Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Gods, Demigods & Heroes

I recently acquired a free copy of the 1979 (7th printing) of the old "Supplement IV" Gods, Demi-Gods and Heroes booklet for the original D&D. Let me tell ya, it's in good shape too. Written by Robert J. Kuntz and James Ward (two of my favorites), this book is the precursor to the more popular AD&D book, Deities & Demigods.

While it is the same as later deity books in content such as stats on gods, artifacts and mythical monsters, this one might exceed its descendants in volume of deities presented. This is because the text is small, the info light, and the art is sparse. This is not to say the art is bad; the cover (see above) is in color for one while the b&w interior art looks like classical woodcuts or etchings which I dare say is nearly superior to the more familiar D&D illustrations that would follow.

What mythos are here? Here's the rundown:

Robert E, Howard's Hyborea
Elric and Melnibone
Eastern Mythos

Deities & Demigods would later drop Hyborean and add monster myths, Nehwon, Cthulhu and Arthurian lore. Of course, by the next printing it also dropped Cthulhu and Melnibonean unfortunately. I find the information on Hyborea to be invaluable if you are into Cthulhu mythos since they are contemporary. The real world myths go into greater detail on pantheons of female deities and general heroes and legendary monsters, where later editions probably relegated that stuff to the Monster Manual.

I can tell by forging through there real world myths and adding popular fiction, it made TSR's job of creating homebrew D&D gods like the Greyhawk pantheon much easier. The only other book from this series I own is Blackmoor. I may need to dig it out and see what I'm missing!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Greyhawk Wars 2 Poll

Howdy Greybeards and D&D enthusiasts! This week I muse over the results of my latest Greyhawk poll: Who would win Greyhawk Wars 2? No I'm not talking about the somewhat reviled Greyhawk Wars 1, the meta plot event (and board game) that changed the political landscape of the setting forever Nope, much like in our own history, I'm talking about a round two. Let's dig in our trenches. One note, the poll allowed people to vote for more than one winner, cause obviously it's good vs evil at the core, so there can be some give and take here. The results are extrapolated from the poll, much like odds on a d20 roll, so they are by no means a guarantee.

Let's start with the likely losers. The former secret society, the Scarlet Brotherhood (7%) had an improbable surge of success in GHW1, taking over Onnwal, Idee, Lordship of the Isles and the Sea Princes. Of course only six years late most of those gains were slipping away. Their reliance on Hepmonaland conscripts and foreign sea power to hold together their scattered territory likely contributed to their losses. In the resurgent GHW2, the Brotherhood looks to be an instigator at best. With everyone on the lookout for their assassins and spies, there is no chance to expand from their remote peninsula much less retake anything lost previously. Their nearest outlet to attack is the County of Sunndi and its natural resources. Again however their chances of success are hard with the Vast Swamp inbetween and the fact Sunndi is encircled by hills and mountains. Demihumans would also put up a long fight against any occupiers. In truth the SB's best chance at any success would be to usurp the allied Empire of the Pomarj. This is a lateral move for them but it could put them in striking distance of Greyhawk if GHW3 ever breaks out. Don't worry about the Brotherhood shaking anything up.

The Kingdom of Nyrond (15%) is in bad shape as well. The kingdom is big and spread out with few natural defenses. The last war stretched their resources and manpower thin and it was looking like the place might crumble like its enemy the Great Kingdom did a mere six years earlier. GHW2 breaks out and suddenly Nyrond is on the defensive from all directions. Their chances of winning anything would be to completely drive out evil from old Almor or maybe put down an indignant Theocracy of the Pale to secure the north. Greyhawk scholars seem to agree, the old Nyrondese Cavalry Squadrons might have their last ride in this war. Nyrond's loss could be a gain for neighboring nations like the Urnsts and the Pale who would pick up disaffected refugees from the failing kingdom. That is unless they are turned away!

Surprisingly, major player the Empire of Iuz is given only a 18% chance of winning GHW2. Iuz's empire had already started to flake apart post-Wars. His demigod resourcefulness and high powered circle of henchmen ensured they could easily take the Northern Marches, including the Bandit Kingdoms. Their push into Furyondy stalled however and those gains were lost as the knights of good moved in place to retake the Shield Lands next. By the time Iuz's enemies are ready for GHW2, the Old One himself will likely be in personal trouble again, having to always deal with major threats like Vecna or the Circle of Eight. Iuz's empire can only hope to see success if they go after more soft targets. Instead of southward his forces must finally roll over the Tiger and Wolf Nomads to the west then into Stonehold to the east. Stonefists can be beguiled by Iuz as we learned, but the nomads are used to his tricks and might avoid direct conflict. It's a long shot but if Iuz could secure Perrenland, his mother Iggwilv's old realm, that could improve his odds drastically.

In the same boat as Iuz is the fractured Great Kingdom of Aerdy. At 20% that's basically a 1-4 on a d20 roll.Since GHW1, it has split into 2-3 large kingdoms and several free cities. the old capital Rauxes and the See of Medegia are wasted. Undead run the place from animus to death knights. It's not a good time to be a human in the east. This means if GHW2 broke out, poor peasants would be running in all directions to avoid the deprivations of their own rulers who would be busy in a civil war of sorts, much less worrying about a traditional opponent like Nyrond or the Iron League. In this eventual civil war, the edge here goes to the United Kingdom of Ahlissa, which has a very secure and defensible position in the south with plenty of natural resources, sea access and rational rulers who aren't trying to turn the place into a necropolis. If there is any way the Great Kingdom beats the odds and wins at GHW2 it's if one of the claimants to the Overking's throne brings Aerdy back together with little bloodshed, probably with the assistance of high magic like the Malachite Throne or the Regalia of Might.

Now for the obvious winners of GHW2. At 34% we have the Kingdom of Keoland. Interestingly their only real conflict came at the hands of a giant incursion into the western states of Geoff and Sterich. If they had any other real problems it was with traditional foe Ket or middling piracy still coming out of Scarlet Brotherhood controlled Sea Princes. Keoland thus got off rather easy in GHW1 and still has full forces of knights and navies to utilize. Even at 34% however, confidence is low that they make any ground. I see them as repelling the giants eventually with hero support, and even possibly reclaiming old lands like Westkeep from the Brotherhood who are too far away to aid their forces. Likewise, the Pomarj is just too far to be a concern to them (unless Ulek needs help though) and Keoland realistically shouldn't sweat Iuz unless Furyondy-Veluna falls. (see below) So yes, Keoland has everything to gain and little chance to see any credible losses unless inner court turmoil does them in, as is the case in many other kingdoms.

Then there is the fan favorite, Kingdom of Furyondy at 43%. If any one can win GHW2 and needs to it is this bastion of Good. With the help of Veluna and the Knights of Holy Shielding, Furyondy had already halted and drove back Iuz within 6 years. After regrouping there is no reason to think that the Shield Lands aren't liberated next, then a push made to finally conquer Molag and capital Dorakaa as well. Alot of this second effort is supported by heroic intervention of course, behind the scenes, keeping the Old One busy or weakening his power in various ways. Furyondy has the best knights in its vanguard and if it gains any more allies, say from Highfolk or the Bandit Lands uprising, their success would be quite higher. Really Furyondy doesn't seem in a position to lose, perhaps another stalemate at worst. I do know from experience though, once Furyondy does defeat Iuz permanently and drive all the evil away, the void is quickly filled by other bandit kings and scheming lords wanting to rule in stead. It's an exciting prospect if Furyondy wins GHW2. Can they maintain the peace thereafter or will they move on to the next crusade?

