Saturday, November 22, 2014

All Rogues Campaign

The Gamerstable gang is always throwing around ideas for new games or campaigns. A few of us recently playtested one of these ideas with 5E rules. It was a homebrew "all rogues" game and for all purposes it went extremely well. That one shot game then reminded me of a Greyhawk campaign I once started on but never got off the ground (this would've been around 2nd edition era); an all rogue Free City of Rel Astra urban campaign. It was to be a game of politics, con jobs and turf wars. Just my fortune I never throw away notes, and today I found the binder! Let's see what inspired material I had cooked up:

Power Groups & NPCs of note

Blackhands: The PC's starting gang. Lenient and low key with politics
Shadow Rogues: Assassins, Information
Red Rogues: punks, bullies, muggers, fighting over city blocks
Astra Boys: youth gang, broke off of the Red Rogues
The Establishment: organized thieves guild with strong political power
The Clan: lycanthropic freelancers
Secret Police: incognito, spies (I assume they work for Lord Mayor Drax?)
Islers: neutral families with ties to the city of Roland
Blue Banner: a consortium of merchants at war with the thieves guild
Spider: independent dark elf thief
Passing Shadow: independent/shadow rogue (has Johydee's Mask)
Ditch: independent assassin from Rauxes

Before you think Rel Astra is a lawless free-for-all, here's a break down of Rel Astran City Watch:

Streetwatch (blue tabard with Rel Astran ship and sea shell heraldry, electrum pin)
Contraband Division (white tabard as above, gold pin)
Homicide Division (plain clothes, platinum pin)
Harborwatch (dark green tabard with symbol as above, silver pin)
Vicewatch (plain clothes, platinum pin)
Prisonwatch (black tabard as above, silver pin)


"I can tell From the Ashes,
it's the Fault of the Drow!"

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Praise For Greyhawk Reborn

Years ago, in the aftermath of the RPGA's Living Greyhawk Campaign's demise a new group heralded as Greyhawk Reborn rose from the ashes. The fine staff behind this living campaign is made up of former triad members, RPGA writers and avid fans of the setting. I have to give Greyhawk Reborn heaps of praise for going strong now into the newest edition of D&D. Now I admit that I haven't paid much attention to either organized play group over the years mainly because I've been lucky enough to have my own robust home games. I've always been active in the community at large by writing articles, comics or whatnot, but never in the arena of writing adventures or going to smaller events like GR's recent interactive at MEPAcon in Pennsylvania.

Hopefully I can change this. I'm already a follower of Greyhawk Reborn on Twitter and recently I've enjoyed reading their new GHR Camapign Guide for 5E. I'm impressed with their list of deities (with cultural names in place like the Baklunish pantheon's Tharoth for Nerull) and I like their easily adaptable character bonus abilities for human subraces. Looking forward at D&D's future I hope Greyhawk Reborn will stay active and grow with the renewed interest that I see in this edition. One more thing, I hope GR or anyone involved with the campaign will be attending GenCon in 2015. I regularly attend this convention and would love to add GR to my list of things to do and people to meet.

See more about Greyhawk Reborn over at Greyhawk Grognard in this July interview with GR head honcho Dave Guerrieri.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Castle Greyhawk: All Business

Welcome back loyal Greyhawk readers! I'm a week behind and it's time to continue with the third chapter of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Check out page five and read important story script by literary enthusiast 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 was rather busy but slowly I'm starting to familiarize (or re-familiarize) myself with each character's distinctive look. This is a hard hitting group; strong in magic and heavily armored fighters. The lengths Tenser and company go to search or scour an area is more military than thievely. They need a sneaky type. I'm sure I've mused this before, has there ever been a thief/rouge character of any note in Greyhawk? Gord comes to mind but that alternate reality is not really in our scope. I guess they'll have to take Castle Greyhawk by force!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

What's Up At Wizards?

I just took in the weekend news round-up over at ENWorld which follows every word that comes out of Wizards' corner. There's some interesting ideas coming (or not) in the near future. Here's my summary with links to the ENWorld news clip:

OGL: If 5th Edition gets an "Open Game License" this will spur more creativity from the gaming community and third party publishers. 4E didn't have one and look how long that lasted. Pathfinder RPG and a few other notable games however, are the legacy of 3E and the OGL. I'm optimistic about this one.

D&D Branding: As a long time D&D player, this speculation is somewhat exciting:

"There has been discussion about the overall "brand" strategy for D&D, which Perkins commented on. He mentioned that "...people at Hasbro that never cared about D&D before, care about it now; Hollywood is fighting over it" and assured folks present that "the role playing game is the heart of D&D, just like comics are for Marvel". He did note that "D&D has world wide cultural penetration, though Forgotten Realms does not."

Hasbro has done very well with properties like GI Joe, Transformers and uh, My Little Pony, so it's only a matter of time before those are played out and they put their corporate muscle behind D&D. I'm not expecting Greyhawk anything, but who knows? Also, perhaps this branding talk is what's holding up OGL talk?

