Monday, December 30, 2013

Castle Greyhawk: Signs and Messages

Welcome back Greyhawkers! It's theend of 2013 and we made it to page fourteen in the second chapter of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Follow the link above to get additional story script by fantastical author Scott Casper. Alternatively you can view the page HERE, courtesy of Maldin's Greyhawk.

Artist's Commentary: This episode had some nice artistic elements to it. The bottom four panels are fun because the view is unchanged and you get Robilar and Terik jostling around. Side thought, I wonder which one of them is oldest?

The upper panels I'm quite satisfied with as well. There is a lot of natural cloth draping going on in Tenser's robes (which I've had plenty of practice on by now) and Robilar's cloak. There is also a couple really good profile drawings there, which if you've ever tried to do, is not an easy feat at all.

Last tidbit detail if anyone cares. Every time I draw the squiggly runes on Tenser's sleeves and bracer I am reminded of my old Greyhawk comic where I did the same generic glyphs on Boccob's robes. And every panel they changed. With the god of magic I always imagined that the runes were literally morphing from panel to panel. The same isn't true for Tenser necessarily, but it's just a time saver to make up new runes on his clothes each page.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Campaign: Search for the Lost City of the Suel

Click to zoom
Time to update some developments in one of my spin-off Sea Princes Campaigns. After having exploited the Mines of Hokar, the players consulted with everyone they could (including the Seekers) on a new location to find adventure. In the end, party member Ivy Nightfall chose a place she heard vaguely about from her elven childhood; the Lost City of the Suel in the Suss Forest. A sage was hired, ships chartered and supplies were gathered and they sailed forth from Monmurg to Gryrax, capital of the Principality of Ulek. Leaving their sage behind in the town of Thrunch, they hiked north to Ivy's secluded homeland of Celene with the plan to search by water, beginning from the Handmaiden River and then following the current south down the Jewel River.

Much to my player's surprise (not really), my set up for this new adventure is an old school hex crawl much in the same fashion as my dungeon crawl in the Mines of Hokar. I created a map of the Suss-Pomarj-Wild Coast region for the players to view and track their search through the tangled wilds. I'm using my favorite hex within hex paper. The large hexes is a standard Greyhawk 30 miles across while the smaller hexes are 5 miles each. As the Suss is thick and hazardous to move through on land, each 5 mile hex constitutes 1/3 day's travel/searching while travel by water is more rapid for example.

To facilitate the speed of this crawl I created several charts, mostly of wandering but some for specific keyed locations with a random chance of being found within the forest confines. For example, I have your obligatory day and night wandering monster encounters. These charts also take into account the Suss being more dangerous on the east bank than the west. I also have a small chart that tells the content of each searched hex:

1. Empty (chance to get lost)
2. Empty (no effect)
3. Strange Flora
4. Natural Hazard
5. Found Trail (random direction)
6. Keyed Location

The Strange Flora Chart is a fun list of herbs, flowers and such that I've culled from many game sources over the years. Those with enough knowledge of nature can find these rare bits of plant life, each with a game application from healing properties to poisonous effects. Natural Hazards is a short list of obstacles to overcome like quicksand, brambles or disease carrying insects. Trails can lead to wandering monsters but also can potentially lead players astray. Needless to say, a ranger or druid is invaluable for their skills here.

The Keyed Locations are special points of interest that, taken as a whole, paint a picture of the ancient story the characters are trying to discover in the heart of this forest. To demonstrate, the players so far have found a cavern of latent evil (think Dagobah here), named elven arms/armor lost within the thickest bramble patches and most recently a stone marker that can potentially be a clue to the location of the Lost City itself.

The Lost City campaign is a true grind, yet the Suss is not an overly large region, so searching it shouldn't be too daunting time-wise. Scale this system up to a truly vast area like the Burneal Forest, Amedio Jungle or the Corusk Mountains and you could have a long term campaign indeed!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Needfest!

Ah yes, it's the time of the year when I look back on Needfest comics. One of these years I really should write something new like a Needfest Carol, or the Nightmare Before Needfest, or perhaps an action comic like, Die Vecna Die Hard! Well until the right inspiration hits me I'll have to replay the Greyhawk classics like they do on TV every year.

My favorite of course is a Needfest Story. The true untold story of those secret times.

Another labor of Needfest love is How the Gruumsh Stole Needfest. Read this and you'll never look at orcs and elves the same way.

Lastly, I recommend my first Needfest Musical Extravaganza. Parodying music lyrics is quite a challenge, but with Lydia's help I got through it three years in a row!

