|reyhawk Gazetteer Addendum: The Sheldomar Valley, Part 2
|Posted on Wed, December 17, 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? My series continues with Gran March, Keoland, and Sterich...
Greyhawk Gazetteer Addendum: The Sheldomar Valley, Part 2
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.
THE GRAN MARCH
The home and heartland of the Knights of the Watch, Gran March is the northernmost nation of the Sheldomar Valley. On the outside, it has changed little since the Greyhawk Wars, remaining a strong military focal point against the Kettites in what was once Bissel, and against hostile forces from the Lortmils, Dim Forest, and Rushmoors.
It was at the Commandant?s Keep that were laid the Twelve and Seven Precepts for the order of the Knights of the Watch, that knighthood whose job it is to guard against the monsters of the western forests and mountains and the hated Baklunish of the lands beyond. The Knights have always found their most ardent supporters in the citizens of Gran March, something which has only increased as the land fills with Bisselite refugees fleeing their conquered homeland.
I shall not go into further details on the replacement of Commandant Petros by Magnus Vrianian, except to say that the Knights? influence upon the affairs of Gran March, once subtle, are now more and more open and direct. Hookhill and Shiboleth have Watchmen parading openly in the streets, and humans of dark skin, whether Flan or Baklunish, are constantly harassed. Elves and halflings also report similar isolated incidents against their own people, though nominally the March still accepts people of all races within its borders.
Society and Culture: Gran March has always been where the Keoish ?war hawks? have gathered, where imperialist philosophers and military minds could find the best use of their talents. The Suel and Oeridian peoples who settled this land after coming north from Keoland proper chased away the native Flan in a series of bloody skirmishes, chasing them either into the surrounding swamplands, forests and hills, where their descendants live to this day in the traditional Flan lifestyle, remembering bitterly how their offerings of peace and friendship were responded to by these interlopers.
Honor is a critical element of a man?s worth in Gran March. Duels can be called for perceived insults, often to the death, fought with long swords as opposed to the rapiers favored by the nobles of the Great Kingdom and her successor states. Failure to respond to a challenge, or avenge an insult when you ought to, are causes for grave disgrace.
Gran March?s martial character means that there is also a distinct pecking order in society. From a young age, children are encouraged to brawl in rough-and-tumble style to toughen them up, with the girls getting no breaks or respite because of their gender. The length of a commandant?s term in office, not to mention those of other nobles and civil servants, are determined by how strong and charismatic they are-solving problems with force and passion is more highly valued than careful reasoning and diplomacy. While commandants are ostensibly elected every five years, a leader?s colleagues may decide to force him from office, by having one of their own duel him to determine if he may keep his position.
Gran March is also a land of subtle discrimination: Although women who prove themselves have climbed far in the nation?s military hierarchy, most of them do not fight, nor are they expected to. Unlike in Keoland proper, the civil rights of women and demihumans in Gran March are very limited. Elves, halflings, and Flan and Baklunish humans often find that officials can make their lives extremely difficult, and the authorities and citizens will single them out for harassment and profiling. Slavery is illegal, though some nobles are whispered to hold Flan and Baklunish ?serfs? at their own private estates.
Military Structure: Gran March?s crack mailed cavalry is the bane of any and all who face it, with no other cavalry force in the western Flanaess being able to match it. Although the archers are only passable, Gran March relies heavily on the gnomes of the Lorridges to provide them with siege equipment, artillery, and expertise, which perform brilliantly even against keeps in the steep mountains of the Lortmils or half-buried in the bogs of the Rushmoors.
The army lacks slingers, light horse, and light foot, though in every other aspect the forces of Gran March are an impressive sight to be witnessed. Even the levies are comparable to the main forces of most other Sheldomar nations. The Knights of the Watch, and their shields and banners, are present more and more alongside the white shield Gran March uses on its own.
Ruler: Commandant Petros was known as a decent, forward-thinking, and honest, if not terribly bright, man. Despite being criticized for his lack of desire to follow up on and slay defeated enemies, the man seemed to have no great enemies, and was said even to command the respect of the very best Watchmen. Petros had a passion for wine and physical fitness, rising at the crack of dawn every morning to exercise and practice sword and archery. His mysterious disappearance has his wife puzzled and very worried. His three daughters are now thought to be in Niole Dra, either studying to join the priesthood of Phyton, or attending the University of the Lion, an old institution founded centuries ago by King Tavish I.
