Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tribute to a Rare Talent

Despotrix, Chibirias, Maria. Rarely has there been an author with such a special, personal connection with the World of Greyhawk and the exotic lands of the Amedio Jungle. Her years of gracious involvement in the Greyhawk community and her instrumental hand in making the fansite Canonfire what it is today will never be forgotten. To celebrate her works please view her unique lore of the Amedio and links to Mayan culture, archived at the blog Olmanifesto.


See the lush, green depths.
A verdant landscape painted
by the earth goddess.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Greyhawk Cartographic Rennaisance

This should be no surprise to most in the Greyhawk community, but just in case you've been under a rock, Joseph Bloch over at Greyhawk Grognard has been on a huge roll in the cartography arena. Using the mapping program Hexographer Joseph is doing his own take on areas "Beyond the Flanaess" in a hex-based Darlene-esque style, and has up to date made several maps (crosslinked below). I can only reiterate how exciting it is to see so much cartography being done in the Greyhawk community, especially in areas of still barely touched potential. I'm not sure there has ever been a more active era of mapping for the World of Greyhawk. Dead world indeed!

Another reminder, check out Anna Meyer's facebook group, the Flanaess Geographical Society, since my last post it has topped 210 members and is still growing.

Greyhawk Grognard's Beyond the Flanaess

Southern Amedio Jungle
Sea of the Dragon King
Zindia and the Golden Jungle
Eastern Suhfang, Orcreich and Gulf of Ghayar
Low Khanate and Central Suhfang

Sea Princes #27: Marooned!

Welcome back to the further exploits of the Sea Princes Campaign. Last time, cursed Captain Rennaud and the affable crew of the Bird of Prey escaped another encounter with the Keoish privateer Lydia's Light. Well, most of them did. Here is our protagonists:

Victor Emmitt Hammond (rogue, present!)
Araxo Tydan (rogue, present!)
Cuahtehmoc aka "Cuahto" (ranger, present!)
Brother Pickles "of the Jar" (cleric, M.I.A.)
and Henri Morgan (rogue, M.I.A.)

A day out of range of Narisban and assured of not being followed, Osprem's Kiss and the Bird of Prey stopped by a small islet in the Olman chain to allow carpenter Nasty Nestor to do some quick repairs. In the meantime roll call was done to see what casulties had fallen both crews. The Kiss had lost five eunuchs sailors and one of the priestesses of Osprem, fiery Sister Ella survived but lost her left hand during the battle. The Bird not only lost Brother Pickles and Henri Morgan, captured by the privateers, olman deckhand Jack Tar and "Morbid" Jacob Fargloom were killed during combat. Old Billy Palsy however proved tougher than nails, only losing an ear from a whizzing crossbow bolt. The captured Knight of the Watch, Sir Aris Westford was searched and thrown into the small brig with soon-to-be randomed Captain "Ironclaw" McGrath. Sir Aris begged to talk to Rennaud but was rebuffed.

Then there was Lord Ronaldo Key. He had been duped back in Fort Blackwell into taking a silver charm from the knight as a token of protection should he fall into Keoish hands. Little did he know, the object was used to track his whereabouts, placing the blame for the encounter squarely on him. Confronted about the incident in front of the officers of both ships, he pleaded innocence and claimed that he tried to give the privateers bad information about Captain Rennaud. Unsure of what to do with Count Tydan's noble proxy, a vote was taken and it was decided that Lord Key should be marooned on the tiny tropical islet nearby. Weeping at his sentence, his spyglass and all his moeny was taken from him, while members of the crew gave him other tokens before he was set ashore. The Owl necklace was hung back around his neck, he was given a broken knife by Cuahto, a magic wand with hardly any charges on it, a jug of rum, a cannon ball, an empty atomizer bottle and a 100 gold admirals from Victor Hammond (for future considerations). On the rowboat ride, Araxo assured his cousin who had been nothing but a bully all their lives, that he would send a ship to pick him up as soon as possible. Standing on the beach, Lord Key watched the two ships fade over the horizon and into the sunset.

Meanwhile back in Narisban, on the highly damaged Lydia's Light, ostentatiously dressed Captain Rynn with shoulder bandaged, stood in his room with an assisting priestess, Sister Aurora of Lydia and interrogated a captured Brother Pickles. He proved to know nothing useful to the knowledgeable captain who frustratingly pointed at a sea chart, while the kind priestess who had tended Pickles' wounds could not coax any better responses from the "touched" man. Mr. Morgan however was healed after near death then flogged back to the edge again, then thrown in a brig next to Pickles without so much a question asked.

