Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Article: Psychic Phenomena of the Flanaess

Welcome back Greyhawkers. Up today is another Postfest article involving the theme of Psionics. Our author this time is no stranger to the call for a Postfest. Kick back and read Psychic Phenomena of the Flanaess by Argon
Argon writes:
"When we think of psychics many see mystic guru's or followers of Zuoken from the Baklunish lands. Many of us never think of haunted locales or psychic impressions left behind by those whom walked the Oerth before us. In this treatise you will be exposed to such psychic impressions and their affects on those who fall prey to them."

This article is a boon for Greyhawk DMs experienced with psionic rules, yet it can also be beneficial to those who don't normally use psionics but are looking to throw an ancient, mysterious presence at their player characters. Good luck!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Article: The Order of the Illumination of the Soul

Howdy Greyfolks, it is time for another article Postfest! The theme of this season's postfest is Psionics. First up is a gem from MasterArminas who has recently been very active in the community writing some good Greyhawk material. His offering is entitled, The Order of the Illumination of the Soul. MasterArminas writes:

"Psionic powers and the practitioners who use them are not unknown in the World of Greyhawk. Often referred to as mind-mages by the common people there are many who view the wielders of these mental arts as heretics and witches."

This is a fully realized and useful psionic organization that has been worked into the existing history of the Flanaess. Thus dungeonmasters with psionic characters can quickly implement this Order into their own Greyhawk campaigns. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

4E Steading of the Hill Giant Chief

I don't know how this one almost slipped past me, but over at Wizards of the Coast there is a new adapted module in Dungeon 197 based on Gary Gygax's 1978 classic Steading of the Hill Giant Chief. As usual, you will need a D&DI subscription to download this 20+ page module. Chris Perkins the senior producer on this module is evidently a big fan of the Against the Giants series and has been wanting to adapt them since 4e started. He writes:

"In reimagining “Steading of the Hill Giant Chief,” I’ve inflicted some violence to the maps and encounters to make the adventure a fun and balanced 4th Edition experience, acknowledging that this creates some mapping challenges for Dungeon Masters with limited tabletop space. I hope that DMs with fond memories of the original read this latest incarnation and feel the same overwhelming desire to run the adventure as I felt back in 1980, when I read Gary Gygax’s adventure for the first time."

Objectively this version of the Steading is well composed. The stat blocks don't over power the rest of the content. It seems the evolution of 4e's module design process has improved. Much like the original there is plenty of places to search and discover like a good old dungeon crawl, there is fabulous loot to be had, and there is enough new twists here to even surprise someone who has played the original. The cartography by Mike Schley is top notch as well.

Written for PCs of 12th to 14th level, the module starts off with four different "hooks" called major and minor quests that PCs can try to achieve, for example freeing dwarven slaves or finding an abandoned temple. This cleverly gives PCs something to do beyond just hack and slashing their way through the Steading. Perkins has also chosen to retain one of my favorite parts of the old module, the random chart of mundane treasures found in giant's bags. Thumbs up there. I have to mention the module makes no specific reference to the World of Greyhawk not that it is necessary or relevant to an adventure that has always been iconic enough to work in any setting, but it would've been a plus. I will tease however that the module has a couple Greyhawkian easter eggs, so there is that (sorry gang, no spoilers). All in all the module is worth a look provided you have the subscription to get it. For Greyhawk completists who aren't into 4e like me, the adaptation is not too thick that it can't be retrofitted to previous editions on the fly.

As Chris Perkins mentions in the document, this is only the first of a series that will adapt all three of Against the Giants mods to 4e. So yes in Dungeon 199 there will be Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl and in Dungeon 200, Hall of the Fire Giant King. But before you call Perkins lazy, there is a new chapter preceding those that has me intrigued. Dungeon 198 will debut "Warren of the Stone Giant Thane". I can't wait to see what comes of this one, I'll keep you updated.

Update 4/25/2021: Fixed broken link to this adventure. I recently found Wizards puts all their old eDungeon and eDragon issues on DMsGuild.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

To everyone in the gaming community, Happy Holidays. May you all get your heart's desire, but don't forget to sleep with one eye open because someone else in your party might steal your cut of the loot! ;)


Friday, December 23, 2011

Sea Princes #17: Grog and Guns

Sorry for the delay folks, I've had plenty going on with Needfest and all that. Last time we saw the crew of the Bird of Prey they had cleared a wrecked galley of some Drowned Ones and had enough time to search for any left over goods. Nothing good can come of an orcish galley though. Here is the protagonists:

Victor Emmitt Hammond (rogue, aspiring to shoot stuff)
Araxo Tydan (rogue, aspiring to conspire stuff)
Cuahtehmoc aka "Cuahto" (ranger, aspiring for riches)
Brother Pickles (cleric, aspiring for the afterlife)
and Henri Morgan (rogue, aspiring to be captain)
Not much was found in the hold of the crashed orcish galley save a tattered flag, (dark blue field with a black skull) and several wax sealed barrels. A few of them as the crew guessed correctly, turned out to be the most revolting orc grog in the world and it was thus thrown overboard. One would swear it caused sharks to be repelled and dead sahuagin to rise to the surface. The other barrels were much more of a haul, all bore the marks of the weaponry foundries of the South Province of Aerdy. The crew was refitted with any small arms found from that cache and sail was set in haste to Scant.
During that short leg of the voyage, those with zombie bites began to show symptoms of the dreaded "shakes" (Dexterity loss). Brother Pickles, who had bit a zombie with his own mouth inexplicably was fine, but the rail thin Mr. Hammond and the wiry Olman, Cuahto were both affected. Though initially shaking and in danger of falling from the rigging, Cuahto recovered fast with the aid of the ship's surgeon Caine the Despised and soon retreated back to his crow's nest to admire his new dagger and the gems secretly recovered from the galley.
The shakes hit Victor so badly that the poor boson could not perform his duties and was kept in his hammock below deck under the less than sympathetic care of Caine. Whispers of plague circulated among the crew and young, gullible Big Tomas was nearly conned into throwing Victor overboard until Captain Rennaud stepped in and dispelled their superstitious fears. Vic would recover slowly but he had suffered so much he wished he were dead. Cuahto meanwhile, was ratted out by someone to Skullbreaker the quartermaster about finding loot aboard the galley and so for not registering the gems (the dagger was his by rights of spotting the ship) he received a dozen lashes in front of everyone. The unconscious Olman went back into the care of Caine.
In the lawful port of Scant, capital of the Iron League nation of Onnwal, the Bird of Prey entered the great harbor and as the crew made to resupply, the captain and his still sore and healing officers went into town to search for the sage Lockard Meek and perhaps buy some new gear. The city of Scant is known for its martial craftsmen; dwarves, gnomes, clerics of Fortubo, and adherents of Daern and Murlynd. Here to the protagonist's delight was a chance to acquire blackpowder weapons that are so storied in the southern seas. Most of them spent considerable savings in the forges of Scant including the captain who added a second light cannon to his caravel. Cuahto also consulted the artificers about his dagger found in the eye of an orc pirate. Marked with the sigil of the Iron League and stamped with a stylized "B" he found out the weapon was a magical crafting of a locally renowned wizard named Bigby. A rare treasure indeed. Now armed with these newfangled weapons, the un-proficient sailors went back to the actual job of finding the sage.
The estate of Lockard Meek was located and his servants told them he was gone, on an expedition to ruins in of all places, the Amedio Jungle. A colleague named Olfon Trebus was watching over Lockard's place and happily consulted the captain and crew about their search for the maker of the strange map. It seemed deathly important to Captain Rennaud to find Meek to the point he would go to the jungle and find him. Inspired by the chance to see the jungle, Trebus, a sage of botany was pressed into coming along. The voyage would soon resume southward again....
Game notes: I know I've referenced before that I was going to for the first time break taboo on blackpowder weapons in Greyhawk. Their cost and rarity still make them inferior choices to standard D&D weapons of course. It's all for the piratey flavor of the campaign you know? FYI, I am using the stats for blackpowder weapons straight out of the 3.5 DMG. Now if they could just get their hands on a spyglass...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Greyhawk Comic #314: Needfest Special 2011

Praise Pelor! Just in the time for the holidays, it's the seventh (and hopefully last) installment of my traditional Needfest Specials. Over the years it's been fun writing and putting these lengthy comics together, and every year I swear I have nothing left, but then the holiday spirit inspires me at the last minute to entertain the Greyhawk masses. If you are not familiar with the Needfest Specials try the Greyhawk Comics link at the top of the page or check out a couple of my personal favorites here:

A Needfest Story (Where Kas obsesses over getting a new magic sword for Needfest)

How the Gruumsh Stole Needfest (A classic tale of jealousy and revenge)

Lastly, I'd like to give a special Needfest thanks to Maldin's Greyhawk for hosting the entire Greyhawk Comic collection. Now without further is this year's Needfest Special! Enjoy!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Ring of Five Questions: James M. Ward

Welcome back Lords of Greyhawk to another installment of the Ring of Five Questions! Last time we put the wise and scholarly greysage Jospeh Bloch into the ring. This time however, I have summoned a legendary personage here to answer the five questions, Drawmij himself: James M. Ward. Mr. Ward is best known for his nearly two decades of work with TSR which included the classic sci-fi game Metamorphosis Alpha, post apocalyptic Gamma World, and the incomparable Deities & Demigods. Of course in Greyhawk circles he will forever be remembered for the excellent hardback sourcebook Greyhawk Adventures. More recently James has worked with Troll Lord Games and this year has embarked on starting his own RPG company along with Tim Kask and Frank Mentzer called Eldritch Enterprises. Okay, enough backstory, let's get James into the Ring!

Q1. I'm sure you know your way around the Darlene map. Which part of the World of Greyhawk is your favorite?

James: I have many fond memories about the city of Greyhawk and Greyhawk Castle. Gary made that part of the country come alive and I had the honor of learning how to play the game working with the people and places in and around Greyhawk city.

Q2. I ask everyone this next one. If you could be any one Greyhawk deity which would it be?

James: I am a Greyhawk deity, although I won't say which one.

Q3. Your hardback sourcebook Greyhawk Adventures is a classic. Was there any content or ideas left out due to space or editing?

James: I always work from very exact outlines. Everything in that book was planned to a T and nothing was left out or not added at the last minute. I had a lot of work in its creation, but I designed the product and it came out in budget and on time.

Q4. You're well known for your scifi and post-apocalyptic games. Do you approve of Greyhawk's history of genre mixing or should have it been solidly medieval.

James: That's an excellent question. Gary could do no wrong in my eyes. If he wanted to put a buried spaceship in his game I was happy to playtest it and get almost killed several times. I was extremely lucky to be part of his play testing group as he was designing his classic adventures. While lots of gamers know me for my science fiction, I've written more fantasy products than scifi ones. I like to do both.

Q5. Which module or book do you look back on as most influential to your more recent work?

