Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Greyhawk Reading: More Sea of Death

Last time I was comparing Gygax's map of the Flanaess from the novel, Sea of Death with the place names from the official game setting, and trying to reconcile them together. This week I'm bringing to light some of the lands beyond the Flanaess that he drops hints to in the novel. These aren't complete throw-away references mind you, as later on in the book we meet characters who may or may not come from these far away places. In fact, the town of Karnoosh on Lake Karnoosh (Kanak on Lake Udrukankar in the Dry Steppes for those who only know the Darlene map) is the central trade hub for these cultures and it seems caravaning around or through the Ashen Desert/Sea of Dust is not so impossible for these peoples.

This is crucial because in the published game setting there is no good hard canon information about contact with any such realms beyond the Dry Steppes or the Sea of Dust except the Brazen Horde who came from the west to conquer Ket, Komal, a coastal land west of Zeif,  Mur, another coastal land, and a mention of a dark skinned race on the far side of the Sea of Dust in Greyhawk Adventures (Jahind?). So with this dearth of trading partners from beyond the Flanaess, it is assumed Kester (Ghastoor in the novel) or Kanak is the end of the line for travelers. Not so in Gygax's world:

"The Shah of Karnoosh was very rich and very powerful. There were no strong states around his little realm, so for a century there had been no warfare troubling the place. Such peace and prosperity brought even more merchants to Karnoosh, and it was a thriving cosmopolis by all measures of the whole of Oerik."

"Many come and go to and from Lake Karnoosh and the rich markets of the bazaar there. Bayomens, Yoli, and even the dark Jahindi all travel to and from that place. Even the folk of Sa'han and Behow are seen at Karnoosh."

The people of Changol, (location to the south of the Ashen Desert I believe) are also prominently mentioned in the novel and are known for their giant riding lizards called gwahasti. These creatures are used for crossing the dust sea at one point in the story. Another mode of transport in the book is a wind powered dust-sailing vessel built with materials from the "lush semitropical valleys that lay to the west of Tashbul." (Behow and Sa'han?) There is also a brief mention about slaves sold in Karnoosh working at the salt mines of Zondabad (location unspecified but I would guess it is part of the lake area) and there is a reclusive Baklunish tribe called the Chepnoi who live on the edge of the harsh desert, in the Grandsuel/Sulhaut mountains and make good wine in their valleys. Weird I know.

Fans in the Greyhawk community have made attempts over the years to merge most of these novel sources (and others I'm sure I missed) with undetailed parts of the Oerik map though later publication of the often mocked "official" map of Oerth in Dragon Magazine Annual #1 made Gygax's apocryphal states slightly harder to pin down. Gygax populates western Oerik with so many distinctly interesting peoples in Sea of Death, that it makes me wonder what things might have been like for the World of Greyhawk setting if Gary had stayed on to the end. Anyone curious about using these exotic Baklunish locations should track down a copy of Sea of Death.

Next time I will conclude my book report on Sea of Death by pointing out the numerous cultural references for my pet favorite nation, Ull (Yol).


Anonymous said...

"I was comparing Gygax's map of the Flanaess from the novel, Sea of Death with the place names from the official game setting, and trying to reconcile them together."

Maldin and I have been attempting to do something similar with the street names EGG had for CoG and reconciling them with Canon . . . not easy. Almost two different cities.

And I agree with you about the Gord books. EGG created one heck of a game, but his skills as a novleist needed a little work. The books are; one minute thrilling the next they're dragging.

But I love them anyway. ;)

Mystic Scholar

Valkaun_Dain said...

Mort, I swear to Kord, if we don't get to sail off of the Darlene Map and explore some of this stuff, the next time I run Aces and Eights I'm going to do it by myself.