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    Canonfire :: View topic - What's Wrong with the Duchy of Urnst?
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    What's Wrong with the Duchy of Urnst?
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    Grandmaster Greytalker

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    Mon Jul 28, 2008 8:41 am  
    What's Wrong with the Duchy of Urnst?

    Help! I can't seem to warm up to the Duchy of Urnst and I don't understand way.

    On its face, the Duchy of Urnst should be adventure centeral:

    1st - It has every geography a DM could want for adventure:
    a) To the north the Nyr Dyv for sea going adventures,
    b) To the south, desert,
    c) To the west, high, snow capped mountains,
    d) To the east, large woodlands, and
    e) To the southeast and further west, swamps;

    2nd - It is close by numerous ruins in the Cairn Hills and Bright Desert;

    3rd - It is close by the City of Greyhawk, the signature city of the setting;

    4th - The Duchy of Urnst has "cool" Suel as its major population but also has Flan and Oeridian minor populations;

    5th - Every demi-human type is present in or on the border of the Duchy - elves, dwarves, gnomes, halflings;

    6th - Humanoids and giants populate the Abbor-Alz for easy opponents;

    7th - Maure Castle and the mysteries of the ancient Suel are in the western portions of the Duchy; and

    8th - The Duchy of Urnst is wealthy producing food, platinum, gold, silver and gems Types I-IV.

    Still. I just can't seem to warm up to this place. Cool ideas do not immediately jump into my head when I look at a map of the Duchy of Urnst. See Anna's terrific map, discussed in this thread (links in Folder 8) in this regard - http://www.canonfire.com/cf/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=1966&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=175

    I just don't get it. What's wrong with the Duchy of Urnst!?! Help me see the coolness! Little help?
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    Mon Jul 28, 2008 12:16 pm  

    Same here; I've run plenty of games in the Sheldomar Basin, the Wild Coast, Furyondy, Veluna, Ratik and the Thillornian Penninsula, and I have thought about campaigns in the Bakluni West, the shattered remains of the Aerdi lands, and even the Iron League, but for some reason Urnst (County and Duchy) just sits there on my map as "oh yeah; those places". I don't know why. Maybe that could be a new project, really buid up Urnst into a (couple of) realm(s) of adventure.
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    Mon Jul 28, 2008 1:10 pm  

    What has probably happened is that, since it sits in the 'safe' terriroty between Furyondy/the Shield Lands and Nyrond, there hasn't been the large-scale turmoil the greater nations have seen. Sure, the Bandit Kingoms to the north are a nuisance, but that is all they are. Iuz plagues Furondy, the remnants of the Great Kingdom still threaten Nyrond... Even Rary's Kingdom of the Bright Lands seems to be focused on Greyhawk.

    Urnst has been kept out of the limelight by being surrounded by greater conflicts that don't touch upon it directly.

    I'm certain that there is plenty of opportunity for adventure in Urnst - Maure Castle is just the tip of the iceberg. But the large-scale events take place elsewhere.

    To fix it? Have Iuz look to strike east, and weaken Furyondy indirectly by attacking their allies. Have Rary look north for resources. Let Nyrond collapse under a renewed assault, making Urnst the new front-line nation. Or perhaps a new threat surfaces...
    Master Greytalker

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    Mon Jul 28, 2008 7:10 pm  

    I agree with Vulcan; the Urnsts have safely been ringed by powerful "good" nations and any reasonable threatening scenarnio would beg the question - Why doesn't Furyondy, Greyhawk or Nyrond do something if they were attacked. So the urnsts have built defenses and except for some minor banditry have no real frontier where adventure can take root.

    The GH wars opened a small window of opportunity by throwing both urnsts into the forefront - financial intrigue, unease with Greyhawk and Nyrond, Tehna, more agression north and south but the subsequent FtA pull back reduced much of even these threats.
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    Mon Jul 28, 2008 9:35 pm  

    Vulcan is on the mark, never thought about that.

    When I've used the Duchy it's always been a place of more internalized threats. Since there isn't a direct external enemy there has been much courtly intrigue and factional plotting involving the sites of Urnst like Maure. The Seer of Urnst, the Seekers, wandering Silent Ones and so forth.

