Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Vile and Villainous

Hey Greyhawkers! I'm a day late but I'm here to promote the Greyhawk Channel's latest new campaign on Twitch, Vile & Villainous where the players get to be shady characters in the service of the Land of Iuz. This particular show includes my good friend Boshie who is also an entertaining video game and IRL streamer. Check out her channel. The "evil" party also includes map maker extraordinaire, Deven Rue. What sort of trouble will they get into? Only time will tell. Tune in Mondays! In the meantime check the Greyhawk Channel and watch their videos of the day.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Poll Result: Which Monster Should Attack?

Hey Greyhawkers! Today I'm going over the results of my last poll Which Monster Should Attack Town? This was an easy-going fun poll, not much to do with Greyhawk per se, but we can analyze where these monstrous threats are coming from if you as a DM want to shake up your campaign. Let's go!

Coming in tied for first (30%) is the two most popular mega-monsters, the Red Dragon and the king of D&D monsters the Tarrasque. Red dragons are of course the evil, fire breathing variety and are generally the strongest in most fantasy literature and art. The tarrasque is a unique creature which like a dragon, slumbers and comes out to feed and destroy towns before going dormant again. The only difference between the two is red dragons want your treasure, the tarrasque just wants to kill anything that moves.

Where to use a Red Dragon or Tarrasque? This is quandary because the tarrasque can be buried virtually anywhere, ready to pop out. I'd suggest placing the monster in the already dangerous hills of the Pomarj or perhaps somewhere isolated but still inhabited like Perrenland's highlands. However, if you really want to maximize your threat to civilization put the tarrasque in the Cairn Hills not far from Greyhawk itself. The tarrasque is an indiscriminate killer that can only be stopped with high-level combat or magic. It's appearance could be instigated by evil forces, but then again the Big-T is a force of nature itself so fighting him could be a situation where good and evil must band together. Who needs the Doomgrinder?*

As for red dragons, there is plenty in Greyhawk canon to draw from if you want a Tolkienesque Smaug-level threat. The main bad dragon is Brazzemal the Bright who can be found either in the Hellfurnaces or in the Rift Canyon depending on your source, he is first seen in Hall of the Fire Giant King. There is Farcluun a rather intelligent yet powerful red found in the dungeons of the Greyhawk Ruins. Finally, there is another epic red in the Crystalmist Mountains named Sulphacitezus from the book Treasures of Greyhawk. All of these dragons can make a cunning and ultra-deadly foe for PCs and a terror on any towns nearby.

Coming in second with 16% of the vote is the surprising Roc! For those who don't know, a roc is a gigantic bird of prey known from mythology often depicted carrying off an elephant in its talons. It is featured in the popular fiction The Arabian Nights encountered by Sinbad the sailor. In Greyhawk fiction I believe there is a roc on the cover of Dungeonland. So yes, this is Rodan-level death from above for monster buffs out there.

Where to use a Roc? This one could go many directions too. Given the roc's mythological background it would fit best in the warm Baklunish culture preying on ships sailing the Dramidj Ocean or perhaps picking off caravans crossing the Dry Steppes. In the east Flanaess, a roc can easily roost in any mountainous areas near the Azure Sea or Solnor Ocean. It's a top of the food chain monster, probably only threatened by dragons and mankind. In the most extreme case, a roc could threaten your local villagers used as a flying mount for a cloud giant. That's double trouble!

Next in line with 10% of the vote is the Purple Worm! This is just what you think it is, a colossal sized worm that burrows and swallows whole everything in its way including unwitting heroes. The purple worm is an iconic D&D creature featured in the Monster Manuals from way back, it is often seen in the Underdark and not on the surface however. This doesn't mean a DM can't lure one to the surface though. A confused hungry purple worm on above ground is just as deadly.

Where to use a Purple Worm? The first place I can find them on the World of Greyhawk encounter charts is the Sea of Dust. This immediately brings up images of Dune's sand worms. That begs the question, can purple worms be domesticated as a mount by some intelligent species to invade outside the desert? You're welcome evil-DMs. Ideally however, they can be found near any dungeon ruin, ready to creep up looking for new sources of food.

Speaking of giant things, coming in with 8% of the vote is a Titan. Again, this is a mythological giant, even greater in size and strength than even storm giants. A titan is supposed to be a near god-like being and are typically represented in D&D as being in Greek-garb and have special abilities according to their sphere of interest. While not generally evil, an enraged titan could be trouble for a town either directly or collaterally.

Where to use a Titan? The titans are not prevalent in Greyhawk on their own per se, so they can appear virtually anywhere. They could be the divine agents of a deity like Pelor however showing up to exact vengeance on a wicked town. Titans as such will rarely come into conflict with PCs, but they could be nice to break out if players start to get on an ego-power trip at higher levels. Now speaking of titans...

Lastly and most surprisingly at 6% last is the Kraken! No not the monster from Clash of the Titans, I'm talking the one we all know about, the colossal intelligent squid kind. With its size and giant reaching tentacles, the kraken would be the most awful terrible and epic creature to unleash on a small harbor town. If the tarrasque rules land, then surely the kraken (is that singular or plural?) rules the deep oceans.

Where to use a Kraken? In canon Greyhawk has/had a kraken in Grendep Bay near the barbarian lands. The town of Krakenheim is derived from this tale. If there is giant squids in the cold north, then surely there some in the vast deeps of the Azure Sea ready to be called up by evil such as sahuagin to wreck havoc on cities like Irongate or Gradsul. Or maybe your PCs are into high seas exploration off the map into the tropics? Well then there is definitely some krakens out there, ready to haul down a ship or terrorize the local natives.

*No, really, do not play Doomgrinder what ever you do! It will wreck your campaign and is in general a huge waste of time.

