The Greyhawk Travel Guide, Part V
Date: Sat, August 28, 2004
Topic: Peoples & Culture
The Greyhawk Travel Guide concludes, appropriately enough, with a discussion on travel in the wilderness...
The Greyhawk Travel Guide, Part V
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.
Travel and the wilderness
Travel across the Flanaess
As can be expected, travel over long distances is slow and time-consuming. Many people never leave the general area in which they were born, or simply use well-traveled roads to go to a place where there is a market or place of work, and then return home again. This group includes farmers, sawyers, or other people who live in rural regions. Others who travel the common roads are noblemen, court officials, merchants, pilgrims, and wandering circus and acting troupes. These roads are likely to be filled with travelers, and it would not be unusual to see a score or more other separate parties on the main roads between large cities. They are well-patrolled by the soldiers of whichever ruler lays claim to the territory, especially near the cities themselves. Further out, the patrols are often more concerned with defending the rural villages, and so caravans in the wilderness, even on the most popular routes, must beware of bandits and robbers.
The popular roads are likely to be carved of brick or cobblestone, and are best-maintained on the thoroughfares between major cities. They generally tend to become dirt-tracks and worn trails of grass in the border regions, except where two states are closely related. This includes pairings such as Veluna and Furyondy, the Urnst states, the Ulek states, Keoland and Gran March, etc. Travelers who use the main roads get the benefit of armed patrols assuring relative safety from bandits and monsters, but also must pay tolls which are used to maintain the road in good repair and pay for the patrols. To prevent cheating, most toll collectors issue passes, which must then be displayed to any other patrol or official who asks about this. If the traveler does not have one, they are usually forced to pay a heavy fine.
Other roads lead into the wilderness and outlying villages, mining or lumber camps, etc. Needless to say, these are more often trails and dirt-tracks than proper roads, and they offer very little security compared to the main roads that connect the main civilized areas. All those who use the major roads can travel here as well, although much less often. Rather, these roads are used by rural villagers who dwell in the wilds, demihumans who do not normally interact with their neighbors, wild Flan peoples, bandits, adventurers, the Rhennee, and humanoids and monsters. These areas receive occasional patrols, but safety is usually assured either by being ready to fight, or by appearing so poor and weak that attacking you would not be worth the effort.
How do people actually get from one place to another? Most people can walk, though to do so takes far longer than does travel by horse or wagon, and so it is not normally recommended to those in a hurry. Given how expensive animals can be to buy, maintain and feed, walking is however often used by those who suffer a lack of funds or who are no particular rush, simply wanting to travel and see the sights.
Horses are far more popular, and allow a person to get where he wants to go much sooner. They also allow a person to carry much more weight and goods-which comes in handy for adventurers wishing to transport great amounts of treasure! However, they require additional water, hay and oats to be fed, and can have a hard time navigating in treacherous swamps or mountains, unless they are trained to deal with this kind of terrain.
Many merchants and even simple farmers will happily sell horses of average quality, although these are unlikely to have any particular training, and may even have serious health problems. Better horses are available from reputable dealers who work in any large city or farming village, and these are typically the kind that adventurers will want. Specialized merchants also sell good-quality tack and saddles, and may even offer riding lessons in rare cases.
Adventurers who want to sling vast amounts of gold and silver on their horses have a difficult problem, owing to the fact that horses will often refuse to enter dungeons. Farmers and horse-dealers are often happy to look after the mounts of adventurers if they are paid a stabling fee for the amount of time that they are to take care of the horse. The added benefit here is that the owners of these horses often never return to claim them, thus allowing whoever is holding them to keep the mounts for themselves or make a handsome profit on their sale…
Those who transport large quantities of goods, such as merchants, often use pack-mules and horse-drawn wagons for transport. Adventurers may use these to transport treasure as well, though this tends to mark them out for all the highwaymen and goblins in the area. Further, wagons are even more difficult to transport through rugged terrain than are horses. As a result, many adventurers tend to settle for horses.
