Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New Years Resolutions?

I don't do resolutions in real life, but over at our gaming podcast, Gamerstable we do an annual resolutions and challenges episode. Check it out! Maybe you'll get some ideas to spice up your own gaming lifestyle.

As for Greyhawkery, I try to keep my goals here separate, if not realistic in what I can accomplish. At any rate here is a few things I would like to do in 2016:

1. Continue with my Five Reasons to Visit series. I'm having fun with this informative series. Should be an easy project to carry on since it's already started.

2. Try to do a few more Ring of Five Questions interviews. I have a very short list of some good candidates. I just need to get back in the groove.

3. Compile Castle Greyhawk webcomic chapters 1-3 into PDFs. Should be easy, but do I have the software to make it look nice?

4. Create another regular Greyhawkery feature. Since Greyhawk news and events is few and far between, creating content is always a struggle. I am open to suggestions for new blog content. What sort of things subjects should I cover or start focusing on?

5. Social media increase? I know the Thursday night Greychats have pretty much faded into undeath, so I'd have to assume I can reach more Greyhawk fans if I start to focus more on Facebook (ugh) or maybe create a Greyhawk-centric Twitter account? I already have a Twitter for my podcast group @GreyhawkMike so maybe all I need to do is start tagging Greyhawk posts? 

That's all for now. Hopefully more comics and Greyhawk visiting next time!

Update 06/10/2021: Amazingly, six years later and social media for Greyhawk is bigger than its ever been. What I couldn't foresee was interaction on Youtube, Twitch and Discord. Facebook indeed did lead the charge though. Good times!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

5 Reasons to Visit Keoland

Welcome back, lords of the World of Greyhawk as I once again enthrall you with my ongoing feature titled "5 Reasons to Visit...". If you haven't seen my overviews of the Bandit Kingdoms , Great Kingdom or Furyondy, be sure to check them out. People who have played D&D should at least know the classic adventures of Greyhawk and hopefully, many of you also know the setting's esoteric material. With 5 Reasons I seek to put a spotlight on five good plots and places in (ideally) each of the nations of the Flanaess. Perhaps a new DM will be intrigued by these locations or an experienced one will be reminded or inspired to revisit these areas. As always, comments, suggestions and additions are appreciated. Enjoy!

1. Saltmarsh: The classic intro adventure U1: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh is a seminal work in the history of D&D. Placed on the fringe of the kingdom, this cozy town is an excellent place to launch a small regional campaign. The module is a haunted house mystery that then spins off into further adventures. The town of Saltmarsh itself has a notable character, and it got further development in a 3.5's Dungeon Master Guide II.

2. Gradsul: If a DM wants to run a larger Keoland campaign that is urban or perhaps even sea-based, why not have both? The perfect place for you is Gradsul, the most populous (49,400) city in all the kingdom. The "Haven of the Suel" is an ancient city ruled by House Rhola and sits at the mouth of the mighty Sheldomar River on the western Azure Sea.

First detailed in Living Greyhawk Journal #1, there is a lot going on in Gradsul. The city is mercantile, cosmopolitan and well defended; it's focus was once on exploring the south seas and jungles. Since the Greyhawk Wars however, the threat of the Scarlet Brotherhood keeps Gradsul's navy on alert. Gradsul is friendly to free-wizards (unlike the rest of Keoland) with a guild of Sea Mages supported by the legendary arch-mage Drawmij. There is also plenty of thievely work to be done in this wealthy city, or maybe you have a fighter who'd like to join the Knights of the Watch whom are found in great numbers.

As a base of operations, Gradsul is centrally located for adventures striking out in all directions such as east across the high seas, to the west within the ominous Dreadwood, south to the Hool Marshes or farther inland where courtly intrigue and knightly quests await.

3. The Silent Tower: Speaking of free-mages, their antithesis in Keoland is an order of sorcerers called the Silent Ones. Detailed in Living Greyhawk Journal #4, the Silent One's tower dates back to the earliest origins of the kingdom, jutting from the plains 25 miles south of the capital city of Niole Dra. The sorcerers of the tower are only ruled in name by the Lion Throne of Keoland, though they do serve as tutors and advisers to their nobility. Uhas of Neheli famed for penning the Chronicle of Secret Times, is said to once be part of this order long ago. The leader of the Silent Tower however, is The Wyrd, Mohrgyr the Old, an ancient man with a dubious past.