Two days out of port, the two sister ships sailed south off most nautical charts from the Densac Gulf and into the lawless waters of the Vohoun Ocean towards an archipalego aptly named the Pirate Isles. Each day, Sir Aris asked to meet with the captain and each day he got no reply. Instead the captive knight had to put up with the jovial old pirate McGrath who only teased and bragged about his impending release at his home port of Scuttlecove. McGrath had learned all about the "Blackguard's" quest for a magical healing well from W.B. McGarnagle before he was forced off the Bird, and now he was only glad to spout it back to the morose knight who had little to say. The existence of a knight of the Watch in the same cell as him only reinforced McGrath's belief that Rennaud was hiding a buried treasure of the order. Each day the brig was also visited by Araxo Tydan and Cuahto. The deadly olman striker spoke taunts in his native language to the knight who was oblivious to all but his tone of voice, while Araxo spent much time talking to the cooperative captain. At one point a day before they were to arrive in the Pirate Isles, Araxo gave McGrath a rolled up scrap map of where his cousin was marooned in exchange for future considerations. McGrath turned his back and hid the paper, the knight overhearing all said nothing except to ask when the captain would see him.

Lydia's Light was back in service, sailing south where the sails of the two fleeing ships had last been sighted. Arriving at a small isle, Captain Rynn gave Henri a chance to speak and found the man would talk if paid enough. The captain curled his lips and swore the pirate's hands would never stain the king's gold. Henri was put in line with three others, two sailor and a hired woodworker from Fort Blackwell. All four had their crimes read by an officer; Henri for piracy, the two navy men for cowardice in battle and the other for excessive drunkeness during engagement. They all were sentenced to be marooned on the jungle island before them. Henri was given his pistol with enough for one shot, and a coil of rope "should he find a tall, strong tree."  Brother Pickles was spared due to his being a cleric of the sea gods and through the grace of sister Aurora's counsel to the captain. Pickles silently watched on as Henri was rowed to shore amid crashing waves; what ever went on in the simple cleric's head was anyone's guess...

Hundreds of miles away, Captain Rennaud called his staff together in his chambers, and had his men bring up Sir Aris. It seemed, on the eve of a most important hostage exchange, he was ready to hear what the his former pursuer had to say...

(to be continued)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Darks, Derro and Doomgrinders

Last Thursday night at our weekly Greytalk chatroom, we discussed among other topics, The Underdark, Derro and the maligned 2nd edition adventure The Doomgrinder by Steve Miller. One area of great interest that was briefly mentioned was Oerth Journal editor, Nathan Irving's long discussed concept of the "Darks", five subregions of what we normally refer to as the Underdark. I dug up a simple yet cool map he posted on the subject of the Darks, and not knowing any particulars except the location of canon sources like the Vault of the Drow, one can easily draw their own ideas about these regions.

Somewhere out of these Darks we speculated about the origins and religion of the derro race. The derro first appeared in the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. Roger E. Moore later wrote an article in Dragon Magazine #241 titled Legacies of the Suel Imperium where it was learned the derro were a slave race created by breeding experiments with dwarves and humans. I believe it was Russel Taylor (Paizo freelancer) who then brought up that Derro in the Pathfinder setting are altered Pech. I like that idea alot better than human-dwarf hybrids actually.

The derro's involvement in the 1998 module The Doomgrinder then tangented to author Steve Miller whom I learned anecdotally blamed the Greyhawk community, then new to this thing called the Internet, for his being fired from TSR over his adventure. Miller was accused of being a sort of in-house freelancer with little direction (or knowledge of the setting), so it wouldn't surprise me today to hear the fans rose up over this literally campaign-crushing storyline. In fact I'm more surprised it doesnt happen more often. Fair warning for any future Greyhawk authors at Wizards.
At any rate that was turn of the century internet rage, now look at fandom today, most recently the popular uprising over the video game Mass Effect 3 and its despised endings. These people should know their setting yet the outcry has prompted the creators to take action. It slightly reminded me of the outrage by long time fans over the Forgotten Realms setting being blown up in a Spellplague to make way for 4th edition. I doubt anyone lost their job over this one but it's still left to be seen how Wizards will address FR in their next edition. Real time fan input is something Gygax and company luckily never had to deal with, or in my opinion, half the stuff put out for Greyhawk would've been panned and the setting for better or worse might've died long before the 21st century.

For more on the Under-Oerth check out Denis Tetreault's maps HERE.

And here's an old Greyhawk comic about the Doomgrinder from my archives.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Castle Greyhawk Comic: Finding Yrag

As you may have seen over at our dedicated blog page, Page 4 is finally up for the Castle Greyhawk colaborative project authored by Scott Casper and drawn by your's truly. You can also view the page HERE.

Tenser and Ehlissa are out beating the streets of Greyhawk City looking for an adventurer named Yrag to lead them to fame and fortune and who knows what else? I enjoyed taking on Scott's challenging scenes, costume choices and perspectives in this one, adding my own touches like a city gate. I am not sure of the exact "game map" location of the cat lady's house (or if there is one), but my guess is this Yrag fellow likes to stay low key. Keep an eye out for the next installment of Castle Greyhawk.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sea Princes #26: Narisban!