In the wilder areas, people often tend to travel in large groups or parties, to deal with any threat or attack that comes their way. The size and wealth of any such caravan is directly related to the chance it will be attacked-a band of wandering acrobats carries far less appeal to a brigand than does a rich merchant caravan. Adventurers often sign on with these caravans to defray the costs of faster transport, and also for the prospect of safety. They also do it for the action, as bandits and orcs are a constant threat. There is also the added benefit of being able to eat from someone else’s larder, and the prospect of pay at the end of the voyage.
Travel by foot or by horse, however, do not compare to travel over water. Adventurers can purchase or build canoes, rafts and other types of boats to travel over river, or sign on to a ship that travels over the seas. These voyages are very fast, although the threat of attacks by pirates and monsters are also a constant hazard. Worse still may be the terrain-waterfalls, storms and whirlpools can spell doom to a party that has no experience in the ways of the river. Other problems include the harassment travelers may have to deal with upon arriving in port, or the simple fact that their destination has no body of water leading to it!
Air travel is very difficult, and is almost impossible to do without significant investments of time and money. Those lucky few who own magical brooms, wings or carpets that allow them to fly can cover distances their land-or-water-based peers can only dream of, although the vast majority of people are not so lucky. People who live in isolated regions, demihumans such as elves, or the very wealthy, can have griffons, hippogriffs, pegasi or giant eagles as flying mounts. The catch is that these large beasts are often very difficult to train, requiring the services of highly skilled and very expensive trainers, unless the rider is willing to do the job himself. Further, the beasts tend to eat as if famished after a flight, and the costs needed to meet their special dietary needs are high indeed!
Friendly or hostile reception?
Although charisma is often overlooked when fighting dragons or engaging in magical research, it can be critical in determining whether one spends the night in a warm and comfortable inn or a leaky, rat-infested stable. This is especially important in rural areas, where the goodwill of the townsfolk usually determines whether you may even be allowed into the village in the first place! Depending on their character, peasant villagers will treat you in different ways; grim and taciturn peoples will take your money and give you service, but no more. Friendly and jolly peoples can fete you with songs and ale, provided you repay them with tales and news, as rural folk often get little news besides what travelers bring to them. Coolly hostile peoples will either make you sleep on the outskirts of town, ignore you altogether, or simply chase you off.
Charisma determines how good or bad a reception one may get, but many other factors come into play. Racial relations can be a factor-dwarf mines and elven tree-villages often show low-key hostility to each other when travelers of the other race attempt to pass through their lands. National alliances and prejudices can also change one’s mind-the people of Geoff will greet elves and citizens of Sterich with open arms, although be merely friendly to those from Keoland or the Uleks. People from the Aerdy states will either be ignored or harassed by many in Nyrond and the Iron League states.
How one behaves is another important thing to consider. Being excessively nosy, boastful, rude, arrogant, or greedy turns off many potential friends, and people who act this way often get higher prices and worse service as a result. Being friendly, courteous and generous with your money has the opposite effect. Minding one’s own business and not angering village elders or other important figures are also important.
All of the above notwithstanding, the sad, simple fact is that some people do not like or trust the presence of adventurers, and are so prejudiced against them that they will order all such people to leave voluntarily or run out of town.
In large cities, most people tend to ignore visitors, unless they are of a race or nationality the inhabitants dislike, in which case they may suffer the same mistreatment as described above. Otherwise, if a person breaks no laws and does not offend anyone powerful, they will generally be served and treated like any other travelers.
Roughing it in the adventuring life
Those who become adventurers will always travel into the wilderness at one time or another. They can often find shelter for the night in a roadside inn or a farmer’s hayloft, but sooner or later they must camp under the stars. Unless they enjoy sleeping on cold hard ground, this often means setting up some sort of camping gear, such as sleeping bags or tents. Most adventurers favor the former because they are easy to carry, and for the fact that they can see potential prey-it is all too easy to ambush someone in a large tent! However, tents may be useful in very hot or cool areas, and are very effective at preventing vermin from getting at them. This may in fact save one’s life, if they are in a southern swamp filled with malaria-carrying mosquitoes…
Any sensible party will set up watches to guard against nighttime attacks. It is an unfortunate twist, however, that being able to detect attackers often means being able to see at night, and so some source of light is often needed. This will, of course, draw many predators to the camp. Spellcasters can cast spells to use as alarms, however, and anyone can set up tripwires set with teeth or small pieces of metal to use in catching intruders. Animals such as dogs and horses, with their superior senses, are also helpful in this regard.
