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.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ring of Five Questions: Eric Menge

Huzzah! Oh yes Greyhawk fans, the time has finally come to bring out some new installments of my favorite column, the Ring of Five Questions! Last time I had finished off the trifecta of Living Greyhawk Onnwal authors with an interview of Stuart Kerrigan. That leads us right to our next vict- er, guest. This person is a familiar name in the former Living Greyhawk Campaign scene as both administrator and author. Among his works for the campaign was the creative one-sheet news tie-in, the Greyhawk Grumbler (co-written by Sam Weiss) and the core adventure finale Foundations. Today, he still finds time to freelance as a designer for game publishers including Wizards of the Coast, but in addition he is also the author of an amazing "colonial fantasy" webcomic called Snow by Night. Please welcome into the Ring, Eric Menge!

Q1. You should be familiar with the Darlene map. What would you say is your favorite area of the World of Greyhawk?

Eric: The Darlene map is incredible. It has that personal hand-drawn touch that makes it very special. I particularly like the calligraphy. Take a look at words "Solnor Ocean." Look at the scripting on the words. It's absolutely beautiful.

Out of all the areas, I have to say that I like the Domain of Greyhawk. This region has everything you needed for a diverse campaign. There are the plains along the Selintan River, the Cairn Hills, the Gnarley Woods, the Bright Desert, and the Mistmarsh. The only thing you didn't have was mountains, but the Lortmil Mountains weren't too far away. This region of the map was obviously designed by Gygax using his own recommendations from the 1e and 2e DMG. Every environmental type has a place and is available for use by players and DMs.

Q2. Greyhawk has tons of deities, but if you could become one of them which one would you choose?

Eric: There are a lot of good ones to choose from. I'm tempted by Zagyg, because then I could be completely whimsical bonkers and people would expect it. But I think I'll go with Obad-Hai. The Shalm is a wild and untamed god who is steeped in mysticism. He's an ancient god who has ancient concerns. Also, there is the perk of the love-hate relationship with Ehlonna. Oh, you know they have torrid affairs. He is the god of the hunt, after all.

Q3. You were heavily involved in bringing the Living Greyhawk Campaign to a close. Looking back, what was your favorite experience from those years?

Eric: Bringing LG to a close was a bitter-sweet affair. I loved that campaign. Creighton Broadhurst, Sam Weiss, and I were hitting on all cylinders toward the end. The core adventures were coming together to form a coherent story. We also started tying all those adventures together with the Greyhawk Grumbler, which I had a blast writing. I never wanted those times to end. My favorite experience would have to be working with some many incredibly talented Greyhawk writers -- Creighton, Sam, Shawn Merwin, Paul Looby, Pieter Sleijpen... the list of people involved was phenomenal. They made Living Greyhawk into something unique and special.

Q4. Today you continue to work with Wizards, for example on Forgotten Realms' Menzoberranzan sourcebook. With D&D Next in the near future do you see yourself or anyone else inside Wizards interested in reviving Greyhawk someday?

Eric: Yes, and yes.  As long as D&D exists, Greyhawk is never going away. For many of us, it is the original campaign world of D&D. Greyhawk is a perfect fit for the game because they were both designed at the same time, by the same person, with the same voice, tone, and feel. Greyhawk constantly seeps into the core rules of the game, whether it be through the names of the spells, the gods, or the magic items. Appendix N fiction influenced the World of Greyhawk as much as it did the rules of the game. Since D&D Next is seeking to gain inspiration from all the editions of D&D, the designers are looking back at the original rules, adventures, and setting. It would be entirely appropriate to take a fresh look at Greyhawk as part of this re-imagining of the game. Greyhawk is too rich a resource not to harvest.

Q5. You're a fiction writer as well. Imagine you've been hired to write an official Greyhawk novel. What story would you pitch?

Eric: Valent is a Knight's Protector of the Great Kingdom, and a pledged defender of the common weal of Aerdy. Betrayed by fallen members, outlawed by corrupt kings, the Knights Protector survived centuries of adversity and continued their noble deeds. Now, the very kingdom they served has crumbled into ruin. Without a throne to serve, Valent is adrift and the future of his order is uncertain. Will he find a new purpose or will the knights fade into history?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Castle Greyhawk: Arrival!

Finally back up to speed, it's time for page eighteen of the Castle Greyhawk graphic novel adaptation. If you're just finding this for the first time be sure to go back to the beginning and read 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: Wow that was a doozy of a panel to draw. I have to admit I enjoy drawing nature slightly more than architecture mainly because things like trees and clouds don't have to be perfect. This castle was worth the trouble to illustrate though and might be among the best drawings I've ever done. Humorously, as I was sketching this castle, I was often reminded of Castle Greyskull for some reason. That's not the inspiration though. For those not informed the layout of this castle is possibly closer to what Gygax imagined for his Castle Greyhawk rather than the ruined turrets of Greyhawk Ruins in later editions. Now to find out what lurks behind those walls!