Whatever your choice of monster, remember the long lasting effect they can have on your campaign could be significant. Players, beware and behave!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Greyhawk Stuff Online

Good day Greyhawk fans! I don't have any new content myself this week, but I can surely point you toward a few outlets of Greyhawk fun and information in case you missed it. Ready?

Over at Greyhawk Grognard is a great series finishing Kuntz and Gygax's "Greyhawk's World" updates from Dragon Magazine that were left hanging so many years ago. First was the Sheldomar Valley, followed by the more recent West Central Flanaess. It's top notch, seamless work, trust me check it out if you are interested in the political and military milieu of Greyhawk.

Next up is my friends at the Greyhawk Channel. They keep growing and growing with more shows and a burgeoning fanbase. All the campaigns are interconnected as well. The most recent additions are Mordenkainen's Path of the Planes an "epic plane-hopping adventure from the master of mages" which is timed with the upcoming release of Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes. Also there is DMShane's biggest challenge yet, an all evil group in Vile and Villanous "wicked fun in the World of Greyhawk".

I don't know how TGC juggles all these games and players, but kudos to these folks for having the desire and energy to play in our favorite setting on a regular basis. Support them by following, subscribing an maybe even joining in the fun on their Discord. There is also a Youtube channel where you can watch past episodes. Enjoy!

Lastly, if you haven't already, join the Canonfire! group on Facebook. It's under new administration and is growing fast! For those who have never been to Canonfire! it is the oldest fan site dedicated to Greyhawk on the internet with features like articles, a Greyhawk wiki and active forums. Support your fellow fans and visit both these Canonfire! sites.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Return of Mysterious Places From the Fringe

Howdy Greyhawkers, it's a good day to revisit one of my favorite article segments that I haven't done in a few years, Mysterious Places From the Fringe. It's just a spin on the mysterious places articles from Living Greyhawk back in the day, except I make them up off the cuff based on no canon or anything, just my own encyclopedic knowledge of the Flanaess map. What DM doesn't need a new location for adventurers to visit? The World of Greyhawk is full of them after all! Check out my previous articles and then continue on to this year's batch. Enjoy.

Dagon's Mouth: There is many unknown dangers posed to sailors and pirates on the seas south of the Flanaess' safe shores. Intrepid vessels seeking riches hid within the vast Vohoun Ocean avoid a certain uncharted region called Dagon's Mouth. All that is known of this demon haunted zone is told by survivors who have returned on rafts made of wrecks of their ship. It is said that Dagon the primordial demon prince of the darkest depths literally lairs here, rising up to claim any craft daring enough to tread across these stormy waters. Other maddened sailors tell of sighting a string of small islets where everything is wrong to the senses even the color of the sky. They are sure death prevails here as staying on land any length of time causes one to waste away despite the evidence of ruins not far from the cursed shores.

The Red Colossus: North of the Mounds of Dawn in a spur of the Yatil Mountains is a place that few go besides humanoids and venerable clans of deep gnomes. Hid within the craggy peaks is a gigantic time-lost statue half buried in the side of a mountain. It is carved in the likeness of a strange humanoid giant facing north, with its legs and one arm half in the rock and another arm raised to the sky. The statue is a curiosity because it is made of a reddish rock not part of this region, but similar in hue to the clay formations seen in Exag to the south. The age of the colossus is not certain save that not even the local giant population claim to know who made it. The red statue radiates overwhelming transmutation magic however and some daring Underdark denizens have tried tunneling below and within to learn more of the colossus. Though no credible riches have been discovered here, wild claims are made that the colossus has weird magical effects such as resurrecting the dead, granting wishes and even visions granted for those who scale to the top of its out-stretched palm.

Beltar's Well:  The Spine Ridge between the Vast Swamp and the Tilvanot Peninsula, is said to have abundant untapped mineral wealth, if one can get past the dangers of humanoids and monsters. Somewhere in the trackless hills of this region is a place called Beltar's Well or depending on the translation it can be attributed to nonhuman gods such as Baphomet, Laogzed, Yurtrus or Vaprak. Whatever the case, the well is a shaft in the heart of a rocky formation where reputedly, monsters occasionally emerge from the Underdark or perhaps a gate to another plane, then venture out into the world beyond. Fortunately the well is not that wide, though monsters have clawed and gnawed at its interior over the centuries. These rents have created ample handholds for any lesser beings who try to climb down the Well in the opposite direction. Many humanoids are dared to do this as a rite of bravery or adulthood, while less hardy species believe there is unclaimed riches ready to be pulled forth if they can only find the muscle to go down and find out.

01000100: Locked deep in the Land of Black Ice is a dark hillock covered by eons of glacial growth. This hill is nearly impossible to locate, only once spotted and noted in the journals of a sage who tried (and failed) to follow in the footsteps of Henriki Ardand and find the fabled Rainbow Vale. The hill only known as 01000100 is named so due to a series of deeply etched lines carved upon an ebony stone archway built into the hillside (01000100 01000001 01001110 01000111 01000101 01010010). It took the sage's entire expedition many hard hours to chip the black ice away as it seemed to regrow as fast as it could be cleared, yet the nature of the numbers and a hidden entrance was eventually exposed. The sage's journal abruptly ends after the initial foray inside the hill. Evidently those explorers that survived abandoned the search for the Vale and had no recollection of what happened, returning with no evidence except the sage's journal and if rumors are true, a shard of some silvery metal puncturing the leather cover. Today, hill 01000100 is surely buried again in black ice waiting for another hapless band of adventurers to try and discover its mysteries.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Greyhawk Map: Nyr Dyv Ship Wrecks

Welcome fans of Greyhawk! Nothing new from me this week, but if you are looking for a great gathering of Greyhawk fans look no further than the Flanaess Geographical Society on Facebook. Today I'm promoting cartographer Ronald Calbick and his inspiring Nyr Dyv shipwreck map. All I can say is wow, what a clever idea for a map that has been covered in many many official sources, yet still is largely undeveloped. As many long time gamers know, Gygax based the shape of the Lake of Unknown Depths on Lake Superior, close to home for Gary. Mr. Calbick himself throws an homage in his map's text regarding this:

"Most of the names and info are arbitrary, although there is some input from fellow gamers to be found here as well. Most of you will likely notice the tip of the hat to Lake Superior."

