Monday, March 18, 2019

Greyhawk Map: The Wastes

Hail Greyhawkers! Today I have another random mini-Greyhawk map drawn by yours truly! If you want to check out some of my previous quickie maps, go HERE. What you are seeing is the Wastes in the northern reaches of the Flanaess - but you are viewing this desolate region from the Icy Sea which means yeah you are upside down.

The Wastes have always intrigued me as a feature since the 80's Darlene map. Indeed, the original Guide to Greyhawk doesn't even detail the Wastes in the section titled "Wastelands"! The accompanying Glossography also does not given encounters for the Wastes which is a shame. Later products would start to develop this place. The most notable feature is the Burning Cliffs first seen in Greyhawk Adventures which allegedly may be connected to the Elemental Plane of Fire, a nice touch considering it is adjacent to the Icy Sea.

Later sources conflate the Barrens and the Wastes into the "Barren Wastes" but the Barrens are actually the grasslands where the nomadic Rovers ride. It is a place where one can find centaurs, gnolls and the strange humanoid qullan. To the south and west is the Cold Marshes and Blackmoor. The Wastes themselves are said to be the blasted remains of a culture from long ago (of course). The remaining features of the Wastes can be seen in the book Iuz the Evil; Icegate, Tomb of Tzunk's Hands, Folly and the Dungeon of Bleeding Walls are all adventure spots that DMs are encouraged to create on their own.

One other source I overlooked when drawing this is the obscure adventure, Ex Keraptis Cum Amore by Andy Miller in Dungeon #77. In this sequel to White Plume Mountain, we are treated to another wizardly dungeon site near the Burning Cliffs called the Melted Fane. If anyone is intrigued by the map to the left, you better find this issue to find out more!

That's all for now. Stay tuned for my next random map.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Where Is Saltmarsh?

Hello Greyhawkers! The title of this post is of course facetious, it's part of the World of Greyhawk. But for a small port first introduced in 1981's U1: Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, it's surprisingly a house-hold name in popular culture (27th all-time) while at the same time under-appreciated in the setting that spawned it. Allow me to explain:

WotC's new book Ghosts of Saltmarsh is taking up the iconic seaport and allowing it to fit into any campaign world. And that's fine. Indeed, the 3.5E DMG2 first expanded on Saltmarsh, taking a one page description of the town in U1 and developing it into a fully realized campaign location, 33 pages in length.

Where is Saltmarsh? According to U-series authors Dave Browne and Don Turnbull, Saltmarsh is in Keoland, fittingly at hex coordinate U4/123. The U series is initialed as such because it was written by TSR's United Kingdom division. I wonder then if this is why Saltmarsh for all its rave reviews is hard to find referenced in other Greyhawk sources.

The original Darlene map of course doesn't feature towns this small and it predates the creation of the module in the 1980 World of Greyhawk Folio. The module however DOES predate the 1983 World of Greyhawk boxed set. In the boxed set Glossography booklet there is a listing of hex locations for modules set in the World of Greyhawk. None of the U series modules make this list. Thankfully the modules themselves give its hex location.

Furthermore, a ton of modules was released from 1981 onward such as I1: Dwellers of the Forbidden City and L1: The Secret of Bone Hill. On the back of all these modules would be advertisement listings to help you collect the whole library of D&D products. Shockingly, UK mods don't appear on the American module ads, but the U and UK series mods sure as heck reference the home office's work. Now the reality of business between oceans and promoting each others works may have been an obvious geographic choice. Even so, I can only conclude short of being featuring in Dragon Magazine, that the U1 got popular by word of mouth!

Despite being an underground hit, the dearth of Saltmarsh references is pretty steady until the second DMG is put out towards the end of 3.5E (set 7 years after the events of the U-series). Earlier works in the same edition like The Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, does not list Saltmarsh among major towns (Keoland is quite large). Worse, the Living Greyhawk Journal #1, has an article about Keoland by my friend Gary Holian. However, this well-developed article does not show Saltmarsh on it's close-up map (it shows Seaton though) and only mentions Saltmarsh in the caption of a piece of art showing the haunted house of the module (named Makaster House).

