Saturday, May 30, 2020

Greyhawk Stuff on the Net

Hail Greyhawk gluttons! I've been taking a mental break from my 2E Greyhawk Wars series, so this post we will promote some of the other cool bloggers and authors in the community.

Let's start with the blog Greyhawk Musings and David Leonard as he continues to examine the collective cited sources of Greyhawk history. His latest installment continues the deeply rich background of the Great Kingdom from 300 CY through the Turmoil Between Crowns. This is the era of Zagig, Death Knights and a lot of political intrigue in the east. I've said before, my dream "period piece" of the Flanaess would be a sourcebook on 300-400 CY World of Greyhawk (the other being the Suel-Baklunish Wars). Check out this article HERE.

Next up is the tireless creativity of Joe Bloch over at Greyhawk Grognard. Joe and me have been on the same wavelength it seems, talking about the Pomarj on stream and writing pieces on warfare involving the Iron League. Where we differ is Joe is a fan of miniature gaming rules (he is exploring the Triumph! ruleset), whereas I tend to be lazy and use counter/card abstracts for my campaigns (Warmachine, Greyhawk Wars, Birthright). Joe is very adept at adapting Greyhawk armies to mass combat rules. Check out his article on the Army of Idee. He does his homework when crafting these armies, immersing them in the lore of Greyhawk. Joe is a true wargaming legacy of Gary Gygax.

Over at the blog, From Kuroth's Quill, my friend Allan Grohe is musing on his current Greyhawk campaign and its planar-gate connections. Grodog, who I associate with old school Castle Greyhawk normally, gives a good run down and some graphics on what other worlds and planes he is tying together. It's all quite fascinating world building stuff. We all like to reach beyond the game-world we use. I know I used to do a lot of Planescape and Norse mythical adventures, but Greyhawk was always the core setting. I will be keeping an eye on his campaign moving forward.

Finally, Thomas Kelly over at Greyhawk Stories continues his epic tale of the Hateful Wars with Chapter Fourteen: A Voice in the Dark. If you think a mimic is in this part, you are only partially right. Follow Kristryd and company as the action gets very deadly in the dark tunnels beneath the Lortmil Mountains. Enjoy the latest chapter or if you are just now finding out about the Hateful Wars, go back and read from the beginning. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

New Comic: Gods of the Dinner Table

Greetings stalwarts of the Greyhawk community! This week on Legends & Lore, me, Anna Meyer and Jay Scott will be discussing Greyhawk deities. That's an awful broad subject, who knows which gods we may bring up? Well, just so this post doesn't become useless space after tonight, how about I share a new comic? Yes, I still do comics, but only when an idea hits me. Since the topic is gods, this is the perfect time to throw out a new comic strip. And hey look, it's another classic parody of  the even more-well known comic Knights of the Dinner Table.  If you want to see more of this divine game group head to my comic archive here. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 23, 2020

2E Greyhawk Wars Campaign: The Scarlet War

Welcome back fans of Greyhawk! By now you've seen that I've been posting updated notes and narratives on my old 1990's 2E campaign. Back then we didn't need Carl Sargent to blow up the Flanaess, we did wars and we did them frequently. If you're just visiting this column for the first time go back and read from my list of wars below (yes I realize I didn't do them in chronological order). Once you're caught up revel in the fantastic disaster that is the 3-Month "Scarlet" War. Enjoy!

Aerdy Civil Wars 615-616 CY
The Greyhawk Wars aka "The Bandit War" 617 CY to 618 CY
Battle of Bellport Harbor 623 CY
Iuz-Furyondy War 627 CY to 629 CY (Part 1Part 2Part 3)

The 3-Month War “Scarlet War”

Prelude Summer 613

In the months after the defeat and capture of despot warlord, Turrosh Mak, the Pomarj (Poor March) and its untapped natural resources again attracted a multitude of honest, hard-working peoples from the Wild Coast to the Principality of Ulek and beyond the Azure Sea. Under the watchful eye of forces from Celene and the Ulek States, the remaining Pomarj humanoids tribes were kept at bay in their remote territories on the peninsula, while cities like Highport, Blue and Stoneheim were being rebuilt. All of this prosperity and reconstruction was initiated under the administration of elven Archmage Mortellan, the heroic conqueror of the lawless Pomarj.
While the region recovered from three years of war, Mortellan was not so complacent. Acting without consultation from his liege, Queen Yolande of Celene, the fiery wizard surprisingly declared war on his old personal enemy the Scarlet Brotherhood1. Though the Brotherhood had not been heard from since their navy was destroyed by the Iron League in 611 CY, Mortellan proved a threat existed to his allies; he exposed the Scarlet Brotherhood as secretly controlling the Hold of the Sea Princes, a strong seafaring nation that had briefly attempted to side with Turrosh Mak not that long ago. Confirmed by the Kingdom of Keoland, the Sea Princes were in fact building up an armada of warships along with remnants of Wild Coast pirates and pirates from Kro Terlep to strike at every port on the Azure at the Father of Obedience’s command2.
Queen Yolande objected to Mortellan’s war declaration and withdrew all elves back to Celene. Despite her vassal’s insolence, allied contingents of the Wild Coast and the coastal Principality of Ulek stood to be affected, so remained with the new Pomarj regent. As Archmage Mortellan gathered his troops, he gained a new alliance in Keoland, whose merchants feared warfare from the Sea Princes the most. King Skotti lent the aid of a fleet of warships and marines to help in the coming war.

August 613 CY

Like in his Pomarj Campaign, Archmage Mortellan again shocked his generals with a bold strategy. The coalition forces would not confront the Sea Princes as expected; instead they would strike at the heart of the Scarlet Brotherhood homeland, its hidden capital Hesuel Ilshar. This course of action naturally troubled the allied commanders, who had never heard of such a place. Mortellan’s previous encounters with the Brotherhood’s assassins however, had provided him information and maps of the city. Indeed, he had personally been to the plateau city not that long ago3.
With the assistance of the Keoish navy, the allied army was transported along regular trade routes on the eastern Azure Sea. The Iron League, initially unaware of this war, allowed the warships to safely pass through their waters, especially if it meant sticking a dagger in their enemy.