The blue-gray Silent Tower is clearly visible for many miles around and is easily three times higher than any tower in the kingdom and holds numerous dungeon levels as well. The Silent Ones main purpose is to bury or keep secret any magic that may be harmful to the Sheldomar Valley (such as lore concerning Vecna). With so many lost relics, artifacts and books hid in their vaults, the Silent Tower is therefore the Greyhawk equivalent of Area 51.

The Silent Ones' practices have made them enemies however. The Seekers are an adventuring society who want to uncover lost lore for profit; notably the outcast Eli Tomorast is the worst of their lot. Then there's the Scarlet Brotherhood who are always interested in the secrets of their Suel heritage. Where do the PCs fall into this mix? Well they could serve either side by retrieving magic before the other, or they could be real greedy and try to break into the Silent Tower's Sanctum Maleficarum for a handful of major artifacts. Trying to raid a dragon's hoard might be easier!

4. Hool Marshes: If cities and sorcerers aren't your thing, there is the Hool Marshes. These marshes form a natural border between Keoland and the Hold of the Sea Princes to the south. Surprisingly this wetland is a hotbed of published adventures. The sequels to Saltmarsh, U2: Danger at Dunwater and U3: The Final Enemy are set here. For more scaly threats, the generic AD&D module I2: Tomb of the Lizard King was retroactively placed in Keoland in the County of Eor. And lastly, another generic adventure, I7: Baltron's Beacon can be found in the depths of the Hool Marsh, its ghastly green glow a warning to foolish heroes. Beyond these published modules, the Hool is a vast tract of swamp that can support hidden cults, bandit hideouts and other abandoned edifices from past imperial expansions.

5. Dreadwood: Lastly is the dense forest that dominates southern Keoland, aptly named the Dreadwood. The edges are ruled by tribes of elves, noble woodsmen, druids, haughty wizards and the like, but within the Dreadwood "preserve" is the real dangers. These good residents of the forest must constantly contend with incursions of humanoids and monsters from the deepest parts of the Dreadwood. Some rumors persist there's even an elder green wyrm within the Dreadwood. If PCs are looking for a good hack and slash wilderness romp the Dreadwood might be a good outlet for them.

For more information and adventures set within the Kingdom of Keoland, checkout the ongoing tales that began in Living Greyhawk over at Greyhawk Reborn - coming to a convention near you!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Greyhawk Shields On Twitter

I'm sure by now most Greyhawk users on Twitter like myself have seen Mike Mearl's teaser pic of some full-sized shields he had made with Greyhawk heraldry painted on them. Talk about a cool Christmas present! I wish I had thought of that now.

The nations represented, left to right, are Onnwal, Sunndi and Bissel. Since Mearls had these delivered to WotC, rampant speculation will occur, but I'm not biting this time. All I want to know is who did those and where can I get one made of Ull?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Castle Greyhawk: Webs and Wyrms

Well met Greyhawkers! It may be Star Wars week around the world, but today I'm proud to promote the 100th EPISODE of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Check out page thirty-three to see some incredible visuals dreamed up by Scott Casper. On our site you can also check the archives and follow the entire Castle Greyhawk story from the very beginning.

Artist's Commentary: Well folks, this milestone page was difficulty 9/10 for me. Dragons and webbing is a lot of work and this took me three sketch runs to get it halfway right looking to my eye. The last panel was particularly good in my opinion. The dragon looks angry and frustrated. I like the variation in webs too, some thick, some wispy, some broken free. A lot going there.

The easiest part of illustrating it was Serten whacking the tail with his mace. That little "crunching" attack makes made laugh cause I imagined this in game terms; a cleric putting all he has into a swing and at best has a 50% chance of hitting, then perhaps only doing about 8 hp damage (magic mace? dunno). The white dragon obviously felt it, but I'm sure it was a distraction for Tenser to get away more than a lethal attack.

