Monday, September 29, 2014

Castle Greyhawk: Split the Party

Thank you for returning faithful Greyhawkers! I'm again happy to promote the brand new third chapter of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Check out page two to read additional material by formidable author Scott Casper. Alternatively you can view the page HERE, courtesy of Maldin's Greyhawk. On our main site you can also check the archives and follow the entire story from the very start.

Artist's Commentary: The story continues to unfold in the famous dungeon. This time we find the infamous group of Murlynd (the fancy dressed guy), Mordenkainen (the sinister looking one) and Yrag (our burly armored fighter), are in fact part of a larger group consisting of Robilar, Terik and Tenser (from chapter two) plus the cleric Serten. Serten to me is an obscure fellow that I hope you'll grow to like in this new chapter.
There's going to be a lot of plate armor and magic in this one. So tune in next installment!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Graz'zt Conversion For 5th Edition

It's a good sign that the 5th Edition of D&D is a success, when it's still less than two months out of the gate and fans are converting material like mad. The latest item to catch my eye is a conversion of the Dark Prince, Graz'zt by ENWorld member, Sacrosanct (in addition to a Barghest and Cave Fisher). As my gaming friends know, I love everything Graz'zt related so this bad ass CR30 monster stat-block is a feast for a DM's eyes. I personal think it's too soon to bring out the big guns, but in the wild frenzy to make unofficial D&D conversions it's you snooze or you lose! Enjoy!

Speaking of Graz'zt, I wonder what the demon prince himself thinks of Sacrosanct's work? Check it out...

Edit (9/30): This post and the cartoon got a HUGE boost of recognition on ENWorld last week. As of this edit there was some 78,000 views of the Graz'zt Show. Perhaps the Dark Prince should get his show renewed eh? Thanks Morrus.

Update 06/05/2021: Unfortunately Sacrosanct's work is missing, so the link was removed. My comic is still linked to ENWorld. My biggest crosslink ever!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Zombies of Greyhawk

Time for an offbeat Greyhawk topic. I recently finished reading the collected works of the Walking Dead graphic novel and I must say it's amazingly good. Then it got me thinking how zombies in D&D aren't as scary as in pop culture. Sure D&D zombies don't die instantly when hit on a called shot to the head but there is no viral zombie outbreaks in the World of Greyhawk (yet) or any other setting for that matter (not sure about Ravenloft). That's because nobody wants to see their 10th level fighter get bit on a lucky "20" and then have to cut his limb off to save his life. Zombies also come in many flavors in movies and TV, but in D&D they tend to be slow, generic 2 HD bodies animated by necromancers and they don't eat brains. On the bright (dark) side, there is in fact different types of zombies in D&D plus some cool zombie lore for Greyhawk if you know where to look. Here's a short list of some good zombie material (and I'd like to hear about others I overlooked).

Sea Zombies: My favorite, the Drowned Ones debuted in Greyhawk Adventures hardback and are direct creations of Nerull god of death. As such they cannot be turned. They are fast in water, can use weapons and have a horrible stench. Some even retain spell-casting ability. Yikes.

Delglath: First seen in Ivid the Undying by Carl Sargent, this insane cleric of Nerull rules the city of Rinloru in the fractured remains of the Great Kingdom. In a region where undead are in abundance (animus and death knights galore), Delglath stands out by intentionally trying to turn all his subjects into zombies. So far he has over 3000 in his city alone!

Ju-Ju Zombies: These intelligent zombies were created by soul draining magic. Not only are they smart, ju-ju zombies' leathery gray skin makes them so tough that only magic weapons can harm them.

Dahlvier's County: Speaking of ju-ju zombies, in the Horned Lands from Iuz the Evil lurks Count Dahlvier a lich who remains neutral in the war between Iuz and the forces of Good. His castle, reputedly built on the ruins of an ancient elven city, is defended by an army of 1500 ju-ju zombies led by ghasts. Better bring a lot of magic arrows.

Ravenous: These hungry zombies are found in Hepmonaland from The Scarlet Brotherhood sourcebook. Ravenous were created by the evil god Meyanok from the cursed population of a city. They may be the closest thing to modern zombies that I've found in D&D with their insatiable hunger and a touch that drains Constitution points eventually killing a person and causing them to rise as a new ravenous zombie. Beware!

Lastly is a creation of my own (though I never made stats), called the Dry Ones. These zombies, a variation of sea and ju-ju zombies, are found in the lawless frontier land of Ull near the forlorn desert tower of Abi-Dalzim. Dry Ones are created by animating a humanoid after they are slain by the spell Abi-Dalzim's Horrid Wilting. The resulting creature is resilient as a ju-ju zombie and lethal as a drowned one, yet not as smart. These zombies don't hunger for brains, instead they thirst for water and are able to desiccate living beings by contact. Don't be caught out alone in the fringes of the Dry Steppes!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Electrum in 5th Edition

Welcome back electrum! I'm sure a lot of you older gamers who have the new edition of D&D have noticed that electrum coins are in the Player's Handbook again. For those who are newer to the game I'll explain why this is interesting.

