Wyrms of the Flanaess: Gouthogg
Date: Fri, June 17, 2005
Topic: Monsters of Greyhawk
Just south of the Pelisso Swamp in Hepmonaland lies the Xaro Mountains. Nestled in a canyon there lies a city of great antiquity as well as great intrigue. Once the proud capital of a thriving empire, it now is a squalid hive of evil. Long isolated, the arrival of an ambitious dragon may once again make this city a power unto itself.
Wyrms of the Flanaess: Gouthogg
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.
The dragon Gouthogg is an adult, male black dragon with exceptionally glossy black scales. He is the progeny of the great matriarch of the Pelisso Swamp, Quagmire. He left his home in the Pelisso in order to give his younger siblings more room as well as to gain more personal power. In doing so, he established a center of power within the legendary “Forbidden City” (1). Presently, he is working to consolidate his power base within the city as well as ally with the great powers there. With his appearance, the balance of power in Xuxulieto has shifted, thus causing an explosion of activity that may have serious long term implications in the region.
Gouthogg, also known as “Caustic” (both for his sharp wit as well as his deadly breath), is infamous for winning many of his victories by taunting his opponents into making critical errors. He is presently deep into negotiations with the local powers in Xuxulieto, and he is using and being used by the various factions, each for their own purposes. Time will tell which faction will reign supreme in the Forbidden City.
Gouthogg resides in a cave on the eastern shore of a great lake in the city. He has hollowed out a series of tunnels in the marshy ground until he struck part of the city’s ancient sewer system. He has expanded the sewer system to accommodate his needs and blocked off most access routes except the main one that leads from the shore of the lake and a secondary hidden escape route (this route winds its way through the sewers until it comes out near the base of the cliffs surrounding the city – this exit is well hidden and trapped). He keeps most of the chambers in his sewers water logged, to hinder the movement of any intruders as well as to pickle his food.
Gouthogg has obtained several squads of minor undead from the yuan-ti that wander through the tunnels of his lair. Their primary purpose is to serve as early warning patrols. Mostly these undead are zombies and skeletons, but Gouthogg has some cunning jungle-ghouls acting as leaders.
The nearby bullywug tribes worship Gouthogg as a god. The ease in which he vanquished their former deity has put them in total awe of his power. Gouthogg is aware that there may be an egg from the previous dragon that is still somewhere in the city. He is attempting to find it in order to eliminate any potential rivals. Meanwhile, King Groak of the bullywugs has his servants constantly bringing tributes to Gouthogg and freely serve the dragon’s every need.
Gouthogg keeps relatively little treasure in his lair in the city. Most of his riches went to his mother, Quagmire, so it is only his most recent acquisitions that line his sleeping chamber. Still, he has a fine collection of native artwork, most notably a series of jade idols of snake men and demons that he found in an abandoned chamber under the city, as well as much raw ore from the mines of the Xaros, given to him as tribute from the yuan-ti.
Many of the factions of the city have been energized by Gouthogg’s arrival to amass more fortunes (some in order to bribe/make tribute to the dragon, some just to reassert their own power over the other factions). As a result, there are several mining operations starting up both inside and outside the city, the jungles are being plundered for rare spices and woods, raiding is increasing and in some cases, trade is starting up with the neighboring city-states. The Scarlet Brotherhood is anxious to keep careful control over the economics of this region and want to maintain their dominance over the northern part of Hepmonaland. Through their operatives, the Brotherhood is seeking to bring Gouthogg into their schemes and use him to contact Quagmire and thus truly control the region.
While the yuan-ti are the dominant race in Xuxulieto, Caustic seeks to make inroads into their politics. These snake-men are what remains of an old colony that migrated north from the city of Alocotla centuries ago (FN 2). This society of yuan-ti have long forsaken their original god, Tlaloc, and turned to worship various demon lords, to include Sch’theraqpasstt and Mershaulk (FN 3). A powerful abomination called King Slithh is the nominal ruler of the yuan-ti. Slithh claims to be the progeny of the snake god Mershaulk. Certainly, the king has exhibited powers that put him above his peers, so his claim may have some merit (FN 4).