Enjoy and Merry Needfest, Greyhawkers!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Gygax Magazine #3

Well most have heard about the official release of D&DNext by now so I won't cover that. Speculation is also beginning to swirl about the fate of Dragon and Dungeon Magazines, currently finishing it's run on 4e content. All the while there is an actual print magazine out there that's picking up momentum albeit in a quarterly fashion.

Gygax Magazine #3 recently made it to my mailbox and it continues to strike a chord with my nostalgic heart. Much like in the "old days" I don't necessarily need or want to use any of the content, but the magazine as a whole makes it worth reading cover to cover. Heck even the ads interest me again. I never got that page turning excitement with 3e-era Dragon and online content was even easier to cherry pick. Mind you those magazines sometimes had Greyhawk content as well, so that's saying a lot. Yes, if you want a periodical with a mixed bag of articles from different genres, this is your magazine folks. Here is a selection of my favorite articles from issue #3:

First off, the cover is by the illustrious Clyde Caldwell whose works can be found in countless RPG products and of course classic Dragon mags. For this cover illustration he brings us a pulpy sci-fi scene with flying ships and laser guns. What's not to love?

The Airlancer by Jayson Elliot is a new fighter-type class for AD&D. Like the name implies, this is a class that is tailored for riding flying mounts, specifically hippogriffs and griffons. Like you'd expect from AD&D there is many charts to go along with the class including Level titles and a handy guide on how quickly airlancers can overcome the effects of intoxication. Great stuff.

Artifacts to Impart Ancient Lore by Michael Curtis is another clever article. This piece introduces a series of magical "repositories" which contain vital knowledge that once activated, can be useful to an adventurer. Mr. Curtis manages to adapt all these items to rules for 1st, 2nd, 3.5/Pathfinder and Basic D&D rules. Impressive.

They All Died at the International Space Station is a new Metamorphosis Alpha adventure by the renowned James M. Ward. Set in the year 2031 this is a prequel of sorts for the futuristic spacefaring RPG. The introduction covers some interesting history about the ISS that leads up to the player's mission onto this orbiting station. This module has everything you'd want in a sci-fi thriller.

The Marmoreal Tomb of Garn Pat-Uul is an amazingly classic dungeon crawl by Ernest Gary Gygax Jr. and Benoist Poire. It is a 1st edition compatible module for levels 1-3. The players are there to search the remains of a dwarven mining expedition that met an untimely end once they uncovered the tomb of an ancient giant lord. This adventure has a gorgeous full-color fold out map and the interior art is by one of my favorite illustrators of all time, Jim Holloway. Excellent work!

That's all for now. Check it out. I can't wait to see what Gygax Magazine has in store for next season.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Kroten Campaign

New, over at Dragonsfoot, is a marvelous set of downloads by classic AD&D author Len Lakofka. Set in the World of Greyhawk, the Kroten Campaign is another part of Len's famous Lendore Isles series of publications.

These books consist of:

L5A: The Kroten Campaign Guide
This is the Kroten Campaign Guide for the L5 module, providing information on the town of Kroten and the surrounding area.

L5B: The Kroten Adventures
This is the Kroten Adventures manual for the L5 module, providing five adventures in an around the town of Kroten on the Lendore Isles.

L5C: The Kroten Campaign Companion
This is the Kroten Campaign Companion for the L5 module, providing new rules, weapons, armour, gods, clerical abilities, magic items, spells and monsters.

L5 Map Pack
This is the Kroten Map Pack for the L5 module, containing the maps required for use with the L5 series of books.

Already familiar with the Lendore Isles, or looking for a localized campaign to start? Well, DMs, have a look at the Kroten Campaign, Len and the fine folks at Dragonsfoot know how to make good old school publications.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Hex Crawls and Barrel Rides

Welcome back! Today in honor of the second movie release of my favorite story, the Hobbit (Desolation of Smaug) I have an interesting discussion that ties into my current Greyhawk campaign, a hex crawl in Suss Forest. If there is any spoilers I apologize, but come on, it's the Hobbit!

But first, speaking of hex crawls, there is an awesome article over at Wizards by James Wyatt on that subject. He goes into great detail on comparing hex scales to maps both fantasy and real world. It's rather interesting, take a look.

Added to this topic, over at Greyhawk Grognard, there is a wonderful post on finding viable hex crawl adventure locations in the Flanaess just like the sort I'm currently running in the Suss. This post is a must read.

