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.

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