Greyhawk 636 CY: The Rise of Asmodeus
Located to the west of the Domain of Greyhawk, the Gnarley forest merges with the Welkwood to the south. It is south of Furyondy and northeast of Celene.
The Gnarley has a patchwork quilt of folk living within it, all with their own needs and interests. They generally co-exist well enough, save for the humanoids, and cooperate in some cases.
There are fewer than 1,000 Gnomes in the forest; three-quarters of them are in the hilly regions. The fertile hills allow them to raise crops and grow fruiting vines and bushes, so fewer engage in mining than in the Kron or Cairn Hills. In the hills, many gnomes live in harmonious mixed communities with human farmers and dwell not underground, but in cottages often made for them by humans.
Because their communities are more often mixed than is common for gnomes, the little folk tend to identify with human interests. They have a valorous history in combating such terrors as the Temple of Elemental Evil to the West and driving humanoids out of the forest, and have an awareness of the events of the Greyhawk wars, which more insular groups often do not.
These communities are usually independent, but those to the east are friendly toward the Greyhawk militia who visit. Their clan elder spokesmen include some who argue that Celene, their nominal ruler, is far distant, isolationist and does not offer the help and interest that the humans (rangers and militia) show. Farther south, the wood gnomes are more sympathetic to Celene and tend to live in harmony with elves, so they are cooler towards Greyhawk.
In the Gnarley as a whole, there are some 7,500 sylvan elves. They live in small, secluded communities, usually in tree houses 30-50 feet above the forest floor. They are divided predominantly into four clans, and clan allegiances are a source of pride and a badge of honor.
Clan Sherendyl: This clan has a reputation for producing the finest Elven warriors. Sherendyl elves are blunt, pragmatic, and to-the-point in dealing with outsiders. They respect the rangers of the Gnarley, and Ranger Knights meet with the clan elders once a year or so to exchange information and greetings.
Clan Meldarin: Meldarin elves are renowned for their bowmanship, and in many ways are the most completely adapted to their life and home. A Meldarin elf is said to be able to predict the weather a week ahead simply by inspecting moss on an ipp tree. This clan has the highest proportion of half-elves, and is the friendliest toward humans and gnomes. Many of this clan reveres Ehlonna in addition to the Elven Powers.
Clan Fealefel: This clan is ruled by a Council of Wizards five strong, and has always produced more wizards than the other clans. Fealefel elves are quiet folk, studious and graver than most of their kind, but make utterly implacable enemies. They have some social customs that are unusual among elves, such as arranged marriages and ritualized rites-of-passage ceremonies.
Clan Enlanefel: This small clan comprises no more than 7% of the total Elven numbers, yet is always deferred to. Enlanefel elves are seers, mystics and loremasters. They do not seek temporal power or authority, but are the major guardians of Elven secrets.
Clans do not usually live separately, preferring mixed communities. All the Gnarley elves have a preference for Celene over Greyhawk, and those who live beyond Celene’s borders pass on information about events in the forest (and beyond) to Celene’s rulers. Thus, humans in general (and the militia in particular) are somewhat distrustful of elves, or at least keep their lips pursed in the presence of a wood elf. Elves to not often share their communities with humans, and guard the borders of their territories.
There are no more than a hundred dwarves within the area shown on the campaign map, and they live exclusively in the hills, most around Namburil, and work in the mines there. The dwarves are friendly folk, sharing their space with more numerous gnomes and humans.
Some 4,000 woodsmen live within the Gnarley, predominantly on the fringes (within 15 miles of the edge of the forest). They are generally sympathetic to Greyhawk and welcome both rangers and militia as protectors (many rangers are woodsmen by birth, in any event). Most dwell in small villages or outlying hamlets (20-50 folk) and they live by woodcutting, yarpick nut harvesting, and basic subsistence farming (chickens, goats, a few cattle and the like). This is supplemented by some trapping, hunting (most woodsmen have trained dogs), and netting of birds for food.
Woodsmen take care not to clear large areas of the forest, since they are well aware that Elven eyes watch them. Only in larger villages will woodsmen have artisans among their number- carpenters, blacksmiths, tanners and leatherworkers, and the like. Such larger villages may sometimes be semi-fortified or have good defenses, especially to the south.