It is always advisable to carry extra supplies of food and water into the wilderness, but these are not always enough to last a traveler. One can hunt game, drink from streams and rivers, or eat wild fruits, vegetables and berries to conserve their own supplies, but this is not always advisable. Sometimes these sources of food and water can be polluted or poisonous, and thus very dangerous to consume without the spells of a cleric. Having some knowledge of the wild-lands and how to survive is thus essential.
Understandably, few people enjoy eating cold meals. However, fires are not always a good idea, since they mark a camp clearly for any predators and attackers in the area. While it may repel trolls, leucrotta, and other stupid monsters, orcs and ogres will have an obvious target to strike at. On the other hand, fire does repel some creatures, acts as a useful source of warmth, and if there are enough people around the fire, they may actually be left alone.
Where to sleep is another question entirely. Sleeping at the top of a hill offers the height advantage to any attackers, and also keeps them from getting “the drop” on you. Sleeping in the open makes it easier to see approaching enemies, and also for approaching enemies to see you. Sleeping with one’s back to a tree, or even sleeping in a tree, can make it more difficult for some monsters to attack. However, some tree-dwelling monsters, not to mention the trees themselves, will have a very easy time catching their prey.
Lastly, and perhaps worst of all, is the threat of disease. Some monsters carry disease, as do animals such as mosquitoes and rats. Eating the wrong kind of plant or animal, drinking tainted water, or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time can lead someone to catch a fever, illness, or parasites. Clerics can deal with these problems if they have sufficient power, as can certain antidotes and remedies one can buy. If these are not present, however, then anyone who would venture into disease-ridden regions had best make preparations. Tents fitted with fine mesh should be used by those camping in swamps or jungles; travelers unfamiliar with the area should seek advice from friendly locals if at all possible; or better yet have some sort of familiarity with medicinal herbs and plants, and having knowledge of survival in the terrain itself through experience or research are all important assets for survival.
The fighting of monsters is the bread and butter of adventurers, whether they be intelligent beasts like goblins and ogres, or stupid and ravening creatures like gorgons and grell. Hoarders of treasure, kidnappers of maidens and nobles, weavers of dark plots and keepers of goodly wisdom, monsters fill all sorts of roles in the wilderness life of the Flanaess.
Many monsters are stupid, ravening predators that are nothing but enemies to humans and demihumans. Most of these will cross paths with adventurers when they are the minions of some intelligent evil, are preying on innocents, or simply meet adventuring bands on their travels. Relishing battle and violence, chances are they must be immediately destroyed, as they will give and expect no quarter from their enemies.
Of course, unintelligent predators have much more important roles than to simply destroy and kill. They are important parts of an ecological chain, often feeding on excessive numbers of game animals or amounts of vegetation. They thus fulfill the position that wolves, bears and other natural carnivores do, only on a larger scale. They also attack and feed on each other freely, and these habits keep the monster populations more manageable.
Not all monsters are evil or vicious-some, such as the rust monster, the almir’aj or the infamous flumph, are as innocuous as deer, rabbits or moles. Many of these could conceivably be kept as pets, but their abilities or wild nature often prevents this. Most of them do not attack sentient creatures, since they know instinctively that they would be killed. Many are herbivores or feed on minerals, oil, or metal. Those that eat metal and minerals might attack humans to get their food, but are quite happy to leave their would-be opponents alone if these give them what they want, Those who are carnivorous usually eat small game such as rabbits, voles, or other creatures like them.
Intelligent monsters are another matter entirely. Intelligent humanoid creatures such as orcs, goblins, and giants all have their own communities in the Flanaess, and their own social structures. Some of them have organized systems of government and politics, with hereditary kings and chiefs, and live in their own cities and villages. These may be constructed by the monsters as any human would do, and sometimes they are taken by the monsters from human victims.
