Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Bandit Kingdoms Primer

From: Gary R Welsh <grwst6+@PITT.EDU>

To: ""

Date: Wed, Aug 19, 199812:50 AM



(Circa CY 576)

[Derived from E. Gary Gygax's work in the original WoG sets and the WoG novel SoOC, as well as DRAGON articles in issues #56 and #63]

Rulers: No single ruler exists

Capital (largest city in strongest state): Currently Rookroost (pop. 17,310)

Population: 95,000+ !

Demi-humans: Few, if any

Humanoids: Many

Important Persons: Nebon Gellor, Boss Dhaelhy, Plar Teuod Fent

Resources: Silver (mines in Rift area)

National Alignment: Chaotic neutral evil

Coinage: Most of the coinage here is from elsewhere (stolen), but it may be that Rookroost and Stoink have minted some city coins.


This region is vast and quite varied in its features. Its northwest and central parts are thickly wooded. Even where the timberlands have been cleared, there are still often patches of thick growth, isolated copses of trees, and overgrown fields of bushes and heather. Tilled fields and pastures exist across the countryside sporadically. Near the forest in the central region -- the Tangles -- the land is rocky and covered with briars, and to the south of there is the vast, deep canyon that is known as the Great Rift.

The Bandit Kingdoms are bounded by the Ritensa River on the west, the Fellreev Forest and the Bluff Hills on the north, the Zumker as it flows into the Artonsamay River on the east, and the Artonsamay as it flows into the Nyr Dyv on the south, as well as the Shield Lands.


The entirety of what is today called the Bandit Kingdoms was once a great, primaeval forest, a dense wilderness of wild growth covering most of the Flanaess. Before the Migrations began, the area was home to sylvan elves and scattered tribes of nature-worshipping Flan folk.

As the Great Kingdom of Aerdy rose to supremacy, it began to expand its borders westward. In time, it placed settlements and garrisons on the Nyr Dyv and along the Artonsamay River to the north. Stoink was one of these early garrison towns. Most of this northern frontier remained a wilderness even then, especially the regions beyond the river. Most of Aerdy's growing dominion reached along and around the fertile coast of the Lake of Unknown Depths, and thence continued west.

Later when the Great Kingdom began to crack and weaken, from sheer size, its outermost provinces broke off to form into sovereign states. The forested region north of the Nyr Dyv was known already as a haven for outlaws, bandits, and defeated nobles. Folk who didn't fit in elsewhere came to this wilderness to live, to carve out their own little kingdoms and social pecking order.

After Nyrond's secession from the Great Kingdom, the garrison towns of Rookroost and Stoink were cut off from the Aerdy overlordship. Prior to this time, the "Bandit Kingdoms" as they had already come to be known as, ruled themselves in all but name. In light of the greater events that were going on, their existence and their declarations of formal sovereignty went largely unheeded.

It was a chaotic time, with robber barons and bandit chiefs preying upon neighboring states and each other. Whoever was most vicious and aggressive at the time held the reigns of power, only for as long as their strength lasted.

In CY 446 (the same year the Iron League was founded}, the Bandit Kings crossed the Artonsamay into Urnst (then an undivided state under the Duke} and sacked Trigol. The Bandit Kings were suddenly viewed as a large scale threat in their own right. Using bands of Euroz and Jebli in their raids, the Bandit Kingdoms soon came to be regarded as a persistent, organized and much-despised menace.

Soon after this, the Bandit Kings began to call themselves the "Combination of Free Lords." They still fought against each other, but would also unite in a military confederacy against common foes. In battles with the Duchy of Tenh, Urnst (which effectively divided in CY 498), the Rovers of the Barrens, the sylvan elves of the Fellreev, the Shield Lands, and the growing power of luz (which was a western threat in the early 500s}, the Free Lords often showed a continually surprising ability to work together against a common foe.

By CY 576, the two most powerful bandit lords -- Boss Dhaelhy of Stoink and Plar Teuod Fent of Rookroost -- both declared ambitions to unite and rule the entirety of the Bandit Kingdoms. In either case, this seems unlikely to be realized -- there are a few other bandit lords who are nearly as powerful as they, with the same ambitions.


The Bandit Kingdoms are a mish-mash of peoples, descended mostly from outlaws, wanderers, exiles and never-do-wells. The indigenous Flan were either driven out or conquered and oppressed by invaders. When the migrations came, some Oeridians and Suloise settled the region. Hordes of humanoids, formerly mercenaries for western armies of the Old Empires, spread across the lands, with large amounts of humanoids settling in the plains just west of the Ritensa. When the Great Kingdom rose to power, more Oeridians settled here, and the area became divided up on Aerdian maps with provincial names. Finally, when groups of mixed Oerid-Bakluni nomads surged east, some made it across the Great Northern Plains (the Barrens} and as far as the Griffs, where many settled in what is known now as the Hold of Stonefist. Others in this group turned southward, and filtered into the northern bandit kingdoms.

