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    Isle of Woe
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    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Wed Apr 15, 2009 1:31 pm  
    Isle of Woe

    Lord_Percard wrote:
    I am looking for some background material for an adventure that I am creating for my own campaign. I ran across the Isle of Woe doing some research (it is mentioned in the Oerth Journal) and because of it's suggested location based on what I read, thought to include it in my current campaign. My players are in Castle Greyhawk and about to discover the Oerth Stone. I thought that perhaps in their fumblings that they could use the stone to raise the Isle of Woe and create a "new" area of adventure. They are of fairly high level and I thought that I could use the Isle as a high level adventure area.

    I am looking for some perhaps vague ideas about the original inhabitants and perhaps some current. The Oerth Journal states that it was ruled by a Wizard King, I believe, and that a powerful dragon resides there and the perimeter is patrolled by a trio of white dragons. Sounds like a high level adventuring location to me. I am interested in any background that the modules may provide.


    So in another post without the PDF debate, anyone got some information for Lord_Percard?

    I know Anced Math and I think GVD had some info on the Isles, but I don't know how much or even what info that was. I thought there was a post about this in the Epichawk forum, but I couldn't find it. Oh well, someone will link to it eventually Happy
    Master Greytalker

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    Wed Apr 15, 2009 5:32 pm  

    I have detailed the Isles some in a long running campaign. IMC the Isles of Woe were a early human empire 5,000 +/- years ago, also known as the "Boat People," in what few records remain of them. They were traders, people whose lands produced little, but learned early to take goods from one place to another. They traveled in boats up all the rivers of the Flaness.

    IMC, they had generations of Wizard Priest leaders. However, the Grand Vizier, brother to the first Wizard Priest, learned the secret of immortality. He is still hanging around.

    IMC the Isles did not have priests or wizards, they had adepts who bargained with entities for power and favor (like a Binder in 3.5, i think). They became and empire when a merchant bargained his way (under a binding agreement with a princeling) into ownership/rulership of the City of Brass.

    These events so scarred the leaders of the isles of woe, they went on a rampage of empire, bargaining for power. They created a tower which contained numerous "mirrors,": portals large enough to send and army through, and which transported them to the far reaches of their empire, including other planes.

    Eventually the Isles fell, due to the meddling of Tzunk or others. The story is confusing. However, IMC, the "Hall of Mirrors," still remains under the Nyr Dyv, and is only inactive due to the influx of water. However, it is nearly dry and the Grand Vizier is seeking to use it to raise the isles.
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Thu Apr 16, 2009 11:40 am  

    IIRC, the Living Greyhawk treatment of the Isles of Woe is that the inhabitants were dabbling in opening planar portals and screwed up by opening a portal to a world where there were some type of creatures that consumed prime material. For some reason, they were unable to close this portal and in order to prevent the entire planet from being consumed by these creatures, they cast the entire island chain (and with it, the portal's egress) into the ethereal plane. In the Living Greyhawk adventures, the spell that shifted the islands out of Oerth's plane has worn off, and the islands have returned. Unfortunately, so have the creatures. They end up devouring most of Tenh, turning it into dust, before adventurers are able to banish them.

    Last edited by IronGolem on Thu Apr 16, 2009 1:01 pm; edited 1 time in total
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Thu Apr 16, 2009 12:50 pm  

    You may want to reference some older material. Anything that references the Codex off Inifinate Planes would be a good start as I believe it is actually from the sunken Isles of Woe.

    The Book of Artifacts (2nd Ed) and the Dungeon Masters Guide (1st Ed) both have little tidbits about it, mostly flavor text with little in the way of specificity but I found them useful enough to launch an entire campaign off of them.
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Thu Apr 16, 2009 1:00 pm  

    Thanks for the restart

    I found the info in OJ #6 under Wyrm of Woe. The story goes that a Wizard -Priest Yagrax sent a amethyst wyrm named Wanyrocthystus to the Abyss for the Codex of Infinite Planes. He returned with it and Yagrax used the Codex, which caused the sinking of the Isles.

    There is more but that is the cliff-note version.
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Thu Apr 16, 2009 4:03 pm  

    I have a copy of CORS2-02 Isle of Woe (homeplay version). Fun mod, took about 12-16 hours to play with well prepared judge (ours, Tom Brister, who went on to be my predecessor on the BK Triad, printed up the maps in 1" scale so he didn't have to draw anything out). We did it at APL 6 one Saturday in Austin and had a great time. Part of the reason why it was such a good mod was that it was mostly written by Jason Bulmahn.

    As a former LG administrator, I think it's probably okay to provide a brief synopsis of the adventure's background to help shed light on the LG take on the mysterious Isle of Woe. This is just from CORS2-02, there's more info in the sequels.

