Sagard, Izmer, and Mapping Western Greyhawk

Author: DHBoggs / Labels: , ,

 Funnily enough, this process started with Izmer, the setting of the first and second D&D movies, as discussed in previous posts.  You might think that placing Izmer off the western edge of the Greyhawk map would be a fairly simple matter.  The trouble begins, however, with the fact that no map of the lands of Izmer was ever published. 

Luckily (?) it is pretty well established that "Izmer" was drawn from the filmmaker's home brew campaign, loosely based on Alphatia, an Island empire in the Mystara setting.  Again fortunately, Bruce Heard, one of the principal creators of Mystara, has been posting useful maps of the island. So I just snagged one of Heard's maps of Alphatia, played around with resizing to get a good fit, and tacked it on to the missing end of the Oerth map.  Okay, that's good, I thought.  I'm done.

That's not quite the end of the story, as I read deeper into what others had to say about western Greyhawk, more "canon" material came to light.  First there is a fair amount of information to be found in Gygax's Gord the Rogue books, a useful summary of which is On Drangonsfoot.

So, of course I had to add all those in.  I also found a useable Telchuria map that fit and scanned in some screen shots of area maps from the movies, including a map of the islands where the Orb of  Falazure was hidden: 

and This map of the area around Antius and the Tomb of Savrill.

Other location details had to be drawn out of the movie dialog, such as when Berek explains that to find the Vault of Malek the quickest root will be to pass through the Heartshorn Forest, sail down the Mudwash River to the goblin village of Kurtl where they can learn it's location.  

The final sources were written adventures posted free on WotC and even the novelization of the D&D movie written by Neal Barrett Jr. 

Still not done.  There is still a blank area to the south unaccounted for.  Typically fan made maps of Western Oerik utilize the Dragon Annual "Bearskin" continent, - namely this turd-like peninsula dangling from the south end.

So at first I reluctantly added it too.  Part of the reason for doing so was to provide a logical location for "Jahindi" (Zindia) from the Gord books, while also keeping the theme of Western Oerik being largely isolated and not as prosperous as the Flanaess - you would have to sail around the turd to get to Izmer or cross a vast desert.

Okay, now I'm done right?  Nope.  Enter Sagard the Barbarian.  Let me quote Wikipedia. "Sagard the Barbarian is a series of four Hero's Challenge Gamebooks written by Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons and Flint Dille, screenwriter,... Flint Dille met Gary Gygax while Gygax was in Hollywood and they began collaborating on a number of projects, including the Sagard the Barbarian gamebook series (1985-1986)...".  

These are teen "choose your own adventure" type books, set in yet another version of Greyhawk.  I don't have these books, but the maps are readily available online.  Here they are in order from the books:

The leftmost maps, from books 1 and 2, are straight-up Greyhawk.  They show Ratik in Northeastern Greyhawk, with some new towns added, along with the Hydranian islands.  These books span the time Gygax got ousted from TSR, so it is not surprising that the first two maps (1985) conform to Greyhawk while the last two maps from books 3 and 4 (1986) introduce a whole new geography set in a far southern land.  

If you look closely, you will note that it is only the Hydranian Islands that connect all these maps.  We can easily assume their placement on the book 3 map is simply wrong, and therefore Ratik can remain as Ratik is in the first map and as it is in all other Greyhawk maps.  

So then we are left with placing the peninsula shown in maps 3 and 4, and where better to put this than in the place of the "turd" peninsula from the Dragon Annual, non-Gygaxian map.   

It turns out I wasn't the first one to think along these lines.  Oerth Journal #26 (Here) has an excellent article by Erik Mona wherein he distills all the important setting information from the Sagard books and places them on the map in this very location.  Unfortunately, he choose to scrap the Sagard maps and tries relocate these countries onto the turd, along with the place names TSR had already put there ("Nippon") and some fan created material ("Sunela").  Nevertheless, most of the country descriptions in the article are terrific and useful if you just ignore his map.  Heck, if I had seen this article first I might not have done all the research into the Sagard maps, but I'm glad I did.

Now, yes, I'm done.  Below is a map - crudely but accurately done - that incorporates all the research from Izmer, the Gord novels, and the Sagard books into one functional, fascinating, gameworld. Whew! 


The Greyhawk West and Arneson's Izmer

Author: DHBoggs / Labels: ,

Hopes were high when the D&D movie came out, but most gamers found the film to be very disappointing.  Looking back with 20 years of hindsight, it isn't such a bad movie.  Parts are even well done, but the structure of the film was flawed in that it was generic fantasy with few iconic D&Disms and one of the main characters, a thief called Snails, was just ruinously, hideosly, awful, at least as portrayed by the actor. 