No Print Dragon/Dungeon Magazines: This always tugs at my heart strings and I'm fine with letting it go. This article pretty much puts that question to bed. I tried their D&D Insider subscription all through 4th Edition (they made it lapse this month) and their production value was top notch in my opinion. It's still the best venue for aspiring D&D authors to try and break into the industry.

Two "Stories" A Year: Wizards has a new model which focuses all attention on a smaller less system bloating stories, basically two each year. I see the less is more approach as a positive. My own experience playing in the Tyranny of Dragons storyline has been quite good despite being an old Greyhawk grognard. The fact Wizards is trimming down their release schedule however, means their story lineup is already planned through 2018, That is some crazy Marvel Studios type preplanning.
Morrus writes: "So, this'll happen a couple of times a year. Tyranny of Dragons now, Elemental Evil in March, and presumably something new in Fall 2015. Mearls mentioned in his Reddit AMA that Planescape and Eberron were both "on the radar", Spelljammer "isn't at the front of the line, but it is in line", and that for Forgotten Realms they "want to provide a broad update on the Realms, but nothing to report yet". The storyline/sourcebook model seems like a great way to re-introduce settings, though - especially those with strong flavours."

Yes indeed.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Autumn in Greyhawk

Hello Greyfriends, autumn is my favorite season of the year so let's have an esoteric look at what weather conditions are like on Oerth in the Domain of Greyhawk. The World of Greyhawk boxed set as most know has the most elaborate weather generation system in all of D&D. For this post however I'm going to break open Roger E. Moore's quite excellent book from 2e, Greyhawk: The Adventure Begins. In this sourcebook he streamlines the climate rules of Greyhawk with this sensible if not blunt explanation.

"A few words should be said about weather as experienced by the average adventurer. First, almost no one bothers to measure it. Thermometers are not in great use in the Flanaess because they are fragile and mercury is hard to acquire; only a few sages, priests, and wizards have them for research purposes. Instruments exist that measure air pressure, humidity, wind speed, and so forth, but again, these are considered the province of the learned and homebound, with little practical application given them by explorers, treasure hunters and adventure seekers. To be fair, nearly all lower-class commoners and even many nobles have a similar regard for the value of meteorological equipment."

On autumn in the World of Greyhawk; there is but two months considered autumnal here (not including Brewfest, the week long festival leading in to autumn). One of the best things about this setting is the variety of cultures and their own names for things. In the case of seasons, the first month (October to us) is called Patchwall, or Brightleaf in elven lands, Hare by the nomads of the northern reaches and Feast by the peoples of Hepmonaland. The second month is Ready'reat (November), also called Tinklingice by the elves, Hawk in the north, and intriguingly Lovers in the jungles of the south.

Using The Adventure Begins, here's the current autumn condition for Ready'reat in the Domain and City of Greyhawk (assuming average die rolls and chances of change):

Sunrise 6:43 am
Sunset 4:42 pm
(10 hours, which is noted as a normal day's march. Also, unlike temperature, apparently adventurers do keep track of time.)
Sky partly cloudy
Temperature cool (40-55 degrees if you must know)
Precipitation none but 42% chance of light to heavy rain tomorrow
Winds blowing from the south (must be the Woolly Bay effect).

Now because I'm curious and for comparison, I will use the Weather Generator from the Glossography:

Sunrise 6:46 am (3 extra minutes to sleep in)
Sunset 4:45 pm (3 extra minutes to prepare for vampires)
Sky partly cloudy
Temperature low 35, high 57 degrees (a bit colder but close enough)
Precipitation 40%
Wind 4-9 mph (the Glossography says prevailing winds in the Flanaess come from the north and northwest during fall and winter)

Overall not too far off, so the streamlined weather rule tables in TaB are definitely worth using for DMs who don't need too precise information. More next time!





Friday, October 31, 2014

10 Spooky Greyhawk Locations

With October and Halloween winding down let's have a look at some places in Greyhawk that are quite spooky - that is to say spookier than most adventure locations in the Flanaess. The Tomb of Horrors goes without saying so I'll go from there. In no particular order, enjoy!

1. C2, Ghost Tower of Inverness: For obvious reasons, this is always one of the first places that pops into my mind when I think haunted. Located in the Abbor Alz Hills, the object of this classic first edition module is for the numinous Soul Gem.

2. Dungeon of Bleeding Walls: This place just sounds nasty. Nominally set at map coordinates N3-64 in the Wastes, this dungeon is featured in the boxed set Iuz the Evil. It's a place of wererats, vampires and of course, acidic bleeding walls. Would you stay in a dungeon that was bleeding?

3. Necropolis of Unaagh: This eerie location set in the Bright Desert is from the sourcebook WGR3, Rary the Traitor. Unaagh is the ancient burial ground of the evil realm of Sulm, a place where virtually any kind of undead can be found and lording over all is the lich Drokkas who has aspirations to restore Sulm as an empire of death (watch out Rary!).

