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    Keoish Intelligence Report from the Azure Sea - Part I
    Posted on Fri, June 26, 2020 by LordCeb
    Osmund-Davizid writes "First portion of a three part series detailing Keoish efforts to gain intelligence on the vast unexplored frontier right on its doorstep - the Azure Sea.   This is a location of great peril, mystery, treasure and high adventure and it represents a setting that can challenge the strongest and bravest of Oerth.

    Keoish Intelligence Report from the Azure Sea - Part I

    Fellow Agents of the Lion Throne, I, Admiral William Stoutheart, have compiled a report that has taken me over two years and countless battles to complete.  I do not part with the intelligence contained herein lightly.  The area of the world we call the Azure Sea represents a great frontier right upon our borders, and yet we know precious little about it - even less about what lies beneath its surface.  The Azure Sea is a dynamic area, with natural and artificial wonders, fantastic treasures, and incredible danger.  What I intend to do is pass on what information we have gained and use this time to petition our masters to direct more attention and assets to securing Keoland's influence across (and underneath) this mighty body of water.

    Major Powers:  The current state of affairs in the Azure Sea is of great uncertainty and flux.  Following the devastation of the so called Greyhawk Wars, the geopolitical realities of the Azure Sea had profoundly shifted (Note 1).  The Nyrondese navy is bottled up protecting its shores from marauding Ahlissians.  Pirates from the Pomarj aid the Scarlet Brotherhood in blocking off the Sea of Gearnat from the rest of the Azure.  The Hold of the Sea Princes was effectively destroyed through a program of mass assassinations.  The Iron League was likewise blunted, with only the great city of Irongate and our beloved Keoland standing against the Scarlet Brotherhood. 

    Prior to the wars, the great sea powers of the Azure were the aforementioned Sea Princes and the Iron League (Note 2), along with Keoland-Ulek, Nyrond, the Great Kingdom, and the Scarlet Brotherhood (who refer to themselves as the nation of Shar).  The Brotherhood made spectacular gains during the Greyhawk Wars, even taking some of our southern lands and threatening Gradsul.  Our naval forces were up to the task of repulsing this assault, but the Brotherhood established domination across the sea by blockading the major ports and straits of the Azure.  

    The Scarlet Brotherhood,  through their embassy at the City of Greyhawk, is attempting to enforce their blockade of key ports by using legalistic loopholes and fine print in the Pact of Greyhawk.  Through their navy, the Brotherhood enforces its will through brute force.  But Keoland is leading the free nations bordering the Azure in challenging the blockades and opening up the trade routes to Irongate and other ports once again.  Merchant ships from the Domain of Greyhawk and even the rare Sea Prince survivor have also managed to slip through Brotherhood patrols (Note 3).

    After the Pact of Greyhawk, Keoland kept up a small but strong naval fleet and has been using it to escort merchantmen out over the Azure once again.  All manner of independent privateers, corsairs, merchants, adventurers, and contractors have tried their hands in plying the Azure and facing down the blockade.  Enough apparently succeed to give hope to the desperate.  This is a wild, free-wheeling situation that the powers-that-be and individual adventurers alike exploit.

    Minor Powers/Independent cities: Across the Azure, there are scattered communities, city-states, and merchant strongholds that can support a small naval force (Note 4).  Some small pirate nations exert independence and can dominate a small area around their strongholds.  The grand merchant fleets have largely been stuck in port since the end of the wars, but a few individual ships still run the blockade and ply the seas. 

    Various freebooter groups have varied responses to the Scarlet Brotherhood blockade, ranging from defiance, servitude, to anything in between.  Some of the more infamous groups include:  the Slavelords, a fleet of yellow sailed ships that conduct raids for human captives from the Nyr Dyv to the shores of the Azure; the Crimson Fleet, a relatively new force which operates mostly in the far south - not aligned with the Brotherhood in spite of its name; the Sharks of Hell, a devilish possessed sea captain leads a fleet of equally cursed crew (Note 5).

    Finally, nonhumans such as the Pomarji goblinoids, or the occasional elf ship from the Lendores will go about their business in the Azure as well.  The Purple Squid hobgoblins in particular have established a strong reputation as whalers and mercenaries throughout the Azure.  Of course, this analysis of the powers of the Azure is incomplete.  I leave the discussion of the principle powers of the nonhuman, subsurface Azure to another report.

