Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Electrum in 5th Edition

Welcome back electrum! I'm sure a lot of you older gamers who have the new edition of D&D have noticed that electrum coins are in the Player's Handbook again. For those who are newer to the game I'll explain why this is interesting.

In the first edition of AD&D, the coinage breakdown was like this:

1 gp = 20 sp = 200 cp = 2 ep = 1/5 pp

This was slightly unwieldy so in second edition they moved to a system more like Basic D&D's:

1 gp = 10 sp = 100 cp = 2 ep = 1/5 pp

Electrum still existed in the rules, but soon the decimalization of D&D's coins continued with third and fourth edition:

1 gp = 10 sp = 100 cp = 1/10 pp

Despite not being in the rule books for over a decade, electrum was still present in certain settings, like Greyhawk (like in the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer) at it's standard exchange rate. Now in the 5th edition PHB we find this:

1 gp = 10 sp = 100 cp = 2 ep = 1/10 pp

Electrum is back in the pages of D&D for no real functional reason, but it is yet another reminder that the game has gone back to its roots. This direction is great news for old-school Greyhawk fans, so dungeonmaster's, break out those electrum coins!

Electrum Names in Greyhawk
anvil: Principality of Ulek
axeman: Shield Lands
bright: County and Duchy of Urnst
bright ship: Sea Princes
bright skull: Iuz
dolphin: Lordship of the Isles
eagles: Bissel, Geoff, Gran March, Keoland, Sterich
fez: Tusmit
galley: Dyvers, Ekbir
great lunar: Highfolk
halfgold: Rel Astra, Yeomanry
haf-kronar: Frost, Ice and Snow Barbarians
hafmark: Perrenland
knight: Furyondy, Verbobonc
lucky: Greyhawk
marcher: Tenh
marid: Zeif
mirrorpool: County of Ulek
noble: Ahlissa, Bone March, North Kingdom, Sea Barons, Sunndi
scepter: Ratik
shinepiece: Nyrond
shootingstar: Duchy of Ulek
silver sun: The Pale
staff: Veluna
starcloak: Celene
wader: Onnwal
wagon: Ket

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Castle Greyhawk: Back to the Dungeon

Thank you for tuning in Greyhawkers! I'm proud to promote the brand new third chapter of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. You can start here with page one where there is bonus exposition by stalwart author Scott Casper. On our main site you can also check the archives and follow the entire story from the start. Alternatively you can view the page HERE, courtesy of Maldin's Greyhawk.

Artist's Commentary: Always exciting to start a new direction in the story. Scott has started us off underground which means more stony interiors and less wooden palisades. I can handle that. I've improved my shadow play significantly since the beginning of the series. I wish I could've had a more consistent hand at the art from the start, but that's how comics go.
So here we have Mordenkainen for the first time. I'm especially enjoying him. Most who are familiar with Greyhawk know Mordy was bald and sinister in the 3rd edition era (for some reason) but before that he was rather handsome and well groomed archmage in the Wizards Three articles in Dragon. And before that in the pages of Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure you had both the older mage on the cover and the younger one (presented here). I'm hoping for a mix of all eras.
Yrag is back, that hardy dependable armored warrior. After drawing Robilar and Terik for a year I'm actually happy to see him again (no chainmail). Murlynd is the surprise of the series, and here in this early grouping he is dressed quite ostentatiously, like a 17th century musketeer. I can't wait to see what he brings to the adventure.
Is that all for this chapter's cast? Just you wait and see!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Greyhawk Comic Rewind

It's a gloomy, slow Saturday morning so I'm digging into my archives to show off a bit of Greyhawk nostalgia. This is a comic I did back in 2009 about my most "cherished" Greyhawk book. Prepare to gasp in horror. Enjoy.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Why the Gem of the Flanaess?

A long while back there was a discussion in our weekly Greyhawk chats about the Azure Sea and that sparked an esoteric question in my head which I thought better explored in length here: Why the Gem of the Flanaess?