Meanwhile...where is the front line fighters? More next time! ;-)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

5 More Days

Aww yes! The only thing I love more than Greyhawk...Star Wars is almost here! Punch it!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

5 Reasons to Visit Furyondy

Welcome stalwart fans of the World of Greyhawk as I continue my ongoing feature titled "5 Reasons to Visit...". If you haven't seen my overviews of the Bandit Kingdoms and the Great Kingdom check them out now. Again, for people who have played D&D you should at least be familiar with the classic adventures set in Greyhawk and possibly, some of you also know the setting's gritty details. With 5 Reasons I seek to put a spotlight on five good plots and places in (ideally) each of the nations of the Flanaess. Perhaps a new DM will be intrigued by these locations or an experienced one will be reminded or inspired to revisit these areas. As always, comments, suggestions and additions are appreciated. Enjoy!
1. Castle Ehlenestra: The first thing you should think of when contemplating the Kingdom of Furyondy is knights. The three branches of the Knights of the Hart figure prominently in all the history , politics and adventures based around this land (such as the crusade on the Temple of Elemental Evil by Prince Thrommel). One castle dedicated to this order, Castle Ehlenestra, stands out from the rest. Named for the elven goddess Ehlonna, this castle is first mentioned in the sourcebook The Marklands, Ehlenestra sits is at the western edge of the kingdom and is home to Sharnalem, a ranger swanmay Knight of the Hart who trains tyrgs to hunt down goblinoids. More unusual than it's owner, the internal castle is made of wood, surrounded by a stone wall. Furthermore, there is a walled forest preserve where Sharnalem's sylvan allies such as brownies and beastmen. Castle Ehlenestra is undoubtedly a safe-zone for PCs; a place to seek wisdom, healing and strength before tackling the forces of evil abroad.

2. The Flare Line: The second thing to know about Furyondy is that it has been in a state of war with the Empire of Iuz for decades, and during the Greyhawk Wars era, Iuz the Evil advanced by conquering the northern tip of the kingdom. This led to a no-man's land running from Ehlenestra in the west all the way to the town of Morsten on the Veng River to the east. Along this war-front is the road called the Flare Line where Furyondy's barons and counts are building defenses against Iuz's undead and humanoid hordes. This is an area of tense standoffs, daring sorties and spying missions. The adventure Border Watch is a nice low-level intro to this theater of war. Other hot spots along the Flare Line include the Razing Line a strip of land west of Crockport where Iuz's magicians have despoiled and desecrated the ground making it the perfect place to animate dead. Then there is the Swarming Ground where fort construction is hazardous because the area is infested with Giant Ant Lions. Enterprising DMs could create an entire campaign centered just on this line of defenses and holding them against the tide of evil.

3. Bronzeblood Haunt: The Kingdom of Furyondy is a large, well-settled realm. As such most dangers here come from without (namely Iuz or the Horned Society). There is exceptions however, like the ruins of a castle referred to as Bronzeblood Haunt. Long ago there was a sadistic noble who rumor says consorted with cults and vampires. It became so bad that King Thrommel I had this ruler deposed and his castle reduced to rubble. The entire area unfortunately still has an aura of evil with mysterious mists and unnaturally blood red trees during autumn, No hero to this day has been brave enough to get within miles of this ruin's dungeon to search for whatever was left behind. Bronzeblood Haunt is a perfect opportunity for a DM to create their own old-school dungeon in a location far-removed from most other famous modules and the meta-plot of war in the north.

4. Claw Gorge: Another area of danger within Furyondy's borders is the quarry named Claw Gorge. Located in the west near Castle Greylode, Claw Gorge is vital to the kingdom for its limestone and is worked by a community of gnomes. The rift however, has recently come into trouble as the miners hit upon pockets of corrosive gasses and tunnel complexes where frequent encounters have occurred with monsters such as cave fishers, a behir or worse. Rumors say the mines are cursed or that agents of Iuz have summoned the monsters here. Either way, Claw Gorge is a good place to send characters who are just looking for a break from Furyondy's political-war drama to do some good old fashioned hack and slash action.

5. Chendl: Lastly is the capital of Furyondy, Chendl. This planned city of 15,600 (at it's height) was first detailed and mapped out in the module Fate of Istus, with more recent updates for the wars found in The Marklands. Chendl once boasted to be the most extravagant city in all the Flanaess due to its grand temples and palace, broad avenues and gardens, and its signature feature, a system of canals plied by gondolas (think Venice but inland). All the beauty was smashed during the wars however as Chendl became under siege by the forces of Iuz. During this era (until Belvor IV's counter-crusade) the city is half demolished and every person of worth is rallied to  the defense. While all looks grim for Furyondy's capital, the haughty aristocracy still maintains their high society lives, unabashed by the threats outside or the plight of their own people fighting for them. When running PCs thru this city think the desperation of Minas Tirith, but much less defensible. This can be the launching pad for a series of Furyondy adventures including all the above or perhaps the climax to a story arc leading to the retreat of evil.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Castle Greyhawk: Doors and Delays

Welcome back loyal Greyhawk readers! It's the weekend and time to promote the third chapter of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Check out page thirty-two plus follow some riveting writings by the director, Scott Casper. On our site you can also check the archives and follow the entire Castle Greyhawk story from the very beginning.

