“Hic etiam homines magna cornua habentes longitudine quatuor pedum, et sunt etiam serpentes tante magnitudinis, ut unum bovem comedant integrum.”
In this world fantastic creatures do exist, but not every character (player) has necessarily heard of it. Things like orcs, goblins, and core PC races are common knowledge, but extraordinary things might be outside the purview of a beginning adventurer. It’s not a stretch for a Ranger, or even a Wizard to know what an Owlbear is, but this is most likely a foreign concept to a Rogue. Below are examples of what the “average” (low to mid-level) character knows:
•Aberrations and the Far-Realm are a completely alien concept to everyone outside of certain Wizardly and Druidic circles. Note, that aberrations can and will be encountered, so act accordingly.
•Dragons are known of, but are rare to see. People will often mistake Wyverns for them. Survivors of dragon attacks are viewed with either skepticism or awe.
•Drow are spoken of in whispers. They have taken on the role of boogeymen; they are viewed as fantastic creatures that are unstoppable. Only people living near entrance ways to the underdark have experienced the full savagery of the Drow. Note, Elves and Dwarves are more knowledgeable of Drow.
•Fey are thought to be found only in legends, outside of a Druid or a Ranger, they are thought of only existing in myth.
•Lycanthropes and other “were-creatures” are feared and persecuted. Towns have lynched people who are under suspicion with little-to-no proof.
•Undead have become common since the Greyhawk Wars. Undead hunting, as a profession, has become a very lucrative endeavor.
Weapons, armor and some other items can sometimes be crafted using materials that possess innate special properties.
•Adamantine is an almost unknown material, it’s existence is kept a precious secret by the Dwarves who mine and/or work with it.
•Adamantine is an almost unknown material, it’s existence is kept a precious secret by the Dwarves who mine and/or work with it.
•Cold Iron’s existence is a new thing, once a jealously guarded secret of the Dwarves, it is now seeing more widespread use. It’s increased need in fighting summoned creatures during the Greyhawk Wars saw to that. Not every smith is knowledgeable in working with the material, but qualified non-Dwarven smiths do exist.
•Darkwood, also known as ironwood, is one of the most sought after naturally occurring non-magical materials for items/weapons. It is quite rare and very expensive.
•Silver (Alchemical) has seen a rise in popularity due to suspected lycanthrope sightings. Having something crafted from this is reasonably possible, and any decent smith can do so.
•Silversheen is a newer, more refined version of “Silver-plating.” Only someone well trained (5 ranks) in both Alchemy and the appropriate Crafting skill has any reasonable chance of successfully manufacturing an item made of this special material.
•Wyroot is an unknown material to everyone, save for Valley elves.
The defining event in the recent history of the continent of Oerik was the series of conflicts known collectively as the Greyhawk Wars. The following three personalities played a major part in these events:
Iuz, The Old
“His Most Profane Eminence, Lord of Pain, Fiend of the North, Child of the Evil One, Master of the Dread and Awful Presences, Iuz the Evil, Iuz the Old”—so was this foul demi-god hailed by the corrupt and evil things that served him. Ruling from blood-black Dorakaa, City of Skulls, Iuz harbored an undisguised desire to dominate all of the Flanaess.
He first gained notice, however, a century before the Greyhawk Wars: in 479 CY, the land now called Iuz was a fractious collection of independent fiefs. The petty princes who ruled these plots of land vied to inherit the lands of Furyondy, which at that time reached far north. Among these princes was a paltry despot of the Howling Hills, who died in that year and left the land to a son of questionable origin—Iuz. Oddly, rumors alternately described the “son” as an old man and a 7-foot-tall, feral-faced fiend.
After the incipient Lord of Evil reorganized his small estate into a military camp, his attention swung to neighboring fiefs. Feigning a merely defensive stance, Iuz worked covertly to pit his despotic neighbors against each other. In time the resources and wills of these princes were whittled away by conflict, and Iuz seized the land. By the end of his first year on the throne Iuz had assimilated the three fiefs surrounding his.
Iuz’s domain began to spread like mold upon an overripe peach, primarily due to his use of humanoid tribes. Most human princes considered orcs and goblins vermin-ridden inferiors, an attitude best typified by His Eminence Count Vordav, who swore to “burn on sight any hovel of those miserable scum.” Though this attitude allowed the petty princes to “maintain a false sense of purity for the old Aerdi traditions,” it also meant their armies were quickly overmatched by Iuz, who made full use of orcish cruelty and fecundity.