    Just for completion, one of the mini mods in Fate of Istus was set in the Duchy. IIRC it was about thieves or something.
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    Tue Jul 29, 2008 1:29 am  

    Nothing is wrong with the Duchy.
    Being a former Ducal Guardsman Wink ...the Dutchy's rectangluarish geo-presentation throws a few off and maybe a lack of indept character, the generic feel about it... ok, maybe you have something...

    I believe I can relate... looking at the Duchy, it does have some very cool aspects but there's an "aura" about it... sort of how I felt when I visited Brussels/Belgium... it felt lacking, not a bad place but no umph!

    Happy Maybe its one of those geographical "site 13/triangle" places...

    Another possible investigation for the Furyondy Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Friar Ulder and Priestess Skella of the "Y" Files.... why? Just because. Happy

    The Truth is out there... and I don't want to believe.
    Laughing

    Cheers.

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    Tue Jul 29, 2008 8:40 am  

    Vulcan wrote:
    What has probably happened is that, since it sits in the 'safe' terriroty between Furyondy/the Shield Lands and Nyrond, there hasn't been the large-scale turmoil the greater nations have seen. . . .
    Urnst has been kept out of the limelight by being surrounded by greater conflicts that don't touch upon it directly.


    Good observation. This may well be it.

    On the other hand, when I looked at Anna's map of Naerie (Idee), ideas just leaped to mind - and Idee is not exactly a hotbed of much of anything.
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    Tue Jul 29, 2008 9:34 am  

    Concerning not adventuring in the Duchy of Urnst the same is true here, though, as pointed out before, there are many reasons to adventure there. It has adventure all around it and some of the best cities around for procuring resources.

    The next campaign I run I will have to keep the Duchy of Urnst in mind.
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    Tue Jul 29, 2008 6:59 pm  

    mortellan wrote:
    Vulcan is on the mark, never thought about that.

    When I've used the Duchy it's always been a place of more internalized threats. Since there isn't a direct external enemy there has been much courtly intrigue and factional plotting involving the sites of Urnst like Maure. The Seer of Urnst, the Seekers, wandering Silent Ones and so forth.


    Good point. As far as internal threats, I imagine the Duchy as being one of the most corrupt states that is technically "good" in the whole Flanaess. Fate of Istus, Greyhawk Adventures, and the LGG all paint pictures of a land rife with corruption. Yes, Karll is wiser now and attempts to clean things up, but Urnst contains a number of very old noble families that are firmly entrenched with their own agendas.

    The Suel have been in the area since the Twin Cataclysms (seemingly just before the Suel that settled in the Sheldomar), allowing the Duchy to be portrayed with the same antiquity as Keoland but with more crumbling architecture and slight hints that it's past its prime. The LGG describes "run-down" buildings in Seltaren and how Leukish was "at [one] time the richest and most splendid port on all the Nyr Dyv" (my italics). The western nobles who fell into a state of "eccentricity, poverty, and insanity" could be used to develop some spooky old estates near the Abbor-Alz with a Ravenloft-like atmosphere.

    Justinian may be gone, but there no doubt remain other powerful "skeptics" who had their own reasons for supporting his decisions to outlaw wizardry and excessively tax the temples. Superstitious peasants, already distrustful of the Rhennee, could have been swayed by these nobles and may give wizard and priest characters a very cold welcome in some areas. Wizardry has only been legal for 20 years and there could still be some very severe restrictions on magic use in the Duchy. Rary's threat to the south certainly isn't helping the perception of magic in this land.

    One that note, if you're ever going to put your PCs behind bars, Urnst is the place to do it. The Ghost Tower of Inverness starts with this premise and WG8 cites the immorality of the land's judges and mentions a national prison south of Leukish. The wrong use of magic in a public place or attempting to break-up an illegal operation secretly sponsored by local lord or merchant are two possible excuses for incarceration.

    Finally, in regards to external threats, you could probably get a fair amount of mileage out of the Bandit Kingdoms if you're playing a pre-wars campaign with Rary not yet in the picture. Gygax's old Dragon magazine update on the Bandit Kingdoms notes the following event in 578: "Prince Zeech's ships and galleys actually staged a major action against the Duchy of Urnst, managing to slip in through the eastern portion of the Cairn Hills, loot and pillage, and then escape with their gains."
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    Wed Jul 30, 2008 11:10 am  

    I always thought that Urnst kinda sucked exactly because it had everything but the corruption idea certainly has merit. I mean the intro to Ghost Tower of Inverness sets the stage for corruption at the highest levels of government and for some reason I haven't played with that theory before.
    I like the idea of setting itself as Ravenloft type setting. It would combine well with the Tolstoffs family from Exemplars of Evil. I've really like them but wasn't sure how to implement them very well.