Artist's Commentary: The spell slots are flying now! Last page, the whole party was getting knocked around pretty good so it's no surprise now that we have an enraged white dragon, the casters are on the defense now. I mention the spells flying because the floating magic script has been an ever-present effect in our tale and when those are added to other visuals such as a glowing daggers, arch-ways or McFarlandesque ropy strands, they should give the readers more than a clue what is being cast. It's a fun exercise in comic storytelling.

As for the dragon, it keeps getting angrier it seems as the encounter goes on. So far it hasn't tried to bite anyone though, but two ice breaths in one battle is a big deal. That traitor Murlynd saved his own skin, let's see how Tenser's last ditch effort pays off next page...

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

5 Reasons to Visit the Great Kingdom

Welcome back fellow fans of the World of Greyhawk today I continue my newest feature titled "5 Reasons to Visit...". As I stated last time in my survey of the Bandit Kingdoms, most people who have played D&D for a long time will at least be familiar with the classic sites of Greyhawk and some may even know the minutiae of the setting like myself. With 5 Reasons I seek to put a spotlight on five good plots and places in (ideally) each of the nations of the Flanaess. Perhaps a new DM will be intrigued by these locations or an experienced one will be reminded or inspired to revisit these areas. Naturally, all comments, suggestions and additions are appreciated. Enjoy!

1. Undead and Fiends: The Great Kingdom (in particular the central lands directly ruled by the mad Overking Ivid V and his relatives) is home to a dizzying array of undead and fiendish characters. There is the Demonic Knights of Doom first detailed in Dragon #59. These golden armored knights are actually enchanted with fiendish powers and weapons beyond normal men. Utterly loyal to Ivid and archmage Xaene their creator, the formidable Knights of Doom lead regiments such as the mounted "Bolters", heavy-foot "Howlers" and mounted-archer "Pointers". 

Beyond these terrors is the Death Knights, created by the demon-prince Demogorgon from the old order of the Knight Protectors. Many of these undead knights are major villains in their own right and pay no heed to Ivid. Furthermore, Ivid V and his fell priests of Hextor created the undead Animus to instill greater loyalty in his nobiles and commanders. Not as strong as a lich or a death knight, these undead are still highly intelligent and powerful in many unique ways. Lastly, due to the diabolical magic at Ivid's disposal, even his personal Companion Guard is said to have fiends among their ranks.

2. Rauxes: The capital of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy for centuries, was Rauxes. This city has undergone many changes in just the last few decades of Greyhawk publication history and all are quite suitable for a campaign built on tyrannical intrigue, high magic and impending warfare (see the free PDF, Ivid the Undying). The Rauxes seen in the module Fate of Istus (with a decent map) once had a lofty population of 41,000 but the brutal rule of Ivid brought this number down to 35,000. By the time the Greyhawk Wars had concluded, Ivid's atrocities had reduced the city to about 22,000 that is until the city's ultimate ruination following the battle for succession of the Overking (see Living Greyhawk Gazetteer).

Rauxes thus has a few eras that DMs can utilize for a long story arc of self-destruction, from once mighty imperial capital to a magically hazardous ruin where only treasure seekers now venture (I like to think of GW's skirmish game Mordheim).
Rauxes is also home to a few arch-magi (Xaene, Karoolck, etc.) and artifacts of irredeemable evil. First and foremost is the fiend-seeing Malachite Throne, where the line of House Naelax sits (or used to pre-wars). It is also possible more than one of the Regalia of Might are found in Ivid's lands nevermind other relics of power mentioned below. Whatever era you play in, the fate of these high magic people and items is still entirely within the DM's hands to this day. 

