Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Remembering Jim Holloway

Howdy Greyhawkers! I'm sure you saw the news by now, but one of my favorite illustrators, Jim Holloway passed away this week. His distinctive art style always caught my eye from an early age.
 

Most RPG artists can draw fantasy characters, but Holloway's subjects without exception, always had the best expressions on their face and were always doing something interesting or comical, even those in the background. Jim's artwork be it full cover art or simple black and white interior, is fun, dynamic and imaginatively composed.

 
I fondly remember Holloway's art mostly from Dragon and Dungeon magazines, however he did do work for other game companies. My favorite was his work on the game Paranoia. His art style defines that game in the same way I associate Elmore with Dragonlance or Brom with Darksun.



Holloway is the type of illustrator I aspire to be when I draw, and I hope if you aren't familiar with his art by now, you can look up his amazing works online or in classic D&D products. RIP Jim.



Sunday, June 28, 2020

New Spell: Aeron's Eye Beams

Heya Greyhawkers! While I take a break from writing about the military history of my 2E campaign, I decided to feature something created by my best friend Jayson, who has been playing D&D with me since 7th grade lunch room. Jayson's characters have always been integral to our campaigns over the years. Ny now you've no doubt read about his fighters Valkaun Dain or Vorlag Konig and even Tyrrus Bandale from my Sea Princes reboot of Howl From the North. What he doesn't get much credit for is playing spell-casters. Late in our 2E campaign, Jayson had a good wizard named Aeron of Woodwych. My memory of his backstory is vague, but I do have the notebook with Aeron's custom spells in it.
You see, back in the day I never let my players pick "name" spells from mages like Tenser or Mordenkainen unless it was taught to them or found in a spellbook. This bit of stinginess on my part inspired Jayson to create his own name spells, because after all, by Gygax's (and Greenwood) example you can't be a famous wizard until you have a unique spell named after you. The spell below is Aeron's most famous indeed. It got a lot of use in our campaign, especially since Jayson's favorite superhero is Superman. I'm not sure if it's balanced, but he wrote the rules for the spell as fair as possible so I approved it.
Check out Aeron's Eye Beams. I have edited the spell for use in 1E/2E stats and 5E because that's what we currently play. Feel free to use this spell for your own campaign, but remember when you find it on some lost scroll, it will have Aeron's sigil next to it. Enjoy!


Magic-User Spell 
Aeron’s Eye Beams (Evocation)
Level: 5                                                                                        Components: V,S,M
Range: 3” + 1”/level                                                                    Casting Time: 5 segments
Duration: 2 rounds/level, unless discharged                               Saving Throw: ½
Area of Effect: One target within range and line of sight

Explanation/Description: Aeron’s Eye Beams are concentrated magical light that burns those it touches. The beams can be fired once per round and do variable damage until fully discharged (10d6 for one single attack or 1d6 for ten attacks or 5d6 for two attacks, etc.) The beams can ignite combustible material and destroy iron bars, chains, etc. The beams travel in a straight line unless reflected from a highly polished mirror-like surface. This mirrored surface must be free of any debris, smudge or scratch or the beam will do damage to it instead of reflecting. Those who make a saving throw (versus breath weapon) manage to dodge, taking ½ the full hit point damage. The material component of this spell is a gem of at least 100 g.p. value.
  
Aeron’s Eye Beams
5th-level evocation
Casting Time: 1 action                                                                              
Range: 120 feet
Components: V, S, M (a gem of at least 100 g.p. value)                                                 
Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes                         

Aeron’s Eye Beams are concentrated magical light that burns those it touches. The beams can be fired once per round and do variable radiant damage until fully discharged (10d6 for one single attack or 1d6 for ten attacks or 5d6 for two attacks, etc.) The beams can ignite combustible material and destroy iron bars, chains, etc. The beams travel in a straight line unless reflected from a highly polished mirror-like surface. This mirrored surface must be free of any debris, smudge or scratch or the beam will do damage to it instead of reflecting. Each creature targeted by the beams must make a Dexterity saving throw. A target takes full damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

2E Greyhawk Wars Campaign: Aerdi Civil War

Howdy Greyhawk military history buffs! I hope you're ready for another installment of my old 1990's 2E campaign. Yes my players used to get heavily involved in the politics and wars of the FlanaessIf you're just visiting this column for the first time go back and read from my list of wars below (It might make more sense if you read the Iuz-Furyondy War after I fill in the middle wars). Once you are caught up, revel in the climax of Juma Dain's lifelong quest to earn his birthright, the Malachite Throne in the Aerdy Civil War. As always I've made a keyed map so you can follow along with the narrative. Enjoy!