    But, like BusterBudd said,
    Quote:
    I believe I can relate... looking at the Duchy, it does have some very cool aspects but there's an "aura" about it... sort of how I felt when I visited Brussels/Belgium... it felt lacking, not a bad place but no umph!


    The problem is that the region doesnít have anything that stands out on its own very well. It has all the elements that are necessary for a good explore and sack the dungeon and get home before nightfall style adventure.

    Being in the same region that the shield Lands and the (former) Horned Society just across the Nyr Dyv to the North and Rary to the South does give some behind the scenes opportunities for espionage, cloak and dagger themed games though. And of course, no matter where you are in the world, you can always rely on the [s]KGB[/s] Scarlet Brotherhood for good stuff there. I've always wanted to run a game based off of the Good Shepherd. Word of Darkness or Shadowrun most often filled my mind but D&D works too.

    I think I'll have to keep my mind set on doing something like this.
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    Wed Jul 30, 2008 4:34 pm  

    I've always ran Urnst as the Spain of WWII. Everybody has agents there and it's nasty. One of the biggest things I've done is make thralls of the ruling houses for the Scarlet Brotherhood. All the big powerhitters for whosever side, but they don't have their resources. They have to make due on their own and there are a lot of grudges out there. Wink Who better to infiltrate then the one "safe and trustworthy" nation of Urnst? As it has been mentioned before, Urnst is surrounded by friendly nations who are bearing the brunt of the wars. How better to judge your enemies than from within. Oh and that Seer from Tower of Inverness? yeah, he's a big ol' Scarlet Brotherhood agent....in my campaigns. Cool
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    Wed Jul 30, 2008 5:03 pm  

    DwarffromNyrond wrote:
    I've always ran Urnst as the Spain of WWII. Everybody has agents there and it's nasty. One of the biggest things I've done is make thralls of the ruling houses for the Scarlet Brotherhood. All the big powerhitters for whosever side, but they don't have their resources. They have to make due on their own and there are a lot of grudges out there. Wink Who better to infiltrate then the one "safe and trustworthy" nation of Urnst? As it has been mentioned before, Urnst is surrounded by friendly nations who are bearing the brunt of the wars. How better to judge your enemies than from within. Oh and that Seer from Tower of Inverness? yeah, he's a big ol' Scarlet Brotherhood agent....in my campaigns. Cool


    This is one of the best ideas I've heard in a long time for using the Scarlet Brotherhood after their outing in FtA _and_ I think it is a very interesting idea for making Urnst less white bread. Great ideas! Happy Thanks! Happy
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    Wed Jul 30, 2008 5:07 pm  

    vestcoat wrote:
    . . . I imagine the Duchy as being one of the most corrupt states that is technically "good" in the whole Flanaess. Fate of Istus, Greyhawk Adventures, and the LGG all paint pictures of a land rife with corruption. Yes, Karll is wiser now and attempts to clean things up, but Urnst contains a number of very old noble families that are firmly entrenched with their own agendas.

    The Suel have been in the area since the Twin Cataclysms (seemingly just before the Suel that settled in the Sheldomar), allowing the Duchy to be portrayed with the same antiquity as Keoland but with more crumbling architecture and slight hints that it's past its prime. The LGG describes "run-down" buildings in Seltaren and how Leukish was "at [one] time the richest and most splendid port on all the Nyr Dyv" (my italics). The western nobles who fell into a state of "eccentricity, poverty, and insanity" could be used to develop some spooky old estates near the Abbor-Alz with a Ravenloft-like atmosphere.

    Justinian may be gone, but there no doubt remain other powerful "skeptics" who had their own reasons for supporting his decisions to outlaw wizardry and excessively tax the temples. Superstitious peasants, already distrustful of the Rhennee, could have been swayed by these nobles and may give wizard and priest characters a very cold welcome in some areas. Wizardry has only been legal for 20 years and there could still be some very severe restrictions on magic use in the Duchy. Rary's threat to the south certainly isn't helping the perception of magic in this land.

