Friday, August 17, 2018

Greyhawk: Let's Fight Ulaa

Welcome back Greyhawkers. Following up on my last post about battling Istus, I'm going to have some fun discussing the same scenario with Ulaa, the Stonewife a Greater Deity first seen in the original World of Greyhawk Guide. Ulaa (pronounced OO-lah) is the goddess of Hills, Mountains and Gemstones. She has an uncertain origin, appearing to have traits of human, dwarf and gnome alike. Ulaa is also the wife of Bleredd god of mines, metals and smiths, a nice synergy because in AD&D rules she is very tough.

To recap from last time: in the old days of AD&D, PCs could potentially take on gods (despite what canon says about gods staying off Oerth). The 1E Deities & Demigods was first to give stats and rules on the powers of immortals, later referred to as avatars in the Greyhawk Adventures sourcebook which gave players a better chance to somehow prevail over a deity in combat. That said we are going with the full-power Ulaa in the boxed set; let's examine how hard it will be to cut down the goddess of gems in battle.

No matter her appearance, Ulaa is armored head to toe in adamantine chainmail (-7 AC) and carries just two weapons:

1. A military pick +5 (which she declines to name cause a +5 weapon isn't as cool as her other one)

2. A hammer of thunderbolts named Skull Ringer which is the meanest weapon in the game. Ulaa can throw this weapon every other round. so the pick does get some love. It's important to note how deadly this hammer is when hurled; Skull Ringer will instantly kill giant-kin and golems if thrown and against small/medium humanoids it will instantly kill as many HD worth as there is damage. So if Ulaa is fighting pesky orcs, she can kill 25 in one throw (not sure how that works in D&D rules, like an area of effect?), or instead, pretty much annihilate your 25th level fighter in one hit. No save.

Now it is possible to get the jump on Ulaa. She is just a 14-level fighter with an 18 dexterity after all. If your PCs are lucky enough to hit the Stonewife, she has a rock-solid 321 hp and 90% magic resistance. Ulaa might let you hit her in fact, since she is only harmed by +5 weapons and heals 1 hp/round while in contact with the earth. I suppose one could try to steal her pick and use it against her...

Even unarmed, Ulaa has powers at her disposal such as...

Earthquake: One of the sickest cleric spells in AD&D. Among its devastating effects, it opens a crack in the ground that can possibly insta-kill your character. 1 in 4 for small and 1 in 6 for medium. Good luck!

Dig and Move Earth: In case the earthquake didn't get you the first time I suppose?

Wall of Stone, Stone Shape and Passwall: So she can avoid your attacks you know, then open a hole to throw Skull Ringer at someone or just pass through and use that military pick for fun.

Summon Earth Elemental: Of course a goddess of earth would have an elemental buddy. This one is 24 HD. Don't think of turning him against her either, harmful elementals flee in terror from Ulaa.

There you have it adventurers, respect and run away from Ulaa. She is definitely an under-appreciated, underestimated deity in Greyhawk publication. As written, Ulaa sounds like she has more in common with Thor than Bleredd. Hm, now there's a thought!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Greyhawk: Let's Fight Istus

Greetings fans of Greyhawk. Today I'm going to muse about Istus, the Lady of Fate, Great Deity of the World of Greyhawk pantheon. Istus is pivotal not only to the destiny of heroes as her portfolio and the module Fate of Istus would suggest, but she is also a mean combatant according to the 83 Boxed Set.

Back in the days of AD&D, it was entirely possible for PCs to take on gods. The 1E Deities & Demigods is loaded with stats and rules on the powers of these beings. This template carried over to the early Greyhawk products and articles thus giving the DM an option if divine wrath ever needed to be carried out. These gods were damn tough but not impossible to kill. Hit points capped out at 400, AC never went higher than -10 (AC 30 by today's rules, thanks Matrox*) and most had very high magic resistances.  Let's examine how ridiculous it is to tempt fate herself in combat.

Istus resides on her own pocket plane most of the time, but when on the Prime Material Plane she assumes various forms from ancient crone to noble lady to simple shepherd girl. While amongst mortals, Istus never carries an obvious weapon, though her spindle, from which she creates her webs of fate is her true weapon. Despite this, any object she uses always hits; she controls fate after all. So yes, she could kill you with a cloak pin. Also, forget trying to sneak up on this little girl, she is the goddess of future events, she already knows whether you're attacking or not.

Provided you are still persistent enough to push Istus, her spindle has the following powers (insert your own rules).

Strand of Binding: You're trapped in iron chains. Istus is being nice.
Strand of Cancellation: Your favorite magic item? Never existed. Even artifacts are only partially affected.
Strand of Death: I like to think of this one as rapidly aging your character 1,000,000 years instantly.
Strand of Hostility: Suddenly its your destiny to protect Istus, even against your friends. Yikes.
Strand of Passage: Pesky hero, let's send you away to the Plane of Shadow, or the Ethereal Plane, or heck, Faerun.
Strand of Sending: She's feeling nice and just sends you several years into the future.
Web of Enmeshment: Whoa you're trapped in a maze of your own mind!
Web of Entropy: Great! Now she's just drained all your magic and spells in this area.
Web of Stars: This one transports everyone including Istus to her bizarre homeplane of webs and starry portals. Good luck finding your way out unless you are a genius level intellect.

So Istus basically toys with opponents or outright slays them. Even if you got a few hits in, she has 377 hit points (a ton in 1E terms) and is only harmed by +4 weapons. Even if you loaded up with big blades like the Sword of Kas and Blackrazor, she can once per day move into the future and back to heal herself. Congratulations for making it this far foolhardy adventurer. It is lastly mentioned she is served by a strange companion, a time elemental prince. As far as I know this type of creature doesn't exist in any other D&D rules, so I expect it can do all the above and then some. (*and now I know they do, thanks ProfArmitage, see comments below) Perhaps your PCs should pick on someone else easier, say Hextor or Erythnul.

