Saturday, July 14, 2018

Greyhawk Order of Battle Lists

 Hail Greyhawkers. Today I'm perusing old Dragon mags again, this time delving into Dragon #37 an old issue indeed from May 1980. What makes this issue significant is that this is the release year for the World of Greyhawk setting (Folio). Up to and including this point, Gygax and company had worked up the D&D fanbase with news and tidbits about the RPG setting and that month's From the Sorcerer's Scroll column by Gygax summed up the current state of things, having had some false starts along the way.

Among the many projects promised in this article (some finished in future editions, others forgotten entirely) was the idea for a miniature mass combat rule set to go with a line of minis. Now the minis were indeed made, or perhaps the first run of them. Gygax had grand plans for these products to play out the wars of the World of Greyhawk using the specific troop strengths and types outlined in the Folio (and the revised 1983 Guide), in addition to his battle and troop updates found in later Dragon articles featuring new events of the Flanaess. Gygax in Dragon #37:

"Steve Carpenter of Miniature Figurines Ltd. is currently designing a set of miniatures rules for warfare on the World of Greyhawk. These rules will set forth the orders of battle of the states of the Flanaess and add to the information pertaining to the “World.” At the same time, miniature figurines of the various troops are being assembled, so that details of what various units look like will also be known—say the Overking’s Guards or the Knights of the Hart. In addition to having adventures, campaign participants will soon be able to fight major battles which will affect the course of things. The figure line could eventually number in the hundreds of sets, with possibly a thousand different figures. The initial release will be in the 50-set range, according to Steve. Of course, I’ll be contributing to the miniatures rules, and I’m helping to select figure types. The rules and figures will be significant contributions towards developing the “World,” but more is needed."

What came of the rules is beyond the search of this post, though I imagine Battlesystem and Chainmail 2.0 were later attempts to revive this project albeit without using the rich tapestry of Eastern Oerik as their setting of conflict. Only the failed Greyhawk Wars "board game" even tried to capitalize on all the build-up started by Gygax. A shame. What's further interesting about this article is the bonus content by Gygax detailing some notable NPC's armies. So not only was this "Order of Battle"as Gygax called it, to be about nations and knights, but also wizards and warriors:

"Finally, as a bonus for reading through all of this, you will find same Order of Battle information for certain renowned figures in the World of Greyhawk. They will possibly appear in the general army lists, but then again they might not make it. Either way, you will have the information first."

My guess is they would have been included. In fact, the heraldry on the cover of the Greyhawk Folio includes the green dragon standard of Robilar and the scimitar of Tenser for no other reason, but in the context of a war-game that never came out, these shields make more sense. The lists feature the forces of Bigby, Mordenkainen, Robilar, Tenser and enigmatic Unnamed Erac's Cousin. Each of the entries tease some interesting back-stories as well that dubiously bring the canon history of these characters into doubt.

Bigby for instance has a hidden fortress that is presumably between the Shield Lands and the Bandit Kingdoms. His force of 800+ soldiers sometimes includes either  elves or dwarves. Nowhere else in Greyhawk publication does Bigby sport this kind of might. He is either a shy, quiet mage posing as a merchant in the east or is hanging out in the Wild Coast/Greyhawk City as a Circle of Eight wizard.

Also intriguing is Mordenkainen's sizable cavalry force of 4000 riding into the west (to aid an evil associate no less) and not coming back. So where are they? Did they go to the Obsidian Citadel in the Yatils? No further mention is made in Greyhawk publication to him having these troops. Mordy in later Greyhawk books has plenty of allies and guards but no need for ground cavalry.

Worst yet is Robilar, whose forces make him look entirely capable of the treachery he is involved in during From the Ashes and Rary the Traitor. Robilar is well known for having Otto and Quij the orc as henchmen, but here he also has a 600 strong, lawful evil army, half of which are orcs. Robilar's keep west of Greyhawk is sacked for his misdeeds and the army hides out in the Pomarj region. So that means they are either bandits or perhaps allies of Turrosh Mak/Slave Lords?