Great North War 605 CY to 609 CY
Great Kingdom War of Succession 610 CY to 611 CY
Pomarj-Celene War 610 CY to 613 CY
3-Month aka "Scarlet" War 613 CY
Schnai Civil War 615 CY
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)

Aerdy Civil War



Jul 615 CY

A): The barbarian hero Cromwell sailed to Asperdi Isle as a secret envoy for Rhizia. There, he met with aging Admiral Sencho Foy and began to plot a rebellion against the despotic Overking Grenell ruler of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy and his Holy Censor, Spidasa of Medegia1. Despite decades of hostilities with the barbarian lands, the leader of the Sea Baron pledged his navy to help overthrow Grenell and put young prince Juma Dain (Naelax) on the Malachite Throne.

Aug 615 CY

B): Cromwell is lost at sea during a storm on his way to treat with the Lordship of the Isles.

Fall 615 CY

The Juma Rebellion had hoped to make an alliance with the Iron League given their common enemy2. Furthermore, the realm of Ilshar while friendly to Juma’s cause was embroiled in their own internal strife and were not able to send aid either3. This set-back delayed the rebel’s plans as they continued to reach out to the various Houses of Aerdy.

C): While discord and intrigue raged in the Great Kingdom, with Grenell accusing his nobles of plotting a coup, a secret build-up of forces was in fact happening in the Sea Barons4. 

Spring 616 CY

D): The deadliest of Grenell’s loyal animus nobles, Duke Szeffrin conquered the languishing Prelacy of Almor in a short campaign marked by terrible magic and wanton slaughter. A concerted effort by the Kingdom of Nyrond saved many Almorian refugees and held off any further advance by the undead warlord.

Summer 616 CY

The Aerdy Civil War officially broke out across the kingdom as loyalties shifted and popular opinion of Juma Dain’s claim to the line of Ivid grew stronger. 

E): Juma’s Rebellion marched on Rauxes. Ferried by longship and Sea Baron warships at Rel Astra, the coalition of Rhizians and Aerdians were granted passage through the domain by the mayor in exchange for free city status. A second fleet led by Vorlag Konig and Admiral Foy dispatched to Medegia to take the Holy See by surprise. Spidasa’s censorial armies had been vigilant however, and a capable fleet of warships were ready to block their landing.

F): In a surprising turn, Cromwell arrived at Medegia with a fleet of elven warships from the Spindrift Isles. This unexpected reinforcement easily smashed through Medegia’s blockade allowing the rebellion to sweep inland and after several skirmishes, the See was conquered. Spidasa however, was in Rauxes.

G): The main forces of Juma then met and were joined by outlaw elves of the Grandwood Forest5.  The elves showed the rebel army the fastest path through their homeland to reach the capital Rauxes unprepared. By the time Juma’s army was within sight of the city, their numbers were augmented by allied contingents arriving from Roland, Ountsy, Winetha and Torrich. Overking Grenell had raised the city’s defenses and called the dread Companion Guard to his gate, but there was no time to levy more forces from his loyal vassals abroad6.

Using powerful magic at their disposal, the gates of Rauxes was breached and Grenell’s personal army spilled forth to stall the onrushing Aerdian rebel army. Juma however rode with a heroic entourage including his father Valkaun Dain and the entire Night Shadow order. Their experience at sacking Rauxes years ago proved useful, as the barbarians entered the city by other means during the battle. Hacking their way to the palace, they at last faced Overking Grenell in his court room. Even with the infernal powers of the Malachite Throne at his disposal and the profane magic of Censor Spidasa at his side, Juma and his compatriots killed the two villains after a long and bloody combat8.

 The fall of Overking Grenell sent shockwaves through Rauxes and the battle raging outside came to a calm. Aerdians laid down their weapons or took a knee as banners started to go up proclaiming Juma as the victor. In a short ceremony in the ruined court room that night, Overking Juma was coronated and sat on the Malachite Throne. Those nobles who had fought with or against his cause then knelt and swore their fealty. Juma’s first act as overking was to dissolve House Naelax and he would rule as the first of House Dain9

H): In the aftermath, Juma granted Rhizia permanent rule over Spinecastle, Bone March and the lands surrounding the North Province town of Kaport Bay. This new domain was then renamed Norheim. Most of the nobility in the Great Kingdom immediately fell in line with the young regent. Only two did not swear fealty. Herzog Chelor still disputed Juma’s legitimacy and asserted Ahlissa’s independence of the throne. The other was the murderous Duke Szeffrin who still lorded over the blighted land of Almor, and openly dared the new overking to face him in person10. Many vile Aeridan troops rallied to his banner fearing harsh reprisal under the rule of Juma.

