Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sea Princes #24: With Cat Like Tread...

Last episode out heroes escaped from the gassy death trap of Tamoachan only to learn the sage whom they seek had been kidnapped by Crimson Fleet pirates and taken eastward. A day behind, the crew gave chase through the jungle, while Captain Rennaud returned to the Bird of Prey and promised to swing around the Hook to pick them up. Days later, Osprem's Kiss arrived on the east coast of the jungle instead, and with both Olfon Trebus and Lord Key onboard. Where did the Bird of Prey go? That leads us to our current uh...protagonists:

W.B. McGarnagle (fighter, woman killer)
Wodrick "Shank" Grubbyhill (bard, conduct unbecoming a gnome)
"Blonde" Barry Picaroon" (fighter, assault and battery)
"Two-Bit" Jack Ginth (rogue, arson)
and Billy Palsy (rogue, impersonating an officer)

The desperation of the Cpt. Rennaud hit a new high when he learned from an exposed informant in the Seeker's camp that the Crimson Fleet had indeed taken Lockard Meek, the only man who could lead him to the Well of All Heals. Knowing his enemies, they would return to their haven of Scuttlecove and ransom the sage off, if he even survived the ordeal. Thus, for their own safety, Rennaud set Olfon and Lord Key off to Fort Blackwell to join Osprem's Kiss while he turned his ship west for Sasserine with the intent of buying or breaking out the pirate captain, "Ironclaw" McGrath whom he helped put in prison not long ago, for the purpose of trading for Lockard Meek. In Sasserine, Rennaud met with House Taskerhill and though he was on excellent terms the family would not part with this valuable hostage. That is when the "Blackguard" made another rash decision that would add to his infamy...

Limited in action by his curse, Rennaud hand picked an away team of five to sneak into the city and break out McGrath from a garrison prison in the Cudgel District. First he chose three former pirate crewmen; Jack, McGarnagle and Wodrick. The three had been itching for action, they knew what their former captain from the Hideous looked like, and lastly they were expendable if caught but if they succeeded the trio would be let out of their oaths to the Hold. To make sure the three didn't try anything mutinous, Billy Palsy was given a chance to redeem his criminal past by going and dependable Blonde Barry (actually bald) merely volunteered for the bragging rights. That night, armed with climbing gear and weapons, the five infiltrated by gondola through the waterways of Sasserine and came upon the Cudgel district. Lurking in the shadows of an alley outside the garrison, they grabbed a lone Cuthbertite guard who exited. Billy was dressed in the guard's livery and then throwing all stealth to the wind, they made to bluff their way in the front gate.

Posing as good samaritans who rescued a bloody, beaten guard (Billy was punched by McGarnagle to sell the ruse) the gate guards allowed the group to carry Billy inside to a nearby tower common hall. The three pirates laid the story on thick by implicating Barry and Billy's crewmates Salty Sal, Piper Kellin and Caine to the crime. Without warning the Hideous pirates jumped the gate guards; injury faking Billy and Barry had no choice but to join in or risk discovery. With a chance to stealth around the garrison in more guard uniforms and find the prison tower, the three pirates instead began their great diversion, burning down the garrison and with it the whole city of Sasserine. Two-Bit Jack apparently was a wanted arsonist before he joined the Crimson Fleet. Tapestries and tables were lit and the group raced outside to the stables, did the same thing then ran to hide in the shadows of the central manor to watch the mayhem ensue.

When more guards came running out of the smoking tower, horns started blaring, a loud bell tolled from the otherwisde of the courtyard and bucket brigades began to form at the wells. The five slipped into the manor through the servants' entrance and using the hysteria of the fire to their advantage they got most of the staff to exit, except one young maid who was held back by sinister W.B. McGarnagle. Of all people in the garrison to ask where the prison was, this startled girl was the last person who would know and for this she got ran through. Barry and Billy began to get nervous as their loose cannon allies started to burn the kitchens next. Once smoke filled the back chambers, the "rescuers" proceeded into the grand hall where they were met by a warily armed band of Cuthbertite guards who were not be swayed by the bluffs and lies of the five armed scalliwags in their home. More guards raced for the stairs from the gallery overlooking the hall. The five swashbucklers were hopelessly outnumbered, so naturally weapons were drawn...