James: Over the recent years I'm extremely proud of my Troll Lords products. TAINTED LANDS is fantasy horror and OF GODS AND MONSTERS is about various pantheons of gods, heroes, and creatures. Like everything else I grow better with the more experience I get in writing products.

* Have questions of your own for James M. Ward or other old school authors? James can frequently be found on the forums for the fansite Dragonsfoot. Check it out.

Update 4/25/2021: Eldritch Enterprises must be defunct, or their website. Either way, broken link removed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sea Princes #16: Salvaging

Welcome back followers of Greyhawk, to the triumphant return of the Sea Princes Campaign! For a review of the previous 15 episodes and additional material go to the Best of Greyhawkery page. When last we saw the crew of the Bird of Prey, they were about to embark on another voyage to discover the legendary Well of All Heals. Captain Rennaud and company have been joined by the ship's acting master and representative of Count Erasmus Tydan, one Lord Ronaldo Key. What trouble his presence will bring to the ship is left to be seen. Here is our protagonists:

Victor Emmitt Hammond (rogue, boisterous bosun)
Araxo Tydan (rogue, fumbling first mate)
Cuahtehmoc aka "Cuahto" (ranger, laconic lookout)
Brother Pickles (cleric, chomping cook)
Henri Morgan (rogue, diving deckhand)
The Bird of Prey set out of Port Torvin, east by northeast, bound for Onnwal to consult the sage Lockard Meek about the cryptic map he created long ago that purportedly leads to the Well of All Heals. With moderate winds and warm weather the ship was soon out of Princes waters in two days, going with the currents towards the coastline of Ulek and the Pomarj. A stronger breeze eventually carried their vessel faster along the well travelled sea lane with little or no event. Lord Key a land-lubber, stayed out of sight, still sick and acclimating to the roiling sea. Victor dreamed of arriving at the port of Scant in Onnwal where it is said the human and dwarven smiths of that city craft the finest innovations of war including something called a "flintlock pistol". Six days out of Torvin, the Bird of Prey skirted within view of the rocky Pomarj coast and Cuahto made his first significant sighting from the crow's nest...
A still smoldering wrecked slave galley belonging to the most inept pirates of the seas, Pomarji orcs was spotted half underwater and half beached onto the jagged rocks of it's homeland. Captain Rennaud decided to send Lt. Tydan and his picked away team to check it for any survivors or better yet, salvage. It would need to be a rush job though since these were dangerous waters to linger in. Tydan took with him Victor, Pickles, Cuahto, Morgan and his defacto female bodyguard Scar Medorga.
At the wreckage they found a gaping hole between the above-water deck boards and the bulk of the galley still below the turbulent waters. Morgan and Pickles were sent to search above by way of grapple line while the Amedio ranger and the daring Mr. Hammond took a big gulp of air to search the holds below water. Araxo and Scar of course supervised from the rowboat. On the slanting wreckage Morgan and Pickles found an orc pinned to the deck by a ballista bolt and burned to a cinder. Evidence of a sea battle not long ago. They also broke into a fixed sea chest containing a couple decent pairs of ball and chain manacles.
Below the water Victor and Cuahto would also find evidence of the galley's crew as they swam along the many rows of oar-benches where the drowned bodies of human slaves were still chained to their posts. Headed for a lower cargo deck, they would soon surface to find a pocket of air at the rear of the galley. Here waist deep in water, sat an orc drummer killed by a broken piece of the ship's deck that pinned him to the wall. In the orc's hand was clutched a small leather sack which Cuahto waded over to retrieve. Just then Hammond saw several dark forms rise up from the water next to his ranger ally; water-bloated humanoid soldiers, soggy and stinking of death. These were surely Drowned Ones of tavern tales, slain sailors raised by Nerull to terrorize coastal lands. One of the grisly pack had a masterful dagger still embedded in its eye-socket, and all of them let out a curdling groan that even Araxo heard from the rowboat not far away.
Cuahto figured the sea zombies would be slow and greedily wanted the plunged dagger, so he dove below the waist deep water and came up from behind it to grab the pommel but it wouldn't budge. Victor could only draw his weapon as the pack surged ahead faster then expected to surround them both. Outside, Araxo indicated to Morgan and Pickles that the others were in trouble below, so he signaled for them to go help. Pickles didn't hesitate and executed a perfect dive into the waterlogged breach, even with two pairs of manacles around his neck. Morgan, less encumbered dove behind him but faltered and couldn't get beneath the water as swiftly. Cuahto and Victor fought off the fists and bites of the orcish zombies, until the noise of voices and splashing attracted their attention. All but two of the drowned ones soon submerged, evaded blades and swam in the direction of the other crew members with stunning speed.
Pickles swam along the drowned oarsmen and came face to face with the zombies swimming right at him. Harpoon in hand he stuck one and was surprised to see the others bypass him for the well lit waters behind him where Morgan's feet kicked. Rising from the deep, one of the zombies bit Morgan sending him into a panic toward the rowboat where Araxo and Scar watched in disbelief with weapons in hand. They had backed off the launch just in case making his flight that much longer. Below deck Victor managed to finish off one zombie but Cuahto was being wore down by the dagger-eyed drowned one. Pickles wrestled beneath the water and was bit as well, in a fit of rage he bit it back sending water into his lungs. He wouldn't have much longer to get back to air.
Morgan scrambled back onto the ship and inadvertently kicked Araxo's weapon from his hand and into the drink. Using Morgan's weapon, Araxo severed the arm of one that grabbed Henri, The remaining zombies were fought all around the launch, and at one point Henri stumbled back into the water with them. Victor and Cuahto took a beating but finally slew the last zombie and extracted the dagger before it floated into the dark. Pickles strained and swam back, weighted by the manacles (4 INT folks) but miraculously had the barbaric strength to get back to the surface. Swinging and stabbing with any weapon they had left, the last of the drowned ones submerged and disappeared much to Morgan's relief. Victor and Cuahto soon resurfaced after Pickles, bloodied but richer. Would they head back to their caravel and lick their wounds or go back for another search? To be continued... 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Join the Flanaess Geographical Society

