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    A History of the Bandit Kingdoms to CY 576
    Posted on Thu, September 17, 2009 by LordCeb
    Oerthman writes "This is the history of the Bandit Kingdoms I put together for a campaign from the mid-80's.  I felt it was necessary as a backstory to explain how a 'nation' of feuding, essentially independent city-states could exist when surrounded by major organized nations like the Pale, Tenh, Urnst, the Shield Lands, and even Furyondy.  This expanded the scope far beyond the local area of the Bandit Kingdoms, touching on the history of the Great Kingdom and all the lands surrounding the Nyr Dyv.

    The material in this history and the accompanying gazetteer has its origins in a campaign from the mid-1980's.    At the time, all I had available was the 1983 boxed set and some of EGG's columns in Dragon.  The Dragon articles helped detail the area and set the stage for future events.  Later on I added some items from EGG's Gord novels.  I've made minimal effort to go back and reconcile this with officially-published canon beyond a few minor details (name changes, mostly); in particular, the Greyhawk Wars haven't happened yet (though a major war was in the air) and much of the detail in _Iuz_the_Evil_ is excluded.  So, sit back, relax, and return to the days of yesteryear, before the Wars, before the Eight had to return, and (thank goodness!) before Puppets and Gargoyle!

    A History of the Bandit Kingdoms to CY 576
    (All dates are Common Year unless noted otherwise)

    For a map of the Bandit Kingdoms, see Dragon #56 or (this URL may change; look in the Country Maps folder on

    The history of the lands now known as the Bandit Kingdoms, or the Lands of the Free Lords, is one of nearly constant conflict.  From the initial settlement by Oeridian tribes and humanoid raids from the Fellreev and Riftcanyon to the march of empires and inter-kingdom squabbles, the land has rarely seen a year without war.

    The Oerid
    Oeridian settlement in the area began around the year 200 OR, when seven tribes forded the Ritensa and drove off the nomadic horsemen who wandered the area. This was unusual behavior for the Oeridians; however, their folklore ascribed demon-worship, cannibalism, and worse to the folk who dwelt north of the Nyr Dyv.  A hundred years before, a wandering tribe had been massacred and enslaved by the nomads.  The survivors brought tales of fear and terror back to the west.

    Two of the original seven tribes stayed close to the Ritensa and founded the town of Battleford (a prophetic name, the town would see many battles for control over the strategic crossing). Four other tribes moved north and east.  They founded the towns of Archer (on the edge of the Tangles), Belfan (near White Plume Mountain), Restholm (now Bloodmeadow), and Haven (now known as Wormhall).  The last tribe journeyed north into the Fellreev and vanished.

    The cataclysmic events in the west in 223OR affected the east little.  The exception was the awakening of White Plume Mountain (or reawakening, according to the oral history of the nomadic tribes).  It erupted violently for several months, accompanied by small oerthquakes and tremors felt as far north as the Fellreev.  This may be the reason a horde of monsters erupted from Riftcanyon the following year and overran the town of Belfan.

    During the period between 225 OR and 400 OR, additional Oeridian tribes arrived in the area.  Most often they passed through the existing settlements and settled further north and east (though not always peacefully).  This expansion was halted by the Flan of the Tenh Confederation, an alliance of Flan tribes in the valley of the Zumker River. Other tribes, including the powerful Aerdi, traveled between the Rift and the Nyr Dyv and settled further east.

    The year 428 of the Oeridian Reckoning saw the establishment of the Kingdom of Aerdy. A powerful Aerdi warchief dwelling in the fertile lands between the Flanmi and the Imeda conquered the surrounding clans and proclaimed himself king.  Rax proved a wise and able ruler.  His army won victory after victory, By the time of his death in 469 OR, the boundaries of the Kingdom of Aerdy stretched from Relmor Bay to the Spindrift Sound and from the Blemu Hills to the Glorioles.  Thus began a march to empire that would not slow for almost 300 years.

