Friday, June 29, 2012

Dragon #412 Article: A Tangled Web

There's a new article up at Wizards for Dragon #412. This month's D&D Alumni Column titled, A Tangled Web is by Grognardia blogger James Maliszewski. In this article James explores the origins and history of Drow in Dungeons & Dragons. While it is short, A Tangled Web is an exceedingly well researched piece that is worth the time to read. Here is my favorite point of interest by Mr. Maliszewski, which I personally never knew from Greyhawk lore:

"Gygax even introduces the idea of non-evil drow in the form of “Nilonim, a dissident drow ... [who] led a band of rebels attempting to overthrow noble rule. He is of neutral alignment with a slight tendency towards good deeds.” Remember that Nilonim appeared in 1978, ten years before The Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore gave the world Drizzt Do'Urden, perhaps the most famous drow in the history of Dungeons & Dragons."

Update 05/07/2021: Unfortunately, you'll need to pay for and download Dragon #412 off DMsGuild as is the case for all 4E content.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Half-Dwarves: And Why Not?

Over at the old school AD&D fansite Dragonsfoot, there is an amusingly useful new article by S. J. McKenzie entitled Half-Dwarves: and why not? As the title implies this is a clever look into crossbreeds across all standard D&D races with a focus on dwarven mixing. The article even includes game rules for a few of these like the "Half-Dwarf", "Dwelf", "Wild-dog Dwarf" and my favorite the "Gnarf". The information is not setting specific so that makes it perfectly suitable for anyone who would like to drop some non-standard dwarf races into their World of Greyhawk campaign. And why not? Greyhawk is a setting that already has a myriad of subraces and crossbreeds to speak of, but not much for fans of dwarf characters. Now you can spice up the dour dwarven race. Check it out!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

New D&D Movie Trailer

I'm sure it's all over the web by now, the trailer to Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness.

All I can say is, yikes!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Podcast Discussion of Sea Princes Game

As you may or may not remember, I am part of the gaming podcast Gamerstable (physically I'm there at at any rate). Going strong through our second year of recording, we recently did a show that looked back on our successful Sea Princes campaign (DMed by me naturally) featured heavily here on Greyhawkery. It's been a true blessing for me that the guys still get so jazzed about a Greyhawk campaign that we can talk in length about it after the game is put on hiatus. Listen in and find out how we put it all together. You can download the episode HERE.

Look for me and the Gamerstable crew at Gencon in August as well. We will be out there in force this year.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Castle Greyhawk: Into the Woods

Welcome back readers! Page eleven of the Castle Greyhawk graphic novel adaptation is now available at our dedicated blog where you can read Scott Casper's colorful story exposition and if you're new, you can still catch up on the entire comic from the beginning.

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

Artist's commentary: Eleven pages in and I must say I love the architecture and landscapes that Scott has had this trio travelling through. It's one thing to play Greyhawk for decades and know about places like Greyhawk City or the Cairn Hills, but to actually see these places illustrated and have notable characters move through these locations, breathes new life into the setting for me. And we haven't even got to the dungeon yet!

My thanks go out to those who have been following the comic from the start, it's not too late to join in and jump into the story.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Greyhawk Adventures: Gord Musings

As I've mentioned before, I've been reading alot of Savage Sword of Conan, a 70's graphic novel series that closely draws from Robert E. Howard's original pulp era stories. Then yesterday while researching for a game, I come across an ad in an old issue of Dragon Magazine (#104, December 85) for Gary Gygax's hot new novel Saga of Old City for the Greyhawk Adventures line. For those not familiar with Saga, it follows the story of Gord, a thief and adventurer from the mean streets of Greyhawk City.

If you never read one of Gygax's Gord novels before and only judged the book by its cover (as you may have back in 1985) you can see the similarities between Gord and Conan are there in this illustration by Clyde Caldwell. Gord like Conan, is brooding, dark haired and muscular. He is dressed light as a rogue but carries himself in battle like a fighter with a sword. Alone, he faces a brutish monster standing atop a pile of skulls; motifs common in Conan covers. Saga is a good novel and if Gygax was going for that Conanesque, pulp-era feel, I say he achieved it.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Gord is not a complete rip-off of Conan. For instance he is not a barbarian, but rather urbane, which means Gord also draws as much from other fictional characters like Fritz Leiber's fantasy swordsman the Grey Mouser. When you're trying to write a story based in a D&D world, you can hardly be blamed for borrowing fantasy tropes. I wondered if maybe pulp-era figures like Gord were out of style back in 1985, but looking at some other new releases perhaps not: that same issue advertising Saga also saw the launch of CA1: Swords of the Undercity (a module for the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser inspired Lankhmar setting) and Tarzan and the Tower of Diamonds, an Endless Quest novel. Pulp fare all around.

