Thursday, September 29, 2016

Linguistics in the Flannaes: Oeridians are still from outer space

Over on Canonfire I found this cool article An Alternative Linguistic History of the Flanaess  written by someone identified only as Ullmaster.  If you're a Greyhawk weirdo like me then you'll find that it's definitely worth your time.  Here's a highlight:
"I subscribe to the theory that they arrived on Oerth from another world, and brought their language with them." Ullmaster, An Alternative Linguistic History of the Flanaess
Anyone who remembers my bit on the Oeridians being extraterrestrials based on linguistic and spaceship-crash site evidence will think I've found my soulmate here, except that the "they" that the author is referring to in this case is the Olman people who occupy the jungles to the south of the Flannaes, not the Oeridians.  Ullmaster, offers no justification for why the Olman (Olmen?) might be from a galaxy far, far away, and yet by his very name he should know damn well that the Oeridians landed their starfleet in or near Ull some 1200 years ago. As the Oeridians are very secretive about their origins, it's only natural that Ullmaster--indubitably an Oeridian himself--is trying to deflect attention from UFO seekers to a point as far from Ull as possible.

To further demonstrate the lengths to which the Ullmaster is willing to go to mask Oeridia's true origin, s/he has this to say: 
"Oerid:  This people came from a land to the northwest of the Suel, in a coastal land ruled by dragons." 
Only by tacking the words "and unicorns" to the end of that sentence could it be made into a more blatant fabrication. We're on to you and your alien-people, Master of Ull.

All kidding aside, it is a pretty fascinating read wherein the author compares Greyahwkian languages to earthly ones. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Nortonian Greyhawk Part III: The Quag Keep Companion

No way did I think it would take an entire month to get around to this, but here it is September 1 and I still haven't put that friggin' map together. So I'm moving on without it. That's right, we're skipping the map and going straight to Part III of the Nortonian Greyhawk series: The Quag Keep Companion, my heavily researched reference guide to the Land of Greyhawk as depicted in Andre Norton's groundbreaking novel Quag Keep. I may eventually post a PDF for those interested in such things.

I intended to keep this thing a straight-up reference work, using only info gleaned from the book. But alas, too many items were only mentioned by name with no further details given or inferences made, so I started applying a little of the ol' blogger's license. It made the thing a lot more fun to write though it'll be a bit more irritating for you to read.

Remind me to scan that friggin' map and I'll put it up soon.



Quag Keep Companion: A Guide to Nortonian Greyhawk

A note on abbreviations: I use two abbreviations prominently throughout this guide
  • CoG referring to the City of Greyhawk, and
  • LoG referring to the Land of Greyhawk, which encompasses the entire continent on which CoG resides.
And a note or two on page citations:
  • Page numbers are given in parentheses following statements which are lifted directly from the book or can be reasonably inferred from it. Statements which are not followed by a page number are fabrications of the cataloger.
  • Statements followed by the word (Map) are inferences made based on the Olde Thyme Map of Greyhawk (Figure 1), not the Darlene maps published by TSR in 1980.
Without further ado...

Blackmoor (28,47) A barren land on the western shores of the Great Bay. Home to many peculiar locales including the Pinnacle of the Toad and other oddities.

Castle of Kyark Citadel of the great wizard Kyark, built in the outskirts of the City of Greyhawk (CoG), the place is believed to induce madness in those who visit. (71) First built centuries ago, it is believed to be so enchanted that it has continued to build and reconfigure itself ever since, an ever-growing labyrinth of constantly changing chambers and corridors populated by an ongoing influx of monsters, tricks and traps; all of which keep adventurers returning time and again.

Dom A discipline of eldritch magic named after Dom, a mage of antiquity who developed much of the body of knowledge upon which the school is founded. It concerns itself primarily with the summoning and abjuring of demons and other beings of Chaos.

Druids Members of a “close knit, secretive fraternity” (p.23), often aligned with the dark forces of chaos, who have some ability to use magic.

