Thursday, November 15, 2018

New 5E Module: Lost Laboratory of Kwalish

Greeting Greyhawkers! Before this week's live Legends & Lore show featuring Anna Meyer and guest Joseph Bloch, I'd like to inform you all about a new 5E adventure available on DMsGuild called the Lost Laboratory of Kwalish. This adventure is by WotC is for ExtraLife charity. Check out the blurb:

"Lost Laboratory of Kwalish explores an alternate expedition into the Barrier Peaks. The legendary inventor disappeared in the peaks eons ago… as it turns out, finding a crashed planar ship and studying its technology to fuel his own experiments—only now, Kwalish’s lost research is desperately needed!
For characters 5th-10th level.
This adventure explores two locations within the Barrier Peaks, and includes new monsters, magic items, and spells, plus sci-fi trinkets, random encounters, and even rumors of the area submitted by the player community! Further featuring new art, maps (from Claudio Pozas), and even a cartoon (from Jason Thompson)—as well as the famed suit of powered armor, as edited by Jeremy Crawford on the Dragon+ livestream!
Best of all, all monies that Wizards of the Coast receives from sales of this PDF are donated to Extra Life. Your purchase of this adventure goes to a truly great cause!

In addition, we were honored to include some content designed with Laurence Withey in this adventure. We hope the material presented brings his character – the wizard Galder – to D&D tables around the world. For more on Galder, please visit the article on comicbook.com."

Fans of Greyhawk and the classic Expedition to the Barrier Peaks may be quite interested in this new module. It is very light on Greyhawk lore, namedropping stuff like Barrier Peaks, White Plume Mountain and the crashed "planar" ship, but given its adaptability to any campaign this is not surprising or unwarranted. What is nice about it beyond the two very unique adventure locations is the extras like the maps, art, trinket charts, new magic, NPCs and particularly the d100 chart for random Barrier Peak rumors generated by fan response on the D&D website (mine didn't get picked, boo). Also, the new development and revelations of who Kwalish (of apparatus fame) is and what he has done is quite satisfying top me.

Buy this adventure, it's a welcome addition to Greyhawk collectors and its for a good cause!


Monday, November 12, 2018

RIP Stan Lee and Carl Sargent

Sad news today Greyhawkers. First and foremost is the passing of the man, Stan Lee at age 95. No link is needed here, his death was immediately felt around the world. As a fan of all things Marvel, especially the Mighty Thor, I am saddened. I will miss his charming voice and his funny cameos in movies. It gives me a warm feeling to know all the characters he created or co-created are now house-hold names anywhere on the planet. That is a man whose legacy is secure. RIP Stan, Excelsior!

In lesser news, but by no means less unimportant to me or the Greyhawk community is the passing of Carl Sargent. For those who don't know who he is, let's just say he developed the World of Greyhawk during 2nd edition in ways no one else could. As fast as Carl appeared on the D&D scene and ushered Greyhawk through devastating wars and its aftermath, he was GONE. Carl left the RPG industry and as far as I know, never returned or felt he needed to during the RPG resurgence started by Wizards of the Coast.



Now not everyone likes "Sargent-hawk" but it is in my opinion second only to Gygax in importance. Sargent merely took the frame work of wars that Gygax had already assembled and pursued them to their most logical conclusion. What Carl brought extra was this "grimdark" tone to Greyhawk that was surely an import from his days working on Warhammer. Another thing, it's a travesty that to this day there is no official print version of Ivid the Undying, a masterpiece of world-building, involving the Great Kingdom. People who struggled to differentiate between Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms or Dragonlance fantasy need only read Ivid or any other book with Carl Sargent's name on it. Thank you Carl, for your prolific work!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Greyhawk: Rhennee Population

Greeting Greyhawk fanatics. Today I'm going to take a wild stab at an esoteric topic I bet no one except perhaps Gary Gygax, Anne Brown and Lance Hawvermale have ever pondered: how many Rhennee are there in the Flanaess? Before I get into my boring research, a few caveats, one, I'm no expert on demographics. There is many D&D fans who have done way more in this department than me. Two, I'm only going to count the barge-folk Rhennee, not their land-born cousins, the ill-named Attloi. Lastly, I'm pulling together sources from a few disparate editions here, to arrive at an interesting conclusion. None of this fantastical population crunching should diminish your love of the Rhennee, instead I hope it enhances by making DMs and players take notice of this human ethnicity and give them a try in the future. Enjoy!