    Trade and Economics:  Trade across the Azure before the Greyhawk Wars was vibrant between the aforementioned nation-states. Generally, the direction of trade from Keoland was to either send trade goods to the civilized ports of the east, or else brave the wild southern lands to recover exotic spices, lumber, metals, and the like.  For Keoland, the most profitable trading items were the renowned luxury goods our kingdom produces.  Keoish brandy, silk, tamal leaves, and semi-precious stones were the items that found many eager markets in the lands of the east, especially in the more cosmopolitan of trading cites like Hardby, Rel Astra, Irongate, and Nessermouth (Note 6).  More mundane cargo such as wine, foodstuffs and worked jewelry-trinkets were also commonly shipped to foreign ports.  The demand for these goods still exist, with the staples now having more profitable potential than the luxuries generally.  Provided the merchants in question can get by the blockades, trade can be a very profitable endeavor.  The most difficult challenge today is obtaining the goods from the Amedio and Hepmonaland, as the Brotherhood has a much tighter grip over those areas now.  

    Nyrond's merchant fleet is virtually non-existent, aside from some independents working out of Nessermouth.  Ahlissa has made the Relmor Bay its lake, and is cautiously sending some ships out into the wider Azure (officially to trade, but these ships are more likely to be engaged in piracy, smuggling, and slaving).  Irongate sheltered some merchants who escaped capture by the Brotherhood during the Wars, and they provide a vital lifeline to keeping their people fed through hazardous trips to our ports.  The Principality of Ulek works largely with us in their trade, improving our relations. 

    Greyhawk sponsors a merchant fleet that embarks out of Hardby, and has been making good headway into establishing sea trade.  Currently, the Scarlet Brotherhood has been making a big show of wanting to open trade with Greyhawk, suggesting that they are loosening up their blockade.  But it is more likely that they are attempting to leverage a little in the short term to secure a more favorable position later.  Time will tell whether these machinations will bear fruit.

    The Blockade:  Before the outbreak of the Greyhawk Wars, the largest and most powerful fleet was that of the Sea Princes.  It is not an accident that the Brotherhood targeted their leadership and forced capitulation early in the war.  I theorize that the primary target in this action was not the land of the Sea Princes, but the fleet.  Analyzing the tactics of the Brotherhood, it seems out of place to have them suddenly reveal themselves to the world in the open as they did in the Wars.  I believe that it was more a matter of they had no other options.  With the possibility of a "Golden League" finally becoming reality, the Brotherhood needed to nullify those nations and then make a bid to control the seaways (Note 7).  At that moment, the Brotherhood had manpower to spare, but the time and resources it would have taken to build enough ships to man would have taken decades.  With the capitulation of the Sea Princes, now the men in red had the vessels to crew.  Many ships were indeed surrendered, barring a few independent captains that fled to the Pirate Isles or to other ports.  Suddenly, what was once an obscure and isolated nation had the largest sailing fleet on the Azure.        

    The Scarlet Brotherhood thus now maintains a stranglehold on all human trade that goes on the waters of the Azure.  However, this blockade is not as effective as one would assume.  It is my intelligence that this state of affairs is largely a bluff on the Brotherhood's part (Note 8).  No single nation can effectively lay claim the an area as large and diverse as the Azure Sea.  What is true is that the Brotherhood, after the seizure of the Sea Princes, now had the largest navy in terms of vessels.  With the increase in ships, however, the corresponding crews were not as experienced as the fleets of other nations.  In truth, the Brotherhood relies on pressed crews and the dregs of their captured territories far too much to have each vessel be competently manned.

    Therefore, the Brotherhood really only keeps a sharp patrol on a few key areas, and lets their reputation keep most of the more risk averse merchants in port.  Their series of forts along the Amedio coasts and patrols centered around the Olman Isles are examples of this tactic.  The Pact of Greyhawk allows for entry into free ports, but the Brotherhood lurks just over the horizon in order to conduct "customs inspections" that usually result in the disappearance of the merchant's cargo (and often the entire crew and ship as well!). 

    The High Admiral of the Scarlet Brotherhood fleet is unusual in that it is not one of the powerful monks, it is a warrior lord.  Brother-Admiral Najari is a crafty, skillful shipmaster who prides himself on being able to sail the breadth of the Azure to trouble spots at a moment's notice.  He has a network of informants that runs through every major port city and brings him critical intelligence at a frightening pace.  Najari has three subordinate wizards that each runs a small band of ships and assists in capturing blockade runners.  Each wizard is a high level threat unto themselves and between these four major ship fleets, the Brotherhood maintains their control over most of the shipping in the Azure (Note 9).

    Blockade Runners:  As described in the paragraphs above, it is evident that the major human powers of the Azure are now down to Keoland and Shar, with Greyhawk, Irongate, and Ahlissa each having differing levels of success in influencing the main conflict.  This conflict is mostly in the legal arena, being argued at length at the diplomatic suites in the City of Greyhawk.  However, the cold fact that the Brotherhood still maintains its blockade in the Azure is nothing less than an insult to the goodly aligned kingdoms of the Flanaess. 