A few comments for DMs looking to use the map. One, Ronald leaves some wreck sites unnamed for your own personal ideas. Always a good idea. Secondly, the wreck found near Leukish while anachronistic totally fits in with Gygaxian Greyhawk, one only needs to read about the Jungle of Lost Ships. Lastly, the Nyr Dyv is no simple body of water to do salvaging. Players and DMs would be wise to read this article to get a good feel for what the Lake of Unknown Depths is like. Well done Ronald, I look forward to more maps from your in the future and perhaps others from the FCS.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Greyhawk Mini Map

Hey Greyhawkers. Not much going on this week sad to say so let's do an easy post. Here is a map of the Greyhawk domain I threw together a week ago for my campaign. It's using Black Blade Publishing's newest mini hex paper from Gary Con X.

I originally posted this on Twitter and it caused some confusion because I drew it in 20 minutes and some thought it was a full size hex map.

Here is a second pic for scale. Nope, it's tiny! I love this paper. I need more ideas to use it! That's all for now. What do you think?

Saturday, March 10, 2018

GaryCon 2018 Recap

Howdy Greyhawkers! Well I'm back early from Gary Con X in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Even though I was only there two days I had the most Greyhawk-y experience yet again. Here's the run down:

First, no I didn't see Mike Mearls (two straight years). They must've kept him under lock and key somewhere. It's not a big con though, oh well. So no, I didn't get a chance to ask any questions. I did see Jason Bulmhan of Paizo Publishing, but I wasn't there to talk Pathfinder 2.0 playtest news. So, moving along...

I got see good friend and old school Greyhawk historian Allan Grohe once again. He was working the Blackblade Publishing booth where I got issue 2 and 3 of their quarterly periodical, The Twisting Stair. I'm eager to use their article on treasure maps and player mapping techniques (thanks for the hex paper grodog). Allan and I also discussed getting more Greyhawk fans together at GaryCon next year (on or off the even list). So if anyone is a fan of the setting and will be attending next year, keep on eye on my blog for future info. Alas I couldn't attend his Saturday session of his ongoing Castle Greyhawk campaign. Last year we got to play with Luke Gygax. There's no telling who is guesting in it this year!

I also spent some good time with my friends Anna Meyer of ghmaps.net and Scott Casper the mastermind behind our Castle Greyhawk webcomic. Scott was hard at work running a game for a full table in some far away hall (GaryCon is such a labyrinth) while Anna talked about her future Greyhawk mapping endeavors (yes Anna Greyhawk map 2.0). We also took part in our first ever pick up game together, hosted by the extraordinary Carlos A.S. Lising. The party was a group of rangers and druids in the Gnarley Forest looking to rescue two rust monsters from thieves who stole them from Lord Henway's Menagerie. Crazy fun.

If you think that was all I also got to stop and say hi to Darlene the artist behind the original World of Greyhawk map a few times. She is amazing as always. There was a few legends of D&D in the artist row with her, including Larry Elmore and Jeff Easley two guys whose cover art has inspired me from an early age. The GaryCon website said Erol Otus was supposed to be there, but sadly I didn't see him. That would've been my holy trinity of D&D cover artists.

Later that evening I also had a chance to finally have a meeting of the Greyhawk blogs with Joe Bloch of Greyhawk Grognard. I was loopy from no sleep and he had drove twelve hours to get to the con, so we were both a bit chatty. I'm not sure I want to remember what Greyhawk projects we discussed, but I'm sure he will remind me some day soon. Joseph was running his BRW Games booth where he was selling Adventures Dark & Deep and his infamous Castle of the Mad Archmage. If you don't read Greyhawk Grognard, what is wrong with you? His latest post in fact is an homage to Gygax's Dragon update article series. The column was cut off before all the Flanaess was covered, so Joe did one on Keoland and Sheldomar Valley. Check it out and Make Aerdy Great Again!

Day two we took part in another game ran by Carlos titled Die, Markessa, Die! It was the latest in his Markessa series where a group of heroes must once again tackle a lair of the depraved elven Slave Lord, Markessa. Yeah, she got away again, but maybe next  year we will catch her! My friend Jayson was the MVP of the event and got a copy of the module! Spot on AD&D printing and layout. Carlos has even more incredible projects on the horizon. He is my spirit animal.

So there you have it, the most Greyhawk one can enjoy in a short span. I really hope to top it next year. Thanks to all my gamer friends (old and new) for the invites and time spent with Jayson and me. See you in 2019.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Greyhawk Poll Result: Which Sword Would You Carry

Hey Greyhawk fans! It's GaryCon week. I hope to see more than a few of the community in Wisconsin. Until then, let's muse over my latest front page poll: Which Sword Would You Carry? That is sentient magical swords. There are many so I kept the list to a handful. Let's get to it:

Coming in tied for last on the list at 4% is Dreamsinger and Swiftdoom. Dreamsinger is from the 2E module Five Shall Be One. Too bad this weapon got such a low vote, it is the sword that gets the ball rolling for the quest to find all five Blades of Corusk. It is a unique empathic broadword in that Dreamsinger gives the bearer visions of how to find the other artifact weapons. Without Dreamsinger it is quite impossible to find the other blades. This sword is tuned to bards unfortunately, meaning if you are a thief, great! But in the hands of a bard it unlocks even more powerful effects like a magical fire spear. In my Sea Princes campaign I updated Dreamsinger to be a rapier to better reflect current D&D trends, plus there is no broadswords in 5E. You can check out my conversion here.

