5E Friday Classics
The Hold of the Sea Princes
Flan tribesmen were the first beings to wander into the lands east of the great Crystalmist Mountains. They were hunters and did little to colonize the area, and had very little presence in what is today the Hold of the Sea Princes. The next mass migration was during the Great War. The Suloise Empire was combating the Baklunish, and many were caught in the middle of the two great empires. Fleeing the devastation of the war, many humans and demi-humans risked the perilous migration over the Crystalmist Mountains. Many Suloise moved into the territory that is now the Hold of the Sea Princes, but on their heels came the fierce Oeridian tribes pushing the Suloise out of the best lands. The Suloise that had started to settle the area were not all that friendly to those that followed, like most Suloise, they tried to dominate all those around them. The Oeridian tribesmen befriended the scattered demi-humans in the region and began to colonize the entire area east of the mountains. As the Great War west of the mountains continued, humanoids began appearing in greater and greater numbers. Humanoids had been employed as mercenaries in the war, and many deserted the armies or scattered after lost battles. They followed the migrations east into the mountains and occasionally into the lands beyond. As was their nature, they spread rapidly, especially in the mountains, hills, swamps and wilderness areas.
In the Hold of the Sea Princes, the Oeridian tribes pushed the majority of the remaining Suloise out, forcing them south into the jungles and beyond their realm. They then set about colonizing their new land.
The buccaneers of the local seas grew strong and wealthy raiding the coastlines of the various provinces around the lands. They growth was not limited, as in the early years, Keoland, the biggest and dominant power in the area was looking northwards towards empire and mostly ignored the sea raiders. When Keoland finally settled, and turned its eyes towards the internal security, they built a strong fleet to combat the raiders. But by then, the Sea Princes, as the buccaneers called themselves, were also quite powerful, and long experienced in the naval tradition. They fought the combined navies of Keoland and Ulek to a draw in the Battle of Jetsom Island. But after this battle, and with increased patrols on the oceans by Keoland and Ulek, the leaders of the Sea Princes began to rethink their policies. The captains began to settle down, retiring to mainland estates. Soon they found that trade was almost as lucrative as banditry, and much safer. As populations in lands to the north increased, trade down the Javan River, one of the longest navigable rivers in the lands, increased greatly. Four cities arose in the lands of the Sea Princes. Monmurg and Port Toli were the oldest settlements, grown up from the villages and towns that the old buccaneers had based their activities out of. Westkeep grew with the trade that moved up and down the river. And as the population of the Hold of the Sea Princes grew, Hokar grew inland, a center for mining, agriculture and other industry. Four families, each descended from an original captain of the buccaneers, moved to the forefront of the Hold of the Sea Princes.
The Hold of the Sea Princes is co-ruled by four people. Each person is in charge of one of the four major cities in the Hold. The four rulers are the Prince of Monmurg (Monmurg), the Princess of Toli (Port Toli), the Plar of Hool (Hokar) and the Grandee of Westkeep (Westkeep). Each ruler is completely in charge of their city, but national matters require a three fourths majority vote.
The Hold of the Sea Princes is in the subtropical south. The weather tends to be hot and humid during most months, with mild to warm temperatures in the winter. Strong storms occasionally batter the outer islands, but most of the inner coast is sem-protected from violent storms. Palm trees mix with oaks and other trees. The waters of the Seas around the hold are quite warm and are considered tropical. The coast of Jerlea Bay and the southern islands are tropical, the waters full of corals and other warm water species. North of the islands is a bit cooler, with sea grasses being the predominant eco-type.
Most citizens dress in light clothing, thin silks being favored by the well off.
Although descended from pirates and buccaneers, the Hold of the Sea Princes does very little of that now, at least in civilized lands. Instead they have turned to trade. The hold sits at the mouth of the Javan River, one of the longest navigable rivers in the region. Trade from the Yeomanary, the Sterich, the Duchy of Geoff, and Bissel, as well as some trade from Keoland, the Gran March and the Valley of the Mage, comes down the Javan river and is transferred onto ocean going vessels in the Hold. This has made the Hold of the Sea Princes quite rich. There are always rumors that the leaders run ships of privateers, but nothing is ever traceable back to someone of importance in the Hold.