Continuing on, I won't talk about hex crawls or what is happening in my game yet. That is for a later date. No, today I was musing over the obvious similarities of the region I've set this hex crawl in to the story and setting of the Hobbit. Gygax famously tried to deny the strong influence of Tolkien in Greyhawk, but when you compare things they just fall in place. Such as:

Suss Forest and Mirkwood
A dark, evil wood that is dangerous to pass through, inhabited by monsters (like Spiders), difficult to pass but on the fringes it is still worked by civilized races. For instance, you got humans in the Wild Coast (later humanoid ruled), and orcs/goblins in the Pomarj, then you have the obligatory elves in Celene (a very Rivendell-ish area). Mirkwood of course is outrageously bigger, more akin to the Vesve Forest, but I'm going for feel here.

Barrel Ride Anyone?
Here's the fun part, what the Suss has that Vesve doesn't is the Jewel River. Much like in the Hobbit, you can literally run into wood elves in the bordering Welkwood, (or Celene for that matter) escape in barrels and float down the river through the Suss to the Principality of Ulek where humans and dwarves work together in harmony much like the middle-earth lands of Dale and the Lonely Mountain.

Where's the Hobbits?
Not surprisingly, on the other side of the Misty, er Lortmil Mountains you got the County of Ulek home to many a halfling, or not much further away to the north beyond Greyhawk City (human buffer) you can find an adventurous burglar in the town of Elmshire.

King Under the Mountain
Really the only thing this setting is lacking is a cool dragon like Smaug. I mean one sitting on the treasure of an entire dwarven kingdom. Perhaps in the mountainous Pomarj to the east, which is rich in gems and was once home to dwarves? Yes, that could work nicely.

I could probably go on, but you get the idea. The similarities between the Flanaess and Tolkien's world should be obvious to experienced gamers or readers, but don't dismiss it, no this is an advantage in my opinion. When you take these iconic locations and relationships, then couple  them with the visuals of a lavish movie, it only aids in players' immersion in the setting. That should be what all DMs strive for when they run a fantasy game.

Update 05/27/2021: Had to remove dead link to the Wizards article. Sorry folks.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Castle Greyhawk: Searching For Secrets

Welcome back Greyhawkians! We're rolling on to page thirteen in the second chapter of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Follow the link above to get essential between page dialogue from sagely author Scott Casper. Alternatively you can view the page HERE, courtesy of Maldin's Greyhawk.

Artist's Commentary: This page gave me some trouble I must admit. I don't often do this but I started drawing the page in reverse panel order and it tripped me up somehow. Most likely due to perspectives and character composition. Once I got past this the whole thing came to together nicely.
Tenser and Terik are a fun duo by the way. I do miss Ehlissa, but there is something about Terik I like and we barely know much about him up to this point. Robilar of course has been on a mission since the beginning of chapter two. I can't wait to see what his next move is going to be.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Incabulos Strikes!

It's been a rough week. The Black Rider is trying to keep me down, but new posts will be arriving soon. Just for my own recollection I have a new Castle Greyhawk comic page to comment on, I have campaign news from the Suss Forest and maybe a review of the newest Gygax Magazine I got in the mail.

Cold Iron Avail You!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Behemoth Greyhawk Map

Anna Meyer's grand Flanaess map quest is still in its final stages. Her monster wall map is a huge download but may well be worth it to lovers of Greyhawk and fantasy cartography in general. Check that out and more on Anna's own regularly updated blog.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

O Blinding Light

Time for a random Greyhawk topic. One of the quirky things about the Greyhawk setting is the seemingly useless esoteric details Gygax inserted here and there. One of the better known bits is that the religion of Pholtus (God of Law, Sun, Moon, etc.) has an official "anthem" titled O Blinding Light. Now never mind that this may be the only song in all of Greyhawk canon; it's more impressive that this obscure title by Gygax inspired someone in the fan community long ago, to come up with the lyrics to this anthem. If anyone remembers who wrote this let me know so I can properly credit them, cause this takes dedication (which Pholtus demands). Next time you play a cleric of Pholtus, show off to your DM and break out this hymn. Check it out.

Oh Pholtus,
O’ Blinding Light,
Bright is your Wisdom.
Aid us it will to conquer the Heretics.
O Blinding Light,
Give us the Light of the Day, as we praise you at Dawn.
Give us the Light of the Night, as we praise you at Dusk.
O Blinding Light.
I praise the Word of Pholtus,
O Blinding Light.
Defending His honor.
O Blinding Light.
I reveal your Light to the Converts.
O Blinding Light.
Protect us, your faithful servants.
O Blinding Light of Pholtus.
Light, The Divine Substance From The Creator.