    One that note, if you're ever going to put your PCs behind bars, Urnst is the place to do it. The Ghost Tower of Inverness starts with this premise and WG8 cites the immorality of the land's judges and mentions a national prison south of Leukish. The wrong use of magic in a public place or attempting to break-up an illegal operation secretly sponsored by local lord or merchant are two possible excuses for incarceration.


    This is an excellent summation! Happy I really like this, particularly when you add in Dwarf's SB angle. Thank you! Happy I think you have both opened my eyes on the Duchy of Urnst! Happy
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    Wed Jul 30, 2008 5:12 pm  

    The large Suel population and former purity laws mentioned on page 125 LGG would both spark the Brotherhood's interest. The assassination of Karll's sisters in GH Adventures also suggests a Brotherhood presence. With their recent setbacks in Greyhawk City, the Duchy's position on the Nesser is a strategic alternative to control of the Selintan River.

    The Duchy's Rhennee conveniently augment the Ravenloft flavor.

    The death of all Karll's brothers to desert nomads indicates that the dervishes were a major threat even before Rary.
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    Wed Jul 30, 2008 5:12 pm  

    manus-nigrum wrote:
    . . . I mean the intro to Ghost Tower of Inverness sets the stage for corruption at the highest levels of government and for some reason I haven't played with that theory before.
    I like the idea of setting itself as Ravenloft type setting. It would combine well with the Tolstoffs family from Exemplars of Evil. I've really like them but wasn't sure how to implement them very well.


    Added to the corruption angle and the SB angle, I like the idea of a kind of spooky decrepitude, possibly setting it up as a reason the SB hasn't just run rough shod over the entire area - the spookiness is both beyond their keenh and not susceptible to their brand of corruption. In a way, the spookiness in slowing down the SB might make them something of - the enemy of my enemy id my friend - pitting evil (spookiness) vs evil (SB) - which works only so long as neither side wins.

    Cool ideas! Happy
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    Wed Jul 30, 2008 6:54 pm  

    GVD, first I am so going to steal the ideas on this topic and add to my own campaign. Second, something just occured to me; if the powerhitter agents from every faction is fighting a secret war against each other in the shadows above ground, what's going on underground? I think a real great twist to the heavily taxed churches and and discriminated magic-users is to have a different war going on between the eccentric and decreped noble houses. At night, the undead stalk the land and they are busy fighting yuan-ti. Yuan-ti? Yep, something no one expects but you can have vast subterranean caverns filled with lush plants that have a biosphere of their own and oh, all that warm, moist underground evil wetness has caught the attention of illithids. Sad Great, so who do the adventurers help? Nyrond nobles who want to annex Urnst? Noble houses of Urnst who have turned to dark magic to further their own agendas? The current ruling government who seems to be incompetant and indecisive? How about that religious order that wants to bring light and truth to the deserving people of Urnst, just like in the Pale? Shocked Smile How about those lovely demi-human clans and tribes that are starting to meet and talk, that have said, "Humans, you had your chance and now it's our turn and once we do fix things, this will be a 'don't feed the humans' habitat, just like our brethern in Celene." Mad Be warned, your players may actively seek to harm you with all this intrigue. Everything is very....grey. Smile
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    Thu Jul 31, 2008 7:46 am  

    DwarffromNyrond wrote:
    . . . I think a real great twist to the heavily taxed churches and and discriminated magic-users is to have a different war going on between the eccentric and decreped noble houses. . . .
    Noble houses of Urnst who have turned to dark magic to further their own agendas?


    DwarffromNyrond wrote:
    Nyrond nobles who want to annex Urnst?


    The above two quoted ideas really appeal to me.

    Some Urnst noble houses as "mini-Maures" works very well, I think, as the Maures are a prominent example in the Duchy that others might try to emulate, all the while hoping to avoid the actual fate of the Maures. Some might even "raise" some of the Maures or their infernal allies.

    The Nyrond annexation plot is simply brilliant and I went "DOH!" when I read it as it seems so natural when you think about it. This is another very cool way to get some international intrigue into "safe" Urnst that would help eleviate some of the issues Vulcan raised upthread about the Duchy of Urnst being an international bystander or backwater. It also works well, I think, with the SB angle.

