Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Greyhawk Reading: Greyhawk Adventures

...Now a reading from the book of Greyhawk Adventures, chapter five, page 91:


"In mid-flocktime of CY 198, the Great Kingdom was astounded by a ball of fire which appeared over the Oljatt Sea, passed over Sunndi, Idee, Ahlissa, and Onnwal, and vanished somewhere beyond the Sea of Gearnat. It was visible as far south as the Olman Isles and as far north as Eastfair and Rel Mord, and was cause for wonder and concern even in those prosperous and confident times. Selvor the Younger, after careful extrapolation to its origin in the constellations, declared the shooting star to signify “wealth, strife, and a living death.”
"The pronouncement caused a panic in certain of the larger cities, particularly Rauxes, where a number of prominent nobles took the pronouncement to be a signal for the end of the world, or at least of an era, and created several disturbances. Accordingly, when after several years the predicted events failed to make themselves evident, Selvor was banished from his post and from the court, and held by his colleagues as a laughingstock. There matters were to lie for more than 300 years, while chaos enveloped the greater part of the Flanaess and few had the time or patience to study the work of a discredited astrologer."


-The Pits of Azak-Zil


The excerpt above is purely a random topic. When it comes to Greyhawk lore there are general subjects everyone should know about since they've been rehashed and covered many times over by numerous authors. For example, locations like Greyhawk City, NPCs like Iuz or Mordenkainen, dungeons like the Tomb of Horrors, etc. This is why I take delight in highlighting obscure lore of Greyhawk. More often than not you can open a Greyhawk book to a random page and read about something you thought you knew about, but then the details turn out slightly different than you remember them and maybe sometimes much richer. This intro to the Pits of Azak-Zil by James M. Ward is one such esoterical piece. Some of you may be familiar with the mysterious place already and have used it in your campaign, but to others this might be a rediscovery worth a second look. That's the beauty of the World of Greyhawk. Old can be new.

Friday, November 25, 2011

New Article: Castle Ravenloft in Greyhawk

I have another new article to report over at the Greyhawk fansite, Canonfire! This one is entitled Castle Ravenloft in Greyhawk, and it is the second article for the author masterarminas. The subject of his work is by no means new to the Greyhawk community, but here the author shows us one possible version of how Barovia can fit into the Flanaess...Masterarminas writes:

"From its founding during the height of the Great Kingdom, to the fall of Strahd, we present this adventure location in a manner that ties it into the history and timeline of the World of Greyhawk."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rare Greyhawk Map Part 2

Okay Greyfolks, the last time I had a headline about a rare Greyhawk map I burned you all by discussing a certain despised novel with a pretty decent illustration of the Wolf Nomads-Tiger Nomads region. My apologies for that post.

Unfortunately, I need to apologize in advance this time because the rare Greyhawk map in question is not only quasi-canonical, but it is also found in another Rose Estes novel The Demon Hand. Written for TSR in 1988 this novel sports another top quality front cover by gem-loving Clyde Caldwell. Knowing nothing about Estes or her subject matter, the cover looks compelling. A Wolf nomad carrying a magic tome and the biggest gem (check) you've ever seen in his demonic hand. Of course you can't judge a book by its cover. Here is the blurb on the back cover:

"GREYHAWK...

In search of the gemstones, deep in the salt caverns of the island of Dramidja...

The wolf-shaman Mika, the enchanted princess, the faithful TamTur and the brave companions, all frozen in time...

Meanwhile...a certain little harpy and two intrepid werewolves join together in a quest to uncover the secret of their heritage, and to break the curse of the kingdom...

Return to the land of Greyhawk, where the demon Maelfesh is up to his usual unusual mischief, where magic abides and danger rules, where the beleaguered Wolf Nomad Mika must defeat yet another incredible array of other-worldly sinister forces-the deep-dwelling cavernquatch, the granite moles, the rock beasties and more..."