For those not intimately familiar with the setting, the Gem of the Flanaess is the nickname of the Free City of Greyhawk, the literal central focus and namesake of the World of Greyhawk. The City of Greyhawk Boxed Set addresses this exact question in the opening chapter of its gazetteer. Put another way, why is Greyhawk so important in the world and why should you base your campaigns out of it? I postulate that while the city is nice and centrally located, given the evidence of history post Greyhawk Wars, if a dungeon master wanted, the setting focus could theoretically shift. The book says:

"A number of key factors have contributed to Greyhawk's key position in the affairs of the Flanaess. Among them are its location, long history, economic versatility, and the vigor and variety of its population.

Greyhawk has long been the beacon for men and women of learning, or great faith, or high magic...

...currently active adventurers are also drawn to the city. The nearness of the great ruin, Castle Greyhawk, has proven to be the most irresistible draw..."

All are important factors. Greyhawk as it goes, started as a minor trading post in a good location. As the Flanaess became more settled during the height of the Kingdom of Aerdy, it grew somewhat, but didn't quite explode until the time of mayor Zagig Yragerne his era of learning and construction and then ruin of his wealthy castle within the last 250 years. In fact, the Free City of Dyvers, (a former capital of Furyondy) which is also on the Nyr Dyv water-system a mere 120 miles away, was a much bigger and more important city for a time, that is until Greyhawk sapped away much of its cultural and economic influence. If it can happen to Dyvers, so too can Greyhawk lose it's luster.

Greyhawk is certainly a hot-bed of adventure, but those same dangers could someday keep trade away trade and scare off the variety of people that it is so proud of having. How? Iuz's empire is just across the lake in the Shield Lands and to the south-west is the orcish empire of the Pomarj, then to the south-east is the Bright Lands. Greyhawk while neutral, is very rich so I highly doubt the city, though strong in its own right would be safe from conflict. Castle Greyhawk (Greyhawk Ruins version) itself is also a danger to the long term security of the city. Not to mention, if the player characters somehow manage to clear the dungeons of all its wealth, where will adventurers go next? Maure Castle?

Then there is the trade route quandary. Pirates of the Pomarj and Wild Coast plague the way south through the Woolly Bay, the Nyr Dyv is relatively safe (don't trust Rhennee bargemen), but does have its own aquatic dangers, then that leaves the east-west roads. As I mentioned, Dyvers is an economic rival and the Duchy of Urnst to the east is on good terms yet if you see the map its a bumpy road traversing the dangerous Cairn Hills and nearing the Mistmarsh swamp. The Gem of the Flanaess may be centrally located, but it's by no means easy to access.

Now that I've bored you to death, where else would be fitting to move a campaign focus given the socio-political problems surrounding Greyhawk? Here's some possible suggestions:

The World of Irongate: Irongate (detailed in Dragon #351) is comparable in every way to Greyhawk. Fairly centralized free city, large multi-racial population, natural resources, fortifications and high magic. Situated in the east-center of the Flanaess, it's main political concerns is the outed Scarlet Brotherhood, pirates and the fractured kingdoms of Aerdy. Unlike Greyhawk which relies on roads and rivers, Irongate has a major seaport to trade and explore leagues beyond its reach. As for adventure, the place is reputedly an extra-dimensional nexus and is in proximity to adventure locales like the Tomb of Horrors.

The World of Gradsul: Gradsul, to the southwest of Greyhawk is the main port city of the Kingdom of Keoland. Much like Irongate, it is a largely (49,400) populated center of trade on the Azure Sea. It has a similar reach to exotic resources brought up from the south seas islands and jungles, much too far for Greyhawk to attract. Gradsul isn't a free city, but it is certainly the most prosperous and heavily defended one in Keoland. It's only military concern is the piratical Sea Princes. Gradsul can make a nice urban locale for political intrigues and from this base adventures be sought in the nearby Dreadwood Forest, the Hool Marshes or just a ship's voyage away.