King Slithh has formally allied with the Scarlet Brotherhood though its representative, the wizard Horan (FN 5). Horan is a masterful diplomat and manipulator. He has encouraged the yuan-ti to act in accordance with the Scarlet Brotherhood’s larger plans in the region. That is, the yuan-ti are to avoid attacking allies of the Brotherhood and focus raids on non-Suel tribes (although the occasional raid into Suel villages is still done from time to time to encourage the locals to put more faith in their new Scarlet Brotherhood “protectors”). Gouthogg is upsetting the delicate balance Horan has created here by dividing the yuan-ti. Gouthogg has been subtly belittling King Slithh to his subjects and thus encouraging more independent actions from Slithh’s subordinates. Already, there is a small number of yuan-ti that are increasingly suspicious of the Scarlet Brotherhood and Slithh’s involvement with them. Gouthogg is attempting to become this faction’s patron, all the while placating both King Slithh and Horan. This is a dangerous game, but all sides are scheming against the others, making the status quo carefully maintained.
Outside the city, there are still tribes of Olman descendants in the mountains and jungles surrounding Xuxulieto that are sworn enemies of the yuan-ti and the Scarlet Brotherhood. Gouthogg has begun to assault these villages, both to show good faith to his potential allies and for his own amusement. The remaining villages have united under the leadership of a young chieftain who has made a name for himself opposing the yuan-ti. This young man, Prince Zura, has proven to be a resourceful and charismatic warrior and has been a constant irritant to Horan’s operations (FN 6). Under Zura’s leadership, yuan-ti caravans have been ambushed, their mines collapsed, and bridges broken. Horan is encouraging Gouthogg’s raids on the areas Zura controls (mostly isolated canyons and plateaus within the Xaro Mountains) to end this threat once and for all. But for now, Gouthogg raids for his own reasons.
Gouthogg was the eldest sire of Quagmire, the grand matriarch of the Pelisso. He was the most ambitious as well as the most gifted of her brood. When he reached adult age, Quagmire grew weary of his insolence and ordered him to set up a lair of his own as a way to increase her territory and to decrease the strife he was causing among his siblings (FN 7).
Gouthogg spent a few years raiding the shipping lanes off the coast of Hepmonaland, gaining experience and treasure. His reputation as a barbed wit and a cunning fighter spread throughout the Lordship of the Isles. His most daring deed was to attack an entire fleet of Lendorian refugees that were leaving their islands after the elves forced them out (FN 8). After a time, the dragon decided to establish a more secure lair further inland.
Caustic is a recent arrival to the city. A pan lung dragon once lived in the marshy eastern end of the city. Caustic flew in under the cover of night and slew the pan lung and took its horde. Presently, Caustic is trying to establish himself as a separate power of the city. He has managed to gain the respect of the nearby bullywug tribe and the yuan-ti (with the direction of Horan) have made overtures to ally with him (but see above for the intrigues involved with these alliances).
Horan is a shrewd negotiator, and is wise enough to know not to provoke the dragon. He skillfully flatters Gouthogg while giving him a very general outline of his plans in the area, leaving much to Gouthogg’s own initiative. Gouthogg is smart enough to realize that Horan has his own motives, but for now sees much value to letting the human call the shots for the time being.
Caustic is infamous for using spells such as taunt and Tasha’s Uncontrollable Laughter in combat to put his opponents at a disadvantage. Since he arrived at Xuxulieto, he has mastered a spell from his yuan-ti allies, a spell that they used to increase the potency of their poisons was found to work equally well with acids (FN 9). He seeks to trade magical knowledge both with the yuan-ti priests and Horan.
There are other factions that are vying for power in the ruined city that Gouthogg has to deal with. There is an unusually powerful spirit naga, who calls herself Queen Ranet, who has claimed an old temple complex as her base and is charming the humanoids of the city to be loyal to her. Mongrelmen, tasloi, and bugbears also claim wide swaths of the city. It is even thought that a city of aboleth exists deep under the surface. For the time being, by allying with the most powerful faction, the yuan-ti, Gouthogg’s position is secure. But this state of affairs is delicate, and the introduction of any more powerful individuals may upset these dealings and lead to open warfare between the various power groups.
Gouthogg has participated in several assaults deep into the interior of Hepmonaland on his own initiative. Thus far, he is honoring Horan’s general scheme, keeping his freelance raiding limited to non Scarlet Brotherhood controlled regions. It remains to be seen if Gouthogg’s ego and sarcastic attitude will alienate him from his present allies. With all the increased attention and activity centered on the city, Gouthogg’s power will likely increase over time and his domain will expand to cover the whole of the Xaro Mountains.
1: The origins of this city are shrouded in mystery. What is known is that this city was once part of the Olman’s Hepmonaland Empire. The city was then known as Xuxulieto. But its origins are thought to pre-exist even the Olmans, dating back to a race of bat-people. There are some faded frescoes and murals in the deepest and darkest corners of the city that hint at these origins through obscure hieroglyphics; but it would take the most knowledgeable sages to divine any meaning from them.
