Thursday, November 26, 2020

Ring of Five Questions: Round 14

Well met Greyhawk patrons! If you've been following this blog for the last month or two, you'll know this is the fourteenth round of my ongoing Return of the Ring of Five Questions column! If you're finding this column for the first time, this is a special community participation feature of Greyhawkery. Search back and read the previous installments (Round 1-13) then email me at mortellan@gmail.com with your own five responses. Remember, you can be as short or wordy as you like in these responses. Disclaimer: I will keep taking entries until the end of 2020 so hurry up and respond before Needfest is almost here!

This round we have another special entrant to the Ring, my friend and creative compadre, Scott Casper whose novella Castle Greyhawk, I helped bring to life as a graphic novel for several years online. Scott is an old school stalwart of the Greyhawk community who is no stranger to the Ring of Five Questions. Check out Scott's original interview from way back in 2012. Those Five Questions were tailored to him, so this time around he will be answering the same as everyone else, but a couple of the Q's are still classic. Since Scott holds a special place in my history with the Greyhawk community, I'm going to take his return to the Ring up a notch. Let's see how 2020 Scott measures up to the Greyhawk community, 2012 Scott and...ME. Yes I'm throwing myself in the Ring at long last for my final answers. Ready? Enjoy!

Q1. What is your favorite realm or region in the World of Greyhawk setting? 

Scott: Last time my answer was South Province, and I still love that region (the only time in recent years I’ve written anything for Canonfire was when South Province needed some representation in a project), but my last two campaigns have been set in the City of Greyhawk. To an extent, I’ve tried making this the Greyhawk City of the Original Greyhawk Campaign, but I do get lazy on occasion and borrow from Carl Sargent’s amazing City of Greyhawk boxed set. I don’t want to go 100% boxed set version because I’ve already done that -- that was, in fact, my second Greyhawk campaign ever back around 1990. But it’s also just too good to ignore.

Anyway, short version is that my answer is the City of Greyhawk, or perhaps I should say the Domain of Greyhawk -- since Castle Greyhawk is in the domain, but not in the city!

Mike: Scott wisely changes his answer from 2012. The South Province (Ahlissa) can be a cool place to make your own, but the City (and yes, Domain) of Greyhawk is too iconic in my view to deny. for that reason I too choose Greyhawk as my favorite location. Unlike Scott, I was never versed in Gygax's novel/home game version of the city, but my best campaigns have always been built around the 2E city boxed set, the updates from Roger Moore's The Adventure Begins and the later Living Greyhawk Journal (and Denis Tetreault map) additions. Greyhawk has all the best NPCs, organizations, economy and yes, magic. 

People know me and assume from my extensive Ull and Sea Princes writings on Greyhawkery that these are my favorites, but the Gem of the Flanaess and its surroundings (of course the iterations of Castle Greyhawk) is where most of players have enjoyed adventuring and establishing their characters homes. Every time I run a game there it's like returning home, so it's never difficult to DM. Good start Scott, let's continue... 

Q2. If you could actually be one Greyhawk deity which one would it be? 

Scott: Last time I said Boccob, but that was a joke answer. I don’t want the responsibility of being a greater god. I’d choose to be a quasi-deity, like Heward. He gets to hang out with the gods, play the organ at their parties, but doesn’t have a portfolio or sphere of influence he has to worry about.

Mike: Scott has had years to reflect and become humble. Boccob was a choice of more than a few people in the Ring too. I myself was very tempted to take the Uncaring, then it dawned on me. No I'm not talking about Pelor, or Pholtus! I would chose to be Wee Jas, goddess of Magic, Death, Law and Vanity. Am I vain, no never, but if I were a god I'd have to shake Scott's concern about responsibility. Sure, Heward is a fine choice, alot of the Quasi and Hero-gods get to adventure around still, party with all the Mordys and Zagygs out there and he's right, don't have to answer to anyone. But for me, after some thought I'm WEE JAS. Yeah, yeah, she's a goddess and I'm fine with that! No one else went for her, so surprise!

Boccob has magic and is greater. Nerull has death and is greater. Wee Jas however kind of plays the middle at times, which is very like me. She can be greater or intermediate depending on her mood perhaps? She is lawful, which is also like me. She is also vain and ambitious for more portfolios. This part is not like me, but if I'm Wee Jas, then heck with it!   

Q3. You have one wish. Which Greyhawk module or accessory would you do over or fix?

Scott: I never got this question eight years ago! I’ve seen a lot of answers already that seem like really good answers, but I am going to stake my claim on the Rob Kuntz Archives. His maps and keys to El Raja Key (or Maure Castle, as we know it on Oerth), including some of the levels that also became part of Castle Greyhawk, are on that CD-ROM product (maybe not the original original versions, though; I suspect the keys were rewritten sometime in the early 1980s, given some of the monsters you can encounter there). I have been fleshing out those levels with more detail for recent campaigns. While not technically a “fix,” I am tempted to share my more detailed version of El Raja Key.

Mike: Mr. Casper shows he is a paragon of old school Gygaxian Greyhawk. I'm a big fan of Kuntz too, I love Maure Castle probably more than Castle Greyhawk in fact. Eli Tomorast is my boy! I also have the CD-ROM Scott talks about and it's a wealth of unpublished lore. I got at Gary Con, so I'm not sure where you can still get a copy from. Maybe Scott will know? Anyhoo, I imagine bringing RJK's El Raja Key to life in a finished product would fulfill the wishes of quite a few friends of ours in the community.

Myself though, I have ranted several times in the RoFQ column about the Five Shall be One/Howl from the North/Greyhawk Wars storyline. I will stick with this being my hill to die on for a revision. Sargent was merely taking Gygax's cues and was steering the Flanaess to war. I like wars as anyone who has read Greyhawkery knows. The quest for the 5 Blades of Corusk should have united Thillonria to go conquer lands to the south, Bone March, Pale, North Province, etc. That's how it played out in my 2E campaigns and I think GH Wars as published could have its Great Kingdom/Iuz subplots and still allow for the barbarian faction led by a very real and freed Vatun to carve a new power group in the north. If not that, the mods could be reworked for a South Seas variation like I did in 3E for my players. Instead of questing in the cold north the blades are scattered across the tropics. Instead of barbarians, you need a party of Suel pirates. Good times!

