard". This cove settlement is probably the only accessible part of Island. 
I used color to show elevation. Isalund is a rocky spur overall but still rather broad enough for more settlement. I'd say it's about average 210 miles by 90 miles in size. Quite big.
To the northeast I have an arrow pointing to "the Frozen Desert". I assume this is where the Icy Sea becomes one massive ice sheet melded into the arctic circle of Oerth.  I'd love to see what others have done with globes of the planet and where Isalund fits in this sea zone.
Straight north from Dokyard up an icy stream is a marked fort/tower/keep. I really don't recall what this was and it regrettably isn't labelled. This is surely the cursed location the PCs were trying to find as it's conveniently centered in the Dark Isle. If I find more on this place I'll post an update.
The label at the very bottom margin says 180 miles north of Hrafknel. I don't know anything about this town except it's a Cruskii settlement. My Thillonria maps have many custom settlements like this, including the home of my friend's famous barbarian war hero Valkaun Dain. Maybe someday I'll develop these parts again...
That's all I got on Isalund. This isle is too big to go unnoticed in the Flanaess. I hope others have noted its existence and have tried to use it besides me. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Virtual Greyhawk Con 2020

Greetings Greyhawk enthusiasts! Nothing new to show you all today, so let's promote something else new! The first Virtual Greyhawk Convention is fast approaching! This charity event is being handled through Table Top Events and registration for the slate of games and seminars begins August 1, so be ready! You can find all the pertinent info and times HERE. Good luck, have fun and chat with you in October!

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Module Review WG9: Gargoyle

Howdy fellow Greyhawkers! It's a slow weekend for me, so let's do something radically different on the blog. I'm going to review the module WG9 Gargoyle. This module came out during the AD&D-2E transition and is written by David Collins & Skip Williams. Gargoyle is part of a run of Greyhawk Adventures branded modules (including Puppets and Child's Play) that are generally reviled by the community as official but low quality content. I will now admit, because of unpopular opinion I did not own these modules. Only later did I get them to complete my collection and even then I have never even LOOKED AT THE CONTENT. Until now. Let's see what's so awful about Gargoyles. Spoilers ahead:

The cover (and some interior) art is by David Dorman (who I'm not familiar with). No complaints. It shows exactly what I'd expect from the title. Without opening this book I am guessing David Collins is the story writer and pro Skip Williams provides the Greyhawkness to the module. Moving on.

The intro states the module is for 4-6 players of 2-4th level characters, so right away this is low level fare. Nothing wrong there, I enjoy low level D&D. The module leads into the setting material immediately which is good and hey this looks useful:

"The World of Greyhawk 
The village of Rockburgh-On-The-Marsh (Rockburgh for short) is located in The Tors, a range of high hills bordered by the Hool Marshes on the south and by a spur of the Crystalmist Mountains on the west. The Tors and the Hool Marshes form a frontier area between the Yeomanry (to the northwest) and the Hold of the Sea Princes (to the southeast). The Hool Marshes are a no-man’s land, its population being the usual motley collection of brigands, humanoids, and other evil scum. 

The Village of Rockburgh- On-The-Marsh 
Rockburgh was established to advance the Yeomanry’s claim to this unsettled border region, preventing the Yeomanry’s rivals, the Sea Princes, from expanding their territory at the Yeomanry’s expense. Patriotic volunteers flocked to the Tors, established the town, and endured a tough winter. At the beginning of spring, the town’s future looked bright. Unfortunately, the gargoyles emerged from hibernation two weeks later." 

Somehow I missed that this was set in the Yeomanry, placing it close to the hotbed of published adventures near the Sea Princes. The information is tight. The entire political and geographic setting for this module is well established in two tidy paragraphs. It later goes into treaties between the town and gargoyle-kind. Quite unique. I'm sure there peace is broken somehow and the PCs will be picked to fix things.

Right off, I notice the naming conventions used here for NPCs and pregen PCs are basic. Rudy, Rosie, Tom, Jerry, Hubert, Baxter, Stumpy, etc. Okay I'm not expecting Ed Greenwood length names here, and Gygax tended to use shorter names too. These are basic though, I'm assuming for a good reason. Another note, the special "Gargoyles of the Tors" in this module have an write-up in the back. I did not know these were a thing and their main difference is that their wings are detachable, so I'm guessing the Tors gargoyle didn't catch on. The entry explains the whole reason for the wingless gargoyles was previous D&D art didn't have winged gargoyles, but they can fly. So wingless gargoyles is the answer. No the reason is illustrating winged creatures is hard because they take up so much space. 

Anyhoo the detachable wings makes these gargoyles rather comical in the adventure. In each town location entry there is a random chart that determines how gargoyles land (or crash). And there is a lot of these charts which take up a good portion of the mere 30 page adventure. The gargoyle NPCs are comic relief as much as a dangerous threat. Their wings are actually integral object of the story as well. Go figure.

The cartography in the back of the book is functional, a regional map of the Tors, a town map of Rockburgh and two other encounter locations. Besides a new gargoyle type (and those charts), there doesn't seem to be any other new AD&D creations, like magic items so often seen in official adventures. So an adventure titled Gargoyle has lots of gargoyles in it, doing gargoyle things while the PCs interact with gargoyles. The only shocker is the players can't play a gargoyle at this point! The pregens for the adventure are a standard D&D mix of classes and races, but the module assumes they are from Rockburgh. 