What else references Saltmarsh? A Dungeon Magazine #77 adventure titled To Walk Beneath the Waves by W. Jason Peck, makes mention of the module being set in the Flanaess near Saltmarsh. By the way, this mod must've slipped by WotC while they were combing Dungeon for aquatic adventures in GH like The Styes and Tammeraut's Fate. Fortunately, Paizo's 4-part World of Greyhawk map from Dungeon (118-121) is a hex for hex update of the Darlene map and does give Saltmarsh it's proper placing.

In summary, Saltmarsh the adventure defied the odds and became a D&D icon. That Wizards would take the town, build upon it, or even suggest it be played in another setting is entirely fine then, because the town deserves the spotlight for once.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Greyhawk Going on at Gary Con XI

Greetings Greyhawkers! It's been a wonderful weekend as I just had a small dose of Gary Con XI. Yeah I was only there for barely half of it with my best friend Jayson "Valkaun" King, but I do have a lot to report on the Greyhawk front! Let's go!

Getting the big news out of the way first, me and Jayson walked by D&D super-celebrity Joe Manganiello in the hall. I got to give him a shout out and he said "hey man". That was my mere brush with the new D&D fandom. Joe aside, I was IN a panel on Friday called Celebrating the World of Greyhawk, A Fandom Renaissance.  My co-panelists were Allan Grohe, Bryan Blumklotz, Carlos Lising, Anna Meyer and Kristoph Nolen. Those who have been in the Greyhawk community for a ling time probably know most of us, but if not...
  •  Allan Grohe owns Grodog's Greyhawk and is part of Black Blade Publishing
  •  Bryan Blumklotz is known for his heraldry pieces and runs the Canonfire Facebook group.
  •  Carlos Lising writes amazing old school adventures and runs Casl Entertainment.
  •  Anna Meyer does incredible maps at annabmeyer and co-hosts Legends & Lore.
  •  Kristoph Nolen is an artist who manages Greyhawk Online and co-edits the Oerth Journal.

The panel covered a wide range of topics, mainly concerning promotion of Greyhawk fan-works across many platforms, such as blogging, publishing and streaming shows like DMShane's ever-growing Greyhawk Channel, and Jay "Lord Gosumba" Scott's old school channel. The ultimate goal is uniting the community once again in order to let WotC know that there is still a strong call for published Greyhawk products in the future.

The turn out for the panel was incredible, mind you Gary Con is a small venue, so the smaller conference room crowds allow you to interact with the audience much easier. Everyone present was a long time fan. I found many in attendance have read my blogs, comics and seen my streaming shows with Anna. It was very gratifying to put new faces to names and talk about shared memories. Those who made it to the panel were also treated with a collection of handouts including the first print version of the newly resurrected Oerth Journal #28 produced not only by the six of us, but many contributors from the Greyhawk Community such as Joe Bloch, Denis Tetreault, Jay Scott, The Oliver Brothers, Len Lakofka,  Jeffrey Garrison, Will Dvorak, Rick Miller and Dave Guerrieri.

Be sure to keep checking for the download of Oerth Journal #28 at Greyhawk Online! Also, for those wanting the info on my Gary Con handout the Ulakand Mesa map, go HERE to get the map and keyed information. Enjoy.

Special thanks to Tony Milani for bringing a gigantic printing of Anna's Flanaess map to the seminar for every to see! Also a huge shout out to Amanda and Linda for their support!

What else was happening at Gary Con? Carlos Lising ran some more Greyhawk adventures such as When Comes the Witching Hour:

"In 586CY, Lady Ariana Silverfox disappeared while exploring the depths of Castle Greyhawk. Now, almost fifteen years later, divinations have revealed that the adventuress yet lives somewhere in the remote hinterlands of Perrenland. Will your band of heroes prove capable of finding the explorer and returning her to her family? An adventure set in the World of Greyhawk for character levels 9-12."

And the latest in his Markessa series, Markessa, Thy Name is Evil:

"One by one, a brave fellowship of heroes have infiltrated the strongholds of the villainess, Markessa. Still, despite their best efforts, the enchantress yet draws breath and continues to work her experiments upon the flesh and souls of the innocent folk of the Wild Coast. Can your heroes put an end at last to Markessa's evil? An adventure set in the World of Greyhawk for character levels 9-12."