Q4: You're putting together an all-star Greyhawk NPC group. Who is your number one pick? 

Scott: I love Tenser, Robilar, Terik, Yrag, Ehlissa, Murlynd, and all the characters from our Castle Greyhawk webcomic. Eneever Zig, the wizard who goes into the Castle Greyhawk dungeons with Gord and Chert in Night Arrant, has featured prominently in two of my campaigns now. If I’m going by canon characters -- I am going to stick with our main protagonist, Tenser.

If I can include non-canon NPCs, though….I loved using this mage named Mokli in my old South Province campaign. He was based on Quinton, from the comic book Thieves & Kings (created by Mark Oakley). He’s supposedly extremely powerful, but he dresses like a poor apprentice and is never seen casting a spell, ever. He showed up at various points in the campaign, looking for the PCs because he had vital information to tell them about what they needed to do next -- but then something would always happen that would interrupt him and keep him from being able to tell them. It made him seem like he knew a lot about what was happening behind the scenes of the campaign, but every time it was a bluff -- I didn’t actually have anything prepared to tell the PCs. They were good sports and always played along. I’ve been blessed with some great players over the years.

Mike: Good ol' Tenser is a bold choice. He is indeed a wonderful protagonist throughout all Greyhawk lore. He is near and dear to the Greyhawk Domain as well, and someone who a quasi-deity like Heward would hang out with too! I definitely enjoyed drawing Tenser (and all those NPCs he mentioned) for the comics all those years. You could see his progression in power through the chapters, though we never quite got to the pinnacle. Still, as NPCs go he would be a much better team leader than Mordy who always manipulates from the shadows. Also Scott, since we're pals, I will give you Mokli as well. I like nostalgia and sometimes your own creations are better. Yup another mage to run with Tenser. Wizards  is where all the glory is at in Greyhawk.

For myself, I like wizards too. I was tempted to go with an obvious good choice like Mordenkainen, Rary or even Tomorast, but as cool as it would be to have a guy with demon-hands on my team, I realized that I need a more powerful and classy #1 pick. You guessed it, I'm going with Iggwilv the Witch-Queen of Perrenland. She is quasi-deity level, she can make artifacts, she can trap demon-lords and she has a lot of connections in the D&D multiverse. Am I worried about Iggy usurping me? Heck no, I'm Wee Jas remember? Girl power! Okay, one more question to go...

Q5. If you could possess one artifact or relic from Greyhawk lore, which would it be?

Scott: If I’m Heward then naturally I want my Mystical Organ (insert your own dirty jokes here). But I also want the Mighty Servant of Leuk-O because I always pictured that being Voltron.

Mike: Okay Scott you talked me into it again. Since he is Heward and has to impress at those parties in Tenser's Castle, I will grant the Mystical Organ is a given. The Mighty Servant though, yeah that gets the job done. Mentioning Voltron definitely plucks at my 80's cartoon heart-strings too. So there you go buddy, two for one! Well played!

To finish off this truly epic round of the Ring, I am going to go with the best artifact in all of D&D and probably RL mythology, the Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga. Skip Twitchell first picked the hut back in round 4 and that stuck with me. If I'm the ultimate deity of magic and death with the ultimate witch queen at my side, then our base of operations is going to be mobile and plane-hopping! Baba Yaga would have to be in this witchy group too, I can't kick her out of her own home after all. Who knows, maybe when we visit the City of Greyhawk, Heward and his organ can entertain us at a party inside the hut. Well that was a load of fun everybody. 

Thanks to Scott Casper for his entry. I hope you were tickled by my answers as well. There is still time, send me an email if you'd like to share your five answer with the Greyhawk community! 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything

Hello Greyhawkers! I don't often do reviews, but I think the latest 5E splat book by Wizards deserves some attention from this discerning Greyhawk expert. Tasha's Cauldron of Everything has been talked about across the D&D community for some time, but I finally got my hands on it and well, news rules and crunch arguments aside (psionics, meh), I'm pleased with the entire package not to mention the numerous nods to Greyhawk throughout in this book. Not convinced fellow grognards? Let me explain... 

First off, kudos to Jeremy Crawford for leading this book. Using Tasha as the authorial voice of the book at first seems like another Greyhawk swipe, but then I read the intro and you can tell it isn't uninformed. They did their research. Tasha pens a foreword introducing herself to the reader that drops names faster than a Carl Sargent sourcebook. Unless there was doubt, she is indeed Natasha the Dark, Hura of Ket and the daughter of Baba Yaga. She reminisces of her days interacting with the "original" Mad Archmage Zagig Yragerne, the Company of Seven and Mordenkainen (there is an awesome illo of her playing chess with Mordy btw). These throw-away references are not useless however. Right there at the beginning and in her boxed text comments throughout the book, a new reader may very well wonder where is Ket, who else was in the Company of Seven or what is original about Zagig, etc. Fan-service doubles as trivia teasers.

What else do I like about Tasha as a brand name character in 5E? Wizards had all of D&D to choose from and they went with an alter-ego of the Witch-Queen from the Greyhawk setting. Not one of the Seven Sisters like the Simbul, or the thousands of other NPC wizards from the Forgotten Realms, not Raistlin, nor Azalin from Ravenloft (oh wait his pic is in this book). Worst case scenario Tasha becomes a famous D&D name alongside Elminster and Mordenkainen and she grows even more, best case scenario more and more people become curious about Tasha and what she represents, want more, and we edge closer to more official Greyhawk content in the future.

