Tuesday, July 14, 2020

2E Greyhawk War Campaign: The Bandit War

Well met Greyhawkers! It's time for another installment of my old 1990's 2E campaign where I wage bloody war across the Flanaess over and over again. 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 caught up, get comfortable because you are about to witness the hell that is the Bandit 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)

The Bandit War "Greyhawk Wars"

Prelude to War

Jan 615 CY

As major events unfolded in the east, the Bandit Kingdoms, also known as the “Combination of Free Lords” started to maneuver into a new union with expatriated bandits from the Horned Lands. This new power group began to call itself the Bandit Federation and its leadership reputedly included more than a few of the Hierarchs of the Horned Society.1

Feb 615 CY

Unbeknownst to the bandit free lords, one of the Hierarchs secretly visited the exiled demigod Iuz who was still regrouping in the Howling Hills since his defeat in the Great North War six years ago. A non-aggression pact was reputedly made with Iuz, but the ulterior motive of the envoy was surely to learn the current strength of Old One’s forces.

Mar 615 CY

Holy Censor Spidasa of Medegia visited the realm of Ilshar to seek an audience with the Archmage Mortellan and his acting regent Lord Angus Ulrich. Claiming the financial backing of Overking Grenell of the Great Kingdom, the scheming cleric offered to outright buy the lands of the former Scarlet Brotherhood from the fiery elven wizard. This offer was naturally rejected, but it is speculated the true intent of the Censor was to sow dissent among the occupied Suel citizenry that had been ruled by the Brotherhood for so many centuries.2

Jul 615 CY

A): The Shield Lands and parts of the old Horned Lands are conquered in a lightning attack by the Bandit Federation. Refugees immediately flee south, east and west. The Knights of Holy Shielding were caught off guard by this new power group and many of the order including Earl Holmer mysteriously vanished or were slain in the chaos.

Sep 615 CY

As the news out of the Shield Lands spread west, King Belvor of Furyondy died of natural causes. His son King Alaric is crowned and immediately married Jolene of Veluna, to tie their nations closer together in the face of this new growing threat. The March of Dorakaa, once administered by Prince Alaric is then placed under regency of Lord Nymark3.

Feb 616 CY

The fortress city of Rookroost became the last to join the Bandit Federation, thus bringing all the factions under one banner.

Mar 616 CY

As war was about to break out in the central Flanaess, humanoid tribes of the north began to be discreetly rallied to Iuz’s banner by his newest general, Sohranin4. These forces started to muster to the Howling Hills, taking secret trails and traveling at night.

May 616

B): The Bandit War officially broke out as the complacent Duchy of Tenh easily capitulated to the invading Bandit Federation. The Federation then thrust their remaining forces southward past the defenses of the peaceable County of Urnst and sped fast into Nyrondal lands in an effort to reach Rel Mord and secure King Archbold’s surrender. A splinter force was turned aside by the ducal forces from Luekish, but they were in turn prevented from massing with the king’s armies in a counterattack. For the rest of the year, a bloody series of battles would rage across the landscape with many civilians caught in the middle.

C): At the same time Urnst and Tenh were being overrun, the Theocracy of the Pale signed the Dimre Pact in an effort to appease the Federation and protect desired territory they felt was sympathetic to their religion. The pact between Wintershiven and the Hierarchs drew clear lines on how to carve up the two Urnst States and Nyrond5. Palish armies were rapidly called and drove out of their cold domain to occupy northeast Nyrond and eastern Urnst. This lengthy campaign was managed with a zealous and often destructive policy in an effort to proselytize civilians and captured enemy troops, while at the same time the generals of the Pale sought to reach Rel Mord before the Bandit Federation. The Pale did not trust that the Federation would give them the populous city to rule as promised, much less leave it intact and unspoiled.

Jun 616 CY

The culmination of unrest growing in Ilshar came when a coup attempt in the capital was attempted by two thousand rogues and pirates led by a rebel monk of the Scarlet Sign. This mob was mainly angry at the traitorous Elder Cousin, who had switched loyalties from the old Brotherhood to his new wizardly liege Mortellan in order to remain in the ruling council6. After order was restored by Lord Angus, the rebel monk was imprisoned.

Jan through Dec 617 CY

D): Emboldened by the absence of Mortellan, the Elder Cousin’s machinations finally unfolded as he freed those who once tried to usurp him and seized control of Ilshar and the Pomarj from Lord Ulrich, throwing him in the dungeon of Hesuel lshar. From their ports of Kro Terlep and Ekul, resurgent Suel pirates flying the banner of Mortellan’s Ilshar, began to strike out at the unsuspecting coastlands, taking Idee and Dullstrand in weeks.