A): The Brotherhood port of Kro Terlep was unprepared for an invasion. Mortellan’s magic had afforded his fleet many tactical advantages and the allied warships easily dispatched what resistance they met at sea.
B): With Kro Terlep taken, the hidden capital would surely be warned by the Brotherhood’s network of forts and watch-towers, a defense meant to slow any invading army on their ascent up the Okalasna Plateau. Archmage Mortellan along with his lieutenant, the former knight Angus Ulrich, spearheaded the army’s column, tearing down the Scarlet Brotherhood’s defenses with a devastating combination of fire and steel.
C): The wizard had guessed correctly that the Brotherhood never expected anyone to actually attack their home, much less locate the hidden city. The opposing armies of the Scarlet Sign were no match for the allied attackers, losing decisively in each skirmish. Their army was a mixture of imported Hepmonaland shock-troops, paid humanoid mercenaries and inexperienced Suel-blooded levies, all driven to fight by domineering red-robed monks. By the end of the month, the Ulek-Pomarj army was now arrayed outside the beautiful walled city of Hesuel Ilshar. While Lord Ulrich raised a siege, Mortellan and his allied spellcasters began to use magic to weaken the defenses of the scarlet city using the advance information he had acquired.

September 613 CY

D): The mysterious tripartite rulers of the Scarlet Brotherhood refused all Mortellan’s offers to negotiate a surrender. Left with no other option, Lord Ulrich launched the final attack. The defenders attempted to repel the allied assault at first, until it became apparent to Mortellan that the Brotherhood was not going to allow their city to be taken whole. In a show of fanatical defeat, the inhabitants of the capital were ordered to burn and destroy their own city before abandoning it. After a full day of battle, what remained of Hesuel Ilshar was conquered.
E): Meanwhile, some members of the Iron League had responded to news of the Pomarj-Ulek invasion and rallied their fleets to join the war effort. Ships from Idee and the Lordship blockaded every known port, fort and fishing village on the peninsula to allow no escape or reinforcement. Pirate ships loyal to the Elder Cousin of the Brotherhood were thus turned away, fleeing west into the Olman Isles without any other safe harbors.

October 613 CY

The Keoish Navy and warships of the Principality of Ulek then redirected their focus in an impressive show of brinkmanship, effectively ending the Sea Princes build-up. The Hold fleets returned to their ports, assured that the scarlet monks and assassins could no longer pull their strings. F): Meanwhile, the last loyal refugees of the Scarlet Army had fled into the rugged Spine Ridge.
Throughout the peninsula, the civilians of the former Scarlet Brotherhood, largely oppressed or enslaved to begin with, were now rejoicing for their fair conquerors who promised to rebuild. Much to Mortellan’s displeasure though, the rulership (except the Elder Cousin, who surrendered) had vanished completely from the city, along with a thousand-years’ worth of Suel wealth and artifacts4. The Scarlet War was over and Archmage Mortellan renamed his newest domain, Ilshar5.


1. For reasons not known, “Flame” Assassins sent by the Brotherhood’s Foster Uncle had harassed Mortellan and his compatriot the barbarian hero Valkaun Dain for years. It was no surprise then that Mortellan would leverage his allies into this retributive campaign.
2. Korenth Zan, the aging head of the ruling Brotherhood monastic order was insanely distraught after the stunning loss of their navy in 611 CY, included the death of his oldest son; a relationship unknown to few outside the tripartite government. This loss drove him into isolation, effectively leaving control at that point, to the Foster Uncle and Elder Cousin to pursue their agendas including an alliance with the Sea Princes (speaking on behalf of the Father of Obedience of course).
3. Archmage Mortellan, with help (Lord Ulrich or Valkaun?) had discovered Hesuel Ilshar through divination and went on a secret mission to dissuade the Brotherhood from meddling in their affairs. Their raid on the Monastery of the Scarlet Sign resulted in the assassination of seven ranking monks before they teleported away.
4. It was eventually learned that the monastery and ruling elite had facilitated their escape by well-made secret tunnels and teleport circles. While many lesser members were later rounded up in villages and jungle hide-outs, the leading monks and assassins could not be located. They would go on to seek their revenge against Mortellan.
5 Mortellan ordered new castles to be built in Kro Terlep and Hesuel Ilshar. Ever restless for more power and prestige, the Archmage appointed his trusted commander Angus Ulrich as ruling lord of Ilshar and the Pomarj. Mortellan then returned to the Greyhawk domain where he and Valkaun Dain, started their greatest project, rebuilding Castle Greyhawk’s three great towers over the played out ruins of Zagig Yragerne’s dungeon.


Yeah...I was still using the Greyhawk Wars rules when this war was played out. However, it was likely ran in the same game session as the Pomarj-Celene War (which ran concurrently with the Great Kingdom War of Succession) with Brian taking no break in his action. My narrative of course makes all of this seem more engaging than it really was.

My friend Brian (who has passed away so many years ago) was a character himself. His portrayal of Mortellan was flighty as he was in real life. He conquered the Pomarj because we were wrapped up in a war story line and it gave him something to do, but he really had designs on being top wizard in Greyhawk City. Cause screw the Circle of Eight. He was no friend of theirs. I always kept them above Mortellan like a yardstick to measure his power-level. If Mort wanted to be top archmage in Greyhawk that meant he would also need to top Zagig (and yes, he does eventually run for mayor). The point is, I kept pestering the players with assassins for what ever reason. They pretty much hated anyone in black leather or red robes by then. Whereas my friend Jayson's fighter Valkaun ended up marrying one of the assassins to get them to stop, Mortellan went for the jugular and decided to take over the Scarlet Brotherhood entirely. Yup, that's how we rolled back then.

Lord Angus Ulrich was Brian's other PC/NPC, one he used for jousting tourneys and stuff like that. Angus is who would watch over anything that Mortellan acquired. When he conquered "Ilshar" he put Angus in charge and moved on to his next project, rebuilding the three towers from Greyhawk Ruins (a story unto itself). Needless to say, once Brian had the Scarlet Brotherhood, he must've forgot all about the Pomarj (or just profited off the resources).

I am fairly certain the players never encountered the Father of Obedience. Sort of like how I never had them battle Rary the Traitor. He was a BBEG I'd tease, but to have them actually face the boss and beat him would demystify the entire organization. Well, so would destroying their hidden city. But I digress.

