Saturday, May 25, 2019

Random Greyhawk Esoterica

Welcome back Greyhawkers. Well I don't have my copy of Ghosts of Saltmarsh yet and our Legends & Lore stream show returns in a couple weeks, so for now I'm going to do one of my favorite things and talk about random published Greyhawk tidbits. This time I'm going to peruse some stuff from Dungeon and Dragon Magazines. Let's dig in...

Dragon #277 had an interesting article called Greyhawk 2000 by Philip Athans. This article was an example of advancing timelines in a fantasy world that includes gods, monsters and magic. I had to look it up again because I thought I was dreaming this happened. Guns, automobiles, fighter jets, etc. Indeed it reminds me of the near-future-fantasy of Shadowrun, but without proliferation of cybernetic technology. If Mr. Athans were to update his article to be "Greyhawk 2020", I'm sure there would be even more familiar concepts from real life entering the Flanaess (like smart phones). At any rate, check out this wiki Greyhawk Timeline that includes the future-hawk events, it's good for a fun read.

Raiders of the Black Ice by Wolfgang Baur of Kobold Press fame, can be found in Dungeon #115 and it is one of my favorite Greyhawk adventures from the magazines. This adventure was a tie-in to the 3.5E environmental splatbook Frostburn. This book involved arctic settings and was my favorite of the series. Using it to run in the Land of Black Ice was just perfect. RotBI has more than black ice and surviving the elements, it has frost-folk, automatons and an amazing map of Blackmoor region by Rob Lazaretti. If you don't own this issue, I highly recommend it.

In Dragon #351 is the long overdue article Irongate - City of Stairs by my good friends Gary Holian and Denis Tetreault. The guys had an Irongate Project in the works for ages and this sadly short offering was published by fellow Greyhawk loremaster Erik Mona before the tragic end of Paizo's run on the magazines. While there is so much more to Irongate, they capture the history of the free city and manage to develop some cool stuff for an otherwise untouched part of the setting. One thing is they tie the mysterious World Serpent Inn to the city making it a multi-planar destination for some NPCs. Another thing is a sidebar on Oerthblood. This rare material also known as blood-iron, is unique to the World of Greyhawk and is useful in crafting weapons and armor. Before the stuff is even enchanted it grants a +1 luck bonus to hit or variable damage resistance. Want some of that? Go to Irongate!

 Lastly, is a treat from Dragon Magazine Annual #3 by Noel Graham called Falcon's Bazaar. This article made during 2E I believe, covers a bunch of intriguing mundane items that can be found in the markets throughout the Flanaess. It reminds me alot of Aurora's Whole Realms Catalogue which funny to say, may be my favorite FR book of all time. In Falcon's Bazaar you can find items you never knew your character needed, like Bronzewood Portals for your bar (20-175 gp for doors, 11-85 sp for shutters), Luminous Paste made from Phostwood trees to help mark your way in the Underdark, Rhizian Shield Harness for barbarians who need to use two-handed weapons time to time, and chewable Tamal Leaves from the Amedio Jungle for hardened adventurers who are too cool (or disgusting) for halfling pipe-weed.

That's all for, good luck finding these articles, they are all timeless and useful in any edition of D&D. You won't be disappointed. Until next time!

Monday, May 20, 2019

A Few Interesting Greyhawk Posts

Howdy Greyhawkers! The big news from Wizards last weekend was about their new adventure, Baldur's Gate: Descent Into Avernus and they've announced a setting hardback for Eberron. (for some reason) I'm not here to discuss Sharn, but I do have a few Greyhawk items to tide us over until I can get the new Ghosts of Saltmarsh book and then with Anna Meyer, on June 5th, start back up Legends & Lore on the Greyhawk Channel.

First up, over at Tribality, author Blake Ryan has another mysterious location to show off in his Greyhawk series, this time it is Xanvak, an underwater lair of Aboleth in Lake Quag near Perrenland. Suddenly that sleepy lake got 1000% more deadly. Blake throws in some interesting loot choices drawn from Greyhawk Adventures if your players care to brave this deep danger.

Second, the new Avernus book mentioned above partially takes place on the first level of hell (making this a stealth Planescape adventure). One of the product points for this event is some big nasty vehicle called the Infernal War Machine. Over at ENWorld there is photos and advance look at the rules. They are touting this as Mad Max inspired, though my next inclination is my Warhammer 40k orks would love to ride that. However, an astute Greyhawk-file will also point at this infernal machine and scream DOOMGRINDER! Or for that matter maybe the Machine of Lum the Mad or Mighty Servant of Leuk-O could come from this family of hellish devices. All this time they were Blood War left overs!

Lastly, I rarely go to Dragon+ cause reasons, but in this month's feature for the Best of the Dungeon Master's Guild by Shawn Merwin also includes some links to PDFs of classic Dragon Magazine articles that can enhance a nautical campaign. Among these excellent entries is a Greyhawk article I DO NOT REMEMBER. This is significant to me, because I thought I had seen it all. Ironically, issue #125 from 1987 features a cover painting of King Arthur at the Battle of Camlan by Roger Raupp.