Dry Steppes Vast, arid plains on the western extreme of the Land of Greyhawk (LoG). What few watering places there are within the Steppes are considered the hereditary property of the Nomads of Lar. See also Kalastro.

Elves A race of humans who have mastery over communication with all animals and birds (p. 21, 28). They are also possessed of Power Lore, a body of insight into the machinations of the world about which most humans are not capable of giving a damn. (51)

Faltforth the Sun Crown Deity of LoG mythology represented by the sun.
Figure 1: Is this the map Gygax showed Norton?

Fane of Wings Ancient temple of unknown provenance. Noted for its unique architecture, it predates all current civilizations in LoG. (88)

Faraaz A land to the west of Greyhawk between Geofp and Verocunby. (Map)  It is comprised of loosely affiliated city states, each run by a “Holy Lord.” Also known as “Holy Lords of Faraz” or “Land of the Holy Lords.” They use copper coins in the shape of a cross, and half moon silver coinage.(52)

Fon du Ling One of the “Holy Lords” of Faraaz. An adventurer and collector of rare and fabulous animal species. He is rumored to have found and explored the secret Temple of Tung. (65)

Foreteeth of Gar An epithet referring to the prominent mandibles of a minor deity with no small following in Narm. Also refers to two prominent peaks which stand guard at the headwaters of the unnamed river that separates the lands of Geofp and Narm.

Ganclang Lesser deity of LoG, noted for his (or her) brazen voice. (192)

Gar A deity heeded primarily by mountain tribes in Narm and Geofp. He is seen as a protector of the mountain people and is noted for having large tusks and for belching lightning from his mouth.

Gar-Eagle A very large bird that resides in mountain regions, roc.

Geofp Region of Greyhawk in the foothills of the Western Mountains which separate the Sea of Dust form the fertile eastern lands. The Grand Duke rules the land as a stronghold of Chaos. And yes, there is a “p” on the end. Obviously it's a typo, but they were diligent in repeating it throughout the book, so it's now canon.

Great Kingdom A realm to the north of Urnst along the southern shores of the Great Bay. (Map) It comprises five legendary cities which pre-date current history. (88) The lands of Blackmoor, Parth, and the Wild Coast have at times been considered a part of this realm, though citizens of those lands rarely acknowledge the sovereign.

Greyhawk, City of (CoG) A free city with no master where the struggle between Law and Chaos often plays out its drama.

Griff Cat griffin

Han-gra-dan A wizard of legend, the “mightiest of Northern Adepts” lived a millennium ago or more. His scholarship in arcane knowledge is unsurpassed and artifacts of his creation are still highly sought after by wizards and sages alike.

Harrowing of Ironnose Bardic saga regaling the epic battle between Lichis the Golden and Ironnose.

Harvel's Axe, Sign of An inn of dubious reputation on the edge of the Thieves Quarter in CoG frequented by wereboars and druids.

Hither Hills Hilly region to the north of Narm. (map) The tribesmen of these hills are known to be adepts of some renown though it is often said that they are descended from the intermixing of men and demons of chaos. (67)

Kalastro, Empire of Land of legend located in the area that is now the Dry Steppe. Once the homeland of a vast and powerful empire that fell to decadence and depraved debauchery, before turning to Chaos entirely. In what has become known as the Plague of Fire, Lichis the Golden lead a flight of dragons over the land and scorched it to the barren waste that it remains to this day.

Keoland The largely depopulated lands to the south and east of CoG. (71) Made up of dry plains in the south and west. (#)  Most of the remaining population of Keoland lives in a hilly region to the east of Greyhawk which is sometimes referred to as Keo Major when differentiating it from the dry plains to the southeast, aka Keo the Less. See Rieving of said land for more info.

Kyark Legendary wizard who built a stronghold on the outskirts of CoG. It is widely believed that  any who enter his stronghold will succumb to insanity or worse. (71) Nonetheless, adventurers flock to the stronghold in search of treasure and glory.

Landron of the Inner Light A deity who serves the forces of Law. His disciples are known to carry nought but a knife to defend themselves.