Okay enough gushing about the first part of this book. What other references can you expect to see in Tasha's? Here's a sample list just from casual perusal:

Strange technologies of the Barrier Peaks tied to the artificer class.
Clerics of Order give Wee Jas and Pholtus as examples.
Tasha jokes about spells "Mordenkainen's Bountiful Back-Patting and Heward's Hot Air" being left out of the book.
Graz'zt and Tasha illustration (not to mention the gorgeous variant cover by artist Wylie Beckert with the two).
Travel to other worlds like Oerth using the spell Dream of the Blue Veil.
Wow your friends with new spells "Tasha's Caustic Brew, Tasha's Mind Whip and Tasha's Otherworldly Guise." 
Magic items: Baba Yaga's Mortar and Pestle, the Crook of Rao (includes some Iggwilv lore), the Demonomicon of Iggwilv (of course! Includes mentions about Fraz-Urb'Luu and the Tome of Zyx), the Mighty Servant of Leuk-O (plus a bad-ass illustration), and the Teeth of Dahlver-Nar (d20 effects).

No doubt there is more subtle references here, you're not going to find extensive lore on anything in a rule splat book after all, but in closing I love Tasha's. I don't know how much of it will find use in my game, but as a Greyhawk enthusiast and collector, this is a must-have alongside Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes. Yeah I'm a sucker for products named after Greyhawk NPCs. That said, if anyone at Wizards R&D is reading, I'm hoping the next splat book is presented by Tenser or Bigby. Let's see, how about Bigby's Handbook of Heroes or Tenser's Guide to Adventuring? Just a thought. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Ring of Five Questions: Round 13

Well met Greyhawk patrons! If you've been following this blog for the last month or so, you'll know this is the thirteenth round of my ongoing Return of the Ring of Five Questions column! If you happened upon this column for the first time, well put simply this is a community participation feature of Greyhawkery. Search back and read the previous installments (Round 1-12) then email me at mortellan@gmail.com with your own five responses. Remember, you can be as short or wordy as you like in these responses. Disclaimer: I will keep taking entries until the end of 2020 so hurry up and respond before Needfest is almost here!

Every so often someone finds a loop hole in my plans where I didn't explain my rules well enough. This time a daring reader of the blog has (through no fault of his own I'm sure) responded to the questions in one of my original RoFQ interviews instead of the stock five Greyhawk questions I posed at the start of the column. This is significant because I used to customize a couple of the questions to each person I interviewed especially when they were published authors. I will indulge this gentleman's entry and take it up a notch by comparing his answers to the original custom interview. But from here on, the loop hole is closed. Only respond to the questions in rounds 1-12. Without further ado, let's enter the Ring! I present the ineffable Christopher Lerch versus the legendary Creighton Broadhurst of Living Greyhawk fame and freelancer at Raging Swan Press. Good luck Christopher...enjoy!

Q1. As a long time Greyhawk fan, you should know the Darlene map by heart. What is your realm of choice in the World of Greyhawk?

Creighton: I have a lot of good memories of Onnwal because of my time in Living Greyhawk - I made some very good friends in LG and had some great games! I'm also becoming very partial to the Great Kingdom - and its successor states; most of my recent campaigns have been set there.

Christopher: Verbobonc because I've had so many adventures there (starting with Hommlet), both as a player and as a DM.

Creighton was instrumental in developing Onnwal during the 3.x era as well as being notable for his adventures and lore further developing Rary the Traitor and the Brightlands. That he takes interest in the fractured Great Kingdom is no surprise here. I imagine he would love for the Iron League to exact some payback on Aerdy! Christopher holds his own with an old school answer in Verbobonc. While I'm not sure if he was involved in Living Greyhawk (Verbobonc was the region I lived in and I didn't), I do know Hommlet, the Moathouse and the Temple of Elemental Evil is where alot of long time fans cut their D&D teeth. Good show, moving along...

Q2. If you could be one Greyhawk deity which one would it be?

Creighton: Boccob. I almost always play wizards, sorcerers and the like so it would be cool to play at being the best wizard ever!

Christopher: Definitely St. Cuthbert!  He, to me, represents not only Greyhawk, but 1e AD&D as well going all the way back to the DMGs Artifacts & Relics.

Christopher shows his gallant side as he identifies as the most proactive good god in the game, St. Cuthbert! His love of Hommlet, AD&D and the original DMG emanates from him! Or maybe it's that Mace he is holding? Creighton counters with the enigmatic Boccob. D&D has magic, so who has the most? No, not Mordenkainen! No, not Elminster! The Uncaring One of course! A wise choice, sir. Now knowing this, I wonder if Creighton was pro-Rary the Traitor? Hmm...

Q3. You published alot about Rary for Living Greyhawk. What NPC/organization would have been your second choice for a major storyline?

Creighton:  Rary was actually my second choice! Originally, when we were casting about for a major core plotline I got very interested in exploring the ruins of Medegia. It's an area ripe for development and we could have explored some very apocalyptic themes. I think adventures in the ruins of Pontylver would have been particularly cool. I even had an article basically ready to go for the Living Greyhawk Journal (which later saw the light of day in the Oerth Journal). Eventually, however we decided that the plot would have been too regional in focus - in that Medegia isn't exactly central in the Flanaess and its plots would have focused a lot around the Splintered Sun meta-region.

ChristopherI would have liked to have seen more Mordenkainen-centered stories.  Maybe something about his fortress in the Yatils?

So far the first two questions have been standard for the Ring. This one is slightly tailored to Br. Broadhurst because of his publishing credit in Greyhawk. It is very interesting to see his Rary writings was utilized by LG because of its central location. This explains alot, why the living campaign didn't venture too far into the edges. For those who want to track down his Oerth Journal stuff, go to GreyhawkOnline. He has alot of contributions, including his mentioned Medegia idea featured in issue #25. Mr. Lerch has a mountain to climb now as I don't know if he has published any Greyhawk material of his own. Few in the Ring can compare to CB. However! He does pose a great idea for a story line that people would absolutely EAT UP. Anything Mordenkainen is a must have, and I would definitely go for an adventure set in or around his Obsidian Citadel in the Yatils. So much potential. So many dark secrets there...

Q4. Is there any Greyhawk module that you wish you had never ran?

