Monday, September 26, 2016

Castle Greyhawk: Pleasure Before Business

Welcome back Greyhawkers! I've been dragging my heels but at last it's time to promote the latest of chapter four in our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Check out page-thirteen to see some clever composition by author Scott Casper. On our site you can also check the archives and follow the entire Castle Greyhawk story from the very beginning.

Artist's Commentary: This page has come rather late and I apologize dear readers. Nothing particularly troubling in the art like last time, just RealLife(tm) making it hard to sit down and work. 

Robilar is one of my faves. We have alot of characters in this story running around in armor or sporting beards and so on, but Robilar has an uncertain charm about him I like. He's definitely more relaxed when not in the dungeon, but not enough to lose armor completely. I also like the Green Dragon working relationship with Ehlissa. It's common for D&D players to want to own/work at a bar during their career and this plays out quite well. It's adventurers hanging out with adventurers. What's not to like?

So yes, loving the witty banter, but it looks like the Erac saga will be getting more interesting as Ehlissa gets involved with this unheralded Striped Mage. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Greyhawk Character Sketches

Welcome back folks. News is few and far between at Greyhawkery it seems. The info on my home Greyhawk campaign has been trickling as well. Well today (in honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day yesterday) I have some character sketches from my ongoing Five Shall Be One/Howl From the South 5E Campaign. Check them out!

Captain Cullen is a pirate rogue and former first mate to crab fisherman Captain Cragg. He took over the old caravel Sea Hag and soon upgraded to a faster vessel, the pinnace Envy after the crew was tasked with a quest to find the five Blades of Corusk. Even though the crew agreed no leader, he is still the one who ultimately calls the shots. Cullen may be a two knife killer with a short fuse, but he does have a good heart. If you can find out where he hid it!

Sabriel Loreweaver is a bard of a less traditional variety. She rarely plays the entertainer, instead as first-mate, she inspires her crew  to sail faster, fight harder and at times give her what she wants. Sabriel has an even shorter fuse than Cullen now that she bears the magic rapier Dreamsinger and her wild side has led to many dalliances during her voyages.
Tyrrus Bandale is a second generation fighter and sailor who has risen above the humble life of a crab-fisherman. Although he isn't the keenest mind on the Envy, his strength (and some say his stamina) is as prodigious as an ogre and his skill with a two-handed sword, namely the famous Blade of Corusk Harmonizer is so-far without equal.

 Lash Driftwood is a sea elf ranger from the deep-cities of the Azure Sea. How he first became entangled with Captain Cragg's crab-ship is unknown, but now he is cursed to seek out the Blades of Corusk like his fellow crew members. Lash's deft eye-hand coordination has made him the perfect look out and archer for the Envy. He also bears the long sword Stalker which has made him even more elusive.
 Kuma Sand is the most laid back druid you'll ever see. A worshiper of the entire pantheon of sea gods, Kuma was content catching crabs and mending wounded sailors. The curse to find the Blades of Corusk has led him astray in life and has gained him the scimitar Greenswathe in the process. Kuma is so unobtrusive that he effortlessly blends into the background and then conveniently steps back in when his comrades need him most.
Ostyn the fighter was once the lowest ranking deckhand on the Sea Hag, until fate brought him into the quest for the five blades and lifted him to a greater role on the Envy. This hammering sailor of Olman descent is also the most capable shipbuilder in the crew. Ostyn is a fiercely loyal compatriot to the end, a fact that Sabriel capitalizes on from time to time.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Five Shall Be One: Harmonizer 5E

Hey folks! Yeah I haven't kept up on my 5E write-ups of the Five Shall Be One/Howl From the North conversion to Greyhawk's south seas, but I do promise to keep showing converted material from my home game. Today I unveil the fourth of the five Blades of Corusk, called Harmonizer.