Fun eh? Now I've never read this book, but what is a cavernquatch (my guess is a Quaggoth?), granite mole and rock beastie? I'm not even sure who Maelfesh is or who he is analogous to in Greyhawk canon. I doubt anyone. Hey, but The Demon Hand has werewolves, they're hot property now right? I digress, the main eyepopper in this blurb is the topic of the post, the enigmatic island Kingdom of Dramidja.

Inside the book one soon sees an illustration of this island. Not bad looking eh? As it's name fits, Dramidja is in the Dramidj Ocean. Not surprisingly this place is on no other Greyhawk map as nothing Estes wrote appears in game material. However, if someone wanted to incorporate this huge island off the coast of the Baklunish lands, it wouldn't be hard. There is already a mysterious place in the Dramidj Ocean called the Pinnacles of Azor-Alq, where its peaks contain dragons and hidden wonders. Dramidja seems less like a mysterious place however and more like a whole setting of its own as it is an entire kingdom. There is no scale on this map so there is no way of knowing if its supposed to be as big as Sicily or Greenland. It is big enough to have two mountain ranges though.
Now knowing nothing about the dangers and denizens of the Great Salt MarshesDramidjhaven or Pyramid Lake (except from the blurb), the best way of blending the Pinnacles and this huge island in my opinion, is to sink Dramidja under the water and have just a cluster of the Cliffs of Dramidja remaining above. If anyone is brave enough to have read this novel and knows what this island contains and its Estesian version of Greyhawk history feel free to comment on how it fits.  


One last tidbit (thank you for hanging in there to the end), in the back pages of The Demon Hand is an ad for a brand new novel line that also came out in 1988. I bet you read this one, it's called The Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore. And get this, it's a novel about a large gem, a demon and a barbaric hero (Wulfgar), all in a remote part of the main setting. I'm just saying... *shakes head*

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Greyhawk Art: Kara Fruit

Over at the Canonfire forums, a member by the name of suezou has posted a pic of kara fruit modelled out of clay. I must say, as Greyhawk related projects go, I'm used to maps, illustrations and so forth, but once in a great while someone does something simple yet truly creative like this, and that makes my day. Suezou apparently has plans to do clay Usk and Galda fruit too. I can't wait!
For reference on Kara fruit check out this old Greyhawk comic on the subject. Enjoy!

Recent update: Suezou didn't take long to craft an Usk and Galda. Follow the link above to see more Greyhawkian fruit.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ring of Five Questions: Paul Looby

It's time for another installment of my ongoing interview series, the Ring of Five Questions! Last time around we read some great commentary from old school advocate Allan Grohe and before that Rary plotter Creighton Broadhurst. Facing off against the Ring today is another veteran author of the Living Greyhawk Campaign and also a contributor to Canonfire, Paul "Woesinger" Looby. Paul is best known for his work on the Flanaess' Mysterious Places and his involvement in the highly successful Living Onnwal region. Now let's see how he fares in the Ring. Enjoy!

Q1. As a tried and true Greyhawk fan, you should know the Darlene map without looking. What is your personal land of choice in the World of Greyhawk?

Paul: Hmm - hard question. Somewhat controversially in the Greyhawk fan community, I'm a big fan of the Carl Sargent era. Ivid the Undying and The Marklands are two of my favourite Greyhawk source books. I especially liked what Carl did with the Darmen lands, and how that developed through Roger Moore's tenure into Living Greyhawk. Post-Wars Ahlissa is (literally) a very intriguing place to play and GM.
All that said, though, for the last 18 years (man, that's a scary number!), Nyrond has been my home as a player. I've been lucky to have played in a simply awesome campaign based in not-quite-canon Marklands-era Nyrond. We started in Coldeven 585 and we're in late summer 590 now. So after all those years, real and in-game, it's got to be Nyrond.

Q2. If you could be any one Greyhawk deity which one would it be?

Paul: Kelenan, Johydee, Mayaheine, Tritherion, Pholtus and Zilchus are some of my favourite gods - but that's not the question you asked. Which one would I be? Olidammara is too obvious an answer (and I have a national stereotype to avoid!). And while Zagyg would be a laugh too, I think it has to be Istus. There'd be something immensely satisfying about knowing how it was all going to play out. Kinda like a GM power trip, except this one goes to 11. 
 
