Tuesday, September 1, 2015

In Defense of WhimsyHawk

A few days ago ENWorld's Morrus posted an interesting article that talked about the relevancy of whimsy in D&D today in regards to the characters previewed for the upcoming Out of Abyss adventure. He highlighted an old WotC article from 2005 on why humor is downplayed whereas it was more prevalent in editions before that (TSR era essentially). This naturally points a big finger at many Greyhawk products, most of which not considered classics. Sure Greyhawk has had plenty of whimsy, but I have a hunch Forgotten Realms hasn't had as much (in my limited experience) even compared to other settings like Planescape or Spelljammer.

To go along with this is a poll asking if you like whimsy mixed with a "grimdark" setting like the Underdark with all these demon-lords running around in it. I for one have no problem with whimsy mixing with serious if it is handled with care. Currently the poll stands at almost 2/3 in favor of mixing the two elements, with the rest either against or not caring. This shows that there's just enough confidence in D&D's writers to try anything. If those results were like Fantastic Four's rating on Rotten Tomatoes then I'm sure there'd be damage control going on right now.

Of course It's still left to be seen how much the dark and whimsy we are talking about here. Here's a quick analysis and a summary of how I think Out of Abyss will differ from "WhimsyHawk":

Let me tell you about WhimsyHawk!
When people think of humor in Greyhawk the first shoe thrown is Castle Greyhawk, the infamous joke module. It's intentionally full of parody, puns and worse atrocities. The art (Jim Holloway on interiors) is especially supportive of this whimsical adventure. To wit, demon-lord Graz'zt is in this module as well which must make him some sort of object of dark comedy (I should know).

When comparing the cast of Out of Abyss to previous D&D the next whimsy duo brought up is Greyhawk's Dungeonland and The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror. It is no coincidence that these two modules also have their setting within the realm of "Castle Greyhawk" though they predate the joke module's publication by five years and have no more direct connection than that. That Greyhawk took on a dark and dangerous Alice parody back in 1983 is remarkable since Alice is presented as more dark than whimsy these days in movies and graphic novels.

I could go on and talk about other silly aspects like those found in Greyhawk Ruins (see a pattern here?), Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (debatable), or heck, Zagyg the demigod of humor, but the bottom line is that none of these things present a serious threat to the World of Greyhawk setting. Castle Greyhawk never instigated the Greyhawk Wars and Dungeonland never threatened to change the face of the Flanaess if the heroes lose. Out of the Abyss wisely starts in the Underdark yet I believe the premise is that if the demons win there, they will spill out and ruin the Sword Coast next. I'm not sure its the demon-lords; I think some people are more worried the whimsy is going to break loose and infect Faerun! 

So yes, I like a mix of dark and humorous, but I don't think the D&D team is in danger of spreading too much whimsy to their future products either. After two heavy world-saving storylines like Tyranny of Dragons and Princes of the Apocalypse why not have a little light-hearted stuff to set up what will inevitably be another Realms-shaking event anyhow?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

GamersTable Podcast

I don't promote Gamerstable, the podcast I am part of, quite near enough to do it justice. So today I am here to point out the incredible things you'll hear if you listen to our weekly show:

228 Episodes and Counting: We of course talk about a variety of gamer topics, mostly in the table top arena. Given our backgrounds we are heavy on D&D but we tend to try just about any game system or genre out there. Go back through the archives and there's bound to be a topic of interest to you.

Actual Play/Role Play Dramas: This is our strongest feature. A lot of podcasts do actual play recorded sessions of their games, but @GamerstableEric and @Gamerstable_Dan take it up a notch with our game group. These dramas will astound you with their post-production, narration, sound effects and guest voice acting. We change to different games for each one, our last was Call of Cthulhu, and the next is Shadowrun. Check it out, you will find nothing like them anywhere else!

Patrons and Fan Interaction: Gamerstable is very loyal to its listeners, providing extra perks and content to those who become patrons through the show or just following us daily on social media such as Twitter. (I am @GamersTableMike) We have even met many of our listeners at GenCon each year and the gaming community grows more close because of it.