Just a quick plug this weekend. I'm sure many of you who frequently use Facebook or know about Anna Meyer's Atlas of the Flanaess site, have by now joined her Facebook group, the Flanaess Geographical Society. This social network is better than most you'll ever join in that Anna regularly keeps up with her mapping progress here, and other Greyhawkian cartographers have begun to display, poll and discuss their own projects as well. To date the membership for the group is up to 130 members and it hasn't slowed down. So if you haven't been directed here yet, you have now. Join in on this informative mapping group!
Update 4/25/2021: Ten years later and Anna's FGS group is now up to 2500+ members! WOW!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

New Article: Return of the Spider Queen, Part 2

"A final confrontation awaits Aalas in the Fane of Tiamat but the awakening of a powerful evil seems inevitable whether he wins or loses......."

Over at the Greyhawk fansite, Canonfire! is the second episode by Flint in his action packed fiction series, Return of the Spider Queen. This time we pick up where we left off, Aalas and company are still dealing with hobgoblins, wraiths and worse, Azarr Kul. Read and enjoy!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sea Princes: Crew Profiles 2

Well folks I got good news, it's finally time to raise anchor on the Sea Princes campaign again! Though I didn't get much done during my short hiatus like I hoped, I did manage to come up with character sketches of the main players characters! For a refresher, here is some of the NPC crew from the Bird of Prey that I posted a while back. I hope you enjoy the art and look forward to more high seas action in the coming weeks.

Captain Rennaud's ship the Bird of Prey is among the more progressive in the Prince's fleet, employing more than one 'savage' Olman as not only a regular deckhand but now as the primary lookout in the crow's nest. Cuahtehmoc is no slouch though, he has proven his worth time and again in both battle and exploration. With his deadly obsidian bladed weapon in hand, Cuahto is often seen at the side of first mate Araxo Tydan who enjoys a wide berth from the more surly members of the ship. Mysterious in origin, Cuahtehmoc hails from a region of the Amedio coast not seen on many maps found in the Flanaess. Whether they ever revisit his homeland again is up to fate.

Henri Morgan of Sasserine was picked up by the Bird of Prey to fill out their crew after a sea battle with a Crimson Fleet pirate ship called the Hideous. Formerly a minor guard for the wealthy Taskerhill family, Henri proved his worth by joining in a stealth mission aboard the Hideous to rescue Anna Taskerhill from the clutches of Captain McGrath and his harpy pets. Since then Henri has shown a knack for short blades and a short temper in using them, which is why he was evidently eager to leave the comforts of Sasserine life. Whether Henri earns fame or infamy siding with the Sea Princes is still left to be seen.

Brother Pickles is an enigma. No one knows his true name. He grew up on the docks with no known family except those who would give him food or teach him a skill. As an adult, most in the town of Port Toli know him as a slow-witted, rabble rousing cook with a penchant for strange recipes and cookware weaponry. Smart sailors recognize him as an acolyte of many transient priests including the equally delirious crank of a sea cleric Father Lork of Procan. As such, Pickles doesn't  profess faith in a single deity, but instead worships all the myriad gods of the sea and sky. This fact has made him valuable to Captain Rennaud on the Bird of Prey and has kept the troubled Pickles busy otherwise he would've done something crazy like commit suicide by now.

If there was ever an example of a salty, scurvy, rum-soaked, sea-dog on the Bird of Prey it is Victor Emmitt Hammond. Victor started life at sea young and has already seen many ports and many 'ladies' in other lands. His recent employ on the Bird of Prey so far has shown him the most action however. Victor's brand of swashbuckling bravado and flashy sword work has already earned him a promotion to bosun much to the rest of the crew's chagrin. Hammond however has higher aspirations to be a captain one day; and if not this ship then the perhaps the next. That is if he doesn't get himself killed first. Only time will tell.  

Araxo Tydan is the adopted son of the ruler of Port Torvin, Count Erasmus Tydan. As such he has never been in favor much with his greedy, plotting father. Always a  foppish, pest at court, Count Tydan finally relented to sending Araxo away on a voyage with one of his ships, the Bird of Prey. As the imposed second in command on the ship, the original crew is largely wary of this brat of a noble. Slowly he is winning some of the crew over to his side through his sly generosity, weaselly charisma and the hiring (or press-ganging) of new deckhands who know nothing about him or his side-dealing schemes. In addition to Cuahtehmoc the ranger lookout, Araxo is often seen with the only female on the Bird of Prey, the Scar Medorga, leading to many rumors and jokes behind his back. All the rumors are unfounded so far and if Araxo ever ascends to the captaincy there will surely be hell to pay (or a bribe).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ring of Five Questions: Joseph Bloch

Sunsebb has come to the land Greyfriends, so to warm you up for the coming season I bring to you another installment of the Ring of Five Questions! Last time we waxed nostalgic with Living Greyhawk's Paul Looby and before that the inestimable Allan Grohe. Venturing into the Ring today is another old school devotee of the Greyhawk setting that you might recognize: Joseph Bloch. Joseph is known for his influential article, See the Pomarj --and Die! way back in Dragon #167 and currently his equally astounding gaming blog Greyhawk Grognard. Joseph hasn't stopped there however, he has also earned a loyal following for his old school dungeon crawl adventure Castle of the Mad Archmage and is now hard at work developing his own D&D rules system and fantasy setting entitled Adventures Dark and Deep. Hard working indeed! Without further ado, let's summon Mr. Bloch into the Ring!

