Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Annotated Duchy of Ulek, Part 3

Date: Thu, 11 Nov 99 17:30PM PST
From: Gary Welsh Add To Address Book Add To Junk Mail Blocker
Subject: [GREYTALK] The Annotated Duchy of Ulek, Part 3

MILITARY: The military of the Duchy is small but effective, and is noted for its many high elven fighter/mages. The most common activity performed by the army is patrolling the plains of the Duchy, and at most times some 25% of the total force is out on patrol. At any given time, the size of the army ranges from 1000 to 2000 strong. Perhaps half of this total is comprised of humans, another quarter high elves, and the other races of the Duchy make up the balance. About 30% of the total force are comprised of medium cavalry, and heavy and light cavalry make up an additional 15% each. The Duchy is renowned for its cavalry, and it serves the needs of the country quite well.

Another 30% of the total force comprises mixed infantry, who serve to defend cities and fixed positions, or hold ground allowing the cavalry to engage an enemy. Elven infantry tend to prefer the long sword and bow, while human troops tend to be crossbowmen and billmen. The halflings and gnomes troops use short swords and hand axes (although halfling troops also carry slings).

The final 10% are considered specialists, and include rangers and archers from the Axewood and Silverwood, as well as priests, mages, scouts and gnomish sappers. These forces do not include city guardsmen or personal guards of either the leadership or the nobility.

In addition to this, each elven noble house (of which there are quite a few) generally has a household force which may number from 30 to 100 men at arms.
These troops are armed by the whim or need of the elven lord or lady to whom they owe allegiance. In addition to this, it is possible for Duke to issue the call for the "Grand Host of Ulek". This includes all of the forces of the elven lords and an additional 25 to 50 civilian men or women from each noble's holding capable of bearing arms holding. This force may number up to 5,000 strong.

The Duchy is loath to spend money on mercenaries to train new troops, and instead recruits veterans from the military to spend one-year rotations in training camps as instructors. This saves the Duchy money as well as promoting trust and morale among the army. And rather than maintaining expensive (and unnecessary) fortresses throughout the Duchy, patrols normally billet with local city guards or form camps near smaller towns and villages. The primary training base of the Duchy's forces is known as The Crossroads. This fortified town is centrally located at the intersection of the Sheldomar Pike and the Duke's Road, and the wide open grasslands are excellent for training young horsemen and raising steeds to serve in the cavalry. The expansive plains of the eastern Sheldomar Valley also provide excellent opportunities to work on combined tactics and maneuvers, including battlefield magic. Most patrols originate from this base, and at any given time nearly half of the strength of the army is located here. When a particular formation or unit is preparing for a tour of the Pomarj border, they will frequently train in this area prior to deploying to the Principality of Ulek.

Since the Greyhawk Wars, there has been an additional military burden taken up by the Duchy: forwarding a force to assist in patrolling and maintaining the Principality of Ulek's border with the Pomarj. This force is typically about 200 members strong, and is comprised of the same percentage makeup as the rest of the army. This force typically rotates every six months and is self-supporting while in Corond's lands, though the Principality is responsible for any additional supplies or medical aid.

The elves of the Silverwood and the demihumans and woodsmen of the Axewood maintain their own patrols within the woodlands, but may request assistance from the army on rare occasions. Since the Greyhawk Wars more effort has been put forth in recruiting mages and priests to serve in the military, but this has met with limited success. Other than the elven fighter/mages, wizards have little interest in being subject to the whims of some knight on horseback. The predominant faiths within the borders of the Duchy don't exactly lend themselves to the war effort either, but this is changing, as a slow and steady influx of immigrants from the Gran March and the Lost Lands have brought their more militaristic clergy with them. Such faiths are slowly building a presence especially in and around Waybury.

RELIGION: In keeping with the Duchy's very cosmopolitan and multi-cultural setting, many deities are worshipped here. The Duchy is unique among lands of the Flanaess with respect to the collection of Powers venerated by humans. Few and far between are the worshippers of lawful or martial deities, as the Duchy has had a relatively trouble free existence since the end of the Short War. Nature deities such as Beory, Ehlonna, Phyton, and Velnius join the brothers Celestian and Fharlanghn among the powers venerated throughout the Duchy. Most of the deities favored by bards also suffer no shortage of worshippers in this fair land, as Lydia, Lirr, Myhriss, Olidammara, and even the elven demigod Ye'Cind have followers in the cities [23].

Of the elven gods, Corellon Larethian is the most favored by the High Elves, and Sehanine and Hanali Celanil are also widely worshipped. Among the Sylvan folk, Solonor Thelandira and the human Power Ehlonna [24] have many followers, and there are a few who venerate Erevan Ilesere and Rillifane Rallathil. The gnome's most favored deities are Garl Glittergold and Baervan Wildwanderer, although Baravar Cloakshadow and Segojan Earthcaller also enjoy some adherents. The halfling communities tend to worship all members of the Children of Yondalla equally.