The Elder Cousin, head of all thieves in the Brotherhood (not named in the box set, not sure I used the Scarlet Brotherhood names) surrendered to Mortellan and lost in this narrative is that he is allowed to stay on to help rebuild Ilshar and attract its citizens back to the new order. This of course is a bad idea. But hey I was persuasive.

Tune in for the next installment, the Schnai and Aerdy Civil Wars. Will Mortellan finally get ahead? Sort of...See you then! 

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Two D&D Announcements

Heya Greyhawk enthusiasts! Quick post today. If you followed Legends & Lore yesterday you'll know a virtual con was announced for the Greyhawk community! Check it out:

I really don't have any details on this even yet, but it's in the works. When I know more I'll be sure to promote it! And for those who worry, will Wizards be concerned a con is being put on with the Greyhawk name? I think it's extremely doubtful. Why? Because of this bit of news from Wizards reported today on ENWorld:

"Early this week, WotC announced on Twitter that today there would be some kind of announcement on their Twitch channel. Those who tuned in were treated to an an announcement that the new storyline will be announced at a live event in June.

The press release announcing the impending announcement also mentions a new setting, as well as the storyline, so it sounds like it won't be set in the Forgotten Realms. Recently, they've released a bunch of settingsEberron, Ravnica, Wildemount, and the upcoming Theros.

The new storyline specifically will be revealed at 12pm PST (8pm GMT) on Thursday, June 18th."

So a celebrity D&D charity stream will announce the next big story line (always a hyped event) and this one will include a new setting? My my, with all these game worlds being thrown around it suddenly feels like 2nd Edition era again! 

No need to speculate on what this world will be like, though if Chris Perkins is involved it'll have Greyhawk DNA. Cynically, this news puts even more distance between the fan community and the current powers that be in D&D. So yeah, by October Virtual Greyhawk Convention should be good to go!

Sunday, May 17, 2020

2E Greyhawk Wars Campaign: Pomarj-Celene War

Well met, Greyhawkers! If you've just stumbled on this post, you're wondering what madness is this? Well, I've been doing a series of posts that is recounting the many wars I ran during my 2E Greyhawk campaign back in the 90's. If you want to catch up, check out this post and work your way back here.

Aerdy Civil Wars 615-616 CY
The Greyhawk Wars aka "The Bandit War" 617 CY to 618 CY
Battle of Bellport Harbor 623 CY
Iuz-Furyondy War 627 CY to 629 CY (Part 1Part 2Part 3)

The narrative below is keyed to two maps I've designed so you follow along with the war's events. As always be sure to check my comments at the end. Enjoy!

Pomarj-Celene War (610-613 CY)

Spring 610 CY

Unbeknownst to most of the Flanaess which had been warring for the last five years, a half-orc warlord-pirate named Turrosh Mak, had been quietly uniting the various Pomarj tribes (orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, etc.) through a combination of harnessing their hatred and a show of personal power and cunning not seen in the region since the rise of the Temple of the Elemental Evil. Turrosh proclaimed himself despot over the entire peninsula and with his nascent empire incited to a fever pitch, he began to mass his forces and move through the dense Suss Forest to the eastern banks of the Jewel River in sight of their greatest enemy, the elven Kingdom of Celene.
At the Celenian royal court in Enstad, Queen Yolande was soon informed by her border scouts of the growing Pomarj threat. Yolande was first met by a friend and wizardly colleague who also had received advance notice, the Archmage Mortellan of Highfolk. Assembling the nobility of Celene. the two mages discussed how to best deal with the military build-up on their border. It was decided without dissent, that Queen Yolande would personally visit each of the three Ulek states and entreat them for a new alliance; a coalition of elves, dwarves, gnomes and halflings not called since the Hateful Wars one hundred years ago. What was history to the Pomarj was still fresh in the memories of the long-lived elves. It was cruel fate then, that the Pomarj which was created by refugees of this war, would now return seeking ancestral revenge. Mortellan for his part, convinced the Queen to appoint him as marshal and chief strategist of Celene’s army, for he was a scholar and adventurer of considerable magical might. Greater than Yolande herself.

Summer 610 CY

A): There would be no formal declaration of war, or diplomatic exchange between the despot and queen. The first skirmishes broke out inside Celene as restless orcs and goblins crossed the river to attack. Turrosh however was buying time, for he had also rallied human bandit and mercenary aid from the southern Wild Coast. These vile men were eager for the wealth of the ancient elven kingdom. However, the mercenaries were not yet resolved to contend with the might of Celene on their home turf, so they were easily repulsed back to the coast. 
Meanwhile, Queen Yolande traveled first to Tringlee where she gained an alliance with the Duchy of Ulek through talks with the vaunted Duke of High Elves, Grenowin.

Fall 610 CY

Queen Yolande proceeded next to Jurnre and immediately found the support of Lewenn, the Count of Ulek. Her subsequent and last diplomatic trip to the city of Gryrax to meet dwarven Prince Olinstaad was not successful however. The fiery prince had been the main bulwark against the Pomarj without any help from Celene for many decades, so incredulously, Prince Olinstaad sent her Fey Majesty home without his pledge.
B): The Pomarj was pushed back across the Jewel River by the fully mobilized Celenian army led by Mortellan. This counter sufficiently routed the humanoid horde and it dissolved back into the Suss. Despot Mak ignored this major loss though, as he conquered and added mercenary help from the lawless cities of Highport and Blue.

Winter 610 CY

C): To the south, Mak’s best soldiery were in fact the hobgoblin and orc tribes who had experience fighting Ulek. This massive coordinated army converged for a surprise attack on the keep of Thunderstrike, easily overwhelming it for the first time. Following the Fall of Thunderstrike, the despot force-marched this army across the principality to eventually take over the capital of Gryrax. Prince Olinstaad was subdued in single combat with Turrosh Mak and held in his own dungeon.
D): Mortellan commanded a devastating victory at Elredd, seizing enemy warships and in the process securing control of the southern Wild Coast.
E): With Celene on the offense, the Duke and Count of Ulek had finally consolidated their army and turned it southeast to face the tough resistance of Pomarj forces occupying Gryrax. Turrosh knew since his Celene campaign had failed, he could not hold Gryrax forever, so while his armies held out, the despot looted the city of all its resources, weapons, and ships. Then with the help of pirates from Blue, Mak escaped with his army back to the Pomarj coast.
F): News reached Celene that the Pomarj horde had reformed in the Suss and was being directed to cross the Jewel River to surprise Ulek as it was trying to retake Gryrax. At Yolande’s order, Celene’s best mailed cavalry entered the proud principality, cutting off and effectively destroyed the horde.