The point of my observations I suppose is to wonder more about Gord the character's place in the pantheon of Greyhawk lore. As the game setting is concerned, Gord himself is almost non-existent. For some "Gordhawk" might be incompatible with their game setting and not worth discussion. Indeed, the post-TSR novels were only loosely based on Greyhawk and the series catastrophically ended. That I can understand. But had these novels come out sooner than 85, would have Gord's adventures influenced Greyhawk setting development more? If fans had supported Gord stories more voraciously (as they would later do for a few notable Forgotten Realms characters), then perhaps (barring Gygax leaving TSR and all) Gord might be mentioned in the same company as other great fictional heroes? I know I was no help. I didn't discover Saga until the 90's or read Gygax's later novels until 2000, which was way too late by then. This is why the topic may be old hat for many in the community, but it's fairly new territory for my own Greyhawk musings. So anyhow, Gord might not have attained the popularity he deserves, but in a world full of notable wizards like Greyhawk, he is still the most popular rogue character the setting has got.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Greyhawkers! Gencon 2012

A quick message today for the Greyhawk community:

Gencon Indianapolis 2012 is swiftly approaching this August 16-19, but alas, since the demise of Living Greyhawk there is little Greyhawk related to do at the convention. This is why myself and a handful of folks from the Canonfire forums have been discussing a meet up or two during the con. If you're going to be at Gencon and you're a Greyhawk fan new or old, chime in here or on the forums to share some food, drink and stories. Who knows? Maybe I'll draw something too!

Update 05/07/2021: Never could capture a big crowd for Greyhawk at GenCon, but at least I made a lasting friendship in Anna Meyer.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Castle Greyhawk: Over the Hills and Far Away

Welcome back readers! Page ten of the Castle Greyhawk graphic novel adaptation is now available at our dedicated blog where you can read Scott Casper's additional exposition or if you're new, read the entire story from the beginning.

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

Artist's commentary: This issue I start to employ rounded dialog balloons. The squared ones were a hold over from my Greyhawk comic and just didn't look right here. I've been working on redoing the prior nine pages as well and they look fantastic so far. I've also been reading Conan comics from the 70's for inspiration in layout, backgrounds and characterization. John Bescuma was a god.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

D&D Next: Time For The Dead To Rise

So here I've been sitting, reading numerous blogs, articles and forum threads about the D&D Next open playtest (or those who claim to have been in the prior closed playtest). Up till now I've resisted posting anything speculative about Wizard's future plans, as I had done plenty of that during 4th Edition's emergence (how recent that all seems to me) and it was mostly hot air. But it's a slow week, so here comes that slow and steady drum beat again...

Could the signs point toward a World of Greyhawk content revival?

Consider first: Greyhawk never really got passed up during the last edition, technically. Sure other settings got entire production runs dedicated to them, but how well did they do in truth? How well is Living Forgotten Realms doing? But Greyhawk? Unlike Dragonlance for example, Greyhawk saw consistently frequent nods in the form of borrowing (deities, magic items, iconic dungeons, etc), online content adaptations (For those who were willing to pay for D&D Insider) and organized play homages (D&D Encounters liberally uses Greyhawk themed events). All of this of course is academic. Now onto the speculation.

Love it or hate it, ever since the release of the D&D Essentials rules for 4th Edition, Wizards has been on a clear trajectory towards reliving the past. On their website, you can see it in everything from re-released collectors books to impassioned articles about uniting D&D fans. Wizards desperately wants to appeal to all fans with this next iteration of their rules and so far in the open playtest we've seen a return to classic races, classes and even minor old school elements like ring mail and electrum pieces. Heck, they used the Caves of Chaos. They can rework the rules till the end of time, however at the end of the day people want content to go with their newly bought rules and I think Wizards is going to play it safe. Not safe like putting out Forgotten Realms again, that's a given. I mean tapping on the only setting that spans all editions and fanbases. Yes, it's time for Greyhawk to rise from the dead again.