Meanwhile, not many people picked Swiftdoom, one of hero-deity Kelanen's two, yes count them two sentient blades. Well they are hard to distinguish at a glance, but Swiftdoom is a bastard sword +6 (another relic of AD&D weapon lists) firebrand that always strikes first. Among Swiftdoom's laundry list of powers is vampiric healing; a nasty enough effect to have for a fighter without peer like Kelanen. In the hands of a lesser adventurer, Swiftdoom would make them legendary for sure.

Speaking of legendary, the infamous Sword of Kas comes in second with 7% of the vote and this is probably for good reason. This magical blade has changed so many times over the editions. It was a short sword, then a two handed sword, then a longsword and back to short sword, or whatever. Read about here. Originally seen in the earliest days of D&D but featured prominently in the module Vecna Lives!, the Sword of Kas is definitely an evil sword bent on trying to kill its creator the Arch-lich Vecna.  However, it has built in limitations when going after Vecna. So for that reason and many more, Kas' sword is not that desirable of a weapon for adventurers to own. To destroy? Maybe yes...

Next up with 15% of the vote is Swiftdoom's sister sword, Sureguard. Kelanen packs two sentient blades, this one is a broad sword +6 (yeah DMs where can players get one of those?) that is also a dancing frostbrand defender. Yes you read that right. The defender ability alone makes this sword quite impressive, but in tandem with Swiftdoom, Sureguard is a defense/offense dream. Keep dreaming though, because the Prince of Swords will not give these blades up over his dead body.

Speaking of dead body, many of you picked (29%) the legendary sword Fragarach. Another broadsword, this sword called "the Answerer" is seen in the classic adventure Temple of Elemental Evil. It is a chaotic good weapon whose main power is to unerringly counter attack any foe who hits the wielder first. Deadly accuracy, but the blade plays fair. Legends say it came from another plane, notably Earth the home of Manannan Mac Lir, from whose myths the blade was borrowed. Somehow though it ends up on Oerth in the hands of one Prince Thrommel, who has not been seen for a while...To see more on Fragarach (including its copies), Swiftdoom and Sureguard check out this comic of mine from way back.

Lastly at 38% we have the most desired magic sword in all Oerth history: Blackrazor. One of the objects of White Plume Mountain is to recover this sword from the evil lair of Keraptis. Blackrazor is a soul draining weapon that is definitely an homage to the sword Stormbringer from the Elric saga. It's secondary effects and sword type varies between editions, but they all agree, Blackrazor is Evil and likes to eat souls, even its owner's if given a chance. Just like its cousin Stormbringer, Blackrazor is not just a sentient blade, it's rumored to be a negative energy entity of some kind. Why would any hero want to carry this sword? Probably for bragging rights, or intimidation factor, or maybe they just don't know better. Now you do.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Greyhawk Channel

Well met Greyhawk fans, today I am once again promoting the live streaming efforts of good friend and showman extraordinaire, DMShane. His Twitch empire is growing faster than Iuz can conquer the north so as a result he has rebranded to The Greyhawk Channel. This channel comprises all his various events such as the flagship Return to Greyhawk campaign, the self-explanatory Classic Crawls, interview show The Green Dragon Inn and the Guardians of Greyhawk campaign. Yes folks, I feel lazy compared to this channel and I've been doing blogs and comics for many years. Be sure to check out and follow his channel daily, there is always something going on or hosted there. I  will see you all on the Greyhawk Channel chats!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

750th Post: New Greyhawk Hex Map

Hello Greyhawk fanatics! Today marks my 750th post on Greyhawkery! Wow! So I've been blogging for two editions of D&D now and doing art for three. For this milestone post I'm going to display my finished color map of the Kester Environs that I drew during my art-stream on Twitch last week. This map shows the details of a single hex taken from the Darlene map (paper courtesy of Blackblade Publishing). Namely the town of Kester in Ull. If anyone is interested I have the original black and white file too. Also, hopefully next week I will have another art stream (still working out the bugs), just click my link and follow GreyhawkMike. Until then check out Kester's Environs.

Monday, February 19, 2018

World of Greyhawk Largest Cities

Welcome again Greyhawk fans. Today I'm taking a break from otherwise more important projects to discuss a random subject that came to mind while I was reading about the Free City of Greyhawk. In the lands of the Flanaess, Greyhawk is considered the largest single city in population. It's a hub of trade, knowledge, adventure and more given its central location on the map. For those reasons the World of Greyhawk setting bases everything around this city's point of view. Put simply we are supposed to consider Greyhawk as the most important city. But if it wasn't the largest city in population would that take away from the Gem of the Flanaess' grandeur?

In the United States, where D&D was originated, we consider New York City as the finest, most important metropolis in the world. That's our point of view here. It's certainly the most populous city in the US. But in the world? It's not top ten. It's not even top 20. It's not even the biggest on its own continent. Does any of this census stuff lessen the city's standing in the world to anyone? It is definitely more influential than over half the cities ahead of it. Let's look at the Flanaess' biggest cities and see if Greyhawk holds up in the population department.

 Note: the first list is from Gygax's 1983 Guide, the second list is 2000's Living Greyhawk updated population figures.

Greyhawk 58,000 

Greyhawk 69,500
Rel Mord 46,500 

Ekbir 63,700
Irongate 44,000

Rel Astra 61,000
Dyvers 42,000

Dyvers 52,000
Rauxes 41,000

Irongate 51,400
Zeif 40,300

Gradsul 49,400
Rel Astra 39,800

Rel Mord 46,500
Radigast City 39,100

Radigast City 44,800

Ekbir 29,400

Zeif 43,500
Eastfair 29,100

Dorakaa 40,000
Looks like having the biggest population does matter for the City of Greyhawk as it stays in first. The actual population of Rel Astra in the Guide is questionable, could be 63,000 making it 1st overall but since the LGG has it at 61k I believe the 39,800 is correct or is at least an attempt to clear up that confusion. Irongate and Dyvers are consistently top 5 as they should be. Both these cities could easily be alternative urbans centers for DMs tired of the same Greyhawk setting. 