Be sure to join his Patreon for Casl Entertainment.

Could there be more? Why yes, our panel got to have a sit down with Gary Gygax's son Ernie, whose original character Tenser is the protagonist of Scott Casper's novella and web comic Castle Greyhawk. It was an honor to present Ernie copies of some art prints from the comic's climatic last page. He sat and talked with us for a while about things from his dad's campaign and what it's like living in Lake Geneva where it all started. Our Greyhawk panel just happened to follow the Gygax family panel as well. Kristoph Nolan had the honor there to give the family early copies of our seminar handout. It was a good day.

I also saw some cool banners about the con, showing classic mods:

Something interesting is coming next month from Harold Johnson... 

I got my newly acquired AD&D Manual of the Planes signed by cover artist Jeff Easley.

Lastly, there is also news that Goodman Games will be doing a 5E adaptation of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, the third in their series starting with Keep on the Borderlands and Isle of Dread.

Well that is all I can recall. I'm sure there was more newsworthy stuff that happened on Saturday and Sunday that I missed, but for now, Gary Con is the place for Greyhawk. Thanks and hopefully I will see you there next year!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

5E: Which Greyhawk Classics Are Next?

Hail Greyhawkers! Today I am going to do an in-depth survey of which adventures or classic themes remain for WotC to adapt to 5th Edition. It's been a remarkable run so far for 5E, with Wizards' handling of nostalgia driven storylines and online entertainment. I wonder if they can keep up the pace? To that end, I want to also utilize a wonderful article The 30 Greatest D&D Adventures of All Time from Dungeon Magazine #116. A panel of D&D's best authors chose the top 30 and it shows that when it comes to classics that remain fresh with each edition, Greyhawk is the king of D&D. Let's have a look:

Classic (#30): Ghost Tower of Inverness by Allan Hammack

5E: None
Comments: Living Greyhawk did a "return to" Ghost Tower module in 3.5E and 4E did one for their Encounters game event. As I'm running this module as I write this post, I can say with conviction there is a lot of potential for a 5E version though the trope of a ruined castle/tower owned by a wizard is very common in classic D&D. 

Classic (#29): Assassin's Knot by Lenard Lakofka
5E: None
Comments: This is the second part in Lakofka's L series, started by the equally classic The Secret of Bone Hill (perhaps #31 in the top list?). These modules were early examples of sandbox style of play. Individually or together, I could see them end up in a 5E anthology book like Yawning Portal.

Classic (#27): Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh by Dave Brown and Don Turnbull
5E: (converted) Ghosts of Saltmarsh
Comments: Ghosts of Saltmarsh also includes the rest of U series, Danger at Dunwater and The Final Enemy. This book is significant because it not only serializes three Greyhawk modules, it also brings in some Dungeon Magazine classics for the first time like Tammeraut's Fate and The Styes.

Classic (#26): City of Skulls by Carl Sargent
5E: None
Comments: This module from 2E is unique due to its part in the time line of Greyhawk during the Greyhawk Wars. The theme of infiltrating a city to rescue a kidnapped noble has only been done perhaps in 5E Dragon Heist, though Waterdeep hardly compares to the capital of Iuz the Evil. It is so intricately tied to Greyhawk, that it would be surprising to see this classic updated to 5E.

Classic (#23): The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun by Gary Gygax
5E: None 
Comments: This gothic horror module will likely come soon to 5E since the namesake cult in this book is quite popular in D&D lore. Thematically cults have been over done in D&D, including a few times in 5E story lines to date, but this one is rather unique. Likewise, Tharizdun has been mentioned in 5E products already so it's only a matter of time!

Classic (#22): The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth by Gary Gygax
5E: None
Comments: As mentioned before, this is a sandboxy module of mountain and cave exploration. The villains and monsters found in Tsojcanth were original for its day. Lost Caverns was last expanded in 3.5E Dungeon Magazine, but a 5E update would surely be free to roam again. Alternatively Tsojcanth could end up in a 5E anthology book with the other remaining classics from S1-4, Realms of Horrror (Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks).

