Sunday, February 8, 2015

"What If" Greyhawk Wars Ending

One of the best ongoing Marvel comics is the What If series. If you haven't heard of it, they are one-shot issues that tell a story of how history would be different if certain situations were changed. This type of brainstorming is thus a Greyhawk fan's favorite past-time because there's a lot of canon people would change if they put their mind to it. Some alterations of course are monumental and change the entire scope of canon that follows. One interesting item came up in Thursday chat last week and I decided to elaborate on it here:

What if...the Scarlet Brotherhood didn't come out of the shadows at the start of the Greyhawk Wars?

First some background. Greyhawk Wars boxed set was a tactical board game which used the map of the Flanaess and its various nations as territories to battle over. In a sense it is the Axis & Allies of Greyhawk. The backstory for the game used story elements left over from an unproduced third module in the swords series, Five Shall Be One and Howl From the North (both set in the barbarian north). To put in short terms, Iuz starts trouble in the north and it kind of snow balls into a continent wide war as opportunistic rulers launch war against their rivals. The Scarlet Brotherhood were one of the factions vying to rule the world in this module-becomes-board game.

My suspicion is that the designers added the mysterious, unseen Brotherhood for board game balance and not out of a need necessarily based on canon. Iuz hates Furyondy. Nyrond and the Iron League hates the Great Kingdom. But who is there to fight Keoland? Two direct mainland threats to Keoland, the Pomarj is listed as a neutral site and the much more formidable Baklunish nations (sans Ull damnit) are listed as "evil" but aren't a player faction at the start either. So curious enough, instead of these two real martial powers, it's the Scarlet Brotherhood who has come out of the shadows and killed most of the rulers of the Sea Princes and took over with a swift coup. Instantly, the Brotherhood after a long wait evidently, has gone from a monastic spy network to a conquering  naval power with unlimited troops from the jungles, ready to fight whoever they will. Game on!

Well as the setting canon plays out (not your board game results mind you) because of GHW the Brotherhood ends up owning most of Onwall, Idee, the Lordship of the Isles, Sea Princes and has secret ties to the Pomarj. Furthermore, these relative newcomers are allowed in on the great gathering of nations in the City of Greyhawk to end the wars. If you're still with me, here is how I would've set up Greyhawk Wars from a canon and board game perspective:

The Brotherhood has their network of spies and assassins in place already, that is a given. I would have all the Baklunish nations (as a playable faction in the game ) unite and pour through Ket to create a new front in the Iuz-Furyondy conflict (Ket was in the wars anyhow albeit as an ally of Iuz). Keoland would be drawn into this immediately because of ancient rivalry. The Sea Princes could then be free to aid or hinder any side much like the Lordship of the Isles in the game. The wars rage on as normal in the storyline with little difference except Keoland now has a foe to match their size. This is when the Brotherhood springs out of obscurity at the end instead of the beginning of the wars. Using their spies, assassins and even diplomats in every capital, they are the ones to call all nations together (yes to neutral Greyhawk City) and end the conflicts. Smaller players like the Sea Princes, Lordship or Idee could still be used as stark examples as their rulers are all snuffed overnight; or in an even bolder change of direction, the wars could grind to an instant halt as every faction's ruler is murdered on the same day. Kings Archbold, Skotti and Belvor - dead. Ivid the Undying - Dead. Iuz the Evil - Dead or banished.

It's a deus ex machina for sure, but it sets up the later Scarlet Brotherhood sourcebook and From the Ashes boxed set as a much more tense Greyhawk setting. Much like in the actual post-wars storyline, every kingdom is reeling and broken; Nyrond and Furyondy is depleted, Iuz is gone but his power vacuum can create all kinds of future trouble with new villains and the Great Kingdom was going to break up anyhow. All this works, except now the Brotherhood is the only nation who is fresh and they have their tendrils everywhere.


Infernal Teddy said...

I like your ideas here. I've always thought the Wars as such were not a bad idea as such - you can see some of the set-up in the old Greyhawk box - just the results felt off, and a lot of that was because of the Brotherhood.

Mystic Scholar said...

Personally, I never cared for the entire Wars scenario, so . . .

SirXaris said...

Yep, your concept makes much more sense, Mortellan. I do like it much more than the Scarlet Brotherhood becoming such a blatant military power.


grodog said...

Good ideas, Mike, and well-worth exploring further in a DMD as an alternate-Prime Greyhawk! =)


Michael R said...

Well, You know me... I want a 'heretofor undiscovered Flan Golden Age where the Good flan faced off against the primal born demons' :)

The Dale Wardens said...

I always thought the wars didn't go long enough. In my campaign they are in their 5th year, and things are just starting to slow down...but not stop. A war background is an interesting place to put a campaign.

David S