Fall 616 CY

I): As Juma consolidated the Great Kingdom, an angered Valkaun Dain (along with ally Archmage Mortellan) decided to personally end the threat of Duke Szeffrin. Using their considerable magical resources, the pair dropped into the duke’s palace to slay the monstrous animus noble. They had not heard the legends of Szeffrin however, as they found his transformation into an animus gave him iron-like skin and the coup-de-grace came when Valkaun was beheaded by the Duke’s vorpal sword. Mortellan was forced to retreat, bringing the corpse of his friend back with him. Consulting their friend Wyrth of Pelor, the elven wizard used a favor to resurrect the warrior11.

J): A renowned high priest of Pelor, Brother Wyrth traveled to Almor at first to aid the suffering populace still trapped there, but soon raised a peasant rebellion against Duke Szeffrin’s occupying army. Juma meanwhile mobilized the best cavalry in Aerdy and with Grandwood elves and Rhizian thanes riding at his side, assailed Szeffrin’s realm. This time in a climactic battle, the fearsome duke was slain by a combined heroic effort, including the unmasked Valkaun Dain. Almor was liberated and immediately rejoined the Great Kingdom as its displaced people rebuilt and rejoiced that at last the wickedness of the Great Kingdom was finally over.

Footnotes:

1.      The Sea Barons had been reinstated to their titled lands after King Orvung’s withdrawal during the Schnai Civil War earlier that year, but Grenell punished the once mighty Sea Barons by putting them under the control of Spidasa.

2.      The Iron League was busy dealing with the resurgent rule of Herzog Chelor of Ahlissa. This would prove to be a great aid to Juma’s Rebellion in the end.

3.      Spidasa visited Ilshar that spring and incredulously tried to buy the land away from the Archmage Mortellan. This offer was rebuffed, but it is speculated the true intent of the Censor was to sow dissent among the occupied Suel who had been ruled by the Scarlet Brotherhood for so many centuries. By summer 616 CY Lord Angus Ulrich had to put down a coup perpetrated by a cell of monks who had returned.

4.      Rhizian longships began to stealthily slip into Asperdi Isle from Bellport and Johnsport while Juma Dain made the isles his staging area. Here he met with emissaries of many principalities and marchlands in Aerdy, most notably Prince Lakaster of Winetha and representatives of the Solnor Compact (Rel Astra, Roland, Ountsy).

5.       The elves of the Grandwood had long been oppressed by Medegia and Rauxes. Their leader met with and was impressed by Juma Dain, seeing his northern upbringing and dedication to Vatun as a vast improvement over the tyranny of his ancestors. Juma promised an alliance would mean Grandwood could be free again.

6.      North Province glad that Grenell was in Rauxes, new Herzog stalled in response. Ahlissa busy with Iron League, Chelor ignores Grenell’s call. Many other marchlands remain neutral to see what will happen.

7.      Cromwell had washed up their hidden shore after the storm. After a short imprisonment, Cromwell’s quest to serve Juma Dain had convinced the reclusive elves that now was the time to break their silence and help break the generations long line of evil overkings.

8.      Unfortunately, history doesn’t tell the names of all the heroes that joined Juma in his taking of the palace. It is said, devils and strange 6-armed skeletons were summoned to defend the overking.

9.      After the coronation of Juma, Valkaun Dain retired to Greyhawk City to live at the newly finished Three Towers fortress, built by Mortellan and him over the ruins of Zagig Yragerne’s own Castle Greyhawk; the source of all their wealth and magical power. Valkaun would become leader of the mounted Cairn Hills Force and Mortellan began to neglect Ilshar and Pomarj while trying to secure all of Zagig’s secrets.

10.   Juma survived an early assassination attempt during the first autumn of his reign. It was never discovered who paid for the assassins, but most suspected Duke Szeffrin including the former-adventurer Valkaun Dain who took the attack very personally.

11.   When Valkaun was brought back from death, he made his comrades keep his return a secret for he had many enemies. Valkaun would go about his business in disguise under a new name for a time.

Commentary:

There was a definite lack of information on this particular war. The notebook with the climatic battle is lost to me, but if it ever turns up I will revise the story. For now, much of the actions of characters like Juma, Cromwell, Valkaun, etc. was created from my best recollection, or entirely new to fit the narrative. 