Classic (#20): Scourge of the Slave Lords by various authors
5E: (reprint) Against the Slave Lords 
Comments: This adventure path is comprised of the A series of modules dealing with the theme of defeating an evil slave trading organization one piece at a time. This series was compiled in Scourge and later expanded in 2E's Slavers. Most recently, there was a new episode (A0) added to the slavers series for their Against the Slave Lords AD&D reprint. There seems to be slight chance WotC will use this plot since it was already explored in a reprint, though the rules remained 1E. 

Classic (#19): Against the Cult of the Reptile God by Douglas Niles
5E: None
Comments: This modest low level classic is set near Keoland and involves themes of an evil cult and investigation. Like I mention before, evil cults are a constant theme of D&D plots. This module would be best seen in an anthology of classic cult modules like Forgotten Temple and the Temple of Elemental Evil.

Classic (#18): Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan by Harold Johnson and Jeff Leason
5E: (converted) Tales From the Yawning Portal
Comments: Tamoachan is a popular jungle themed dungeon and has seen revision in 4E once and though it is Mayan influenced, the theme of jungle exploration is currently one that Wizards covered in Tomb of Annihilation. It's inclusion in Yawning Portal comes as no surprise.

Classic (#13) Dwellers of the Forbidden City by David Cook
Classic (#10): Return to the Tomb of Horrors by Bruce Cordell
Classic (#3): Tomb of Horrors by Gary Gygax
5E: (themes and converted) Tomb of Annihilation/Tales From the Yawning Portal
Comments: As mentioned above, ToA is about jungle exploration and lost cities (ties to the classic Isle of Dread and Dwellers). ToA also utilizes the antagonist of ToH, a module that is so popular that it has been seen in novels and expanded upon or adapted for every edition of D&D.

Classic (#9): White Plume Mountain by Lawrence Schick
5E: (converted) Tales From the Yawning Portal
Comments: Wizard's ruined dungeons are commonplace, but WPM is unique for being built inside a volcano and it features a few classic magic weapons like Blackrazor. This module has seen updates and adaptations in nearly every edition as well.

Classic (#8): Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil by Monte Cook
Classic (#4): The Temple of Elemental Evil by Gary Gygax and Frank Mentzer
5E: (theme and board game) Princes of the Apocalypse, Temple of Elemental Evil, Out of the Abyss
Comments: The theme of an evil elemental worshiping cult is taken in a wild new direction in 5E, without directly taking the Temple out of Greyhawk. A tie in board game of the namesake however, failed to pay homage to its roots. It is also worth noting the demoness villain of this megadungeon, Zuggtmoy, is also featured in Out of the Abyss. ToEE is popular enough in D&D to warrant a full 5E adaptation someday, perhaps in an anthology book like Yawning Portal.

Classic (#5): Expedition to the Barrier Peaks by Gary Gygax
5E: (sequel) Lost Laboratory of Kwalish 
Comments: Barrier Peaks' themes of magitech and weird monsters wasn't reimagined here so much as given a suitable sequel to Gygax's original. The special adventure was done for charity, instead of a regular story line event, so I wonder if this theme will be revisited someday.

Classic (#1) Queen of the Spiders by Gygax and various authors
5E: (themes) Storm Giants Thunder, Out of the Abyss
Comments: Queen of the Spiders' adventure path components are classics in their own right. Themes seen in 5E include giant antagonists, Against the Giants (G series), fighting through the Underdark, Vault of the Drow (D series), and defeating demonlords, Queen of the Demonweb Pits. Somehow, given Lolth and drow are heavily in Out of the Abyss, I expect this plot to see another pass in the years to come if only because of author R.A. Salvatore.

Some other select Greyhawk adventures of note:

Age of Worms: This adventure path from 3.5E Dungeon Magazine involved stopping an evil cult bringing a destructive deity to Oerth. One could argue that is the plot of 5E's first story line, Tyranny of Dragons.

Savage Tide: Another huge adventure path set in Greyhawk. This series involves nautical elements, demons and it drags the Isle of Dread into Greyhawk. As the plot involves themes like madness, Demogorgon and abyssal politics, I'd say Out of the Abyss covered this one.