The one major issue that still haunts the Hold of the Sea Princes is slavery. Slavery is still legal in the Hold, although in many areas it is greatly frowned upon. The reason slavery has not been abolisihed is that the economies of two of the leaders of the Hold, the Princess of Toli and the Plar of Hool, rely to some degree on slavery. Port Toli is the center of the slave trade, the home port for ships raiding the tribes of the Amedio jungle for slaves. The slave block in the center of the wharf brings in much of the gold that sustains the Princess. The Plar of Hool supports slavery as the mines and plantations that encompass his holdings are the major users of slave labor in the realm. Slavery in the city of Monmurg is technically legal, but is rarely tolerated to any grand extent. In Westkeep, slavery is generally frowned upon, although a few slaves are used as dock laborers and sailors.
Other Notable Locations:
Jetsom Island, Flotsom Island and Fairwind Island: These three large islands, along with a number of smaller islands, lay off the east coast of the Hold of the Sea Princes. These islands were the first places settled by the original buccaneers and pirates that later became the Hold of the Sea Princes. These islands are now home to the rich trade families of the Hold of the Sea Princes. Manor houses and large estate grounds cover these islands. There are little to no villages or towns on these islands. Each manor house is the center of its own small region.
Located on a small spur of mountains that just out from the Hellfurnace Range (Hex H5, 137), the Koushgat mines are one of the few places in the world where Mithral is mined. The spur of mountains is also rich in other precious metals and gems. That makes it worth mining, even though it is located in very hostile terrain. Humanoids and monsters seem to pour from the Hellfurnaces to attack the mining operations and the caravans moving goods to the Hool river and relative safety. The dwarven owners of the mine spend a fair amount of their profits hiring mercenaries to hold back the onslaught of beasts and to escort caravans to and from the Hool River. Technically the Koushgat mines are located outside the territory claimed by the Sea Princes, but there is a close relationship between the Hold and the mine. Both the mine owners and the Sea Princes consider the mine a part of the Hold. The 50 mile caravan run to the Hool River, and the safety of the eastern bank, is heavily guarded. Nonetheless, it is a dangerous run that is often attacked by bandits, monsters and other creatures.
The Western Slopes:
All lands west of the Hool River, including the Koushgat mines, are considered wilderness. There are settlements here, mostly of outcasts and those humans of Suloise blood. There is some trade between the Hold and the inhabitants of the wilderness, but it seems to be informal and impermanent. Adventurers that have explored into the Hellfurnaces have occasionally taken refuge with villagers in this area. Of course there are rumors that the villagers here have turned on adventurers too, killing them and taking whatever treasures they had gathered in the mountains.
The Hool Marshes:
The Hool Marshes make up the northern border of the Hold. The Javan River, a major trade thoroughfare, runs for nearly 500 miles through the marshes. Mercenaries and others constantly sweep the river passages in an attempt to keep them safe for cargo, but there are always more invaders pushing into the swept areas. Virtually all trade ships, boats, rafts and barges hire some sort of protection to guard their passage. Those few who go without protection can maximize profits, but tend to go missing before too long.
Beyond the marshes lies the Dreadwood. Although not technically bordering on the Hold of the Sea Princes, there are wilderness villages on the south and eastern edges of the wood that are harvesting timber. The timber from these settlements makes its way to the Hold, and in return, supplies are sold to the villages.
The Amedio Jungle:
Far to the south, across Jeklea Bay, are the deep tropical forests of the Amedio Jungle. The jungle is full of savages, at least that is the usual claim. The inhabitants of the jungle are the descendents of the Suloise Empire, that fell in the fireless rain over 1000 years ago. Whether they are savages, or just adapted to a jungle existence, is up for debate. Small forts and settlements (non-Suloise), many of them impermanent, dot the shoreline of the Amedio Jungle. These serve as trading outposts and trading centers. Unique foods, gems, rare woods, spices, ivory and such are gathered at these points for shipment to the Hold. The most valuable commodity to come from the jungle however, is slaves. The natives are captured, shipped across Jeklea Bay and sold into slavery in the Hold of the Sea Princes.