I have a vague recollection of the big boss Grenell and Spidasa battle. I mainly remember Grenell used a magic polearm, which is rare in my games. I really couldn't remember if Spidasa was killed or captured, so I'm going with dead since there is no further notation about him. 

My main memory is Valkaun dying at the edge of Szeffrin's vorpal blade. My friend Jayson was stunned when his PC got one-shot killed (gotta love 2E). His barbarian had a Sword of Sharpness and he was used to mowing down anything in his path. Szeffrin was tailor made to beat Valkaun. Once. Mortellan played by our friend Brian was also stunned. His archmage probably could've beat the duke, but he didn't want to chance dying. Brian personally would've loved to see Valkaun stay dead because of their rivalry, but he and Jayson usually got wound up by my villains. So when they teamed up they were always a force to be reckoned with! 

Speaking of animi. I didn't like that Carl Sargent created yet another undead to populate the Great Kingdom. I much rather would've used the Death Knights, which never featured in my 2E game.

Wyrth was played by Brian's younger brother Pat. Being a part-time new player he was stuck playing the cleric of course. Hanging with Valkaun and Mort though, meant Wyrth power levelled and had all the best gear (he famously copied  whatever items Valkaun wore). Wyrth was noted for being a hoarder of money so him being involved in the Almor liberation was probably to make money somehow. Wyrth woud not factor much into any of the other war naratives. Pat later got bored of Pelor and changed to Nerull which was fun for me, but was yet another problem that poor Valkaun had to deal with.

Juma and his kingdom was pretty much NPCed after this campaign. We continued to do more with Greyhawk City and Rhizia but as you will see in the next installment, Mort and Valkaun could not escape being involved in another war. Until next time!

  

Thursday, June 18, 2020

State of Greyhawkery 2020

Welcome back Greyhawk readers. This post is not so good, and it's probably an overreaction, so bear with me. In the middle of a fandom renaissance online the last couple years, I have felt our community has never been more active in streaming, mapping, blogging, convention-play and article writing. I expect this creativity to continue, but will it for me? I don't know. I feel like Frodo at the end of Return of the King. I often go through moods like this during my decade long blog and comic run, except this time, an announcement by WotC has me feeling down and conflicted.

I will let you read the article, suffice to say it's a positive direction for D&D and one I agree should be done for the game and any content produced going forward. What I'm not thrilled about is that it means Greyhawk as we know it, in my opinion, might no longer be desirable as a published setting for the next generation of D&D players. After reading this press release, how can I not think the World of Greyhawk (and even Forgotten Realms for that matter) is only considered "legacy D&D content" to Wizards and that if they ever decide to use it again, rather than just strip-mine the best parts, the setting will require a HUGE overhaul in order to appeal to a new, younger, more diverse audience? That is not to say Greyhawk and its old school sensibilities can't be brought in tune with the new one. But is it worth the effort? At this moment, I'd be fine with Wizards focusing on Wildemount or Eberron or Theros,

That brings me back to this blog. I enjoy doing nostalgic posts on our game's history or musing on the intricacies of the setting. After literally thousands of posts, comics and articles I don't feel I have anything left in my tank. I've tried to raise awareness of Greyhawk, to keep it relevant through three different editions. I've educated, I've entertained, I've promoted others work and now I just want to sit back and see where it goes next. To that end I have about 73 more posts to reach the 1000 post milestone. I'd like to get to that point before hanging up Greyhawkery, so there's still several more months left in me. When that rolls around, we shall see what the state of D&D and Greyhawk is like in 2021 and then I'll reassess my plans like I always do.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

New at Greyhawk Stories: The Road of Skulls

Hail Greyhawk readers! I'm taking it slow this weekend, working on more war reports. So in the meantime head over to Thomas Kelly's blog, Greyhawk Stories. His latest post is about Iuz's infamous Road of Skulls and how this fictional feature in the World of Greyhawk draws inspiration from real world lore. This is the most uniquely informative thing I've read all month! Well done TK.

Check it out and enjoy!


Wednesday, June 10, 2020

New Greyhawk Heraldry: Ull Khanates

Howdy Greyhawk travelers! Today I have a special treat. Greyhawk atlas enthusiast and all-around good guy, Brian "Braggi" Dougherty is back in the saddle and he is on a heraldry kick! For those who don't remember Braggi from Canonfire, he quite possibly knows as much about Ull as I do, because he produced an incredible adaptation of my Ull campaign material, The Wonders of Ull, Oldskool Edition. Now Braggi is back to work on some new Greyhawk material and with some help from myself, he has put out banners for all the Uli khanates and towns. I am sure these will be in a PDF coming to you son, but for now I'm going to preview some of his work. Thanks again, Brian. Check it out!