Update 05/07/2021: Had to remove a broken link to the defunct blog that talked about the castle. Sorry folks!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Article: The Iggwilv-Graz'zt Affair

It's been such a while since Wizards last put out a pseudo-Greyhawk article for their online Dragon Magazine, that I almost missed this one in issue #414. The Iggwilv-Graz'zt Affair by freelancer John Rossomangno is another article in the History Check series. John writes:

"Here we look at the entwined histories of Iggwilv, the Mother of Witches and author of the infamous Demonomicon, and her sometimes rival, sometimes lover, the demon prince Graz’zt."

As usual my friends, you'll need a D&DI subscription to download and read this article but I'll cover a few interesting points here since Iggwilv is one of my favorite villains.
“Iggwilv is known as the Mother of Witches and is the one whose hand penned the
Demonomicon. Her title, I dare say, is somewhat undeserved, for Iggwilv was the adopted daughter of Baba Yaga, the true Mother of All Witches. Now there is a name with which you are certainly familiar. But Iggwilv’s dark tutelage only began within the halls of the crone’s infamous hut. After a period of youthful rebellion, looting sealed vaults of arcane treasure meant to be kept from ill-intentioned mortals, Iggwilv turned her eyes to deeper, darker mysteries."

No matter how often I read this reference to her upbringing in Baba Yaga's Hut, the more I like it. Even though the author only rehashes much of Iggwilv's established, well publicized history in a narrative form, I do like some new subtleties added, such as Iggwilv raiding the Hut's vaults for arcane stuff even Baba Yaga didn't want to share! No wonder Iggwilv got thrown out of the house.

The narrator of the story goes on to detail her years with Zagig at Castle Greyhawk and in Perrenland at the foot of the Yatil Mountains. Along with the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth and her son Iuz the work fortunately manages to make use of every essential Greyhawk reference for this topic. Graz'zt of course comes into Iggwilv's life. The article then insinuates the beginning of their romantic relationship:

"...the Dark Prince’s physical form was available to Iggwilv, and his handsome visage fell under her gaze daily. As she pried information from him to expand upon the
Tome of Zyx and thus develop the first entries of the Demonomicon, Iggwilv discovered that she could tolerate the presence of no one but Graz’zt. He alone was worthy of her attention."

Iggwilv is later dragged to the Abyss as Graz'zt's prisoner, and the Affair begins to focus on more of their relationship, further revealing that they have more children than previously known...

"Yet from these wretched acts a new understanding was born, along with other monstrous offspring. Iggwilv would often be seen in public with child, but such states were inhumanly brief, and Graz’zt took great pains to keep the identities and whereabouts of his offspring hidden from enemies."

“Graz’zt jealously set out to destroy any fiend that had trafficked with Iggwilv in the past. As demented as it sounds, he viciously attacked Fraz-Urb’luu solely because the demon prince of deception had also been Iggwilv’s prisoner and plaything at one time"

The article goes on more about the tumultuous affair of these villains and at the end also provides some adventure hooks to go with the historical material. My favorite hook should be of interest to any DM or player looking to tie their characters to this famous pair:

"The offspring of Graz’zt and Iggwilv are often unaware of their true heritage. A player character or nonplayer character who suspects that he or she might be the child of Graz’zt, Iggwilv, or both might seek answers that the Dark Prince or the Mother of Witches would prefer remain hidden. The party becomes embroiled in a plot to abduct the “wayward child.” The plot might be orchestrated by one of the parents . . . or one of their many enemies."

One last thing, I'd also like to give kudos to one of my favorite artists, Eva Widermann for the scandalous cover art of this article (shown above). Is that the Tunnel of Loathe?

Update 05/07/2021: I changed the link to issue #414 from Wizards to DMsGuild.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Castle Greyhawk: Keep Your Distance

Damn I must be slipping. It's been a while since Scott posted page seventeen of the Castle Greyhawk graphic novel adaptation, so I hope this late post will give the readership a bump. If you're just joining us, you can read additional material or the entire story from the beginning at the dedicated blog for Castle Greyhawk.
You can also view the latest episode HERE courtesy of Maldin's Greyhawk. Enjoy!

Artist's Commentary: I really dig the landscapes and architecture Scott has chosen to have these characters inhabit or visit. I don't think I've ever drawn a wooden hill fort before, but there it is! Next page should be a doozy. Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

New Article: The Paternity of Heironeous and Hextor

Welcome Greyhakers. I've been slacking a bit this week but I'd be remiss if I forgot to point out the wonderful new article over at Canonfire by frequent contributor Smillan entitled, The Paternity of Heironeous and Hextor. This adapted tale brings a quite interesting light to the little known backstory of these two warring half-brothers and their mother Stern Alia. Smillan throws in some good obscure immortals into his work such as Bleredd and Velnius and even a notable one named Baba Yaga. It all makes for a delightful read and one that makes these godlings seem even more legendary as a result.