The Kingdoms of Thrang, also known as the Thrangian Kingdoms, are a collection of minor principalities, about sixty in number that lie along the eastern edge of the Great Western Sea. [Editor’s note: For those of you who have played in the Fallen Lands before, the northernmost part of Thrang lies about 560 miles due south from the town of Southwaite on the Hrothgar Peninsula]. The region is populated mostly by humans. Thrang is characterized by rolling hills and deep valleys. Its Kings and Queens rule from dark and ominous hilltop castles and forts. The climate is warm and temperate [similar to Northern Virginia in our world], but gloomy. The towering Somber Horn Mountains that comprise Thrang’s eastern border effectively block the moisture laden west winds that blow from the sea, making the region quite rainy and almost perpetually overcast.
To call the Thrangian principalities “kingdoms” is quite generous, in fact; most have a population that averages around four to five thousand souls. But kingdoms they are nevertheless, each ruled by its own monarch and attendant aristocracy. All of these minor kingdoms share a common culture and religion, one of the main reasons for conceptually grouping them together in the first place. Moreover, most of the Royal families of Thrang have intermarried over the years, thus strengthening and reinforcing the bonds that give the region its unique and distinctive identity. Despite this sense of commonality, however, there is seldom peace in Thrang. The Thrangian Kingdoms are given to great intrigue and rivalry. Blood feuds, plots, schemes, and outright war are common in Thrang as its various petty monarchs vie and compete in the attempt to usurp each other’s power.
[Yyrg the Bald, chief historian at Canaladaer Keep, described Thrang as existing in a state of “perpetually controlled chaos.” These remarks were made in his famous treatise on the region entitled Mandeville’s Travels: An Actual Excursion to Thrang Along with Imaginative Speculations of the Lands of the Distant South which May or May Not be Ruled by Snake Men.]
There are several reasons why the region does not simply devolve into total anarchy or gradually coalesce into increasingly larger and more powerful polities as the various kingdoms annex each other.
First, the threat of outright war is somewhat held in check by the fact the entire region is threatened from without by even greater dangers that could potentially spell the end of all the Thrangian Kingdoms. To the north lies the dreaded Wargwood Forest, home and spawning place of hordes of foul undead. To the east, Thrang is bordered by the towering Somber Horn Mountains. In one sense, these mountains are a blessing in that they shelter Thrang from the predations of the fierce Gnoll tribes that rule the Pack Lands beyond them. But, the mountains are also home to their fair share of monsters. Each spring and summer, bands of mountain Trolls, Ettins, and primitive Giants descend from the Somber Horns to raid the eastern kingdoms. To the south lie the Pirate Holdings of Zed, another source of continual danger. Given that Thrang is surrounded on all side by such threats, its ruling monarchies have naturally come to a tacit understanding that whatever their potential grievances with each other may be, it is in everyone’s best interest to collaborate militarily at some level for the common good.
Conflicts between the kingdoms thus tend to involve assassination attempts, espionage, sabotage, duels, and other forms of covert subterfuge. Nevertheless outright war between kingdoms is not unheard of.
The second, and perhaps most significant cause, for the “stabilized chaos” that characterizes Thrang is the Church of Wee Jas, Goddess of Magic and Death. This church is the official, royal religion of almost every kingdom in Thrang. According to custom, the Thrangian monarchs all rule with the divine blessing of the Goddess and the church maintains major temples in every monarch’s court. The church must sanctify every royal marriage and coronation. Make no mistake though, Thrang is not a theocracy. The church’s power, while considerable, is mostly of the “indirect” sort. It has no power to pass legislation and commands little in the way of military power. Because they lack the strength to affect a complete takeover of power, the Magician Priests of Wee Jas must be content to manipulate the political landscape from behind the scenes. But it is in their best interests to maintain the current state of fractious squabbling among the Thrangian monarchs. The more those monarchs are at each other’s throats, the easier they are for the Magician Priests to control. A strong ruler, one who amassed considerable power and allies would be threat to the power of the church. Thus, the church maintains a highly trained cadre of clerical advisors who pour honey into the ears of Thrangian kings and queens, who subtly arrange a marriage here, a poisoning there, all in the name of maintaining the status quo.
To be sure, Wee Jas is not the only deity worshipped in Thrang. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of minor deities, are worshipped by the common people. Demon and Devil worshipping cults are quite common.
Our Game begins in the Kingdom of Gnut, ruled by King Hardric the Seventh, which lies at the extreme northwestern tip of Thrang. Gnut huddles under the eaves of the feared Wargwood Forest from which the walking dead are frequently known to wander. The villages of Gnut thus have good walls and stout gates. Merchants and travelers are advised to go armed and avoid the roads at night. There are wolves, zombies, and worse things loose in the dark.
You have come here lured by the promise of adventure and treasure. Vague rumors have reached your ears that strange things are afoot and treasure has been found in the Stony Brow Hills, a rugged and desolate region that separates Gnut from its eastern neighbor, the Kingdom of Zilb. These hills are home to many weird ruins, remnants of a lost civilization that predates the rise of Thrang. Some of these ruins may hold ancient treasures. Vague, partially formed, hints have trickled southward down the coast road and reached your ears, something about a mystery in the hills and the possibility of loot.
We begin with you heading northward on route to Null’s Harbor, a port town on the Western Sea and Gnut’s principle settlement. You are several hours from your destination. It is mid afternoon and a steady drizzle falls from the nickel grey sky overhead. It is April, the cruelest month. Pray that it not be for you.
"Common, standard hirelings are basically the usual craftsmen or laborers taken on by lower level player characters...In general the various occupations represented here are common to most settlements of village-size and above, although each and every village will not be likely to furnish each and every sort of common hireling." (ad&d "Dungeon Master's Guide", 1979) p. 28.
A careful (and at times even overly analytic) exploration of the traditions of "old school" fantasy roleplaying by two former d&d apostates who have recently returned to the game's roots. All advice and any suggestion is welcome.
Expect a particular focus on the retro-clone of OD&D, Swords & Wizardry as well as the occasional session recap from ongoing games. In our games we steal unabashedly from the great OD&D blogs linked to below.