Thursday, August 28, 2014

Castle Greyhawk: Daybreak

Welcome back Greyhawkers! At long last I'm happy to promote page thirty-two the final installment in the second chapter of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Follow the links above to get bonus script from imagineer Scott Casper. Alternatively you can view the pages HERE, courtesy of Maldin's Greyhawk.

Artist's Commentary: This chapter certain has been a fun ride. The action was ramped up and ongoing from early-on and the way it ended it just how I'd want it to if this was played out in my home campaigns.
As always, Scott has a clear vision of how his story should be portrayed and I do my best to make those visuals come true. I've said it before, so much of my favorite art in Castle Greyhawk has been rendering the fabulous landscapes these characters travel through. From dungeons to bandit forts or ruined walls, I have never done so much detail on backgrounds in my life. That alone has been worth the time spent the last two years. I can't wait to see how Chapter Three develops. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

5th Edition D&D: Greyhawk Deities

The role of Greyhawk's gods in the new Player's Handbook for 5th Edition have probably been covered elsewhere in the blogosphere by now, perhaps even since the free PDF was put out. However, this is my first real study into the references made about our favorite setting's deities. I'm not trying to catalogue every barest mention either, it's just a perusal to see how well the D&D team did their Greyhawk lore. So here we go:

Appendix B: Gods of the Multiverse gives a nice short explanation on how the Greyhawk pantheon works, with its ethnicities and overlapping portfolios.

There is a list of 25 Greyhawk gods near the back of the book, along with separate lists of Forgotten Realms (37 if you're keeping score), Eberron, Dragonlance and Nonhuman deities. For comparison, there were 14 Greyhawk-specific deities when the setting was default in 3rd Edition's core rules. The later splat books added at least 24 more Greyhawk gods, some of which are already in this new book, so 5th Edition is clearly already off to a grand start.

This is the lineup:

Beory, goddess of nature, symbol green disk. Easy enough!
Boccob, god of magic. Eye within a pentagram. Mentioned among a list of other Knowledge Domain gods like Thoth. Yes, you need him.
Celestian, god of stars and wanderers. Symbol is an arc of seven stars inside a circle (This obscure symbol is right). Nice surprise there, was last mentioned in Complete Divine.
Ehlonna, goddess of the woodlands. Unicorn horn. A good holdover from 3E.
Erythnul, god of envy and slaughter. Blood drop symbol (Naturally). He gets props in the War Domain section for clerics.
Fharlanghn, god of horizons and travel. Circle crossed by horizon line. True. Nice to see he stayed on.
Heironeous, god of chivalry and valor. Lightning bolt symbol. No brainer here, from the War Domain listing as well.
Hextor, god of war and discord. Six arrows downward in a fan. Can't have a War Domain without Heironeous' brother.
Kord, god of athletics and sport. Four spears and four maces radiating from a center point. I guess I never paid much attention to the lines, but they can be weapons evidently.
Incabulos, god of plague and famine. Reptilian eye with a horizontal diamond. Good to see this underused god of death moving up in the lists to see.
Istus, goddess of fate and destiny. Her spindle symbol is on target. She too is brought up to the main list again, as should be.
Iuz, god of pain and oppression. He of the grinning human skull symbol was in Complete Divine like so many non-core deities, but when making a short list of Greyhawk gods he has to be on it.
Nerull, god of death. Skull and scythe symbols are easy enough to imagine when it comes to a death god, and it's proper that Nerull is on this list.
Obad-hai, god of nature. He of the oak leaf and acorn carries on the Nature domain tradition in the cleric section.
Olidammara, god of revelry (not rogues?) The man of the laughing mask symbol made the Trickery Domain along with my favorite, Loki. That implies rogue I guess!
Pelor, god of the sun and healing has his typical sun symbol and gets a nod in a grouping of Life Domain deities but gives the light domain spotlight up for...
Pholtus, god of light and law is instead mentioned among Light Domain deities like Apollo.
Ralishaz, god of ill luck and insanity, with his three bone casting sticks, sneaks onto the core lists for the first time!
Rao, god of peace and reason is another good knowledge god. His white heart symbol is correct, though some show a heart shaped face. Rao like others previously only made it into Complete Divine.
St. Cuthbert, god of common sense and zeal. He is listed as LN this edition which keeps changing between editions from LG to LN. A move I can only guess is to round out the alignments on the list.
Tharizdun, god of eternal darkness has both his familiar dark spiral and inverted ziggurat symbol. He is given the Trickery domain which is odd, but there isn't an extensive list of domains yet.
Trithereon, god of liberty and retribution is back in the big leagues. His Triskelion symbol is correct.
Ulaa, goddess of hills and mountains makes for a good choice for this list as she is LG and a female deity (one of five). She had never been in a 3E core book previously.
Vecna, god of evil secrets of course has to be here. His Hand and Eye symbol is unmistakable. He is one of seven knowledge gods in this list. Greyhawk has a lot of lore.
Wee Jas, goddess of magic and death finishes off the list. One of four death domain gods on the list, it's good she is also the Knowledge domain or players might not be able to make a character of her with current rules excluding Death Domain until the Dungeon Master's Guide comes out.

