What follows is a summary of the major world-changing events. The information here is compatible with the From the Ashes boxed set, but where contradictions occur, the material here supersedes the former for my campaign.
The terrible arch-lich is at the foot of most of the changes on Oerth. At the height of his bid for power, the Master of the Night erected an eldritch web around Oerth which prevented the Greyhawk gods from receiving the power of their worshippers, as well as preventing their clerics from receiving powerful magics. Vecna then attacked and destroyed Iuz the Old in a spectacular battle. Confronted with the terrible lich, many followers fell under Vecna’s sway and worshipped him, almost completely through fear; their worship empowered him even more.
With himself at peaks of power never held before, and with the gods of Greyhawk in a state of great weakness, Vecna planned a massive attack against the gods.
The Unholy Covenant
Even with his power being such as it was, Vecna could not hope to defeat all the gods by himself; he needed allies or pawns. Vecna therefore approached Demogorgon, Prince of Demons, as well as Asmodeus, Lord of Hells to pledge their aid in the upcoming struggle.
In return, Vecna promised them each one half of the world of Oerth upon which they could renew the Blood War, something both the Demon Prince and the Devil Lord wanted badly. Asmodeus drew up the contract with special loopholes that only he as Lord of all Devils could see. Neither Demogorgon nor Vecna planned to honour the agreement anyway. Some say that all three knew the others’ plans for betrayal but agreed anyway since the stakes were so high.
The Infinity Clash
With the combined force of Evil behind him, Vecna launched his attack. The Planes of existence shook as the Powers engaged each other. While the deities, both Good and Evil, fought valiantly, they had been denied the power of the worship of their followers and realized they could not win. Rather than be blasted out of existence, they sought to withdraw to another reality, and used their remaining strength to open a portal to do so. Vecna had anticipated this exactly, and had prepared a spell to seal the portal permanently, forever eliminating his competition.As he was casting this spell however, Asmodeus withdrew his support, citing a clause in the Covenant. This weakened Vecna only momentarily as the arch-lich had anticipated something along those lines. But it was at that moment that Demogorgon struck. It is said the Demon Prince sacrificed millions of fiends of various types in order to empower himself for this one crucial moment. With this power at his command, he sent Vecna hurtling through the portal just as it was closing, banishing the arch-lich with the gods he sought to destroy.
The Tanar’ri and the Baatezu
With the gods and Vecna gone for good, Demogorgon and Asmodeus looked forward to wreaking their eternal conflict upon Oerth. Such was not meant to be, however, Vecna had prepared an elaborate contingency spell, which would be completed after the Spell of Banishment had been cast, that would re-seal the old barriers as before. Thus, when the fiends sought to freely enter the Prime Material Plane, they found themselves once again blocked.
The Demon Prince of the Undead, Orcus, did succeed in entering the Prime Material Plane through the machinations of his followers. He soon dominated the dispossessed followers of Iuz and Vecna, and death cults in his name began to spread.
Religion in Greyhawk
Religion is now a terrible word of the people of the Flanaess, and Greyhawk in particular. Following Orcus’ example, many of the arch-devils and demon princes, rather than waiting for impudent summoners to allow them access to Oerth, are whispering dark and evil promises to men and women. With no gods to turn to for support, no clerics for healing and other divine favours, with the world in chaos, many people fell prey to these sinister whisperings, spreading death cults for many fiend lords. Major cults exist for Demogorgon, Juiblex, Graz’zt, Asmodeus, Baalzebul, Dispater, and even Tiamat. For Orcus’ absence, see below.
The Gifted Ones
Although the Greyhawk gods have been gone for some time now, strange cases have been reported of people wielding what could only be called clerical magic. Almost all these people come from remote, unremarkable places, and their ‘gifts’ seems to stem from some personal belief or philosophy or moral value that they held dear. In addition, some sort of sign accompanies this; a falling star, a huge lightning storm, prophetic visions, etc. None of the people interviewed know exactly what has happened; all they know is that they are now able to do things in accordance with their belief, value philosophy, etc. that they were unable to do before. These events have led to some wild speculation, but there are two that seem most probable.One is that these people have tapped into internal stores of energy, much as psionicists do, and use this energy to perform these miraculous doings. This energy would be in proportion to how firmly they hold their convictions in whatever belief, philosophy, etc. that they hold dear.The second theory is the more interesting of the two. The course of these events has led many scholars and sages to believe that there is a new race of gods trying to make themselves known on Oerth, and have chosen these people to be their first ‘priests’, in accordance with their spheres of influence. If this is so, then it would seem that there exists deities relating to the moon, the sun, magic, war, and the arts.If this second theory is correct, there are two things that must be considered. One is the nature of the demi-human deities. Unlike the Greyhawk deities, they have not been banished, destroyed etc. In fact, Vecna did not pay any attention to them at all. This remains a mystery.The second item is that in addition to the ‘gods’ mentioned above, there is reason to believe that there are gods of evil manifesting themselves as well. Tryiok‘s sudden and savage increase in power is very similar to those of the Gifted Ones, and speculation has it that Tryiok is a ‘priest’ of some sinister god. Secondly, several lands and baronies have been replace or overwritten with new, dark domains. They are not numerous (they number under a dozen), but they have special characteristics. Not all of magic’s laws apply there; some spells do not work, while others have perverted effects. The people are strange and unlike any of the myriad peoples of Greyhawk. Their lords communicate only be letter, and even they only rarely. In addition, some explorers have never returned, and the people are extremely tight-lipped about these disappearances. Most sages consider these to be new demiplanes or ‘Fading Lands.’
