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Greyhawk Gazetteer Addendum: The Sheldomar Valley, Part 1
Posted on Tue, December 09, 2003 by Legate
CruelSummerLord writes "Who among us has not wondered about the lines of government, or the social mores and customs of the various Flanaess states? What of an in-depth analysis of their military? The personalities of the various Flanaess rulers? Their foreign relations? Read on to learn more...starting with Bissel & Geoff...

Greyhawk Gazetteer Addendum: The Sheldomar Valley, Part 1, Bissel & Geoff
By: CruelSummerLord
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.


Respected Iquander and Respected Sir Pluffet:

I have, in rereading the standard scholarly works by Xagyg, Sargent Silver, and your own esteemed selves, noticed that there has never been much time or place to delve into the minutiae of each nation of the Flanaess. What kind of culture do the various Flanaess states have? How do they treat their citizens, especially those that are not male and human? What are the characteristics of each individual ruler or head of state?
These questions, quite understandably, cannot be answered in works where space is at a premium. Therefore, I shall take it upon myself to identify, as far as I can, characteristics of each Flanaess state, including those that, since the Greyhawk Wars, no longer exist. In cases where fundamental changes occurred after the wars, I shall compare and contrast these changes.
There remains one caveat before I can begin, however. Informed readers will know that my own version of the events of the Flanaess differs sharply from that presented by Sargent Silver. While some of the events presented in this ongoing series are very different than those presented by Master Sargent, I have taken pains to ensure both that the general characteristics of any given state are usable by any Flanaess chronicler, and that enough ?canon? is retained.
I shall not be describing history in any great detail-the established works are quite sufficient for that matter. I believe it is more important to break new ground rather than go over the old yet again.

The general format I shall be using for each nation goes as follows:

Society and Culture: Here I shall identify the basic social structures of the nation, the various attitudes of the people, their treatment of women and demihumans, attitudes towards slavery, and so forth.

Military Structure: One of the major weaknesses of the established Flanaess tomes is that, when examining a given state?s military situation, they cannot go into enough detail on the army?s actual strengths and, more importantly, its weak points.

Ruler: Here I shall discuss the ruler of the nation-his personality, his beliefs, his deity, and so forth. In those cases where changes of rulership have taken place since the Wars, I shall also discuss the previous ruler(s) as needed.

Foreign Relations: The Living Greyhawk Gazetteer gives the general tendencies of the Flanaess states as regards their being allies and enemies, but the relationships are often more subtle than that. Greyhawk and Dyvers, for instance, are technically allies, yet both would love nothing more than to destroy and loot the other. The Horned Empire and Pomarj are supposed to be Greyhawk?s enemies, yet the Gem of the Flanaess would not hesitate at all to recruit them as allies if they could gain a benefit from it.

Demographics, population, history, resources, and so forth have been sufficiently described in the Gazetteer, the essential tool for any Flanaess scholar, and so I shall not waste time on these details.

In writing a Flanaess-wide guide to cultural mores and social structures, one has to begin somewhere. And so it is that I have chosen to begin with the Sheldomar Valley, the birthplace of the Flanaess?s first kingdom, Keoland, and its successor states.

THE SHELDOMAR VALLEY



BISSEL, MARCH OF



Long known as the gateway between the Flanaess and the Baklunish West, where Baklunish, Suel, and Oeridian cultures met. An important strategic point, it has been conquered and re-conquered by all three at various times over the years, turning Bissel into a hive of spying, intrigue and doublespeak, where every man had suspicions of at least one of his neighbors.

After a cabal of necromancers attempted to seize control of the march in 580 CY, the government of Margrave Walgar clamped down on the many fringe groups within his realm, forcibly rooting out spies and treason. The national mood was dangerous and distrustful, as the ethnically mixed peoples of the state let old feuds begin to get the better of them?