As more and more fiefs fell to the humanoids, a swelling stream of refugees carried wild tales of Iuz’s powers to Furyondy in the south. According to such rumors, Iuz had constructed a road paved with skulls between the Howling Hills and Dorakaa, his new capital.
The watchtowers guarding the road were said to be fueled on the flesh of living men. Iuz himself had sloughed off his withered form and grown to colossal size—or so the tales said. Though hindsight may dismiss the most outlandish of such claims, the rumors at that time spread panic along the southern shores of Whyestil Lake. The King of Furyondy, Avras III, shifted attention to his northern frontier to prevent expansion of Iuz’s power into the heartlands of Furyondy.
Yet King Avras’s position was compromised by the independence of his nobles—particularly the Great Lords of the south, who remained unthreatened by Iuz. Many of these southern lords seized the opportunity to wring concessions from their hard-pressed king, depriving him of the taxes and control he was soon to need. Such concessions roused the ire of the northern-border margraves, who felt betrayed by the Great Lords. In reaction, the margraves infiltrated the Order of the Hart, a small religious faction at the time, and patiently, deliberately transformed it into a military brotherhood loyal to them. So it was that Iuz’s external threat sundered Furyondy internally. By 505 CY, a three-way split had grown in the ranks of the nobility. The most powerful faction was the Great Lords of the south, who used Iuz’s threat to lever their lands from the king’s control. Second in power was the Order of the Hart, which grew in unity and strength to oppose Iuz’s border raids. Least in power was King Avras III with his estates and kin. Trapped in the lands between the more powerful factions, the king futilely strove to appease both.
At this crisis point, however, Iuz’s growing power was checked. Whether by luck, wisdom, or courage, a small party of adventurers managed to seize the Lord of Evil and imprison him beneath the towers of Castle Greyhawk. How or why they undertook this feat has long been lost to the tides of time—lost along with all but one of the heroes’ names: the wizard Zagyg the Mad. Whatever the adventurers’ motives and means, their labors resulted in salvation for Furyondy. Deprived of their lord, the orc and goblin armies massing on Furyondy’s borders rapidly dissolved. The barbarous creatures fought the regents of Iuz and won for themselves the east and west shores of Whyestil Lake. East of the lake, savage chieftains and unscrupulous humans founded the Horned Society by 513 CY, but the depths of the Vesve Forest remained untamed up to the Greyhawk Wars over half a century later.
Though the humanoid armies had retreated from the borders, Furyondy was too wracked by internal dissension to give chase. As pressure from the north ebbed, Prince Belvor III, King Avras’s son, energetically courted the Order of the Hart. By playing on the suspicions of the Great Lords of the south, Belvor III swung the Order of the Hart into the royal faction. After his father’s death, Belvor used his monarchial power to force the Great Lords back into the fold as well. Though his reign was relatively short, Belvor’s coalition lasted, holding the fractious kingdom together during the years of his son’s regency.
Since assuming the throne from Lord Throstin, Regent of the Realm, Belvor IV has striven to strengthen Furyondy, planning the eventual conquest of the Horned Society and Iuz. Relations within the kingdom are far from settled, though. The rival factions, though much weaker, still remain and have found new causes to champion. In Belvor’s efforts to reform and strengthen the empire, he has undone much of his regent’s handiwork. Disgruntled, Lord Throstin has gained increasing control over the Order of the Hart and thus slowed the king’s reassumption of full power.
With all the turmoil within his borders, King Belvor IV virtually ignored Iuz’s return in 570 CY. Iuz, for his own part, had not sought to draw the attention of the southern lands. His sudden departure left disorder in the kingdom and until he could reassert absolute authority over the quarrelsome humanoid tribes, he was content to be ignored by his enemies.
The Mad Overking
Before the conflict between Iuz and Furyondy began its slow festering, events of equal import developed in the east. In the palace of Rauxes at the heart of the Great Kingdom, scions of House Naelax swept through the halls, brutally slaying every last member of the ruling House of Rax. Brought to power by blood and treachery, the House of Naelax was destined to rule by terror, for madness flowed in the blood of its progeny.