Finally, the Other category at 3% is quite a long shot. There is some states in the Flanaess that could "win" in the event of a second Greyhawk War. Perrenland or Highfolk are ones that spring to mind. Perrenland can either side with evil and take out Highfolk, or side with good and expand by taking out unruly Ket. This of course could ignite a whole new Greyhawk Wars 3 when the Baklunish realms band together to drive back the forces of the east. Highfolk (and the Vesve Forest) peoples benefit by winning in that they drive out evil and can secure a peaceful region again.

Other long shots, the nomads of the north could rally together (Tiger, Wolf, Rovers) and form a horde to pinch out Iuz from two directions. The chances they ally are slim though. Another remote winner is the barbarian lands who could (and should have after Howl From the North) band together into a horde and raid Bone March again (successfully?) or attack the North Province by sea or even go as far as taking the Sea Barons. There's many ways they could succeed if only the barbarians would be utilized. One last musing, let's say Rary lashes out in GHW2. He uses all his magical might, he restores Sulm, he unleashes automata, daemons, or he attracts unlikely allies to his cause like the Gynarchs of Hardby or humanoid enclaves scattered around the central region. He could thus easily threaten his immediate vicinity such as the Duchy of Urnst, the Wild Coast and yes, the Free City of Greyhawk. What's your thoughts? Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Great Flanaess River Adventure

Well met Greyhawk fans! Today I'm doing a long overdue promotion of the Oliver Brothers new 1st Edition AD&D compatible "river campaign" titled the Great Flanaess River Adventure. The GRFA is a massive 15 chapter epic taking your heroes from humble beginnings in Blackmoor and taveling by various waterways to the City of Greyhawk. Each chapter is its own PDF download with new chapters added each Friday.

To hook your attention, the Olivers write: "The hardest (and most frustrating) part of any journey is the planning. And so it is with the new party of adventurers planning to journey down the Fler and Velverdyva Rivers to the Gem of the Flanaess – Greyhawk.

Chapter 1 of The Great Flanaess River Adventure begins in Blackmoor in the Village of Arneson located at the headwaters of the Fler River. The party needs provisions, the means for securing future provisions, and canoes. A number of opportunities arise for the party to secure all they need before departing. From hunting the winter wolf, to entering the Burneal Forest to obtain wood for dugout canoes, to watching the antics of the snow monkeys--the adventure and campaign of a life time begins."

For those who like old school D&D, the GFRA is done in the format of those old AD&D modules, from the stat blocks, to the font and even the blue tint maps. The campaign has already wound its way through the Burneal Forest and crossed the nomad lands and is now at Lake Quag. It's not too late to hop in a canoe and check out this lovingly written, original Greyhawk campaign.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Greyhawk Twitter Topics

Welcome Greyhawk fans and readers of all things related to D&D. When it comes to social media, I spend a lot of time on Twitter (@GamersTableMike) and recently I asked some of my friends and followers for topic ideas. I got a few good responses, so let's just do them all!

Alec Stutson (@padawanovelist) wants to hear about, "Taking real world and historical influence, from politics and ancient world powers, and incorporating those into a campaign."

Okay let's get the hard one out of the way first, haha. The World of Greyhawk setting, created by Gary Gygax is a clinic in historical influence. Old Gygax was first a historical wargamer thus the genesis of his fantasy realm was real world influence. This pseudo-realism is what keeps Greyhawk grounded even when you throw in liches, dragons and death-trap dungeons.

For those wanting to run a campaign with ancient real world flavor all you need to do is read the boxed set Guide to see references to each nations' borders, army strengths and their ongoing or past conflicts. Gygax goes into great detail on knighthoods, royal naming conventions and of course heraldry, like no other. The nature of the setting is also to borrow analogs of Earthly culture. This way you have Euro, Asian and Arabic references to draw upon. All a DM needs to do in crafting a story based on say the Roman Empire or the Crusades is find the region best suited both culturally or geographically and highlight the most important aspects for players.

Example: I run a campaign based on the golden age of piracy. The most geographically advantageous spot for that is the Azure Sea and southward. In canon, a seafaring area like the Hold of the Sea Princes or the Lordship of the Isles is best to base these campaigns around. From there you can spin other tales on the high seas such as the Great Kingdom creating a fleet inspired by the Spanish Armada or you can have exploration of Oerth's jungles inspired by the Age of Exploration. Never mind that these historical eras mash up directly against more ancient tropes like armored knights, raiding vikings or sword and sandal Roman gladiators. It's a fantasy world!

Barantor (@Barantor) suggests, "Explain Iuz as a force present in "the flesh" on Oerth. This is a topic that needs a little backstory on the demigod of evil, pain and deceit. To sum up, Iuz is the progeny of the Demon Prince Graz'zt and the witch Queen of Perrenland, Iggwilv. His birth was likely planned as a long term powerplay for both parents to rule the world, though Iggwilv would later lose Perrenland and Graz'zt would have his hands full as well. Iuz likely started as a bandit king whose supernatural powers gave him an advantage over his neighbors. As he grew more powerful and realized his birthright he took on more followers of humanoid persuasion and by means not entirely understood attained immortality enough to soon have his own priesthood.

All this happened on the watch of Furyondy and the Shield Lands too. You would think if a powerful individual like Iuz was ascendant, the forces of good would be swift to stamp it out. Iuz perhaps hid behind the more vile acts of the Horned Society and the Temple of Elemental Evil for a while. The former even took  Iuz's short disappearance into captivity by Zagyg for granted and much like the kingdoms of good, wasn't prepared for his return, an almost Napoleonic rise back to power where he carved out a bloody empire from the north.

Iuz's purpose in the setting is the big bad evil guy, the meta-plot villain mastermind behind all the world's ills, ala Sauron. Iuz is also a foil for other would-be BBEGs such as Vecna or Kyuss. Evil turns on evil and the spoiled little demigod Iuz does not want other demigods running around. Iuz is a rather kitchen-sink type villain too. He has it all, orc armies, undead armies, demons, you name it. So there you have it, I don't know if I answered the question, but the short of it is the world needs a major villain or two to keep heroes busy.

Temujin (@Temmogen) wants to know more about, "The lost civilizations under the Crystalmist mountains." Here's one that I'm no expert on, but I'm assuming he wants to hear about the Lerara tribe of the Suloise. Long ago when the Suel fled the destruction of their empire in the Rain of Colorless Fire, many tribes fled through Slerotins's Tunnel, a sort of moses parting the Red Sea moment in Greyhawk history (see above question). For whatever reason the Lerara got lost or fell behind and they were trapped in the underdark with all those creepy critters. they managed to eek out an existence thanks to the "Mother" a mysterious entity who is basically like a god to the Lerara.

In my opinion, Mother is probably some unique, ancient amorphous being left over from an age before mankind, maybe an aberration akin to the Aboleth or an old obyrith demon like Dagon. whatever the case, the Lerara worship her like a goddess. Little has been written on this culture outside the World of Greyhawk Guide or sources about the mage, Elayne Mystica who left the underdark to live in Irongate. elayne aside, I wager given a millennia of underdark life, they albino, they have dark vision and are probably inbred to the point of being inhuman in appearance.

The Lerara are lost to human kind, but are surely well known to the drow, duergar and other races of the Under-Oerth. Besides this tribe as a lost culture in the mountains you could also speculate on clans of giant-kin lost among the vast mountains as their larger cousins spread out into the plains or maybe time-forgotten cavemen hidden in and around the inaccessible Valley of Mage or the site of the adjoining Barrier Peak ship crash.

and finally...

Brandi (@xb0shi3x) inquires, "Sabriel, where is she now? Probably getting nasty with George Clooney." Hah, well she is from my last Sea Princes game group (see above). where she played Sabriel Loreweaver, bard, pirate and wielder of the sword Dreamsinger from the adventure Five Shall Be One. When we finished that quest she had been a "friend with benefits" to a pirate lord named Captain Kendrick of Blue. He was best described as looking like George Clooney, thus the appeal.