And then Ket attacked during the Greyhawk Wars, taking advantage of the politically weakened march. Breakdowns in the chain of command, petty jealousies, and outright treason left the realm conquered by 585 CY. This attack was part of a greater scheme of Iuz The Old, who no doubt had planned to have Kettite forces attack Veluna and Furyondy from behind while he launched a frontal assault.

Alas, this was not to be. Events in Dorakaa soon had Iuz fleeing to the Abyss, with his realm falling apart in bloody chaos and slaughter. His servants spread to the four corners of the Flanaess, creating their Cells wherever they went. Ket was left with a conquered realm and no demigod to guide them, being caught in the occupation of the march, and angry, defeated citizens under their guard.

Spies from all around-Furyondy, Perrenland, Gran March, Geoff, Veluna, and any number of dwarf kings from the Yatils and Crystalmists-attempted to drive the Baklunish out of Bissel, each wishing to capture/liberate the march for their own purposes. Despite all this, the Kettites captured and slew most of their enemies, as they tried to deal with a restless and hostile people.


Society and Culture: Bissel is a mix of many different cultures and races, a realm where three lands meet. As such, it is cosmopolitan and ever-changing, at least in social fashions and beliefs. Those people who settle here permanently bring with them a thousand different beliefs, gods, and allegiances, taking a long time to assimilate into the greater population. Landed populations of farmers, hunters, and lumberjacks can often travel to the forests for timber in winter, then to the hills and mountains for mining and herding, all the while farming in summer. Transient populations have caused these conventions to develop as a result of so few people, even permanent residents, staying in one place all the time.

Bissel is a realm where ethnic rivalries and clashes unfortunately can and do take place, especially if travelers from Gran March meet their enemies from Tusmit, for instance. Depending on individual tendencies, people either tend to assemble into small cliques with ?their own?, or are friendly and accommodating to any and all they meet. As such, both horizontal and vertical social structures exist in Bissel, depending on who and where you go.
In the actual ruling of the realm, a feudal system allows the margrave control over the realm by appointing knights and sheriffs as he sees fit for the various townships and baronies. The margrave has the authority to remove barons and sheriffs as he sees fit, and his word can be disputed only by a majority of twenty-five of the thirty-five barons (twenty-six barons and the sheriffs of the eight cities), who are often involved in their own petty disputes based on the cultural differences that separate them.

Now, the situation has become tense in Bissel. The assassination of Beygraf Zoltan of Ket in 587 CY saw an upsurge of rebellion against the government of Graf Imran Tendulkar, who had taken a soft hand to government of the conquered territory. This was put down after some force, even as neighboring nations attacked again, attempting to break Bissel free of its hold. The Bisselites then began to dispute among themselves even as they fought for their freedom-a growing number even of non-Baklunish citizens were converting to the worship of the Baklunish gods, much to the consternation of the Knights of the Watch, in particular. Gran March invaders were forced to fight men who they used to march beside against the hated westerners.

The new beygraf of Ket, Nadaid, put an end to the chaos at home, and got the hardline clerics and pashas out of his affairs by sending them west, to Bissel, even as all the surrounding states and demihuman kingdoms were getting involved in heated disputes and negotiations.

In 589 CY, the farming town of Pellak was taken as the capital of the new ?march?, which was less than a quarter of what her original size was. Gran March, the gnomes and dwarves of the surrounding mountains, and even secular Velunese nobility all began their own plots to absorb the broken realm. The defeated realm could offer little resistance in the matter, as most citizens left for greener pastures to the north, east or south when they saw how easily their homeland had crumbled.

The rest of Bissel was re-organized as a Ket protectorate, although the westerners had no choice but to declare Thornward as neutral ground owned by no one, although the Kettites extracted heavy tariffs from those attempting to use it to travel into their lands. This land is calm now, filled with those Bisselites who have converted to the worship of the Baklunish deities, and are now being gradually assimilated into the greater realm, always under the control of Graf Tendulkar.