This leads to my conclusion, this is a starter adventure for people still somewhat new to D&D. That explains the low-level, the easy to remember NPC names, the bumbling gargoyles and the HEAVY use of boxed text to move along the story. I can see why Gargoyle is not cherished Greyhawk lore by us hardcore fans, because the silly and weird might detract from the more serious parts of the setting. This is why Expedition to the Barrier Peaks is remote, or Isle of the Ape and Dungeonland are demiplanes, and so on. Gargoyle at least is not a parody module like joke Castle Greyhawk. But taken for its source material it's unique, charming and could be improved on if handled in the right manner. Now, do I have the stomach to read Puppets and Child's Play?

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Wait How Big is Ull?

Hey there Greyhawkers. This is a topic that jumped into my conscious as I was preparing for this week's stream conversation on Legends & Lore focusing on the Baklunish West. How big is Ull really? I may have to defer to Anna Meyer or one of my more map/math friendly colleagues on this one, but some factual numbers floated casually by Gygax have me doing a double-take after all these long years. I hope you readers have seen this discrepancy before, but for me I'm shocked I never noticed until now.

In the original Greyhawk Folio, Gygax listed Ull's size as such:

 "The territory comprises over 800,000 square miles, including the hills that separate the Ulsprues from the Crystalmists." 

Then in the Greyhawk Boxed Set, Gary repeats the text on Ull, but changes the units of area from miles to leagues, a measurement that he pushed heavily in the boxed set tables, 1 hex is 10 leagues wide which is 30 miles:

"The territory comprises over 90,000 square leagues, including the hills..."

Not knowing how to do square distance of anything hex shaped, I deferred to Gygax's judgment here, but checked the math on an online calculator and got these results:

800,000 sq mi = 67,121 sq leagues
90,000 sq leagues = 1,072,677 sq mi

Okay so both are off, but its in the same balk park. Now what's screwy is there is very few other nations in these early Greyhawk books that give an amount of area. Ull is special here because it's remote? So how big are these numbers for context? Well on Earth, 800,000 sq miles is between the area of Mexico or Saudi Arabia. On the other end of this Gygaxian measurement, 1 million square miles is like the size of India or Argentina. For comparison the USA is 3.5 million sq mi. So seeing these examples, it's obvious Ull is not that big. Check out this map overlay I found online. (sorry I can't find the author to give credit, feel free to shout out in the comment section) Needless to say if Ull were the size Saudi Arabia, it would presently be half the area of the old Baklunish Empire.


Post-Gygax sources, From the Ashes and the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, both drop the area of Ull from its text, I presume because the writers finally recognized that Ull cannot possibly be that large and Gygax goofed. So again, for Ull to be that big it would have to claim/conquer the Plains of the Paynims, the Dry Steppes and more west possibly. The Living Greyhawk Gazetteer mentions Ull's northern border is in flux with the Paynims, but is usually within 20 leagues of Ulakand, the capital. This is less than a hex so that checks out. Ull does not claim much of the Plains of the Paynims, nor does it encroach on the Dry Steppes because the text says Ull ends at the hills separating the mountains.

So how big is Ull really? My non-scientific eyeballing and using a calculator method has Ull (which is roundish) at roughly 300 miles by 360 miles or 108,000 sq mi. This puts in the category of New Zealand or Burkina Faso. Much more modest. I guess it'll have to do (for now). All of this doesn't matter of course, but explaining the minutiae of the setting is part of Greyhawk's charm. Until next time, see you online!

Sunday, July 19, 2020

2E Greyhawk Wars Campaign: Battle of Bellport Harbor


Greetings, Greyhawkers! This is the last installment of my epic 2E Greyhawk Wars Campaign column. Chronologically it's not though. For those just coming into this topic, here is a run down of my posts thus far:

Great North War 605 CY to 609 CY
Great Kingdom War of Succession 610 CY to 611 CY
Pomarj-Celene War 610 CY to 613 CY
3-Month aka "Scarlet" War 613 CY
Schnai Civil War and Aerdy Civil Wars 615-616 CY
The Greyhawk Wars aka "The Bandit War" 617 CY to 618 CY
Battle of Bellport Harbor 623 CY
Iuz-Furyondy War 627 CY to 629 CY (Part 1Part 2Part 3)

The Battle of Bellport Harbor is not a war per se, but one last major battle in a long-running series of conflicts between Rhizia and Aerdy. It features the return of the great barbarian heroes who in our game, wielded the 5 Blades of Corusk. A few of them were last seen in the Schnai Civil War. This is how I believe the Five Shall Be One/Howl From the North story line should've progressed in published source. The barbarians, even though fooled by Iuz, still have actual magic blades and a list of grievances, so why don't they factor into the Greyhawk Wars at all when the barbarian north practically started it? My campaign overall tries to redeem their part in the story and as you will see in this post, thing get very dramatic. Be sure to read the commentary at the end. Enjoy!



Prelude 

A): In the border wars of late 623 CY, the angry hordes of Fruz and Ratikan men, led by Magnus drove into Bone March.1

B): However, they were not uncontested, and goblin skirmishers cut off their supply line to Ratik through the Storgard Range.

C): From the sea, the hordes of King Vorlag Konig marched unhindered to the foot of Spinecastle itself. The lengthy siege was of no avail and no number of raids could breach the humanoid defense. 