    A pivotal event in the inexorable expansion of the Kingdom of Aerdy came in 534 OR, when the Aerdy came in contact with the fledgling state of Nyrond, centered around the city-state of Rel Mord on the Duntide River.  Nyrond controlled a substantial territory up and down the Duntide from the Flinties to the Gnatmarsh.  The rulers of Rel Mord were distant kin of the house of Rax, descendants of those Aerdi clans who had not continued to the east.  Their cavalry defeated the first Aerdy expedition, composed mostly of infantry.  The following year, a substantially larger force from Rauxes crossed the Harp and defeated the Nyrondal cavalry in the Battle of a Fortnight's Length.

    The Great Kingdom
    After the defeat and absorption of Nyrond, Aerdy's empire expanded even faster.  Over the next hundred years, the Aerdy armies won victory after victory.  The King's reach extended into what would become the Pale, the Urnst states, and the Shield Lands, and forced the Tenh Confederation to pay tribute to avoid absorption.

    In 645 OR, King Vianil of the Kingdom of Aerdy proclaims himself Overking of the Great Kingdom of the Aerdy.  He decrees a new system of dates, with year 1 the founding of the Great Kingdom and his own coronation.  In this same year, the western boundary of the kingdom reaches the Selintan River.

    A hundred years later, Aerdy is at the height of its pride and power.  The western lands are incorporated into the Viceroyalty of Ferrond, encompassing the future lands of Veluna, Furyondy, the Horned Society, the Shield Lands, and the Bandit Kingdoms, along with portions of the Gnarleywood, the Vesve, and the Fellreev.  The area east of the Veng, south of the Fellreev, north of the Nyr Dyv, and west of the Artonsamay is known as the Northern Reach.  The earldom of Northreach is granted to a minor noble house, Tomund, with the seat of the fief at Battleford.

    During the reign of Kerdric, the third earl of the house of Tomund, humanoid incursions from the Fellreev and Riftcrag began.  Kerdric orders the construction of three great keeps and a series of smaller fortifications along the southern edge of the forest:  Northkeep, Greenkeep, and Eagle Keep (at Rookroost).  At the same time, the great walls and fortress of Riftcrag are built along the easiest exit from the Rift.  Ironically, Kerdric is killed in an orc raid on Eagle Keep during a visit to dedicate the new castle.

    Kerdric's heir, Korzen, proves a weak ruler and allows the Northreach to splinter into semi- independent states.  More interested in courtly life than rulership, Korzen ignores matters outside of Battleford and raises taxes to extreme levels to fund his court.

    Two pivotal events mark the reign of Korzen:  the destruction of Haven by Azagur the Green in 194 and the rebellion of Northkeep in 201.  Azagur was a huge, ancient wyrm accidentally roused by woodcutters from Haven.  The dragon devastated the town of Haven, killing most of the inhabitants and taking the local baron's castle as his new lair.  Haven is known as Wormhall after this time, as Korzen refuses to commit forces to retake the town.

    The second event is the rebellion of Northkeep in 201.  The baron of Northkeep turns away the earl's tax collectors after they demand more than half of the year's crop.  He sends a message to Korzen:  "I will give you the taxes due a ruler when you become a ruler worthy of following."  Korzen swears revenge at the insult.  The following spring, he leads his forces north.  The forces of Northkeep, supported by many of the other local lords and gentry, meets the army of Earl Korzen near Restholm. Northkeep routs the poorly-led, ill-prepared opposition and captures Korzen.

    After a trial, Korzen is sent to Rauxes under guard, accompanied by an unofficial ambassador. The Overking takes notice of Korzen's misrule, and grants the fief of Northreach to Vaden of the house of Rax, a distant relative.  As his first official act, Vaden executes the baron of Northkeep for "rebelling against the authority of the Overking, in the person of his duly appointed representative."

    Vaden rules Northreach with an iron hand from 204 to 239, putting down small rebellions constantly.  Bandits, outlaws, and unsuccessful rebels hide in the Fellreev and the Tangles. Their raids are particularly successful near Northkeep, where they have the sympathy of the population.  In response, in 221 Vaden orders the forest around Northkeep cleared for many miles, earning him the enmity of the druids and elves of the forest.