(to be continued)

Game note: I thought since the PCs got picked to do all the away missions, that it would be more realistic if five different crewmen were given a job (though suicidal). Everyone enjoyed picking these pregenerated NPCs randomly and completely threw themselves into the new roles, some of which were pirates that their regular PCs had originally pressed into service. I think mutiny was brought up within the first five minutes!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

S3: Barrier Peaks Art Kickstarter

Pointed out to me by Allan Grohe, this project is quite interesting for those who know about and are into kickstarter projects. Jeff Dee, one of D&D and Greyhawk's classic illustrators has been reworking his own art from various AD&D products and this time he has chosen to do the genre clashing Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. Check out the video and all the pertinent details of Jeff Dee's project here. I'm keen to see what he does next!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Castle Greyhawk: Adventure Hook

Greetings Greyhawk fans! This week I have for you page two in my graphic novel collaboration of Castle Greyhawk by Scott Casper. The pilot page in the series can be read here. Each episode I will strive to bring you readers along for the ride by adding some artist commentary like I used to in my own Greyhawk comics.

Read the comic and enjoy!

Commentary: It may not be readily apparent or important right now, but the tavern where young Tenser spends his time is called the Roc and Oliphant. Located in Clerkburg, the City of Greyhawk boxed set describes the Roc and Oliphant best:

"This boisterous tavern is a favorite of students, renowned for cheap drink and ample portions of tolerable food. It is bust at mealtimes, and during most evenings. Earthday evenings are the wildest, usually with music from some group of minstrels or bards. Since most colleges do not hold classes on Freeday, the carousing goes on until well past midnight.
The large building consists of a huge main room heated by a central fireplace, and several smaller rooms to each side. The kitchen is to the rear. The whole place has a distinctive odor combining wood smoke, stale beer, and human perspiration."

Just my kind of place!

Friday, February 24, 2012

4e Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl

Fresh off the e-presses at Wizards is the next installment in Chris Perkin's adaptation of the Against the Giants module series: Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl. Previously we've seen Steading of the Hill Giant Chief followed by a wholly original chapter in the remake, Warrens of the Stone Giant Thane. The third part of four in this series, the Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl is of course only open to D&D Insider subscribers. While the game mechanics is 4th Edition (with 5e looming behind it), collectors of all things Greyhawk will not be disappointed in the content as this module positively adds more richness to the original story. Mention is also made of classic Gygaxian NPCs like Beek Gwenders, Flerd Trantle and Obmi. Chris Perkins takes care in his writing as this author's note attests:


"In reimagining "Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl," I made some changes to the maps and encounters to make the adventure a fun and balanced 4th Edition experience. I tried to keep the map scale on par with the original to capture the sheer immensity of the Glacial Rift, acknowledging that this scale creates some mapping challenges for Dungeon Masters with limited tabletop space. I hope that DMs with fond memories of the original read this latest incarnation and feel the same overwhelming desire to run the adventure that I felt back in 1980, when I read Gary Gygax’s adventure for the first time."

Download this module now if you have the means. I don't normally shill for Wizards, but with the news that more Greyhawk material might be written leading up to D&DNext there's probably no better reason than that for old school fans to subscribe to D&DI in 2012.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sea Princes #23: Escape From Tamoachan

Be warned reader, this episode of the Sea Princes' ongoing adventures contains spoilers for the classic module C1: The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan. Last time, the crew had fell through the ground and ended up beneath the ruins of an ancient Olman city. Unfortunately they would not have much time to explore; poisonous game permeating the whole dungeon threatened to end the lives of our protagonists:

Victor Emmitt Hammond (rogue, savage slugger)
Araxo Tydan (rogue, door destroyer)
Cuahtehmoc aka "Cuahto" (ranger, trap tripper)
Brother Pickles "of the Jar" (cleric, starfish sender)
and Henri Morgan (rogue, debris delver)

Araxo, Henri and their guide came upon the cavernous lair of a near-nude nereid named the Child of Zotzilaha. The glowing unearthly woman urged the trio to come closer so she could welcome and gift them with a kiss. The scheming lieutenant and his shipmate were wary having never been that close to a woman without paying for it. They sent their Olman guide to test her intentions. Lightly kissed, the Olman wandered off in a happy daze but alive. She then pouted that the other two were spurning her advances. Araxo gave Henri a signal and they both approached her in a flanking position together. Drawing their blackpowder pistols they intended to sneak attack her but suddenly found that up close, their will was not strong enough and she was too beautiful to harm...