    Excellent ideas! Smile Thank you! This thread is proving VERY enlightening! Happy
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    Thu Jul 31, 2008 2:41 pm  

    Let's not overlook that both the county and duchy came out of the wars intact, wealthy and with serious financial clout. Urnst bankers are holding alot of debt and has a tehna court in exile.

    The Urnst bankers and merchants are flexing their new found financial muscle which brings up all kinds of commercial possiblities for GH and Nyrond. I disagree that Urnsts should be protrayed as militarily weak both states have fine militaries and impressive fortifications all intact since they avoided combat. If anyone thinks conqueroring either urnst is a mere matter of marching they are in for a surprise.
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    Thu Jul 31, 2008 5:43 pm  

    A lot of these ideas are excellent-I too like the idea of the Duchy of Urnst being rife with intrigue and corruption, and struggling with its racist past. The Duchy of Urnst may not have the strongest military in the eastern Flanaess, but I see it as eager to pay the weakened Nyrond back for centuries of interference in its politics. The Urnstmen have long memories, and are quite eager to make Nyrond sit up and bark in retribution for lording it over the Urnst states for so many years past.

    I also view the people of the Duchy as having a strong sense of initiative and a "get up and go" attitude, with candor that can border on arrogance. Many of its nobles are quite pleased to use methods both fair and underhanded to achieve their aims, and PCs can easily be caught up in these things. This is the main source of their rivalries with Greyhawk, the County of Urnst, and Nyrond.

    It doesn't even need to be a straightforward good-versus-evil battle; PCs can be caught up in rivalries between Urnstian factions, or may act for or against foreign states in the Duchy. Does the County of Urnst need the PCs to act against the Duchy's interests in some way to protect its own? Does Duke Karll always keep as steady a hand on his nobles as he should? Do the nobles themselves always restrict their skulduggery to dealing with foreigners?

    The rivalry between the County and the Duchy should be very interesting. I view the County as being much more laid back and reticent in nature, and lacking the same decisive attitude of its southern neighbor. Do they need help of some sort in resisting the Duchy's incursions?

    And where does the Scarlet Brotherhood fit into all this? Do its tenets appeal to some of the Urnstmen? Will they find willing supporters and converts?

    It's important, though, to remember that both Urnst states still have a strong streak of good running through them, in the sene that they both largely have racial and sexual equality, and in spite of their flaws, they're not necessarily any worse than Greyhawk, which I view as more corrupt, or Nyrond, which I view as more racist and sexist. The halflings of Urnst, for example, ar some of the most powerful and outgoing in the Flanaess.

    Even the County has its skeletons in the closet-how do you think Tenh, the Pale, Greyhawk, or the Shield Lands would react if they found out about the trade between the County and Stoink? The County could be severely compromised if anyone ever found out, and PCs could easily get caught up in more cloak and dagger-type alliances where alignments are blurred...
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    Fri Aug 01, 2008 8:25 am  

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    . . . I also view the people of the Duchy as having a strong sense of initiative and a "get up and go" attitude, with candor that can border on arrogance. . . .
    It's important, though, to remember that both Urnst states still have a strong streak of good running through them, in the sene that they both largely have racial and sexual equality, and in spite of their flaws . . .


    Excellent observations, CSL. I really like "get up and go" as arrogance idea to characterize Urnsters. It helps to manage the balance between good and evil that your second point, quoted above, brings to the fore.

    It would be too easy to go overboard and turn D Urnst evil and you very well observe that D Urnst has a strong streak of good. Managing the balance between a degree of goodness and the corruption etc. developed up thread will be tricky but I agree it is something to definitely bear in mind. Such a balance makes D Urnst more complex, perhaps more ambiguous morally, more - grey. That's a good thing, IMO! Happy
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    Fri Aug 01, 2008 11:01 am  

    Nyrond has coveted Urnst since it won independence, but hasnít really acted on it since the first failed invasion attempt.
    Thereís also the Dukeís plan to marry his son to the Countessís daughter to form a single Urnst nation.
    Nyrond, and a few others, would most likely not be happy with that.
    I donít use the Scarlet Brotherhhod on behalf of Nyrond thing for Thrommel, but I could see it making more sense in this case.

