Sunday, November 10, 2019

Wish List: Greyhawk Relaunch

Okay Greyfriends, here's another quick topic I'll throw out until I get some more original content to show you. We all love to wish list when it comes to D&D, Greyhawk and so forth. For all I know I've done this before, but with a fresh, well-rested mind here we go, what would I like to see in a new Greyhawk relaunch in the 5E era:

One caveat is we all know how WotC runs things now, so there is no pretending they'll do a full boxed set treatment with supplemental books each year. Indeed, even most of the good adventures for Greyhawk have already been redone either by anthology or thematically. So let's not pretend they'll do a series of modules either. Oh, but wait a second. This is the World of Greyhawk. Because this isn't just any adventure rehash, maybe there is room here to tweak the normal business model!

5E Guide to the World of Greyhawk: Your regular hardback book with a condensed guide to the nations, history and politics of the Flanaess like in original 80's setting. Plus, the modern approach to players with up to date relevant information for making characters; classes, races, factions, domains, etc. This leaves room for a modest poster map. I know it can be done, check out Curse of Strahd.

Deluxe 5E Guide to the World of Greyhawk Boxed Set: Yes, Wizards does like promoting the higher end products because they know collectors will buy them, and in advance. So why not make a Greyhawk boxed set? It would have the above book, plus bonus features like more maps, or reprints of old fluff books? Don't care, it's a deluxe box. Fill it.

5E Vecna Returns! (Crossover Adventure Event): Here's the draw. In my opinion the arch-lich god of secrets, Vecna is the biggest, best threat to bring back to D&D. This book would be one hardback, or maybe two leaner books like the Tiamat storyline. Doesn't matter. Where it works is that it can start in Greyhawk (preferably the City of Greyhawk for additional maps and fluff). From there, the crossover event is much like what they tried to do in 2E, but with more follow through. Jump next to Planescape, or Faerun, or Ravenloft again if need be. You get to use ALL your previous 5E books with this storyline because Vecna is a multiversal threat. That's right give Vecna an ambition bigger than just one world. He is that crazy evil. Bring the story full circle on Oerth and give the heroes a chance to then defeat Vecna and impact the multiverse and thus the Greyhawk setting permanently by their decisions. It's not much different than could have happened in VL! but the stakes are much bigger.

Greyhawk Minis: Be it Wizkids or GF9, they have been making minis based on iconic Greyhawk NPCs for a long time now. No reason to stop now. May I suggest the entire Circle of Eight and apprentices? That would be eight sets of two minis (3 in Jallarzi's case if you include her familiar). You're welcome.

Dragon+: Standard series of tie-in articles and product advertisements for the current Greyhawk event. Maybe a celebrity interview or two, they could look up David "Zeb" Cook author of Vecna Lives! perhaps?

I'm sure there's other tie-ins I can't think of right now. Boardgames? Unearthed Arcana articles? Eye and Hand of Vecna merch? That's quite a good run. It's enough in my opinion to give Greyhawk some respect and still push the entire line at the same time. And the best part, it opens Greyhawk up to DMsGuild for fans to do all the rest...

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Halfling and Gnome Minis

Welcome back, Greyfolk! Today is a quick post as I need to thank Jay Scott and the gang from the Lord Gosumba channel on Twitch for the wonderful minis I won in their most recent Reaper Mini Giveaway drawing. Even as a long time member of the Greyhawk community I'm usually a lurker and don't often expect to win anything on drawings, so imagine my surprise when Jay texts me to say I won that week's prize (I had already fell asleep before the drawing. I just can't hang with those east coast guys). So here's what I got (sorry about the picture quality, my phone is junk):