Dorakaa's inclusion in the Top 10 of the LGG is dubious since its only 10k in the 1983 Guide. Rauxes falls out of the list because it is blown up after the Greyhaw Wars. And lastly, why does nearly every major city in Greyhawk get a population boost by the authors of the LGG except Rel Mord which stays exactly the same? Ekbir got a huge population boost knocking the capital of Nyrond down the list. This is unfortunate because Rel Mord in many ways should be 2nd only to Greyhawk. At any rate, draw your own conclusions. For now, Greyhawk is and shall remain king.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Ideas For Greyhawk Maps

Good day Greyfriends! It's a slow week, but I am heartened by the uptick I've been seeing of Greyhawk community interest online. Whether its because of the token announcement of a Mordenkainen book I don't know, but hopefully the likes of Anna Meyer, Return to Greyhawk, Greyhawk Grognard, Greyhawk Reborn and various Facebook groups can keep pushing Wizard's buttons. For my own part, you know I have more projects than I can handle, so let's create some more. Here is some ideas for various Greyhawk themed maps I'd love to see or create myself:

Updated Resource Map. The small map in the 1980/1983 Greyhawk Guide showing regional resources of the Flanaess is one of my favorites. The LGG updated each nation's resources with new entries like livestock and ship building. A new map with this info is high on my list of DM utility maps.

Battle Maps. This one is also a long term dream of mine. We've all seen the Flanaess map that shows the migrations, but it would be just as interesting and informative to see the direction of various battles and wars. Just hearing about the Battle of Emridy Meadows, the Short War or the Hateful Wars is nice, but where do these forces originate and what direction do they advance or retreat? A simple themed map with arrows can teach players about the conflict faster than a long, boring treatise on the subject.

Ancient Flanaess Maps. Another handy map for history lessons on the fly. What did Eastern Oerik look like 500 years ago? 1000? and so on. I've meddled in making one before but the research of canon often shuts me down. A good example, someone once made an amazing series of maps showing the evolving size of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy. (map to the left) I need to find the link to this map. Also what DM wouldn't like to know what the Flanaess looked like when elves and dwarves held sway? Or ancient Flannae civilizations? There would even be geographical differences, like larger forests or cities that are now ruins. The applications for such maps are unlimited.

Update: Got a link to those historical maps here courtesy of Greyhawk Grognard (thanks Joseph).

Magic Aura Map. This one is extreme so bear with me. It would be daunting to research but fun to see all the magical sites (such as Tovag Baragu and other permanent gates) and ley lines (sites of druids, lost lands, wizards towers, etc) and lingering auras (Dry SteppesSea of Dust)  present in the Flanaess, all charted on the map somehow in levels of intensity. The utility is that wizards would know which areas to go or avoid in a general arcane knowledge sense.

Monster Hunting Maps. How about a reference map for common D&D monsters for PCs use in game? You could have areas marked where dragons or giants are found and what type. Heck you could even get create and tag owlbears, ogres or otyughs. Anything! Hand that out to hack n slash players and let them pick a destination.

Population Density Map. This one I've done before with a color coded population density map of the Great Kingdom based on data from Ivid the Undying; unfortunately it was hand drawn and crude (see to the left). I'd love to see one of the entire Flanaess someday. This type of map is more informative and esoteric, something only a hardcore Greyhawk DM's could care about. However, such a map would be easy to show to players to tell them, yes you are traveling to a populated area or no you are heading into wilderness, without need of a history or politics lesson.

That's all I got for now. Anyone else have some crazy ideas for a Greyhawk themed map?

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Watch Me Do Art on Twitch

Hey faithful Greyhawkers. I'm gonna try out something new: live streaming art and map making. I've been into Twitch lately (you may have seen my interview on the Green Dragon Inn) so I'm going to try and bridge some of my audience, namely streamers and Greyhawk fans. Be sure to check me out and follow. I'll most likely be tying alot of my Greyhawkery and Castle Greyhawk comic content into this channel with the added bonus that you can chat Greyhawk and stuff with me live! Hope to see you then, enjoy!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Mordenkainens Tome of Foes

Good morning Greyhawkers! I had to get up extra early to talk about this breaking news already scorching across the internet: In May, D&D is releasing Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes. Following on the heels of the very good accessory, Xanathar's Guide to Everything, this book is surely going to be a hit with fans of 5E. From the product's blurb:

"Discover the truth about the great conflicts of the D&D multiverse in this supplement for the world’s greatest roleplaying game.

This tome is built on the writings of the renowned wizard from the world of Greyhawk, gathered over a lifetime of research and scholarship. In his travels to other realms and other planes of existence, he has made many friends, and has risked his life an equal number of times, to amass the knowledge contained herein. In addition to Mordenkainen’s musings on the endless wars of the multiverse, the book contains game statistics for dozens of monsters: new demons and devils, several varieties of elves and duergar, and a vast array of other creatures from throughout the planes of existence."

So let's get this out of the way, this is a multiverse book not a Greyhawk book. I highly doubt it has anything remotely to do with "foes" of Mordenkainen. We do know from 2E Mordy likes to study planar subjects though so I fully expect alot of old 2E era  Planescape, Blood War type stuff to appear in this. The elf and duergar race bit is probably the stuff they've already been playtesting via their Unearthed Arcana articles. They claim its not a Monster Manual, but it feels like one, or at least half-monster/ half-planar guide which wouldn't be bad. I would also hope there is some cool magic items. Can't go wrong there. So yes I'll buy this book and not just because the cover has Mordenkainen shilling for it (I never bought 4E Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium).