Q3. England was assigned the Onnwal region for the Living Greyhawk Campaign. What was the best development to come out of Onnwal during that long run?

Paul: England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland! Don't forget us Celts!  We're almost like wizards in Middle-Earth - sunburned and quick to anger. From the point of view of the campaign, I think the best thing was that we got so many players really enthused by Greyhawk and by Onnwal specifically. There were a lot of sceptical people in the region when we were given Onnwal - I know; I was one of them! Then we looked at the possibilities and started to get excited. I think we were able to pass on that sense of excitement to our players - many of whom were dyed-in-the-wool Forgotten Realms players (how's you like them apples, Elminster?).
From a Canon-ista point of view, the best development for me has to be Bigby's role in the original fall of Scant and what we were saying with that about him, his relationship with Mordenkainen, and about the ways and means by which the Circle work to maintain the Balance. We wrote a scene where the PCs get to see a flashback of Bigby is standing on his tower overlooking Scant Harbour, watching the red-sailed ships of the Scarlet Brotherhood entering the port unopposed, tears running down his face. And though it means betraying his adopted home, he does nothing. A voice (Mordenkainen) behind him says, "Time to go, old friend" and Bigby teleports away.
We always thought it was weird that the Circle would have been blind-sided by the Scarlet Brotherhood's attacks on the Iron League. Yes, they had their hands full with Iuz, but even a warning to the defenders of Onnwal and Idee would have made a huge difference.  But nope - not a word. We rationalised that their inaction was a gambit by Mordenkainen to draw the hitherto shadowy Scarlet (and Black) Brotherhood out where he could see them. But the price was letting Onnwal fall to the Scarlet Sign. That's a tough call to make - for Bigby at least (Mordenkainen is far more...clinical), but if you're convinced that you hold the fate of the Oerth in your hands, well, what does one city, or one country, weigh in the Balance against the entire world?

Q4. I know this one is up your alley. Fast forward Greyhawk's timeline to 998 CY. What happens to Iuz?

Paul: Iuz has to go away. The fact that there is a 998 CY and a University of Rel Mord is evidence enough of that. In the long run, Iuz is only going to get more powerful. The Oerth is his home plane and given the number of former mortals who seem to attain godhood, it's only a matter of time before he attains full godhood. Worse still, through his actions, he could become a vehicle by which Tharizdun returns. I always had the idea that the Oerth was so important because it was the keystone of Tharizdun's prison; put that keystone in Iuz's hands and, well, it's probably not going to end well.
So Iuz has to go. How? Well - the recession of magic that Pluffet Smedger mentions is a clue. My guess is that the only way to get rid of him and secure the keystone once and for all was to remake the Staff of Law and remove magic from the Oerth, or more to the point, removing the Oerth from magic. Shift the entire world from the magical Prime it exists in to a mundane Prime like ours, where magic and fantastical beings like gods, dragons, demons and olve cannot exist (or at least cannot thrive, but rather dwindle and fade).
Obviously that's far easier said than done. Such a change would condemn anything other than humans to doom or exile. Instead of good versus evil, you've got a much messier, and more interesting, final conflict. In any case, the side that wants to remove magic from the world wins, but only just (because where's the fun if you can't snatch victory from the jaws of defeat?). Those that can flee the Oerth to other dimensions; those who can't or won't, stay. Iuz, by dint of binding himself to the Oerth as part of his full apotheosis, can't flee and just as he is about to triumph in the final battle of the terrible war, the Oerth passes from the Prime and he is shorn away from the world in a suitably epic light show. So passes Iuz the Evil, but also the Age of Magic. Those fantastical beings that remain are diminished and diminish further every day thereafter, until they are but shades and stories. Is Iuz dead? Well, possibly not, but he's gone as far as the Oerth is concerned.

