Saturday, 28 December 2019

Alternate Oerths - Mythic Greyhawk: More on Iuz

First, a little sidenote further on the nature of gods from Appendix A in Temple of Elemental Evil. Here we get a full list of deities and they are classified in three: "Greater", of which there are roughly a dozen, "lesser", of which there are many, and "demigods", of which there's a handful. 

Looking at the number and nature of the greater gods, it tallies well with my assumption that lesser gods are the kind of embodied, fallible deities who busy themselves with human affairs I discussed in my previous article, whilst greater gods are genuinely transcendent; pantheon fountainheads. more akin to sentient cosmic principle than to the kind of "divinely endowed people" the lesser gods are. With that out of the way, on to Iuz...

Representing Iuz the Old as something more out of a slavic mythic north, a la Koschei the Deathless
The description of Iuz in the Folio as "Old Iuz of fear-babe talk", who has ruled the lands from the Howling Hills to Wyestil Lake "for ages longer than any man can live" is a nice pithy summary to frame any discussion of Iuz.

Again, this doesn't really paint a picture of the hell-bent Sauron-esque conqueror of later supplements, but leads my mind more in the direction of Koschei the Deathless. I like this image of Iuz as an ancient and mythic slavic evil, whose origins opaquely fade from history into myth. A male Baba Yaga, but way more wicked.

After so long of being a bit 'meh' about Iuz as stock evil overlord who simply wants more power and territory, I am fascinated by the concept that follows from bigging up his cleric aspect - Iuz as the philosophical Zealot of Chaos, upsetting the nature of things by being the first human turned chaotic evil godling.

I now also figured out what to do with him being "the first human turned chaotic evil godling", as Gygax named him in his original writeup in Dragon #67:

In Mythic Greyhawk Cosmology, I have demon princes of Chaos stand in for 'evil gods', and the gods of man are basically seen as the Lawful bulwark that keeps the demonic hordes of Chaos from swarming over and destroying the world (followers of the Old Faith might say that the primal spirits of the Oerth have kept both Chaos and Law from doing this). 

A Lawful/Good/Chaotic scheme that basically maps to Gods/Primal Spirits/Demon Lords and also, roughly, to Mankind/Elves/Humanoids. 

Gods have clerics, Demon Lords anti-clerics (mostly because they thought it made a nice perversion of clerics) and primal spirits have druids. Only Law gains any power from worship and it is not really for themselves, but to protect lawful lands, and Oerth itself, from being overwhelmed by the influence of Chaos.

And Iuz has broken that order. Iuz the Zealot is the Herald of Chaos, the one who would unleash all of this on Oerth, simply because Chaos is what he serves.

Moreover, he is not just a servant, but has ascended to become an actual god. The only god of Chaos and evil (well... most don't know that Tharizdun exists, not even among lesser gods), and thus also able to usurp the power of worship that is exclusive to gods as a source of power to protect the Oerth.  The cult of Iuz is truly the most blasphemous of all.
And to boot, he makes his home in the frigging Flanaess, alongside mankind. A truly tangible evil.

Glancing at Temple of Elemental Evil and its Secret History section, this also makes a lot more sense. Iuz didn't approach and aid Zuggtmoy 'for his own ends' which was a bit too convoluted for my taste, but rather because his ends are simply to advance Chaos and Zuggtmoy's plot was a strong means to that end. Which is also why he tried to free her after it went tits up, rather than just taking over the banner of 'elemental evil' himself. He's simply dedicated to the cause above all else. 

This also explains why the folio describes the Horned Society as being on good terms with Iuz. He doesn't really care who is in charge as long as they advance the aims of Chaos.

