Sunday, October 19, 2014

Important People & Places of Greyhawk

Welcome back Greyhawk fanatics. On this busy weekend I haven't had much time to write or draw anything, so I decided to dig into my old campaign notes and see what crazy Greyhawkery I was creating 25 years ago. Back in my youth I used to take awesome notes and historical records of everything. I've grown lazy in my old age evidently. In my digging through timelines, hand-drawn maps and old character sheets I found a list I made of Important People & Places from my "Golden Age" of Greyhawk, the 1st Edition AD&D. The list below isn't complete, but perhaps some of these location names and NPCs will spark the imagination of some DMs out there. I cannot remember what hardly any of these concepts used to be or why they were so important back then, so feel free to use these ideas however you see fit.

Places
The Pits of Alcon (Bandit Kingdoms)
Nunora (pop 320)
Chinak (pop 3500)
White Yeti Tavern (Soull)
Cold Dagger Tavern (Vlekstaad)
Isle of Minatra (isle of great suncat)
Tenacotala Isle (Tezcaolan tribe)
Emerald Woods (apparently in the Bluff Hills)
People
General Hyelac of Schnai (F10)
Tundrahillekk (white dragon, Corusks)
Ongoyo (chief of Chinak village)
Hanblod the Owl
Baron Hurlock of Jotsplat
Hindar of Snadheim (Rng 2)
Zinian (evil sorceress)
Norrod (vampire master of worgs)
Bujhall the Slavemaster (Tusmit, F14)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

New Monster Manual and Demons

So I've been skimming the new Monster Manual this month and I have to say overall it's my favorite since the first MM in 3rd Edition. This book has just the right balance of fluff and crunch. The stat blocks seem to owe more to 4th Edition than prior iterations, but I have no complaints with the mechanics nor is this a review of that subject. The fluff is what I enjoy reading; and depraved as this may sound, as a Greyhawk fan I'm inevitably drawn to the section on Demons.

The manual entry provides several well-written sections on everything about demonkind from how they elevate in power to abyssal invasions and demonic amulets. Demon summoning and binding is covered, including the obligatory mention of my two favorite tomes, the Book of Vile Darkness and Demonomicon of Iggwilv.

Most of the time when monsters are converted to a new edition, their lore gets subtly expanded upon. The section on Demon Lords does a good job at concisely describing the major players of the Abyss such as Demogorgon, Orcus and Lolth. Then there's this bit bout Graz'zt which caught my eye:

"Rewards for Outsiders. Although most demon lords rise up from the vast and uncountable mobs of demons rampaging across the Abyss, the plane also rewards outsiders that conquer any of its infinite layers. The elven goddess Lolth became a demon lord after Corellon Larethian cast her into the Abyss for betraying elvenkind. Sages claim that the Dark Prince Graz'zt originated on some other plane before stealing his abyssal title from another long-forgotten demon lord."

Yes, evidently during last edition those wily sages expounded that Graz'zt might have been an arch-devil of Hell before leaving to take on the Abyss. That explains his more human-like appearance and demeanor. Graz'zt is one of those characters that has an abundance of backstory accumulated over the editions and novels. Graz'zt has a full family tree of demons and demigods and to think he started on a different plane is a development I like. I can only imagine the other lords hate Graz'zt and Lolth even more because of their migration.

The manual continues with sections on regular demons, bringing back the classic "type 1-6 " designations based upon strength. I also like this edition's demon entry because they've included Yochlol the rarely seen vile Handmaidens of Lolth. In addition I am pleased to see the Goristro featured again. This titanic demon got his AD&D start in Dragon Magazine then later only popped up in supplemental books, yet recently the Goristro is now a core book critter.

That's all for now. Happy gaming!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Castle Greyhawk: Let There Be Light

Thank you for returning loyal Greyhawk readers! I'm here to further promote the third chapter of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Check out page three to read bonus exposition by the sagacious Scott Casper. Alternatively you can view the page HERE, courtesy of Maldin's Greyhawk. On our main site you can also check the archives and follow the entire story from the very start.


Artist's Commentary: I'm starting to like this chapter a lot. Not only is there a big cast of notable characters, but I've been artistically employing techniques I've refined from the beginning of this story to present. One such thing is lighting and shadows. The cave in this full page scene is not the busiest background I've drawn, but it's definitely the best and most shadows I've done to date. Practice makes perfect.

Astute readers will also notice the homage in the far corner of the cave. Perhaps we'll see more of that late on...