The timing makes sense. Despite being fractured, the Greyhawk community overall has never gone away. The goal of D&D Next is bringing together all facets of players. What better place to start? Old school, hardcore Greyhawk fans might not fully buy into the "new" rules set, but there should be more than a passing interest in the setting if the original source material is handled with respect (I'm thinking a classic boxed set). Newer players who might be daunted by Greyhawk's extensive past would actually benefit from getting in on the ground floor of a new rules set that compliments a refreshed classic setting. Then there's the host of former Living Greyhawk and Dragon/Dungeon Magazine fans; many whom went over to Pathfinder, due to Paizo's knack for organized play, setting development and adventure paths. Wizards could hardly do worse than trying to lure these fans back by supporting Greyhawk with as much effort. Naturally, this means the Greyhawk setting needs stronger support than they offered game worlds during 4th Edition. A one year run with a few books and online supplements is nice but only in the short term. If it's brought back at all, Greyhawk (and for that matter FR or any other world) should remain actively in print if not updated online indefinitely.

Mind you this doesn't necessarily mean a reboot or timeline advance is the only way forward. The very least they could do is bring back the originals in some fashion. Wizards has shown they are able to reprint old material (1st edition core books coming soon) and there's also been a strong call for them to sell PDFs of their out of print material. Any or all of these things could be done easily and even if people don't use D&D Next rules, there is still nothing to lose and everything to gain. That's enough rambling from me for now. Your thoughts are appreciated.

Monday, June 4, 2012

New Fiction: A Tale of Good and Evil, Chapter 1

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Friends, Greyhawkers, D&D fans, this week I present for your entertainment, a new Greyhawk fiction series over at Canonfire by a new contributor going by the nickname of Quae. This is the first rousing chapter of what should be an epic titled, A Tale of Good and Evil. The story opens with an amazingly evocative description of a celebration at Greyhawk City's Arena. Long time fans will be pleased to read about many familiar names and organizations in this chapter. But as always danger lurks in the shadows. Quae writes:

In 584 C.Y., Greyhawk City has opened her arms to a new group of heroes who have saved the lands of Oerth from the wretched Demon Queen of Spiders. But not all within the city walls welcome our heroes with good intentions…

Give this lengthy chapter a read. I think it'll even give dungeonmasters a few ideas along the way.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sea Princes #33: All's Well That Heals Well

Hoist the sails! At long last the high seas adventures of our second Sea Princes story arc comes to a end. Previously, the combined crews of the Bird of Prey and the Crimson Fleet's Laughing Rake defeated the Keoish privateer Lydia's Light in a stirring sea battle. All that is left now is to tie up the loose ends and finish finding the Well of All Heals to cure Captain Rennaud's curse. Here is our dutiful protagonists...

Captain Victor Emmitt Hammond
Captain Araxo Tydan
Quartermaster Cuahtehmoc aka "Cuahto"
Brother Pickles
and Lt. Henri Morgan

With the battle ended, wounds mended (with Sister Aurora's aid) and accords made by Sir Aris Westford and Ironclaw McGrath, Cpt. Hammond agreed to spare the remaining Keoish sailors and drop them off at nearby in the port of Narisban where Rennaud and Osprem's Kiss still awaited their arrival to undertake the journey to the Well of All Heals. Treasure, weapons and supplies was collected and reallocated between vessels. Slain privateer captain Rynn's book collection and valuable garments, a tricorn hat and black lion embroidered cloak were taken by the Bird's crew. Sister Aurora gave her protective signet ring of Lydia to the sea cleric Brother Pickles for saving her, she then apologized to Henri Morgan for thinking him a pirate for he nobly aided in her rescue from plundering crimson fleet thugs.

Lydia's Light itself was claimed by Hammond as a spoil of battle for the Sea Princes. Old Cpt. McGrath, and what little remained of his pirate crew helped sail the mighty carrack to Narisban (since the Laughing Rake was scuttled) but rather than join, most of the scalliwags opted to stay behind at the tropical port along with Aurora and the Keoish crew (Ens. Harrowmire and Whitecliff tried to join but were denied by Morgan and Pickles so they stowed away instead). Vic renamed his new ship, the Blackguard's Revenge in honor of redeemed Sir Eduard Rennaud whom the privateers hunted for so long. Henri was promoted to his first mate. Lt. Araxo Tydan then assumed captaincy of the Bird of Prey and he promoted his female bodyguard Scar to first mate. Cuahto remained quartermaster on the Bird, enjoying his role as right hand man to Araxo, while Pickles the free spirited cleric and cook was left to stay on whichever ship he desired.

