Thursday, November 15, 2018

New 5E Module: Lost Laboratory of Kwalish

Greeting Greyhawkers! Before this week's live Legends & Lore show featuring Anna Meyer and guest Joseph Bloch, I'd like to inform you all about a new 5E adventure available on DMsGuild called the Lost Laboratory of Kwalish. This adventure is by WotC is for ExtraLife charity. Check out the blurb:

"Lost Laboratory of Kwalish explores an alternate expedition into the Barrier Peaks. The legendary inventor disappeared in the peaks eons ago… as it turns out, finding a crashed planar ship and studying its technology to fuel his own experiments—only now, Kwalish’s lost research is desperately needed!
For characters 5th-10th level.
This adventure explores two locations within the Barrier Peaks, and includes new monsters, magic items, and spells, plus sci-fi trinkets, random encounters, and even rumors of the area submitted by the player community! Further featuring new art, maps (from Claudio Pozas), and even a cartoon (from Jason Thompson)—as well as the famed suit of powered armor, as edited by Jeremy Crawford on the Dragon+ livestream!
Best of all, all monies that Wizards of the Coast receives from sales of this PDF are donated to Extra Life. Your purchase of this adventure goes to a truly great cause!

In addition, we were honored to include some content designed with Laurence Withey in this adventure. We hope the material presented brings his character – the wizard Galder – to D&D tables around the world. For more on Galder, please visit the article on comicbook.com."

Fans of Greyhawk and the classic Expedition to the Barrier Peaks may be quite interested in this new module. It is very light on Greyhawk lore, namedropping stuff like Barrier Peaks, White Plume Mountain and the crashed "planar" ship, but given its adaptability to any campaign this is not surprising or unwarranted. What is nice about it beyond the two very unique adventure locations is the extras like the maps, art, trinket charts, new magic, NPCs and particularly the d100 chart for random Barrier Peak rumors generated by fan response on the D&D website (mine didn't get picked, boo). Also, the new development and revelations of who Kwalish (of apparatus fame) is and what he has done is quite satisfying top me.

Buy this adventure, it's a welcome addition to Greyhawk collectors and its for a good cause!


Monday, November 12, 2018

RIP Stan Lee and Carl Sargent

Sad news today Greyhawkers. First and foremost is the passing of the man, Stan Lee at age 95. No link is needed here, his death was immediately felt around the world. As a fan of all things Marvel, especially the Mighty Thor, I am saddened. I will miss his charming voice and his funny cameos in movies. It gives me a warm feeling to know all the characters he created or co-created are now house-hold names anywhere on the planet. That is a man whose legacy is secure. RIP Stan, Excelsior!

In lesser news, but by no means less unimportant to me or the Greyhawk community is the passing of Carl Sargent. For those who don't know who he is, let's just say he developed the World of Greyhawk during 2nd edition in ways no one else could. As fast as Carl appeared on the D&D scene and ushered Greyhawk through devastating wars and its aftermath, he was GONE. Carl left the RPG industry and as far as I know, never returned or felt he needed to during the RPG resurgence started by Wizards of the Coast.



Now not everyone likes "Sargent-hawk" but it is in my opinion second only to Gygax in importance. Sargent merely took the frame work of wars that Gygax had already assembled and pursued them to their most logical conclusion. What Carl brought extra was this "grimdark" tone to Greyhawk that was surely an import from his days working on Warhammer. Another thing, it's a travesty that to this day there is no official print version of Ivid the Undying, a masterpiece of world-building, involving the Great Kingdom. People who struggled to differentiate between Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms or Dragonlance fantasy need only read Ivid or any other book with Carl Sargent's name on it. Thank you Carl, for your prolific work!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Greyhawk: Rhennee Population

Greeting Greyhawk fanatics. Today I'm going to take a wild stab at an esoteric topic I bet no one except perhaps Gary Gygax, Anne Brown and Lance Hawvermale have ever pondered: how many Rhennee are there in the Flanaess? Before I get into my boring research, a few caveats, one, I'm no expert on demographics. There is many D&D fans who have done way more in this department than me. Two, I'm only going to count the barge-folk Rhennee, not their land-born cousins, the ill-named Attloi. Lastly, I'm pulling together sources from a few disparate editions here, to arrive at an interesting conclusion. None of this fantastical population crunching should diminish your love of the Rhennee, instead I hope it enhances by making DMs and players take notice of this human ethnicity and give them a try in the future. Enjoy!