This same artwork would later be recycled in 1991 for...Greyhawk Wars boxed set cover. Yes I am underwhelmed too, but I had forgot that excellent cover graced Dragon before the forgettable game. Fast forward almost three decades later and now it is here again. Magical Maps of Greyhawk by Lee Ian Wurn has some excellent lore on the Cataclysms to go with his unique magical items. Download this article!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Ghosts of Saltmarsh Thoughts

Howdy Greyhawkers! It's a lazy weekend, so all I have is some quick commentary on some early reviews of Wizards' release of nautical themed rule/adventure hardcover Ghosts of Saltmarsh. There's a good one on ENWorld by Beth Rimmels. And there's an excellent post by NewbieDM with pictures. I'm sure you've read the contents and seen the maps. I'm stoked, you're stoked. Here is my observations:

First off, the word going around from the Wizards staff is that Saltmarsh will be considered a "setting" and Greyhawk won't for purposes of DMsGuild content creation. Think about that for a second. Had they said sure, writers you can do Sword Coast but not the rest of Forgotten Realms then there would be grumbling, Barovia but not the rest of Ravenloft, grumbling. Sharn but not the rest of Eberron, grumbling. Why should Greyhawk fans be any less offended then? That said it's smart, because as I've analyzed before, the adaptation of Greyhawk classics in 5E is coming up to a crossroads. It will soon have to delve into actual Greyhawk story lines before long or be forced to switch to another classic setting like Dragonlance or Planescape. Futhermore, Saltmarsh was never an integral part of the World of Greyhawk yet it attained this classic status despite being canonically invisible. So, good on Saltmarsh as the choice for a setting to develop on its own. I take it as a sign Wizards knows its burning through IP too fast and is pumping the brakes.

Even so, from the photos shown in NewbieDM's post, we see Keoland, the Sea Princes and King Skotti are mentioned. This is fantastic exposure. The SW of the Flanaess is a popular area with a wealth of history and much open sea to explore. I should know, I've spent the last several years developing the Sea Princes and South Seas. Those DMs looking to start a high seas campaign in Greyhawk, check out my map HERE.

I am very intrigued by the factions in this book, Traditionalists, Loyalists (to Keoland) and the kicker, the Scarlet Brotherhood! This is a huge addition. The SB is a secret organization early in Greyhawk lore, who then jump into the spot light and begin conquest during the Greyhawk Wars. What era GoS is representing will definitely tip off fans where the future of published Greyhawk may be heading. The SB were never featured in any of the original modules featured in Ghosts AFAIK, so this faction addition like I said, is a big nod to setting development.

There is mention made in the pictures of at least THREE Greyhawk deities, one of which, Procan is entirely appropriate since he is the god of the seas. This is notable because Procan is not listed in the scant section of Greyhawk gods in the 5E PHB. I can only hope fellow nautical deities Xerbo and Osprem sneak into this module as well.

I've ran Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh before, it's wonderful, but not the other constituent modules (a couple which are Dungeon Magazine classics). I'm sure this book along with the rules section on seafaring will be amazing. I wish it had come out three or four books ago! So yes, I cannot wait to get this book. I also cannot wait for Greyhawk to be turned loose for real on DMsGuild. Until then, enjoy the Saltmarsh "setting".

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Greyhawk A-Z: Monsters

Howdy Greyhawkers! I was looking for something to write about this weekend and lo and behold this old column popped up. If you haven't seen my A to Z posts check them out on the Best of Greyhawkery HERE. I've covered people, places, deities and magic, so why not monsters? This is generally going to be about D&D monsters, but I guarantee I'll give my Greyhawk angle to them. Enjoy!

Aarakocra: What's an Aarakocra? Well they are bird-folk from Fiend Folio of course. They are misspelled as Aarakoora in the World of Greyhawk Glossography encounter charts. You can find these winged creatures in the Corusk, Griff, Rakers and Lortmil Mountains.

Bulette: I have never used a bulette that I can recall. The Monster Manual says these armored burrowing monsters are also called landsharks and they might be the creation of a wizard. As for Greyhawk, apparently half-strength, sand bulettes can be found in the Sea of Dust. Beware!

Cooshee: Elf dogs! Why aren't these smart pups from Monster Manual 2 more well know today? They are green, people!

Drider: You like drow? You like giant spiders? How about a drow-spider hybrid? These things are supposed to be cursed drow who fail Lolth, but serious they seem like an upgrade to me! I need to use them more.

Ettercap: Speaking of spider-kin, I never understood Ettercaps or whatever their historical origins. In D&D they are spider-men that over the editions get less and less human-like in description. An interesting theory says Ettercaps were once mad druids that changed into these things and never came back. Whatever the case, aren't there enough spider-things in Greyhawk?

Firbolg: What does Greyhawk have more of than spiders? Yeah, giants. In MM2, there was three new minor giants introduced, Verbeeg (skinny intelligent ogres), Fomorians (deformed hill giants) and the Firbolg. These giants are hermits and have magic power. Among them, they can appear small. In 5E, I'm not sure what Firbolg are like, but I'm sure it's a change from 1E. Historically, Firbolg I believe are from Celtic myth? *shrug*

Grung: If you are relatively new to D&D you might even know what the toad-like Grung are thanks to 5E's Tomb of Annihilation. Cool but I'm fairly certain they are Greyhawk originals, seen in the hardback Greyhawk Adventures. Though I've never used them, I imagine they are frog-gnomes from a playable race standpoint.

Horg: Want to know what the scariest monsters is in all of Greyspace? It's the Horg hands down. Fortunately for you Oerth-bound adventurers, they inhabit the vacuum of the asteroid belt Grinder. They are bat-like humanoids who can phase and have poisonous attacks that would worry even Tiamat. I could go into more detail, but you'll have to trust me, Spelljamming isn't a cake-walk.

Illithid: aka Mindflayers, these monsters are another I've underused in my DM career. I wager it's because of their psionic-ness. I've never been a fan of psionics. Also, rumor has it there is an Illithid lair in Riftcanyon. They apparently like collecting Greyhawk lore too. Take my word for it.

Jermaline: I love sneaky, underdark creatures like the Jermaline. Also known as bane-midges, these little guys were created by Gygax and first appeared in Fiend Folio. If you don't own the original FF, get one now! It's a classic. In the World of Greyhawk, you can even find Jermaline in the tunnels of the Sea of Dust.

Kech: Off the top of my head these are tree-dwelling camouflaged simians? I believe they were in MM2 and Ghost Tower of Inverness as I chose to replace them with Chokers because they haven't been converted to 5E yet.