In the first edition of AD&D, the coinage breakdown was like this:

1 gp = 20 sp = 200 cp = 2 ep = 1/5 pp

This was slightly unwieldy so in second edition they moved to a system more like Basic D&D's:

1 gp = 10 sp = 100 cp = 2 ep = 1/5 pp

Electrum still existed in the rules, but soon the decimalization of D&D's coins continued with third and fourth edition:

1 gp = 10 sp = 100 cp = 1/10 pp

Despite not being in the rule books for over a decade, electrum was still present in certain settings, like Greyhawk (like in the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer) at it's standard exchange rate. Now in the 5th edition PHB we find this:

1 gp = 10 sp = 100 cp = 2 ep = 1/10 pp

Electrum is back in the pages of D&D for no real functional reason, but it is yet another reminder that the game has gone back to its roots. This direction is great news for old-school Greyhawk fans, so dungeon-master's, break out those electrum coins!

Electrum Names in Greyhawk
anvil: Principality of Ulek
axeman: Shield Lands
bright: County and Duchy of Urnst
bright ship: Sea Princes
bright skull: Iuz
dolphin: Lordship of the Isles
eagles: Bissel, Geoff, Gran March, Keoland, Sterich
fez: Tusmit
galley: Dyvers, Ekbir
great lunar: Highfolk
halfgold: Rel Astra, Yeomanry
haf-kronar: Frost, Ice and Snow Barbarians
hafmark: Perrenland
knight: Furyondy, Verbobonc
lucky: Greyhawk
marcher: Tenh
marid: Zeif
mirrorpool: County of Ulek
noble: Ahlissa, Bone March, North Kingdom, Sea Barons, Sunndi
scepter: Ratik
shinepiece: Nyrond
shootingstar: Duchy of Ulek
silver sun: The Pale
staff: Veluna
starcloak: Celene
wader: Onnwal
wagon: Ket

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Castle Greyhawk: Back to the Dungeon

Thank you for tuning in Greyhawkers! I'm proud to promote the brand new third chapter of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. You can start here with page one where there is bonus exposition by stalwart author Scott Casper. On our main site you can also check the archives and follow the entire story from the start. Alternatively you can view the page HERE, courtesy of Maldin's Greyhawk.

Artist's Commentary: Always exciting to start a new direction in the story. Scott has started us off underground which means more stony interiors and less wooden palisades. I can handle that. I've improved my shadow play significantly since the beginning of the series. I wish I could've had a more consistent hand at the art from the start, but that's how comics go.
So here we have Mordenkainen for the first time. I'm especially enjoying him. Most who are familiar with Greyhawk know Mordy was bald and sinister in the 3rd edition era (for some reason) but before that he was rather handsome and well groomed archmage in the Wizards Three articles in Dragon. And before that in the pages of Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure you had both the older mage on the cover and the younger one (presented here). I'm hoping for a mix of all eras.
Yrag is back, that hardy dependable armored warrior. After drawing Robilar and Terik for a year I'm actually happy to see him again (no chainmail). Murlynd is the surprise of the series, and here in this early grouping he is dressed quite ostentatiously, like a 17th century musketeer. I can't wait to see what he brings to the adventure.
Is that all for this chapter's cast? Just you wait and see!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Greyhawk Comic Rewind

It's a gloomy, slow Saturday morning so I'm digging into my archives to show off a bit of Greyhawk nostalgia. This is a comic I did back in 2009 about my most "cherished" Greyhawk book. Prepare to gasp in horror. Enjoy.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Why the Gem of the Flanaess?

A long while back there was a discussion in our weekly Greyhawk chats about the Azure Sea and that sparked an esoteric question in my head which I thought better explored in length here: Why the Gem of the Flanaess?

For those not intimately familiar with the setting, the Gem of the Flanaess is the nickname of the Free City of Greyhawk, the literal central focus and namesake of the World of Greyhawk. The City of Greyhawk Boxed Set addresses this exact question in the opening chapter of its gazetteer. Put another way, why is Greyhawk so important in the world and why should you base your campaigns out of it? I postulate that while the city is nice and centrally located, given the evidence of history post Greyhawk Wars, if a dungeon master wanted, the setting focus could theoretically shift. The book says:

"A number of key factors have contributed to Greyhawk's key position in the affairs of the Flanaess. Among them are its location, long history, economic versatility, and the vigor and variety of its population.

Greyhawk has long been the beacon for men and women of learning, or great faith, or high magic...

...currently active adventurers are also drawn to the city. The nearness of the great ruin, Castle Greyhawk, has proven to be the most irresistible draw..."