Until next time...

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Greyhawk, GenCon and GaryCon

Hello Greyhawkers, Gen Con 2018 was last week and I of course missed out on a chance for some meet-ups and gaming. I know DMShane and many fine players and fans from the Greyhawk Channel were there as I sadly followed the event on Twitter. My friend Carlos Lising was also at Indy. running some old school Greyhawk that he previewed at last GaryCon in Wisconsin. With so much hype in the community lately I'm hoping to not miss out on GenCon 2019. I'm anxious to see some new faces and hear about their Greyhawk experiences.

To that end I am already prepared for GaryCon 2019, where I will invite any and all fans of the Greyhawk setting to track me down to hang out with the likes of Carlos, Scott Casper and more (or head to Black Blade Publishing booth to see Greyhawk maven Allan "grodog" Grohe). As for GenCon 2018, since that just ended, have there been any good stories? What games were ran? What cool cosplays did you see? I'd love to know.

More next time.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Inner Planes of Greyhawk

Hola Greyhawkers! This week is GenCon and like many of you, I am not there. Boo! So while Greyhawk is certainly being played by the masses I have some new maps to show those who haven't already seen them. Over at old school fansite The Piazza, Greyhawk super-fan ripvanwormer has created some cool maps based on a multitude of D&D references. Rip got his inspiration from Havard's map of the Plane of Fire for Mystara. This is an incredibly cool idea that I wish I had thought of first.

The Oerth Plane of Fire is similarly a place where the inner plane mirrors the world it touches on in a twisted way. It uses the same Flanaess/Eastern Oerik landmass but the locations of this fiery world correspond to places linked to the regular World of Greyhawk in canon such as Tovag Baragu. Most however are reflections like the Land of Black Ice becoming the Land of Black Flame. I love it.

The latest variation of these inner plane maps is the Plane of Shadow a world cast by the shadow of Oerth according to ripvanwormer.  Places like the Dim Forest, the Valley of the Mage and Carahast's Caves of Sleep have obvious connections to the shadow realm.

All three of these maps are an amazing work, please check them out, and keep an eye out for more I'm sure!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Greyhawk Grognard: Boccob God of Magic

Welcome back Greyfiends! Today we are saddled with the announcement by Wizards that their next two supported worlds are Eberron and that other one from an obscure card game. Never fear though! Joseph Bloch at Greyhawk Grognard has some 5E deity material to sooth the heartache of being snubbed again. This week he features Boccob the Uncaring, god of magic. Learn some lore, new magic and how to make a cleric of this powerful deity. Oh, and be amused by one of my classic comics. This one seems fitting, considering current game news. Enjoy and thanks Greyhawk Grognard!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Original Greyhawk Mods

Hail Greyhawkers! Today I'm promoting the work of my good friend and avid Greyhawk writer, Carlos A.S. Lising. Carlos has been busily making old school modules and running them at GaryCon. I had the privilege to play in a few of his games these last couple years, and now they are available at DriveThruRPG. Disclaimer, these modules for obvious reasons are sold as generic fantasy but it doesn't take much Greyhawk knowledge to insert them into your home game.

Here is the blurbs on his modules. Please give Carlos some love and check out the link above.

"A terrible theft has occurred at the famous menagerie in the Free City!  Daring thieves have managed to steal into the zoo of the fantastic and spirit away a pair of prized Rust Monsters.  Their trail has gone cold at the edge of the vast forest to the south of the city, so the distraught nobleman who owns the beasts has been forced to turn to the druid and ranger protectors of the timberland for assistance.  Will your doughty group of nature priests and woodsmen be able to locate and return the valuable monsters to safety?" 

In Gnomine Septem
"The covetous eyes of fifty hungry bandits have fallen upon a humble hillside village at the edge of a daunting mountain range.  Now, only seven fearless worthies -- hailing from a gnomish monastery -- stand between these villains and the innocent folk in their sights.  Will your humble heroes be able to defend these meek farmers from their enemies, or will evil grow still greater in the land in the shadow of the peaks?"

Kill Markessa!
"Of the infamous Flesh Traders, perhaps none was more fearsome than the elven enchantress known simply as The Marquessa. Her unspeakable experimentations that twisted the flesh and bones of the innocent into horrific abominations continue to fill the good folk of the land with dread, even now, fifteen years since the slaver's ring was smashed by a band of legendary heroes and she was forced to flee into the night. At last, however, her whereabouts have been uncovered and a new group of adventurers has been assembled to bring her to justice!"

Die, Markessa, Die!
"A brave fellowship of heroes failed last year to bring the notorious villianess known as The Marquessa to justice -- and as a result, the innocent folk of the land have suffered greatly.  However, the elusive and sinister enchantress has been located once again, giving the forces of weal another opportunity to extinguish the grim sihlouette she casts across the region.  Will your characters be able to succeed where before them legends have failed?"

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Greyhawk Order of Battle Lists

 Hail Greyhawkers. Today I'm perusing old Dragon mags again, this time delving into Dragon #37 an old issue indeed from May 1980. What makes this issue significant is that this is the release year for the World of Greyhawk setting (Folio). Up to and including this point, Gygax and company had worked up the D&D fanbase with news and tidbits about the RPG setting and that month's From the Sorcerer's Scroll column by Gygax summed up the current state of things, having had some false starts along the way.