The priests within the Duchy are all given respect due their social status as in other lands of the Flanaess, but unlike many other regions, the priests have little political power, and probably don't desire any. Political machinations and intrigues generally don't concern the clergy of the aforementioned powers.

CULTURE: The cosmopolitan culture of the Duchy of Ulek is a result of the mixture of the best of many races. The cities and towns reflect the fine elven architecture, and the more traditional "tree-cities" of the sylvan elves in the Silverwood are among the wonders of the region. Utility and beauty are balanced in most things produced in the Duchy, and the citizens are immensely proud of this. Each town, city, and stronghold is graced with fine parkland carefully tended by its inhabitants, and each of these parks or gardens has in its center one roanwood tree [25].

One branch of people who prosper here are the half-elven. Half-elves are perhaps more common here than in any other place in the Flanaess, because the Duchy of Ulek is one of the few places where the strengths of both humans and elves are appreciated [26]. The human and half-elven bards of Ulek are among the finest in all of the lands due to their close association with elven minstrels. Courts of other lands often seek these bards, and to have a bard who is from the Duchy is thought to be a great coup for rulers across the Flanaess [27].

The Duchy is also known for its fine gnome gem-cutters, whose works are considered to be extraordinarily beautiful. Both semi-precious and precious gems from the Lortmils adorn the work of jewelry crafters, and the work (especially when set against silver worked by the elves of Celene) is very sought after, even in cities as familiar with fine work as Greyhawk.

A note should be made about currency within the Duchy. The primary currency found within the Duchy is that of the Keoish variety, which is not surprising, given the political and geographic relationship between the Duchy and the Old Country. The only coins that are minted by the Duchy are large silver coins known as silveroans. Within the borders of the Duchy they are equivalent in value to a gold piece, as they are very beautiful and have a smattering of platinum in them. The front of the coin displays the shield of the Duchy, except that an effigy of the Duke holds the cluster of arrows high above his head. Around the perimeter of the coin it reads "His Noble Radiance, Grenowen". On the back of the coin is displayed an intricate roanwood tree and the inscription in elvish "One Tree, Many Branches". These coins are prized among collectors, as they are some of the most well minted coins in the Flanaess, not minted in great batches, and are often worth more as a piece of art than as a mere silver piece elsewhere. Another interesting coin to be found in various places within the Sheldomar Valley is the Jurnrese bronze piece, equivalent to a copper piece in value, and honored within the Duchy's borders. This coin, like the Jurnrese silver and gold piece, has a square hole in the center of the coin. The unicorn sigil of an old Suel noble house (also evident on the County's coat of arms) is repeated around the periphery of the coin five times, and the obverse bears the motto
"Peace in Strength" in ancient Suel [28].



[23] I am not sure why Ye'Cind was added to the list of deities (GH98). She does fit in with the musical theme of the Duchy of Ulek. I just don't know why the name was deified by the game designers.

[24] I think it is an error to refer to Ehlonna as a "human power." According to the Guide, p. 66, she is patroness of all good sylvan folk "elven, human, or otherwise" and she typically appears as either a human or elf.

[25] The author makes the Duchy of Ulek sound like a fantasy utopia… Is it too perfect? Too cloying? You can almost imagine the elves, half-elves, gnomes and halflings singing together, joining in an impromptu musical performance as they go about their daily tasks and welcome visitors. But this is always the problem with detailing good-aligned places. How do you make it interesting, without introducing discord and conflict of some sort? A fine example is Tolkien's Rivendell, which is a "good place" that is neither boring to read about nor disgusting in its goodness. Unfortunately, Tolkien's vision is so mimicked that it has become cliché in the fantasy field (what an understatement). But it is still closest to my view of places like the Duchy of Ulek and Highfolk. The single roanwood tree in the center of every town is a nice touch.

[26] Here is the important reference to the high numbers of half-elves and people with elven blood in the Duchy of Ulek. It might make for interesting reading to do an essay about the varied life spans of those with mixed-blood..
A wonderful, fresh treatment of half-elves, and fairy creatures in general, can be found in Jack Vance's Lyonesse trilogy. Such an unconventional vision might work wonders for this setting.

[27] I like the addition of the skill of Uleki minstrels (my new idea for a magic item: the Uleki ukulele). I would like to see more on song-based magic in the WORLD OF GREYHAWK. Who are the most powerful magic-wielding bards? The "Rhymers of the Blackfens" (from Dance of Demons, p. 26)? The idea of powerful music-related magic hearkens back to the Finnish and other Scandinavian mythological elements of fantasy. Notice the similarity in the names Mordenkainen and Vainamoinen, of Finnish myth.

[28] It is nice to see this Suel motto, considering the predominant human racial strain is Suel. According to the Guide, p. 14, the human strain is more Suel than anything else, then Flan, then Oeridian. And the humans are sublimated to the large demihuman population as well (human racial strain is given in parentheses).

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