The tale of the Great Kingdom of Aerdi begins almost 40 years prior to Iuz’s rise. In those days, the North Province was ruled by Prince Ivid, a charismatic and able—though thoroughly debauched—nobleman. Because decades of weak kingship under the House of Rax had eroded imperial power, nobles such as Prince Ivid grew bold in their claims, pressing demands upon the Malachite Throne. The kingship, weak as it was, folded beneath the pressure and the Great Kingdom plunged into the Turmoil Between Crowns. When Nalif, the only remaining heir of Rax, was assassinated, a host of rival princes claimed right to the Malachite Throne. Through a campaign of diplomacy, war, and assassination, Prince Ivid solved the problem of succession by eliminating all contenders and leaving himself the sole surviving prince of blood. Thus, the House of Naelax achieved the throne and Prince Ivid became His Celestial Transcendency, Overking of Aerdy, Grand Prince Ivid.
Included in his chain of titles were Herzog of the North; Archduke of Ahlissa, Idee, and Sunndi; Suzerain of Medegia; Commander of the Bone March; and Protector of Almor and Onnwal. Fate, however, quickly made these titles little more than grandiose claims. The chaos unleashed with the assassination of Nalif did not cease when Ivid seized the throne. Indeed, the peasants of Onnwal, Idee, and Sunndi rebelled, and the Herzog of Ahlissa asserted his own independence.
Ivid hurried to deal with his southern cousin (the nobility of the Great Kingdom were all related) only to find his lands exhausted and ill-administered after years of civil war. Unable to raise a sufficient army from his own fiefs, the Overking reluctantly called upon his remaining cousins for aid. Like sharks scenting blood, they closed in on the seemingly helpless king, intent on a kill.
The history of this second wave of civil war is even more confused and incomplete than that of the first. The sack of the University of Rauxes in 449 CY destroyed all imperial records of the war. Likewise, Duke Astrin’s considerable library at Eastfair went out in rucksacks and up in flames during the final imperial campaign. Though some fairly complete histories survived in the monasteries of Medegia, they are heavily tinged with the Holy Censor’s degenerate philosophies. Their accuracy is highly questionable, especially concerning their main topic: the battles between Rauxes and Medegia.
Though reliable accounts of the battles are lost to time, the results stand clear: the Overking retained his throne but suffered losses of territory and power. A nephew that Ivid left as steward of the North Province rebelled against his uncle and established his fief as a sovereign state. So too, the chief prelate of Ivid’s empire—the Holy Censor of Medegia—defied the Overking and established an independent see. The Sea Barons were not as successful: though they gained control over the Aerdi fleet, the Overking closed all mainland ports to them. Left with only hostile nonAerdi neighbors, the Sea Barons sued for peace.
Little is known of the campaigns in the heartlands of the Great Kingdom, though certainly Ivid earned the title “the fiend-seeing” during these battles. When Almor rebelled, the Overking struck back with a vengeance, demonstrating his “fiend-seeing” abilities. Drawing upon hellish aid, the Overking’s armies routed the rebels. Even in the empire’s weakened state, Almor could not stand to the diabolical fury of the Companion Guard until Nyrond sent its aid. In the end, the exhausted armies fought to a draw along the current borders.
Since that time, the Great Kingdom has seen a progression of Overkings. Ivid ruled for 48 years and, though he never regained control of his lost provinces, he bound the rest of Aerdi to him through fear and debauched reward. His son, Ivid II, survived only three years on the fiend-seeing throne. Unstable before his coronation, Ivid II quickly lapsed into raving dementia upon assuming the full regalia of office.
Madness did not bring Ivid II’s fall, however: he was slain by a son who desired the crown. Ivid III immediately followed his grandfather’s example, exterminating his blood kin so none could challenge him for the crown. With the blood of his father still beneath his fingernails, Ivid III imprisoned his children in richly appointed cages. He provided his heirs with tutors and countless lavish debaucheries lest he seem the neglectful father. When he reached advanced age, however, Ivid III declared that his surviving child would succeed him. The announcement unleashed a bloodbath of fratricide in his children’s velvet prison. The sole survivor became Ivid IV.
The new ruler of Aerdi emulated his father: those children not slain at birth were imprisoned, and their mothers monstrously tortured for the Overking’s amusement. With their father’s throat out of reach, the children practiced their Naelaxan butcheries on a succession of nursemaids and governesses. Some survivors of the children sadly came to the Overking’s attention and joined his ever-changing stable of concubines. After a brief dalliance or pleasing interlude, these women disappeared into the bowels of the torturers’ dungeons: the Overking loved pain more than passion.
