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Le Monde de Greyhawk
par Armenfrast

Forces of the Empire

This chapter gives brief details of the great Aerdy armies, as was and as are, together with some mercenary groups the DM may employ in game play. For space reasons, BATTLESYSTEM statistics are not provided here, but the DM using that system should nonetheless find the following notes of value.


Oerth is a game world which has elements of both the Middle Ages and the Dark Ages. It is important to understand what this means for the equipment used by forces.

In From The Ashes and subsequent Greyhawk sourcebooks, plate mail is assumed to be the best armor available. Field and full plate do not exist yet, not having been invented. If the DM wishes to allow these superior armors in a Greyhawk campaign, then profiles for NPCs should be amended accordingly; high level NPCs will have superior armor. This also affects armies -- it is assumed that even elite knights only have plate mail.

Second, gunpowder weapons do not exist on Oerth. DMs are strongly advised not to allow such weaponry in Greyhawk campaigns. Thus, armies noted below don't have musketeers or cannons.

Third, spelljamming and psionics are rare. Psionics are strongly featured in the DARK SUN game setting, but outside of this specific context they can be very problematic for DMs and players. Thus, armies and forces do not have psionics support. Likewise, spelljamming vessels are not part of military units scripted below.

Finally, bowmen troops in Greyhawk don't really fit the historical pattern. The heavy crossbow (arbalest) is actually a mid 15th century development in terms of widespread use, and it was both slower and more appallingly damaging than the AD&D game version, which can be assumed not to have the mechanical winch used for reloading the steel arbalest. Since field and full plate actually predate the arbalest, one should assume that the AD&D game heavy crossbow is not the arbalest of historical reality, although it has that name.

However, don't get bogged down in these rules. This section isn't concerned with every last detail of gorgets used by mounted knights. And Oerth does have superior technology in some departments (e.g., the galleon, and the development of astrolabe and caravel at sea). Rather, use this section to add color to encounters with troops; it focuses on their histories, regalia, and demeanor.

Armies of the North

Drawn from North Province, there traditionally have been three great armies -- the Army of the North, the Rakersmen, and the Imperial Highlanders.

Army of the North: The Army of the North has traditionally been one of heavy (35%) and light (55%) infantry with little in the way of cavalry support, not least because good horse breeding and bloodstock management hasn't been a traditional skill here. Bowmen have likewise not been much used, not least because North Province has, away from the Adri, not had the kind of terrain to provide cover and ambushing points so helpful for concealing such troops. Cavalry and bowmen form only 10% of this army. Chain mail always has been preferred to plate for reasons of mobility (North Province is a big place and marching infantry may have long distances to cover). Preferred weaponry has been: longswords, daggers, and heavy maces. However, during the Greyhawk Wars elite long spear and pike using units were developed for use against Nyrondese cavalry, and these have become increasingly prominent. The shield design used by the Army of the North is that of a blue serpent coiled around a yellow spiralled sun on a red background, the symbol of North Province itself.

As it stands in North Province, the Army of the North is not greatly diminished by the wars, save for the loss of men to Almor and in the Nyrondese campaign. Grenell has moved swiftly to replenish these losses, and the Army of the North has fair morale and equipment in most locations.

This army is one of the common soldier. Its officers tend to be practical, common sense men who are close to their foot slogging ordinary troops. Possessed of no great intelligence or imagination, most commanding officers are reliable, loyal, but capable of dumb mistakes from time to time. In times of major conflict, raised levies have traditionally been attached to this army rather than to the two elites described below.

The Army of the North has a solid history of campaigning in flatland terrain but is ill suited to hill or forest warfare or skirmishing. Its units now protect cities and patrol open terrains.

The Rakersmen: These are veteran troops with a history of hill warfare, especially in the Blemu Hills and those north of Bellport -- and in the Flinty Hills during the wars. Many, indeed, are hillsmen from those areas, or recruits from the hardy men who inhabit the Rakers. This army is less than a century old, but it is proud of its fighting traditions. Armor worn is a mix of studded leather and chain, and weapons employed are typically short bow or sling, flail or heavy mace, spear, and short sword. Shields are often not used by these men, since missile use is a widely used tactic and hills provide good cover anyway. But when employed, their shields display the design crossed maces over a craggy hill peak, rendered in shades of brown and gray above a small miniature of the North Province symbol -- all on a light gray background. No cavalry units form part of this force, nor do specialist bowmen.