Losel: Speaking of which, Losel are like primitive orc-baboon crossbreeds. Apparently Gygax first used them in his novels and they made their way into the setting lore as creatures brought to other forests of the Flanaess by Iuz and the Scarlet Brotherhood. As for my home campaign? Hard pass.

Manotaur: Anyone else remember this guy? No, not minotaur...manotaur.  I think it was in Greyhawk Ruins, but I can't seem to find it because I tore all the monster pages out to add to my 2E Monster Manual binder that I obviously didn't take good care of. Ah well, I know I didn't imagine it.

Norker: We have alot of spiders and giants, but Greyhawk also has tons of evil goblinoids. Not quite goblins, not quite hobgoblins, Norkers are fun because their hide is so tough they don't need armor. Otherwise, they're just extra-hard-to-kill goblins. Try em out! I do believe Iuz is doing just that in his armies.

Ogre: Ogres are everywhere! But did you know there is an ogre hang-out near Hardby called Ogremeet? Coincidentally in the adventure Greyhawk Ruins there is evidence Zagyg Yragerne was making rings of ogre control. Ogre army perhaps?

Pernicons: I have never used these grasshopper-like pests, but if you don't know what Pernicons are then check out this old post of mine that mentions them. Fiend Folio is the best! Look for these nasty swarms in the Sea of Dust and Bright Desert.

Quaggoth: Found mainly in the Burneal Forest, I like to think of these fuzzy bear-folk as D&D's version of Chewbacca. In Age of Worms they introduced an NPC Quaggoth who got some culture. I'm unsure if any edition of D&D has made them a playable race though.

Remorhaz: There is few creatures in the frozen north lager and scarier than "frost worms". They have such hot cores that being swallowed by a Remorhaz is one of the worst ways to die. I picture these being common around they geyser filled Land of Black Ice.

Swordwraith: You can probably imagine what these are already. Indeed, they are intelligent undead swordsmen from old battlefields who still gather and plot and raid! Originally in Greyhawk Adventures, it says they are most likely found in the Stark Mounds, but can be at the site of any battle. I can think of a few spots that would be crawling with these guys.

Trolls: I've gone on how there is many kinds of giant, arachnids and humanoids in Greyhawk, but let's not leave out Trolls. They apparently can adapt to ANY environment and even mate with ettins and things. Now that I think of it, they are classified as giants, so never mind. My favorite is Ice Trolls, cause well, who is going to protect you from the Remorhaz until you kill them off?

Unicorn: Who in the 80's didn't watch the D&D Cartoon and instantly want to use unicorns in their campaign? Oh yes, there was also The Last Unicorn cartoon and the movie Legend. It's amazing I barely used them until 3rd edition. When I did they were in Welkwood and Silverwood.

Volt: Are your players tired of yet another predictable Stirge attack? Okay, send Volts after them next time! Another fine creation from Fiend Folio that hasn't translated over to later editions. This is remarkable because it made the top 10 vote for best monsters in the book for White Dwarf magazine. They basically work like Stirge, but while they are draining blood they also whip you for electrical damage. You're welcome!

Will-o-Wisp: Speaking of electrical damage. The "WoW" is a creature I've underused and I can't figure out why. They are fast, evil and pack a punch. Glowing orbs that like to lure people into haunted ruins and traps also rates high on the DM toolbox. Muahaha.

Xvart: These creepy blue goblins are everywhere. Verbobonc, Bone March, Bandit Kingdoms, Vesve, Horned Society, etc. We all should know about their precocious deity, Raxivort, but I remember a VERY obscure xvart from Living Greyhawk Journal named Xiq-Ciq. IIRC he is the "pet-friend of a Komali noblewoman.

Yuan-ti: Everyone knows about these snake-people. The fun thing about them is the variety of yuan-ti that have been created over the years. This makes them seem more realistic and fearsome because you never know what you may run into next. I'm positive they rule wide swathes of Hepmonaland, but outside the jungles do yuan-ti roam the Flanaess?

Zombie: Sure, any priest of Iuz can raise them, but let's try out a new scenario more in line with our TV and movie zombies...

That's all for now!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

New Blog: Greyhawk Stories

Welcome World of Greyhawk fans. Today I'm promoting a new Greyhawk themed blog called Greyhawk Stories! What is the mission of Greyhawk Stories? Obviously to share some of the best lore and fiction about the setting we all love. And there will definitely be a healthy dose of new works by the site as well. Check out this intro for more.

In the meantime the first few articles posted cover some juicy subjects. First off is The Making of Turrosh Mak by Jeff Mckillop. Turrosh is the most famous half-orc in the Flanaess and rules over an empire of humanoids in the Pomarj. Check out this blast from the past.

The next is some original fiction by Greyhawk Stories titled Iggwilv in the Hut of Baba Yaga. What more do I need to say there? Two of the best witches in all of D&D fandom. In part one we get a wonderful tale of how a VERY young girl comes to meet Baba Yaga and charms her way into becoming her daughter.

Lastly is the expanded account of the Battle of Emridy Meadows, the most famous battle in the World of Greyhawk, researched and analyzed by yours truly back in 2008. Greyhawk Stories, with my permission, did a amazing job cleaning up this article and making it a presentable PDF download. Check it out!

Keep checking in on this new blog, they have a lot of enthusiasm and good tales to share in the future. The Greyhawk fan community has never been stronger!

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Avengers Endgame Thoughts

Hello Greyhawkers. It's been a long, busy week, but I did manage to see Avengers: Endgame and I must say, after 10 years of amazing Marvel comic movies building up to this finale I got some thoughts to share in relation to running a D&D/RPG campaign (not just Greyhawk). Also, no don't worry, there won't be any spoilers in this post. If you haven't seen the movie do so NOW. If you haven't seen any Avengers movies, what's wrong with you? Okay let's start in no particular order...