Q1. I'm sure you know every hex on the Darlene map. What part of the World of Greyhawk is your favorite?

Joseph: For RPGing, I would go with the area from the Kron Hills to Urnst. That's where most of my own Greyhawk campaigns have been based, with Hommlet and Greyhawk as the centers. However, I've always loved the idea of doing a wargames campaign in the Iron League/South Province area. Those Dragon articles in the early 1980's describing the war there have always intrigued me. That would make one hell of a miniatures campaign.

Q2. Everyone gets asked this next one. If you could be any one Greyhawk deity which would it be?

Joseph: Boccob.

Q3. Your excellent Pomarj article way back in Dragon #167 left me wanting more. Given the chance, what would have been your next article in Dragon?

Joseph: I would have loved to do a series on some of the more prominent cities of the Flanaess. What is it that makes Niole Dra distinct from Verbobonc or Chathold? Sometimes the differentiations in rpg settings are negligible, but I would really love to demonstrate through things like architecture, customs, dress, etc. that one city is really different from another.

Q4. You have an army going to war in the Flanaess. Which NPC (any class will do) would you choose as your general?

Joseph: Cobb Darg, Lord High Mayor of Irongate. He fights with his wits as well as his warriors.

Q5. You're no stranger to dungeon design. Which module (Greyhawk or not) do you look to for inspiration?

Joseph: The Village of Hommlet (TSR), The Temple of Set (Judges Guild), and of course Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works (Troll Lords Games). And it's no coincidence that two of those were written by Gygax. I know that large dungeon adventures are somewhat out of style at the moment (outside the OSR, at any rate), but I will always go back to the roots of the game to see what new twists can be put into the textbook setting.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Greyhawk Reading: Greyhawk Adventures

...Now a reading from the book of Greyhawk Adventures, chapter five, page 91:

"In mid-flocktime of CY 198, the Great Kingdom was astounded by a ball of fire which appeared over the Oljatt Sea, passed over Sunndi, Idee, Ahlissa, and Onnwal, and vanished somewhere beyond the Sea of Gearnat. It was visible as far south as the Olman Isles and as far north as Eastfair and Rel Mord, and was cause for wonder and concern even in those prosperous and confident times. Selvor the Younger, after careful extrapolation to its origin in the constellations, declared the shooting star to signify “wealth, strife, and a living death.”
"The pronouncement caused a panic in certain of the larger cities, particularly Rauxes, where a number of prominent nobles took the pronouncement to be a signal for the end of the world, or at least of an era, and created several disturbances. Accordingly, when after several years the predicted events failed to make themselves evident, Selvor was banished from his post and from the court, and held by his colleagues as a laughingstock. There matters were to lie for more than 300 years, while chaos enveloped the greater part of the Flanaess and few had the time or patience to study the work of a discredited astrologer."

-The Pits of Azak-Zil

The excerpt above is purely a random topic. When it comes to Greyhawk lore there are general subjects everyone should know about since they've been rehashed and covered many times over by numerous authors. For example, locations like Greyhawk City, NPCs like Iuz or Mordenkainen, dungeons like the Tomb of Horrors, etc. This is why I take delight in highlighting obscure lore of Greyhawk. More often than not you can open a Greyhawk book to a random page and read about something you thought you knew about, but then the details turn out slightly different than you remember them and maybe sometimes much richer. This intro to the Pits of Azak-Zil by James M. Ward is one such esoteric piece. Some of you may be familiar with the mysterious place already and have used it in your campaign, but to others this might be a rediscovery worth a second look. That's the beauty of the World of Greyhawk. Old can be new.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

New Article: Castle Ravenloft in Greyhawk

I have another new article to report over at the Greyhawk fansite, Canonfire! This one is entitled Castle Ravenloft in Greyhawk, and it is the second article for the author masterarminas. The subject of his work is by no means new to the Greyhawk community, but here the author shows us one possible version of how Barovia can fit into the Flanaess...Masterarminas writes:

"From its founding during the height of the Great Kingdom, to the fall of Strahd, we present this adventure location in a manner that ties it into the history and timeline of the World of Greyhawk."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rare Greyhawk Map Part 2

Okay Greyfolks, the last time I had a headline about a rare Greyhawk map I burned you all by discussing a certain despised novel with a pretty decent illustration of the Wolf Nomads-Tiger Nomads region. My apologies for that post.

Unfortunately, I need to apologize in advance this time because the rare Greyhawk map in question is not only quasi-canonical, but it is also found in another Rose Estes novel The Demon Hand. Written for TSR in 1988 this novel sports another top quality front cover by gem-loving Clyde Caldwell. Knowing nothing about Estes or her subject matter, the cover looks compelling. A Wolf nomad carrying a magic tome and the biggest gem (check) you've ever seen in his demonic hand. Of course you can't judge a book by its cover. Here is the blurb on the back cover:


In search of the gemstones, deep in the salt caverns of the island of Dramidja...

The wolf-shaman Mika, the enchanted princess, the faithful TamTur and the brave companions, all frozen in time...

Meanwhile...a certain little harpy and two intrepid werewolves join together in a quest to uncover the secret of their heritage, and to break the curse of the kingdom...