3. Dastryth and Errantkeep: These Naelax lands were probably once prosperous fiefs in the heart of the Great Kingdom, but in the post-wars era, they are now ruled by two deranged animus brothers, Darrien and Marinn. The two have a life long rivalry that continues in undeath with both turning all their remaining citizens into armies of zombies to continue their blood feud while they watch safely from their castles. This setting is a suitable gothic horror (or zombie survival) environment to have players wander into before encountering the hard stuff. The brothers are notable for their treasured magic tomes which would be highly prized by power players like the Circle of Eight or the Scarlet Brotherhood.

4. Permanence: Speaking of the hard stuff, there is the nearby castle named Permanence. This many turreted horror of leaning, twisted architecture is built on a slab of red rock and is home to one General Kalreth an animus warrior loyal to Ivid. Kalreth and his equally formidable lieutenant Balraize command a score of Doom Knights from this dubiously magical castle. What's most attractive about this castle for a high magic campaign is the lure of coveted banestones within its dungeons; magic stones which greatly aid in the enchantment and permanency of magic items. The trouble is, Kalreth hates wizards and will slay any who sets foot in Permanence with his dark artifact the Spear of Sorrow. Adventurers had better bring their A-game to this place.

5. Rifter: Near the capital is another interesting keep built by Ivid II as a fall-back point should Rauxes fall. This magically reinforced bastion is armed with an array of ballista plus a garrison of Companion Guard and Fiend-Knights as well. What is most hair-raising is that the bunker allegedly contains a Sphere of Annihilation and the famous Machine of Lum the Mad. Imagine the possibilities of breaking into or assaulting this small keep. Good luck!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

5 Reasons to Visit the Bandit Kingdoms

Welcome aficionados of the World of Greyhawk to a new regular segment I'm entitling "5 Reasons to Visit...". Most people who have played D&D for a long time will at least be probably familiar with the classic adventure locales of the game and some even the minutiae of Greyhawk's timelines and geopolitical history. With 5 Reasons I only seek to put a spotlight on five of hopefully many good plots and places in each of the nations of the Flanaess. Perhaps a new DM will be intrigued by these locations or an experienced one will be reminded or inspired to revisit these areas. As always I'm open to comments, suggestions and additions. Enjoy!

1. White Plume Mountain: Let's start with the 500 pound gorilla in the room. The classic module, S2 White Plume Mountain is among the best known adventure locales on Oerth. The magic weapons Wave, Whelm and Blackrazor are stolen and hid here by the mysterious Keraptis who then taunts heroes into trying to obtain them from his dungeons. What more set-up do you need for a dungeon crawl? White Plume was so successful it also garnered a return sequel which expanded upon the mountain's backstory. One more thing, a single mountain out in the middle of the lawless Bandit Kingdoms can also evoke the dangerous air of The Hobbit and the Lonely Mountain.

2. Rookroost: The large hill top city of Rookroost is the epitome of the Bandit Kingdoms. There is a good map and write-up on the city in the module Fate of Istus and further information is found in Iuz the Evil. The rogue city's concentric walls conjures images of a dark and gritty Minas Tirith. Indeed the remote city's boast that it has never been conquered lends to this comparison. Rookroost makes a good home base for adventurers striking out into the frontier and even the setting for an urban intrigue campaign. There's a lot going on here and yet the city is still raw enough for good DMs to create their own material.

3. Stoink: Speaking of roguish urban adventure. Stoink is another perfect bandit town to visit. Nestled on the Artonsamay River, Stoink is a boisterous, drinking, brawling, thieving town and is notable for being featured in Gygax's "Gord" novels. Stoink is ruled by a ostentatious character named Boss Renfus the Mottled, a loud, overweight bandit who I can only imagine is Greyhawk's answer to Jabba the Hutt. Stoink's position on the map makes it a great hotspot for adventures in or around major lands like Nyrond, Urnst and the Theocracy of the Pale.

4. Riftcanyon: What trip to the Bandit Lands is complete without mentioning the big rift in the middle of the landscape? Rumors say it was magically created and many awful monsters lurk on its fringes and within its depths. The rift at times has been ruled by bandit lords, agents of Iuz the Old (Cranzer the wizard) and in times past even giants (Kings of the Rift from the Age of Worms Adventure Path) or ancient Flannae civilizations (namely the cliff city of Veralos). The most dangerous place in all the Riftcanyon however, is the aptly named Wormcrawl Fissure. Mentioned in the sourcebook Iuz the Evil, and featured in the Age of Worms module Into the Wormcrawl Fissure, this is the reputed home of the infamous demigod Kyuss and his undead sons. Only the foolish tread this dark path.