The World of Rel Mord: To the east, this capital of the Kingdom of Nyrond is another major populated city (46,500) as well as a center for learning like Greyhawk (The University of Rel Mord). Rel Mord is usually at odds with the Great Kingdom, but as of the Greyhawk Wars, they aren't as much of a concern. Rel Mord is along a river-way like Greyhawk and is centrally located in the kingdom as to make it the hub of all roads going to the Urnsts, the Theocracy of the Pale or even to Aerdy. Adventurers can try their hand at the ruins of Almor or go west to Maure Castle.

The World of Lopolla: Want to have a Baklunish/Arabic feel to your game? Lopolla, the capital of Ket to the far west of Greyhawk is situated in another hub of trade and travel between the Yatil Mountains and the Barrier Peaks. Lopolla is a large (27,300) multicultural center spanning the peoples of the Flanaess proper to the Baklunish west. After the Greyhawk Wars, things settled down for Ket so they're not entirely at odds with their easterly neighbors anymore. Loads of adventurers can be attracted to nearby treasures in the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth or the make an Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. After those, Lopolla can be used as a springboard to further quests Beyond the Flanaess.

The World of Verbobonc: Lastly to the west, there is the humble Viscounty of Verbobonc. While it is smaller than Greyhawk (12,700) it is just as diverse in population and lays near the same river trade route as Dyvers and the Gem of the Flanaess. This minor city is much more buffered from the threats of Iuz or the Pomarj thanks to Furyondy and Celene giving it a chance to grow where Greyhawk might languish. It is also still close enough then for adventurers to travel to the same local hot spots that we all know. Verbobonc much like it's bigger neighbor however, has its own local adventure attraction, the Temple of Elemental Evil.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Castle Greyhawk: Daybreak

Welcome back Greyhawkers! At long last I'm happy to promote page thirty-two the final installment in the second chapter of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Follow the links above to get bonus script from imagineer Scott Casper. Alternatively you can view the pages HERE, courtesy of Maldin's Greyhawk.

Artist's Commentary: This chapter certain has been a fun ride. The action was ramped up and ongoing from early-on and the way it ended it just how I'd want it to if this was played out in my home campaigns.
As always, Scott has a clear vision of how his story should be portrayed and I do my best to make those visuals come true. I've said it before, so much of my favorite art in Castle Greyhawk has been rendering the fabulous landscapes these characters travel through. From dungeons to bandit forts or ruined walls, I have never done so much detail on backgrounds in my life. That alone has been worth the time spent the last two years. I can't wait to see how Chapter Three develops. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 25, 2014

5th Edition D&D: Greyhawk Deities

The role of Greyhawk's gods in the new Player's Handbook for 5th Edition have probably been covered elsewhere in the blogosphere by now, perhaps even since the free PDF was put out. However, this is my first real study into the references made about our favorite setting's deities. I'm not trying to catalogue every barest mention either, it's just a perusal to see how well the D&D team did their Greyhawk lore. So here we go:

Appendix B: Gods of the Multiverse gives a nice short explanation on how the Greyhawk pantheon works, with its ethnicities and overlapping portfolios.

There is a list of 25 Greyhawk gods near the back of the book, along with separate lists of Forgotten Realms (37 if you're keeping score), Eberron, Dragonlance and Nonhuman deities. For comparison, there were 14 Greyhawk-specific deities when the setting was default in 3rd Edition's core rules. The later splat books added at least 24 more Greyhawk gods, some of which are already in this new book, so 5th Edition is clearly already off to a grand start.