    Vaden is killed in 239 during a humanoid raid on Battleford (some have said the raid was caused by druids and elves working in concert to drive the humanoids south).  Vaden's son, Emeric, cannot hold Northreach together, and the province secedes piecemeal from the Great Kingdom.

    The army sent by the Overking in 241 to reconquer Northreach meets with initial success. However, in early Fireseek of 242, the combined forces of Northreach sup rise the Aerdy army in their winter camp at Restholm.  As the battle draws to a close, Azagur the Green swoops down on the battlefield, killing Aerdy and Northreach soldier alike.  Both armies are routed.

    Three years later, the paladin Tamoren, whose father was slain by Azagur at Restholm, and a group of adventurers surprise Azagur in his lair.  Only Tamoren and one other survive, but Azagur is slain.  Tamoren rebuilds and resettles the town, but its name remains Wormhall.

    While unrest and rebellion grew in Northreach in the first half of the 3rd century, other lands were growing apart from Rauxes as well.  In 254, supported by the minor nobles of Northreach, Thrommel I is crowned in Dyvers as King of Furyondy, Prince of Veluna, Provost of the Northern Reaches, Warden General of the Vesve Forest, Marshall of the Shield Lands, Lord of Dyvers, etc.  Thrommel splits the Northreach into two fiefs, and gives the lands between the Ritensa and the Artonsamay to Tamoren.  This fief is also called Northreach, albeit a diminished version of its former self.  The other fief comprises the future Horned Society lands.

    For more than 40 years, Tamoren rules wisely and well, and the united Northreach prospers. The King of Furyondy grants his last request and divides the fief into northern and southern halves.  Tamoren's sons Aervane and Targan are installed in the new fiefs, Aervane at Critwall in the south and Targan at Wheatfields in the north.

    Order Breaks Down
    Around the year 300, the attention of Furyondy is drawn to the west and south, towards Keoland.  The Northreach fiefs begin to act independently.  Additionally, humanoid raids from the forests and the Rifts slowly begin to increase as the watch on those places is abandoned.

    In 305, Targan drowns in a flash flood of the Artonsamay while visiting Greenkeep.  His eldest child is only four, so the King of Furyondy appoints a regent to rule Northkeep until he comes of age.  The baron of Greenkeep is appointed regent, leading to rumors of conspiracies and foul play.  Over the next 15 years, the political structure of the north breaks down due to corruption, nepotism, and incompetence on the part of the regent.  Barons begin to covertly support bandits against their neighbors.  During this time, the heir of Targan vanishes from Greenkeep.  The regent claims he was kidnapped, but no ransom demands are ever made, and most believe the regent had him murdered.

    The Rovers of the Barrens appear in the North in 320, raiding southward.  These are the descendants of the original nomads of the area displaced by the migrating Oerid, and their legends say that they will one day reclaim their lost paradise (paradise compared to the frozen northlands, at least).  Bandits supported by the northern barons raid as far south as Critwall, leading Aervane to appeal to Furyondy for help.  His pleas are ignored, and anarchy rules in the north. The barons act as independent lords, warring on each other.  After a number of particularly bloody battles are fought near Restholm, the town is renamed Bloodmeadow.

    The Bandit Kingdoms
    By 325, the northern fief is known as the Bandit Lands.  Individual leaders raise small armies of bandits and raid east, south, and west.  The Bandit Lands are raided in turn by Rovers from the north and humanoids from the forests and the Riftcanyon.

    In response to the growing might of the Bandit Lands, Aervane (now an old man) moves the seat of the southern fief to Admundfort in 340 and renames the fief the Shield Lands.  He appoints the local baron as Earl of Walworth, leader of the army of the Shield Lands, and first of the Knights of Holy Shielding.  When Aervane dies in 346 at the ripe age of 101, the Earl of Walworth becomes Earl of the Shield Lands.  The position is not hereditary, but falls to the most senior of the Knights of Holy Shielding, subject to a vote of the Knight's Council.