Humanoids and giants are the most persistent and most evil of raiders and those nonhuman creatures who plague mankind, but others are far worse. Demons, devils, and daemons all have their own powers and plots for causing mayhem and suffering on the material plane, and they are masters of using both bloodied swords and honeyed words to get what they want. The derro, the illithids, the aboleth, and other creatures such as the fabled drow (who may or may not exist) rarely interact with surface dwellers on a regular basis, but still pose threats to those who travel through their domains.
Other creatures are of course of goodly weal and may help heroes and those working for noble means who pass through their domain. The members of any demihuman race, certain members of the fairy-folk such as sprites or nymphs, and otherworldly creatures of good such as ki-rin, lammasu, and devas may all offer assistance. However, this aid is usually token at best, as most of these creatures fear retaliation if their complicity in defeating any great evil is made known. The creatures of good from the upper planers must aid heroes indirectly or in a secondary role; to act directly both goes against their purpose and invites retaliation from enemies. Only when they are threatened directly will these races aid in a direct fashion. This aid will usually take the form of assistance in any military battles that are to come, or to fight beside the heroes against whatever enemy threatens them all.
Finally, some isolated creatures may care nothing for the struggle of good and evil, or the problems of other nations and races-they will have turned their backs on the world. Creatures such as buckawn, leprechauns, and pixies are examples of these. Other isolated demihumans, such as the grugach elves, may actively battle any and all who pass through their lands regardless of whether they are a threat or not. These people will refuse all pleas for and offers of aid; they would rather die alone than battle alongside any allies.
Needless to say, not every monster will be an ally or enemy of those they meet, or be caught up in some epic struggle of good and evil. There have been times when monsters have lived in mutually beneficial relationships with humans and demihumans. One of the most famous examples is the otyugh-humans will feed the otyugh all their waste and garbage. The monster gets a life of luxury and an unlimited food supply, while the humans are saved having to burn or sort through their waste, and can live in clean streets and homes. Monsters such as griffons can make very effective mounts, while giant eagles can make fine spies.
Creatures such as centaurs and fairies may work in tandem with humans, living together off the land in partnership. These monsters, in addition to rarer creatures like goodly giants and fantastical creatures such as guardian naga, may dwell in the courts of certain lands such as Tenh, Geoff and some circles of Perrenland. Orcs, goblins and giants may hold particular places in the social structures of evil realms, most infamously in the Great Kingdom and its successor states.
Demihumans commonly live in the social structures of almost every human realm, and are commonly merchants, entertainers, and warriors in their own right. Local human settlements might have alliances with them, and be entertained by their actors. What is surprising is that evil creatures may live in this way as well. A few very daring humanoids have set themselves up as mercenaries, entertainers and even merchants, although these are rare and usually serve their own kind or the people of realms who readily accept their presence, such as the Horned Society or Ahlissa. Evil humans often have no qualms about entering into treaties with lawful monsters such as orcs and goblins, just as their goodly counterparts might do with dwarfs or elves.
As was once mentioned in passing by Xagyg, humanoids can also be found in free cities such as Greyhawk, Dyvers and perhaps even Dullstrand, although they rarely find any true acceptance in the free cities as opposed to those overtly evil countries. Usually they are bums and ruffians who are forced to live with other rogues and thieves in the gutter. They may find work as assassins or the members of press-gangs, and some of them join street gangs to find the money, power and respect they otherwise lack. The merchants and entertainers of the humanoid races are also confined here, forced to work in shoddy stalls and perform in rathole inns. Mercenaries are luckier-those few that survive long enough to join a mercenaries’ guild will generally have a better time of it, although by nature they are hired and employed by evil families and unethical merchants.
Many types of people have no use for the cities, preferring to live in the wilds free from civilization. Travelers will doubtless meet many of these groups in the wilds, especially if they happen to be passing through the lands these people call their own. They can be very helpful in offering advice on natural or monstrous hazards in the region, the type of weather that can be expected, and so forth, and can even hire out as guides for limited periods of time. Others are by their nature hostile and dangerous and will offer no aid to outsiders, regardless of the circumstances.
