Friday, April 11, 2014

Finding The Gems: The Marklands, by Carl Sargent

I love the cover art by Jeff Easley
Carl Sargent spearheaded the revival of Greyhawk back in early 1990s, starting with Greyhawk: From the Ashes. The Marklands followed soon after, published in 1993, then Iuz the Evil (which I covered last week). 

The Marklands and Iuz the Evil are meant to be counterparts, serving to help DMs run campaigns where the PCs face off against the forces of Iuz. Each is a mini-campaign setting in its own right. 

Of the two, Iuz the Evil is the better at first glance. Because that's really where the action is. As for The Marklands... well, civilized lands ruled by good folk can be kinda boring. If you're looking lots of adventuring sites and so on, Iuz the Evil has them. The Marklands does not.

But initial appearances can be deceiving...

Why didn't TSR just staple
booklet to the cover?
So what do we have here? 
Sargent continued his dark and gritty theme he started with From the Ashes. 

The Marklands is about the kingdoms of Furyondy and Nyrond after the Greyhawk Wars. Both are battered. The population is desperate, in some places on the brink of starvation. Ten percent of Furyondy's population died. Nyrond is beset by enemies and seems on the brink of collapse. Both kingdoms have lost lands to the forces of evil. Refugees flood the cities causes more problems. Many of their experienced troops died during the war.

The supplement describes the history, laws, and taxes of both countries. This sections are a little "ho-hum" in my opinion. The southern nobles in Furyondy are being overtaxed to pay for the fortifications in the north against Iuz. Nyrond is governed by a lazy aristocracy--many nobles refuse to pay homage to the king despite the threat of the fractured lands of the Great Kingdom.

Each kingdom gets its own gazetteer. Most of the entries were, again, "ho-hum" in my opinion. A lot of the entries briefly cover what happened to the settlement before the wars, but things now suck. Some have adventure hooks, others don't.

If you want to run a combat-oriented game pitting the players against the forces of Iuz, the section covering The Highfolk and the Vesve forest is your best bet.

The end of each gazetteer features a list of major NPCs for each kingdom, which brings us to....

Finding the Gems. 
Its been said that "monolith evil is unrealistic;" so is monolithic good. 

Many of these NPCs want to break the Peace of Greyhawk. Many don't want to pay their share in taxes. They feud amongst each other. 

In Furyondy, certain leaders of the Knights of the Hart want Furyondy to take over Verbobonc and Dyvers. One NPC wants to set King Belvor up as an absolute monarch. The Highfolk even has a spy in Furyondy. 

Meanwhile, in Nyrond, military leaders may overthrow the king. A lawful neutral priest of Pholtus plans to take over a small city about to fall into anarchy and establish his own theocracy. Some nobles what want Nyrond to retreat even further to more defensible positions, others don't.

And, of course, compound these problems are spies and saboteurs from evil lands. The Shadowclaw network from Iuz is active in Furyondy. The supplement describes one of its cells operating out of an Inn. 

Thus, with a little work, you can run decent political intrigue campaign using The Marklands. 

Other Gems. 
--The poster map of Furyondy and Nyrond. 
--There's a map of the Vesve in the book itself. 
--City maps of Chendl, Willip, and Rel Mord.
--Neat locations include: the Bronzeblood Haunt, the Defiled Glades, and Delvenbrass. 
--A roster of military garrisons for each kingdom if you want to run a military campaign. 

Augmenting this Supplement.
It depends how "dark" you want to go. Sargent put in a lot of "gray areas." Are you and your players confortable with the prospect of Good characters possibly killing each other. 

There's an illustration on page 56 of a peasant horde attacking a supply wagon. The soldiers are trying to defend it. The peasants look desperate, perhaps starving. Who's right? Who's wrong?

I recommend removing "Good" and "Evil" from the align chart and run with Law and Chaos. See, many of the NPCs are lawful good but they're leaning more toward law. The question is: who's law?

Get this if: You want to run a political strife/intrigue campaign in the world of Greyhawk, or would like more information on Furyond, Nyrond, and the Highfolk. You want to run a "grimdark" Greyhawk campaign. 

Don't get this if: You and your players aren't interested in political strife/intrigue campaign. 


Next up on Finding the Gems:

1 comment:

  1. Obviously you grabbed a hard copy of this? I noticed a mention of DNDclassics on your original post, I'll have to check if its on there. good review.


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