One other thought about wizard and warrior armies, the AD&D rules conveniently provided that every "name-level" PC gained a stronghold and attracted followers. This class design was surely meant to emulate and perpetuate the war-game facet of Greyhawk. The practice fell off fast in following editions of D&D of course. Okay, I won't even get into the rest of lists, find the issue and check it out. It's quite a good read, and maybe if you do want to do a war-based Greyhawk campaign, these troop lists will provide you with some inspiration for other special NPC units.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Map: West Greyhawk Quarter

Hail Greyhawk fans! Today I bring a strange find from my D&D vault (attic totes). It's a very beat-up, hand drawn map of the City of Greyhawk's new "Traveler's Quarter" from my long running 2nd Edition campaign.

Sure it' crumpled, crude and half colored in, but this was our attempt to expand west-ward based off the City of Greyhawk Boxed Set's poster-map. Sadly I have numerous keyed locations on this map, but can't find which notebook I kept them in. I do know the colored in sections were the personal properties of the player's own characters; Dain Hill and the rise adjacent to the Old City wall especially. Q2 is another I recall because it has a road running through it's middle. That is the Brothers In Arms, the HQ for the PC created Adventurer's Guild. The PCs had a lot of money and power back then, mainly from exploring the Greyhawk Ruins (one of them was even mayor after Nerof Gasgol!) However, they got tired of my drama involving guilds, thieves, taxes and court-rooms so they started their own guild for adventurers like themselves.

Their real estate enterprise attracted more and more outsiders who couldn't find homes inside Greyhawk following the Greyhawk Wars. This western quarter also led to some new gates and roads. To the south is Hero's Gate, the north is Bridge Gate and at the end of centrally located Traveler's Avenue is West Gate. The Travelers Quarter eventually expanded and was made a full part of the city by 623 CY. If I ever find the key for the all the locations I'll share the info. This was a good creative era of our Greyhawk campaign. Building things and making maps of them was always a big part of our down-time activities. I'd love to do stuff like again someday. Perhaps in my Sea Princes campaign. Hm...

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Dragon Magazine #70 Ads

Hail Greyhawkers! It's a lazy day off so I'm gonna have fun. My last post got me thinking more about old Dragon ads and how as a youth I enjoyed looking at those almost as much as the articles or comics. Nowadays gaming ads don't attract me. They're too well made. Boring! Some of these old school ads though were quite humorous in today's light. Okay fellow gamers, let's go back in time and riff through a randomly chosen issue, Dragon Magazine #70 from 1983:

The adventure is indeed mine! This first ad is a full page ad for Basic and ExperD&D (of course TSR will splurge in their own magazine). I love these games, I still own both boxed sets today. What I enjoy is the photo ads of the 80's. So, what they show here is five people (2 girls too, ahead of their time) playing around the tiniest round table ever. This would never fly in today's gamer culture with all our books, dice towers, tablets, cell phones and not to forget, snack and beverages! Also, hey scoot down guys...there's a whole other side of that table you can sit on! ;)

It's a book...

Yeah it sure is, but no thanks. If it's a game, it's one that 11 year-old me could never get into because Basic D&D rules was all the math I could handle. Or maybe I'm just not into sci-fi RPGs. Speaking of which...

1. I'm not a fan of Star Trek as an RPG. (Sorry fans) but hey who wouldn't want to own a starship?
2. The Correspondence Game? Oh man, this is 1983. There is no email, or message boards, or instant messengers. You had to command your space ship through SNAIL MAIL?
Shields up! *licks stamp, seals envelope, walks to mailbox*

 Bahaha, vorpal blade. Snicker-snack. Bandersnatch Leathers. Clever ad. Dice bags have been a hot commodity forever evidently. I also like that they have small and large sizes rated by how many dice they hold. I don't think I've ever seen that as a selling point before. Wait, 4 to 6 weeks for delivery? My dice are gonna be sad until then.

Who am I kidding, I've used zip-lock bags for dice before.
 I know yall have heard of Dragonbone. I never got one of these and I sort of wish I had. For you young bloods, this is the 1983 version of a dice app. I'm sure it works as accurate as a dice app too, which is to say I don't trust them!