D): The call was given to break off the siege when it was learned that Magnus could not help, for fear of leaving their homes unguarded.2

E): Upon returning to their longships in Bellport (and Johnsport), King Vorlag learned that the Grand Marshal of Northern Aerdy had arrived from the south and was supported at sea by a fleet of warships massed for a blockade at Bellport Harbor.
The Grand Marshal, now only ten miles from the raiders’ port gave an ultimatum:

“To the seaworthy, yet criminal King of the Barbarians, I Philip de Marivar, Grand Marshal of the Northern Aerdy armies demand you depart from the Aerdian towns of Bellport and Johnsport, with haste. We have a fleet of warships ready for a dignified escort back to your peaceful fjords. I advise you to leave peacefully and with no uproar, for I wish to see no more human bloodshed.”

Vorlag was angered at the arrogance of the Aerdians.4 His kin were quick to plea Vorlag to call his bluff. It was Thormod Konig who pointed out that it was no more than a year ago that the treacherous Lieutenant Markas led a massive raiding party that demolished much of the North Province navy.5 Vorlag smiled in agreement.

F): Geirrod the ranger was swiftly sent to scout the opposition on land. Unfortunately, the army of Northern Aerdy was huge and well-armed, a result of several years prosperity under Overking Juma.

With this news in hand it was agreed on, in council, to leave in their longships. However, the Aerdian navy was to be destroyed first. Northern longships are easily constructed, compared to southern ships used by the Aerdians. They would be without a fleet for a few years at least. With torch and axe in hand, the northmen quickly demolished Bellport and Johnsport, leaving little to stand.6 Any ships that were not needed, were sunk in the harbors. The docks were destroyed as well. Filled with raiders in battle lust, the longships sailed to meet the intercepting provincial fleet.

Battle of Bellport Harbor 

The drakkar of King Vorlag, like almost a hundred others were outmatched against the longer, bulkier Aerdian carracks. Vorlag’s orders were to grapple and board the enemy. Only at close quarters could their men hope to win. The graceful northmen galleys were rowed alongside the enemy, under heavy missile fire. Due to sheer numbers, the grapple attempts were successful on all ships. The regimented Aerdian sailors either panicked or fell out of command, and counter boarded the northmens’ ships.

An all-out melee ensued in the harbor. The setting sun would not fade before several heroes fell:

Haflek, leader of the Fruz navy to whom trusted Bellport was in a berserk rage. He had been scolded by his superiors and had to redeem his name. Haflek boarded an Aerdian carrack before his men could stand their oars. He viciously cleaved lightly armored sailors left and right with his broadsword. Before his men could assist him, a hidden archer from the rigging shot Haflek through the eye. Haflek fell into the cold harbor, pulling two enemies down with him.

Stroemberg the Powerful pulled his drakkar along a small Aerdian warship. A rain of fire pelted his sails. Stormberg’s own archers provided a cover of arrow fire back. From the starboard side of the carrack he climbed a grappled rope. In a heroic spring, he and several Schnai kin were cutting their way towards the fore of the vessel. Crossbowmen formed ranks of three to block off the raiders from their captain. In a timed attack, the crossbowmen dropped every northman boarder in their way. Stroemberg still fighting near death, would not yield to the captain. He reached in his boot, and threw a dagger, striking the captain dead in the heart. Minutes later, the vessel burned like a funeral pyre.

Ketil’s longships boarded in a mass, and with lightning speed. Dozens of fear-struck enemy sailors fell dead, were captured or dove into the harbor. Ketil himself did little fighting. He pushed his way to the cargo holds amidst the confusion. Ketil searched the holds and discovered an armory of weapons and ammunition. Coming to the surface he yelled for the victorious boarders to keep the vessel, for it had valuable stores. Just as he returned to his longship in celebration, an Aerdian warrior from a neighboring vessel cast a flaming oil bomb, turning the longship into a flaming wreck. Ketil was pulled from the fire, to the captured carrack. He was near death.

Vorlag’s grand drakkar was steered towards the Aerdian flagship. The banners of the Aerdian Navy were still bright amid the fire and smoke. Vorlag, Bjorn, Geirrod, Thormod and Orec stood ready on the port side of their vessel, with the five Blades of Corusk in hand. Six vessels in all under Vorlag’s command drew alongside the great galleon, shearing their oars into its hull. Northmen poured onto the deck of the massive ship. The galleons’ defense was clearly elite. Special guardsmen in seashell designed plate armor wielded curved swords against the climbing invaders. The vessels’ rigging was filled with more battle-ready mariners. From the higher decks, crossbowmen readied their weapons in case the others fell.