Meanwhile in a large water-logged hall of pillars, Cuahto, Victor and Pickles followed trails of silver slime on the walls and waded up to a glowing object. It was exactly what they expected, a giant slug. Much like before when they met the crayfish and crab, this giant creature turned out to be sentient. Turning its eyestalks toward them it introduced itself as Tecuziztecatli the Lord of Snails. In a surprising turn Cuahto spoke to it in Olman and asked for the way out of the dungeons to which the Lord of Snails obliged by pointing them toward the lair of the Child of Zotzilaha. Nothing of value was discovered and they left down another hall just in time to hear a gun shot...

Henri struggled to fight the allure of the nereid and in doing so incurred her anger, so she spit in his face causing temporary blindness. Henri fired at her wildly missing her and Araxo luckily. The Child then surged beackward into her pool of water and sent a roaring wave to buffet all three away from her. By this time the others had hurried up toward the booming sounds to find their compatriots and the lurking woman. This time they asked for a way out, knowing the gasses would soon kill them. She agreed to allow them across her pool to a door provided they give her gifts. Without hesitation Vic gave up an earring, Cuahto and armband, and best of all Pickles, mesmerized by the aquatic beauty offered her the humble gift of a chocolate covered starfish which both confused and touched her. She vanished under the pool and the party waded over to the exit.

Eventually they came upon a hallway with huge decorative animal heads every ten to twenty feet. One of them, an eagle head had a gold braclet stuck inside its open beak of a mouth. Cuahto, ever the fearless, reached in to pull it free and had the beak snap shut on his arm. Painfully he tried to extract his arm (the others offered to cut it off), but ultimately Lt. Tydan oiled the hinge of the beak and Pickles pried it open with his freakish strength. A bit bruised but in one piece Cuahto and company continued down another narrow hall until thick, metal bound wooden doors slammed down ahead and behind them. Moments later the hiss of sand was heard from small holes cut in the walls. They were going to be buried alive...

Victor Hammond was weakest of all from the gas, he had even taken a potion to get him this far. Seeing the sand start to slowly fill their stretch of hall he became despondant and was ready to sit down and accept death. Pickles and the others couldn't lift the doors and the sand was pooling up fast. In a moment of desperate inspiration the crew assembled a small bomb from all their collective black powder horns. Placing it at the base of a door and bracing it with sand so the charge would explode toward the door, they backed all the way up to the rear door, got low and lit a trail of powder. A deafening explosion filled the corridor with black smoke, sand and splintered wood. They were free!

Just beyond this hall they came to a chamber with mounds of refuse and giant beetles that react to noise. At the top of the largest mound of trash they saw moonlight peeking through, it was the way out! Most of the group tip-toed up the mound to avoid the easily startled beetles and in an act of roguish self preservation, Vic Hammond punched out their guide T'oken. The unconscious Olman rolled down the mound, attracting every beetle where the man was feasted upon. Vic, Araxo and Pickles slipped out of the muddy cevasse into the vine covered ruin where the air was fresh at last. Cuahto and Henri stayed behind to rummage through the trash and find minor bits of treasure, but the noise was attracting the beetles so they finally retreated to the surface.

Once the five were free, they were soon happily discovered by Cpt. Rennaud, Olfon Trebus and Scar. With them was another Olman guide from the expedition that came with Lockard Meek. They had been searching the rubble for their lost crewmembers and any sign of the sage, only to find the guide hiding out. From him they learn that Lockard had been kidnapped by Crimson Fleet pirates and Amedian savages, then taken east through the jungle; the opposite way from their ship. Someone had tipped the pirates off about the expedition and Rennaud was keen to get back to the Seeker camp and tell Quintus Marius he had a traitor among his group. After a quick discussion, Araxo, Cuahto, Scar, Vic, Pikles and Morgan volunteered to strike off into the jungle to find the pirates. Rennaud and the rest headed back west to the camp for the Bird of Prey. Rennaud said he would sail around the Hook of the Amedio jungle, get Osprem's Kiss, and pick them back up hopefully by the time they reached the coast. Things would not go entirely according to plan...