E): Meanwhile in the Pomarj, the reclusive Slave Lords bolstered by the Cult of the Earth Dragon rose to overthrow the ineffectual governors left by Ulek and Ilshar7. Their armies began to gather in size as impoverished Wild Coast bandits and humanoids gladly joined their cause, eager for revenge on the elves and dwarves who sent them into hiding. A major humanoid fragment of the Pomarj campaign engaged Celene and the Uleks in a brutal war throughout the forests and hills at the cost of thousands of lives before they were routed. The bulk of the Pomarj army swept up the Wild Coast, this time even overtaking Safeton. This action alarmed even Archmage Mortellan for once, since the enemy leader who coopted his nation, a High Priest of the Earth Dragon was now bent on marching on the great City of Greyhawk.

F): As war raged in the north and the west, trouble brewed in the Province of Ahlissa as Herzog Chelor, who had resisted the rule of Overking Juma, was killed and replaced by Reydrich of House Darmen. replaces. Reydrich was a masterful negotiator who sensed the winds of war earlier than most, indeed before usurping the South Province, he made a pact with both the Bandit Federation and Ilshar. The pact with Ilshar was evidently part of the Elder Cousin’s long-term scheme and both nations started to assail their mutual enemy, the Iron League states. By the end of 617 CY, Ahlissa had made gains into Sunndi and was fighting across the dwarven realm of the Iron Hills. These advances were not to last long as the Great Kingdom, though still recovering from a civil war, made overtures to stop Reydrich’s opportunistic invasion.

G): Far to the north, members of the Bandit Federation in Rookroost greedily looked to keep expanding their borders. Having already established themselves in Tenh, new armies were conscripted from local populations and were sent north in two offensives, to secure the plains and passes leading to Rhizian controlled Stonehold. What the Federation had not counted on was the sudden appearance of the Rovers of the Barrens to aid the barbarian folk of Rhizia. In a score of bloody skirmishes with the Dogs of War and veteran Rhizian warriors, the shaky Bandit army was routed. Meanwhile, Rhizia (with no few Stonefist berserkers at their side) also capably crushed the Federation at Calbut. Mass defections among the conscripted levies further caused the bandit occupation of the duchy to slip by the end of the war.

H): Before taking control of Ilshar, the Elder Cousin had also secretly been in talks with the Sea Princes and secured a naval alliance. Between Ilshar, the Pomarj and the Sea Princes, they hoped to control all trade lanes on the Azure Sea. The Sea Princes fleets were ready to exact some revenge for their failed entry in the Pomarj-Celene War, but a series of deadly naval engagements along the Ulek coast ended in a stalemate. The loss of ships and men was enough to dissuade the pirate lords, who eventually withdrew from the war even though Ulek’s navy was effectively destroyed8.

I): Ilshar had gained a foothold in Idee and Dullstrand, but the Elder Cousin knew that unless the entire Iron League was pacified, they could never hold this coast. After reinforcements were ferried in at Naerie, Ilshar capitalized on the pact with Ahlissa to strike at Irongate and Sunndi. At Dullstrand, the Ilsharian navy regrouped by drawing more warships from their Idee campaign, then dared the vaunted Duxchan fleet to meet them as they sailed on Sulward. Though fighting on two fronts, the hardy Iron League turned aside the Ilshar invasion at Sunndi and wiped out their forces before they could march on Irongate. In a pitched sea-battle outside Sulward, the Lordship of the Isles again proved their mettle and turned the Ilshar fleet back to Ekul.

J): King Alaric and the might of his Furyondy-Highfolk-Veluna alliance amassed their knights and armies at the Veng River and in a couple decisive battles near Molag, broke the confidence of the same Bandit army that had once taken the Shield Lands by storm9.

K): The year was drawing near an end and the most devastating part of the Bandit-Pale campaign came at the Battle of Rel Mord. With two enemy armies assaulting the city at once, it looked like Nyrond might fall. King Archbold managed to regroup however, inspiring his citizens in the over-all defense of his capital. Nyrond found succor in the timely arrival of friendly contingents from the Flinty Hills and flanking Urnst cavalry eager to exact revenge on the Federation. The Theocracy, desirous of the Nyrondal throne threw waves of attacks at Rel Mord and suffered heavy losses, until even their morale failed. On the final day of the war, as a blinding sun rose in the sky, the Pholtus worshiping Palish army turned in formation and marched for home, their banners pure white signaling defeat. This left the rabble remains of the Federation army to take the brunt of Urnst and Nyrond’s savage counterattack. These forces routed immediately and scattered across the countryside making for the Artonsomay River.

