Wednesday, June 16, 2010

An Incomplete History of Oerth - Part 1

Now that I've read through every OD&D product, and taken copious notes, a basic outline of the history of my campaign world-to-be is emerging. Certainly none of this stuff was ever intended to fit together, and a good portion of it is conjecture on my part. But all of it has some basis in the official rulebooks and magazines, and I'll try to explain how I came to certain conclusions as I go. So here is a rough outline of history, as I have it at the end of the OD&D era.


The events of Michael Moorcock's Elric stories take place. (I included this due to the presence of the Melnibonean mythos in Supplement IV. Going off memory, the Elric stories end with a grand battle between Law and Chaos in which the universe is destroyed and reborn, so I've placed it before time with that in mind.)

THE VERY DISTANT PAST (So far back that almost no signs remain)

The events of The Silmarillion, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien take place on the area of Oerth that corresponds to Europe. (There are a large number of Tolkien references in early D&D products. Combine this with the assertion that Oerth is a parallel Earth, and Tolkien's conceit that Middle-Earth was set in Earth's past, and I decided to include these events in my campaign history. It should also be noted that Gygax modelled the geography of his original campaign on North America, and I'm running with that, so these events happened across the ocean from the main Greyhawk continent.)

There is a great flood (or possibly two) when the ice caps melt during a war between the gods for control of the planet. Some of the gods save their subjects from the flood, while others transform them to adapt to the water. Sea elves and mermen are created by the gods of Law and Neutrality, while those of Chaos make the Sahuagin. Atlantis, Mu and Lemuria are all sunk beneath the waves during this flood. (These tidbits come from the Sahuagin entry in Supplement II, as well as the section on underwater adventuring.)

THE LESS DISTANT PAST (Many thousands of years ago, these events are now dim legend)

In forgotten ages past, in kingdoms unheralded and dead centuries of untold history, a fiery confrontation emerges between witch covens world-wide. The myriad witches of the woodlands and the fields form an alliance which dominates all other covens. This group forcibly directs the studies of other witches, and great emphasis is placed on the magic of plants and animals, that they might grow stronger still in their respective domains. But there are those who seek darker and more Godly enchantments, pursuing powers of devastation and the very elements. They promise to teach what they learn, to enslave the world of men, and to shape raw power to the ends of witches everywhere. This the alliance will not permit, for power inspires fear, fear of those that have it. Those who ally with the new Secret Coven are cast out, and in time only the mountains offered refuge to the members of this radical coven. (These events are described in the article on Witches in The Dragon #5.)

The events of Robert E. Howard's Conan stories take place in the area of Oerth that corresponds to Europe. (Supplement IV featured the Hyborian mythos, so I have placed Howard's stories in the history of my campaign. Again, it's set in Europe, and so will probably have little bearing on my campaign. But it's there if and when I want to use it.)

In the region of Oerth that corresponds to America, a continent-spanning empire rises and eventually falls. Their legacy includes the widespread number of Mummies found in dungeons, and the semi-scientific classification of monsters. (This is pure conjecture on my part, simply to explain why Mummies are everywhere, and why some monsters in OD&D have alternate Latin names. Plus, there's always a fallen empire in D&D campaigns. It's the law.)

The Throne of the Gods is carved by ancient Dwarves into the heart of a mountain. (This is from the Artifacts section of Supplement III. The race that created it is not specified, but I figure Dwarves are the most appropriate.)

The Axe of the Dwarvish Lords is forged in a volcano by a long-forgotten Dwarven King, possibly during a particularly bloody war between Dwarves and Men. It is passed down from king to king, until it is lost about 1,000 years before the start of the campaign. (This is from the Artifacts section in Supplement III. The Human/Dwarf war is conjecture on my part, based on the suggestion in the book that the axe requires human sacrifice to maintain its power.)

The ancient lich Vecna rises to power, along with his bodyguard Kas. So great is Vecna's power that he is able to imbue his hand and eye with horrible powers that enable them to survive to cause chaos long after he is destroyed. (This is from Supplement III. There will be a lot more on Vecna in the future, I'm sure.)

Queen Ehlissa rules for several centuries. (This is from the Artifacts section of Supplement III. Ehlissa herself doesn't get much description, and it's not yet known what country she ruled or even what race she was.)

THE RECENT PAST (Within the last thousand years, maybe)

An event known as the 'Goblin Wars' takes place. (It's in my notes, but I'm not sure where it originated from. I may tie it in to the strange bit in the rules where every Goblin tribe has a king.)

The Isles of Woe upon the Lake of Unknown Depths are ruled by a wizard-cleric who owns the Codex of the Infinite Planes. Knowledge from the Codex causes his death at the hands of the Demon Prince Nql, and his domain is flooded by the waters of the lake. (This is from the section on Artifacts in Supplement III, specifically the Codex of the Infinite Planes.)

The Temple of the Frog is established in the Swamp of Mil near Blackmoor. (This is from the background of the Temple of the Frog adventure in Supplement II. There are a lot more details given there about dealings with bandits and the Temple's actual goals, but here I've just gone with the broad strokes.)

Strange men from outer space start exploring the area around Blackmoor Castle. One of them leaves behind the legendary Mighty Servant of Leuk-O, and another takes over the Temple of the Frog. (There are references to people from outer space in both Supplements II and III. The Mighty Servant of Leuk-O is detailed in the section on Artifacts in the former, and the bit about the Temple of the Frog is from that adventure in the latter.)

The events of the original Greyhawk and Blackmoor campaigns take place. (Some hints have been dropped about these events in the rule books and magazines, but very little of it is concrete thus far. I'm planning to go through as many accounts of this era as I can find to construct a workable timeline of events, both for personal enjoyment and to use as background for my campaign. I like the idea that the goings on of Gary's campaign will be a prelude to my own stuff.)

After the chaos that ensues from unregulated adventuring, an Adventurers' Guild is established in the City of Greyhawk to control such things. (This is pure conjecture on my part to set up the guild for my campaign. Some of the reading I've done about the original campaign indicate some real shenanigans going on, and I could see the rulers of Greyhawk cracking down on that. And it gives me a rationale to have a guild, which I want to provide some structure and guidance to the campaign.)

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