Saturday, April 23, 2011

Greyhawk Reading: Sea of Death Notes

I've finally finished reading Sea of Death. Over a couple posts I've been looking at Gygax's post-TSR novel with a slant towards using it as canon material. Nothing mentioned here is considered a major plot spoiler and if you have the chance I would try and find an old copy of this paperback novel. By Greyhawk standards, it's an incomparable view of how a Baklunish-Sea of Dust run should be. This week I conclude my report with some excerpted cultural information that might come in handy for my own Ull scribings.

First off, remember in this novel Gygax has renamed a number of locations, so Yoll, is the same as saying Ull, and Yolakand is synonymous with the capital Ulakand. Easy enough to go with, let's see what else Gygax did with the Yollites.

Arroden hate Yollites: In this story, the Arroden tribesmen are dervishes of the Dry Steppes. They are fickle as any nomad raiders should be, but they do allow caravans from Ghastoor (Kester) on through to Karnoosh (Kanak) as long as there aren't Yoli among them. In this case they must pay a "tariff" which the Arroden tongue-in-cheekily tell Gord (the hero in Sea of Death) is plunder and death. Fair enough Arroden, the Yoli probably enjoy a good fight.

Yollites enjoy a good fight: As if there was any doubt, Yollites are brash and warlike. In one part of the book, a group of Yollites battle another Baklunish tribe, the Okmani (from the hills of Okmanistan I kid you not). Both are similarly armed being close relatives culturally. All are mounted on horses, using scimitars, lances, short bows and small shields. It is mentioned that the Yollites "casually" fight until they are outnumbered then they truly become fierce. Combat to Yoli is all fun and games, until someone puts their eye out, then it's on!

Battle cries and tribal colors: Here is something you'll never find in a Greyhawk supplement. In the same melee mentioned above, the Okmani and Yollites scream their battle cries as they charge into combat. The Okmani yell "Yii-Yii-Yii Okman!" while the Yollites shout back "Yoll-Yoll-Yoll!" That is pure Gygaxian flair right there. Like a good tribal skirmish should be, both sides are sporting their colors as well. The Okmani wear green and gray striped cloaks, while the Yoli are dressed in flame red/pink and red checkered garb. This is quite interesting as Ull's flag in the game setting is ochre so I always assumed that was the favored color for their garb. Red is a more aggressive color however, so I can see at least some warbands in that land using that hue (I won't get into what they use for dye).

Yoli are relentless horsemen: Gord tries to make an escape on horseback and is doggedly chased by a band of Yollite horsemen. They don't gallop after him however, they track along "a few miles back" apparently in no hurry (reminds me of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid). They are in their home territory, Gord is the outsider (Ourmi as they call easterners) and they know he will eventually wear out. The Yollites do this for no less than two and a half days. What would your player characters do if the bad guys followed them for that long? Probably the same thing Gord does.

Yollites are master bow-crafters: Gord and his companion come into possession of a short bow of Yoli make and Gygax describes its strength and quality. It's a composite bow made of "horn, sinew and wood". If it were up to me, those materials would be "minotaur horn", "ogre-sinew", and "bronzewood". Masterwork indeed!

Yollites are fearless mercenaries: One of the main antagonists in the book is Obmi the evil dwarf. As villains go he is destructive, cruel and hard to please. He hires Yoli mercenaries to travel with him through the bulk of the novel. Sure the Yollites are expendable, but never once do they shirk their duty or run away, unlike lesser Baklunish tribesmen in the story when confronted with the hardships of the "Ashen Desert" (Sea of Dust). Yes, reading Sea of Death has only reaffirmed my belief that the people of Yoll (Ull) are the meanest, most rugged warriors in the World of Greyhawk setting. Thank you Gygax!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And that's exactly what I would expect the "Ull-Master" to think! :D

Thanks for that critique, Mort. I definitely see possiblilities for Greyhawk in there.

Now, what's been happening with your game? ;)

Mystic Scholar