Spring 611 CY

The power of Mortellan was never more evident during the war, as when a young gold dragon named Tamarand, came forward to offer aid to the wizard in Elredd. Tamarand entered the conflict because it was discovered a green dragon named Brushtail had been assisting Turrosh Mak by flying him across leagues faster than any horse and lending its presence to intimidate the factions into joining his crusade.
G): Prince Olinstaad was freed and Gryrax finally liberated from Pomarj control by the united strength of all three Ulek states. Finally allied with Queen Yolande, the contrite prince took his rightful place at the fore of the Ulekian army with Duke Grenowin. Since Turrosh’s main force had already absconded from the capital by sea, this left the Ulek alliance to turn east and reverse all the gains the Pomarj had made all the way to the ruins of Thunderstrike and beyond the Jewel River.
H): Mortellan gathered his forces again and using ships provided by the Wild Coast assailed Highport and Blue. Highport held out against this attack, but with the assistance of Mortellan riding Tamarand, the port of Blue surrendered. Mortellan seized and added many warships that had been stolen from Gryrax.
I): Enraged, the despot counterattacked. Turrosh Mak’s elite humanoid forces were based at Ostrand Keep when Blue fell. Riding on Brushtail, Mak and his army recovered Blue, driving Mortellan and his Celenian force back to their ships. Tamarand covered the retreating ships, and after an aerial battle, Brushtail was brought down with the help of Mortellan and elven archers.

Summer 611 CY

J): Mak’s newest alliance brought easily duped giant-kin down from the Drachensgrab Hills to harass Celene forces moving east.
K): Celene’s generals routed the giant diversion and continued pressured attacks deeper into the Pomarj highlands to get into a position to assist Marshall Mortellan who wished to meet with them and the Ulek leaders to devise a strategy for winning the war.
L): While Highport continued to hold out during a naval blockade, Celene’s sea captains seized an opportunity that Blue had let down their guard, despite orders from Mortellan to join the blockade. Feinting retreat, Celene’s forces disembarked north of Blue in a surprise overland assault. This plan was successful in taking over Blue once more, but again Turrosh Mak eluded capture with his elite soldiers, eventually making it to Highport to regroup.

Fall 611 CY

M): Rested and rearmed, Turrosh Mak’s infantry returned to yet again defeat the Celenian force occupying Blue. This time Mak executed all elves captured that day.
N): After a war-council with Mortellan and the regents of Ulek, the alliance prepared a multi-pronged counterattack at Highport, Ostrand Keep and the embattled Blue, this time with naval assistance from new warships out of Gryrax. Olinstaad led the attack on Ostrand Keep. Grenowin commanded the assault on Blue and Mortellan with Tamarand in the vanguard, engaged Highport. All three battles were disastrous for the Celene-Ulek alliance. Turrosh had been underestimated. The crafty warlord had gained martial and magical assistance from the hidden Slave Lords and a secret cult of the Earth Dragon. Unable to weather excessive casualties so far from home, the alliance retreated to safe lines of defense. Mortellan teleported safely to Elredd after Tamarand became severely injured by spells. The gold dragon left the Pomarj, ending its part in the war.

Winter 611 CY

Queen Yolande was growing skeptical that the Pomarj could be pacified and wished to return Celene to their guarded borders. Despite this, she relented as Mortellan implored her to levy more troops to reinforce his army. The Ulek states also regrouped during a harsh winter where even Mak’s forces could not go on the offensive. Turrosh would not sit idle however, as he traveled secretly to seek more allies to his cause.

Spring 612 CY

O): A newly reformed Ulekian army sliced through the Pomarj, this time overtaking Ostrand Keep, Stoneheim and even managed to root out the Earth Dragon cult from the mountains.
P): Mortellan commanded his reinforced army in another two-pronged offensive against Highport and Blue. Near-ruined, Blue still held out from the assault, but this time Highport surrendered, in large part to the fiery bombardment of the very determined Mortellan.

Summer 612 CY

Q): When Turrosh Mak began to lose confidence that the Pomarj tribes would hold together, one place he traveled to was the Hold of the Sea Princes. In desperation, he made a loose alliance with the seafaring nation, promising wealth and control of ports beyond reason. That summer the Sea Princes sent a fleet to the port of Blue, delivering needed supplies and a naval check against the Celene-Ulek alliance.

Fall 612 CY

R): Yet another secret alliance of Turrosh Mak emerged, this time from the Gnarley Forest, as humanoids from Blackthorn attempted to disrupt Celene’s supply line. This ploy was discovered by Gnarley Rangers and with the assistance of several Wild Coast militias, Queen Yolande herself led a contingent of elves that intercepted, encircled and annihilated the horde before it could give succor to the Pomarj.
S): With Highport a smoking ruin, Mortellan marched his army toward Blue, this time uniting with the Ulek army. This overpowering show of force led the small port, which had suffered through so many battles, to surrender without a fight. Turrosh Mak yet again slipped away, this time on a Sea Princes vessel.
T): The nobles of the Sea Princes wishing to recoup something for their investment, launched raids at Blue and Highport, but with nothing left to fight over, both were doomed to failure. Threatening to return someday, the Sea Princes turned their fleets for home. The Pomarj was lost.

Winter 612 CY

United no more, remnants of the humanoid tribes scattered back into the highlands, the forests or the scrubby plains of the Pomarj in hopes that the hated elves and dwarves would not hunt them down.

Spring 613 CY

In a surprising development, Turrosh Mak was delivered in chains to Mortellan by the Sea Princes for a chest of gold and gems. Turrosh’s fate is lost to history, though rumors on the Wild Coast suggest the mage executed the despot by fireball.
After the Pomarj was secure, Queen Yolande summoned Mortellan and the rulers of the Ulek States to court in Enstad. There, she granted the daring archmage dominion over the Pomarj and tasked him with rebuilding the land to its former glory. Yolande’s only condition was that as a fief of Celene, Mortellan had to prove to be a just and good ruler, or else the land rights would be forfeit to the Ulek States. Upon hearing the news, Greyhawk City immediately opened itself back to trade with their southern neighbors in what they anticipated would be a prosperous new age for the Pomarj.