All in all it was a respectful showing of Greyhawk's pantheon and the information concerning them. I look forward to seeing what other gods can be brought into focus in the coming years.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Castle Greyhawk: Mutual Respect

Welcome back Greyhawk maniacs! Because of Gen Con and reporting on the con, I'm (of course) a week behind on promoting the thirty first page in the second chapter of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Follow the links above to get expansive exposition from wordsmith Scott Casper. Alternatively you can view the pages HERE, courtesy of Maldin's Greyhawk.

Artist's Commentary: Chapter two is starting to wind down and after a lengthy all night struggle, Gronan and Robilar are too bushed to keep fighting. It's been a wild ride since the first page where we meet Robilar and his trusty bow and later pages with Gronan leaping and breaking things. I can now draw both characters from memory! (Drake as well, great character)
There's one more page after this then we'll have to see what Scott has in store next for Castle Greyhawk!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mike Mearls Interview at ENWorld

Hey Greyhawk fans, GenCon is nearly a week old already. Time flies, but the news and recaps keep rolling in from that wonderful convention. One that I nearly missed is an interview of Wizards head-honcho Mike Mearls by Christopher Hackler over at ENWorld. Check it out because Christopher asks some good questions about the future of D&D I haven't seen elsewhere and Mearls' opinions carry a lot of weight obviously. Here is some pertinent parts:

"...Are the plans for either Dragon or Dungeon Magazines?"
"Right now, we don’t have anything to announce. Part of the reason we moved the magazines to an online format was the dramatic drop in the subscription base over the last few years. Bringing a digital magazine out on a regular basis is no small undertaking, either. So, we’re taking our time to make sure we have a good plan that puts material out there that people want and that makes sense from a business stand point."

There's probably no sane reason for them to continue with the full magazine format anymore. The D&DI format of online magazines even seemed to stall during the 4e era so they went to breaking up the monthly slate into separately released articles (with non-essential content made free to read). Gygax Magazine showed (albeit quarterly) that people still care about classic printed game magazines, but their production and delays to get out is a headache that I can't see Wizards wanting in the digital age. Now a yearly collected "best of Dragon/Dungeon" would be smart and might even make a nice printed product, perhaps a GenCon exclusive if they wanted.

"...are there any plans for which setting might be updated and revisited next? If not, and it was your decision alone, which setting would be the next to be supported and why?"
"We don’t have any specific plans we can talk about now. When we look at setting support, we’re looking at more than just products. The various D&D settings have acquired robust, active communities over the years. It doesn’t make sense to simply bring a setting back into print unless you can also find a way to support that community and making it a vibrant, living thing.

Personally, I’d love to see a big, Greyhawk hardcover sourcebook. The fifth edition rules system would work very well with Greyhawk. You wouldn’t need a lot of new class options, but the background system would be very handy for drawing out the differences between different regions. It would also be cool to get an in-depth treatment of the Free City of Greyhawk and the surrounding region. The original City of Greyhawk boxed set powered many of my campaigns in high school."