This is the continuing saga of the Sea Princes vessel Bird of Prey. Our protagonists, currently aboard the sister ship Osprem's Kiss made port in Narisban to wait on Captain Rennaud and the rest. They are:

Victor Emmitt Hammond (rogue, over board)
Araxo Tydan (rogue, struck a chord)
Cuahtehmoc aka "Cuahto" (ranger, swinging sword)
Brother Pickles "of the Jar" (cleric, hit on gourd)
and Henri Morgan (rogue, blood poured)

The party's first night back at Narisban was uneventful save drinking at the Last Respite tavern and the fact Victor Hammond had a finished crocodile hide coat waiting for him in town. While out, Hammond had the sense to hire a small time hedge mage to cast a Sending to Captain Rennaud to check and see if he was still alive and coming to rendezvous with them. The message was received and replied to by Rennaud much to the relief of Captain Cassidy and the Kiss' crew. While waiting several days for the Bird to arrive, Araxo, Pickles, Cuahto and Morgan resumed their hunt for the elusive Tarnas plant whose buds reputedly can grow missing body parts back. For their effort they came back empty handed, but worse, Cuahto and Araxo caught the Cackle Fever. With Pickle's care, Cuahto recovered faster than Araxo, who remained in his bunk cackling uncontrollably to everyone's annoyance save Scar who watched over him lest the noble lieutenant end up snuffed out by someone's pillow. Cuahto meanwhile made a new friend in a small capuchin monkey that was driven off Osprem's Kiss but tamed by the Olman ranger.

The Bird of Prey finally headed into port and everyone rejoiced to find he had succeeded in recovering Captain Ironclaw McGrath of the Crimson Fleet (and his lieutenant Symeon Flynch) for his hostage in trade for the wayward sage Lockard Meek. As plans were being made to get underway in a day, Lord Ronaldo Key's mouth got the best of him again in a shouting match with Victor. Vic asserted that Lord Key belonged on Osprem's Kiss with the other balless men and women, to which an offended Key revoked Victor's Port Torvin priveleges. Rennaud ended all arguments and they discussed another matter; one of their crew W.B. McGarnagle, a former crewmate on the Hideous under McGrath had been telling the captive too much and (from Blonde Barry and Billy Palsy's testimony) could not be trusted any longer.  The decision was agreed on that Flynch and McGarnagle would be left behind in Narisban at the last minute with no notice. Their last order of business was that they needed to beef up their strength before going to Scuttlecove, so Rennaud hired five local marines who were available at the Last Respite. So with Flynch and McGarnagle frogmarched down the gangplank, the two ships set out of port and around a small cape on a southerly course. Suddenly...

Waiting in ambush again was the privateer from KeolandLydia's Light! A warning shot was fired across their bow and signals made to parley with the Bird. The scheming Araxo Tydan talked his captain into leading the diplomatic entourage over to the Light. Osprem's Kiss however was bristling ready for a fight and crept up to interpose with it's sister ship if need be. Araxo, Pickles, Vic, Morgan and Cuahto were brought on deck of the Lydia's Light, faced by marines armed with swords and crossbows, to finally meet their pursuer, Captain Rynn of Gradsul a learned sailor and adherent of the goddess of light and knowledge. With him stood in plain clothes, a Knight of the Watch named Sir Aris Westford. Their demand was simple, have "the Blackguard" Sir Eduard Rennaud turn himself over and everyone else would have safe passage. The back and forth between crews heated up with sly insults and neither side budging due to their sense of honor. Then it slipped out that Lord Key had previously met the crew of Lydia's Light weeks ago while in Fort Blackwell and had been given an owl shaped trinket to identify himself should they meet again. Key had been tracked by magic to Narisban!

With things spiralling out of control, someone (likely Araxo?) attacked Captain Rynn. Before anyone on the other ships could realize parley had been broken, Sir Aris rushed at Victor Hammond as he half drew his steel and both went tumbling over board into the water. Swords were drawn, pistols were drawn and three ships sprang into action firing ballistae, cannon and arrows. Captain Rynn was winged by a shot from Morgan and he fell back behind a wall of crossbowmen who then peppered their assailants with bolts. The fight quickly went bad for the five as reinforcements arrived every moment. Araxo leapt for the water to swim back to his ship. Cuahto fell to injuries and had to crawl off into the water masked by the chaos of battle. Morgan had taken up Cuahto's dropped pistol and was fighting alongside Pickles who was raging with cleaver in hand. Morgan was ran through and began bleeding out on the timbers, while Pickles was sapped unconscious. Out numbered and in too close, Lydia's Light took a beating from Osprem's Kiss while it covered the Bird of Prey's pick up of those who fell into the water.

Both ships skulked out of range and soon sight as the Keoish privateer sat hobbled with a broken mast and torn rigging. However, they had Brother Pickles in irons as well as a near dead Henri Morgan (saved by a Lydian priestess). Back on the Bird of Prey, hull damage was quickly patched, casulties were assessed and those who were rescued from the sea were tended to, including a certain captive Knight of the Watch...

(to be continued)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Incabulos Strikes!

