Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Castle Greyhawk: Illusion Confusion

Welcome back to Castle Greyhawk! I'm a bit behind on promoting the current story so I hope you've kept up without me. If not, here is page sixteen in the second chapter of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Follow the link above to get essential story text by ace author Scott Casper. Alternatively you can view the page HERE, courtesy of Maldin's Greyhawk.

Artist's Commentary: This page was fun to put together. Good angles and a lot of little background detail in the bandits. Though by now I am seeing this wooden fort in my dreams it may well be worth it as this battle escalates with the use of magic.
For me, illusions can be tricky to utilize in game. You want to fool all the players without resorting to mechanics, but sooner or later one well made character will disbelieve then clue everyone else in. I guess that's why mixing up real and fake attacks could be such a nasty combo. I'll have to remember this trick.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Mordenkainen and the Obsidian Citadel

Greetings Greyhawkers. Today I was digging through my old DM notebooks for something to show off and I found a nice one. I don't know if anyone else has ever dealt with this obscure location of the Flanaess. The pic to the side is a side view and rough floor-plan for Mordenkainen's Obsidian Citadel.

Here is what we know about the Citadel according to the City of Greyhawk boxed set:

"Mordenkainen lives in the Obsidian Citadel, a symmetrical complex of towers and walled defenses in the Yatil Mountains. Very few know its precise location; only Tenser and Bigby of the Circle of Eight know exactly where it is. It is protected by sheer and harsh mountains, fierce winds and swirling clouds, and also by illusions and disorientating magical effects which cause the searcher for the citadel to become confused and lost. Magical defenses also prevent access by such spells as plane shift or teleport to "unauthorized" persons, and the Ethereal plane to confuse those who would seek to enter by this route. Those whom Mordenkainen wishes to approach and enter are given magical amulets by the archmage which effectively act as find the path spells (one use per amulet only) so far as locating the citadel goes.

Mordenkainen has many servants in, and around, his Obsidian Citadel. He can summon and ride a very old silver dragon of largest size, and is known to be on very good terms with a strong clan of stone giants who assisted in the building of the citadel. The citadel's defenders are marshaled and organized by two 12th level fighters of LN alignment, the lords Eraj and Felnorith, both of whom ride trained griffons. Dwarves, gnomes, and humans all serve as troops within the citadel, and are usually of elite quality and strongly loyal to the archmage."

From what I gather most of this information was gleaned from Gygax's novels Artifact of Evil and Come Endless Darkness in which Mordenkainen and his forces from the citadel clash with the armies of evil. I also assume the Citadel of Eight (precursor to the Circle) may have been named for this place or vice versa? Anyhow, what I was using the citadel for is hard to remember without re-reading half my notes, but at any rate here is what I wrote for my keyed locations (with commentary).

1. Approach Gate: human archers x5 and 2 teams of gnome grenade "slingshoters." Don't remember what those grenades do, but fun anyhow.
2. Man-at-Arms barracks and workshop.
3. Dwarven and human crossbow and ballista operators.
4. Aerie of Eraj and Griffon. Somehow I left out Felnorith?
5. Mordenkainen's Tower: (selective translocation shift to the Cold Marshes) Nasty move I guess I added to the boxed set's magic wards.
6. Cavern of Glimmer (I assume this was the silver dragon)

Then I had these additional game notes, all my own creation, which might shed some light on what was going on in this campaign.

All denizens of the Obs. Citadel were fooled to allow KJ (Kieran Jalucian) who was a normal friend of M (Mordenkainen). M had left instructions with Eraj and others to guard the OC from enemies until this possible return - or succession.
Gate mirror to Mordenkainen's Private Isle. Pocket demiplane where he tests magic and where he passed time. 1 day = 53 GH days!

Now having looked at this again, I need to find out what Jalucian was doing there and what this Private Isle was all about. I smell a future post!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Excerpt: Battle of Fortnight's Length

Hello Greyhawk armchair historians. I can't seem to ever get the bug to finish writing any of my "Battles of Greyhawk" articles. Just to dust off the old project and give it some air, I thought I'd share an excerpt of what I've written so far on the Battle of a Fortnight's Length:


Most historians of the Flanaess consider the Battle of a Fortnight’s Length the most important engagement since the wars that brought on the Great Migrations. The largest and most powerful tribe of migrating Oerids, the Aerdi, was driven by divine inspiration and did not settle until they found the ocean from which the sun was born each day. From this foundation, the Grand Princes of the Aerdi stretched their principalities north and south then even turning back westward, absorbing the ancient Flannae realm of Ahlissa.