L): With the inexorable advance of the Earth Dragon Horde, the domain of Greyhawk allied with the Free City of Dyvers for mutual protection. If one fell, the other would surely follow. A true account of the Battle of Greyhawk is scarce, though it is certain many famous personages rallied to the city for its defense, including Circle of Eight wizards Tenser, Otiluke, Otto and Jallarzi Sallavarian10. Led by Lord Mayor Nerof Gasgol, this battle was a testament to the Directorship’s representative rulers, bringing all the temples, guilds, mercenaries and commoners together under one strategic plan. The Horde was decisively defeated at the imposing walls of Greyhawk with military prowess and engineering in addition to an impressive display of arcane and divine might not chronicled since the Baklunish-Suloise Wars. It was still a day-long battle however, where the cult of the Earth Dragon and their Slave Lord allies utilized destructive magic and employed foul machines of war against the city. The final clash on the plain of Greyhawk eliminated the retreating cult for good and scattered what was left of their evil forces in all directions.

Feb 618 CY

M): In a desperate attempt to capitalize on the disastrous results of the Battle of Rel Mord, the Theocracy of the Pale broke their pact with the failed Federation, striking westward to take over the remaining County of Urnst and the vital port of Radigast City. However, news of the Pale’s defeat traveled fast. Palish troops had to fight bandit looters and angry Nyrondese peasants as they began to rise up against their oppressive occupiers. In the end, the Theocracy’s generals retreated back to their homeland to avoid any further losses.

Mar 618

The Bandit War officially ended with the Pact of Greyhawk; emissaries from all the principle nations and factions that had warred for the last decade attended. In a stunning twist, Archmage Rary (the Traitor) tried to disrupt the Great Signing, but Tenser and Otiluke foiled this plot at the cost of their lives. Exposed and wanted murder, Rary fled into the Bright Desert with his accomplice Lord Robilar to start the Empire of the Bright Lands.

N): Return of Empire of Iuz:  In the weeks following the Pact of Greyhawk, Iuz’s accumulated legions finally spilled out of the Howling Hills, easily retaking his old lands, including the capital of Dorakaa. The Wolf Nomads were aware of the build-up, but still got forced back to Lake Quag, while the Rovers of the Barrens scattered in all directions to avoid the advance of evil. Iuz’s Boneheart commanders then extended his hold into the Horned, Shield and Bandit Lands where they were too weakened from war to put up any resistance. Furyondian leader, Lord Nymark and his garrison, already depleted from fending off the Bandit Federation incursion, abandoned the fief and fled across Whysetil Lake to regroup with King Alaric. In a shocking turn, after his empire was re-established, the Old One sent an ambassador to Greyhawk and signed the Pact of Greyhawk. The Flanaess would know peace, at least for a short while.


1.       The Hierarchs went into hiding after the fall of Molag in 609 CY. Most went to the lawless towns of the Bandit Lands, but it is said one of the Hierarchs went to Greyhawk, and from there coordinated the formation of the Bandit Federation.

2.       No Aerdian leader had ever set foot in Hesuel Ilshar before Spidasa. His curiosity to see the Ancient Suloise-style architectural and cultural wonders of this hidden city was probably one reason the Censor took a chance to buy out the foreign conquerors.

3.       The March of Dorakaa was comprised of half of the Horned Lands and the southern plains in the Land of Iuz. Furyondy would not dare claim control over anything farther north for fear of the Wolf Nomads and the festering evils in the Howling Hills.

4.       Little is known of General Sohranin, but he must have possessed impressive power and charisma to unite humanoids from the Cold Marshes to the Fellreev and Burneal Forests, and as far away as the Wastelands and Bluff Hills. Many of these tribes served Iuz before, but this time they were warned to stay clear of the Bandit Lands.

5.       It is likely that Nyrond and the Urnsts underestimated the strength and organization of the Bandit Federation and was completely taken off guard by their alliance with the Pale. In addition, Nyrond was surely concerned with the outcome of the Aerdian Civil War that raged at their other border.

6.       Interestingly, the conquering Archmage Mortellan had lost interest in the tropical realm preferring to concentrate on the construction of the Three Towers, built over the ruins of Zagig Yragerne’s Castle Greyhawk; the place where all his power and wealth derived.  Mortellan left control of Ilshar and the rebuilt Pomarj to his loyal friend Lord Angus Ulrich and the sycophant Elder Cousin. Mortellan would become further distracted that year when trying to help his barbarian comrade Valkaun Dain take down the last resistance to Juma Dain in the Aerdy Civil War.