That is not all! Browsing the site you'll find links to comics, short stories and links to our other projects such as the new podcast Titansgrave Diggers which follows Wil Wheaton's Titansgrave online show. Join in on Gamerstable, drop us some comments or even recommend some topics if you feel inclined. Heck, I may even talk some Greyhawk who knows?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Tabloid News: Zuggtmoy Dumps Iuz

Recently it was revealed that Zuggtmoy the Demon Queen of Fungi and former resident of the Temple of Elemental Evil, has moved on from her sometimes demigod lover, Iuz the Evil, to pursue a romantic union with Faerun's largest being, the fungal king Araumycos in the upcoming adventure Out of the Abyss.

It's left to be seen whether Zuggtmoy returns Iuz's soul gem that she has kept in promise for so long. Neither Zuggtmoy nor Iuz could be reached for comment.

The consensus on the streets of Greyhawk City is that the whole matter is silly, gross and probably not important to every day life on Oerth. Even so, with the wily Old One unattached and out of prison, the Flanaess' queens and princesses should be on guard.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Castle Greyhawk: First Wand

Welcome back Greyhawk readers! As usual I'm a week behind in promoting the newest page in the third chapter of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Check out page twenty-three and follow some special narrative by astounding 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:The party doesn't get much treasure so I can see why they're taking their time to get this wand. Tenser's look and manner is priceless in this. He is a good guy but has a definite greedy edge to him. Terik as usual is the guinea pig punching bag and does his job without complaint. I loved doing the first panel where he reaches out. Those type of panels are dynamic to look at. Now that this room is finished, it's time to move on to the next tunnel. Stay tuned!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Demon Queen of Fungi Featured

We've all heard before GenCon that the next big Wizards adventure will be Out of the Abyss; where a group of demon-princes wreak havoc on the Underdark and the Sword Coast. Not only is it great to see Faerun get trampled yet again (snark) but this time it includes a certain demoness Greyhawk fans can root for: Zuggtmoy the Demon Queen of Fungi.

Good ol Zuggtmoy is featured on Wizards' Tumblr and it includes some pictures of an amazing sculpture of Zuggtmoy by Virginie Ropars that is used for the cover of the latest issue of Dragon+. Frankly the cover photo doesn't do the sculpture justice until you see the process of how it was made.

The Tumblr page also gives a preview of Zuggy in the upcoming Out of the Abyss book and some cool concept sketches of the Lady of Rot by Richard Whitters that are even better than the final image in my opinion. Even if you don't download Dragon+, the making of Zuggtmoy is worth a look.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Homemade Greyhawk Guide

A sharp-eyed friend of mine, recently brought this interesting download on Scribd to my attention and it prompted me to do some digging around. The file is allegedly a 5E guide to the World of Greyhawk and was uploaded by one "Chris Perkins".

Whether this is truly WotC Chris Perkins or just attributed to him is uncertain, but given his history with the setting I wouldn't be surprised. Don't get me wrong though, this is by no means a secret 5E Greyhawk document in the works. In fact, I don't see a shred of game material here, it's editionless information. The guide presented here is a well laid out, indexed mish-mash of Greyhawk sources and art from the "gold box" all the way to the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer. The use of a sans-serif font also evokes that old school D&D feel to this document. All in all it's a solid Greyhawk primer.

One note, a perusal of the preview pages shows the section on festivals includes as far as I know a new town called Obsidian Bay. This place is where the homegrown nature of the document stands out. A simple search found a decent personal wiki devoted to a Greyhawk campaign centered on what I can only assume is the same Obsidian Bay. The wiki belongs to The Griffin's Crier a site devoted to the cool sounding Blackrazor Guild and their variety of RPG campaigns including yes, a 5E Greyhawk campaign.