To answer Brandi, what is Sabriel doing now? Well she is not in Blue port, she was last seen in the Hold of Sea Princes mulling over a lucrative marriage proposal from the rotund Count Robiga of Poniard. What she really has in mind for the count is left to be seen, but I'm sure the he won't keep Kendrick away for long. Yep, we have a lot of unfinished political intrigue to finish should we ever return to Sabriel and the crew of the Envy. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

GaryCon Haul

Last week I recapped my experience at my first Gary Con in Lake Geneva, WI. This week I'm showing off the modest haul I brought back from the con. I'm not a big shopper. I've cut back as shelf space and need for gaming stuff dwindles, plus I've acquired most old Greyhawk materials I'll ever want. Some stuff you just have to get at every con though...

First thing my friend Jayson did was make sure I got a dice bag. For years I've kept my main gaming dice in a clear ziplock bag. Cause reasons. Well at one of our games, Jayson and Kraftwerk dice shamed me into ditching that. Luckily now I have this fancy GaryCon dicebag with Demogorgon on it. What's not to like? We also got last year's official GaryCon d8 die. I assume every other year they have one, so next year is the d10. Oh boy!

Of course what is a convention without the GaryCon tee shirt? Again, Demogorgon was evidently the mascot for this year. We are guessing its to build on the hype of Demogorgon on the show Stranger Things. Good call cause I've always been a big fan of the Prince of Demons. I didn't buy a Demogorgon mini however. So that means my players are safe this year.

 Now onto my actual purchases. Besides swinging by Darlene's booth endlessly and buying a couple small prints, I didn't get much to brag about. My main focus was on the Blackblade Publishing booth where Allan Grohe hooked me up with a CD copy of the El Raja Key ArchiveRobert J Kuntz's collected notes on his home campaigns and published works. There is a wealth of esoterical Greyhawk information in there for me to blog about. Excited.

I also got my favorite thing, Blackblade's specialized hex paper. Their newest pad is a giant hex with hexes in it, which in turn have hexes in it! Hex Inception. I can't wait to create a map with those. Allan suggested something like the Maure Castle regional map in Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure. Lastly, just for fun he gave us some TPK tissues because sometimes, a gamer gets emotional.

That's about it. See you again soon GaryCon!

Monday, March 27, 2017

GaryCon 2017 Recap

Well folks, I'm back and recovered from GaryCon and wow was it quite different than GenCon Indy. Different as in going back in time by 20 or 30 years. Here's a rundown on the weekend that I shared with my long time gaming best friend Jayson.

Wisconsin and Lake Geneva is gorgeous. I'm from southern Illinois so geographically Wisconsin isn't much different, but the city of Lake Geneva and the resort that GaryCon is held at is simply wonderful. I could do a whole blog just on the peripheral sights to see. Needless to say, if you go to GaryCon in the future, venture out to the Lake, explore, it's worth it.

Good friends, amazing artists. We had planned zero events for GaryCon and truly had zero idea what to expect. In two days though, we filled our entire schedule with invites to gaming, a panel and meals. We felt really appreciated being among a smaller, more intimate crowd. That said I definitely was there to meet some fellas from the Greyhawk community. My good friend and patron from the Canonfire! community, Kraftwerk was first to greet us (though our hockey rivalry would soon strain that relationship) and invite us to his game. Fellow Castle Greyhawk comic scribe, Scott Casper was there as well and we hung out for the game and then for a good part of the day in the Exhibition Hall and where we got to meet the legendary artist behind the World of Greyhawk map, Darlene herself. I don't need to tell any of you how great it was to meet her and have her sign one of my Greyhawk maps. It was even greater to spend the rest of the evening with her and Kraftwerk afterward! Not to be outdone, on Saturday we were invited by one of my favorite community friends, Allan Grohe of Blackblade Publishing to play in one of his "gygaxian" Castle Greyhawk dungeon crawls. More on the games in a bit.

One thing to note: when you walk into Gary Con there is a whole roster of gaming veterans and VIPs at every turn who freely mingle with the crowd. You can't get that as easily at a huge convention like GenCon. We sat in on a TSR panel which included Darlene and the likes of Larry Elmore, Bill Willingham, Jeff Easley, Jeff Dee, Steve Sullivan, Tom Wham, Diesel and Jeff Butler. The stories they told about working in the old offices at Lake Geneva, how they got hired, bagging on artists not present or honoring those passed away, was the highlight of the con. It was a different time for artists back then, they really taught each other a lot. Coming out of that I really felt like I was born in the wrong era.

Speaking of art. On the second floor in the historical gaming room (how this all got started), was an original art display of the likes you'll not see anywhere else. Among the best and most iconic pieces there was the paladin in hell illustration by Dave Sutherland from the 1E Players Handbook. Crazy good linework. This picture inspired me to run many encounters with demons of the lower planes.

Then there is Jeff Easley's sleeping vampire Drelzna from the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. Easley is usually known for his amazing full color cover paintings, but even his B&W interior art is inspiring. I had the privilege of seeing a new painting Mr. Easley did for the con, which I'm hoping you will all get to see in the coming year.
One more to show, is the full wrap-around painting for the cover of the 1E Dungeon Masters Guide also by Dave Sutherland. He wasn't the best artist of that era (my faves are Erol Otus and Dave Trampier) but this painting is among my favorite D&D works of art, so to see it in person was an honor if not eye opening on how art was done back in the day.

Greyhawk Gaming! So like I mentioned earlier me and Jayson (and his recurring female dwarf fighter) took part in three Greyhawk games over two days. We played in one Greyhawk in ten years of GenCon attendance. Just saying. Here's a quick overview of the adventures we had in Greyhawk:

Kill Markessa. Kraftwerk's mission was supposed to be simple. A powerful benefactor hires a fellowship of heroes to go into a lair and slay the infamous Slaver and vile surgeon Markessa. In two hours real time. A couple illusions and one orc room later, a chaotic melee broke out including misshapen trolls and guard dogs. We found and woke a Markessa duplicate only adding to the confusion. That we failed and the real Markessa got away is no surprise. There is always next time for Die Markessa, Die! I guess. What made this adventure extra special was our VIP guest, Luke Gygax! Now being able to say I gamed with a Gygax is definitely a feather in my cap for the rest of my life.

Diamonds in the Rough. Allan Grohe's Castle Greyhawk is heavily inspired by the original Gygax campaign and he runs it 1E style all the way. This scenario is a continuation of his larger ongoing convention exploration of the famous dungeon. It is a mapping nightmare too. It's been so long since I DMed a mega-dungeon that I forgot how careful and slow players go! After an hour of silent searching and geometry, our guards were down and no one saw the door shaped mimic coming! I love when I fall for D&D tropes. Needless to say things got intense when giant insects and demon Chasme started chasing our party. One intrepid player used a wish from his sword however and transported all into a room full of gems (and one certain artifact gem) belonging to a dazzling gem dragon. What ensued was much groveling and placating of the noble creature before we were allowed to leave (though my halfling sneaked a few gems out). Our wizard however bugged out too soon, escaping to an uncertain doom in the astral plane...

Upon Thy Head a Crown. I hope I got this title right. Our last game was ran by Kraftwerk again, involved several deceased, chosen proxies (yes the female dwarf, Marya was there again) of a variety of deities being sent into a series of rooms to test who is most worthy to gain the object at the end, with the prize being you are resurrected, thus lifting the station of their patron deity. It was a game of the gods. Each room had an elemental theme and required more than combat to cross, indeed it took a marvelous amount of thinking to get by the wind and water and icy environments when we all started with nothing but clothes and a signature weapon. Literally everything we came across or took from a slain foe was used in some way to get past the traps and hazards. It was fun and the end wrap up was nicely done leaving everyone happy and applauding our DM.