Among the many projects promised in this article (some finished in future editions, others forgotten entirely) was the idea for a miniature mass combat rule set to go with a line of minis. Now the minis were indeed made, or perhaps the first run of them. Gygax had grand plans for these products to play out the wars of the World of Greyhawk using the specific troop strengths and types outlined in the Folio (and the revised 1983 Guide), in addition to his battle and troop updates found in later Dragon articles featuring new events of the Flanaess. Gygax in Dragon #37:

"Steve Carpenter of Miniature Figurines Ltd. is currently designing a set of miniatures rules for warfare on the World of Greyhawk. These rules will set forth the orders of battle of the states of the Flanaess and add to the information pertaining to the “World.” At the same time, miniature figurines of the various troops are being assembled, so that details of what various units look like will also be known—say the Overking’s Guards or the Knights of the Hart. In addition to having adventures, campaign participants will soon be able to fight major battles which will affect the course of things. The figure line could eventually number in the hundreds of sets, with possibly a thousand different figures. The initial release will be in the 50-set range, according to Steve. Of course, I’ll be contributing to the miniatures rules, and I’m helping to select figure types. The rules and figures will be significant contributions towards developing the “World,” but more is needed."

What came of the rules is beyond the search of this post, though I imagine Battlesystem and Chainmail 2.0 were later attempts to revive this project albeit without using the rich tapestry of Eastern Oerik as their setting of conflict. Only the failed Greyhawk Wars "board game" even tried to capitalize on all the build-up started by Gygax. A shame. What's further interesting about this article is the bonus content by Gygax detailing some notable NPC's armies. So not only was this "Order of Battle"as Gygax called it, to be about nations and knights, but also wizards and warriors:

"Finally, as a bonus for reading through all of this, you will find same Order of Battle information for certain renowned figures in the World of Greyhawk. They will possibly appear in the general army lists, but then again they might not make it. Either way, you will have the information first."

My guess is they would have been included. In fact, the heraldry on the cover of the Greyhawk Folio includes the green dragon standard of Robilar and the scimitar of Tenser for no other reason, but in the context of a war-game that never came out, these shields make more sense. The lists feature the forces of Bigby, Mordenkainen, Robilar, Tenser and enigmatic Unnamed Erac's Cousin. Each of the entries tease some interesting back-stories as well that dubiously bring the canon history of these characters into doubt.

Bigby for instance has a hidden fortress that is presumably between the Shield Lands and the Bandit Kingdoms. His force of 800+ soldiers sometimes includes either  elves or dwarves. Nowhere else in Greyhawk publication does Bigby sport this kind of might. He is either a shy, quiet mage posing as a merchant in the east or is hanging out in the Wild Coast/Greyhawk City as a Circle of Eight wizard.

Also intriguing is Mordenkainen's sizable cavalry force of 4000 riding into the west (to aid an evil associate no less) and not coming back. So where are they? Did they go to the Obsidian Citadel in the Yatils? No further mention is made in Greyhawk publication to him having these troops. Mordy in later Greyhawk books has plenty of allies and guards but no need for ground cavalry.

Worst yet is Robilar, whose forces make him look entirely capable of the treachery he is involved in during From the Ashes and Rary the Traitor. Robilar is well known for having Otto and Quij the orc as henchmen, but here he also has a 600 strong, lawful evil army, half of which are orcs. Robilar's keep west of Greyhawk is sacked for his misdeeds and the army hides out in the Pomarj region. So that means they are either bandits or perhaps allies of Turrosh Mak/Slave Lords?

One other thought about wizard and warrior armies, the AD&D rules conveniently provided that every "name-level" PC gained a stronghold and attracted followers. This class design was surely meant to emulate and perpetuate the war-game facet of Greyhawk. The practice fell off fast in following editions of D&D of course. Okay, I won't even get into the rest of lists, find the issue and check it out. It's quite a good read, and maybe if you do want to do a war-based Greyhawk campaign, these troop lists will provide you with some inspiration for other special NPC units.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Map: West Greyhawk Quarter

Hail Greyhawk fans! Today I bring a strange find from my D&D vault (attic totes). It's a very beat-up, hand drawn map of the City of Greyhawk's new "Traveler's Quarter" from my long running 2nd Edition campaign.

Sure it' crumpled, crude and half colored in, but this was our attempt to expand west-ward based off the City of Greyhawk Boxed Set's poster-map. Sadly I have numerous keyed locations on this map, but can't find which notebook I kept them in. I do know the colored in sections were the personal properties of the player's own characters; Dain Hill and the rise adjacent to the Old City wall especially. Q2 is another I recall because it has a road running through it's middle. That is the Brothers In Arms, the HQ for the PC created Adventurer's Guild. The PCs had a lot of money and power back then, mainly from exploring the Greyhawk Ruins (one of them was even mayor after Nerof Gasgol!) However, they got tired of my drama involving guilds, thieves, taxes and court-rooms so they started their own guild for adventurers like themselves.

Their real estate enterprise attracted more and more outsiders who couldn't find homes inside Greyhawk following the Greyhawk Wars. This western quarter also led to some new gates and roads. To the south is Hero's Gate, the north is Bridge Gate and at the end of centrally located Traveler's Avenue is West Gate. The Travelers Quarter eventually expanded and was made a full part of the city by 623 CY. If I ever find the key for the all the locations I'll share the info. This was a good creative era of our Greyhawk campaign. Building things and making maps of them was always a big part of our down-time activities. I'd love to do stuff like again someday. Perhaps in my Sea Princes campaign. Hm...

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Dragon Magazine #70 Ads

Hail Greyhawkers! It's a lazy day off so I'm gonna have fun. My last post got me thinking more about old Dragon ads and how as a youth I enjoyed looking at those almost as much as the articles or comics. Nowadays gaming ads don't attract me. They're too well made. Boring! Some of these old school ads though were quite humorous in today's light. Okay fellow gamers, let's go back in time and riff through a randomly chosen issue, Dragon Magazine #70 from 1983:

The adventure is indeed mine! This first ad is a full page ad for Basic and ExperD&D (of course TSR will splurge in their own magazine). I love these games, I still own both boxed sets today. What I enjoy is the photo ads of the 80's. So, what they show here is five people (2 girls too, ahead of their time) playing around the tiniest round table ever. This would never fly in today's gamer culture with all our books, dice towers, tablets, cell phones and not to forget, snack and beverages! Also, hey scoot down guys...there's a whole other side of that table you can sit on! ;)

It's a book...