Vorlag, King of Schnai hurled his dwarven hammer at a group of distant crossbowmen- knocking them astray. Geirrod and Thormod, brothers, charged into a mass melee with their warrior allies. They fought back-to-back on the deck with deadly efficiency. Orec, the druid solemnly brandished his golden scimitar and dispatched two guardsmen on his way to a mast-full of sailors. Bjorn swung his light two-handed sword Harmonizer with ease, knocking sailors about. No one could get within ten feet of the roguish hero. Vorlag with the magical strength of a fire giant, slashed his sword, the Edge- and severed a mast, bringing low several swinging mariners and burying more under sails. Orec shapechanged into a grizzly bear, and threw off several guardsmen who overpowered his countrymen. A lieutenant with a halberd stabbed Orec from behind. Orec, changing to human form was left with barely a scratch. He countered with Greenswathe, and it passed through the officer’s plate armor like butter. Thormod rushed away from his brothers’ side to help a struggling northman youth. After finishing off the Aerdian mariner, he patted the young lad on the shoulder to move on. Geirrod ducked two different strikes, killed one opponent, then glanced to see Thormod struck by an unseen archer’s arrow. The arrow pierced his lung, and Dreamsinger dropped to the deck boards. Geirrod yelled as he saw Thormod drift backwards to fall overboard. He lunged out just in time to catch Thormod’s dead arm as he tumbled off the galleon. Geirrod strained his muscles to hold on to his brother. Unseen, Geirrod’s second opponent ran him through with a long blade. Geirrod in pain, released Thormod’s body to the sea. Geirrod turned to his killer and impaled him with the blue longsword Stalker. Then Geirrod fell to the deck dead.

Vorlag, hurling his hammer, suddenly spotted the leader, attempting escape in a lifeboat. He charged the admiral’s guard, bowling them over. Bjorn yelling in Fruz, was not far behind him. The last of the admiral’s guard rushed Vorlag, and overbore him to the floor. One gave him a vicious elbow, rendering him unconscious. Bjorn then dispatched those guards mercilessly, before Vorlag could be finished off. Northmen were already on hand to carry Vorlag to safety. The admiral scampered to release his lifeboat. Bjorn, raising his two-handed sword, cleaved the boat and the leader in half. Seeing the battle won, Bjorn passed out from exhaustion. Orec, as a hawk, flew to each ship to make sure all the enemies were routed. When the battle was over, three thousand Aerdians were dead, half as many northmen were killed. All Aerdian supplies were taken, and the vessels sunk.

Vorlag awoke at sea the next morning. He rushed to see his kin. Sadly, he was warned by Orec and Bjorn that Thormod and Geirrod were dead. He was also taken to the side of Ketil, who had survived long enough to speak to the king, “I have sailed to many corners of Oerth, and served with many great adventurers. It is gratifying to see that I will be a navigator in the great fleets of Vatun. I hope we will sail together again.”

G): Upon their return to the northlands, the surviving Konigs bore the five Blades of Corusk to the Night Shadow Keep. Here, King Vorlag implored Haenir the Bold to lock them away in their vaults till such time they were needed again. Then Vorlag, Bjorn and Orec returned to the peaceful lands of Konigsheim.

Footnotes:

1. It seems during the “Border Wars” humanoid tribes retook Spinecastle and parts of former Bone March, but the chiefs of Norheim managed to hold onto its port towns.
 
2. The strength of Bone March’s return was a threat mostly to Ratik, as evidenced by Vorlag’s easy march to Spinecastle and their ensuing inability to retake the citadel. 

3. In the short seven years since Norheim was granted to the barbarians of Rhizia for installing Juma on the Malachite Throne, it seemed tensions between the North Province and Norheim had escalated. The North Province was still sore at losing Kaport Bay in the civil war of 616 CY and the resurgence of humanoids in former Bone March was allegedly brought on by the current rulership. 

4. It’s possible that the Great Kingdom was beginning to fracture again along noble House lines. Even Juma Dain could not change centuries of Aerdian politics. 

5. Lieutenant Markas was an upstart warlord who raised a barbarian horde in 622 CY to further fan the flames of war in Aerdy. The Liuetenant was defeated by heroes of Rhizia, but not before he did irreparable damage to the North Province and brought retribution down on Norheim. 

6. Though Rhizia destroyed Bellport and Johnsport and was forced out of Norheim, records show the barbarians (likely with Juma’s decree) the barbarians would be back in control of these rebuilt ports by 638 CY. 
 
Commentary:

Storgard Range? I'm not sure that's canon or something I made. I'll have to ask Anna Meyer.

I really don't remember how the barbarians came to fight Aerdy again under Juma's rule, but here we are! One culprit had to be Liuetenant Markas who was a late antagonist of the campaign and was revealed to be the vampire Kas the Terrible returned to Oerth

As was highlighted in the Schnai Civil War, my friend Jayson (also the player of Valkaun Dain) played all five characters in the Five Shall Be One/Howl From the North storyline. So, all the barbarians in this battle were his technically, though King Vorlag was his main and the other four may have been NPCs afterwards.

Speaking of Vorlag, I also don't remember how he came to be king of the Schnai. He of course defeated King Orvung in the Schnai Civil War, but the king was duped and they made peace. Perhaps Orvung's son, because he was a Night Shadow, declined the throne and gave it up to the most popular hero of Schnai. Jayson seems to think Vorlag got the throne by shady means (I can believe this as well).

The Battle of Bellport Harbor itself was written as a narrative by me, and is largely unchanged from the original hand-written account I did in the 90's. I of course added context and footnotes to fit the story into the overall 2E campaign story. I have no recollection or game notes that we actually played out this battle like we often did. The fact that so many big names die in this tale (I'm not a killer DM) leads me to believe it's a story I fashioned to end this plot-line. I am very enamored by the Battle of Five Armies from the Hobbit, so I believe I drew inspiration from that. 