Mearls is messing with my heart here, but this shows he is definitely in our camp so the chance definitely exists for a new Greyhawk launch. The key part of his answer is about supporting the community and making it vibrant. To bring Greyhawk back would require a Living Greyhawk type revival (Greyhawk Reborn anyone?) or a spin-off of their current version the Adventurer's League. Yeah it's not enough to put out a couple splatbooks and call it a day anymore. Wizards wants to drive a whole theme of stuff around it now (Tyranny of Dragons). The World of Greyhawk setting can more than provide this kind of an extravaganza.

"...Are there any plans to perhaps update some of the classic earlier adventures to the fifth edition? If the decision was entirely yours what classic adventure would you like to see updated first?"
"We definitely knew that people like having the option to update their favorite adventures. We’ll have some guidelines on converting material from prior editions in the fall. In terms of updates we publish, it’s a bit too early to talk about that. We know that classic adventures are a big part of what has made D&D great, and we want to embrace that going forward.
My personal preference would be a deluxe update of the Saltmarsh series. It’s a fun trilogy that includes a nice variety of challenges and a nifty final dungeon against a band of sahuagin. It might not be an adventure that sits at the top of most gamers’ lists, but I’ve always had a fondness for it."

More Greyhawk on Mearls' mind. I think converting previously published Greyhawk material to fifth will be a hot item this time around compared to fourth. Stay tuned this Fall!

Again, check out the full interview HERE.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mortellan's GenCon Recap

Welcome Greyhawk fans. Here is a few bits and pieces of my convention experience this year in Indianapolis:

This was the year for Wizards to shine with their new edition of the Player's Handbook and crowds of people vying to play in the new organized play (as I saw many lucky VIPs got advance copies of the Monster Manual) and the adventure theme, Tyranny of Dragons was everywhere (my friends kept calling it tranny of dragons). I did not take part in any of this madness, but it was the big deal of the show.

I did manage to achieve a goal however by going to the Wizards Bazaar where I got the cool Tomb of Horrors mini set from GaleForceNine. I am stoked at having minis of the old lich Acererak but the Iggwilv's Treasure set was also tempting. I only recently got around to assembling my Lolth mini from last GenCon so I felt I had to stick with one purchase. There was also a Scourge of Suderham (Slave Lords) set, but nothing really new Greyhawk-themed. I'm sure once the Forgotten Realms/5e thing settles down, GF9 will try some more classic minis.

For me and the Gamerstable podcast group, GenCon is especially about eating and drinking. There was so many different food trucks outside the convention center all day, and so many restaurants to eat within walking distance. I can't accurately give you reviews of all the places, but needless to say I used to confine myself to the RAM Brewery and it's a mistake folks. There is a lot of great places to go for nightlife in downtown Indy. Next year, I intend to find out where all the gaming industry people go after hours.

As you read previously Anna Meyer's Flanaess Atlas did not win an ENnie for cartography but at our annual Greyhawk meet-up, I met Anna and she assured us that the exposure of being nominated was more an award than anything and she will be getting plenty of future professional mapping gigs from here on. Anna was amazing to talk to as we shared memories of our first experiences with Greyhawk and our inspirations of getting into making maps and articles for the setting. A lot of fans missed out on this rare chance to talk about Greyhawk. I cannot wait until next year to do it again.

As I was officially representing Canonfire! at the con I got in the exhibition hall an hour early to meet with some important folk including Erik Mona and a name many in the community might not know is a huge Greyhawk fan, Jon Leitheusser. Jon works with other companies right now, but last year he had a freelance adventure published The Battle of Emridy Meadows. We talked a lot about the future of Greyhawk and agreed that things should go back to the basics of the boxed set (576 CY). Jon has major connections to Wizard's Chris Perkins (another big Greyhawk fan who I cannot track down at GenCon) and game company Green Ronin so who knows what may come out in the near future?

