Monday, December 31, 2012

New Fiction: Black Gus

For a while now the guys in my gaming group, the cast of the podcast Gamerstable, have held an open call for short story fiction based on our actual play podcast sessions. This submitted story much to my delight is about a villain from our live recording of a short 3.5e Hold of the Sea Princes game I ran for our newest player Shannon (The Road to Port Calm). With that said, I am pleased to present for your perusal, the motivational story of Black Gus by Brent Phillips. Kudos Brent!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

What Is Anna Up To?

Anna Meyer of Greyhawk mapping fame has been busily updating people about her cartographic adventures this winter. Here's a recap of some of her efforts:

Anna's redesigned website.

Anna's goals for 2013, including her remaining sections of the Flanaess project, ideas on how to get published and new projects for the future.

A tutorial pdf download on how she makes her maps using Bryce.

Anna was recently interviewed by the Roll For Initiative podcast. Good insights here and she gives props to the Greyhawk community!

Anna's project now ventures into the Sheldomar Valley then the fringes of the south and west, including a certain area of the Flanaess that I'm more than familiar with...

Keep an eye on the facebook group Flanaess Geographic Society for more of her activities.

Update 05/09/2021: Had to remove some old links to material that has either been pruned or archived by Anna. Sorry folks!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

New Article: Hochoch

Welcome back Greyfiends! With the holiday winding down at last, it's time for me to play catch up on some Greyhawk related items floating out there on the net for a while. Today I have got to rave about and article I've had my eye on for a while.

The new article in Dragon #418 is Backdrop: Hochoch by Claudio Pozas. This one was well worth the wait and if it ends up being the only Greyhawk content for the next year, I am glad I stuck with my D&D Insider subscription to read it. Claudio covers all the material you'd expect and more, including various Flan translations and citing previous Greyhawk publication history. At eight pages, I doubt anyone has seen a more comprehensive write up of this area since The Liberation of Geoff. The article paints Hochoch and the rich surrounding geography of Geoff as the perfect place to launch a campaign. After reading all this article has to offer I'm troubled as to why I've never used this region before! If you can get your hands on this issue I highly recommend it.

The article first covers the extensive history and demographics of Hochoch then moves on to give a colorful overview of the geography, climate and peoples of the land. There is a decent section on important locations in the town of Hochoch like Hochoch Keep followed by power groups of the town such as the Red Griffons and the Knights of the Dispatch. Beyond Hochoch the backdrop features an array of useful info on the shadow dragon haunted Dim Forest, the ancient Otywood, the Midwood Vale and the Rushmoors where lies the setting for N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God.

Backdrop: Hochoch also has a sublime bird's-eye-view illustration of the town by Zoltan Boros (I think he was the former ruler of Ket) and a splendidly old school style map of Hochoch with an inset showing Geoff done by Wizard's Mike Schley. Lastly, the best part of the backdrop article is that it's editionless material. Kudos to Mr. Pozas and the rest for putting this together. I hope some other overlooked parts of Greyhawk can get a fresh write-up like this someday.

Update 05/09/2021: Link changed. You can get your hands on this excellent article and issue over at DMsGuild.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Needfest Comics!

Happy Needfest, Greyhawkers. This is the first time in several years that I don't have a Needfest Special comic to throw out there. Maybe next year...Until then, here is a review of my Greyhawk holiday classics for those who have never seen them, or for those who might enjoy re-reading them.

A Needfest Story

How the Gruumsh Stole Needfest

Twas the Night Before Needfest

Raxi the Bald Blue Rat God

1st Annual Musical Extravaganza

2nd Annual Musical Extravaganza

3rd Annual Musical Extravaganza

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Castle Greyhawk: Casting Time

Ambush! If you haven't already, you need to read the twenty-fourth episode of our Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Follow the link to read the entire story from the beginning where you will find the director's cut material by author Scott Casper. Alternatively you can also read the current page compliments of Maldin's Greyhawk.

Artist's Commentary: Tenser finally gets to break bad with some magic. I'm digging the flair with which he casts his only spell. The glowing hands and magic glyphs is pretty impressive for what is merely a 1st level spell. I can't wait till you see what comes next. There was some fun angles in this one and I'm getting better at the shadowy backgrounds. Until next time, Happy Needfest!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Thoughts After Seeing the Hobbit

Last night I went with my gaming group to see a midnight showing of The Hobbit. This is not a movie review however, and as ridiculous as it should be for any fan of Greyhawk to not know the plot of the Hobbit, I don't consider anything in this post a spoiler. This is mainly some thoughts I had after the movie concerning how I run my Greyhawk campaigns. We all know Gygax put all the same tropes in D&D that Tolkien uses in his stories so let's move on to what stuff I've been lacking in my games...

Dwarves: As strange as it sounds, my campaigns hardly ever feature the dwarven (dwur) race. Sure, an occasional player will make a dwarf fighter or something, but no effort is ever made to explore their culture or history in Greyhawk as scarce as it may be. This is all my fault and until I saw this movie in its full cinematic glory, I never realized how diverse and interesting dwarves could be. You can't get the same feel for dwarves watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy even with Gimli and Moria thrown in. I'm sure my friends picked up some ideas as well.

Warg Riders: I use goblins and orcs sure, I use dire wolves and so on, but I've been neglecting the combination for a long time. Somehow a giant snarling wolf makes a plain old goblin seem more intimidating. I'll remember them for future reference if my players are ever in the Pomarj or Iuz.

Glowing Magic Blades: I can't remember the last time I heard mention or read about magic blades in D&D glowing in the dark (or in Bilbo's case near orcs). I want to say this was standard for blades (daggers mainly) back in 1e/2e yet I've played 3.5 Edition for so long I really don't remember anymore.

Mountains: Half the danger of the Hobbit is all the rugged terrain they have to cross and the Misty Mountains is a good example. The Fellowship of the Ring also had a tough time with this place, as well as the mountains of Gondor and Mordor. Lately I've been running sea based campaigns and before that was years of adventure paths that were mainly centered around Greyhawk City, Riftcanyon or various megadungeons. It's been so long I've forgotten how fun it can be making characters cross a mountain range such as the Hellfurnaces, Yatils or the Corusks. I used to commonly set things in these ranges. I need to get back to them.

