Sunday, July 19, 2020

2E Greyhawk Wars Campaign: Battle of Bellport Harbor

Greetings, Greyhawkers! This is the last installment of my epic 2E Greyhawk Wars Campaign column. Chronologically it's not though. For those just coming into this topic, here is a run down of my posts thus far:

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 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)

The Battle of Bellport Harbor is not a war per se, but one last major battle in a long-running series of conflicts between Rhizia and Aerdy. It features the return of the great barbarian heroes who in our game, wielded the 5 Blades of Corusk. A few of them were last seen in the Schnai Civil War. This is how I believe the Five Shall Be One/Howl From the North story line should've progressed in published source. The barbarians, even though fooled by Iuz, still have actual magic blades and a list of grievances, so why don't they factor into the Greyhawk Wars at all when the barbarian north practically started it? My campaign overall tries to redeem their part in the story and as you will see in this post, thing get very dramatic. Be sure to read the commentary at the end. Enjoy!


A): In the border wars of late 623 CY, the angry hordes of Fruz and Ratikan men, led by Magnus drove into Bone March.1

B): However, they were not uncontested, and goblin skirmishers cut off their supply line to Ratik through the Storgard Range.

C): From the sea, the hordes of King Vorlag Konig marched unhindered to the foot of Spinecastle itself. The lengthy siege was of no avail and no number of raids could breach the humanoid defense. 

D): The call was given to break off the siege when it was learned that Magnus could not help, for fear of leaving their homes unguarded.2

E): Upon returning to their longships in Bellport (and Johnsport), King Vorlag learned that the Grand Marshal of Northern Aerdy had arrived from the south and was supported at sea by a fleet of warships massed for a blockade at Bellport Harbor.
The Grand Marshal, now only ten miles from the raiders’ port gave an ultimatum:

“To the seaworthy, yet criminal King of the Barbarians, I Philip de Marivar, Grand Marshal of the Northern Aerdy armies demand you depart from the Aerdian towns of Bellport and Johnsport, with haste. We have a fleet of warships ready for a dignified escort back to your peaceful fjords. I advise you to leave peacefully and with no uproar, for I wish to see no more human bloodshed.”

Vorlag was angered at the arrogance of the Aerdians.4 His kin were quick to plea Vorlag to call his bluff. It was Thormod Konig who pointed out that it was no more than a year ago that the treacherous Lieutenant Markas led a massive raiding party that demolished much of the North Province navy.5 Vorlag smiled in agreement.

F): Geirrod the ranger was swiftly sent to scout the opposition on land. Unfortunately, the army of Northern Aerdy was huge and well-armed, a result of several years prosperity under Overking Juma.

With this news in hand it was agreed on, in council, to leave in their longships. However, the Aerdian navy was to be destroyed first. Northern longships are easily constructed, compared to southern ships used by the Aerdians. They would be without a fleet for a few years at least. With torch and axe in hand, the northmen quickly demolished Bellport and Johnsport, leaving little to stand.6 Any ships that were not needed, were sunk in the harbors. The docks were destroyed as well. Filled with raiders in battle lust, the longships sailed to meet the intercepting provincial fleet.

Battle of Bellport Harbor 

The drakkar of King Vorlag, like almost a hundred others were outmatched against the longer, bulkier Aerdian carracks. Vorlag’s orders were to grapple and board the enemy. Only at close quarters could their men hope to win. The graceful northmen galleys were rowed alongside the enemy, under heavy missile fire. Due to sheer numbers, the grapple attempts were successful on all ships. The regimented Aerdian sailors either panicked or fell out of command, and counter boarded the northmens’ ships.

An all-out melee ensued in the harbor. The setting sun would not fade before several heroes fell:

Haflek, leader of the Fruz navy to whom trusted Bellport was in a berserk rage. He had been scolded by his superiors and had to redeem his name. Haflek boarded an Aerdian carrack before his men could stand their oars. He viciously cleaved lightly armored sailors left and right with his broadsword. Before his men could assist him, a hidden archer from the rigging shot Haflek through the eye. Haflek fell into the cold harbor, pulling two enemies down with him.

Stroemberg the Powerful pulled his drakkar along a small Aerdian warship. A rain of fire pelted his sails. Stormberg’s own archers provided a cover of arrow fire back. From the starboard side of the carrack he climbed a grappled rope. In a heroic spring, he and several Schnai kin were cutting their way towards the fore of the vessel. Crossbowmen formed ranks of three to block off the raiders from their captain. In a timed attack, the crossbowmen dropped every northman boarder in their way. Stroemberg still fighting near death, would not yield to the captain. He reached in his boot, and threw a dagger, striking the captain dead in the heart. Minutes later, the vessel burned like a funeral pyre.