At any rate, one year guarantee. Not bad! How many RPG accessories have you ever bought that have a warranty of some sort?

$24.95 ?! In 80's money that is *checks* that is $63.02 ! On second thought, I'm glad I didn't buy Dragonbone.

Oh no SCi-fi RPGs again! Actually, Space Opera ads ran in Dragon as far back as I can remember. Never bought this game, probably never will (though I bet it's more fun than ST or Traveller), but I always admired their sharp black and white ads at the bottom of pages. Very eye catching!
Fantasy Games Unlimited made this game as well as games like Bushido and Villains & Vigilantes.

One thing I have to pause and point out too. Dragon #70 was in the early years of published Greyhawk. 1983 is when the World of Greyhawk boxed set first came out. In the magazine, Gary Gygax and company were doing articles and columns to support the setting such as the Deities & Demigods of the World of Greyhawk. All I wanted to say though is look at that beautiful calligraphy. I can only assume it was done by Darlene herself though I can't find actual credit in the magazine. A shame.

And lastly, there is minis. Dragon Magazine was always stocked full of ads for minis from great companies like Grenadier, Ral Partha, Citadel, etc. I could show you those old models and you'd turn your nose up at their quality compared to today. So instead, I'm showing an ad for a game store called Hobby House that will send you a FREE lead mini for the cost of one catalog which is evidently $1.00 ($2.53 for you millennials)

Lead minis. Ah those were the days before we cared about lead poisoning. We painted our lead minis with lead paint while we drank water from lead lined plumbing. If you are also from this era and still reading my blog, then kudos gamer for surviving long enough to enjoy this retrospective with me!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Dragon #200 Ad: Mystara

Hey Greyhawkers! Today I'm wistfully working on a writing project that I've been chipping away at for quite a long time. I'm also listening to the Twitch debut of Valley of Soot & Skull on the Greyhawk Channel. In the meantime, I have a question for all your readers, is it possible to be outraged 25 years after the fact? Check this ad out:

This is an advert for the Mystara setting in Dragon Magazine #200 way back in 1993. I have nothing against Mystara. I love Mystara. I hate whoever the art/advertising director was in 1993. I don't think I need to explain anymore. Just soak it in....

/rant over

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Evil Alternate Oerth

Cold iron avail you, Greyhawkers! Today I'm entertaining an interesting and obscure facet of World of Greyhawk lore. Namely, alternate-Oerths. According to fan-scholars on the subject, Oerth has four known alternate, parallel worlds: Aerth, Uerth, Yarth, and Earth. For a lengthier explanation of how these realities work check out Ripvanwormer's interesting take on CanonfireSummarized they look like this:

Oerth = home of the World of Greyhawk game setting and timeline we all know.

Earth = This is our world. It is also the home world of the mace wielding deity St. Cuthbert and the technology of Murlynd.

Aerth = Essentially the setting of Gary Gygax's Dangerous Journeys RPG and books.

Yarth = Is the home of Gygax's Gord novels, the Sagard the barbarian stories and quite possibly the original home of Mayaheine before she was brought to Oerth by Pelor.

and finally there is Uerth = The "gothic" world. This is a place of pulp horror fiction and could possibly be the location of Rhop a land from which the nomadic Rhennee left for Oerth. 

Rip's theories are well reasoned and authoritative in my opinion. However, in published canon we have learned Uerth is far worse than just an HP Lovecraft world; it's the EVIL MIRROR UNIVERSE OERTH. This development came 10 years ago, in 3.E's Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk by Paizo Publishing's own Erik Mona, Jason Bulmahn and James Jacobs in what was basically the last major Greyhawk adventure ever printed. What follows is for DM's only. It contains major ***SPOILER*** material. You've been warned, ready?

 Not yet.

Still with me?

Okay then. In the adventure there is an artifact called the Orb of Opposition. Touching it transports a character's evil duplicate to Oerth. Enough said. Without giving too much more away, the following NPCs have mirror opposites floating around:

Lord Robilar's evil doppleganger is thus Bilarro.
The utterly evil Iggwilv (Tasha) is replaced by the "good" Ahsat.
Mad Zagig Yragerne has a double named Xagig.
Nolzur has a copy called Rulzon.
Quaal is mimicked by the evil Aluuq. 
Keoghtom's evil version is Komoghet. 
Musical Heward is opposed by the evil Wedrah.
and Murlynd has the evil double named Lyndrum.