Not so idle thoughts beyond the book: what does this mean for the DMsGuild and content creators yearning for Greyhawk? Keep an eye on that site for next several months I guess. If I see Mike Mearls at Garycon in March though I'd be keen to ask if having Mordenkainen's name slapped on the cover makes him viable to use by DMsGuide rules? (not to mention this is his second 5E appearance, ahem) I've mused Tales From the Yawning Portal could be a loophole for Greyhawk creators due to the books content, so if not then, surely now with this book's cover? How much Greyhawk can they tease us with and still keep it buried? Let's hope Tome of Foes is a groundbreaking publication in more ways than one...

Monday, January 29, 2018

Adventuring in the City of Greyhawk

Greetings Greyhawk fans! It's a slow week so I'm here to tell you a bit about my home campaign. We recently wrapped up playing the first two modules in Tales From the (Green Dragon) Yawning Portal, and have now returned to the City of Greyhawk to indulge in some old school down time activities and urban intrigue. I am using the City of Greyhawk boxed set, Greyhawk the Adventure Begins and the updated city map by Denis Tetreault which you can find here.
So far our two dwarven cousins Marya Hammerfist and Korgan Crag have made connections in the Greyhawk dwarven community (including tax collector Glodreddi Bakanin's crew) and got a job defending the Silver Garter from preachy Pholtus priests. Tiefling fighter Bravos has reconnected with his mother in the Artisan Quarter (a first for me) and confronted the Pholtans on their own turf. Halfling rogue Minchy and tiefling warlock Everleigh Strongbow have made their presence known at the Thieves' Guild Hall and Everleigh is using Bravos' mother as day care for her adopted goblin baby. All this before, the group is invited by a con artist to a neighborhood called Odd Alley in the Old City for an important counter-offer away from the Silver Garter. Odd Alley is well, weird. Time runs differently there and the shops are more exotic than elsewhere in the city. Based on a location in one of Gygax's novels, I may do a write-up on this area someday. At the end of the alley in an abandoned building they fought a "door" mimic. So far so good, eh?

It's been a long time since I've ran Greyhawk urban sessions (recent years focused on the Sea Princes). I used to do this sort of stuff almost exclusively. Urban adventures are a slow build up, as hooks and subplots are created almost randomly through roleplay and actions taken by my players. It's how sandbox games should done, and the city is the only place I've felt comfortable running one. I'm not sure how long I'll be running them around the streets of Greyhawk, but when I'm ready I am eyeing White Plume Mountain as their next big venture. Wish them luck!

One last, very important news tidbit. Do you like video games? Have you ever tried watching live-streams of video games? Okay, well there is no one I know more fun to watch than my good friend, the multi-talented, awkwardly regal, xb0shi3x. I mean, who else regularly cosplays for her D&D sessions? Check out her stream on Twitch twice a week, and subscribe, you'll be glad you did!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Poll Results: Which Barbarian to Play

Welcome home fans of Greyhawk. Today I'm musing over my latest front page poll, Which Northern Barbarians Would You Play? This poll was open to multiple voting since there is so many choices and some are similar. While the north is very full of barbarians cultures, please note the Flanaess also has barbarians in in the middle (Bright Desert) and in the south (Amedio/Hepmonaland). At any rate, let's see what makes these barbarians special for your player characters.

Topping the list barely at 26% of voters is the Frost Barbarians (Fruztii). Kin of the Snow and Ice, the Fruztii speak the Cold Tongue (Fruz) and live on the Thillonrian Peninsula, or as the barbarians call it, Rhizia. Frost barbarians are allies to the land of Ratik in addition to the dwarves and gnomes of the mountains. Frost barbarians hate the Great Kingdom, Iuz, Stonehold the Sea Barons and especially Bone March. Normally content to raid the coasts by ship, many years ago the Fruztii led raids with their Suel kin into Bone March and were soundly defeated. Taking most of the losses the Frost were diminished, now deferring to the Snow somewhat in politics.

Why choose a Frost Barbarian? The Fruztii are the most typical of your northern "vikingesque" barbarians in the World of Greyhawk. Fruztii is closer and borders more nations than any other putting your character within easy travel distance of home. There is no shortage of enemies for your barbarian and the familiarity with demihumans is a plus when putting your fellowship together.

Next at 25% of voters is the Rovers of the Barrens and the Wolf Nomads. These two are a synergistic pair because of their history of conflict. The Rovers, a Flannae tribe, lived on the bleak northern prairies for centuries before the Twin Cataclysms brought Suel, Oerid east, but only the Baklunish-Oerid Wolf Nomads challenged the horse-riding Rovers for the north. The Wolf Nomads (Wegwuir) migrated around the Yatils along with their Tiger cousins to the north steppes. Only the presence of the Rovers halted the advance of the Relentless Horde.
The Wegwuir are also powerful hunting horse riders and they skirmished with the Rovers for decades yet the arrival of Iuz put a wedge between these barbarians giving them a common enemy. By then however the Rovers had been diminished and isolated as a population, while the Wegwuir were also contained despite a victory versus Iuz at the Battle of Blackwater Bend.

Why Choose a Rover of the Barren? This type of barbarian would defeinitely be in tune with nature and survival in the wilderness. In fact, the Rovers are also known as Wardogs. In some publications, these hunters have an Great Plains American Indian feel. Rovers would not only be good barbarian class members, but given their Flan heritage, good druids and rangers as well.

Why Choose a Wolf Nomad? These are your Mongol horsemen analogs. If you are looking for a character skilled in mounted combat and archery, you can't go wrong with the Wegwuir. Their hatred of Iuz is probably equal to that of Furyondy and the elves of Vesve Forest as well giving your character a good reason to travel beyond the steppes.

Following closely on the heels (or hooves) of the Wolf Nomads at 23% is the Tiger Nomads (Chakyik). Cousins of the Wegwuir, they were once one big Relentless Horde until their ruler died and the two tribes split, with the Tiger ending up cornered in the northwest between the Wolf and the civilized lands of Ekbir. The Chakyik like the Wolf have their own Baklunish dialect (Ordai) and are renowned horsemen. The Chakyik are friends of no nation, even Iuz who once proposed an alliance. For now the Tiger Nomads live in relative stability, either trading with (or raiding) barbarians and civilized people alike.

