Friday, September 5, 2008

Pilgrims and Pilgrimages of the Flanaess

Pilgrims can be found in most civilized lands of the Flanaess. They can be found wherever holy (or unholy) shrines and places of power can be found, and the devout will often undertake such a pilgrimage as a religious obligation. Scant information, however, is to be found concerning the nature of these pilgrimages, their destinations, or those who journey on them.

The encounter tables in the Glossography of the World of Greyhawk Fantasy Setting™, pp. 8-11, as well as those listed in the ADVANCED DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS, DUNGEON MASTERS GUIDE, pp. 179-194, list pilgrims as one of the standard-type encounters. This article will attempt to add both color and substance to such encounters, providing a framework upon which the Dungeon Master may expand such seemingly-dry encounters into an opportunity for role-playing and setting-building. Circumstances will, of course, determine how your PCs are received by any pilgrims they encounter, but as a rule those on a pilgrimage, even those of evil alignment, are more intent on their destination than in interacting with those met on the journey. (Enterprising PCs may, of course, seek to join the pilgrims, either as fellow seekers or as guards; their motives for doing so, and the outcome, are up to the Dungeon Master to determine.)

A pilgrimage is, by its nature, a journey undertaken for a religious purpose. Different faiths will have different opportunities for pilgrimage in different lands. Too, some pilgrimages are long affairs requiring months of travel; it is very possible that the object of the pilgrimage is nowhere near the location where your PCs may encounter the wandering band of religious seekers. Notes on pilgrims found in different places within the Flanaess follow. Bear in mind that this material is written with the original Boxed Set in mind, and are therefore set in and around CY 576. Campaigns set in later periods will not necessarily be able to use the following information without some modification to accommodate the “advances” in the timeline.

Pilgrimages are usually led by clerical authorities, who organize the pilgrimage for the benefit of those wishing to undertake the journey. It is a misnomer to believe that only those of Good alignment will be pilgrims; groups of pilgrims can be lawful good, chaotic good, neutral, chaotic evil, or lawful evil (see the ADVANCED DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS, MONSTER MANUAL, p. 69, for details). The alignment of the pilgrims will, of course, determine with which deity or deities the pilgrimage is associated.

Occasionally (15%), a singular event may trigger a mass of pilgrims to share it as a mystical or otherwise transformative experience:
  1. Death of a religious leader
  2. The rise of a prophet or teacher with a distinctive message of reform (95% chance this will be deemed heretical by the mainstream church)
  3. A miraculous occurrence connected with the deity
  4. Victory in a religiously-inspired battle against heretics or a religious rival
  5. An avatar of the deity has been sighted
  6. A (fraudulent?) relic of a deity has been discovered and put on display
  7. The End Is Near. It must be true, everyone says it is.
  8. DM's prerogative
Rarely (5%), pilgrims do not have any particular destination in mind, but rather have undertaken their wanderings with the intention of allowing their God to guide their travels and thus reveal some Truth to them in a way that more conventional pilgrimages might not. Neutral pilgrims of this type will invariably be followers of Fharlanghn.

Most often (80%) such a journey is made to a particular sacred shrine or other place of religious significance (details on such destinations are given below, by location).

Almor, Nyrond, and Urnst

The worship of the Oeridian diety Heironeous, God of righteousness and chivalry, predominates these lands. Indeed, the Prelate of Almor, ruler of that clerically-led land, rules the land in the name of the church of the Invincible One. There are many different shrines to be found within these lands, and penitents from far across the Flanaess will be found here as pilgrims. The capital city of Chathold does contain the great Cathedral of Chivalry, with its famed stained glass panels; a very popular place of pilgrimage. There are smaller, but still quite impressive, temples and shrines throughout Almor, including that of Heironeous-by-the-Sea on the coast of the Sea of Gearnat, famed for its powers of healing beyond those of normal priests.

Bissel, Gran March, and Keoland

Holy sites within the once-imperial and still-grand kingdom of Keoland and its neighbors are many and splendid. Lawful Good pilgrims in Bissel will most likely be followers of Rao bound for the holy shrines of Veluna (q.v.). Those found in the Gran March or Keoland will either be devotees of St. Cuthbert (40% chance) bound for the great healing shrine in Shiboleth, followers of Heironeous (50% chance) en route to the Temple of Heironeous Triumphant in Niole Dra, or followers of Delleb (10%) bound for Niole Dra and the great library-cathedral the church maintains there as a holy duty.

Chaotic good pilgrims in these lands will almost always be followers of Kord, who travel to the various temples to that deity in the Sheldomar Valley to participate in the sacred contests of strength and combat that are held throughout the year. The most famous of these are held in Hookhill and Gradsul, with more modest affairs in Flen, Cryllor, and Niole Dra as well. Victory in the contests is said to be a sign of the God's favor for the coming year.

