Sunday, February 7, 2021

Greyhawk: Rare Lords & Legends

Greetings denizens of Greyhawk! Digging back into the pages of Dragon Magazine in the 80's, you will always find nuggets of Greyhawk lore that have gone on to greater things, or have been lost to time. One such column to go looking at is Lords & Legends. In this column, an open call was made for authors to submit heroic PCs and NPCs, with stats and extensive backgrounds ideally from TSR branded worlds (unlike Giants in the Earth which was about figures from literature). The resulting column was short lived, but yielded some nice surprises, in particular in issue #134 William Simpson gave us our first lore on the draco-lich, Dragotha from White Plume Mountain fame (though I think there would be retcons following). And in issue #139 Neil Brandt gave us Elayne Mystica for the first time. She would continue on in Greyhawk lore as an important NPC wizard. But before either of these titans of the Flanaess, the creative minds behind Lords & Legends gave us the heroes Gnarly Bones and Kordan Badaxe. Who are they??? Good question. I can show you, but it may create more questions than answers. Let's have a look at issue #131:

Kordan Badaxe
, created by Steve Seguin, is a 9th-level mountain dwarf fighter who wields TWO axes of hurling +4. Only 62-years old, Kordan is special among mountain dwarves for having blue eyes.

"Born of common parents, Kordan learned to use his strength and fighting skills to earn a living. He joined a dwarven army but soon grew bored with the endless routine that came with military life. Instead, he longed for excitement and adventure. When guards were being recruited to protect an advance mining settlement, Kordan quickly volunteered. A vein of precious metals had been discovered at the point where the Jotens meet the Little Hills (see the WORLD OF GREYHAWK fantasy setting map, hex H5-159). The small group of miners, along with accompanying guards, were to begin mining and to set up the foundations of a larger operation if the vein proved lucrative. 
A year later, the mine was producing more silver and mithral ore than was originally foreseen. By this time, Kordan had worked himself up the ranks to the position of sergeant of his squad. During a routine patrol, Kordan's squad was attacked by a large group of vicious giant type creatures. The raiders, mostly ogres and ettins led by a dozen hill giants, were lured to the area by the dwarven ore strikes. With their brute strength and large numbers, the giants destroyed the patrol before word could be sent back to the mine. Kordan was hit by a boulder thrown during the fighting and was knocked down the side of a canyon into a swift mountain stream. The attackers then surprised the mine and enslaved the dwarves in order to continue tapping the mountain's wealth. 
Kordan washed up a few miles from Datmil, a small trading town at the foot of the mountains. After he recovered, the dwarf rounded up a group of adventurers to return to the mine and free his people. Kordan and the five adventurers made it to the mine safely and entered undetected through one of the many ventilation shafts. After a few skirmishes, they located the slave pens. Once the dwarves were freed, they armed themselves as best they could. Under Kordan's command, the miners forced the giants to retreat deep into the mine; the miners then destroyed the supports and collapsed the section of the mine in which the giants were trapped. 
It was during this fierce fighting that Kordan earned the nickname Badaxe as he wreaked havoc amongst the enemy. Kordan would hurl one of his axes with deadly accuracy, strike a second opponent with the axe in his hand, then whirl to catch the thrown axe as it returned. He did this with a frightening efficiency that allowed him to kill six of the hill giants and a score of ogres in his first major battle. Additionally, his intense hatred of giant related races now overrides his feelings about humanoid races like orcs and goblins, and he gains a bonus to hit giants in combat (but not against the humanoids). 
Kordan was made a dwarven lord for his heroism. Shortly thereafter, he constructed a great fortified stronghold in the Jotens as a bastion against further attacks by the giants. Kordan may presently be found in this area, where he patrols his holdings. Despite his serious nature, Kordan is good company (in a dwarven sort of way). He warms up quickly to parties containing dwarves or rangers, a class he respects due to his hatred of giants."

This is a tight story, and an amazing backstory for any dwarven hero in any setting. I dare say there is no officially published dwarven NPC with this much backstory. Kordan should be well known in Sheldomar Valley lore. Also, Mr. Seguin stealthily created the town of Datmil! I don't think I see it on Anna Meyer's Flanaess map, but she will be placing this soon! Good stuff. What about Gnarly Bones though...

Gnarly Bones
, created by Christopher Jones, is also a 9th-level mountain dwarf fighter, but he wears plate armor and carries a hand axe +2. Gnarley i distinctive for not having a beard (not by choice).