Ketil’s longships boarded in a mass, and with lightning speed. Dozens of fear-struck enemy sailors fell dead, were captured or dove into the harbor. Ketil himself did little fighting. He pushed his way to the cargo holds amidst the confusion. Ketil searched the holds and discovered an armory of weapons and ammunition. Coming to the surface he yelled for the victorious boarders to keep the vessel, for it had valuable stores. Just as he returned to his longship in celebration, an Aerdian warrior from a neighboring vessel cast a flaming oil bomb, turning the longship into a flaming wreck. Ketil was pulled from the fire, to the captured carrack. He was near death.

Vorlag’s grand drakkar was steered towards the Aerdian flagship. The banners of the Aerdian Navy were still bright amid the fire and smoke. Vorlag, Bjorn, Geirrod, Thormod and Orec stood ready on the port side of their vessel, with the five Blades of Corusk in hand. Six vessels in all under Vorlag’s command drew alongside the great galleon, shearing their oars into its hull. Northmen poured onto the deck of the massive ship. The galleons’ defense was clearly elite. Special guardsmen in seashell designed plate armor wielded curved swords against the climbing invaders. The vessels’ rigging was filled with more battle-ready mariners. From the higher decks, crossbowmen readied their weapons in case the others fell.

Vorlag, King of Schnai hurled his dwarven hammer at a group of distant crossbowmen- knocking them astray. Geirrod and Thormod, brothers, charged into a mass melee with their warrior allies. They fought back-to-back on the deck with deadly efficiency. Orec, the druid solemnly brandished his golden scimitar and dispatched two guardsmen on his way to a mast-full of sailors. Bjorn swung his light two-handed sword Harmonizer with ease, knocking sailors about. No one could get within ten feet of the roguish hero. Vorlag with the magical strength of a fire giant, slashed his sword, the Edge- and severed a mast, bringing low several swinging mariners and burying more under sails. Orec shapechanged into a grizzly bear, and threw off several guardsmen who overpowered his countrymen. A lieutenant with a halberd stabbed Orec from behind. Orec, changing to human form was left with barely a scratch. He countered with Greenswathe, and it passed through the officer’s plate armor like butter. Thormod rushed away from his brothers’ side to help a struggling northman youth. After finishing off the Aerdian mariner, he patted the young lad on the shoulder to move on. Geirrod ducked two different strikes, killed one opponent, then glanced to see Thormod struck by an unseen archer’s arrow. The arrow pierced his lung, and Dreamsinger dropped to the deck boards. Geirrod yelled as he saw Thormod drift backwards to fall overboard. He lunged out just in time to catch Thormod’s dead arm as he tumbled off the galleon. Geirrod strained his muscles to hold on to his brother. Unseen, Geirrod’s second opponent ran him through with a long blade. Geirrod in pain, released Thormod’s body to the sea. Geirrod turned to his killer and impaled him with the blue longsword Stalker. Then Geirrod fell to the deck dead.

Vorlag, hurling his hammer, suddenly spotted the leader, attempting escape in a lifeboat. He charged the admiral’s guard, bowling them over. Bjorn yelling in Fruz, was not far behind him. The last of the admiral’s guard rushed Vorlag, and overbore him to the floor. One gave him a vicious elbow, rendering him unconscious. Bjorn then dispatched those guards mercilessly, before Vorlag could be finished off. Northmen were already on hand to carry Vorlag to safety. The admiral scampered to release his lifeboat. Bjorn, raising his two-handed sword, cleaved the boat and the leader in half. Seeing the battle won, Bjorn passed out from exhaustion. Orec, as a hawk, flew to each ship to make sure all the enemies were routed. When the battle was over, three thousand Aerdians were dead, half as many northmen were killed. All Aerdian supplies were taken, and the vessels sunk.

Vorlag awoke at sea the next morning. He rushed to see his kin. Sadly, he was warned by Orec and Bjorn that Thormod and Geirrod were dead. He was also taken to the side of Ketil, who had survived long enough to speak to the king, “I have sailed to many corners of Oerth, and served with many great adventurers. It is gratifying to see that I will be a navigator in the great fleets of Vatun. I hope we will sail together again.”