Why Choose a Tiger Nomad? Culturally you'll be the same as a Wolf Nomad except their thematic totem animals. Chakyik have more animosity to the Baklunish than Iuz given their proximity. Also as a strange twist, the ruler of the Tiger dabbles in illusion magic, so a wizard/sorcerer from the Tiger Nomads isn't out of bounds. One more tidbit, the Chakyik are supposedly the most accomplished archers in the north if that is your character's focus.

Tied at 13% of voting is the Snow Barbarians (Schnai) and the Stonefist barbarians of Stonehold. The Schnai are arguably the strongest of the three Suel barbarian clans, living on the fjords of Rhizia and the highlands of the Corusk Mountains. The Schnai are the most capable seafarers, known for exploring and their martial prowess. Snow barbarians have few friends, but they have plenty of enemies, such as the Great Kingdom whom they raid, or at sea with the rival Sea Barons, the Stonefists to the west, and inland they themselves have to contend with giants. Schnai heroes are known for their funeral pyre at sea custom.

Meanwhile, Stonehold is home to barbarians of a different sort. These fierce nomads hunt, herd and live on the tundra or in forest villages. Formerly ruled by the Coltens Feodality, a bandit ruler nicknamed Stonefist was banished here and soon attracted other evil bandits and barbarians to his side then wrested control of the lands from the local nomads. The Fists are the best of the hold's warriors, gaining higher position through the annual Rite of Battle Fitness. For a time Stonehold allied with Iuz and thus because of their invasions are not liked in any neighboring land.

Why Choose a Snow Barbarian? If you want to build an imposing, noble, axe or swordsman this is a good choice for homeland. As mentioned above, you'll also be able to have a background in seafaring. Schnai know the cold tongue like their kin, but could also learn giant as an extra language. Snow barbarians don't lack for enemies and given their range in explorations, can be found anywhere in the Flanaess.

Why Choose a Stoneholder? If you want to play a barbarian with an evil tilt then perhaps a Fist is your character. Some Stoneholders also know the cold tongue but have Flannae blood well. Given their ferocity in combat barbarian class is a prime choice. Stoneholders live in harsh terrain so might your character would want good survival and nature skills. Adventuring groups however, should be wary of having a Stoneholder barbarian in their mix, though they will have revenge in mind versus Iuz.

Lastly at 9% is the underrated Ice Barbarians (Cruskii). The Cruskii or Ice Clan, are the most brave of the three clans. They live among the tundra of the northernmost part of Rhizia and are also capable seafarers on the Icy Sea or the Solnor Ocean. Though less numerous as a people, the Cruskii take part in many raids with their kin making enemies of places like the Great Kingdom who couldn't find these barbarians on a map. Cruskii are pure Suel and because of this, were at one time entreated by the Scarlet Brotherhood for an alliance.

Why Choose an Ice Barbarian? If you want a viking-like barbarian from a very remote homeland, this is your choice. Ice babarians make good berserkers having to fight both Fists and giants often. Their survival and seafaring skills cannot be stated enough. Ice barbarians have few friends, but in a group of northerner characters they can be perhaps the most loyal.

That's all for now. See you after the next poll!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Listen to Me Talk Greyhawk

Hey Greyhawk fanatics! Today was a special day because I was the FIRST guest on a new live stream talk show about all things Greyhawk called Tales From the Green Dragon, hosted by DM Shane of Return to Greyhawk. We covered a lot of topics (including the Green Dragon Inn) and interacted with our live viewers on Twitch. I had a good time and look forward to next week's installment.

For those who missed out, you can see the replay HERE.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

More Random Greyhawk Lore

Howdy Greyfolk! My last post on random Greyhawk lore was so fun that I'm gonna throw some more out. Ready? Let's get to it...

Greyhawk Adventures (on Vampire Cacti)

"Vampire cacti resemble century plants, with 12 fleshy leaves each tipped with a sharp needle about 1 inch long. Sprouting from the plant's central core is a single spike rising to a height of 5-6 feet...Once every midsummer a single small flower blooms at the top of the central spike. This flower is blood-red in color. After this flower has been pollinated,  a small blood-red fruit forms. This fruit is moist and sweet-tasting, and almost irresistible to most birds...
Vampire cacti are usually surrounded by the skeletons and drained corpses of warm-blooded denizens of the desert...
Creatures of the Bright Desert, vampire cacti evolved their blod-draining abilities to help meet their water needs....Migrating birds seem to have carried the seeds of vampire cacti to the margins of the Dry Steppes, and even to the forbidding Sea of Dust...."

Bonus: In the Greyhawk Adventures: Monstrous Compendium supplement, vampire cacti are found on the "temperate desert" random encounter chart (same chance as a blue dragon or pyro-hydra). Vampire cacti are not however, found on the "tropical desert" chart.

Against the Giants: Liberation of Geoff (on adventuring party, the Golden Circle)

"The Golden Circle is an older adventuring group that has traveled much of the Flanaess. The original members first met in the City of Greyhawk and explored parts of the Cairn Hills and Rift Canyon, eventually specializing in missions that involved sneaking behind enemy lines, including one short-lived venture into the lands of Iuz....
Currently under the employ of Grand Duke Owen I of Geoff, the Golden Circle are charged with discovering a way to return the lands of Geoff to its previous owners. The whole group is currently in Pest's Crossing...
Torm is the leader of the Circle, having taken that role several years ago when their paladin departed to team up with some paladins of Mayaheine on a quest to reclaim the Shield Lands."

Bonus: In the same module, Torm (no relation to the namesake Faerun deity) is a priest of Pelor god of the sun. The Circle also includes two thieves, a ranger, and an enchanter. There is another adventuring party called the Dark Star Guardians, who are also undercover in Pest's Crossing trying to dislodge the giants.