According to Gygax, in the Glossography, the Rhennee resemble Oeridians except they have darker, curlier hair and are shorter on average. They are wiry and strong and claim to have come to the Flanaess accidentally from a legendary homeland called Rhop. While their ancestors rode horses and lived in wagons, modern Rhennee culturally took to living in barges on the waters of the Nyr Dyv and its surrounding rivers by necessity of being immigrants in a hostile world.

Each Rhennee barge is home to a family averaging 33 people. The break down in the Glossography is as such: 1 chief, 2-4 guard, 13-24 "folk", 1-2 "advisors", 7-12 children and 1 "wise woman" (called Veth in 3rd Edition). Accordingly a barge inhabited by a Rhennee noble has a maximum compliment on his home barge, or 45 people.

In the Living Greyhawk Journal #2 article, The Way of the Lake by Lance Hawvermale, (buy it on DMsGuild) he writes that there are about 100 Rhennee nobles and roughly 5000 Rhennee total population. I postulate that this amount is low given what information is available from prior sources. 100 Nobles consisting of a family of 45 would already arrive our number of Rhenn-folk at 4500. Since there are clearly "common" Rhennee people who rally around these nobles in groups of 12-16 barges, the number must be higher!

Again taking averages, each Rhennee lord has about 13 common barges in his fleet. If each has an average family size of 33 as per Gygax's lists, then one noble family totals 574 Rhennee. And if we max out the over-all nobility of Rhennee at 100, then that easily gives us 57,400 Rhennee on the waters, or eleven times Hawvermale's initial estimate. Even with just 50 Rhennee nobles, the totals are impressive enough at 28,700. Take your pick of how many nobles there may be in the Flanaess.

Now of course, things happen on the Lake of Unknown Depths. Life is harsh in the World of Greyhawk. Perhaps the Rhennee have catastrophic deaths per year? Fine, but Gygax accounted for this, and later sources on the Rhennee omit this quite unfortunate fact: 

"When needed, Rhennee steal young children to fill their ranks. Stolen children are raised as and become "natural" Rhennee. Similarly, outsiders who do some great service for the Rhennee are taken into the folk and sometimes accorded great status."

So yes, Rhennee are a culture, not a human bloodline necessarily. Players looking for an exotic background for their characters could theoretically make a Rhennee raised or adopted from virtually any playable race from tieflings to halflings.

According to Anne Brown in the Players Guide to Greyhawk (2E) the legendary Rhopans came in wagons to the Adri Forest and migrated west in CY 150. So, if we use the base timeline of Living Greyhawk CY 591, the Rhennee have been on Oerth for only about 440 years. That means depending on your source, 5000 to 57,000+ Rhennee exist after four and a half centuries of roaming the Flanaess (not counting Attloi). Now I'm no expert on Middle Ages style demographics, but either a small band of Rhennee accidentally rode into this world and prospered, or much like the Suel fleeing the Rain of Colorless Fire, they came en masse possibly through a magic gate or across a Fading Land as they are often found in this setting. 

Despite my argument for more Rhennee, the inclination that there are 5000 or fewer is a good one. After all, why would 57,000 Rhennee need to stick to the waters, when they could just overwhelm and settle a place like the City of Greyhawk (that does have a Rhennee population) with nearly the same population. They could just as easily take over a lesser coastal town in the Bandit Kingdoms or anywhere with that kind of numbers. So, either the Rhennee don't have the numbers to establish their own domain, or their nobles choose to stay on the waters and hide their numbers to seem neither too weak nor too powerful. Well DMs, the decision is yours, I've made the case for both population levels. In summary, use Rhennee! They make helpful guides, traders, bards, fortune-tellers, villains and even heroes.  



Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Bunch of Greyhawk Vampires

Happy Halloween, Greyhawk creatures! Today I feel in the mood to highlight some evil undead from the World of Greyhawk setting, specifically vampires. Undead run rampant in Greyhawk. It's full of death knights, liches, animi and so on. What Greyhawk has a surprising lack of is vampires. That is to say named vampires. Of course there are obvious ones from lore such as Drelnza, daughter of Iggwilv from Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth or Kas the Terrible former lieutenant of Vecna. Did they sire lesser vampires or are they loners? Who knows? In popular fiction and other games we are used to seeing numerous vampire clans and how they interact. In Greyhawk for the most part, the vampires who about are indeed loners or servants of more powerful non-vampiric beings. To show you what I mean, here is a selection of canonical Greyhawk vampires you may or may not know. This list is by no means exhaustive and I apologize if any are spoilers. Enjoy.




Belgos (male drow vampire)
Where is he found? Vault of the Drow
Who does he serve? His mistress the succubus Silussa.
What's his job? Master of bats and rats. Bodyguard?

Tloques-popolocas (male human vampire)
Where is he found? Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
Who does he serve? The vampire-god Zotzilaha.
What's his job? Master of Outsiders and sleeping.

Maskaleyne (male human vampire)
Where is he found? Iuz the Evil
Who does he serve? The demigod Iuz.
What's his job? Boneheart member and governor of Grabford.

Prince Ferrenan (male human vampire)
Where is he found? Ivid the Undying
Who does he serve? No one, House Cranden, or at one time, animus Overking Ivid
What's his job? House Cranden ruler of Blacksplinter.

Vlad Tolenkov (male human vampire)
Where is he found? Queen of the Demonweb Pits
Who does he serve? The demon-queen Lolth
What's his job? Aspiring warlord, ruler of Nightworld.

Ctenmiir (male human vampire)
Where is he? White Plume Mountain
Who does he serve? The wizard Keraptis.
What's his job? Cursed to guard treasure.

Nanna, Dannen and Willow (human vampires, two female, one male)
Where are they found? The Doomgrinder
Who do they serve? Two of these former druids serve the third druid. No spoilers.
What's their job? Wandering and druid stuff.

Okay, that last trio is rather different than the standard Dracula trope vampires before them, but being druids they are likely going to remain neutral hermits anyhow. That's all for now. To sum up, yes there are many vampires in Greyhawk, and in positions of great power; just not any kind of organized vampire families or bloodlines of note. Maybe that's a good thing.













Wednesday, October 24, 2018

7 More Spooky Greyhawk Locations

Greetings, denizens of Greyhawk! In time for Halloween, I bring you a feature that I haven't done since 2014: 7 More Spooky Greyhawk Locations! If you haven't seen the last list, check it out here. As before, I'm not covering the too-popular Tomb of Horrors. It's scary yes, but the secret is kind of out by now. Death traps. Great Green Face. Demi-lich, etc. No, I aim to show DMs that Greyhawk has many eerie places to set a spooky-night's adventure. Enjoy!


Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad: This 2nd Edition Greyhawk module is actually part two of the forgettable "Lost Modules" series (Star Cairns and Doomgrinder). Written by the capable Greyhawk scribe Sean K. Reynolds, the only thing scary about this module is the dozens of puzzles you'll have to solve to get through it. By the time you find the namesake mad lich of the crypt, you'll have wished your character was dying in the Tomb of Horrors instead. This is not to say the module isn't redeemable. If you have players who are indeed above murder hobo-style play, then give them a taste of Lyzandred. You have been warned!

Icespire: Not happy with the previous review? "Let it go." Instead I present a place of environmental and mental danger. This keep in the South Province sits on the rocky coast of Dunhead Bay and once served as a light house for vessels until one doomed day in 565 CY. Stories suggest the mage in charge of running the beacon was interested in forbidden lore he allegedly discovered in caves below the keep. Whatever he discovered, the effects were instant and deadly, as the keep and the all the land around for several miles were permanently changed into a frozen wasteland. The Herzog of the South Province sent men to investigate and only two returned, and both of them were driven insane. Even attempts to scry resulted in madness. The lands of Icespire, as it became known, is perpetually cold; so cold in fact, that normal protection does not suffice. In the spring and autumn months, storms rushing in from the Sea of Gearnat make travel along the peninsula of Icespire is impossible even for the most well equipped expedition. 
Introduced in Ivid the Undying, this giant ice-blue shard overlooking the coast gives DMs and players a fun combo of problem-solving and investigating an eldritch horror. Is it a cursed artifact? A trapped god or elemental prince? A gate to another Plane? If so what creatures now lurk in the frozen wastes? Good luck finding out hardy heroes. 


