Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Icons of the Kings of Burgess

The Icons of the Kings of Burgess

Background Information:
When Flan of the Old Faith pray for the welfare of a friend or relative, they often construct small dolls or icons in the image of that person, to ensure that their well wishes find their mark. Of course, if a person's true name is known, this is not required, but most common folk are not privy to that kind of information, so the use of faith icons is quite common.

The lands now composing the Grand Duchy of Geoff were in ancient times home to the nigh-forgotten Kingdom of Burgess, noteworthy for being the last flan realm in the Sheldomar Valley to resist and defy conquest by (the then "mortal" lich) Vecna's wicked Empire of the Spidered Throne as it slowly absorbed the nations of the great valley. The kings of Burgess were, as a rule, just and noble, ruling from their ancient longhouses where Castle Eagle Peak (in Gorna) now sits. Beloved by their subjects, the kings were often the recipients of praise and prayer from the folk of their land, and as a result, many small icons in their images were crafted by those loyal folk of Burgess, to rest upon the family hearth and help channel the blessings of the Old Gods to the noble kings.

When Burgess finally fell, its army routed and its last defiant king executed on the steps of his own great hall, Vecna's vile servant Kas ordered the land scoured, and any icons to the fallen kings destroyed as a symbol of the might and authority of his undying lord. Despite this, a few of the icons of the kings do remain hidden in and around Geoff today, and the lucky and faithful who find them sometimes discover that the blessings of the Old Gods still reside within the simple vessels.

The Icons of the Kings of Burgess are simple, sometimes crude wooden totems or dolls, from 10 to 14 inches in height, carved and decorated in the image of handsome, strong flan men, often depicting only their face or bust. Some rare examples still have the simple paint that once adorned them, but in most instances this adornment is long since faded away. The presence or lack of paint may affect the market value of the piece, but has no bearing on the special power of the item, described below.

Appraise Information:

DC15 - The icons are humble, yet rare examples of pre-migrations Flan folk art, and would fetch 30 to 50 gp (30+1d20) on the open market, or as much as twice that to a wealthy collector, given 1d4 weeks of "shopping" the item around in the antiques markets.

DC25 (with synergy bonus from Knowledge (Local History, Geoff) or Religion (Old Faith) if any) - The item is recognized as one of the fabled Icons of the Kings of Burgess. This knowledge halves the time required to sell the item for full value, as noted above.

Special Abilities:
DC20 Religion (Old Faith) check will reveal the folklore surrounding the Icons, which says that the bravery and defiance of tyranny that so defined the doomed kings of Burgess lingers within the simple wooden dolls that bear their images. Once this is known (or accidentally discovered, by a bearer of the Icon grasping it to her chest and praying for the guidance and strength of will of the kings of yore), the bearer of the Icon is entitled to a +2 circumstance bonus to all saving throws and other checks to resist fear or intimidate type effects, if and only if the Icon is embraced openly in both hands, for the cause of that fear or intimidation to see.

Dragon Magazine #272, The Secret Library of Vecna
By Steve Miller
This article mentions the ancient realm of Burgess and describes the fate of its last king, as well as an artifact derived from those events.

Dragon Magazine #348, Core Beliefs: Vecna
By Sean K. Reynolds & Sam Weiss
This article provides additional hints and insights regarding the history of Vecna's empire on Oerth.

Art Credit:
The image I used to depict an example Icon of a King of Burgess is a manipulated photo of a wood sculpture by the craftsmen at Sleepy Hollow Art. I didn't get their permission to alter or use the image, but I highly recommend their work, it's quite good, so drop by and have a look, at

Canon Commentary:
Although I consider Steve Miller's Dragon article to be setting canon since it doesn't contradict any of the other sources I know, there is no indication of where exactly Burgess was. Despite the close proximity of Vecna's seat of power in the Rushmoors, I decided that the deep woodlands and rough mountainous terrain of Geoff make it likely to be one of the last areas of the Sheldomar to be conquered by that empire.

The details of Vecna and his empire's history on Oerth is also vague, at best, in the later article by Reynolds & Weiss, as well as in the Vecna Lives! and Vecna Reborn adventures, by David Cook and Monte Cook, respectively.

For further insight into the history of Vecna's conquest of his flan enemies on Oerth, I recommend the following links, with thanks to Rob XX (also one of the curators of the GH Wiki on from the Facebook Greyhawk Adventures group for bringing them to my attention:

Discussion of Burgess in canon context on the Facebook Greyhawk Adventures group.

The Forgotten History of the Southern Lorridges: Vecna, the Mara, and Ashardal a thought provoking article on by user TwiceBorn.