Thursday, October 9, 2014

5E White Plume Mountain Conversion Notes

As reported at ENWorld, there is a nifty free download by member Bumamgar that converts encounters, monsters and magic items from S2 White Plume Mountain to 5th Edition rules. It's not an overly long document which is good and the conversions of Blackrazor, Whelm and Wave are worth checking it out alone. For those DMs who are changing with the editions I'm sure this will be among the first of many such Greyhawk related resources to come.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Comic Rewind: Sureguard and Swiftdoom

One of my favorite things about Greyhawk's deity lore is Kelanen the hero-god of swordsmen and his two intelligent swords Sureguard and Swiftdoom. There is probably plenty of examples of intelligent weapons in fantasy literature and D&D in general, but does any character have TWO of them? Kelanen might not be so fortunate however as my comic from 2010 suggests. That's because intelligent items don't always have the same intent as their owner. Check it out and enjoy the puns!

p.s. be sure to read the annotations at the end of the comic.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Rations in 5th Edition

I can't believe how this topic even got started, but it was odd enough that I compulsively researched it for here. This week our Sunday gaming group was preparing to make new D&D characters, a task that has been done time and time again over decades. The DM for this new edition is not me, but my friend stated early on he wanted to use encumbrance rules. Thus began the frenzy to make weight under "encumbered". A lot of home games ignore encumbrance rules for expedience which is fine unless you consider the spirit of D&D has always been about trying to simulate the experience of delving a cave in full gear. That frenzy led to of all things, another glossed over item, rations. Apparently 5th Edition rations weigh too much. Let's compare!

To start, 5E lists "Rations (1/day)" as dry food, jerky, dry fruit, hard tack and nuts. I'd say that can be considered preserved food. For 5 sp you get 2 lbs of rations that is supposed to last a day. That would be 14 lbs for a week of food which according to my friends is ridiculous even for a simulated fantasy game. Let's start going back editions and see.

In 4th Edition (thank you D&DI subscription) Rations per day are pretty much the same cost, 5 sp but they weight only one lb. If this seems more reasonable that's because it was the standard for a long time.

Long lived 3rd Edition (and it's offspring Pathfinder) have a day of Rations at 5 sp and a weight of 1 lb. There is a notation in these OGL products that rations weigh a quarter of the listed amount when made for Small characters. So Halfling rations weight .25 lb.? This laughable notation was already called out as bunk by my friends. Fine for containers and clothing, but not food. Let's move on.

1st Edition (and perhaps 2E as well) handled rations slightly differently (as well as encumbrance). There was Standard Rations (unpreserved food) and Iron Rations (preserved food). My guess is "iron" was dropped in later editions and was the default ration. Standard rations for one day cost 8.5 sp (4.3 sp in today's exchange rate) and 28.5 coin weight. Coin or g.p. weight was the encumbrance system in early D&D and was an abstract of actual weight and bulkiness. 10 coins = 1 lb. Thus, standard rations weighed almost 3 lbs. That's the unpreserved stuff mind you.
Iron rations which is our focus, come in at 14.3 sp (7.1 sp) per day and weigh 10.7 coins, or a tad over 1 lb. Par for the course right?

And now to be complete, old red box Basic D&D used a similar coin weight system to AD&D. They too had Standard and Iron Rations. Interestingly, the descriptions say standard rations are good for throwing to monsters for a distraction. Never considered that. Anyhow, basic food is expensive. One day of Standard costs 7.1 sp and one day of Iron is a whopping 21.4 sp. Basic rules liked to be expedient with gear weights as they focused on treasure carrying. According to the rules, all an adventurers' miscellaneous gear and provisions (rope, spikes, sacks, wineskin, rations, etc.) weigh 80 coins, a measly 8 lbs! This of course could be chalked up to the fact its not bulky if stored and carried properly. Going by advanced rules, if you only carried a week of iron rations that would come out to about to 7 lbs. I'm sure rope and bars of metal weigh more than biscuits and dried meat, but hey that's why its basic rules.

Back to the present, why in the world did the 5E designers think rations needed to be upped to 2 lbs per day? I know weights probably fluctuate for all gear through-out D&D's history, but as you can see Rations had been fairly consistent until now. If encumbrance and food is diligently tracked in a campaign, carrying a week of food for these hapless adventurers becomes a very big deal. Is that small bag of gold more important than their next meal? Time to buy a mule.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Castle Greyhawk: Split the Party

Thank you for returning faithful Greyhawkers! I'm again happy to promote the brand new third chapter of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Check out page two to read additional material by formidable author Scott Casper. Alternatively you can view the page HERE, courtesy of Maldin's Greyhawk. On our main site you can also check the archives and follow the entire story from the very start.


Artist's Commentary: The story continues to unfold in the famous dungeon. This time we find the infamous group of Murlynd (the fancy dressed guy), Mordenkainen (the sinister looking one) and Yrag (our burly armored fighter), are in fact part of a larger group consisting of Robilar, Terik and Tenser (from chapter two) plus the cleric Serten. Serten to me is an obscure fellow that I hope you'll grow to like in this new chapter.
There's going to be a lot of plate armor and magic in this one. So tune in next installment!