That's the run of it all. I could go into my haul or other stuff but we'll leave that to your imagination. I am so glad to have met a host of new gamers, many of which are Greyhawk fans, and many which I got to hang around multiple times. I hope to see you guys online, just drop me a line if you read this! Maybe I'll see you at another GaryCon soon!

Monday, March 20, 2017

GaryCon This Week

Hey Greyhawkers and old school gamers! This week (March 23-26) is Gary Con IX at Lake Geneva, WI. Being a life long gamer, it's sort of a pilgrimage to go for the first time. For the last decade or so I've been all about Gen Con Indy, but I never went to that convention back in the day when it was up north. I'm hoping to redeem myself for so many years of missed opportunities.

I have no idea what to expect at this smaller, local con, so I'm trusting on my friends in the Greyhawk community to shine a light on stuff to do since I have signed up for zero events so far (outside an invite to a personal game). Drop me an email mortellan(at)gmail.com if you'd like to say hi or have me come by your booth or just talk Greyhawk. I'll be the guy wearing a "World of Greyhawk" t-shirt, so see you there!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Best Brewers in Greyhawk?

Here is the results and commentary on my latest fun poll, who has the best brewers in the World of Greyhawk? The question is divided along racial and geographic lines as I surmised:

First, let's mention the outliers here. Coming in tied at last place with 3% I offered Krakenheim, capital of the Frost Barbarians for some nordic variety. Setting canon is mum on whether these viking analogs are big drinkers, but up in the Cold North they have to be drinking something other than walrus blood right? Also coming in with 3% of the vote is Gryrax. I chose the capital of the Principality of Ulek because it is nominally ruled by dwarves. Dwarves are historically famous for their brews and being a port city, I figured Gryrax would also be a good exporter of booze. I guess it was just me.

Speaking of dwarves, let's skip to the winner of this poll, Irongate at 44% of the vote. Irongate has alot going for it in brewing. It has a strong dwarven population (not to mention other small folk) being close to the Iron Hills. It too is a huge port city so they have the capacity to brew enough to export. Also. Irongate is a fortress that has withstood more than one siege in its time, so having good stores of alcohol is essential for morale and possibly combat. Lastly, Irongate was once featured in an article for Dragon #351. The city is a home to the plane hopping World Serpent Inn. That means Irongate has to have the Flanaess' most diverse collection of brews.

Tied for second is the Perrenland capital of Schwartzenbruin at 20%. I chose this place obviously for the Germanic analog. Perrenland is a mountainous home to proud mercenaries and adventurous demihumans, so it immediately conjures up images of festive halls in my mind. Also tied for second is the Free City of Greyhawk. This multi-cultural city was a no-brainer for the poll since there is a plethora of brew houses and bars in canon. One only needs to reference the City of Greyhawk boxed set to find info on the Guild of Ostlers and Brewers or randomly roll up a new brewery in Old City or Artisans Quarter.

To finish up, coming in with a surprising 6% of the vote is the largest Bandit Kingdom city, Rookroost. Much like Irongate, this city is a fortress and with it's own raucous bandit population, so certainly it's bound to have a good brews to keep them happy. Of course it's also plausible they steal all their brews from nearby Duchy of Tenh, Theocracy of the Pale or Shield Lands. Who knows? I'd have to ask some former Living Greyhawk folks to be certain. I checked the 2E adventure Fate of Istus, which has the most info on Rookroost and found a wealth of city material but no supporting brew facts. Darn!

One last tidbit. For those wanting some old school homebrew brew ideas for their Greyhawk campaign (and way back), go back in time to the Codex of Greyhawk website, archived over at the Wayback Machine! Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Tales from the Yawning Portal Preview

In the latest issue of Dragon+ over at Wizards there is some preview articles and art concerning the upcoming classic module compilation, Tales from the Yawning Portal. Among other things in this issue, we get some preview pages of the familiar Tomb of Horrors backstory and where it fits in Greyhawk plus a retrospective on an original Dragotha article from Dragon #134. The best part is the new art attached to a few of our beloved classics:

The colorized map of White Plume Mountain is simply fantastic. I don't know if you've ever downloaded Dragon+ before, but at first I wasn't keen on yet another digital Dragon, yet lately their content is starting to get more interesting; albeit they are glorified advertisements. Next issue they promise more previews of Yawning Portal and a report on Garycon, which I will be attending. Can't wait!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Blood Bowl in Greyhawk

My friends and I have recently got back into the sports groove with the newest edition of the boardgame/videogame Blood Bowl. Before I get too far have a peek at this old post I made about Greyhawk Rugby; that's what Blood Bowl should be all about: a mix of fantasy and modern sports. Below is a list of team names for a Greyhawk themed tweak of my inter-college Rugby League campaign, instead cast as a regional league more along the lines of the multi-racial Blood Bowl game.

Human: "Free City of Greyhawk Griffons"
The city has a lesser collegiate league still and their best athletes compete abroad. The Free City Arena is still the best venue to play in all the central lands.

Orc: "Blackthorn Bandits"
The Orcish Empire of the Pomarj likely has many teams, however this lair of humanoids in the Gnarley Forest is much closer to the action. Only the league keeps them relatively peaceful.

Dwarf: "Greysmere Anvils"
Greysmere is one of three dwarven teams out of the Abbor Alz Mountains.

Skaven: "Undercity Gnashers"
There is no Skaven race per se in Greyhawk so this is a team of vile wererats hailing from the sewers of Greyhawk.

High Elf: "Canryell Lances"
Celene may currently be isolationist but the fringes elven communities still have contact and interaction with other realms, including this one on the edge of the Wild Coast.

Bretonian: "Free City of Dyvers Bannermen"
Dyvers' rivalry with the Gem of the Flanaess continues in this league. Their history as the former capital of the Kingdom of Furyondy lives on in their team name.

Halfling: "Elmshire Slingers"
This very short and soft team is more interested in the festivities and post game meals than the game itself.

Goblin: "Harrgrek Grinders"
This group of goblins in the Cairn Hills gets out to compete just to show their orcish masters they can't be pushed around.

Chaos: "Mastryne Marauders"
This group of mysteriously mutated men have come out of the Wild Coast to bring the pain.

Amazon: "Hardby Brawlers" 
The Despotrix of Hardby has assembled the toughest, roughest women in the domain to be on her all-female squad.

Lizardmen: "Mistmarsh Maws"
Emerging from the swamp is an amazingly capable set of lizardmen athletes. Who knew they had talent?

Necromantic: "Inverness Souleaters"
This dreadful team just started showing up. The Ghost Tower continues to surprise.

Wood Elf: "Clan Meldarin Archers"
Another remote elven team from the Gnarley. They compete just because they don't want the high elves to get all the glory.

Undead: "Castle Greyhawk Deathless"
Apparently the famous ruins has issued out some skeletal players ready to compete, but who is the manager?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Greyhawk: Arid Encounters

Today I'm brainstorming a different subject for my rambling development of the Dry Steppes and an associated megadungeon. I was looking at the regional encounter charts in the Glossography book of the World of Greyhawk setting boxed set and noticed the steppes are woefully boring.

Most entries for nations or geographical areas will have a list of typical races or creatures you'd already expect to find randomly, then the chart will end with half the results being "Use Standard Encounter Tables". This is fine because half the time you will see common things like men, dwarves and orcs. Only rarely do you bump into manticores or owlbears and stuff. The Wastelands section is no different except most of these areas have at least one distinctive entry.

