Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Rulers of Ull: Ulaghai Ora Khan

Welcome back stalwart fans and scholars of the World of Greyhawk to the return of GREYHAWKERY. In this post and others to come, I vow by the quill of Delleb and the staff of Boccob that I shall endeavor to continue developing and documenting all things related to the disreputable land of Ull. To start us off, I present the third installment of Rulers of Ull a series where I educate you civilized folk on the history and exploits of Ull's mighty Orakhans. Before you continue on however, be sure to read about Ull's two greatest heroes, Kuchakar the Dragon Slayer and Ulzhak the Golden. Once you are caught up, sit back by the campfire and ponder the ancestral origin of Ull from over 900 years ago: The Rise of Ulaghai Ora Khan.

Ulaghai Ora Khan "the Conqueror" 
Orakhan of Ull from 2310 to 2340 BH (-350 to -320 CY)
(CN male human barbarian 15)

When discussing the remote land of Ull and its vague history, any respectable lore-keeper will start at the very beginning, over nine hundred years ago with one man, Ulaghai Ora Khan. Stories told about his adventures and accomplishments will wildly vary. This is one sages' account. 

Shaped by Destiny
    With the ancient Baklunish Empire shattered by the Invoked Devastation, the horse nomads of the plains were unbound and free to roam into the newly created Dry Steppes for plunder, while other tribes fought against each other working as mercenaries for the burgeoning realms of the Dramidj coast. Over several decades, one warlike tribe named the Uli had grown rather large and powerful by virtue of their equally abundant horses. The Uli were led by the ambitious warlord Ulaghai Khan, a ferocious warrior who could trace his lineage to before the Great War. As a young man, Ulaghai had been taught well by his father, and the new khan carried on his ancestors' battles; settling feuds with opposing tribes, vanquishing humanoid raiders, and by example of his strength and bravery attracted many disaffected nomad families to his banner. By the time the Uli were nearly dominant on the plains, Ulaghai Khan had even caught the attention of the shining realm, Ekbir to the north. Ten times did Ulaghai rebuff gifts and invitations to Ekbir so he could swear fealty to the caliph. When the overtures stopped, the ever-wary warlord became certain that new enemies would someday rise up against the Uli. Indeed, vicious rumors had spread to the khan's ear that the Satraps of Ghayar and Ekbir both had designs on the Uli. While the battle tested Ulaghai welcomed a new challenge, the young warrior's wisdom had surpassed his forebears. He knew something had to change for his people to survive in the long run.   

    As the size of the tribe increased, so did their need for more water and grazing lands. In -350 CY Ulaghai turned his gaze to the grasslands between the Ulsprue Range and the Barrier Peaks. These lands, unaffected by the Invoked Devastation, were now ripe to conquer since the massive exodus of Oeridian tribes during the Great War had left little except the determined Yorodhi to defend their villages and flocks. Diverting suddenly from their normal nomadic pattern, the Uli horde led by the resplendently armored Ulaghai descended upon the Yorodhi, razing a handful of villages to the ground. Within a few weeks, the invading nomads occupied the fertile northern territory with very little resistance. Faced with a massacre, the greater part of the Yorodhi had fled south, while the Oerids who stayed behind were instead subjugated and put to work. Ulaghai the Conqueror took the title Ora Khan over several large Uli families now with their own loyal khans. Thus, Ulaghai founded the land of Ull. 

Legacy Fulfilled
    At first, the Uli were content returning to their nomadic ways, assured by their strong ruler that they at least had the encircling mountains to protect their families. Ulaghai Ora Khan was not content, however. As time passed, the Conqueror expanded Ull further southward, this time absorbing entire villages intact. Despite this, the Yorodhi fought the occupiers at every turn. The Orakhan was so impressed by the Oeridians' use of polearms to repel his riders that these long weapons are still employed in southern Ull to this day. Eventually, Ulaghai's forces pushed the remaining Yorodhi into the foothills as their last refuge. The experienced warlord had no intention to bring his riders into those craggy highlands though. With the Yorodhi contained, Ulaghai ended his campaign at the ruins of Old Kester, the largest of Oeridian settlements from the age before the Twin Cataclysms. Looking down the wind-swept escarpment and toward the Dry Steppes on the horizon, he knew that Ull was finally secure.

    Time passed by swiftly for the first Orakhan. The warlords of Ull settled into a semi-nomadic lifestyle and their numbers grew. Rival Paynim tribes that once competed for resources, now gave Ull a wide berth. The Conqueror had no more enemies to fight. In fact, the Baklunish states to the north had all but forgotten the Uli and would not try to have dealings with them for many years to come. Now well past his prime, the aging Orakhan looked ahead to passing on his rulership and desired to create rather than destroy. Following the example of the Yorodhi, the Conqueror rebuilt Kester from the bones of the Oeridian foundation in -323 CY. Still a warrior at heart, his vision was for the town to be a walled outpost to defend against hostile tribes from the Dry Steppes. As his health rapidly declined, Ulaghai made sure to pass on his knowledge of war, diplomacy and also nation building to his eldest son and heir, Khuzhun who would go on to be named "the Builder". A few years later on the open prairie, as the sun set behind the Ulsprue Range, Ulaghai Ora Khan joined his ancestors and went into legend. 

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Wars of Greyhawk: Gahru's Folly

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.

Heroic Hooks 

   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.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Greyhawk Fans! Gary Con 2022 - See You There!

Psst! I will be at Gary Con 2022 in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin from March 24-26. There is two Greyhawk themed seminars on Thursday, March 24th. One is the 2nd Greyhawk Fandom Renaissance put on by Kristoph Nolen of Greyhawk Online, the other is a live show of Legends & Lore with me, Jay Scott and Anna Meyer. Exciting stuff. See you there!