Who are the other big name heroes in this? It's hard to find. Ketil (F7) once a navigator on Valkaun Dain's longship "The Raider". He probably got promoted after Juma took the throne. Haflek and Stroemberg the Powerful sounded like bad ass characters, but I have no other info on them currently outside this battle.

This emotional finale was the last time we ever played the barbarians or even campaigned in Thillonria to date! I did bring the 5 Blades back in 5E but I adapted the entire story for my Sea Princes campaign and it worked marvelously. Having edited these stories, I yearn to return to Rhizia. Maybe someday soon!

This is the last of the series. Like I mentioned above, the Iuz-Furyondy War (627-629 CY) which I posted first, is actually the climatic finish, but from my notes, the 2E campaign didn't end until 638 CY. So there is still 9 years of 2E game material left for me to sift through, including the colonization of the Land of Black Ice and the rise of the High Ring. We shall see in the future, if any more conflicts are left in my "silver age" of D&D.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

2E Greyhawk War Campaign: The Bandit War

Well met Greyhawkers! It's time for another installment of my old 1990's 2E campaign where I wage bloody war across the Flanaess over and over again. If you're just visiting this column for the first time go back and read from my list of wars below (It might make more sense if you read the Iuz-Furyondy War after I fill in the middle wars). Once you are caught up, get comfortable because you are about to witness the hell that is the Bandit War. As always I've made a keyed map so you can follow along with the narrative. Enjoy!

Great North War 605 CY to 609 CY
Great Kingdom War of Succession 610 CY to 611 CY
Pomarj-Celene War 610 CY to 613 CY
3-Month aka "Scarlet" War 613 CY
Schnai Civil War 615 CY
Aerdy Civil Wars 615-616 CY
The Greyhawk Wars aka "The Bandit War" 617 CY to 618 CY
Battle of Bellport Harbor 623 CY
Iuz-Furyondy War 627 CY to 629 CY (Part 1Part 2Part 3)

The Bandit War "Greyhawk Wars"



Prelude to War

Jan 615 CY

As major events unfolded in the east, the Bandit Kingdoms, also known as the “Combination of Free Lords” started to maneuver into a new union with expatriated bandits from the Horned Lands. This new power group began to call itself the Bandit Federation and its leadership reputedly included more than a few of the Hierarchs of the Horned Society.1

Feb 615 CY

Unbeknownst to the bandit free lords, one of the Hierarchs secretly visited the exiled demigod Iuz who was still regrouping in the Howling Hills since his defeat in the Great North War six years ago. A non-aggression pact was reputedly made with Iuz, but the ulterior motive of the envoy was surely to learn the current strength of Old One’s forces.

Mar 615 CY

Holy Censor Spidasa of Medegia visited the realm of Ilshar to seek an audience with the Archmage Mortellan and his acting regent Lord Angus Ulrich. Claiming the financial backing of Overking Grenell of the Great Kingdom, the scheming cleric offered to outright buy the lands of the former Scarlet Brotherhood from the fiery elven wizard. This offer was naturally rejected, but it is speculated the true intent of the Censor was to sow dissent among the occupied Suel citizenry that had been ruled by the Brotherhood for so many centuries.2

Jul 615 CY

A): The Shield Lands and parts of the old Horned Lands are conquered in a lightning attack by the Bandit Federation. Refugees immediately flee south, east and west. The Knights of Holy Shielding were caught off guard by this new power group and many of the order including Earl Holmer mysteriously vanished or were slain in the chaos.

Sep 615 CY

As the news out of the Shield Lands spread west, King Belvor of Furyondy died of natural causes. His son King Alaric is crowned and immediately married Jolene of Veluna, to tie their nations closer together in the face of this new growing threat. The March of Dorakaa, once administered by Prince Alaric is then placed under regency of Lord Nymark3.

Feb 616 CY

The fortress city of Rookroost became the last to join the Bandit Federation, thus bringing all the factions under one banner.

Mar 616 CY

As war was about to break out in the central Flanaess, humanoid tribes of the north began to be discreetly rallied to Iuz’s banner by his newest general, Sohranin4. These forces started to muster to the Howling Hills, taking secret trails and traveling at night.

May 616

B): The Bandit War officially broke out as the complacent Duchy of Tenh easily capitulated to the invading Bandit Federation. The Federation then thrust their remaining forces southward past the defenses of the peaceable County of Urnst and sped fast into Nyrondal lands in an effort to reach Rel Mord and secure King Archbold’s surrender. A splinter force was turned aside by the ducal forces from Luekish, but they were in turn prevented from massing with the king’s armies in a counterattack. For the rest of the year, a bloody series of battles would rage across the landscape with many civilians caught in the middle.

C): At the same time Urnst and Tenh were being overrun, the Theocracy of the Pale signed the Dimre Pact in an effort to appease the Federation and protect desired territory they felt was sympathetic to their religion. The pact between Wintershiven and the Hierarchs drew clear lines on how to carve up the two Urnst States and Nyrond5. Palish armies were rapidly called and drove out of their cold domain to occupy northeast Nyrond and eastern Urnst. This lengthy campaign was managed with a zealous and often destructive policy in an effort to proselytize civilians and captured enemy troops, while at the same time the generals of the Pale sought to reach Rel Mord before the Bandit Federation. The Pale did not trust that the Federation would give them the populous city to rule as promised, much less leave it intact and unspoiled.

