Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Greyhawk Comic Rewind: Boccob

Howdy Greyhawk gang! Today I'm looking back on a random Greyhawk comic strip from June 22nd, 2006. This one is very dated in fact because the idea stemmed from a defunct forum that discussed material from a defunct magazine. Sheesh! p.s. in case you aren't aware, the deity without a shirt is Lendor the God of Time.

Here is my corresponding comment from the strip:

There has been an interesting discussion on the Greyhawk forums at Wizards about Boccob's mystery of magic fading on Oerth. Most people either are FOR Magic dying out or they are absolutely against it. This is one of my favorite ongoing Greyhawk topics. It's fun to speculate the nature of magic on the game world and what might cause its decline. Recent Dragon articles have only added to the controversy. But, it's high time Boccob put this mystery to bed, so...Enjoy.
-Mortellan



Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Greyhawk A-Z: Deities Part 2

Hello again Greyhawk readers. I'm making another attempt to alphabetically survey various topics about Greyhawk. Last time I did People, this time I'm bringing back Deities. Ready? Let's begin:

Allitur. Wow, so here's a deity I know nearly zero about that is quite cool in reality. Lawful Good deity of ethics, brother of Rao and ally of Heironeous. Allitur is a liaison to other pantheons. Meaning? He can go to Faerun and talk to Mystra or Bane. What other D&D god does that? Allitur's domain, Emyprea is cool too (nod to Frank Mantzer). It's numerous healing fountains and hospitals makes this place a great destination for heroes on a planar quest.

Beory. Good old Mother Oerth, a flan deity like Allitur, she is above the concerns of lesser deities. Beory is a druidic type goddess who is the embodiment of the planet. This of course makes me wonder if the magical alloy Oerthblood, is then literally the divine blood (or essence) of Beory. And does mortals mining it, anger her?

Celestian. If Beory embodies the planet, does Celestian the god of stars and space embody everything else in Greyspace? I doubt it. His basic description is inspiring travel by navigating the stars and understanding their patterns. He isn't a greater god after all, he is more like his brother Fharlanghn and is a guide of travelers. Celestian in fact hangs out with quasi-deities like Murlynd, Heward and Keoghtom. not Beory or Allitur.

Daern. Hero-deity of fortifications. I'm a big fan of Greyhawk's ascended mortals to demigodhood. It echoes real life mythology (Hercules) and it gives players something to aspire to as heroes. What always struck me funny about Daern's addition to the pantheon (around 2E I think?) was that the deity is female. Everyone has heard of the Daern's Instant Fortress magic item from 1E, but who made the choice to say Daern is a woman, when for all those years I assumed (and I know I'm not alone) it was male. I'm glad Daern is female, but in hindsight it seems like a sly move that went under the radar.

Ehlonna. Called Ehlenestra by the elves, she is one of those dual human-demihuman deities that the setting provided in the early days before the elves, orcs, dwarves, etc. got their own pantheons. Ehlonna is the proverbial princess surrounded by unicorns and faeries in a sylvan forest. She is an archer as well, having the famous Quiver of Ehlonna to her name.

Fharlanghn. Speaking of wandering deities, Fharlanghn is the earth-bound brother of Celestian. He knows all there is to know about the geography of the Flanaess, and I imagine, beyond. I've extensively used him in comics to relay lore about Oerth, but never in my games really. Fharlanghn is a fascinating deity, with many relics and allies (and a lover), but be sure to check out his wiki entry, particularly the part about Journey's End. This is another healing destination for heroes much like Empyrea.

Geshtai. I wish this deity of fresh water and wells had more relevance in the setting. She is Baklunish which isn't the primary focus of most DMs, but she comes without any of that real-world religious connotation like Al-Akbar. She's depicted as a young woman carrying a water vessel and has a fish companion named Gummus. How cute, almost Disneyesque.

Heironeous. Everyone knows Heironeous right? Typical good guy war deity with invulnerable skin. One thing that rankles me to this day is how Gygax gave him a magic battle axe as a primary weapon then later editions changed it to a long sword cause boring reasons. At first it does seem odd for your knight-paladin prototype god to have a battle axe, but what got ignored is how it shrinks to 1/20 its size. That's about 3" or keychain size. How many magic swords do that? Further overlooked, Heironeous can throw lightning bolts ala Zeus. What weapon he fights with is moot after that right?

Incabulos. Probably my favorite evil deity since he remains largely underused. Despite this, a lot of what happens in the world at large can be attributed to his portfolio; sickness, famine, drought, nightmares. Incabulos is ever-present even if he isn't actively trying to take over the world. That's why he is a greater deity like Nerull. Death is already a given so his cultists like Incabulos', are just doing his work for him. There is no greater conspiracy involved. Unlike Nerull though, Incabulos' depredations can be countered.

Jascar. Here is a god of hills and mountains that gets little to no attention. The Suel pantheon of Greyhawk, detailed by Len Lakofka in the pages of Dragon Magazine back in the day, really went into depth on these deities, but very few (besides Wee Jas) became what I would call household names among D&D enthusiasts. Jascar is the brother of Fortubo, a smithy god (synergy) and possible cross-over god with dwarves (like mentioned above). Jascar has potential.

Kord. The Brawler. Another important Suel god spun from the same cloth as Jascar and company above, but Kord seemed to achieve a bit of popularity himself in later editions. This is not because of anything in his rich extensive background however. Quiz name his great sword, or his mom and dads name. I highly doubt these things matter to players except that Kord is the typical strong barbarian deity and that explains itself. Check out Kord, he has a lot going on.

Lendor. Let's keep the Suel gods going. Lendor is Kord's grandfather, and to this day I'm not sure if Len Lakofka intended the greater deity Lendor is supposed to be the same as the wizard Lendore who founded the Spindrift Isles/Lendore Isles. He is supposed to be a god of time who has no hand in mortal matters (except choking out occasional chimeras) so maybe not? Someone help me on this.

Mayaheine. Much like Daern, I ceretainly believe Mayaheine was wisely brought in (by Carl Sargent) to give this male-dominated medieval war milieu a female voice during the Greyhawk Wars. Mayaheine is a demigoddess under the service of normally peaceful Pelor. Iuz ust got so out of hand he had to bring in help for Heironeous. I like Mayaheine, there's much left to explore with her background and religion, so I hope she can be elevated to prominence in the future.

Nazarn. This hero-deity is a new addition to the Greyhawk Mythos from 3E era, first appearing in the Living Greyhawk Journal. What makes Nazarn unique is he is a half-orc. I imagine in the evolving structure of this pantheon it was good to have a playable race represented in the lists. Nazarn didn't have it easy, his origin is the arenas of the Scarlet Brotherhood (I would've picked Ull) and he had to impress a half-giant son of Kord with several epic combats before getting Kord's personal approval for godhood. I'd say Nazarn earned his spot.

Olidammara. Good old Olidammara is usually a good go to deity for rogues and bards. He is the Dionysus of Greyhawk as well, so any good tavern in the Flanaess would be well to respect Olid. Over the editions his story has grown to the point we now know he has his own heralds, relics and legends. Read all about it.

Phyton. Oh those wacky Suel gods. So here is another "casualty" of the deity list where for completions sake they have a god devoted to beauty in nature and farming. He is the rival of druids cause he wants to cultivate land, mow lawns and create new types of flowers perhaps. Phyton certainly isn't the 70th choice of an adventuring cleric and that limits his appeal.

Quetzalcoatl. It is not easy finding "Q" deities of course, so the famed winged serpent is probably my last best option. He is of course the head of the Olman pantheon, via the Central American Mythos. Using a literal Earth-origin pantheon made sense before there was a published Oerth pantheon to use, but keeping them is a bad decision that should've been fixed decades after their appearance in Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan. Too late now of course, Quetzalcoatl and company are just another strange twist to the World of Greyhawk's weird side.

Ralishaz. God of bad luck. This is the god a cleric takes if he is chaotic neutral and wants his companions to hate him. Though a male deity, his form switches from male to female often. Either way, he is not good a good god to invoke. This makes it even stranger that he is most popular in Ull, which is a largely agnostic society. I guess Uli really like to curse misfortune on others.