(to be continued)

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Mountain King is a Polyglot

Over at Hall of the Mountain King, the fine Greyhawk sage Jason Zavoda has been on quite a roll lately. First off, I really like anyone who is dedicated enough to write Greyhawk fiction and I promote it when I can find it. Zavoda has been doing this longer than most. Originally posted on the Greytalk mailing list a decade ago, Jason has been reproducing some of his episodic fiction for a new audience to read. Started back in January, there is currently the epic Nosnra's Saga and now his An Unsung Death in Geoff. Follow the links to start at the beginning and then catch up through the archived threads.

Never to be considered a slacker the Mountain King is also showing off his linguistic skills with another clever series on Languages of Oerthly Magic. In it Jason gives the translations of well-known D&D spells into the tongue of many common races found in (and under) the Flanaess. So far he has done: Affect Normal Fires, Burning Hands, and Charm Person.

Check all this and more out at your leisure; who knows what will issue from the Hall next?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Unique Greyhawk Magic Items

Ut oh! Evidently the Drow
got their hands on this!
I don't know why, but these items intrigued me the other day when I came across the cards for my old copy of Greyhawk Wars. Over at the Canonfire forums, I posted a challenge to develop these unique named items that so far exist only to influence the boardgame events of Greyhawk Wars. As this boxed set should technically be canon for Greyhawk, this is a rare opportunity for someone looking for a Greyhawk topic to write about. I'd love to do it, but come on, I got enough on my plate! I'm crossposting here to see if anyone else but me remembers seeing these items before:

Bowl of Storms (game card power: apply a +2 strength bonus to one sea unit in battle)

Rary's Bulls-Eye Bow (card power: cause 1 automatic hit on an enemy at the start of battle) 

Drawmij's Dagger (card power: essentially identical to Rary's Bow) 

Bigby's Bottled Breath (card power: make 1 free STR 3 attack on each enemy unit before battle) !

Gloves of the Paladin (card power: heal one hit suffered by one unit) 

Dura's Deadly Poison (card power: flip one hero to its activated side)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sea Princes #22: Tumble Into Tamoachan

Be warned reader, this episode of the Sea Princes' ongoing adventures contains spoilers for the classic module C1: The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan. When last we followed the crew they stood among the tangled foliage overgrowing a massive city an central temple belonging to an ancient Olman society. Traveling with a pair of local guides, Captain Rennaud, the botanist Trebus and the female guard Scar, our protagonists are:

Victor Emmitt Hammond (rogue, got chewed out)
Araxo Tydan (rogue, got lamp out)
Cuahtehmoc aka "Cuahto" (ranger, got flattened out)
Brother Pickles "of the Jar" (cleric, got washed out)
and Henri Morgan (rogue, got gassed out)
 
The group had just began to spread out and look for the sage Lockard Meek when they mistook the still standing and unresponsive body of the Seeker ranger Fenley of Woodwych as an enemy. Once he was discovered to have numerous blowgun darts in his back they were ready, but not for the "oerthquake" that hit. The ground swallowed up half the party and the resulting slide of rock and earth sealed them in the chamber beneath their feet. The five protgonists got back up and took a head count. One guide was with them (which they named T'oken") but his partner was buried in the rubble still clutching a torch that stuck out for the survivors to take. The captain, Scar and Trebus were missing and as Araxo lit his own lamp they found themselves in a vault of seven alcoves and a single strong door with keyholes. The guide then noticed an eerie amber glow around the lamp and the smell of gas. He immediately related to Cuahto that the air down there was poisonous and they needed to escape in haste!
 
Splitting up, the crewmates searched the alcoves which held mini dioramas of scenes from everyday Olman life and religion. Nothing of importance was found and the scenes were left unmarred. The seventh alcove was actually a covered basin of water and in there one of the small idols carried a metal key that Henri then used to open the large door with success. Only five minutes passed and they could feel already their lungs hurting. Escaping the vault they moved on to an even larger room built of stone blocks yet covered in a slick layer of mud and dominiating the middle was a large boulder. Before they could get far inside a rather big crayfish waddled into view, began to flail its arms threateningly and strangest of all it spoke Olman! Stunned at first the party stood there and took the insults as Cuahto translated. Brother Pickles was already working on a recipe in his head. Having had enough of the belligerent crayfish he chased it down, slipping in the mud once then picked it up. That's when the creature screamed for Kalka-Kylla...
 