All quite anagramatically funny yes, that is a classic Gygax hallmark, but making Uerth a literally intrinsic evil realm opens up VAST possibilities for a campaign that wishes to gate to and from this world. For example I could do this:

Iuz the Old One, demigod of evil and pain becomes Zui the Young, demigod of good and life. A being whose embattled land is a holy island surrounded by a sea of abject evil. (I'd say that anything higher than a demigod or demonlord is unaffected by the mirror world effect, so Nerull is still Nerull and Pelor is still Pelor.)

Celene, Kingdom of the Elves ruled by Queen Yolande becomes, Celune, Realm of the Dark Elves ruled by Queen Andeyol.

The good Kingdom of Furyondy is now Furyon ruled by the anti-paladin King Vorleb.

The wicked Great Kingdom becomes the once Grand Kingdom of Uerdy -now fractured and overrun by millions of peasant zombies, while undead-slayers and paladins like Saint Gothkar roam the land defending the weak.

Adventure hot spot the Tomb of Horrors becomes the Crypt of Terror a place created by the mage Karereca, that openly challenges evil, greedy treasure seekers to risk their lives for fame and fortune.

The Temple of Elemental Evil becomes the Temple of Elemental Good (of course) where an angelic ally of Zui is bound after her defeat in the Battle of Meridy Fields.

The Free City of Greyhawk ruled by wealthy neutral oligarchs becomes ,well, the Free City of Grayhawk. I imagine the balance is important after all since this place maintains its neutral stance, albeit attracting a more vile sort of adventuring lot.

Irongate the city fortress of good humans and dwarf-kind becomes Ironmaw a city of evil inhabited by vile humans, drow, duergar, hateful gnomes and yes, cannibal halflings- their city is only part of a larger faction called the Iron Horde.

The noble Kingdom of Keoland is now the Kingdom of Keoghlund a vast empire whose spy network, the Knights of the Watch cause fear and mistrust in all citizens.

The nautical Hold of the Sea Princes here, becomes the Domain of the Sea Princess. All must fear this narcissistic princess and her deadly pirate fleet!

Finally, the tiny, brutal land of Ull on Uerth becomes the paradise Luu where peaceful herders mingle with unicorns, gentle giants and other fey denizens. BLECH!

I could go on like this for multiple posts and never run out of things to adapt. And yeah, I know Oerth is already a world of ascendant evil, but like I said Uerth can be this twisted mirror-version of the World of Greyhawk that turns the evil dial to 11. Good luck Greyhawk fans, I hope you take this ball and run with it now!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

New From The Greyhawk Channel

Good day Greyhawk fans! It's officially summer so you know it's time for DMShane over at the Greyhawk Channel to announce another new show to his line up. This makes TEN shows actively streaming on the Twitch channel. Amazing! The newest campaign is called Fortune & Glory. DMShane sums it up himself:

"Join us Sunday morning at 11AM EST for the premiere of FORTUNE & GLORY - a gritty, Indiana Jones style, artifact-hunting ride!"

The difference between the other shows and Fortune & Glory is that Patreon supporters of the Greyhawk Channel can possibly have a place at the table in this new stream! It's Greyhawk, so why not give a chance? I'm backing it right now.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Children of Kord

Hail friends of Greyhawk! Today I'm musing about all the children of Kord god of strength. In fact, I'm entirely surprised there isn't any officially named in canon. At least to my knowledge. Why is this a shock? Well Len Lakofka set them up to be some heroic progeny way back in Dragon Magazine #87. Perhaps it's a tease, but even your next character could be the Child of Kord. How? Let's have a look at some 1st Edition lore...

