Sunday, September 29, 2013

Greyhawk Collector's Guide

Over at ENWorld forums there is a series of collector guides for D&D and its various settings. This may not be anything new to some since I think they've had collectors guides there for a long time, but having recently come across it this week I thought I'd share the info anyways. That said, I don't think I've seen a better, more comprehensive list for the World of Greyhawk. It has everything you could want from module dates to magazine article numbers, even Greyhawk clothing, promotional items and minifigs from antiquity! Page two then takes it to another level and lists the insane multitude of Living Greyhawk module titles.

Kudos to Echohawk for maintaining this guide and those who assisted in his efforts.

Update 05/23/2021: Had to locate new link to the collectors guides on ENWorld. Good to go. This is an invaluable resource.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dungeon in December: Battle of Emridy Meadows

I'm a bit slow on the gun with this Greyhawk tidbit, but the fellas at Canonfire! have been murmuring about a listing of D&DNext compatible adventures at Wizards, one in particular will be showing in Dungeon's December issue, titled the Battle of Emridy Meadows. This may very well be the last issue of Dungeon as well before their hiatus. This "Battle" adventure must tie into the Temple of Elemental Evil overview published in issue #425 of Dragon.

Oddly I previewed the blurbs for Dragon #425 (subscription only), but didn't later review it I think (Gencon hangover?). Anyhow, the Temple article in #425 had a good amount of Greyhawk content, nothing left out that was critical. It even incorporated canon from the later Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil module from 2nd edition. Author, Skip Williams certainly did his homework trust me; the article mentions Veluna, Furyondy, Kron Hills, etc.

Back to the Battle of Emridy Meadows. I am intrigued to see what comes of this. Will it be a historical battle reenactment? I highly doubt it, mass combat wouldn't translate easy in playtest material. Perhaps the battle will be a backdrop to a PC-led sortie behind the lines. Or maybe it's a return to the scene of the battle years later to fight some lingering effects still there, or originating from Zuggtmoy's lair. So many questions, and it should excite any Greyhawk fan.

Lastly, if you aren't familiar with the battle somehow, here, I wrote an article about it at Canonfire.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Sea Princes: Map of Hokar

Click to enlarge
Time for some show and tell from my current Greyhawk campaign, The Mines of Hokar. I've set this simple dungeon in the Sea Princes town of Hokar for three reasons. One, it's largely undetailed in canon (at least pre-Wars); second it's a crossroads between the western half of the Hold and their eastern ports making the town a great launching point. Third, it has an interesting location next to hills which is perfect for the backdrop I needed for this generic dungeon crawl I created.

What happened over time however, like in most sandbox games, the town itself began to be explored between dungeon jaunts. Now 5th level I've belatedly drawn a map of Hokar for their amusement and hopefully good use. There's a few shops and places I've keyed so far, mostly potion makers and sages (it's been a good year for them). There are three roads leading out of the town; west goes to the Duchy of Berghof seen in the modules The Gauntlet and The Sentinel. East goes to where the road forks to Port Toli or Monmurg. And the north road, well that leads to Westkeep by the swamp. The southern keep is the abode of Marquis Symeon IV whose mines and treasure vaults have been overrun by monsters. Down below he sends dungeoneers on searches for his lost collection of rare Toli Captain coins; currently only one away from completing the set. More on those coins to come. Until then enjoy the map and perhaps someone else's campaign can add to Hokar as well.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dragon #427: Nerull and Magazines Hiatus

As reported last month, the newest issue, Dragon #427 features among its lineup an article on the god of death in  Channel Divinity: Nerull. The bad news for Greyhawk fans is this capable article by Jon Green covers the 4th Edition pantheon version of Nerull rather than the classic deity of Greyhawk lore. For those who still want to download and read this article you will need a D&DI subscription.

Before I continue on with an overview of the article, the foreword to this issue, Going Dark by Chris Perkins indicates that the Dragon and Dungeon ezines will both be put on hiatus at the end of 2013 and will come back sometime after D&DNext is released. They are not taking any more pitches for future articles until then and Perkins suggests that writers bone up on the new edition rules in the meantime.

Back to the article, brace yourself for some Greyhawk deity heresy:

In this alternate version of Nerull, he is the one of the first human wizards to learn magic from the deity Corellon. He soon joins the gods in the prehistorical Dawn War against the Primordials. Things are going poorly for their side so he develops necromancy to keep mortals in the fight. The actual god of death Aurom isn't impressed though. Death is part of a natural cycle he tells Nerull. None of the other gods would side with Nerull either, but the fight against the elementals continued nonetheless. Except this time Nerull turned on Aurom during the next battle and inexplicably killed the god! Having done this, Nerull stole all of Aurom's divine power and portfolios. The other gods relented to this and the war for control of the world continued.