Military Structure: The armies of Bissel are very similar to those of Gran March, its neighbor to the south, in that even the common soldier is outfitted in chain mail, and given a good broad sword and large shield. The Border Companies, as the forces are called, answer to the Margrave and the Margrave alone, with an excellent mix of heavy infantry and cavalry, supplemented by spellcasting wizards and other adventurers, acting as independent operatives and spies as needed.

Ket was likely able to conquer Bissel because of the fact that many of these Border Companies were fighting in Geoff and Sterich against the giants. However, one other factor is clear as well-the military?s strength and ability masked a society cracked by its ethnic conflicts. Contrary to the united and well-disciplined Kettites, the Bisselites usually had difficulties in the chain of command between officers of different races, while suspicions of spying and treason were harbored by other officers.

In modern times, there is little evidence of an organized Bisselite army, the armed forces of any occupying country being the only effective authorities in what used to be the March of Bissel. Its time has passed, most people have said, and it has passed into the annals of history?

Ruler: Margrave Walgar, the ranger lord who governed Bissel prior to the Greyhawk Wars, was a grim man who seemed to take little pleasure in life. Throwing himself into his work methodically to the exclusion of anything else, he was, some people whisper, mourning-mourning the fact that his nation seemed to be crumbling around him, causing an ultimate wound to his pride.

A truly good man who wanted nothing more than to live and trade in peace with his neighbors, he obviously must have been disgusted by the endless politicking around him. His few pleasures came from painting and throwing ceramics, something for which he had a great gift. When the westerners finally attacked, and his realm was defeated, he seemed to have viewed falling upon his own sword almost a release and a blessing.

Graf Imran Tendulkar is a very religious and very devout man, who attends his church three days a week. His calm, intelligent eyes are not those of the fanatic, however-he truly believes that he is trying to help people by educating them of Istus, Al?Akbar, and the rest of the western gods. Gentle, pious and charitable, he skillfully rebuffed the hardline mullahs of the True Faith, bringing the people of the conquered march gradually into the new realm.

Larrrangin, the new margrave of what remains of Bissel, is a tall, gaunt man who is very resentful of the new status of his nation. He seems to take little faith in anything from the gods to the ability of his own people anymore, ruling simply because the Knights of the Watch had sponsored him for the position. He is a cleric of Hieroneous, though he mainly gives lip service to his god now, wondering where the golden paladin was as foreigners fought over his country like so many vultures.

Foreign Relations: Gran March, Furyondy, secular Veluna, Ket, Perrenland, Geoff, Perrenland, and the demihumans of the surrounding hills and mountains were all allies-*****-enemies of Bissel, depending on how the political winds blew at any given time. Margrave Walgar somehow managed to play them all off against each other, despite his lack of enthusiasm. What remains of Bissel is now hounded by her neighbors, all of whom are pressuring her to join them, even as hostile relations with Ket continue, and the various parties involved dispute over control of Thornward, an open city subject to no state. It is said that its rulers would declare it a Free City, but for the presence of Ket?s forces all around it.

GEOFF, GRAND DUCHY OF



The Grand Duchy of Geoff, one of the nations harder done by in the Greyhawk Wars, which now stubbornly clings to its holdings despite the monsters that ravage its wilderness, and the severe battering both its people and its cities have taken at the hands of a rampaging giant mob.

Geoff now stands as a proud, defiant nation against both its giant foes and those who swore the nation would fall. Despite the great damage that was wrought in the war, the people stubbornly cling to the desire to rebuild their home and guard against any further incursions. Were it not for the actions of a brave group of heroes, the entire nation would likely have been lost?

Approximately fifteen years ago, in 576 CY, Geoff and the March of Sterich to the south had been gaining increasing independence from Keoland, something which caused great consternation in the royal court at Niole Dra. King Kimbertos Skotti had been attempting to wrangle economic concessions from his client states and woo them back into the royal fold, something which he had been failing miserably at. Thus, the Throne of the Lion grew increasingly distant from Gorna and Istivin, the capitals of Geoff and Sterich.