Kord is worshipped more than any other Suel deity. Thriving churches dedicated to him can be found in the Barbarian States, northern Ulek, Almor, the Great Kingdom, Hepmonaland, and on Lendore Isle. Small isolated churches may be found among peasants over the entire route of the Suloise migration"

Kord is all over, especially within the Thillonrian Peninsula. So basically any character, especially barbarians, could have a chance to be a demigod child.

"Kord is quite the fool for a pretty face. He favors elven and human women, but has also consorted with other humanoids and even giants. The world is full of his sons and daughters, but few, if any, of them can claim demigod status (less than 1%). Any figures who can make that claim must have scores of 18 to 20 in two of these three ability areas: strength, constitution, and dexterity." 

So, Kord is not only loved Oerik-wide but, like many AD&D gods of Greyhawk, he flaunts the fact that true deities aren't supposed to directly enter the Prime Material Plane without the consensus of the pantheons. Clearly then, carousing with mortals in alternate forms is the classic mythology loophole.

"To determine whether an offspring of Kord is entitled to demigod status, roll 2d6+6 for each of the character’s ability scores. Two of the results must be 18 (rolls of 12, modified), and the numbers must be assigned so that the character has scores of 18 in two of the three physical abilities: strength, constitution, and dexterity."

Now the chances an elf having a modified 18 DEX is pretty good, but the other stats means Kord more than likely has children among giants or ogres before medium sized humanoid-kind. Even so, the rules of this edition allow you to try and build your character as a child of Kord upfront (unlike the scant 1% chance of being psionic after the fact). The 2d6+6 system guarantees a decent PC with minimum stats of 8, average of 13 yet there is no certainty you'll get two 18+ stats. The d4 roll is what separates the demigods from the pretenders though...

"If this criterion is met, roll d4 for each ability score of 18: a result of 1 or 2 means no adjustment, a result of 3 raises that ability score to 19, and a result of 4 raises it to 20.

Only those characters who pass all these tests and end up with two scores of 19 or higher among strength, constitution, and dexterity can dare to claim their birthright and openly profess Kord as their father. Kord will not deny such a claim; instead, on the child’s 17th birthday Kord will come forth to give the young warrior a great task based almost entirely on fighting ability. Those who pass this test will acquire limited special powers (see the lists below)."

How's that for a 17th birthday party? What's even better for the PC child of Kord is ALL starting ages in 1E (even humans) are already in that range, meaning a player who defies the odds could not only have two exceptional stats, but also some additional powers (assuming the PC can pass this test of combat) at only 1st level!

"Although passing this final test does qualify the character (in Kord’s eyes) to call himself or herself a demigod, the overriding power of Lendor keeps Kord’s offspring from dominating the Prime Material plane"

Well that's a relief.

"Each demigod character gains from 2-4 special powers; roll d8 once for each of the following lists."

List #1 :
1. Save vs. poison is 3
2. Save vs. death is 4
3. Save vs. all forms of fear is 3
4. Immune to quest and geas spells
5. Mask alignment at will
6. Immune to normal missiles
7. Immune to sleep, hold, and slow
8. Roll twice, ignoring 8s and duplicates

List #2:
1. Heal self once/week
2. Jump or levitate at will
3. Enlarge self at will, as 10th level M-U
4. Climb walls as 7th level thief
5. No non-proficiency penalties applied
6. Can cast silence on self at will
7. Blood rage: Will go berserk (+2 to strength) if damaged 50% or more in combat, fighting until slain or until everything within 60 feet is killed
8. Roll twice, ignoring 8s and duplicates

Now all these "powers" are quite tailored to the AD&D system, so for an enterprising DM to adopt the Children of Kord into their modern D&D games, it will require a bit of creative game design.

So, you've successfully made a child of Kord...Now for the last paragraph of info on these rare quasi-deities.

"Kord’s children may never be lawful, nor may they be paladins, illusionists, monks, or druids. Any of his children who do not enter his clergy and who reject the fighting profession (by not becoming a fighter or ranger) and any of his offspring who display cowardice will be disowned, which might mean (30% chance) that Kord himself will come to the Prime Material plane to slay the offending character."

No one said being a Child of Kord was going to be easy. For those who hung in there for this long article, here's a bonus Kord comic of mine from Oerth Journal #21.