Sunday, 22 December 2019

Alternate Oerths - Mythic Greyhawk: Central Flanaess

The central Flanaess. Home of the city of Greyhawk & the Nyr Dyv; the Wild Coast, Fyrondy and Veluna; Celene & the Pomarj; the Urnst states. Verbobonc & Dyvers; the bandit kingdoms and shield lands. Also desert.

When I wrote a review of the Darlene maps, I scribbled this about the central regions:
Appealingly, the 'safer' area to go through from old Aerdy East to Old Aerdy West is adventuring area numero uno - The Wild Coast. I love its placement on the map and its relations on the map. Anywhere is in feasible reach for an adventurer on the wild coast. The Nyr Dyv and Wooly Bay gives you plenty of means of getting around. For adventurers in the Wild Coast, the Flanaess is your oyster. The whole Nyr Dyv/Wooly Bay/Relmor Bay area is just really well constructed for bringing these lands into contact with each other and opening routes of travel.
No wonder the City of Greyhawk is such a big fish - The Nyr Dyv is obviously a really central area. The rivers flowing into it pass through 16 different countries! And itself opens into the Whoolly Bay - From there, the Sheldomar Valley and great kingdom are in reach. You could get on a boat all the way up north in Blackmoor, sail through the vast Burneal forest, across Lake Quaag in Perrenland, through Veluna and Furyondy into the Nyr Dyv, past the city of Greyhawk into the Wooly Bay and then the Azure Sea and from there set sail to anywhere from Hepmonaland to Irongate or the Hold of the Sea Princes. I love that - Simply looking at the map gives you real ideas about trade routes and itineraries.
I won't be discussing cultures and lands much here though, since that is not what this region evokes for me (also, I mostly covered that part already). Where my general approach with Greyhawk is confidently taking the framework and putting cool stuff on it, I find myself with a different attitude to the central Flanaess. One of discovery moreso than creativity, inspiring an almost timid sense of awe. 

This area is not just a framework. It's the original D&D land. That tantalizing ur-flavor of D&D that is most easily recognised in the vague echoes of adolescent memories. A sensation of wonder and earthiness together that even then was diffuse, but somehow tactile. If it can be captured at all, then what fragrant ethers there may be to capture float most clearly throughout this particular region.

Exploring this region feels more like chipping rock from a gem to uncover something originally there than exploring cool hooks as a stimulant for creativity (a creativity that nonetheless is aimed at connecting to the flavourful, but established archetypes and tropes of fantasy). Take this description of the Wild Coast from the Folio:

Long before I even read this, the name itself drew me in as something just so very D&D
Yes! This is a land where D&D adventures happen. The original sandbox - open-ended, wild but not desolate, its own thing but not too far from other lands. And with plenty of room for the PCs to stamp their own mark on things here.

Yet, despite my love for the Wild Coast, and despite it being derived from the actually historical original D&D campaign, my own search for the quintessential D&D land does not end here.
I'm looking for something a bit more naivistic, with just a few more whiffs of knights and elves, some kind of calmer more rural enchantment (images of Dalelands [FR], Thunder Rift, Solace [DL] come to mind) that says 'a smaller corner of a bigger world'. I go west and find this:

I like taking sections out of larger maps to reveal the local relations
The county of Verbobonc in and around the Kronn Hills. A realm dotted by small villages and one not-too-big-city. Geographywise, there's hills, mountains, deep woods (and lighter woods). And a river that takes you to the central sea.

Its got Knight-land and Cleric-land just to the north and Elf-Land to the south. Dwarf-lands in the western mountains and gnomes in the Kron Hills.
On just the other side of the woods, you have "The Wild Coast", The Big City and Orcland.
Across the mountains are generic but-not-too-big kingdoms.

Historywise, wars against evil were fought here - the Hateful Wars against the humanoids some 60 years ago. And the battle against the forces of elemental evil a decade ago. Both have left imprints on the adventuring landscape.
A campaign map with Verbobonc in the centre simply has everything you'd want in your classic D&D fantasy campaign in proper distance to your starting location. Gygax sketched out the region perfectly in Temple of Elemental Evil:
Welcome to the exciting WORLD OF GREYHAWK fantasy setting. It is a world rich in history, intrigue, and magic ... a place of opportunity, and of danger as well.
This story unfolds in a small part of that world, a very small part indeed. But this place, at the foot of the Kron Hills not far north of the great Azure Sea, could breed dangers to threaten the nearby greater realms with the fine-sounding names- the Archclericy of Veluna, and the kingdoms of Celene and Furyondy. Hommlet and Nulb are two small villages, which squat in the vales between these great powers like two dark and tiny eyes, surrounded by the ancient wrinkled hills on the face of some evil demiurge.
In fact, I think I'd cheat a bit and add a supplement to my Folio Greyhawk. Gygax' descriptions from Village of Hommlet is an excellent player primer, no matter whether I'd run the adventure or not (or Temple of Elemental Evil for that matter). Homlett is simply an outstanding homebase for starting a sandbox campaign:

Click here to download it in pdf

THIS is it... It simply doesn't get more originally and quintessentially D&D than starting 1st lvl characters here. I can't think of any traditional D&D adventure that wouldn't be suitable from here. The sandbox from here contains all the elements you'd want for that D&D experience.

1 comment:

  1. Great write-up!

    The "Hateful Wars"... what an evocative name. Somehow I'd missed that until now.

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