The World of Ark

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Glittering Isles of Greyhawk; Module: Treasure Hunt

In the Glittering Isles of Greyhawk there are places of great adventure; dungeons to whet the appetite of even the most glum dwarf or spark a lively gleam in the eye of any thief. One of those places is in the Module N4: Treasure Hunt, by Aaron Allston. While I won't go into a great amount of detail about the pros and cons of the module, I can say without hesitation that it is one of the best introductory modules I've ever had the pleasure of running as Dungeon Master. The cover art alone (by Jeff Easley, one of my all time favorites!) evokes a feeling of intensity that I haven't had often in simply looking at the cover of a module. The party in the ship looks to be on the verge of doom if they can't outpace the storm behind them! That is a feeling you really want at the beginning of a module...being able to show the cover art to a party and having them actually FEEL something. That is the good stuff!

For that very reason I decided that Treasure Hunt had to be part of my Glittering Isles campaign. It is an easy to run introduction to AD&D and can be used in any campaign being run by a DM. You can place it just off the coast of any realm you are playing in with only minor tweaking of the module contents. For me, placing it in my Glittering Isles was a piece of cake.

For one, it isn't on the map...simple as that. The island contained in the module is simply not on the map of my campaign. The entire island is just about 9000 feet by 9000 can have an island that is less than two miles by two miles sitting ANYWHERE! So, for me, it IS anywhere at any given time I need it. I plan to use this adventure as the very beginning adventure in my campaign though, so it will depend on where the party is starting from. Lets take a look at my map:

Looking at the map, you can see I plan to start the party in the town of Eblishar within the Captaincy of Aishar; which is part of the Free Seaholds. I did this because every single character my family rolled up happened to be from an island. Blake rolled up a Lower Middle Class Human Illusionist from the Western Corsairs, Gavin rolled up a Middle Upper Class Paladin also from the Western Corsairs, Raegan rolled up a Upper Lower Class Thief from the Eastern Corsairs and Brenda will be playing a Middle Middle Class Cleric from the Autarchy of Xalmak (if you are wondering what these upper/lower/middle classes are, look in Ye old Unearthed Arcana for AD&D on page 82). I figured a good starting point that would be both central to their origins and neutral to their politics would be Eblishar. For more on the origins of characters in The Glittering Isles, just look HERE at a previous blog post. For a map that shows the various Realms of the Glittering Isles, look HERE.

The backstories I helped my party make explained how each came to be staying in the port of Eblishar, and I will run small solo adventures that gathers them all together as a single party before starting the module. Everyone will still be 1st level at the beginning, but the Paladin (and his Field Plate armor!) might be worried about a sea voyage...that might require a little more work.

Once I have the party together, I will put them aboard a small boat (like the one pictured in the cover above) for travel to the City of Widdershin. They will have been hired to go to Widdershin by Melkeras the Merchant (found in the module) to find his layabout son for a nice bit of coin to bring him back to Eblishar (this is a diversion from the original module: Melkeras usually comes into play at the end of the module...see below). With a sealed letter for the son in hand of his sister (which will be accompanying the party; and she is part of the module (Melisana: found on page 4 of the Character Cut Out section), the party will be on the ship and on their way. A trip on the Shallow Sea rarely has a dangerous storm, and small ships like the one pictured are commonplace despite the fact that pirates and worse are sometimes encountered. A few other details to fit the module into the area of the Shallow Sea fall easily into place as well.

The Corsairs are (for the vast majority) Pirates. Some may not be Chaotic Evil, but that is only because they are some other Evil alignment or Chaotic Neutral or Neutral at best. In Treasure Hunt it is said that Pirate activity is noted in the area as "parasitic" instead of "as sharks" for their level of impact (page 3). This fits well with the picture I have for the Corsairs: strong enough to take some few ships, but primarily held in check by the navies of the Free Seaholds, Xalmak and the Kingdom of Hahntar. Most Corsairs prefer to sail to the Duxchan area and fly false flags while preying on shipping to and from Hepmonoland or through the Tilva Straight. Then, if things go well they trade in Duxchan or Lo Reltarma before heading back to their home isles. For this adventure however, a large Pirate Galley, crewed by 50 Pirates (more than the party can handle!) chases down and catches the party's ship. The goal is to convince the party to surrender to spare the life of Melisana and the crew; the intention of the pirates is to ransom the boats occupants (especially Melisana and Gavin's Paladin who is of a higher social class and wealth than even the merchant's daughter!).

Having the party on the Pirates Galley I can actually start the module: the Goddess (see module) that I will use will actually be a God named Xerbo. Xerbo is the Suel God of Seas, Sailing, Money and Business. He will be the god responsible for the storm that causes the shipwreck that starts the module; though he will be far more important at the end of the module.

An important note here is that the module is intended for zero level characters. Personally that is fun for me, but I think it would present too much confusion for my kids who might wonder why they can't end up with a magic-missile casting paladin at 1st level. Instead, I plan to raise the bar a little on how strong the monsters are in the module and start everyone at 1st level in the beginning. The module is great fun without worrying about Zero Level Characters (more details about this can be found in the fabulous Greyhawk Adventures hardback!); so that is how I decided to fit it into my own campaign. If you prefer to use the Zero Level characters part, please feel free to do so of course.

The particulars of the module itself are going to vary so widely that I can't say what I will do aside from raising the strength of the monsters a tad bit to better suit my party. The end of the module is far more important to me: did the party get out with Melisana? If not, how will they explain that to her father? Will they even try to finish the "original" adventure and find the brother? Lots and lots of questions at the end though. A few things I'm going to change about the module I'll talk about in a little more detail though.

The major change is that in the module there are seafaring orcs and goblins that are in opposition to each other on the island. This doesn't suit my view of The Glittering Isles, and so I'm going to simply change the opposing forces to Orcs = Western Corsairs and Goblins = Eastern Corsairs. In the Glittering Isles the Western Corsairs are stronger in number than the Eastern Corsairs, so it is a good fit for me.