5. Fleichshriver: You'll see it on some maps of the Flanaess, but word of Fleichshriver is only found in the sourcebook Iuz the Evil. This fiend-crafted citadel devoted to Iuz is quite possibly the most dangerous place in all the bandit territory, including Riftcanyon. The place is home to Iuz's upper echelon of henchmen, the Boneheart to do their experiments on new magic and monsters. To borrow yet another Tolkienism, imagine Minas Morgul (home of the Nazgul) when venturing here. Besides the usual dark sorcery and abundant humanoid guards, Fleichshriver also has a gate to the Abyss and is impenetrable to scrying. Yup, this is one of those places heroes go to and never come back. If your players think they've seen everything Greyhawk has to offer I'm willing to bet they haven't tried to clear a high-level threat like Fleichshriver.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Reactions: Chris Perkins Panel

Man am I kicking myself for not going to Gamehole Con this year! Over at ENWorld, Morrus has posted some quotes from a panel that WotC's Chris Perkins took part in and it has once again got me and a lot of people buzzing on Greyhawk. Here's my thought and reactions to selected parts of this panel, also you can listen to the rest of the panel for yourself HERE.

"Gone are the days, in 3rd and 4th Edition, when we were bound by the model of having to release a book a month or two books a month, or three books a month. We have no commitment or desire to do that going forward.
And part of that is just driven by business realities, part of it is driven by our knowledge of certain facts that we've obtained through surveys, through talking to people at shows, that there is kind of a certain amount of material that people can actually absorb before the stuff that we're releasing no longer has any value and is no longer serving anybody. A lot of 3rd Edition products, I'm sure, and 4th Edition products, I'm sure, that maybe you've bought or your players have bought are sitting on shelves having never been used, or used precious little. We don't sell products so that 5% of our audience can use 5% of it. We're now trying to sell products that 100% of our audience might use, and they'll use all of it."

I appreciate this honesty because we all know splat books get ridiculous and it's even more ridiculous trying to keep up with buying them. This is a big reason I only play Pathfinder core rules. I got off the book a month club early. It would be different to me if that was a Greyhawk source book every month but a dozen bestiaries or an ultimate-ultimate character building guide is too much. I'm glad Wizards is sticking to just story related material, though that does hedge out extra setting support which us diehards clamor for.

"...one of the things we are going to be doing in the future is looking out at some of our other worlds. That doesn't mean we won't come back to the Realms, or have adventures that visit multiple different locations, start in one place and end in another... one of the goals with our stories is to go beyond Forgotten Realms, safe to say.
The other thing that we're driving to with our stories is to, whenever possible, draw upon the past, key elements from the history of the game that have not seen a lot of attention lately."

This is a tricky proposition. What elements haven't got any attention? What old D&D themes have not been done already by WotC (or Paizo) in recent memory? I've got a few ideas HERE. Place your bets!

"The story that follows Rage of Demons is not going to be anywhere near the Underdark, and it will have its own feel, its own flavour, its own atmosphere, its own thing. The story that follows that is going to be very different. It allows us to do things like ... Princes of the Apocalypse and the Elemental Evil story was very dungeon driven; it was a dungeon-based story... in the future we want to maybe do intrigue. What story would we have to tell in D&D that is fundamentally an intrigue story. Would it be like city based? Would it be planar based, where you're basically on some sort of planar hunt for something? And then maybe the story after that is ... [audience member suggests "horror"] ... horror, or something more light-hearted and flaky, or a little off-track, or like Eberron, a little more steampunkish, or Victorian pulpy... making sure every story has a different feel, flavour, making sure we get to visit some of our other worlds.."

This line of thought implies good chances for settings like Ravenloft or Planescape to be explored, which would feel quite different than their Realms stories. For Greyhawk to stand out, avoiding diungeons or underdark will be difficult but not impossible.

"So, yeah, vampire, classic monster, yeah, we'll do a story with vampires... [more classic monster suggestions].. yeah, we'll do a story with giants."

So Ravenloft naturally, and Against the Giants will be touched upon sooner or later. Check. Whether Greyhawk's giants are more compelling a story than those already seeded in the Realms stories we shall see. As for horror, I'd still love to see Vecna used. He is arguably Greyhawk's greatest villain and is also a planar threat to boot.