Q5. You're known for your work on Greyhawk's "Mysterious Places". Is there any mystery you never got around to writing?

Paul: Oh plenty - the Flanaess has no shortage. There's some great places in Aerdy that would have been fun to adorn with some more background and current whispers and rumours - the Blood Obelisk of Aerdy, Permanence, Rinloru to name but a few.
If you look back at some of the rumours and whispers we put out - there's one that hints at a wyrm-ruled isle somewhere west of the Amedio. It was a nod towards the old Beyond the Flanaess map with the various, um, "interestingly" named realms. I was picturing a militaristic kingdom the middle of the Sea of the Dragon King (which would not be called Nippon) with a culture that referenced a mix of south and south-east Asian cultures - so more kalaripayattu than kenjitsu. That would have been fun to write up.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

New Article: Nitalae, the Lonely Blade

There's a brand new article over at the popular Greyhawk fansite, Canonfire! This offering titled Nitalae, the Lonely Blade, is the debut article for a new community author going by the name masterarminas. The Lonely Blade is an intelligent weapon with an ego like none other, but make no mistake, Nitalae is quite powerful and ancient...Masterarminas writes:

"The Suel Imperium died under the Rain of Colorless Fire, its treasures hidden under the ever-shifting ashes of the Sea of Dust.  And in one lost crypt, deep in the trackless desert, the sword Nitalae waits for the hand of a hero to grasp her hilt and wield her once more.  Is she waiting for you?"

This unique magic item article is useful in a pinch for any DM looking to add a major item to their treasure beyond an ordinary weapon bit, but fair-warning, be ready to do some extra role-playing! Enjoy.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Beyond the Crystal Cave: 4e

I've written about Wizards of the Coast's popular in-store campaign, D&D Encounters a few times by now, and most recently in August during Gencon they revealed their newest stroyline that now debuts on November 16th. In case you missed out, this one might sound familiar to discerning Greyhawk fans since it is called Beyond the Crystal Cave. Yessir, score another one for the World of Greyhawk. That well never runs dry!
How does this new adventure compare with the original Greyhawk module? Well luckily for me there is an excellent preview article about it over at the blog Dungeon's Master. Check it out.

In the meantime, read this blurb from Wizard's own site concerning the story-arc:

"For a year, unnatural winds and mists have battered the area around the town of Crystalbrook. Worse, bizarre blue-skinned fey creatures have emerged from the fog to pillage and murder. Townsfolk blame these misfortunes on the fey of the nearby Sildaine Forest. The fey, who also suffer, claim innocence, faulting Crystalbrook’s people for hidden black magic that has attracted the wrath of primal spirits."

If anyone has been playing these D&DE story arcs, let me know what you think about this newest one.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sea Princes Campaign: Timeline

Well it seems my Hold of the Sea Princes campaign is going to be starting back up around December so in anticipation of this, I've been going back over my notebooks and remembering alot of the side stuff I wanted to work on during the hiatus but didn't due to laziness. One of those mini-projects was putting together a grand Hold of the Sea Princes historical timeline. Sure it'll have zero bearing on the game itself, but there are so many sources for the area out there this is mostly for my own sanity.
First a note and some thanks. Events on the timeline end at 577 CY which is my current campaign date (So you'll notice a lack of Scarlet Brotherhood action-good). Those events with an asterisk are tweaked for my personal campaign and shouldn't be considered hard facts. But if someone does find some glaring errors in canon chime in, I won't mind fixing the timeline. To that end, events I've collected for this timeline come from many sources both canon and semi-canon including Savage Tide. My thanks also go out to a handful of other gamers who have provided me with Sea Princes material, especially Sam Weiss' epic timeline found over at Canonfire! Now onto the timeline, enjoy!

