The World of Ark

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!

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