The boulder then moved and was revealed to be a giant crab of some sentience as well. Everyone began slip-slide-running for the west exit hall including Cuahto who stuffed the chattering crayfish into his dufflebag, dreaming not of food but a talking animal companion. Only Victor stayed behind to hold off the imposing crab guardian. Keeping his balance,Vic severed one of Kalka's many legs as it tried to get to the rest of the party. Vic then took a pincer strike himself but the battle soon grew in his favor as he slashed and darted under the large creature's lumbering attacks. Eventually the crab retreated back inside its shell in defeat. Heaving with exertion in the gassy air, he left the room to catch up to the others.
 
The group trudged on through more muddy, slimy, rubble filled corridors and rooms to look for a way out. Eventually the hall ended at a sturdy door flanked by a huge stone statue of an native holding a tray. What caught their attention was the sparkling obsidian eyes and the sword hilt that stuck out behind it. Cuahto climbed up on the tray for a better look and felt a rattle of stone. Everyone backed up. Cuahto fully stood on the tray and took out the weapon, exclaiming that it was an obsidian toothed maca like his own. Then the statue toppled over into the hall throwing Cuahto down and exposing the hidden hallway behind it. Cuahto had managed to leap free before he was crushed under the entire weight but in falling he inadvertantly squashed his captive crayfish. A loss for the ranger, a gain for Pickles.
 
Stooped and single file they all took the hidden passage and emeged in a wide rubble strewn hall that stretched off into darkness, yet in front of them was a short flight of steps down that was nearly filled with brackish water. After some discussion the party inexplicably split up to find a better way out. Araxo, Henri and T'oken went east down the dry corridor, while the strong swimmers Vic, Pickles and Cuahto chose to explore the submerged room down the steps. Araxo held his lamp aloft and proceeded down the long hall until their amber light faded, the farther they went the closer they came to the sound of dripping water, or perhaps singing?
 
Meanwhile, the swimming trio groped blindly into a small flooded room that had but a couple inches of airspace at its ceiling. Feeling and probing in the inky dark one of them found what seemed to be a swollen stuck wooden door. Bracing together they forced the portal open and in doing so, all the bottled-up water came rushing out in a torrential current that dragged the three around helplessly down a windy corridor and then spat them out into a deeper pool of water. Coming up for air the three looked discovered they were in a huge half-submerged, pillared chamber; dimly lit by silvery streaks on the ceiling and walls with one soft glow emanating from the distant eastern wall...
 
Araxo and Henri came upon a chamber containing water as well. A pool cut the crumbling room in half and at the other end was the only doorway out. Reclining on the edge of the pool however was a sight for sore sailor eyes, a beautiful golden haired goddess, nude save her seaweed shawl. She smiled and beckoned for them to come closer as she hummed her unearthly song...
 
Game notes: Wanting to not make a slog of this dungeoncrawl I chose the original convention version of C1 where gas fills the place and a way must be found out (the module even has a competitive scoring system for how efficiently differnt players escape). To that extent I edited a few locations to fit my own schedule. My rules for the gas is every 5 game minutes (all actions were tracked) the party makes a Fortitude DC12 roll or suffer 1d3 damage( 1 damage on a successful save). Scary enough for 4th level characters with rolled stats and hit-points.
 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

More Maps: Eric Anondson's Sheldomar Valley

Attention Greyhawk loremasters and armchair heroes! There's been so much abuzz in the Greyhawk cartographic community and among the best is the resurgence of Eric Anondson. This week Mr. Anondson announced the completion of his 4-part Sheldomar Valley project:

"Celebrate!

All four parts of my Sheldomar Valley project have been completed. All the maps for this project have had updates since originally published, check them out. The Crystalmists geography-only and Barrier Peaks geography-only maps will have their updates posted soon, maybe as soon as tomorrow night.

Check them all out. There weren't many Gord-isms I found that I could confidently place somewhere, but a few showed up! Mike Bridges' Ull project served as the basis for placenames around Ull."