Ahmud Khanate















Geshtun Khanate















Jadrun Khanate















Lurzid Khanate















Here is the map of Ull showing all the heraldry and khanate borders. I really like the terrain and icons he uses in this map. Feel free to use this in your own campaigns. This should be the final form, but tweaks will always be possible in the future. Enjoy!


Sunday, June 7, 2020

2E Greyhawk Wars Campaign: Schnai Civil War

Well met Greyhawk historians! It's time for another installment of my old 1990's 2E campaign. If you've been following, you'll know this was more than just a war backdrop, our players were integral to the politics of the Flanaess. If you're just visiting this column for the first time go back and read from my list of wars below (It might make more sense if you read the Iuz-Furyondy War after I fill in the middle wars). Once you are ready, prepare to be entertained by the epic barbarian saga known as the Schnai Civil War. As usual I've made a keyed map so you can follow along with the narrative. Enjoy!

Great North War 605 CY to 609 CY
Great Kingdom War of Succession 610 CY to 611 CY
Pomarj-Celene War 610 CY to 613 CY
3-Month aka "Scarlet" War 613 CY
Schnai and 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)

Schnai Civil War


Prelude 611-614 CY: 

In 611 CY the allied barbarian kingdoms, collectively known as Rhizia, had liberated allied realm of Ratik from Bone March’s evil grip. Surging through Kalmar Pass, the barbarian horde eventually sacked Spinecastle, thus conquering and occupying Bone March. Newly crowned Overking Grenell was not troubled by this development for he had been busy securing the Malachite Throne with the help of Holy Censor Spidasa. It was Spidasa in fact that had conspired with King Orvung of Schnai to rescind his support for adopted Rhizian, Juma Dain (Naelax) to the throne, in return setting the stage for the Schnai led occupation of the Sea Barons; an act that crippled Lord Mayor Drax’s (House Rax) main support in his doomed bid to be overking.1

By 613 CY, Herzog Cromwell of the North Province was at odds with Rhizia, which had gradually extended their occupation to include the Aerdian coastal towns of Johnsport and Bellport.2 This was a violation of Spidasa and Orvung’s secret truce, but the much-celebrated king made no effort to slow his peoples advances. In time, the Rhizian alliance managed to negotiate a steady peace with Herzog Cromwell whose loyalty was conflicted due to his own Cruskii heritage. In 614 CY, the strain of keeping peace with Rhizia and increasing pressure from Aerdy spurred Cromwell to abdicate rule of the North Province.3 The affable mercenary-turned noble, departed his palace in the dead of night and ventured into the west. With the Great Kingdom’s rule crumbling in the north, Spidasa vowed to Overking Grenell that he had a plan to end Rhizia without shedding a drop of Aerdian blood.

January 615

An opportunity presented itself, when news quickly spread from Rhizia that Vatun had chosen the failed-usurper prince Juma Dain to be the next Night Shadow, a holy order of barbarian heroes whose influence in large part held the Barbarian Alliance together. This time however, the selection of a foreigner caused cracks to form in the alliance. Most nobles in Cruskii and Fruz celebrated the choice and saw it as a sign to renew their crusade to throw down the Great Kingdom. But many others, mainly from Schnai were incensed, claiming it as further proof that the selection of new Night Shadows every five years was in fact rigged by Vatun’s priesthood.4

A): In a secret meeting near Bellport, Censor Spidasa of Medegia forged a pact with Schnai nobles Gorm, ruler of Johnsport and his visiting cousin Jarl Balgrim, a famed warchief from the Great North War. The scheming cleric played on the northmens’ greed, predicting that their clans stood to gain control of all Schnai if King Orvung were to perish. To this end, Spidasa instructed the pair to use the simmering Schnai schism over Juma Dain as leverage to provoke a civil war in the kingdom of the Snow Barbarians. A vicious rumor was soon spread that Jarl Vorlag König of Königsheim, a supporter of Juma Dain, was plotting to usurp King Orvung and lead the north into another costly war against the Great Kingdom.

B): To aid the evil plot, Spidasa arranged wagonloads of new armaments to be smuggled into Bellport for Gorm and Balgrim’s warriors. Before tensions had even flared in the north, Gorm was loading his men on longships and set sail back to Schnai to bolster his cousin’s forces.

