Following the Zavoda Principle (don’t let good material disappear up screen on Discord, repost it on here) @Samwise (Sam Weiss) posted some thoughts on the CF Discord overnight about what would happen to Greyhawk’s timeline if adventurers didn’t succeed in various adventures. So here they are:
“Having been left unsupervised overnight, I have created an alternate history heresy.
While contemplating other things, the Giant series came to mind, and how it affects the Greyhawk Wars and the Sheldomar. Considering how the history assumes a positive resolution of those adventures, I wondered what would happen if a group of players did what players usually do and went completely off the rails. How far off the rails? Well . . .
Without specific spoilers, getting through the Steading of the Hill Giant Chief without fighting is shockingly easy. Ignoring most of the doors and a quick resolution to a single random encounter leaves Nosnra dead and the PCs in his treasure room, experimenting with a strange metal chain and a set of instructions on human skin written in Giant, and then they are looking at a Glacial Rift.
With no way to get home, the bold players head down. Once again, fortunate choice of trail to follow, perhaps aided and abetted by an invisibility spell or three, requires the deaths of less than a dozen frost giants before acquiring a storm giantess ally who helps to end Jarl Grugnir. Then, with the sound of reinforcements approaching, a quick search for a way out uncovers a lever and the PCs are now sweltering outside the Hall of the Fire Giant King.
While a massive battle is suggested, a lightning assault will end King Snurre, and some lucky choices in fleeing will send the PCs down to free a titan then into the lowest level, where some other questionable choices of path will place them across the river of lava and on the path to deep under the Oerth.
Reaching the Grand Cavern, the PCs decide not to bother slaughtering the swarm of reserve troops stationed there, but focus on eliminating the drow, claiming the stable of pack lizards, and setting themselves up as merchants. Never mind following the map, they are going to Sandbox the place no matter what the DM wants.
Six game years pass before the DM maneuvers them back to the surface. As the PCs see the light of day once again, one of them finally remembers: "Hey, weren't we supposed to be killing some giants to stop some raids?"
With Nosnra, Grugnir, and Snurre dead, the cloud giants visiting their lairs were able to establish themselves as the new rulers of the giants. Of course, Eclavdra also survived, and continues to pull their strings, but with such superior leadership they do not merely conquer Geoff and Sterich, or just add the Yeomanry to claim everything as far as the Javan. No, after six long years they have just defeated the Principality of Ulek and joined up with Turrosh Mak. In the south, fire giants from the Kamph Mountains who claimed Adlerweg Keep have expanded and expelled the Scarlet Brotherhood from the Hold of the Sea Princes, while in the north, the Ketites wisely chose to focus their attention to the east, where, aided by orc and ogre troops provided by the giants, the final defense line of Veluna is about to be broken, and the Paynim Hordes will descend upon the Velverdyva.
In the Sheldomar, the surviving Knights of the Watch, 50 at the most, lead a desperate guerilla war against the giant rulers. Dwarves, gnomes, and halflings are being hunted for sacrifice and dinner. Elves are sought at the direction of Eclavadra for enslavement and sacrifice, with preparations to eliminate Celene with Turrosh Mak proceeding rapidly. In fact, Eclavdra has abandoned the Vault entirely, along with the Eilservs, Tormtors, and opportunist Alevals, as well as the merchant clans that support them - better to reign on the surface than continue to bang heads with the flunkies of Lolth. With them they brought the Elder Elemental they worship, and victims die on its altars throughout the Sheldomar.
Welcome home players!
Next time ride that railroad a tad longer. 😉
as a note, this did not happen in my greyhawk
i just brainstormed it as what the consequences might be if a party went **that** far off the rails
in my actual campaign, the pcs curbstomed the giants, set up base in the steading from which their apprentices later set off on another adventure, while one of them who had found a mysterious artifact during a lead-in adventure joined the scarlet brotherhood so as to make them subject to the curse when he destroyed the artifact after assassinating king kimbertos
now THAT would be heresy 😛
How else can things go wrong?