The Rakersmen are now mostly confined to protective duty in cities, especially Bellport, and their morale is currently not good. Above all, these men hate humanoids and dislike having to ally with them intensely. Many of their leaders are almost openly rebellious about this, which Grenell must tolerate as a letting off of steam. The Rakersmen are proud soldiers, and have fighting fitness (Con scores of 10+1d8) and, normally, superior morale.

Imperial Highlanders: A second elite unit, like the Rakersmen the Highlanders are well used to hill fighting. However, they also have a long history of forest warfare and mixed unit types. While most (80%) are light infantry, the use of light cavalry (10%) in particular has been a hallmark of their operations, and their longbowmen (10%) are justly feared. Their studded leather armored infantry employ pikes or spears, and short swords. Some 20% are also trained in the use of crossbows, with the others often employing full body shields to protect the crossbowmen during their reloading operations, and to protect the longbowmen units which usually only have short swords in addition to bows. Cavalrymen use chain mail and are equipped with longswords, heavy maces, and lances. Their horses are not usually barded, however, since the advantage of light cavalry is speed. The great body shields of the Highlanders display their own symbol of crossed gray lances over a shattered rock like symbol. Some say it resembles a crumbling xorn in brown, on a green background, with three small brown chevrons in the top left quadrant. Many Highlander cavalrymen have tattoos of the crossed lance design on their forearms, and indeed tattooing is a characteristic of most Highlanders in general.

More than any other northern army, the Imperial Highlanders always have had a primary loyalty to their own fraternity and fellowship. They are deeply proud and stubborn men, silent and often infuriating to deal with. But they have superb morale (16) and in their near 250 years have virtually never been known to retreat willingly even in the face of an overwhelming force. They are greatly feared by the orcs of the Bone March, who refer to them as "the wall fiends" (a reference to the solid protective wall of body shields they use in defensive formation).

Euroz Angry Army: The premier army of the Bone March, these orcs are equipped in the standard manner (see the Monstrous Compendium entry for orcs). However, there is one exception: they rarely employ glaives or similar long weapons, being mostly used to hill warfare. They are especially tough. Fully 20% of the standard 1 HD types will have maximum hit points. Because of their often disparate sub-tribal origins, they use a variety of shield designs. One design is becoming increasingly uniform: the chalk white splintered skull motif on a rusty blood red background.

Armies of the South

Drawn from Ahlissa, Medegia, and the central-southern lands, two great armies have traditionally dominated here. These are the Glorioles Army and the Army of the South itself.

The Glorioles Army: This has been decimated by the Greyhawk Wars. Perhaps only a fifth of its pre-war strength remains intact. The rest was lost in the campaigns against Sunndi, Osson, Medegia, and Almor. Some residual units remain in cities such as Torrich, Nulbish, and Kalstrand, but others are in Szeffrin's service in Almor, or exist as marauders or madmen in Almor, Medegia, and the edges of forests in Aerdy.

The Glorioles Army combined excellent heavy and light cavalry with regular infantry and a fair percentage (25%) of levied infantrymen used to secure "base camp" positions, guard baggage trains and the like. Mercenary cavalry and infantry also has been more widely used in this army than in northern ones, again a factor in the disintegration of the Glorioles Army and the desertion to banditry of many of its remnants. Partly out of shame at its fate, existing units of this army no longer use the old shield and banner design of the army (a heavy destrier bearing a mounted knight, rendered in brown and steely tints on a green background) but use the designs of the cities or nobles they now serve.

Glorioles Army cavalry are a mix, including the heavy plate clad, heavy lance using knights of their elite strike units and the much swifter chain wearing wielders of light lance. Both types of cavalry also employ heavy maces or horseman's flails and have short swords. Infantry (non-levy) wear leather or chain if available and usually employ spears and short swords. Some 30% of the non-levy infantry are specialized pike units or longbowmen, making for a formidable mixed force.