Sotillion. One of the four Oeridian agriculture goddesses, Sotillion is Summer or the south wind. She enjoys comforts of a good life and that is why she is also the wife of Zilchus the god of money. Enough said! Could you imagine playing a cleric of Sotillion? Me neither cause she would never leave the temple for your silly quest.

Trithereon. Now here is a good deity to use. Trithereon is the god of retribution and liberty. He has so much to like, magic weapons, several summonable animal companions and a cool scepter that can banish criminals to a prison demiplane. It's a crying shame in 3E, his retribution portfolio was sponged up by Saint everything is about him Cuthbert. Let Trithereon be his own god!

Urogalan: Okay here is the part of the post where I dig deep into the barrel for a name. Urogalan is the halfling demigod of death. He is not an evil god, more a protector of the dead which seems right for halflings. What I'm curious about is why he is called the Black Hound. What does dogs + death mean in halfling culture?

Velnius. A sky and weather god. Velnius is the eldest brother of the four female wind goddesses and all are children of angry Procan. I love Greyhawk's deity family trees as they include big names and many lesser players. If a god doesn't have family connection they were probably sponsored or served under another god. Sure I grouch a lot about underused D&D gods like Velnius, but in the end his kind are there to provide substance to the overall mythology.

Wenta. Speaking of familial deities, here is one of Sotillion's sisters. The four sisters are collectively called the Velaeri. She is the goddess of Autumn and the West wind. She's probably my favorite because of her association with brewing (Brewfest is abig Greyhawk holiday). Wenta while not a popular deity is one you can often name-drop in taverns in the same breath as Olidammara.

Xerbo. Speaking of ocean god Procan, Xerbo is his main rival as god of the sea. Xerbo is nothing special, a fairly typical Poseidon-lite figure, but Xerbo is also a sailor's deity which would make him (and his wife, sea goddess Osprem) quite popular had Greyhawk been a seafaring focused D&D setting. I know from my own Hold of the Sea Princes campaigns him and the sea gods get more play.

Ye'Cind. Had to dig deep for this one too. Ye'Cind is an elven demigod of music. This patron of bards is most noted for the famous artifact Recorder of Ye'Cind. While Ye'Cind is male (hard to tell with elves) he was named for Gygax's daughter Cindy. I don't think I've ever used Ye'Cind or his Recorder in any of my games. I can't say that about most on this list (except Urogalan).

Zilchus. God of money and business. Amusingly, I based my old comic version of Zilchus on Donald Trump. Well, maybe a more successful, likable version before he went into politics. On the other hand, given the root of his name is "zilch" maybe he has been bankrupt a few times as well.

That's all for now. I don't think there's enough to make a third pass on this A-Z Deity list. Only time will tell. For some other reading on Greyhawk Deities, dash over to Greyhawk Grognard.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Unusual Greyhawk Facts

Hey Greyhawk fans! I don't have much going on this week, except maybe that I started running the classic Forge of Fury from the 5E Tales From the Yawning Portal adventure compilation. FoF isn't a Greyhawk module, but I've had an easy time retrofitting it to the Flanaess. Since I just got started on that what else can I do except crack open my copy of the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer and read some random facts about the setting you probably don't know (or care about). All in good fun. Here we go!


United Kingdom of Ahlissa. The state religion is Zilchus god of money and business. This is the most honest religion I've ever seen.

Blackmoor. One of their major exports is walrus ivory. What's even more remarkable is that 18% of the population is halfling. Now all I can think about is halflings cooking walrus meat.

Ekbir. Gold pieces in Ekbir are called cups. After the golden relic, Cup of Al'Akbar. Makes sense.

Geoff. Apparently after the giants overran the country and chased off the humans, it gave the deer population a big boost. Cattle and horses are easier for monsters to catch evidently.

Ice Barbarians. These barbarians collectively call their home Rhizia, which means immovable in the Cold Tongue. Likewise the tribe Cruski means Ice Clan. Of course.

Empire of Iuz. Forecasters rejoice! The capital of Dorakaa is always overcast in a 4-mile radius. I wonder if that's only when Iuz is in town?

Lordship of the Isles. On the isle of Ganode they found mithril. In other news, elven ships from Lendore have been sinking Lordship vessels recently, but no one knows why. Uh, maybe it's cause you have mithril?

Plains of the Paynims. It says here 2% of the population of 500,000, or 10,000, is centaurs! For comparison, the Bright Lands is the next big centaur area with a measely 265. Wow.

Perrenland. The Witch Queen Iggwilv ruled this land for 10 years. Perrenland was so traumatized by her that when they later learned Iuz was her son, they unanimously refused to serve him as mercenaries. You'd think thye'd throw in with Furyondy during the Greyhawk Wars instead of being neutral.

Rel Astra. Apparently one of their biggest exports is fish. I don't know if this is an oversight of the writers. but there is plenty of island nations and larger coastal realms and fish isn't on their list of resources, unless it's assumed in "foodstuffs" in which case Rel Astra just specializes in fish. Either way this city smells bad.

Tiger and Wolf Nomads. Halflings are 2% of the population of these nomadic realms? That's about 4500 hobbits roaming the plains! Do they ride ponies along with the Relentless Horde? I got questions that need answered!

Ull. Speaking of nomads, this land has about 5500 halflings. At least Ull has a couple major towns. I wonder though, why or HOW are these halflings settling in every vile corner of the continent? Are they attracted to the walrus meat, fish and wolf pelts?

That's enough for now, time to switch off my brain. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

1981 TSR Hobbies Catalogue

Welcome Greyhawk mavens and fans of D&D. As I showed off last week, I recently purchased an old Expert Boxed set and within this box (no dice unfortunately) was a mint copy of the 1981 TSR Hobbies game catalog. Oh my is there a lot of stuff in here. Strap in for a nostalgia ride!


I love the index to this document, such big text and the fantasy font. Very 80's. One the right is the two games that got me started, the Basic and Expert Sets. I now possess both of these great boxes with amazing Erol Otus art on the covers. My favorite part of the product blurb is how they describe dice:
"DRAGON DICE(tm) random number generators."
"DRAGON DICE(tm) Randomizers"

I vaguely recall TSR bringing back Dragon Dice in the 90's but as a game of some sorts. I never knew they tried to trademark the polyhedron set. And I certainly have never told a player to roll a 20-sided randomizer to attack. Too funny.


The next spread shows us the basics needed to run our Basic & Expert games plus the advent of the new Advanced D&D line (which I had soon jumped to). I like the blurb for Palace of the Silver Princess. If I knew then what I know now, a copy of the orange cover version of this module would've been worth money today due to its racy interior art.
The D&D Player Character Record Sheets were among my earliest buys. I still have many of those green sheet characters. Advanced D&D of course is what really got me going. My friend Charles got me the DMG for my 10th birthday and my other friends have been paying for it ever since. I also recall spending many a night pouring over the Deites & Demigods Cyclopedia. I was always a fan of mythology in school (weirdo) so to see stats and images associated with pantheons I'd never heard of was fascinating (oh yeah, and I hear it had nudes).



I never had the 1981 Dungeon Masters Screen though I did acquire it a few years ago. The Rogues Gallery is also a must if you want to learn more about the obscure luminary characters of Gygax's Greyhawk history. I never had the DM Log and Record stuff, regular notebooks always seemed to do the trick. I use steno notebooks to this day.
On the right is a whole assortment of early Greyhawk history in AD&D Modules. All of these old adventures (which all got their start in convention play) form the meat of the published World of Greyhawk setting as we know it. Check it out, even back in 1980-81 the Tomb of Horrors was a best seller.


This spread shows some classic games. One I've not heard of is Warlocks & Wizards. Talk about simple you are either a warrior or a warlock no other choice, and your quest is to escort a princess through the wilderness. Easy enough! Top Secret was always a guilty pleasure of mine. I love James Bond movies and though I didn't have this edition specifically I'd love to look through it today. Boot Hill and Gamma World are also games I'm sure my friends would jump at today. These original editions I'm sure are much more fun than their descendants.