First note, this war goes on at the same time and lasts longer than the previous post, the Great Kingdom Warof Succession
Second, what I gather from my notes, is while the Pomarj-Celene War was likely also ran using Greyhawk Wars (groan) rules, I recorded even less details this time. Yup, I phoned it in. Not even footnotes this time! This is why the narrative you just read is totally new, but still based on the outcomes of each event. My guess is I probably played this war on the side with my friend Brian, the player of archmage Mortellan, the only principle PC in this story. It also bears pointing out, Mortellan is my NPC creation in 1E, but Brian took over playing him in 2E.
Third point, I probably made a big mistake by giving Brian control over Pomarj. As Yolande's conditions set at the end of the war imply, Brian played Mortellan as a loose cannon and so even the Queen didn’t trust him fully. Brian didn’t like his elven wizard being upstaged and he wanted to prove he was as good at strategy as our friend Jayson whose fighter Valkaun was busy tearing up the Great Kingdom during same game timeframe. I think in my mind, giving Mort a domain was to balance out that Valkaun's adopted son was an heir to the freaking Malachite Throne. You can see how a player might get jealous. Brian and Jayson's in-game rivalry would continue.

The rest is that Celene itself didn't really get affected much, so yes, they should've just stayed put at the river like the status quo. Having the Principality of Ulek be taken over so easily seemed a stretch to me, but it did up the stakes. I still do not own Patriots of Ulek, but if I had I wonder if my narrative would've changed? The addition of the Sea Princes late in the game was definitely a product of how the Greyhawk Wars board game is played. Making random alliances and surprise event cards throw these curves. For example, it's also the only reason why two dragons were introduced into the mix. I'm surprised I managed to name them during the campaign. The two dragons never again factor in my game lore after this war. Speaking of not used again, Turrosh Mak was a great antagonist in this war. I learned of him from Carl Sargent's Wars narrative, but beyond that I had no clue about his origins and real identity. Since 2E, I've seen other people write about Mak, play in games with Turrosh and so forth. Again, would I do things differently now?

Lastly, poor Blue. Poor, poor Blue. It's nothing special, but because of the game system used it got fought over at least eight times by my count. Hopefully things go better under Mortellan's rule...

Until next war!

Update 06/27/2021: Added links to the entire War series for ease of reading.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Greyhawk A-Z: Cities & Towns

Howdy Greyhawkers! I. As usual I need something to write about this week. I miss an opportunity when we recently talked about artifacts on Legends & Lore, and there is so much being put out in the community I don't know where to start sometimes. So instead I'll do one of my regular columns. If you have seen my A to Z column before just go to the Best of Greyhawkery and follow the links. This week I'm going to muse over various towns and cities of the Flanaess. Let's get to it!

Admundfort: Capital of the Shield Lands. I always pictured this place as an impenetrable fortress-city on a rocky island many miles out in the Lake of Unknown Depths. How could Iuz really take it over, expect by magic or flying? Otherwise, it's the perfect place to defend if you're a Knight of Holy Shielding. Although, if your primary mode of combat is horseback, it must be a pain to travel to shore and back. I imagine the knights hate being called back to see the earl.

Beetu: B-2...Bingo! Joking aside, this Nyrond city of 11,000 is featured in the Marklands, an indispensable source book. Get it! Beetu is a medieval town oppressed by a local count. It's near the Celadon Forest as well, so it's the perfect place to set a Robin Hood style campaign.

Courwood: I always loved the name of this town. I also thought it was part of Celene. I know I'm not the only one, it's got "wood" in the name for Corellon's sake! The Living Greyhawk Gazetteer disagrees. It belongs to the County of Ulek. Boo. What is Courwood's deal? I don't know!

Dorakaa: Capital of the Empire of Iuz. There is no place on Oerth more evil than this city. If you want a taste, get the 2E module City of Skulls. You want an aerial view, check out this map by me.

Exag: Have you heard of the Seeds of Seehan mini-AP? Written by Matthew Conklin and Tom Ganz, this 3-part adventure started in Dungeon #145 and features a write up on the old town of Exag in Perrenland. It's quite an exotic locale. If you can find this article, enjoy!

Fax: Town in the Wild Coast. Short name. Silly name. Maybe it's only silly because it's the shortened form of Facsimile.  I hate fax machines, maybe that's why I can't take the town seriously. There's a town in Wisconsin named Colfax. Gygax tended to use anagrams of people and places close to where he lived in Greyhawk. That's the best I got.

Glot: At a mere 5100 people, the reason Glot is capital of the Ice Barbarians has to be due to the fact it's the least icy part of the Cruskii lands.

Hochoch: The Grand Duchy of Geoff is one land that I've rarely used. I don't know why, it's got so much going on with giants and so forth. Hochoch pre-Giant Troubles is totally unknown to me unless I pick up a copy of AtG:Liberation of Geoff. Also if you're intrigued by Hochoch like me, get this awesome map by Mike Schley.

Irongate: This city in my opinion would be the best place to base an urban campaign in the east. There is alot going on here; dwarves, wizards, Iron League, Aerdian conflict, Scarlet Brotherhood, pirates, etc. It's the Minas Tirith of the Flanaess. If you want to know more check out Denis Tetreault's site Melkot, and the old Irongate Project. There is also an article on the city by Denis and Gary Holian in Dragon #351. Maybe this city project can be resurrected!

Jurnre: Found in the County of Ulek, Jurnre I believe is one of, if not the oldest city founded after the migrations. This, not Courwood, ahem, is the capital of this demihuman realm. There is actually a pretty good write-up with map of Jurnre in Fate of Istus. Don't run the adventure, just use this book as a source for all the wonderful cities in it.

Krakenheim: Capital of the Frost Barbarians. The Thillonrian peninsula (Rhizia) is so underdeveloped, but tiny Krakenheim is the most bad ass city name on the map. You just know those seafaring warriors once fought a kraken on the Grendep Bay. It used to be a great town I gather, but in 576 CY Gygax writes that the Fruztii have never recovered from the Battle of Shamblefield and they are technically under the rule of the Snow Barbarians. A shame.

Leukish: Capital of the Duchy of Urnst. I don't know what Living Greyhawk did with Leukish, but I think it's an excellent place to start if you are running Ghost Tower of Inverness (the Seer and the Soul Gem quest).as well as Maure Castle/ Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure. It's on the Nyr Dyv coast. You can do a lot with this city.

