Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New: Warrens of the Stone Giant Thane

What with all the 5e talk I wouldn't be surprised to see a fall off of readership for new 4e modules in Dungeon. Maybe, maybe not. However, I have to carry on and inform you of anything Greyhawk related coming out of Wizards. As I reported back in December, Wizards' Chris Perkins has been working on a 4e version of the Against the Giants series started by Gary Gygax back in 1978 with Steading of the Hill Giant Chief. His second offering in the series is actually an original story however! Warrens of the Stone Giant Thane is a cleverly written episode that fits right in with the rest of the three giant modules. Apologies in advance, but as you know, you will need a D&DI subscription to download this lengthy, colorful module.

Mr. Perkins writes:
"The series pitted characters against hill giants, frost giants, and fire giants, but stone giants got the short end of the stick. This adventure gives stone giants their moment to shine."

Fans of Greyhawk will be comforted to know the module is set in the foothills of the Crystalmist Mountains, in an intriguing new location called Howling Crag. As you would expect, Warrens of the Giant Thane is chock full of giants, elemental monsters and plenty of minor side quests that make this anything but a simple hack and slash adventure. If you are running a Greyhawk campaign involving the old G-series it is definitely worth the download just for this unique stone giant themed storyline.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sea Princes: Crew Profiles 4

Avast me hearties! It's time for another pair of profiles from my Hold of the Sea Princes campaign. Last time I introduced the captain and first mate of the NPC companion ship, Osprem's Kiss. Today I'm featuring the last two integral members of the Kiss' female crew. Enjoy!

Sister Merci of Osprem hails from the warm southern land of the Lordship of the Isles. The youngest daughter of a wealthy Duxchan lord, Merci's early career was spent training in a coastal temple of Osprem, blessing captains, their wives and their outgoing ships. Despite their devotion, her order was normally secondary to the mercantile minded temple of Xerbo. Adventurous at heart and not content with the female roles given to her and the order, Merci pulled a favor with her father to gain a healer position with a merchant fleet. Merci rose in prominence over a decade at sea, first from her expert care and stirring funeral services, then later as a trusted counselor and diviner for most of the fleet's captains.

Two turns of fate then changed Merci's demeanor. During a routine venture to the free city of Rel Astra, Sister Merci had wandered off deep within the harbor district as she was apt to do, looking for a hedge mage to do busines with. One wrong turn and she found herself cornered by a gang of orc-blooded thugs. By Osprem's grace Merci survived and returned to her ship tattered, bloody and with a pathological hatred of orc-kin. Mere months later, politics in the Aerdi Sea had worsened and so in a chance battle with a Sea Baron privateer Merci displayed her hidden talent with a trident. Barely winning the sea battle, all the Lordship officers were slain including the captain whose last breath was to confer Merci with command of his damaged ship: Osprem's Kiss.

Upon returning to Duxchan, the newly promoted Captain Merci lost most of her crew due to injury or a reluctance to serve a woman captain. Undaunted she bought and repaired the broken vessel with her life savings and by selling family heirlooms. Turning to her order of Osprem, she then crafted a small crew of loyal sisters and other lay female members who sought to take more action for the Iron League nation. To round out her deckhands Sister Merci bought and trained a cadre of eunuch sailors who quickly embraced their new lot in life. Merci and Osprem's Kiss spent the next several years hunting pirates in the Tilva Strait and fending off attacks on Duxchan ships in the Aerdi Sea. Through it all, she has kept a personal debt, pledging to sacrifice 333 orcs to the sea gods.

Over the years Merci has added and lost various crew members, but none have changed things more than Jet Cassidy whom Merci rescued from the sea after Osprem sent her a vision. By then Merci had aged and was slower due to old injuries, so taking a chance she gave captaincy to the obviously talented Jet provided Merci could still remain aboard as master in order to finish out her blood feud with orcs. Osprem's Kiss remains a force to be reckoned with in the east seas.

Half-Pint Moira is originally from the cold marchland of Ratik. Tomboyish and bold, she stowed away on a Marner ship at a young age to see more of the world. Moira's wit and fast talking nature secured her spot on the voyage. The ships' bosun took Moira under his wing, teaching her all the lore of ropes and knots, and her nimble small frame became suited working among the rigging. It wasn't long before her bossy know-it-all attitude even had her male deckmates taking orders without realizing it. The burly Ratik sailors came to nickname her Half-Pint due to her petite size. After their successful return to Marner, Moira begged the captain to let her remain with the ship, however he only agreed as a favor to her mentor that was retiring.

The next voyage took Moira to the city of Rel Astra where she was overwhelmed with the vast urban landscape. Wanting to dispose of the mouthy stow-away girl yet keep his honor, the captain tasked a couple of his loyal men to get her drunk and leave her to the mercy of a rowdy Aerdy bar the night before they were to leave port. Half-Pint was left behind in a foreign city and with no money. She spent the first few days working off her bar debt as a common serving girl. Her mouth and rustic Ratik upbringing soon got her thrown out of the establishment without a place to stay or any money. Wandering down at the docks, she contemplated stowing away on a new ship. Perhaps by divination or merely noticing Moira's desperation, she was spotted by a trio of Osprem priestesses guarding the gang plank to the Duxchan carrack Osprem's Kiss.

Moira was ushered aboard, where the sisters fed her and heard her story. Captain Jet Cassidy also drilled Moira on her knowledge of rope use and nautical lore and was impressed enough to keep her on as an assistant to her eunuch bosun. A few years later, Moira's loyalty and hard work paid off as she was promoted to bosun of the Kiss. Moira's mouth and brazen attitude still gets her into loads of trouble much to the amusement of her sailing sisters.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sea Princes: Crew Profiles 3

Tada! Bonus material from my Sea Princes campaign! Here is a couple NPC profiles from the allied Lordship of the Isles vessel, Osprem's Kiss. I've been sitting on these drawings for a while until I had some of their character development out of the way, so without further ado, here is two of four from the Kiss. I'll present the other two later on. Enjoy.