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Noodling on Iuz' backstory

Let's first take a look at what the Folio tells us, ignoring later sources:
  • Ruled the lands from the Howling Hills to Wyestil Lake "for ages longer than any man can live"
  • Some time around 479 CY, the "might of Iuz grows" causing humanoid invasions to rise.
  • He was imprisoned by the wizard Zagyg alongside eight other demigods(!), which left his land leaderless for "many decades" and he only recently (570 CY) got out. 
How long is "many decades"? The Horned Society entry tells us the society sprang up "some decades" ago, which was six decades ago, in 513 CY, and I'd wager it sprang up in his absence. 
I'd also say 'many decades' is more than 'some', but less than a century. So presumably he was imprisoned some time between 480 CY (since he was was definitely around in 479 CY) and 500 CY (seven decades prior to his release), give or take a few years. I lean towards the tail end of that span.

This means he just missed the party with the Horde of Elemental Evil that the folio talks about happening in 569 CY. 

But, if we go beyond the Folio to look at Temple of Elemental Evil for background on the horde, this can't be right, since, according to ToEE, Iuz helped formed the Horde in the years prior to 569 (according to the player introduction, it rose "in but three years").

So either the Horde formed later (unlikely historians would get that date wrong), or Iuz was free of his prison earlier than 570 CY. I'm going with the latter option and calling 570 CY as the year in which he made his return known to the world by returning to Dorakaa, which also makes sense for him to do after his elemental evil plot went haywire. 

This means he was released in 566 CY at the very latest. But maybe even sooner? The hordes of humanoids that popped in 560 CY in the Bone March has all the hallmarks of a Chaos instigator like Iuz.

I imagine he's been around for quite a while prior to 479 CY as well, though it is perhaps around this time he expands his holdings from his childhood haunt in the Howling Hills and takes over Dorakaa. Perhaps it is also around this time his cult begins to spread.

I wonder though... What kind of CV would the most capable cleric/assassin servant of Chaos accumulate on his path towards apotheosis prior to that point?

Well, the Turmoil Between the Crowns in Aerdi started in 437 CY during which the last heir of house Rax was assassinated, and it is commonly accepted that since 450 CY, all the Overkings of house Naelax have been insane, demon-ridden or both. Call me crazy, but that seems exactly like the sort of shenanigans you'd expect a high level evil cleric/assassin of Chaos to engineer when performing epic quests on the road to apotheosis.

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Accepting the tale of Iggwilv being his mother fits nicely with the slavic mythic theme I've got going on, with Iggwilv being Louhi (Finnish myth, but close enough) to Iuz' [more evil and male] Baba Yaga.

But her being his literal mother is just a bit too fan-ficcy for me (sorry EGG). I much prefer the story of Iuz having come from humble beginnings somewhere in the Howling Hills before making it big with Chaos (where does the 'son of iggwilv and grazzt' story come from anyway?). This is D&D - I like my heroes & villains earning their levels with XP, not birthright So let's see...

According to Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, Iggwilv conquered Perrenland 'nearly' a century ago, after having gained much power from the lost caverns. 

That is very close to 479 CY where Iuz' "might grows" in the north according to the Folio. Which makes it quite plausible that Iggwilv was the one who assisted an old, but still mortal, high level cleric/assassin Iuz in his ascension and rebirth into demigodhood. This ritual bound the two to each other and made Iggwilv the figurative 'mother' of Iuz the demigod.

Same story for Grazzt (or Orcus) being his 'dad' (perhaps Iggwilv bound him for this very purpose) - I imagine it was him who chipped in with Iuz' demonic alter ego body for the transformation.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Anders, I recently purchased Into the Unknown off DTRPG. Thanks for putting it together. If you have a blog or forum for the system please point me in that direction. I do enjoy reading your take on Greyhawk. Aside from Mystara it's the only D&D world with which I'm familiar.

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  2. Thanks for this take on a villain that could become stale very quickly otherwise! I can easily imagine Iuz starting out as a half-fiend cleric of Flan (or Ur-Flan?) descent and acquiring immortality as a Hero- or quasi-deity before his ascension to demideityhood. Very inspiring!

    For your information, there’s a thread on Canonfire discussing Iuz’ age and ancestry: http://www.canonfire.com/cf//modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&p=74259#74259

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