Here's a realization that was brought up at the Greyhawk meet-up, why is no one running a Greyhawk event at GenCon? I'm not saying a seminar/panel, just a straight up 4-hour module set in Greyhawk in whatever edition or game system the DM is happy with? There's zillions of games ran at GenCon, but where's the old schoolers? You all know a Greyhawk game for six would sell out in a minute. I'd do it, but come on, don't I do enough? ;)

That's it for now. Hindsight being 20-20 I'm starting to remember authors and booths that I didn't visit enough so I'm going to have to start keeping better notes and managing my time in the future. If anyone has some good GenCon news to share feel free to comment!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Anna Meyer at ENnies Friday Night

Well folks, tonight at the 2014 Gen Con EN World RG Awards, Anna Meyer's World of Greyhawk maps unfortunately did not win in the Best Cartography category.

Anna's true labor of love, an entirely free atlas lost out to perennial favorite Pathfinder and Monte Cook's Numenara. Despite this, the nomination was a truly justified recognition for her years of tireless work on this popular fan project. The increased attention from the ENnie awards will surely give Anna a boost as she continues on as a professional fantasy cartographer. I have no doubt she will be back in the ENnie race again someday.

The groundswell of support for Anna in the Greyhawk community was fantastic and couldn't have come at a better time. Her nomination stands as a signal to Wizards of the Coast and the rest of the D&D playing world that Greyhawk has not gone away and people still want to see quality material produced with the setting. Congrats to Anna and good luck on her future endeavors!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Gen Con is Upon Us!

Well it's Tuesday so that means me and the Gamerstable gang are soon leaving for GenCon 2014! Normally I don't try to plan a lot of activities but it seems I will be busy after all. Here is some of the things I will be up to this year in no particular order:

Gamerstable Appreciation Awards: You can never have enough gamer awards right? Our own podcast's awards were given out last year at St. Elmo's Steakhouse (I highly recommend it) to novelist Larry Correia and game designer Steven Long. This year we're dining and lauding the talents of artist John Kovalic (Dork Tower, Munchkin) and game designer Shane Hensley (Deadlands, Savage Worlds). Should be fun meeting these long time industry pros.

Flanaess Geographic Society/Canonfire Get-together. A must for Greyhawk fans. I already posted about this one. Here is your second notice just in case.

RAM Brewery: Speaking of get-togethers, Wednesday evening, the Gamerstable crew and friends always congregate at the RAM (patio if possible). If you want to stop by for a drink, meet us, and discuss gaming, we'll be more than happy to oblige!

Chamber Band Concert. Thursday night at 11 pm, friends of the podcast and all around gamer friendly Chamber Band will be at Gen Con this year. I expect to check this out. Never been to a live concert at the con before.

Exhibit Hall: There's always a lot to see and buy here. I go multiple times if possible because there's too much to take in at one trip. I always hit Artist's Row, Paizo, Green Ronin, Fantasy Flight Games, WotC (5e of course) and many other indie game companies. I can't wait!

The State of Superheroes at Green Ronin: This seminar/panel on Friday 10am, will discuss the company's future with my second favorite game, Mutants & Masterminds. I can't wait!

Paizo 2014 and Beyond: I always stop in at one of Paizo's seminars (Sat 3pm), I'm a big fan of their work and especially their writing staff even though I don't run with Golarion. Last year they previewed the concept for this year's Iron Gods Adventure Path release. So if you're into Pathfinder, stop in and have an advance peek at their future developments.

I'm sure I'll be gaming in there somewhere as well. So much to do, so little time!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Castle Greyhawk: Change of Direction

Welcome back Greyhawk Loyalists! As usual, I'm a week behind in promoting the all important milestone, page thirty in the second chapter of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Follow the links above to get scintillating exposition from epic composer Scott Casper. Alternatively you can view the pages HERE, courtesy of Maldin's Greyhawk.

Artist's Commentary: Ah yes, Gronan makes himself useful! Information on Castle Greyhawk isn't easy to come by evidently, but who better to know than the bandits who prey on wayward adventurers?
This page contained some of my favorite close-ups and angle changes in the chapter. The guys have been at it all night, so the sun is starting to rise. When's the last time that happened in a D&D session? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Greyhawk GenCon Meet Up

Hola Greyhawkers! This post is to spread the word to anyone reading who is attending Gencon Indy next week. If you are interested in meeting, there will be a gathering of Greyhawk fans at the High Velocity bar at the JW Marriott hotel on Saturday 16th, 6pm and after. This originally started as a small informal group of Canonfire members, but we're hoping to expand this to Anna Meyer's Flanaess Geographic Society as well in light of her ENnie nomination. So if you want to talk Hawk or just gaming in general with great fans like Anna or myself, just stop by on Saturday!

