Sunday, November 14, 2021

The Forces of Law & Chaos - The Battle of Brown's Hill Wargame Session Report

"Here in an excerpt from the Battle Report Gary Gygax submitted back in 1971 to Don Featherstone's Wargamer's Newsletter:

Having run across an old map I had drawn of a mythical continent, complete with many fantastic inhabitants, I decided to use it as the basis for a game. Lake Geneva was to play host to the Madison, Wisconsin, group so I got busy. The "Situation" was described as follows:

East of the Desert of Sorrow stretches the nearly unbroken barrier of forbidding mountains. Furthest south, dipping into the place where the Gnyxyg Sea meets The Ocean, they are called Mountains of Bitter Cold. At the place where the Broken Land joins them they become known as the Home of Dragons, and it is somewhere within their vast area that is hidden the Cave of Shifting Runes. Furthest north they are known as the Giant Mountains, due not to the stature of their peaks — albeit this is undiminished, but rather for the creatures who inhabit the labyrinthine caverns therein. A spur of the chain turns first eastward, then circles north again, to en­close the hidden and unwholesome valley of Lake Iuz. The lesser peaks of the spur are the Dwarfrealm.

On the coast north of the Giant Mountains are the lands called Drearshore, and the peninsula of Lands End. It was from here that Chaos armed its host, swarmed into the Valley of Iuz, and began to harry the Dwarves, causing them to flee southwards into the Brown Hills and bringing news of the massing evil, to the men of the Old Kingdom. From the town of Yon to the city of Hither the news travelled, and the paladins at Great Keep were called forth by the Count of Aerll. All of Law was to meet in solemn council at the hamlet of Lea. In a short time the men of the Meadow­lands were joined by a band of the warlike elves from the wood near the Cairnstones, as well as a large band of horsemen from beyond the Silent Forest, the eastern border of all the land.

The encampment of the Count was made in the Cloverfields, between Lea and the Brown Hills. It was here that intelligence reached him that the Hordes of Chaos had debouched from the pass at the headwaters of the Darkling River, skirted the Marshes of Oozing Slime, and now were only a few days from him. Despite the fact that only three-quarters of his forces had been marshalled, the Count marched at once due west across the narrow waist of hills, and took up a strong position to await the enemy."

From the Collectors website The Battle of Brown's Hill Battle Report Available Right Here  

If there was ever a point where the proto Greyhawk campaign setting was born then it was definitely 'The Battle of Brown's Hill'! This was the predecessor to Gary Gygax's 'B2 Keep on The Borderlands' which I learned about through the OSR Grimoire blog here.  

 If there was an unofficial start to the world of Greyhawk setting I'd probably say that it would be the The Battle of Brown Hills, which Gygax submitted as a battle report to Wargamer's Newsletter  was published in issue #116 (November, 1971). I'm thinking that 'The Battle of The Brown Hills's is the precursor battle between the forces of Law & Chaos within the Realms. There's more here from the OSR Grimoire blog on 'B2 Keep on The Borderlands'While an important perspective, the later module B5 "Horror on the Hill" (1983) makes a better case for this argument.  By comparison, the near apocalyptic setting described in the background for module B2 presents an endangered civilization under siege:

The Realm of mankind is narrow and constricted. Always the forces of Chaos press upon its borders, seeking to enslave its populace, rape its riches, and steal its treasures. If it were not for a stout few, many in the Realm would indeed fall prey to the evil which surrounds them. Yet, there are always certain exceptional and brave members of humanity, as well as similar individuals among its allies - dwarves, elves, and halflings - who rise above the common level and join battle to stave off the darkness which would otherwise overwhelm the land. Bold adventurers from the Realm set off for the Borderlands to seek their fortune. It is these adventurers who, provided they survive the challenge, carry the battle to the enemy. Such adventurers meet the forces of Chaos in a testing ground where only the fittest will return to relate the tale. Here, these individuals will become skilled in their profession, be it fighter or magic-user, cleric or thief. They will be tried in the fire of combat, those who return, hardened and more fit. True, some few who do survive the process will turn from Law and good and serve the masters of Chaos, but most will remain faithful and ready to fight chaos wherever it threatens to infect the Realm.

from B2 "The Keep on the Borderlands" "

This very much feels like the same sort of a set up that we not only see in Chainmail but the type of a battle set up that echoes through Original Dungeons & Dragons Supplement I : Greyhawk. 

"The Battle of Brown Hills." The battle is between the forces of Chaos, led by the warlock Huldor ap Skree, and those of Law, led by Count Aerll. Which begs the question, "Did the forces of Law at the Keep on the Borderlands actually gone because of the events of the 'Battle of Brown Hill'?! " And this also brings The Battle of Brown Hill back into Arthurian mythological focus. With a pre Greyhawk campaign setting are the forces chaos related to Poul Anderson's pseudo Celtic Chaos mythological forces !?! Ancient OSR theorists say, ' yes '. And on Grognardia there's a comment by  SlerotinJune 5, 2012 at 2:54 PM

"Aha!  This explains why you can find so many magical swords lying around in the Flanaess.  No one thinks to look for them after battles."

What's so interesting about that?! Well given the fact that magical swords play such a high point in both the Moorcock & Poul Anderson Law Vs Chaos Sword & Sorcery fictional mythologies this point isn't lost. Now there's also the fact that Arthurian literature a well as  legend & lore has significant humanoid races playing the enemies or allies as the forces of chaos. Then it makes sense that the evil Fey would also play such a significant part for Chaos. And these factors also plug back into Michael Moorcock's Corum series of books where the Celtic mythologies play such a significant part of in the war between Law & Chaos. But what does this have to do with the Adventurer, Conqueror, King?! Everything actually. 

ACK's forces of Chaos are the giants, humanoid races, & the orcs all a deep part of both Poul Anderson's Sword & Sorcery & the Battle of Brown's Hill. Everything comes full circle. 

And these forces in ACK's become a full on threat within AX3 Capital of the Borderlands a supplement that mimics both late Roman Empire & the world of the 'Battle of Brown's Hill'.


And I believe that this has been done as a homage to Gary Gygax's B2 Keep on the Borderlands. But if we squint really hard then we get a much better understanding in the implied struggle between Law & Chaos in ACK's. There's a far deeper Strombringer aspect coming up. 

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