Yeah it sure is, but no thanks. If it's a game, it's one that 11 year-old me could never get into because Basic D&D rules was all the math I could handle. Or maybe I'm just not into sci-fi RPGs. Speaking of which...

1. I'm not a fan of Star Trek as an RPG. (Sorry fans) but hey who wouldn't want to own a starship?
2. The Correspondence Game? Oh man, this is 1983. There is no email, or message boards, or instant messengers. You had to command your space ship through SNAIL MAIL?
Shields up! *licks stamp, seals envelope, walks to mailbox*

 Bahaha, vorpal blade. Snicker-snack. Bandersnatch Leathers. Clever ad. Dice bags have been a hot commodity forever evidently. I also like that they have small and large sizes rated by how many dice they hold. I don't think I've ever seen that as a selling point before. Wait, 4 to 6 weeks for delivery? My dice are gonna be sad until then.

Who am I kidding, I've used zip-lock bags for dice before.
 I know yall have heard of Dragonbone. I never got one of these and I sort of wish I had. For you young bloods, this is the 1983 version of a dice app. I'm sure it works as accurate as a dice app too, which is to say I don't trust them!

At any rate, one year guarantee. Not bad! How many RPG accessories have you ever bought that have a warranty of some sort?

$24.95 ?! In 80's money that is *checks* that is $63.02 ! On second thought, I'm glad I didn't buy Dragonbone.

Oh no SCi-fi RPGs again! Actually, Space Opera ads ran in Dragon as far back as I can remember. Never bought this game, probably never will (though I bet it's more fun than ST or Traveller), but I always admired their sharp black and white ads at the bottom of pages. Very eye catching!
Fantasy Games Unlimited made this game as well as games like Bushido and Villains & Vigilantes.

One thing I have to pause and point out too. Dragon #70 was in the early years of published Greyhawk. 1983 is when the World of Greyhawk boxed set first came out. In the magazine, Gary Gygax and company were doing articles and columns to support the setting such as the Deities & Demigods of the World of Greyhawk. All I wanted to say though is look at that beautiful calligraphy. I can only assume it was done by Darlene herself though I can't find actual credit in the magazine. A shame.

And lastly, there is minis. Dragon Magazine was always stocked full of ads for minis from great companies like Grenadier, Ral Partha, Citadel, etc. I could show you those old models and you'd turn your nose up at their quality compared to today. So instead, I'm showing an ad for a game store called Hobby House that will send you a FREE lead mini for the cost of one catalog which is evidently $1.00 ($2.53 for you millennials)

Lead minis. Ah those were the days before we cared about lead poisoning. We painted our lead minis with lead paint while we drank water from lead lined plumbing. If you are also from this era and still reading my blog, then kudos gamer for surviving long enough to enjoy this retrospective with me!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Dragon #200 Ad: Mystara

Hey Greyhawkers! Today I'm wistfully working on a writing project that I've been chipping away at for quite a long time. I'm also listening to the Twitch debut of Valley of Soot & Skull on the Greyhawk Channel. In the meantime, I have a question for all your readers, is it possible to be outraged 25 years after the fact? Check this ad out:

This is an advert for the Mystara setting in Dragon Magazine #200 way back in 1993. I have nothing against Mystara. I love Mystara. I hate whoever the art/advertising director was in 1993. I don't think I need to explain anymore. Just soak it in....

/rant over

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Evil Alternate Oerth

Cold iron avail you, Greyhawkers! Today I'm entertaining an interesting and obscure facet of World of Greyhawk lore. Namely, alternate-Oerths. According to fan-scholars on the subject, Oerth has four known alternate, parallel worlds: Aerth, Uerth, Yarth, and Earth. For a lengthier explanation of how these realities work check out Ripvanwormer's interesting take on CanonfireSummarized they look like this:

Oerth = home of the World of Greyhawk game setting and timeline we all know.

Earth = This is our world. It is also the home world of the mace wielding deity St. Cuthbert and the technology of Murlynd.

Aerth = Essentially the setting of Gary Gygax's Dangerous Journeys RPG and books.

Yarth = Is the home of Gygax's Gord novels, the Sagard the barbarian stories and quite possibly the original home of Mayaheine before she was brought to Oerth by Pelor.

and finally there is Uerth = The "gothic" world. This is a place of pulp horror fiction and could possibly be the location of Rhop a land from which the nomadic Rhennee left for Oerth. 

Rip's theories are well reasoned and authoritative in my opinion. However, in published canon we have learned Uerth is far worse than just an HP Lovecraft world; it's the EVIL MIRROR UNIVERSE OERTH. This development came 10 years ago, in 3.E's Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk by Paizo Publishing's own Erik Mona, Jason Bulmahn and James Jacobs in what was basically the last major Greyhawk adventure ever printed. What follows is for DM's only. It contains major ***SPOILER*** material. You've been warned, ready?

 Not yet.

Still with me?

Okay then. In the adventure there is an artifact called the Orb of Opposition. Touching it transports a character's evil duplicate to Oerth. Enough said. Without giving too much more away, the following NPCs have mirror opposites floating around:

Lord Robilar's evil doppleganger is thus Bilarro.
The utterly evil Iggwilv (Tasha) is replaced by the "good" Ahsat.
Mad Zagig Yragerne has a double named Xagig.
Nolzur has a copy called Rulzon.
Quaal is mimicked by the evil Aluuq. 
Keoghtom's evil version is Komoghet. 
Musical Heward is opposed by the evil Wedrah.
and Murlynd has the evil double named Lyndrum.