1. Adventure Paths, much like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, are hard, but if you can finish it the memories and emotional pay off will be worth it. Be it the Against the Giants/Queen of Spiders, Age of Worms or your own series of adventures. If you intend to do the long-campaign, see it through!

2. A central uber-villain like Thanos is worth his weight in gold. This guy has to be untouchable, but so personally hated by the PCs that they will try to defeat him/her no matter the odds. I think of heavy villain types like Iggwilv, Iuz or Vecna.

3. Villains can win. Yeah they can and it only makes the players want to try harder to undo what victory the bad guy may achieve. In the module Vecna Lives! there is a scenario in which the arch-lich wins. Does he? Probably not in 99.9% of games played, but if he does, it ups the stakes for your entire campaign.

4. Call backs to old NPCs or locations or events is a great way to reward players. Referencing something a PC has done to change the world is a good way to acknowledge that the players have mattered and their time is not wasted. If such a place or person is revisited, the platers will want to defend it just that much more. It's also a good way for a DM to show that no minor detail or random NPC you may meet in a Greyhawk tavern is unimportant because they might matter some point in the future.

5. If you're going to have an epic finale, be sure there is plenty for every hero to do. Having a character be the "chosen one" is fine in many stories with only one central character, but RPGs are usually ensemble casts. Give them stuff to do and personal goals to tie up at the end. this is why I feel quests like Five Shall Be One's quest for the five Blades of Corusk is great, because it requires all the heroes to be invested in the story and lend a hand in victory.

6. Character death should be epic, not pointless. This is of course easier said than done. But if the PCs live as well, there should always be an opportunity to take one for the team. The struggle against Kyuss in Age of Worms was quite good at handling climatic situations in this fashion.

7. Sometimes a new player thinks outside the box better than veterans. If this ever happens it is a breath of fresh air for DMs and a shot in the arm for long time players. I've seen it happen occasionally over the years. Never discourage creative plans and ideas, no matter how silly or over the top they may seem at first.
8. It's okay to move up the timeline. RPGs these days work in at accelerated pace. It's easy to do an Adventure Path like Savage Tide, that takes less than a game year to finish but takes the PC from 1-20th level. So your PC may be ultra powerful and rich now, but has he really developed? As a DM, adding incremental timeline changes gives the players an opportunity to change not just their stats but their character's personal story moving forward.

9. Cross-overs can work. Are you a DM that runs more than one game group? Do they play in a shared world like the World of Greyhawk? If you ever get to mix these game groups up and let them cross over the teams, it can make for some interesting relationships and new group dynamics. I used to run games like this frequently and we still proudly talk about those games decades later.

10. Have an easily defined villain plot or quest. If you're playing an RPG involving intrigue, investigation or horror then sure, it can be good to slowly dish out information and build to a reveal. In an epic fantasy quest, sometimes it's good to know the danger up front and what will happen if they fail. All the stuff in between is the meat of the story and for a DM can be fluid at this point. Iuz's demons will overrun the Flanaess unless you get the Crook of Rao, And....GO!

11. A good villain or hero never stays gone for long. It's more true for comic books, but in a game like D&D it's easy for recurring villains or even heroes to be brought back into the story if needed, such as clones, simulacrum, resurrection, raise dead, reincarnation, undeath, etc. If done right this can span a wide timeline gap like in Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure and the sequel Maure Castle which was also written 20 real years apart.

12. Sometimes villains can make great allies or can even be redeemed. If you haven't tried to have a villain team up with the PCs to take down a greater threat, you are missing out on some great roleplay opportunities. Imagine the possibility of a romantic storyline with a villain like in the movie Willow, or something familial like Thor and Loki or Raistlin and Caramon from Dragonlance.

13. The story goes on. And when you finish your epically long campaign, sometimes it is nice for your heroes to lay the ground work for your next campaign. Pass the torch so to say. This could be like a legacy game where the Circle of Eight loses and adds new members, or maybe the timeline changes and you carry on the name of a previous PC. Or maybe your PC becomes a ruler of a nation that your next character hails from and is sent on the next quest by this mentor. There's many ways to tie up the end of a campaign and let your PC leave a permanent mark on the world.

Monday, April 22, 2019

A Few New Greyhawk Articles

Greetings seekers of all things Greyhawk! Today I bring you three new works from various luminaries of the Greyhawk community. Let's get it started!

First up is the final installment of Joe Bloch's wonderful series of articles expanding the Baklunish Pantheon. If you haven't seen this already be sure to back track and download all his articles on his blog Greyhawk Grognard. In the final issue, Joe features classic deities Geshtai and Zuoken, then adds newcomers Suwat, Waadi and Malakim. They are loving produced and well-written and researched to the point you will swear it's canon!

Next up is actually two entries by one author. Blake Ryan has been building up steam as he releases new Greyhawk articles on D&D fan-site Tribality. His latest contributions to our lore is quite original. First he writes about a place called Zulpar, a lair of the Mind Flayers found in the Underdark beneath the Rakers mountain chain. Remote and scary indeed!
The second is Syrmyr, the lair of a nasty sea hag in the White Fanged Bay near Stonehold. Why would one want to go to such a cold and dangerous place? Mr. Ryan supplies plenty of good reasons in this article. Enjoy!

Last up is a new article at Canonfire! titled Beasts of the Scarlet Brother (5e Update) by Paul "Woesinger" Looby. In this, Woesinger updates an article he did for Dungeon #106 with fellow Onnwalian, Stuart Kerrigan way back in the heyday of Living Greyhawk. Now you can enjoy critters like Dreamstealers, Yeshir and Mazchedeen for your own 5E campaign. Good work, we need more 5E conversions like this.

That's all for now!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Old D&D Commercials

Hey hey, Greyhawk fans. It's a slow weekend. Who wants to play some D&D?

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Greyhawkery Link Updates

Greetings Greyhawkers! Today is a lazy weekend, so I started to refurbish some of my defunct stuff on my front page.