Humans: The Hold of the Sea Princes is a human realm. Humans are by far the most common race found in the country. Originally three sub-groups of humans settled in the Flanaess, the Oerid, the Suloise and the Baklunish. A fourth group, the Flanae, having wandered in centuries earlier, was already inhabiting small areas of the northern reaches. The Hold was settled by Oerid and Suloise, but those two sub-races of humans did not cooperate well. The dislike devolved into warfare, and those of Oerid stock pushed the Suloise out, mostly into the southern jungles. There are no full blooded Suloise freemen in the realm, although there are many of pure- or near pure-blooded Suloise bound in slavery. Hostility between Suloise and the predominantly Oerid citizens of the Hold of the Sea Princes is still strong. Although most of the population claims to be Oerid, most have some amount of Suloise blood intermixed into their genetic lines. Those with stronger Suloise traits in their appearance are discriminated against in the Hold of the Sea Princes.
Oerid: The typical human.
Suloise: Have a bluish tint to their skin and darkish hair. Taller than normal by 6 inches or so. Suloise tend towards Lawful Evil, having tendenices to lie, steal, kill and enslave others. A few houses of the ancient empire were more tolerant, the Houses of Rhola and Neheli. Descendants of those two houses settled and intermixed with the Oerid in the western part of the Flaness. PC’s that want some Suloise blood are not restricted to any alignment.
Baklunish: Oriental and Mongol traits. Shorter than normal by 4 inches or so.
Dwarves: Dwarves are the largest minority in the Hold. The vast majority work in the mines in the south and west of Hold. Those that don’t work the mines are often traders, stonemasons, or work construction within the city and realm. Dwarves to do not have their own cities, although they are the majority in some of the villages and towns in mining country. Dwarves are generally looked on quite favorably by the majority human populace.
Elves: Elves are rare in the Hold. There is no elven homeland in the Hold and no large forest. Most of elven inhabitants migrated in from elsewhere in search of work or a better life. The elves that do live in the Hold do not really have their own enclaves, but live amongst the humans and other inhabitants.
Half-Elves: Not quite as rare as elves, Half-elves are still not all that common in the Hold. Some half-elves were born in the Hold from human-elf pairings, but the vast majority migrated in from other places. Although not too common, half-elves can be found in all areas of the Hold doing performing all sorts of work. Half-elves mix freely with the human population of the Hold.
Gnomes: Gnomes are uncommon in the Hold of the Sea Princes, but can be found in the cities, and occasionally in the mines. They often are working as technicians, engineers and in other skilled positions, especially in both the mining and shipbuilding industries. There tends to be a small gnomish enclave in each of the big cities of the Holdfast.
Halflings: Halflings are fairly common in the Hold. They arrived early in the history of the Hold of the Sea Princes, settling and working the lands around Monmurg and Westkeep. A good relationship was built between the early pirates and buccaneers and the halflings of the Hold. The pirates had no interest in farming, so were happy, and paid well, for the Halfling farmers to provide them with foodstuffs. This good relationship has been maintained until this day. Almost all halflings in the realm live in the northwest of the realm, stretched between Westkeep and Monmurg. They tend to avoid the central areas where large plantations and slavery hold sway. There is a large presence of halflings in the Sagar Valley, in the southlands. It is a wine growing region, and the Halfling lands there grow and make some of the best wine in the whole of Greyhawk.
Half-orcs: There are a surprising number of half-orcs in the Hold. As with all human lands, they tend to be outcasts and looked down upon. A few live in the cities, working as hireling toughs or strongmen. Others have settled as farmers and hunters, usually on the worst lands bordering the swamps and fens. And others work in the mines, although usually at the worst and most menial jobs. There are a few settlements of half-orcs in the far north of the Hold, on the border of the Dreadwood. These settlements are predominantly logging camps, providing timber for the Hold.