As noted, some fire giants, probably by a warlord whose daughter was kidnapped years ago and never released because some PCs messed up and did not free her, have taken over the Sea Princes from a base in Adlerweg Keep. (UK2-3)
But, to keep Gary happy, they only control the interior. The coast is under the control of the Prince of Toli and his necromantic stooges. They are allied to with the cult of Panzos, aka Panzuriel. They in turn control the sahuagin who destroyed Saltmarsh during the Wars, after some PCs failed to destroy them as they encroached on the coastal lizard men of the Hool Marsh. Also in that coalition are the koalinth and kuo-toa of the area. (U1-3 and "To Walk Beneath the Waves" in Dungeon 77)
Inland, the Hool Marsh and Viscounty of Nume Eor have fallen to Sakatha, supported by his lieutenant and living lizard king Yiss, the black dragon Aulicus, and a pan lung dragon and its offspring. (I2, I7, and U2)
They are allied to the Cult of the Black Flame, whose leaders have come to an agreement with the cult of Panzos and Eclavdra serving the EEG to form an Axis of Extreme Evil, dominating the Sheldomar and Azure Sea, and expanding beyond.
In the north, the defeat of the Knights of the Watch was aided and abetted by a particularly depraved spirit naga, going by the rather over the top name "Explictica Defilus", who has expanded her control from the village of Orlane to dominate the entire Hool Marsh and then the Dim Forest, where she has subverted the shadow dragon Hasforenses and establishing control over the slow shadows that infest the forest. (N1 and The Liberation of Geoff)
Although Turrosh Mak is noted as the ruler of the Pomarj, the Slave Lords were never defeated and still pull Neg Tharlot's strings from Suderham, though with some changes. The Scarlet Brotherhood has been purged from the council, their use as financiers no longer required. Although weaker than some of the others, it is the drow Edralve who now dominates the Inner Circle. She is in fact a member of House Eilservs, the failed coup that caused her leave Erelhei Cinlu being the Eclavdra's attempt to make herself queen of the Vault and the subsequent conflict. It was through her that drow merchants were vising Markessa to purchase slaves. (A1-4)
The City of Greyhawk was devastated when an ancient war machine awoke and rumbled directly through the city on its way to the Wild Coast. It likely would have dome significant damage in the Pomarj but it was wrecked and bogged down by a storm as it passed Safeton. The chaos was enhanced when a force orcs and ogres from the ruins of Castle Greyhawk and an unknown location in the Gnarley Forest led a two-pronged assault as the city was recovering. They were defeated with heavy losses. The final blow was when Iysix Ssloll, the spirit naga leader of a cult of Iuz, returned and destroyed the temple of Cuthbert in the Free City, then declared herself ruler of what was left. (The Adventure That Shall Not Be Named, WGR1, CoGH Boxed Set, Falcon series)
People expected the Circle of Eight to intervene, but they have not been seen since the Vecna Incident. An attempt to rebuild the Circle fell apart when Jallazri disappeared, and Mordenkainen left Oerth and has not been seen since. (Vecna Lives, Return of the Eight, and WotC Stupidity)
Veluna has been vulnerable to invasion from the west since the resurgence of the Temple of Elemental Evil and the freeing of its demonic patroness, Zuggtmoy. The nation could not handle a two-front war. This will be the doom of Celene as well. (T1-4)
hmmm . . . overall, nothing much particularly bad happens if the players screw the pooch in other adventures
WG4 and there is a mountain giant in the yatils - big deal
WG5 and Eli Tomorast is not dead? he was brought back anyway
WG6 and it was assumed they lost the crook of rao and had to recover it in FtA
WG8 and . . . there is a bigger plague and more PCs lose a point of Con? the Scarlet Brotherhood is more powerful?
WG12 and . . . Evard takes over Bissel before Ket does? I suppose I could make Evard into Vecna III in Bissel
UK1 is nothing significant
S1 means they get eaten by Acererak, which means nothing unless Return to is screwed up also and Acererak can now possess any undead on Oerth - that might be **too** much
S2 means no one has the weapons, maybe Keraptis comes back early as in Return to, but he still needs the PCs to save him - well, unless he comes back intact; maybe that would be a nasty alternative
S3 is nothing except more weirdness in the mountains
S4 is probably nothing unless Drelnza joins her brother Iuz; or maybe she gacks him and takes over!