The woodsmen are very respectful of the rights of other races. A small handful are lucky enough to have a brownie living at the borders of their homesteads, or a killmoulis in their barn, and they prize the little folk. Likewise, they know the bravery of gnomes in combating their mutual enemy—humanoids. They are wary of elves, but they usually offer such hospitality as elves may accept.
The society of the woodspeople is usually democratic, although nobles or other landowners own some of their larger settlements. While Greyhawk’s rule is accepted by some, local communities elect their own sheriffs or mayors (in larger villages) to enforce the peace.
Woodsmen generally don’t pay taxes to anyone, because they usually have no money; most transactions happen by barter. Rather, whatever trade surplus a few of them can offer head off to swell either Dyvers or Greyhawk’s volume of trade, and militia are offered such food and accommodation as they may need.
This simple picture is muddied to the south where the Gnarley borders on the Wild Coast. Traditionally, the lands here have been regarded as part of the Wild Coast, and no few bandits still hide out in the forest. If anything, these bandits are even more inclined toward evil than before, since they include those who have fled Greyhawk’s amnesty and rulership in Narwell and beyond. Here, the woodsmen are tough, suspicious, surly men who survive on what they grow and trap, and avoid travel. Visitors are not well received here, save for bandit-hunting militia.
Rangers of the Forest
The rangers of the Gnarley are some 200 strong, most of them born woodsmen, with a few half-elves among them. The group has become more cohesive during the Greyhawk Wars, and no few of them fought in Furyondy as volunteers. Tales of that war leave them in little doubt of the threat evil presents.
The group is democratic and has no leaders who issue orders or directives, but there are seven Ranger Knights who meet at Corustaith every two or three months to share information at the Gilded Acorn there. Each Knight has his own following of younger rangers who swear a personal allegiance to him. In return, each Knight undertakes to train the younger rangers as needed, and holds an annual feast for all his juniors each Brewfest. The oath is not very restrictive, involving promises to protect the integrity of the forest, to help good folk in need, and to revere a Power of Good (usually Ehlonna).
Ranger Knights to not have formal delineations of territory or spheres of control, although each has a particular area (which may overlap with others) where he has good friends and expends most of his protective efforts.
The rangers strive to bring good folk together. They have very warm relations with gnomes, most woodsmen, and with the swanmays and werebears of the Gnarley. They are very cautious in dealings with elves; they are respectful to them, but do not trust them. Cool politeness is the order of the day.
The Gnarley Rangers are concerned with the forest’s welfare, not with politics, and they do not care about the squabbles of Dyvers and Greyhawk over territory. They would like to see Celene’s influence diminish, but they don’t regard the Free City as exactly a bastion of righteousness and morality. However, they are glad to see the militia helping to protect woodsmen, and individual friendships between rangers and militia leaders have begin to blossom.
Swanmays of the Gnarley
A sorority of 44 swanmays dwells within the Gnarley. All swanmays accept the guidance of Matriarch Serendya (12 level priestess of Ehlonna, 14th level Ranger). Serendya enchants the tokens that the swanmays use for their transformations. Where she lives is unknown, although Ranger Knights and other swanmays will know how she may be contacted.
The swanmay community is devoted to spying the margins of the forest for evil, whether it is around the Welkwood, the Wild Coast, or farther afield into the Pomarj or the lands of Verbobonc. When the sorority learns of a menace to the forest, Serendya sends word to those she deems fit to take appropriate action. Often this is a Ranger Knight, so swanmays are often seen at Corustaith. Sometimes she may inform Canon Hazen of Veluna, Kieren Jalucian or even Mordenkainen himself.
Swanmays also have many friends among the faerie folk, and find a greater welcome in the Welkwood than any purely human ranger would. In the Gnarley, swanmays are known to converse with talking owls who act as spies for them, and some speak of a moon dog female who prowls the forest with swanmays when the moon Celene is full.