Now rejoined in Narisban with their comrades Rennaud, Cpt. Jet Cassidy and the sage Lockard Meek, epic stories were shared, supplies were arranged, repairs made and their final destination was laid out. The cryptic map that tracked the cyclical appearances of the Well was deciphered by the sages and the course was found to be a tiny island off the west coast of Hepmonaland in the chain known as Breeka's Teeth. A week and a half, east by south-east out of Narisban, the convoy of three vessels uneventfully shirted along the Densac Gulf, over the Vohoun Ocean till they passed through Xuxchan Bay whose strange currents, sand bars and nauseating waters discourage most ships from entering. The northern isles here are popular hiding places for pirates, but the southern isles are altogether wild, each supporting a unique tropical micro-environment.

The rocky, jungle isle they arrived at already had been visited long ago by the half ran-aground wreckage of an Aerdian vessel. Around it scuttled crabs of unusual size so it was left alone. Staying at a safe distance, all three ships sent launches to form a large search party, ready to go ashore in search of the Well. The party included Araxo, Vic, Pickles, Victor, Cuahto, Henri, Sir Aris, Cpt. Cassidy, Lt. Sasha Dirk, Rennaud walking slowly by cane or carried by Blonde Barry, Olfon Trebus the botanist and Lockard Meek. Lockard felt as if his life's work was validated when he found the stone marker left by the ancient Olman to show the Well had been here 800 years ago. They marched inland until they came to a glen surrounded by high peaks. There the party was confronted by a gray haired, golden skinned man named Nesfar and his consort, a ruddy woman in a feathered headress named Seara. Blocking their progress they ask Rennaud and his compatriots who they were and what they sought. The party acted nobly and responded sincerely gaining the advice and guidance of Nesfar toward their promised prize...

The entire group awoke the next morning laid out in the same glen, unharmed and with all their belongings intact save one missing map and a loss for memory of what happened the previous day. One thing was for certain however, all those present felt renewed. Cassidy's ring finger, once cut off by her jealous pirate husband had regenerated. Sasha Dirk, whose heart had been impaled by a spear was healed, and with it perhaps her dark mood as well. Victor Hammond once frail due to a childhood illness felt somewhat healthier. Araxo looking back on his voyages had certainly gained new insight on his life. The fumbling Henri Morgan, who had been shot, rended, whipped and poisoned was suddenly more robust. Island born Cuahtehmoc also found new fortitude against the hardships of life at sea with foreigners. Some say "Blonde" Barry Picaroon's bald pate began to grow hair back. Sir Aris felt rejuvenated and ready to return home and thus redeem Sir Eduard's name. Olfon and Lockard while in their twilight years, would probably see their life extended thanks to the special experience. Dimwitted Pickles seemed unchanged outwardly, but surely he now retained alot of knowledge gained during his misadventures. And Eduard Rennaud, at long last was free of his terrible curse.

Epilogue: Rennaud thanked his friends and decided to leave with Osprem's Kiss again and return with his love, Jet Cassidy to her home in the Lordship of the Isles. Sasha Dirk nodded to Victor and said she looked forward to meeting him again. Sir Aris remained with the Bird of Prey to be brought back west where he vowed to spread the word throughout the Kingdom of Keoland and clear Rennaud's name. The sages also remained on the Bird, eager to journey back to civilization to share their tales at a local Seeker lodge. Rennaud's last words to the officers before departing for the eastern seas, was to do him a favor and repaint the old Sea Princes shield that still hung in his former cabin on the Bird of Prey. Rennaud emphasized the flaking paint would need to be stripped off first. Before the Kiss' sails dipped to the horizon, Araxo quickly dashed to the cabin and scraped a piece of peeling paint off the kite shield to reveal a hint of a treasure map burned into the wood. The Blackguard was lying all these years and McGrath was indeed right. The "Owl's Nest Egg" did exist.


Game notes: For brevity and spoiler's sake I omitted the details of the Well of All Heals encounter. The Well is found in Treasures of Greyhawk and is easily adaptable to any locale. We could have went into more detail with the voyage to and the search on land for the Well but two things happened, first we had other time committments so finishing this story arc without delay was important. The other is that over the weeks I gradually realized the main goal of the quest was not about finding the Well it was about finding the man who could find the Well. It was a manhunt unlike any I've ever ran and I'm utterly pleased with how it all went. As I tell my players, when I plan a long term quest I already know how it starts and how it most likely will end. The stuff in the middle is the fun part. One last note for DMs, try to leave a hook or two at the end for the next story. Leave your players wanting more!