Well met Greyhawkers! Today I am going to muse over the latest front page poll, Which Swamp is the Most Dangerous? Obviously all fantasy swamps are lethal places to venture, but in the World of Greyhawk there is an abundance of these wetlands and each has their own unique troubles and treasures. Just a side note, I know I inadvertently left the Pelisso Swamp and the Lone Heath off the list, Pelisso is located on the fringe in Hepmonaland so I'll let it slide. The Heath is small and slipped my mind entirely. Anyhow, let's get to the rest of the swamps:
Coming in first overall with a landslide 56% is the no-brain champion of Greyhawk bogs, the Vast Swamp. Located in the southeast corner of the Flanaess, the "vee-shaped" Vast Swamp is a staggering 200 miles long and 150 miles across. These waters are pooled by the surrounding Hestmark Highlands, Hollow Highlands and Spine Ridge. There is no known river outlets and sages speculate the place is drained by underground channels.
Why go here? The Vast Swamp is your typical haven for outlaws, slimy monsters and degenerate humanoids such as lizardmen and the hated bullywug. Indeed, the twisted demigod Wastri an ally of bullywug-kind is said to make his lair somewhere within the morass. Heroes could grind on monsters for quite a long time by just wandering these lowlands. However, for those wanting a quick payoff, the Vast is of course most infamous for being the resting place of the demi-lich Acererak and his Tomb of Horrors. Such a death-trap can only be considered dangerous if one goes looking for it. The high risk-high reward of this dungeon has lured many fame-seeking heroes over the years, that is why it is top on most players' and DM's wish-lists.
Next up with 12% is a tie between two mighty marshes, the Hool Marshes and the Cold Marshes. The Hool lies in the southwest Flanaess dividing the Sheldomar Valley from the Hold of the Sea Princes; The even larger Cold Marshes lie far away to the north dividing the Empire of Iuz from the frozen realm of Blackmoor.
Why go here? The Hool is a treacherous place to navigate making it the perfect place for outlaws to hide out. Heroes would be wise not to chase too deep into the mire however as the place is not only crawling with your typical swamp critters. but also rumors have it cults devoted to Orcus and Dagon. The Hool is also the location for the modules I7 Baltron's Beacon and the Saltmarsh series U1-3.
The Cold Marshes on the other hand, also present a natural challenge to heroes with its hoarwinds, blackfrost and magical fogs or vampiric mists. Even if these hazards can be avoided there is still evils aplenty such as winter wolves, ice toads, ice trolls, will o'wisps, specters and undoubtedly white dragons. PCs must be brave and well stocked if they wish to find fortune in the Cold Marshes.
Coming in at 8% of the vote is the VERY underestimated Trollfens. Nestled in the joint of the Griff and Raker Mountains, the chilly Trollfens is comparably small, but probably more fearsome than any swamp in the Flanaess. It's so dangerous in fact, that both the Duchy of Tenh and Theocracy of the Pale each maintain a line of keeps to guard against the fens.
Next at 4% of the vote is the Rushmoors and the Greyhawk Domain's own Mistmarsh. The narrow Rushmoors collect in the meeting of the mighty Javan River and the headwaters of the Sheldomar. The Mistmarsh lies between the Cairn Hills and the Abbor Alz Mountains.
Why go here? Your typical threats live in the Rushmoors, such as bullywugs, lizardmen and bandits who would rather avoid the lawful hand of the valley's Knights of the Watch. Larger reptiles do lurk here, including aberrations like frogemoths and otyughs. The Mistmarsh by comparison is mainly rife with lizardmen tribes and packs of ghouls though lately black dragons and Sons of Kyuss are rumored to be in the area. The Mistmarsh's proximity to Greyhawk makes it a decent place for heroes to explore. The Rushmoors, while ruled nominally by Gran March is of interest to adventurers seeking lost arcana from the ancient time of the Occluded Empire of Arch-lich Vecna. This swamp is also the locale for the module N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God.
And finally, at a measly 2% is the nasty sounding Gnatmarsh. Centrally located between Nyrond and Urnst, this large swamp is formed by the meeting of the Duntide and Nesser Rivers eventually emptying into the Sea of Gearnat.
Why go here? Yes, adventurers, many weird monsters lurk in these swamps too. If one can ignore the basic eels, alligators and swarms of insects here, they may well encounter oddities like two-headed trolls, strong bronze-skinned troglodytes or a green dragon! There may yet be treasure in this overlooked swamp which rumor has it contains its own sunken lich tomb.
I hope this article has shown there is more to Greyhawk's swamps than just the Tomb of Horrors. Happy hunting heroes!