Timeline for the Hold of the Sea Princes (circa 577 CY)

-422 CY- Suel refugees of the Rain of Colorless Fire seeking a safe and peaceful place to start over establish the Grand Duchy of Berghof next to Lake Spendlowe.
-368 to -348 CY- Bands of Suel mercenaries and slavers establish the town and realm of Port Toli.
-246 CY- Toli slavers sack and usurp control of Jakana the grand duchy’s only port on Jeklea Bay.
-245 to -146 CY- Toli sporadically wars with Berghof but cannot advance past Alderweg Pass into the grand duchy itself despite numerous attempts.
-154 to -148 CY- The Kingdom of Keoland’s exploration and expansion south of the Javan River is resisted by the warships of Toli.
-147 to -137 CY- King Sanduchar I of Keoland leads a fleet to explore the seas beyond the Densac Gulf. Much of the coasts of the Amedio and Hepmonaland are mapped.
-124 CY- Pilgrims led by Sasserine of Wee Jas found a remote town in his name on the Amedio coast.
-121 CY- Siege of Port Toli: King Sanduchar is slain but his Royal Navy breaks the Toli presence and brings a period of relative peace to the region.
30 CY- The Prosperous port of Sasserine repels its first raid, continues to grow and successfully holds off further assaults for the next four centuries.
43 CY- King Malv the Navigator of Keoland ends the threat of a reformed Toli nation and Berghof regains control of Jakana.
47 CY- King Malv III disappears on a voyage into the Densac Gulf.
118 CY- Kayar’s Rebellion: The brother of Grand Duke Sharzol II causes an uprising on the Jeklea coast including Jakana but fails to take Berghof before dying in battle at Alderweg Keep.
291-300 CY- King Tavish the Great spreads Keoish control southward to wrest control of the lands still primarily held by their naval rivals in Port Toli.
301 CY- The port of Monmurg is founded to act as the seat of Keoish power in the region and to counter the naval might of Port Toli.
304 CY- Establishment of Westkeep by Tavish to protect his colonies from the dangers of the Hool Marshes.
306 CY- The last Toli war ends as Port Toli and the Grand Duchy of Berghof are absorbed by Keoland into the new Duchy of Monmurg.
350-434 CY- Renewal of widespread piracy on the Azure Sea as Keoish attention is focused on northward imperialism.
434-444 CY- Pirates gradually take control of the major isles of Flotsom, Jetsom and Fairwind then form the confederation of the Sea Princes, named after the flagship of a noble-blooded pirate captain.
445 CY- Port Toli is conquered by the Sea Princes.
446 CY- Monmurg is finally seized by the Sea Princes formally ending Keoish rule.
447-452 CY- Sea Princes expand inland and hold much of the land south of the Hool Marshes.
452 CY- King Tavish III of Keoland orders the eradication of the Sea Princes. The Princes answer with a challenge to battle by sea which is ignored by the monarch.
453 CY- Siege of Westkeep: King Tavish III personally leads an army through the Hool Marshes to Westkeep where he is slain and his demoralized army routed by the readied Sea Princes.
464 CY- Battle of Jetsom Island: Newly crowned King Tavish IV takes an armada to fight the fleet of the Sea Princes in their waters. The battle is a draw with both sides losing many warships, including the sinking of the legendary Sea Prince.
465 CY- Aging Sea Prince captains retire from active piracy to settle down and form a stable government centered on an elected Prince and a House of Peers.
466-486 CY- Younger captains begin to look toward legitimate trade and explore the Amedio coast, building forts and trading with natives for their abundant resources.
467 CY- Many disaffected pirate captains renounce their allegiance to the Sea Princes and sail south of the Densac Gulf to form the Crimson Fleet. The island haven of Scuttlecove quickly grows due to the fleets’ presence.*
480 CY- The tyrannical rule of Lord Mayor Orren in Sasserine is broken by a fleet from the Sea Princes sent to aid the rebels. In the chaos that follows however the Hold instead supplants Orren’s rule.
487-517 CY- Shiploads of Amedio savages are captured and brought back to the Hold to work as slave labor on vast plantations, despite objections from the neighboring Yeomanry.
517-527 CY- The Hold further expands its territory to the edge of the Hellfurnaces absorbing the willing Duchy of Berghof.
547 CY- Outpost of Narisban established to control trade through the Olman Isles.*
563 CY- Sasserine colonists start the town of Farshore on the faraway Isle of Dread.*
573 CY- Liberal-minded Prince Jeon II assumes the throne of Monmurg setting off a new round of intrigue within the House of Peers.
575 CY- Sasserine becomes a free city and signs a controversial treaty with Prince Jeon II which effectively divides the House of Peers.*
577 CY- Prince Jeon II loses more support with the House of Peers, easily failing to abolish slavery throughout the Hold of the Sea Princes.