For example, the Bright Desert:

01-15 Men, Dervishes
16-40 Men, Nomads
41-45 Men, Tribesmen
46-50 Pernicons
51-00 Use Standard Encounter Table

This is typical for these encounter charts; you will see lots of humans and occasionally a special critter, in this case the Pernicon, which is a very nasty giant grasshopper from Fiend Folio that latches onto you and drains fluids in the form of constitution points. Oh, by the way in their lair you can encounter 300-3000 of them! Not to digress, the other wastelands have critters too.

The Land of Black Ice has literally only one encounter before standard ones, the infamous Blue Bugbear. Not as scary as a pernicon but it's unique. Riftcanyon is also heavy of Men and Humanoids but it at least has a 3% chance for Ogres. The Sea of Dust is the best and most diverse. There is no "standard chart" for this desert. As a result you get more than just roving men. You get boring beetles, scorpions, snakes and spiders. It also has some of the nastiest Fiend Folio creatures like Osquips, Firenewts, Thoqqua, Jermlaine, Dune Stalkers and also yes, Pernicons.

The Dry Steppes entry however, has only one special creature on its list: Horses. Well that's wonderfully bland, unless your characters train animals. Now I realize the steppes aren't as dangerous and inhospitable as the Sea of Dust, but by trying to make a more fully realized wilderness encounter chart, I want to add a bit of color to make the Dry Steppes more distinctive than "where wild horses come from."

Drawing ideas from neighboring charts is a bit of help, but we are talking mountains at this point. Ull and the Plains of the Paynims is all nomads, the Crystalmists yields plenty of Giants or their kin, which we learn from Against the Giants, Greyhawk Wars and Liberation of Geoff, are more interested in bashing the fertile east. The south bordering Sulhaut Mountains are intriguing though. Demihumans (Dwarves? Gnomes? What?), Drow (night only), more Giants and Humanoids and the curious Pleistocine subchart. Talk about dangerous, you have to go through all that to get into the Sea of Dust! Most mountain critters aren't going to venture out on the steppes though, except as we've seen, Giants.

What if, the realms of the Sheldomar Valley rally and repelled all the giants so their only option is to raid westward? Plenty of horses to eat! Or perhaps something more sinister is afoot like the Drow are manipulating monster incursions into the nomad's territory. Or maybe all this list needs is a special monster from the Fiend Folio that hasn't been used already. Let's see...how about Clubneks? Giant, mutated, killer ostriches? Check mark!

I could go on forever, so that's enough for now. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Greyhawk Megadungeon Idea

Lately I've been musing over the need for some new megadungeons in Greyhawk. The ones we have are classic and have been revised, returned to and played out for the most part. My personal stab at this is a proposed megadungeon set in the Dry Steppes. The Dry Steppes is a remote, undeveloped area with ancient historical background. For my own amusement this hypothetical dungeon is also set very close to the southern border of Ull, a land that no one knows better than myself. Without further ado, I introduce Qabu Al-Imbraturi "The Vault of the Emperor".

Here is my very rough idea: 

The location of Qabu Al-Imbraturi was lost to memory since the Invoked Devastation ravaged the Baklunish Empire, thus ending their long war with the mutually annihilated Suloise Imperium. Nomads of the Dry Steppes had traveled in the shadow of this ruin for generations without ever knowing of its existence, until recently, when it appeared following a brief display of strange lights in the night sky. The upper ruins of this ancient edifice is carved into the side of a mountain while deep below, vast armories and arcane foundries are said to house the most destructive weapons ever crafted by the Baklunish. Sages speculate that escalating warfare upon the Fields of Padyr to the south and grim portents concerning the Suel Mages of Powerforced the Padishah to pour massive manpower and resources into the creation of the Vault. What mighty artifacts and relics were created here is unknown, but surely great elemental magics must be contained here; possibly a precursor to the infamous Rain of Colorless Fire.

At first the ruin's appearance was a curiosity for superstitious nomads; deemed either a holy site or a cursed domain. Before long the lure of treasure and magic attracted less scrupulous foreigners. Based out of the nearby town of Kester, teams of highly competitive explorers have begun to pierce the upper dungeon, after first contending with the natural dangers of the steppes. The full extent of Qabu Al-Imbraturi has yet to be determined due to vicious traps and ancient wards still in place. The lethality of the dungeon has led some parties to share their knowledge in order to make further progress. Despite the risk, it's only a matter of time before some bold, resourceful adventurers discover how to penetrate the deeper levels of the Vault of the Emperor.

(more to come?)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Greyhawk Monarch Poll Results

Okay folks here is the results of my last front page poll, looks like we have a lot of elven readers in the community. All hail your favorite ruler:

#1 Queen Yolande of Celene at 27% was most popular. Not only is she elven but this is the only female on the list. It shows some of us are ready for a female ruler, although if I threw Countess Belissica of Urnst on the poll, I bet that vote would've got split!

#2 King Kimbertos of Keoland is a no-brainer with 24% of the vote. The Sheldomar Valley is quite popular in the Greyhawk community and it helps he is a powerful ranger. Imagine a King Aragorn post-War of the Rings. Who wouldn't like him to be king?

#3 King Belvor IV of Furyondy at 16% is another fan fave. He is not only lawful good, but his nation is on the front lines of the war against the ultimate evil, Iuz. This casts him more in the role of a Lord of the Rings type of ruler than Kimbertos. What has Kimbertos had to worry about? Giants?

#4 Lord Mayor Nerof Gasgal of Greyhawk came in at 12% of the vote narrowly beating Ivid V. For being the ruler of the Gem of the Flanaess, the settings' core city and driver of adventure, I am surprised he didn't do better. Then again, Nerof is a former thief whose election to the head of the city is dubious. I can see maybe, why monarchs are more romantic in this list.

#5 Overking Ivid V of the Great Kingdom came in with 11% narrowly beat by Greyhawk's mayor. The Great Kingdom is evil overall, but Ivid does have some qualities worth picking him. He has power hungry madness, undead appeal, fiendish guards and a relic throne. I hear in the Great Kingdom he is polling at 95%.

#6 King Archbold III of Nyrond sadly came in last with 7% Apparently Nyrond gets no love. They are the ones who will probably save the world too...

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Greyhawk: Beyond the Crystalmists

Here is the first look at a map I've been working on, based on the Dry Steppes map in Vecna Lives! by Steve Beck. I also draw inspiration from Anna Meyer's regional maps, which include references from Gygax's Gord novels. I also threw in some of my own "Morthawk" which is the real reason for my interest in remaking this intriguing map. I'll elaborate more in the coming weeks. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Greyhawk and Undead

I thoroughly enjoyed the response to my Greyhawk zombie outbreak article last week, and I hope to do more articles tied to maps again. Anyhow, today I'd like to follow that up with some commentary on what I see as an intriguing theme within the setting, and that is the prevalence of undead in the Flanaess (nevermind the abundance of demons). Perhaps I've always known this but never really pondered it until I took the zombie apocalypse to an extreme and then combined that with a lich article I did recently. When you look across the breadth of Greyhawk canon, undead are everywhere.

Iuz the Evil, City of Skulls, The Marklands: The Empire of Iuz is rife with typical orcs, goblins, ogres and yes demons, but the forefront of his battle lines is skeleton and zombie armies raised by his clerics. Iuz's symbol is a grinning skull, and his capital Dorakaa is "the City of Skulls", yet he is a demigod of evil, deceit and pain, not implicitly a death god. The fact he employs demons makes sense given his parentage, so mastery of the undead is something he must've learned on his own. Iuz's other necromantic feats include the unholy bone road, bone constructs like the Thassaloss and various magical skulls, wands and staves of necromancy used by his Boneheart henchmen. All this undeath in his culture makes me wonder why humanoids dare work for him.