Sara "Jet" Cassidy is originally from the Sea Prince's Fairwind Isle. She is the daughter of a Holder sea captain and an indentured Rhennee seamstress. The nickname Jet comes from the dark curly hair she inherited from her mother. Taking more after her father, who had no sons he could speak of, she learned how to handle boats from a young age but never was allowed to go on long voyages. Often stuck behind in port with her mother and betrothed to a number of sailors, she ran away at the age of 18 to join a ship bound for the Olman Isles disguised as a cabin boy. The ship would come to be attacked by the Crimson Fleet's most dreaded captain, Dev "Cutthroat" Javell of the Malady.

Capt. Javell made many of the Holder sailors walk a plank and was stunned at the last to discover a woman among them in disguise. Smitten, the crimson sashed captain kept her as his own and sailed away for adventures unknown. Within a year, Cutthroat had to kill a quarter of his crew to solidify his claim to Jet. As his viciousness in her defense increased and his attitude to her softened, she soon relented to taking his hand in marriage. The two were married by a commodore of the Crimson Fleet in Scuttlecove and against all protest she was made first mate on board the Malady as well. All was perfect until she met the Blackguard.

While harbored in the neutral port of Narisban, she happened to meet the notorious Captain Rennaud and was swept away by his noble charm and mysterious vulnerability. When Cpt. Javell was alerted to her actions, he found them in a room together and nearly slew the Blackguard who narrowly escaped out a window. Sara was taken back to the Malady and shortly out to sea the enraged captain cut her wedding ring off, finger and all. Then in his last act of anger, she was bound and made to walk the plank that he swore she should've in the first place before he was cursed by her wiles. Leaving Jet for dead Javell made it his and the Fleet's vow to capture and kill the Blackguard.

Sara somehow managed to escape her bonds and drifted in the south sea until she was rescued by the female, privateer crew of the Duxchan carrack Osprem's Kiss. Several years later through hard work and bravery, she worked her way to become the captain as Sister Merci stepped down to be master of the vengeful ship. Now that her ex-husband and her one-time paramour both know Jet still lives, fate is about to cross their paths again.

Brooding and sardonic in wit, Sasha "Dirk" hails from the Lordship of the Isles capital of Sulward. A freckled, street rat orphan since ten, she ran wild through the port town until she was pressed into useful service by the holy order of Osprem. Sasha however loved thievery more than religion and was impossible to train into their dogma. She did however take to the skills of seamanship and found herself working as a lookout for Captain Jet Cassidy on Osprem's Kiss.

Sasha was not only sharp with a knife or two, her keen eyesight helped the Kiss spot many an enemy ship from Onnwal to Dullstrand. As Sasha got older and more respected by the crew for her swashbuckling flair in combat she was soon promoted to first mate on her 20th year and was gifted a pair of throwing daggers crafted by Bigby the archmage of Scant.

On her very next voyage to Hepmonaland, Sasha was part of a trading entourage that went afoul with the natives. During the battle she was impaled through the heart by a javelin. Somehow surviving thanks to Sister Merci's aid, Sasha was thereafter dark and moody, left with a visible scar from her traumatic experience. She now claims that Nerull god of death owns half her heart and shuns any advances for her affection. Only death and pain amuse her anymore which seems to fit fine with the privateers of Osprem's Kiss

Next time: Profiles on Half-Pint Moira and Sister Merci of Osprem.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sea Princes #20: All Work And No Play...

A week ago, the heroic privateers of the Bird of Prey got acquainted with the curse of Captain Rennaud and the true reason why he seeks the Well of All Heals, and also the female crew (led by Captain "Jet" Cassidy) of their new sister ship, Osprem's Kiss. Surely nothing bad can come of this partnership. Let's find out:

Victor Emmitt Hammond (rogue, moves quicker)
Araxo Tydan (rogue, talks slicker)
Cuahtehmoc aka "Cuahto" (ranger, high kicker)
Brother Pickles (cleric, pocket picker?)
and Henri Morgan (rogue, can't hold liquor)
guest starring Gunther Stahl (fighter, likes to bicker)

Setting their course from the Pomarj, south-by-southwest the two ships initially suffered through a few days of lagging wind and lagging workers. Bosun Hammond found one of his scurvy crewmen, Dick "Tater" sleeping on the job and hurled him into the water much to the entertainment of all (he was dragged and messed with). On another day, piloted by Sasha DirkOsprem's Kiss decided to test the skills of the Bird and pushed ahead of their ship at full sail. The taunts and challenges to the men ensued as they slipped alongside. Lt Tydan would have none of that and verbally lashed his crew into racing the larger carrack until it regained the lead position. Spirits were up, rum was passed around. Handsome Griff Aldagar made a bet with Henri Morgan that he could bed the wily Sasha Dirk first. A good time was had by all.

The next two days was rewarded with churling storms and high winds, and no frivolity. Lord Key stayed below deck and there his cousin Lt. Tydan began to put ideas into his head about winning some of the crew to his side instead of bullying them, that perhaps he could even take over as both master and captain if Rennaud showed any weakness. Key mulled this over as they arrived at the "Hook", the cape of the Amedio Jungle, where laid the port of Fort Blackwell. This was the crew's second time in Blackwell and as resupplying efforts were underway (Griff had to work), the officers and their friends headed for a familiar place to unwind, the Rusty Nail, ran by Araxo's prospective business partner Al Swerengen.

At the Nail, they found the brooding Sasha Dirk and the ostentatious quartermaster of Osprem's Kiss, Half Pint Moira already starting into the local spirits. Pushing two tables together, they sat with the men and began to chatter away. Moira, a Ratikan by birth, was intrigued by the Rhennee, Gunther Stahl and they talked of more temperate lands. Cuahto learned the magic dagger crafted by Bigby that he found in the eye of an orc zombie belonged to Sasha Dirk when she showed it's matching blade. She relented to let the Olman keep it for luck, finder's rights. Then Lord Key walked in. He invited himself to their party, ordered both tables an expensive bottle of Greenman Rum (10 g.p. per). His attempts to impress those present fell flat quickly, the Rum was chugged and bottles were broken. Key could not understand how Araxo could stand such uncouth louts. Brother Pickles then made a smart yet slightly inebriated move. He walked by and stole Key's money bag. Lord Key got up in a huff and gave chase with Pickles who went running out of the bar. Knowing the cleric was touched in the brain, he didn't want to infuriate him and begged for the bag back.