Friday, November 4, 2011

New Article: Rary the Traitor

Aww yeah, Wizards of the Coast is slowly lurching back to Greyhawk. Last time as you may recall, the History Check column of Dragon Magazine #402 was a Greyhawkian subject involving Vecna and Kas. Now in their latest "issue #405" a new History Check article is out by Sterling Hershey entitled Rary the Traitor. It should go without saying of course, you need a D&DI subscription to download the content. For those not willing to take this leap, I'll summarize the article for your enjoyment.

The narrator is a female Vistani storyteller, one Marov Zarovan of the same clan as Menodora Zarovan from last episode's Vecna story. Marov relates:


"I will tell of the rise and tragic fall of the most powerful group of wizards and sages to hold sway over the lands of Oerth and the mighty City of Greyhawk: The Circle of Eight. What, no stir at their name? Surely at least a few of you have heard of them. Those of you who dabble in the arcane arts-"

Marov plays to an audience that may or may not be of Oerth. Fitting from a person whose race originates from the Ravenloft setting. It's still important that Oerth, Greyhawk and so on are now prominently finding their way back into D&D literature. Keep it coming Marov....

“As great and powerful as the Circle of Eight was, its roots were in another company of great heroes assembled long ago by the legendary Mordenkainen at his Obsidian Citadel. Although he often openly supported the side of good, Mordenkainen strove to maintain the balance between good and evil, law and chaos. Therefore the great mage secretly worked to undermine any being, group, or nation that he deemed was gaining too much power and influence."

Wonderful! Mordy mentioned (and not as the owner of an Emporium) as well as the Balance. This concept somehow escaped the scrutiny of 4e's changed and perhaps simplified alignment system. More on Mordenkainen...

“The Citadel of Eight started with Mordenkainen and his apprentice Bigby. Together they recruited the powerful warrior Robilar, and the cleric Riggby along with his fanatical assistant Yrag. The wizard Tenser joined, despite his righteous morality that sometimes conflicted with Mordenkainen’s belief in the sacredness of balance. Tenser then convinced his friend Serten to join, despite the latter’s—how shall I put this delicately?—lack of intellectual acumen. Finally, a woodsman called Otis completed the group."

Wow. Referencing the Citadel of Eight is a huge gold star for this author (though I'd like some verification on the actual roster here). I also wasn't aware that Serten was dump statting intelligence. Hrm. By the by, Otis can be found in the Temple of Elemental Evil modules. Anyhoo, time goes by, the members die, the Citadel retires and we move on to the creation of the Circle of Eight...

 “Over the next few months, Mordenkainen worked in secret to form his new Circle of Eight. Members would come and go, and not all of their names are known to this day—not even to me. Bigby returned, ever the faithful apprentice. There was Drawmij, who loved the sea, and Nystul, a master of disguise, tactics, and puns. Also found worthy, if astoundingly overdressed, was the great Otto, formerly a priest of Boccob and now wholly dedicated to the arcane arts. Rary brought his many years of knowledge, research, and sage advice to the group. Bucknard, a familiar figure in royal courts from Keoland to Nyrond, completed the Circle."

Again, I'm pleased with the thoroughness of name dropping in this article. Bucknard is a rarity and mention of Keoland and Nyrond is a nice touch. I wasn't aware that Nystul was a punster but I can go with that. Apparently the narrator hints that the Circle had other unnamed members who came and went. Clever. It'll probably take better than a DC 25 History check to learn who those were! Moving on, the make-up of the Circle changes over the years. Tenser joins, Jallarzi Sallavarian, Otiluke, then things start to go bad...