    A long time ago, the Isles of Woe were home to people who conducted lots of magical study and research. One such researcher accidentally unleashed a flood of ether creatures which swarmed the island (the creatures could move parts of the material plane to the ethereal via their spittle). Before the creatures could escape the island, the inhabitants shifted the islands to the ethereal plane themselves, taking the creatures with them. Hence, the islands never "sank" into the Nyr Dyv at all. The people on the Isle of Woe are identified as "Mage-Priests" later in the series.

    Thousands of years later, the magic that had moved the isles to the ethereal began to fade, and eventually a merchant ship spotted the "resurfaced" isles and spread the word. Adventure ensued.

    The rest of of the mods, known collectively in LG as the "Ether Threat" plot arc, has the PCs running all over the Flanaess as they try to thwart the second coming of the ether creatures (which was done, iirc, by returning the Isles of Woe to the ethereal and had something to do with Yagrax's tomb). As previously mentioned, the creatures devastate an already devastated Tenh before the final success of the adventurers. Tenh was a "core" region in LG, so the Circle could do with it as they pleased without stepping on any Triads' toes. This explained the plot-wall which kept the bugs in Tenh and out of The Pale, BK, and CoU (although we did use the ether creatures in at least one event in the BK to represent some of the critters crossing the border, and they scared the piss out of everyone at that interactive. The creatures called "ether hulks" in particular were WAY under CRed at the time). I always felt like the Iuzians in the BK would have found the bugs very amusing and would have tried to have captured a few to unleash in the Shield Lands or Furyondy.

    Anyhow, maybe someone like Creighton will one day get permission from WOTC to write up an Oerth Journal article based on the LG Ether Threat mods. AFAIK, he's one of the former Circle types most likely to be a) interested in such a project, b) has enough pull with WOTC and/or the RPGA/Chris Tulach to make it happen.
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Thu Apr 16, 2009 9:45 pm  

    You may find my Codex of the Infinite Planes article useful in regards to this, as well as my Isles of Woe article. If you have any questions after you read those, feel free to post them here.

    Denis, aka "Maldin"
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    Fri Apr 17, 2009 11:46 am  

    Maldin - I have already read your articles and I found them very informative. Thank you for your work.

    Unfortunately, I believe that I am going to ignore the LG modules concerning the Isles.

    I "buy" the Wizard-Priest Yagrax playing around with the Codex and accidently sinking his empire. (Sounds like a mage that I have gamed with in the past, I wonder if they are related...)

    I also like the idea of the amethyst dragon searching for the Codex to release himself and the trio of white dragons that patrol the Isles perimeter freezing any and all intruders. Any other suggestions for the inhabitants of the Isles at their present location at the bottom of the Nyr Dyv?

    I am leaning on placing the Isles of Woe at the far west end of the Nyr Dyv.

    The OJ states that Yagrax empire was built on the ruins of another.

    So, my first question would be, what racial group would Yagrax fall into? I would like to say that the Isles sank approximately 900 years ago.

    Second, who built the ruins that Yagrax's empire is built on? Think that this could tie into the original cairns builders?
    Forum Moderator

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    Fri Apr 17, 2009 1:46 pm  

    900 seems to short to me because that would put it during the migrations. Isn't the Isles of Woe cotemporous with Sulm, Itar and the like? That would be in the 1300-2000 range well before the Migrations?

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    Fri Apr 17, 2009 2:25 pm  

    In the map in The Adventure Begins, the Isles of Woe are on the eastern end of the lake. While the map there is 900 years old, it may not be genuine, and in any case there's no reason to assume it isn't a copy of an older map.

    According to the Living Greyhawk Journal #9 (in Dragon #293), the ancient Flan city of Veralos, on the edge of Rift Canyon, paid fealty to the Wizard-Priests of the Isles of Woe "until that fell dominion sank beneath the waves early in prehistory." Veralos was contemporaneous with ancient Flan kingdoms such as Sulm, Itar, Ahlissa, and Nuria, so the Isles of Woe must have been as well, if they were not much older. If late prehistory is just before the Twin Cataclysms (which is when Veralos fell), early prehistory must have been quite a while before then, i.e. much longer than 900 years ago, though I don't think we can get much more accurate than that. Sulm was thriving in -1400 and Queen Ehlissa's Nightingale was created in -1100. Based on the syntax in LGJ#9, I think the most natural reading is that the Isles of Woe were destroyed long before Sulm, Itar, or Ahlissa were even founded (we don't really know anything about Nuria, since it's just a throwaway name).

    Yagrax was probably Flan, though this isn't known for sure. He could have been a kobold or something for all we know.

    According to Joseph Bloch in Dragon #167, the dominions of the Isles of Woe "occurred more than 1,000 years ago." However, the article says the same of Lum the Mad, and subsequent canon has made Lum apparently younger than that (Grodog, in Dragon #299, places Lum in the Thelwood during the reign of the Aerdi, fighting against the Ur-Flan over 800 years ago; Carl Sargent, in Ivid the Undying, lists Lum among the Migrations-era Aerdi).

