Thursday, December 24, 2015

5 Reasons to Visit Keoland

Welcome back, lords of the World of Greyhawk as I once again enthrall you with my ongoing feature titled "5 Reasons to Visit...". If you haven't seen my overviews of the Bandit Kingdoms , Great Kingdom or Furyondy, be sure to check them out. People who have played D&D should at least know the classic adventures of Greyhawk and hopefully, many of you also know the setting's esoteric material. With 5 Reasons I seek to put a spotlight on five good plots and places in (ideally) each of the nations of the Flanaess. Perhaps a new DM will be intrigued by these locations or an experienced one will be reminded or inspired to revisit these areas. As always, comments, suggestions and additions are appreciated. Enjoy!

1. Saltmarsh: The classic intro adventure U1: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh is a seminal work in the history of D&D. Placed on the fringe of the kingdom, this cozy town is an excellent place to launch a small regional campaign. The module is a haunted house mystery that then spins off into further adventures. The town of Saltmarsh itself has a notable character, and it got further development in a 3.5's Dungeon Master Guide II.

2. Gradsul: If a DM wants to run a larger Keoland campaign that is urban or perhaps even sea-based, why not have both? The perfect place for you is Gradsul, the most populous (49,400) city in all the kingdom. The "Haven of the Suel" is an ancient city ruled by House Rhola and sits at the mouth of the mighty Sheldomar River on the western Azure Sea.

First detailed in Living Greyhawk Journal #1, there is a lot going on in Gradsul. The city is mercantile, cosmopolitan and well defended; it's focus was once on exploring the south seas and jungles. Since the Greyhawk Wars however, the threat of the Scarlet Brotherhood keeps Gradsul's navy on alert. Gradsul is friendly to free-wizards (unlike the rest of Keoland) with a guild of Sea Mages supported by the legendary arch-mage Drawmij. There is also plenty of thievely work to be done in this wealthy city, or maybe you have a fighter who'd like to join the Knights of the Watch whom are found in great numbers.

As a base of operations, Gradsul is centrally located for adventures striking out in all directions such as east across the high seas, to the west within the ominous Dreadwood, south to the Hool Marshes or farther inland where courtly intrigue and knightly quests await.

3. The Silent Tower: Speaking of free-mages, their antithesis in Keoland is an order of sorcerers called the Silent Ones. Detailed in Living Greyhawk Journal #4, the Silent One's tower dates back to the earliest origins of the kingdom, jutting from the plains 25 miles south of the capital city of Niole Dra. The sorcerers of the tower are only ruled in name by the Lion Throne of Keoland, though they do serve as tutors and advisers to their nobility. Uhas of Neheli famed for penning the Chronicle of Secret Times, is said to once be part of this order long ago. The leader of the Silent Tower however, is The Wyrd, Mohrgyr the Old, an ancient man with a dubious past.

The blue-gray Silent Tower is clearly visible for many miles around and is easily three times higher than any tower in the kingdom and holds numerous dungeon levels as well. The Silent Ones main purpose is to bury or keep secret any magic that may be harmful to the Sheldomar Valley (such as lore concerning Vecna). With so many lost relics, artifacts and books hid in their vaults, the Silent Tower is therefore the Greyhawk equivalent of Area 51.

The Silent Ones' practices have made them enemies however. The Seekers are an adventuring society who want to uncover lost lore for profit; notably the outcast Eli Tomorast is the worst of their lot. Then there's the Scarlet Brotherhood who are always interested in the secrets of their Suel heritage. Where do the PCs fall into this mix? Well they could serve either side by retrieving magic before the other, or they could be real greedy and try to break into the Silent Tower's Sanctum Maleficarum for a handful of major artifacts. Trying to raid a dragon's hoard might be easier!

4. Hool Marshes: If cities and sorcerers aren't your thing, there is the Hool Marshes. These marshes form a natural border between Keoland and the Hold of the Sea Princes to the south. Surprisingly this wetland is a hotbed of published adventures. The sequels to Saltmarsh, U2: Danger at Dunwater and U3: The Final Enemy are set here. For more scaly threats, the generic AD&D module I2: Tomb of the Lizard King was retroactively placed in Keoland in the County of Eor. And lastly, another generic adventure, I7: Baltron's Beacon can be found in the depths of the Hool Marsh, its ghastly green glow a warning to foolish heroes. Beyond these published modules, the Hool is a vast tract of swamp that can support hidden cults, bandit hideouts and other abandoned edifices from past imperial expansions.

5. Dreadwood: Lastly is the dense forest that dominates southern Keoland, aptly named the Dreadwood. The edges are ruled by tribes of elves, noble woodsmen, druids, haughty wizards and the like, but within the Dreadwood "preserve" is the real dangers. These good residents of the forest must constantly contend with incursions of humanoids and monsters from the deepest parts of the Dreadwood. Some rumors persist there's even an elder green wyrm within the Dreadwood. If PCs are looking for a good hack and slash wilderness romp the Dreadwood might be a good outlet for them.

For more information and adventures set within the Kingdom of Keoland, checkout the ongoing tales that began in Living Greyhawk over at Greyhawk Reborn - coming to a convention near you!


Mystic Scholar said...

Dang good reasons! Every one of them!

Mike Bridges said...

I'm rather amazed how undeveloped the bulk of Keoland was until Gary Holian and the LG guys got a hold of it in the late 90's. I guess Gygax chose not to focus on that corner of the world early on and never got around it by the time he left.

DaveGuerrieri said...

Yay, an area I know well as a former LG Keoland triad. Mike hit the nail on the head, though I also like the politics and intrigue of Niole Dra, the madness of House Neheli, and the frontier feel and freedom of Westkeep.

Mike Bridges said...

Glad to be of service Dave!

And maybe im pro Sea Princes but Westkeep isnt Keoish anymore!

Paul W said...

One of the Justicar Greyhawk novels had a bit in Dreadwood, I think it was the second, Descent into the Depths of the Earth. Great article, though, I love Keoland. :)

Jason R said...

Great series! Fingers crossed for 5 Reasons To Visit Nyrond!

Mike Bridges said...

Jason your wish is granted!