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.


Mystic Scholar said...

Another excellent interview and another feather in your cap!

Well done, Mort. Again.

Thanks for sharing that with us.

As usual, I agree with your "guest" on some points, but disagree on others. Mainly, I don't like the thought of Magic "disappearing" from Oerth. PSmedger never "got my vote" on that one.

Oh well.

Enjoyed it, keep them coming!

Anonymous said...

Excellent interview answers, Mr. Looby! I really appreciate the depth you went to in them.

Nice choice of interviewee to you, Mortellan. :)

As with Mystic-Scholar, I also dislike the solution to the problem of Iuz being the loss of magic on Oerth, even if it is so far in the future that it won't affect campaigns within the traditional time period. I'd prefer for Iuz to be re-imprisoned somehow or defeated in a manner that strips him of most of his divine power and leaves him a bitter, but limited, demonic personage that can continue to plague the Flanaess and its PCs no worse than Demogorgon, Lolth, or Grazzt.

Better yet, why even write such an eventuality into canon? Leave it to speculation and to each campaign to develop on its own. Do we really need an official expansion of the Greyhawk timeline into the 10th century CY when it's still 400 years away?


Aeolius said...

Thanks, Mort and Paul.

I admit to a fondness for the Mysterious Places, myself, having run games in the Land of Black Ice, the waters around the Pinnacles of Azor'alq, and with my new game connecting Turucambi, the Sinking Isle, and the Jungle of Lost Ships.

Argon said...


I have really enjoyed your ring of five posts. This one does not disappoint. Look forward to seeing more.



Mike Bridges said...

To all: Thanks for the compliments and the commentary. I don't think anyone got more use out of Paul's Mysterious Places than Aeolius in fact! ;)

Xaris: Paul (woesinger) once had a thread on CF concerning timeline eventualities. It was fun at the time, maybe someone can find it and dig it up sometime.