Creighton: No, but there are lots I wish I could run. I really, really want to run GDQ1-7. I've played it twice, but never DMed it. Sadly, my current group has a player who has just run it as a DM and thus knows it rather well. I'll have to bide my time. I'd also like to make my players forget the Temple of Elemental Evil and run that again - it's one of my all-time favourite modules, but sadly we all know it rather well.

Christopher: No! I love those old modules.  I need to expand out of the 1e (I have run *some* 2e), maybe check out the 3e Living campaign.

Well, well, looks like Chris has NEVER ran a module he didn't like. I would expect nothing less from the god of zeal. Well, there is a significant segment of 1E/2E that I wish I could undo or even unpublish. The Sargent and Moore eras are not bad, but I'll assume you used the best of what came out. As for 3E era stuff, I'm sure anything by Broadhurst is top notch. I'd stick to the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer and select issues of the Living Greyhawk Journal however. Creighton meanwhile, agrees with Chris, but goes in the opposite direction wanting to relive Greyhawk's AD&D classics. If he was Boccob he could make his players forget what they previously ran. Good times...

Q5: There's a vacancy in the Circle of Eight. Which NPC wizard would you pick to fill the spot?

Creighton: I guess that depends on what year it is! Assuming it's after Return of the Eight, I'd add Graf Reydrich (from South Province [Ivid the Undying]). His write-up includes a very interesting snippet about him pleading to join the circle 15 years ago (so around 569/570), but that he was rebuffed by Mordenkainen. That really intrigues me; after all Tenser was on the Circle for some time and he wasn't exactly neutral. It would be interesting to see how Reydrich's influence would be felt in the policies of the group. 

Christopher: Drax! He's an NPC wizard in my game that was retired to my realm by a great player that moved away long ago to Florida and we've since lost touch. Drax had a lot of memorable moments in the game and it would be great for other players in my realm to see what they could become one day.

The final question of this round. Creighton brings up a delicious point I didn't know, (he did because Boccob knows all of course) Graf Reydrich wanted in the Circle??? That's very interesting indeed. I am supremely sure Mordy would love to have him on the team due to his political influence in the east. Maybe Bigby opposed him or goodie good, Tenser. Much to ponder here. Christopher gets to end this Ring with an Aerdian of his own. Drax of Rel Astra?!  I had to check the boxed set to be sure, but yes, Drax is an Assassin/Magic-user! While Mordy would love to have Rel Astra in his Circle, much like the South Province in Reydrich, I wonder if Drax wouldn't be rebuffed as well? Christopher however, makes reference to his home campaign which is poignant for this old school man in the chapeaux. Drax must've really been a big deal to his players if they measured up to him. Yeah I never let one of my friends have a PC in the Circle either, so they tended to make their own wizard groups to compete. That's what I like about Greyhawk, we can all share our stories and takes on the setting, they are all valid. Last thing, I do hope that Mr. Lerch can get in touch with that player again some day.

And that ends round 13! Thanks to Christopher and Creighton once again (hopefully he comes on Legends & Lore stream someday). What is in store for the next round? Perhaps another look back into the past of the Ring of Five Questions???

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Rive of Five Questions: Round 12

Welcome again, fellow Greyhawkers! If you've been following this blog in recent weeks, you'll know this is amazingly the twelfth round of my ongoing Return of the Ring of Five Questions column! If you happened upon this column for the first time, well put simply this is a community participation feature of Greyhawkery. Search back and read the previous installments then email me at mortellan@gmail.com with your own five responses. Remember, you can be as short or wordy as you like in these responses. Disclaimer: I will keep taking entries until the end of 2020 so hurry up and respond before Needfest is almost here!

Let's slide back into the Ring with a couple more willing participants. First is a new reader to Greyhawkery, but nonetheless a very knowledgeable fan of Greyhawk, Rich DiTullio. And sharing the spotlight with him is William "Giantstomp" Dvorak of Wicked Studios; Greyhawk blogger, streamer and Oerth Journal author. Let's see what these two have to say...enjoy!

Q1. What is your favorite realm or region in the World of Greyhawk setting? 

William: This is a tough one as I like adventuring, and running, all over the Flanaess. If you were to hold my feet to the fire though I'd have to say the Bandit Kingdoms. There is a ton of diversity there before and after the war with the different Free Lord realms. Of those of course my favorite has to be Rookroost. What better place to place adventures with characters that have flexible morals. 

Rich: I love the Ulek states for the start of an adventure especially the Principality.  The realm being controlled by demi-humans makes almost any combination of heroes makes sense to be from there.  You can strike out in so many directions: north to the Suss Forest, Wild Coast, or Celene, south to take to the sea and encounter the Sea Princes and Saltmarsh, and of course who can resist heading east to try and find the hidden treasures of Pomarj from under the noses of the goblinkin.    

William like many of us have travelled all over the map and find it hard to pick a favorite. But yes you can't go wrong with the Bandit Kingdoms and Rookroost. The map and info on that city in Fate of Istus is the only reason to get the module IMO. BK is right in the middle of the action from Greyhawk Wars to White Plume Mt to Age of Worms. Good choice! Rich going with the tri-states of Ulek is also a smart decision. I always imagined the realms like Tolkien. The duchy is Rivendell, the county is the Shire and the principality is Moria/Iron Hills? Well said Rich, its a great launching place for heroes.

Q2. If you could actually be one Greyhawk deity which one would it be? 

William: Brandobaris. He's a great god for adventurers and he's a halfling so what's not to like? He is the ultimate trickster god and playing tricks and being able to get out of a jam in a pinch would be helpful. 

Rich: Zagyg, no question.  He saw Greyhawk in a way that no one else ever did or will again and followed that crooked path all the way to godhood. 

Rich brilliantly goes with Zagyg. He again shows some insight I haven't seen in the Ring before. Zagyg indeed is the driver in much of Greyhawk lore so what better god to embody, even if he is mad as a march hare. Will OTOH goes a humorous direction as well, but instead he reveals that he's a little prankster at heart. IMO Brandobaris is a very very rare choice for the Ring or even for a character patron, kudos sir! Moving along...

