First, there isn’t an open war here at the present time; the Orc Empire is not showing signs of wishing to expand north, only of intermittent raiding. Thus, Greyhawk has not moved an army into the Wild Coast. Instead, it has major garrisons at the two cities and can support them swiftly with marines and militia from Hardby, via land and sea. However, virtually every able-bodied adult on the Wild Coast has a hand weapon, leather armor (or equivalent), and has received some training.
Second, there is a corrosive fear in the Wild Coast among all but the most aggressive and evil men. Everyone is afraid of the huge mass of ores to the south. No one believes that the Wild Coast lands will not eventually fall (except, perhaps, for the Greyhawkers—but then, they will probably be able to get out if they do fall). This fear manifests in a variety of ways.
Some people have fled the Wild Coast, of course, to one of the three Free Cities to the north. Others grimly hang on, just hoping to see out their days before the end comes (this is typical of many older people). Some are determined to stay put and kill as many ores as they can when the day of reckoning comes. Others become even wilder than the name of the land suggests; drunkenness, debauchery, and bullying have never exactly been alien to Wild Coast folk, but these problems are worse than ever now outside of the major settlements.
A few folk have become stirred to bravery, overcoming their fear, and now turn to militant faiths. Trithereon and other martial deities are respected and often revered; peaceable deities such as Pelor and Rao have virtually no following, and nature deities are likewise forgotten and neglected in most places.
The Wild Coast is a land of extremes and polarization. There is true valor among some of its people, even a few of the evilly-inclined, but there is also deceit, cowardice, and backstabbing aplenty. There is little respect for property, given the fear of being conquered by an alien orcish horde, and in most places possession is ten-tenths of the law and might is right. These are not lands for the faint-hearted.
The Cities of the Wild Coast
The remaining unconquered cities of the Wild Coast, Narwell and Safeton, formally concluded pacts of association with Greyhawk in Coldeven, 584 CY. Greyhawk stationed garrisons at both cities, and administered city law there, extracting tax and tribute from the cities in return. Faced with onslaught from the Pomarj, the rulers felt they had no choice. The population of both cities has had a sharp turnover during the wars; many refugees fled there from vanquished cities, but many ruffians fled Greyhawk’s rule, and while both cities had significant humanoids among their numbers before the wars, this changed in the infamous Night of Terror early in 584 CY. Every ore, half-ore, and hobgoblin in Narwell and Safeton was knifed, lynched, or burned alive by the humans, fearing they were Pomarj spies.
Settlements of the Wild Coast
The settlement pattern here is quite variable. Some lands of the plains are freeholdings—small groups of farmers who now band together for self-defense. Other lands are held by petty nobles, who often squabble with each other. Others still are bandit fiefs or fiercely independent guild-run villages and small towns. Rulership changes frequently, as one bandit is killed off by another, off by another, or a minor noble dies in a tragic hunting accident and his lands are taken over by an avaricious neighbor.
Most of these plains communities have never signed any kind of pact with the Free City and owe it no allegiance, but there is increasingly a tendency to accept Greyhawk’s presence since this is highly preferable to being invaded by ores. While taxes may not be paid, manpower may be given to aid Greyhawk’s militias, and food, shelter, and basic equipment may be given to patrols. The following locations are the most important
in these lands.
The Buffer Zone
This zone is one in which Greyhawk militias make organized strikes with medium-sized strike squads, and where control is disputed between humanoids from the Pomarj, bandits, elves (on the edges of the Welkwood), and even a few determined local farm folk still hanging on to their homes. The buffer zone has no fixed boundaries, and those shown on the map are current during the spring of 585 CY. Raiding orcs are the major hazard in the Buffer Zone.
The buffer zone is a largely razed area of terrain; there are few buildings left untouched, and many have been burned by raiding humanoids or deliberately ruined by bandits seeking to disguise their hideouts.
Because the buffer zone is so fluid, it is hard to give specific detail about it, but these locations illustrate vividly the kind of struggle that takes place in this area.
The Orchish Empire of the Wild Coast
Only a small sliver of this domain is known. What is provided here is a sample of the evils the orcs have created in the southern Wild Coast lands. While the northern border of the empire can be considered the southern end of the buffer zone, this is mutable, as is the western border, which merges into the Welkwood. Within the Welkwood, east of the Jewel, elves, orcs, and bandits vie for control; the land for 15 miles south of Castle Mastryne, however, remains the fief of its dark lord.
In general, orcs are relatively well-disciplined in their own territories. The orcish war leader who is based at Cantona exercises control through the priesthood of Gruumsh, which he has smartly placed in control of individual warbands within his area of control. Raiding bands are allowed to do as they please, but are usually allowed to operate away from their bases only for a few weeks at most.
The war lords of the ores have, as yet, no concerted plans for striking farther north, because most of Turrosh Mak’s efforts are currently directed toward Ulek. The work of raiding parties thus tends to be somewhat haphazard. The buffer zone and the southeastern Welkwood are the preferred territories for raiding and pillaging.