February 615

King Orvung was predictably enraged to learn Jarl Vorlag was building up his army (and navy) with the intention to overthrow him come spring. The king had grown older and paranoid since the last couple wars; his dubious dealings with Aerdi still weighed heavily on his conscience. Additionally, Orvung railed at the Rhizian alliance and the Night Shadows as their influence had diminished what was once the mightiest Rhizian kingdom.5 The Jarldom of Königsheim tried, but could not assuage the fears of the king or his hersirs, and soon many real clashes began to break out on the borderlands.

March 615

C): Tempers finally increased to a fever pitch as Balgrim fanned the king’s paranoia with more false reports. Orvung called on his loyal jarls to rally to his banner to put down the traitorous Königs and their conspirators. Orvung’s son, the Night Shadow Leif the Noisy did not remain neutral in the growing conflict as he came to his father’s aid with 300 veteran thanes from their eastern clan holding. Jarl Boren was also eager to join their fighters to the cause, sending 800 men to Soull. In the northern fringes of the Corusk highlands, the town of Knudje responded with 700 hardy warriors and met with Jarl Odred’s 800 hillmen to march towards Königsheim. Even Jarl Elgar was lured into the conflict, bringing 800 thanes south, assured that rival Jarl Lär was in on the König plot.

D): Lär had not mobilized its 800 warriors until consequently their rivals Elgar had moved first, thus inflaming the civil war more when they joined the König defense. To the south, Jarl Holdann could no longer sit by and watch. His clan had been fast compatriots of Vorlag during the wars and so 900 seasoned fighters sailed by longship to Königsheim. 

E): King Orvung was deceived again by Balgrim, who was in turn fooled by the influence of Spidasa. Wanting to utterly crush the growing Königsheim faction, the king called back all his loyal hersirs from the occupied Sea Barons, effectively deserting the isles they had so long sought to conquer, and allowed exiled Admiral Sencho Foy to return to rule of Asperdi Isle by summer. These forces, led by Bardir (500) and Hrölfson (500) were eager to defend their king and would arrive on the Königsheim coast by May.

April 615

The stern Night Shadows could see that the alliance was in danger of collapsing due to the Schnai Civil War. Their appeal for Leif Orvungson to calm his father was met with silence in the longhouse of King Orvung. Even the Night Shadow bard, Harald Husavik could not temper the arguments that ensued that day.

F): While the kings of Fruz and Cruskii were counseled to remain neutral, the Night Shadow order granted any of their Schnai members consent to individually respond to the war.6 As a result, the figurative head of the Night Shadows, venerable Tyrvald Brötby who was also a Schnai jarl, sided with the Jarl of Königsheim riding out with 120 retainers to join 800 of his kin. Vorlag was soon joined by his older cousin Thorarin König and Haenir the Bold, each bringing 100 followers down from the mountaintop of Night Shadow Keep. Meanwhile, Harald Husavik remained alongside Leif the Noisy and King Orvung, though only to chronicle the events that transpired.

The arriving Night Shadow contingents were joined by the freesword Cromwell and his new mercenary band (200) who had journeyed far to throw their support behind the allies of Juma Dain.7 

May 615 

G): The now assembled army of King Orvung with Jarl Balgrim and Warchief Gorm at his side, marched unhindered through Königsheim territory to confront the Schnai rebels. They would soon be met by the forces of Elgar, Odred and Knudje as they converged on their target.

Meanwhile, Jarl König received more aid in the days leading up to battle. The heroes Bjorn and Geirrod, former adventuring comrades of Vorlag, came with no followers, but they bore two of the five Blades of Corusk.8 Bjorn the Rogue wielded Harmonizer, a two-handed sword so light it could be swung with one hand, and his cousin Geirrod held Stalker, a blue-steel longsword which allowed him to effortlessly move with stealth. Vorlag was also one of the five Corusk heroes; in addition to his magic warhammer, the jarl wielded the Edge, a bastard sword of phenomenal sharpness. The last to join the side of Königsheim was none other than Vorlag’s estranged brother, Legen König, who for personal reasons, had not returned to Schnai in nearly two decades.9 Legen brought 40 elite freebooters in an effort to redeem himself and defend the honor of his clan.