Curse you Incabulos! I really, really hate being sick. I missed a game night, I haven't been upright long enough to work on any side projects and to make matters worse, I could hear all the neighbors outside starting to tend their lawns for the first time this spring. Curse you Phyton! Curse you Atroa! Oh well, more next time Greyhawk fans!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Greyhawk Affiliations: Prince's Fleet

One of the few things I still like that I took from late 3.5e D&D was the Affiliation system that ran in the Dungeon Masters Guide 2. Affiliations also saw alot of use in Paizo's two Greyhawk-centric AP's the Age of Worms and Savage Tide. The idea that you can join a group, a guild, a profession, a faction of some kind, is an excellent way to ground a character in a setting and at the same time give a player a list of goals and in-game rewards for participating in exploring the worlds and cultures of your setting. I am also pleased that the affiliation system, while 3.5e in nature can easily work with any edition. So with that said, I've been striving to develop my Sea Princes campaign in a way that my players will find useful instead of purely fluff reading (which few care about). Thus I have created my first unique affiliation, the Prince's Fleet.

Disclaimer: I am no expert at writing game rules, in fact I know this affiliation might be lacking in information that professionally made ones might have, but for a casual campaign, what I present here should suffice. The rules and charts below should be self-explanatory.

PRINCE’S FLEET

Symbol: Varies depending on which port or which noble house is being served. All contain at least the colors blue or gold with a sailing ship, a golden crown or the combination of a ship topped by a gold crown, the traditional heraldic symbol of the Hold of the Sea Princes.
                Enemies and Allies: Most loyalists to the Prince of Monmurg despise the Kingdom of Keoland, the Crimson Fleet of Scuttlecove and hold a bitter centuries old rivalry with the former rulers of the Hold, the nobles of Port Toli. The Prince’s Fleet is well received in the free city of Sasserine and is on good trading terms with the Iron League, particularly the Lordship of the Isles whose Suel born buccaneers enjoy a friendly rivalry at sea.
                Members: Members of the Prince’s Fleet are primarily captains, landed nobles and officers of their respective houses and ships, but have been known to include skilled experts like shipwrights, musicians and catographers. People of any character class or race can be found among the Prince’s court though a majority is from the Hold and are Suel blooded by background. It is not uncommon to find expatriates of other nations among those pledged to the Prince’s Fleet. While Prince Jeon’s recent attempt to abolish slavery failed it has only strengthened the Fleet’s reputation among the oppressed masses.
Titles, Benefits, and Duties: Members of the Prince’s Fleet are expected to adhere to the “Prince’s Charter”, the Hold’s version of the Articles of Agreement that all sailors of the South Seas swear to when joining a ship. Abandoning these laws is tantamount to treason in the eyes of the Fleet. Characters who declare themselves to the Prince’s Fleet should also strive to uphold the reputation of the Prince, Monmurg and the dignity of the entire Hold of the Sea Princes. Advancing the Hold’s power either spiritually, socially, economically or technologically is considered the duty of all loyalists of any rank. New buccaneers of the Fleet are usually gifted with a garment or accessory bearing the Prince’s colors and heraldry by either their captain, master or another member.

Criterion                                                                                              Affiliation Score Modifier
Character level                                                                                     +1/2 PC level
5 or more ranks in Profession (sailor)                                              +1/2
5 or more ranks in Knowledge (local)                                              +1/2
5 or more ranks in Knowledge (nobility)                                         +1/2
Cleric of a sea god                                                                               +1
Adventure with Princes Fleet members                                           +1
Completes a mission assigned by Prince’s Council                       +2
Fail mission for the Prince’s Council                                                -2
Gain first captaincy                                                                            +2
Donates goods to the Prince                                                              +1/2000 gp (twice per year)
Explore new land/ open new trade route                                        +2
Ransom or imprison notable enemy of the Prince                        +1/8 NPC level
Ally with Keoland or the Crimson Fleet                                          -4
Mutiny against a Fleet member                                                        -15 (and expelled unless PC goes to Monmurg to face Prince’s judgment)

Affiliation Score                                Title: Benefits and Duties
3 or lower                             Junior member with no title or benefits.
4-10                                       Buccaneer: Colors of the Hold to signify alliance. The buccaneer also earns an appropriate nickname (unless one is already used) that gives the PC a +2 bonus to bluff, intimidate or gather information checks (choose one).  At bars, Buccaneers are also typically given the first round free when first returning to a Hold port.
11-20                                     Loyal Holder: Reputation. Gain a +2 bonus to either diplomacy, gather information or perform (choose one). Also sell goods in the Hold at +5% cost.
21-29                                     Respected Holder: Great reputation. Sell goods in the Hold at +10% cost.
30 or higher                         Prince’s Council: Portrait in Court of Monmurg. Gain another +2 bonus to either diplomacy, bluff, perform or intimidate (choose one). Favor of the Prince (once per year, at DM’s discretion).

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ring of Five Questions: Wolfgang Baur

Rejoice fellow Greyhawk fans, it is time for another installment of the Ring of Five Questions! In previous episodes we have checked in with great authors and artists of Greyhawkia like Creighton BroadhurstJames M. Ward and most recently Rob Lazzaretti. Our next entrant to the Ring, though modest, is among the most recognizable names in D&D lore and he continues to lead the way for open gaming content today: Wolfgang Baur. Mr. Baur got his start working for TSR on Dungeon Magazine. From that humble beginning he catapulted into editing Dragon Magazine and designing for nearly every game world such as Dark Matter, Alternity, Al Qadim, Planescape and Birthright. Wolfgang is the author of fourteen adventures for Dungeon including a few for Greyhawk: Raiders of the Black Ice, The Clockwork Fortress and A Gathering of Winds. Following the demise of Paizo Publishing's print versions of Dragon and Dungeon Magazine, Wolfgang started his own award winning gaming company and magazine, Kobold Quarterly, to fill the void. A pretty impressive bio, but let's see how Mr. Baur fares in the Ring...