Commandant Magnus Vrianian is known, by those few who have seen him, to be a man of unusually chilly disposition. His green eyes have an intense light burning within them, the lights of a man who has seen horrors no mortal mind should witness. On those occasions when he takes the field, he has never been known to grant mercy to an enemy that has surrendered. A tall, thin man with a cropped goatee and moustache, his emaciated frame seems to be carrying a heavy weight upon its thin shoulders. The god Hierroneous seems to be granting him spells, and he wields a holy battle-axe carved with the god?s runes, but few have any idea why Magnus seems to be so harsh and cold.
Foreign Relations: Geoff and Sterich are both deeply indebted to Gran March for its timely assistance against the giants, and Knights of the Watch are welcomed in Gorna and Istivin. Magnus Vrianian has taken no official stance in Geoff?s dispute with Keoland, and a response does not seem to have come at all.
Keoland proper gets along cordially with her northern vassal state, though the attention of Niole Dra is on the west and Hookhill is on the north. The Ulek states have little love or trust for Gran March, however-while they are ostensibly allies, the Watchmen receive a lukewarm welcome in the shadow of the Lortmils, and none of the sovereigns of those nations entertain March diplomats for long.
Gran March has now declared war on Ket to free Bissel from the clutches of the hated Baklunish. With the collapse of Iuz?s empire in the north, and its best soldiers forced to return to Lopolla, Gran March has a decided strategic advantage, though, surprisingly, most of those Bisselites who remained in their homeland now seem to be converting en masse to western religions, listening to what Gram Imran Tendulkar preaches. This, of course, causes no small amount of fury in Hookhill.
KINGDOM OF KEOLAND
The Kingdom of Keoland is one of the oldest nations in the Flanaess, and its history is well-dwelled on in other tomes. What has not been mentioned is the extent to which King Kimbertos Skotti has reformed his nation?s society. Whereas before Keoland was known for being an ?old-style? kingdom similar to that of Nyrond (where slavery and serfdom were allowed, women did not fight, and demihumans were secondary citizens), Skotti has, since he ascended to the throne in 564 CY, undertaken considerable social reforms.
Keoland has now abolished its slave trade, though some nobles still conduct secret (and flagrantly illegal) trade with powers such as the former Slave Lords and Sea Princes, and now Turrosh Mak and other slaving organizations. The position of women in society has been considerably improved, while Skotti now ranks as one of the most popular kings among his elf and gnome subjects for his hands-off approach to running affairs in the Good Hills, the Dreadwood, and the Ulek states. The common folk also appreciate his strengthening of their civil rights.
Unfortunately, this has alienated a fair number of Skotti?s nobles, who packed up and left for Sterich, Gran March or even the Sea Princes in the intervening years. Skotti has responded to this by simply replacing those departed nobles on their estates with relations who are more likely to follow his new laws. Adventurers have also been rewarded for their service in cleaning up many of the dirty messes these nobles left behind.
Society and Culture: The people of rural Keoland are friendly but reserved, often preferring that travelers stay no more than one night before moving on. Magic-users are regarded nervously and fearfully, and anyone who does not speak Keolandish is automatically viewed as something of an outsider. Still, they are good people, and will always reward good turns and services rendered to them by strangers who cross their paths.
The city-dwelling Keoish are similarly friendly, and also much more outgoing and hospitable. They have a hail-fellow-well-met attitude to them, and will pester travelers for every last bit of interesting news they can carry. They will happily swap food and tales with strangers who reward them in kind, although some travelers have noted how much Keoish nobles tend to ramble on about themselves.
Despite the goodness of their hearts, the Keoish have a certain noblesse oblige towards all other citizens and people, and so tend to patronize and talk down to outsiders, even though they are not usually aware of it. Being so sure of their own moral rightness and superiority, citizens of Keoland are often left surprised, offended and/or hurt when irritated people can no longer bite their tongues, and tell the offending Keolander off.
Keoish culture is very egalitarian and open, with no regard to gender or race when determining who fills what role in a society. This openness means, however, that people from any level of society, when organized into a large enough faction, can try and seize the attention of the king at the expense of other groups, thus making changes in policy slow in coming.