H): Battle of Königsheim

As Orvung’s forces encircled the jarldom, the ships of Bardir and Hrölfson had arrived to completely trap their foes. Vorlag had chosen this battlefield however, arraying his supporter’s forces just outside his home of Königsby where an additional layer of earthen-works and palisades had been easily constructed. Likewise, the longships of König and Holdann guarded the town’s harbor day and night and so were in position on the day of battle.  

The armies loyal to Orvung totaled 8200, while Vorlag’s allies were 4200 strong. Though greatly outnumbered, the jarl’s forces had superior defenses and the ability of several veteran heroes. Encouraged by the arrival of longships loyal to them, Jarl Balgrim advised the king to immediately assault the palisades while units led by Gorm and Leif Orvungson would envelope the town, ensuring none could escape. The fury and chaos of the Battle of Königsheim was such that only a few pivotal events are remembered:

The warriors of Knudje changed their stance when they saw the dark banners of the Night Shadows were mostly in favor of Vorlag. They remained in line, unwilling to blindly attack without first talking to the jarl.

The larger ships of Holdann were supported by flaming arrows and catapults fired from watch towers facing the harbor. Bardir and Hrölfson were slain and their forces routed, with many drowned or dying by fire as their ships sank.

On the west flank, Night Shadows Leif the Noisy and Harald Husavik confronted Thorarin König, Haenir the Bold and their wizened leader Tyrvald Brötby. As they attempted diplomacy, an archer on the palisade accidentally loosed an arrow, killing the non-combatant bard Husavik. Fighting instantly erupted, but only briefly before Thorarin held a sword at Leif’s throat and called for a truce; to their dismay, their mentor Tyrvald had fallen to a spear.

On the east flank, the forces of Gorm launched hails of arrows at the defenders. Unwilling to be cut down behind a wall, the mercenaries of Legen and Cromwell went on the offense, emboldening their allies to follow their spearhead. Warchief Gorm was pulled down from his horse and captured by Legen. That is when Cromwell discovered their opponents wore new Aerdian chainmail. The arrows that littered their walls were also distinctively Aerdian. Smelling a double-cross, the sellsword mounted and rode for the central battle.

Even with the high ground, Vorlag and his kin eventually had to fall back from the press of Orvung and Balgrim’s overwhelming assault. Regrouping, the jarl and his kinsmen held their ground to prevent the destruction of their town. In the chaotic final clash between Schnai clans, Balgrim had grown frustrated that Orvung was too well-guarded, so at an opportune moment he stabbed the king with a dagger. The old king was tough as a giant however and yelled aloud at the treachery. Before the devious jarl could finish the assassination, Cromwell galloped into the fray and tackled Balgrim to the ground. Though wounded, Orvung personally finished off Balgrim as hundreds of stunned Schnai looked on. The Battle of Königsheim came to an abrupt halt as horns sounded and banners waved to signal a cease to fighting.

Aftermath: 

Orvung and Vorlag interrogated Gorm, learning the entire plot of Spidasa. Afterwards, Gorm was publicly executed by Vorlag. Orvung praised Cromwell for saving his life and forgave his past service to Overking Grenell, also gifting him one of his own longships. King Orvung apologized to all his nobles and thanes for being misled and so decreed the lands of the dead traitor Balgrim now belonged to Jarl König. Orvung’s side had suffered 4100 casualties while Vorlag’s allies lost 1300 men, including two legendary Night Shadows. The Schnai Civil War was over and Rhizia remained united.

Footnotes:

1.      Juma Dain is the adopted son of Night Shadow, Valkaun Dain. None disputed his Aerdian heritage, only that he was a direct descendant of Ivid V, who had notoriously eliminated all his offspring.

2.      The rulers of the Barbarian Alliance (Rhizia) consisted of King Lolgoff Bearhair of Cruskii, King Orvung of Schnai and King Ralff of Fruztii, mediated in a council overseen by the Night Shadows. Vassals of the three Rhizian kings ruled parts of captured territories in Stonehold, Bone March and the Sea Barons.

3.      Some say Cruskii-born Cromwell had been selected by Grenell because he would be able to ease relations with the barbarians. A secret visitation by the Grand Druid shook Cromwell. He leaned firsthand that infant Juma had been brought to Valkaun Dain by the Grand Druid himself after the child’s mother died fleeing from Overking Ivid V.

4.      It did not help that Juma’s adopted father was also a Night Shadow. Never in their history had a father and son been chosen, much less a foreign-born person.

5.      Jarl Vorlag, a renowned hero in his own right, was generally more liked than King Orvung. In times of war especially, fellow Cruskii and Fruz warriors acted more favorable to the jarl.