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    Sat Aug 02, 2008 4:14 am  

    Aside ffrom Countess Belissica and Duke Karll, who is else is from the Urnst states? Who are some of the notable personages from these lands? And how about notable refugees from elsewhere?
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    Sat Aug 02, 2008 7:56 am  

    gargoyle wrote:
    Aside ffrom Countess Belissica and Duke Karll, who is else is from the Urnst states? Who are some of the notable personages from these lands? And how about notable refugees from elsewhere?


    Warnes Starcoat, Jallarzi Sallavarian, the Sage of Urnst, the Weird of the Gnatmarsh, Quintus Marius of the Seekers, Hadric (corrupt former Governor of Leukish), Sereda Ostarte of the Order of the Fire Hawk (Complete Arcane), the Maure family, Eli Tomorast, and the pregenerated PCs from Ghost Tower of Inverness: Li Hon, Hodar, Lembu, Zinethar, and Discinque.
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    Sat Aug 02, 2008 10:21 am  

    Thanks rasgon, though no bibliography? Wink And is Sabrina (Hadric's mercenary and Alaric's ally; FoI) not native to Urnst?
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    Sat Aug 02, 2008 10:45 am  

    gargoyle wrote:
    Thanks rasgon, though no bibliography? Wink And is Sabrina (Hadric's mercenary and Alaric's ally; FoI) not native to Urnst?


    I assume she is; I just decided she wasn't a notable enough personage to bother with (and I was getting lazy).

    Sources: Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, Ghost Tower of Inverness, Isle of the Ape, Return of the Eight, City of Greyhawk, Complete Arcane, Dungeon #112, "Silent Sorcery" in LGJ #4.
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    Mon Aug 04, 2008 2:21 pm  

    Just to provide a bit, especially if Urnst will be PF...

    Dungeon 85, available in pdf at Piazo has a fairly long module called Natural Selection: Celadon Druids Vs. Urnst Rangers.
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    Wed Aug 06, 2008 5:54 am  

    I don't have my LGG currently; what's the human racial makeup of the Urnst states? OSf? Osf? Thanks...
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    Mon Oct 06, 2008 9:22 pm  

    The "safe state" scenario is appropriate.

    Greyhawk is the "Gem of the Flanaess" and (for our purposes) all adventures start there. The Duchy misses out on that score. Cool

    I see the Urnst "nations" as a hotbed of intrigue, behind the scenes manipulation and back-stabbing. Happy

    They're both too insulated for direct assault from Iuz, he has other nations to defeat first. The Bandit Kingdoms are no physical threat. Rary is not yet in a position to mount such an attack and, anyway, his interest is Greyhawk. However . . .

    The Scarlet Brotherhood seeks to subdue everyone, and they do it by stealth. Treason in the Royal Palace? Are they using Maure Castle as a staging point? Shocked

    Are all of the Maure really dead? Shocked

    Does Vecna seek to return via Maure Castle? Shocked The castle is, itself, a source of power that he might draw upon.

    Arinanin-b-Koran was never destroyed. He always sought to control the Suel Imperium. Would he not (eventually) follow Zellifar-ad-Zol and the Zolite Suel (supremist all) eastward, into the Tilvanot Peninsula? Shocked The Zolites did have two of the Binders, as well as the Genie King. Could Oerth's "first lich" be the force behind the Scarlet Brotherhood? Shocked Is Arinanin-b-Koran, even now, inside Maure Castle, leading the assualt upon the Duchy? Shocked Exclamation Question

    Just my thoughts. Happy
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    Sat Mar 20, 2010 6:56 am  

    Don't forget that there are also two big military bases in Urnst. There is the Ranger school in the Celadon and the War Mage college in the Abbor-Alz. That makes the Duchies military a lot stronger.
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    Sat Mar 20, 2010 9:48 am  

    Great topic and interesting replies as always from the group. I admit, the Duchy of Urnst has not been an area of focus for me much in the past either, although it is ripe with adventure threads and intrigues. I think the primary reason it has not been very active on our collective radars is because there has been very little published material specifically about the region over the years. The various modules and books that have been set in or around the area seem to have only glossed over the area as they focused on other topics or events. Maybe the Duchy is the Rodney Dangerfield of Oerth locations, no respect. I have a feeling though after this long discussion that will change very soon.
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