I never had a chance to buy Boxed Games like Snits Revenge and Awful Green Things though I did get to sample some Tom Wham games like Elefant Hunt from the pages of Dragon Magazine. It's also incredible to see that the white booklet set of D&D was already a collectors edition in 1981! These are booklets I try to collect at conventions when I see them. So far I own Blackmoor and Eldritch Wizardry


At last, here we see the ad for the World of Greyhawk fantasy world setting. This is the 1980"folio" version which contains the same poster maps we all know and love by Darlene but the booklet on the kingdoms was still rather brief back then and didn't include deities at the time. In another two years, we'll have the full boxed set with maps and two guide books. 
I owned the Dungeon Geomorphs. Neat stuff. Didn't really do it for me. The Hex Books on the other hand...I used the hell out of those and to this day I still love drawing maps on them (thanks Black Blade Publishing). Lastly, check out the advert for Dragon Magazine. D&D got me hooked, but this magazine (until it went out of print for good) was really what kept me in the hobby for life. Getting a new magazine in the mail every month was a joy. Seeing the cover was always a surprise in of itself. The content was bonus: comics, games, fiction, letters. When I see how openly popular RPGs are today, it makes 10 year old me feel validated for staying with the hobby.


Finally we see the spread for GenCon Game Fair and TSR Shirts. It's crazy to think the convention (now in Indianapolis) had it's 50th anniversary this year. Back in 1981 I would've never dreamed I'd go to one of these much less ten or so! As to the t-shirts, I want them all! No wonder I never saw them before, you can only get them through the catalog (only $6 per shirt!). Hm, I wonder what would happen if I sent a check and T-shirt order to TSR in Wisconsin...

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

45th Birthday Week

Ahoy Greyhawk scum! Last week was my 45th birthday (groan) and while I didn't get anything useful done, I did have a good old time. 
My friends and I went to the local Renaissance Fair for the second straight year. It was a blistering, sunny 90+ degrees out but I drank beer, conspired with elves, threw axes, ate a turkey leg, was entertained by wenches and pirate bards and of course, we watched our favorite knight Sir Duncan on the jousting grounds. Might For Right! Naturally, I got a tricorn hat there and just in time for Talk Like a Pirate Day too! Here is a pic of me with my clay tankard from last year's fair. Arr! 

Later that weekend I dined outside at the local Harvest Fest with friends again. We followed this with an overdue game night, finally finishing the Sunless Citadel. The heroes fought valiantly against the evil druid and his minions.
To cap off my fantastical week I got some more loot. First my good friend Eric gave me a Wacom Intuos Art tablet. I've been wanting to up my digital art game for years but have been reluctant. This was the shove I needed.

Secondly, I acquired an old D&D Expert Boxed Set. It is missing the dice sadly, but the box alone is worth it. Included is the rulebook, Isle of Dread module (yes I own both already), an ad to join the RPGA and a cool 1981 TSR catalog (which I'll show off at another date).

That's all for now, but also coming soon I am rejoining my Gamerstable friends for our successful Kickstarter backed return from podcast limbo!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Greyhawk Poll: Best Place to Retire

Welcome again Greyhawkers, this week I review my latest fan poll on the "Best Place to Retire a Character" in Greyhawk. I know just getting a PC to the point of retirement is hard, but where would they be most comfortable to settle down and spend their hard earned treasure in peace? Let's find out what you think...

Coming in first with a whopping 52% of the vote is the most popular and most obvious place, the City of Greyhawk. Yes, the Gem of the Flanaess has it all, it's politically neutral, it's centrally located, it's cosmopolitan taking in all cultures and races, and it has all the conveniences or advances of a magical/medieval society. Looking to spend thousands of gold pieces in one place? Greyhawk. Does your character want to live an expensive villa? Greyhawk. Do they want to run an inn? Greyhawk. Do they want to hang up the sword and run for mayor? Greyhawk.
So yes, any major city in the Flanaess will do, but the City of Greyhawk is for those who want to keep up on current events, stay in the limelight and perhaps come out of retirement should the world need saving again. The city is not for those who want anonymity.

What about characters who like the rustic, quiet life style, but want to stay somewhat close to the action? Coming in at 15% each is the County of Ulek and Highfolk. Ulek is nestled along the Lortmil mountains neighboring the Kingdom of Keoland, while the High Vale and Highfolk town lie along the winding Velverdyva River into the Yatil Mountains. Both places are nominally demihuman realms where humans also live in harmony. Highfolk is ruled by the Lord of the High Elves and is a land that brings images of Rivendell from the Hobbit to my mind. The County of Ulek is one of three independent Uleks, but this one is a shire-like place, like Hobbiton, but perhaps more populated like Tolkien's town of Bree where humans are integrated with halflings (and gnome).
Given the comparisons and similarities, County of Ulek and Highfolk are two prime spots for both demihumans to settle down and good or neutral-aligned human characters to remain among demihuman allies. Troublesome PCs may not apply to these places. Their likes would be better suited to the big city of Greyhawk. The one drawback of these places? They are not neutral realms and are often called on to wage war versus evil. Your retired elf or halfling might find themselves dusting off a weapon or wand before long.

Had your fill of kings and queens with their quests and intrigues? Maybe your character has a desire for a more lawful, democratic society that is still good? Well at 12% of the vote is the Yeomanry. This place is tucked next to the Crystalmist Mountains, well away from most trouble except from giant-kin. The landholders of the Yeomanry traditionally share the power here making this the best place to raise the next generation of adventurers by leaving them some property and title without having to usurp someone to get it.
Despite the quiet, remote location, the Yeomen are still a very martial society however. The finest warriors from humans to dwarves all belong to the Yeomanry League. Should trouble arise the Yeomen will not remain isolated for long, their freeholders will muster and march out to save some king even against their own interests. A retired PC would lose face if they ignored this call.

Coming in last at 2% each is Caliphate of Ekbir and the Olman Isles (Narisban). I chose these two vastly different places for a reason. They are far from the other polled locations, being decidedly beyond the Flanaess. The City of Ekbir is huge at over 60,000 people (close to Greyhawk in size) assuring that it has many of the same conveniences of Greyhawk yet the culture is the Baklunish West. As such, Ekbir's racial demographics (halflings are found here) and language barrier would be a turn off to a retiring dwarf or Cold North barbarian for instance. Ekbir is also a highly lawful good society making it attractive to paladins and some clerics (of the proper deity) but maybe not so much rouges and rangers. You can retire your PC in Ekbir in order to hide from the troubles of the Flanaess at large, because no one will think to look here.
Similarly there is Narisban, a tiny island town in the tropical Olman Isles. This place is as remote as it gets for those really looking to get away from it all. The weather is nice year round (barring storms), there's miles of beaches and while the native Olman people probably don't speak your retired character's language, they are not a threat to a former-hero (ignore those cannibal rumors). You won't have much in Narisban except what you bring with you or your can barter to get, making it a good home for resourceful outdoors types like rangers and druids. The place does get visited by pirates and sneaky Scarlet Brotherhood types however, so you can't exactly throw away your magic dagger and armor. Random jungle monsters might be a concern too, so build a sturdy hut and keep antitoxin handy.

That's all for now! Let me know where you have retired a PC to in your campaigns.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Frank Mentzer's Empyrea

Hey Greyhawkers. Most you by now have seen the news about an upcoming Kickstarter for Empyrea, Frank Mentzer's home campaign that was nominally supposed to be set to the west across the Solnor Ocean in the World of Greyhawk. Even better this will be a boxed set and the announcement promises much more, check it out:

"Frank Mentzer's Empyrea begins on Monday 02 October—a Kickstarter for a boxed campaign set usable with multiple fantasy RPG systems.

This set is the first big step, created with the help of many friends. Watch for details coming throughout September.
The core set has a lot to cover, and must be brief. The ambitious Empyrea product line will eventually include adventures, novels, details of all cities and major areas, and other supporting products.