Not a bad haul eh? I don't think I've owned decent gnome or halfling minis in ages. Mind you I have had plenty of those pre-painted plastic D&D minis, but those are to put it nicely, more functional than fine art. I love the Halfling Cook. He is the ever-present NPC of all fantasy campaigns. What's not to love. I need to name this min, maybe you can help. The naming convention we use for halflings is first and last names must be restaurants. For example: Arby McDonald. Give me some ideas in the comments. As for Deep Gnomes, are these Svirfneblin or are they merely Rock Gnomes who sort of also live underground just not as deep? I'm not sure I can tell the difference from just a mini sculpt. Also, I'm not sure what's a Gnome Hero versus a Gnome Warrior. I mean, if a humble gnome (of any ethnicity) chooses the warrior life, isn't he already a hero to his community? That's how it is for our armed forces IRL. Anyhoo, I've never ever ever had anyone in all my game groups over the years play a Deep Gnome character. I don't believe I've forbade their use, I just don't think they are a household name like Drow so they go unnoticed. For that matter, I've never seen a PC Duergar either. Of course those guys are bad ass, so I'll probably forbid their use while I'm thinking about it. I wonder what sort of adventures Deep Gnomes get into in the UnderOerth? When you live your entire life underground, would you have to play a module like the Drow series or Lost Caverns in reverse? So many questions posed by such simple minis. Good job, Jay, look what you started! This was supposed to be a short post too!

Will I paint there minis, you ask? Eh, probably not. I used to be quite qualified to paint minis, but got burnt out on the grind a few years back. Too much Warhammer and Blood Bowl. On the other hand, they are so small, they couldn't possibly take that long to paint. Then again, all my paints are dried up from neglect, so looks like I may have to rough it with these guys at the game table. Sorry. Last observation, is the Halfling Cook offering a taste of his soup from the pot, or is the big spoon his weapon and he's splashing hot broth in the eyes of his enemy? My guess is a bit of both columns. Thanks again to the fine folks at Lord Gosumba for these minis. It's fun watching and talking with you guys. Also, I hope to see Jay and company soon at GaryCon 2020. Until then happy gaming everyone!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

New Greyhawk Stuff on the Net

Good day, well met and all that, Greyhawkers! Today I'm going to share a couple cool things in our community to hopefully boost their signal. I saw these items first on the Facebook group, Sages of Greyhawk, so if you haven't yet joined one of these Greyhawk groups online you're crazy. I am in no way a Facebook regular, but I do appreciate that the platform is where a majority of the Greyhawk community stay in touch on a daily basis and share their projects. Let's get to it:

New Greyhawk Blog!

David Leonard is so inspired by the likes of Greyhawk Grognard, Anna Meyer and yours truly at Greyhawkery, that he is starting a Greyhawk blog titled Greyhawk Musings. Be sure to stop in, read his debut post and then be sure to bookmark it, because I have a feeling Mr. Leonard has some good ideas in mind (Ratik!). Excited for this project!

New on Greyhawk TV!

Wow, how did I miss this fun document? Elliott David shared a document of funny and inventive Greyhawk TV Shows parodying ones we know and love from history. With the blurbs, it kind of reads like a TV Guide. So nostalgic! This is the kind of stuff I thrived on during my Greyhawk Comic years. Elliott sure would make the Graz'zt Show proud with his programming genius! Check out some of these gems:

Wild, Wild Oerth - Watch Murlynd attempt to keep mad alchemists, criminals and other n'aer-do-wells with potent artifacts and lost magical technology from the Twin Cataclysms from destroying Oerth! Episodes featuring the popular re-occurring villain Rary. Keep an eye out for the rest of Murlynd's old adventuring party, especially Zagig (who always plays himself and constantly goes off script) 

Mayaheine the Explorer 
Follow the adorable adventures of everyone's favorite junior  Paladin as she uses examples from her homeworld to teach morality and ideas to children.

Third Rock in the Sphere
- The show is about four spell-jamming mind-flayers who are on an expedition to Oerth, 
which they consider to be a very insignificant planet. The aliens pose as a humanoid family to 
observe the behavior of regular Greyhawk society 

and my favorite for some reason:

Gillmoor Grells

4 young female grells try to discover themselves in the uber-trendy neighbourhood of the Underdark in which they live.

Well that's enough silliness for now. Be sure to check into Sages of Greyhawk and Greyhawk Musings for more amazing content!