The maps consist of Northern Sheldomar Valley, Southern Sheldomar Valley, the Crystalmist Mountains (with the Dry Steppes), and the Barrier Peaks (with Ull). Oh yes, Eric mentioned Ull. It's personally humbling to see my tiny contribution to Greyhawk lore sharing space on a map with placenames created by many other authors from Gygax all the way through Living Greyhawk. Eric I believe is moving on to the Jeklea Bay region (sweet for my campaign) and possibly the Sea of Dust.

Again, be sure to check out Eric's entire collection of maps HERE.

Friday, February 10, 2012

New Project: Castle Greyhawk Graphic Novel

Well folks, I wanted to find a new comic project to work on, it seems I had one under my nose all this time! As reported over at Scottenkainenland, In conjunction with the author, Scott Casper I am going to be attempting a graphic novelization of his Castle Greyhawk fiction. Follow the link to Scott's site for a sneak preview of the "pilot" page. I plan to have a more finished version up soon (I have alot of rust to get out). I don't know how long or how much of this we'll get through, but I am excited to be drawing something other than Greyhawk deities for once. Wish us luck! And stay tuned to our respective blogs for further installments.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Ring of Five Questions: Rob Lazzaretti

Yes my friends, it's time for a new installment of the Ring of Five Questions! Last time we got to know more about long-time Greyhawk advocate Scott Casper and before that we got some insight into the ascending freelance career of Greg Vaughan. This week is a special treat however, as I delve into the artistic side of D&D and bring to the ring, one of the gaming industry's best and most prolific cartographers, Rob Lazzaretti! A fellow Illinoisan, Rob first broke into the field at Game Designers Worskshop where his maps for games such as Dangerous Journeys, Traveller and Twilight 2000 earned him a job offer from TSR. At TSR, Rob's cartographic talent was seen all over, but most importantly his maps helped define the outerplanar feel of the Planescape setting. From there, Rob stayed on as Art Director of Cartography when Wizards of the Coast bought out TSR, lending his mapping skill to games like Alternity, Dark Matter and other 3rd Edition D&D products.

Eventually Rob had to take his career freelance, and he hasn't slowed down ever since. He has seen plenty of work for other game companies like Green Ronin and especially Paizo where his maps can be found not only in countless issues of Dungeon Magazine (remember the four-part Greyhawk map in issues #118-121?), but also more recently for the hugely successful Pathfinder setting. Now that his biography is out of the way let's see how Lazz' fares in the Ring...

Q1. I'm sure you know each and every hex on the Darlene map. What part of the World of Greyhawk is your favorite?

Rob: I remember tacking the original World of Greyhawk map up on my wood paneled wall near my drawing table when i was a just a teenager.  I used to spend time admiring all of the areas and imagining the vistas as they would seem in real life.  I always loved The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh and the other "U" series modules.  I had a small D&D group of friends back then, and we played through most of the original modules.  I always have admired the old school hex maps for their beauty and definitive simplicity.  

Q2. Everyone gets asked this next one. If you could be any one Greyhawk deity which would it be?

Rob: Heironeous.

Q3. Of all the maps you've worked on over the years, do you have a few that you consider your best? (Greyhawk or not)

Rob: I have drawn, so many maps in my career that it would be difficult for me to pick a favorite one.  I tend to think more in what years i worked on maps and what company they were drawn for.    I enjoyed working on maps for Dangerous Journeys at GDW, and creating the maps for Planescape at TSRAlternity and Dark Matter were fun to work on as well during the TSR/WOTC era.  I enjoyed working on the World of Greyhawk maps with Erik Mona.  I continue to enjoy drawing maps every day of my life.

Q4. Greyhawk cartography is currently a hot topic in the online community. What tips or tools could you reccomend for an aspiring fantasy map-maker?

Rob: Draw everyday, no matter what always sketch out ideas that are running around in your head.  I don't think there is a right or wrong way to go about creating something from your own imagination, as long as you enjoy the process. 

Q5. Last one. I'm sure you're familiar with the Oerth world map published in 1996's Dragon Annual #1. This map continues to spark discussion and debate online. What is your professional opinion on this map's content and composition?