One last thing, if you're going to be at Gencon all four days and have any questions I'll be happy to answer them or perhaps if you'd like to share your experiences/photos with the Greyhawk community here on Greyhawkery, just drop me a line:

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Lake of Unknown Depths

A few weeks ago in our weekly Greyhawk chats there was a bit of discussion about the Azure Sea and the Flanaess' largest freshwater lake, Nyr Dyv "The Lake of Unknown Depths." This is some follow up research for those interested in esoteric Greyhawk information. As you should already know, Nyr Dyv is centrally located on the map, so obviously much of the game setting revolves around this important lake. Nyr Dyv is a busy waterway connecting many rivers and nations, and it is also known for monsters that lurk in the deeps waiting to prey on ships. But how deep is the Lake of Unknown Depths?

Gygax wisely provided us with some data in the Darlene hex maps. The oceans and seas are provided with seven color bands (light blue to purple) showing distances in from 0-30,000+ feet. The Azure Sea for comparison covers all seven gradations of depth, each color band in this region is about 1-2 hexes (30-60 miles) across. This means to get to the deepest part of the Azure Sea, one must sail nearly 720 miles off shore. Further comparison shows the Dramidj Ocean to the northwest similarly covers a seven band depth over 720 miles from the mainland.

Now putting this measuring system to Nyr Dyv we see it covers only five color bands; from light blue (0-600') and ending at purple (30,000+ feet) and only a staggering 40-50 miles from shore. This means the Lake of Unknown Depths drops off fast. A barge leaving the Selintan River into the Midbay on Nyr Dyv is comfortably sailing in up to 600' deep waters a mere 10 miles out. Heading out toward Admundfort Isle, the barge would soon enter waters 600-12,000' deep only 20 miles from shore (skipping a color band entirely). This is already dangerous waters where sea creatures might hide. Sunlight underwater is gone at about 330 feet deep so you won't find too many sentient races this far out unless they have darkvision.

As the barge then begins to sail into waters 30 miles out, the Nyr Dyv nosedives to 18,000 to 24,000' deep. How dizzying far did the lake fall off? The majority of Earth's abyssal plain is on average 13,000 to 18,000' deep that's how far. Out in these waters I'd expect to only be harassed by truly massive creatures like dragon turtles or giant sea snakes, if that. The rest of the journey from 30-60 more miles out to the middle of Nyr Dyv descends two more color bands 24,000-30,000' and beyond. The Mariana's Trench on Earth is 36,000' deep at it's lowest point and it's about 1400 miles from the mainland!

So Nyr Dyv lives up to it's mythical unknown depths, but comparing it to an oceanic trench is unfair. Earth's oldest and deepest fresh water lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia. Amazingly, Baikal is a mere 5387' at it's deepest. That is only two color bands by Greyhawk standards so Nyr Dyv is six Baikals deep! The Lake of Unknown Depths is a fantasy world body of water however, so how does it compare to the Flanaess' two other major lakes? Lake Quag is 600-6000' (3300' average) and Whysestil Lake is 6000-12,000' (9000' average). This makes both lakes quite impressive by real world standards without the presence of Nyr Dyv which is truly in it's own category.

A couple more questions to ponder. One, how do sages explain such an impossibly deep lake? Well scientific minds will most likely say plate tectonics, but so much of Oerth's geography has magical implications I don't see how Nyr Dyv can be entirely natural. Consider that the highly magical Isles of Woe in prehistory sunk beneath the Nyr Dyv, so that's no small disaster there. Lastly, is Nyr Dyv the largest body of fresh water on Oerth? Maybe. Despite more recent canonical maps of the globe, the Guide to the World of Greyhawk teases that "legends and tales report a veritable (fresh water) sea far to the west, if such stories can be believed." Could this lake have been wiped out by the Rain of Colorless Fire and existed within the Suloise Empire? That's for a topic for another day.