7.       The Slave Lords and Pomarj faction made a loose alliance at some point with the Bandit Federation. It was probably just a non-aggression pact to confound their mutual enemies, but the Hierarchs behind the Bandit Federation were not be pleased that Greyhawk, a place they operated from in secret, was a target of the Slave Lords.

8.       The Sea Princes nobles were likely worried that their main rival, the Keoland Navy would be compelled to enter the war to save the Principality of Ulek. Fortunately, the Lion Throne stayed idle and the Princes fleets returned home.

9.       The loss at Molag caused the federation between bandit rulers and Hierarch plotters to fracture. As bandits retreated to their home territories, hobgoblin and orc soldiery once emboldened by their former Horned Society masters went rogue and eventually would answer the call of Iuz.

10.   Archmage Mortellan was surely instrumental in adding mercenary and magical aid to Greyhawk. His reputation as a war-leader made him popular among the oligarchs whose ulterior motives were obvious to the elven wizard. Members of the Guild of Wizards and Circle were wary however, due to his successful yet costly Pomarj and Ilshar campaigns. Mortellan’ warrior comrade Valkaun Dain may have been involved as well since he served for a time as the leader of the mounted Cairn Hills Force

May 616-Mar 618 Bandit War Total Casualties (killed, wounded and captured) 

Archbold’s Alliance: 
County and Duchy of Urnst 20,000 (+10,000 civilians)
Nyrond 21,000 (+15,000 civilians, including Rel Mord 4000) 

Northern Resistance:
Tenh 4000 (+3300 civilians)
Rhizia (includes Stonehold) 4200
Rovers of the Barrens 3400

Alaric's Alliance:

Furyondy-Veluna 6000
Highfolk 2000
Shield Lands (exiled knights) 180 (+2400 civilians)

Neutral Domains:
Celene 18,000
The Ulek States 22,000
Greyhawk-Dyvers Alliance 2475 (+300 civilians)
Wild Coast 6000 (+3000 civilians)

Iron League:
Lordship of the Isles 4000
Idee 7000 (+5500 civilians)
Onnwal 4000
Irongate 7000
Iron Hills 3000 
Sunndi 19,000 (+5000 civilians)

Totals: 153,255 (+44,500 civilians) 

Dimre Treaty: 
Bandit Federation (includes Horned Lands) 24,500
Theocracy of the Pale 19,000

Southern Pact: 
South Province (Ahlissa) 30,000
Pomarj-Ilshar 29,000
Sea Princes 7000

Total: 109,000


Wow so first thing I'll mention is that this war has very little recorded events, besides a few things on my general timeline. The other 90% of this war is inferred political and military strategy written in hindsight. The only reason I even remember this war in our campaign is that I kept a lengthy one page long war-end death toll which included civilians. Strange enough I don't know how I came to figure non-combatant deaths. I'm not even sure we played this war out on Warmachine or Greyhawk Wars or otherwise. But given the figures I kept on the Bandit War, it's probably the bloodiest of all my entries.

Interestingly, I subtitle this war "the Greyhawk Wars". I seem to recall bits of this war was meant to make up for the fact my canon didn't fit newer published sources, so I was racing in my own head to use information left over such as the Great Signing and Rary the Traitor and the capture of Earl Holmer.

Another thing I'm foggy about is whether my friend Brian, the player of Archmage Mortellan (from previous episodes) went hostile and had Ilshar-Pomarj attack the Iron League/Celene or was his power usurped while he was away playing in the Greyhawk Ruins. I went with the latter because it makes him look better, but I have my doubts. My only real indication is the attack on Greyhawk City happened at the same time Mortellan was actively in the area having rebuilt Castle Greyhawk. Also, knowing he eventually gets nominated mayor of the city a decade later means the wizard was not responsible for the heinous attacks on Greyhawk, or probably further abroad.

Also, an indication Ilshar's sudden turn to heel was orchestrated from within and not by Mortellan, is that according to my timelines, a year after the war in 619 CY, Ilshar forms the Azure League with the nations of the Iron League and the Sea Princes I think. They made up really fast I guess.

A decade later, the Iuz-Furyondy War breaks out (the entry that started this series). Now having reviewed and written on all the wars we played prior, I see that the bloody Bandit War and the Aerdy Civil War is why much of the Flanaess was not willing to join another war. Furyondy, Veluna and Highfolk got this though. Go back and read about that war if you've just caught up.

Next post I have one more filler story, it's a battle actually, but it's an important one that brings the war epic of the barbarian north to a close for 2e. See you then.    


Lord Gosumba said...

War in all its wonderment!!!

Mike Bridges said...

Yeah these articles got progressively more detailed the less info I had on hand. I just started typing new material to fit the scant detail. War is hell!