That's all for now until part two The Desolation of Smaug premiers on December 13. 2013, then The Hobbit: There and Back Again on July 18, 2014. Yes guys I was right, the last two movies are half a year apart. ;)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Songs of the Sheldomar

Over the years, one of the best topics of discussion during Thursday night Greytalk has always been the Kingdom of Keoland and the Sheldomar Valley. From the boxed set to Greyhawk Wars and into the Living Greyhawk campaign, the Sheldomar has been a vast region, wide open for development by both fan-made and published sources. While the topic has languished for sometime, it recently gained new traction. Building on that momentum is a collaborative blog called Songs of the Sheldomar by a certain gaming group that knows quite a bit about things in that corner of the Flanaess. Have a read, there is an excellently detailed survey of the kingdom and its surrounding realms, plus more. I look forward to more insightful posts and feedback from this Greyhawk blog. Good luck!

Update 05/09/2021: I'm not sure when, but this blog has vanished. Broken link removed.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Preview: Dungeon #209

Well after my last post on Wizard's Dragon #418, I should checked their upcoming list of stuff for Dungeon #209 as well because there is a Greyhawk module in it. Nothing new of course, but for completion's sake I present:

The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
By Harold Johnson, Jeff R. Leason, and Stephen Radney-MacFarland
Lost Tamoachan is about to be rediscovered. This 4th Edition D&D adventure for 7th-level characters updates the classic AD&D adventure module C1 The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan.
This I can only guess is the same module that was being given out in print a year ago in conjunction with their D&D Encounters program (which I never got a hold of incidentally). A review will be forthcoming at last.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Preview: Dragon #418

It's been a while since I last plugged something new from Dragon or DungeonWizards has for whatever reason, went back to publishing all their articles in one complete document instead of releasing individual articles throughout the month. For blogging purposes I liked being able to pick out specific topics when they became available. Now it's like the old days when I had to wait a month, buy the issue (yes folks you still a D&DI subscription) and then skim for that one part useful to me. Anyhow, looking at the preview of the articles for Dragon #418  I am rather intrigued by some of their entries:

Editorial: King of the Monsters
By Stan!
This month’s theme — Doom & Gloom — is brought to you by the tarrasque.
(Ah yes! Who doesn't like the Tarrasque? I smell some old school topics coming...)
The End Is Nigh!
By Dennis Johnson
Meet the new and improved tarrasque and its twisted cult following.
(Hm, has there been a 4th Ed version of the Tarrasque yet? How do you make it new and improved? I need to know! And a Tarrasque cult? I got some ideas for that....)
Backdrop: Hochoch
By Claudio Pozas
The beleaguered town of Hochoch is the last, best hope for the Grand Duchy of Geoff, but it needs a few good adventurers.
(Claudio, you rock! Keep the Greyhawk standard high!)
History Check: The Tarrasque
By Jeff LaSala
Learn the secrets of this primordial, party-eating monstrosity.
(So much Tarrasque in one issue, gotta love it.)
Ye Olde Creature Catalogue
By Tim Eagon
Behold four monsters plucked from the Palace of the Silver Princess, the halls of Castle Amber, and other classic dungeons.
(I like the name of this column. Amber and the Palace are not specifically Greyhawkian, but I'd bet one of the other two featured in this interesting will be.)
Wondrous Weavings: Tapestries of Power
By Jennifer Clarke Wilkes
Deck the halls with the finest magic tapestries money can buy.
(Nothing exactly old school or Greyhawk here, I just like magic tapestries.)
That's it. I'll keep an eye on how this issue turns out, until next time Merry Needfest!

Update 05/09/2021: Updated link to issue 418, now available at DMsGuild.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Maps, Maps and More Greyhawk Maps

I'm behind on a few Greyhawkian bits of news and luckily for me they're all map related! First up is the next two installments of Braggi's epic Adventurer's Atlas of Greyhawk series. Part 3 The Northern Lands of the Central Lakes and Part 4 Furyondy, Veluna, Dyvers and the Domain of Greyhawk is ready to be downloaded for your perusal. You will not be disappointed.

Next, we check in on Anna Meyer's ongoing Atlas of the Flanaess project. She has recently finished with area 44, the southern Yatil Mountains region. 

Last but not least, have you read the twenty-third episode of our Castle Greyhawk graphic novel? Well this one includes the beginnings of a map to the Castle Greyhawk ruins (seen above). Follow the link to read the entire story from the beginning where you will find additional story  exposition by author Scott Casper. I can't believe how far we've come in this project. Alternatively you can also read the current page compliments of Maldin's Greyhawk.
Artist's Commentary: This page was fun to draw, it had some dynamic movement like Ehlissa throwing a torch or Yrag charging ahead, and there was some nice details such as Tenser daintily holding his hand-drawn map (do players still map for themselves anymore?) and the tattered curtain from whence the Trampier-esque kobolds are sure to lure the heroes into trouble. Kobolds, what could go wrong?

Update 05/09/2021: Had to remove broken links to Anna's individual map sections. Go to her site to find newer, better maps of the Flanaess!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Musing on Oligarchies

Roleplaying games have taught me more than I'll ever fully realize. I'm sure everyone reading this blog would agree. One thing I'm sure I learned from RPGs (and not from paying attention in school) is the name of several strange forms of government, especially feudalism and also many others found in the 1st Edition Dungeonmasters Guide such as theocracy, gynarchy and the fictional magocracy. Growing up in America in the 70's and 80's you'd hardly know there was anything other than democracy or communism in the world. To my delight I found the World of Greyhawk made use of alot of these obscure types of government. Take that, social studies!

One of these words I've noticed, oligarchy, has been coming up an awful lot more in the last decade. First it was in reference to our old nemesis Russia. Since the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union broke up, the word oligarch/oligarchy certainly applied to the wealthy business owners who now had all the influence afterwards. Here lately however, the media has been throwing out that word to describe the United States as well. As the link above shows, a country can be one system of government and still be an oligarchy. They're the power behind the throne so to say. And truth is often stranger than fiction.