Q1. I know you're familiar with the Darlene map. What would you say is your favorite land in the World of Greyhawk?

Wolfgang: That's almost impossible to answer, since there are so many good choices! But I would say that I used to be a huge fan of the Great Kingdom's decadence and decay, and then I had a thing for the Bandit Kingdoms, and then I liked the western lands like Zeif and Ekbir. The European influenced lands seemed more real to me. These days, I like the Lands of Black Ice and the Sea of Dust, because hey, lands of pure adventure and true killer-DM despair. I'm turning into a killer DM again in my middle age!

Q2. Greyhawk has a god for every type, but if you could actually be one Greyhawk deity which one would it be?

Wolfgang: Er, it's hard to go wrong with Pelor. When I'm writing adventures, I like the dark side and the quirky hero-gods to some degree (go Kelanen go!). But who to be? I really want to be living on the light side. And hey, Pelor made it into the core pantheon from AD&D to 4th Edition. Can't do better than that.

Q3. You have quite a resume when it comes to D&D magazines. Did you or anyone else ever pitch a Greyhawk related project that didn't make the cut?

Wolfgang: Nope, most of what I pitched that didn't make it was generic rather than world-specific. There was not a lot of love for Greyhawk outside a small circle (most of the magazine editors were fans), and the Realms always sold better. So... If you really wanted a pitch to go over, the smart freelancer would pitch the New Hotness or the Realms. The Greyhawk articles and adventures were mostly labors of love. I think that style has made a comeback in some places, but it may still be a minority taste.

Q4. You did a couple intriguing adventures for Dungeon Magazine set in the Land of Black Ice. What do you think is under all that ice?

Wolfgang: Demons in a spaceship? A lich king from beyond the stars? One of the Elder Elementals? I don't know for sure, and in some ways that is the point. When I was younger, I was sure that knowing the answer was always better than not knowing. Now, I think that the mystery and the tease is a lot of the appeal of places like the Land of Black Ice. Knowing would sort of kill it for me.

Q5. Are you for or against the "silly and anachronistic" aspects of Greyhawk?

Wolfgang: I hate that silly stuff, even when Gary did it (I'm thinking Murlynd or the various punny bits of Magic Mirror). I can stand a little anachronism, but really, once you get into lasers and spaceships, why not just call it Star Wars and be done? Although.... I loved Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. I guess I'm inconsistent on this. I'm happy to play robots vs. wizards as a one-shot. I just don't want it in my home game, the somewhat Greyhawkian world of Midgard (I like to think that Gygax would have loved the cantonal dwarves).

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sea Princes #25: Meanwhile...

I'm gonna try and get caught up on some more of the Sea Princes campaign today. The subplots are beginning to entangle nicely. Last time I revealed what gambit Cpt. Rennaud and the Bird of Prey were up to in Sasserine, this week the point of view switches back to the original player characters who are currently onboard Osprem's Kiss, bound for a rendezvous at the Olman Isles port of Narisban. Would their trip be uneventful? Hardly. They are:

Victor Emmitt Hammond (rogue, rope swinger)
Araxo Tydan (rogue, serpent stabber)
Cuahtehmoc aka "Cuahto" (ranger, tattooed attacker)
Brother Pickles "of the Jar" (cleric, fish filleter)
and Henri Morgan (rogue, cannon caller)
Captain "Jet" Cassidy had more passengers on her carrack than she was used to, so she and the woman of the Kiss put them all to work, including the whining noble Lord Key. Araxo took shifts at the wheel and aided his counterpart first mate Sasha Dirk in duties while Victor was put to work with Half-Pint Moira on the rigging and in his spare time he instructed the eunuch crew in swordplay. Pickles, Henri, Olfon Trebus, Scar and Ronaldo Key were given the most menial chores like swabbing the deck, mending sails and Pickle's favorite, shining the ceremonial breastplates of the Ospremites. Cuahto for his worth also spent time up in the rigging with Hammond but also was lowered off the side of the prow to repaint the captain's figurehead, a likeness of the goddess Osprem blowing a kiss.
 