Lar Region of land on the fringes of the Dry Steppes inhabited by warlike nomadic tribes who engage in raids on their neighbors for resources. Noted for their steeds, see Steppe Mounts.

Liche A form of undead, much like a zombie but possessed of greater quickness and intellect. If severed into pieces, its parts will continue to fight on independently of each other.

Lichis Legendary golden dragon who supported the side of Law through thousands of years of struggle with the forces of Chaos. Was the adversary of Ironnose in the legendary battle that became the subject of the “Harrowing of Ironnose.” Has retired form the world and no longer interacts with humankind. Resides in the Southern Moutains which divide the fertile east from the arid west.

Lyra Gems Low quality gemstones that are often crafted into cheap jewelry and hawked in shoddy merchant stalls throughout the LoG. (65)

Maritiz An island nation noted for its coinage made of mother of pearl and incised with the “fierce head of a sea serpent.”(52)

Narm (61) Region to the north of Geofp

Never-fail Shield Shields of legend purported to have magical powers. Vendors of dubious reputation are known to offer counterfeits for sale to gullible adventurers. (65) They originally were used by certain elite regiments of the lost Empire of Kalastro. They were round shields of light weight yet impregnable steel with a silver star in the center and could, in the hands of a skilled soldier, be thrown as a weapon and would return to the hand of the wielder.Very few of these are nown to still exist.

Northern Bands Matriarchal society that inhabits the land of the far north. Its women are fierce warriors referred to alternately as amazons and Valkyrie. They are ruled by the High Horned Lady and fight under the banner of the Unicorn. During a time of famine some years ago a regiment of amazon warriors of the Northern Bands went south to offer their services as Mercenaries in order to provide for their starving families. In the employ of the Regor, Lord of Var, they were on hand for the Rieving of Keo the Less. Great numbers of these proud warriors were not merely killed but tortured, defiled, and dismembered in unimaginable fashion.

Om The pattern which maps all human activity, no matter how insignificant such activity may seem. The pattern is invisible to men and their "earth-tied" senses. (217)

Oszarmen Desert nomads of indeterminate provenance. (209)

Outer Dark source of mystical powers available to adepts aligned with Chaos (23)

Parth Seafaring nation (178) located on a peninsula at the mouth of the Great Bay.

Paynim Nation in the northwest of WoG. (map) Wine from this region is widely regarded as among the best in LoG.

Plague of Fire A cataclysmic event that breathed forth from the from the Southern Mountains destroying the Kalastro Empire (192) in what is now the Dry Steppes (Map). Lichis the Golden lead a host of Dragons over the decadent Empire, burning and laying waste to its cities, which had turned to Chaos.
Prim Lizard A lizard that appears to be made of stone.

Regor of Var As Lord of Var, he hired a squadron of Amazon mercenaries from the Northern Tribes during the Troubles a generation ago. Their names were added to the death toll during the Rieving of Keo the Less. (74) It is not known whether it was he who was responsible for calling down the Rieving or if the opposition took that tragic step or another party entirely, but it is certain that everyone involved met a grievously horrible end.

Rieving of Keo the Less Described as “a treachery so black that it blotted the dark pages of Chaos's own accounting—death so hideous a man might retch out his guts if he thought too long upon it.” (#) This horrifying event took place during the wars that wracked the lands of Keo a generation ago. During the siege of Var, someone called upon a force so dark that the entire city was razed, everyone in the vicinity--including all inhabitants as well as the besieging army--was slaughtered, their tortured, twisted corpses were found in a fetid stinking heap.  Sounds bad, right? It effectively ended the uprising and left Keo as a derelict state.

Rockna the Brass Dragon residing in the Sea of Dust. Possibly aligned with Chaos. (207)

Salzak the Spirit Murderer A menacing demon, famous for murdering spirits, who committed 96 sins. (35)

Sea of Dust A fatal trackless wilderness of fine dust so shifty it is impossible to walk on it without special equipment (49). Dunes of shifting dust sweep across this land much as waves of the ocean. An ancient civilization once plied these dunes on sailing vessels, the remains of which—along with their valuable cargoes are said to litter the “Sea.”