    During the next hundred years, the kinglets of the Bandit Lands war on each other and raid neighboring states.  The most notable of these raids is the 'annexation' of large sections of the Bluff Hills by Plar Freygar of Rookroost in 427.  He leads an army north and drives out the scattered tribes of Flan, demihumans, and humanoids, adding the areas of Fellands and Groskopf to his territory.  Much wealth begins to flow into his coffers from the silver trade, as well as trade in slaves from the north.  Rookroost, formerly one of the lesser kingdoms, begins to rise in prominence.

    In 445, after a series of punitive raids from the Shield Lands, Nyrond, and County Urnst, thirty bandit leaders meet at Wheatfield in Midlands and sign the Pact of the Free Lords, a mutual defense agreement. The agreement provides for annual meetings of the rulers, means of resolving disputes, and protocols for assuring safe passage to the borders for raiding.  Although it is honored as much in the breach as in the keeping, the Pact brings much-needed stability to the region.

    A year later, in 446, three bandit chieftains (Traidon Reyhu, Krados Redhand, and Aric One-Eye) raise an army and begin a two-year campaign against the Shield Lands and Urnst.  Driving southwest out of Artonsamay Duchy, they take the poorly-defended eastern portion of the Shield Lands.  Turning southeast along the coast of the Nyr Dyv, the army briefly besieges Radigast City.  When the city proves too strong, the bandits head southeast.  They outpace the news of their invasion, surprising the forces of Urnst at Trigol and sacking the town.  They are eventually defeated by the combined forces of Nyrond and Urnst while trying to cross the Franz River and retreat in disarray. The remnants of the army are finally able to make a stand after crossing the Artonsamay.  Aric One-Eye is killed in the rout, but Reyhu and Redhand form new kingdoms from captured Shield Lands territory.

    Using ships captured in raids on the Shield Lands, the forces of Redhand begin attacking shipping on the Nyr Dyv.  They are based at the town of Tortage, which quickly becomes a hive of scum and villainy drawn from across the Flanaess.

    Soon after this, humanoid invasions become more common as the might of Iuz grows.  The more lawful of the humanoids settled between Whyestil Lake and the Ritensa, supported by Iuz.  Wormhall and Warfields bear the brunt of the raids into the Bandit Kingdoms.  In response, starting in 491, the leaders of the Warfields and Wormhall support the fledgling Society of the Horn in the trying to influence the humanoids to the west.  Their hope is that the Society will turn the raids to the south, toward Furyondy and the Shield Lands.  Instead, the leaders of the Society subvert the bandits, and Wormhall and Warfields are part of the lands of the Horned Society when it is announced to the world in 513.  Wormhall and Warfields remain a reluctant part of the Society for the next 50 years.

    As the Horned Society grows more powerful, humanoid raids become common in the surrounding lands.  In 521, orcs from Wormhall besiege Northkeep, and briefly take the castle.  They are dislodged in 522 by a relief force from Greenkeep and Abarra, in an alliance of convenience with rangers and elves from the Fellreev.  Many of the mercenaries choose to remain in the area after being given land grants from Evaern Huldor.  Huldor proclaims himself Master of the Freehold of Northkeep, subject to no other authority.

    Recent History
    During the middle part of the sixth century CY, the Bandit Kingdoms grow bold.  They send cavalry raids deep into the Shield Lands, Urnst, Nyrond, Tenh, and the Pale.  On the Nyr Dyv, the pirates of Reyhu bring shipping and commerce to a standstill.  They also raid the lands around the Nyr Dyv, including Furyondy.  

    Belvor IV takes the throne of Furyondy in 550, a change that would prove significant for the Bandit Kingdoms.  He proves a much more energetic ruler than his father or grandfather (Thrommel II), and supports closer ties with Veluna and the Shield Lands.  He personally leads punitive expeditions against the Horned Society and the Bandit Kingdoms (in conjunction with the Earl of the Shield Lands).

    Typical of this policy is his response to a pirate raid on Willip in 553.  The following year, Furyondy and the Shield Lands stage a major raid on the pirate haven of Tortage in Redhand.  The Shield Lander navy lands a force of Furyondian knights and men-at-arms led by Belvor IV west of the city.  While the navy bottles up the harbor, the Furyondians surround the town and kill or capture many 'pirates'. While no one will admit responsibility, much of the town burns to the ground, killing many innocent civilians.  The Nyr Dyv enjoys a respite from piracy for many years as the bandits turn their attention inland.