So the movie went into the dustbin essentially, and even though there was a low budget, but still much better, sequel, (Wrath of the Dragon God, 2005), the movie did not generate the line of role playing products originally planned.

A few articles and short adventures did appear on the WotC website however, and two of those were written by Dave Arneson, who had been asked to contribute to a planned sourcebook for the setting.  These articles are interesting in themselves, as they show Arneson's take on the setting, and in some ways lay a foundation for his later re-boot of Blackmoor - we will leave that discussion for another day.

Besides, there is plenty written about this stuff in the forums, such as HERE , and I don't want to recap all that now.  What I do want to point out is that in the correspondence posted in those forums, Arneson mentions that since his work on the Empire of Izmer wasn't going to be used for a sourcebook, he was incorporating it into his personal Blackmoor campaign.  He wrote "Since I did all that work, and WOTC scrubbed movie support (Before the movie came out BTW) I added it to my campaign world.  In my case I placed the Empire beyond the Great Mountains to the West...." 

Readers of this blog will know that of late I have been focusing on how Arneson's Blackmoor may best be retro-fit into Greyhawk as it originally had been before the rift with TSR, and that brings up the question of how Izmer would fit also.

It's always bothered me a little that the Greyhawk maps don't show a coastline in the west and southwest. Just looking at the map gives no clue how big the Sea of Dust is or what is on the other side. I know a lot of people have wondered. 

Long after Gygax had parted company with TSR, an Oerth map was released by TSR  that attempts to answer the question of what lies beyond. The TSR map shows a huge, bearskin-rug like continent extending from the west of the Flanaess. This monstrosity not only dwarfs the Flanaesse into insignificance, but it is completely ugly and unnatural. I really don't think it makes any sense as is, and a majority of Greyhawk fans reject it as ridiculous.

The story behind the map was that it was found in Gygax office after he left the company, so it must be legit, right?  Recently the real scoop about the map was related by Skip Williams in an interview on Lord Gosumba's Greyhawk channel (YouTube).  Yes, the map was found in Gygax's office, but it was not in his handwriting and most likely had been drawn by his friend Fran├žois Marcela-Froideval for his French commic series.

So that's that. 

In thinking about what might lie at the edge of the Greyhawk map in contrast to the ideas of Mr. Froideval, I remembered what Arneson said about Izmer.  From there it is a simple deductive syllogism: If Izmer lies west of Blackmoor, and Blackmoor lies in Greyhawk, then Izmer lies in western Greyhawk.

Interestingly, one doesn't need Arneson's idea to come to this conclusion at all.  As we shall see, Izmer has it's own Greyhawk clues.

An important caveate to make at this juncture, one which will often be brought up, is that Greyhawk exists in multiple versions, a multiverse of Oerths, Aerths, Yarths and what have you's.  That to me is just a metagaming tool of no real consequence.  I figure what may exist in one multiverse Greyhawk/Blackmoor prolly should exist in another, so there was a reason to possibly place Izmer to the far west of Blackmoor in Greyhawk too, and, as it turns out, there are additional clues that tie the movie setting to Greyhawk. In fact the second movie includes the  Greyhawk references to Obad-hai, Jubilix, the Ghost Tower of Inverness, the Barrier Peaks, and the Shrine of Kuo-Toa. So it's not out of the question to put Izmer somewhere west of the Sea of Dust.

You can have a look Here on FB where some of the research - meaning notes from watching the movies - is discussed and is all pretty accessible for anyone interested in drawing on the Izmer setting.  The movie novelization, however, may be a lot more obscure, so I will close out this post with my notes from that book.  In the next post I'm going to look at pulling all the information together into a workable map - along with another twist to this story before we get there .

The D&D novel by Neal Barrett Jr. isn't exactly a gold mine of new information.  The plot follows fairly closely to that of the movie and there isn't much in the way of new scenes, but of course there is still some information to glean.  As a side note, the Snails character of the book is something of an exception, in that he is much more likeable and believable - not the annoying jar-jar binks nock off that Wayans portrayed. 

The notes I give here though aren't about the characters.  I looked specifically for geographical information, historical information, and general description to augment what we know from other sources.


Page 0. Map showing the heart of Sumdall.  Sumdall proper lies on the north side of the river (unnamed).  Four bridges are shown crossing the river into "Oldtown", the city south of the river where the poor and underprivileged live.  The map only lists a few principal buildings such as the Council of Mages, the Imperial Palace, The Magic School, and Profion's Tower on the banks of the river in Oldtown. 