As they went out in came Araxo's female swordarm, Scar Medorga. She informed Araxo that the sage-botanist wanted to see him about a jungle foraging trip for new plant species. Not in any hurry Scar sat with the rest. It was learned that Captain Cassidy had lost her ring finger long ago because she had a trist with Cpt Rennaud. Evidently her jealous husband was the feared Crimson Fleet captain, Jev "Cutthroat"  Harliss. Her ring was taken back, finger and all and she was made to walk the plank off the Malady. Left for the sharks Cassidy managed to untie herself and was later found adrift by Osprem's Kiss. She joined their ship and ever since had been a member of the Duxchan fleets. It was also learned during a respite that Sasha Dirk was always so grim because she had once been impaled in the heart by a Hepmonalander javelin and lived. Afterward her mood worsened and she began claiming half of her heart belonged to Nerull so she could never love anyone. Inadvertantly, in a moment of drunkeness Scar insulted Moira about her choice of sexual partners and a scuffle began on the floor, which then boiled over to the next two tables and soon a brawl began!

A still sober Cuahto got things started as he saw Vic under attack and jumped up on the table to kick in the teeth of a young well dressed sailor. Bottles, fists and even stools were thrown. Moira and Scar still rolled on the floor. Araxo sat idle and enjoyed the spectacle as the owner served him and yelled at his staff to try harder and break it up. Pickles wandered back in from donating Lord Key's money pouch to the shrine of Osprem (where most of the Kiss' crew lingered) and quickly raged out seeing a fight. He soon had an old salty sailor pinned against the bar with a bench. Victor Hammond had the most daring maneuver of the brawl, feinting his opponent by stopping to kiss an unaware Sasha before throwing a knock-out sucker punch. This of course was followed by Sasha busting a bottle over the back of Vic's head. Once the fight ended (and Pickles was told to not attack his friends), they dragged Scar off the losing Moira and made to leave. Gunther then slyly talked Moira into proving to Scar she was wrong. The next morning, a hungover and sore crew went with Trebus on his botanical hunt ( not surprisingly they found nothing useful). All except Gunther, who for his benefit and embarrassment was found by a maid still tied up in a room at the Rusty Nail Inn that morning.

Game notes: For the short amount of time I get to run, we got alot done that night. There is nothing that gets players in the spirit quicker than a bar fight. I love when I can get an equal part action and exposition done in a session. Speaking of brawls, I'm contemplating looking into adapting the old 2e pummeling/wrestling charts to 3.5e. I used to love the random moves and stuff. I think it could come in handy with this themed campaign.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ring of Five Questions: Scott Casper

Welcome back Greyhawk fans to the Ring of Five Questions! Last time, we reminisced along with freelance writing whiz Greg Vaughan. Today should be a fun read as well. Sharing his time with us is an author who not only has a published Greyhawk article to his credit, but also has been dedicated to online Greyhawk fandom for alot longer than myself. Coming straight from my very own homeland, the prairies of Illinois (or as I like to call it Ullinois), is the sagacious archivist of Greyhawk lore and fiction: Scott Casper. Scott "Scottenkainen" Casper is a longtime presence on the Greytalk mailing list, well known for his work with Canonfire, the fanzine Oerth Journal and his richly detailed article, A Treasure Trove of Tomes in Dragon Magazine #253. Not content with just that, Scott is also a prolific writer of both Greyhawk and comic book fiction. Scott maintains a couple wonderful blogs; The Greytalk Archives and Scottenkainenland for those who wish to follow his ongoing campaigns and projects. Enough background, it's time to see if Scottenkainen can answer his way out of the Ring....

Q1. I'm sure you know my lead question. What land or region of the World of Greyhawk is your favorite?

Scott:  This is only going to be news for anyone who doesn't remember me from Greytalk.  Fifteen years ago, I decided to replace my City of Greyhawk campaign (based on the boxed set) with South Province (or what you might know as the Kingdom of Ahlissa) for a clean slate.  I ran that South Province Campaign for ten years for fourteen players (not all at the same time).  Though there are other contenders, I'd have to say that was the best campaign I ever ran, and that would make South Province my favorite land.
  
Q2. Another easy one. If you could be any one Greyhawk deity which would it be?

Scott:  Boccob, the Uncaring One.  Because then I wouldn't have to care.  I might still care, but at least no one would be expecting it from me. 

 
Q3. I know how you really like Gygax's original Castle Greyhawk. How much has this megadungeon played into your campaigns and why is it such an enduring place to use?

Scott:  I bet you're referring to my “Castle Greyhawk” novella that I serialized on Greytalk for a long time.  At the time of my City of Greyhawk campaign, I was using a combination of WG7 Castle Greyhawk and WGR1 Greyhawk Ruins for the castle, and using it strictly for dungeon exploration.  By the time I was running the South Province Campaign, I knew more about the original Greyhawk campaign.  So when I included a time portal leading back to Castle Greyhawk in the recent past, the PCs were able to meet Tenser and Robilar while still adventuring there.  And I used the Castle more for roleplaying with famous NPCs.   

Today, more information is available about what that first Greyhawk campaign was like than ever.  Message boards are dedicated to combing through every bit of lore for new information, or zooming in on photos of Gary holding up a Castle Greyhawk map, trying to read one more word that might tell us something new.  Lots of people don't want to dwell in gaming's past.  Gary never wanted to publish his unpolished notes for Castle Greyhawk (though Rob Kuntz has always been ready to).  He wanted to move on.  But for many gamers, the idea of being able to recreate (either at their gaming table or just in their mind) that gaming experience in its purest form is appealing.  It's nostalgia, but for something you never experienced - sitting around that basement table with Gary, Rob, and the gang and seeing a new medium of entertainment taking shape night by night -- and only wishing you had. 

Q4. Your Greyhawk-centric article in Dragon #253 was full of great material. Did you have any other projects in mind to pitch to Dragon back then? 