Return to the land of Greyhawk, where the demon Maelfesh is up to his usual unusual mischief, where magic abides and danger rules, where the beleaguered Wolf Nomad Mika must defeat yet another incredible array of other-worldly sinister forces-the deep-dwelling cavernquatch, the granite moles, the rock beasties and more..."

Fun eh? Now I've never read this book, but what is a cavernquatch (my guess is a Quaggoth?), granite mole and rock beastie? I'm not even sure who Maelfesh is or who he is analogous to in Greyhawk canon. I doubt anyone. Hey, but The Demon Hand has werewolves, they're hot property now right? I digress, the main eyepopper in this blurb is the topic of the post, the enigmatic island Kingdom of Dramidja.

Inside the book one soon sees an illustration of this island. Not bad looking eh? As it's name fits, Dramidja is in the Dramidj Ocean. Not surprisingly this place is on no other Greyhawk map as nothing Estes wrote appears in game material. However, if someone wanted to incorporate this huge island off the coast of the Baklunish lands, it wouldn't be hard. There is already a mysterious place in the Dramidj Ocean called the Pinnacles of Azor-Alq, where its peaks contain dragons and hidden wonders. Dramidja seems less like a mysterious place however and more like a whole setting of its own as it is an entire kingdom. There is no scale on this map so there is no way of knowing if its supposed to be as big as Sicily or Greenland. It is big enough to have two mountain ranges though.
Now knowing nothing about the dangers and denizens of the Great Salt MarshesDramidjhaven or Pyramid Lake (except from the blurb), the best way of blending the Pinnacles and this huge island in my opinion, is to sink Dramidja under the water and have just a cluster of the Cliffs of Dramidja remaining above. If anyone is brave enough to have read this novel and knows what this island contains and its Estesian version of Greyhawk history feel free to comment on how it fits.  

One last tidbit (thank you for hanging in there to the end), in the back pages of The Demon Hand is an ad for a brand new novel line that also came out in 1988. I bet you read this one, it's called The Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore. And get this, it's a novel about a large gem, a demon and a barbaric hero (Wulfgar), all in a remote part of the main setting. I'm just saying... *shakes head*

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Greyhawk Art: Kara Fruit

Over at the Canonfire forums, a member by the name of suezou has posted a pic of kara fruit modelled out of clay. I must say, as Greyhawk related projects go, I'm used to maps, illustrations and so forth, but once in a great while someone does something simple yet truly creative like this, and that makes my day. Suezou apparently has plans to do clay Usk and Galda fruit too. I can't wait!
For reference on Kara fruit check out this old Greyhawk comic on the subject. Enjoy!

Recent update: Suezou didn't take long to craft an Usk and Galda. Follow the link above to see more Greyhawkian fruit.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ring of Five Questions: Paul Looby

It's time for another installment of my ongoing interview series, the Ring of Five Questions! Last time around we read some great commentary from old school advocate Allan Grohe and before that Rary plotter Creighton Broadhurst. Facing off against the Ring today is another veteran author of the Living Greyhawk Campaign and also a contributor to Canonfire, Paul "Woesinger" Looby. Paul is best known for his work on the Flanaess' Mysterious Places and his involvement in the highly successful Living Onnwal region. Now let's see how he fares in the Ring. Enjoy!

Q1. As a tried and true Greyhawk fan, you should know the Darlene map without looking. What is your personal land of choice in the World of Greyhawk?

Paul: Hmm - hard question. Somewhat controversially in the Greyhawk fan community, I'm a big fan of the Carl Sargent era. Ivid the Undying and The Marklands are two of my favourite Greyhawk source books. I especially liked what Carl did with the Darmen lands, and how that developed through Roger Moore's tenure into Living Greyhawk. Post-Wars Ahlissa is (literally) a very intriguing place to play and GM.
All that said, though, for the last 18 years (man, that's a scary number!), Nyrond has been my home as a player. I've been lucky to have played in a simply awesome campaign based in not-quite-canon Marklands-era Nyrond. We started in Coldeven 585 and we're in late summer 590 now. So after all those years, real and in-game, it's got to be Nyrond.

Q2. If you could be any one Greyhawk deity which one would it be?

Paul: Kelenan, Johydee, Mayaheine, Tritherion, Pholtus and Zilchus are some of my favourite gods - but that's not the question you asked. Which one would I be? Olidammara is too obvious an answer (and I have a national stereotype to avoid!). And while Zagyg would be a laugh too, I think it has to be Istus. There'd be something immensely satisfying about knowing how it was all going to play out. Kinda like a GM power trip, except this one goes to 11. 
Q3. England was assigned the Onnwal region for the Living Greyhawk Campaign. What was the best development to come out of Onnwal during that long run?

Paul: England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland! Don't forget us Celts!  We're almost like wizards in Middle-Earth - sunburned and quick to anger. From the point of view of the campaign, I think the best thing was that we got so many players really enthused by Greyhawk and by Onnwal specifically. There were a lot of skeptical people in the region when we were given Onnwal - I know; I was one of them! Then we looked at the possibilities and started to get excited. I think we were able to pass on that sense of excitement to our players - many of whom were dyed-in-the-wool Forgotten Realms players (how's you like them apples, Elminster?).
From a Canon-ista point of view, the best development for me has to be Bigby's role in the original fall of Scant and what we were saying with that about him, his relationship with Mordenkainen, and about the ways and means by which the Circle work to maintain the Balance. We wrote a scene where the PCs get to see a flashback of Bigby is standing on his tower overlooking Scant Harbour, watching the red-sailed ships of the Scarlet Brotherhood entering the port unopposed, tears running down his face. And though it means betraying his adopted home, he does nothing. A voice (Mordenkainen) behind him says, "Time to go, old friend" and Bigby teleports away.
We always thought it was weird that the Circle would have been blind-sided by the Scarlet Brotherhood's attacks on the Iron League. Yes, they had their hands full with Iuz, but even a warning to the defenders of Onnwal and Idee would have made a huge difference.  But nope - not a word. We rationalised that their inaction was a gambit by Mordenkainen to draw the hitherto shadowy Scarlet (and Black) Brotherhood out where he could see them. But the price was letting Onnwal fall to the Scarlet Sign. That's a tough call to make - for Bigby at least (Mordenkainen is far more...clinical), but if you're convinced that you hold the fate of the Oerth in your hands, well, what does one city, or one country, weigh in the Balance against the entire world?