All quite anagramatically funny yes, that is a classic Gygax hallmark, but making Uerth a literally intrinsic evil realm opens up VAST possibilities for a campaign that wishes to gate to and from this world. For example I could do this:

Iuz the Old One, demigod of evil and pain becomes Zui the Young, demigod of good and life. A being whose embattled land is a holy island surrounded by a sea of abject evil. (I'd say that anything higher than a demigod or demonlord is unaffected by the mirror world effect, so Nerull is still Nerull and Pelor is still Pelor.)

Celene, Kingdom of the Elves ruled by Queen Yolande becomes, Celune, Realm of the Dark Elves ruled by Queen Andeyol.

The good Kingdom of Furyondy is now Furyon ruled by the anti-paladin King Vorleb.

The wicked Great Kingdom becomes the once Grand Kingdom of Uerdy -now fractured and overrun by millions of peasant zombies, while undead-slayers and paladins like Saint Gothkar roam the land defending the weak.

Adventure hot spot the Tomb of Horrors becomes the Crypt of Terror a place created by the mage Karereca, that openly challenges evil, greedy treasure seekers to risk their lives for fame and fortune.

The Temple of Elemental Evil becomes the Temple of Elemental Good (of course) where an angelic ally of Zui is bound after her defeat in the Battle of Meridy Fields.

The Free City of Greyhawk ruled by wealthy neutral oligarchs becomes ,well, the Free City of Grayhawk. I imagine the balance is important after all since this place maintains its neutral stance, albeit attracting a more vile sort of adventuring lot.

Irongate the city fortress of good humans and dwarf-kind becomes Ironmaw a city of evil inhabited by vile humans, drow, duergar, hateful gnomes and yes, cannibal halflings- their city is only part of a larger faction called the Iron Horde.

The noble Kingdom of Keoland is now the Kingdom of Keoghlund a vast empire whose spy network, the Knights of the Watch cause fear and mistrust in all citizens.

The nautical Hold of the Sea Princes here, becomes the Domain of the Sea Princess. All must fear this narcissistic princess and her deadly pirate fleet!

Finally, the tiny, brutal land of Ull on Uerth becomes the paradise Luu where peaceful herders mingle with unicorns, gentle giants and other fey denizens. BLECH!

I could go on like this for multiple posts and never run out of things to adapt. And yeah, I know Oerth is already a world of ascendant evil, but like I said Uerth can be this twisted mirror-version of the World of Greyhawk that turns the evil dial to 11. Good luck Greyhawk fans, I hope you take this ball and run with it now!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

New From The Greyhawk Channel

Good day Greyhawk fans! It's officially summer so you know it's time for DMShane over at the Greyhawk Channel to announce another new show to his line up. This makes TEN shows actively streaming on the Twitch channel. Amazing! The newest campaign is called Fortune & Glory. DMShane sums it up himself:

"Join us Sunday morning at 11AM EST for the premiere of FORTUNE & GLORY - a gritty, Indiana Jones style, artifact-hunting ride!"

The difference between the other shows and Fortune & Glory is that Patreon supporters of the Greyhawk Channel can possibly have a place at the table in this new stream! It's Greyhawk, so why not give a chance? I'm backing it right now.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Children of Kord

Hail friends of Greyhawk! Today I'm musing about all the children of Kord god of strength. In fact, I'm entirely surprised there isn't any officially named in canon. At least to my knowledge. Why is this a shock? Well Len Lakofka set them up to be some heroic progeny way back in Dragon Magazine #87. Perhaps it's a tease, but even your next character could be the Child of Kord. How? Let's have a look at some 1st Edition lore...

Kord is worshipped more than any other Suel deity. Thriving churches dedicated to him can be found in the Barbarian States, northern Ulek, Almor, the Great Kingdom, Hepmonaland, and on Lendore Isle. Small isolated churches may be found among peasants over the entire route of the Suloise migration"

Kord is all over, especially within the Thillonrian Peninsula. So basically any character, especially barbarians, could have a chance to be a demigod child.

"Kord is quite the fool for a pretty face. He favors elven and human women, but has also consorted with other humanoids and even giants. The world is full of his sons and daughters, but few, if any, of them can claim demigod status (less than 1%). Any figures who can make that claim must have scores of 18 to 20 in two of these three ability areas: strength, constitution, and dexterity." 

So, Kord is not only loved Oerik-wide but, like many AD&D gods of Greyhawk, he flaunts the fact that true deities aren't supposed to directly enter the Prime Material Plane without the consensus of the pantheons. Clearly then, carousing with mortals in alternate forms is the classic mythology loophole.

"To determine whether an offspring of Kord is entitled to demigod status, roll 2d6+6 for each of the character’s ability scores. Two of the results must be 18 (rolls of 12, modified), and the numbers must be assigned so that the character has scores of 18 in two of the three physical abilities: strength, constitution, and dexterity."

Now the chances an elf having a modified 18 DEX is pretty good, but the other stats means Kord more than likely has children among giants or ogres before medium sized humanoid-kind. Even so, the rules of this edition allow you to try and build your character as a child of Kord upfront (unlike the scant 1% chance of being psionic after the fact). The 2d6+6 system guarantees a decent PC with minimum stats of 8, average of 13 yet there is no certainty you'll get two 18+ stats. The d4 roll is what separates the demigods from the pretenders though...

"If this criterion is met, roll d4 for each ability score of 18: a result of 1 or 2 means no adjustment, a result of 3 raises that ability score to 19, and a result of 4 raises it to 20.

Only those characters who pass all these tests and end up with two scores of 19 or higher among strength, constitution, and dexterity can dare to claim their birthright and openly profess Kord as their father. Kord will not deny such a claim; instead, on the child’s 17th birthday Kord will come forth to give the young warrior a great task based almost entirely on fighting ability. Those who pass this test will acquire limited special powers (see the lists below)."