First off, if you go to my Greyhawk Articles page, I have updated the links to some of my stuff from the Oerth Journal and so on. Many thanks to Greyhawk Online for making the entirety of the Oerth Journal ezine available again. Now you can see all my best Ull-related articles!

I also have updated my old World of Greyhawk Comic page as well. Now you can go back and read all my wacky stuff from many years ago like the Cultists of Tharizdun and Gods in Space, plus easily reference my most recent comic, Castle Greyhawk by author Scott Casper, from the beginning!


Sunday, April 7, 2019

Greyhawk News Tidbits

Good fortune to you Greyhawkers! Today I have a few Greyhawk related news tidbits to throw out. Let's get started:
Our very own Bards of Greyhawk have an extraordinary announcement on their Facebook page. They are going to be doing a Kickstarter to promote a short comic drawn by D&D artist and legend, Jeff Dee!

Jeff Dee made a comic book for Bards of Greyhawk!

We will soon be launching our very first Patreon later this month as we celebrate our 4th Anniversary to announce and begin raising funds for the production and distribution of this fantastic new D&D comic book with eight pages of amazing color illustrations by living legend TSR / Dungeons & Dragons artist, our friend. Jeff Dee! Like and Follow our page to be the first to get in on this exciting opportunity!

I for one, cannot wait to see more of Dee's classic illustration.

Next up is another offering from Blake Ryan at Tribality. He is running a series of short articles on northern towns in the World of Greyhawk. Next up is Djekul, a town of 3000 in the land of the Frost Barbarians. Mr. Ryan's has a way of taking an undeveloped town in Greyhawk and packing a ton of useful game info into it, without it being a slog to read through. Any DM looking for a new location to send their PCs or a humble home base for a rural campaign could not do much better than the info provided in Djekul. Check it out.

Lastly, the Greyhawk Channel will soon be announcing their Summer Season schedule. However, I am going to broadcast early that me and Anna Meyer's talk show, Legends & Lore will be moving to Wednesdays 7-9 pm CST on June 5th. I'd like to give many thanks to all the loyal friend of the show who have been coming each week. We hope that the move up in the week won't affect people coming to watch, in fact we hope it will INCREASE turn out as we won't be competing with other D&D shows on in that same evening. We will have a short hiatus in May then will be back with more lore and guests in June. Stay tuned!

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Greyhawk Mini-Map: Whyestil Lake

Greetings Greyhawkers! Today I have another hand-drawn, mini-map of the World of Greyhawk. If you haven't seen these hex maps creations of mine, check out these previous posts, including the recent one I did for the Wastes. I do them for fun, to zoom in on an area of the Flanaess you may or may not be familiar with, plus I add my own embellishments.

If Dorakaa looks familiar, that's because it's the capital of Iuz, home to the demigod of the same name. Also, I did a full map/guide of this city about a year ago. Check it out! Whyestil Lake is a focal point for much of the Greyhawk Wars between Furyondy and Iuz. This map of course only shows the northern half of the lake near Iuz and the adjacent Horned Lands of the mysterious Horned Society.

Take note, foolhardy heroes: other points of interest here is Devouring Bridge and Grunlend Keep from the source book, Iuz the Evil. Grunlend Keep is where Iuz's orcs are trying to learn how to sail warships. Luckily, so far it's a futile measure. Devouring Bridge on the other hand, is a span of fiendish construction and guarded by the worst kind of fiends on top of that! These are both places you have to pass on your way to fight the mighty Iuz on his own turf. That is, unless you know about the "wharves" from the module City of Skulls. I've already said too much....

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Tribality Feature: Greyhawk Cities

Hail Greyhawk stalwarts! Today I'm promoting a new regular Greyhawk series over at RPG website . Staff author, Blake Ryan is slowly building momentum with his Greyhawk Cities feature. His first column covers the Ratik capital city of Marner. This is followed by a unique look at the city of Knurl in Bone March. Both of these articles brilliantly combine established sources and maps with a variety of new information from important locations, organizations, NPCs and resources in the cities. The best part of these articles however, is the section on quests that can be acquired in each town. They are broken down into Confusion, Exploration and Rescue Quests. Absolutely smart writing because it turns each city into a center for adventure and exploration found in popular sandbox games.

Greyhawk DMs you have to check these articles out, because Mr. Ryan is bursting with ideas for your campaign. And he has informed me that there is many more cities in store for this series. Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Ernie Gygax Meets Greyhawk Online

Hey Greyhawkers! I got a quick piece of news I want to boost the signal to, from the resurgent fansite (and friend of this blog) Greyhawk Online. Greyhawk Online had the chance after Gary Con XI to visit the home of Ernest Gygax, the son of the late Gary Gygax. Ernie is known for creating Tenser the archmage for Gary's original Greyhawk campaign. Ernie was gracious enough to show off an amazingly detailed portrait of him as his famed wizard on display, and tell some stories about the character we all know and love. Check it out.

Be sure to visit Greyhawk Online often for old and new Greyhawk content, such as my comics or the recently released Oerth Journal #28. Go there, you won't be disappointed!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Greyhawk Map: The Wastes

Hail Greyhawkers! Today I have another random mini-Greyhawk map drawn by yours truly! If you want to check out some of my previous quickie maps, go HERE. What you are seeing is the Wastes in the northern reaches of the Flanaess - but you are viewing this desolate region from the Icy Sea which means yeah you are upside down.

The Wastes have always intrigued me as a feature since the 80's Darlene map. Indeed, the original Guide to Greyhawk doesn't even detail the Wastes in the section titled "Wastelands"! The accompanying Glossography also does not given encounters for the Wastes which is a shame. Later products would start to develop this place. The most notable feature is the Burning Cliffs first seen in Greyhawk Adventures which allegedly may be connected to the Elemental Plane of Fire, a nice touch considering it is adjacent to the Icy Sea.