Jun 616 CY

The culmination of unrest growing in Ilshar came when a coup attempt in the capital was attempted by two thousand rogues and pirates led by a rebel monk of the Scarlet Sign. This mob was mainly angry at the traitorous Elder Cousin, who had switched loyalties from the old Brotherhood to his new wizardly liege Mortellan in order to remain in the ruling council6. After order was restored by Lord Angus, the rebel monk was imprisoned.

Jan through Dec 617 CY

D): Emboldened by the absence of Mortellan, the Elder Cousin’s machinations finally unfolded as he freed those who once tried to usurp him and seized control of Ilshar and the Pomarj from Lord Ulrich, throwing him in the dungeon of Hesuel lshar. From their ports of Kro Terlep and Ekul, resurgent Suel pirates flying the banner of Mortellan’s Ilshar, began to strike out at the unsuspecting coastlands, taking Idee and Dullstrand in weeks.

E): Meanwhile in the Pomarj, the reclusive Slave Lords bolstered by the Cult of the Earth Dragon rose to overthrow the ineffectual governors left by Ulek and Ilshar7. Their armies began to gather in size as impoverished Wild Coast bandits and humanoids gladly joined their cause, eager for revenge on the elves and dwarves who sent them into hiding. A major humanoid fragment of the Pomarj campaign engaged Celene and the Uleks in a brutal war throughout the forests and hills at the cost of thousands of lives before they were routed. The bulk of the Pomarj army swept up the Wild Coast, this time even overtaking Safeton. This action alarmed even Archmage Mortellan for once, since the enemy leader who coopted his nation, a High Priest of the Earth Dragon was now bent on marching on the great City of Greyhawk.

F): As war raged in the north and the west, trouble brewed in the Province of Ahlissa as Herzog Chelor, who had resisted the rule of Overking Juma, was killed and replaced by Reydrich of House Darmen. replaces. Reydrich was a masterful negotiator who sensed the winds of war earlier than most, indeed before usurping the South Province, he made a pact with both the Bandit Federation and Ilshar. The pact with Ilshar was evidently part of the Elder Cousin’s long-term scheme and both nations started to assail their mutual enemy, the Iron League states. By the end of 617 CY, Ahlissa had made gains into Sunndi and was fighting across the dwarven realm of the Iron Hills. These advances were not to last long as the Great Kingdom, though still recovering from a civil war, made overtures to stop Reydrich’s opportunistic invasion.

G): Far to the north, members of the Bandit Federation in Rookroost greedily looked to keep expanding their borders. Having already established themselves in Tenh, new armies were conscripted from local populations and were sent north in two offensives, to secure the plains and passes leading to Rhizian controlled Stonehold. What the Federation had not counted on was the sudden appearance of the Rovers of the Barrens to aid the barbarian folk of Rhizia. In a score of bloody skirmishes with the Dogs of War and veteran Rhizian warriors, the shaky Bandit army was routed. Meanwhile, Rhizia (with no few Stonefist berserkers at their side) also capably crushed the Federation at Calbut. Mass defections among the conscripted levies further caused the bandit occupation of the duchy to slip by the end of the war.

H): Before taking control of Ilshar, the Elder Cousin had also secretly been in talks with the Sea Princes and secured a naval alliance. Between Ilshar, the Pomarj and the Sea Princes, they hoped to control all trade lanes on the Azure Sea. The Sea Princes fleets were ready to exact some revenge for their failed entry in the Pomarj-Celene War, but a series of deadly naval engagements along the Ulek coast ended in a stalemate. The loss of ships and men was enough to dissuade the pirate lords, who eventually withdrew from the war even though Ulek’s navy was effectively destroyed8.

I): Ilshar had gained a foothold in Idee and Dullstrand, but the Elder Cousin knew that unless the entire Iron League was pacified, they could never hold this coast. After reinforcements were ferried in at Naerie, Ilshar capitalized on the pact with Ahlissa to strike at Irongate and Sunndi. At Dullstrand, the Ilsharian navy regrouped by drawing more warships from their Idee campaign, then dared the vaunted Duxchan fleet to meet them as they sailed on Sulward. Though fighting on two fronts, the hardy Iron League turned aside the Ilshar invasion at Sunndi and wiped out their forces before they could march on Irongate. In a pitched sea-battle outside Sulward, the Lordship of the Isles again proved their mettle and turned the Ilshar fleet back to Ekul.

J): King Alaric and the might of his Furyondy-Highfolk-Veluna alliance amassed their knights and armies at the Veng River and in a couple decisive battles near Molag, broke the confidence of the same Bandit army that had once taken the Shield Lands by storm9.

K): The year was drawing near an end and the most devastating part of the Bandit-Pale campaign came at the Battle of Rel Mord. With two enemy armies assaulting the city at once, it looked like Nyrond might fall. King Archbold managed to regroup however, inspiring his citizens in the over-all defense of his capital. Nyrond found succor in the timely arrival of friendly contingents from the Flinty Hills and flanking Urnst cavalry eager to exact revenge on the Federation. The Theocracy, desirous of the Nyrondal throne threw waves of attacks at Rel Mord and suffered heavy losses, until even their morale failed. On the final day of the war, as a blinding sun rose in the sky, the Pholtus worshiping Palish army turned in formation and marched for home, their banners pure white signaling defeat. This left the rabble remains of the Federation army to take the brunt of Urnst and Nyrond’s savage counterattack. These forces routed immediately and scattered across the countryside making for the Artonsomay River.