At night Lord Key met alone with his cousin Araxo to play some chess and to talk of their venture should the captain not be able to return from Sasserine. Obviously Count Tydan had put alot of money and faith in Rennaud only to find out it was a personal quest. Lord Key was torn between cutting their losses and turning back for Port Torvin or dealing with the Crimson Fleet for the sage themselves. Araxo mulled this over and other ways to be rid of his meddling cousin, but knew they were at the mercy of Captain Cassidy until then. The peaceful interlud was interrupted however as the ship shook violently and the crew cried alarm. Rushing to the deck they all saw the massively thick coils drawing around the vessel. Off the port side a serpentine head crested in black, rose from the depths to bare its fangs at the hapless defenders. Cuahto had heard of this beast only in tales, the dread sea serpent of the Amedio coast: Black Fin
 
The sailors of Osprem's Kiss rallied swiftly at the command of their captains and first among them was Cuahto who drew his strange magical maca, creating illusory tattoos on his face when he charged into battle. The sharp obsidian blades hit the coils of the monster but it obliviously went on grappling the vessel and nabbing a panicked eunuch with its maw. Morgan rushed to assemble the cannon crew below deck on the port side. It would be a hard angle to shoot from as he had to wait for a coil to come into line even as the timbers of the ship creaked around him. Araxo and Scar took to the main deck covered by arrows and stabbing spears of Ospremites, and hacked at any weak spot they could find while Victor climbed the rigging to get a closer shot at its head. Pickles meanwhile harpooned the upper length of Black Fin to hang on and get an up-close attack at the beast with his silvered meat cleaver. The fearlessly muscled cleric hacked at the serepent and took chunks out of it's scaled side.
 
Swinging from a rope, Victor slashed at the creature's eye and continued to make a pass as arrows flew all around. The frenzied battle raged on as another eunuch or two were swallowed whole, with the last put out of his misery with a crack shot while still trapped within the monster's jaws. Morgan's cannons roared and skimmed the coiled lengths of Black Fin and blackpoweder pistols thundered creating more smoke and confusion. Still hungry but injured, Black Fin could take no more of the loud and painful ship, so he uncoiled and returned the lightless depths to lick his wounds. Osprem's Kiss hobbled onward lest Black Fin change his mind and a day later the ship took repairs near the coast of the Olman Isles.
 
The next morning the Ospremites conducted a ritual to protect their ship from a further attack. The priestesses lined up on deck in gauze-like robes while Sister Merci led their prayers to the Lady of the Waves. During this ceremony, Pickles was enlisted to ladle seawater over the heads of the praying women much to the envy of his onlooking compatriots, but not the eunuchs. That night after a hard day's work, the crew was unwinding with extra rum rations and Pickle's special Black Fin steaks. A slightly drunk Lord Key maliciously instigated another scuffle between rivals, Scar and Half Pint then leaving the scene, made to hit on the aloof Sasha Dirk on deck. She was enraged by his pawing hands but Key wouldn't relent. Seeing this, Victor Hammond interposed between the two and provoked Lord Key into throwing the first punch, but inadvertantly he was shoved aside by Sasha who then ended up taking the punch. Having had enough of the pompous landlubber, Victor thrashed the man till Araxo had to order him to stand down. At that Vic held his hands out and happily let them put him in irons, because it was worth it to see Key beaten to a pulp. The next day Key was still out cold in a hammock while in the brig, Vic got a rare personal visit and thanks from the brooding first mate...
 
 
 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

D&D Next (5e) New Logos?

Over at Wizards of the Coast's website is a column called Dragon's Eye View by Jon Schindehette. In his latest posting he muses over the trials and tribulations that go into creating a brand logo like for Dungeons & Dragons. With the "next iteration" on the horizon you can bet the logo is changing. I doubt any of the concept logos presented in this article will be the final one, but there is some good stuff here to check out if anything else for curiosity's sake. So go on, you don't need a subscription to read this column, plus there's a poll at the end on logo design elements and a long comments section if you want to add your opinion to this semi-important issue.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Castle Greyhawk Blog: Enter Ehlissa

First off, Scott Casper and myself are now posting completed pages of our collaborative Castle Greyhawk graphic novel on a dedicated blog aptly named, Castle Greyhawk (the Comic Strip). This will make it easy to go back and read earlier pages without having to sift through weeks of blog content elsewhere. In the meantime I'll continue to cross promote things here and provide my insights as I go along with the project.

Page three in the tale, sees the introduction of a young magess named Ehlissa. Tenser walking down the street is one of the single best panels I've drawn in the last five years. I researched the neighborhood around the Roc and Oliphant (C14) heavily for the right look. Tenser is walking toward Bard Street in the district of Clerkburg when he turns west and runs into our female protagonist.

As you may or may not see from this amazing bird's eye view rendering of Greyhawk City from the City of Greyhawk boxed set, the buildings seem to be slightly larger and more clustered than they appear in the generic game map above. In my opinion medieval cities should look crammed together so I took some artistic license (not that anyone would've noticedthe difference, but there you go). For a more accurate version of the CoG maps check out Denis Tetreault's published revision that came out several years ago.

Until next time!

Sea Princes #24: Swashbuckling Action?