The Free City of Greyhawk is an oligarchy. Once ruled by Zagig Yragerne (magocracy?) and the Great Kingdom (feudal), rulership of the free city is now in the hands of a fluctuating number of oligarchs called Directors. These Directors come from many walks of life, but largely they are all wealthy and powerful guild leaders or temple heads. The Lord Mayor is elected from within their ranks and serves an indefinite period. These positions aren't hereditary but they may as well be, since the oligarchs make sure that new members are handpicked from their own organizations or spheres of influence. In this fantasy setting it's no surprise then that organized crime has some of the highest seats at the table with military and religious leaders.

So compared to Greyhawk City is the USA an oligarchy yet? Is that a bad thing? I'll let greater minds than mine draw distinctions. I'd also be happy to hear other examples of obscure government forms used in real life. Until next time, carry on.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

New D&D Movie Tonight

Awww yeeeeah! It's a new Dungeons & Dragons movie on Syfy! Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness starts here soon. Judging from the trailer here, you won't miss much if you skip it, but having nothing better to do today I might just subject myself to this train wreck in the making to see if there is any vague Greyhawk references. Check out part of the synopsis. As a gamer, this sounds decent, until you see it played out live.
Two thousand years ago, Nhagruul the Foul, a sorcerer who reveled in corrupting the innocent and the spread of despair, neared the end of his mortal days and was dismayed. Consumed by hatred for the living, Nhagruul sold his soul to the demon Lords of the abyss so that his malign spirit would survive. In an excruciating ritual, Nhagrulls skin was flayed into pages, his bones hammered into a cover, and his diseased blood became the ink to pen a book most vile. All those exposed to the book were driven to madness or so corrupted by the wicked knowledge contained within that they had no choice but to turn evil.
So THAT is how the Book of Vile Darkness was made. Hah. Enjoy if you dare!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gygax Magazine?

I don't often go to ENWorld but I came across this story today. It seems someone working with the Gygax family has obtained the rights to the TSR name and is going to produce a gaming magazine in December. Before ENWorld checked into things this sign-up page was the only teaser for this project. I'll be keeping an eye on this, as always, with the slim hope that maybe some nostalgic remnants of Greyhawk might come to light. Otherwise, if this magazine is for real, more power to them. It is a daunting thing to run a magazine, heck even the highly regarded, award winning Kobold Quarterly folded its magazine days ago. I can't wait to see where this goes.

Update 05/08/2021: Changed the link to the TSR website. Gygax Magazine is OOP, but looks like you cna still buy it.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Castle Greyhawk: First Room

 In case you've missed out, it's time to promote our twenty-second episode of the Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Follow the link to read the entire story from the beginning with special additional content by author Scott Casper. Also you can read the current page compliments of Maldin's Greyhawk.

Artist's commentary: This page was a bear to draw and I love it. Descending into the dungeon at last, I've been constantly tested with new angles, lighting tricks and my favorite thus far: flagstone walls, floors and ceilings. Scott has an eye for detail that makes even an empty room seem interesting. I am anxious as you readers are to see where this adventure takes us. 


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

New: Against the Slavelords Hardcover

Wizards of the Coast's recent decision to reprint the collected A-series modules into a hardcover book next June is not news to anyone, but an eagle-eyed colleague of mine directed me to this blurb for the upcoming product on their website. The pertinent news here is that Wizards apparently isn't just going with the original four modules, but has now come up with a new "prequel" to the series:

"Added to the collection is an all-new fifth adventure -- A0: Danger at Darkshelf Quarry -- that you can use to kick off an AD&D campaign that pits a group of adventurers against the evil Slave Lords! Module A0, designed for levels 1-3, sets the stage for events that unfold throughout the remainder of the "A" series."

Darkshelf Quarry, eh? Great. I was on the fence about buying this book but now I'm too curious to pass it up. Anyhow, no word yet on who the head writer is on this intro-module. I'm personally hoping for Chris Perkins who has shown to have a good knowledge of the setting, having done reworks of the Giants series including a whole new episode for that epic as well.

Stay tuned for more information on this in the near future (Thanks again).

Update 05/08/2021: You can get A0 in this book on DMsGuild.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Trithereon the Summoner

Looking back over the list of Greyhawk deities, I'm still amazed that Trithereon the Summoner was not more popular among fandom. Sure he isn't a C-lister like Jascar or Joramy, but he never was quite good enough for "Core deity" status either. As far as I recall no one I've personally gamed with has ever made a priest or worshipper of the god of retribution. What's worse, back in 3rd edition Wizards folded Trithereon's retribution portfolio into St. Cuthbert, further burying this quite cool god.

Through my old World of Greyhawk Comic I used to explore the facets of many ignored gods like Trithereon. Undoubtedly his most interesting element is his notable animal companions. Trithereon is quite like the Beastmaster in this respect, a ranger-like vigilante bent on taking down evil with his animal cohorts serving useful roles.

Here's another. I'm sure few remember from the 1983 Guide that Trithereon also has his own "prison" demiplanes. The colorful descriptions of these places always grabbed me. Imagine, what sort of villains are so evil that Trithereon and his pack has to go hunting after them? And rather than outright execute them, they are put in their own prison plane. Trithereon's prison planes predate the Ravenloft setting as well, so ponder that. I tried to tackle this issue in a Canonfire article on his demiplanes back in 2006. I consider this article among my best work, especially considering it isn't about Ull.

So there you have it, check out Trithereon sometime when you're making a cleric for your Greyhawk campaign.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Quiz: Greyhawk Location Hunt

Alright Greymaniacs, it's a slow week (and Election Day in the States) so I've got a good time killer for you. It's a simple map search. As most fans should know, the World of Greyhawk maps feature a unique set of coordinates along the top, bottom and sides that aid in finding locations on the hexagonal based map. These coordinates are similar to those found in old school road maps. For younger readers, road maps were from the dark ages before the internet and GPS. Anyhoo, the game goes like this: I supply the coordinates and with your vast knowledge and collection of Greyhawk, you tell me what is at that hex in the comments section. Easy enough, or is it? Good luck!