Empyrea Online is a future Community project, where many fans can design the details of the Realm. We hope to make parallel-world Empyreas available for most popular RPG systems. We'll need your help describing it… that’s a lot of real estate! The gateway has opened; throw your hat in the ring at http://worldofempyrea.com/.

This is thrilling! Lots more news to come. Thanks very much for your interest.

—Frank Mentzer"

I'm anxious to see how old school and Greyhawk-ish they can make this without the obvious entanglements. For example check out this story snippet from the official Empyrea group on G+

FROM THE EMPYREA JOURNALS OF FRANK MENTZER

—About the Voyage... a word from history—

Krazandol, 230 B.H

Almater Pudin, Lord of the Land Below, sits with Prince Carin.

"No, that Voyage story that you know is wrong. Listen up, kid…”

"I still remember. Grandpa said, 'Those humans are at it again. War's coming, again. It always ends like this. We gotta get out of here.’”

"The Great Solnor Migration is a legendary event in the annals of history. Within a single month, and with little forewarning, a flotilla of hundreds of boats left the eastern shore of the homeland. Olve, Noniz, Hobniz, and even some of our Dwur left by the hundreds, braving the vast sea to find Life, and leave War behind. And the Lords of the Sea came, and helped us along the way, but you're too young to learn about that.”

"They helped, and most of us survived. What we found left us astounded, and awed…”

"This—not the war-torn lands overrun by humans, THIS continent—is our original homeland. All of us came from here.

"But son, it is time to prepare, for the Humans will come. They always do."

Looks good! I'm also optimistic about the community building aspect since that type of fan-focused crowd-sourcing is what really set Greyhawk apart in the 90's early 2000's. Will I throw my hat in the ring? Hard to say. Time will tell.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Castle Greyhawk: Chapter 1 Full

Hey Greyhawk fans. As you may know I've been doing a Castle Greyhawk webcomic with co-creator Scott Casper for several years. Well as many have already seen over at the main site, we have finally got the first chapter collected into one PDF download! Read at your leisure now. Go back from the start and enjoy the adventures of Tenser and Ehlissa.

DOWNLOAD CHAPTER ONE HERE

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Greyhawk Meets Game of Thrones

Greetings Greyhawk mavens. Today I'm going to muse on the medieval fantasy comparison of GRR Martin's popular "Game of Thrones" series and how it could enhance your Greyhawk campaign. You don't need to run an actual GoT RPG when you have Greyhawk after all. This setting was set up with a war backdrop with all the political intrigue one could want. This was because, as we know, Gygax was a wargamer first. It just so happened that dungeoncrawling then became all the rage back in D&D and thus Greyhawk's heyday. When they did try to push the Greyhawk Wars meta-plot it seemed to fall on deaf ears. Then came the era of storyteller games and adventure-paths that people enjoy today. Is it any wonder then why Game of Thrones is so popular now and not when it first came out?

Back in 2003, Dragon #307 dedicated an entire issue (back when it was still in print) to Martin's books and how to turn Westeros into a D&D setting. I remember barely reading that issue cause well, I'm a Greyhawk guy(wish I hadn't got rid of it). I don't think it captured the hearts and minds of many D&D players back then (this was 3.5e) but today it seems VERY relevant. Enough rambling, here is some ways to make your Greyhawk campaign more Game of Thrones-y:

Dragons. Let's start with the monster in the room. GoT went from popular to super popular thanks to HBO and the fact their CGI dragons look better than 90% of movie dragons (yes even Smaug). Now in D&D, dragons have historically been dungeon dwellers waiting to get slain. No one actually controls dragons either (that's a Dragonlance thing typically). A lot of D&D dragons are VERY intelligent is why. How to bring dragons out of the dark and become a major plot point of your Greyhawk campaign? Alliances.

For example, Rary has Volte (blue) in the Bright Lands. Brazzemal the Bright (red) treats with giants. Dragotha lives within Iuz's realm. There is many dragons in Greyhawk canon. If one ruler in the Flanaess has dragon/s on their side it immediately changes a war and has heroes on their toes because while awake, they could be anywhere.

Noble Houses. For me the main feature of Thrones is the squabbling warring noble houses like Lannister, Stark or Targaryen. Each house has their own style. Colors, mottos, hair colors! Pitting heroes in the middle of the Houses of Greyhawk is as easy as making a fighter the third son of a duke, or a cleric the bastard offspring of a baron. Instant faction association! Greyhawk is full of houses in canon. The Great Kingdom alone has many you can read about in Ivid the Undying, such as Darmen, Naelax and Garasteth. The Kingdoms of Nyrond and Furyondy's nobles are detailed in the Marklands sourcebook. Every minor nation in between has lineages, claims and rivalries that extend back a thousands years. Just peruse the 1983 Greyhawk Guide or the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer for a wealth of intrigue ideas.

Foreign Conflict. One of the big themes in Westeros is the rumored, but impending return of Daenerys Targaryen from across the sea to retake her empire. The foreign threat brings a new faction into the already warring atmosphere. In the World of Greyhawk this foreign aggressor could come in the form of the Baklunish West. Perhaps someone charismatic enough (with dragons or a relic of somekind) could unite the Paynims, Zeif, Ekbir, etc. to then march east in conquest for whatever perceived noble cause.

The Greyhawk Wars already had something close to this with the Scarlet Brotherhood's invasions. Here we had a secret society of monks and assassins who was already infiltrating all the courts in the land for decades, then suddenly, using foreign-born soldiers from the jungles went on a small run of successful conquests. The effort in canon kind of fizzled however. If the Brotherhood had fully used their potential (and used some unconventional weapons), then no country would've ignored them. Time for a second try!

Existential Threats. Speaking of invasions there is some threats that can't be reasoned withMuch like the Night King's undead army beyond the wall, Paizo's Age of Worms AP did just that with Kyuss' return and an undead plague right in the heart of the Flanaess. Zombie-plagues not your thing? Well other world wide threats can be imagined that could create opportunities for diplomacy among rivals and put a pause to ongoing conflicts. How about giants emerging out of ALL of the major mountain ranges at once? (Against the Giants on steroids) Or weird automaton armies marching out of Land of Black Ice? Whatever the threat, it can change the mood of the setting and turn the focus of play in a different direction than what PCs expect.

That's the four areas I'd emphasize, though anything in this genre can easily be ported into Greyhawk. One other note, if you want to do the humdrum of running a nation or several, look into the out of print Birthright Campaign. A D&D setting ahead of its time. What other aspects of Game of Thrones did I miss?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

GenCon Stuff I Missed

Heya Greyhawkers! I didn't go to GenCon and after seeing news on ENWorld, I'm really regretting seeing the GenCon50 Museum. I had no idea it was going to have this many old school artifacts on display. I already saw alot of the art on display at Garycon earlier this year, but the museum they erected inside my beloved Lucas Oil Stadium is way more impressive. Check it out (Thanks Morrus).

And then some quick notes on the Ennies awards. It is surprisingly refreshing to see so many new games and companies winning awards in recent years. Last time I attended the awards (which was a few years) Paizo swept everything. And with the popularity of 5E you'd think Wizards could dominate every year too. This year both are conspicuously off the winners podium. Wizards did manage to win Best Publisher which at the surface seems weird if they didn't have anything else to offer. Wizards has lately taken a rather laid back approach to GenCon to focus on other conventions, which apparently benefits the rest of the gaming industry. No complaints I guess. I do feel extremely grognardy reading these winners though; I am so out of the new RPG loop I've not heard of half these winners. I did hear Tales From the Yawning Portal won a Judge's Spotlight nod, so kudos to, ahem, Greyhawk in the very least.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Mortellan Interview on the RPG Academy

Hey Greyhawk fans and RPG players alike! I may not be at GenCon this year but I do have something exciting to show everybody! I recently did a podcast interview for The RPG Academy's "Show & Tell" feature. You can now listen to me ramble on about Greyhawk, Canonfire, Greyhawkery, art and other things. Enjoy!