I'm still way behind on these reports, my apologies. Last time, the Bird of Prey sent five intrepid crewmen to go spring imprisoned Captain "Ironclaw" McGrath from his prison in Sasserine, so as to use him as ransom for the captured sage Lockard Meek. The men chosen were all of questionable judgement:


W.B. McGarnagle (fighter, desecration of a shrine)
Wodrick "Shank" Grubbyhill (bard, maiming an officer)
"Blonde" Barry Picaroon" (fighter, inciting a riot)
"Two-Bit" Jack Ginth (rogue, grand arson)
and Billy Palsy (rogue, jailbreaking)

With smoke at their back, weapons drawn and Cudgel watchmen closing in, the five sprung into action by....splitting up! Bill Palsy retreated through the kitchen and smoke to emerge in the rear courtyard. Still disguised in uniform, he went running for a far tower to bluff another guard into helping him evacuate all prisoners due to the fire. Blonde Barry Picaroon bull rushed his way past a couple guards at the door and got outside as well. In an attempt to blend in with the confused crowd of watchmen (and no doubt to show off his physique), Barry took his shirt off and went running to find Billy. Meanwhile, tiny Wodrick "Shank" Grubbyhill hid under a great hall table and drew his blades as two armed guards went peeking under them to find him. One got hamstringed, while another got stabbed in the voice box for getting too close. The guards were careful in moving in on the gnome, so seizing his chance, Wodrick ran out from under the tables and entered a side chamber then closed the doors and barred it with a tall candlestand before his pursuers could get the gumption to come after him.

Meanwhile, acrobatic Two-Bit Jack Ginth rode a rope up to the balcony and sent a chandelier crashing down around a group of guards. His comrade in crime, W.B. McGarnagle roughed his way and disarmed a guard to get outside after Blone Barry. McGarnagle sacrificed his sword to bar the portal temporarily and give him time to dash toward a sounding bell tower marked with the symbol of St. Cuthbert. An avowed pyromaniac, Ginth ran along the balcony knocking over lamps and lanterns and setting tapestries afire as the guards turned and ran up the stairs to head him off again. He kicked out a window however and deftly dropped down by way of a torn tapestry to the courtyard below In the distance he saw the same bell tower that McGarnagle had entered.

After Wodrick took the time to barricade himself in the west wing of the central manor, he did a quick search and found a small locked coffer in an office (chest sized to a gnome). Cackling at his luck, the crafty gnome bard hefted the container and looked for another way out...Billy Palsy and Barry Picaroon ran through a hysterical crowd following a duped guard toward the last tower in the garrison. The one holding the prison block. Once inside they ascended some stairs and were met by the loyally unmoving turnkey of the prison tower. Not a bluff from Billy nor an intimidating threat from Barry would move this man. "If the tower caught on fire, the scum in here would deserve to burn!" he declared. In a hurry, Palsy knifed the duped guard and Blonde Barry clubbed the turnkey unconscious. Taking both their uniforms off, they hurried up to the cells above to find Ironclaw McGrath.

Out of frying pan and into the fire, McGarnagle was discovered by a trio of armored Cuthbertian priests inside the chapel tower. up above another priest rang the bell to warn the city of the fire. Assuming he was the source of the mayhem, the priests raised their maces and closed in. McGarnagle had had enough and dashed toward a stained glass window depicting Cuthbert and crashed through it to make his escape through a garden. The cries of desecrator were faintly heard as he ran toward the nearest alley. Behind him in the confusion, Two-Bit had entered the same tower and rushed up the circular stairs toward the bell tower. Attempting to set fires as he went along the vicious Ginth finally reached the top and pushed an unwary bell-ringer down to his death on the chapel floor below. Standing on the ledge at the top of this turret he surveyed the city from the smoldering garrison and leapt into the night....

Blonde Barry and Billy Palsy finallt found McGrath as well as his first mate from the Hideous, Symeon Flynch. After explaining what ship they hailed from and who was breaking him out, McGrath seemed pleased with this turn of fate and the pair manacled him and freed him from the cell. Symeon Flynch was given the keys and allowed to free himself. He would willingly go anywhere his captain went even into hostage if it meant being on a ship out of Sasserine. The Bird of Prey would be in just as much trouble as them if anyone found out who freed them after all. Using rope he brought from the ship, Barry, Billy and prisoners climbed down from a parapet to the far side of the wall; from there they slipped discretly back to their waiting gondola to sneak back to their ship. Amazingly, W.B. McGarnagle was there waiting for them. He could only venture that Two-Bit and Shank were dead or captured. McGrath greeted his former crewman and said no more until they were safely onboard the Bird and sailing out to bay with streams of smoke rising behind them in the predawn sky.

Epilogue: Horses raced for safety, wagons rolled out of the gates, and concerned citizens rushed to and fro with water buckets. In the pandemonium none noticed a small silhouetted figure waddling out the front gate carrying a money laden coffer...

Game notes: That was an amazing session needless to say. Tracking the action in multiple directions was a challenge but the players were quite into the thrilling mayhem they caused. In the end they did the right thing, but in the process left the door open to play some of these troublemakers again someday.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Blackmoor, Black Ice and More Maps

Anna Meyer is on a roll over at the Atlas of the Flanaess. She has recently finished a huge swathe of maps covering the areas known as the "Bitter North" or "Old Blackmoor". The links aren't updated on her site as of yet, so here is some links to the individual area maps via the Flanaess Cartographic Society. Thanks a million Anna!