Update 05/08/2021: Strange. No one played and I have no idea what the answers are without looking at a map. This game is still anyone's to win!

Friday, November 2, 2012

New: D&D Adventure Quiz

Attention grognards and Greyhawkers. Over at Wizards of the Coast they have a nifty quiz to test your knowledge of classic module covers. It's got two levels of difficulty too, Heroic and Epic. I got 13/17 on both. Those pesky Slaver modules always confuse me. Try it out, it's pretty fun.

Update 05/08/2021: Sorry folks. Quiz is gone.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Explaining the Unexplained: Carl Sargent

Carl Sargent is best known in gaming circles for being the lead developer of Greyhawk during much of 2nd edition from 1991 to 1997. The timeline advancing From the Ashes and the unpublished Ivid the Undying are among his most ambitious works during that period. Few remember however, that before Sargent worked as a freelancer on RPGs, he had a PHD in experimental parapsychology and taught at Cambridge, where he became a published author on the subject of the paranormal. These impressive credentials must surely contributed to Sargent's quick ascension to TSR and into the fore of Greyhawk.

Recently a friend of mine obtained one of his books, Explaining the Unexplained, Mysteries of the Paranormal (co-written by Hans J. Eysenck) and I must say it sheds a new light on Sargent's vision of Greyhawk. Eysenck I must add is a psychologist with over 70 books under his belt, so I assume he did a greater share of the writing. With that in mind, a large part of Sargent's contribution, being the parapsychologist was likely on the methods of testing the phenomenon of psychic abilities. The book is quite interesting, covering subjects like psychics, ESP, dreams, mind over matter, life after death and so on.

Not surprisingly then, the Explaining the Unexplained has a section (in mind over matter) about testing PK (psychokinetic ability) with cards, dice and even RPGs:

"...certain environments create strong desires and wishes through incentive motivation of much subtler kinds than bribery. Human beings are extremely curious and many psychology experiments show that the simple prospect of learning how well one has done in some test or other is a powerful motivator. If the test is presented in an appealing and attention-grabbing way, curiosity becomes a powerful motivator. External factors very definitely affect how internal motivations are strengthened and expressed."

"There are obvious ways in which this line of testing might be carried forward....Very relevant here are 'fantasy roleplaying' computer games, such as those based on the world best selling Dungeons and Dragons game..."

"In these games youngsters play the roles of...warriors, wizards, witches, and rogues. Confronted with deadly puzzles, riddles, and traps, and mighty enemies and monsters..."

"The games are addictive and are constructed to help...develop problem solving skills of many kinds. The powerful intrinsic motivation is that of solving riddles and puzzles."

"And because the game commands intense concentration, the player would soon forget that he was being tested at all. Further, these games take place in 'worlds' (not unlike Tolkien's famour Middle Earth) in which magic exists and is real...Why should PK effects not exist too? If belief is an important factor, these games certainly aid in suspension of disbelief."

That leads us back to Greyhawk and the psychology of Sargent himself. Given his body of work, the way some elements found their way into "Sargenthawk" make more sense. Several notable examples out of From the Ashes:

Spinning Helix of the Archmages (a paranormal phenomenon that aids in divinatory powers)
Lyzandred's Tomb (a lich who favors testing heroes not with monsters but puzzles, traps and games)
Doomgrinder (another divinatory mystery)
Zendreldra's Tower (crazy psychic crone who predicts a great flood)
Philidor (mysterious blue skinned wizard who curiously has among other topics, sagely knowledge in astrology, metaphysics and sociology)

I could go on, but it's evident Sargent was a good fit for developing a fantasy world. I wonder if he got tired of testing the paranormal in favor of writing RPGs (or was he combining both?). We'll never know for sure. All I know is Greyhawk was lucky to have drawn such a talented mind to the setting.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Castle Greyhawk: Breaking and Entering

The weather is colder and I'm slacking as usual. Time to plug our twenty-first episode of the Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Follow the link to read the entire quest from the beginning plus additional written content by author Scott Casper or you read the current page compliments of Maldin's Greyhawk.

Artist's commentary: This page was tricky for reasons I can't pin down. Perhaps it was the perspective of the circular stairs or the crashing through a door. You never realize how complex drawing a rectangular door is until you need it to open or be damaged. I'm still experimenting as I go with different methods of depicting light in the dark. As they are going into an old tower I'm sure I'll get a good workout of those skills.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

New: Greyhawk Adventurer's Atlas Part 2

Welcome back Greyhawkers, it's time for a new installment of Braggi's blockbuster mapping project, the Greyhawk Adventurer's Atlas. Last time we debuted part one The Baklunish West and the Atlas' corresponding Appendices. This time up Braggi focuses on the cold northern Flanaess:

"This installment details the northern lands of the Flanaess including the Tiger Nomads, the Archbarony of Blackmoor, the Rovers of the Barrens, the Thillonrian barbarian lands of Stonefist, Fruztii, Cruski and Schnai."

The GAA is an incredibly useful resource for any Greyhawk player or dungeonmaster - combining published material and even some suitable fan works into their distinct regional areas. There's many more issues to come so give it a look, you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Mortellan's Greyhawk Art

My best friend will appreciate this post the most. For years I've had some rather large works of art collecting dust that I did during our "silver age" of Greyhawk gaming. We were all in college and we had ALOT of time to play D&D. Countless hours were devoted to creating maps, floorplans and artwork for our home campaigns. After all this time I finally got the urge to dig out two of these Greyhawk masterpieces and take some half-way decent pictures of them. Both of these pieces were drawn on a full 22" x 30" sheet of stonehenge paper (texture kind of like vellum) and finished in colored pencil (Prismacolor). They're simply too big to scan properly. Many of you have only seen my goofy cartoons or semi-serious black and white drawings, but these are examples of what I can do given unlimited time and patience. Enjoy.

First is a picture of the legendary Cruskii fighter Valkaun Dain. Here we see him sailing home from a quest on his longship down the river Skyr in Dainland. Valkaun is wearing his signature shadow dragon hide armor and carrying his runic sword of sharpness. This is just a cropping of the entire scene. Click here on the pic to see the detail and go here for the full illustration.