All are important factors. Greyhawk as it goes, started as a minor trading post in a good location. As the Flanaess became more settled during the height of the Kingdom of Aerdy, it grew somewhat, but didn't quite explode until the time of mayor Zagig Yragerne his era of learning and construction and then ruin of his wealthy castle within the last 250 years. In fact, the Free City of Dyvers, (a former capital of Furyondy) which is also on the Nyr Dyv water-system a mere 120 miles away, was a much bigger and more important city for a time, that is until Greyhawk sapped away much of its cultural and economic influence. If it can happen to Dyvers, so too can Greyhawk lose it's luster.

Greyhawk is certainly a hot-bed of adventure, but those same dangers could someday keep trade away trade and scare off the variety of people that it is so proud of having. How? Iuz's empire is just across the lake in the Shield Lands and to the south-west is the orcish empire of the Pomarj, then to the south-east is the Bright Lands. Greyhawk while neutral, is very rich so I highly doubt the city, though strong in its own right would be safe from conflict. Castle Greyhawk (Greyhawk Ruins version) itself is also a danger to the long term security of the city. Not to mention, if the player characters somehow manage to clear the dungeons of all its wealth, where will adventurers go next? Maure Castle?

Then there is the trade route quandary. Pirates of the Pomarj and Wild Coast plague the way south through the Woolly Bay, the Nyr Dyv is relatively safe (don't trust Rhennee bargemen), but does have its own aquatic dangers, then that leaves the east-west roads. As I mentioned, Dyvers is an economic rival and the Duchy of Urnst to the east is on good terms yet if you see the map its a bumpy road traversing the dangerous Cairn Hills and nearing the Mistmarsh swamp. The Gem of the Flanaess may be centrally located, but it's by no means easy to access.

Now that I've bored you to death, where else would be fitting to move a campaign focus given the socio-political problems surrounding Greyhawk? Here's some possible suggestions:

The World of Irongate: Irongate (detailed in Dragon #351) is comparable in every way to Greyhawk. Fairly centralized free city, large multi-racial population, natural resources, fortifications and high magic. Situated in the east-center of the Flanaess, it's main political concerns is the outed Scarlet Brotherhood, pirates and the fractured kingdoms of Aerdy. Unlike Greyhawk which relies on roads and rivers, Irongate has a major seaport to trade and explore leagues beyond its reach. As for adventure, the place is reputedly an extra-dimensional nexus and is in proximity to adventure locales like the Tomb of Horrors.

The World of Gradsul: Gradsul, to the southwest of Greyhawk is the main port city of the Kingdom of Keoland. Much like Irongate, it is a largely (49,400) populated center of trade on the Azure Sea. It has a similar reach to exotic resources brought up from the south seas islands and jungles, much too far for Greyhawk to attract. Gradsul isn't a free city, but it is certainly the most prosperous and heavily defended one in Keoland. It's only military concern is the piratical Sea Princes. Gradsul can make a nice urban locale for political intrigues and from this base adventures be sought in the nearby Dreadwood Forest, the Hool Marshes or just a ship's voyage away.

The World of Rel Mord: To the east, this capital of the Kingdom of Nyrond is another major populated city (46,500) as well as a center for learning like Greyhawk (The University of Rel Mord). Rel Mord is usually at odds with the Great Kingdom, but as of the Greyhawk Wars, they aren't as much of a concern. Rel Mord is along a river-way like Greyhawk and is centrally located in the kingdom as to make it the hub of all roads going to the Urnsts, the Theocracy of the Pale or even to Aerdy. Adventurers can try their hand at the ruins of Almor or go west to Maure Castle.

The World of Lopolla: Want to have a Baklunish/Arabic feel to your game? Lopolla, the capital of Ket to the far west of Greyhawk is situated in another hub of trade and travel between the Yatil Mountains and the Barrier Peaks. Lopolla is a large (27,300) multicultural center spanning the peoples of the Flanaess proper to the Baklunish west. After the Greyhawk Wars, things settled down for Ket so they're not entirely at odds with their easterly neighbors anymore. Loads of adventurers can be attracted to nearby treasures in the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth or the make an Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. After those, Lopolla can be used as a springboard to further quests Beyond the Flanaess.

The World of Verbobonc: Lastly to the west, there is the humble Viscounty of Verbobonc. While it is smaller than Greyhawk (12,700) it is just as diverse in population and lays near the same river trade route as Dyvers and the Gem of the Flanaess. This minor city is much more buffered from the threats of Iuz or the Pomarj thanks to Furyondy and Celene giving it a chance to grow where Greyhawk might languish. It is also still close enough then for adventurers to travel to the same local hot spots that we all know. Verbobonc much like it's bigger neighbor however, has its own local adventure attraction, the Temple of Elemental Evil.