Thursday, January 19, 2017

Gary Con 2017

So last night I decided I'm 99% committed to going to Gary Con this year at Lake Geneva, WI. For someone who is used to the bustling crowds of Gen Con each and every year, I have to admit I'm nervous about going to this one mainly because I don't know what to expect. What I do expect is to see a lot of old school people there, which is why Gary Con was started in the first place.

If you are an old guard D&D and Greyhawk gamer like myself, check out the Special Guest list. It's an all star roster and you definitely don't get this many big industry names at Gen Con anymore. I am most excited to try and meet Allan Hammack, Ernie Gygax, Bruce Heard, Frank Mentzer, James Ward and Skip Williams. I also hear through the grape vine that Darlene (yes that Darlene) will be there.

Wizards of the Coast had a huge presence there last year and I was slightly disappointed to see them scale back their staff's attendance seeing as though they are now skipping Gen Con routinely. However, head honcho Mike Mearls and Chris Lindsay are going to be there. Mike is supposedly running a celebrity Greyhawk event, using a dungeon from his home campaign. Plus, Chris is listed as heading up an event that runs Tomb of Horrors and the Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan for convention play for the first time in ages. I can only assume these will be the 5e adaptations that will be coming out in Tales from the Yawning Portal the month following.

So yes, Greyhawk will have a HUGE showing at this convention. I hope to see alot of my friends from the Greyhawk community there as well, especially Scott Casper author of our Castle Greyhawk webcomic.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Greyhawk Megadungeon Placement

Back in December I was musing over a poll I ran about favorite megadungeons. The results were skewed I believe, but in the end I surmised a new megadungeon was long overdue for Greyhawk. Then, two things happened in that time period that made this topic very timely, one Wizards announced Tales from the Yawning Portal. Second, Greyhawk Grognard ran a more in depth poll about what we as fans want out of the future of Greyhawk.

When asked what type of products and adventures people wanted, dungeoncrawls or a combination thereof polled near, or at the highest. Face it, that is what Greyhawk is best known for, so why not build on that rather rehash the same 4-5 loved, but tired old ruins? My initial gut reaction for the placement of a new megadungeon was in a forest. However, after doing a quick study of dungeons and ruins in publication, I found that all the major geographic areas were fairly represented after all. For example, the Temple of Elemental Evil could be considered in the forest.

Okay, the second consideration was where on the continent? If we go by Greyhawk Grognard's poll, most people like the Central Flanaess yet as we all know the top three megadungeons are already there (Greyhawk Ruins, Maure Castle, ToEE). Top four if you include White Plume Mountain. That's not to say the other areas of the Flanaess don't have dungeons, but not true megadungeons. The next three highest areas in terms of fan popularity are all "light" on major dungeons merely due to their high populations in my opinion. These are areas with more political and military milieus, but nonetheless cover expansive areas that could host a megadungeon.

The areas that lagged in popularity are more remote areas of the Flanaess, yet they do already have a vast number of large dungeons or ruins, either in publication (such as Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth) or not. This all of course ignores the unknowable abundance of regional Living Greyhawk dungeons that were probably produced for several years; plus the greater weight of Greyhawk history and how to tie a new megadungeon into it. So where to place a new megadungeon, that fans would actually consider using it?

The answer perhaps lies in another section of the GG poll asking what 'other' areas fans would be interested in? The Sea of Dust blows all other Oerth places out of the water. While that makes a ton of sense from a historical standpoint (The Rain of Colorless Fire did indeed create hundreds of ancient buried ruins), what it lacks is a staple of megadungeon and that's the staging area. Once you go to the Sea of Dust that's it, there is no turning back, you're on your own. This is why most of our beloved dungeons are in the central lands. So with that in mind I propose the next best thing, and that is to back it up a bit and place a megadungeon in the Dry Steppes along the mountains. This area is a highly undeveloped yet hospitable region, which is historically ancient like the Sea of Dust, plus it has a suitable staging area for a megadungeon campaign, Ull. Bet you didn't see that coming!