The Secret of Bone Hill: Here's one I missed last time. The Secret of Bone Hill is a classic low-level module by Lenard Lakofka, and introduced in 1st edition AD&D. Bone Hill is a suitably spooky sand-box type module that is only the first part (L1) of a three module series (Assassin's Knot and Deep Dwarven Delve). Not convinced this place is eerie enough? The blurb on the cover says this:

"Danger lurks in the Lendore Isles. Bands of evil creatures prowl the hills overlooking the town of Restenford, seeking unwary victims. Now you have come to the sleepy little village looking for adventure and excitement. You seek to fathom he unexplored reaches of Bone Hill and unlock the mysteries of Restenford."

I have personally never played the Secret of Bone Hill, and I only recently acquired it, but I do intend to run it someday. I dare you to as well!

Bronzeblood Haunt: 
The good Kingdom of Furyondy is not spooky is it? Well, no, because most of the dangers here come from outside its borders (namely Iuz or the Horned Society). There is one notable exception however; the ruins of a castle referred to as Bronzeblood Haunt. As the tale goes, there was once a sadistic nobleman who consorted with things like evil cults and vampires. Naturally, matters got so out of hand in this fief that the king had the guy deposed and his castle was razed to the ground. Even after this overthrow, the entire area was left with an overwhelming aura of evil. The land is noted for eerie mists and unnaturally blood-red bronzewood trees during autumn. So far, no knight or hero has dared to explore the cursed dungeons of this ruin. Oh yeah, did I mention the crazed noble was never caught? Bronzeblood Haunt is featured in the 2E accessory The Marklands. This location gives a DM a chance to place a custom dungeon-crawl within a stable kingdom and not be overshadowed by any published modules nearby. Happy hunting!



Fleichshriver: Within the dominated Bandit Lands is a foul citadel called Fleichshriver (translated, flesh penance?) consisting of bent towers, barbed walls and gargoylian decorations. Featured in the accessory Iuz the Evil, this is a garrison for Iuz's forces as well as a ghoulish laboratory for Boneheart members Halga, Jumper and Null. If there is a unique evil spell or cursed magic item created in this empire, Fleichshriver is where it originated. Jumper experiments with shadow magic and Halga dabbles in the negative material plane in this castle. Worse yet, reports say Fleichshriver has a gate to the Abyss itself where demons are summoned forth to serve the Old One. There is few places in the north more dangerous to venture into than citadel Fleichshriver. High level adventurers take note. To vanquish Iuz and his lieutenants, this fell place may have to be brought down first. Good luck!


Plague Fields:
Speaking of Iuz the Evil, another depredation of the tyrannical demigod is the Plague Fields. This keep within the former Shield Lands and unbeknownst to the forces of evil who wrecked it, used to be a vault for a profane artifact belonging to Pyremius, god of murder. The unfortunate result of this keep's destruction was breaking the holy wards on it. Now, all life that gets within miles of the ruin slowly becomes poisoned and diseased. Very few are hardy enough to tread upon the Plague Fields and if they do, what are they looking for? Surely not the artifact within...


The Dead House:
Labelled T5 in your City of Greyhawk boxed set; in the 591 CY supplement, Greyhawk, the Adventure Begins. The Dead House was formerly Madame Serena's Fortunetelling. Venerable Madame Serena was of course one of those legitimate seers who had way too many cats and no one in her will. Rumors in the city, mainly from beggars who tried to sleep here, say that Madame Serena's ghost (or something) haunts this house. They hear stuff moving and voices talking. Priests have even investigated, but have found nothing to exorcise. This is a good location for DMs to pit their players in the iconic movie trope of staying the night in a haunted house. Is Serena's ghost harmful or helpful? Is it a poltergeist or something worse? Oh, and what hidden treasures did the fortune teller leave behind?