Ivid the Undying, From the Ashes, Greyhawk Wars, etc.: House Naelax were once known for treating with demons, but once Ivid was turned into an animus, the fractured Great Kingdom went total undead theme. Death Knights suddenly are part of the fabric of Aerdy's history as well, though they are created by a demon prince, Demogorgon, and not Orcus as you'd assume (some kind of demon-undead feedback loop).

White Plume Mountain, Tomb of Horrors, Ravenloft, Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad, Vecna Lives, etc.: Liches as I've presented earlier are heavily invested in the Flanaess. Vecna and Acererak are the prime candidates, but others inhabit Oerth or once did such as Azalin the main rival of Strahd from Ravenloft and Dragotha the dracolich. They are everywhere in every corner of the Flanaess and beyond.

Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, Iuz the Evil, Vecna Lives, White Plume Mountain, etc.: Vampires aren't as prevalent n Greyhawk, and that's a relief since powerful undead are in such numbers. The vampires we do see such as Kas, Drelnza or Maskelyne could definitely spread their kind if they chose to. I may explore that possibility later.

Age of Worms, Greyhawk Boxed Set, Greyhawk Ruins, City of Greyhawk Boxed Set: As I demonstrated in my zombie outbreak article, Kyuss alone has the chops to spread undead across the continent. There are other deities besides Kyuss, Vecna and Iuz doing this. Nerull the acutal god of death has followers everywhere like the Horned Society, the North Province and hiding in places like the City of Greyhawk and Greyhawk Ruins. Other gods of evil like Incabulos surely has undead components, Hextor god of war is responsible for the creation of the animus. Then there is Wee Jas, goddess of death and magic. Luckily she doesn't seem concerned with undeath.

Other minor mentions to make; there is haunted hills and graveyards galore in the Flanaess. Ghouls worshiping Yeenoghu are known. The Ghost Tower of Inverness is particularly grim. And I'm not even prepared to speculate on undead in the Temple of Elemental Evil and Maure Castle. Basically, the World of Greyhawk is one more major deity or lich away from being the World of Darkness (trademark). Throw demons, devils and Tharizdun cultists into the mix and this setting is much, much, MUCH more evil than Ravenloft.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Greyhawk Zombie Apocalypse

I was fiddling around with maps for one project and ended up spending a whole night doing this for fun. On my good friend Anna Meyer's wonderful site, she has a section for blank maps of the Flanaess called "spread and notation" maps. These are for gimmicky maps like the regional "Alignment" or "Resource" maps in the original boxed set folios. Or as Anna writes:
"Spread & Notation maps to keep track of influences, religion, alignments or that pesky undead infestation..."

When I read that I just had to make a zombie infestation map for Greyhawk! One note, this map represents no particular year in the Greyhawk timeline, or perhaps it's a mashup of all the events from 576-591. Either way, what the map below represents is a combination necromantic-viral undead breakout. Figure out how this works in your own game, for now witness the end of the World of Greyhawk as we know it. Warning this is a long article with sources, but it'll be worth reading. Enjoy!

click to enlarge
Empire of Iuz (Red)
1. War with Furyondy has escalated. In response to the Flight of Fiends, the Old One calls for the creation of more undead armies to fight for him. However, Iuz's Boneheart wizards and priests do too good of a job and soon whole human and humanoid populations are infected around Lake Whyestil.
2. Following their only line of retreat northward, many humanoids are changed along the Bone Road and up into their Howling Hills strongholds. See: Iuz the Evil and The Marklands
3. Rampant combat and disease breaks the defensive positions of Furyondy. Clerics and paladins are overwhelmed and the Ferrond people are pushed to the Nyr Dyv where Willip soon becomes a graveyard as refugees flee by boat or barge to Greyhawk and Dyvers.
4. The wide plains of Furyondy, Veluna and the vast Vesve Forest are no shelter as the undead plague spreads out west and south until encountering another zombie outbreak. The undead follow the Velverdyva River and overrun the unsuspecting High Vale.
5. The hardy folk of Perrenland find some respite in their high mountain homes but their hidden realm and Lake Quag is surrounded eventually. From there, the infestation wanders out on the nomad plains unabated.
6. The dour people of Blackmoor, used to dangers, aren't ready for the plague of zombies emerging from the Cold Marshes and out of the Burneal Forest. Zombies wander far afield until they come to the Land of Black Ice to linger and mutate again, while some roam the Dramidj Ocean coast.
7. The fearless Tiger Nomads are no match for these virulent monsters. The advance of undeath does stop momentarily however at the borders of Ekbir. Divine intervention perhaps?

Domain of Greyhawk (Brown)
1. Worshipers of the death god Nerull serving the Hierarchs have long plotted to bring the City of Greyhawk low. The day of reckoning happens at last as the city's extensive catacombs and tombs spill forth a horde of zombies and skeletons at night. The ruins of Castle Greyhawk likewise disgorges undead into the Carin Hills. See: City of Greyhawk Boxed Set or Greyhawk the Adventure Begins
2. Undead rise up from ancient cairns and advancing zombies infect unsuspecting Duchy of Urnst until they clash with waves of undeath from the south and east.
3. The plague turns down the Wild Coast and into the forest where roused undead from the Temple of Elemental Evil adds more fuel to the apocalypse.
4. Fleeing refugees from the north cross into Dyvers and are dismayed to find it also overwhelmed by zombies. The Rhennee stick to their barges and dare not go ashore at dark.

Bright Desert (Orange)
1. For reasons not known (Incablous is suspected), undead rise from the Plain of Spears, an ancient Flan battlefield. These skeletal dead fan out among the desert, managing to infect unwary nomads and eventually surprising Rary who wisely abandoned his tower for another plane of existence. See: Rary the Traitor
2. Undead hordes break through the Abbor Alz to spread uncontested throughout the Celadon Forest and Gnatmarsh where they mutate clouds of insects into carrying the zombie plague.
3. The wave of zombies soon reach Nyrond's coast, taking port towns already swelling with fresh bodies trying to escape by boat across Relmor Bay.

Pomarj (Yellow)
1. Nerull's icy grip even touches the seas as drowned zombies emerge from the waves to overtake and infect the pirate coves and evil clans of the Pomarj. The secretive Slavers cannot hide for long in their mountain holds. See: Greyhawk Adventures hardcover and Slavers
2. The bloated zombie horde continues raiding the coast, crossing into the Principality of Ulek and the Wild Coast until encountering other undead outbreaks nearby.
3. People fleeing across the Sea of Gearnat into the lands of the Iron League and South Province are not safe as more sea zombies wash up on these coasts or overtake anchored ships in harbors. The indomitable city of Irongate holds out the longest by might and magic, that is until the virulent monsters find their way inside by chance. See: The Marklands

Fellreev Forest (Pink)
1. The lich Count Dahlvier rules a domain in the western Feelreev Forest. Acting on signs and portents from his patron Nerull, his personal undead army strikes out in all directions, now virulent and quicker than ever. See: Iuz the Evil
2. In conjunction with the apocalypse, the ancient Flannae graveyard of Nerulls Bane rises to unlife as one horde and marches forth from the woods into the open plains once again.
3. Undead armies from Dahlvier's County funnel between two opposing hordes chasing hapless humans toward the Nyr Dyv coast. Their undead ranks are swollen by more animated skeletons warriors harvested from the battlefield of Steelbone Meadows. Lucky survivors cross the water to the Isle of Walworth where the city of Admundfort becomes a last bastion of civilization.
4. Undead spread eastward through the woods and hills, easily turning the unprepared Rovers of the Barrens.
5. The undead outbreak sweeps across the northern wastes taking anything that moves, easily pressing into the Hold of Stonefist and beyond where barbarians foolishly confront the undead masses in open battle. See: Iuz the Evil and Five Shall Be One