Later sources conflate the Barrens and the Wastes into the "Barren Wastes" but the Barrens are actually the grasslands where the nomadic Rovers ride. It is a place where one can find centaurs, gnolls and the strange humanoid qullan. To the south and west is the Cold Marshes and Blackmoor. The Wastes themselves are said to be the blasted remains of a culture from long ago (of course). The remaining features of the Wastes can be seen in the book Iuz the Evil; Icegate, Tomb of Tzunk's Hands, Folly and the Dungeon of Bleeding Walls are all adventure spots that DMs are encouraged to create on their own.

One other source I overlooked when drawing this is the obscure adventure, Ex Keraptis Cum Amore by Andy Miller in Dungeon #77. In this sequel to White Plume Mountain, we are treated to another wizardly dungeon site near the Burning Cliffs called the Melted Fane. If anyone is intrigued by the map to the left, you better find this issue to find out more!

That's all for now. Stay tuned for my next random map.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Where Is Saltmarsh?

Hello Greyhawkers! The title of this post is of course facetious, it's part of the World of Greyhawk. But for a small port first introduced in 1981's U1: Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, it's surprisingly a house-hold name in popular culture (27th all-time) while at the same time under-appreciated in the setting that spawned it. Allow me to explain:

WotC's new book Ghosts of Saltmarsh is taking up the iconic seaport and allowing it to fit into any campaign world. And that's fine. Indeed, the 3.5E DMG2 first expanded on Saltmarsh, taking a one page description of the town in U1 and developing it into a fully realized campaign location, 33 pages in length.

Where is Saltmarsh? According to U-series authors Dave Browne and Don Turnbull, Saltmarsh is in Keoland, fittingly at hex coordinate U4/123. The U series is initialed as such because it was written by TSR's United Kingdom division. I wonder then if this is why Saltmarsh for all its rave reviews is hard to find referenced in other Greyhawk sources.

The original Darlene map of course doesn't feature towns this small and it predates the creation of the module in the 1980 World of Greyhawk Folio. The module however DOES predate the 1983 World of Greyhawk boxed set. In the boxed set Glossography booklet there is a listing of hex locations for modules set in the World of Greyhawk. None of the U series modules make this list. Thankfully the modules themselves give its hex location.

Furthermore, a ton of modules was released from 1981 onward such as I1: Dwellers of the Forbidden City and L1: The Secret of Bone Hill. On the back of all these modules would be advertisement listings to help you collect the whole library of D&D products. Shockingly, UK mods don't appear on the American module ads, but the U and UK series mods sure as heck reference the home office's work. Now the reality of business between oceans and promoting each others works may have been an obvious geographic choice. Even so, I can only conclude short of being featuring in Dragon Magazine, that the U1 got popular by word of mouth!

Despite being an underground hit, the dearth of Saltmarsh references is pretty steady until the second DMG is put out towards the end of 3.5E (set 7 years after the events of the U-series). Earlier works in the same edition like The Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, does not list Saltmarsh among major towns (Keoland is quite large). Worse, the Living Greyhawk Journal #1, has an article about Keoland by my friend Gary Holian. However, this well-developed article does not show Saltmarsh on it's close-up map (it shows Seaton though) and only mentions Saltmarsh in the caption of a piece of art showing the haunted house of the module (named Makaster House).

What else references Saltmarsh? A Dungeon Magazine #77 adventure titled To Walk Beneath the Waves by W. Jason Peck, makes mention of the module being set in the Flanaess near Saltmarsh. By the way, this mod must've slipped by WotC while they were combing Dungeon for aquatic adventures in GH like The Styes and Tammeraut's Fate. Fortunately, Paizo's 4-part World of Greyhawk map from Dungeon (118-121) is a hex for hex update of the Darlene map and does give Saltmarsh it's proper placing.

In summary, Saltmarsh the adventure defied the odds and became a D&D icon. That Wizards would take the town, build upon it, or even suggest it be played in another setting is entirely fine then, because the town deserves the spotlight for once.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Greyhawk Going on at Gary Con XI

Greetings Greyhawkers! It's been a wonderful weekend as I just had a small dose of Gary Con XI. Yeah I was only there for barely half of it with my best friend Jayson "Valkaun" King, but I do have a lot to report on the Greyhawk front! Let's go!

Getting the big news out of the way first, me and Jayson walked by D&D super-celebrity Joe Manganiello in the hall. I got to give him a shout out and he said "hey man". That was my mere brush with the new D&D fandom. Joe aside, I was IN a panel on Friday called Celebrating the World of Greyhawk, A Fandom Renaissance.  My co-panelists were Allan Grohe, Bryan Blumklotz, Carlos Lising, Anna Meyer and Kristoph Nolen. Those who have been in the Greyhawk community for a ling time probably know most of us, but if not...
  •  Allan Grohe owns Grodog's Greyhawk and is part of Black Blade Publishing
  •  Bryan Blumklotz is known for his heraldry pieces and runs the Canonfire Facebook group.
  •  Carlos Lising writes amazing old school adventures and runs Casl Entertainment.
  •  Anna Meyer does incredible maps at annabmeyer and co-hosts Legends & Lore.
  •  Kristoph Nolen is an artist who manages Greyhawk Online and co-edits the Oerth Journal.

The panel covered a wide range of topics, mainly concerning promotion of Greyhawk fan-works across many platforms, such as blogging, publishing and streaming shows like DMShane's ever-growing Greyhawk Channel, and Jay "Lord Gosumba" Scott's old school channel. The ultimate goal is uniting the community once again in order to let WotC know that there is still a strong call for published Greyhawk products in the future.