Monday, October 22, 2018

Greyhawk Channel: Sea of Dust Redux

Hail Greyhawkers! Today I'm reposting some old Greyhawkery stuff I did on the Sea of Dust, a topic I recently covered with Anna Meyer and our loyal viewers, on the Greyhawk Channel show, Legends and Lore. These are from a way back, say, 2011! I also have some additional links to some other fan-stuff if you are interested in really kicking your Sea of Dust game up a notch. Enjoy!

Greyhawk Reading: Sea of Death (Covering Gary Gygax's novel and how this non-canonical material can still do wonders for the official setting)

Greyhawk Reading: Sea of Death Notes (Okay this one is about Ull actually, but its from the same novel).

Sea of Accumulated Dust (A document on all canon references to the Sea of Dust, get it while you can, thanks Casey Brown for sharing)

Suel Imperium: Age of Glory (How about some time travel for your Sea of Dust? This is mainly by Randy Richards from the 2E era.)

Sea of Dust map by Anna Meyer





Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Theocracies of Greyhawk


Greetings Greyfans! Today I'm gonna run down a subject regarding the nation-states of the Flanaess, namely which are theocracies or in other words, realms governed by a (usually) single religion. The aim of this post is to help players and DMs locate a suitable homeland for their devout characters.

The World of Greyhawk is polytheistic overall so there is hundreds of gods and churches everywhere, even Ull. However, some are absolutely ruled by the dominant religion of its populace. For brevity's sake I am not including the jungles of the south or the steppes of the west. These places are certainly inhabited by a pious culture in their own right, but for now we are dealing with the Flanaess proper. Also for ease, I am also going to view these nations as they were in CY 576, the base time of the World of Greyhawk boxed set. Let's have a look:


Theocracy of the Pale (Ruler: Supreme Prelate Ogon Tillit, Cleric 14th of Pholtus) This is the easiest country to spot of course, it has theocracy right there in the name. Nestled in the northeast between mountains and the secular Kingdom of Nyrond, this nation is supremely ruled by the religion of Pholtus, god of light, law, order and the moons. Really, Pholtus wants to be it all and here, from the capital of Wintershiven, the Blinding One is the one and only deity that is real. This is humorous because when Gary Gygax first created D&D he had no established pantheons, but after a while one of the first gods he did name for Greyhawk was indeed, Pholtus. The Pale is a lawful land, nominally lawful neutral to the point of puritanical rule. They hate heretics and don't mind using fire. Your cleric or paladin of Pholtus would do well to start in the Theocracy of the Pale and adventure out to spread the faith with their hymn, "O' Blinding Light".

Grand Theocracy of of Dimre (Bandit Kingdoms) (Ruler: Szek Winvid, Cleric 10th of Pholtus) Oh was one Pholtus theocracy not enough for you? Well then, check out Dimre, an eastern sliver of the "bandit kingdoms" bordering on the Artonsomay River and Phostwood. Dimre was founded by a heretical splinter faction from the Pale whom believe that to understand the light one must walk in the darkness as well. Shady indeed. Needless to say Ogon Tillit hates this domain, as does the folk of Tenh and Nyrond which get raided by the holier than thou bandits. The Theocracy of the Pale has gone as far as sending its own raids into Dimre, but this effort so far has been a stalemate. Players interested in playing a even grittier version of a Pholtus cleric could come from Dimre, if his adventuring mates can stand it.

Prelacy of Almor (Ruler: Prelate Kevont, Cleric 12th of Heironeous) This used to be the western cleric fief of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy. What happened was, while the Great Kingdom got lazy and decadent, Almor prospered under the guidance of Heironeous, god of justice and thus became independent. Having the Kingdom of Nyrond to back you up isn't bad either of course. It's a good, peaceful, pious land, buffering the evil of Aerdy from the west with its noble knights and cavalry. What could go wrong? Players who want a sort of rural, idyllic, free nation to hail from might choose Almor. Oh, and be prepared to defend it.