    Legally, Shar maintains that it is simply trying to enforce maritime law on the Azure and operate as a customs police.  They cite the many known pirate groups as evidence of the need for such measures therefore the Brotherhood actively hunts down any pirates they encounter.  Pirates are considered to be hostis humani generis and thus any considerations from the Pact of Greyhawk would not apply to them (Note 10).  The Brotherhood also bullies their way onto merchant ships to make sure that there are no smuggled goods or pirates among the crews.  This effectively blocks the entire sea and according to the letter of the Pact, all legal.

    The nations of Relmor Bay and the Sea of Gearnat are largely bottled up from going out into the Azure.  The Ahlissian navy is commanded by Fleet Admiral Llarnen and may have some sort of agreement with Brother-Admiral Najari, as the old Great Kingdom ships seem to be able to make it to port relatively unhindered.  Likewise, the Pirate Lord Targas of Blue seems able to ply the seas at will (Brotherhood customs enforcement seems to be blind to his piratical activities).

    In response to the blockade, there are numerous brave or foolhardy ship captains that make their living as blockade runners now.  Gone are the days where a large fleet of merchant vessels plies the Azure, those fleets are too slow and easy to catch by the Brotherhood.  Now, free trade is done mostly through fast individual ships.  Often the goods are high-risk exotic goods that fetch the best prices.  But in places like war starved Nyrond, a ship full of dried fruit receives great appreciation.  Ships from Greyhawk in particular have successfully run past the blockade and made it into friendly ports. 

    Some of the more prominent blockade runners include:

    The Nyrondese Captain Conall of the ship Polestar.  This man exemplifies the political divisions in Nyrond.  He is loyal to his king and country, but owes a great debt to the harbor master of Nessermouth.  After the Greyhawk Wars, Nessermouth has (all but openly) seceded from the rest of Nyrond.  Due to his debt of honor, Conall still brings his goods to Nessermouth and silently curses the fact that much needed materials are kept from the people who really need them.  In his desperation to assist his king and his people, he may attempt to smuggle certain items to the Nyrondese fleet on the open sea.

    Captain Drace of Irongate has several ships that each seem to be enchanted to the hilt with illusion causing magic, weather controlling spells, and fog shrouding effects.  He has established a vital lifeline into Irongate, keeping critical supplies going in and confounding the Brotherhood attempts to seize him.  He has famously landed in Gyrax with a load of valuable ores right under the nose of an off shore Brotherhood fleet and is currently working on a return voyage through the teeth of the enemy.

    Merchant Lord Sythos Quimn has managed to keep his fleet together amidst all the blockade actions.  His flagship The Golden Shrike has made numerous trips from Hepmonaland loaded with exotic herbs, jewelry, spices, and artwork that commands the highest prices (Note 11). 

    Our own Keoland has the dubious fortune of being the home of the outrageous Captain Xander Yandovol (probably not his real name).  Dressed in naval uniforms gaudy even by Aerdy standards, he claims to be a Keoish naval attach.  At best he can be described as an independent contractor as he gallivants about from port to port only one step ahead of the Brotherhood, local law enforcement, and lovelorn  barmaids.   This man laughs in equal measure at danger, furious husbands, and tailor's bills!  But he has one great talent, he can command the loyalty of the toughest crews and get them to face the longest odds in search of the next adventure.  And usually, those adventures loosely align with Keoish naval policy (all unofficially of course).

    In the next part of this missive, I will describe some of those mysterious locations and phenomenon of the Azure, and in the third part the major undersea beings.  This report continues as more information becomes avail to me.  For the time being, your humble servant,

    Admiral Stoutheart, Keoish Navy     


    1.  The time frame of this report is shortly following the Greyhawk Wars, CY 585.  The details can be modified to fit any campaign style and era.

    2.  The Iron League was composed of Irongate, Idee, Sundee, Onwall, and the Lordship of the Isles by the year 576.  The beginnings of the League go all the way back to the Turmoil Between Crowns in CY 447.  At its height, South Province allied with the Iron League, as did Almor and Nyrond and potentially Dullstrand (see page 10 of A Guide to the World of Greyhawk).  There was an attempt to create a larger alliance, a "Golden League" to counter the growing evil in Rauxes.  The Overking eventually reigned in his wayward provinces and Nyrond and Almor maintained a treaty with the Iron League but did not become formal members.  Therefore, the Golden League died on the vine but the idea was attempted again in the modern era.   

    3.  The Pact of Greyhawk has endless fine print going over how the Scarlet Brotherhood could maintain a naval blockade across the Azure.  Technically, a blockade is an act of war, but the Brotherhood successfully pushed to have their actions be classified as mere "customs enforcement" and to provide "universal protection of trade ships from sea monsters and pirates".  While the Brotherhood has to be circumspect about their intentions while negotiating in Greyhawk, their fleet exercises no such subtlety on the high seas.