Barbarians: Barbarians are very rare in the Hold. The most common barbarians are those half-orcs that are working in some capacity in the land. A few humans, almost always of Suloise blood, are barbarian as well. Barbarian is a common term for all the pure-blood Suloise savages living in the Amedio jungles to the south, but few of those are actual barbarian class.
Bards: Bards are well regarded in Hold of the Sea Princes. The populace is generally well-of, and quite proud of its pirate past. That translates into a good living for bards who can entertain with stories, songs or other forms of entertainment. There is also a lively theatre district in Monmurg that attracts some of the best storytellers and actors.
Clerics: There are many gods in Greyhawk, and being a major trade center, many sects are represented in the Hold. This sometimes brings trouble, as not all gods are on friendly terms with each other. But in general, clerics are looked upon as favorable. This is somewhat dependent on the deity they worship.
Druid: Druids are uncommon in the Hold of the Sea Princes. Those that are here, rarely frequent the big cities. There are a few druids, often of Suloise blood, in the marshes and outskirts of civilization. Many of these druids tend to be more feral than a typical druid.
Fighter: Yes. There is always work for someone who can wield a weapon. The Koushgat mine, west of the Hool river, pays extremely well and has a high turnover. The rich merchants and traders in the cities always need bodyguards. There are a number of fighting schools and martial academies in the big cities, where fighters can teach, train and gain expertise.
Monk: Monks have a bad reputation in the Hold of the Sea Princes. This could be because of the infamous Suloise monk assassins of the Scarlett Brotherhood, located across the Azure Sea are what most of the populace thinks of when they hear of monks. Nonetheless, there are a few small orders of Monks spread around the realm.
Paladin: On the whole, the leadership of the Hold tends more towards freewill and chaotic tendencies than lawful ones. No doubt this is a holdover from the buccaneer past of the ruling families. The tendency towards chaotic behavior, combined with the legal institution of slavery makes the Hold a harder place for Paladins to live. But there are Paladins in the Hold. The Order of Knights Hospitaller, located in Monmurg is the largest group.
Ranger: Rangers are quite common in the Hold of the Sea Princes. The hold is surrounded by wilderness, and there is always plenty of work and adventure along the borders. A number of companies of Rangers are subsidized by the Grandee of Westkeep and various trading houses to keep the river clear of hazards as meanders through the swamp lands. The best known company of Rangers is ‘The Vein’. Their symbol is a green leaf with many veins branching through it. Supposedly the number and orientation of Veins on each rangers symbol denotes rank and position within the order. Ranger of ‘The Vein’ are commonly called ‘Mudders’ by the populace, since they trudge through the mud of the great Hool marshes. It is not always safe to call them this name to their face.
Rogue: Rogues are quite common in the Hold of the Sea Princes. Each major city has its own Thieves Guild or two, running and controlling the various illegal activities in the realm. There are also plenty of non-illegal, or quasi-legal opportunities for rogues, working as scouts and spies for various organizations.
Sorcerer: Most human sorcerers have Suloise blood in their veins, sometimes quite a bit. Non-human sorcerers are not uncommon in the realm either. Although the general populace is always a bit wary of the mysterious origins of Sorcery, magic is very accepted in the Hold of the Sea Princes. There are two great academies of magic in the realm. Although the academies are more tailored to wizards, both are open to sorcerers. The Thaumaterge Academy, located in Monmurg mostly serves the needs of wizards, but sorcerers have been known to study within its towers. The Conservatorie Magus, located in Hokar is more tolerant and welcoming of sorcerers. This may be due to the fact that its major benefactor, the Plar of Hool, is a sorcerer of some repute.
Wizard: Wizards are well respected throughout the Hold of the Sea Princes. There are two magical universities in the realm, the Thaumaterge Academy, located in Monmurg and the Conservatorie Magus, located in Hokar. Having a wizard in ones employ is a status symbol for many of the wealthy, and it is never difficult to find a wizard for hire in the cities.