G): Upon their return to the northlands, the surviving Konigs bore the five Blades of Corusk to the Night Shadow Keep. Here, King Vorlag implored Haenir the Bold to lock them away in their vaults till such time they were needed again. Then Vorlag, Bjorn and Orec returned to the peaceful lands of Konigsheim.


1. It seems during the “Border Wars” humanoid tribes retook Spinecastle and parts of former Bone March, but the chiefs of Norheim managed to hold onto its port towns.
2. The strength of Bone March’s return was a threat mostly to Ratik, as evidenced by Vorlag’s easy march to Spinecastle and their ensuing inability to retake the citadel. 

3. In the short seven years since Norheim was granted to the barbarians of Rhizia for installing Juma on the Malachite Throne, it seemed tensions between the North Province and Norheim had escalated. The North Province was still sore at losing Kaport Bay in the civil war of 616 CY and the resurgence of humanoids in former Bone March was allegedly brought on by the current rulership. 

4. It’s possible that the Great Kingdom was beginning to fracture again along noble House lines. Even Juma Dain could not change centuries of Aerdian politics. 

5. Lieutenant Markas was an upstart warlord who raised a barbarian horde in 622 CY to further fan the flames of war in Aerdy. The Liuetenant was defeated by heroes of Rhizia, but not before he did irreparable damage to the North Province and brought retribution down on Norheim. 

6. Though Rhizia destroyed Bellport and Johnsport and was forced out of Norheim, records show the barbarians (likely with Juma’s decree) the barbarians would be back in control of these rebuilt ports by 638 CY. 

Storgard Range? I'm not sure that's canon or something I made. I'll have to ask Anna Meyer.

I really don't remember how the barbarians came to fight Aerdy again under Juma's rule, but here we are! One culprit had to be Liuetenant Markas who was a late antagonist of the campaign and was revealed to be the vampire Kas the Terrible returned to Oerth

As was highlighted in the Schnai Civil War, my friend Jayson (also the player of Valkaun Dain) played all five characters in the Five Shall Be One/Howl From the North storyline. So, all the barbarians in this battle were his technically, though King Vorlag was his main and the other four may have been NPCs afterwards.

Speaking of Vorlag, I also don't remember how he came to be king of the Schnai. He of course defeated King Orvung in the Schnai Civil War, but the king was duped and they made peace. Perhaps Orvung's son, because he was a Night Shadow, declined the throne and gave it up to the most popular hero of Schnai. Jayson seems to think Vorlag got the throne by shady means (I can believe this as well).

The Battle of Bellport Harbor itself was written as a narrative by me, and is largely unchanged from the original hand-written account I did in the 90's. I of course added context and footnotes to fit the story into the overall 2E campaign story. I have no recollection or game notes that we actually played out this battle like we often did. The fact that so many big names die in this tale (I'm not a killer DM) leads me to believe it's a story I fashioned to end this plot-line. I am very enamored by the Battle of Five Armies from the Hobbit, so I believe I drew inspiration from that. 

Who are the other big name heroes in this? It's hard to find. Ketil (F7) once a navigator on Valkaun Dain's longship "The Raider". He probably got promoted after Juma took the throne. Haflek and Stroemberg the Powerful sounded like bad ass characters, but I have no other info on them currently outside this battle.

This emotional finale was the last time we ever played the barbarians or even campaigned in Thillonria to date! I did bring the 5 Blades back in 5E but I adapted the entire story for my Sea Princes campaign and it worked marvelously. Having edited these stories, I yearn to return to Rhizia. Maybe someday soon!

This is the last of the series. Like I mentioned above, the Iuz-Furyondy War (627-629 CY) which I posted first, is actually the climatic finish, but from my notes, the 2E campaign didn't end until 638 CY. So there is still 9 years of 2E game material left for me to sift through, including the colonization of the Land of Black Ice and the rise of the High Ring. We shall see in the future, if any more conflicts are left in my "silver age" of D&D.


Lord Gosumba said...

Nice way to finish the entire grandiose wars out!

Peter Kasper said...

Awesome read. Would love to see your 5E conversion of the blades. Been thinking of using them in my campaign. Can’t wait to read your Land of Black Ice adventures.

Mike Bridges said...

Peter: Follow the "Best of Greyhawkery" link at the top, I do have all 5 swords statted out for 5E. Be careful though, they aren't playtested very well, so you may want to tweak them yourself.

RPGrandPa said...

Keep the Greyhawk Wars stuff coming, this is fantastic reading!