Another rival Oeridian tribe, the Nehron had followed the Aerdi progression across the Flanaess and came to create a kingdom around the eastern shores of the Nyr Dyv adjacent to the Suloise nation of Urnst. The Nehron gradually expanded further east to the Flinty Hills and southward into the fertile Harp River valley (present day Almor) where the Flannae tribe of Lathu had existed for years untold, fiercely turning aside Suel and Oerid alike. That is, until they ultimately relented to the incursions of the Nehron and their indomitable cavalry squadrons.

Not far away, the Noniz of the Flinty Hills had comfortably coexisted with their Olven and Flannae neighbors for centuries. With the ascendance of the Nehron and Aerdi kingdoms however, a division between the western Noniz and their eastern cousins became evident. The eastern Noniz remained distrustful and intensely secluded, refusing to trade or negotiate with either expansionist kingdom. As their cousins withdrew into isolation, the western Noniz were quick to avoid trouble like the Lathu and accepted an alliance with the Kingdom of Nehron, if only for protection against the Aerdi whose vast realm was now no longer buffered by Flannae lands around the nearby Adri Forest and Harp River.
It is speculated that Grand Prince Almor II of House Cranden, only six years into his ascendancy, was concerned about his legacy since his predecessor Dorran had barely ruled for two years. This coupled with intense political pressure from the other great houses, compelled Almor II to test his mettle against Nehron despite the fact that Aerdian armies had been held in check for decades since the reign of Almor I. Therefore, in attempt to catch the Nehron off guard, Almor II first sent several trade emissaries to delay their king while at the same time, calling upon all his vassals to muster near Rel Deven in the principality of Thalland*. As the host assembled, the Prince sent for additional forces from the frontiers of the still nascent Northern Province and more surprisingly, even withdrawing loyal Aerdian armies away from an ongoing war in the south with the Suel nation of Zelrad. By the time the Aerdians were on the march, the king of Nehron was meeting with the final envoy, this time carrying a declaration of war.
That's all for now. I'm halfway through this epic account and I also plan on making accompanying maps of troop movements (using Anna's Meyer's Greyhawk maps as a base). So many Greyhawk projects, so little time.

Update 05/27/2021: This project is STILL unfinished. Don't hold your breath folks, but it's still my number one idea left to do.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Castle Greyhawk Invaders Now Defenders

Welcome back Greyhawkers! It's 2014 so let's get back to the comic action. We're up to page fifteen in the second chapter of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Follow the link above to get special story insight by epic author Scott Casper. Alternatively you can view the page HERE, courtesy of Maldin's Greyhawk.

Artist's Commentary: This was quite a fun page to construct. I've now drawn this wooden fort from every conceivable vantage point I think. (just kidding Scott) Tenser gets a bad ass close up doing his daring dweomers in this one and we get to see phantom archers take the battlement against Drake's rabble bandits. The more I see Tenser work the more I'm reminded that his personal spell repertoire in Greyhawk Adventures is very martial in theme:
Tenser's Steady Aim (Lv1), Tenser's Brawl (Lv2), Tenser's Deadly Strike (Lv3), Tenser's Flaming Blade (Lv4), Tenser's Giant Strength (Lv4), Tenser's Master of Arms (Lv4), Tenser's Running Warrior (Lv4), Tenser's Staff of Smiting (Lv4), Tenser's Primal Fury (Lv5), Tenser's Fortunes of War (Lv6)

Gee, I wonder if his experience in fighting bandits has anything to do with his spell writing?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fading Lands

In my current "Sea Princes Campaign" story arc the PCs are searching the Suss Forest for the elusive ruins of the Lost City of the Suloise. Among the strange dangers and mysteries they've encountered in their aimless wanderings has been a Fading Land, namely the faerie Court of Rings. Fading Lands were introduced to Greyhawk during 2nd Edition by Carl Sargent and this is one of the few times I've ever intentionally utilized one, though indirectly as a means of separating the party for a time. To better understand them, I went back and researched Fading Lands; they are defined in From the Ashes:

"There are several places in the Flanaess where Fading Lands overlap with the Prime Material Plane. Fading Lands are demiplanes, places where magical realities hold sway, created by powers, demipowers, or wizards of extraordinary power and skill. Almost all such places have several things in common."