Harmonizer was a particularly difficult blade to convert. 2E did a lot of things without regard to rules or game balance, so compared to thew previous three swords, Stalker, Dreamsinger and Greenswathe, this one is sorta over powered if not semi-cursed. I have ditched original author Carl Sargent's ability of testing a wielder by creating duplicates and did my best to keep the spirit of the rest of its powers. The one that has given me the most trouble in playtesting is the Code of Conduct of course. At first I had it giveing adventage and disadvantage in a lopsided fight, then figured one way or the other was bad enough for the owner. You don't want the PCs throwing this blade out for being too troublesome.

The other balance factor that I couldn't decide on was its "dagger weight" another gross game balance killer, but I went with giving it the Light property yet not the Finesse trait which evidently is a turn off to rogue classes now. If I had gone with both properties I suppose it couldn't make Harmonizer any stronger, I'd be happy to hear some input on this design, Check it out:

Weapon (greatsword), legendary (requires attunement)

This greatsword is a masterful work of art. When light catches Harmonizer’s surface just right, an elaborate etching can be clearly seen depicting a ritual being performed by five figures holding five swords; a swirling mass of wind and earth coils eerily behind them.
   Once wielded by the great Fruztii chieftain Helden Stormfist, Harmonizer looks imposing and heavy, but it inexplicably weighs the same as a common dagger.
   You gain a +3 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon. It has the following additional properties.
   The weapon functions as a defender sword.

Unique Construction. Due to its magically reduced weight, this great weapon replaces its Heavy and Two-Handed properties with Light and Versatile (2d8). However, the blade is still too long and bulky to be considered a Finesse weapon.
 Perfect Balance.  Furthermore, due to the balance of this weapon you gain proficiency in this weapon if you don’t already have it and you gain a +5 on initiative checks.
Enhanced Traits. While attuned to the blade, all six of your ability scores increase by 1, to a maximum of 20.
Code of Conduct. This strange side effect happens when the weapon is wielded in a severely mismatched or outnumbered situation. The magical harmonics of this blade interfere in combat granting the weaker side advantage on attacks or imposing disadvantage on the favored side (DM’s discretion). This enchantment works in a 30-foot sphere from Harmonizer even if it is put aside.
Sentience. Harmonizer is a sentient neutral weapon with an Intelligence of 14, a Wisdom of 10, and a Charisma of 16. It has hearing and darkvision out to a range of 120 feet.
   The weapon communicates by transmitting emotions, sending a tingling sensation through the wielder’s hand when it wants to communicate something it has sensed.

Personality. The sword’s purpose is to enforce a code of honor and balance among the company of the Blades of Corusk. Though the other blades have their own temperaments, the diplomatic Harmonizer manages to keep them all together somehow, but it certainly expects the most of its bearer. Any conflict with Harmonizer can turn ugly with the normally light sword refusing to be lifted or in the worst case, vanishing entirely, thus starting the search all over again.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Castle Greyhawk: Watch Your Back

Welcome back Greyhawk friends! Somehow I've once again managed to miss promoting the latest of chapter four in our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Check out page eleven and page twelve to see some important inscriptions by author Scott Casper. On our site you can also check the archives and follow the entire Castle Greyhawk story from the very beginning.

Artist's Commentary: First off remember to check out our Patreon page. Even for a $1 membership per page you'll get some good Greyhawk access.

Page 11 flew by so well from pen to paper that I perhaps took a mental break and forgot to post about it. There's some great expressions in this one. The little guy sneers and smiles at Ehlissa while she is suitably scared and intrigued by the actions of Erac's Cousin. EC too goes from suave to scolding on a dime. Then there is the mutt who expressively is hating on the blade wielding goon. Good composition. Very happy with that page. Then there was page 12....

Page twelve is a dark moody scene. There is lots of looks and stares and dialogue. But for some reason this one gave me fits. The panel of EC holding his hand out took five tries. FIVE! The one of him standing at the exit of the alley was done separately as well. The first two panels flowed great however. The whole thing ends up being a well-constructed collage of panels. You the reader would not notice this but I happen to do this a lot when certain panels give me trouble. I've had practice though, so no big deal. 

One last detail I loved was the background rowhouses in panel 1. Scott gives me elaborate direction sometimes and I try my best to capture his vision. I hope these medieval buildings fit the bill. To be a comic artist you need to know anatomy AND architecture sometimes. Let's hope page 13 goes smoothly. See you then! 