Friday, November 1, 2019

New Article: A Guide to Mordenkainen

Heya Greyhawk diehards! If you're like me, you want to know everything there is to know about the World of Greyhawk's notable persons, places and things. Well, the gaming blog, Powerscore has just the thing this week, an exhaustive article showcasing EVERY published D&D reference about Mordenkainen the archmage leader of the Circle of Eight. Yes, every article, novel, sourcebook, core book, etc, is picked over in order to give you the big picture on this most enigmatic champion of the Balance. I've had my own theories on what Mordy's trajectory has been in the last couple decades, and this article helps shine a light on some more recent 5E references that I hadn't even read before! Mind you this article does contain spoilers, so players beware! DMs, enjoy!

Friday, October 25, 2019

Sean Reynolds on The Scarlet Brotherhood

Hail Greyhawkers! In my endless search for all Greyhawk knowledge I tend to come across ancient threads and posts that need resurrected time to time. Today's post is one of these. Prolific D&D/Paizo writer, Sean K. Reynolds is the author of among many things, The Scarlet Brotherhood. This book covered the Tilvanot Peninsula, Amedio and Hepmonaland regions. In February 2009, Mr. Reynolds reposted on his Wordpress blog, a neat retrospective on making tSB and how he came up with many of the NPC names contained in the sourcebook. It's worth another read, so I'll post it here in it's entirety for your reading pleasure. Thanks Sean for your hard work on Greyhawk (and its gods) over the years. Enjoy!

Trivia & Anecdotes: The Scarlet Brotherhood

seankreynolds / February 22, 2009

(Trivia & Anecdotes is a series of blog posts I’ve been meaning to make for years now about weird and sometimes funny behind-the-scenes facts about various books I worked on. Yes, the acronym is deliberate.)
(Published mid-1999.)
This book, hmm. There aren’t really any funny stories about it. I remember that in my process of writing it, I had to wrap my idea around the Suel people–a race of what essentially are fantasy-world Nazis: fair skin and hair, racist against all other humans, believing they’re the master race, that as a race they were wronged and that they would rise again to take their rightful place in charge of the world. They do evil experiments on other creatures. They murder and enslave others. They’re pretty much evil bastards all around. And I had to make up 96 pages about them.
Which proved difficult. Fortunately, Lisa Stevens (creative director for Greyhawk, not coincidentally my uberboss at Paizo) was willing to let me explore stuff near the lands controlled by the Scarlet Brotherhood–stuff that had only been hinted at in old old old products (namely, The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, which has murals depicting black-skinned humans battling the Aztec-ish humans that built Tamoachan). So the question for the latter part of the book was “who are these black-skinned humans, and what do the Scarlet Brotherhood, living so near them, think of them?” Thus, we got a jungle continent with a thriving black-skinned-human civilization in the south, with black/brown/white mixed villages in the north that had become savages–an ironic twist on the white-supremacist idea that their race was the superior civilization. (I also did it because the Suel have a barbarian-ish god of battle and I needed a way to explain how he was still important to some of the Suel people).
A few notes and inside jokes:
* The southern continent had long been known as “Hepmonaland.” I decided it got that name because of the famous Suel explorer Eri Hep-Mona… named for Erik Mona, Greyhawk guru, loremaster for Team Greyhawk, and now the publisher at Paizo. ;)
* The illo for the Father of Faith, Tyrum, is based on former Wizards ad guy, Mark Jessup.
* The illo for Mother Iridni is based on former Wizards PR person, Lara Dalch.
* Father Renho’s background is based on Duane Maxwell, former editor at Wizards (and former military intelligence guy)
* Foster Uncle Pramas is based on Chris Pramas of Green Ronin, who at the time was another designer on Lisa’s team.
* Doxon, who has several refs in the book, is named for a car dealership in the greater Seattle area. He also makes an appearance in my later book Into the Dragon’s Lair.
* Kerilin on page 24 is name for my sister, Keri.
* Uncle Ikkens in Shulof is named after former Wizards editor Jon Pickens.
* Fort Calmuden is named for my friend Jeff’s dwarf Calmuden Rhizodex.
* Fort Tiru is named for my old Tunnels & Trolls character Tirumulesa, who is named after my high school friend Virinchi’s dad, Tirumulesa.
* The Maxwul is based on and looks like Duane Maxwell.
* Ellinka is probably named for Mike Selinker, game designer, with whom I shared a double cube at Wizards.
* The creation story of the Touv is probably the first creation story to appear in a Greyhawk product.
* The goddess Berna is named for my college friend Bernadette. Likewise, Nola is named for my college friend Nola.
* Hambu Channel is named for an old AOL screen name of mine, “Hambu,” short for “Hamburger.”
* Nila, the great dog of Hepmonaland, is named for my white lab Nilla, who died a few months before I wrote this book.
* The adventure hook “Death on Black Wings” is named for the chapter of that name in the original Dragonlance trilogy.
* Writing the Gods chapter of this book is probably what cemented my role as “the guy who does gods writeups for D&D.”
* Likewise, the Suel Language section probably made me the go-to nerd for various fantasy language articles I did for Dragon.
* The spell devious stares is named from a line in the Marcy Playground song “Sex and Candy.”
* All the interior art is by Sam Wood, coming into his own as an artist for Wizards, and I think soon after he started working on D&D core stuff for 3rd edition.