Q3. You have one wish. Which Greyhawk module or accessory would you do over or fix? 

William: Well, I have to go with the one that is freshest in my mind and that would be WGS1 Five Shall be One. In the adventure, that sets up the Greyhawk War, Iuz tricks adventures into collecting the 5 Blades of Corusk. Well, if you collect all 5 it's said that it would free Vatun from his imprisonment. The blades are collected but Vatun isn't freed. Instead, they simply disappear, and then Iuz pretends to be him. Boo, I say! If the 5 swords came together then Vatun should have really come back and then put a beat down on Iuz for trying to dupe his people.

Rich: Fate of Istus.  I remember the first time I tried to run it.  We finished the first encounter and now they are heading to Rel Mord for the second encounter.  They need to be at a higher level when they arrive but they ignored every adventuring hook because of the threat of the plague.  That is when I realized this one just wasn’t going to work as written and I never did quite figure out how to get them hooked on the mystery of the plague and so that they would continue to follow it from city to city. It still disappoints me to this day.

Five Shall be One (and Howl from the North) is a popular sentiment for me and others in the Ring. I love the concept, but the pay off was not there I agree. Iuz duping PCs and entire nations always left me wondering, is Vatun supposed to be real or a figment of the barbarians? I mean, Carl Sargent did create him without prior development. Who knows! Meanwhile, Rich brings Q3 back to what I was saying earlier, FoI is only good for the source material. It's a concept that could work, I imagine Paizo could've done better with their APs, but as wishes for a redo go, yeah please Istus rewind time.

Q4: You're putting together an all-star Greyhawk NPC group. Who is your number one pick? 

William: Obmi. What can I say I've been a fan of this guy since I read about him in the Gord books. Besides that he's had a long career working for Giants and Iuz, he's just a great bad guy. Girdle of giant strength, dwarven thrower, boots of speed, and a murderous attitude, what's not to like.

Rich: Bigby.  With all the plotters, schemers and cryptic mages out there, it is refreshing to have a mage dedicate his life to making bigger magical fists to punch people with.

Rich cracks me up. Yeah, Bigby does have a simple charm to him. Don't mess with Bigby. Also those hand spells are good to keep the team in line! Mr. Dvorak gets serious now with Obmi. If he's putting together a team led by this evil dwarf then it must be a hard hitting team indeed! On to the last Q...

Q5. If you could possess one artifact or relic from Greyhawk lore, which would it be?

William: Blackrazor! Hands down man, the scariest and baddest sword in the game!. All you have to do is keep it fed and it will be happy. :-) 

Rich: As dangerous as it would be, I’d want the Codex of Infinite Planes.  The lure of instant travel to so many other worlds would be irresistible. 

William the avatar of Brandobaris isn't all fun and games after all. He wants to possess a soul sucking sword?! Well with Obmi leading your NPC team (probably out of Rookroost) then I suppose you'll have a ready supply of victims for Blackrazor. Maybe he can outfit Obmi's team with more magic blades, say...five of them? Rich finishes off this stimulating round of the Ring by selecting the Codex! Like William, Mr. DiTullio likes to flirt with danger. He is crazy as Zagyg after all! The Codex may be fun and have all these powers to see other planes and stuff, but eventually, fate, Istus y'know, catches up to those who use the Codex. However, with Bigby and his Ulek friends involved, maybe Rich can convince Istus to re-write his fate. Okay enough riffing for now!

That was a great round! Thanks to William for your responses. See you on the streams! And thanks to Rich, don't be a stranger! If you or anyone else reading who wants to get more involved in the community or would like to just hang out with Greyhakwers go to Twitch where you will find a wealth of community activity like LordGosumba channel or on Facebook's many Greyhawk groups. Until next time! 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

New Map: Ice Barbarian Campaign

Howdy Greyhawkers! Taking a break from my Ring of Five Questions column this post, I have to first thank everyone for their participation, it has been a blast, and yes there is still time to email me your answers: mortellan@gmail.com

Now onto my new map. I recently started a 5E Ice Barbarian campaign for my local group, to fill in-between games. We are already on hiatus unfortunately at 4th level, but the setting was fun and very local themed. I hope to continue it again someday because if I make a map for a game that means I'm having fun. The map below is actually based on a set of maps I did back in 2E for my Thillonria campaign. This new map is a zoomed in (1  large hex = 30 miles) section of Cruski which I have called Atliland. This area is by the fjord in northern Cruski between the "Corusk" and "Mountain" labels on the Darlene map and north of the mountain lake at the narrow point between Frost and Snow Barbarians.

The players are village heroes and did a series of minor, but harrowing adventures on behalf of their wilderness home. I apologize for the rough look of this map because it got rained on one day and curled before I decided to scan it at home. It's pen and marker, hand-drawn on a rather wide piece of hex paper by Black Blade Publishing so I had to scan it in two pieces. I then added some coloration to give it that worn map look and to disguise the wet spots. This was a map in progress mind you. I was adding stuff to it as each session was played. A remote area of the Flanaess like this is perfect for sandboxy type DM development. Click on the map and check it out. I'll add some notes on the locations below. Enjoy!


Taival Tundra: This is the name given to the expanse of land across the top of Thillonria. Not sure if it includes Stonefist or not? I take it most Cruskii live on the east coast of Thillonria, whereas the hardiest of the Ice Barbarians, like the Atli, live along the Icy Sea coast. Here on the featureless plain, I imagine huge herds of elk, polar bears, wolves and maybe even a remorhaz or two!
Atliland: The Jarldom of Atli is everything east of the Rusk Run. West of the river is Jarldom of Skosvid.
Lannharbor/ Lannshan: This is the waterway and capital for Atliland. I have not done much with Lannshan, except this is where major purchases must be made. Long ships of Atliland gather here and sail north to the Icy Sea when the fjord is open.
Ringford and Atvala: Two villages upstream from Lannshan. No notes on them yet except to have potential local rivals for the PCs.
Mihr: This is the village where the PCs hail from. It is defended by earthen-work ramparts. Up the Silent Stream from here is the neighboring woodsman village of Varnir which is allied closely to them.
Winterwood: This is a smaller forest I created in Atliland. Alot goes on here as it is very wild and unexplored. So far there have been gibberlings, treants, ettins, pesky fey creatures and the lair of a dead linnorm. There is also a trapper's cabin in the woods that may or may not be haunted.
Torund Hills: This is an area I expanded off the Corusks, but have not fully developed yet. Good chance that its inhabited by giant-kin. However, at the edge of this foothill region the players discovered an abandoned dwarven mine, which was taken over by orc scouts that have began to filter through the mountains eastward. I imagine these baddies are related to the orc city of Garel Enkdal from Five Shall Be One, set far to the west near Stonefist.
Borr Lake and Ice Fort: I have not developed these areas yet. They are seeds for future stuff. I think it may tie into our homebrew power group, the Night Shadows though.