 
Scott:  In hindsight, I wish I had submitted more during that window of opportunity when Dragon magazine was interested in publishing Greyhawk articles.  I had submitted one other article, non-Greyhawk-related, about taverns and inns that was rejected and is now on my blog.  But for the most part, having already been in Dragon magazine, I focused all my energy on trying to be published in Dungeon magazine after that.  I made a lot of submissions to them, all of them rejected.  Some were rejected for some pretty weak reasons (“The Witch's Cottage” was rejected because it didn't promote the Complete Book of- series enough; the “witch” wasn't made using the witch kit).  “Lost Shrine of the Crystalmist” was almost picked up by Christopher Perkins, but was rejected after a lengthy period of editing and re-editing because he had just bought another adventure that ended too closely to how this scenario was meant to end.  It still kills me that Dungeon magazine was canceled before I got my chance to say I'd been published in both of them. 

“Lost Shrine of the Crystalmist”, incidentally, almost had a second chance at life.  Rob Kuntz and I were, at one point (2005, I think), going to re-write this together for his Pied Piper Publishing company, but after announcing it on his message board he decided to drop the project.  I haven't done anything with it since, though part of the original version of “Lost Shrine” has been on Canonfire! for years.   

Q5. You've been around the internet block. What personal contribution to online Greyhawk fandom are you most proud?

Scott: I've got a few contenders.  I'm very proud of the “Castle Greyhawk” novella and think it's one of my best works of fiction ever (I finished that back in 2007; it's currently hosted on fanfiction.net).  I'm also extremely proud of the “Gazeteer of Ahlissa” published in Oerth Journal #16 (also back in 2005; it's currently hosted on Canonfire!), as that was a parting gift, if you will, to my players as the South Province Campaign wrapped up.  I'm also very proud of “A Treasure Trove of Tomes” because, hey, it was in Dragon!   

But I'd say my most important contribution to Greyhawk fandom has been the work I've put into the Greytalk mailing list all these years.  After the Greytalk Archive website disappeared years ago, people kept talking and talking about how someone needed to bring it back, but no one did.  So I decided to do something about it and I made the Greytalk Archives blog back in 2008.  It still only has a fraction of all the great material from Greytalk on it, but it's the only place on the 'Net right now where you can find well over 200 of the “best” posts from Greytalk all in one place.

Extra: For more fun info about Scott Casper's "Treasure Trove of Tomes" see this old Greyhawk comic from 2008.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

AD&D Reprints and a D&DNext Plea

I wasn't sure if I wanted to comment at all on the latest Wizards news to make the rounds in the gaming blogosphere until I recently found a certain Greyhawk point of view to address. As everyone knows has heard, Wizards is (belatedly in my opinion) reprinting the three core 1st Edition AD&D rulebooks (new premium cover same old content) in order to support the Gygax Memorial Fund. Huzzah right?

I support the cause and I'm even somewhat interested in seeing the reprints. The 1e Dungeon Masters Guide is my all time favorite rulebook after all. I even have the mini version! No one is surprised by this P.R. move as it comes on the heels of their much heralded next edition of D&D which promises to win back older gamers. That's what turned on the light bulb in my head. Now, when Mearls and company claimed D&D Next would somehow be "backwards compatible" with previous editions, this led to many online bloggers calling for Wizards to put up or shut up and bring back the sale of old books on PDF. While that hasn't happened yet, the fact that their next move was releasing three classic books in print is quite intriguing. I'm no expert here, so correct me if I'm wrong, but there is hardly any production time needed to reprint old material beyond making a new cover and sending it off to the printers. Even advertising is a breeze over the internet these days. So, if they can do this for a charitable cause, they can certainly do it, at will, for their own profit. The point I'm rambling towards is this:

There is one book that we Greyhawk fans got stiffed on way back before Wizards came along and bought D&D from TSR. It is already highly praised, fully developed, and it only needs covers. Yes folks, I am talking about Carl Sargent's unpublished Ivid the Undying. Sure we all own the PDF. It's been freely available all over the internet for years, but what true blue collector of all things Greyhawk would pass at a chance to own a real tangible hard (or soft) copy of Ivid? Not me. What is in it for Wizards is throwing a huge bone to a large segment of the Greyhawk community that they want back for their next D&D run. Indeed, publishing this "obscure" book could attract new buyers as well just out of the surge of online hysteria that would surely follow from such a monumental move. That's my dream product for D&DNext. It's not a full on rally call for them to support new Greyhawk (yet), but it could be a nice boost in the right direction...

Friday, January 20, 2012

My First Interview

Real cool Greytalkin' colleague of mine, Dark Herald has recently posted a lengthy interview of yours truly on his blog Greyhawk Adventures 576CY. No one has interviewed me before, so it was kind of neat to take my time and answer some gaming related questions. I've always been rather accessible among the community and I'd love to do something like this again someday. Check it out!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sea Princes #19: Nurses and Curses

I'm still a week behind on these sessions. I hope my memory is fresh and my notes are good. When last we saw the adventurous members of the Bird of Prey, they had just defeated two orc pirate ships near the Pomarj with the help of a Duxchaner vessel named Osprem's Kiss. This ship is different than any other found on the Azure Sea in that it is commanded entirely by women! That should spice things up! Here are the protagonists:


Victor Emmitt Hammond (rogue, easily enamored)
Araxo Tydan (rogue, easily endangered)
Cuahtehmoc aka "Cuahto" (ranger, easily enemies)
Brother Pickles (cleric, easily entertained)
and Henri Morgan (rogue, easily encountered)
 
The slave galley Gruumsh's Fist was freed by the pirate hunting crew of Osprem's Kiss and commandeered by its former oarsmen.  As the Wounded Eye sank to "Xerbo's Vault" the Bird was hailed and the two allied ships met for the first time, and everyone still on their feet crowded with excitement as it was learned...the entire commanding crew of Osprem's Kiss were women! The sleek carrack from the Lordship of the Isles, a member of the Iron League, had been protecting merchant vessels and hunting pirates for profit along the coasts. The vessel however was also a floating temple of sorts, as their primary marines consisted of nearly a score of young Suel-blooded priestesses devoted to Osprem goddess of sea voyages. These priestesses were not soft but battle-hardened; wearing decorative brass-coated breastplates and helms along with their blue vestments embroidered with dolphins and whales.
 