6.      During the Schnai Civil War, Juma Dain, still only 18, stayed at the Night Shadow Keep.

7.      Cromwell had traveled to the Bandit Kingdoms but was driven out of Stoink. From there he went to Tenh and Stonehold, gathering proven fighting men along way. The Night Shadows recognized the formidable warrior and enlisted his aid for Vorlag, escorting his band through mountain passes to Schnai.

8.      Vorlag’s other Corusk-blade kin, Orec the Druid (Greenswathe) and Thormod the Bard (Dreamsinger) did not make the journey to Schnai. It is not known why.

9.      Legen originally adventured with a young Valkaun Dain, as well as elven Archmage Mortellan before either became legendary figures. It is surmised Legen took an evil bent early in his career since he went his own way and never achieved their greatness. His self-imposed exile from Königsheim was also likely due to jealousy of his brother.

Commentary:

First of all, the Schnai Civil War was a tiny part of what me and my friend Jayson played in the Thillonrian north. With few friends available to game with back then, Jayson tended to play multiple characters. While his favorite barbarian, Valkaun sat this one out, all five Blades of Corusk were carried by his PCs, including Vorlag. Together we had created quite an elaborate setting for our Rhizia. One that easily rivals my present day Sea Princes campaign or Ull

I'm fortunate to have kept good notes when we played this corner of the map, but still the details of the battle were lost, besides principle players and troop counts. I know we used Companion Set: Warmachine rules for this war because the notes included these stats. The fact that Orvung has double the troops of Vorlag while the Jarl has named heroes and defensive works were all factors in these stats.

Cromwell continued to roam the Flanaess as an NPC while our friend Eric was in the Army. The war was a good opportunity to redeem his character after the Great North War. My NPC foil Legen also tied up his subplot in this battle.

Who is the Grand Druid of the Flanaess? I'm not sure without looking it up. Back then I made his name up and it was Venger! Yes, not very imaginative of me, I know.

The main NPC villains of this story, Gorm and Balgrim were my creation and there is very little info on them. I know Gorm is a F10 and that they conspired with Censor Spidasa. A lot of the narrative around them had to be created for this column to keep the overall campaign consistent.

Lastly, I'd have to check Jayson's character sheet if he still has it, but I want to say Vorlag had a dwarven-thrower hammer (but then how did it return to him being human?), or maybe he had a Hammer of Thunderbolts? Either way, this campaign was so over-the-top by then, Vorlag also has the sword Edge so take your pick.

More next time!


Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Old Greyhawk Ads

Welcome back readers of Greyhawk nostalgia. I don't have much new to present so let's muse on some old Greyhawk goodness. Yes, let's look at the hype surrounding the World of Greyhawk setting's earliest ads in the pages of my all-time favorite gaming magazine The Dragon.

First up is the ad for the 1980 World of Greyhawk "folio" in the pages of Dragon #39. This is the one that started us off. It's basically the cover of the folio without the TSR logo and strategic ad text thrown in. Just a taste of that map, the shields, drawings of monsters and a castle. Yes, that would've sent me to my local game store!

Personally though, I began my love of Greyhawk a few years later with the Greyhawk boxed set and only got my hands on the Folio many years later. In the issue before this ad, if I recall correctly, Gygax had an article that previewed all the Greyhawk products and projects they had in the works.









This advert is from Dragon #41. The World of Greyhawk Fantasy Figures was one of these projects that Gary teased in store for the Greyhawk setting. He includes a pic of the Folio in the corner as a tie-in. Back then, mini photography wasn't all that so the ads tended to be illustrations of the minis. I literally did not know about this mini line until well after it was cancelled and to this day I have never tried to collect them. I do know that Joe Bloch is an aficionado of this line and has written about them extensively. Shoot over to Greyhawk Grognard and check out these minis. They are primitive by today's standards yes, but they are very grounded in the lore that Greyhawk supplied back in the 80's.

Gygax the wargamer was definitely setting Greyhawk up to be a wargame. Somewhere along the way dungeons became more popular and the wargame aspect was left for later attempts such as Greyhawk Wars or Battlesystem. Either way, if you ran your Greyhawk campaign with these minis then I award you 1,000,000 Greyhawk cool points!


That's all for now. I couldn't find an ad for the 1983 Boxed Set in Dragon Magazine. I know that from 1983-1984 was a steady stream of Greyhawk deity articles so I know the world was popular as ever, maybe they didn't need to advertise such an in-demand product? If anyone can reference a magazine print ad for the boxed set let me know! More nostalgia another day!