Neutral pilgrims will of a certainty be devotees of Olidamarra, bound for that God's temple in Gradsul. Touching the marble statue within is said to grant good fortune and on occasion the gift of glibness of speech to professional musicians, bards, etc.

Evil pilgrims will maintain a low profile in Keoland, which has little tolerance for such cults. Those of lawful bent will be on their way to visit the pair of shrines to Hextor which are tolerated in Flen and Cryllor, while those of chaotic demeanor will be bound for the hidden shrine to Erythnul said to exist hidden deep beneath Niole Dra itself.


Pilgrims of all alignments found in this strange boreal land will be bound for the same place; the mysterious ruined city which extends for miles between the Cold Marshes and the sea. Most will be worshipers of strange and degraded cults seeking either enlightenment, power, or bear other, more alien, motives. Even those of good alignment will be odd in their manner and distrustful of outsiders, albeit not overtly hostile. Such pilgrims will often know secrets of the temples and shrines of the city that are unknown even to the most knowledgeable of sages.

Celene and Highfolk

The olven realms of Celene and Highfolk are unique in the composition of their pilgrim populations, inasmuch as they are excluively of olven stock. The shrines to the olven deities are many and scattered; typically they are small and honor an aspect of one of their Gods associated with a particular natural feature such as a waterfall, spring, or idyllic glade. As such, olven pilgrimages tend to be of shorter length than those of others. There is a 15% chance that pilgrims of Good alignment will be humans passing through the olven lands; bound for the shrines of Saint Cuthbert or Rao in Veluna and Verbobonc.

Evil pilgrims in these lands will disguise that fact well, and will either appear as good pilgrims or a merchant caravan of some sort. They will almost certainly be bound for either the Temple of Elemental Evil in the Kron Hills (35%) or one of the shrines of Nerull hidden in Veluna and Furyondy (60%). Rarely (5%) they will be pilgrims seeking the “blessings” of Iuz, making their way to Dorakaa to join the service of the Old One. Such pilgrimages are usually one-way trips.

Greyhawk and Verbobonc

The Free City of Greyhawk is, of course, one of the most cosmopolitan places in the Flanaess. Faiths of every description can be found there openly, with the exception of the most foul sects of demon- and devil-worshipers. Despite this, there exist within the lands claimed by the City no destinations for pilgrimage*, and those on such journeys are not often found within its domains. Those that are encountered there will be passing through, with a 50% chance of being destined for nearby Verbobonc.

Verbobonc itself is a stronghold of the faith of St. Cuthbert, which is unsurprising given its strong ties to Veluna and Furyondy to the north. Several shrines to the Saint exist within the Viscounty, marking several minor events during Cuthbert's mortal life including the Church of the Holy Cudgel, marking the spot where Cuthbert first cut and hefted the wooden bludgeon for which he would become so famed.

Evil aligned pilgrims found in Verbobonc will sometimes (25% chance) be seeking the ruins of the Temple of Elemental Evil in the Kron Hills. Otherwise, they will simply be on their way to some other unholy shrine in the Flanaess, most probably one of the several well-hidden temples of Nerull in Furyondy and Veluna.

* One exception being those who worship the demigod Zagyg, of course, but such are so few and far between that organized pilgrimages are nearly unheard-of.

Ekbir, Tusmit, and Zeif

Pilgrimages in the Baklunish lands are limited to those of some civilization and urban nature. Lawful good pilgrims will invariably be heading to one of the many small shrines of the Lost Imam Al'Akbar, whose reputation for miraculous healing powers is famed throughout the Flanaess and beyond; such shrines may be found in all of the cities and most of the villages of the region, each specializing in some particular ailment. Caravans of pilgrims will spend years visiting each and every one in an effort to heal the afflictions of all the seekers present among their ranks. (If chaotic good alignment is indicated by the die roll, treat as if lawful good were rolled.) Neutral and evil pilgrims will be en route to one of the great monasteries found on the edges of the Plains of the Paynims (in which are taught not only the arts of physical self-mastery but philosophical enlightenment under the tutelage of the famed mystics of the mysterious West).

Furyondy, Shield Lands, and Veluna

The faith of Saint Cuthbert of the Cudgel is very well-entrenched within the lands of the central-west Flanaess. Lawful Good pilgrims encountered here will most certainly belong to that faith, and will be most zealous and earnest in their devotion. The Great Cathedral of Mitrik attracts the faithful from all over the Flanaess, along with the Church of the Apotheosis, which marks the spot where Cuthbert was raised to Godhood in a blast of light and crashing of tree-limbs. Those of chaotic good or neutral alignment will be making for the temple of the beautiful Myhriss, whose temple at Chendl has seen the weddings of nobility from across the Flanaess for many years (25% chance the pilgrims encountered are specifically on their way to attend such a wedding as a holy obligation). Any evil pilgrims encountered here will be in disguise, and en route to either the Horned Society (if lawful evil is rolled, they will be in fact of neutral evil alignment and headed to Molag to pay obeisance to the lords of Hades) or Iuz (if chaotic evil).