Q4. I know this one is up your alley. Fast forward Greyhawk's timeline to 998 CY. What happens to Iuz?

Paul: Iuz has to go away. The fact that there is a 998 CY and a University of Rel Mord is evidence enough of that. In the long run, Iuz is only going to get more powerful. The Oerth is his home plane and given the number of former mortals who seem to attain godhood, it's only a matter of time before he attains full godhood. Worse still, through his actions, he could become a vehicle by which Tharizdun returns. I always had the idea that the Oerth was so important because it was the keystone of Tharizdun's prison; put that keystone in Iuz's hands and, well, it's probably not going to end well.
So Iuz has to go. How? Well - the recession of magic that Pluffet Smedger mentions is a clue. My guess is that the only way to get rid of him and secure the keystone once and for all was to remake the Staff of Law and remove magic from the Oerth, or more to the point, removing the Oerth from magic. Shift the entire world from the magical Prime it exists in to a mundane Prime like ours, where magic and fantastical beings like gods, dragons, demons and olve cannot exist (or at least cannot thrive, but rather dwindle and fade).
Obviously that's far easier said than done. Such a change would condemn anything other than humans to doom or exile. Instead of good versus evil, you've got a much messier, and more interesting, final conflict. In any case, the side that wants to remove magic from the world wins, but only just (because where's the fun if you can't snatch victory from the jaws of defeat?). Those that can flee the Oerth to other dimensions; those who can't or won't, stay. Iuz, by dint of binding himself to the Oerth as part of his full apotheosis, can't flee and just as he is about to triumph in the final battle of the terrible war, the Oerth passes from the Prime and he is shorn away from the world in a suitably epic light show. So passes Iuz the Evil, but also the Age of Magic. Those fantastical beings that remain are diminished and diminish further every day thereafter, until they are but shades and stories. Is Iuz dead? Well, possibly not, but he's gone as far as the Oerth is concerned.

Q5. You're known for your work on Greyhawk's "Mysterious Places". Is there any mystery you never got around to writing?

Paul: Oh plenty - the Flanaess has no shortage. There's some great places in Aerdy that would have been fun to adorn with some more background and current whispers and rumours - the Blood Obelisk of Aerdy, Permanence, Rinloru to name but a few.
If you look back at some of the rumours and whispers we put out - there's one that hints at a wyrm-ruled isle somewhere west of the Amedio. It was a nod towards the old Beyond the Flanaess map with the various, um, "interestingly" named realms. I was picturing a militaristic kingdom the middle of the Sea of the Dragon King (which would not be called Nippon) with a culture that referenced a mix of south and south-east Asian cultures - so more kalaripayattu than kenjitsu. That would have been fun to write up.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

New Article: Nitalae, the Lonely Blade

There's a brand new article over at the popular Greyhawk fansite, Canonfire! This offering titled Nitalae, the Lonely Blade, is the debut article for a new community author going by the name masterarminas. The Lonely Blade is an intelligent weapon with an ego like none other, but make no mistake, Nitalae is quite powerful and ancient...Masterarminas writes:

"The Suel Imperium died under the Rain of Colorless Fire, its treasures hidden under the ever-shifting ashes of the Sea of Dust.  And in one lost crypt, deep in the trackless desert, the sword Nitalae waits for the hand of a hero to grasp her hilt and wield her once more.  Is she waiting for you?"

This unique magic item article is useful in a pinch for any DM looking to add a major item to their treasure beyond an ordinary weapon bit, but fair-warning, be ready to do some extra role-playing! Enjoy.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Beyond the Crystal Cave: 4e

I've written about Wizards of the Coast's popular in-store campaign, D&D Encounters a few times by now, and most recently in August during Gencon they revealed their newest storyline that now debuts on November 16th. In case you missed out, this one might sound familiar to discerning Greyhawk fans since it is called Beyond the Crystal Cave. Yessir, score another one for the World of Greyhawk. That well never runs dry!
How does this new adventure compare with the original Greyhawk module? Well luckily for me there is an excellent preview article about it over at the blog Dungeon's Master. Check it out.

In the meantime, read this blurb from Wizard's own site concerning the story-arc:

"For a year, unnatural winds and mists have battered the area around the town of Crystalbrook. Worse, bizarre blue-skinned fey creatures have emerged from the fog to pillage and murder. Townsfolk blame these misfortunes on the fey of the nearby Sildaine Forest. The fey, who also suffer, claim innocence, faulting Crystalbrook’s people for hidden black magic that has attracted the wrath of primal spirits."