Thank you to the host Michael and the rest of the RPG Academy network. Check out their site and look around!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

GenCon 50 and Gamerstable Returns

Ahoy Greyfolk! Sadly this week is Gen Con 50 week and while I've known for a while I wasn't going (sold out of 4-day badges!) and I further don't feel I'll miss anything epic, it still kind of makes me feel glum to not be among the gamer crowds like I've done for the last decade.

On the bright side next year I'm sure I'll be back given that my friends at Gamerstable have a Kickstarter going to bring our gaming podcast back from hiatus. So far we are funded with more stretch goals in sight. Help us out if you can! See you in Indy in 2018!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

New D&D Merch

Hola, Greyhawkers! I like Twitter alot and one of the accounts I follow is @Wizards_DnD. Today, the fine folks at Wizards announced the Tomb of Annihilation dice set tin coming out in September. Are you ready to be conquered by Acererak's marketing genius?

This brief post ties into one I had a while back. I have no particular desire to get more dice, though the tin is very snazzy. My initial reaction was, wow, the Great Green Face from Tomb of Horrors is a marketing icon all its own. You can literally put that demon face on any merchandise now and it will sell. There is also a minis, video games and boardgame (with green face standees) tied in to Tomb. Wizards knows how to maximize its properties. Less is more.

Wizards is also getting good at crowd-sourcing ideas. In the same announcement, Wizards asked readers "what other D&D related products you'd love to see themed for future campaigns?" Mind you they aren't asking for what theme you want (anything Greyhawk, duh!). They got that planned years in advance I'm sure. No, they want to know what "merch" you'll most likely buy after tins, minis and boardgames. Ideas posted on Twitter include sensible things like dice bags, leather journals, mugs, DM screens, tokens, dice towers, phone cases and plushies - to cool, crazy ideas like dice jails, chia pets, d20 spin-rings and even a sacrificial dagger. Personally, I think a great green face toilet seat would be fun.

http://nicholaslittleillustration.com/

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Greyhawk Poll: Best Defended City

Welcome back friends of Greyhawk! Today I examine the results of my latest poll, Which City is Best Defended? I handpicked six good locations, but if there is any good ones I left out feel free to correct me cause why not? Let's dig in...

The Free City of Irongate won the poll by a landslide (69%) of course. Nestled on the coast of the Azure Sea and protected by the Iron Hills, this city has withstood invasions by the Great Kingdom (Battle of a Thousand Banners) and the Scarlet Brotherhood (Greyhawk Wars) over the years. I equate this fortress to Minas Tirith combined with Moria with a navy to boot. In addition to formidable physical defenses, and elite human and demihuman soldiery, Irongate boasts the likes of archmage, Elayne Mystica among its magical defenders. It would take an aerial assault to have a chance at cracking this city open. Biggest threat to Irongate? Still the Scarlet Brotherhood because they can infiltrate the place like the Greeks into Troy. In a stand up battle however, there may be no nation that can assail Irongate. Only a dual siege/embargo could work and that's not even a sure thing due to Irongate's purported magical gates.

The Free City of Greyhawk comes in second naturally at a measly 18%. The City of Greyhawk has a fortress and some of the loftiest walls in the Flanaess, but the city is rather accessible to attack from many directions. Iuz threatens from the north, the Pomarj from the south, the Temple of Elemental Evil from the west and Rary the Tratior could conceivably swing in from the east. What keeps all the evil at bay? Greyhawk's domain full of interesting terrain from swamps to hills to open plains and rivers. Greyhawk's armies would be inclined to take the fight to an opponent or ambush before falling back to it's walls. Once in the city, the populace is easily the most resourceful in the world. The Guild of Mages alone could rain hellfire down on an invading force. The various temples would keep Greyhawk properly healed, while the Thieves, Beggars and Assassin's Guild would begin a guerrilla campaign against the enemy. Then of course, there is the abundance of adventuring parties with limitless access to magical weaponry who would rise up to defend their home turf. Biggest threat to Greyhawk? If all four the enemies I listed above combined their forces at once. The worst outcome would involve Iuz's clerics mass-raising undead from Greyhawk's considerable catacombs, thus causing chaos from within. An invasion of Greyhawk would truly be epic.

Next on the poll is Hesuel Ilshar (7%) the capital of the Scarlet Brotherhood. Little is known of this city since it is a well-kept secret. Ilshar also lies atop a plateau on a remote peninsula. Any invading army has to A) cross the Azure Sea, B) defeat several outposts inland before climbing the plateau to then C) cross the desolate plateau before D) assaulting the high city walls. Ilshar has been stood for centuries without fear of any attack and is likely to have fewer siege weapons or standing garrisons. This doesn't mean their guard is down. After exposing their existence in the Greyhawk Wars, Hesuel Ilshar is probably on alert for spies ahead of any future counter-offensives. The Brotherhood's monks, assassins and thieves are only equaled by Greyhawk's. Biggest Threat to Ilshar? The Iron League. This alliance (including Lordship of the Isles if they break away from the SB) has a lot of reasons to go after the Brotherhood. The Iron League has the naval power and is resourceful enough to attack from more than one direction on the plateau. It would be a slog for sure, but once under siege Hesuel Ilshar wouldn't last long without aid.

Admundfort comes in at 3% on the poll. The capital of the Shield Lands is on the Isle of Walworth and is historically the most defensible place on the Lake of Unknown Depths. How Iuz came to conquer this city for a time is uncertain to me, I suspect profane magic and treachery. When at full muster, this city with its knights and navies could withstand most conventional attacks quite well. Biggest threat to Admundfort? Still Iuz. The mainland Shield Lands is too wide open and is meant to shield Furyondy from the Bandit Kingdoms more than a demonic, arcane, undead assault by a demigod. Admundfort otherwise is unassailable by simple bandits, ogres or hobgoblins.

The Free City of Rel Astra and Rookroost both came in last at 0%. Apparently no one believes these places are most defensive and rightly so. Rel Astra has the largest population in the Flanaess and a good port. This means they can militarily put up a good fight on land or sea. Lord Drax has not been put to the test yet, but this is possibly due to good diplomacy more than might. Rel Astra's biggest threat would naturally be its own kinsmen from Aerdy. It's a rich city but any king vying to unite the Great Kingdom again would be hard to fend off from land. And finally, Rookroost in the Bandit Lands is another multi-ringed city-fortress along the lines of Minas Tirith. Rookroost prophetically has never been taken in battle so long as ravens remain roosting in the city. Against Iuz however, thee city opted to join him instead of testing his evil might. I have a feeling Rookroost would put up a good fight, but limited long-term resources, reinforcements (bandit kings don't get along) and lack of comparable magic power would cause its eventual fall to Iuz.

Good analysis? Tell what you think and check out my next poll soon!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Greyhawk Comic Rewind: Magic Swords

Well met Greyfriends, here's a couple classic comics of mine from 2007 concerning the hero-deity of swords, Kelanen. A hell of a lot of research went into these. Good lore. Enjoy!

June 7th, 2007:
This week we check in on the ever-popular Prince of Swords, Kelanen. To put it bluntly, Kelanen is obsessed with swords. As the legend goes he wrested the sword Fragarach 'the Answerer' from the hands of an alien god. Fragarach of course is yet another one of those Gygaxian imports from Earth myth. That means the alien god in question can surely be none other than Manannan Mac Lir of the Celtic Mythos (Greater God of the Sea). That must've been one hell of a fight.

Not yet satisfied, Kelanen crafted six other 'Swords of Answering' according to the classic adventure The Temple of  Elemental Evil. Made in the theme of Fragarach, their names are Rebutter, Scather, Replier, Retorter, Squelcher and my favorite, Back-Talker. And because Kelanen's symbol is nine crossed swords, apparently three others were tacked later, named Concluder, Last-Quip and the shamelessly redundant Answerer.