Another change is that the "galley" the party is supposed to drag out and go to sea in the end with is worth 10,000 Gold Pieces in the module. Two things about this bother me: how the hell does the party get it into the water and how do they then row such a vessel? I'm going to fix this by simply placing a Boat (a long one) valued at only £3 instead of £200! That way I will feel better about what they have in money AND the fact that they can actually use the thing if they decide to keep it.

An important thing to note is that normally in this module Melisana is "rescued" by the party. The way I'm working it, she is with the party from the start of the adventure. In the module there is a reward of 2,000 gold pieces for her safe return. I deal with this by simply making the 2,000 g.p. (and turning it into £40...or 200 gold pieces or 10,000 silver pennies) the original reward for bringing the merchant's son back to him. Melisana will also go from being a Normal Woman (NG hf NM) to a Cleric of Xerbo at the end of the adventure (NG hf C1) and can be a future contact for the party.

While the major change is to transform orcs and goblins to pirates, the most important change for me is to change the money values in the module to the £ (Aerdy Pound) system I plan to use. I've done this already by putting sticky notes wherever treasure is found in the module with the new values of items placed on the sticky note. Easy enough really; but it does involve some boring math.

So, at the end of the adventure my party will be sitting in the water after having watched a horrible storm wipe the surface of the island clean...they may never go onto water again once they get to a port! That is fine by me really, because the rest of the modules I have are primarily land modules that don't involve large expanses of open water. Well except The Isle of Dread...but that is another story for another time...

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Glittering Isles of Greyhawk: of Coin and Trade

LOOT! It is the candy-coating goodness covering every adventure right?! So of course we have to have something about money in The Glittering Isles.

Despite the fact that The Glittering Isles were never conquered (or even truly colonized) by the Great Kingdom or other Oeridian peoples, it still uses a system of coinage almost identical to the Aerdy system established hundreds of years ago. What is that you say? You don't know what the Aerdy Pound is?! Well...lets get that out of the way first!

A long while back an awesome fella named Joe Maccarrone, after talking to Gary Gygax and some others, came up with an amazing conversion of the AD&D monetary system (detailed in Footprints issue #15) to something a bit more similar to what our own Medieval ancestors used in their daily lives. It is based upon a coinage system called the Aerdy Pound; which is silver based instead of gold based...and beyond that, increases the value of coins as well. After all, what if your character isn't in an area where there is a glut of coinage from adventurers?! What if you are in the backwater village of Noobsville and need a new battle-axe? You don't want to be paying gold when you can pay silver right?

In essence, the coinage system is converted this way (Old System to New Pound):

10 g.p = 1 g.p.
1 p.p. = .5 g.p.
1 g.p. = 5 s.p. = .1 g.p.
1 e.p. = 2.5 s.p. = .05 g.p.
1 s.p. = .25 s.p.
1 c.p. = .25 c.p.

After that, you can simply convert the old prices to the new prices. The new system, cleaned up, looks like this:

10 c.p. = 1 s.p.
50 s.p. = 1 g.p.
5 g.p. =  £ 1

Now, Joe didn't just convert the monetary system via coinage, he also re-vamped the equipment lists as well; but that isn't the purpose of this article...though I DO recommend you pick up the Footprints Number 15 issue where the article is called: "Historically Resonant" Coinage for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons by Joe Maccarrone. Awesome article!

Back to the purpose of this article, the "Aerdy £" is very important to trade in Greyhawk; and by extension to The Glittering Isles because it is rich in silver. The fear of attracting continental attention is very real among the Ship Captains (and even Corsairs) who travel to Lo Reltarma or Duxchan to do trade. Because there is an over-shadowing fear held by all involved, the merchants NEVER use coinage from The Glittering Isles, instead opting to use only silver trade bars valued at £1 with those they deal with in trade.

No stamp is ever placed upon these silver bars, and with a real weight of 7 pounds (or 104 ounces) they are equal to (in the new money system) £8; which represents a significant amount of money (enough to buy a suit of Plate Mail Armor!). These bars are highly prized by the merchants of Lendore Isle who often take credit for them; though the Duxchaners have their doubts to this claim even though the Suel Merchants they deal with from the Glittering Isles also speak Lendorian as well. In truth, most of these silver bars are manufactured by the Grey Elves who trade them to merchants from The Kingdom of the Dales or the City of Widdershin for gold to work, which is obtained primarily from human merchants; which brings us back to trade in The Glittering Isles.

Within The Glittering Isles, the various merchants usually do bulk trade in gold coins, rarely using the silver trade bars except in port cities alone. The reason being that £8 in gold is far lighter than the same in silver which, outside of cities, costs quite a bit to move around in merchant caravans. Most merchants will carry the caravan's "Pay Chest" right on their own person. Simply carrying 100 gold coins gives the merchant £20 or 5,000 s.p. (called Pennies, or Penny for one s.p.)! Those that do carry a chest of silver are usually paying daily rates for his caravan guards or needs it to pay bribes; neither a situation a merchant really likes to be in. Merchants travelling aboard ships have no trouble with carrying silver though, as has already been hinted at previously.

Widdershin is the "capital of trade" upon Kroanar Isle (the largest island) and so many merchants make it to the city at least once each year; including sea-going merchants (who may make port numerous times depending on their destinations). The city is constantly bustling, even in winter, with trade of all sorts. Though only a small sized city, it is nonetheless famed for its gigantic Great Guildhall. The structure spans 300 feet by 150 feet, and its highest point is over 100 feet in height as well. Constructed when Old Pellham fell to internal strife, the merchants of the city have never relinquished their control over the building and indeed the city and beyond into their control of the Free Seaholds. Day and night both, a prospective buyer will find trade to be had inside the two huge ground floor "Trade Halls". The two halls are the size of some towns' merchant squares, and in them can be found anything that doesn't rot or breathe that is for sale. Finished goods (such as armor, swords, clothes, jewelry and etc.) are the primary items sold inside the Great Guildhall; while daily items such as bread, fish, freshly cut meat and so forth will be found in the Market Square of Widdershin. The building is a must see for anyone visiting the city; and in fact it is the tallest structure in the city, with those coming from land or sea being able to catch a glimpse of its shining silver Hightower roof long before they can see the rest of the city.