Otherwise Ivid IV’s reign accomplished little. The Overking excelled in debauchery, not administration. He perennially launched military campaigns to retake Almor and Nyrond and always managed only to shift the borders a few miles in either direction. No matter—the battles provided a summer spectacle to occupy the Overking, who was more interested in fury and thunder than real military gain.
While Ivid IV dallied, his someday successor, Ivid V, set to work. Second among the Overking’s sons, Ivid V thought to simplify the appointment of an heir by exterminating his siblings. Though Ivid V completed this task with skill and dispatch, his father still refused to yield the throne to him. The heir apparent therefore hired the Overking’s latest favorite to pour acid in the emperor’s ear.
Ivid V ascended the throne and has held it for 28 years. Though as a commander of armies he is dissolute and weak, Ivid V ruthlessly governs his empire with a genius for political machinations. Undeniably, the few campaigns he has fought ended in disaster, but madness has not obscured his diplomatic skill. The North and South Provinces have once again fallen into line behind the Overking’s banner and his emissaries have even brought the humanoids of the Bone March closer to the imperial fold. With his strength growing, the Overking looks for an excuse to again press his claims on the rebellious western lands.
The third and perhaps most decisive figure in the looming tragedy of war was also the most mysterious. Known only by a title—His Peerless Serenity, the Father of Obedience—the head of the Scarlet Brotherhood purposely fostered secrecy and rumor about himself and his followers. Most of what is known is only unfounded speculation.
Though this organization of the Suel humans is purported to be ancient, the Scarlet Brotherhood only came to the notice of the rest of the Flanaess in 573 CY. This year also saw the abduction of the Prince of Furyondy and the Provost of Veluna. The coincidence of these events seems significant, particularly to conspiracy theorists who suspect the hand of the Scarlet Brotherhood in all dark and mysterious deeds. Whether or not a connection exists, the Brotherhood has remained notoriously silent on the subject.
Without question, though, the Scarlet Brotherhood is a fanatical people. Their harshly monastic society has earned for them the epithet “monks,” though the religion practiced by the Brotherhood remains a mystery. They deem all other races as inferior to the Suel People, and with cold, methodic evil set these beliefs to practice. Despite unfailing stealth and treachery when dealing with those beyond the pale, members of the Brotherhood apparently obey their leader—the Father of Obedience—unto death.
Though vague rumors of the Brotherhood had existed for centuries, the first official act of the organization was the dispatching of emissaries to the courts of the Iron League in 573 CY. Traveling robed and hooded in red, these strangers claimed to be ambassadors from the Land of Purity. Most were excellent scholars and sages who observed in the courts of the Iron League and generously offered their talents to those who needed them. Through this insidious process, the robed strangers patiently wormed into sensitive and even vital offices in the courts of many southern lords.
While the robed sages became confidants to kings, assassins of the sect infiltrated the courts under subtler guises. The time when this silent invasion actually began remains unknown, and estimates of the number of assassins are pure guesswork. Some revealed themselves prior to the war, advancing the Brotherhood’s cause through assassination and terror. Even in these strikes, though, the extent of the Brotherhood’s role remains in doubt: assassins seldom proclaimed allegiance as they struck the blow. Was the roof tile that slew the Steward of the Principality of Ulek wielded by an assassin, or by the capricious hand of fortune?
Of the Brotherhood’s other prewar activities, only rumors speak. In the last years before the war, reports reached the southern Flanaess that red-hooded mystics were enslaving and martialing vast savage empires in Hepmonaland. Travelers described these savages in the most horrific terms, mercilessly detailing their cruel rites and debased customs. According to travelers’ tales, vast nations following the ancient ways of the Suloise were mustering in the steamy gardens of Hepmonaland.
Still, Hepmonaland was too far from the beleaguered borders of the Flanaess kingdoms to cause much concern. Travelers’ tales fell on deaf ears, and no one noticed the growing stranglehold of the red-hooded sages. Had anyone taken note, countless lives could have been saved.
Rary of Ket
Rary the Rider, Emperor of the Bright Lands, and Rary the Traitor are just some of the many names held by this powerful archmage, a former member of the Circle of Eight, and ruler of the Bright Lands.
Rary was responsible for the deaths of Circle members Otiluke and Tenser at the end of the Greyhawk Wars. After his betrayal, Rary fled with his ally Lord Robilar to the Bright Desert, where he established the Empire of the Bright Lands. There are many that view him as an enemy, but the once fragmented nomadic tribes of the Bright Desert revere him as a savior.