The ones most likely to act this way are, of course, the brigands and bandits. These freebooters and raiders may have taken the life of the highwayman out of a desire to avoid hones work, a love of freedom and the wilds, the pleasure of bullying and thuggish behavior, or the love of roguery and the thrill of staying one step ahead of the law. In any case, most outlaws of this type tend to band together for protection, either raiding towns, caravans and villages in large mobs or working as separate gangs, holding up individual travelers and small groups, each one working different roads.
Bandits may simply rob people, rob and kill them, or rob and kidnap them for pleasure, to sell into slavery, or to hold for ransom. Most of these are the simple nasty, vicious and petty thugs that make up most of the brigand population of the Flanaess. The patrols and troops of any and every state attempts to capture-or slay, if necessary-the sadistic bullies that make up most of this profession, for no lord will suffer anyone but him plundering and harassing his subjects. Like thieves’ guilds in towns, bandits can operate openly and brazenly, or subtly and secretly, depending on their own strength and the amount of force the government can bring to bear on them in return.
Some bandits, however, are not so vile as described above. Some of them conform to very strange codes of honor, which may involve robbing from the dwarves to give to the elves, only robbing those warriors their leaders defeat in duels, etc. These bands act much more courteously and kindly towards each other any who fall into their power, to the extent that they have specific codes of conduct for their members to follow. These are sometimes even written down in charters, with rules and punishments that apply. A man who cheats at gambling may lose a finger or be beaten, but a man who rapes a woman suffers death or castration.
Most of these latter bandits prefer the freedom and thrills they get in a life in the wilds, and this is also how many of the forest folk of the Flanaess conduct themselves. Hill, mountain, forest and marsh regions all have their own communities who live on their own, owing fealty to no lord beyond whichever duke or count rules among them. These people obviously vary in behavior depending on their alignments, but many will only give sanctuary to those travelers who prove their worth, either by besting one of their own in a joust or by engaging in duels of wits. Those travelers who lose contests often lose belongings or coin without gaining entrance. One may also, of course, simply pay for shelter.
Other communities of woodsmen tend to distrust outsiders and anyone not of their own people. These peoples dwell near states such as the Pale, Urnst, Nyrond, Keoland, Ahlissa, Sunndi, Stonehold or Northern Aerdy, and often have to deal with incursions by the people of these realms. Trade may be conducted with civilized neighbors in some cases, while other communities such as the men of the Grandwoods will have nothing to do with any sort of visitor, avoiding both goodly heroes and evil villains alike. They may give some token aid to people of obvious good alignment, and assist those who have aided them in the past, but otherwise strictly keep to themselves. Despite this isolation, some of them may have truck with dissident political elements within the larger states, even if these countries are of goodly weal. As it does with international politics, political considerations trump allying with those who may have a similar alignment, but whose interests are contrary to one’s own.
Just as some isolated communities have no contact with the people around them, so to does this apply to many of the nomadic peoples who inhabit the Flanaess. The hunting parties of the Tiger and Wolf Nomads are obvious examples, but even today many roving Flan nations live in the wilderness as their ancestors have done for centuries. Other “barbaric” peoples might be cavemen, berserkers, isolated bands of elves and even wandering halflings.
The cultural mores of these many peoples are far too diverse to list here, suffice to say that they are often much more sophisticated than civilized people note at first glance. Their alignments vary widely too, although some general tendencies can be outlined. The most obvious of these is their general disconnectedness with all other peoples; they may undertake minimal trade with some, and fight others, but in general they prefer to keep to themselves and care nothing for the politics of civilized people as long as their own ways of life are not harmed. This lack of empathy comes not from any sense of malice or hatred (at least in most cases) but simply the attitude that they should be left to their own devices, and that civilized folk should be treated the same.
That said, however, they do engage in trade, mostly for metal weapons which they cannot manufacture themselves, trading art objects, furs, and other such things in return. They will fight, ally or negotiate with civilized people when their paths must cross. This depends on the history they have had with civilized people and their own general weal. However, in most cases honesty and straight talk are more respected than flowered words and tricky political maneuverings.