|Ruler||Council of Northending and (secretly) Doc|
|Major Towns||Northending, Endril, Newford, Hillbrook and Nimbortan|
|Races||Humans, elves, half-elves, gnomes, halflings, orcs, goblins, slinks, wererats, dragons, trolls|
|Alignments||Good, Neutral, Evil|
|Religions||Imix, Olhydra, Ogremoch, Yan-C-Bin, Surtr, Ahto, the Church|
|Enemies||Uriah Kazar, Neang Kazar, Garythane|
Long before the arrival of humanity to the shores of what would become known as Empyrea, demihumans struggled there against the hordes of the Princes of Elemental Evil, until the elemental armies were banished through a planar nexus in a volcano now called Northending Mountain.
In -195 CY (or 450 OR, the calendar used at the time), some groups of mixed Oeridians and Flannae descent dwelling near the Gull Cliffs developed more advanced nautical skills than was typical for the natives of the Kingdom of Aerdy of that time and so became known as the Aquaerdians. They launched two expeditions across the Solnor Ocean; both returned with news of a habitable land far to the east, ripe for colonization though, they judged, unsuitable for trade.
In -122 CY (522 OR), disenchanted as they were with the current expansionistic politics in Aerdy, the majority of the Aquaerdians departed the Flanaess for this new land; those that remained behind were among the ancestors of the Sea Barons. They disembarked at Arrowhead Bay, where survivors of the earlier expeditions warned them of warlike demihumans and a clan of green dragons on the nearby peninsula. Taking heed of their warnings, the new colonists settled in a valley to the southeast. They named their first town, Garythane, after their last ruler, a good man whose ship had been lost in the three-month crossing. Settlement spread eastward along the Greencourse River, and the next major town, Fair Passage, was built in a mountain pass to the east of Garythane, with trade between the two settlements commencing shortly thereafter.
It wasn't until 1 CY (645 OR) that the local demihumans deigned to contact the human settlers. First were the elves of the Dark Woods south of Garythane, then dwarves and gnomes began to trade with Fair Passage. Relationships with all three groups were greatly smoothed through the diplomatic talents of one John Asperman. The relationship between the elves and dwarves, however, was hostile and skirmishes and outright war between the two were known to occur. As they deteriorated again, the gnomes retreated to their own lands and took advantage of their neutral position to grow as powerful merchants trading with humans, elves, and dwarves alike.
Inspired in part by the gnomes, the militocratic governments of Garythane and Fair Passage soon became a confederacy of syndics. Yet as the humans grew in strength and civilization, they yearned for a king as their ancestors had in Aerdy. In 14 CY (658 OR), John Asperman was coronated as King John the First, and the following year (15 CY/659 OR) was declared Year One of the new John's Rule (JR) calendar. The next few centuries became known as the Age of Kings.
John I proved to be a capable leader, and thanks to his leadership the hostilities between the elves and dwarves eventually gave way to armistice. As humanity spread, new races were discovered: orcs, goblins, and halflings. The first two were hostile, though they were driven south after a series of battles. The halflings, native to the woodlands, proved friendly and trade with them introduced new foods to human cuisine.
John I fathered four sons and died at the age of 112 in 78 JR (92 CY). His eldest son, John II, moved the kingdom's capital to the new town of Bankspret on the banks of the Ruling River on the plains to the east. In 100 JR (114 CY) he renamed Bankspret as Empyrea, which would give its name to the entire kingdom.
John II, known as the Builder, began many ambitious construction projects, including roads, bridges, and castles. He was also obsessed with what were known as the "black arts of Technology," but as he was well-loved and a skilled diplomat this was politely tolerated by his people. John II would die in 148 JR (162 CY) with his projects still incomplete. His 17-year-old son John III succeeded him.
John III, who would become known as the Wise, spent a decade among the elves, gnomes, and dwarves (he chose to avoid the hedonistic halflings), reluctantly completed his father's projects. He was also known for the signing of the Pact of Neutrality in JR 177 (191 CY), which cemented peace and alliance between the humans, elves, gnomes, dwarves, halflings, and elves.
In 179 JR (193 CY), the orcs and goblins returned from the south, bringing with them for the first time the plagues of lycanthropy and undeath. After many costly battles, the united humans and demihumans managed to check their expansion, but pockets of evil remained within Empyrea, lurking in ruins and in the wilderness. The human towns were forced to build defensive walls for the first time. Using his father's plans, John III completed the Castles of Rulership, which combined magic and technology in their defenses. These included the castles of Northending, Hydell, Seascarp and Felonius, though there were seven in all.
John III grew ill in 199 JR (213 CY), largely retiring from the affairs of rulership. Because the Age of Great Sorrow began at this exact time in the Flanaess, some sages have suggested a connection between the two events, though what this might be is unknown. He told his eldest son secrets on his deathbed in 203 JR (217 CY) that left his heir's hair entirely white and drove an eavesdropper insane. His son was coronated as John IV the following day.
John IV tied his royal line more closely to the elves by marrying a half-elf. He traveled the newly constructed Greatroads and bridges of his kingdom, urging his people to prepare for a time of desolation to come, but these warnings were poorly heeded.
In 231 JR (245 CY) the forces of evil rose again led by a mysterious figure known as Krellokk the Tangg-lord. The human-demihuman alliance barely held the armies of the Tangg-lord back, but all but the human cities fell. The gnomish and dwarven citadels of Rock Haven and Loamburrow were conquered by goblins and orcs; Loamburrow was renamed Uriah Kazar and Rock Haven was called Neang Kazar by its conquerers. The Tangg-lord pushed patiently northward for five years, and in Brewfest of 236 JR (250 CY) he began a siege of the Empyrean capital. Though both sides displayed great magical power, the walls of Empyrea (created according to the eccentric plans of John II) held fast for three years.