"Little is known of the early years of Gnarly Bones. His father was a prominent dwarven lord of his clan, and Gnarly was his first-born child. Gnarly stood to inherit his father's position and influence, but for some reason fell into disfavor with his father and left his homeland. Several speculations have been made regarding this event. Some believe Gnarly may have dishonored his father by refusing to join the dwarven army; still others believe Gnarly killed a member of the clan and was banished from dwarven society as fitting punishment. For whatever reason, Gnarly never returned to the kingdom.
Gnarly proceeded to travel throughout Oerth, his primary concern at this time being one of self-indulgence. Gnarly handled his activities with great levity, and became involved in a number of misadventures. Sometime later, he met Sir Sarvairius of Andairfels. Despite their radically different personalities, the two became steadfast friends. 
After adventuring together for a short period of time, Gnarly and Sarvairius joined a group involved in a quest to capture a demon-witch. During this quest, Gnarly was severely wounded by a fire-based trap. He was saved by the group's cleric, but his beard (a dwarfs badge of honor) was completely burned off and could not grow back. During the remainder of the quest, and throughout subsequent adventures, Gnarly proceeded to build a name for himself. Though he did not become as famous as the demon's slayer, the legends of the bare-faced dwarf are told in many cities and towns. Gnarly journeyed with Sarvairius until the latter received his title and barony. At that time, Gnarly settled down in Andair City (Sarvairius's capital). There, he became well-acquainted with local law enforcement officials. Gnarly's quest for pleasure led him into every kind of trouble; only his friendship with Sarvairius kept him from punishment more severe than a few days in jail. 
About this time, Andair City was attacked by sorcery and transferred into an other-dimensional area called the DemonRealm (possibly a part of the Abyss). With the city under constant siege, Gnarly's fighting skills were greatly taxed. Gnarly rose to the occasion by providing untiring assistance during the siege. Because of his unyielding resolve, Gnarly earned the love and respect of the citizens of Andair City. He became a patron hero of that city, his popularity second only to that of Sarvairius.
When the city was later sent to the alternate Prime Material world of Wireld, Gnarly helped Sarvairius carve out the realm of Andairia. Through these trials, Gnarly's personality underwent a change and he matured greatly. He gave up his epicurean pursuits and assumed a number of local responsibilities. In time, Gnarly built a vast mansion under the mountains of north Andairia. In gratitude for the aid he had given Sarvairius and Andairia, Gnarly was given the title of Earl. He was also given dominion over the mountains in which he settled, which Sarvairius later named the Gnarly Peaks
While a vassal of Sarvairius, Gnarly is the Earl of the Gnarly Peaks; he holds dominion over thousands of dwarves who live in those mountains. If encountered, Gnarly does not reveal his true position or skill at arms. Likewise, he provides little assistance to gray elves (unless they are in extreme danger) due to his hatred for that race. If asked for assistance, Gnarly gives aid or advice in areas in which he has knowledge. Gnarly is quick to anger and slow to forgive. At times he reverts to his former, troublesome personality, which can cause problems."

So we don't know what clan or realm Gnarly originally hailed from, or exactly why he was exiled. He wandered Oerth so much that he came upon a knight from a land called Andairia, but we probably haven't heard of this place because it was whisked away to the Abyss (sorry Anna), then returned to a whole different prime plane where Gnarly is now the earl of a mountain range named after him! Fantastic stuff. Take that dad!

I hope you enjoyed these two NPCs, if you want to get the full info, check out Dragon #131. The article stated that only two dwarves were ever submitted to Lords & Legends, and both were from Greyhawk. I find that intriguing since Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance were definitely in play for this series. While I loved Kordan, but was merely amused by Gnarly, that is the joy of fan submissions. Today we have many outlets for submitting our own Greyhawk campaign creations such as Oerth Journal, Canonfire, Dragonsfoot or blogs like mine! If only back then, Dragon Magazine had kept L&L going longer, imagine what characters might have been added to our collective lore today.


Grufflehead said...

Great stuff, thanks. I vaguely remember these 2 even though I played surprisingly little of my D&D in Greyhawk.

Mike Bridges said...

Glad to bring back the memories! For me, it was hard to forget the picture of a beardless. That and I clipped the article out of my copy of #131 for some reason. I recently ran across it in my binders. Why did I do that? Did I have plans for these dwarves back then? I didn't cut out any of the other Legends articles. *shrug*