2: As related in The Scarlet Brotherhood, page 56.
3: This city of yuan-ti is unique in that they worship two deities. The priests of Mershaulk are more powerful and numerous, and thus have sway over most of the day-to-day activities of the yuan-ti. However, the followers of Sch’theraqpasstt are more knowledgeable on the metaphysics of the Abyss and thus have secured a niche as sages and researchers in the society (even though most of them are more then a bit insane).
4: Indeed, the king of the yuan-ti is a cambion, a freak combination of a pureblood yuan-ti female and a demon prince. The identity of his demonic heritage is not known, but King Slithh boasts divine origins and thus far no challenger has been able to disprove his claim.
5: Horan is unusual among Brotherhood agents in that he has researched extensively his Bakluni enemies to the extent that he has collected their art and imitates their styles. He has set up a personal villa in the city and had it extensively remodeled to resemble a bakluni pagoda, complete with sliding doors and many paintings done in the traditional ‘scroll style’ of the far west.
Horan’s loyalty to the Brotherhood is strong, but many years of being so isolated has made him much more inclined to independent actions outside the technical demands of his far off masters. Horan has been granted limited independence by the Office of Sovereignty, and Horan has been pushing those limits for some time now. Horan also has contacts within the Farseekers and the High Unity factions within the Brotherhood. All in all, Horan and his assistant, Kwairno, are a powerful team that should not be underestimated.
6: Zura was rescued many years ago from a yuan-ti sacrificial altar and has since become a convert to the religion of Pelor in gratitude to his rescuers. Two members of the adventuring party that rescued him remain with him and presently advise the resistance against the yuan-ti. These two are a druid named Hieroman and a priest of Pelor named Daniel. These two have shared many adventures together and often spend their time debating religious matters. Daniel is attempting to convert many of the natives to Pelor (he was the one who converted Zura) while Hieroman proselytizes a return to nature philosophy. Their debates are all put aside when it comes to opposing the Scarlet Brotherhood.
7: There are known to be at least nine black dragons in the Pelisso Swamp. Most of them are Quagmire’s progeny and they generally act in a familial manner with each other, with the ancient female Quagmire as the undisputed head of the extended clan.
8: In one of the more tragic incidents following the Greyhawk Wars, a fleet of Lendorian human refugees, forced from their homes by the elves, sought to settle in Dullstrand. They were cut off by pirate ships from the Sea Barons, and forced southward. The refugees, fearing the Scarlet Brotherhood and their minions in Duxchan, desperately sought to sneak through the Tilva Strait. They managed to avoid Scarlet Brotherhood ships only to run right into Gouthogg’s clutches. Gouthogg decimated the ships and was able to run them into shallow waters and pick them off one by one. The dragon was able to return to land with much treasure looted from the sunken ships. There still may be survivors of this fleet, trying to eke out a meager existence somewhere on the northern shores of Hepmonaland. These survivors may be able to provide information on the Lendore Islands to those who can rescue them. There are rumors circulating through coastal ports surrounding the identities of these survivors. These rumors vary, depending on the teller, ranging from normal humans just trying to survive to remnants of the Assassin’s Guild of Garrotten to the families of the nobility of Restenford. No one yet has been able to confirm or deny these rumors.
9: Statistics of the spell (in AD&D 2nd Edition terms) are as follows:
Components: V, S, M (the material to be transformed)
Duration: 1 round/ level
Casting Time: 2 (1 for black or green dragons, and yuan-ti priests)
Area of Effect: See below
Saving Throw: See below
This spell has the power to increase the strength of poisons or acids. Effectively, it gives another dice worth of damage to whatever the poison would normally do (i.e. 1d6 damage becomes 2d6). If this would be inapplicable due to the nature of the poison (such as one that causes death), the result is a -1 to the saving throw. This spell can work on poisonous substances or the caster can touch a creature (including himself) to increase their own poisonous or acidic attacks.
SOURCES: I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City, L1 The Secret of Bone Hill L2 The Assassin’s Knot, The Scarlet Brotherhood, Monster Mythology, Dragon #31 for information on jungles, and Dragon #151 for the ecology of the yuan-ti. This last source gives the yuan-ti more of an oriental flavoring that is a bit out of place with the culture of Hepmonaland - that aspect was ignored for the purposes of this article.