In all the "goodly realms" of The Isles can be found merchants however; not just in and around Widdershin. Upon the waves and all along rutted roads merchants, buccaneers, pirates and warships guarding trade are to be found in plenty. The "typical" merchant's caravan is exactly as detailed on page 69 of the Monster Manual: 5d6x10 individuals with 10% of the group being merchants, 10% being drovers and the remaining 80% being mercenary and/or "house" guards protecting the caravan. While at sea merchants are represented by "Buccaneers" who travel about carrying merchants (represented by any "prisoners" indicated by dice roll under the description of buccaneers on page 67 of the Monster Manual) guarded by Marines represented by chain armored individuals (while sailors are the leather clad individuals); any treasure found is a mix of cargo and coins (with most being cargo).

House Guards are common in established merchant groups (called Houses because most are composed of individuals of the same bloodline) because of several reasons. A guard who knows he has a retirement home (farm, town/city home, business, etc.) to look forward to after a set number of years is far more loyal than a mercenary sell-sword who might turn on the merchant. These Guards are also usually better armed and armored because the House invests in their equipment so that the Guard is better able to protect the merchant. Lastly, Guards typically treat their comrades and merchants as a sort of extended family; so any new recruit is usually actually from the blood family of the Guard, many sons and daughters filling the spot of a retiring parent which ensures new recruits as well as continual loyalty.

The Merchant Houses (whose names are far too numerous to list here) are as firmly entrenched in the various realms as are the Noble Houses. In fact, most Merchant Houses got their start when second and third etc. sons and daughters of a noble family decided to invest in trade as a means to maintain their wealth when they could not inherit. This started long ago, but continues to this day. Some Noble Houses are also Merchant Houses actually; though most nobles would scoff at the idea of being a seller of goods rather than a warrior or cleric.

As has been mentioned, the Free Seaholds and its capital of Widdershin is the center of trade in The Glittering Isles. The accompanying map shows the usual routes of trade to be found; and as you can see, it seems to spiral out of and fall into Widdershin as if it were the axle of a great wheel.

The Slave Trade from Hepmonoland is dominated by the Corsairs, but it is only a one way "trade" to estate owners within the various holdings of the Corsairs who buy the slaves for silver to work their fields. On the northern end of Kroanar Isle the Schnai take some few thralls back to Rhizia and the holdings of their kin there; and this has increased in frequency now that King Jom has bent his will and warriors to conquering.

Many ships set sail from Widdershin and its powerful group of merchants for Hepmonoland, Duxchan and Lo Reltarma in earnest trade. To these places go the Grey Elven Silver Trade Bars that these merchants trade alongside the many gems and copious amounts of fruits and nuts that fill their cargo holds. They return with gold, cloth goods (such as linen bedding), finished goods (such as fine artwork, books, etc.), ivory from Hepmonoland and so forth. This trade makes Widdershin exceedingly wealthy, and they guard it just as a dragon guards its lair; they refuse trade in their markets with anyone else who trades with the mainland that isn't first sold to them at bargain prices. Those known to break their trade monopoly are usually dealt with rather harshly at sea if caught and on land if they can be found by hired assassins. It is known that the Faerie Elves have contact by sea with the Elves of the Spindrifts; but this is minimal, and the merchants of Widdershin wouldn't dare accost any Elfin ship or individual Elfin merchant at any rate.

Most areas of the Isles are self sufficient in foodstuffs, so trade done is primarily for less bulky items; though Halfling Mead is well regarded in all corners and is their major export to all which they trade for worked metal goods (weapons, armor, pots, pans and etc.). The Dwarfs, Gnomes and Elves deal primarily in finer goods sold to humanity, while humans sell much food, lumber and sundries to the Dwarfs, trade gold with the Elves, and the Gnomes are happy to trade their fine jewelry for non-minted gold that they can use in their jewelry making and timber so that they don't need to cut their own beautiful forests. Humanity is often also in the habit of "selling" their services as mercenaries to the various demi-human realms in the often frequent clashes with the orcs of Krimba-hai and other humanoid menaces.

The threats to all forms of trade are many: humanoid raiders, human banditry, monstrous beasts (both natural and magical), sea monsters, pirates, buccaneers and enemy merchant groups are but a few to be mentioned. Work as a Caravan Guard or as a Marine on a merchant ship is a solid way to make money within the trade routes of The Glittering Isles. However, attacking and looting a merchant caravan or ship is also a time honored tradition among various peoples such as High Freeholders (when "tax" isn't paid), Corsairs, Suel Barbarians and even mercenary adventurers. Most nobles wouldn't dare attack the neutral status of merchants on land or sea; though the term Robber Baron is not unknown among various Lairds who have few resources and poor lands. The most famous "Robber" Baron is Lord Krell of Krell's Gate who taxes caravans moving between human lands and the Grey Elf realm exhorbitant "fees" for using his road. As he claims the only viable pass through the Caspan Mountains, he gets his coin. Many other such Tax Barons are legitimate, and anyone travelling the roads should expect to give coin to be able to pass various castles/keeps which require payment.

Typical Baron's "Tax Keep" in the Kingdom of Hahntar

The finer nuances of trade isn't all that much fun to go into; I really only wanted to give everyone an idea of how trade works in the Realms of the Glittering Isles so that you can use it if you decide to play there as I lay out how to fit various modules that are "setting neutral" into a place I've created for the World of Greyhawk. I hope you've enjoyed this article whether you use the material or not...have a great day!

The Glittering Isles of Greyhawk: Prologue

The Glittering Isles of Greyhawk (Sneak Peek!)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Glittering Isles of Greyhawk (Sneak Peek!)

So I found myself sitting and writing out the first entry for the Glittering Isles...who is from where, what the populations were, how modules fit in and so on. I suddenly realized there was too much information! SO...I am going to send out a small sneak peek of things to come in addition to the Prologue from before.

