Thursday, October 15, 2020

Let's talk about the Free City of Greyhawk

From: Chris Jarvis (Kindred Communications) [v-cjarv@MICROSOFT.COM]

Sent: Monday, September 21, 1998 7:37 PM


Subject: [GREYTALK] Let's talk about the Free City of Greyhawk

My first question, why is the Free City where it is? Generally cities exist for a reason, what is it that caused the current site of the Free City of Greyhawk to be the place where such a city arose?

Here is my take on this question:

I would hazard that the northern shores of the Nyr Dyv have never been the most hospitable region to traverse. Even before the rise of luz, the inhabitants of this region probably did their level best to discourage commerce. The presence of Rift Canyon and whatever nasties it harbors may have contributed to this as well. And who is to say that in earlier time the Rovers didn't extent their range into the warm southlands? The Nyr Dyv itself is a chancy beast. Loathsome monsters inhabit its murky deeps. The Rhenee bargefolk are capricious and troublesome (to your average merchant). Thus having a reliable land route from the established Kingdoms (or perhaps even tribes) in the east (the Aerdy and Nyrondese) to the subject tribes/lands of the west (the Ferrand and Velondi) is of paramount importance.

The Selintan River serves as one of the primary ports of egress for the waters of the Nyr Dyv, which itself serves as the holding basin of the rivers draining from the Yatils, Clatspurs, the plateau of Ket, parts of the Barrier Peaks, the northern Lortmils, Lake Quag, Whyestil Lake, all of the northlands not dumping into the Icy Sea, the western Griff Mountains, and portions of the western Rakers. This is alot of water. (Is it any wonder that the Lake of Unknown Depths has both an eastern and western passage to the sea?) From Midbay the waters of the Nyr Dyv carve an awesome and perilous gorge probably dropping several hundred feet in elevation. (I imagine the waterlevel of the lake is quite a bit higher than the plain of Greyhawk. How much higher I wonder?) The energy of the river diminishes as it flows out onto the plain of Greyhawk. Also at this point the river encounters several chunks of the underlying resistant strata that makes up the Cairn Hills, dumps some of its effluvia! load and lazily winds its way to the sea. Beyond this point the river broadens and the banks become marshy, fording the river is possible, but bridges are really not an option. But at this point (that would be the site of Greyhawk) it is possible to bridge the river. [I know this is a severely heretical stand--but bear with me.]

So we build a bridge. We have more than enough building material to go around, as the Cairn Hills are right nearby. The resistant (okay hypothetical} chunks of strata make great anchor points for our bridge, and so hopefully we won't have to worry about it getting washed away. The Nyr Dyv serves as a great coffer damn as well. The site also turns out to be a good spot from which to launch boats down the river. From this spot we can travel overland eastward: either past Maure Castle or along the southern shore of the Nyr Dyv. And we can travel by road through the Gnarley to Dyvers (first capital of the Viceroy of Ferrand).

Okay, we have a bridge some roads and a port for river traffic. We have lots of rocks and wood nearby. The Selintan plain makes for good farmland. So we build a town, or maybe we just build a trading post first to traffic with the local inhabitants and the weird elves of the Gnarley. It is successful and a town springs up. Not everyone nearby is friendly so we establish fortifications on both sides of our bridge [Yes, another heresy, I propose that the Selintan is not so wide as to prevent building on both sides!]. And so it goes. The end result is something that more closely resembles Paris than anything else.

Well my vision of Greyhawk may be a trifle skewed and non-canon, but it sort of makes sense. If you take the Paris analogy a bit further you have a lot of stuff to draw upon. Drop a couple big cathedrals on the center river isles. Add a complex sewer system. Through in some gargoyles and you are set.

Comments, suggestions, criticism.


Chris Jarvis


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