Seven Swamps Large Wetland complex that lies between Faraaz and Geofp. It is the homeland of the Lizardfolk and their reptilian steeds. See also Troilan Swamps.

Sign of the Pea Stalk An inn and provisioner of adventurers located in the City of Greyhawk. Noted for providing good value on merchandise to the adventuring class.

Song of Far Wings Enchanted shanty which, when sung by a skillful bard, summons gar-eagles and/or other winged critters to the aid of the songster. (139, 143)

Song of Herckon Soul shredding tune played by expert bards which will temporarily reduce certain spirit forces to pools of quiescent liquid. (137-8)

Southern Mountains Mountain range which holds the Sea of Dust at bay from the LoG to the east. Inhabited by Lichis the Golden and other dragons.

Stranger's Tower A prison tower in the CoG primarily occupied by drunks and brawlers.(66)

Steppe Mounts These light horses are bred by the Nomadic tribes of Lar on the fringes of the Dry Steppes. They are known for their endurance. They are trained to answer only to the call of one master. Strangers caught riding on a Steppe Mount by Laric nomads are likely to face serious sanctions. It is said that an elf or were-being can influence such steeds to allow someone other than their trained master to ride them. (59-62)

Sword of Seven Spells Enchanted sword that reputedly allows the bearer to cast one of seven spells. Such a sword may once have existed but those on sale in the markets of Greyhawk are unexceptional frauds in every way. (65)

Temple of the Frog Sacred temple believed to be at the heart of Troilan Swamps from whence malignant creatures are spawned. Few who have seen it have survived to tell of it. No one is known to have entered it and returned to pass on their tale. (221)

Temple of Tung Legendary temple believed to be filled with treasures of great value. (65) It is thought to be located in the Hither Hills. Many adventurers claim to have found it and made off with booty from its crypts. It is believed that doing so bears a horrendous curse.

Thera “The Maned Lady” Lesser deity of the LoG, aligned against Chaos. The tribes of Lar are known to pay heed to her. (61)

Toad, Pinnacle of the Located in the northern reaches of LoG (107), perhaps in Blackmoor, the Pinnacle is an enormous, grotesque obelisk dedicated to the Toad God. It is said to mark the “navel the world” and the gateway to the realm of the greater beings. It is central to the worship of a malignant cult of festering chaos called the Fellowship of the Toad.

Toad, Fellowship of the A cult dedicated to the worship of the foul toad god. (107) Though their agents are hidden throughout lawful society, their territory is located in a fen on the northern fringe of Blackmoor.

Troilan Swamps A forested wetland that is home to several tribes of lizardfolk. (85) It lies between Geofp and Faraaz and is also known as the Seven Swamps.(Map)

Two Harpies A tavern in CoG noted for its inexpensive and potent fortified wine. It is a favorite watering hole of caravan guards (66), possibly due to its proximity to the municipal stables. The place is notorious for brawling. As such, the furniture is quite stout and fixed to the floor to prevent its use as weaponry. The cups, on the other hand, are cheap wooden affairs that break quite easily, providing a satisfying spray of splintered wood and cheap wine while causing relatively little damage. Patrons of this establishment often find overnight accommodations at The Strangers Tower.

Ulik A mage of great power who spawned a discipline of magic that bears his name.

Urnst Province to the north of the free city of Greyhawk. Currently ruled by a Grand Duke. (47)

Var A devastated city located on the arid plains of Lesser Keoland. It was razed during the Rieving of Keo the Less and remains a cursed and ruined place to this day.