In the summer of 240 JR (254 CY) a mighty storm blew from the south. At midnight there was a massive roar and a flash of light, and the city of Empyrea vanished from the face of the Oerth, leaving a great swamp in its place. With the capital gone, the hordes of Krellokk overran the region; only the city of Northending held fast, obeying as it did the very strict instructions of Prince Harl the Strong, brother of John IV.
The forces of evil weakened over the next century as the factions under Krellokk's nominal control began to turn on themselves. The humans and demihumans slowly gained back some of their numbers and managed to win back a balance between Good and Evil after a few decisive battles. The Greatroads and fortresses built by John II and John III suffered over the decades, degenerating into overgrown paths and empty shells, but ruined towns were rebuilt and new towns built as well. The towns never reunited under a king, and for a time there was no organization among those of good bent outside of Northending.
In 524 JR (510 CY) the forces of evil began to rebuild as a flight of vengeful dragons turned into an extortion scheme. Three green dragons, who had come to a town to avenge the capture of a young blue dragon, allied themselves with lawful evil humans and nonhumans, threatening nearby towns with destruction unless tribute was paid. Soon the evil powers, making Garythane their new capital, had captured the nearby town of Fairway (presumedly the town formerly known as Fair Passage) and all lands west of the Ruling River. In response, the Council of Northending allied itself with various neutral organizations and the towns of Endril, Newford, Hillbrook and Nimbortan, forming the realm called New Empyrea.
The "present day" in which the R-series and Egg of the Phoenix supermodule are set is 565 JR (551 CY). At this time, the forces of Evil under the command of the Tangg-lord are poised to strike again, having rediscovered some of their old magics. This time they plan on using subtlety rather than overt battles to seize control of the region. Firstly, he intends to corrupt the minds and allegiances of humanity. Secondly he intends to gain control of the artifact known as the Egg of the Phoenix.
Geography and climate
The Empyrean region is located about 5000 miles east of the Flanaess (note that the Solnor is only about 3000 miles across according to the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer). The region, including both Good and Evil-dominated areas, spans about 170 x 270 miles, containing within it mountains, forests, and islands.
The human faith is left intentionally vague by Frank Mentzer and Paul Jaquays, but it is referred to as "the church." In the coastal village of Shell, the Finnish god Ahto is revered.
The languages of New Empyrea are undefined, but the human tongue is presumedly related to the common language spoken in Aerdy at the time the Aquaerdians left.
New Empyrea is ruled from the town of Northending.
The secret ruler of the forces of Good is the mysterious hero known as Doc. Doc is at least 150 years old, and was present when the lost city of Empyrea vanished.
The Council of Northending are the nominal rulers of the New Empyrean alliance.
Nimborton, formally a sleepy farming village, has become a boom town thanks to the discovery of a substance known as Earthsblood five years ago. An unpleasant, odorous black substance thought by some to be the secretion of some subterranean creature, it can light homes, fuel furnaces, be used as a material component by spellcasters and alchemists, and even heal certain illnesses.
Hillbrook is a mining town. Endril, Fairway, and Newford are agricultural communities. Shell is a fishing village.
New Empyrea originated as Frank Mentzer's Aquaria campaign (1975-present), though the name "Aquaria" isn't used in R1-4. After he came to work for TSR in January 1980, he gained the approval of Gary Gygax to set his campaign on Oerth across the Solnor Ocean from the Flanaess. Frank Mentzer also identified his campaign world's sun with the star Tau Ceti, set in approximately 2700 AD in Earth's dating system.
While in the published modules the chief conflict is between Good and Evil, in Mentzer's home campaign the struggle was between the incompatible forces of Technology and Magic.
Four modules were published in the "R" (for RPGA) series. Falx and Hydell were written as tournament modules while Mentzer was at TSR, but Egg of the Phoenix and Doc's Island were based on material he had created for his campaign in the 1970s, before he came to work for TSR. Doc's Island is the only published source that explicitly links this region to the world of Oerth, writing that the region was settled by humans from the Kingdom of Aerdy.
The four modules were linked together and revised for the Egg of the Phoenix supermodule in 1987. New characters were added and old ones changed. The name "New Empyrea" was coined in the supermodule to describe the region, which went unnamed in the R-series. While the history given in the supermodule is similar to the one in Doc's Island, the Flanaess and its peoples are no longer mentioned explicitly, and a villain called Krellokk the Tangg-lord was added to be the head of the evil forces whose leaders had gone unnamed in the R-series.
Six more modules in the R-series were made available as tournament modules. R5 Great Bugbear Hunt and R6 Bigby's Tomb were republished in Polyhedron #28 and #20, respectively. R7, R8, R9, and R10 were never reprinted. All of these take place in "New Empyrea" (or Aquaria), except for R6, which due to the presence of Bigby is assumed to take place somewhere in the Flanaess.
- Mentzer, Frank. R10 Air Plane!. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR Hobbies, 1982.
- -----. R4 Doc's Island. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR Hobbies, 1983.
- -----. R7 "Dwarven" Quest for the Rod of Seven Parts. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR Hobbies, 1982.
- -----. R3 Egg of the Phoenix. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR Hobbies, 1982.
- -----. R5 Great Bugbear Hunt. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR Hobbies, 1982.
- -----. "The Great Bugbear Hunt." Polyhedron #28. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, Inc., 1985.
- -----. R2 The Investigation of Hydell. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR Hobbies, 1982.
- -----. R9 Tinker's Canyon. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR Hobbies, 1982.
- -----. R1 To the Aid of Falx. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR Hobbies, 1982.
- -----. R8 Yog's Dessert. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR Hobbies, 1982.