Nerull's ambition and power grew and soon other deities like Pelor, Moradin and Corellon, secretly began plotting behind his back despite the death god's effectiveness in the Dawn War. Eventually one of Corellon's other wizard students died in the war and her soul passed to Nerull's realm of Pluton. This soul was doctored by the gods of good to bait Nerull. Nerull took interest in this soul which was named Nera. Infatuated with Nera, Nerull gave her more power, but Nera instead learned his secrets and used them to overthrow Nerull thus becoming the goddess of death. Her name is now the Raven Queen.

This background is surely not new to any one who has followed 4e, I myself have lampooned the Raven Queen in my former Greyhawk webcomic, but it's the first time I paid this close attention to Nerull's mortal origins. In a Greyhawk cosmological context it is not out of bounds to say Nerull (or Pelor and Corellon) a greater deity, has influence on multiple planes of existence. We know Mayaheine for instance is a demigod follower of Pelor from another world. Aurom, the Raven Queen and Nerull studying under Corellon doesn't do much for Nerull in Greyhawk I admit, but if one put their mind to it the information in the article could be put to good use.

For instance the article continues with some good sections on power groups associated with the rise (or fall) of Nerull; The Legion of the Gray, the Star Reapers, and the Triumvirate (with ties to Vecna) are all quite interesting in their own right and could work in any campaign. The article finishes with powers and feats for Nerullite characters and some good background on what Nerull's sentient scythe Lifecutter is up to. That's an epic artifact you could tempt a party with! Good stuff overall if you can look past the absence of Greyhawk canon.

Update 05/23/2021: Updated link to issue #427 now at DMsGuild.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Castle Greyhawk: Mad Dash

Welcome back Castle Greyhawk fans! I'm ahead this week and since it's my birthday today I'm going to let everyone know they should read page seven in the second chapter of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Follow the link above to read some plot driving script by the daring Scott Casper. Alternatively you can view the first page HERE, courtesy of Maldin's Greyhawk.

Artist's Commentary: This page took me a while to get going but once I had some sketches going it turned out great. The first couple action panels are among my favorites since doing the Castle Greyhawk story. The parry and punch has such a cinematic feel to me. The longer I draw a character the more effortless it is for me  and they become more expressive. What more can I say? Well, next episode: Gronan vs. Robilar is going to be epic.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Castle Greyhawk: At Last!

Welcome Greyhawkers! A week has passed so it's time to remind everyone to read page six in the second chapter of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Follow the link above to read some integral story exposition by author Scott Casper. Alternatively you can view the first page HERE, courtesy of Maldin's Greyhawk.

Artist's Commentary: Huzzah! The return of Tenser. Oh how I miss drawing his helm. Hah, right! At any rate this episode marks the debut of a new character to the story. Those who pass their Gygax ancient history checks will know who this Terik fellow is that Tenser has allied with, until then you'll have to see what the trio has planned next issue. Stay tuned.

Friday, September 6, 2013

D&D Next and Setting Speculation

A week ago over at ENWorld, head honcho Morrus posted this thread in the forums concerning an article at AICN which talked to D&D head honcho Mike Mearls about various things including setting support. Ready, readers? Speculation away!

The main quote from the forums:

"A rumor has been going around that WotC is approaching the various creators of their most iconic game worlds to bring them back in some capacity as the worlds are re-created or re-imagined for the next edition of D&D. Ed Greenwood’s firmly on board, as he’s writing a monthly column on Forgotten Realms. In a Q&A on the #RPGnet IRC chatroom, Margaret Weis has stated she would be willing to work with Wizards of the Coast again (Kender are a subrace of Halfling that only exist in the Dragonlance world), while Keith Baker (creator of Eberron) has stated that he has been in talks with WotC but “they haven't decided what form setting support is going to take yet”. "

So far only three mentioned in the rumor. Three with definite authors still associated with them. We know FR is in, and the latest D&DNext playtest includes Kender and Warforged. Easy enough. Reading on through the thread some comments are worth discussing.

Delericho says: "Sorry, I can't see it happening. WotC know the folly of trying to support too many settings; that's how they came to own D&D in the first place. They also know that their success with any non-FR setting in 4e was... limited.

Unless they're now willing to go down the route of licensing out settings again, I really can't see any non-FR setting getting any support outside of the e-magazines."

I agree with his assessment commercially, though concerning Greyhawk, it DID enjoy years of success through the Living Campaigns and in the pages of both magazines as he states. The assumption most would agree on I'm guessing is that based on Paizo's success a lot of those fans moved on with the writers and old rules-set and are now entrenched in Golarian. Re-releasing something like Greyhawk won't take away from FR's fanbase, it would be to lure people back from Paizo.

frankthedm helps eliminate Darksun with this quote he found:

Timothy Brown today announced that he intends to create a whole new role-playing game world titled Dragon Kings, the ‘spiritual successor’ to his popular design Dark Sun. This new world will be envisioned not only in fiction and art, but in music, as well.