There are fewer faerie in the Gnarley than in the Welkwood, but brownies here are helpful to the rangers and to woodsmen, though they avoid strangers, militia and adventurers. Treants are found in the densest forest regions and, rarely, a unicorn is sighted nearby. Sprites, pixies and a few leprechauns are found throughout the Gnarley, as are a few buckawn and a handful of evil quicklings. Dryads are common, notably at Fern Groves.
Faerie folk have their own concerns and usual pattern of relationships. They are friendly toward wood elves, but cautious of humanity. They are most common within the heavy forest regions of the Gnarley.
The druids of the Gnarley forest are no more than 30 in number, nearly all dwelling alone. They revere Ehlonna, and for this reason have some friends among the wood elves. Druids do not care for woodsmen, but they know that they respect the forest. They welcome rangers and swanmays in particular. Militia, and adventurers, are avoided unless a druid has need of help.
The Arch-druid of the eastern Gnarley, Holdefer Paravis, has a home some 15 miles east of Beltander, where brownies, hawks, and bears home guard her tree house. Rarely, a Ranger Knight, or more often a swanmay, will come to the Arch-druid with information or for help. The druids are often referred to as “the bards of the Gnarley,” for they treasure oral folklore and tales, and many have proficiencies in Singing or a (usually stringed) musical instrument.
In addition to Hildefer’s home, other places where Druids may often be found are the dryadic Fern Groves and Bad Deep.
The lycanthropes of the eastern Gnarley are not of evil kind; a few weretigresses show more courtesy than aggression, and the werebears are benign folk. Their settlement at Beltander appears simply to be a small woodland village of 120 or so souls, until one realizes how hairy everyone looks. More solitary werebears double this total number, living as woodsmen. The werebears are kindly, happy folk, more sociable than many, and they are great friends with the Gnarley rangers (some werebears are rangers themselves).
The werebears have no natural enemies, and they live well from the fruits of the forest; nuts some honey from hives they maintain with great care, fungi which they marinate in nut oil and bake in pastry, eggs from chickens and a turkey-like flightless bird imported from the Gamboge forest, and a little trapping.
The werebears are an insular fold. They love to hear tales of the travels of rangers and even adventurers, but they’re home lovers. Only rarely will a werebear travel to give aid to beleaguered friends, feeling it would be much better for them if they came to his protection instead. But, when finally roused to action, werebears are implacable folk. The gnomes of Namburil celebrate the 18th day of Harvester each year in remembrance of the hundred werebears who came to aid them against a major orcish assault some sixty years back (many gnomish survivors of the battle are still alive). The gnomes travel to Beltander bringing grain, fruit, honey, and wonderful cinnamon-spiced and honeyed apple and raisin cakes that are adored by werebear children. The werebears arrived late to the battle—almost too late—but when they did turn up, their ferocity was decisive and saved scores of gnomish lives. The gnomes do not forget.
Orcs, gnolls and ogres all exist in fairly significant numbers, and are a genuine menace in much of the forest. They frequently lair underground in the many dungeons and ruins, or else in very sheltered and obscured valleys or gorges. Smaller numbers of goblins or kobolds can be found in the hillier forest regions, although gnomes have mostly driven them out of their cave homes there.
All humanoids here are generally opportunistic raiders, attacking gnomes, woodsmen, other humanoids or whomever else they can kill and eat. They operate in small bands; larger warbands are very rare.
Other races do not seek to march forth and destroy the humanoids, for several reasons. First, many demi-human and human communities feel themselves fairly secure (especially true of the gnomes of the hills, having driven out many humanoids in the past decades). Second, they don’t have the manpower to do it. Third, the humanoids do not inflict major loss of life on the other races (if a warband were to set out, this would change things!). Fourth, especially to the south, there is the menace of the bandits and scum fleeing the Wild Coast to contend with, a more pressing problem. So, woodsmen, gnomes, and others tend to be satisfied with securing the boundaries of their own territories.
The exception to all this is the elves, who hate orcs and hunt them down. The elves feel that other races don’t help enough with this, and after all, orcs menace everyone, another reason for Elven coolness to other races.
Some humanoid lairs may contain sizeable treasures, stumbled upon as the rabble settles in old dungeons and explores them. Other communities may have the use of magical items acquired in the same way. The single most important humanoid community is that of Blackthorn.