L): With the inexorable advance of the Earth Dragon Horde, the domain of Greyhawk allied with the Free City of Dyvers for mutual protection. If one fell, the other would surely follow. A true account of the Battle of Greyhawk is scarce, though it is certain many famous personages rallied to the city for its defense, including Circle of Eight wizards Tenser, Otiluke, Otto and Jallarzi Sallavarian10. Led by Lord Mayor Nerof Gasgol, this battle was a testament to the Directorship’s representative rulers, bringing all the temples, guilds, mercenaries and commoners together under one strategic plan. The Horde was decisively defeated at the imposing walls of Greyhawk with military prowess and engineering in addition to an impressive display of arcane and divine might not chronicled since the Baklunish-Suloise Wars. It was still a day-long battle however, where the cult of the Earth Dragon and their Slave Lord allies utilized destructive magic and employed foul machines of war against the city. The final clash on the plain of Greyhawk eliminated the retreating cult for good and scattered what was left of their evil forces in all directions.

Feb 618 CY

M): In a desperate attempt to capitalize on the disastrous results of the Battle of Rel Mord, the Theocracy of the Pale broke their pact with the failed Federation, striking westward to take over the remaining County of Urnst and the vital port of Radigast City. However, news of the Pale’s defeat traveled fast. Palish troops had to fight bandit looters and angry Nyrondese peasants as they began to rise up against their oppressive occupiers. In the end, the Theocracy’s generals retreated back to their homeland to avoid any further losses.

Mar 618

The Bandit War officially ended with the Pact of Greyhawk; emissaries from all the principle nations and factions that had warred for the last decade attended. In a stunning twist, Archmage Rary (the Traitor) tried to disrupt the Great Signing, but Tenser and Otiluke foiled this plot at the cost of their lives. Exposed and wanted murder, Rary fled into the Bright Desert with his accomplice Lord Robilar to start the Empire of the Bright Lands.

N): Return of Empire of Iuz:  In the weeks following the Pact of Greyhawk, Iuz’s accumulated legions finally spilled out of the Howling Hills, easily retaking his old lands, including the capital of Dorakaa. The Wolf Nomads were aware of the build-up, but still got forced back to Lake Quag, while the Rovers of the Barrens scattered in all directions to avoid the advance of evil. Iuz’s Boneheart commanders then extended his hold into the Horned, Shield and Bandit Lands where they were too weakened from war to put up any resistance. Furyondian leader, Lord Nymark and his garrison, already depleted from fending off the Bandit Federation incursion, abandoned the fief and fled across Whysetil Lake to regroup with King Alaric. In a shocking turn, after his empire was re-established, the Old One sent an ambassador to Greyhawk and signed the Pact of Greyhawk. The Flanaess would know peace, at least for a short while.

Footnotes: 

1.       The Hierarchs went into hiding after the fall of Molag in 609 CY. Most went to the lawless towns of the Bandit Lands, but it is said one of the Hierarchs went to Greyhawk, and from there coordinated the formation of the Bandit Federation.

2.       No Aerdian leader had ever set foot in Hesuel Ilshar before Spidasa. His curiosity to see the Ancient Suloise-style architectural and cultural wonders of this hidden city was probably one reason the Censor took a chance to buy out the foreign conquerors.

3.       The March of Dorakaa was comprised of half of the Horned Lands and the southern plains in the Land of Iuz. Furyondy would not dare claim control over anything farther north for fear of the Wolf Nomads and the festering evils in the Howling Hills.

4.       Little is known of General Sohranin, but he must have possessed impressive power and charisma to unite humanoids from the Cold Marshes to the Fellreev and Burneal Forests, and as far away as the Wastelands and Bluff Hills. Many of these tribes served Iuz before, but this time they were warned to stay clear of the Bandit Lands.

5.       It is likely that Nyrond and the Urnsts underestimated the strength and organization of the Bandit Federation and was completely taken off guard by their alliance with the Pale. In addition, Nyrond was surely concerned with the outcome of the Aerdian Civil War that raged at their other border.

6.       Interestingly, the conquering Archmage Mortellan had lost interest in the tropical realm preferring to concentrate on the construction of the Three Towers, built over the ruins of Zagig Yragerne’s Castle Greyhawk; the place where all his power and wealth derived.  Mortellan left control of Ilshar and the rebuilt Pomarj to his loyal friend Lord Angus Ulrich and the sycophant Elder Cousin. Mortellan would become further distracted that year when trying to help his barbarian comrade Valkaun Dain take down the last resistance to Juma Dain in the Aerdy Civil War.

7.       The Slave Lords and Pomarj faction made a loose alliance at some point with the Bandit Federation. It was probably just a non-aggression pact to confound their mutual enemies, but the Hierarchs behind the Bandit Federation were not be pleased that Greyhawk, a place they operated from in secret, was a target of the Slave Lords.

8.       The Sea Princes nobles were likely worried that their main rival, the Keoland Navy would be compelled to enter the war to save the Principality of Ulek. Fortunately, the Lion Throne stayed idle and the Princes fleets returned home.