The name "Glorioles Army" actually comes from the origins of the unit in the distant past, when fierce hillsmen from the Glorioles formed the bulk of the nascent southern army, and battles with demihumans of the Glorioles and Hestmark Highlands were a major feature of its operations. The army has actually changed out of all recognition since those times, which is obvious. Cavalry are hardly suited to hills, and Ivid's ordering of them across the Glorioles during the wars was a dumb error. One of the major changes has been the use of humanoid troops, especially in and around the Adri Forest. About 20% of the pre-war Glorioles Army was orcish or half-orcs; these were always infantrymen. Now, in the Darmen and Ahlissan cities, orcs are not part of this army. In Medegia and Almor, they remain part of the existing forces.

The Glorioles Army has poor morale now. It has been broken and, except when it has a superb commander or leader (such as Reynard of Ahlissa) its men are relatively listless and discouraged, having lost too many fellows and friends during the wars.

Army of the South: The Army of the South has unit composition similar to the Glorioles, save that humanoid troops are not part of it and levies are a lower percentage (10%) of the total. This army has retained virtually all its troop strength and both the soldiers and leaders are chafing at the bit. This is an active army, having skirmished with the Iron League for decades, and the army is ready to assail those lands again.

The Army of the South is Ahlissan, and uses as a shield and banner design of a blue board's head, crowned and tusked, on a yellow background. The army is especially skilled at skirmish actions and in low hill terrain, and its longbowmen are unusually adept at hill warfare and especially keen of eye (15% of them are veterans with +1 to hit targets of S/M size. The light cavalry have mounts trained for hill clambering, although heavy cavalry stays on the plains.

Armies of the Central Lands

These are the mainstay imperial armies of the overking himself.

Ivid's greatest army always has been known as the Imperial Regulars. The core of this army is heavy and light infantry battalions. Heavy infantry wear chain mail and shield and bear great shields, employing longswords or bastard swords, footman's flails or maces, and heavy daggers. About 25% of Imperial Regulars heavy infantry are pike and polearm using units, however. Light infantry use leather armor and shields with most having chain mail vests (AC 6 base). These troops have been mostly used for protection of supply lines, and in combat they are employed only when speed is of the essence. Their equipment is variable; typically they have hand arms (clubs, morningstars, hand axes, etc.). But when combat is planned they will be equipped with short bows, pikes, longswords or whatever is most appropriate.

Cavalry is almost always heavy. It is from the plate clad crushing forces that the elite Companion Guard cavalry is drawn. These cavalry have more destriers than most other heavy cavalry units, and all have chain barding; some even have plate. These huge horses (17 hands and up) are slow, but when the heavy cavalry has roused itself to a charge the effect can be absolutely decisive. Heavy cavalrymen are arrogant, proud, and haughty men.

Imperial Regulars always use the design of the old Great Kingdom itself on their shields. This is a crowned yellow spiral sun on a blue background. This is so even today for Imperial Regulars in Delaric and Dustbridge, since the symbol is one of the old Kingdom, not Ivid's personal symbol.

Specialists are drawn from the Imperial Regulars. The Black Legion of Rauxes has been referred to in the main text. This is a unit of 400 veteran CE fighters, heavy infantry which has been specially equipped with magical aids to mobility (rings of flying, winged boots, potions of speed, flying carpets, etc.). This is vital to their role as shock troops, dispatched to quell civil unrest or to strike down any subversion in the Kingdom while giving minimal warning of their impending arrival. The DM is at liberty to devise other such specialist units in the service of major Aerdy powerplayers.

Other Armies of Note

Church armies have been referred to briefly in the Introduction, and these men always will be armed with armor and weaponry which obeys the same restrictions as those placed upon specialist priests of the powers they serve. The armies of the Church of Hextor are by far the most important, of course. Of the many individual troop units in Aerdy, easily the most important is the army of Rel Astra, simply on account of its size. The Iron Nation knights are the elite unit of this army. They are heavy infantrymen, fighters of levels 4+, all plate clad and unusual in that they only employ two handed weapons. While they are not cavalry, they use heavy horse for transport and are almost always accompanied by light infantry as logistic support. These knights own magical items, and have double the usual chances for magical armor and weapons. Each also has a 75% chance for possessing a miscellaneous magical item which has a function protecting against some form of magical control: a ring of free action, for example. Any knight leader of level 10+ always possesses at least one such item and has a 50% chance of possessing one other.