Rary the Traitor (on the ruins of Utaa)

"Utaa was once the thriving capital of Sulm. Sand has eaten up most of the city now, leaving only a central hub of palaces and temples rising above the desert floor...from time to time, the wind reveals a building or two, allowing entrance and possible exploration...
The city is truly vast. It consists of over 100 square miles of homes, temples, castles, palaces, and every other imaginable type structure. It was swallowed up by the desert...and the city still contains substantial amounts of wealth...
The city may also serve as an entrance to or exit from the Underdark, for many of the city's palaces and castles featured deep dungeons...."

Bonus: For an ancient city, Utaa must've been the biggest city in the history of the Oerik if not Oerth. I highly doubt any other city in the Flanaess takes up 1/3 of a map hex. For comparison ruins of ancient middle eastern cities like Ur and Babylon only cover 3-4 square miles; their actual pre-ruin area thus is doubtfully as big as Utaa. For further reference, modern cities are ginormous, like New York (5400 sq. mi. metro) and Tokyo (4300 sq. mi.) Present day Rome is only about 500 sq. miles however, so it stands to reason Utaa was at least on par with one of the greatest ancient cities in our history.

The Temple of Elemental Evil (on random sentient swords)

"When developing encounter areas...use items from the following table if magical treasure is indicated by random roll...

  • Longsword +1 'Snoop'...AL NG, Int 13...can detect invisible and detect magic...
  • Scimitar +1 'Schakha'...AL LN, Int 14...speaks azer, giant, common, human common (?) and dwarf..."

Bonus: (spoiler) The same module has several other more powerful sentient/aligned swords that are non-random. Good luck finding them, yet your chances of locating those are better than the 1 in 100 chance of stumbling onto one of the two blades above. Side note, a weapon that speaks azer is pretty damn rare (they are an elemental fire race first seen in the MM2) and useful in this module. Plus, I'm rusty on AD&D, what is human common versus regular common?

That's all for this installment. Happy exploring!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Random Greyhawk Lore

 Happy New Years, denizens of Greyhawk! Today I'm going to shift into gear and entertain you all with one of my favorite D&D past times, namely grabbing random published books off my shelf and picking out an obscure bit of canon that no one has ever discussed. Let's see what we get starting with the most dense of all Greyhawk tomes:

Living Greyhawk Gazetteer (on Snow Barbarians burial customs)

"Their greatest kings and jarls have all been seafarers, beginning with Schoffmund the Strong, who defeated the Kraken of Grendep Bay. Since this day, all dead Schnai kings are interred in ships, which are ignited and set adrift on the sea."

Bonus: In the hardback Greyhawk Adventures is a wondrous item called the Black Sails of the Schnai. A great warrior who is burned on his funeral pyre can be summoned back to fight as an einheriar for the possessor of the last magical shred of his ship's sail.

City of Greyhawk Boxed Set (on Blackfair Manor's horses)

"The stables now hold over 100 breeding mares, some two dozen stallions, and perhaps 200 fillies and colts in various levels of training. The purchase price for one of the young horses is double the asking price in the High Market of Greyhawk, but generally considered worth it.
For those who take their horses very seriously, the Blackfairs may consider parting with a breeding mare, for 2000-3000 gold, approximately. Some of the stallions can be had for as little as 10,000 gp, while others have fetched five times that amount. The stud of the herd, called simply Father Black, is not for sale, though it is rumored that the lord has been offered more than 100,000 gold for that horse."

Bonus: In case you haven't done the math, all the horses of Blackfair Manor are worth a total of 570,000 gold pieces. Minimum. Remember that tidbit when you have too much treasure to spend and want to show off to your comrades, or when your DM asks your group if you want to go looking for scraps of treasure in some nearby dungeon and instead turn to a life of horse thievery.

The Scarlet Brotherhood (on the Lone Deklo)

"The solitary tree is surrounded by an open field 100 yards across. The Lone Deklo is a monstrous example of its kind, 30 feet in diameter and nearly 300 feet tall...The Lone Deklo is sentient and is effectively a sage specialized in flora, fauna and astronomical and meteorological phenomena. It can converse in a low whisper similar to the sound of wind though branches..."

Bonus: For comparison, in A Guide to the World of Greyhawk, the section on Trees (yes, Gygax created his own trees) states that a deklo tree is a massive hardwood often 15 feet in diameter and over 100 feet tall with round leaves than can sometimes span a foot in diameter.
For further comparison, the world's tallest tree on Earth is Hyperion, a sequoia at 379 feet. Sequoias have an average width of 24 feet and can live roughly 3000 years. If the Lone Deklo is half that age, it was around before the Twin Cataclysms, the Migrations and might remember the time of the elves and the ancient Flannae kingdoms.

Fate of Istus (on the origin of Jurnre the capital of the County of Ulek)

"Despite its modest size and undistinguished history, Jurnre is among the most peaceful and prosperous cities of the Flanaess. It is also one of the oldest, excepting certain settlements in Ekbir, Zeif and Tusmit that antedate the Invoked Devastation. From the time of its foundation nearly nine hundred years ago until the present day, Jurnre has been an island of stability in the turbulent stream of history...
A brief siege of the city by refugee goblins and orcs in 506 CY, at the height of the Hateful Wars, and some unsuccessful attacks by the Sea Princes sailing up the Kewl...are distant history to the human citizens of Jurnre, and even nonhumans have begun to forget. Not even the oldest gnome can remember the sight of enemies within the gates."

Bonus: Not only is Jurnre peaceful, it is quite idyllic. The County of Ulek is ruled by Archdruid Lewenn (13th level) who is quite possibly the only druid involved in Flanaess politics. His constituents are of course halflings, gnomes, sylvan elves and also the nearby Silverwood is home to treants and unicorns.

That's all for now, hope you enjoyed!