History Of Oerth

Geography & Population

The planet Oerth has four continents. Only one of these continents, Oerik, will be the one you are familiar with. Its eastern end, known as the Flanaess, is where the majority of your adventuring will take place. The Flanaess can be broken down geographically as follows: the Baklunish Basin in the northwest, the Empire of Iuz in the north, the Thillonrian Peninsula in the northeast, the Sea of Dust in the far west, the Sheldomar Valley in the west, old Ferrond and its southern frontier (including the City of Greyhawk) at the center of the Flanaess, Old Sulm and the Aerdy frontier to the east, the old Great Kingdom to the far east, and the Amedio Jungle to the southwest.

Certain elements of Greyhawk’s geography are fantastic in nature, such as the Sea of Dust and the Land of Black Ice. Other elements are more closely analogous to real-world Europe, such as the Thillonrian Peninsula’s geographical resemblance to Scandinavia.

The Flanaess is home to Oerth’s “enlightened humanity,” and much of the flavor of the Greyhawk setting arises from the interplay of the various “sub-races” of humanity — Baklunish, Flannae, Oeridians, Olman, Rhennee, Suloise, and Touv in particular — as they have criss-crossed the Flanaess over the last millennium. The setting’s fans have debated the exact nature of these sub-races (and their real world analogues, if any) over the years, but key distinguishing features include antagonism between the Bakluni and Suloise (and the ancient war that nearly annihilated them both), the relative primitiveness of the indigenous Flan, and the Oerdians’ military conquest of much of the Flanaess.

Various fantasy races also populate the Flanaess, sometimes acting as allies to humanity in the same vein as J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth. Elves and dwarves of different sorts even have powerful strongholds and nations, with gnomes and halflings living in smaller pockets near friendly (and more powerful) neighbors. Even where these races are politically advanced, such as in Celene (realm) or the Ulek States, isolationist policies often limit their power to the regions they inhabit. Wicked drow elves often plot mischief against the free world, with other nefarious creatures such as orcs, ogres, giants, and dragons acting as all-purpose enemies. When viewed as a whole, however, the Flanaess appears anthropocentric (or more specifically, humanocentric) despite the presence of so many fantastic species. Gygax has described the setting “a sort of conglomorate of history and fantasy.

Political Powers

At the center of this game world stands the Free City of Greyhawk, a city-state once under the domination of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy. The Circle of Eight, a select group of wizards, monitor events across the Flanaess, intervening when the balance of power is threatened by extremes of good or evil. Several evil factions still prevail across the sub-continent, including the undead remnants of Aerdy, the wicked demi-god Iuz (who rules his expanding territory, the Empire of Iuz), and the mysterious Scarlet Brotherhood (whose racial purity doctrines and fanatical monasticism invite comparisons with both Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan). The orcs and other humanoids of the Pomarj, led by chieftain Turrosh Mak, threaten the Wild Coast and the Ulek States. Among the factions opposing these forces of evil are the major kingdoms of Nyrond, Furyondy, and Keoland as well as numerous smaller states, organizations and individuals.

Recent History

Rise Of The Brotherhood(573-580)

In the summer of 573 CY, few save the vigilant elves of Sunndi had insight to the peoples who populated the Tilvanot Peninsula, south of the Vast Swamp. On that year, seafaring merchants from the Lordship of the Isles first reported signs of civilization there. These newly discovered individuals, apparently a sophisticated order of militaristic monks, called themselves “The Scarlet Brotherhood,” and they did not appreciate the Lord’s ships alighting their coast. These reports brought a great deal of interest to the peninsula, and several agents were sent, on behalf of neighboring governments, to determine the nature of this new found monastic order. None of these agents returned. When further information had been gathered, the curious rulers still had little information with which to content themselves.

It was known that the residents of this land possessed largely Suel ancestry and that their society was carefully monitored by silent men in red robes. These men seemed to act as both police force, religious advisers and government, though the exact forms of these, such as which religion these priests adhered to, remained a mystery. The Scarlet Brotherhood, as a nation, was fiercely distrustful of non-natives and conducted little, if any, trade with outside nations.

In time, it was learned that their society, at least around the coasts, was strictly agrarian, with single plantations farming several hundred acres of arable land. These people seemed to be a simple folk, sheepherders and raisers of livestock. Many advisers to the courts of Idee, Sunndi and others suggested leaving these simple folk as an enigma. After all, they offered, the bulwark of the Vast Swamp provided ample protection from invasion. Logic, however, eventually won the day.

Information gathering in the lands of the Scarlet Brotherhood (as the nation itself began to be called, though a considerable amount of information suggests that they themselves refer to the nation as the “Land of Purity”) was a case study in frustration. For instance, spies were able to detect that the Brotherhood itself was led by an enigmatic man known as the Father of Obedience. The Brotherhood preached a doctrine of Suel superiority, a message the populace took up with pride. It was suggested by many that the Brotherhood (which sanctioned only strictly arranged marriages and births) had initiated extensive breeding programs in Hesuel Ilshar, with the intent of purifying the racial strain of the Brotherhood lands. Rumors flowed of the Father of Obedience’s wishes of an Oerth-wide conquest in which all but the most pale of skin would be eradicated.

Again, this settled poorly with the rulers of the surrounding lands, and many suggested bringing arms against their southern neighbors. Latmac Ranold, in fact, advocated a plan of raid and pillage, suggesting several methods by which the strain of the Brotherhood might become “impure.” In all instances, however, cool-headed advisers restrained their leaders from action. “Without a navy,” they opined, “the Brotherhood is no threat to us.”