Magepoint: This village of 130 souls is in the module Return of the Eight. Spoilers, this village is comprised entirely of veteran infantry who work for Tenser, whose castle is off the shore from here. I like the idea of a garrison in disguise. Perfect for a wizard domain.

Nevond Nevnend: Capital of the Duchy of Tenh. I like this choice because it's a double-N entry. What little I know about Nevond is found in the book WGR5: Iuz the Evil. I recommend alot of Greyhawk books in this post, but Iuz the Evil by Carl Sargent is the only one that is a MUST HAVE. It covers so much ground. From Vesve Forest to Nevond Nevnend? That's half the map in one book. Get this now. Now this Duchy of Tenh bears no resemblance to DA4: The Duchy of Ten from the original Arneson Blackmoor campaign. There is no Nevond Nevnend, no Flannae, no Bandit Kingdoms next door and definitely no Stonefist. In fact, it's just across a river from Blackmoor! The capital is called Stargmorgan. Owning this book, I can say, while it is impossible to retrofit into the Flanaess, this Ten is much better detailed than what we get from Sargent.

Ogburg: This city of 17k is in the Theocracy of the Pale. I don't know much about it, but given the Pale's reputation of being a bit over-zealous, Ogburg probably makes Beetu look like a nice place to live.

Port Toli: I love this city. In my current Hold of the Sea Princes campaign, it's the home port of the Toli Armada. This faction contends with Monmurg in political intrigue. Port Toli is my version of Casterly Rock in Game of Thrones. Like the Lannisters, the nobles of Port Toli are rich and like to bully around others. I have grand ideas someday write-up this city. So far it's all head-canon though. If you want to know more about my vision of the Sea Princes and the Toli Armada, go download a copy of Oerth Journal #32, there is an article by me on the Unconquered Hold of the Sea Princes.

Quaalsten: This Highvale town is found in Marklands as well and yes, it's named after Quaal of feather token fame. I like this concept a lot. There should be more towns and villages named after heroes; Tenserton, Mordenkainenshire, Gordville, Leomundia, Okay this is harder than I thought.

Rel Astra: If you've been around Greyhawk you probably know Rel Astra is the biggest city in the Great Kingdom, albeit a free city with its own ruler (Drax) and intrigues. This city is possibly the biggest in the Flanaess. Greyhawk is 59,000+ and I think Astra is 61k. The only problem with Rel Astra is it's location. It's on the east coast of the map and there just isn't much for Astrans to do here unless they go around the Scarlet Brotherhood or travel overland through thousands of miles of Flanaess. If Rel Astra was in the South Province it would make a lot more sense. Ah well. I had dreamed of doing a Rel Astra campaign once, with thieves guilds and wizards, then realized it's too much like Greyhawk City, just more evil. Maybe someday I'll revisit the idea.

Spinecastle: This is a minor Furyondian fort in on the front lines of war with Iuz. Nah, just kidding. The REAL Spinecastle out near the North Province and Ratik, is what the Frost Barbarians got slaughtered over long ago. Spinecastle may be the second roughest place to visit besides Dorakaa. If you'd like to know more about this Bone March citadel, go find a copy of Dungeon #148, Gary Holian and Steven Greer's In the Shadows of Spinecastle has you covered.

Tringlee: Capital of the elven ruled Duchy of Ulek. Courwood would've been a cooler name. that's all I got on this one.

Ulakand: What? You've never heard of Ulakand? It's the capital of the toughest nomad nation in the western quarter of the Darlene map! If you want to know more, check out this map and article on Ulakand by me!

Vlekstaad: So you want a remote, rough and tumble place that isn't really like the standard medieval cities in the Flanaess? Vlekstaad and the terrible Fists of Sevvord Redbeard could be a good candidate. This place is like the Ull of the north. Vlekstaad on the coast of the Icy Sea is an interesting base to do some in-depth wilderness adventures. You got frozen waters, imposing mountains, vast tundra and a couple huge forests that look like they've hardly been explored. It's worth a try.

Womtham: A major city in Nyrond near the Duntide River. What do I know about Womtham? Not much, but I do know it's an anagram of old school game designer Tom Wham. Wham's minigames like Elefant Hunt were one of my favorite treats in Dragon Magazine back in the day. You're welcome.

Xia Ulos: I had to pull this one out of The Scarlet Brotherhood. This obscure little town is a redundant port is mainly used by the brotherhood to do maintenance on ships that can't make it back to a bigger port.

Yecha: Capital of the Tiger Nomads. I've never used it, and I'm fairly sure 90% of Greyhawk DMs haven't either. Fortunately for us all, fellow Greyhawker Blake Ryan did a write up on this town last year on Tribality.

Zeif: I love this city. It conjures pictures in my head of an Arabian Nights type story. Grab a copy of Al-Qadim and you can run some fantastic stuff here. Oh, did you know Zeif had a Living Greyhawk group for a few years (Canada)? Check out this old L&L show we did with some of Living Greyhawk: Zeif's principle members. Good times!

That's all for now. Greyhawk has thousands of cities, towns and villages. I could do this same A-Z many times over. But, eh, no thanks! See you all next time.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

2E Greyhawk Wars: Great Kingdom War of Succession

Welcome back Greyhawk aficionados! Today is a pivotal installment in my 2E War Campaign series. If you don't know what all this historical fuss from my home game is about, be sure to read the prelude to this series first. To sum up, I started posting the epic three-part Iuz-Furyondy War, but then realized I had notes on way more wars that we had played back in the 1990's. Below is the timeline of wars I am writing about..

Aerdy Civil Wars 615-616 CY
The Greyhawk Wars aka "The Bandit War" 617 CY to 618 CY
Battle of Bellport Harbor 623 CY
Iuz-Furyondy War 627 CY to 629 CY (Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Now that you're hopefully caught up (you might want to read the Great North War before this one), let's begin the Great Kingdom War of Succession. This time I have included a map, showing the principle antagonists and keyed to the chain of events in the narrative so you can follow along more easily. By the way, thanks to Anna Meyer for her wonderful spread maps. Hang in till the end, because I always add some personal commentary at the very end. I did run this game nearly 30 years ago after all. Enjoy!