The Ospremites follow the ship's master, one Sister Merci, a trident wielding, middled aged woman with a fiery hatred of orcs. A defiantly cursing Glork Spleenstabber and a dozen other orcs from Gruumsh's Fist were soon made to walk the plank as part of a ritual sacrifice to her sea goddess. The sisters, ignoring cat-calls from the Sea Princes crew came aboard to help tend to the wounded, including poor Salty Sal Silverblade who lost an arm but lived, and a severely wounded Victor Hammond who must've thought he had died and gone to the afterlife. The cat-calls soon turned to silence once they found out (much to their surprise or chagrin) the regular deckhands on Osprem's Kiss, some forty men, were all eunuchs!
 
A weakened Captain Rennaud hobbled back on deck assisted by Quartermaster Rotario and along with his able-bodied officers (Lord Key among them) met with the remaining officers of Osprem's Kiss: Captain "Jet" Cassidy, a black garbed, dark haired buccaneer from Duxchan who seemed quite familiar with their Captain Rennaud as they hugged and congratulated each other. Next was the first mate, the moody, armed and deadly Sasha Dirk. Lastly came the bosun, the short of stature, but brutal "Half Pint" Moira. Everyone from both staffs immediately became concerned with the condition of Cpt. Rennaud who showed no signs of any injury, yet was too weak to stand. With all eyes on him, the "Blackguard" knew then that his quest was on the line and had to reveal his dark secret...
 
Sir Eduard Rennaud of Gradsul was once a youthful new member of the Kinghts of the Watch. Rennaud was assigned to a commander who was charged with patrolling the fringes of the Hool Marshes for outlaws and incursions, though in truth they were actually a corrupt knight squadron that worked with smugglers. The young, idealistic Sir Eduard objected to their illicit operation and decided to desert the company and report what he found to the order in Gran March. Discovered before he could get far, Rennaud had to fight his way out of the camp and in doing so, slew the knight commander. The other conspiring knights quickly sent word by bird and magic to the Order and told their skewed account of Sir Eduard's treachery. Once Rennaud reached civilization, he found no friendly counsel nor any who would listen to the truth. Worst of all came when Sir Eduard appealed to a high-priest of Heironeous, who not only called for his capture, but also angrily invoked a curse on the knight as he again escaped from his brothers. This curse of justice put on Sir Eduard would manifest anytime he attempted an act of heroism or bravery, so that he would be temporarily inflicted with bodily weakness, until such a time he could be redeemed in the eyes of the gods. Sir Eduard returned to his family in Gradsul whereupon he was smuggled out by ship to serve the Prince of Monmurg in exile. Since then he was branded the Blackguard- accused of many things like treason, murder, piracy and even adultery.
 
It became clear to all on board, that the voyage to find the Well of All Heals was really a quest for Captain Rennaud to atone to the gods and thus prove to his order that he was wronged. Feeling for her old comrade, Captain Cassidy swiftly pledged Osprem's Kiss to act as a consort on his voyage. Lord Ronaldo Key, acting master for Count Tydan was enraged however that he and his count were duped into investing in his personal quest and demanded that the Bird of Prey be taken back to Port Torvin. This stirred Victor, Cuahto, Araxo and the others to jump in to the captain's defense, as they threatened Key with bodily harm. Key backed down, but only after he cravenly reminded all present that the count would get his fair share of the prize and that he was still under the captain's protection. The search for the sage Lockard Meek and the Well would continue...
 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Fiction: By Steel & Spell

It's been quite active since the holidays and to that end I've slacked on posting updates on new Greyhawk fiction at Canonfire! As I will be taking over duties for posting new articles there sometime this year, I need to get on the ball now. Catching back up, here is the first three episodes of a new series by prolific Canonfire member MasterArminas, entitled By Steel & Spell. This series should be of special interest to any fans of a certain realm of horror. MasterArminas writes:

"In the northern reaches of the Timberway Forest, an ancient evil is growing stronger.  Old friends -- once separated -- must now come together to battle and defeat this malevolent presence . . . once and for all!"

"Journey with them now as they travel to confront the menace growing within the halls of a once-great castle; a castle now as ruined and corrupt as its inhabitants."

Catch up to the first three episodes now!
By Steel & Spell (Part 1)

By Steel & Spell (Part 2)

By Steel & Spell (Part 3)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Greyhawk Comic #315: Freeday the 13th

Okay Greymaniacs, I don't normally post on Greyhawkery this frequently and I certainly haven't contemplated doing any comics since my last epic Needfest Special mainly due to laziness and a lack of good ideas. But wouldn't you know it, much to my surprise (chagrin), our good friend Mr. Klein over at Greyhawk Adventures 576CY called me out on a good subject I haven't covered before. It's short notice so I apologize for the lack of annotations. Read the comic, then read the commentary below. Enjoy!


The relevant facts you need to know: In the World of Greyhawk, there are twelve months each with 28 days (and four week long 'fests' every three months) totalling 364 days per calendar year. There are seven days in a week, starting with Starday, then followed by Sunday, Moonday, Godsday, Waterday, Earthday and Freeday. What all this means is, unlike our Gregorian calendar with its varied length of months, days of the month in Greyhawk always fall on the same week. Thus it is impossible to have the analagous "Freeday the 13th" since it would always be Earthday the 13th. Tsk!

This isn't to say people of the Flanaess aren't still superstitious of the number 13. The number can still hold plenty of dubious connotations if applied in the right fashion. Especially if you're a worshiper of this guy.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Blackpowder Weapons in Greyhawk Part 2

Welcome back! For those just tuning in, go back and check this link to read my last manifesto on why blackpowder weapons belong in Greyhawk. Before I continue I'd like to add one more reference I overlooked, that was smartly pointed out to me on the Canonfire forums by "Iron Golem" and that is the appearance of blackpowder in the 2nd edition module Greyhawk Ruins. Look it up for yourself, while I move on...