Then there is the infamous "three towers". When Valkaun and his compatriot the archmage Mortellan finished clearing out all three parts of the Greyhawk Ruins, they used their vast wealth of gold and gems (and god knows how many Wall of Stone spells) to rebuild the above ground castle that once belonged to Zagig Yragerne. I think going by the 2e Castle Guide rules they cost the PCs a cool one million g.p.
Due to the glaringly liberal scale used in the maps to Greyhawk Ruins, all three towers were 300 feet in diameter. I can't even begin to remember how high they were, but to keep proportion you can figure it out from the picture. What's more amazing is we drew all the floor plans to every level of these monstrous towers, no, skyscrapers. Why? Because we could!
Click on the pic to see a close up of the central keep, then go here to see the new Greyhawk Castle in all its glory.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Greyhawk Reading: Quag Keep

Okay folks, as promised, I have finally started reading Andre Norton's classic proto-Greyhawk novel Quag Keep (1978, published two years before the Greyhawk Folio). This topic is by no means groundbreaking. Indeed a few sources of mine have talked about it in recent memory. The Piazza forums had a thread on it last month, and before that Canonfire's forums had a discussion about locations in the novel. Then there's Grognardia's review from a few years ago which is the best overall I can find. Half way through and I'm struck by a couple things already.

One, it's the geography. I'm a fan of Greyhawk in all its forms be it the game setting World of Greyhawk, "Gordhawk" or whatever. Sadly, there is no map of this version of Greyhawk that Norton writes about unless it's in the sequel to Quag Keep which I haven't looked into yet. Maybe some intrepid fan will tackle the subject. At any rate as Nellisir on the Canonfire forums listed the many geographic similarities and differences between this world with the canon world most know (with my own added comments):

Greyhawk (same city, mentions a thieves quarter, could be much the same as Gygax's Gord novels)
Grand Duchy of Urnst (north of Greyhawk, is east in the game setting)
Hither Hills (half-elves scorned by true elves- could this be the Kron Hills or the Cairn Hills?)
Yerocunbry (Gygaxian tongue-twister, brings to mind the Yeomanry, perhaps misread when coffee was spilled on Andre's notes? :P)
Faraaz (a holy land, at best maybe this is analogous to Ket?)
The Great Kingdom of Blackmoor (north of Urnst, perhaps a combo Aerdy-Blackmoor mashup)
Koeland (probably a misspell since it's later called Keoland, said to have three tributaries)
Var (no clue)
the "Northern Clans" (followers of the High Horned Lady, perhaps an allusion to the Horned Society or just the Rovers of the Barrens?)
the River Vold (Sounds like a major river, perhaps the Velverdyva in the published setting?)
Grand Duchy of Geofp (next to a western mountain chain, which has the Dry Steppes and the Sea of Dust on the other side, wow that's accurate!)
Narm (no idea but they raid the Steppes) 
Duchy of Maritiz (island nation. Could be Admuntford in the Nyr Dyv?)
Great Bay (unsure of this body of water but Lichis the Golden Dragon battled Ironnose the Great Demon from Blackmoor, out over the Great Bay down to the Wild Coast ending in an unnamed boiling sea)
Wild Coast (can only assume it's the same Coast we know near Greyhawk)
Dry Steppes (north of the Sea of Dust, pretty spot on)
Nomad Raiders of Lar (they live in the Dry Steppes, could this be, gasp...Ull?)
Sea of Dust (can only assume it's the same dangerous location we know);
The Seven Swamps (where lizardmen are found)
Troilan Swamps (part of the Seven Swamps?) 

So yeah, without a map to reference, Norton's Greyhawk is a mish-mash of locations that were either cribbed from Gygax's notes prior to publication (and before Darlene had cemented their placement) or just plain made up for character development purposes and nothing else. But hey, no fault there that's how world building is done. There's still some good elements to work with here if one was inclined to borrow from Quag Keep for their campaigns, not to mention the classic Chaos versus Law theme is employed here.

My second notion from reading this book is the setup of the plot. Norton is a decent writer in my opinion but adapting characters with D&D class roles to a serious fantasy novel always seems to be awkward; nevermind that this one talks about wargames and miniature companies as well. Now another common issue with D&D fiction has been the old theme of "taking someone from the real world and dropping them in the world of D&D". As Argon mentions on the forums:

What I find interesting is how Norton approach to the novel has lent itself to many spin-offs. One the Dungeon and Dragon cartoon players were actual people from the real world who are transported to a D&D world. Many modern cartoons also involved taking kids from this world and transporting them into the games universe. Yugi oh, Beyblade, Chaotic, and many more.
It seems she may have inspired this approach for future writers of fantasy Sci-Fi fiction.

I also thought of the D&D cartoon immediately when I started Quag Keep. Argon is partly right about this plot device except nowadays D&D fiction has consciously got away from this setup, I imagine due to social stigmas D&D garnered from people being too "into their games". That's too bad though, because the trope is WAY older and more expansive than even Norton or D&D. Fiction routinely takes people out of modern Earth and thrusts them into the fantastic. Several notable examples (I'm sure there's many more):

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
The Chronicles of Narnia
John Carter of Mars
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Flash Gordon
Peter Pan

That's my final thought and question. If the trope works for these classics, why is it hokey when a D&D novel or cartoon does it? That's all for now, back to the book.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Castle Greyhawk: Facing Death

It's been a busy a busy but fun weekend and I still need to plug the milestone twentieth episode of our Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. As usual you can read the entire tale plus additional story content on our dedicated blog through the link above or read the current page compliments of Maldin's Greyhawk.