More on this next time.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Nolzur's Marvelous Miniatures

Here is an interesting ad I saw in a magazine the other day for something new from WizKids called Nolzur's Marvelous Miniatures. You'll probably know why this caught my eye. Nolzur is a Greyhawk wizard personality, perhaps painter, known for his magic item, the Marvelous Pigments. And no I won't rave about Greyhawk being misused, this is a very obscure character. That makes this miniature line cleverly titled in my opinion.

The link will show you these hyper detailed unpainted minis which I am keen to find out if they are like the finecast resin that Gale Force 9 uses for their official D&D minis or are they some kind of 3D printed models? These minis are all generic class and monster types unlike GF9's models which is great for DMs or players who need a specific mini and also paint. Also check out Miniature Market for pricing on preorders.

What is interesting about these minis is the "level-up packs" which are two minis of the same class, a beginner and advanced version. This is a nice concept, again for those who want a character mini they can grow into. I've kind of got out of painting minis so I doubt I'll collect these, but again I saw this ad and just had to share. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Tales from the Yawning Portal Rant

My friends will likely hate me for ranting about this again, but here we go. Today Wizards announced their newest publication for April, an anthology of 7 classic adventures updated to 5E, Tales from the Yawning Portal. The infamous entrance to Undermountain is the framework for this collection of dungeons from "other worlds" if by other worlds they mean mainly one: Greyhawk.

Here is the lineup of adventures:

Against the Giants
Dead in Thay
Forge of Fury
Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
Sunless Citadel
Tomb of Horrors
White Plume Mountain

  • Now I am sure this book is going to be gorgeous; a must have for the adapted monsters and magic alone. Every book Wizards has put out for 5E has been marvelous in my opinion. My rant though is about the treatment of Greyhawk material yet again. Could this book just as easily be called Tales from the Green Dragon Inn? (Thanks Jayson) You bet. But no, Forgotten Realms is and always will be the D&D flagship for sales. So even though only one of these modules, Dead in Thay is a FR original, we must assume the bartender and patrons of the Yawning Portal must be so bored with their own classic dungeon the Ruins of Undermountain, that four out of seven of these "tales" (six out of nine if you count Against the Giants is a trilogy) comes out of Oerth. Sunless Citadel and Forge of Fury are rightly generic and given they came out in 3E could fit anywhere.

  • Okay, what is wrong with some classic Greyhawk modules getting remade in 5E and stealthed into a Forgotten Realm covered book? I mean, something is better than nothing right? Not if you've been following the game for an appreciable amount of time. First, these same 3-4 adventures came out in 1E AD&D and have been revised for nearly every edition, including yes, 4th Edition. It's like Greyhawk is stuck in a perpetual loop. Someone aptly said on the ENWorld forums, Wizards is acting like George Lucas revising and reselling the same Star Wars. My bold prediction recently was Wizards would do Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, but I should've went with AtG, which I thought unlikely since giant themed Storm King's Thunder had just been released. In hindsight, I guess Barrier Peaks would've been too much work since no one has already updated it to this point.

  • What else is wrong with Greyhawk in a Forgotten Realms cover? Aspiring writers at WotC's own DM's Guild are probably salivating to get Greyhawk on the list of approved worlds along with FR and Ravenloft. Once that happens we won't have to worry about Wizards adapting anything Greyhawk, cause legions of fans will do the heavy lifting. Yet, I'm sure since Tales is nominally set in FR and is only referring to "other worlds" this won't qualify. Why hold back Greyhawk? Cause it's a gold mine for nostalgic pieces like Tales or easter egg material for books like Curse of Strahd. And people like me, sigh, will always bite.