I'm rather the amateur at all this writing business at any rate...often feeling like this young apprentice here...but he is at least able to create light. I hope this post sheds some light on the Glittering Isles for you!

The first thing I needed to do for the place was set out some familiar things that would bring back a bit of nostalgia to the setting I was creating...if not for the players (my wife and three children) then at least for me and those of you following along here. To that end, I created charts!

Oh the lovely charts of the Greyhawk Boxed set were like tiny little cookies that I devoured as a kid. I spent I don't know how many hours simply rolling dice to see what the weather would be like, where various NPCs were from, what encounters might take place and so on. So, my first chart: (NOTE! Beware the Formatting Gods!)


            Realm                          Population                              Military
                                                                                                 Max / Current
Autarchy of Xalmak                11,000 +/-                               1,600 / ?         
Eastern Corsairs                      13,000 +                                  2,000 / hundreds
Faerie Realm of Ye’Cind        15,000 ?                                   7,000 / 800+
Free Seaholds                          30,000 +                                  4,000 / 800+
High Freeholds                        10,000 +                                  2,000 / 1,000+
Kingdom of Barak                   13,000 +/-                               7,500 / 750 or more
Kingdom of Hahntar               45,000 +/-                                7,700 / 4,000+
Kingdom of Jomshold              7,500 +                                   1,800 / 1,200
Kingdom of the Dales            17,500 +/-                                 3,000 / 1,000+
The Warholds                           6,500 ?                                    1,600 / 1,600
Vale of Bellor                           6,500 +                                   3,500 / 300+
Vale of Merra                            8,700 +                                  3,350 / 350 + mercs
West Corsairs                          15,500 +                                  2,300 / 1,000+

*Krimba-hai                            10,000 +/-                                4,000 / 4,000 +
(Krimba-hai is included here only for purposes of comparing it to the "Goodly" Realms)

So this population number (for humanity) gives more than the 150,000 noted as the population for the Glittering Isles...but I explain this away to the ebb and flow of humanity due to birth, war, pestilence, magic and so on. As you can see, none of the "Kingdoms" of the Glittering Isles are close to being actual kingdoms at all; with only Hahntar having a sufficient population to have a muster equal to such domains of the mainland like Bissel or other smaller domains (as Bissel has a military of 4,000 standing and 4,000 reserve, this made sense to me for Hahntar who is constantly "at war" on one border or another...or even internally).

I used that particular population chart to be able to create a Place of Origin chart for the various races that will be involved as Player Characters in my home game. Using the population total figures from that and dividing them into the individual racial numbers, I came up with the following charts:

Race of Character                    % Chance
Grey Elf                                          1-5
Half Elf                                           6-7
Mountain Dwarf                            8-13
Rock Gnome                                14-17
Halfling                                        18-22
Human                                          23-97
Half Orc                                       98-100

Most will notice immediately that certain races have very low chances of existing as PCs in a game. I explain this by the fact that Grey Elves rarely leave their homelands because they don't like to mix with other races. Also, within the Glittering Isles, Grey Elves rarely mate with humanity, and so Half-Elven characters are even more rare than Grey Elves. Mountain Dwarves have a slightly higher chance of being PCs, but their tendency to stay home and work with their clans and families far outweighs the call to adventure for most of them. Rock Gnomes and Halflings are also not all that common as adventurers, for the former they are much the same as Mountain Dwarves; for the latter there just aren't all that many upon the Glittering Isles, and they are in fact as much a homebody as a Dwarf, Elf or Gnome. The chart shows that humans are the obviously dominant adventurers; but in fact they have only about as much a chance of being adventurers as halflings if the populations are compared based on percent of total. Half-orcs are last and also quite uncommon...primarily  because those born into orc society are orcs for all intents and purposes of gaming and NPC encounters; while those born into human society are treated harshly (often killed outright) by humanity. Orcs are a blight upon The Glittering Isles and not even a mother's "love" is likely to save a half-orc from a family/clan upon birth.

Birthplace (Humanity)               % Chance
Vale of Merra                                     1-2
Vale of Bellor                                     3-4
Free Seaholds                                    5-24
Kingdom of the Dales                      25-34
Kingdom of Hahntar                        35-64
High Freeholds                                 65-74
Kingdom of Jomshold                      75-79
The Warholds                                   80-84
East Corsairs                                    85-90
West Corsairs                                   91-96
Autarchy of Xalmak                        97-100

I fudged a bit on this table because I had a certain idea of how the different human cultures in the area would look upon layabouts (read Adventurers) and mercenary individuals in their society. Some are likely to look sourly upon those wishing to leave family and clan, while in other lands war (and just higher populations) give rise to more adventurers.

Birthplace (Half-Elf)                   % Chance
Ye'Cind                                               1-80
Roll on Humanity Chart                    81-100

This chart was easy. Human women are rarely taken as mates by Grey Elf males, and those that are are usually of great beauty and exceptional among their kind. On the other hand, many Grey Elf females will have a Half-Elven child due to many factors...most of which I don't want to relate here in case I have younger readers. Half-Elves are considered by the Grey Elf people to be a blessing in disguise however, and they are often sent to live with the Wild Runner Clans (the primary standing military of the Faerie Realm of Ye'Cind) when they reach adulthood...or go off adventuring. Either way, the Grey Elves think, their human blood is put to good use.