"A great bulk of those who play D&D run homebrew settings. But of those home-brew campaigns, over half of those homebrewers do pillage from other settings ... 15% or 50% of the world they've created has hawked stuff from other worlds. They're comfortable pillaging our products for ideas. That homebrew number, I can't remember the exact percentage, but I think it's like 55% homebrew. And then it's like 35% Forgotten Realms, and then everything else ... Very few people right now, turns out, running Dark Sun campaigns. A sliver of a sliver. Very few people running Hollow World campaigns. Very few people are running Mystara campaigns. It pretty much goes Homebrew, Forgotten Realms, I think Greyhawk's at 5% ands then everybody else is at 2% or 1%."

Meh. A few years ago I'd rail against this figure, but realistically ever since 4E they've been burying interest in Greyhawk beyond nostalgic reasons. Most Living Greyhawk players probably migrated to Pathfinder's Golarion long ago, then two editions of Nentir Vale and Realms have led to people either doing their own homebrew or going with what's published. So Greyhawk at 5%? I'll take that! With no RPG support, video games, or novels for years? What other brand can still keep that big a slice of the pie?

"But we are looking at bringing in consultants beyond the range, beyond the pale... people that obviously love D&D may not actually have ever worked on a D&D product. Or maybe they have! Who knows? If I could resurrect Gary Gygax I would bring him in as a consultant, certainly. But we have to stick to the living."

This is something I've been harping on for a long time and now that WotC wholeheartedly embraces their "consulting" model it seems Greyhawk does stand a chance if the right people are there at the right time. Sure Gygax is gone, but the best people on the inside right now are Perkins and Mike Mearls themselves! Outside of those two, I know more than a few people still in the industry or without it who would jump on a Greyhawk consulting gig if given the chance.

"So the question is "What is the next Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide?" Who knows? I don't know. ... But let's say we did a Greyhawk adventure, Greyhawk has been out of circulation now for how many years? Although you can still ... there's nothing stopping you from running a Greyhawk campaign because everything out there is still there and its still timely. And it remains, as far as I'm concerned it's an open question whether we would even change the timeline. Greyhawk's current timeline is perfectly cromulent. So is its original timeline. So the question then becomes "Is it a better user experience to put all the information you need to know about Greyhawk in the adventure product because it's really for the DN's information, or is it better, and it's going to be better received, if that information is parcelled, divorced from the adventure as a separate thing that you have to buy? That you have to spend money on now."

Greyhawk or more appropriately the City of Greyhawk region would fit the SCAG template perfectly. Taking all Greyhawk's existing guides, timelines and story elements you can draw a line through them all that will make a single coherent sourcebook full of useful material for DMs and players alike.

"What makes Greyhawk, Greyhawk? Is it Gary? What else about Greyhawk makes Greyhawk, Greyhawk? Is it low magic? Because you have Mordenkainen - he is not low magic. So it's that magic is more exclusive in Greyhawk? Unless you goto the Valley of the Magi, where it's not. It's got barbarians, a whole lot ... look at the Greyhawk map, there's a whole lot of barbarian territory up there. We don't know a whole lot about them except that they're tigers and... we've got Scarlet Brotherhood which are aryan monastic wanna control the world type organisation, somebody at work, I can't remember it was Mike Mearls or somebody else, described Greyhawk as almost Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser-esque, Fritz Leiber, Lankhmar-esque. That would certainly make sense based on things I heard about what Greyhawk was like when Gary was running it, sort of maybe he felt that way."

"If we were to do a Greyhawk story, one of the things I'd be sorely tempted to do is focus on Iuz. I'm not going to give you a full campaign setting. I'm going to tell you a story about Iuz and all of the **** that he's doing right now and all of the repercussions that are happening because of that... Iuz is going to be the glue that holds this story together."

Totally agree. It's a lot of things to different people. There is no way you can pigeon-hole it. Thus, given the limited time WotC devotes to promoting a story or setting I will never expect an adventure set in the Sea Princes or Ull for instance, but do I expect Greyhawk City or Iuz? Hell yes it's almost unavoidable.

Update 06/15/2021: Six years later, still no Greyhawk (unless one counts Ghosts of Saltmarsh). WotC is presently teasing two new "classic" setting books. I'm still not holding my breathe.  

Friday, November 20, 2015

Castle Greyhawk: Dragons and Dweomers

Welcome back friends of Greyhawk! I'm seriously slipping in my duties to promote the third chapter of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Check out pages thirty and thirty-one plus follow some eloquent extras by the bardic Scott Casper. On our site you can also check the archives and follow the entire Castle Greyhawk story from the very beginning.