The king is advised by the Council of Niole Dra, who may override the king?s decisions when dealing with the nation?s charter, although to do this risks the wrath of many of the kingdom?s interest groups, not least of which is the king?s family itself. The hodgepodge of subdivisions and provinces within the kingdom are continually butting heads with the Crown over matters relating to what they consider to be their own areas of control, and this slows decision-making yet again. Despite all this, the kingdom?s various factions do not fight nearly as much as they could. Thus, while decisions may be slow in coming, they cannot be thwarted or ruined by a small group of dissenters.
Some Keoish nobles have grown very comfortable in their wealth, which means that they have little affection for the upstart King Kimbertos and his reforms. These nobles use many methods, some subtle, others obvious, to skirt the laws he has passed, and increase their own personal power. These nobles are the ones that will smuggle
Military Structure: Both Gran March and Sterich send troops to aid Keoland, although her own light and heavy cavalry, comprised of nobility, are the core of Keoland?s forces. These are the best of Keoland?s troops, although they are no match for the elites of any given client state. Archers, engineers, light and medium foot, and heavy hobliars round out the rest of the kingdom?s armies, none of whom are skilled enough to deserve merit in a continent-wide work. Keoland is noted for preferring diplomacy over combat, and has not fought a serious war in centuries. Her first dispatches to the aid of the western nations suffered badly against the giant gangs they were not expecting.
The troops sent by Keoland?s client states are often of inferior quality compared to her own homegrown soldiers, and the small companies of demihumans are neither common nor well-trained. Finally, Keoland?s peasant levies are among the weakest of the major Flanaess kingdoms, most of them having never even seen a sword in their lives.
Keoland?s navy, based in Gradsul is stronger now, thanks to ships looted from the Sea Princes after the Greyhawk Wars, and generally considered to be superior to that of Furyondy, the Horned Empire or Urnst.. Still, it is hardly a match for the buccaneers and sailors of the Solnor, and has sent emissaries to Onnwal and Nyrond, soliciting mutual naval aid against Ahlissa and the Lordship of the Isles.
Ruler: Formerly a naïve and open ranger lord, fearsome against giants but uninformed concerning international politics, King Kimbertos Skotti has matured into a strong, steadfast ruler, whose charm and charisma are the object of the lust of a thousand noble?s daughters from across the Flanaess. He retains his forceful, direct manner of speaking, which sometimes lands him in trouble with the court wizard, Lashton of Grayhill. Skotti has, sometimes by simply commanding obedience, brought in many laws to improve the health and welfare of the common and oppressed peoples of the kingdom. He has not, however, been able to adequately deal with the leaders of his client states, who are increasingly upset with the king?s apparent inability to confront the crises around him. Despite his reforms, his unpopularity is growing even among his own native peoples, who fear that they should be next to suffer a giant or goblin invasion.
SKotti has remarried since the death of his first wife in 587 CY. The first queen seems to have died giving birth to her eighth child, and now Skotti?s current wife is currently pregnant with her fourth offspring. The apparent fruitfulness of the royal marriage is the subject of much gossip in the courts of nobles across the country.
Foreign Relations: Most of Keoland?s neighbors are upset with her, to one extent or another. Geoff and Sterich are outraged over Skotti?s politicking, and demand compensation. Gran March has had little contact with Skotti?s court since the disappearance of Commandant Petros. The Ulek states are nervous about the menace of the Pomarj, with Prince Corond voicing his frustration at Keoland?s lack of support for his ongoing war with the Pomarj. The citizens of all these nations also resent the haughtiness and high moralizing of the Keoish, as well.
Veluna offers to join with Keoland in driving the Baklunish out of Bissel, though why that nation does not deal with Gran March is curious. The Iron League is reaching out to Keoland, with secret trade designed to prop up the flagging states of the east against what seems to be a rapidly recovering Ahlissa. Keoish support to distant lands, and the corresponding lack of aid for her vassal states, has not gone unnoticed by the latter.
MARCH OF STERICH
Sterich suffered the same fate as Geoff during the giant invasions-she barely survived. Now, only Istivin stands amid the ruins of broken keeps and burned farmsteads, with the nobility, economy and citizenry in disarray. While most looting has ceased, the March now faces a far more subtle threat-wicked con men and imposters making claims to the estates of dead nobles and their fortunes. Marquis Querchard has vanished, further adding to the confusion.