Birthplace (Half-Orc)                   % Chance
The Warholds                                      1-25
North Caspan Mountains                   26-40
Kingdom of Jomshold                        41-55
Kingdom of Hahntar                          56-70
High Freeholds                                   71-80
Free Seaholds                                     81-85
Roll on Humanity Chart                    86-100

Orcish Mercenary Army in the Warholds
This chart shows that Half-Orcs are most accepted in certain lands; which also happen to be areas where orcs are most active (and their bastard offspring are most likely allowed to live). The Warholds is actually held primarily by strong Half-Orc Warlords (though many humans also "rule" there), while the North Caspan Mountains are dominated by both "The Pit" and the Orc City of Krimba-hai. The Kingdom of Jomshold has recently conquered about half of the Warholds, and so it is not unlikely that orcs and/or their children are to be found there. The Kingdom of Hahntar is constantly at odds against both raiding orcs as well as Krimba-hai; and over time they have come to accept that not all Half-orcs are born into an evil bent (they actually are fond of using Half-orcs as scouts and spies against Krimba-hai). The High Freeholds and Free Seaholds have long had some number of Half-orcs in their populations; the mercenary Freeholders use them as heavy shock infantry while in the Seaholds they are often found as mercenary soldiers, hired thugs and even as guild officers for the Laborers Guild in the port cities. Any Half-orc found in other human lands is often an oddity, but still it happens occasionally.

Birthplace (Mt. Dwarf)                 % Chance
Caspan Mountains                               1-80
Vale of Merra                                      81-85
Vale of Bellor                                      86-90
Faerie Realm of Ye'Cind                     91-93
Roll on Humanity Chart                     94-100

There are no Hill Dwarves that live upon The Isles. The Mountain Dwarves, however, dominate the Caspan Mountains. Their Kingdom of Barak is primarily centered around the Clan Fastness of Grom; but their numbers are to be found throughout those mountains (excepting the North Mountains unless in Force) prospecting, mining, setting traps for trespassers, trading and so on. They will rarely be found in the Vale of Merra or Vale of Bellor as craftsmen who decided to retire to "softer" lands in their late years. They get along especially well with both Halflings and Gnomes. Some few have been known to venture into Human lands as craftsmen because they can charge high prices for their Dwarf-Made goods; though some few are outcast from their clans.

Birthplace (Gnomes)                      % Chance
Vale of Bellor                                        1-85
Caspan Mountains                               86-95
Roll on Humanity Chart                     96-100

Rock Gnomes of The Isles are loathe to leave the comfort of the Vale of Bellor and its Gnome-City of Bergal. Those that don't live in and around that city live in rolling hills that are rich in gemstones and silver, and also quite a good deal of gold too. Those that can leave the idyllic beauty of their homeland will often venture into the Caspan Mountains as prospectors, to serve as advisors to the dwarven lords (as Illusionists mostly), or else into the lands of humanity on adventures for those that catch that fever. The gnomes are not ones to adventure usually though, and so this chart seemed fitting to me.

Birthplace (Grey Elves)                 % Chance
Faerie Realm of Ye'Cind                       1-80
Caspan Mountains                                81-90
Vale of Merra                                        91-94
Vale of Bellor                                        95-97
Kingdom of the Dales                          98-100

The Grey Elves of the Glittering Isles (each and every one a noble in the eyes of their people) rarely settle in any place in which they don't have influence or outright control. Most reside within the Realm of Ye'Cind, though the Kingdom of the Dales is seen as a protectorate by them because the noble house of that realm (though human) is actually descended from a Noble House of the Grey Elves; so some few live in the deeper woods of that domain. Others love the windy and cold mountains because of the stark beauty of the place and these griffon or hippogriff mounted elves are often seen skirting the clouds here. Last are the Vales of Merra and Bellor. Both are seen as staunch allies of the Grey Elves, though they are not politically influenced by any elves. Instead, they are simply seen as beautiful lands filled with handsome (though dirty) little folk much akin to the other Faerie creatures such as Brownies, Sprites and so on. Elves live in these realms usually only fleetingly (for them...being a hundred years or so) before again returning to the serenity of their homeland Ye'Cind.

Birthplace (Halflings)                     % Chance
Vale of Merra                                         1-70
Vale of Bellor                                       71-80
Kingdom of the Dales                          81-90
Roll on Humanity Chart                      91-100

Halflings love their home valley; there are few places more appealing to them (despite the war torn Warholds and Krimba-hai both being neighbors). They also love the Vale of Bellor however, it is almost exactly like their own home and has great farming land which the gnomes are not fond of using anyway. Many Halflings settled in the Kingdom of the Dales long ago as well; it is a pastoral country much suited to their tastes and at the time of their settlement it was ruled by benign Half-elven nobility as well. Some halflings love adventure too, but the true reason for their being so often in other realms of humanity is simply that they are farmers and herdsmen. Many human lands have halflings within them; though some are treated poorly and are likely serfs/slaves (Either Corsair domain or in the Warholds).

That is it for PC places of origin...but now I wanted to give a little peek into the features of the island itself as well. There are few major (compared to the mainland) features of The Glittering Isles, but there are several worth mention and so I've included them here.

Lesser Bodies of Water; The Shallow Sea: Though the Solnor Ocean srrounds The Glittering Isles, the Shallow Sea mitigates its dangers all along the west to east of the southern coast of the main island of Kroanar where rest the other larger islands as well. No more than 200 feet deep on average, it is a calm sea filled with dolphins, trade, and has numerous settlements along the shores throughout. The whole of the Shallow Sea is contested by Corsairs, Merchants and Suel Barbarians alike; many shipwrecks lay within easy reach of divers, but these are claimed by the merfolk who do not tolerate intrusion beneath the waves into their domain.

Hills and Highlands; the Tomb Hills: Consisting of both the hills that rise from the eastern coasts and the moorland of the High Freeholds, these many round topped hills and rolling moorland are of great importance to humans. For centuries unknown the Kings and Queens of many realms have found their final rest here. The haunted Dolmen Moor being the most storied and important of all. Tomb robbers are hated even by murderous bandits here (who fear ghostly retribution), and anyone caught disturbing the rest of the dead is usually unceremoniously buried nearby.

Fens of Tavarol: a small river fed marsh, the Fens of Tavarol are along east banks of the Damrosil River. Many small islands, in the hundreds, dot this place which is the spawning ground of millions of insects each spring; though the place is usually frozen in the winter months. Of more importance are the giant spiders and stirge swarms (the former feasting upon the latter) known to infest the place as well.