Mercenaries of the Lands

Hansamen's Charge

This is a group of 24 infantrymen, led by a charismatic 6th level fighter, Hansamen (Str 18/44, Int 16, Cha 16). Hansamen wears chain mail +2 and has a shield +2 giving him AC 1. He has a simple longsword +1. The rest of the group is: six 3rd level fighters (chain mail and shield, short sword or longsword, and dagger or hand axe); eight 2nd level fighters (half with chain mail and shield, half with padded leather and shield; short sword or battle axe, dagger, and three have longbows with which they are adept -- these men have Dexterity scores of 12+1d6; and nine 1st level fighters (padded leather armor and shield, short sword, hand axe, dagger).

Hansamen's Charge are deserters from the Imperial Regulars. They come from the Naelax lands and deserted in a battle north of Innspa against Nyrondese and Flinty Hills forces. They were half starved, badly treated, and they detested having to fight alongside orcs. Their morale is not good (9) because several have left families and sweethearts in the lands to which they dare not return. The group is fairly unscrupulous, but Hansamen is of LE alignment and keeps fair discipline. The Charge has survived by foraging south of Innspa and raiding in the northern Cranden lands before making its way south, seeking employment in the Darmen lands or on the borders of the western lands.

The base morale of this group could be improved to 11 if they were hired, given hot food, and handed a few silvers before seeing service. While they are no angels, they're not much worse than anyone else in Aerdy these days. Provided they can see one or more good fighters among those hiring them, they will be unlikely to desert unless they come up against highly magical monsters or fiends. This group would make a good escort, for as infantrymen they are used to long marches and don't complain overmuch. For long distance rescue missions, this group would be valuable as logistic support, camp guards, trail concealers (several have skills in this department), and foragers. Pay rates for this group should average 5 sp per level per day, with their employer paying for their board and quarter when appropriate, and for equipment. Hansamen would require 5 gp a day, and if asked to undertake some dangerous mission these men would ask for more.

The Bannermen

The Bannermen are a surviving unit of the Glorioles Army, once drawn from Pontylver. Led by the 8th level fighter Ranxxen Strangender, they are the remnants of an elite heavy cavalry unit. There are 13 in all, apart from Ranxxen; 12 fighters (two each of 6th and 7th level, and four each of 4th and 5th level) and the 8th level mage Alavend.

Ranxxen is a fine fighter (Str 18/77, Dex 16, Con 16, with AC -1 and 96hp). All the fighters have heavy horses, with 50% having chain barding to boot. The fighters all wear plate mail, although each has a 50% chance for damage to the armor which reduces the AC value to AC 4 base. Ranxxen has plate mail +2 and a longsword +2, +3 vs. extraplanar creatures. For the other fighters, use standard rules for determining magical item possession. The mage Alavend has a wand of frost with 37 charges remaining and a ring of invisibility.

The Bannermen are so named because Ranxxen owns a magical war banner, proudly displaying a red dragon with a severed head on a green background. This is a specially crafted family heirloom and can only be employed by Ranxxen or one of his bloodline (the unit has none of his kin). All within 100' of it and allied to Ranxxen can gain from the magical effects it can create: prayer once a day, changing morale to Fanatic (18) once a day for 1 turn; regeneration (1 hp a round for one turn, useable once a week). Note, however, that the banner will enrage any dragon which sees it, so that the beast will automatically attack, gaining a +4 bonus to all hit rolls (but a +2 penalty to AC).

This group actually turned renegade and fought against imperial troops in the sack of Pontylver. Having seen what happened to that city, and their families within it, these are hollow eyed, grim faced, fanatical warriors now. They seek any opportunity to strike at imperial forces, and while they are not reckless they don't fear death. They have been employed by Drax as shock troops to strike against Lone Heath raiders, and to raze the keeps or settlements of those who have offended Drax or tried to resist his rule. This has been acceptable to them to date, especially since they gained the ring of invisibility in payment, but they now want more aggressive action directed more specifically against imperial targets.

Hiring the Bannermen is ideal for PCs who need to make some strike against a fortified target and to create a distraction while they strike at a secondary area. The Bannermen are all evil, of course, but most are LE (including some ardent reverers of Hextor) and they don't desert their employers if they have been fairly dealt with. They demand high payment rates; above all, they want magical items. They also want a share of booty, which varies depending on the number and levels of PCs hiring them. They don't waste their time with anything which isn't dangerous.