At this time, rangers had reported increasing giant activity in the Crystalmist Mountains west of the duchy, including hints that a massive army was being organized. The leaders of the giants were unknown, but the fearsome King Snurre Iron Belly, ruler of the fire giant hold of Muspelheim in the Crystalmist Mountains was correctly identified as the ?official? leader.

While Snurre had the charisma and aura of power to lead the giants, any fool would know that he was too stupid to organize such a massive undertaking. When the first wave of raids began, Grand Duke Owen and Querchard, the Earl of Sterich, took the initiative and dispatched parties of adventurers to forestall the attack, and identify the true leaders of the giant army.

Whether the heroes succeeded in the latter goal is unknown to the public, but it is correctly known that they managed to slay Nosnra, Grugnur and Snurre, the leaders who held the giant alliance together. Without the leaders, the grand alliance fell apart. Individual bands, stirred up by the lust for plunder and glory, all attacked of their own initiative, in disorganized gangs.

Geoff and Sterich were forced to fight for their lives by 581 CY, and the struggle swiftly grew desperate, as the giants just kept on coming. Only two months after the fighting began, in response to increasingly desperate pleas for aid, did King Skotti marshal his troops in the defense of his western vassals. Keoish reinforcements arrived just in time, as Gorna was under siege and all of south and western Sterich were under giant control. Only after four more years of vicious fighting, by 585 CY, were Geoff and Sterich free from the giant menace.

But the victory had come at a terrible cost for Geoff. Pregmere and Pest?s Crossing were in ruins, and Gorna had been damaged by siege. Thousands had been killed, and many more were made homeless. Monuments and temples were burned. Rebuilding began, but it was painfully slow. Recovery from the war would take years?

Society and Culture: Geoff was founded centuries ago by a variety of races moving into the same fertile area of land. Unlike the violent Aerdi who were swiftly crossing the central Flanaess, the Suel and Oeridian visitors managed to establish friendly relations with the native Flan, who taught them the secrets of survival within the strange new land, and introduced them to the local demihumans.

This harmonious mix of races and cultures has made modern Geoff into a nation where all the differing races live together in principles of mutual friendship and respect for each others? heritage and unique contributions to society. Geoffites are known for their welcoming attitudes towards strangers, who might otherwise be regarded with suspicion in Keoland proper.

The society the original Flan had created has been retained in Geoff, unlike in Sterich to the south. This society is organized around a warrior elite derived from the old Flan tribes, now with the Oeridian and Suel equivalents intermingled within. This warrior aristocracy allows considerable freedom to its citizens, who are, outside of this warrior elite, generally equal in all ways, though with a deference to elders, also retained from the Flan. A broad sense of collective spirit exists among the entire nation, so that all people below the aristocracy, regardless of wealth or race, are regarded as equals. Slavery was banned in Geoff long ago, and women and demihumans are treated just as well as the men.
The warrior aristocracy is responsible for defense of the realm, and retaining and training peasant levies as necessary. They elect a single Grand Duke to rule over them, voted into office by all the peers of the warrior class. Six hereditary counts rule over the six high counties that make up Geoff as a whole. A monthly council is gathered with the six High Counts, the Grand Duke, and representatives of the demihuman lordships, to discuss matters of national importance and settle disputes.

The commoners will always refer matters directly to their high counts, without having to deal with the stifling bureaucracy common to other realms. The human counts generally travel around their domains, to remain strong in the eyes of the people and hear their concerns.

Hill forts, large longhouse-type stockades surrounded by stone walls, and squat stone monastery-like citadels are the high points of Geoffish architecture. Smaller villages tend to be made of wood and skins, which can be easily dismantled and removed as necessary. Totem poles and other such monuments typical of the western Flan stand comfortably alongside the bronze and granite statues of famous statesmen that the Oeridians love, for Geoff is a land in harmony.
Geoff is a land of harmony, but this harmony makes many of its people insular and somewhat suspicious of outsiders. Persistent raids from the Valley of the Mage and evil demihumans in the Lortmils, and past after-effects of the civil wars of the Crystalmist dwarves have soured many Geoffites on outsiders, with the tendency that it may take some years for settlers to be accepted as being ?from Geoff?.