Minor Mountain Ranges; the Caspan Mountains: this heavily forested range crests bare rock only in the furthest north and south reaches of these ancient mountains. In the north it bends across, to the east, and creates a higher range that acts as a barrier to the beasts and humanoids of the Lands of The Pit. Snowfall is common, and heavy, in the fall and winter; but otherwise powerful thunderstorms boom as the North and South winds vie for dominance over the islands. The great Elven city of Glittering Falls sits in the western foothills where the Gem River falls hundreds of feet and then on to the sea; its headwaters deep in the Caspan's bowels. The Dwarf Kingdom of Barak runs beneath these mountains, its only known exit is the city of Grom (capital of Barak) just south and east of Glittering Falls. Unfortunately, the orc city of Krimba-hai is also firmly entrenched in the north-eastern bounds of these mountains; and too, the realms of Merra and Bellor rest in eastern mountain valleys of the central Caspans. The Caspans (or Hammer Mountains to the Dwarves) hold abundant riches in gemstones and silver, but also nearly any other base or noble metal can be found in their hearts too.

Rivers, Damrosil: running from headwaters in the Vale of Bellor, the Damrosil is a shallow, and slow moving, river navigable by shallow keeled vessels from the Gnome-City of Belgar all the way south to bustling Widdershin; though there are several sets of rapids which require portages. The winds of the Solnor push strongly west over the river allowing easy sailing up river as well.

River, Gem: the fast flowing Gem River falls from the Water-Gates of Grom (and there from the depths of the Caspan Mountains) before splitting the Goldleaf Forest into north and south sections nearly equally. It falls hundreds of feet at the Elven City of Glittering Falls and thence to the sea in a rush. Only small boats with oars can safely navigate the rapids and swirls of the Gem river, and then only safely going toward the sea. As its name implies, in places gems can literally be picked up out of the river; but only such as ornamental stones usually; and these places are guarded by Elf and Dwarf alike.

River, King: the King River is a meandering small river running through the Kingdom of Hahntar before emptying into the Solnor Ocean on the east coast of Kroanar Isle. Its banks are heavily farmed and the length of the river is navigable only by shallow keeled boats and fishermen's skiffs. It is usually used to haul cargo by barges, most of which are poled down the river or else pulled up the river by oxen on the banks.

Minor Timberlands, the Goldleaf Forest: Having many fruit bearing trees in its confines, this forest is so named for the many hardwoods which drop golden leaves in the fall; though in the highest forested peaks and northern verges will be found many needle-leaf trees such as pine. The entirety of the central forest near the Glittering Falls is thick with the mighty Ipt trees that the Faerie Elves prefer to live within.

Minor Timberlands, the Littlewood: heavily forested, the Littlewood was once an arm of Loring's Wood long ago. Its open expanses have allowed the growth of many fruit bearing trees. Clan Morrel of the High Freeholds is constantly raiding out of this forest into Hahntar, and so skirmishing here is often frequent and bloody.

Minor Timberlands, Loring's Wood: Ancient and bramble-filled, the "Wood of King Loring" is a shadow of its former size; it once went down the Damrosil on both banks to the sea and north to join the Goldleaf Forest. Its inner reaches are avoided due to hostile druids (of Obod-hai?), but the verges are harvested of deadwood and fruits and nuts such as crabapple, cherry and walnuts.

Minor Timberlands, the Marchwood: this border forest is being hewn away to feed ship building in Mertown. The Count of Seamarch is paid a "tax" (read as Bribe) to keep his patrols away from the lumber camps by the shipbuilders guild of Mertown as well as the Council of Widdershin who are heavily invested in the enterprise.

Wastelands, the Dolmen Moor: Nothing but moss and lichen (called Lich-grass by some) grows here. An Undead Army, eternal and ever replenishing despite all efforts, rules here at night. None of the clans of the High Freeholds go here; in fact they chase off any trying to reach the top of this barren plateau in fear that someone may raise the ire of the Undead Army which has in the past made attacks against settlements coming too close to Dolmen Moor.

Well, there you have a little bit of the lay of the lands that will come in handy when I get a bit more in depth/detailed about the modules and where they are slash how they fit into the campaign I'll be running. Have a great day!

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Glittering Isles of Greyhawk: Prologue

What are the Glittering Isles you ask? Are they REALLY in Greyhawk?

Well, it is easiest to answer the second question first: Yes, they are in Greyhawk...but they are not Canon. The answer to the first question helps to answer the second: the Glittering Isles are a project I've started to create a setting for several of the Modules published for Dungeons and Dragons over the years. I've blended them together the best that I can (with tweaks here and there) so that you can really enjoy a series of modules all wrapped together that were previously setting neutral; but now you can enjoy them in the World of Greyhawk!

The simple map above doesn't give you the scope/scale of the place when compared to the rest of here:

The whole of the place isn't quite as big as the Kingdom of Keoland really. Ahhh...I see the looks and can hear the questions:

"What about the Aqua-aerdians that went beyond the lands of the Sea Barons...wouldn't they have run into the Glittering Isles and settled there instead of going on much farther into the sea?" Well, yes indeed they would have...had they been able to find it! You see, in the distant past, the Glittering Isles were actually almost the exclusive territory of Grey Elves of the Faerie sort. They were exceedingly cautious in their dealings with...well, with anyone! Not only that, but the Demi-God Ye'Cind is actually from the Glittering Isles (yes, that isn't Canon...none of this is Canon mind you!) and his people shrouded their land in deep magic that hid it from the eyes and explorations of other peoples.

"Well, if the Faerie Elves could hide the entire island, how did humans ever find it?" That is a good question...but the answer is really simple: Beltar. Yes, an angry Suel godling lured humanoids to the island via the Underdark and VOILA! you have the island discovered and a great war that ensued that then made it difficult for the diminished Faerie Elves to hide their island home.

"Who were the first humans to find the Glittering Isles?" The Flan found the place first, being affable sorts they didn't infringe on the lands then held by the Faerie Elves. Suel found it next and remained in the southern isles...and then on and on humanity came until we have today's Glittering Isles.

Ok...that is enough questions for now; let's get on with some meat on these bones shall we!