4. Saltmarsh: U1, The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh is one of those seminal works of Greyhawk that every DM should run for their players once in their life. The story unfolds in the haunted mansion of an evil alchemist. No spoilers for this secret site, you'll have to check it out yourself!

5. Gibbering Gate: Set in of all places the Barrens, one of my favorite scary Greyhawk locations is the underrated insane asylum, Gibbering Gate. Found in the source book Iuz the Evil, this citadel is run by the illusionist Jumper and includes many demons and undead, notably a balor who presides over the Court of Delirium. This is a good spot for a DM to stick high level PCs who offend the Old One because they might get out but not with their sanity intact.

6. Halmadar's Crypt: The 2E module Vecna Lives! is a high level study in the use of horror and overwhelming evil. The mood is set early on as the story begins at the crypt of Halmadar the Cruel in the Kron Hills. The fact the Circle of Eight is doing the investigation is your first clue this is a place normal folk shouldn't poke around in!

7. WG4, Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun: Lost amid the vast Yatil Mountains, there is no place on Oerth that best embodies the strange madness inducing themes of H.P. Lovecraft than WG4. What starts as a standard dungeon becomes quite harrowing the farther in your explore. This module is only for the bravest PCs and the most demented DMs.

8. The Caves of Deadly Shadows: Found in the 2E boxed set From the Ashes, this Yatil Mountain location set in hex R5-81, just sounds like a terrifying place to lure characters into. Besides the normal hazards of spelunking, there is your normal variety of undead shadows here as you would expect. But that's not all! The caves are also home to many other kinds of shadowy creatures, all ready to pounce on hapless heroes such as shadow dragons, skulks, nabassu and yes even the characters' own shadows. Yikes.

9. Maure Castle: The site of WG5, Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, is in my opinion, easily more fearsome than its more well-known neighbor to the west, Castle Greyhawk. The denizens and dangers of this place, from the Great Iron Golem to wandering bodaks and the guardian demon Kerzit are unconventionally scattered so that foolish heroes may not expect trouble until it hits. Expanded upon in the pages of Dungeon Magazine (#112 and beyond), there is a creepy backstory to the Maure family that underlies the placement of every room and treasure in this megadungeon.

10. T1-4, Temple of Elemental Evil: Naturally this place is among the scariest locations in Greyhawk. The original cover of this module is easily the most frightening in all the game, if not D&D itself. Nestled in the wilderness near the good nation of Verbobonc, we've all heard the Temple's story and this place has been returned to on more than one occasion across the editions. Much like WG4, this module deals with evils so iconic and powerful it defies logic why any sane person would go into this place.

Monday, October 27, 2014

D&D Conversion Manual

This is an off-theme topic for today. Going through my piles of old D&D material I came across an interesting paperback document I bet not many people still possess, the D&D Conversion Manual by Skip Williams. More specifically this was the manual to help switch your 2E characters over to the then new 3E rules. I remember this booklet being a big deal. My group had played 2E for quite a long time and the rules to 3E were slowly being leaked in Dragon Magazine to drum up interest. I believe it worked, because the campaign we were in the middle of when the books hit the shelves was switched over to 3E thanks entirely to this document.

In 22 pages Skip made us forget about 2E, showing how exceptional strengths like 18/91% was now a more impressive sounding 22 strength. The manual broke us of THAC0 and we learned Armor Class now went up instead of down. There was also three new streamlined saving throws down from that old clunky five. All the nonweapon proficiencies we grew up with were repurposed into skills with ranks like Etiquette became Diplomacy, Mountaineering became Climb and Healing became well, Heal. Class names changed, spell names changed, magic item names changed. Then there was feats. Actually, those needed no converting from last edition cause it was completely new and shiny, but they were teased at to get your interest.

It wasn't long though before it before we realized it was too much work retrofitting our favorite PCs to the new edition and just rolled with a new Greyhawk campaign. The rest is history. By the way I am not panning 2E, it was extremely fun and lasted a long time and I would play it again if someone else ran it. What I am panning is 4th Edition. I can't remember, but did Wizards do a similar conversion document or marketing campaign for 4E? I doubt it, and if they did it certainly didn't work. With 5E however, I feel it has the same word of mouth appeal that 3E had, though as far as I know there is no conversion documents to support it either (though I'm sure smart minds are working on it). And though the ability to spread hype through magazines is gone, the 5E playtest packets, the convention rules previews, online sneak peeks and the release of the free PDF Basic Rules went a long way toward establishing that buzz in the game. That has to be a reason why I'm excited about 5E going forward.

That said, whatever edition you enjoy, go with it I say. I'm about to run a special Halloween session of the AD&D Ravenloft module using 3.5E. The module as written is perfect, but it's easier for me to convert to 3.5 rules on the fly now. I got Skip to thank for that.