The turn out for the panel was incredible, mind you Gary Con is a small venue, so the smaller conference room crowds allow you to interact with the audience much easier. Everyone present was a long time fan. I found many in attendance have read my blogs, comics and seen my streaming shows with Anna. It was very gratifying to put new faces to names and talk about shared memories. Those who made it to the panel were also treated with a collection of handouts including the first print version of the newly resurrected Oerth Journal #28 produced not only by the six of us, but many contributors from the Greyhawk Community such as Joe Bloch, Denis Tetreault, Jay Scott, The Oliver Brothers, Len Lakofka,  Jeffrey Garrison, Will Dvorak, Rick Miller and Dave Guerrieri.

Be sure to keep checking for the download of Oerth Journal #28 at Greyhawk Online! Also, for those wanting the info on my Gary Con handout the Ulakand Mesa map, go HERE to get the map and keyed information. Enjoy.

Special thanks to Tony Milani for bringing a gigantic printing of Anna's Flanaess map to the seminar for every to see! Also a huge shout out to Amanda and Linda for their support!

What else was happening at Gary Con? Carlos Lising ran some more Greyhawk adventures such as When Comes the Witching Hour:

"In 586CY, Lady Ariana Silverfox disappeared while exploring the depths of Castle Greyhawk. Now, almost fifteen years later, divinations have revealed that the adventuress yet lives somewhere in the remote hinterlands of Perrenland. Will your band of heroes prove capable of finding the explorer and returning her to her family? An adventure set in the World of Greyhawk for character levels 9-12."

And the latest in his Markessa series, Markessa, Thy Name is Evil:

"One by one, a brave fellowship of heroes have infiltrated the strongholds of the villainess, Markessa. Still, despite their best efforts, the enchantress yet draws breath and continues to work her experiments upon the flesh and souls of the innocent folk of the Wild Coast. Can your heroes put an end at last to Markessa's evil? An adventure set in the World of Greyhawk for character levels 9-12."

Be sure to join his Patreon for Casl Entertainment.

Could there be more? Why yes, our panel got to have a sit down with Gary Gygax's son Ernie, whose original character Tenser is the protagonist of Scott Casper's novella and web comic Castle Greyhawk. It was an honor to present Ernie copies of some art prints from the comic's climatic last page. He sat and talked with us for a while about things from his dad's campaign and what it's like living in Lake Geneva where it all started. Our Greyhawk panel just happened to follow the Gygax family panel as well. Kristoph Nolan had the honor there to give the family early copies of our seminar handout. It was a good day.

I also saw some cool banners about the con, showing classic mods:

Something interesting is coming next month from Harold Johnson... 

I got my newly acquired AD&D Manual of the Planes signed by cover artist Jeff Easley.

Lastly, there is also news that Goodman Games will be doing a 5E adaptation of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, the third in their series starting with Keep on the Borderlands and Isle of Dread.

Well that is all I can recall. I'm sure there was more newsworthy stuff that happened on Saturday and Sunday that I missed, but for now, Gary Con is the place for Greyhawk. Thanks and hopefully I will see you there next year!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

5E: Which Greyhawk Classics Are Next?

Hail Greyhawkers! Today I am going to do an in-depth survey of which adventures or classic themes remain for WotC to adapt to 5th Edition. It's been a remarkable run so far for 5E, with Wizards' handling of nostalgia driven storylines and online entertainment. I wonder if they can keep up the pace? To that end, I want to also utilize a wonderful article The 30 Greatest D&D Adventures of All Time from Dungeon Magazine #116. A panel of D&D's best authors chose the top 30 and it shows that when it comes to classics that remain fresh with each edition, Greyhawk is the king of D&D. Let's have a look:

Classic (#30): Ghost Tower of Inverness by Allan Hammack

5E: None
Comments: Living Greyhawk did a "return to" Ghost Tower module in 3.5E and 4E did one for their Encounters game event. As I'm running this module as I write this post, I can say with conviction there is a lot of potential for a 5E version though the trope of a ruined castle/tower owned by a wizard is very common in classic D&D. 

Classic (#29): Assassin's Knot by Lenard Lakofka
5E: None
Comments: This is the second part in Lakofka's L series, started by the equally classic The Secret of Bone Hill (perhaps #31 in the top list?). These modules were early examples of sandbox style of play. Individually or together, I could see them end up in a 5E anthology book like Yawning Portal.

Classic (#27): Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh by Dave Brown and Don Turnbull
5E: (converted) Ghosts of Saltmarsh
Comments: Ghosts of Saltmarsh also includes the rest of U series, Danger at Dunwater and The Final Enemy. This book is significant because it not only serializes three Greyhawk modules, it also brings in some Dungeon Magazine classics for the first time like Tammeraut's Fate and The Styes.

Classic (#26): City of Skulls by Carl Sargent
5E: None
Comments: This module from 2E is unique due to its part in the time line of Greyhawk during the Greyhawk Wars. The theme of infiltrating a city to rescue a kidnapped noble has only been done perhaps in 5E Dragon Heist, though Waterdeep hardly compares to the capital of Iuz the Evil. It is so intricately tied to Greyhawk, that it would be surprising to see this classic updated to 5E.

Classic (#23): The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun by Gary Gygax
5E: None 
Comments: This gothic horror module will likely come soon to 5E since the namesake cult in this book is quite popular in D&D lore. Thematically cults have been over done in D&D, including a few times in 5E story lines to date, but this one is rather unique. Likewise, Tharizdun has been mentioned in 5E products already so it's only a matter of time!

Classic (#22): The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth by Gary Gygax
5E: None
Comments: As mentioned before, this is a sandboxy module of mountain and cave exploration. The villains and monsters found in Tsojcanth were original for its day. Lost Caverns was last expanded in 3.5E Dungeon Magazine, but a 5E update would surely be free to roam again. Alternatively Tsojcanth could end up in a 5E anthology book with the other remaining classics from S1-4, Realms of Horrror (Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks).