L1-2 is nothing
I1 is nothing
Ex1-2 are nothing
C1-3 are nothing
a full screw up of WGA4 (Vecna Lives) means he is the only greater power of oerth, and that would be too much
WGM and WGQ are nothingburgers
WGR1 is nothing
WGS1-2 assumes screw ups!
ive already done worse than The Liberation of Geoff
Star Cairns and Crypt of Lyzandred are nothing
and that is pretty much it for direct adventures without delving into "incidentals" in Dragon and Dungeon
Also active in the north is Evard, who has become the satrap of Bissel for the Ketites with plans to make himself the ruler of an expanded Fals Gap nation once the Ketites are distracted conquering Veluna. He has made an ally of Groorg, a mountain giant from the Yatils, who has built up a sizable army of orcs, hobgoblins, norkers, and gnolls, reinforced with ogres, ettins, hill giants, trolls, giant two-headed trolls, and giant trolls. (Dungeon 107, WG4)
Perhaps the greatest threat to the Flanaess comes from Iuz, or rather Drelnza, as the vampire “sister” of the Old One after being awakened from her sleep has insinuated herself into his realm as an “advisor” representing their mother Iggwilv, and has slowly subverted the Bonehearts to her service. Iuz is now barely a figurehead in his own domain, and would be easily disposed of should he become too difficult for Drelnza to deal with as she rules in his name. (S4)”
For Drelnza, I figured if I was going to blow up the world I might as well blow up Iuz as well as he is getting rather old.
Not to mention that if you are going to be dominated it is much more fun to be dominated by a hot vampire chick than some grotty old geezer.
Doesn't From The Ashes render the GDQ series completely redundant anyway, since Geoff and Sterich end up being conquered anyway?
In my own Greyhawk, the heroes' successfully taking out the giants' leaders means that the giant army poised to attack the lowlands is suddenly leaderless. I imagine Snurre Iron Belly as having the charisma to match a Hitler or a Napoleon, inspiring many other giants to conquer the lowlands.
Except now, with Snurre dead, the giants are completely disorganized. They're all fired up for blood and treasure, but the discipline and inspiration Snurre could've given them is now gone. They turn into a bunch of rampaging mobs that fight each other as much as they do the more organized smaller races. That means many giants die at each others' hands, easing a lot of the pressure on the forces of good. Many people still die and Geoff and Sterich are ravaged, but they still hold.
If anything, I've noticed that a lot of the things I have planned derail From The Ashes. Iuz gets caught with his pants down from a combination of the Circle of Eight and a band of Tenha agents ruining his attempt to charm Sevvord Redbeard and the Horned Society subverting many of his humanoid troops with help from priests of the humanoids' racial deities; the giants' invasion of the Sheldomar fails; Prince Thrommel returns alive and well and saves Furyondy in its darkest hour.
Doesn't From The Ashes render the GDQ series completely redundant anyway, since Geoff and Sterich end up being conquered anyway?
That's an interesting interpretation—that FtA effectively assumes that the heroes failed the G-series modules.
Greg A. Vaughn's Istivin Trilogy, in Dungeon 117–119, expressly assumes that the heroes succeeded in Q1, as Istivin's "touch of the Abyss," as characterized in the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, at 108, follows in the wake of the disappearance of the "ebony sphere" or "black bubble" described originally in Q1.
I think the best way to look at the state of the canon timeline is:
1. Eclavdra's plan to use giants to conquer a portion of the surface world succeeded, for a time, but neither Eclavdra nor Lolth benefited from it.
2. Eclavdra's plan to become queen of Erelhei-Cinlu failed. She and House Eilserv were exiled from the Vault, for a time.
3. Lolth's plan to absorb Oerth into her interplanar empire failed.
4. The worst-case scenario for Lolth--that she was killed by adventurers from Oerth--didn't come to pass. She survived and even got a power boost.
In summary: the heroes did not succeed in foiling the giants but they did succeed in foiling Eclavdra and Lolth.
Another way of looking at it is that their success in G1-3 delayed the giant invasions without preventing them, but their success in D3 and Q1 was more lasting.
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