It is no longer safe to be out at night. It is not safe to travel from town to town, except in groups. The dark somehow seems darker, more sinister. Only the very powerful travel alone, or after dark. Or the very foolish.
What was once thriving farming hamlets are now walled villages. Towns are now heavily fortified. Only the foolish are outside the safety of town walls at night; even the farmers travel to the fields to mind their crops during the day, only to return to the protection of civilization at dusk.
Goblin, kobolds and their ilk fill the vast spaces between towns now, bullied by hobgoblins, and gnolls, and orcs. It is said that their evil grows stronger each day. There are likely fouler, more evil masters above them, such as trolls, and giants, and drow. And even more hideous evil creatures above them. And it is rumored that great fiends and other abyssal creatures now sit at the top rung of the ladder with the strong ruling the weak.
No, it is not a safe world anymore, not since The Breaking.
The Empire of Keoland
The once powerful Keoland has fallen into a series of city states. Niole Dra, at one time one of the most powerful places in all of the lands, is now controlled by the Wyrd-King and his magical minions, who rule through their knowledge and power. Their dominion extends only from the Capital to the tall tower south, from where the Wyrd-King came, and extends a day’s ride or so outside the area. The capital has yet to be completely rebuilt after the Invasion of a decade ago.
Gradsul is still ruled by the Duke Luschan and the Duchess Maressa. Their benevolent rule is enforced by their navy, which was virtually untouched by the Breaking. The city remains intact and boasts new construction beyond the walls of the Old City, where many refugees of the Invasion and the Breaking, came for protection. It is now a thriving city, as much as a city can be thriving in these times. Many fine sages and artisans ply their craft here in Gradsul where they now make their home. The Duke’s protection extends not far from the city, though it does extend further along the coasts than inland. Of course, the Duke’s navy broadens his influence to the seas.
The western area of the Kingdom is now entirely composed of the Cryllor and the Good Hills. The Lady Lora Manz rules the Cryllor and the area round the city. Cryllor is strongly allied with the Hills to the east where many of the raw ores and resources needed for their forges are found. Many races live in the Good Hills, mining the ores in small defensible settlements, including dwarves, gnomes and halflings as well as kobolds and other humanoids.
Further north, Flen, once a proud city, now lies in ruins, buried at the bottom of a new lake created by both the Invasion and the Breaking. Several other small points of civilization survive in the Kingdom: Shelspring Barony, now ruled by the young noble with eyes not his own; the far northeastern part of the Kingdom, isolated and left alone during the Troubled Times; and yet another far outpost, Haven near the swamp to the southwest. The Dreadwood has been rid of its malevolent influence but has grown greatly over the time since filling in the farmlands of the Heartlands with darkness of a forest unknown. Many foul creatures have taken up residence in this wood under the dark canopy where sunlight rarely shines.
The Troubled Times
The Invasion came first, a decade ago. The Army of the Returned marched across the Keoland from the western reaches to the Capital, destroying everything in their path. The Army was composed of marru, humanoids, giants and undead, led by a powerful creature whose face was constantly hidden behind a shield of flickering colors, their true identity unknown to this day. The Heartlands were devastated during the Invasion. All crops were destroyed and anyone found was killed and turned into undead soldiers in the Army of the Returned. The Invasion was defeated at the Capital, though with great cost. The King and the King-Slayer were killed as were many other good citizens of the Kingdom. That winter, many of those lucky enough to survive the Invasion died during the Famine that ran rampart throughout the Kingdom. Many perished all over the Valley as the breadbasket of the Valley was barren. Good people turned on one another, as the survivors fought over the scarce food. This was called the Year of the Invasion (598 CY).
Next came the Year of the Plague. The Plague ran rampart through those that survived the Famine. Where it came from or what its cause was never discovered. It spread like wildfire in the spring of CY 599. The shakes came first soon followed by the bloody cough, then hallucinations, followed shortly by death. The Plague hit the entire Valley hard and even spread somewhat beyond the Valley. Prior to the Troubles the population numbered 2 million citizens. Now less than 250,000 remain.
As the Invasion, the Famine and the Plague were happening in the Kingdom, other woes occurred across the rest of the lands which came to be known as the Breaking. The Old One of the North, plotting as always, had finally outsmarted the Circle of Eight. The Old One created a ruse in which his main goal was divine ascension at whatever cost. He pulled the wool over many wise men’s eyes and, to craft his plan, created much havoc. The good folks of Veluna were taken aback when their most holy relic, the Crook of Rao, was used in the Old One’s deception and grab for power. Many fiends were released from the demi-plane where they had been trapped and many other fell beasts were delivered onto the lands as the Old One’s scheme reached its final act. These creatures were unleashed and took up residence where they could find those to rule and subjugate and where they were far from those of good dominion who could threaten them. This has come to be known as the Breaking.
As the Breaking was occurring, many other events were happening across the lands. In the remnants of the Great Kingdom, it seemed that the ruling line had finally fallen. The shield around the capital of the once great kingdom had also fallen and with it, many of the undead and other foul creatures that had populated those lands. With those lands now mostly not inhabited, the former vassal states of the once Great Kingdom vie for control of the lands and wealth remaining, as well as the power that could be available.
In the south the Scarlet Brotherhood survived somewhat intact, though the Trouble Times certainly caused much havoc in their master plan. They still exert much influence over the seas of the south with the Duke’s navy being their only worthy adversary. They still continue their breeding programs though they have lost control of the loose alliance of pirate states and islands that they once commanded to the west.
In the north, as part of the Old One’s subterfuge, war had broken out. The Old One’s army marched south to once again battle the Veluna and Furyondy. The Old Ones army had many greater numbers but the good hearts, great courage, strong arms and wily minds of the good men were winning out when the Old One’s plans came to fruition. Upon the Old One’s ascension, most of the leaders of the Old One’s army lost command and most of the soldiers lost morale, as he was no more amongst his army. But a great many fine men and women were lost in the Last War of the North though the Old One left his former right hand man in charge.
In Greyhawk City, much was changing. The Great City’s mayor had entered into an alliance with Turrosh Mak, the orcish leader of the wild coast, saving the city from a near certain siege. However, as much as it saved the Great City, it doomed its mayor’s political future. Without his adept leadership skills, the Great City has since fallen into a web of political intrigue and mistrust as the various powers within struggle for influence and control. And with the Troubled Times, many refugees have fled to the Great City, filling its already cramped spaces, overflowing out beyond the walls.
Turrosh Mak, with a treaty intact to his east, then turned his full assault onto the Ulek states between him and the Keoland. The long and difficult battles cost the orcish leader many of his troops and much time but he eventually overwhelmed the states and now holds control over all of the land from the Great Bay to the Great Empire. But there are still dwarves, gnomes and others, living underground, who fight valiantly in a guerilla war against the troop occupying their lands. The once powerful neighboring kingdoms are now too busy trying to solve their own problems rather than worrying about the Ulek states.