“The Circle rarely ventured forth in force, so the signs and warnings must have been dire indeed on the day when all except Mordenkainen traveled to the hills south of Verbobonc. There they found the burial mound where Halmandar the Cruel lay. When Halmandar rose from his grave to confront them, they realized too late that they were overmatched, for Halmandar bore the Hand and the Eye of the evil demigod Vecna. He slew the Eight in the blink of an eye..."

Blink of an eye! Oh Nystul would be rolling with laughter if he weren't dead! Also, it's correctly spelled Halmadar but hey I can't blame the Vistani too much for pronouncing it wrong, the guy is pretty obscure to begin with (see the module Vecna Lives!). Needless to say Mordenkainen (who was to blame for sending them to their deaths) had to pick up the pieces and clone all the Circle back in time for the Greyhawk Wars. In hindsight, perhaps not all the clones were as identical to their originals as Mordy thought...


“Most of the Circle’s members joined the fight, but soon the fractures that shattered the Citadel of Eight were beginning to appear in the Circle. Rary showed the strain most of all: He argued endlessly with Otiluke and other members, and the effort of keeping the balance began to seem fruitless to him. Finally Rary retreated to his tower in Lopolla and refused to take part in the conflict."

"...a few of the mages noticed that Rary had become brooding and distracted. It was as though his attention were fixed on some other matter."

Indeed, as the story continues, Rary turned traitor and tried to blow up the Great Signing in Greyhawk City which would end the Wars, but not before Tenser, Otiluke died stopping him. Fleeing to his tower in the Bright Desert, Rary is joined by his accomplice in treachery, the turncoat Robilar (DC 30 History check to know the true story behind that deception). Anyways, there isn't much new to point out in this well-wrought telling of Rary the Traitor, but it does come down to an interesting point:

“Now, my friends, you are among the few who know the true story of Rary the Traitor and how he betrayed the Circle of Eight. Today the spells of Tenser or Mordenkainen are easy to find, but Rary’s
remain obscure, perhaps because the mage’s contributions to magical learning fell out of favor when he turned to evil. Perhaps you would like to learn more of such spells?"

This is somewhat true in my experience even if unintentional. Despite the fact that there ARE many Rary spells out there (the 1st edition hardback Greyhawk Adventures has twelve new spells), his magic never seemed as ubiquitous as Tenser's or Bigby's when it came to player's selection. Sterling Hershey's article thus ends by directing the reader toward acquiring the two most well known Rary spells in the 4e format. Rary's Mnemonic Enhancer is in Dragon #399 and Rary's Telepathic Bond is a ritual in the book Arcane Power. So there. Lastly, the article sums up several adventure hooks involving Rary and Robilar. These will not be anything new to the seasoned Greyhawk fan, but their inclusion in this article is the perfect endcap for a well spun history lesson. Even though there is little new to be found in this article, we Greyhawk fans should at least be content that nothing was retconned or retrofitted canonwise. And that makes this Rary the Traitor at least worth a look for the collector of Greyhawk lore. With that said, I for one am looking forward to the next History Check. Let's hope that Greyhawk goes 3 for 3.

Addendum: Marov's story was nice, but for the true story of Rary the Traitor check out this old Greyhawk comic on the subject.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ring of Five Questions: Allan Grohe

Welcome back fellow greybeards to another installment of the Ring of Five Questions! Last time we got some insightful answers from Living Greyhawk's Creighton Broadhurst. Facing the Ring today is another of the Greyhawk community's finest and most knowledgeable old school fans, Allan "grodog" Grohe. Allan is best known in Greyhawk circles for his long running fansite The Grodog's Greyhawk Adventures and an incredible run of articles on the fansite Canonfire! Allan was also once fortunate to have a Greyhawk article published in Dragon Magazine #299 titled All Oerth's Artifacts. Presently, Allan is still heavily involved in the old school gaming scene and is co-founder of Black Blade Publishing. Now without further ado, let's put Mr. Grohe to the Ring of Five Questions:

Q1. As a long time Greyhawk fan, you should know the Darlene map by heart. What is your realm of choice in the World of Greyhawk?