Rob: I do recall watching Skip Williams and Dave Sutherland working on this map, it was an odd time for TSR, well I should write a whole book about what it was like to work there and the various people I worked with over the years, it would be a fun read for many i would think.  All I could think at the time was that it would be viewed as controversial. All of the maps back then were hand drawn and hand colored, in this maps' case Dr. Martins dyes were used.  From what I remember Dave was told to keep the land detail minimal so he added a few monsters and  a ship in the ocean to keep it looking interesting.  There was always good discussion over projects between us "the cartographers" and the "writers".  I think when it comes to designing a world you need to always start at the macro level and then go micro.  I am sure that people will discuss this map for a long time though.

Bonus information: Rob Lazzaretti has his own cartography site where among other things, you can apparently purchase a one sheet poster of his Dungeon Magazine, World of Greyhawk map. The interesting thing is these maps can be purchased with or without a hex grid, however both versions come without any text or labels(probably copyright reasons). Despite that, a blank map of the Flanaess can still have useful applications for any campaign. If anyone buys one of these let me know how it turns out.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sea Princes #21: Vine and Dine

This is the continuing adventures of the Sea Prince vessel, Bird of Prey. In an effort to find the sage Lockard Meek and decipher his map to the fabled Well of All Heals, Captain Rennaud and his intrepid crew have ventured to the western coast of the Amedio Jungle. Meek is said to be researching ancient Olman ruins in these dark jungles. How hard could it be to find him? We shall find out:

Victor Emmitt Hammond (rogue, on the spot)
Araxo Tydan (rogue, got a knot)
Cuahtehmoc aka "Cuahto" (ranger, crack shot)
Brother Pickles (cleric, was caught)
and Henri Morgan (rogue, took a trot)
 
Leaving Osprem's Kiss behind in Fort Blackwell temporarily, the Bird soon followed the Amedian coast southward where, following the coordinates of Olfon Trebus, their look-out eventually located the smoke of an encampment near the beach. Those at the encampment signalled with the caravel intentions to trade and parley and soon the captain took a launch ashore with, Trebus, Scar and his main officers in tow. Initially they were met by warily armed Olman and mercenary guards and their tension was broke by a sudden, slight Oerth-tremor. The encampment belonged to the famed explorers known as the Seekers of the Arcane, and Lockard Meek was indeed part of this expedition to the jungle. The leader of the Seekers soon emerged from his pavilion tent to greet them, introducing himself as QuintusMarius. This well-spoken, noble adventurer seemed quite at ease around his visitors, offering to trade goods and info with the Prince crew. World-wise and multi-lingual, Quintus even claimed to know of Captain Rennaud and his liege, Prince Jeon II. The officers were then invited to his personal tent for a drink and a feast.
 
Much to the surprise (and envy) of Araxo, Cuahto and company, Quintus' tent held an extra-dimensional mansion inside; a gift from a certain wizard benefactor of his. Here Quintus treated his guests to fine liquors, extravagent food and shared important information. Hailing from the Duchy of Urnst town of Seltaren, Quintus unabashedly explained that his group was overseeing the study of some ruins and that Lockard was already at the site, a day away. Captain Rennaud explained his desparation to consult the sage about a map, a fact that the Seeker appreciated since he saw how far they had come to find the man. The hour was growing late however, so the crew was invited to stay the night in Quintus' tent until the morn when he would provide guides to the site.
 
Early the next morning, two Olman guides carrying spears took Rennaud, Trebus, Scar and the rest of the crew eastward into the Amedio jungle. Trebus, a botanist by trade was overjoyed by the hike, taking time to collect samples of flora never catalogued in any university. For their part, Vic, Henri and the gang kept their eyes peeled for a rare jungle plant called Tarnas whose buds reputedly could regenerate small body parts. As a lark, Araxo schemed for them to find enough Tarnas to "reverse" the damage done to the eunuchs on Osprem's Kiss. The plant proved to be extremely hard to find, and their search was soon cut short by a plant that found them...
 
As the group stopped to take a breather along the Olman trail, Scar was nibbling on some edible berries nearby. Unfortunately, everyone but her saw that the vines which the grape-like fruit was attached to was actually an Assassin Vine. Two of them in fact had moved into position on the trail and were now creeping to attack. Brother Pickles freaked out seeing a plant move, throwing a harpoon at it then rushing into the waiting bush with meat cleaver in hand. Cuahto pushed Scar out of the way, while the guides merely fled with Morgan hot on their tail. Araxo drew his blackpowder pistol to shoot at the assassin vine and was knocked prone by a concussive misfire. Victor Hammond swept in instantly to drag the dazed lieutenant out of the reach of the deadly vines while the captain backed away with Scar rather than risk triggering his debilitating curse. Pickles hacked away but was being constricted by vines.
 