Classic (#20): Scourge of the Slave Lords by various authors
5E: (reprint) Against the Slave Lords 
Comments: This adventure path is comprised of the A series of modules dealing with the theme of defeating an evil slave trading organization one piece at a time. This series was compiled in Scourge and later expanded in 2E's Slavers. Most recently, there was a new episode (A0) added to the slavers series for their Against the Slave Lords AD&D reprint. There seems to be slight chance WotC will use this plot since it was already explored in a reprint, though the rules remained 1E. 

Classic (#19): Against the Cult of the Reptile God by Douglas Niles
5E: None
Comments: This modest low level classic is set near Keoland and involves themes of an evil cult and investigation. Like I mention before, evil cults are a constant theme of D&D plots. This module would be best seen in an anthology of classic cult modules like Forgotten Temple and the Temple of Elemental Evil.

Classic (#18): Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan by Harold Johnson and Jeff Leason
5E: (converted) Tales From the Yawning Portal
Comments: Tamoachan is a popular jungle themed dungeon and has seen revision in 4E once and though it is Mayan influenced, the theme of jungle exploration is currently one that Wizards covered in Tomb of Annihilation. It's inclusion in Yawning Portal comes as no surprise.

Classic (#13) Dwellers of the Forbidden City by David Cook
Classic (#10): Return to the Tomb of Horrors by Bruce Cordell
Classic (#3): Tomb of Horrors by Gary Gygax
5E: (themes and converted) Tomb of Annihilation/Tales From the Yawning Portal
Comments: As mentioned above, ToA is about jungle exploration and lost cities (ties to the classic Isle of Dread and Dwellers). ToA also utilizes the antagonist of ToH, a module that is so popular that it has been seen in novels and expanded upon or adapted for every edition of D&D.

Classic (#9): White Plume Mountain by Lawrence Schick
5E: (converted) Tales From the Yawning Portal
Comments: Wizard's ruined dungeons are commonplace, but WPM is unique for being built inside a volcano and it features a few classic magic weapons like Blackrazor. This module has seen updates and adaptations in nearly every edition as well.

Classic (#8): Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil by Monte Cook
Classic (#4): The Temple of Elemental Evil by Gary Gygax and Frank Mentzer
5E: (theme and board game) Princes of the Apocalypse, Temple of Elemental Evil, Out of the Abyss
Comments: The theme of an evil elemental worshiping cult is taken in a wild new direction in 5E, without directly taking the Temple out of Greyhawk. A tie in board game of the namesake however, failed to pay homage to its roots. It is also worth noting the demoness villain of this megadungeon, Zuggtmoy, is also featured in Out of the Abyss. ToEE is popular enough in D&D to warrant a full 5E adaptation someday, perhaps in an anthology book like Yawning Portal.

Classic (#5): Expedition to the Barrier Peaks by Gary Gygax
5E: (sequel) Lost Laboratory of Kwalish 
Comments: Barrier Peaks' themes of magitech and weird monsters wasn't reimagined here so much as given a suitable sequel to Gygax's original. The special adventure was done for charity, instead of a regular story line event, so I wonder if this theme will be revisited someday.

Classic (#1) Queen of the Spiders by Gygax and various authors
5E: (themes) Storm Giants Thunder, Out of the Abyss
Comments: Queen of the Spiders' adventure path components are classics in their own right. Themes seen in 5E include giant antagonists, Against the Giants (G series), fighting through the Underdark, Vault of the Drow (D series), and defeating demonlords, Queen of the Demonweb Pits. Somehow, given Lolth and drow are heavily in Out of the Abyss, I expect this plot to see another pass in the years to come if only because of author R.A. Salvatore.

Some other select Greyhawk adventures of note:

Age of Worms: This adventure path from 3.5E Dungeon Magazine involved stopping an evil cult bringing a destructive deity to Oerth. One could argue that is the plot of 5E's first story line, Tyranny of Dragons.

Savage Tide: Another huge adventure path set in Greyhawk. This series involves nautical elements, demons and it drags the Isle of Dread into Greyhawk. As the plot involves themes like madness, Demogorgon and abyssal politics, I'd say Out of the Abyss covered this one.

Vecna Lives! Vecna Reborn, Die Vecna Die: Vecna is a core deity in D&D. His exploits are well known and developed since 2E. Vecna has not been featured in 5E yet. Perhaps the antagonist of lich Acererak in Tomb of Annihilation would cover this base, but really there is too much material left here for Wizards not to use Vecna someday.

Five Shall Be One, Howl From the North: This two part adventure deals with themes of barbarians and cold, wilderness exploration. So far 5E has not gone this route yet. FSBO is note worthy in that it is a quest for five magic blades to free a trapped god who will unite the barbarians of the north. After having adapted this story in my campaign to the south seas, I can tell you the originals are weak and a 5E update could only improve it.

Greyhawk Ruins/ Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk: The modules based on Gygax's most famous mega-dungeon. I can say with certainty these won't see a 5E revision since the themes of a dungeon belonging to a mad mage is exactly that of Undermountain (#17 classic) which was recently updated in the apt title, Dungeon of the Mad Mage

Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure/ Maure Castle: This megadungeon by Rob Kuntz is a classic in my opinion. It's see a conversion and expansion during 3.5E in Dungeon. However, like Castle Greyhawk, I can't see Wizards ever going here due the enormous length and similarity in theme to DotMM.

TL;DR version:
D&D has found it's groove by weaving new story lines into classic modules, while also dishing out anthologies of 5E adapted modules to promote old school themes. It's a formula they won't deviate from soon, but given the lists of classic Greyhawk adventures to draw from, they are already more than half-way through their pool of themes. In the future, WotC will need to turn to either other game worlds, like Dragonlance (Dragons of Despair, #25 classic), Ravenloft (#2 classic, adapted in Curse of Strahd 5E), Planescape (Dead Gods #14 classic) or the pages of Dungeon Magazine to find some diamonds in the rough that with any luck, will become the new classics.