That's it! Comments are appreciated. If anyone else has ran a campaign in Cruski let me know. I'd love to add to the lore of this regional map.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Ring of Five Questions: Round 11

Greetings, Heroes of Greyhawk! If you've been following this blog in recent weeks, you'll know this is the eleventh round of my ongoing Return of the Ring of Five Questions column! If you happened upon this column for the first time, well put simply this is a community participation feature of Greyhawkery. Search back and read the previous installments then email me at mortellan@gmail.com with your own five responses. Remember, you can be as short or wordy as you like in these responses. Disclaimer: I will keep taking entries until the end of 2020 so hurry up and respond before Needfest is upon us!

Let's jump into another fiery Ring with two more readied participants! In this epic clash of Greyhawk enthusiasts we have in one corner, Michael Rooney and facing him in the other corner is Kevin "suprunown" Peden. Let's get it on!

Q1. What is your favorite realm or region in the World of Greyhawk setting?

Michael: After mulling it over to make sure, I must go with my first instinct: the SEA OF DUST.  It's the first thing I learned about the setting on opening the original gazetteer, with Erol Otus' dramatic drawing of the end of the Suel Imperium on the second full page of text. An absolutely perfect hook for the beginning of a book, straight from the pulps, full of mystery (what would a colorless fire look like?) and horror (it rained magical fire that reduced the HILLS THEMSELVES to ASH, goddamn!).  Yet the Suel capital (oddly located deep inland, near the mountainous frontier of the empire) was nearly intact!  Can you say LOST CITY DUNGEON EXPLORATION in the heart of a LIFELESS DESERT, my friends? Seven years of anticipation were rewarded by Gygax's sketch of the Ashen Desert in his third Gord novel, complete with slug-made tunnels, weird plant monsters, and degenerate Suel derro worthy of Shaver, Howard, or Beneath the Planet of the Apes. What of Uattho, indeed? 

Kevin: Tough question. My go to region for using when starting a campaign is usually the Duchy of Geoff, but the region that grabs my imagination the most is actually Zeif.

Wow! Where to start? Kevin goes with Geoff which after recently talking to members of the Living Greyhawk: Geoff Triad on stream, I have been really intrigued to play in this nook of the Flanaess. It's one of the few places left I haven't tried out. Zeif on the other hand is -always- on my mind as well, because they are always trying to exploit poor little Ull. Fools! Michael is no fool though, he crushes this answer with another good choice, the Sea of Dust. He shows some old school Gygax roots here with references to the Gord novels and evoking classic lit that surely inspired this post-apocalyptic region. Michael is right, this is the place that kicks off the boxed set. So yes, I have used the Sea of Dust, but never for long. Why? It has to remain mysterious and feared! One more thing before moving on, Erol Otus might be my favorite D&D illustrator (Trampier is a tie I think). 

Q2. If you could actually be one Greyhawk deity which one would it be?

Michael: Boccob's 26 Intelligence is very tempting, but the peaceable, reasonable nature of Rao sounds more pleasant.  Plus, I've always assumed that Rao is the same being as Krypton's supreme deity, and it'd be useful to have the respect of a species of Supermen.

Kevin: Boccob. Definitely Boccob. My longest surviving PC is a mage, and I love playing wizards.

Oh, snap! Kevin and Michael almost took the same form of Boccob! I suppose two avatars of Boccob could've made sense, he is his own best company. At any rate Michael changes last second into Rao, a rare choice being a peace deity, but then he ties Greyhawk into DC Comics? I've discussed the Rao connection before with my friend Jayson who loves Superman, but I've never mused about it on this blog. A superhuman move, sir! Kevin sticks with the 26 INT, ensuring that he is the ultimate mage in all of the multiverse. Comparing the two, Boccob has a staff, Rao a crook. Rao has the country of Veluna (Kryptonians in disguise) and Boccob has um, Zagyg? Like the honey badger, Boccob doesn't care! 

Q3. You have one wish. Which Greyhawk module or accessory would you do over or fix?

Michael: The obvious choice is replacing Greyhawk Ruins with Gygax's own Greyhawk Dungeon.  But while on the topic, I have a wish list: Gygax's City of Greyhawk, the Stoink supplement ("Wasps' Nest"), Skip and Gary's WG7: Shadowlands.  If you object that these are more unpublished vaporware rather than fixing published works, I will cede the point.  For just one "fix," then, I wish that WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun had been illustrated by the regular TSR staff artists (ideally Otus, Trampier, and Dee, or at least Easley and Holloway) rather than the artist who made the published module bizarrely uninspiring and utterly incongruous with any other TSR work.

Kevin: Oooooh...toughie. Do I actually try and fix some of the really broken modules, like Child's Play and Puppets? Or do something else? The obvious answer is, redo WG7 Castle Greyhawk to actually BE Castle Greyhawk, but the one thing that keeps jumping out at my and bugging me the most is the From The Ashes boxed set. I cannot STAND the idea that all those generals got turned into souped-up undead monstrosities...really tore the soul out of the game. Actually...pretty much anything they did from Fate of Istus on could probably stand redoing.