Naturally instead of keeping them for himself in his super-secret extra-dimensional stronghold Kelanen somehow allowed all the blades to be scattered abroad for heroes to find. Indeed, Fragarach fell into the hands of Prince Thrommel of Furyondy who then also became lost himself. Go figure. Who put Kelanen up to all this sword mania? Easy answer, his two original swords Sureguard and Swiftdoom. The 83 Greyhawk Guide says Kelanen has no friends or confidants other than his swords. Yes, two highly intelligent, highly egotistical swords that match his neutral alignment and share a purpose to defend him and his interests without hesitation. Two voices in your head, only giving you advice that you want to hear...tell me that's not a recipe for insanity.

Check it out...




June 14th, 2007:
This week is compliments of manic World of Greyhawk Comic conspirator Cebrion. Here we see the second half of Kelanen's popular legend concerning Fragarach. As tales go, to promote Balance he made replicas of the sword he acquired from the 'alien god'. These lesser 'Answering swords' all have their own names and alignments as well. Sadly, Wizards of the Coast's "Book of Nine Swords" has nothing to do with Fragarach or Kelanen. What a missed opportunity!

Anyhow, as a servant of the Balance and Saint of Swords, Kelanen must surely patronize Boccob, a deity with his own balancing habit, namely that he has a copy of every magic item ever made at his abode. These two compulsions are about to create trouble. Check it out...


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Greyhawk A-Z: People Part 2

I thought I'd take another crack at this fun listing article. Check out my last one posted three years ago! This is just some descriptions with quick commentary. Maybe you'll learn something or maybe you'll just be amused.. Enjoy!

Althea: One of Iuz the Evil's top priestesses in the Boneheart. Between her and Halga, I can't recall which was the pretty one. I used to have fun playing them up in my comics.

Belissica: Speaking of pretty, the Countess of Urnst. In my campaign, I cannot think of a more well-liked, well-to-do, comely human female in all of the Flanaess. Must be why one of my players tried so hard to court her!

Ctenmiir: Ah that poor vampire trapped inside White Plume Mountain. Nowadays vampires get out in daylight, join clans, even raise families. How times change!

Drawmij: My favorite aquatic-themed Greyhawk wizard (very specific I know). No wizard gets my creative juices going more than him. I immediately start thinking Cpt. Nemo, meets Jacques Cousteau meets Aquaman.

Elayne Mystica: Hey more wizards! Elayne is an albino human who used to live beneath the Hellfurnace mountains, but now resides in Irongate. Check out what I've done with her.

Fedroot: Good ol' Fedroot owns the Daggerarium in the Old City section of Greyhawk. I don't think there's a finer weaponsmith outside a dwarven forge than Fedroot. So says Mortellan!

Galap Dreidel: Wicked archmage, creator of the Soul Gem and former resident of the Ghost Tower of Inverness. The module says he left northwest over the Selintan River and never came back. Very curious where he went off to since that was a millennia ago. Let's hope wherever he went, he at least changed his name.

Hazen: Aged clerical ruler of Veluna. His artifact, the Crook of Rao is responsible for banishing like 99.9% of the demons on Oerth in a day. Of course nothing said they couldn't just come back...was his Crook a one-shot item?

Immonara: Archdruid of Obad-hai. All I know about her is she leads a sect in the Adri Forest. I would've thought female druids would be into Ehlonna though. Druids are neutral folk though, so equality and all that.

Jallarzi Sallavarian: Speaking of females breaking into men's fields. Jallarzi is to this day the only female member of the Circle of Eight (until Return of the Eight *cough*). As fair magic-users go she is up there with Belissica as well. Also, she had a cool pseudo-dragon pet before it was cool to have little dragon pets.

Kermin Mind-Bender: Yeah yeah, another wizard. Kermin is one of my favorites though. I don't know much about Kermin from Gygax's novels, but he is a Boneheart advisor of Iuz in canon. Kermin however is 18th level which means in addition bending minds, he has Wish-level magic. This is a guy who really could be a BBEG on his own!

Lareth the Beautiful: This evil cleric from the Temple of Elemental Evil is inexplicably more popular in Greyhawk lore than half the NPCs I've mentioned. Recurring villains are good like that though. He never rated in my campaign though. Hm, my mistake I guess.

Murad: The Sultan of Zeif, and a 15th level fighter! It's hard to find high level fighters (still alive) in canon. I wonder what dangerous adventures the sultan undertook to get to that peak of skill. He sounds like a ruler who leads from the vanguard in battle.

Nix and Nox: The Efreeti brothers from White Plume Mountain. Seen in one of my favorite illustrations by Erol Otus from 1E D&D. One evil genie is bad, but twins? Watch out!

Org Nenshen: Leader of the Greyhawk Thieves Guild and best friend to former guildmember (no one is ever a former)Nerof Gasgol the mayor of the city. In this day and age of billionares and oligarchs in politics, a guy like Org makes perfect sense to me today.

Pluffet Smedger the Elder: Esteemed professor from the University of Rel Mord and the author of the Guide to the World of Greyhawk. As Pluffet lives in the setting's future, the only thing we know for sure happens is that Rel Mord still stands.

Querchard: Needless to say there isn't many good Q-named characters. Querchard is the Earl of Sterich. That is until post-wars when he vanished from Istivin leaving his wife Resbin in charge. One thing unique about Querchard is that in AD&D rules he is a multi-class fighter-thief-bard. None of those classes saved him from being kidnapped however.

Ricard Damaris: Hey it's another fighter! While not as skilled (he is missing a finger) and important as Murad, Ricard does have a cool job, namely he runs the famous Green Dragon Inn in the City of Greyhawk. His boss (spoilers) is secretly another more powerful fight, the infamous Lord Robilar.

Sevvord Redbeard: Speaking of warriors. Sevvord is the leader of the barbarian-adjacent Stonefists. There is probably no barbarian more brutal than this guy. I mean, his army is so tough they have annual try-outs! And I'm not 100% sure the losers live.

Tang the Horrific: And while we're talking barbarians, Tang is one of those ridiculed but highly underrated NPCs. Who else has the moxie and charisma to try and raise a horde to take on Iuz? Too bad he never got his chance!

Utavo the Wise: Okay so it isn't easy finding NPCs starting with a "U". Who knew? Last time I used Uhas and that's apparently the best until you get to Utavo the Wise (Living Greyhawk Journal #0) who is indeed a unique character in the Flanaess. He is a Tuov for starters, and second he is a former slave who now leads a sanctuary for other ex-Scarlet Brotherhood slaves in southern Sea Princes. Pretty cool!

Vesparian Lafanel: Also called Vesper, this elf runs a humble pawn shop in the old City of Greyhawk. His actual job however with the Guild of Assassins. His seriousness and skill eventually led to his promotion to guildmaster (and thus Directing Oligarch) of the city, when his superior Turin Deathstalker left to fight Iuz in the north. Don't cross this elf.

Waldorf: What? You've not heard of Waldorf?!

Xavender: Xavender is the (other) Overking of the United Kingdom of Ahlissa (formerly the South Province). You want to see a pompous image of Xavender, check out the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer. At least he's not undead.

Yolande: Queen of Celene. Belissica might be the epitome of beauty for human rulers, so I always assume Yolande is the peak of all elves. When I think of her how can I not picture Galadriel from Lord of the Rings?

Zoltan: It's easy to pick rulers out for a notable people list. I've already done so several times. The last guy for the list is thus Zoltan, the beygraf of Ket. His claim to fame is opportunistically (and against counsel) attacking Bissel during the Greyhawk Wars, thus allying Ket with Iuz. Not popular with Bisselites or even his own people, Zoltan was eventually assassinated four years later. I'd like to think it Turin Deathstalker who was sent.

That's all for now. More A-Z someday soon!

Friday, July 21, 2017

5 Reasons to Visit the Bright Desert

Welcome again Greyhawkers. Today I continue my article series, "5 Reasons to Visit..." If you haven't read my seven previous installments, check this link to the Best of Greyhawkery and peruse those and many more good posts. The subject of the day is: 5 Reasons to Visit the Bright Desert! The Bright Desert is centrally located in the Flanaess and post-wars becomes a nation called the Bright Lands (after Rary the Traitor took the place over). There is a lot going on here besides the wizard Rary (check out Dungeon #98 for more info on the Bright Desert), let's dig in!