"First the method of entering a Fading Land is unpredictable. Spells such as plane shift are rarely successful; instead, the curious must find a portal allowing access. This can be a very specific thing - an archway or magical circle - or it can be very diffuse, such as a particular forest path and pattern or rhythm of travel thereon...."

"Second, the Fading Lands grow more difficult to access as time passes. Those who created them are no longer as active on the Prime Material as they once were, or else the magical energies that make passage to these strange places possible are slowly waning."

"Third, Fading Lands have their own internal logic of magical function and/or physical causality, which is not that of everyday life - even with the logic of everyday magic added...."

Of course most long time players will note these criteria pretty much sum up every demiplane in Greyhawk lore. From the Isle of the Ape, to the Land Beyond the Magic Mirror, they all have connections to the Flanaess and have their own physics and rules. So are they all indeed Fading Lands or is there something else that sets them apart?

The faerie Court of Rings described in From the Ashes is said to be accessed from the Welkwood, but I've extended this to the Suss Forest as well to set up a struggle between dark and light played out on Oerth and this Fading Land at the same time. So far the PCs have seen signs of the hidden fey war in a watchful unicorn, dark treants, invisible guiding pixies and the skeletons of fallen monsters and heroes. A couple have even wandered into the Fading Land by accident only to appear back in the twisted Suss days later. Whether this subplot becomes a greater goal than finding the Lost City is still left to be seen, but my aim is to make the trip to this sylvan setting unforgettable.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Dungeon #221 Two New Greyhawk Adventures!

Well folks, the end is here for Dungeon (and Dragon) Magazines in the 4th Edition digital era. When they return and in what form is anybody's guess. Dungeon #221 went out on a high note though, and the World of Greyhawk got some mighty good love in this issue! As always, you'll need a D&DI subscription to see this issue. Until then here is what you're missing out on:

Lowdown in Highport by Thomas M. Reid is set in the lawless Pomarj during the heyday of the Slavelords. This AD&D adventure for levels 3-5 is a follow up to the prequel module A0: Danger at Darkshelf Quarry that you can only find in the recent Against the Slave Lords reprint. Regardless, Lowdown in Highport still works as a stand-alone mission. In this adventure, a cleric of Trithereon named Mikaro Valasteen hires the PCs:

"Ever more desperate to find a new means of escape from Highport, Mikaro has started work on a plan that is both daring and dangerous. He intends to use a series of old sewers coupled with natural caverns running beneath the town as an escape route to the sea beyond the walls. But he needs someone to clear out the creatures and pitfalls he knows lie within."

This adventure has good old school encounters, dungeon crawling maps and even random charts. As always the events and backstory fit well into the greater Greyhawk/Slave Lords story arc. Greyhawk collectors, you won't be disappointed by this charming little mod.

Lastly is a very ambitious adventure that I've been quite eager to see. The Battle of Emridy Meadows is by Christopher Perkins and Jon Leitheusser. The adventure for 5-7 level is made using D&DNext rules, so you'll need playtest material or the published Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle to aid in running this properly. As the title says, it's set during the defining battle of the Greyhawk setting:

“The Battle of Emridy Meadows” is a collection of missions, all of which take place in and around Emridy Meadows (also referred to as the Meadows) before and during the eponymous battle. The Meadows are located south of the Velverdyva River, along the edge of the Gnarley Forest where it meets the Kron Hills, not far from the villages of Hommlet and Nulb. Although the battle takes its name from the Meadows, it is a moving conflict that spills out into other nearby areas. The missions included here take place at different times and in different places over several days, with little time between."