This is the lineup:

Beory, goddess of nature, symbol green disk. Easy enough!
Boccob, god of magic. Eye within a pentagram. Mentioned among a list of other Knowledge Domain gods like Thoth. Yes, you need him.
Celestian, god of stars and wanderers. Symbol is an arc of seven stars inside a circle (This obscure symbol is right). Nice surprise there, was last mentioned in Complete Divine.
Ehlonna, goddess of the woodlands. Unicorn horn. A good holdover from 3E.
Erythnul, god of envy and slaughter. Blood drop symbol (Naturally). He gets props in the War Domain section for clerics.
Fharlanghn, god of horizons and travel. Circle crossed by horizon line. True. Nice to see he stayed on.
Heironeous, god of chivalry and valor. Lightning bolt symbol. No brainer here, from the War Domain listing as well.
Hextor, god of war and discord. Six arrows downward in a fan. Can't have a War Domain without Heironeous' brother.
Kord, god of athletics and sport. Four spears and four maces radiating from a center point. I guess I never paid much attention to the lines, but they can be weapons evidently.
Incabulos, god of plague and famine. Reptilian eye with a horizontal diamond. Good to see this underused god of death moving up in the lists to see.
Istus, goddess of fate and destiny. Her spindle symbol is on target. She too is brought up to the main list again, as should be.
Iuz, god of pain and oppression. He of the grinning human skull symbol was in Complete Divine like so many non-core deities, but when making a short list of Greyhawk gods he has to be on it.
Nerull, god of death. Skull and scythe symbols are easy enough to imagine when it comes to a death god, and it's proper that Nerull is on this list.
Obad-hai, god of nature. He of the oak leaf and acorn carries on the Nature domain tradition in the cleric section.
Olidammara, god of revelry (not rogues?) The man of the laughing mask symbol made the Trickery Domain along with my favorite, Loki. That implies rogue I guess!
Pelor, god of the sun and healing has his typical sun symbol and gets a nod in a grouping of Life Domain deities but gives the light domain spotlight up for...
Pholtus, god of light and law is instead mentioned among Light Domain deities like Apollo.
Ralishaz, god of ill luck and insanity, with his three bone casting sticks, sneaks onto the core lists for the first time!
Rao, god of peace and reason is another good knowledge god. His white heart symbol is correct, though some show a heart shaped face. Rao like others previously only made it into Complete Divine.
St. Cuthbert, god of common sense and zeal. He is listed as LN this edition which keeps changing between editions from LG to LN. A move I can only guess is to round out the alignments on the list.
Tharizdun, god of eternal darkness has both his familiar dark spiral and inverted ziggurat symbol. He is given the Trickery domain which is odd, but there isn't an extensive list of domains yet.
Trithereon, god of liberty and retribution is back in the big leagues. His Triskelion symbol is correct.
Ulaa, goddess of hills and mountains makes for a good choice for this list as she is LG and a female deity (one of five). She had never been in a 3E core book previously.
Vecna, god of evil secrets of course has to be here. His Hand and Eye symbol is unmistakable. He is one of seven knowledge gods in this list. Greyhawk has a lot of lore.
Wee Jas, goddess of magic and death finishes off the list. One of four death domain gods on the list, it's good she is also the Knowledge domain or players might not be able to make a character of her with current rules excluding Death Domain until the Dungeon Master's Guide comes out.

All in all it was a respectful showing of Greyhawk's pantheon and the information concerning them. I look forward to seeing what other gods can be brought into focus in the coming years.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Castle Greyhawk: Mutual Respect

Welcome back Greyhawk maniacs! Because of Gen Con and reporting on the con, I'm (of course) a week behind on promoting the thirty first page in the second chapter of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Follow the links above to get expansive exposition from wordsmith Scott Casper. Alternatively you can view the pages HERE, courtesy of Maldin's Greyhawk.

Artist's Commentary: Chapter two is starting to wind down and after a lengthy all night struggle, Gronan and Robilar are too bushed to keep fighting. It's been a wild ride since the first page where we meet Robilar and his trusty bow and later pages with Gronan leaping and breaking things. I can now draw both characters from memory! (Drake as well, great character)
There's one more page after this then we'll have to see what Scott has in store next for Castle Greyhawk!