“Dark Sun was innovative because we created the game world and its art simultaneously,” says Brown. “We imagined concepts and asked Brom to draw them, and Brom painted those concepts that we later described in game terms. I’m so pleased that he is collaborating with us on my new Dragon Kings universe. His first cover painting is already finished!”

 The comments go on, largely supporting Greyhawk. It is also mentioned a couple times in the thread that Mike Mearls is a big fan of Greyhawk. Color me surprised if this is true. Much of the Greyhawk love on the e-magazines has been coming from Chris Perkins. Either way they have to be saving Greyhawk and these other settings for a special occasion. Now seems like the perfect time.

Abstruse does some lengthy speculation:

"And that's the important thing: Paying respect. A LOT of players who jumped ship during 4e era did so because they felt the game had moved too far from what they felt D&D was, and that WotC wasn't paying respect to the material. Do they need to go to Ed Greenwood or Keith Baker? No. They own the IP, straight up. They can do whatever they want with it. Same for Dragonlance, Ravenloft, Dark Sun, and every other campaign setting outside the stuff like Star Wars or Wheel of Time that they licensed back in the 3rd Ed era.

What they're doing by bringing back the original creators to work on these settings - even if it's just in a consultation role - is getting validation for the new system. "You didn't like what we did in 4e? I'm sorry, we learned our lesson. Ed Greenwood himself is writing the new novel to fix it. We're also doing this huge open playtest to make sure we get the core system much closer to D&D's original roots. And we're starting to sell all our old back catalog you used to have to spend a lot of time searching for then paying outrageous collectible prices to get. We cool now?"

My gut feeling is that we're going to see Forgotten Realms be the "Default" setting. They'll then release "Themed books", where each book is tied to a genre or campaign style rather than a specific world. Rather than getting a Ravenloft setting book, you get a Horror-themed book with all the rules, class builds, monsters, etc. you'd need to run a horror-themed campaign. Then you'd get a pirate one for sea-based adventures, an urban one, a magitek one, a desert one, a political one, etc. This gives you all the rules you need without branding the rules to a specific setting, avoiding the pitfall of branding issues.

Then they'll release campaign books that are rules-free (similar to the Elminster's Forgotten Realms and Menzoberranzan books from last year) with guides for what additional rulebooks you'd need for each setting. So rather than cramming a bunch of rules in the Ravenloft book, it instead just talks about each of the different demiplanes. This opens up page count to more narrative-based setting books, which allows cross-platform sales so people who play
Pathfinder or an OSR system can still purchase the campaign setting and use it in their system of choice. Want the specific D&D Next stats for Strahd? Check out Dragon Magazine  #whatever (and expect those to switch from a subscription-only model to also allow purchase through the online store of individual issues).

I've got absolutely no solid evidence this is what they're going to do other than my gut feeling and extrapolating from the various interviews and Q&As going on. I don't even think WotC knows how they're going to do it yet since they're still focused on the rules right now. Branding and release schedules will probably get nailed down toward the end of the year or beginning of next year."

I still have high hopes of a Greyhawk resurgence, if only Wizards would put a fraction of the effort into Greyhawk that they put into serializing and promoting FR. Remember, even with so many other D&D outlets now, Greyhawk fans haven't gone away, we're just waiting patiently for Wizards to take our money.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Few Cool Items

Summer is winding down at last, but panning for nuggets of Greyhawk news is still yielding results. This week I have a few items of various interest to the community.

Over at our gaming podcast, Gamerstable we discuss creating characters and NPCs as a group. The episode is sponsored by Chamber Band a music group that has released a new D&D themed album called Deities. There are songs such as Yeenoghu and Lawful Neutral that should pique your interest. Be sure to check out their work!

My good friend and all around creative guy, Argon from Canonfire! is already trying to get me geared up for next GenCon with this Canonfire shirt and Canonfire Chronicles tote bag. I certainly have my work cut out for me!
Lastly, is a tidbit I noticed in the upcoming article notes for Wizard's next issue of Dragon:
Channel Divinity: Nerull
by Jon Green
"Compared to most dead gods, Nerull still has a surprisingly large following, though those followers are still rarely encountered. Worship of the dead god typically involves leading a double life, as public adulation of Nerull would likely lead to death or exile."
I can't wait to see where Mr. Green goes with this article. Nerull hasn't been mentioned in a D&D publication in some time I wager. The closer to D&DNext we come, the more Greyhawk starts to leak back into the public eye. Hang on for more on Nerull.