Cuahto alone did not leave Pickles to the mercy of the ensnaring assassin vine. He circled around to flank the vine mass and took aim with a blackpowder gun. Another loud explosion echoed in the jungle and the ranger dropped his gun as it misfired. Cuahto's next pistol was drawn and soon he hit damaging the vine enough to go limp. Pickles freed himself and....went charging into the other assassin vine. The others had retreated to an appreciable distance and could only hear the sounds of gunfire and berserk screams. When the smoke cleared Pickles and Cuahto came marching up the path together a bit richer (bones and coins of past vine victims were found underfoot in mulch). Resuming their trek, the group arrived at Lockard Meek's ruins right before sun down. The ruins were imposing to say the least, here they stood in the remnants of a once mighty city dominated by a central ziggurat, all completely overgrown by the dense Amedio foliage. The guides named the sacred place Tamoachan.
 
To be continued....
 
 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Dragon Editorial By Chris Perkins

This is two days in a row I've blogged about Chris Perkins. Weird. Anyhow, Wizards of the Coast has just posted a new editorial by Chris titled FR'eak for Dragon #408. Note, this article is open for the general audience to download so check it out, it's a quick read. Okay Greyhawk fans, don't get riled up, but as you may have guessed from the title, the focus of the editorial is actually about the Realms. Sure it's not my typical subject matter, but I did spot a few points that Perkins made which interested me. Let me break it down for you:

"Player’s Option: Heroes of the Elemental Chaos hits stores this month, just in time for players to create elemental-themed heroes for The Elder Elemental Eye™, the next D&D Encounters™  season."

First, I'm not entirely up on all 4e era products but I am amused that "Player's Option" has again led quickly to a new edition. I'm just saying...Also the highly successful D&D Encounters organized play seems to be moving along just fine and have once again wisely chosen a Greyhawkian source to draw inspiration from (their current storyline is Beyond the Crystal Cave). I'd be curious to hear from anyone who plays or runs D&DE how this next storyline stacks up.

"This year in the magazines, we’re taking a break from the Nentir Vale “points of light” setting to shine a light on the Forgotten Realms as well as some of our other popular worlds, past and present. You’ll see more Eberron® articles, more Dark Sun® articles, and even some content for Ravenloft®, Planescape®, and the World of Greyhawk. But the Realms, in particular, will receive a lot of love."

Wow. In case the first sentence slipped by you in the flurry of name dropping, Chris said Dragon will be taking a break from the Nentir Vale setting (the default 4e setting) for a YEAR. This is easily because of the retro-movement going on involving D&DNext. You know what? That's great! Yes, there will be alot of Forgotten Realms articles coming down the pike, but the rest of the lineup looks promising to me too, and hey look, he didn't leave out good ol' Greyhawk! No "points of light setting" means no strip-mining for placenames too. If anyone reading is a Greyhawk fan and an aspiring writer for Wizards, now is your chance! All I ask for is some fairly new content not the usual rehash. My mouth is already watering.

"I’ve never run a Forgotten Realms campaign, but I’ve plundered a lot of FR content for my home campaigns over the years."

I will give Perkins props on plundering FR for ideas, but after reading this, what I want to know is who at Wizards DOES play Forgotten Realms? (besides Ed of course) I know this isn't the first time I've seen someone in their industry say that they don't run FR. I may be a stodgy old Greyhawk fan, but I've at least tried to run Forgotten Realms a few times since the first grey boxed set. Yes, I know running the Realms isn't a requirement to work for the company, so this is based on nothing. It's just that sometimes I get the gut feeling the folks who currently develop the Realms (yes you too Ed) are really only in it to write novels (or now make boardgames) and don't really use the setting they promote as #1. Take all that with a grain of salt though. Anyhow, I am sincerely excited to see more Forgotten Realms articles out of Perkins and Dragon if it also means more love for those old die-hard settings including our World of Greyhawk. Stay tuned, 2012 should be interesting.