Caliphate of Ekbir (Ruler: Caliph Xargun, Cleric 16th of Al'Akbar) What survey of theocracies would be complete without a Baklunish nation? The Caliphate of Ekbir on the shores of the Dramidj Ocean is arguably the most holy and good aligned realm in all the World of Greyhawk setting. It is a destination for pilgrims all throughout the west. Ekbir grew from a village of survivors of the Invoked Devastation into a thriving port city, rivaling their ahem less-pious neighbor, the Sultanate of Zeif. While the religion of Al'Akbar, demigod of faith and duty is predominant here, many other deities are openly revered here. Devout to the core, Ekbir is also known for its glorious heavy infantry and impressive war-fleet. If you are looking to make a lawful cleric or paladin from an exotic, "arabian nights" culture, Ekbir is always the best option.


Archclericy of Veluna (Ruler: Canon Hazen, Cleric 19th of Rao) Alright, so if Ekbir or Almor isn't serene enough for your character's background, check out Veluna. This archclericy broke from the vile Great Kingdom long ago with it's much bigger ally, the Kingdom of Furyondy. Veluna is sublimely safe, nestled between good aligned Furyondy, the elves of Highfolk and the gnomes of the Kron Hills. Ruled by the religion of Rao, god of peace and serenity, Veluna has in fact only seen war twice in its 250-year history, once during the Short War and in the famously heroic Battle of Emridy Meadows. Despite the placid, sagely nature of Veluna, Canon Hazen is quite possibly the most powerful cleric in all the Flanaess. Players wanting to serve a high priest representing good morals and not just murder hoboing everything against their god would be advised to consider coming from Veluna.

See of Medegia (Ruler: Holy Censor Spidasa, Cleric 15th of Hextor) Then there is Medegia. The Holy See is the eastern clerical holding of the ever-fracturing Great Kingdom. In the oppressive realm of Medegia, Spidasa and the church of Hextor, god of war is absolute. While this clerical fief has grown rich and autonomous like its good twin, Almor, the Holy Censor still has the ear of the Overking in Rauxes and thus has free reign to do what Hextorians do best, kill stuff. The raiding forces of the See are not well liked among the civilized races of the Grandwood Forest or the Hestmark Highlands. Players wanting to play a grim-dark cleric who serves a sinister, scheming high priest could not do more evil than the See of Medegia.


Iuz (Ruler: Iuz, god of evil, pain, oppression) I was kidding, you can always do more evil in Greyhawk. Should we count the self-titled land of Iuz the Evil as a theocracy? I'm certain it seems to fit. Here we have a literal demigod who is both the absolute ruler and the sole object of worship by his people. This is no mere dictatorial cult of personality, Iuz can back up his claims of godhood with magic and demons summoned from the after-life. His bloody cult is involved in the inner-circle or "government", acting and speaking in his name abroad. So yes, I think the land of Iuz qualifies, even though the numerous humanoids, demons or whatever creatures that inhabit his realm have their own profane patrons. While Iuz is still in power and walks the Oerth his divinity is unchallenged here. Adventurers take note!
What more do you need to know about Iuz and it's cruel, blighted capital, Dorakaa? Well just imagine Mordor from Lord of the Rings with open borders and a lot more magic. Players twisted enough and DMs crazy enough to allow clerics to come from Iuz will undoubtedly be fun to play, if not short lived.

Honorable Mentions. These are not technically theocracies, but they have a pious slant to their culture.

The Shield Lands (Ruler: Holmer of Heironeous, Cleric 7th/Fighter 10th) The valiant, albeit foolhardy Knights of Holy Shielding follow the god of chivalry and justice, acting as the vanguard of good against the evils of Iuz, the Horned Society and the Bandit Kingdoms.

Ket 
(Ruler: Beygraf Zoltan, Cleric 3rd/Fighter 14th) This Baklunish nation is at a crossroads of many cultures and religions. Indeed, the beygraf is the defender of the "True Faith" and is a cleric in addition to a formidable warrior.

Spindrift Isles (Ruler: Council of Five (elves) and Council of Seven (humans)) There is not much known about these isles saved that the southern isle is exclusively of Suel descent and religion while the northern isles are entirely elven, leaning toward the worship of Sehanine. Trouble is brewing.