In my Sea Princes campaign I use a simple set of game rules (3.5e) governing the use of guns and cannons. The stats I use for these weapons can be found in the old 3.5e DMG and in the seafaring supplement Stormwrack. Characters do not need the obscure feat "Secret of the Firebrands" to use blackpowder but instead need it in order to create them. A character must still take an Exotic Weapon proficiency or else suffer a -4 penalty to hit. This applies to each type of blackpowder weapon be it a pistol, musket, cannon or bomb.

Another restriction on these destructive weapons is that they cannot be enchanted (see below). "Masterwork" versions of these weapons can still be made at standard price increases but beyond having a customized appearance, they only afford a minor bonus to hit. Blackpowder is considered a hazardous alchemical substance that also cannot be further modified through the use of magic. In fact, merely igniting blackpowder from any other enchanted device will almost certainly result in catastrophe (99%). The jury is still out on enchanted ammo, but due to the aforementioned volatility of blackpowder, I would say trying this should at least incur a 50% chance of a firing mishap (DM choice of effect). Mundane bullets made of rare materials (like silver or cold iron) sound acceptable for overcoming special damage resistance.

The rate of fire and shorter range increment for blackpowder weapons ensures that they are still inferior to other missile weapons like long bows and crossbows which can still be enchanted along with their ammunition. This essentially makes an item like a flintlock pistol no better than a one shot item used before switching to a main melee weapon. Until the technology progresses another 500-1000 years they're pretty much more flair than effect which is perfect for a swashbuckling game. The background for how blackpowder weapons came to be developed in the Flanaess is unique to my campaign, but it should not interfere with canon in any era of Greyhawk:

The Oerids of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy were masters of the art of war, conquering all before them in no small part to the knowledge of the clergy of Delleb who once specialized (with the urging of more militant religions) in the creation of devices such as stirrups, crossbows and the trebuchet before withdrawing to more peaceful and scholarly concerns. The greatest of these Aerdian geniuses was a female engineer named Daern whose skill at building castles and defenses in Aerdy would go unmatched until the founding of Spinecastle two centuries later. Daern "the Unshakable" met her end some time after the Battle of a Fortnight's Length (-110 CY) but before her death and rumored apotheosis, she recorded much of her unfinished ideas for her loyal acolytes to finish. Among these writings was plans for the Tower of Daern (eventually built in Irongate), designs for the creation of the extra-dimenionally folding Daern's Instant Fortress, and an overlooked tome titled Components and Reactions of Phosphorus.

Murlynd an Oeridian himself, rose to some fame for carrying his strange quasi-magical "hoglegs" in early 300's when he adventured along with Zagig Yragerne and the Company of Seven. While his strange weapons were acquired from another plane this didn't stop sages and wizards from trying to copy them, yet all their attempts failed until a series of events happened long after Murlynd's adventuring career ended. In 447CY, the Iron League was formed by a group of small nations to defend against the evil of the Aerdian Overking Ivid. During the intervening century these small states (especially the Free City of Irongate), in alliance with the dwarves and gnomes of the Iron Hills would become renowned for their manufacture of quality weapons.

By the late 570's Murlynd rose to prominence again as a small-time hero-god with followers scattered throughout the central Flanaess including parts of the Iron League where his storied weapons were not forgotten by adherents of another hero-god, Daern. The subsequent rediscovery of Daern's lost manuals on blackpowder brought these two minor clergies together in a common interest, with the goal of recreating and manufacturing lesser versions of Murlynd's artifacts to give the lawful realms of the aptly named Iron League, an edge against their enemies on land and at sea. With the explosion of innovation, certain  economic and political realities would soon lead to these blackpowder weapons falling into the hands of other nations most notably the Kingdom of Nyrond, the Hold of the Sea Princes and some say the hidden Kingdom of Shar. Despite the recent proliferation of these weapons, the Iron League still remains the only good source for the blackpowder that powers them; a situation that has made the League both rich and a target for espionage.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Blackpowder Weapons in Greyhawk

Recently in my swashbuckling Sea Princes campaign I have come to a new, somewhat progressive opinion on the use of guns, cannons and other things that go boom. My resolve was only strengthened after a discussion a couple weeks ago during our weekly Thursday night Canonfire! chat. Here is my "canon" proof that intentionally or not, blackpowder weapons have slowly been leaked into the World of Greyhawk and should inevitably become commonly known in the Flanaess:

1. Dragon Magazine #71/1983 Glossography: Murlynd, an original character from Gygax's own home campaign is a quasi-deity with "6-shooters" (acquired from another plane) that only function on Oerth due to his "magical aura".
2. Murlynd is promoted to hero-god of Magical Technology in 2nd edition's Slavers. He has few priests but they can take a firearms proficiency and those who gain high level may use smokepowder normally implying they acquired the same aura as Murylnd.
3. 3rd edition's Dragon Magazine #306 introduced the paladin variant, White Paladins who can take the feat "Secret of the Firebrands" which is essentially the same ability open to 2e priests of Murlynd. There is a note in the article about Murlynd struggling against St Kargoth (the main death knight in Greyhawk) over an item called the "Quannon".
4. Dragon Magazine #263: One depiction of Delleb, Oeridian god of reason and intellect is of an armored warrior on a warhorse, carrying a sabre and a "strange projectile weapon of metal and wood". Delleb is
also said to have invented the crossbow, a weapon of metal and wood that is not strange to any race of the Flanaess.
5. Daern, the Oeridian hero-deity of defenses and fortifications was sponsored to godhood by Delleb. She is known mainly for her magic item Daern's Instant Fortress,
but in Dragon Magazine #82 she is also said to have authored a book titled, "Components and Reactions of Phosporous".
6. Lastly, just for fun, the 1980 Folio/1983 Guide: Both covers of these books show the heraldry for the Feif of Ahlissa (once Flan now Oerdian) with three fuse-lit blackpowder bombs.

That is plenty of evidence, though there is many other references that have the potential to bring even higher technology to the Flanaess as well, such as City Beyond the Gate (Dragon #100), The Jungle of Lost Ships (1983 Glossography), Doomgrinder (shudder), the World Serpent Inn (Dragon #351) or Expedition to the Barrier Peaks(S3).