9.       The loss at Molag caused the federation between bandit rulers and Hierarch plotters to fracture. As bandits retreated to their home territories, hobgoblin and orc soldiery once emboldened by their former Horned Society masters went rogue and eventually would answer the call of Iuz.

10.   Archmage Mortellan was surely instrumental in adding mercenary and magical aid to Greyhawk. His reputation as a war-leader made him popular among the oligarchs whose ulterior motives were obvious to the elven wizard. Members of the Guild of Wizards and Circle were wary however, due to his successful yet costly Pomarj and Ilshar campaigns. Mortellan’ warrior comrade Valkaun Dain may have been involved as well since he served for a time as the leader of the mounted Cairn Hills Force

May 616-Mar 618 Bandit War Total Casualties (killed, wounded and captured) 


Archbold’s Alliance: 
County and Duchy of Urnst 20,000 (+10,000 civilians)
Nyrond 21,000 (+15,000 civilians, including Rel Mord 4000) 

Northern Resistance:
Tenh 4000 (+3300 civilians)
Rhizia (includes Stonehold) 4200
Rovers of the Barrens 3400

Alaric's Alliance:

Furyondy-Veluna 6000
Highfolk 2000
Shield Lands (exiled knights) 180 (+2400 civilians)

Neutral Domains:
Celene 18,000
The Ulek States 22,000
Greyhawk-Dyvers Alliance 2475 (+300 civilians)
Wild Coast 6000 (+3000 civilians)

Iron League:
Lordship of the Isles 4000
Idee 7000 (+5500 civilians)
Onnwal 4000
Irongate 7000
Iron Hills 3000 
Sunndi 19,000 (+5000 civilians)

Totals: 153,255 (+44,500 civilians) 


Dimre Treaty: 
Bandit Federation (includes Horned Lands) 24,500
Theocracy of the Pale 19,000

Southern Pact: 
South Province (Ahlissa) 30,000
Pomarj-Ilshar 29,000
Sea Princes 7000

Total: 109,000

Commentary:

Wow so first thing I'll mention is that this war has very little recorded events, besides a few things on my general timeline. The other 90% of this war is inferred political and military strategy written in hindsight. The only reason I even remember this war in our campaign is that I kept a lengthy one page long war-end death toll which included civilians. Strange enough I don't know how I came to figure non-combatant deaths. I'm not even sure we played this war out on Warmachine or Greyhawk Wars or otherwise. But given the figures I kept on the Bandit War, it's probably the bloodiest of all my entries.

Interestingly, I subtitle this war "the Greyhawk Wars". I seem to recall bits of this war was meant to make up for the fact my canon didn't fit newer published sources, so I was racing in my own head to use information left over such as the Great Signing and Rary the Traitor and the capture of Earl Holmer.

Another thing I'm foggy about is whether my friend Brian, the player of Archmage Mortellan (from previous episodes) went hostile and had Ilshar-Pomarj attack the Iron League/Celene or was his power usurped while he was away playing in the Greyhawk Ruins. I went with the latter because it makes him look better, but I have my doubts. My only real indication is the attack on Greyhawk City happened at the same time Mortellan was actively in the area having rebuilt Castle Greyhawk. Also, knowing he eventually gets nominated mayor of the city a decade later means the wizard was not responsible for the heinous attacks on Greyhawk, or probably further abroad.

Also, an indication Ilshar's sudden turn to heel was orchestrated from within and not by Mortellan, is that according to my timelines, a year after the war in 619 CY, Ilshar forms the Azure League with the nations of the Iron League and the Sea Princes I think. They made up really fast I guess.

A decade later, the Iuz-Furyondy War breaks out (the entry that started this series). Now having reviewed and written on all the wars we played prior, I see that the bloody Bandit War and the Aerdy Civil War is why much of the Flanaess was not willing to join another war. Furyondy, Veluna and Highfolk got this though. Go back and read about that war if you've just caught up.

Next post I have one more filler story, it's a battle actually, but it's an important one that brings the war epic of the barbarian north to a close for 2e. See you then.    

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Greyhawk Map EasyZoom

Howdy Greyhawk gamers! Today I'm promoting a custom map created by Michael "RetroGamer_Meph" Saxton. He has been around the community a lot lately and is now starting to share his work on the internet. I'll let him introduce himself and his map:

"Hey guys, figured i'll introduce myself a little bit. I am pretty new to Greyhawk but some have probably seen me a lot around the Greyhawk Online discord and a little bit on Canonfire, my handle is RetroGamer_Meph everywhere else.

So diving into Greyhawk full steam I have been trying to learn about it. I dove into Anna's maps and I absolutely love them but after 40 years of Greyhawk being added to it, I was totally lost on where to begin. I had no idea what locations existed at what timeline so I decided to go back to the 80s Darlene maps and just start at 576. Well I couldn't find any great high res images of it online and I haven't bought the bullet yet to buy the box set so I decided to do a reimagining of her map for my campaign.

I have shared it on the other Greyhawk sites I have been around so you may have seen it, but if not then enjoy. This is the easyzoom version and sometime this weekend I hope to release the full PNG in case anyone wants to use it online or print it. The full image is over 12k pixels wide so it will print just about as big as you want. I have a list of about 8 or 9 locations I missed or misspelled but I will get those corrected. Anyways, here is version 1.0"

Check out Michael's Greyhawk map. It's a great homage to Darlene and I look forward to more projects by him in the future!