    4.  The independent city of Sasserine is one such example.  Long isolated from the greater powers of the Azure, Sasserine is an oasis from the repressive Scarlet Brotherhood that covers the majority of the Amedio lands.  Having only been recently freed from being under the thumb of the Sea Princes, Sasserine is seeking to assert itself as a trade partner to the wider Flanaess and to strike at the Brotherhood's fleet.  Sasserine's existence is still not widely known to most of the powers of the Azure, due to the past aggressive efforts of the Sea Princes to dominate the resources therein. 

    5.  See "Hell on Oerth" on Canonfire for details on the Sharks of Hell; the Slavelords in the adventure Slavers and the A Series of modules; the Crimson Fleet is detailed in the "Savage Tide" adventure path in Dungeon Magazine

    6.  See several articles on Canonfire for details regarding trade and various trade goods on the Azure.  "Fashion in the Flanaess - Textiles" by gvdammerung for information on Keoish silk.  "Keoish Brandy" by OldManReaver for the brandy.  "A Wine Dark Sea" by gvdammerung discusses the trade on the Azure generally.  See also Dragon Magazine Issue 271 and the 1998 Annual for tamal leaves and other examples of trade goods.  A thread in the Canonfire forums section also discusses the trade goods of the nations:

    7.  Nyrond was being courted by the Iron League to reform the "Golden League" that would serve as a good aligned counter weight to the Great Kingdom of Aerdy.  The elf ambassador Fioranna Aielestriel was key to the discussions that went into formally allying Nyrond and Almor with the Iron League. (See her entry in the City of Greyhawk Folks, Feuds, and Factions book.  That source has her as the Nyrondese ambassador to Greyhawk, but her focus is promoting the Golden League.)   With the assassination of the leadership of the Lordship of the Isles and invasions of Idee and Onwall, the Scarlet Brotherhood broke up the League thereby destroying their closest and potentially most powerful enemy. 

    8.  See the Canonfire article "Keoish Intelligence Report on the City of Greyhawk" for details on the legal aspects of the Brotherhood enforcing its claims.  This report may be exaggerating the effectiveness of the Keoish blockade runners, but a sizeable number of ships have made it to friendly ports soon after the ending of the Greyhawk Wars by a variety of means.  An example of this is in Dungeon Magazine Issue 141, detailing how to sneak past the blockade near the Olman Islands.

    9.  The Brother-Admiral's subordinates consists of a pyromanical invoker who lives for burning ships down, a master summoner who has several massive sea serpents under his control, and the distinctive villain known as Acidburn. 

    Acidburn is a wizard that specializes in water elemental magic and takes particular delight in transmuting liquids to acids and dissolving things with them.  Acidburn wears distinctive yellow and green clothing and was responsible for gaining an alliance with the black dragons of the Pelisso Swamp for the Brotherhood.  In exchange for helping block off the Tilva Strait, the great black dragon Quagmire and her brood gain valuable tribute from the Brotherhood.  Acidburn is the one in charge of maintaining that tribute and serves as a diplomat to Quagmire.  Weakening this alliance would do much to weaken the overall effectiveness of the blockade - stopping the flow of tribute Acidburn brings to the dragons may be the best way to accomplish this.

    10.  Pirates are the "enemy of mankind" and thus outside the normal laws of admiralty and criminal justice.  Therefore any nation can hunt down, try, and execute those who practice piracy.  The Scarlet Brotherhood has a notoriously loose definition of a pirate, of course.

    11.  This merchant is not what he seems, he is a pureblood yuan ti that serves as the intermediary between the ancient yuan ti cities in Hepmonaland and the colonies in Scuttlecove and H'thiss Kaa.  He smuggles all sorts of illicit materials and magic items to these enclaves of snake men.  He is also an information broker between each of these groups, in addition to his legitimate trade to other ports on the Azure.  He is clever enough not to have any obvious affinity for snake like things on his person or ships.   

    SOURCES:  "Freelancers of the Waves" and "Naval Cultures of the Flanaess" series of articles on Canonfire by Crag, "Fashion in the Flanaess" series of articles on Canonfire by gvdammerung, "Pirate-Types in the Flanaess" and "A Wine Dark Sea" by gvdammerung

    "Keoish Intelligence Reports" on Canonfire

    The "Savage Tide" Adventure Path in Dungeon and Dragon Magazines, especially Dungeon Magazine Issue 146 has Scuttlecove information; 139 for Sasserine; Dragon Magazine Issue 349 has more information on Sasserine and the Crimson Fleet

    Forum topic on Canonfire "Naval Strengths of the Realms of Greyhawk", located here

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    Re: Keoish Intelligence Report from the Azure Sea - Part I (Score: 1)
    by mtg ( on Sun, July 05, 2020
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    I look forward to your forthcoming parts of this longstanding series!

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