Greetings loyal fans of Greyhawk! GREYHAWKERY is alive. (or is it undead?) At any rate my hiatus is over, and for those of you who are with me at GaryCon 2022 I'm sure it's been wonderful celebrating our favorite setting together in person again. So, I need to explain that this post starts my new blogging model. I will not be posting at the same rate as before, I intend to post at least once a week (maybe to coincide with my weekly Legends & Lore streams on Twitch. Content-wise I probably won't be promoting D&D products and news as much as before either. I am going to try to focus on some new original material. So, expect new stuff from the 576 CY Sea Princes campaign, Ull (of course), maybe some 5E creations, and finally, some entries in my long-overdue Wars of Greyhawk series.
Wars of Greyhawk will cover many of the famous (or less well known) battles in the history of the Flanaess. Believe me, there is ALOT of them so no promises on how many I will do for now. My original article on the Battle of Emridy Meadows was just the start, now I'm pleased to present this gem from Dragon #63: Gahru's Folly. Enjoy!
Battle of Gahru’s Folly (or Grandwood’s Grandest)
Conflict & Date:
The Battle of Gahru’s Folly occurred during the dozenmonth of Wealsun in 578 CY.
Armies & Commanders:
Grandwood Rebels (5,000 total)
2,000 light infantry, 100 crossbows, 850 archers (and slingers), 2,000 sylvan elves.
Censorial Army of Medegia (7,000 total)
Captain-General Gahru of Medegia.
1,700 light infantry, 300 medium cavalry, 4,000 orcs, 1,000 goblins.
The Censorial Army of Medegia is trapped and decisively routed by the Grandwood Rebels.
Grandwood Rebels (250 total)
165 light infantry, 15 crossbows, 50 archers, 20 sylvan elves
Censorial Army of Medegia (4,900 total)
Captain-General Gahru (missing, presumed dead)
900 light infantry, 100 medium cavalry, 3,300 orcs, 600 goblins (no humanoids were taken alive)
A): In 578 CY, Holy Censor Spidasa named an Imperial Constable by the Malachite Throne, was keen to appease the Overking by aiding his goal to smash the Iron League, while at the same time gaining more territory for his Holy See before their rival the South Province. Though his best Censorial troops remained behind at Mentery and Pontylver, the Holy See began amassing forces for a campaign to invade the County of Sunndi through the well-defended Hestmark Highlands and Glorioles mountains.
B): Part of the forces for this risky campaign was drawn from the Censorial Army stationed on the west bank of the Mikar River within the southern bounds of the Grandwood Forest. Led by the zealous Captain-General Gahru, it fell on this army to defend the Holy See (and by extension Rel Astra) against raids by human and elven “rebels” sympathetic to the Iron League, who dwelled in the deep Grandwood. The Censorial Army numbered 5,000 humanoids, and 2,000 humans (mostly levies and a contingent of 300 medium cavalry). This camped force was always large enough to patrol the river border, with humanoids employed mainly to conduct counter-raids. Indeed, up until low-summer of 578 CY, it had never been directly attacked.
C): In the month of Wealsun, a gathered force of roughly 1,000 sylvan elves and allied woodsmen suddenly advanced on the camp, close enough to alert and allow Captain-General Gahru time to muster his entire army. Gahru was convinced he could crush the rebels in the field (and some say he was eager to show a major victory to Censor Spidasa), so his army spilled from the camp and went on the offensive. The rebels had anticipated the Captain-General’s reaction. So, by using a series of planned feints and skirmishing retreats, they were able to draw the Censorial Army far away from their encampment and deeper into the forest to a well-laid trap about 4 leagues to the west.
D): The trap consisted of two phases. First, the main body of the Censorial Army was lured to an area of nearly impassable terrain (the bottom of a large ravine it is speculated). Here, well-placed units of nearly 2,000 more sylvan elves and men were readied for an ambush from the high ground and surrounding canopy. Captain Gahru’s troops had become closely bunched in this killing-zone; the vanguard of humanoids grinding to a halt, while the human Censorial forces in the rear kept pressing the chase from behind. By the time Captain-General Gahru ordered his forces to turn about, it was too late, and the trap was sprung. Missiles from bow, sling, and crossbow rained upon the Censorial Army creating a panic. This is when phase two of the trap was initiated.
E): A reserve of 2,000 forester infantry emerged from hiding at the rear as the Censorial Army was already in a complete rout. The rebels pursued the fleeing forces back to the banks of the Mikar; it was presumed the Censorial camp was burned and looted in the days after the massacre.
F): Early reports to Mentery showed that about 400 human Censorial troops survived, however later that month, stragglers and released captives brought the total to 950. The sylvan elves made sure no humanoid prisoners were taken, and those goblins and orcs who survived that day scattered in other directions, some crossing into Rauxes or Rel Astran lands. For his part, Captain-General Gahru went missing and was presumed slain by the Holy See.
G): As the battle would be later called by bards, “Gahru’s Folly” or “Grandwood’s Grandest” dealt a serious blow to the Censor’s plans for a southern campaign. With the Grandwood border in turmoil, Spidasa was forced to make a controversial pact with Drax, the Mayor of Rel Astra. In return for the Holy See’s support of Rel Astra’s continued independence from the Malachite Throne, Drax agreed to bolster new Censorial forces along the forest’s borders. The Rel Astran contingent of about 3,000 would include many humanoids who were at Gahru’s Folly, a fact that made their commanders reconsider venturing deep into the Grandwood.
H): Meanwhile in Rauxes, the Overking took the news of the Captain-General’s defeat just as hard. To end this threat, Ivid began to coordinate with the Holy See with the intention of sending an Imperial force led by General Banwald to flush out the troublesome forest denizens, and hopefully catch them in a pincer movement with Censorial and Rel Astran forces coming from the Mikar once again. The Grandwood rebels would not fall for any such large-scale operation however, instead remaining mobile enough to evade detection within the dense forest. Thus, the decisive distraction of Gahru’s Folly continued to benefit the member states of the Iron League.
DMs who wish to feature the battle of Gahru’s Folly for their own campaign should note this event takes place two years after the starting timeline of the World of Greyhawk boxed set, and six years before the published events of Greyhawk Wars. The following hooks are suggested for DMs who want to have player characters affect the events of Gahru’s Folly without necessarily reenacting the entire battle.
Reconnaissance: It’s the day before the trap is to be set. The heroes are an advance scouting party to find what troop strengths, leadership and possible patrols are around the Mikar river camp. Stealthy PCs are advised here. If a captive is taken, then interrogation skills will be handy.
Skirmishing party: Your party has been sent ahead to the Censorial Army camp to harass their forces and draw them into the Grandwood toward the planned ambush. There are too many enemies to fight overall, so the PCs will need to be mobile and fast to make sure no opposing skirmishers can outflank the rebel's army until they reach the ambush site.
Reserve ambush party: The rebels have brought the fight to the characters! The Censorial Army is routing from a storm of missile fire. Due to their formidable skills, the PCs are specially tasked with taking down Captain-General Gahru and his mounted guards before they can get away.
Got Them on the Run: The orcs and goblins in Gahru’s doomed army know the forest almost as well as the sylvan elves, which makes them dangerous even when they rout. One large unit is making their escape and are headed towards a woodsman encampment. The heroes have to make sure this splinter group doesn’t cause any damage.
Gary Gygax. World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting (1983).
Robert J. Kuntz. Greyhawk’s World: Events of the Eastern and Southern Flanaess. Dragon Magazine #63.