The Suel Migration into Zindia

I’ve long had an idea in the back of my mind that the Suel might just have played a role in Oerth similar to that which the Aryan tribes played in Indian history. Inspired by this article in The Hindu and this opposing one at Swarajaya, I thought it might be a good opportunity to flesh out the idea a little more.

For those who aren’t aware, the Aryan Incursion Theory (aka Aryan Invasion Theory, Aryan Migration Theory, etc.) basically postulates that around 1,600 BCE the Indo-European peoples, originating from the area north of the Black and Caspian Seas, exploded in a migration in all directions, explaining the similarities in various Indo-European languages across Eurasia. Part of this migration moved southeastward into India, impacting language and possibly other things as well (some even go so far as to attribute the lighter skin of upper castes to Aryan genetic influence).

I’m most definitely not going to get into the merits of the theory here (or lack thereof), but suffice to say the question is one that is centuries old, and rife with controversy, inflamed passions, and political  / religious / social implications. I’m just using it as inspiration. (Note that this means discussion of the theory itself will not be permitted in the comments; keep it to Oerth, if you please.)

Now, based on the geography of where the Suel Imperium used to be (now the Sea of Dust), and where Zindia is, relative thereto, I thought it might be interesting to apply the same idea to Oerth. Look at Zindia on the map from Dragon Annual 1 (south of what is labeled as the Suel Empire):

Here’s a detailed look at the area, taken from my Beyond the Flanaess maps from a few years ago. I basically cropped together the three different maps from that series that cover Zindia. All we know about the area in terms of canon and Gygaxian near-canon* are a few names, which I took and ran with, dividing the large area collectively known as “Zindia” into eight different realms:

It’s not perfect — there are some irregularities where the maps meet — but you
get the idea. I’m pretty happy with it, all things considered.

(You can also see Behow in the upper-left corner, one of the breakaway kingdoms on the periphery of the Celestial Imperium of Suhfang.)

Now, my great idea is that at the time the Suloise Imperium was destroyed by the Rain of Colorless Fire, it scattered the Suel peoples much like the Indo-European peoples were scattered. They fled not just across the Hellfurnaces into the Flanaess, but also southward across the relatively narrow mountains into Zindia.

In practical terms this means we can expect to see Suel deities in Zindia in much the same capacity as we see them in the Flanaess; mixed in with other, indigenous deities and religions brought in by other invading or neighboring peoples. (I’m thinking there might be some influence from both the Celestial Imperium to the west and Wujio/Nippon to the south, and possibly vice versa with a Buddhism analogue, but that’s beyond the scope of this article.)

So that gives us a caste system on a Zindia-wide scale somewhat similar to that seen in the Scarlet Brotherhood (for obvious reasons; they both originated with the Suel), some familiar deities for players to deal with, and a definitive link with the published work. Plus (in my mind, anyway) it rhymes with a prominent if controversial historical theory, but doesn’t emulate it in any specific form, which I sort of like.

If my game ever makes it to the steamy climes of Zindia, this is definitely going to be a thing.


* The Gord the Rogue books, specifically; there are a few Zindian lands named in Sea of Death, I believe.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

6 thoughts on “The Suel Migration into Zindia

  1. I had not seen that Dragon map before! At first glance, it seemed to me that the published Greyhawk maps correspond to northern Asia (i.e. Russia), but I knew that originally Gygax had used a USA map with the city of Greyhawk where Milwaukee was located.

    On closer examination, I think I am seeing on the Dragon map that the Americas have been welded onto the eastern edge of Asia. How much of this Dragon map was Gygax-canon?

    Either way, your idea for southern as well as eastern migration after the Twin Devastations is a very logical one. Your maps are excellent, and the research into the sub-regions of Zindia impressive.

    Thanks for another great post. I continue to learn new things about a world no longer published or maintained by TSR. Amazing.

  2. Basically anything west and south of the Celestial Sea is a post-Gygax invention (I believe Gygax said the map as published had nothing to do with his WoG). That said, it's still canon, and I'm going to work with it as best I can, even though the terrain is, to put it charitably, uninspired.

    For instance, the setting of the Chainmail miniatures is in the upper-left section of Oerik on that map, and was pretty well described.

    Many thanks for the kind words about the blog and my maps. I try!

  3. Nice blog article, I like what you are doing with Zindia & I might have to steal it in part for my game. I was always iffy on some of the names of lands on the Beyond Flanaess Map & plan to change them; such as Orcreich, Empire of Lynn & the Nippon; plus Erypt. I'll be looking at your previous blog after I post this.

  4. Great stuff, as always, Joe. I know for publishing purposes you would be constrained by 1) the names already released by TSR/WotC [unless they let writers have much more leeway] and 2) post-TSR Gygax Oerth names are owned by the Gygax Estate. That said, I would love to see (run?) a companion site which spells out Gygax given names for those named by TSR/WotC post-1985.

    Another thing I would love to see would be a compilation of your blog posts in book form. "Encycolpaedia Blochia" has a nice ring to it. 😉

  5. I most emphatically support the subdivision of the subcontinent of Oerik that I choose to call "Vendhya" in Hyborian style. But I place it further west, basically just beyond the edge of the partial Oerik map from the Glossography in the World of Greyhawk box (I treat the so-called canon as stuff that Oerthlings of the Flanaess believe about the past, not as Oerth's actual past).The site of Joe's Zindia is for me (again dipping into Hyborian terminology) called Turan, analogous to our Iran/Persia and its coastline. But then again I change a number of other things, for example the Sea of Dust was not the site of the Suel empire (that was a primarily coastal empire around the Azure Sea, by analogy to the Graeco-Roman Mediterranean) but was rather disputed territory between that empire and the Baklunish, so the Scarlet Broherhood is a shadowy remnant in an outlying province, not a place of exile. There were Vendhyo-Oeridian migrations, from around the Dramidj Ocean, not all in one burst but in successive waves in different directions over 3,000 years (the Flannae were the first to go east, where pre-Vendhyo-Peridian peoples previously lived, but themselves were later pushed aside or assimilated). This is in line with our world's Indo-European migrations, the general idea of which is not controversial (I work in a related academic field) unless overlaid with nationalist baggage.

  6. Brilliant article Joseph and nice to see the BtF maps get some more love here. Yeah I'm in complete agreement, there is no way Suel fled just eastward. If this great Imperium had any kind of seafaring capacity (and it did because it has sea gods) then Zindia was part of it in some way before the Twin Cataclysms unlike the lands to the east. Smart immigrants would go to known lands not into the unknown.

    Fluxisrad: Love your commentary! This gives the Flannae a better reason for being there other than just appearing out of nowhere in what is decidedly demihuman indigenous lands. Further successive waves might explain canonical differences in different regions of Flannae (a whole other topic).

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