If anyone has been playing these D&DE story arcs, let me know what you think about this newest one.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sea Princes Campaign: Timeline

Well it seems my Hold of the Sea Princes campaign is going to be starting back up around December so in anticipation of this, I've been going back over my notebooks and remembering alot of the side stuff I wanted to work on during the hiatus but didn't due to laziness. One of those mini-projects was putting together a grand Hold of the Sea Princes historical timeline. Sure it'll have zero bearing on the game itself, but there are so many sources for the area out there this is mostly for my own sanity.
First a note and some thanks. Events on the timeline end at 577 CY which is my current campaign date (So you'll notice a lack of Scarlet Brotherhood action-good). Those events with an asterisk are tweaked for my personal campaign and shouldn't be considered hard facts. But if someone does find some glaring errors in canon chime in, I won't mind fixing the timeline. To that end, events I've collected for this timeline come from many sources both canon and semi-canon including Savage Tide. My thanks also go out to a handful of other gamers who have provided me with Sea Princes material, especially Sam Weiss' epic timeline found over at Canonfire! Now onto the timeline, enjoy!

Timeline for the Hold of the Sea Princes (circa 577 CY)

-422 CY- Suel refugees of the Rain of Colorless Fire seeking a safe and peaceful place to start over establish the Grand Duchy of Berghof next to Lake Spendlowe.
-368 to -348 CY- Bands of Suel mercenaries and slavers establish the town and realm of Port Toli.
-246 CY- Toli slavers sack and usurp control of Jakana the grand duchy’s only port on Jeklea Bay.
-245 to -146 CY- Toli sporadically wars with Berghof but cannot advance past Alderweg Pass into the grand duchy itself despite numerous attempts.
-154 to -148 CY- The Kingdom of Keoland’s exploration and expansion south of the Javan River is resisted by the warships of Toli.
-147 to -137 CY- King Sanduchar I of Keoland leads a fleet to explore the seas beyond the Densac Gulf. Much of the coasts of the Amedio and Hepmonaland are mapped.
-124 CY- Pilgrims led by Sasserine of Wee Jas found a remote town in his name on the Amedio coast.
-121 CY- Siege of Port Toli: King Sanduchar is slain but his Royal Navy breaks the Toli presence and brings a period of relative peace to the region.
30 CY- The Prosperous port of Sasserine repels its first raid, continues to grow and successfully holds off further assaults for the next four centuries.
43 CY- King Malv the Navigator of Keoland ends the threat of a reformed Toli nation and Berghof regains control of Jakana.
47 CY- King Malv III disappears on a voyage into the Densac Gulf.
118 CY- Kayar’s Rebellion: The brother of Grand Duke Sharzol II causes an uprising on the Jeklea coast including Jakana but fails to take Berghof before dying in battle at Alderweg Keep.
291-300 CY- King Tavish the Great spreads Keoish control southward to wrest control of the lands still primarily held by their naval rivals in Port Toli.
301 CY- The port of Monmurg is founded to act as the seat of Keoish power in the region and to counter the naval might of Port Toli.
304 CY- Establishment of Westkeep by Tavish to protect his colonies from the dangers of the Hool Marshes.
306 CY- The last Toli war ends as Port Toli and the Grand Duchy of Berghof are absorbed by Keoland into the new Duchy of Monmurg.
350-434 CY- Renewal of widespread piracy on the Azure Sea as Keoish attention is focused on northward imperialism.
434-444 CY- Pirates gradually take control of the major isles of Flotsom, Jetsom and Fairwind then form the confederation of the Sea Princes, named after the flagship of a noble-blooded pirate captain.
445 CY- Port Toli is conquered by the Sea Princes.
446 CY- Monmurg is finally seized by the Sea Princes formally ending Keoish rule.
447-452 CY- Sea Princes expand inland and hold much of the land south of the Hool Marshes.
452 CY- King Tavish III of Keoland orders the eradication of the Sea Princes. The Princes answer with a challenge to battle by sea which is ignored by the monarch.
453 CY- Siege of Westkeep: King Tavish III personally leads an army through the Hool Marshes to Westkeep where he is slain and his demoralized army routed by the readied Sea Princes.
464 CY- Battle of Jetsom Island: Newly crowned King Tavish IV takes an armada to fight the fleet of the Sea Princes in their waters. The battle is a draw with both sides losing many warships, including the sinking of the legendary Sea Prince.
465 CY- Aging Sea Prince captains retire from active piracy to settle down and form a stable government centered on an elected Prince and a House of Peers.
466-486 CY- Younger captains begin to look toward legitimate trade and explore the Amedio coast, building forts and trading with natives for their abundant resources.
467 CY- Many disaffected pirate captains renounce their allegiance to the Sea Princes and sail south of the Densac Gulf to form the Crimson Fleet. The island haven of Scuttlecove quickly grows due to the fleets’ presence.*
480 CY- The tyrannical rule of Lord Mayor Orren in Sasserine is broken by a fleet from the Sea Princes sent to aid the rebels. In the chaos that follows however the Hold instead supplants Orren’s rule.
487-517 CY- Shiploads of Amedio savages are captured and brought back to the Hold to work as slave labor on vast plantations, despite objections from the neighboring Yeomanry.
517-527 CY- The Hold further expands its territory to the edge of the Hellfurnaces absorbing the willing Duchy of Berghof.
547 CY- Outpost of Narisban established to control trade through the Olman Isles.*
563 CY- Sasserine colonists start the town of Farshore on the faraway Isle of Dread.*
573 CY- Liberal-minded Prince Jeon II assumes the throne of Monmurg setting off a new round of intrigue within the House of Peers.
575 CY- Sasserine becomes a free city and signs a controversial treaty with Prince Jeon II which effectively divides the House of Peers.*
577 CY- Prince Jeon II loses more support with the House of Peers, easily failing to abolish slavery throughout the Hold of the Sea Princes.