The Moving Shroud

This terrifying group of psychopaths was last believed to be prowling the Naelax lands in the service of Strychan of Dustbridge. Their exact appearance and nature is uncertain, because the group is rarely seen. They are always disguised by a moving haze so that only their distorted outline is seen. These horsemen always seem to be galloping at some extraordinary speed (MV 48). They appear as heavy cavalry, with their faceless leader bearing a war banner carrying the dread symbol of Nerull, the Reaper.

The Moving Shroud is a group of bounty hunters and slaughterers. They kill for pleasure and profit, but they are no simple group of assassins, not even a high level group. Magical effects such as fear radiate from and around the group, said to be some 20 strong. Undead creatures cannot be compelled to attack them and, indeed, commanded undead will often desert their controller to ally with the Moving Shroud in a battle.

This entity is greatly feared in the western lands and the Darmen lands in particular, where they were repeatedly sighted in the previous winter. Heading for Almor, it was feared that they were in Szeffrin's employ until they turned up not far from Permanence. While the huntsmen are known to track down and slay priests of good alignment and paladins in particular, for the right inducements (magical items, sacrifices to Nerull) they will contemplate any target, and they ride down anything which gets in their way. How they can be approached for hire is uncertain, but there are rumors of one or two dark robed emissaries who visit possible employers when the time is right, and magical divinations assist in drawing the soul dead eyes of the Shroud's leader to a patron.

The Spiderhanders

The Spiderhanders are an extended group of men and women, refugees from Rinloru, who ply their trade across North Province. Once they were part of a specialist unit of the Imperial Regulars, but they consider that the fall of Rinloru has freed them from any military service. Members of the group have the tattoo of a black spider on their left hands, hence the name. There are perhaps 100 in all scattered across the Province; one group of 25 serves in Atirr, others wander. None cares much for Grenell, and they prefer to serve individual employers or the rulers of free cities.

The majority of the Spiderhanders are related through blood or marriage, and most are Garasteth people. Among the hundred, at least six are mages and they are known to have ways of communicating with each other instantaneously across long distances. Most of the others are fighters, but a few are thieves specialized in rural or urban espionage and scouting.

The core of the Spiderhanders, the leaders of this group, are the 13th level mage Alasuzian and his paramour, the 12th level fighter Daraneth Ghalann. Daraneth is the wife of a Torquann princeling with lands south of Winetha, and he has placed a bounty on her head for deserting him. For this reason, Daraneth feigns being mute in public and will never reveal her name; her ring of mind shielding helps maintain her secret.

Alasuzian makes sure all members of the Spiderhanders know as much as possible about prospective employers. As a group, these men and women are gaining much information from their employers and adventures, and that information has value in certain quarters. They don't betray employers; they just know how to dispense certain hints where they will be well received.

The Spiderhanders are a group in metamorphosis, half way between a mercenary battalion and a secret society. In a campaign, an important element of their role is that they can be hired half a dozen at a time -- or as a small army in their own right. They don't undertake "political" work, such as assassinations, but they will act as bodyguards, spies, and burglars.

Other Mercenaries of Note

The Hands of the Axe are a group of Thelwood men, driven from their forest home, seeking employment throughout Ahlissa and the southern lands. Low level fighters for the most part, they have some repute because of a priestess of Beory who travels with them, allegedly with superior powers of healing and curing disease.

Krakenhunter is a small galleon from Vernport whose captain, Thamassen Hariador, commands a crew of 28 including two aggressive mages. Rather than turn to piracy, or throw in his lot with the rival captains of the Sea Barons, Thamassen sails the east coast seeking employment. He's happy to sail anyone anywhere, to smuggle, run slaves or contraband, or just to protect coastlines. Currently he is defending Rel Astra until the coming Harvester. Competent and trustworthy, Thamassen knows most inlets and bays along the east coast of Aerdy from Atirr to Dullstrand.

The Marchers is the simple name taken by a force of 40 Imperial Regulars who have deserted from Rauxes and seek employ in North Province. They have identical twin priests of Hextor among them, and they are strongly Lawful in alignment, well disciplined, and they stick rigidly to the terms of agreements. Because the group possesses a flying carpet, and one of the priests has a mirror of mental prowess, they can move long distances very swiftly and are capable of strikes behind enemy lines. They demand high payment, but Strychan of Dustbridge for one has shown keen interest in employing them.

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