With all of these mixed influences, the culture of the Bandit Kingdoms makes for a very mixed bag. The royal and noble titles currently in use attest to this diversity: Plar, Szek, King, Rhelt, Tyrant, etc. The Bandit Kingdom dwellers are mostly Flan and Oeridian, with a strong strain of Suloise stock, and a dash of the Bakluni-Oeridian hybrids. There are many humanoid tribes here as well, scattered about in the wilderness, especially in the west, in the Fellreev and along the Ritensa River. Demi-humans are rarely seen in these parts; the sylvan elves in the northern Fellreev, along with a few centaurs, are the exceptions. The Bandit Kingdoms of Freehold and Greenkeep have had some interaction with those forest folk, sometimes as enemies, and rarely as truceful allies. A few half-elves can sometimes be seen in these places -- they are usually outcasts, renegades or loners.

The Bandit Lands are filled with ruthless, harsh folk. Skirmishing and raids are not uncommon. Therefore, nearly everyone is suspicious and armed. The people subsist by farming, herding goats and pigs, and woodcutting. Along the rivers, there is some fishing and a bit of trade, but the commonfolk are mostly poor, insular and crude. A village in the Bandit Kingdoms is often ram-shackle, run-down, surrounded by poorly-tilled fields and unhealthy looking livestock. More often than not, such a village will be filled with barefoot dirty peasants who are lorded over by a local gang of armed bullies who style themselves "vassals." The strongest bully in a region, with his followers, styles himself "the liege," and goes by some noble, or even royal, title. These robber barons live in crude stone keeps, hunting lodges, or matte-and-bailey type forts -- usually places of filthy, torchlit drinking halls where in-fighting and brawls are the norm.

In a few of the larger towns, these liege-lords usually adopt a slightly higher semblance of civility and pomp. Boss Dhaelhy of Stoink, for example, holds court and carries on as if he were the ruler of a large and fine nation. He has musicians, entertainers and buffoons in his hall, and receives visitors and emmisaries as if to augment his prestige and sense of self-importance. But for all of the airs that he puts on, Boss Dhaelhy engages in the same boorish, tyrannical behavior as all of the others: breaking his own laws and treaties as it suits him, kidnapping nobles for ransom, and worst of all, slave-trade. Such chaotic behavior keeps Stoink and the other towns of the Bandit Kingdoms in a dark age of ignorance and cruel despair.


Currently, there are seventeen distinct little "kingdoms" that make up the Bandit Kingdoms. The two most influential rulers are Boss Dhaelhy of Stoink and Plar Teuod Fent of Rookroost. Stoink and Rookroost are the only settlements in the Bandit Kingdoms that warrant the name of city by virtue of their populations. It is for this reason that Dhaelhy and Fent are so influential. Both would like to expand their realms, and both are noted for their ambitions to rule over all.

Lord Avaerd of Fellands commands the greatest number of troops -- 1250 total, which includes a hundred Euroz guards. Master Eab Huldor of Freehold is a close second in this category, commanding about 1150 men-at-arms and cavalrymen. Tyrant Celdro of Reyhu commands a full thousand men -- as does Rhelt Abbarra of Kor.


Oddly enough, the Bandit Kingdoms are militarily quite effective. They are tough, clever fighting men, and when one would expect cowardice, sometimes there is fierce contest. The various Bandit lords have shown an ability to mobilize swiftly and to cooperate against mutual enemies. They have a system of personal loyalties that allows for a quick and effective call to arms. Each bandit lord has his group of companions whom he drinks, raids and fights with. When these groups join together, they can make for highly mobile and stiff opposition. In fact, as long as there is the prospect of shared profit, these bandit groups will remain highly loyal to each other.


There are certainly no state religions in the Bandit Kingdoms, only local preferences. The Old Faith of the Flannae has mostly fallen by the wayside, but it still may have hold-outs in the forest regions. The most popular powers are likeliest those who represent Chaos and Neutrality, as well as the spheres of chance, luck, stealth and good fortune. Olidammara, Ralishaz, Norebo, and others like them are venerated here. Those names are invoked when the knucklebones are thrown! And every once in a while a swarthy man with the look of a Westerner (i.e., a man of Bakluni descent) will ask lstus to bless his path. Like the people themselves, religion here is a patchwork, and by most other lands considered non-canonical.


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