According to Gygax, in the Glossography, the Rhennee resemble Oeridians except they have darker, curlier hair and are shorter on average. They are wiry and strong and claim to have come to the Flanaess accidentally from a legendary homeland called Rhop. While their ancestors rode horses and lived in wagons, modern Rhennee culturally took to living in barges on the waters of the Nyr Dyv and its surrounding rivers by necessity of being immigrants in a hostile world.

Each Rhennee barge is home to a family averaging 33 people. The break down in the Glossography is as such: 1 chief, 2-4 guard, 13-24 "folk", 1-2 "advisors", 7-12 children and 1 "wise woman" (called Veth in 3rd Edition). Accordingly a barge inhabited by a Rhennee noble has a maximum compliment on his home barge, or 45 people.

In the Living Greyhawk Journal #2 article, The Way of the Lake by Lance Hawvermale, (buy it on DMsGuild) he writes that there are about 100 Rhennee nobles and roughly 5000 Rhennee total population. I postulate that this amount is low given what information is available from prior sources. 100 Nobles consisting of a family of 45 would already arrive our number of Rhenn-folk at 4500. Since there are clearly "common" Rhennee people who rally around these nobles in groups of 12-16 barges, the number must be higher!

Again taking averages, each Rhennee lord has about 13 common barges in his fleet. If each has an average family size of 33 as per Gygax's lists, then one noble family totals 574 Rhennee. And if we max out the over-all nobility of Rhennee at 100, then that easily gives us 57,400 Rhennee on the waters, or eleven times Hawvermale's initial estimate. Even with just 50 Rhennee nobles, the totals are impressive enough at 28,700. Take your pick of how many nobles there may be in the Flanaess.

Now of course, things happen on the Lake of Unknown Depths. Life is harsh in the World of Greyhawk. Perhaps the Rhennee have catastrophic deaths per year? Fine, but Gygax accounted for this, and later sources on the Rhennee omit this quite unfortunate fact: 

"When needed, Rhennee steal young children to fill their ranks. Stolen children are raised as and become "natural" Rhennee. Similarly, outsiders who do some great service for the Rhennee are taken into the folk and sometimes accorded great status."

So yes, Rhennee are a culture, not a human bloodline necessarily. Players looking for an exotic background for their characters could theoretically make a Rhennee raised or adopted from virtually any playable race from tieflings to halflings.

According to Anne Brown in the Players Guide to Greyhawk (2E) the legendary Rhopans came in wagons to the Adri Forest and migrated west in CY 150. So, if we use the base timeline of Living Greyhawk CY 591, the Rhennee have been on Oerth for only about 440 years. That means depending on your source, 5000 to 57,000+ Rhennee exist after four and a half centuries of roaming the Flanaess (not counting Attloi). Now I'm no expert on Middle Ages style demographics, but either a small band of Rhennee accidentally rode into this world and prospered, or much like the Suel fleeing the Rain of Colorless Fire, they came en masse possibly through a magic gate or across a Fading Land as they are often found in this setting. 

Despite my argument for more Rhennee, the inclination that there are 5000 or fewer is a good one. After all, why would 57,000 Rhennee need to stick to the waters, when they could just overwhelm and settle a place like the City of Greyhawk (that does have a Rhennee population) with nearly the same population. They could just as easily take over a lesser coastal town in the Bandit Kingdoms or anywhere with that kind of numbers. So, either the Rhennee don't have the numbers to establish their own domain, or their nobles choose to stay on the waters and hide their numbers to seem neither too weak nor too powerful. Well DMs, the decision is yours, I've made the case for both population levels. In summary, use Rhennee! They make helpful guides, traders, bards, fortune-tellers, villains and even heroes.