Click to zoom

The Great Kingdom War of Succession

Summer 610 CY

At the close of the Great North War and following the flight of ousted Overking Ivid V, Herzog Grenell of the North Province threatened war against any who opposed his claim to the vacant Malachite Throne in Rauxes. Drax of Medegia (House Rax), the Kingdom of Nyrond and the Barbarian Alliance were soon at odds over succession1. The Theocracy of the Pale had allied with Grenell during a secret meeting at the Rel Mord peace talks in 609 CY2. Many other secret meetings took place at this fateful conference. Robed ministers of the Scarlet Brotherhood clandestinely made a pact with the See of Medegia for rights to the lands of the Iron League3. Meanwhile, an even more secretive plot was formed between Holy Censor Spidasa of Medegia and the fiery Herzog Grenell4.
A): Bone March, already in league with the North Province, ended this brief period of peace as it covertly sent its humanoid armies through mountain passes to devastatingly conquer Ratik.
B): The Barbarian Alliance took advantage of this truce breaking action. Under the command of Halfgrim the Night Shadow, they launched new raids on their old enemy, the Sea Barons though no gains were ever made.
C): At the same time, the same barbarian horde which had sacked Rauxes in 608 CY was still at large in the Great Kingdom for the last two years5. Led by another Night Shadow, Valkaun Dain, this veteran army was recalled and redirected to invade the North Province in an effort to quickly end the Herzog’s bid for succession. Grenell’s provincial army, which had stayed out of the Great North War, was fresh and well-prepared however. After driving deep into the province, the Suel horde was defeated at the Battle of Eastfair by the Herzog’s new High Marshall, the former adventurer Cromwell; who won yet again at Kaport Bay.
D): Here, Halfgrim’s longships returning from the last Sea Barons incursion sought to give succor to their routing kinsmen by ferrying the survivors back across Grendep Bay.
E): To the south, Nyrondal forces still occupied much of fractured Aerdy since the end of the previous war. Once the truce was ended, their armies adjusted to the barbarian horde’s attack on Eastfair by striking southeast at Medegia in an attempt to end the claim of succession by Drax. The Nyrondese Army was stretched thin from years of fighting however, and so were easily repelled at the border by Medegian forces.

Autumn 610 CY

F): Now on the offense, the North Province turned southward and with little opposition, Grenell’s forces seized the contested capital city, Rauxes. The citizens of Rauxes who had lived autonomous and rebuilt since Ivid’s ouster, were forced to attend a dreary victory parade for Grenell while provincial troops searched and looted their homes for any signs of the enemy.
G): Sensing the tide of the war turning against their favor, King Archbold reluctantly ordered Nyrondese forces to strategically withdraw for home. Since the fall of Ratik to Bone March and the ruinous Battle of Eastfair, it seemed the Barbarian Alliance and the royal claim of Juma Dain was in jeopardy as each king regrouped to defend their home shores. King Orvung was not yet beaten though, as the Schnai began work on a huge new fleet of longships.
H): After a successful coup involving spies and assassins, the new government of the Lordship of the Isles was now in openly allied with the Scarlet Brotherhood. This meant the Duxchaners would no longer fight their traditional rivals, Medegia and the Sea Barons. With the threat of an Iron League naval invasion eliminated, Drax of Rel Astra and Holy Censor Spidasa went on the offense. Fast moving Medegian forces crossed through southern Aerdy and finally into Ahlissa, easily liberating it from Nyrond who was already retreating home across Relmor Bay. Herzog Chelor6 was summarily placed back on the provincial seat in Zelradton, but this time as a subject of Holy Censor Spidasa. The Prelacy of Almor and the Iron League, who had been supported by Nyrond for years, was shocked by the sudden abandonment of Ahlissa. These small bordering states readied their navies and armies to deal with the inevitable consequences of Nyrond’s withdraw.

Winter 610 CY

Events abruptly changed for the Scarlet Brotherhood. The Scarlet Sign-backed leaders of the Lordship coup were overthrown by Duxchan loyalists before any aid could be mustered to augment the Medegian or Brotherhood warfleets. Subsequently the Lordship of the Isles rejoined the Iron League, who were amassing for an impending Brotherhood attack by sea and Medegia by land. Meanwhile, a Sea Barons envoy carrying Spidasa and Drax, sailed across icy waters to the Schnai capital of Soull. At this unprecedented visit the Holy Censor pleaded with the Schnai king to back Drax’s claim against the vile Herzog Grenell. King Orvung had no love for the Sea Barons or Medegia, but the North Province and Bone March were a more immediate threat to Thillonria. The king took their gifts and assured the scheming Aerdians that he could convince the Barbarian Alliance to side with Drax and Medegia.
I): While the forces of Grenell continued to overrun the Aerdian countryside, Herzog Chelor, whom was not privy to the treaties between Spidasa and the Scarlet Brotherhood, started to raise a new South Provincial army with the intention of ending the Iron League. While conflict intensified in the south, the envoy of Spidasa and Drax sailed next for the North Province to speak with their main rival, Herzog Grenell.

Spring 611 CY

J): By now the North Province had managed to occupy all but parts of the southern Great Kingdom that were taken by Medegia. Grenell’s only resistance left was an elite company of Nyrondese cavalry still stationed in the city of Jalpa, tasked with covering their kings withdraw. Encircled at the Battle of Jalpa, the Nyrondese skillfully held the city resulting in the North Province’s only major defeat.
K): To the north, the patient Theocracy of the Pale had been quietly massing troops on the Nyrond border, ready to march into the heartlands once the War of Succession went to Grenell. King Archbold had been warned about this treacherous pact between the Pale and Grenell, which was integral to his decision to abandon the Great Kingdom campaign. Aware of this new front in the war, Archbold himself led the defense, easily forcing the Theocrat’s inexperienced army back to Wintershiven.
L): Now with the Duxchan fleet on their side again, the Iron League sent their warships on the Azure Sea and Tilva Strait to intercept the war-transports of the Scarlet Brotherhood. Outmatched and outnumbered, the invasion fleets were utterly annihilated, and with them the Scarlet Brotherhood’s part in the war7.
M): Far to the north, Ratik which had been suffering since the war began, was liberated by the Barbarian Alliance. Striking by land though the Timberway Forest, the horde rallied their Ratikan allies from hiding and in the process Bone March was overrun, even into their own land. By summer’s end, the barbarians also razed Spinecastle, avenging a centuries old loss at the Battle of Shamblefield. Though Bone March was now conquered, the war-weary barbarians dared not attack the North Province8.
Not far away in Eastfair, Spidasa and Drax finally gained audience with Herzog Grenell who was already in jubilation for his generals reported that Nyrond had finally pulled out of Jalpa, thus ending the foreign intrusion. Much to Drax’s horror, Spidasa turned on him and the Sea Barons, pledging all of Medegia in favor of Grenell9. Back in Nyrond, King Archbold called a cease in fighting for his armies, but the Iron League wasn’t done, neither was King Orvung and the barbarian fleet.