Greyhawk Maps: Pomarj and Enstad

Welcome loyal Greyhawk fans! Today I'm promoting some maps posted on the Facebook group, AD&D World of Greyhawk 1e. These two maps by Aaron Froke are hand-made, watercolor on parchment. The first is the Pomarj Peninsula and I can tell you as one who has drawn this map many times before, it is one of the most interesting coastlines in the entire World of Greyhawk. I also used to do watercolor (haven't since the 90's) so I have to also give some kudos to Mr. Froke for this gorgeous use of light color. Watercolor is a subtle skill and he doesn't overdo it here. One more positive critique, great place labels as well. Aaron clearly has a professional eye for scripting words.

His other work of art is this handout map of the Celene city of Enstadh. Much like the previous map, the use of watercolor is airy and vibrant. The map isn't busy and outlines exactly as much as PCs need to know going into this place. Again, I love the scripted text. Aaron also mixes in some elevation lines to subtly show its not just a flat region. Now looking at this, I'm not sure I've ever seen a map of this city before. Wonderful choice!

If you would like to know more about his campaign and Enstadh, join their Facebook group. There is more amazing art shared here, and I'm sure this is not the last of Mr. Froke's work either.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Random Greyhawk Lore

Greetings fans of the World of Greyhawk! One of my favorite exercises on Greyhawkery is to pull random Greyhawk publications off my game shelf, literally flip them open and point out obscure facts and information about the setting that you may or may not know. New here? Check out some of my previous random lore posts. I hope this material I dump on you can in some small way inspire you as a player or DM to explore more of the world and use it for your stories and backgrounds. Here we go, enjoy!

Greyhawk: The Adventure Begins (on the Oerid Record)

Okay, as you may have heard I love the little nomadic land of Ull. But what was Ull before it was Ull? Well it was once inhabited by Oerids whom yes, are responsible for most of the nations of the Flanaess we know presently, because primarily of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy. The Oerids created the C.Y. (Common Year) calendat, but on the setting timeline what is O.R. the Oeridian Record? According to the Adventure Begins:

"For ages, tribes of Oeridian horse barbarians inhabited the steppe and foothills of what is now Ull. Over two centuries before the fall of the Baklunish and Suloise empires, these barbarians united in a single confederation to resist incursions of imperial Baklunish across the Ulsprue Mountains and by nomadic Baklunish to the north. This event marks the start of the Oeridian Record (OR), the calendar used by Oeridians until the Great Kingdom was founded."

Indeed CY replaced OR, but there is still OR times listed for events in the original publications, making me wonder what backwater villages may still use OR and eschew the CY system cause well, who likes the Aerdians? In fact, after the Great Kingdom began to break up, Nyrond and Furyondy continue to use CY and didn't go back to their parent timeline? Hrm!

Living Greyhawk Journal #3 (on Amedian Gutworms)

Hey DMs are you bored of rot grubs? Have you overplayed Kyuss worms? Well then, have you heard of Amedian Gutworms? These nasty parasites as the name suggests were first discovered in the Amedio Jungle, but oh no, thanks to foolish explorers they have been brought back to civilization where instead of swamps they lurk in sewers. The gutworm is as big as a man, it is amphibious, it likes to hide, and if it gets a grapple on you, well, you know...