Artist's commentary: We've moved inside the castle now and the architectural nuances are still challenging. I can't wait till they get inside the keep itself though, twenty pages has been quite the journey.
I often reference pictures for the slightest reasons. This time I needed to research a proper way to position the handles/straps of a kite shield in order to visually leave room for a couple torches. I think the way I found works. I apologize to any shield experts out there though. Yrag is a veteran and can craft his shield however he wants!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

New: Greyhawk Adventurer's Atlas Part 1

Fresh off the heels of map-maker Anna Meyer's Ring of Five interview, I have the pleasure of introducing the start of a new map series, available for download at Canonfire, that will prove to be monstrously phenomenal in the annals of the Greyhawk cartographic community. The Greyhawk Adventurer's Atlas is the magnus opus of Braggi a long time contributor to fansites such as Canonfire and formerly Harvester's Heroes. Braggi was also recently behind the old school adaptation and expansion of my own Ull series with the Wonders of Ull Old Skool Edition.

Braggi has gone to great lengths to research, map out and catalogue what he calls "one possible version of the Grand Unified Theory of the World of Greyhawk". Braggi's atlas breaks down the setting into many thematic regions each with their associated canon and fanon sources. Braggi strives to make the best setting atlas possible from all the best sources available. For this reason you will see in part one of the Atlas, dealing with the Baklunish West, that he has liberally referenced my Ull campaign articles and maps from Canonfire as a credible work alongside the base gazetteers and modules found throughout all editions.

There is alot to see just in this first part, more than I can comment on in one post. You will have to download them all as they are released to see the amazing detail Braggi has put into his vision of the Flanaess. Coupled with this first download is another feature of Braggi's, the Greyhawk Adventurer's Atlas: Appendices. This amazing pdf compilation shows the depth of Braggi's Grey-madness. He has ordered lists of published Greyhawk adventures by level and location. Plus he has also included a dizzying array of links to Greyhawk related sources. Trust me, you'll want to download these (see below). Stay tuned for more parts of the Atlas from Braggi in the coming months ahead...

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ring of Five Questions: Anna Meyer

Welcome back faithful Greyhawk readers! Last time out I interviewed a pro in Chris Pramas, this time however I'm switching things up. My next victim, ahem, guest is one of hardest working fans in the Greyhawk community. Besides actively gaming in the setting, this talented artist specializes in well researched, richly rendered Greyhawk maps. She has lent her cartographic skill to the Oerth Journal before, but her main goal is to map the entire setting and she has her own website devoted to this ambitious project - the Atlas of the Flanaess. Over the years an online following for her stunning maps has developed into a full blown social group, the Flanaess Geographical Society. We've all seen or heard about her maps, now it's time to question her about the World of Greyhawk itself. Hailing from California via Sweden, welcome to the Ring: Anna B. Meyer.

Q1: You've spent countless hours staring at the Flanaess so this should be difficult. What is your favorite part of the World of Greyhawk?

Anna: During my years of mapping and all the research that has come with it I've been surprised over and over again by the number of interesting, fascinating and at times spectacular places all over the Flanaess.
Despite all the adventurous and famous places I have spent so much effort mapping my favorite realm is one of the least known on the continent. It has a central location and is often mentioned in many of the old modules, still it's a realm that has largely been left out of the stories of Greyhawk. My favorite part of Greyhawk is the Faerie Kingdom Celene, the elven place next to some of the most iconic paces like The Village of Hommlet and the Temple of Elemental Evil. It has majestic forests, mountains and rivers full of creatures both celestial and foul, from the smallest annoying pixie to maybe even dragons. This is where I would settle and have my own tree house if could.

Q2: You've been called a mapping goddess, but if you could actually be one Greyhawk deity which one would fit you best?

Anna: As a woman and an elven fan it is tempting to go for an elven deity or Mayaheine. But the one that would fit me best is probably the Oeridian goddess Johydee.

Q3: I hear you have a home campaign set in the Rel Deven area. What era of the Great Kingdom do you prefer?

Anna: My first campaigns were my versions of Hommlet, the Temple, the Wild Coast and the Pomarj. We played through the wars in Furyondy and Shield Lands with excursions into the Horned Lands. As a new GM I often fell into the trap of "saving the world" adventures, and the Greyhawk wars gave me a perfect chance to play that type of a campaign. The reason I chose to locate my latest campaign in Rel Deven was that I was researching the area for my mapping and I could get more out of my work by making a campaign set there in CY 598 just after the end of the Living Greyhawk campaign. For me it has turned out a lot more fun than I imagined, lots of local intrigue between good and evil and tons of references to old Greyhawk lore.
I really like the mess that the implosion of the Great Kingdom cased, an area with lots of "grey" in it (pun intended). Both as a place that has a lot of Greyhawk tone to it, but also as a place with more than the usual good vs. evil struggle. Here are noble houses and historic connections, a vital part in creating more of a gray environment with even more dimensions.

Q4: Anyone who has ran D&D should have a favorite villain. Who is yours, someone from canon or a creation of your own?

Anna: My favorite canon villain is Lord Vuron, Grazzt's Steward. He is smart, special and intriguing, I loved to play him in some of my early campaigns. But he died at the final battle in the Gord books so I had to come up with a new favorite. This time I played it safe and invented my own, a drow cambion and Iuz half sister - Zezztra. She is the daughter of Grazzt and Eclavdra. When she grew up she was left in the care of Vuron who was very fond of her, so she grew up with kind of two fathers and later found out she had kind two mothers Eclavdra and Leda.  She likes Leda despite the fact she killed Vuron. Zezztra grew to know what real affection means, a rare thing among demonkind. She hates most of her kind and that had led her to take up the profession of assassin, specializing in fiends. She work from time to time as Grazzt's elite hitman. Her alignment is neutral with some faint good tendencies, which is handy when you need to go unnoticed. She has the strength of her father, the intellect of her mentor and the charisma of her mother, in all making her a survivor even among the fittest. Her profession has taken her across the Flanaess and many other realms and she has become one of the top assassins in the known multi-verse. She wants the world to be a better place and strive to make it better, fully knowing that she will always be tainted by her heritage. She enjoys as much to see the fear in her victims eyes as the joy of the people she indirectly helps. She would like to kill Lolth, since it would be way to gain the approval of her dad, and a way to overcome her past all in one. But she needs to build her skills a bit more to be sure she can make that happen. There are lots of others to practice on in the mean time.