Friday, September 2, 2016

5 Favorite Greyhawk Resources

It's a slow blog week for me people, so let's talk about the publications that I use the most in my own campaigns. Ideally I'm an all inclusive Greyhawk fan. Every bit of lore is useful to me, or interesting to me, but realistically certain products will just be more important to me in the long run. So here's a quick list and why in no particular order:

1. Iuz the Evil: This is the absolute best source on the lands and evil schemes of the demigod of Pain and Evil. There is more mysterious locations, deadly destinations, powerful villains and background lore than any book you'll find on the north. You don't even need stats for Iuz himself in this book (he is detailed in the boxed set after all) because there is so many layers of baddies to get through in this sourcebook. The information is also editionless so it's relevant today as it's ever been.

2. The Scarlet Brotherhood: This book while thin in page count, is likewise the ultimate source on the Tilvanot Peninsula, the Amedio Jungle and Hepmonaland all in one place. You might not get much in the way of stat information beyond levels and alignment but if you are wanting to know the history and machinations of the secretive Scarlet Brotherhood monks this is a must have product.

3. The City of Greyhawk boxed set: Based part on Gygax's Gord novels and helped with a good dose of published Greyhawk lore, this boxed set, though weak in some regards will give you countless years of gaming material. The maps of the city and sewers alone are indispensable (though Denis Tetreault at improved on them) and there is scores of NPCs and organizations ready to populate an urban campaign more vibrant than anywhere else in the setting. Alot of the information presented in this boxed set also gets timeline bumped in later products like From the Ashes and Greyhawk: The Adventure Begins. It truly is a living city.

4. World of Greyhawk boxed set: The original red-gold boxed set built upon the earlier Greyhawk Folio and has been the benchmark for RPG worldbuilding ever since. The Living Greyhawk Gazetteer might have more fluff and stats, but it lacks the wonder and curiosity of this two book set. Where else can you go from an entry on unique trees to another on runes and glyphs? The maps of course are iconic as we all know. To this day most of my campaign building is still centered on the hex map format started with this map.

5. Greyhawk Adventures hardcover: It's no accident my top 5 favorite are all from the 1e/2e era. It was a golden age of setting development and TSR was never afraid to put out new sourcebooks in different formats such as this hardcover. It isn't the best product they ever put out, being weak in some areas, but from a DM's standpoint, the canon lore on mysterious places, monsters, NPCs and magic items are a must have for any true Greyhawk campaign. It's the type of book that every time I pick it up I read something new that I hadn't noticed years before.

That's all folks! I could go on to my top 10 and they'd mostly be modules I bet, so let's save that for a separate post someday!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Crashed Space Ships and Tech Gods

Okay I'm bored today so let's bash out a good original post on Technology and Deities in Greyhawk.

Greyhawk is full of contradiction when it comes to the functionality of technology in the setting. For example, black powder isn't supposed to work unless you're a deity like Murlynd, or if you're a paladin of Murlynd then you get an exception too. But in general it's an unwritten rule (for DM's personal preference) that anachronistic technology isn't supposed to work on Oerth. Until it does.

Crashed spaceships in the Barrier Peaks yield ray guns and robots. A City of the Gods and frozen automatons lay at the fringes of the Land of Black Ice. Futuristic sailing ships are caught in a tropical sargasso. Ancient artifact level machines and mechas stay hidden until found by adventurers. Gates to alternate Earths can be found that work both ways. I'm sure if Greyhawk had enjoyed an unbroken line of development from the 80's to present we'd have even more instances by now. The point is a variety of genre-mixing technology is there if a DM knows where to find it or if they want to keep it out of their medieval fantasy then no one is the wiser.