    In this article, I placed a civilization of kuo-toans on the Isles of Woe, long before the rise of humanity. My intent here was that it was a nation that long preceded Yagrax's.

    My own thoughts on the subject are that the Isles of Woe were long used as a place of exile for Flan sorcerers too powerful to simply kill, and were later settled by migrant Trakon Flan (my word) descended from Boccob-worshipping refugees of Haradaragh. This would allow them to be older than the Kingdom of Sulm, but whether it is old enough to constitute "early prehistory" is a matter of interpretation. One might place them earlier or later.

    I need to finish my own Isles of Woe article. I imagine generations of monastic wizard-priests communing with the outer planes and writing down all the lore they can tear from the hidden reaches of the cosmos, filling scriptorium after scriptorium with their works until one day a critical mass is reached and all their scrolls vanish, to be replaced by a single bound book: the Codex of the Infinite Plains. Many of their greatest die in an attempt to read and use the tome before Yagrax finally masters it. With the power of the Codex, Yagrax rules for centuries, his empire extending to all the lands touched by the Nyr Dyv and inland as far as Veralos. With the aid of their conjured dyoph armies ("dyoph" is a throwaway reference to something Tzunk summons in Eldritch Wizardry) they conquer the City of Brass and hold it for centuries (Tzunk, a later reader of the Codex, tries the same thing, but without any armies backing him up, and the four million efreet of the city overwhelm him - this part is canon, according to the Secrets of the Lamp boxed set). Defined by the Codex that is the source of their power, the architecture of the Isles of Woe becomes defined by the image of a book, with the walls of their buildings and the stone portals to other planes that they construct covered with writing and images of their mystic lore. Otherworldly creatures, faiths, and treasure come to the Isles through their portals, making the Isles an economic giant during their time. And yes, finally the curse of the Codex activates, and a terrible cataclysm wipes the isles from the face of the Oerth.

    I currently suspect that Tzunk was a scholar dwelling Veralos centuries later (he could have been from anywhere, but Eldritch Wizardry places him before the coming of the City of the Gods, which preceded the Twin Cataclysms according to the LGG, unless by "coming" they mean rediscovery of - and Veralos would certainly be a good place to research the Codex from), spending his life combing over obscure references to the Codex in his citadel's extensive libraries, until finally the Codex reaches out through the planes and possesses him, causing him to believe he was Yagrax reincarnated. He might actually have been, given that one of the properties of the Codex of the Infinite Planes allows its slaves to rewrite their identities over skins and souls of those they scry - but that only works with my story if Yagrax was quite insane by that time. Which is, indeed, possible. Tzunk travels to the northern Wastes and uses the Codex to open a portal to the Plane of Fire, creating the Burning Cliffs region that continues to expand to this day. From there, with his four dyoph servants carrying the Codex, he reaches the City of Brass nearby and tries to conquer it, with the aforementioned results. The efreet tear his body, which the Codex has made immortal, into many pieces, scattering them across the planes. His hands they bury in a trap-filled tomb in the Wastes, on the other side of his portal. Apparently Living Greyhawk made the tomb belong to Yagrax instead, but this seems to me to be an error: Carl Sargent, in Iuz the Evil, named the tomb the Tomb of Tzunk's Hands, and it remains Tzunk's regardless of whether (as Carl Sargent had said) Tzunk is the same as the Wizard-Priest of the Isles of Woe. The confusion seems to have come from Maldin's criticism that the Wizard-Priest and Tzunk were obviously intended to be two different people in the original DMG, which I agree with. However, if the Wizard-Priest (who was confirmed to be Yagrax in Dragon #299) was not Tzunk, then he should have died with the destruction of the Isles of Woe, not been buried in a tomb in the Wastes hundreds of miles to the north. It was obviously Sargent's intention that the Wizard-Priest survived the sinking of his Isles, made his way to the City of Brass, and was torn apart there; the hands in the tomb thus belong to whoever was defeated in the City of Brass (Tzunk, according to official sources), not necessarily the Wizard-Priest (who has his own natural end in the sinking of the Isles). Others seem to have assumed that the tomb belonged to whoever the Wizard-Priest was; as I said, I think this is an error.

    The original Cairn Builders were the Wind Dukes of Aaqa, who were probably a bit too early for a connection to the Isles of Woe, although the Wind Dukes themselves might have had some kind of presence on the isles in the Age Before Ages.

    Subsequent generations of Cairn Builders probably had some kind of contact with, or may have been the same as, later inhabitants of the Isles of Woe. The Isles of Woe might have been part of the same geological feature as the Cairn Hills, extending into the Nyr Dyv.

    The inevitable wiki links:
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Wed Apr 22, 2009 5:41 am  

    Thanks Rasgon, I appreciate the input. It gives me a lot to consider and incorporate.
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