  • This leads to my final point and that is misrepresentation. D&D worlds like Oerth and Faerun have always had a plane-hopping relationship but this has usually transpired in a go-between fashion, like Dragon Magazine's Wizards Three articles. or the Planescape setting, or Spelljammer. The cross-overs tended to not wholly subsume another world's content though. That said, this more direct instance still makes perfect sense to me, but I wonder in a conspiratorial manner, if the same could've passed the planning stages if the Green Dragon Inn was used to present a series of modules set in Faerun and Eberron instead. One could then say why use Greyhawk as a delivery, just publish a series of Faerun modules in one book and be done with it; why take the POV of another world? Tales is not explicitly a FR book, there is no mastheads for worlds anymore, just D&D. Yet burying Greyhawk content inside a FR themed cover still has the same effect of pushing the IP toward a generic pop-culture identity and the setting itself further into obscurity.

  • Monday, January 2, 2017

    Two More Factions of Greyhawk

    The blog neuronphaser has been busy with a series on 5E Factions of the Flanaess. Follow the links to read synopsis of the previous installments. The last two articles in the series covers the secretive Scarlet Brotherhood and a set of Cabals, or sub-factions within this organization, including the Splintered Mind, a psionic faction in the Brotherhood first seen in Dragon #281. The other faction is the lore finding, treasure hunting, tomb raiding Seekers of the Arcane whose members once included the likes of Mordenkainen and the Eli Tomorast!

    Special thanks to Tim Bannock at neuronphaser for these well thought out and sourced Greyhawk materials.

    Friday, December 30, 2016

    Favorite Greyhawk Megadungeon

    Howdy Greyfiends! I occasionally add a poll on the front page for fun and today I've decided to comment on the results of the one on megadungeons. I have to admit first that I could only think of 4 true megadungeons for Greyhawk. If I overlooked a choice tell me, but really isn't 4 more than enough?

    Ideally, Castle Greyhawk/Greyhawk Ruins/etc. should be the champ here but it came in last at 12%. In hindsight I wonder if it's because I inadvertantly named it Castle Greyhawk and people thought I meant the joke module? No I meant all incarnations as a whole. Oh well, the whole poll is ruined, moving on...

    My personal favorite is Maure Castle. Whether its the original Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure or Dungeon Magazine's update and expansions, Robert J. Kuntz's dungeon holds more danger and mystery in my mind than Greyhawk's ruins. Also, Eli Tomorast! However, those polled said it was only second place worthy at 17%!

    The Temple of Elemental Evil is first place at 55% and probably deserved so. It's classic Gygax, it has a great back story, location, iconic villains and a sand box feel. I have no problem with people picking this dungeon though if I was more clear about Greyhawk Ruins the poll would be closer.

    Lastly, I threw White Plume Mountain in for variety, figuring it was next closest qualifier for a megadungeon and it came in third! I debated with myself that the Tomb of Horrors was a megadungeon and concluded it's too short and was just a series of traps. Now I don't know much about the later additions to ToH or WPM for that matter. Give me your opinion if I'm off base.

    Needless to say, aspiring authors, the World of Greyhawk might be overdue for a new megadungeon. Greyhawk Ruins has been done to death, Maure is pretty much tied to RJK stylistically and the others have been revisited as well. If I had to pick a location off the top of my head for the next great megadungeon, I'd place it in the middle of a forest. Perhaps the Fellreev or the Grandwood. Okay now get to work on that!

    Tuesday, December 27, 2016

    Two More Greyhawk Factions

    Hey Greyhawkers! Today I'm following up on my last report about Flanaess Factions over at the blog neuronphaser. This week there is two new factions to explore for your Greyhawk campaign. The Knight Protectors brings back lore on an old knightly order of the Great Kingdom and also explores the more contemporary knightly orders of the Flanaess, including a nice addition of the Iron League as a usable faction. The Old Faith a well researched article on druidic lore with more nature deities mentioned in one place than you've seen in a long time!

    Another good pair from neuronphaser. I'm looking forward to the last two installments.