Q5: For fun: You've been given creative control over a new edition of Greyhawk, What (if anything) would you do to the Flanaess physically or politically to shake it up?

Anna: The Crook of Rao's influence had its supremacy and it's being countered and overcome, opening up for the next round of events shaking the Flanaess. I would make the next upheaval the "Return of the Overking" in the form of Duke Szeffrin rallying the Death Knights to his banner to reconquer the Great Kingdom under Rauxes again. This time in his skewed form of "pure Aerdy rule" without the Baalzy overcoat. Maybe he can rally Grenell behind his banner. What about the house Naelax and its diabolical dealings, are they defeated or will the Hells crave their lawful right? That is one area I would look into, and what I'm doing in my campaign right now.
My next area of interest would be to try and work out what Iuz is up to, his ambitions can't be satisfied by any means. He wants to become a true god and increase his influence, meaning getting more to either worship or fear him. I would make him start to consolidating him power by converting parts of his realm into a demi-plane to give him more power and to be able to tweak even the physical to his needs. There will be lots of work for brave adventurers to try and stop him from literally destroying the good lands.
I miss the Horned Society and its Hierarchs and their backers in the netherworld would not take defeat from an abyssal upstart like Iuz without a fight, so they might come back with a vengeance. It will give the good guys some much needed competition among the Evils.
The Seldarine court will not sit on the sidelines this time and urges Celene and the elves to join the fight. Knights of Luna will start a covert battle against its foes. The same goes for the Circle of Eight, I will have them takes sides in a cold war like scramble for position and the upper hand in the power struggle. They are all in great need of brave and skilled adventurers to help them out.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Few Greyhawk Items

It's the middle of the week and time for me to catch up on a few Greyhawk related items on the net. First up is some more fiction from prolific Canonfire writer Mystic Scholar. Last time up, Mystic debuted a new story titled The Making of a Paladin. Now his main protagonist, Sir Ivon is back in a new installment called No Rest for the Wicked. If you haven't already checked out his story now's your chance to get in while it's still brewing. Enjoy!

Next up is a new old school adventure from Canonfire's own baronzemo titled Lost Treasures. Baronzemo writes:
Years have passed since the crown jewels of the gnome King Warren ap'Hiller was stolen. Rumors are abundant of who did the job and why. The thieves were never caught. As fate would have it, a clue to the jewels whereabouts has landed in your hands!

This 1st edition mini adventure set in the Flinty Hills is for character levels 5-7.

My last piece of news is an article, this time from the old school fansite Dragonsfoot. The Stout Point of View by D.A. Howard develops this subrace of halflings in new and interesting ways. For Greyhawkian dungeonmasters and players who love hobniz, I highly recommend the cultural information and random tables presented in Mr. Howard's article. Download it and good gaming!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Darlene Map Techniques

As reported by Havard's Blackmoor Blog, the old D&D setting forum The Piazza has recently been treated to the start of a Q&A thread with World of Greyhawk map creator and classic D&D illustrator, Darlene. As an artist myself, sometimes it's not enough to look at a piece of art; I also want to know how they made it. Darlene's most recent anecdote tells of how the Greyhawk maps were assembled on her drawing table, and I must say it really puts a perspective on how relatively easy and forgiving today's computer aided art can be. Her layering technique involving acetate and Pantone color sheets is some really old school printerly stuff. I'm not even sure Pantone makes adhesive color sheets anymore. While Darlene's method of producing full color maps may have been more common back then, it still bears alot in common with today's layered computer art except as she mentions there was no room for error. Gotta love it.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Legendary Egg of Gygax?

I get some weird alerts on my email sometimes concerning Greyhawk or Gygax. Check this one out it's hilarious. It's for a game site of some sort called where there is selling and trading of virtual avatar stuff. These pages seem to be a couple years old, but it's all new to me. The item I found initially offered is the Legendary Egg of Gygax. (Buy now for only R$25000)
A clever homage I suppose but whatever this site is about they've taken the homage and ran with it, high stepped over the goal line, did a dance in the end zone and then spiked the ball. They've also got the Legendary Egg of Gygax Shirt, the Plasma Armor of Gygax, the Legendary Teapot of Gygax and more. Wacky stuff. I almost feel like stealing some of these ideas for Greyhawk magic items. Almost.

Update 05/07/2021: I removed the links to this post. No one needs this stuff haha!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Castle Greyhawk: On Edge

In search of adventure - it's time for page nineteen of our Castle Greyhawk graphic novel adaptation. If you're just now discovering this amazing piece of fiction be sure to go back to the beginning and catch author Scott Casper's additional material over at the dedicated blog for Castle Greyhawk.

You can also view the latest episode HERE courtesy of Maldin's Greyhawk. Enjoy!

Artist's commentary: Our intrepid adventurers are nearly inside the legendary castle and I'm enjoying every step. There is alot to like in drawing this scene, from the murder holes of the gatehouse to the shadowy depths of the dry moat to the thick iron chains of the drawbridge which lays open inviting trespassers to their doom. I'm not sure where the hawk/falcon came from, but how they jump nervously is a great tension breaker. Yrag is well defended, but as I drew it Tenser is clearly flat footed and doesn't know what to do and Ehlissa lowering her head is more liable to stab Yrag than any flying creature overhead. Too fun. It will be fun to see how they react to a real threat inside the castle...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ring of Five Questions: Chris Pramas

Normally the weekend is a good time to rest, but instead I'm here to bring my fellow Greyhawkers another fine episode of the Ring of Five Questions! Last time out I completed an interview of Living Greyhawk's Eric Menge. Following up on Eric, I now turn the spotlight on another big name in the gaming industry. This developer worked a short but productive stint with Wizards of the Coast including work on D&D 3rd Edition and the Greyhawk setting's Slavers (with Sean K Reynolds). Then in 2000 he set out and forged his own company in Seattle, the award winning Green Ronin, known today for great products like Freeport, Mutants & Masterminds (my favorite) and also Dragon Age RPG and A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying. Despite running Green Ronin he still managed to publish several articles in Dragon Magazine for Wizards' short lived Chainmail minis skirmish game, developing the setting for much of Western Oerik. Beyond Wizards and Green Ronin he has also branched out to do work for Games Workshop on Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition as well as write for an MMO, Vigil Games' Dark Millennium Online. Not a bad decade! Please welcome into the Ring, Chris Pramas!