Battered and bruised, but not beaten, the common people of Sterich are grimly picking themselves up and attempting to rebuild, although roving bandits and stray giants still haunt the countryside. They are a brave and hardy folk, however, and face each new sunrise with stubborn hope and optimism, despite the threats lurking in their midst?
Society and Culture: As Fenwick Astakane of Skipperton noted in 375 CY, Sterich is indeed a hive of low nobility. The original mining booms brought many fortune-seekers and adventurers into the realm, who swiftly organized themselves into a spider web of noble titles and responsibilities, with much of the expected jealousy. Often, the earl (for it was then an earldom) of Sterich would have a terrible time keeping control of the various factions underneath him, often turning to the serfs and peasants as a balancing factor. Thus, for centuries, political power would swing like a pendulum, with the nobles claiming power at one moment and the peasants doing so the next.
Ironically, this stabilized the nation, as neither faction could exist without the other. The ruling family was able to play both sides off against each other, and thus maintain its control over the entire realm.
The people of Sterich are good and honest, though hard and grim, for they have seen much bloodshed ever since they claimed this land. Even before the Migrations, the Flan tribes of the area fought fiercely with each other to the extent that, even among the Flan nobility, rivalries exist to this day. Giants and orcs perpetually followed the Davish River into the lowlands to loot and plunder. This forced Sterich to develop a much harder, more Spartan approach to life than their Geoffite neighbors. Many nobles from Keoland, unhappy with King Skotti?s social reforms, emigrated to Sterich and helped the nation?s attitudes crystallize.
While little overt racism exists in Sterich, the people prefer to keep to themselves, banding together only when necessary. Only Istiivin was a large city, with every other habitation being a noble?s manner surrounded by peasant farms, where the residents kept to themselves.
Military Structure: The light cavalry and sword-wielding light infantry are of excellent training and morale, with additional dwarven foot from a certain kingdom in the Crystalmist Mountains. The archers of Sterich are also among the best in the Sheldomar, and the light hobilars are also of good repute. Sterich?s levies, however, do not fight well together except when they are with their neighbors, and so these must be relegated to small skirmishing bands only. Heavy troops and cavalry, except among the dwarves, is not numerous or well-trained. Gnomish engineers, however, provide a strong defense against the orc siege works and giant boulders. While the nobles all live on their own estates, these are superbly constructed, withdrawing into underground tunnels to wage guerilla combat against the invaders.
Ruler: Earl (now Marquis) Querchard was known as a rakishly handsome half-elf, who openly and proudly displayed his heritage to all who would witness it. A man of biting wit and cocky bearing, he was a master at the harp, guitar and flute, being able to charm crowds and visiting nobles without even resorting to his powers as a bard. Despite his quirks, he was a man capable of deep and lasting friendship, which he held with all his neighbors, and most of his nobles, despite Sterich?s petty aristocratic rivalries. His gleaming blue eyes, waist-length blond hair, and muscular frame caused many a maiden to blush and tug at her collar when he passed by.
Since he mysteriously disappeared after returning to Krelont Keep, his home in Istivin, his wife Resbin Dren Emondav has guided the realm, although Sterich law forbids a woman from ruling of her own accord. A large Flan woman, some people have wondered what Querchard had seen in her, as she is no great beauty. Quiet, grim and blunt, she rarely entertains visitors, instead working through her justices to deliver proclamations to outlying nobles and resolve disputes.
Her greatest preoccupation has been to weed through the many demands on noble estates and fortunes since the Wars-many aristocrats were killed, leaving their estates open for the taking. Different branches of the same family will feud over a count?s estate, while con men and criminals seek a share of the rich mining take for themselves by setting themselves up as noblemen.
Foreign Relations: Obviously, Geoff and Sterich have the strongest relations. Both of them are talking of secession from Keoland and declaring independence, which Lashton and most of Keoland?s court do not take well, although Skotti himself has been trying to calm the tensions. Sterich?s relations with the dwarven kingdoms of the Crystalmists vary from rocky to strong, as the alliances and blood feuds among these dwarves change as well. The Yeomanry and the UIek states still visit Sterich regularly, though many are upset at the disappearance of Querchard.
(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. )"
||Average Score: 4