LOL both Ring guests had some strong feelings on this Q. Coincidentally, Kevin and Michael both mentioned Skip Williams who was a recent guest on Legends & Lore #73. Go check it out, if you want to hear about what happened with Shadowlands and some other TSR era developments. Good stuff. Anyhow, Castle Greyhawk seems to be the consensus on this part, a Holy Grail that many strive for, but will never be fully realized. I think Allan Grohe or Joseph Bloch are your best champions of this crusade. Kevin hates the animus from the Greyhawk Wars. Ditto. Do I dislike all developments since Fate if Istus? Heck no. FoI should've been reworked though. Michael finishes off this tough Q with his actual wish, classic D&D illustrators in FToT. Hell yes I can get behind that! What happened there?

Q4: You're putting together an all-star Greyhawk NPC group. Who is your number one pick?

Michael: Gravestone, from the later Gord novels, is about the toughest NPC villain who isn't an outright quasi-deity or better.  I remember writing up a version of his prismatic monster spell and I had to make it take up two ninth-level spell slots because it was so badass.

 Kevin: Hmmm.... well, I would love to have Murlynd leading the charge, but I would settle for one of the lesser members of the Circle of Eight, like maybe Otiluke or Bigby.

Michael picks Gravestone, who I must admit I know nothing about because I've never read (or own all) the later Gord books. Prismatic Monster? Two 9th level slots? WHUUUU? Okay sir, I'll defer to you, if he is that bad ass and not a quasi-deity. Well done! Speaking of quasi-deity, Kevin nearly took Murlynd on his team, but then modesty overcame him and he took Bigby or Otiluke (I'd have to favor Bigby on this one, what has Otiluke really done that is significant except die alot?) Question for Mr. Rooney, can a Bigby Hand Spell hold off a Prismatic Monster?

Q5. If you could possess one artifact or relic from Greyhawk lore, which would it be?

Michael: The Head of Vecna! Just kidding. Most artifacts and relics are extraordinarily dangerous.  About the only ones I'd be willing to risk keeping are the Cup and Talisman of Al-Akbar, whose malevolent powers only affect neutral or evil users.  I guess that would keep me Good!  The weekly curative magic (if I were a cleric, which I guess such an artifact would persuade me to be!) would be worth it.

Kevin: Actually, the only artifact I would want is the one my longest surviving PC owns (in my plane of gaming...) - Queen Ahlissa's Marvelous Nightingale.

Kevin closes out the Ring with a surprise choice that I haven't seen before, the Nightingale! Very nice! I have never used this item sadly. Artifacts are the best because they weave ancient history into the present timeline. Mr. Peden shows he has a sense of history by holding onto Queen Ahlissa's most treasured item for a long time. I would expect that from a guy who embodies Boccob and hangs out with the Circle of Eight. Michael finishes off this incredible round of the ring with a set of artifacts: The Cup and Talisman. This is one of the few sensible choices out there isn't it? He must be a really Good person if he is an avatar of Rao and uses those items. His right hand man is kinda sketchy though...

Alright folks, that ends this round. Thank you to Michael and Kevin on some thrilling answers. Stay tuned for some more Ring of Five Questions action!

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Ring of Five Questions: Round 10

Well met, Greyhawkers! If you've been following this blog recently, this is the tenth round of my ongoing 
Return of the Ring of Five Questions column! If you're seeing the column for the first time this is a community participation feature of Greyhawkery. Search back and read the previous installments then email me at mortellan@gmail.com with your own five responses. Remember, you can be as short or wordy as you like in these responses. Also, I will keep taking entries until the end of 2020 so hang in there, I will get your answers posted in a timely manner!

Today is another special round inside the Ring This time I have two good friends of the community squaring off. Who will win in this face-to-face showdown? I don't know because I'm not keeping track! Please welcome first, David "snafu" Leonard, loremaster extraordinaire of the blog Greyhawk Musings. If you like World of Greyhawk lore and have not read David's deep dives into Flanaess history and adventures then look no further! This is where you start (followed by Greyhawkery of course). Mr. Leonard is an active author on Oerth Journal, he runs a Facebook group for his blog and is a frequent flyer on the Lord Gosumba channel on Twitch. Join up or stop by a stream and say hi to him. Not to be outdone ever is Casey "aurdraco" Brown, also a frequent contributor to LordGosumba channel, and can found everywhere from Canonfire to Oerth Journal, but most notably he is a former Living Greyhawk: Bandit Kingdoms writer who compiled years worth of BK stories into a published book that you too can own, the Unofficial Living Greyhawk Bandit Kingdoms Summary. (Cha-ching) Enough accolades, let's throw the pair into the Ring and see what they really think of Greyhawk!

Q1. What is your favorite realm or region in the World of Greyhawk setting?

 

David: It should come to no surprise that I choose Ratik. What's not to love? It's a narrow nation, beset with enemies and dubious allies on all sides. Adventure and mystery abound: Mountains, ancient forests, hidden feylands, a trackless sea, the bitter north, and the prospect of searching out and exploring the lost ancient city Tostenhca; and maybe finding clues to what Keraptis and those decidedly cruel Ur-Flan were up to. Orcs and ogres and giants and dragons, oh my! My preference is the northern half (I'll cede the southern portion to Carlos Lising), only because I happen to love the Hold of Stonefist (I may be in the minority in this) and its endless sparring with the Rhizians and Ratik, as well, that dour land being my runner-up by a narrow margin. I'm really not a knight in shining armor aficionado. Give me druids and rangers and barbarians and thieves any day.


Casey: Bandit Kingdoms, naturally. 

Soft ball question to start, and Casey does not deviate from his home region. If you have not been lucky enough to hear his LG Bandit Kingdom stories, you would find that the player characters of the Iuz occupied Bandit Lands are just as vicious as you'd expect. They will also steal everything but the kitchen sink. Also true to form, David jumps in there and expounds upon the virtues of the quaint realm of Ratik. I have mentioned this before, but what makes Ratik so popular in the Greyhawk community? I think David has made the best explanation I've ever seen. Also, our good friend Carlos might be happy that you ceded southern Ratik to him, however he loves Perrenland in truth. Moving on...