Military Structure: Oeridian culture has made its greatest impact on the army, which is far more organized along traditional lines than the rest of Geoff?s society. The Oeridians take the lead in strictly disciplined heavy cavalry which easily mow down the humanoids recruited by giants. The typical overrunning tactics of giants are rather ill-suited against the formidable pikemen, bolstered by Suel battle-mages. Flan and elven archers tend to rely on stealth tactics, picking enemies off one at a time and causing general harassment rather than being used in open conflict. Gnomes and dwarves make up the heavy foot, using their own special training to slug it out with giant invaders. The human light infantry tends to be very green and prone to mistakes, often being recruited from peasant levies in time of need.

Geoff?s armies have little experience with artillery and sapping, as they have rarely had to put sieges to use, and they prefer to send raiders out by secret ways to snipe and harass siege-workers rather than use their own artillery. There are no slingers, hobilars or mounted archers to speak of.

Ruler: His Radiance Grand Duke Owen is a quiet but gentle man, one of only middling height and no real build but with a sharp mind, blindingly fast reflexes, and incredible personal charisma. He has governed Geoff well for years; so well, in fact, that the warrior peers took the unheard-of step of selecting his son Count Hustin to take the throne when his father steps down.

Grand Duke Owen rarely wears heavy armor, as it interferes with his powerful illusion magic. His own individual tricks as an illusionist have turned the tide of many a giant battle, and he served his people well during the war years. He wields a heavy flail in combat, preferring to enter combat on foot, so that he may cast spells as needed.

Owen dislikes bragging, haughty people, preferring those that remain simple and down-to-oerth like himself. He is on good terms with King Skotti, realizing that Niole Dra?s power-grubbing is less Skotti?s doing than those of the greedy bureaucracy and the scheming Lashton. Now a rather old man, he has seen more of war than most people have, and he is tired of it. Very angry at the damage done to his realm, Owen has retained his kindly character, though bitterness and sadness have eaten away at his resolve in 591. He is known to break down in private, when he thinks no one sees him, though he always puts on a brave front until Hustin is ready to take the throne.

Owen?s family is well-noted for favoring the bards of the Old Lore among his court, and this is one of the few nations left in the Flanaess where the Old Lore is still practiced openly and among more than a few people. Count Hustin is well-noted for his ability on the lute and the harp, while the sylph-like Marianna, Owen?s wife, is said to have some nymph blood in her veins, so well does she sing.

Foreign Relations: Geoff, until the Wars, enjoyed warm relations with everyone else in the Sheldomar Valley. The goodness and honesty of the people, and its open and welcoming society spread its good name in comparisons to Sunndi and Veluna. With Keoland?s royal court reluctant to come to the aid of Geoff in her time of need, many of her citizens are calling loudly to secede completely from the Throne of the Lion. Sterich sympathizers are calling on Owen to lead them as well, distrusting Marchioness Resbin?s motives.

Many common Keoish citizens are feeling sympathy for their western cousins, although the court at Niole Dra is deaf to the outrages even of their own people. Skotti has attempted to calm the situation, though Lashton?s spitting response, sent in the response of a dream spell to Owen, says that if Geoff does try something like this, her ruin will be complete. Such open threats are not welcomed by Geoff, and so relations between the Kingdom and her vassal state are at their lowest point in years.

(N.B. The setting of these articles is identical to that I posted in the article: "An Alternative View of the Greyhawk Wars", but that, except in the cases where it obviously differs, everything should mesh with canon. )"
 
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Re: Greyhawk Gazetteer Addendum: The Sheldomar Valley, Part 1 (Score: 1)
by Qstor (qstor_67@yahoo.com) on Tue, January 13, 2004
(User Info | Send a Message)
Nice but the dates do not match the information in the LGG.

Mike




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