What if we ignore the Epoch of Magic and apply all the above examples as overt changes to the setting? Put another way, what if tech and magic mingled freely in Greyhawk? Perhaps an Epoch of Magi-tech. Well we might end up with a world more like Eberron I'd assume. Automaton/Robot "warforged" would become a viable PC race. Larger magitech monsters and vehicles would become more common blurrign the line of science and necromancy. I'm imagining Final Fantasy type flying ships, larger golem-like machines leading sieges. Black powder weapons of course would lead to an explosion of crafting and alchemist class characters. None of these advances precludes magic users either, it only enhances them.

Deities would need a slight make over as well:
Murlynd would be the prototypical hero-god of magitech; the bar by which all adventurers are measured.
Boccob, Delleb and Zagyg certainly jump into the weird magic-tech mashup with even more futuristic arcane objects.
Hextor (and perhaps others like Heironeous) as god of war would lead in cutting edge machines of war both on land and at sea.
Moradin, Fotubo and their like would not be outdone in the crafting department though.
Gods like Xerbo, Zilchus and Bralm would encourage and profit off the tech's spread to common folk.
Stranger deities like Celestian, Tsolorandril and the entire Olman pantheon would also focus eyes to the stars way more than they do currently.
And I don't even want to think about Tharizdun paired with technology!

So yes, magic and tech in Greyhawk can make for an exciting fantasy world. It's all a matter of how far do you take it?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Monty Haul Greyhawk

Here's a fun topic from my dusty Greyhawk shelf. Old gamers and DMs such as me are most likely familiar with the term "Monty Haul" campaign (where a DM gives out way too much treasure and magic items) or the more modern player term "munchkin" (a player who power games his PCs). Either way when D&D was still new to us and we were young and easily inspired (go watch the recent show Stranger Things), we tended to create the most over-powered, excessively rich, over the top characters, and yeah it made sense back then. For my part, I had a certain munchkin NPC/PC in my first "monty haul" Greyhawk campaign that by all rights shouldn't have been as cool as he thought he was. Let's examine Knight Stalker!

Knight Stalker is from the humble backwater nation of Blackmoor, but you wouldn't realize it from his super-heroic profile. K.S. is a human multi-classed, 36th level fighter/ 5th level thief with the improbable stat line of:

STR 18(100%) 16 without his Gauntlets of Ogre Power
INT 18 cause apparently he got a good education in Dantredun.
WIS 15 dump stat!
DEX 18 heroes gotta be quick on their toes
CON 16 i see some erasure on the sheet which means he was probably resurrected a couple times
CHA 18 who wouldn't want to hang with him?
COMELINESS 16 because not even a missing eye can harm those good looks

K.S. had 263 hit points which I'm not sure is even mathematically possible and I don't have time to fact-check it.
By virtue of his part-time thievery he can do thieving skills but most are useless while he wears Plate +5 and carries a Shield +5 but hey he can still back stab that's what's important.
Stalker was notable for having ran through the adventure The City Beyond the Gate in Dragon Magazine #100 where adventurers go to modern day London to retrieve the Mace of St. Cuthbert. Well instead of bringing a mace back he brought back an arsenal including a .357, and an AK-47 and counter to Greyhawk physics his blackpowder weapons could work much like the hero-deity Murlynd's 6-shooters cause why not?
Boomsticks aside, Knight Stalker at one time possessed Excalibur as well, but lost it, which was fine because his main sword was a Tri-bladed Sword +5 whose blades could be launched at enemies. Sound familiar? Yup, it's from the movie The Sword and the Sorcerer. I'm actually proud of that one.

Knight Stalker at the end of his career was 54, but somehow retained the appearance of a spry 32 year old (thanks potions of longevity!). He got his name because he hates knights, cavaliers and clerics. I will assume he dislikes paladins as well. At the end of his career he only had 2182 g.p. left though, which might make life in his castle in the Adri Forest difficult. And lastly, if you think he will die poor and have his body looted of gear I will point out the Will (yeah 1st edition had Wills, it's a lost art) at the bottom of his AD&D character sheet :

I, K.S. (cause with an 18 INT he was too smart to sign his actual name) do hereby swear to come back from the dead and slay my foe.

Yes folks, that means everyone. But especially people who look like knights. AD&D had fun rules for the era, but our ridiculous monty haul game characters were certainly more memorable.