Vold A river originating in the foothills of the Southern Mountains which flows northward from the plains of Keoland, eventually becoming a mighty river as tributaries feed into it. (77)

Wine of Pardos Legendary tipple with healing properties. (192)

Yerocunby Land to the west of CoG. Other possible spellings include Yerocundy, Yerocanby, and Verocunby.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Nortonian Greyhawk Part I: Slogging through the quagmire so you don't have to

Lichis the Golden does not give a f**k
Back when Sir Allan Grodog posted his cool old time map of Olde Tyme Greyhawk several years ago my first thought was "huh, I wonder if this is the same map that Andre Norton used as the setting for Quag Keep?" Sure, Zenopus Archives pursued the same question here, but that didn't stop me from tracking down a copy of the 'Keep and giving it the stink eye yet again; this time with my academic cap firmly clapped on the ol' noggin'.*

For those of you unaware, back in the 70s famed fantasy author Andre Norton wrote a novel--the aforementioned Quag Keep--set in the world of Greyhawk. No map was included in the book, but it was quickly obvious that the world of Greyhawk presented by Norton differed greatly from the version Gygax published a few years later and, thus, Greyhawk enthusiasts such as yours truly have ignored it as a source of campaign information or inspiration ever since.

It also didn't help that the book just isn't a very compelling read. It's never clear what, if anything, is at stake, the villains are as disparate and disorganized as your typical wandering monster table might provide, and, although the adventurers do end up in a quag, there's no actual keep involved--this was a huge disappointment to me as a youth. Generally, the book feels a lot like one of those desultory gaming sessions where the DM sets you on some vague errand and throws a bunch of random encounters at you mostly because he hasn't got a proper adventure prepared for the evening. 

Anyway, the answer to my question up in the intro is that Norton's Greyhawk is a lot closer to the old Greyhawk map than the published version, including mention of features such as The Great Bay, The Island Duchy of Maritiz, and the Holy Lords of Faraz which were not in the final published version. And she may or may not have been taking license with such locales as the Hither Hills, the Nomads of Narm, and the Free Ships of Parth; all evocative names that may or may not have existed in Gygax's own version at the time.

Things you might be surprised to learn about Nortonian Greyhawk:
  1. Rather than Xagyg, some Wizard named Kyrak operates a madness-inducing stronghold just outside of the city of Greyhawk.
  2. There is no evidence to suggest the existence of the Nyr Dyv or any other large body of water in the environs of Greyhawk
  3. Directly south of Greyhawk is the Land of Keo, an unpopulated land of dry, open plains
  4. This land played host to a horrifying event known as "the Rieving of Keo the Less" wherein a clan of amazon warriors from the Northern Bands were slaughtered... or worse.
  5. The Great Kingdom and Blackmoor have been conflated into a single entity: The Great Kingdom of Blackmoor
  6. It is not known who built the 5 cities of the Great Kingdom, suggesting a civilization existed there long before the Overlord overlorded the place.
  7. The Holy Lords of Faraz--Possibly the precursor to those Cuthbert worshiping Velunians?--use cross shaped currency. 
  8. Lichis, a giant Gold dragon, took on and defeated The Great Demon Ironnose in a legendary battle that spanned half the continent.
  9. It's not too many steps, phonetically speaking, from "Ironnose" to "Iuz" right? Just drop the two n's and your pretty much there.
  10. There was once a civilization that lived on the Sea of Dust, traversing the shifting dunes on sailing vessels. Like a cross between Road Warrior and Waterworld.
  11. There is both a Pinnacle of the Toad and a Temple of the Frog
Coming up in Part II: I try to draw a map of what Nortonian Greyhawk might look like! Stay tuned.
* I have no academic credentials other than having attended college for more time than anyone reasonably should. Also, phrasing such as "clapped on the ol' noggin" suggests that I'm still under the Wodehousian influence brought on by reading The Salt Marsh Murders.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Sinister Source Material of Saltmarsh

Back in February, Commentor Darrell provided me with some intell on a literary precedent to module U1 Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh. The work in question is a murder mystery written by British author Gladys Mitchell titled, somewhat obviously, Saltmarsh Murders and published in 1932.

Despite the prevalence of murder and sex in this story--fear not, prudish readers, all the juicy stuff happens off stage--the novel has a definite Wodehousian feel to it, so much so that every time that tea was announced I more than half expected Aunt Dahlia or Gussy Fink-Nottle to be among the guests. The narrator, a slightly daft young curate (4th level cleric) living at the local vicarage, was clearly modeled after Bertie Wooster, though he's slightly less bungling. Although not without its comic moments the book has a darker edge than one typically associates with the great P.G.W.--what with the murdering and sex mentioned earlier. But what will prove most sinister to modern readers might be the implication that suspicion of miscegenation might be considered just cause for homicide.