The Rise of Tryiok the Accursed
After Orcus emerged from the Mines of Bloodstone, he summoned his chief lieutenant, Tryiok King of the Death Knights. The Saint of Evil helped the Demon Prince to organize his sect and recruited former minor priests of Iuz and Vecna. Orcus’ religion was rampant, especially amongst the humanoid tribes of the Pomarj.However, just as Orcus manifested himself at a huge ceremony in the Pomarj, Tryiok attacked and almost destroyed the Demon Prince. Orcus was barely able to escape, and was greatly weakened. It is unknown how Tryiok was able to accomplish this, although some plausible theories exist (see below).
The Necromancers of Skahlehn
A new affiliation of wizards specializing in necromancy has begun to make its presence known to the people of the Flanaess. Led by an individual known only as the Underking, they have thus far limited themselves to massive grave-robbing, theft of spell components, and certain secret rites that have been observed only twice. However, there is not one person who does not believe that these are all pre-emptive moves, an that some plot involving domination and destruction lie behind them.
The Shadow Circle
The Shadow Circle are a group of aggressive, brutal druids within the main hierarchy who seek to have total domination over nature and wildlife, not sharing with the other denizens of the forest. Unfortunately, this included the high and wood elves of the Duchy of Ulek. However, even though the Great Druid of the region is a Shadow Druid, they were not numerous enough to oust the faerie. They thus formed an alliance with House Noquar of the Vault of the drow, clouding over in a semi-permanent way the sun, allowing the dark elves to hatch their own plots, all the while planning to simply let the sun finish off the drow after the dastardly deed was done. The Shadow Circle did not foresee the dark elves’ creativity with defensive magic however, and an uneasy alliance remains. While there are almost no drow operating on the surface, their representatives, often dread tanna’ri, make their wishes known.Presently, the Shadow Circle are trying to covertly find a way to expunge the dark elves and their minions, who are so much worse than the surface elves ever could have been. Rumours abound, however, that the Great Druid has actually been corrupted by their evil influence, and is now evil at heart, not neutral. This has not been verified, and no Shadow Druid will consider it. (They still steadfastly assert that they are maintaining the balance, although they have unknowing helped tip it to the side of Evil and Chaos).
The Tripartate Alliance
The Tripartite Alliance is a plan calling for a formal pact and alliance of the Urnst states, Nyrond, and the Theocracy of the Pale. Urnst and Nyrond already have a formal pact, of course. As a general idea, this is not too radical. Archbold himself wishes to conclude a pact with the Pale. However, some argue this idea hoping that the Theocracy will take over much of northern Nyrond. It is therefore linked to the second idea…
Nyrond is too large to defend. Much territory should be given up, to render the rest more defensible. The view is that the Duntide river would make a good natural eastern border, with the western border likewise being formed by the Nesser-Franz river up to the Crystal Springs. The Northern boundary would run from there to Arndulanth, with the Gamboge Forest amd northern lands around Midmeadow being given up to the Pale. The Flinty Hills gnomes would be abandoned to their fate. There is no doubt that a Lesser Nyrond would be more easily defensible, but this is also a counsel of defeat, and to his credit, Archbold will not consider it.The Valorous League of BlindnessThis bizarre sect of Pholtus is strongly approved by the Theocracy of the Pale, and is rapidly gaining converts. Their message is a simple one: “There is now only one hope of salvation, Pholtus of the Blinding Light. Only those blinded to iniquity and its lures can hope to survive in these times. The rich survive while your family members die of starvation! Is this right? No, but that is how Nyrond is. Hence, Nyrond must be changed, and we are the ones to do it. We will root out the evils in Nyrond that are as dangerous as the evils which surround her.” This is a rebellious group, which often foments insurrection, but they do this with peasants who often have nothing to lose anyway. They are a peculiar people; some wear blinders, and some have even put out one eye. The League promotes the Lesser Nyrond doctrine. Notable members include Zylinchin, Grishken, and Carindrell.
Pholtus’ Children or Adversaries of the Arcane as they are also known, are an anti-magical, military fascist group. Blaming magic for the sorrows the world has undergone, they vehemently seek out and execute spellcasters, especially conjurors and necromancers.What is especially remarkable about these adversaries is that they are incredibly well suited for their task. They have received excellent training in combating wizards and know the intricacies of spell craft. Moreover, they are possessed of ‘magical’ abilities that are suited to the elimination of wizards, including the ability to dispel magic. There seems to be a definite connection between them and The Spellslayers, a group of assassins found in the lands from where the Baklunni come from, as several such sages have noted. They too specialize in the killing of wizards, but there is no obvious formal relationship between the two groups. The connection, if any, between the Adversaries of the Arcane and the magical ‘dead zones’ that are found in certain areas of Greyhawk, is also under investigation.