 

Q2. If you could actually be one Greyhawk deity which one would it be?

David: Tough question. As a northerner, I think I'll go with Telchur. He packs a whole lot into his supposedly lesser god status. I expect more than a few utter a pray to appease him and plead for mercy when the north wind sweeps down from the north in Patchfall. Techur is depicted as a dark-eyed, gaunt man with a long beard of icicles. How cool is that? Vatun, eat your heart out.

Runner-up: Xan Yae, the goddess of Twilight, Shadows, Stealth, and Mental Powers. I've always loved the sly and crafty classes. Let the heroic types take the brunt of the damage. That said, I've always whispered a little prayer before attempting to find or disarm a trap.

 Casey: Aasterinian. What's better than being a dragon? Being a dragon god!

David as Telchur. I did not see that coming. In one sentence he turns the entire Thillonrian peninsula against him. Do they like Telchur in Ratik? In truth, I dig Telchur, he is woefully underused in lore, and is rather cool looking. Check out Dragon #265 for more on him. Casey meanwhile is a draconic god. Most people would say Bahamut or Tiamat, but Casey goes for it and becomes Aasterinian the messenger of Io the dragon overgod. Wow! I'm not very familiar with what this deity can do, but I do know Greyhawk legend, Carl Sargent likely created Aasterinian in the book Monster Mythology. So well done fellas, you both were thinking outside the box!


Q3. You have one wish. Which Greyhawk module or accessory would you do over or fix?

David: Dare I say it? The A-series. Or Scourge of the Slave Lords, specifically. I would eliminate the lunacy of railroading the PCs into slavery, and I would have probably completely rewritten them, and remapped them, stripping them of their obvious "tournament" format (even the surface buildings look like dungeons!), and allowing for a greater story arc, utilizing the villains more effectively. 

 Casey: Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, I'd make the regional population figures make sense when compared to older canon sources. Sorry, Gary.


Casey throws down the gauntlet and changes a small but heavily debated aspect of the LGG which he adhered to for so long in convention play. I applauded the bump in populations for some nations, scratched my head at ones that weren't changed and then winced at the 3.5E demographic breakdowns that led to an abundance of demihumans and humanoids. David on the other hand is less on target and joins those who would like to rework the classic A-series. Or would that be re-reworked? Oh yeah there's also Slavers by Sean Reynolds. So, re-re-reworked? At any rate, it's his wish! One more thing before we get to Q4, which Gary is Casey apologizing to, Holian or Gygax, or both?


Q4: You're putting together an all-star Greyhawk NPC group. Who is your number one pick?


David: No question. Grenell. Without a doubt. Not the cleric of latter editions (that's just revisionist BS, bowing to the Satanic Panic), but the master assassin of the first. Who wouldn't want a stealthy killing machine along for the ride? Now, if you want to add a few clerical levels prior to his finding his true path, so be it; I'll take them.

Otherwise: Duchess and Candella, my favourite NPCs. Adventuresome, potential additions to the party, potential love interests, obvious foils to PC greed (as their prized OP items go missing (forever), along with the dynamic duo for a time, until they return, again and again.

 

Casey: Morginstaler. Mature adult red dragon with class levels and magic items? Yes, please! I debated picking Boneheart Cranzer here but I think I trust Morgy a bit more than I would trust Cranzer. You keep Morgy happy, he doesn't eat your face. You keep Cranzer happy, he makes a simulacrum of you before killing you.

David really spiked my memory with his #1 pick. I had totally forgot Grenell is an assassin in the Glossography. Very sneaky choice as it also puts his team in position to claim the Malachite Throne and all the might and magic of the Great Kingdom. I mean, the North Province is okay, but I see what you did there! Also, your lesser picks are charming. I had no idea Duchess and Candella was a thing. Mr. Leonard is a font of knowledge. *turns to aurdraco* Now this is where Casey's competitive spirit kicks in and we see a pattern emerge. Dude likes dragons and he will exploit them to his advantage! Better give Grenell those extra cleric levels, David, cause apparently Morginstaler the Red Dragon of the Rift  is not just a dragon he is a barbarian and a cleric too (gotta love 3e). It's amusing that Casey almost picked Iuz's crony Cranzer. He is devious, but definitely not a #1 pick in my opinion. I always imagined him to be like the Sicilian from the Princess Bride. My follow up to both guys and their heavy hitting teams: who would be your top 5 to follow Morgy and Grenell?


Q5. If you could possess one artifact or relic from Greyhawk lore, which would it be?


David: Johydee's Mask. I prefer a more a subtle application of magic rather than something to beat 'em over the head with. The mask protects from gaze attacks, bestows immunity to assaults of the mind, and disguises the wearer. Those are some terrific powers that enhance role playing and can really add to the campaign experience. I'd much rather see beautiful, graceful items, than moldering mummified corpse appendages. But that's just me.


Casey: Orb of Dragonkind. A) See #4, you're going to need some help persuading Morginstaler not to eat your face. B) If we are on Earth, I'd use it to summon some dragons (but probably not Morgy, probably some good-aligned dragons that would take pity on us. Might as well end 2020 with dragons, right?


Casey keeps the dragon theme rolling with the Orb of Dragonkind. And yes, he is right, you'd need an orb to keep Morgy in line. Although if you were actually Aasterinian I think the red would have to behave a little even without an orb! Otherwise, yes, 2020 needs to end in dragon-fire. David ends this excellent round of the Ring with Johydee's Mask. This item came up in a recent round, but this time David again explains artfully why the Mask is a desirable artifact to own. Especially IRL! And agreed, mummified corpse appendages never end well. Of course, if someone wore Johydee's Mask and also had the Eye of Vecna would we ever know? *watches David closely*


Thanks to David and Casey for participating in this thrilling round of the Ring. I have a few more heading your way, but please send in some answers if you want to keep seeing me make fun of them. The year is almost out and I need to get them posted before Aasterinian, Morginstaler and a bunch of mind-controlled metallic dragons end the world in fire. Later!