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!

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.


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.


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.


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!


Lord Gosumba said...

Marvelous detail and pretty massive!!!

Mike Bridges said...

Yeah I got carried away as usual...many thanks Jay!

Mike Bridges said...

Also, my friend Jayson confirmed that Vorlag had a Hammer of Thunderbolts. But he suspects he may have had a dwarven thrower too. How many primary weapons does one fighter need? :D

David Leonard said...

How did you run these? Mass combat always baffled me. I generally ran war as the fog that happened over there while the PCs did some special mission. The course of the war followed the fate of the mission.
Very detailed, Mike. Thank god for notes!

Mike Bridges said...

This particular "war" was really just one battle and it was resolved using Warmachine from the D&D Companion Set (the teal books). It's just raw math and a single die roll really. I think we had broke the armies into units led by different PCs/NPCs, but overall this entire thing was one game session.