1. Shattados Palace. The Bright Desert was formerly the ancient (and evil) realm of Sulm before a cursed crown transformed it into a waste and the people turned into manscorpions. Shattados Palace is one of the few remaining ruins of this ancient time. Found in the indispensable 2E accessory Rary the Traitor, this location is where the last cursed king of Sulm still lurks with his treasures. The location of this place is interestingly not marked on a map which is great for DMs so they can send players on a Raiders of the Lost Ark style desert hunt.

2. Dagger Rock. Other ancient threats lair in the Bright Desert. Deep within the lonely spur of rock in the northern desert, sleeps the blue dragon Volte. Volte is a wyrm (dangerous indeed) who original hailed from the Stark Mounds to the west before being drove out over a century ago. Volte most likely wants to be left alone, but rumor says Rary has been entreating the wyrm to become his ally. A powerful archmage and a wyrm sounds like a deadly combination indeed. PCs will have to be quite experienced to take on this threat before it gets out of hand.

3. Ghost Tower of Inverness. The classic module C2: Ghost Tower of Inverness was first published in 1979 by Allen Hammack and is considered one of the 30 greatest adventures of all time. This is a standard dungeon (tower) crawl where heroes search for the ominous Soul Gem that once belonged to an ancient evil wizard (maybe why Rary was attracted to the region). Though technically in the Abbor Alz Hills, the Ghost Tower is quite close enough to the Bright Desert to get included in this series. This is a good low to mid-level module and can get players started on a campaign that involves the Bright Desert region. Look for a copy online or the PDF if you can!

4. Pits of Azak-Zil. First mentioned in the seminal hardback Greyhawk Adventures, the Azak-Zil (Pureheart in dwarvish) is the site of a meteor crash on the fringe of the desert and hills. Many nations and clans vied to find and establish this mining colony. It was dwarves of Irongate who at last discovered the wealth of iron, platinum, mithril, adamantite and gold at this location. These dwarves became wealthy until one day the flow of ore stopped. What search parties have discovered since then is the pits are now overrun by undead of a strange sort, since they still work the mine and keep it to themselves. What has caused Azak-Zil to fall to undeath is left for PCs to discover. Perhaps they can clear the mines and re-establish operations for a new business interest.

5. The Mines. There is alot of cool adventure locations in the Bright Desert, so if I had one more to choose I guess I'll go with the Mines just cause they have an intriguing ruler, Father Eye. The Mines are a central interest of Archmage Rary because of its connection to the underdark. Scheming duergar dwarves now control and work in these old mines for their mysterious leader Father Eye. It doesn't take much imagination to deduce who or what Father Eye might be. Heroes looking for a good old fashioned mid-level dungeon-crawl would be well-served venturing into the Mines to take on Father Eye and his dastardly duergar.

So there you go. The Bright Desert has so much untapped potential for adventure that I could do two of these articles. To reiterate for DMs, all you really need is Rary the Traitor, Ghost Tower of Inverness and maybe Dungeon #98 to do a full Bright Desert campaign. Much of this source material is in fact underdeveloped so it's also good ground for designing your dungeons or treasures. Have fun with the Bright Desert!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Ten Places in Greyhawk

It's been a slow week Greyhawk-wise. Let's try a random list of 10 Places in Greyhawk I've Never Used. (In a campaign that is; mind you I've been playing Greyhawk for 35 years so I've had plenty of opportunities.) A couple caveats, one I'm not talking "Beyond the Flanaess" or any pseudo-Greyhawk that Gygax made post-TSR.

1. The Yeomanry. I don't think I've ever willingly set anything in this country, nor had a character come from here. Don't know why. Maybe too peaceful? Can't say for certain.

2. County of Ulek. Again, a most peaceful place in the Flanaess. A veritable "shire" of halfling delights. Haven't had any reason to cause trouble there in my campaigns. Odd!
3. Town of Fax. This town in the Wild Coast has a funny name. I probably avoided it for this reason.
4. Menowood. This woodland in the east is featured in the boxed set as a place to encounter werewolves. I'm not a big werewolf guy so I've probably subconsciously avoided Menowood.
5. Town of Gorna. The capital of the Grand Duchy of Geoff. I've probably had PCs pass through Geoff battling giants before but I don't think I've utilized the town before. This is a shame because I have a nice map of Gorna that Mike Schley did a few years back.
6. City of Sulward. The capital of the Lordship of the Isles. I've had NPCs hail from the lordship but I still haven't had any players set foot on these islands, much less the capital city. I hope to rectify that someday in my next Sea Princes campaign.
7. Yecha Hills. Again, I've probably had PCs travel past or through the hills, but I've never intentionally set anything in this part of the Tiger Nomad lands. A shame.
8. Town of Exag. This mysterious town in Perrenland got a royal write-up article in Dungeon Magazine #145. It's a place I ought to use if only because I love ancient history of Oerth stuff.
9. Axewood. This woodland is in the same neighborhood as the County of Ulek. Never used, but it has treants and elves. A possible fay paradise. Guess I just haven't had a need for that setting so far.
10. City of Lo Reltarma. Capital of the Lendore Isles/Spindrifts. Not sure. I know there's a few classic mods set on the isles that I've never ran, yet I've most likely used the Lendores indirectly because of the seafaring elves. I doubt however that I've ever visited this city in a game session since I can't recall a single fact about the place. Oh well!

That was actually hard! Some day soon we'll look at ten other Greyhawk things I've neglected.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Greyhawk Initiative?

Some of you old school gamers who follow D&D news or social media probably have heard about the latest Unearthed Arcana document by head honcho Mike Mearls. The new idea that he's floated about is called "Greyhawk Initative" a variant system of tracking combat for 5E that he introduced at GaryCon 2017 (I was there but missed this bit). Initial reactions online have been muddled and confused. I have no desire to do a rules analysis or gripe about how this bad idea is attached to Greyhawk. Here is a couple places to help you out if you are interested.

ENWorld (including Mearls video)

Tribality (good breakdown of rules)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

5 Reasons to Visit Iuz

Welcome Greyhawk readers as I resurrect one of my article series, "5 Reasons to Visit..." If you haven't read my six previous installments, check this link to the Best of Greyhawkery and peruse those and many more of my finest work. Now onto the subject of the day: 5 Reasons to Visit Iuz! Well, not the deity himself of course, but more accurately the Land of Iuz proper (not the extended Empire controlled areas). All the entries in this survey are detailed in the indispensable 2E sourcebook Iuz the Evil by Carl Sargent. It's not that I'm biased but there really isn't a better source on this region of the setting. That said, if you do not own this book or PDF I highly advise you go and get it. The maps and content are a DM's dream.

1. Kendragund. The land of Iuz is easy to describe to someone who has never played Greyhawk, but has read or watched The Lord of the Rings;  this place is Mordor. It is ruled by an exceedingly evil, omnipotent demigod whose armies are full of orcs and undead. The visuals are immediate and easy to comprehend for any one who plays D&D.
First up is the orcish citadel of Kendragund in the Howling Hills. This is the seat of Iuz's orcish armies in the north, tales saying Iuz began his empire here subjugating the Urzun tribes and with the help of giants, erected the citadel in a day. Today, Kendragund holds a vast garrison of 5000 soldiers, scores of giants and undead warriors with dozens of priests and shamans to drive these forces at Iuz's will. This castle guards the Hills against Iuz's closest enemy, the Wolf Nomads that famously routed the Old One's invading forces at the Battle of Blackwater Bend back in 578 CY (Dragon #65).
Kendragund is ran by Kreshenk, an orog chieftain of giantic strength (F11) whom he delights in torturing prisoners brought up from Iuz's southern wars against Furyondy and the Shield Lands. Those with no political significance are put to fighting against monsters for the entertainment of the humanoids armies. Truly this is a place that heroes would need to tread stealthily in order to rescue someone. That is unless some distraction could cause the formidable garrison to deploy...