    In 563, the western Bandit Kingdoms are rocked by war and rebellion.  Warfields and Wormhall revolt and expel the Horned Society.   The rebellion is led by a former Horned Society mercenary captain, Hok, and an escaped slave from Wormhall, Fria Vigdisdotr.  The rebellion is funded and supported by the rest of the Bandit Kingdoms, funneled through Kor of Abarra.  Hok takes the throne of Warfields and the title of Guardian General.  Fria Vigdisdotr becomes baroness of Wormhall, but disappears during a coup in 565 led by her commander of troops, Oltagg.  Hok swears vengeance on Oltagg.  

    After the raid on Tortage in 554, the few surviving pirates turned inland.  Around 570, many bandits take to the waters of the Nyr Dyv again.  There are whispers that they are funded by Iuz, the Horned Society, or some unknown evil.  As before, Tortage is the main pirate base (better fortified than before), but the pirates have many small, hidden havens around and on the Lake of Unknown Depths.  Zeech of Redhand gains fame with a surprise raid on Leukish, looting the dock area and burning much of Duchy Urnst's navy.

    During Richfest in 572, a flock of harpies, a school of landsharks, and a small purple worm break out of the Riftcanyon via a previously unknown cave.  They pass through the barrens south of the Riftcanyon and ravage northern Reyhu before they can be stopped.  The Guardians of the Rift seal the cavern, but tensions run high between Celdro Reyhu and Plar Lintoff of the Rift; Reyhu withholds support for the Guardians for several years.

    The Future
    The last few years have been relatively quiet ones in the Bandit Kingdoms, with only the usual internal battles between rival bands of bandits and brigands.  The current group of free Lords all appear strong, and no resistance is visible.  Fortunes are made and lost each year in raiding, and a free future appears to be assured.  

    The peace is largely an illusion, like the calm before the storm.  Tensions between individual kinglets are high - Warfields against Wormhall, Rookroost against Fellands and Groskopf, and Johrase and Dimre against Stoink.  Externally, the Horned Society covets the lands of Wormhall and Warfields.  Duke Ehyeh of Tenh eyes the Bluff Hill mines of Groskopf and Fellands with undisguised greed.  Belissica of Urnst seethes at the insults of her distant cousin across the Artonsamay.  The Palish unimaginatively prate of their divine rights and sneer at the lawlessness of the bandits.  In short, the Bandit Kingdoms are like the powderkeg of fabled technology - about to explode, wanting only a spark to set things off. 
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    Re: A History of the Bandit Kingdoms to CY 576 (Score: 1)
    by Icarus on Thu, September 24, 2009
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    A wonderful article, indeed!!  Of course, I may be somewhat biased, since I got to play in the Bandit Kingdoms region for Living Greyhawk.   This is a great article for background and character development.  Even if one has a character that isn't playing in the 570s, They were likely born in the 570s, unless they're really young.  So, it's ripe for PC history development and great hooks for backgrounds!!

    Oerthman ... god job all around.  Solid, concise writing, with a clear and informative voice.  Well researched and nicely organized.

    Great job!

    Re: A History of the Bandit Kingdoms to CY 576 (Score: 1)
    by Oerthman on Mon, September 28, 2009
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    Thanks for the kind words.  I may need to revise it, though.  Gary reminded me in the chat a couple of weeks ago that I almost completely ignored the early history of the Horned Society area, which were probably bandit lands as well.  More things to think about...

    Hope you enjoy the detailed writeups as they are posted, too.



    Re: A History of the Bandit Kingdoms to CY 576 (Score: 1)
    by Argon on Mon, October 12, 2009
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    I didn't play in the Bandit Kingdom region (Living Greyhawk) then I didn't play in any region but I did have a home based campaign. A very informative sort of LGG for the Bandit Kingdoms. To me it fits well into any campaign. Not everyone subscribes to what happened during the wars. Even so I think what you provided us is workable either way. Thanks for producing a quality submission. I now I appreiciate it. I still need players though!     

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