How's that for a 17th birthday party? What's even better for the PC child of Kord is ALL starting ages in 1E (even humans) are already in that range, meaning a player who defies the odds could not only have two exceptional stats, but also some additional powers (assuming the PC can pass this test of combat) at only 1st level!

"Although passing this final test does qualify the character (in Kord’s eyes) to call himself or herself a demigod, the overriding power of Lendor keeps Kord’s offspring from dominating the Prime Material plane"

Well that's a relief.

"Each demigod character gains from 2-4 special powers; roll d8 once for each of the following lists."

List #1 :
1. Save vs. poison is 3
2. Save vs. death is 4
3. Save vs. all forms of fear is 3
4. Immune to quest and geas spells
5. Mask alignment at will
6. Immune to normal missiles
7. Immune to sleep, hold, and slow
8. Roll twice, ignoring 8s and duplicates

List #2:
1. Heal self once/week
2. Jump or levitate at will
3. Enlarge self at will, as 10th level M-U
4. Climb walls as 7th level thief
5. No non-proficiency penalties applied
6. Can cast silence on self at will
7. Blood rage: Will go berserk (+2 to strength) if damaged 50% or more in combat, fighting until slain or until everything within 60 feet is killed
8. Roll twice, ignoring 8s and duplicates

Now all these "powers" are quite tailored to the AD&D system, so for an enterprising DM to adopt the Children of Kord into their modern D&D games, it will require a bit of creative game design.

So, you've successfully made a child of Kord...Now for the last paragraph of info on these rare quasi-deities.

"Kord’s children may never be lawful, nor may they be paladins, illusionists, monks, or druids. Any of his children who do not enter his clergy and who reject the fighting profession (by not becoming a fighter or ranger) and any of his offspring who display cowardice will be disowned, which might mean (30% chance) that Kord himself will come to the Prime Material plane to slay the offending character."

No one said being a Child of Kord was going to be easy. For those who hung in there for this long article, here's a bonus Kord comic of mine from Oerth Journal #21.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Unmapped Cities of Greyhawk

Hail Greyhawkers! Not much going on this week so I'm thumbing through the old 83 Guide and thinking about all the cities and towns that have been mapped in official Greyhawk publications (and there's alot of them!). Now I can imagine during the heyday of Living Greyhawk many many more towns were laid out, but I can't credibly count those since its not accessible anymore, nor should I count fan-made material as much as I want to (I recall a fantastic Radigast City and Rel Astra map out there) but Google is your friend in that case.

Here are some major towns I believe have never been mapped but need to be, in hopes maybe I'm wrong or some enterprising cartographer online takes on the challenge. This list is by no means exhaustive, it's just a sample.

Dantredun (pop 666): Blackmoor's capital. Small but can be a nice base of operations for northern adventures.

Enstad (pop 6950): The main capital of Celene. An elven city! I know its an isolated nation, but why has no one designed this yet?

Ekbir (pop 29,400), Zeif (pop 40,300), Lopolla (pop 23,400): All Baklunish capitals. Exotic middle-eastern flavor architecture and lay out. Would be quite a challenge.

Krakenheim (pop 3300): A viking-like town home to the Frost Barbarians. With the fjords and such, this would be a picturesque place to draw.

Irongate (pop 44.000): I know it was wrote up in Dragon Magazine and there was once an Irongate Project online done by my friend Denis Tetreault, but he never did get far on the city map itself.

Gradsul: The main port of Keoland. A big city indeed. This one is high on my wishlist.

Eastfair (pop 29,100): Capital of the North Province. This place would be a nice addition as much of the Great Kingdom development has been southward.

Admundfort (pop 21,300): The largest city set on an island in Oerik. Would look quite nice.
Update: Stuart has correctly pointed out this town has a map is in Iuz the Evil. I was testing you guys....yeah that's the ticket...

Monmurg (pop 14,200): The main capital port of the Sea Princes. It sticks out on a peninsula and has much sea traffic As I've done many Sea Princes campaigns, including one where I mapped Hokar, this is a map I'd most likely do myself someday.

Nevond Nevnend (pop 23,800): Capital of the Duchy of Tenh. I know zilch about the place, but the name is so weird I'd love to see it on a map key.

Ulakand and Kester: Okay okay I know, no one has made maps of these towns in Ull. Give me a break I've only had about twenty years to do one. Someday!

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Greyhawk Channel Summer Schedule

Hey Greyhawk mavens! Today I'm once again promoting my good friends at The Greyhawk Channel. The family of streaming Greyhawk campaigns keeps getting larger! Check out this summer schedule put out by mastermind DMShane:

Shane himself runs three days a week with his original Return to Greyhawk plus his spin-offs Vile & Villainous and Mordenkainen's Path of the Planes Vets from RtG show will be running their own games now. Travis is heading Lords of Pain which will be a political intrigue set during the Greyhawk Wars, and as teased before Dani will be running The Dying Kingdom which is assuredly a jaunt through the ever dangerous Great Kingdom ruled by Ivid the Undying.

New to the fold are fellow GHC enthusiasts like Sean from the DMsGuild and PowerScore blog fame. He has started a run into the famous ruins of Castle Greyhawk. Not to be outdone, Grant is doing the long play by running the entire Queen of Spiders series, which means plenty of Underdark, Kuo Toa, Drow, and naturally Llolth herself.

Encounter Role Play has a couple other talents in on the summer block. Most intriguing to me is Lindy's show, Vecna Lives. I really want to see how this quite evil, classic module plays out in 5E rules. Last but not least, Greg has a game called Valley of Soot & Skull.which is tied to the current events of the Shield Lands.