Geoff and the Yeomanry

The Grand Duchy of Geoff is host to a large number of followers of Lirr, Goddess of poetry and art. The great Theater in Gorna is host to a never-ending series of productions, readings, and exhibitions, to which the faithful make pilgrimage at least once in their lives. Caravans of such worshipers are lively and beautiful things, almost pageants in their own right. Pilgrims of either chaotic or lawful good alignment will be of such sort, and can originate from as far away as Medegia or the Thilronian Peninsula. Neutral or evil pilgrims within the Grand Duke's lands are usually en route to smallish countryside shrines dedicated to Ralishaz or Erythnul. The Grand Dukes have, over the years, persecuted these shrines with greater or lesser verve (physical harassment or greater taxes, respectively); their worshipers, however, are no small source of revenue for the Ducal coffers, and economics has won out over righteous zeal over the years.

Great Kingdom, Medegia, North Province, South Province

Although it presently enjoys a great reputation for wickedness, the Great Kingdom was not always so, and it remains to this day a very cosmopolitan and relatively tolerant land.

The See of Medegia, of course, is a clerical state under the suzerainty of the Overking in Rauxes, and as such the worship of Hextor is predominant. But even here the worship of other deities (with the exception of Hextor’s hated brother, Heironeous) is tolerated, if not exactly encouraged. Worshipers of Hextor will most likely be making for the capital of Mentrey with its maleficently magnificent Blood Chapel, supposedly the first place the God was seen after His re-appearance around 570 CY. A no less imposing (but, much to the chagrin of the Overking, less revered by the faithful) Temple of Hextor exists in Rauxes as well. There is a 25% chance that pilgrims will be headed towards Rauxes, 75% chance that they will be heading to Mentrey. The fact that this fattens the coffers of the Censor rather than those of the Overking is something that has not gone unnoticed by either.

Non-evil pilgrims will usually be followers of Zilchus, heading for the city of Irongate (if neutral), or those of Pholtus (if lawful good) headed for the Pale. Chaotic good pilgrims will either be followers of Trithereon headed for the famed Free Falls marking the headwaters of the Gray Flood in Hexpools (50%) or followers of Lirr headed for the biannual contests of poetry, song, and art sponsored by the Seven Shrines of Lirr as a religious festival (sacred to them but open to all) held in Innspa to mark Growfest and Needfest. It is said that Lirr Herself appears there at irregular intervals, and that Her presence is known by the supernaturally excellent performances.

Idee and Irongate

It is said that Zilchus Himself was present at the laying of the foundation for the great walls of Irongate, as a sign of the commercial success the city would enjoy in years to come. For that reason alone it has become a destination for those who seek the favor of the God of Business, and pilgrims of neutral or lawful alignment will be such worthies (note that such pilgrims will be a combination of both a pilgrim caravan and a merchant caravan; just combine the entries as described in the ADVANCED DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS MONSTER MANUAL, and adjust the number of mercenary leaders accordingly). Those of chaotic good alignment will surely be headed for the Thin Vale in Idee, which is home to a miraculous shrine dedicated to the Goddess Wenta. Farmers visiting the shrine are said to have their next harvest blessed by supernatural abundance. Those of evil bent are most assuredly en route to one of the shrines in the Great Kingdom and Medegia (q.v.).

Ket and Perrenland

For encounters with pilgrims in Ket, there is a 50% chance they will be as described in the entry for Ekbir, Tusmit, and Zeif (q.v.). Otherwise, treat them as described here. Evil pilgrims will be on a journey of discovery, bound for the Yatils in search of a legendary shrine to the dark God Tharizdun which passed from the ken of civilization centuries ago. If any have been successful in their quest, none have ever reported it. Those of good alignment will be bound for the spectacular Glittering Cathedral of Ulaa situated on a commanding height overlooking the pass between Molvar in Ket and Krestible in Perrenland. Neutral pilgrims in Ket will be dedicants of Beory, making their way to Her holy shrine in the northeastern tip of the Bramblewood forest. In Perrenland, neutral pilgrims will be adherents of the faith of Zilchus, en route to Schwartzenbruin and the enormous market-shrine therein.