Now all this evidence is pointless because of some unseen power on Oerth supposedly prevents blackpowder weapons from working (Note it did not stop the more advanced weapons from Barrier Peaks from working). In order to use or even create  blackpowder weapons this effect has to be overcome. In my opinion, this effect is the work of the gods trying to control pace of development for their mortal worshippers. This is key because as you've seen above, cetain deities see technology as a balance to magic and have started to leak their secrets to mortals. Murlynd's dogma says this specifically and he can easily unlock his mortal priests from the restriction. Delleb similarly wants teachers to pass on their rare knowledge to trusted students, and he does so to Daern who then writes it down in a book for her faithful to later discover. I postulate that blackpowder weapons have always worked normally but that the knowledge to safely create them is what is magically suppressed.
It is known in Greyhawk canon that the Epoch of Magic wanes by 998 CY. Perhaps it's the slow rise of blackpowder that contributes to this. What all this boils down to in a campaign sense is a pre-rennaisance level Greyhawk where blackpowder weapons can be manufactured with strong limitations to preserve the feel of the setting. More on what sort of limitations I mean next time...

Monday, January 9, 2012

Obligatory Wizards News

Yeah the news is likely to be spreading like wildfire across the blogosphere by now, but Wizards has announced that development is underway for the next [5th] edition of D&D. Can't say I'm shocked or excited. At this point it's almost shrug-worthy. Time will tell as always. As I read across the various blogs I don't have much else to add or comment on except that I'll try to keep my finger on the pulse of Greyhawk related things over at Wizards be they 4th, 5th, 6th edition, etc. It's too early to get on my pro-Greyhawk pulpit so for now let's enjoy the chaos! The next couple Gencons should at least be more interesting...

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sea Princes #18: Dangerous Diversions


Sorry for the delay. The following is a summary of two short game sessions. Last we saw the crew of the Sea Prince vessel, Bird of Prey, they were still in the Onnwalian captial of Scant looking for the sage Lockard Meek to help them decipher a map to the Well of All Heals. Instead they found his colleague the botanist Olfon Trebus who agreed to aid their search south in the deadly Amedio jungle. But there was still other dangers to present themselves before they'd get far. Here is our protagonists:

Victor Emmitt Hammond (rogue, swinging swordsman)
Araxo Tydan (rogue, temporarily gallant)
Cuahtehmoc aka "Cuahto" (ranger, savage shooter)
Brother Pickles (cleric, shark harpooning)
and Henri Morgan (rogue, boarding partier)
guest starring Gunther Stohl (hacks humanoids)
 
As he was helping round up everyone to set out of Scant, Henri Morgan overheard gossip in a tavern about a Keoish privateer called Lydia's Light that was on the lookout to capture Captain Rennaud and hang his renegade Bird of Prey crew. Armed with this news he ran back to the ship and told the captain who immediately knew the danger. Lydia's Light is a carrack led by one Captain Rynn, a learned naval veteran and rival of Rennaud's Keoish sailing family. The Sea Princes hastily left Scant bound for the "Hook" of the Amedio when sure enough waiting for them out to sea was the privateer looking for them. Caught unaware however, Lydia's Light was outpaced and after an hours long struggle the Bird of Prey crew could breath easier as they drove westward toward the Pomarj in order to lose the bigger, slower vessel. For now.
 
This evasion however led them into new trouble. A fog rolled in off the rocky coast and Cuahto sighted a smoking ship derelict in the water. Captain Rennaud was convinced to check it out but was wary given their haste and the area they were in. As Lt. Tydan organized his away team, their ship got closer in view enough to notice the smoldering cog was in fact an orcish pirate ship intentionally sending up smoke to lure them in. Before an order could be made to change tack another orcish pirate ship rowed out of the fog to cut them off, a galley bristling with oars and one catapult. Flaming arrows began to fly from the smaller ship and hit short of the Bird of Prey. The battle was engaged.
 
Everyone got to their posts except Lord Key who went below deck for his own safety. Ballistae were aimed, and two light cannon were loaded. The majority of the crew however made to turn their ship starboard in order to send a broadside volley back at the orcish cog called the Wounded Eye. Flaming arrows and ballista bolts were traded with the Wounded Eye suffering more damage due to a round of loud cannon fire. From afar the galley called Gruumsh's Fist fired its catapult at the moving caravel and missed. The galley gave chase as the Bird of Prey was ordered to go into the fog for cover. There, a boarding launch would be sent down to hopefully even the odds.
 
As the speedy Wounded Eye and Bird of Prey circled the stationary cog, missiles flew in all directions. In the chaos of battle Captain Rennaud seemed weakened or wounded and was carried to his quarters by Caine the surgeon while Quartermaster Skullbreaker took his post at the wheel. Just then, from the east another vessel entered the fray, a carrack called Osprem's Kiss, flying the anchor and crown flag of the Lordship of the Isles. Osprem's Kiss was armed for battle apparently and took the fight to Gruumsh's Fist allowing the Bird of Prey a chance to emerge from the fog and begin a boarding action on the Wounded Eye from two directions.
 
From a launch, Lt. Tydan led Cuahto, Brother Pickles, Gunther Stohl and Henri Morgan climbed over the side of the orcish cog, while swinging in from the Bird of Prey, Victor Hammond led a rag-tag band of Sea Princes from the other side. What orcs remained on the burning ship rushed to repel the boarders but were smashed through by the quick reflexes of Gunther Stohl. Behind him the Olman Cuahto pulled one orc into the water before climbing on deck. A melee broke out all over the Wounded Eye while in the distance the Osprem's Kiss had similarly started a boarding action against the orc galley. The heroes started off by firing their newly bought blackpowder weapons but found that the roiling deck and smoky conditions made it hard to hit even at close range. One orc in fact was miraculously missed three times before his gods deserted him and a fourth shot turned him into paste.
 
In a turn of temporary insanity, Araxo taunted and called out the captain of the orcs, Glork Spleenstabber who was all too happy to come down and stick his wicked cutlass through the pompous human. Henri Morgan took the chance to throw his poisoned dagger at the distracted captain but missed. As he himself was distracted an orcish ballista flew by his head nearly skewering him. Meanwhile, still in the launch, Pickles harpooned an orc and turned him into chum, then wrestled with the orc that had first fell into the water and got aboard their rowboat. The mad cook raged and eventually choked out the drenched orc pirate.
 