Bandit Kingdoms and Amedio Jungle (Green)
1. Heroes are defeated in the bandit city of Alhaster on the eve of apocalypse, resulting in the prophecized return of demigod of undeath, Kyuss. The zombie-like Sons of Kyuss, soon spread out in all directions using virulent undead worms as a vector. Other twisted undead monsters created by Kyuss issue forth out of the Wormcrawl Fissure to make this horde even more deadly than neighboring outbreaks. See: Age of Worms AP
2. The wormy horde moves north covering areas of the Bandit Kingdoms not already struck, eventually breaking the redoubt of Rookroost last. See: Fate of Istus
3. Beset with refugees and unprepared, the normally peaceful County of Urnst becomes ripe for Kyuss' sons to infect the populace. See: The Marklands
4. With no geographical defense, the horde of Kyuss spreads into northern Nyrond unchecked, swelling their numbers within weeks before being turned north by competing outbreaks to the east and south.
5. The wormy horde follows the flight of humankind into the closed lands of the Duchy of Tenh and the Theocracy of the Pale. where even the faith of Pholtus is not enough to stem this tide of evil. After their populace was subsumed, the plague horde crosses into the realm of the Frost Barbarians who brazenly try to fight back rather than head for the Corusk Mountains for safety.
6. Seeing the fall of the Fruztii, the Snow Barbarians flee into the highlands or out to sea, but are hunted down by Kyuss' monstrous undead. The Ice Barbarians are caught between two outbreaks and can only flee by ship across the Solnor Ocean to parts unknown.
7. Meanwhile in the depths of the Amedio Jungle, Kyuss' old capital of Kuluth-Mar stirs with the return of the demigod of undeath. More Sons of Kyuss wander the jungle to take over unsuspecting Olman and Amedian savages, eventually coming to the coastal city of Sasserine where the unwary populace falls. See: Age of Worms AP, Savage Tide AP
8. The worms of Kyuss spread into the deep jungle and the tropics beyond the scope of sages.
9. Slowed some by island hopping, Kyuss' horde eventually reaches the Scarlet Brotherhood. The coastal towns fall easily, yet the central plateau was defensible for the longest time. Despite this struggle, Kyuss' monsters eventually bore their way into the hidden realm. See: The Scarlet Brotherhood
10. The zombie outbreak continues across the Tilva Strait directed by the will of Kyuss. The jungles of Hepmonaland become fertile new ground to harvest more spawn of Kyuss, uncontested by any other outbreaks save a minor strain of zombies called the Ravenous.

Great Kingdom (Blue)
1. Mad Overking Ivid V was turned into a new type of undead called an animus. Thereafter he made the priesthood of Hextor convert many Aerdy nobility, such as Lord Drax of Rel Astra, into these same intelligent undead. The experiments of the priesthood went awry and soon lesser animus nobles mutate into mindless zombies, soon infecting their own citizens. To make matters worse, Death Knights, still lurking in the kingdom seize upon the opportunity to herd these masses of zombies toward their enemies thus hastening the outbreak. See: Greyhawk Wars, Ivid the Undying
2. In the North Province, a priest of Nerull named Delglath is among those turned into an animus by Ivid. Driven by contempt for life, he encourages the spread of the zombie plague beginning in his home of Rinloru and then out in all directions including the capital Eastfair.
3. To the east, animus warlord Duke Szeffrin was already installed in the war against Nyrond. The animus mutation into viral zombies affected the Duke's cohorts, bringing the ruins of Almor into conflict with friend and foe alike.
4. Vast populations of zombies pushed southward into the lands of the South Province, Sunndi and Idee. Even the dwarves of the Iron Hills were not immune to the bite of these limitless hordes. Only the Vast Swamp stops their advance.
5. Undeath continues to spread through the Adri Forest and driving north to quickly assimilate the humanoids of Bone March before clashing with the Kyuss outbreak.
6. Medegians cower toward the coasts, some escaping by boat at Pontylver but the Holy See is absorbed within days of the outbreak from the ruined capital Rauxes.
7. The isles of the Sea Barons were not immune to the reach of the Animus outbreak. Foolish captains brought too many refugees across who were already bitten and ready to turn, before they realized the danger. The small Barony was quickly lost.
8. Likewise the flotillas of refugees from Pontylver and Dullstrand crossed to the Lordship of the Isles bringing more infected. The largest isles of the Duxchaners were lost eventually though swift intervention by elven warships from the isolated Spindrift Isles manage to destroy any more plague ships who try to cross the Aerdi Sea.

Keoland and Dry Styeppes (Purple)
1. The perfect storm of the zombie apocalypse begins in the southwest as the archlich demigod, Vecna returns again, this time sending out virulent undead from the Rushmoors. Furthermore, swordwraiths march out of the Stark Mounds upon the call of Vecna. Their slain rise as zombies adding to the undead hordes. See: Living Greyhawk Gazetteer.
2. Vecna teleports west into the Dry Steppes. to the stone circles of Tovag Baragu. As the world rages against the zombie outbreak, he opens a gate to his demiplane of Citadel Cavitius and a new horde of zombies marches out. See: Vecna Lives!
3. The Sheldomar Valley is swept by masses of zombies. Even the Knights of the Watch cannot stem the tide once the plague reaches their cities including the port of Gradsul. Many flee across the Azure Sea but everywhere they land they find a new outbreak.
4. The Hool Marsh slows the horde but Vecna's outbreak soon emerges with additional zombie lizardmen into the landlocked Yeomanry and upon the Hold of the Sea Princes where their captains flee on numerous vessels to the neighboring isles and farther out. Only time will tell if the isles hold out.
5. The Plains of the Paynims and Ull are overrun by the second Vecnan outbreak from the south. Many nomads try to out-ride the shambling hordes by travelling west and beyond the Flanaess.
6. The outbreak claims the peaceful satellites nations of Keoland and the elves of Celene are never heard from again. The horde pushes into Veluna and against the Iuz outbreak. The high priest of Rao prays for another miracle and is not answered this time.
7. The Baklunish plains are ravished by the zombie hordes taking the civilized realms of Zeif and countering the Iuzian plague in Ket. Many flee across the ocean to the island domains.
8. The Vecnan outbreak swallows defenseless Tusmit yet is stopped cold at the borders of Ekbir. Is it Istus or Al'Akbar's work? With the zombie apocalypse conquering Eastern Oerik, how long can the Caliph, Xargun hold out as all remaining survivors crowd into his small safe zone?

The End?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Gary Con 2017

So last night I decided I'm 99% committed to going to Gary Con this year at Lake Geneva, WI. For someone who is used to the bustling crowds of Gen Con each and every year, I have to admit I'm nervous about going to this one mainly because I don't know what to expect. What I do expect is to see a lot of old school people there, which is why Gary Con was started in the first place.

If you are an old guard D&D and Greyhawk gamer like myself, check out the Special Guest list. It's an all star roster and you definitely don't get this many big industry names at Gen Con anymore. I am most excited to try and meet Allan Hammack, Ernie Gygax, Bruce Heard, Frank Mentzer, James Ward and Skip Williams. I also hear through the grape vine that Darlene (yes that Darlene) will be there.

Wizards of the Coast had a huge presence there last year and I was slightly disappointed to see them scale back their staff's attendance seeing as though they are now skipping Gen Con routinely. However, head honcho Mike Mearls and Chris Lindsay are going to be there. Mike is supposedly running a celebrity Greyhawk event, using a dungeon from his home campaign. Plus, Chris is listed as heading up an event that runs Tomb of Horrors and the Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan for convention play for the first time in ages. I can only assume these will be the 5e adaptations that will be coming out in Tales from the Yawning Portal the month following.