It took several years for the Scarlet Brotherhood to prove those advisers wrong. It is not known how the Brotherhood managed to get a party of men to the Pomarj, but their existence there was revealed in the last days of Flocktime, 580 CY. After a siege that had lasted nearly two months, the forces of Prince Olinstaad Corond of Ulek sacked Strandkeep Castle, in the Drachensgrabs. The key to any effective invasion of the Pomarj on the western front, Corond thought to encounter legions of euroz and jebli and was surprised to be met by human spellcasters, ogres and trolls.

During the Greyhawk Wars, the Scarlet Brotherhood established itself as a major victor. In a matter of months, entire nations fell to that order’s assassins. It was revealed that the advisers of many of the royal courts of the Flanaess had been Brotherhood agents, giving their leaders poisoned advice from the beginning. Some nations, such as Sunndi, the Sea Barons and most notably, Irongate, discovered this ruse in time to save their governments. Others did not.

Where guile and deception failed to win the day, the monks of the Scarlet Sign employed brute force. The Hold of the Sea Princes, already weakened by the murder of 27 of its nobles in a single night, saw hordes of “savages” from the Amedio Jungle unloaded into their lands by ships bearing sails of Scarlet. At one point, captured Sea Princes ships were made to attack the Keoish port of Gradsul, though Uleki assistance rebuffed the effort. In the captured lands—Idee, Onnwall, the Lordship of the Isles and the Hold of the Sea Princes—Scarlet Brotherhood agents now hold nearly every position of power.

Prelude To War (577-581)

The years between luz’s return and 581 CY were a prelude to war. Several destabilizing forces fomented strife. The most insidious was the Scarlet Brotherhood, an occluded monastic order first reported in 573 CY. In this handful of years, semiregular skirmishes between Aerdy’s South Province and Nyrond erupted into open hostilities, with Overking Ivid V finally declaring war on Nyrond and its allies in the so-called “Golden League.” Though the war lasted only two years, it drained the coffers of both Aerdy and Nyrond, crippling them when continental war erupted only years later. A truly important, though seldom noticed, event occurred when an avatar of Vecna, the Whispered Lich of legend, struck down the entire Circle of Eight, a collection of archmages that included such respected names as Bigby, Tenser, and Otiluke. The Circle had acted subtly as a balancing agent for years, preventing any one power from dominating the Flanaess. Though the Circle’s leader, Mordenkainen, returned his colleagues to life, the Circle was weakened when the Greyhawk Wars finally erupted.

The Greyhawk Wars (582-584)

In 582 CY, the god Vatun appeared to his subjects among the barbarian tribes. Ancient legend told that the return of Vatun, who had vanished centuries ago, would signal the rebirth of a barbarian empire in the north. Unfortunately, the newly appeared Vatun was a sham perpetrated by luz to whip the northmen into war frenzy. It worked. The barbarians invaded Stonehold, smashed through the Griffs, and overwhelmed the Duchy of Tenh. The barbarian alliance crumbled soon after, but the damage was done. Returning to his homeland, luz conquered the Horned Society, the Bandit Kingdoms, and the Shield Lands in quick succession. Taking advantage of the chaos, Overking Ivid V mustered his Aerdy armies to retake Nyrond. The nobles of the Great Kingdom fell on each other, fearful of their increasingly insane Overking and eager to steal neighboring land. Ivid attempted to ensure loyalty by having his generals assassinated and reanimated as undead with all the abilities they possessed in life. In turn, he received the same treatment from the church of Hextor, after which he became known as Ivid the Undying. Southwest of the City of Greyhawk, a half-ore named Turrosh Mak united the tribes of the Pomarj. Turrosh Mak’s armies boiled north, conquering several cities, and capturing nearly half of the Principality of Ulek. The appeals of Prince Corond of Ulek to Yolande, the elven Queen of Celene, fell on uncaring ears. Celene closed its borders to even its most trusted allies. By 584 CY, decade-old paranoia regarding the Scarlet Brotherhood came true, as advisors in courts throughout the Flanaess were revealed as Brotherhood agents. The Lordship of the Isles, Onnwal, and the Hold of the Sea Princes fell under the influence of the Scarlet Brotherhood thanks to treachery or invasion. Barbarians from the Amedio Jungle were used to secure captured lands. The Brotherhood was revealed as an order dedicated to preserving the culture and racial purity of the ancient Suloise Empire. For three years, all of the Flanaess flew the banner of war. Demons and devils from the Outer Planes were summoned by unscrupulous wizards, and thousands died. Finally, the battleweary combatants gathered in the City of Greyhawk to declare peace.

Autumn of 584 CY saw the signing of the Pact of Greyhawk, an event that would close various hostilities plaguing the continent. On the Day of Great Signing, Greyhawk suffered a great treachery, as Rary, one of the Circle of Eight, destroyed his companions, Tenser and Otiluke, in a great magical battle. Many suspected that Rary wished to hold the ambassadors hostage, but instead, he fled to the Bright Desert to form his own kingdom. Fearing further disruptions, the delegates hurriedly signed the pact. Ironically, due to the site of the treaty signing, the conflicts soon became known as the “Greyhawk Wars.”

The Flanaess Today (591-592)

The Flanaess today stands within the portal of a dynamic new age. The last decade has seen the destruction and arrival of dozens of kingdoms. Refugee migrations have spread legends and beliefs far and wide. Today the common person of the Flanaess encounters a greater intermingling of cultures than at any time since the great migrations. With this tremendous upheaval comes opportunity for great profit and gallantry. The Flanaess is rife with adventure, and awaits those who would shape its future.

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History Of Oerth

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