Western Land of Black Ice
http://ghmaps.net/areamaps/Sq5v1.jpg
http://ghmaps.net/areamaps/Sq5v1.pdf

Northern Black Ice/ Dramidj Ocean
http://ghmaps.net/areamaps/Sq6v1.jpg
http://ghmaps.net/areamaps/Sq6v1.pdf

Eastern Black Ice/ Brink Islands
http://ghmaps.net/areamaps/Sq7v1.jpg
http://ghmaps.net/areamaps/Sq7v1.pdf

Eastern Burneal/ Western Blackmoor
http://ghmaps.net/areamaps/Sq19v1.jpg
http://ghmaps.net/areamaps/Sq19v1.pdf

Eastern Blackmoor
http://ghmaps.net/areamaps/Sq20v2.jpg
http://ghmaps.net/areamaps/Sq20v2.pdf

Northern Vesve
http://ghmaps.net/areamaps/Sq32v1.jpg
http://ghmaps.net/areamaps/Sq32v1.jpg


"Check out the Bitter North she said.
It'll be good for your health she said."

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mythos of the High Seas

Recently in my high seas Sea Princes campaign I've been using alot of deities that I normally didn't care much about in campaigns past. The reason for this usually because my games tended to be set inland on the Flanaess, centered on core type deities that everyone has heard of like St Cuthbert, Vecna or Wee Jas. With a setting now centered on the coastal realms of the Azure Sea and far-flung adjacent waters like the Oljatt Sea, Vohoun Ocean, and Jeklea Bay, I can now concentrate on the dangerous and exotic gods of the sea that would only concern sailors and other denizens of the waters.
Skimming through the entries in the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer one can see that coastal nations tend to worship many of the same gods whether they are Suel or Oerid in origin. I think the reason for this is their overlapping concerns. A sailor can never be certain which sea or wind god is angry and needs to be appeased. A rivalry does exist between Procan and Xerbo for instance but it's not a dichotomy we can easily understand like Hextor-Heironeous or Pelor-Nerull. In my opinion, centuries of seafaring history has mingled some of these religions into a psuedo-mythos that all sailors should pay homage to, be they from the Hold of the Sea Princes, Lordship of the Isles or the Sea Barons. With these common gods comes even more associated myths of the deep: unnatural monstrous gods, demons and legendary forces of nature that superstitious sailors must keep in mind. Adventuring around Greyhawk City might be dangerous, but adventurers on the high seas put their lives in the hands of the gods every day.

Mythos of the High Seas

Procan the Storm Lord, Sailor of the Sea and Sky (Seas, Sea Life, Salt, Weather, Navigation)
his children, known as the Velaeri: (normally agricultural deities, at sea they are sought for their favorable air currents)
Atroa the Sad Maiden (East Wind)
Sotillion the Summer Queen (South Wind)
Telchur the Icebrother (North Wind)
Wenta the Harvest Daughter (West Wind)
Velnius the Elder Breeze (Sky, Weather, oversees the four winds)

Xerbo the Sea Dragon (Sea, Sailing, Business)
and his occasional consort
Osprem the Sea Princess, Lady of the Waves (Sea Voyages, Ships, Sailors)

Eadro the Bather of Gills (Locathahs, Tritons and Merfolk)
Deep Sashelas the Lord of the Undersea (Sea Elves)

Vogan (Touv god of Storms)
Tlaloc (Olman god of Rain)

(Navigators)
Celestian the Far Wanderer (Stars)
Pholtus of the Blinding Light (Light, Moons)

(Pirates, Swashbucklers, Corsairs)
Istus the Lady of Our Fate
Kelanen the Sword Saint
Kord the Brawler
Kurell the Vengeful Knave
Norebo the God of Gambles
Rudd the Duelist
Olidammara the Laughing Rogue

(Evils to Avoid)
Blipdoolpoolp the Sea Mother (Kuo-Toa)
Sekolah the Great Shark, the Caller From the Depths (Sahuagin)
Panzuriel the Deep Old One, the Banished One (Evil aquatic creatures, Kraken)
Incabulos the Black Rider (Sickness, Nightmares, Famine)
Nerull the King of All Gloom (Death, Darkness)
Ralishaz the Unlooked For (Ill-luck, Misfortune)
Yan-C-Bin the Evil Elemental Prince of Air
Olhydra the Evil Elemental Princess of Water 
Dagon the Demon Prince of the Darkened Depths


Saturday, March 3, 2012

More Map of Maure

Okay it's not a new map, but recently I was impressed by a simple regional map in my all-time favorite module WG5: Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure. What makes this map elegant is how it's a close-up of one 30 mile wide hex on the Darlene map. This type of map brings to mind old sand box campaigns like Keep on the Borderlands where there was plenty to do within a small area. Off the top of my head I can recall one other map like this in the Temple of Elemental Evil series, but in general this one scores high for color and design, incorporating various terrains of the area and adding a few new ones like an old rutted road overgrown by a wide region brambles or nearby fens. Like I said it's nothing new, but what with all the continental maps being worked on these days, I hope this inspires a few industrious DMs to generate their own localized hex maps. There's plenty to choose from!

click to enlarge