Realms of the

Various Petty Kings to Lairds of small domains the size of Baronies

Capital: Widdershin (population 6,500); nominal trade capital only
Population: 150,000 +/- (Sof)
Demi-humans: Many (Halflings and Gnomes), Mt. Dwarves (7,000), Grey (Faerie) Elves 5,500
Humanoids: Some (primarily Orcs and Xvarts, then mixed)
Resources: Gems (I-IV), Silver, Foodstuffs (Fruits/Nuts)

           The Glittering Isles are rich in gemstones of nearly all kinds as well as abundant silver (all taken primarily from the Caspan Mountains); and it is this wealth that the Corsairs and Merchants of Widdershin trade for gold, furs, rare woods, ivory and even rarely (by those of evil bent) slaves. The Corsairs have explored the coasts of Hepmonoland and the vilest of their people have started taking natives to use as slaves on their island estates. Only in recent years have the Corsairs and Merchants started limited contact with the continent; and then only with merchants of Lo Reltarma on Lendore Isle or with distant kin upon Duxchan Island in the Lordship of the Isles (many of the Corsairs are descendants of Duxchaners who fled the Lordship of the Isles during the conquest of their home by the Great Kingdom). These islands, once long ago the domain of the Faerie Elves only (as well as many of the Fey), were settled by Flan as early as circa 1,500 F.T. (-651 C.Y.) who settled the plains and coasts of Kroanar Isle. Dissatisfied Suel wizards (and their families) arrived circa -500 C.Y. after leaving off from the followers of Lendore; taking the southern islands, there was little strife between these human groups.
          Many petty kingdoms, and even one “empire,” have existed upon these islands; but today it is a fractured political land of minor lords or freeman lairds. Its distance from even the mysterious (to mainlanders) Spindrift Islands enabled the Glittering Isles to remain apart from continental strife and especially conquest by the Great Kingdom; though Schnai (Snow Barbarians) have found the islands here numerous times in their explorations and are in fact the reason the islands are called the Glittering Isles, so named by them. Many times they have stayed as chiefs (or even petty kings) of this land or that. Current realms of note are:

v The Kingdom of Hahntar: largest of the realms, Hahntar could be considered the dominant domain on the main island Kroanar; but internal strife caused by both religious and secular forces have seemingly stagnated its growth. Nevertheless, Hahntar’s famed knights are the backbone of a strong feudal kingdom that could easily field forces equal to such as Geoff, Gran March, Ket, or Sterich.
v The Free Seaholds: the city of Widdershin is the largest settlement upon the island of Kroanar and was the capital of the only true kingdom (which ruled the entire isle of Kroanar and many small islands as well) called Pellham. Today “Old Pellham” is long gone and the merchants rule here in the center of trade for the Glittering Isles. The towers called Mathghamhna sit only a few miles outside Widdershin; said to be an ancient stronghold in the war against the Queen of Chaos in ancient times, it now sits empty and foreboding.
v Autarchy of Xalmak: ruled by the most powerful sorcerer-priest of Wee Jas, Xalmak was once the center of human culture in the Glittering Isles; but now is a culture in severe decline, but still very powerful and respected among The Realms. Hatred of the Undead is strong here, and many come here to learn the secrets of combating them. The clergy of Wee Jas (called by outsiders The Ruby Wraiths due to their penchant for wearing deep red hoods and robes the same color), also support an order of Monk-Sorcerers which are the only functionaries outsiders are allowed to deal with upon Xalmak.
v Faerie Realm of Ye’Cind: ruled by an ancient line of great renown, the original home of the demi-god Ye’Cind now bears his name and his followers rule the musical realm in which the Faerie Elves live. The current Crownfather, Ye’Arendal (cousin of Ye’Cind), sits upon the Gemheart Throne with his wife Ya’Alla, Consort to the Crown. While Ye’Arendal is the titular ruler of the realm, he defers in many things to Ya’Alla who is the High Priestess of Ye’Cind. Most of the gems and silver used in trade come from this domain. In return the elves receive gold and mercenaries to fight the orcs of Krimba-hai.

The meat and drink of this series will be to put things in a light that enables you to use certain older modules that had no home in any particular setting; as well as some few short one shot adventures found in older Dragon/Dungeon magazines too.

To get to the start of that, we need a good map!

This map, titled "Old Pellham and Environs" will be the starting point for the adventures that I will be running here at home with my wife and children (and perhaps some others too). I like this format of map because it just speaks to me of "Ye Olden Times" when I first found Mystara. It also has hexes, which is very "Greyhawk" and fitting; though they aren't the same types of symbols, I'm OK with that.

As you can see on the map, the city of Widdershin is the capital of the Free Seaholds (Holds being very important in the Glittering Isles)...and indeed, it is the former capital of the Kingdom of Pellham which ruled all the main island of Kroanar and some few other islands as well.

Widdershin is first mentioned in the awesome tournament module titled "To Find a King" by Bob Blake; followed by "The Bane of Llywelyn" also by Bob Blake. I've always loved the first of this pair because of the introduction of my favorite villain Baron Krell. If you look on the map near the Goldleaf Forest you will see "Krell's Gate". Other prominent features of these modules are Ciron's Town, the Tower of Ishcabeble, Dolmen Moor and the ever deadly Loren's Wood. Some features had to be changed, and others renamed, to make it all "fit" into the World of Greyhawk. The "Eyes of Berta" were changed into the Eyes of Beltar, Dagda's Thumb was changed to Beory's Thumb, and other minor changes as well. I'll get more into these as this series goes on when I detail how to fit the particular modules into the created setting.

This series will detail in depth the Glittering Isles and the modules placed there (how to fit them, how they have been changed and etc.). The maps have been a special sort of fun for me so far; and so I'll hit a few parts on this particular map to give a hint of what is to come.

The Free Seaholds are a financial power in their world, but a rapidly declining one because of military pressures (territorial ambitions of Hahntar, depredations of the Corsairs, dwindling numbers of the lower classes tired of being taxed, etc). Aside from those domains seen on the map, there is one more: Hold of the Captains March (an area heavily involved in both naval and land battles recently).