The Pale and Tenh

The Pale is, of course, the seat of the religion of Pholtus of the Blinding Light, and pilgrims of Lawful Good alignment will be adherents of that faith exclusively, as other faiths are actively persecuted within its lands. The Tenha, while more liberal than their neighbors to the south, nevertheless will only have such pilgrims within their borders, en route to the various shrines to Pholtus found in the Pale. The greatest of these is the Grand Cathedral of the Light in Wintershiven, a fantastic amalgamation of glass and stone whose sheen can be seen for miles from the walls of the city. There are a number of smaller shrines to which pilgrimages are often made by the faithful, including the shrine of the Heavenly Courses (in the headlands of the Rakers), where some believe Pholtus Himself commanded the sun and moons in their orbits, as well as the Temple of Doubting Folly a few days' ride northwest of Ogburg, where those who have doubts concerning the iron-clad certainty of the faith are often found to seek the removal of such stains from their souls.

The Scarlet Brotherhood

Pilgrims encountered in the lands controlled by the Scarlet Brotherhood will be of Lawful Evil alignment exclusively; ignore the alignment table given in the Monster Manual. Pilgrim bands will be members of the Brotherhood itself, undertaking journeys to several of the unholy places maintained by the secretive society.


The great and tranquil Gardens of Chellester in the eastern side of the County, sacred to Delleb, attract a great many worshipers of that deity. It is said that, while walking through the peaceful and immaculately trimmed paths, even the most difficult problem of philosophy or logic will reveal its answer. Pilgrims of lawful good alignment will have that as their destination. Those of neutral or chaotic good alignment will surely be bound for the Four Airs Tor; a singular mesa northwest of Pitchfield which is sacred to the four Gods of the Winds of Oeridian religion; Atroa, Sotillion, Telchur, and Wenta. Particularly favored are those four days of the year when the winds change their direction around the tor, marking the official change of season. Those present for the event are considered to have the blessings of the winds and seasons for an entire season, until the winds once again change. Finally, pilgrims of lawful evil alignment (treat all rolls indicating chaotic evil alignment as lawful evil instead); the Vast Swamp. Somewhere within its trackless mires and pools is said to be the lair of the demigod Wastri Himself, and those who are attracted to His bizarre faith must needs use Sunndi as their highway to so do (often, they will disguise themselves as pilgrims of some other bent, to avoid the attention of the authorities, who find the growing power of Wastri to their south to be inimical to the interests of the County).

Sea Princes

From far and wide, those who favor the Goddess Joramy visit Her great temple complex in the westernmost parts of the lands of the Sea Princes, at the very foothills of the Hellfurnaces. Vast volcanically-fed hot springs and subterranean lava flows are the centerpiece of the spectacle. Pilgrims of lawful good, chaotic good, and neutral alignment will be bound for the temple. Those of lawful evil alignment will be bound for the shrine of Syrul in Westkeep (50%) or they will be among the devil-worshipers who bear the ruby tattoo on their persons and make for the great Infernal Temple that dominates the skyline of Hokar (50%). Those of chaotic evil alignment will be headed for the Hellfurnaces, and will be extraordinarily tight-lipped about their ultimate destination. Ultimately, it can be learned that they are heading towards the unholy places of some demon prince or queen, but the specific identity of the fell monarch of the Abyss is left to the Dungeon Master to determine.

Duchy and Principality of Ulek

Deep in the heart of the Silver Wood there lies a large glade. On its surface, it does not appear special in any way, but to the followers of Ehlonna of the Forests, it is known to be a place of special holiness and magic. Pilgrims of good or neutral alignment in the Duchy will be headed there, to simply take in its quiet beauty and sacred energy in silence and beauty. In the Principality, in the hills north of Havenhill, there is a temple built on the spot where, it is said, the God Fortubo taught the art of metalsmithing to both dwarves and men. Lawful good and neutral pilgrims will be bound for that sacred smithy. Those of chaotic good alignment will have as their destination the shrine of Llerg of the Hills, at the headwaters of the Old River. There, it is said, the God of Beasts gathered the Lords of all animals in special conclave at the beginning of the world. Those who hold the Beastmaster in reverence hold the spot in special regard. In both of the Ulek States, pilgrims of evil alignment will be well disguised and bound for hidden shrines to evil deities or devils and demons that still persist in the Lortmil Mountains. Beltar in particular, among those of chaotic evil bent, is known to still have shrines which are venerated by those of fell intent.


James Maliszewski said...

This is very nicely done. Thanks.

grodog said...

Great post, Joe: this is something I've been toying with for awhile, on a smaller scale (a monastery shrine for Daern). The Men encounters types in the MM are among some of the most interesting, and are the human equivalent to humanoid tribal encounters.

Also: because the MM only features five alignments (only Centaur, Gnome, Larva, Lich, Night Hag, Nightmare, Nymph, Octopus, Pseudo Dragon, Giant Rat, Sprite, Sylph, Triton, Wolverine, and Wyvern break away from the 5 polar alignments of Holmes, and none of them do so strongly), and all five are represented among those on pilgrimages, I would allow all of the nine traditional AD&D alignments to be found among them.


wolfkahn said...

Wow, impressive!