There you have it. All this in one shared universe of campaigns on the Greyhawk Channel. DMShane is surely not done adding new games either!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Updated D&D Story Odds

Hail Greyhawk faithful! Today I'm finally chiming in on the recent Wizards news of their next D&D story line, the two part Forgotten RealmsDragon Heist and Dungeon of the Mad Mage. Followed closely by a teaser that in July two new (old) worlds would be announced for future publication. I'm not here to comment on them per se, except to keep tabs my long running list of choice story lines that Wizards has left to revisit. One comment I do need to make however: why call it Dungeon of the Mad Mage? It's Undermountain. We all know it's Undermountain. Are they also genericizing FR content now or is it a trademark thingee?

At any rate here is some of my previous story line round-ups. Below I'll recompile this list plus add stuff from prior to my odds-making and recent 5E adaptations all put into some sort of chronological order.

Closest comparison 1E inspiration: Dragonlance series? / 5E: Hoard of the Dragon Queen/Rise of Tiamat

1E inspiration: Temple of Elemental Evil / 5E: Princes of the Apocalypse (by way of board game)

Closest comparison 1E inspiration: Vault of the Drow/ Queen of Spiders? / 5E: Out of the Abyss

1E inspiration: I6: Ravenloft 5E: Curse of Strahd

1E inspiration: G1-2-3: Against the Giants 5E: Storm King's Thunder and Tales From the Yawning Portal

1E Adaptations: Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, White Plume Mountain / 5E: Tales From the Yawning Portal

1E inspiration: Tomb of Horrors / 5E: Tomb of Annihilation and Tales From the Yawning Portal

2E inspiration: The Ruins of Undermountain 5E: Dragon Heist/Dungeon of the Mad Mage (COMING SOON)

What's left to use in 2019? Here's my new odds for future reference.

My hands down favorite right now. This epic boxed set has just the right components for a D&D mega event. It has extra-planar monsters, a backdrop of the war between Chaos and Law (implying use of the new MToF if you change this to the Blood War) and it has an iconic multi-part artifact quest which could easily span two books.

Staying strong on my list, this weird module is by fan favorite Bruce Cordell and involves the Far Realms which has sort of been brought closer (pun) since the publication of MToF. Firestorm Peak would make a good alternative to Barrier Peaks. For bizarre monsters you can't do much better than this one.

I'm moving this one up my list. D&D may soon need to tone it down and have a more "ordinary" villain to confront players. An evil organization like the Slave Lords can threaten a wide area and could easily be adapted to be something like the Zhentarim.

Even though Paizo recently covered witched in Reign of Winter AP, it is not outside the realm of possibility for Wizards to also take PCs on a planar hopping trip in her endlessly fun hut.

WGA4: Vecna Lives!Odds 12:1
This is one of the strongest Greyhawk modules still out there and it hasn't seen a sequel since 2E. Since they've recently used Acererak for ToA I don't see this coming soon, but Vecna does have ties to both Planescape and Ravenloft making him a strong candidate for a story line.

Dead Gods/ Odds 12:1
I think this Planescape adventure (or any other really) might be in prime position for a rehash given recent releases. Out of the Abyss has shown WotC isn't afraid to use big demon-lord type of villains.

This theme would be Lovecraftian horror, nominally set in a dungeon but could be branched out. Big-T and his cult is definitely an uber-threat to the world, so why not?

The crashed spaceship theme was teased years ago by Chris Perkins' when he tweeted a picture of a Froghemoth. This turned out to be for Volo's Guide to Monsters. Would Wizards really jump the shark and mix scifi and fantasy together this soon? I'm not as sure as I once was.

Five Shall Be One/Howl From the North/ Odds 20:1
I adapted this one to 5E for my home game, but gave it a pirate twist instead of barbarians. The chances Wizards takes up this specific 5 part magic sword quest seems slim, but they should do the theme because it would be epic and everyone loves swords.

Jungle based adventure was off 5E's radar until the Tomb of Annihilation but I still give these type of stories some value. There is certainly plenty of tropical monsters in 5E already developed to cover this kind of story.

And lastly, for fun....

The Doomgrinder/ Odds 1000:1
Don't even ask. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Coming Soon to Greyhawk Channel

Howdy Greyheads! Today I'm promoting a teaser for the new upcoming campaign on The Greyhawk Channel to be ran by Dani Neary (@ImperialScum) called "The Dying Kingdom". Just the name is intriguing to me. It's also good to see DMShane branching out his Twitch channel to have other DMs running games. He is a tireless hero of the community.

Here is the teaser for Dani's game starting on Tuesday, June 12th. Enjoy!

"CY 582. Shit is about to hit the fan in The Great Kingdom"

Friday, May 25, 2018

Greyhawkery Updates

Hey Greyhawkers! Lazy Mortellan strikes again. I am here to bring up some quick Greyhawkery news.

First off, I have added new content to my primer list on the front page of the blog. Adventures in Greyhawk is a round-up of all published modules (not Living-Greyhawk or Dungeon) set in the World of Greyhawk, which I further classify into five categories of usefulness in my own opinion.

Second is Regions of Greyhawk. This section of the primers is not entirely finished (cause reasons) but I am slowly chipping away at it. These are summaries of each nation in the Flanaess, much as they are presented in the original set, but grouped into special geopolitical sub-sections and updated with new canon info as needed. Note, these are all baseline 576 CY entries, so no spoilers for your players to see.

Lastly, go and join the CanonFire! A Greyhawk Resource group on Facebook. Bryan "Saracenus" is running replays of my silly old Greyhawk Webcomic twice a week. Every day he is featuring content both old and new related to Greyhawk and the fansite Canonfire. Enjoy it all over again!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Poll Result: Which Wizard Would You Follow

Hey Greyhawkers! Coinciding with the internet buzz about Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes, I'm gonna muse over my latest (and possibly last due to Blogger) poll, Which Wizard Would You Follow? Greyhawk is a land of many mages, none as famous as the Circle of Eight. I gave a major section of the group to see who people like if they were say an apprentice or henchmen of these notable wizards. Read on and enjoy.