North of the Free Seaholds are the High Freeholds. Nominally allied to Widdershin/Pellham (and by default the whole of the Seaholds), the men and women of this land are in all but name wandering bands of mercenaries and bandits. Each "Clan" territory is comprised of numerous small groups of bandits which, if brought together, represent a formidable foe. Widdershin calls upon the greed of the Clan Chiefs here to buy their services against the ambitions of the Kingdom of Hahntar.

West of the Free Seaholds is the petty Kingdom of the Dales. Once known as the western province of Morganth in the last days of Pellham's glory, today the area is ruled ably by a noble family of Elven ancestry. The Kings of the Dales have at their call many Rangers (a special branch of Knights in fact), Yeomen and even half-elven "Wild Runners" from the southern verges of the Goldleaf Forest (which is in theory a part of the Faerie Realm of Ye'Cind). Primarily a peaceful land, it has known war between its own nobles and also against orcs and such from the Caspan mountains. The Module "Destiny of Kings" by Stephen Bourne will be set here. You can see hints of the module in Fontenmere (an "Abbey" which holds the noble accoutrements for crowning the King of the Dales, and once did the same for the Royal Regalia of Pellham), Capel Tower which guards against raids by orcs and the Shrine of Ye'Cind (named the Shrine of Nevron in the module). The map of that module has been greatly modified to make it fit the Glittering Isles.

To the North-East of the Free Seaholds can be seen two Counties of the Kingdom of Hahntar. Both of these are nearly autonomous from Hahntar (its King is currently feeble and addle-minded, its nobles often rebellious, and its religious factions setting half the kingdom against the other half). The Counts of these domains are on constant guard against raids by the "Clans" (read Bandits) of the High Freeholds and would like to launch punitive expeditions against them but can't afford to do so because they lack the military strength individually and also the funds to carry out a campaign. The County of Seamarch is on agreeable terms with the Sea Freeholds (read: bribed by the council of Widdershin) and much trade is carried out upon old and failing roads. Hahntar is famed for two things: its mailed Knights and its War College which rests in the Hawk Marches and thence in the city of Honshar. Here in Honshar are War-Wizards and they are avid foes of all humanoids, raiders, reavers and what have you...but especially hateful toward the orcs of Krimba-hai when they attack the Hawk Marches via the dark and evil Akray Forest from out of the northern Caspan Mountains (the module "The Silver Key" by Ted James and Thomas Zuvich is centered on this conflict between Honshar and Krimba-hai). The War-Wizards of Hahntar are fractious themselves, however; there have been spectacular spell battles between their members even in the streets of Widdershin!

The Goldleaf Forest is that same realm as The Faerie Realm of Ye'Cind; but that area shown in this map is ruled almost independently by the Wild Runners of the Faerie Realm. These are bands of "short-lived" half-elves given the southern forest to have as their own and to act as a buffer between the city of Glittering Falls and the masses of humanity. Much trade is done between humanity and these "elf-clans" as they are called by humans; and it is from here that humanity obtains much silver and many gems in return for gold (as well as additional mercenaries at times). The Wild Runners are mercenary as well, so may be found in small groups within the lands of mankind. They suffer no infringement upon their territory, and heavy payment (at times) from Baron Krell to these mercenaries ensures that they "Lay Claim" on his territory when Krell is threatened by the King of the Dales or the Council of Widdershin.

Full war is uncommon between these particular areas, though there is (as stated) much raiding done by certain elements. A look at some of my inspiration for the warriors of these lands:

Here you can see what the typical Suel (actually Suel-Oeridian-Flan, or Sof) looks like that would be found among just about any army upon the islands. Iron, while not rare, is rarely afforded by lower ranking members of armies, and few nations supply their soldiers with more than a stout shield, helmet and weapons. I picture the Suel of the Glittering Isles to be much akin to Celtic people of Gaul: actually civilized, but lacking in some of the more advanced aspects of civilization for commoners.

Unfortunately for the common yeoman, orcs are not so lightly armored or armed. Against these sort humanity has professional soldiers. Where a Yeoman may be an excellent warrior (and most are on these islands), the professional Man-at-Arms is more than capable of handling a battle against orcs. Add to the man above a fine suit of chain armor and the support of well trained archers and the furious charge of knights...well, there is a reason orcs don't dominate here!

As well as that may be, even the civilized Man-at-Arms has a boogeyman of his own: the barbaric Schnai from distant Rhizia. Armored in layered mail armor and carrying a heavy axe as well as sword, the warriors led by "King" Jom of Jomshold are currently much feared. Having carved out a sizable realm in the north, King Jom leads many warriors such as this. Mercenary to their core, however, Jom knows that his soldiers loyalty is to riches; which he is currently able to give them. The northern realm of "The Warholds" has lost half its territory to Jom and his men; orc mercenaries hired by the Lairds of this domain not withstanding. Skirmishing with the Lords of the Hawk Marches have proven to all that the modern barbarian warrior is much more able than those of history here.

Mentioned several times previously are "Knights" of the various Glittering Isles realms. These are not the shining plate armored knights many are used to in fantasy gaming however. While Full Plate armor is known (and used) in the various realms, its cost is great and so most Knights here wear heavy fully covering chain mail armor with only plates here and there; commonly called Plate and Mail. Their thunderous charge is still deadly; but their own casualties are sometimes greater than might be noticed in the mainland kingdoms of eastern Oerik. To offset these casualties, Knights are not thrown at a line of spears; but usually saved for the crushing blow after an enemy's lines are beginning to falter. They are excellent combatants to a man however, and their dislike of throwing themselves on a stout wall of shields and spears should not be taken as cowardice. The Knights of the Glittering Isles are much feared in one to one combat against lesser men.

Well, there you have a brief introduction to the Realms of the Glittering Isles (also often simply called the Glittering Realms). Stay tuned for more fun as we go along. This is going to be my new home campaign, so I'll have lots of material to share as I go along!