Order of the Knights Hospitaller
This is an order of Paladin’s in the service of Heironeous. They are based in Monmurg, where they have a medium sized stronghold. There is also a chapter of the Order in Westkeep. The Order of Knights Hospitaller specializes in both war and healing. Although they associate closely with the Temple of Heironeous in Monmurg, they are a separate entity. All members of the Order must be paladins. The Order takes in and begins to train many youngsters interested in pursuing the path of a paladin, but they weed out many who are not up to their standards. The paladins of the Order are strongly opposed to slavery.
Paladins of the Order of Knights Hospitaller may not give up their ‘Lay on Hands’ ability.
The Vein is a company of Rangers that is based in Westkeep. Their symbol is a green leaf with many veins branching through it. They patrol the southern borders of the marshes, pushing monsters, humanoids and other threats away from the civilized and settled lands. They notably do not, except by occasional special contract, protect the trade coming and going on the Javan River. The Vein is headquartered in Westkeep, where they keep a moderate sized manor house. Most of the Rangers reside elsewhere, in villages and hamlets that dot the border between the Hold and the Hool Marshes. Due to their frequent trips into the swamps, they are often times called ‘Mudders’, though rarely to their faces. City dwellers are often times contemptuous of members of the Vein. The same is occasionally true in the villages bordering the marshes. Many villages don’t really know the lengths the members of the Vein go through to protect the borders. Those villages that have been protected from direct attack in the recent past are usually quite grateful to the members of the Vein. Those in villages that have not had recent attacks tend to be wary of the Rangers.
There is no one and only Thieves Guild in the Hold of the Sea Princes, there are a number of Guilds in each city. Sometimes these guilds cooperate to an extent, dividing up the illegal operations and each guild concentrating in certain sectors. Other times the various guilds compete and fight over territory, business and members. Thieves Guilds that were once on top can come tumbling down, as the up and comers nip at their heels. Bribes paid to city guards and officials usually keep the government out of the affairs of the guild. Only in matters of great violence, or when wars between guilds spill onto the streets does the city government seem to get involved.
Monmurg: There is little friction between the guilds in this city. They have divided up the major activities, each focusing on a different illegal trade. The only rivalries are from a few newer gangs looking to break in against larger, established guilds.
Westkeep: Two guilds are competing for supremacy in Westkeep. There is a good bit of violence between the two, although it rarely spills into the public sector.
Port Toli: There are numerous small guilds all vying to make money as best they can. There is some, but not much, violence amongst the various guilds.
Hokar: There is one guild here that controls virtually every aspect of illegal operations. Rumor has it that they cooperate with the Plar of Hool. There are some small freelancers who band together against the guild, but that is a risky business to be in.
There is no open assassin’s guild in any city of the Hold. There are rumors of one in Hokar, perhaps as a subsection of the thieves guild, but it is a rumor only. There are, of course, assassins in every city of the Hold. Undoubtedly there are even small groups that might be considered an assassins’ guild. But there is no open knowledge of any of this.
Located in the capital city of Monmurg, this Academy mostly caters to wizards, but there is a population of sorcerers there as well. In the last decade, they have even begun classes for clerics, druids, bards and other spell casting classes. The Academy focuses on a caster’s will and inner strength, the combination of power and mind, and through that magical aptitude. Being located in Monmurg, there are many foreign influences and strange mystical tomes in the libraries there. There is a great focus on studying of arcane tomes, finding ancient lore that can boost a casters abilities.
The city of Hokar is home to the Conservatorie Magus, a school for wizards and sorcerers. The Conservatorie specializes in the study of the intricate nature of magic. Supposedly the Cosnervatorie has the largest collection of Suloise artifacts and the largest library of Suloise texts rescued from the fall of the Suel Empire. The Plar is known to fund expeditions to the Sea of Dust in search of ancient treasures and lost information. Plar Narweven is the founder and head of the Academy.