Allan: In terms of my favorite place to run Greyhawk campaigns, I really do prefer the central Flannaess:  from the Nesser River in the east to the Lortmils and Whyestil in the west, and from the Pomarj in the south to the Rift Canyon in the north. In terms of my favorite places that inspire adventures in Greyhawk, the Valley of the Mage, Rift Valley, and the Land of Black Ice have piqued my curiosity and interest since I first discovered them in the Folio.  Carl Sargent's Isle of Lost Souls is equally fascinating!

Q2. If you could be one Greyhawk deity which one would it be?

Allan: Hmmm.  I've always had a lot of interest in Olidammara and Phaulkon, and Kuroth once he was promoted.  I found Marc Tizoc's portrayal of the priestesses of Wee Jas very compelling, too.  So likely one of those four.

Q3. Greyhawk has had it's ups and downs over the decades. What do you think was the biggest mistake made in published Greyhawk?

Allan: Wow.  That's a tough one---there are so many to choose from!:
- the failure of TSR to publish Castle Greyhawk and the City of Greyhawk when Gary was still in control of TSR.
- the cancellation of WG7 Shadowlands by Skip Williams, and of Steve Marsh's Starstrands planar modules.
- the publication of WG7 Greyhawk Castle by TSR after Gary's ouster.
- the failure of New Infinities to publish Castle Greyhawk and the City of Greyhawk.
- the decision to stop publishing Greyhawk and focus on the Forgotten Realms during the 2e era, despite the two product lines being nearly equal in sales.
- the "Return To..." series of products, which set the example for 3.x and 4.x's inability to produce quality new Greyhawk adventures (instead relying on the rehashing of old standbys)
- the decision to not follow-up on the popularity of the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer with more published Greyhawk products.
- the decision to not publish Living Greyhawk RPGA modules.
- the decision to close the Living Greyhawk campaign at the height of its popularity.
- the decision to mine Greyhawk as a source for names in the multitudes of 3.x rulebooks (and perhaps 4.x, I'm not really in touch there).
- Gary's prioritization of Yggsburgh for Troll Lord Games over the publication of Castle Greyhawk.
The failures to publish Castle Greyhawk probably irk me the most personally, but I think that the most damaging mistake to the Greyhawk setting and fanbase was the 2e era decision to shut GH down in favor of publishing FR content:  I think that set the stage for the 3.x strip-mining of Greyhawk NPC and deity names, locations, and such---so, it's a double-whammy of sorts.

Q4. Judging by your writing credits, you know your Greyhawk artifacts. Which is your favorite?

Allan: Hmmmm.  That's a tough question, since I like so many different aspects of artifacts:  I love the historical snippets in The Codex of the Infinite Planes and the Vecna/Kas items; the mythological and literary ties to Baba Yaga's Hut and The Silver Key of Portals; and the fun in creating new artifacts or adding to the history of others, like Druniazth or Kuroth's Quill.  (In my regular column From Kuroth's Quill in Knockspell magazine, I often create new snippets of lore extracted from The Fables of Burdock, The Demonomicon of Iggwilv, and similar sources). In the end, I think that Tenser's Fortress of Unknown Depths captures the spirit of all of these qualities, and it's probably tied with Kuroth's Quill as my favorite artifact.

Q5. If you could publish a new Greyhawk megadungeon where would you place it?

Allan: If I could publish any Greyhawk mega-dungeons, my first choices would be Castles Greyhawk and El Raja Key, of course.  Followed by Castle of the Mad Archmage and my own version of Castle Greyhawk.  But, if I'm to be publishing a brand-new mega-dungeon, I think some sort of large ruined ice city set in and
below the dusky glaciers of The Land of Black Ice would be quite fun (although pretty remote, of course...).