Top of the list with 34% of the vote is Tenser. It was a close race but the lawful good archmage won the most followers. Tenser is one of the most potent wizards in history having plumbed the dungeons of Castle Greyhawk, owning a magical castle on the Lake of Unknown Depths and created a vast spell repertoire to his name (who hasn't heard of his Floating Disk?).

Why Follow Tenser? For all his fame and glitz, he is the most honorable wizard in the Circle to serve. On the coast of the Nyr Dyv near his castle is a hamlet named Magepoint. This small village is entirely populated by Tenser's forces, all experienced veterans led by an elven fighter-mage named Cymria of Celadon. Tenser as mentioned is the moral center of the Circle for good, where most of the mages would try to follow "the Balance" he is one to hire heroes to do Good quests, or act out in defense of the Flanaess personally. His name-spells suggest this as many are martial themed such as Tenser's Transformation (gives fighter skill), Tenser's Flaming Blade or Tenser's Giant Strength. You can find many of his name-spells in either the Player HandbookGreyhawk Adventures or Return of the Eight.

Next on the poll, not surprisingly is Mordenkainen with 27%. Mordenkainen is the defacto leader of the Circle of Eight. He is not necessarily the most powerful archmage in the group, nor its most likable. Mordy is however the most cunning and has his irons in many fires on Oerth and across the planes. Much like Tenser (both are from the Wild Coast as well), Mordy comes from humble adventurer roots having explored Greyhawk Ruins and Maure Castle - he likewise has a castle and an array of spells created in his name such as Mord's Faithful Hound and Mord's Disjunction.

Why Follow Mordenkainen? If you seek fame and fortune Mordenkainen is the wizard to follow. His Obsidian Citadel is deep in the Yatil Mountains a place where only the best of the best can get access and is defended by giants, a silver dragon and griffon riding fighters. His library of magic and knowledge of the outer planes, especially the Blood War between the lower hells and abyss is phenomenal. He travels to other prime worlds like Faerun to hobnob and trade spells with other archmagi like Elminster. For a neutral wizard, Mordy is very active and will keep his apprentices and henchmen busy on quests to gather information or items he needs. Beware though, Mordy is growing increasingly unhinged (he cut his hair off!) and might send you to your certain death (see Vecna Lives!)

Next up with 13% of the vote is Mordenkainen's long time adventuring buddy, Bigby. Bigby is the wizard best known for his hand themed spells like Bigby's Interposing Hand, Bigby's Crushing Hand and many more! Bigby once was from the Great Kingdom but has since moved into a modest house in Onnwal (see Treasures of Greyhawk).

Why Follow Bigby? For starters he is the real neutral voice in the Circle. Tenser chases evil, Mordy often plays his own side, but Bigby is the cautious voice in the party who tries to slow down their plots. Once an active adventurer like the others, Bigby now fronts as a merchant in Scant the capital of Onnwal and would make an unassuming mage to serve. He has all the powers and magical access of his colleagues, but doesn't show it off to the point of being defensive (his name-spells show it). Bigby as a master is a good choice for those who don't want to get caught up in every epic quest - yet could if the need arises.

Following Bigby with 10% of the vote is the only female member of the circle, Jallarzi Sallavarian. The youngest of the eight wizards, she was sponsored and pushed through to membership by Tenser in an attempt to give the group of neutral, old males some more Good direction. She is noted for her distracting beauty and her pseudo-dragon familiar, Edwina.

Why Follow Jallarzi? Why not!? She has a fabulous home in the City of Greyhawk, she is allies with other women in power like Constable Derider Fanshen and High Matriarch of Pelor Sarana and she trains lesser mages of good alignment. Jallarzi may still be new to the Circle but she has the trust of Tenser in the least. Adventurers whose patron is Pelor and show their loyalty to the defense of Greyhawk's domain would be her best followers. Don't get ideas of romance with Ms. Sallavarian though, she is rumored to be very friendly with Kieran Jalucian of the Guild of Wizards.

Let's finish up. Coming in last are two wizards who really are bad ass in their own right: Drawmij with 4% and Rary with 3%. Rary is the evil Ketite mage whose power is on par with Mordenkainen and eventually turned on the Circle and ran off to the Bright Desert with Sir Robilar. Drawmij is the aloof mage who lives under the Azure Sea and has a hatred of the Mage of the Vale. There is much to be read about these two and their spells in the books Rary the Traitor, City of Greyhawk boxed set and Greyhawk Adventures.

Why Follow Rary or Drawmij? The low vote for Rary is surely because of his switch from neutral to evil. Who would want to follow a notorious mage who offended not only the Circle of Eight and the entire city of Greyhawk, but his own brother, the sage Arkalan Sammal? Rary rules a remote, hostile desert with plenty of his own magical comforts and a defensible tower, yet most of his henchmen patrol and live abroad. Followers of Rary would surely be sent out to search ruins for lost magic in order to build up him and the realm. It's a thankless job, but you'd have fewer moral constraints to your quest.

Drawmij on the other hand is a neutral mage whose concerns are the seas. He is silent and secretive also making him a poor choice for a mage to follow (unless you are amphibious perhaps). Drawmij has magics few other wizards have ever seen however. He has boats capable of exploring the deepest oceans, time and dimensional magic items and an exotic undersea palace that once belonged to the Grand Druid. A follower of Drawmij might be on land instead, among the courts of Keoland and Celene perhaps as he does keep contacts in these nations, as well as keeping tabs on his enemy the Black One of the Vale.

Of course fellow mages Otto, Nystul, Otiluke and others from post-wars didn't make the poll. I imagine if they were included they'd finish even lower than Rary or Drawmij. Whatever the case, becoming a henchmen or apprentice for an uber-mage is an accepted trope for fantasy like Greyhawk. Maybe next time instead of your DM suggesting an NPC benefactor you can now suggest seeking one out on your own!