Page 17 "...he could see one of the heavy stone bridges that linked Oldtown with the opulent domes and towers of Sumdall city - or, he thought, cut off the very rich from the multitude of poor."

page 17.  Sumdall is millennia old, and was established at a time when "short, bronze-armored warriors had come down out of the north to conquer."  There is no mention in the book of the Turanians, but these warriors seem a good candidate.

 There is no shortage of taverns. Some named in Oldtown are "Ferret and Fox (the oldest), Dog and Duck, Hoof and Hair, and Hare and Hound." In Sumdall there is a tavern named "The Rusty Sword", which is the oldest surviving tavern in the city.


Page 40 (and elsewhere).  The council of mages is described as an advisory body, not a legislative one.  However, if the council comes to a decision by majority vote, the Emperor/Empress is bound by law to obey the decision. (per pages 176-178)


Page 105.  Description of Antius; "Antius was a city even older than Sumdall.  A city built atop a city and a myriad of cities under that, going back to even before the great war... It was a cramped city with a crumbling fortress wall perched atop a steep hill.  The place had nowhere to go but up.  A stranger approaching this kingdom of thieves was awed by the towers and keeps that seemed to push one another aside, stretching high into the low clouds..."


Page 134 "Profion of Tarak".  There must be a territory or city named Tarak somewhere in Izmer.


Page 65 Marina comes from a place called Pretensa, her "birthland in the far mountain reaches of the north."


Pages 140-150.  Damodar's camp at a ruined castle is less than two days journey from Antius.  They travel one day, sleep, and travel at least half of the next day to get there.

Page 221 The surrounding lands are described as "Elwood stood alone in the shade of the rocky spire.  He looked past the scattered bodies, past the thicket of woods, past the stony plain."


Page 179, The hunter elves in the forest near Damodar's castle belong to the Verdalf clan of hunter elves, renowned for their healing ability.

Page 183-184 The Verdalf clan is lead by "the clanmaster healer", Hallvarth Fyrlief.  (played by Tom Baker in the movie)

Page182 "Elwood was startled.  He was no stranger to the forest, but this particular creature had simply walked out of nothing, as if he were part of the shadow, part of the trees themselves.  He knew this was an elf, but not one of the ordinary breed.  This one was clearly a hunter, a slender being with a nut-brown face, dark eyes, and pointy ears, a creature with hard and corded muscle, muscle wound up like a spring.  His clothes, like the forest, were a hundred shades of green and his strong, intelligent features were tattooed with the patterns of vines and leaves, marks that twisted across his brow, down his cheeks, and onto a bare shoulder.  His eyes were the color of berries, his hair a shade of brown and ochre lichen that grows on the bark of trees."

 Page 183 "Marina would have passed the elven village by, certain there was nothing to see.  Even Elwood, whose folk were as different from humans as elves themselves, sensed the presence of life but saw no dwellings, no paths were the grass was beaten down, no smell of campfires or food.  Marina was sure there came a time when she was somehow invited to see what there was to see, for the hidden to be revealed.  For in that instant a great elven village appeared in the trees.  Lights she would have taken for tiny stars were not stars at all, but lights from dwellings twinkling amidst the thick canopy of leaves.  The closer she looked, the more there was to see.  The village was a maze of twisted walkways, ladders, balconies, and stairs, not a one that wouldn't pass to unschooled eye as a cluster of vines or gnarled branch of a tree.  There was no aspect of elven life that intruded on nature - every home, every window, every bridge, and even the elves themselves - seemed as if they were meant to grow here."  


As described in the book, the war over Sumdall is horrific.  There are literally hundreds of gold and red dragons fighting each other in the skies and fighting the soldiers in the city who are equiped with war machines, catapults, etc.  All but 5 of the hundreds of gold dragons involved  die and fall destructively on the city.  Most of the mages die too.

Page 267 "No one spoke as it vanished over the ruined towers of Sumdall, the charred, crumbling remains of this grand and ancient city."

Page 268  Somehow, despite the devastation of hundreds of dragons and two armies fighting and dying in the city, after "not so many weeks", everything is back to normal and life goes on in Sumdall.  This is just ridiculous.  The city must surely have been totally ruined in the fighting, not to mention all the burning dragon blood and bodies everywhere.  Sumdall must have been rendered an uninhabitable smoldering ruin.


Page 269 "...the Empire's proud new flag: a Golden Dragon wreathed in oaken leaves, rampant on bright squares of silver and white."


Page 270

Marina's mother Nalrid: House of Staverid

Norda: Ancient and Royal Clan of Tripidantes

Elwood Gutworthy: Revered Oakenshield Clan

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Game Archaeologist/Anthropologist, Scholar, Historic Preservation Analyst, and a rural American father of three.
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