"An implanted creature has no symptoms for 1-4 weeks. During this time, any magical treatment that removes disease kills the implanted egg. After that incubation period, the gutworm begins to grow dealing 1-2 points of temporary Strength and Constitution damage to its host each day. After 1-2 weeks, the larval gutworm erupts from its host."

This eruption requires a save and can insta-kill a PC (at least in 3.5E). Meanwhile, the larval gutworm which is also dangerous, is halfling sized and grows to full size in a few months if it can find water. Gross.

Okay after that entry, here is a palate cleanser for your eyes. An illustration of cute halflings in combat by Jim Holloway.

Against the Giants: The Liberation of Geoff (on Mogthrasir's Laws)

Liberation of Geoff is a sequel to the original against the giants run, where giants roam down from the mountains and take over many towns and pretty much the entirety of Geoff. The PCs naturally must clear these giants out one town at a time. It's a book that is an excellent sourcebook if nothing else. One such giant occupied settlement is Pest's Crossing, a logging town on the Oyt River ruled strange enough by a fire giant named King Mogthrasir. Interestingly he has a set of laws listed in this section of LoG:
  • All dwarves, elves, and gnomes are to be slain on sight.
  •  Attempting to escape is punishable by hard labor until death.
  •  Striking an ogre, troll, or hound is punishable by hard labor until death.
  •  Striking a fire giant is punishable by execution.
  •  Spellcasting by any human is punishable by execution.
  •  Carrying a weapon other than a work tool is punishable by execution.
Yep, that sounds like what a fire giant would say. Adventurers may as well go in swords blazing here. Also notice halflings are not killed on sight. Maybe they think they are human children? Or maybe they're just lumped in with gnomes. Hard to tell with dumb giants.

Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk (on Apprentice Rings)

This underrated adventure by Mona, Bulmahn and Jacobs is a sequel to Greyhawk Ruins and involves a return to the ruins and dungeon of the famous mad mage Zagig Yragerne. One minor magic item that can be acquired in this adventure is the Apprentice Ring which is a plain tarnished copper band with runes  on the outside. No stats needed to replicate this for your game, or any megadungeon really:

"Zagig made these simple copper rings to offer some small means of protection to his apprentices, who would sometimes fall victim to the traps in the dungeons of Castle Greyhawk."

Basically the ring gives a bonus to saves against traps and a once a day knock spell, but it only works within the confines of this dungeon. Sounds like a good low level item to find on your way into a dungeon like this for the first time!

Greyspace (on Anti-Liga)

I'm going to end on a fun note, by using a Spelljammer product tied to Greyhawk, Greyspace. Not everyone subscribes to Spelljammer as a rules-set or its campaign add-ons for Oerth and beyond, but it does have some amazingly cool mysteries that would make for good prophecy if the DM is into astronomy. And before you cast aside Greyspace know that things like the Flanaess zodiac, Celestian and Oerth's two moons are quite prominent in base campaign sources. Anyhow, it is generally accepted that Oerth, the planet, is the center of the solar system (crystal sphere for you SJ fans). Unlike our world, the sun (Liga) is just another body that revolves around this planet. We all know Oerth has two moons (Celene aka Kule, and Luna aka Raenei), but some sages, like in our world, could argue it once had two suns as well!

Ancient myth from various regions of Oerth tell that, in the depths of pre-history, there were two suns in the sky. These myths, apparently developed independently, contain so much consistent detail that various astrologers and astronomers conclude that there once was another fire body sharing the same orbit as Liga, but separated from it by 180 degrees. They believe this "Anti-Liga" was the same size and color as the sun, and theoretically like it in structure.
At some time, many thousands of years ago, the second sun simply disappeared from the skies...
A wild and totally unsubstantiated theory currently circulating proposes that Anti-Liga drifted from its orbit for some reason, and it struck the planet in the next orbit out from Oerth. This impact extinguished and destroyed the fire body, shattered the planet and created the asteroid field now known as the Grinder."

Crazy eh? Well not when you consider one of the World of Greyhawk's primary uber-evils is the god of darkness Tharizdun. He who wants to annihilate all life on Oerth. What could a god possibly do that is so heinous it could get all good, neutral and evil gods to gang up and have him imprisoned? Anti-Liga is a hell of a theory.