The Perkins confusion aside, if this guide does indeed belong to these guys I'd like to at least commend them for the effort. Wikis and personal campaign guides show a level of love for the setting that goes beyond the published works. It's a reason I belong to Canonfire and do this blog. If anyone from the Griffin's Crier reads this shoot me a reply and I'd be happy to talk some homemade hawk!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Some Love For Greyhawk Reborn

Hello again Greyhawk maniacs. It's been a week since the end of GenCon and I still have it on my mind. Today I return to a highlight of the con and our community, Greyhawk Reborn. On the table outside their game room was a few brochures and pamphlets describing GR's mission of restoring Greyhawk's living campaign setting (now 5E). First, to give you an idea of the campaign's rather "dark and gritty" mood here is the blurb from the back of their main pamphlet:

From the Ashes, Greyhawk is Reborn!

It is a dark and dire world where people have fled from the wilds, looking for the protection of fortified villages and walled towns. Travel is safe in numbers, yet still dangerous.Goblins, kobolds and their ilk fill the vast spaces between towns that are now bullied by hobgoblins, gnolls and orcs. People carry about their business by day, and lock themselves behind their defenses at night. The darkness becomes more dangerous each day; it's darker, more sinister, more evil.

Rumors recently emerged of great fiends and other abyssal creatures now rule over weaker monsters. No, it's not a safe world anymore, not since The Breaking.

It is just the kind of world where heroes are needed.

Yet again explore one of the oldest, most beloved campaign worlds of all time. The world of Greyhawk will come alive again as your characters, your heroes, wander upon the Flanaess, pushing back the darkness. Create new player characters in your favorite world with classic races and classes. Create mighty warriors, powerful wizards, saintly clerics and dubious rogues. Your characters' actions will continue to shape the world of Oerth.

Venture forth anew in the realm that brought you classics such as The Village of Hommlet, White Plume Mountain, Against the Giants, Slavers, and the Living Greyhawk Campaign. Revisit placers such as Saltmarsh, Greyhawk City, the Vast Swamp and the Amedio Jungle.

Dubious rogues indeed. Next, to show you where their campaign is set and the story behind it's inception I'll share this section from Why Greyhawk Reborn, by GR Lead, Dave Guerrieri:

Why Choose the Greyhawk Setting?

The idea started with a home game we were doing in Keoland after Living Greyhawk ended. We had left Keoland rather fragmented. I know, I was the Keoland triad that left it there. A large part of "Breadbasket of the Sheldomar Valley" was destroyed (think Sherman's march to the sea). Not only were the existing crops wiped out, but it also ruined much of the arable land in Keoland. The land upon which the Army of the Returned marched is still barren and infertile 17 years after the fact.

Many of the Keoish citizens in the way of the Army of the Returned were killed and reanimated as some form of undead. Many fine Keoish soldiers perished in the last battle against the Invasion in Niole Dra, as well. So even right after the victorious final battle, many citizens of the Empire were dead. With food destroyed and land barren, the starvation and widespread disease that usually follows such strife and crime ensued.

The Flight of Fiends was a ruse by Iuz, who used the trick to aid him in his ascension to full godhood. With Iuz away from the Flanaess, and the Flight of Fiends a ruse, we pictured fiends being loosed upon the Flanaess, as well as the remains of both Iuz's army and the Army of the Returned let loose upon the lands.

So, with little food available and disease, starvation and crime on the rise, it seems likely that those remaining would look for shelter in the protection of towns, villages and cities. Most villages and towns have been fortified with protective walls and other such devices. Add in the rapid proliferation with which humanoids breed, and it seems likely to us that orcs, goblins, gnolls, kobolds and the like would quickly fill the empty spaces in the countryside.

That makes Keoland, and the Flanaess, once again a dangerous place outside city walls. Very much like it was in the Greyhawk of 1E, the famous "gold books", where populations of cities and countries was much smaller than the 3E Greyhawk Gazetteer numbers. We feel it gives it a very old school "Gygaxian" feel.

Remember 4E's "points of light" mantra? I think GR nailed it. In later posts I'll talk about Greyhawk Reborn's call for fans to get involved.