So yes, Greyhawk will have a HUGE showing at this convention. I hope to see alot of my friends from the Greyhawk community there as well, especially Scott Casper author of our Castle Greyhawk webcomic.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Greyhawk Megadungeon Placement

Back in December I was musing over a poll I ran about favorite megadungeons. The results were skewed I believe, but in the end I surmised a new megadungeon was long overdue for Greyhawk. Then, two things happened in that time period that made this topic very timely, one Wizards announced Tales from the Yawning Portal. Second, Greyhawk Grognard ran a more in depth poll about what we as fans want out of the future of Greyhawk.

When asked what type of products and adventures people wanted, dungeoncrawls or a combination thereof polled near, or at the highest. Face it, that is what Greyhawk is best known for, so why not build on that rather rehash the same 4-5 loved, but tired old ruins? My initial gut reaction for the placement of a new megadungeon was in a forest. However, after doing a quick study of dungeons and ruins in publication, I found that all the major geographic areas were fairly represented after all. For example, the Temple of Elemental Evil could be considered in the forest.

Okay, the second consideration was where on the continent? If we go by Greyhawk Grognard's poll, most people like the Central Flanaess yet as we all know the top three megadungeons are already there (Greyhawk Ruins, Maure Castle, ToEE). Top four if you include White Plume Mountain. That's not to say the other areas of the Flanaess don't have dungeons, but not true megadungeons. The next three highest areas in terms of fan popularity are all "light" on major dungeons merely due to their high populations in my opinion. These are areas with more political and military milieus, but nonetheless cover expansive areas that could host a megadungeon.

The areas that lagged in popularity are more remote areas of the Flanaess, yet they do already have a vast number of large dungeons or ruins, either in publication (such as Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth) or not. This all of course ignores the unknowable abundance of regional Living Greyhawk dungeons that were probably produced for several years; plus the greater weight of Greyhawk history and how to tie a new megadungeon into it. So where to place a new megadungeon, that fans would actually consider using it?

The answer perhaps lies in another section of the GG poll asking what 'other' areas fans would be interested in? The Sea of Dust blows all other Oerth places out of the water. While that makes a ton of sense from a historical standpoint (The Rain of Colorless Fire did indeed create hundreds of ancient buried ruins), what it lacks is a staple of megadungeon and that's the staging area. Once you go to the Sea of Dust that's it, there is no turning back, you're on your own. This is why most of our beloved dungeons are in the central lands. So with that in mind I propose the next best thing, and that is to back it up a bit and place a megadungeon in the Dry Steppes along the mountains. This area is a highly undeveloped yet hospitable region, which is historically ancient like the Sea of Dust, plus it has a suitable staging area for a megadungeon campaign, Ull. Bet you didn't see that coming!

More on this next time.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Nolzur's Marvelous Miniatures

Here is an interesting ad I saw in a magazine the other day for something new from WizKids called Nolzur's Marvelous Miniatures. You'll probably know why this caught my eye. Nolzur is a Greyhawk wizard personality, perhaps painter, known for his magic item, the Marvelous Pigments. And no I won't rave about Greyhawk being misused, this is a very obscure character. That makes this miniature line cleverly titled in my opinion.

The link will show you these hyper detailed unpainted minis which I am keen to find out if they are like the finecast resin that Gale Force 9 uses for their official D&D minis or are they some kind of 3D printed models? These minis are all generic class and monster types unlike GF9's models which is great for DMs or players who need a specific mini and also paint. Also check out Miniature Market for pricing on preorders.

What is interesting about these minis is the "level-up packs" which are two minis of the same class, a beginner and advanced version. This is a nice concept, again for those who want a character mini they can grow into. I've kind of got out of painting minis so I doubt I'll collect these, but again I saw this ad and just had to share. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Tales from the Yawning Portal Rant

My friends will likely hate me for ranting about this again, but here we go. Today Wizards announced their newest publication for April, an anthology of 7 classic adventures updated to 5E, Tales from the Yawning Portal. The infamous entrance to Undermountain is the framework for this collection of dungeons from "other worlds" if by other worlds they mean mainly one: Greyhawk.

Here is the lineup of adventures:

Against the Giants
Dead in Thay
Forge of Fury
Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
Sunless Citadel
Tomb of Horrors
White Plume Mountain

  • Now I am sure this book is going to be gorgeous; a must have for the adapted monsters and magic alone. Every book Wizards has put out for 5E has been marvelous in my opinion. My rant though is about the treatment of Greyhawk material yet again. Could this book just as easily be called Tales from the Green Dragon Inn? (Thanks Jayson) You bet. But no, Forgotten Realms is and always will be the D&D flagship for sales. So even though only one of these modules, Dead in Thay is a FR original, we must assume the bartender and patrons of the Yawning Portal must be so bored with their own classic dungeon the Ruins of Undermountain, that four out of seven of these "tales" (six out of nine if you count Against the Giants is a trilogy) comes out of Oerth. Sunless Citadel and Forge of Fury are rightly generic and given they came out in 3E could fit anywhere.

  • Okay, what is wrong with some classic Greyhawk modules getting remade in 5E and stealthed into a Forgotten Realm covered book? I mean, something is better than nothing right? Not if you've been following the game for an appreciable amount of time. First, these same 3-4 adventures came out in 1E AD&D and have been revised for nearly every edition, including yes, 4th Edition. It's like Greyhawk is stuck in a perpetual loop. Someone aptly said on the ENWorld forums, Wizards is acting like George Lucas revising and reselling the same Star Wars. My bold prediction recently was Wizards would do Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, but I should've went with AtG, which I thought unlikely since giant themed Storm King's Thunder had just been released. In hindsight, I guess Barrier Peaks would've been too much work since no one has already updated it to this point.

  • What else is wrong with Greyhawk in a Forgotten Realms cover? Aspiring writers at WotC's own DM's Guild are probably salivating to get Greyhawk on the list of approved worlds along with FR and Ravenloft. Once that happens we won't have to worry about Wizards adapting anything Greyhawk, cause legions of fans will do the heavy lifting. Yet, I'm sure since Tales is nominally set in FR and is only referring to "other worlds" this won't qualify. Why hold back Greyhawk? Cause it's a gold mine for nostalgic pieces like Tales or easter egg material for books like Curse of Strahd. And people like me, sigh, will always bite.

  • This leads to my final point and that is misrepresentation. D&D worlds like Oerth and Faerun have always had a plane-hopping relationship but this has usually transpired in a go-between fashion, like Dragon Magazine's Wizards Three articles. or the Planescape setting, or Spelljammer. The cross-overs tended to not wholly subsume another world's content though. That said, this more direct instance still makes perfect sense to me, but I wonder in a conspiratorial manner, if the same could've passed the planning stages if the Green Dragon Inn was used to present a series of modules set in Faerun and Eberron instead. One could then say why use Greyhawk as a delivery, just publish a series of Faerun modules in one book and be done with it; why take the POV of another world? Tales is not explicitly a FR book, there is no mastheads for worlds anymore, just D&D. Yet burying Greyhawk content inside a FR themed cover still has the same effect of pushing the IP toward a generic pop-culture identity and the setting itself further into obscurity.

  • Monday, January 2, 2017

    Two More Factions of Greyhawk

    The blog neuronphaser has been busy with a series on 5E Factions of the Flanaess. Follow the links to read synopsis of the previous installments. The last two articles in the series covers the secretive Scarlet Brotherhood and a set of Cabals, or sub-factions within this organization, including the Splintered Mind, a psionic faction in the Brotherhood first seen in Dragon #281. The other faction is the lore finding, treasure hunting, tomb raiding Seekers of the Arcane whose members once included the likes of Mordenkainen and the Eli Tomorast!

    Special thanks to Tim Bannock at neuronphaser for these well thought out and sourced Greyhawk materials.