Summer 611 CY

N): Coordinated assaults were made into the South Province by the Iron League and Almor. None of these battles were successful however, for Chelor had the backing of Medegia. Furthermore, the fast-spreading news of Grenell’s victory caused fear in the Iron League, spurring their armies and fleets to return.
O): The North Province had no intention of dragging out the war. Grenell had finally got everything he wanted10. So did King Orvung of Schnai. Keeping his word to not attack Medegia or the Aerdian coast, the renewed barbarian fleet invaded and finally conquered the weakened isles of the Sea Barons. There was no reprisal for it was a minor loss in the eyes of Overking Grenell11. The Great Kingdom War of Succession was over.

1.      King Archbold of Nyrond and the Barbarian Alliance both favored Ivid’s distant Naelax relative, Juma Dain, as next in line for the throne. Young Juma was orphaned when his expatriated parents were killed by assassins. He was later adopted by the barbarian hero Valkaun Dain who famously led the Sack of Rauxes. This Nyrond-Thillonrian backed claim was viewed as not only the best hope to bring lasting peace to Aerdy, but also between Suel and Oerid peoples.
2.      The Theocrat in Wintershiven was convinced that an over-extended Nyrond would inevitably be conquered in this alliance, thus greatly expanding the Pale’s rule and religion. This alliance was a masterful lie by Herzog Grenell to keep the Pale out of the Great Kingdom.
3.      Holy Censor Spidasa was sure if the Scarlet Brotherhood could be focused on conquering the Iron League states, they would make better allies than enemies. Spidasa wisely spent the necessary time to ensure this alliance with the Father of Obedience.
4.      Spidasa and Grenell colluded to take back the Great Kingdom. Grenell would rule matters temporal and Spidasa matters spiritual. Mayor Drax’s claim to the throne while legitimate, was in reality used to draw attention away from their hidden alliance until the right time.
5.      Valkaun Dain and the restless barbarian horde had abandoned the city the Rauxes after it was razed because even though Ivid had been deposed they were ill-equipped to control such a heavily populated region. Post-war, the horde mostly remained in Nyrond-held Aerdy during the peace talks in hopes their candidate, 14 year-old Juma would be installed as Overking.  
6.      Herzog Chelor had sought refuge in Rel Astra, living in luxurious exile as a guest of Drax, until his province could be retaken.
7.      The Father of Obedience thought it wise to conserve the Scarlet Brotherhood’s forces for another day.
8.      It is suggested Grenell was not just focused on taking Rauxes, that he allowed Bone March to be taken, since he cared little for its humanoid populations.
9.      In the Herzog’s courtroom, Spidasa had Drax beheaded, not before admitting he was never in favor of a Rax on the Malachite Throne. This pleased Grenell and he accepted Spidasa’s “surrender” gracefully.
10.   Deposed overking Ivid V had fled Rauxes to the Sea Barons in 609 CY. Because he rightly did not trust Spidasa, he then discreetly made his way to Eastfair the following year to desperately seek the aid of his cousin Grenell. Much like in the Great North War, Grenell still would not aid his kin. Instead, Ivid was quietly destroyed and with his demise, the royal staff, orb and crown were obtained. All that remained was the Malachite Throne.
11.   Spidasa remained Holy Censor of Medegia and chief cleric of the entire Great Kingdom. Influenced by the fate of Drax, Herzog Chelor swore fealty to Grenell. For winning the war, High Marshall Cromwell was elevated to Herzog of the North Province. Grenell of House Naelax, was crowned Overking on Harvester 14, 611 CY.

Commentary: Wow so having re-read and edited my timeline notes from this war, it is possible, but not entirely clear if it was a continuation of our use of the Greyhawk Wars board game for mass combat resolution. I still maintain in hindsight I will never use these rules again, much more preferring War Machine from the Companion D&D Rules. I still wonder if this narrative was forced by me instead of entirely played out. After all, my friend Jayson's PC Valkaun had a huge stake in this war. If the barbarian alliance and Nyrond win, his NPC son Juma becomes Overking. Unlike the Great North War, there is virtually no wins by the forces of Good until the end. Was the war fixed? Maybe so. There is still many more wars to come though.
I am also discovering that I either did not use Carl Sargent's animus for my Great Kingdom nor did I use the Death Knights of Aerdy. More accurately I think I ignored them. I didn't need all that undead craziness going on in my politics. However I'm sure mad Ivid "the Undying" was an animus because I wrote that Grenell had to "destroy" him. I also fondly recall using Duke Szeffrin the animus, but that tragic tale  is probably in a future installment...
Another reason I know I used Greyhawk Wars for this theater, is when I was constructing the map to go with this article I found that the events in my notes flawlessly followed the Wars game map (divided into playing spaces ala Risk).
High Marshall Cromwell was a former PC of my friend Eric, who was in the army at the start of this campaign. I would NPC Cromwell while Eric was away, to keep him part of the game. Eric would later get heavily involved in this 2E campaign when he returned, but this time with a new set of PCs.
Who are the Night Shadows? I just wrote about them last post.
Lastly, I'm kind of pleased at the impotence of the Scarlet Brotherhood in my campaign. Since I started writing about my Sea Princes campaign on this blog, and in Oerth Journal, I've railed against the Brotherhood's ability to easily conquer someone halfway across the continent. You saw in this war, that the Lordship was taken by guile, but the swashbuckling Duxchaners overthrew them too. Then proceeded to wipe out the Brotherhood fleets. Spoiler, it doesn't get much better for the Scarlet monks in the coming installments. I guess I liked them as small scale antagonists for my players, but not as a large scale military threat (shrug).

Until next war!