The PCs aren't directly involved in the battle itself, but instead play an important part in aiding the outcome:

"Rather than fight on the front lines alongside the humans, dwarves, gnomes, and (eventually) elves of the Righteous Host, the characters undertake three critical missions to help Prince Thrommel and his forces gain the advantage. How the characters acquit themselves during these missions directly affects the outcome when the two armies meet."

The module also includes well written historical details on the area and info on a few important NPCs from Greyhawk lore such as Prince Thrommel, Viscount Wilfrick and Serten that figure greatly in this story. There is also a map for the village of Nulb and a few other set locations for the missions abroad. Played out, The Battle of Emridy Meadows could possibly have a different result than what is written in Flanaess history. This masterfully crafted module is the perfect gateway for a new era of D&D that I hope will someday prominently showcase more Greyhawk. Download it if you can!

Update 05/27/2021: Changed link from Wizards to DMsGuild. Download this issue, it's a good one!




Monday, January 6, 2014

Fireseek: Winter Things of Greyhawk

As I sit inside during what future scholars will call the Great Midwest Polar Vortex, I lament the loss of good gaming time and I curse the gods of winter. Then I started thinking back on a few things cold or winter related in Greyhawk:

Wintershiven: Capital of the Theocracy of the Pale. I've always wondered the word origin for this place. Is it known to be a cold place generally or is to emphasize the Pale's cool reception for outsiders?

Winter Wolves: Worgs and dire wolves are fun but winter wolves beat them all. Plus their fur brings in a pretty penny as a coat or blanket; 5000 gp according to Dragon #137.

Vatun: Despite his imprisonment and his unfortunate impersonation by Iuz, Vatun's Blades of Corusk had some of the greatest backstories and the best multi-part quest ever constructed for that half of the setting. If only TSR and Carl Sargent had followed through on the legend and actually brought back Vatun and his barbarian empire in the North (instead of adding redundant Mayaheine one could argue). That would be a great point for a rebooted Greyhawk.

Telchur: Who could forget leave out this icy bastard? Two winter gods was too many so he got rid of Vatun. Whats most interesting is that he allegedly had help from the arch-devil Belial (a strange alliance). Evidently he is also in league with the Wolf Lord and the Slaad lords. Yeah, nice deity there.

Thrym: The frost giant deity Thrym is a puzzler. In the original Deities & Demigods fire giants worship Surtur, so why not Ymir for the frost? Thrym was a king of the joten yes, but not a god per se. Sure Ymir was more of a primordial god in norse creation but that never stopped Marvel comics from using him.

Land of Black Ice: Everyone knows this place. So much going on there. Here's one thing I bet no one else ever tried. I once had a 2nd Edition campaign where the black ice melted (some curse removed I think) and the land forms beneath was exposed, leading to a rush for explorers. The black ice had covered the remains of an ancient empire (Flan I'm sure) whose secrets would've come to light had 3e not come along. Hm, I'm not sure if I still have that map laying around or not...

Icy Sea: I'll end on this thought. If the Land of Black Ice glacier is truly black then the Icy Sea should have lots of black icebergs yeah?

Friday, January 3, 2014

More Greyhawk Trading Cards

A while back in November, I mused on some of the old TSR trading cards that were put out back during 2nd Edition. Well it's a slow winter night so I thought I'd break out a few more of these quirky licensed Greyhawk products to thrust back on the community conscience. Enjoy!

Brogan Steele is a character that needs to be in one of my campaigns. Among one of the reasons being the fact he has a personality that I know if role-played right would drive my players crazy since their characters also tend to be vain. But check him out, this warrior carries a silver mace (probably polished to a sheen) and a magic shield (that I'm sure has a mirror on the inside).


Here's a Greyhawkian monster that made a brief appearance in my current Suss Forest campaign. For the benefit of my players this is a picture of the (modestly dressed) Needleman whom I can only assume is the genius combination of plant and zombie.
Lastly there is this delightful NPC named Otter. The background is perfect for a druid (makes you wonder if this isn't more common) and Otter could have an otter animal companion for twice the ottermania. Silly as this looks, I could definitely see one of my friends play Otter. I already game with one that plays a kitsune in Pathfinder and another has a hengeyokai monkey in my Greyhawk campaign.
Fun stuff. More next time!