Defending himself, Araxo took some mean chops from the enraged orc captain and his compatriots rushed to his aid else the hapless firstmate fall. Vic dashed in to flank the foe but was already suffering from multiple wounds as was many of the other boarders (Salty Sal lost an arm). Tumbling into the middle of an orc mob, Henri retrieved his poisoned dagger and stabbed Glork who seemed indignant more than affected by the little blade affectionately called "toad". That would still be his undoing as Gunther charged in and cleaved into the side of his head with a brutal swing. Dropping to his knees, Henri knocked Glork over to the brink of death. Araxo had him bound and stabilized to use as a hostage. A few remaining orc pirates leapt into the bloody sea to their own doom. The battle was won. Not far away, victory seemed evident for Osprem's Kiss against the galley, as slave oarsmen spilled out onto deck and began cheering.
 
The wounded needed healing and the cog needed searching before it could completely burn and sink beneath the Azure Sea. Signals were sent to parley between the "allied" vessels. As they met, it was soon discovered much to their surprise, that the commanding crew of Osprem's Kiss were all women...
 
Game notes: The first session was ship to ship combat using my hybrid seafaring rules. It went fairly well as an abstract which is all I wanted to achieve. The second session was then the boarding action using normal 3.5 combat rules. My first use of black powder guns in the Sea Princes campaign went well too. Their rate of fire will assure that they aren't going to break this game. All in all a good battle scene. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Maps, Maps and More Maps

As duly reported by fellow Greyhawkian Rory Klein on his blog, Anna Meyer (Atlas of the Flanaess Project) has recently released a composite map of all her Flanaess sections to date. It's a big download but trust me its worth the wait for fans of her work and the setting. Follow either link for more details.

While I'm on the subject, another Greyhawk mapping community favorite, Eric Anondson has returned and has been busily working on his stunning views of the Sheldomar Valley (SW Flanaess). You can find different variations of Mr. Anondson's newest maps and also his older classic works of Greyhawk cartography on his gallery.

But that's not all! The Greyhawk map rennaisance continues over at the Cartographer's Guild where a member named Lukc posted a commissioned map of Radigast City. I have to say, I don't know much about Radigast City in canon, but it doesn't matter. This map is stunning. Check it out. Kudos to Lukc and the Guild.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Podcast Topic: Maps

As many of you know I'm involved in a gaming podcast with my friends called Gamerstable. Last week we discussed a good topic on maps (This one is for you Anna). It's a broad subject: there's the utility and art of game maps, cartography programs, sites and materials and more. Oh yeah, and we even managed to drop a few names from the Greyhawk community. Enjoy!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Ring of Five Questions: Greg Vaughan

Welcome back and Happy New Year, Greyhawk mavens to another installment of the Ring of Five Questions! In the last couple interviews we were entertained with the old school insight of Joseph Bloch and blessed by the words of the great James M. Ward. Following in these big shoes is an author who is still rising in the RPG industry, and along the way has managed to leave his mark on the World of Greyhawk setting: Greg A. Vaughan. Greg started out freelancing in Dungeon Magazine, writing a module called Tammeraut's Fate and was also partly responsible for importing the classic adventure Isle of the Dread to the Greyhawk setting for Paizo Publishing's Savage Tide Adventure Path, a series that saw his heavy involvement including the climatic adventure Prince of Demons in Dungeon #150. From this humble beginning working in the Greyhawk milieu, Mr. Vaughan catapulted into even more freelance work for both Wizards of the Coast and Paizo Publishing on their highly successful Pathfinder setting. Greg is a member of the Werecabbages, a group of freelance RPG writers and is also an instrumental member of 3rd party publisher Frog God Games. Enough background, it's time to throw Greg into the Ring of Five...

Q1. As an experienced Greyhawk fan, you should know the Darlene map by heart. What land in the World of Greyhawk is your favorite?

Greg: Phew, this is a tough one.  Over the last 30 years I've had so many favorites that have shifted over time, it's hard to say.  Probably my lastest favorite area would be the Bissel/Ket Gap area.  There's just so much of Gary's early lore caught up in that area between the Expedition to Barrier Peaks and the Lost Caverns/Forgotten Temple stuff.  Plus it's the land of Iggwilv and has this neat East-meets-West (or in this case West-meets-East) vibe between the Baklunish and Oeridian cultures.  It's just a super rich environment for adventure and inspiration in my mind. In my home game I like to set Castle Ravenloft there in the lower peaks of the Yatils and run Bissel like Walachia and Ket like the Ottoman Empire and let the fur fly.
When I was a kid, though, the answer was definitely the Wild Coast/Pomarj area.  I LOVED the slavelords adventures and pretty much all my home campaigns eventually got around to that area at some point.

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

Greg: Zagyg

Q3. Which author inspired you the most to write adventures for Greyhawk and later Pathfinder for Paizo Publishing?

Greg: Has to be Gary (Gygax).  I think I see a little bit of his stuff in just about everything I write.  Or at least I try to.  He's still my favorite, though there have obviously been a lot of great ones since.

Q4. You've written your fair share of Greyhawk material. Did you have any Greyhawk-themed ideas that didn't make publication?

Greg: Yes, I had a 5-part adventure series steeped in Greyhawk lore that I had pitched to Dungeon as a mini-adventure path that had the preliminary green light.  But the magazines were killed before it could get past the outline and discussion stage with James Jacobs.  I've thought about converting it to Golarion and pitching it as a complete adventure path to Paizo, and I think the conversion would work fairly well--there are enough parallels to make it work.  But in my heart of hearts I think it's always going to be a Greyhawk adventure.

Q5. You're shipwrecked on the Isle of Dread. Which Greyhawk NPC would you take with you?

Greg: Not Tenser...only his clone would survive.  Not Robilar, he'd just kill me and take my stuff.  Not Rory Barbarosa, people with him tend to get eaten. Probably Will or Tom Stoutly, 'cuz those dudes can row like nobody's business and seem like the kind of guys who will do what you tell them. And if you're stuck on the Isle of Dread, having somebody that's a strong rower has got to be a plus.