Vecna Lives! Vecna Reborn, Die Vecna Die: Vecna is a core deity in D&D. His exploits are well known and developed since 2E. Vecna has not been featured in 5E yet. Perhaps the antagonist of lich Acererak in Tomb of Annihilation would cover this base, but really there is too much material left here for Wizards not to use Vecna someday.

Five Shall Be One, Howl From the North: This two part adventure deals with themes of barbarians and cold, wilderness exploration. So far 5E has not gone this route yet. FSBO is note worthy in that it is a quest for five magic blades to free a trapped god who will unite the barbarians of the north. After having adapted this story in my campaign to the south seas, I can tell you the originals are weak and a 5E update could only improve it.

Greyhawk Ruins/ Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk: The modules based on Gygax's most famous mega-dungeon. I can say with certainty these won't see a 5E revision since the themes of a dungeon belonging to a mad mage is exactly that of Undermountain (#17 classic) which was recently updated in the apt title, Dungeon of the Mad Mage

Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure/ Maure Castle: This megadungeon by Rob Kuntz is a classic in my opinion. It's see a conversion and expansion during 3.5E in Dungeon. However, like Castle Greyhawk, I can't see Wizards ever going here due the enormous length and similarity in theme to DotMM.

TL;DR version:
D&D has found it's groove by weaving new story lines into classic modules, while also dishing out anthologies of 5E adapted modules to promote old school themes. It's a formula they won't deviate from soon, but given the lists of classic Greyhawk adventures to draw from, they are already more than half-way through their pool of themes. In the future, WotC will need to turn to either other game worlds, like Dragonlance (Dragons of Despair, #25 classic), Ravenloft (#2 classic, adapted in Curse of Strahd 5E), Planescape (Dead Gods #14 classic) or the pages of Dungeon Magazine to find some diamonds in the rough that with any luck, will become the new classics.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Greyhawk in Dragon+ and Gary Con XI

Hail friends of Greyhawk. You may or may not have already seen, but the newest issue of Dragon+ (a periodical I have slacked in reading) has a new article that is a must read. Behind the Screen: Greyhawk by John Roy and Luke Gygax is both a nostalgic ride to the early years of Greyhawk and D&D and also a quite thorough summary on the mood and themes of the setting for those thinking of running Greyhawk for the first time. It covers all the sources for 5th Edition or in classic books on DMsGuild, that one would need (up to and including the newest announced book, Ghosts of Saltmarsh) for a proper Greyhawk campaign.

Kudos to John Roy for writing this piece! There is also a mention in the article of Luke Gygax's panel, Growing Up Gygax, at Gary Con XI in March. I will be there possibly because I'm also in a panel at the con, Celebrating Greyhawk: A Fandom Renaissance which is right AFTER Luke's. Come see me along with Anna Meyer, Bryan Blumklotz, Carlos Lising, Kristoph Nolan and Allan Grohe. Hopefully we get some spill over from the Gygax panel to talk more Hawk!

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Greyhawk Map: Lordship of the Isles

Greetings Greyhawk mavens! As we get closer to GaryCon again I am starting to feel anxious to talk Greyhawk. To pass the time, I started drawing mini-maps of sections of the Flanaess, with some clever artistic touches thrown in. I doubt I'll do a whole lot of these, but I'm looking for corners of the map that are often neglected, that might look more interesting if you have a magnifying glass put on them.

This first map I'll show you, is just a straight hex for hex reproduction of the Darlene map of the Lordship of the Isles-Oljatt region. The map does not show all of the lordship though, as the archipelago continues northward including the capital Sulward. Nor does it give Hepmonaland much love. I wanted to draw attention to the isles and the Pelisso Swamp. The Lordship depending on what era you use, is an underused, underdeveloped area. In the pre-wars era it is a land of buccaneer explorers who flaunt the rule of the Great Kingdom and the Sea Barons. (my preferred era) Post-wars they are capitulating sea lords who serve as the defacto navy of the Scarlet Brotherhood.