2. Dorakaa. The capital city of Iuz's malevolent empire, Dorakaa is called The City of Skulls for good reason and is detailed further in the adventure of the same name. In this module the PCs are tasked to infiltrate and rescue a noble from the most evil place in the world. Dorakaa teems with demons, monsters, orcs, cultists and undead. The sky is literally under a perpetual dark cloud for miles around and the walls have magical defenses unlike any seen in the Flanaess. It doesn't get any worse than this city.
Though Dorakaa is a slum for the most part, it still functions despite the horrors it contains. The city has twisted "Fiend Gardens", Agony Fields where public tortures are put on display, and the Jade Streets where depraved entertainments can be bought. There is artisan and slave quarters where skilled laborers still trade and toil for their masters and the masses of orc soldiery including Iuz's vaunted Legion of Black Death led by the fearsome cambion, General Sindol.
Iuz's top henchmen, the Boneheart, have their own towers and residences here as well, every one just as well guarded and dangerous to visit as the central Palace of Iuz himself. The north wing of this impregnable abode contains the Blackspear Chamber, a permanent gate to the Abyss where Iuz continually draws forth his most fearsome servants. In the middle of the palace behind strong metal doors, is Iuz's throne, a grisly chair constructed from the rib cages of a hundred paladins and clerics of Good. Any PC who ventures to the City of Skulls had best be experienced and equipped with the best magic they can acquire. Attracting too much attention here can easily bring down an overwhelming opposition that no hero can fend off for very long.

3. Road of Skulls. Between the Howing Hills and the capital of Dorakaa is the worst testament to Iuz's reign in the north, the Road of Skulls. Running for 300 miles north-south, this "road" is an astonishing 60 yards wide albeit mostly barren earth. The main trait of his hellish road is at every interval is a pole topped by a skull of various humanoid races. Many of these skulls you see are imbued with magical properties, for example screaming when good-aligned creatures get within a 100 yards or various rays and harmful spells.
Priests and wizards of Iuz, stationed in watch towers every six miles along the Road of Skulls, have control over these magical skulls using wands and staves, so all of this makes openly traveling in the land of Iuz a headache for adventurers. Worse yet, Iuz is now building similar Skull Trails east and west out of Dorakaa. Has there ever been a more foul engineering project in history?

4. Drenghuz. Not all the Howling Hills is controlled by Iuz or the Wolf Nomads. The caves of Drenghuz was once home to orcs (the same kind in Kendragund) but now is one of the most dangerous locations in the all the northern Flanaess. Deep below the earth a shadow dragon of uncertain age resides, though none are sure if it still lives or just slumbers. All the halls and caves surrounding this dragon are filled with hundreds of slow shadows, skulks and worse. Indeed, these denizens from the Plane of Shadow are impossible to control and are much more lethal than normal.
If Iuz's followers won't go here then it must be bad. Surely however, talk of a dragon will attract foolhardy, treasure seeking adventurers who are willing to avoid the keeps, cities and skull roads to take a chance at seeing whether Drenghuz is played out. Most of these characters are probably now part of the lair's population...

5. Icehand Plain. There is many strange and profane sites in the empire, like the Soul Husk Caverns, Devouring Bridge and more, but this last one is rare in that it is only relevant once a year. The Icehand Plain is an innocuous orc camp off the side of the Road of Skulls. On the last day of Sunsebb each year however, Iuz holds a grisly pep rally here.
The leaders of every tribe and army unit along with many Boneheart henchmen and priests attend this mandatory rally. It is said Iuz himself sits upon a replica throne here and a gigantic hand made of black ice appears overhead. This hand points one by one at each of Iuz's subjects, as he divines their loyalty. Those who have traitorous thoughts or waver in their fanatic devotion are blasted into nothingness by a negative-energy ray. Needless to say this intimidates his commanders effectively.
Who cares you say? The significance of Icehand Plain to players and DMs of course is that this is exactly the time and place of the year heroes know Iuz will be outside his palace defenses along with nearly his whole chain of command. It's the perfect opportunity for a hit job, that is if they can brave the icy hand that floats above and a multitude of high level threats all eager to please a paranoid demigod. Your PCs better be close to 20th level for this fight. Good luck!


Monday, July 3, 2017

Poll Result: Villain Sent to Ravenloft

Welcome Grey Travelers! Today I muse over my latest reader poll, which villain should be sent to Ravenloft next? This is in reference to the fact the Arch-lich Vecna and a certain other lich from the Adri Forest named Azalin were both transplanted from Oerth to the Ravenloft setting due to the fact they are irredeemably evil. That's what the Dark Powers like to do, trap evil figures on the demiplane and torment them with hope of escape and an occasional band of heroes to antagonize.

Of course, I believe the criteria for Ravenloft villains has to be a tragic story in addition to being evil. Lord Soth was snagged from Dragonlance not only because he was a death knight but probably some great betrayal or something, I can't remember, but he's likely still trapped there. As far as I know Vecna is the only person to escape the Mists of Ravenloft. Anyhow, here is our newest crop of candidates for being evicted from the Greyhawk setting:

 The Witch-Queen Iggwilv tops the voting with 28%. Iggy is a good choice cause everyone knows she is a schemer, manipulator, and thoroughly evil. She's the tragically abducted and indoctrinated daughter of Baba Yaga. She's also played with the emotions of Demon-Princes, wizards and demigods. This epic threat needs to be contained and where better than Ravenloft? If anyone has a chance at researching and concocting a way out of the demiplane it is also her. With so many enemies however, she might voluntarily stay a while...

Next at 26% was Ivid the Undying. Ivid is quite mad, he is an immortal animus now and he lost his kingdom disappearing in the destruction of his capital after the wars. Perhaps Ivid and his demonic relic the Malachite Throne both get shunted to the Demiplane of Dread where it caters to his fantasies of ruling again over a large kingdom. That may not be enough though, Ivid will eventually go to war with his neighboring Dark Lords. Only a band of heroes will be able to keep him from turning Ravenloft into the Dark Great Kingdom.

Speaking of tyrants, Rary the Traitor is third place with 22% of the vote. Rary is a troubled figure who is both super intelligent and a super powerful wizard. This puts him in the league as Vecna, Azalin or Iggwilv as to devising a way out of the demiplane. Rary tragically turned on his friends in the Circle of Eight, his own country and even his alignment, then moved to the Bright Desert to start his own kingdom. Those efforts haven't gone well however as his dreams of breaking the curse on the desert might be put on hold if the Mists take him away. Rary is wise so he probably wouldn't be a threat to PCs in Ravenloft, he'd probably blackmail and coerce them into doing his bidding in order to escape the demiplane.

At 13% of the vote is St. Kargoth. A lesser known figure in Greyhawk lore, Kargoth was the first death knight in the Flanaess, created by Demogorgon the Prince of Demons. Being a fallen knight, Kargoth is much like Soth in that he betrayed his order and helped in creating more undead of his ilk. Kargoth is much to dangerous to be on the loose in the world, so the mists would probably take him stealthy one day. I can see Kargoth roaming a desolate prison plane recruiting (or raising) an army for some unknown conflict. Perhaps he learns of a greater death knight nearby and feels challenged. Or maybe Karogth quests alone, hopelessly searching the mists for a way out, only to find the PCs instead...

Last but not least is Slave Lord Markessa at 8%. I don't think many fans appreciate Markessa's brand of evil or her percentage would be higher. Markessa is an evil elf, not a drow, which is tragic in itself to her people. She runs with a vile band of Slavers which she uses as a means to capture other elven females and experiment on their minds and appearance to create duplicates of herself. She is twisted,I tell ya. There is probably no woman on Oerth who deserves to be captured by the Mists more than Markessa and the irony is she would love it. The moody, dour residents of Ravenloft would be perfect fodder for her lust for surgery and brainwashing. As a Dark Lord, Markessa would be even more powerful and she'd have a domain to rule that is tailored to her needs. Well, all except for the one thing she seems to need the most. Any PCs who are female elves beware...

That's it for now. Did I miss any other good candidates? Let me know.