Q1. I'm sure you're familiar with the Darlene map. What area of the World of Greyhawk is your favorite?

Chris: I’m fond of the Sheldomar Valley. I’ve more had campaigns in that region than anywhere else in Greyhawk, and in fact it’s where the game I’m running for my family right now is located. I started them in Keoland with the Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh.
I like it because it’s a good central location. Plenty to do in the valley itself, and you can have characters travel down to the Amedio Jungle, or into the mountains and the Sea of Dust beyond, or up to the Baklunish Basin for some Arabian flavored adventures. Of course, we’ve been playing for months and my PCs are still in Saltmarsh!

Q2. Greyhawk has dozens of deities to choose from, but if you could actually be one of them which one would it be?

Chris: Tempting as it is to say Heironeous, as I do enjoy some righteous ass kicking, I’d get tired of fighting all the time. Really, Delleb is more my speed. Reading, researching, and uncovering forgotten knowledge would be a lot more fun for me in the long term.

Q3. The lands of Western Oerik, featured in your Dragon articles about the Chainmail minis setting, have recently gained new interest in the fan community. What inspirations did you draw from in designing the cultures of the Sundered Empire?

Chris: It was a bit tricky because I was trying to design an interesting new setting, but it also had to have all the core elements you expect from D&D. In particular, the minis had to double as generic D&D minis. I had argued that we should keep the separate line of RPG minis we had started in 1999, but my boss did not agree so ours had to serve two purposes.
The most out there thing I was able to do was the People’s State of Mordengard and the influence for this was my own lefty politics. One day I was thinking about how most fantasy settings have traditional kingdoms and empires, but why not something else? Then it occurred to me that dwarves would make great communists and that was the idea that led to Mordengard. The shame of the minis was that I wanted their look to be based on old Soviet propaganda posters. For the reasons outlined above, we had to give them a more generic dwarf style.
For other factions, my choices went no deeper than favorite monsters of mine. I can’t really explain my fondness for gnolls and hobgoblins, but it goes back to my earliest days of playing D&D. So it was only naturally they should figure prominently in the factions. Also, it just made sense to me that the hobgoblins would be the ones to organize the savage humanoids into an effective fighting force.

Q4. You took part in developing the excellent sourcebook Slavers before starting your own company. Did any classic Greyhawk publications influence your work at Green Ronin?

Chris: Oh, sure. In fact, I just finished an essay for Wolfgang Baur that talks about the influence of the Greyhawk folio on me in some depth. When I was designing the World of Freeport for the Pirate’s Guide to Freeport, the folio was my inspiration. To that point, Freeport had always been a city meant to be dropped into the fantasy setting of the GM’s choice. However, many fans wanted to see what an expanded world would look like, so I wrote an optional chapter in that book doing just that. Since I had limited space, I used an updated version of the folio format.

Q5. Pretend for a minute that Green Ronin got the license to reboot Greyhawk. What major change would you make to breathe new life into the setting?

Chris: I would roll the timeline back to 576 and leave it there. I think the setting was not only more interesting then, but it was easier for newbies to get into. All the products that came after the Greyhawk Wars had the unenviable task of trying to summarize a lot of complicated history. That’s a barrier to entry that just doesn’t need to exist. And frankly, if there are going to be world shaking events in Greyhawk, they should be things individual GMs decide to do in their campaigns.
I had this issue when I was designing Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition for Games Workshop.  When we were putting the game together, GW was in the midst of this big event called the Storm of Chaos and they wanted the RPG to reflect what had just happened to the Empire. I’d rather have let GMs choose when to set their campaigns. We easily could have done a Storm of Chaos book that showed you how to play through it if you wanted, rather than make it the default setting, but it wasn’t my call to make.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Avast! It's Talk Like a Pirate Day

Arrr mateys, this be the 19th day of Harvester! So what, you say? Scurvy rat! You should walk the plank or be flogged thirty times against the mizzen-mast! See, for ye landlubbers it might just be Waterday, but for we salty sea dogs from the Sea Princes' Hold it is rightly a holiday. Now grab a bottle of rum and join in the fun, or I'll see you keel hauled!

Here be some pirate treasures to get ye in the mood. Arr!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Some Good Greyhawk Stuff

Welcome back readers, after a lull in posting my latest Ring of Five Questions (more to come) I see I need to catch up on a few Greyhawk articles and items.

First up is the continuation of Mystic Scholar's Greyhawk epic fiction series, That Infamous Key. Follow the link to his previous installments. Part nine finds Mystic, Eileen and company going up against a villain worthy of Iuz or Ivid; the half-orc Guildmaster of Gravediggers, Selczek Gobayuik! Yes, in an urban setting even the bureaucrats can be as challenging as a dragon. Who better to consult with on matters of Greyhawk City bureaucracy then, but my namesake, Mortellan of the Guild of Lawyers and Scribes! Enjoy!

Next up is a clever article idea by Chevalier titled The Legend of Pyremius and Ranet. For those not indoctrinated in Greyhawk deity lore, Pyremius is the Suel god of murder who slew the fire goddess Ranet and stole her godly profile. And here I thought that kind of stuff only happened in Faerun! Chevalier's article gives a good account on how this all may have transpired. It's well thought out and not a long read, so give it a look!

In other Greyhawkery, after many years of passively looking, I finally acquired a free paperback copy of the nascent Greyhawk novel Quag Keep by Andre Norton. After I finish my slog of the original Dragonlance series, I plan on picking up this book and giving it my own critical eye toward use in the World of Greyhawk setting. It has to be more useful than anything by Rose Estes.

Lastly, I recently finished up a two part game session set in the Hold of the Sea Princes for our gaming podcast Gamerstable. What's significant about this is it was the intro adventure for our newest member to the table (and Greyhawk neophyte) Shannon. Hi, Shannon! Check out part one and part two. Thanks go out to Eric and Dan for their hard work on actual play episodes.