But you're not here for a book report, you're here to find out what bearing this novel had on the origins of the U1 module and, perhaps more importantly, can it be used as  a source for creating an actual town of Saltmarsh to fill in the one major deficiency in the original.

As Darrell pointed out, there are obvious similarities: the action takes place in a small town on the south coast of England called Saltmarsh, there's a house on a cliff overlooking a cove, a secret tunnel to the cove, a smuggling operation in the cove, even ships crew members using lanterns to signal to shore. (The narrator did not observe a shore-to-ship signal, sadly.) And that's pretty much where the similarities end. There are no ghosts, actual or suspected, threatening to haunt the house on the cliff, no lizardmen riding shotgun on the smuggler's ship, no one seeking the philosopher's stone. There aren't even any similarly named characters. Indeed, while U1 obviously borrowed some points from this tale, it is clearly not a modulization of the novel. There is a sequel--or several seeing as Ms. Mitchell wrote some 60 murder mysteries spanning the bulk of the 20th century--but I haven't read it/them and cannot confirm the existence of an impending sahuaguin invasion.

But what I did find was further evidence that both versions of Saltmarsh were inspired by the town and/or environs of the actual town of Seaton, Devon [see Sinister Location of Saltmarsh].

The real smugglers cave is a bit harder to get to than U1 enthusiasts will expect.
For instance, just down the coast from Seaton is a cave in the cliffs that was used by smugglers in the 18th and 19th century to stash contraband, as is detailed in the memoirs of famed smuggler John Rattenbury. No doubt there are loads of smugglers caves along the cliffy coast of England, as it seems that inveigling un-taxed merchandise into the realm was considered the national pastime back then.* But this particular cave leads from the cove to a nearby quarry, such as the one adjacent to the smugglers house in the Saltmarsh Murders novel.  No doubt the cliffs of England are likewise riddled with quarries, but does this not give a slight bit of credence to the notion that Seaton of Devon was the inspiration for Saltmarsh?

Also of possible note, according to Google Maps there is a small hamlet called Vicarage just west of Seaton; was this little community perhaps the inspiration for placing the narrator of the tale in such a residence? This may be the biggest stretch of all since 7 out of every 9 murder mysteries written by British authors take place in or somehow involve a vicarage. I believe this was actually mandated by law until the 1960s.

* Both the novel and what I've read about this Rattenbury character give the distinct impression that smuggling was a rather common activity on the south coast, practiced by a wide swathe of society--more than a few clergymen got in on the action as well. This portrays the smugglers in a vastly different light than the murderous bastards under the haunted house--and on the Sea Ghost--in U1.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Olde Greyhawke Mappe

Great Kingdom Map, Gary Gygax, 1971, Territories of the Great Kingdom
Check out this early version of what would eventually become Gygax's World of G'hawk. Grodog sent me a link to it because, I suspect, he wanted the wingnut perspective on this thing. As you most likely recall, I ran a piece on the origins of the Oeridian people way back--seems like only yesterday, eh?

Anyway, my initial thought: See that valley in the mountains between Perunland and Neron March? Impact crater from the Oeridian mother ship, obviously.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Another Random Character Generator!

Random fodder for your amusement
I swear I'm not looking for these things, but here's another, even cooler random character generator created by the good folks over at Purple Sorcerer Games. It creates 0-level characters for DCC RPG in bulk, but with actual character sheets instead of just a row
of stats on a spreadsheet like some other computerized character generator we all know and loathe.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Random F**king Character Generation

Getting back to the random character business, I just found this sweet site created by Ryan (just Ryan) that fills in your randomly generated character's gaping lack of a backstory in one snappy, profane sentence. And I do mean profane; the site is called "Who the fuck is my fucking D&D character?" after all.

Nice work Ryan.