As you can see, within this small window there is a lot going on here. Complex coast lines, colonies, monsters, many ports of call. One of my dreams is to set a campaign here to compliment my Hold of the Sea Princes high seas adventures. The Living Greyhawk Gazetteer has a bit of good info on the Lordship, but the isles as well as the surrounding coasts is really untamed territory for DMs in my opinion. Enjoy!

p.s. This map was made using hex paper provided by Black Blade Publishing.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Taxes in Greyhawk

Greetings Greyhawkers. They say in many parts of the prime material plane, nothing is certain but death and taxes. In the World of Greyhawk setting, death is ever present and at times a literal avatar to fight against. But taxes? This too is all the game, there is no avoiding it humble, heroes. Let's take a look:

City of Greyhawk: The Gem of the Flanaess is neutral and wealthy, perhaps supported by a robust system of taxation managed by of course, the dwarven head of the Greyhawk Revenue Service, Glodreddi Bakkanin. Visiting the city, one might be hit with a Ship Tax (3sp to 5gp), a Cargo Tax on imports (up to 1%), a Precious Metal Tax (1%), except for Urnst platinum (.5%). There is also a Freesword Tax (3gp) annually, and a Guild Tax (5sp to 5gp) annually. Glodreddi is always looking for new tax schemes and is also responsible for the People's Constables whose only job is to write citations for crimes so petty they are essentially tax collectors in disguise.

Furyondy: Think it would be nice to live in the good Kingdom of Furyondy? Think again, this place is in perpetual war with Iuz and has to maintain its existence through taxation. Chancellor Rayman Delbeith oversees the collection of funds for his king. The king can collect tithes and taxes due to a Nobility Tax and a Land Tax since all the nobility are technically only leasing their homes and titles from him. This is a low tax and cannot be raised without a vote of the provinces. There is also a Capital Tax created to help rebuild Chendl during the wars.
In turn the provincial rulers tax their retainers and subjects. Nobility Taxes on knights (10-50gp and up to 1000gp for a Count) annually. Hearth Taxes are imposed for luxury items like stone fireplaces (3-20gp) per year.
Furyondy rulers collect taxes many other things in this hard time. Harbor Tax on ships (10sp to 4gp) per day, tolls on roads and fivers (1cp to 5sp), Magic Item Tax (2-30gp) per year, Freesword Tax (1gp) per quarter, Foreign Resident Tax (2sp to 20gp) per year, Inheritance Tax (5-30%), Luxury Tax (5-25%) and then there is Tithes on goods produced usually starting at 15% multiplied by each provinces' rate.
Speaking of these rates, The Marklands source book shows each provinces' multiplier for these base Chendl taxes and services. So for example, the Barony of Kalinstren is x1.6 base costs and County of Crystalreach is x1.7 whereas Duchy of the Reach is only x.8 and Gold County is x.75 the base.

Nyrond: So Furyondy isn't the only large kingdom who will tax you to death. Nyrond is just as cash strapped. You can expect to use all the same taxes as Furyondy plus it has novelty ideas like Fencepost Tax (1cp) per per post! There is also a Boot Tax (3sp) annually for every pair of foot wear you own. Not surprisingly tax evasion is rife in the Nyrond.

Great Kingdom: This huge land once stretched across the Flanaess but is now fractured, but still very large and powerful. Here, the populace of Aerdy also face similar taxes outlined above, but here it can be much higher. In addition the Overking has implemented special taxes like a Castle Tax to help build more keeps and castles in the kingdom and a Worship Tax to harass good religions.

Keoland: Not to be left out, the Kingdom of Keoland to the southwest is currently in a less desperate period of time than its peers, if one discounts the Giant Troubles and high seas piracy. A DM can expect this medieval kingdom to excise the same sort of taxes mentioned earlier, but at an average to lower rate depending on your campaign. Interestingly, the king here cannot create new taxes, only the Council of Niole Dra may do this.

That's all for now. You can imagine from the above examples how taxation in the World of Greyhawk can become a facet of concern for players and a reason to find more treasure, or perhaps even a reason to smuggle in their hard earned loot. Wherever the PCs decide to reside, be it Ket, Veluna, Irongate or even the land of Iuz, a tax collector will always be lurking in wait to pay a visit.