Artist's Commentary: There has been a ton of great art work in these last two pages that I don't know where to start except panel one page 30. Drawing a dragon taking flight is a challenge on many levels from draconic anatomy to scale of composition. When Scott has me drawing a dragon it's a huge deal, but the same dragon from three different angles on one page is madness! 

The panel of Murlynd rubbing wool with a glass rod (old school components) is also among my favorites in this entire chapter. There is something about his expression and the magic lettering that feels like I'm channeling Dave Trampier. The lightning bolt itself (and sound effect) was fun for me since I've always been a super fan of the Mighty Thor (nearly 500 issues). Lastly, the dragon descending to the cave floor was the hardest of the page. I went over it a few times before I was content. Then the next page happened....

I must admit, I love drawing this rendition of Tenser. I've done it so many times I can now freehand him without needing much reference. That's huge when it comes to comics. What I also like about Tenser is he keeps looking rougher each room they come to. the other guys have scuffed armor at worst, but the wizard is clearly the one taking the most hit point damage so far. That is until the dragon gets close...

Three more dragon angles, and now some up close scale issues. How big are white dragons? I'm not sure, I do know they aren't as big as red dragons but this isn't exactly a baby dragon either. Terik and Serten take some hits and Tenser gets to look dramatic with his wand for the first time. But what does it do? Tune in next time!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Maure Castle Memories

Who remembers this ad? I certainly didn't until I came across it again in the pages of an old out-of-print issue of Dungeon. For some reason, no published adventure had me more stoked than Maure Castle in Dungeon #112 (in fact like a true fan-boy I own several copies). The collaboration of Robert Kuntz, Erik Mona and Paizo was certainly lightning in a bottle and they were lucky enough to follow up on the initial issue with two more levels in the later years (#124, #139). But look at the ad again, in my opinion no adventure path or seasonal event has more going for it in so few words. 
Those fans who followed Greyhawk for a long time must've been shocked and overjoyed to see Eli Tomorast, the main villain from the classic Kuntz module, Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure return from the dead for some payback. For me it was sort of like a Trekkie getting to see Ricardo Montalban in the Wrath of Khan for the first time. This ad had great art and a great title logo (with the World of Greyhawk masthead which you wouldn't see again), the only problem is they misspelled Eli's last name. Oh well, you can't have everything!

Update 06/15/2021: To this day I'm not sure I've seen a Dungeon Magazine adventure advertised in advance like this. So cool!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tourneys In Greyhawk

For my last Greyhawk session I ran a backdrop celebration in the city of Gradsul with a tourney as one of the possible events for players to take part. One thing that the medieval-based World of Greyhawk lacks is good material on tourneys, jousts and all that jazz. When I need to run such events I go to outside sources for ideas like the RPG Pendragon or my personal fave the D&D Companion Set which has quick rules for running dominions and tourneys. Now since this is a sea-based campaign with no nobles or knights I didn't focus on jousts, instead I used other tourney lists like archery and wrestling (check this post on other Greyhawk sports). However, jousting is what most people would associate when a tourney is mentioned. So today I am musing on where and how such jousting tourneys would be held in Greyhawk.

What the Flanaess does have a lot of material on is heraldry and of course knighthoods and titles. The bulk of it is listed in the last couple pages of the boxed set guide with enough details to provide a framework for a cross-nation system of jousting tournaments:

The Knight Protectors of the Great Kingdom are called exceedingly formidable but those in Medegia are looked on with contempt because the title is for sale. Given the size and history of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy I can see their tourneys being tied down to their own provinces and cities, with all the bluster and intrigue you'd expect from an evil realm. The Great Kingdom has numerous noble houses to start with in forming tourneys, one only needs to get a download of Ivid the Undying to get a wealth of info. The religion of Hextor would also factor heavily into these competitions since the simulation of combat is what keeps the knights busy when the Greyhawk Wars aren't raging.

Someone wanting to run a campaign centered on jousts in the (pre-wars) Great Kingdom could follow a circuit like this for example: Start in Eastfair in the North Province then southward to Delaric, Jalpa, Rel Deven, Kalstrand in the South Province and back east to Nulbish, TorrichMentery (those despicable Medegian knights), and back up the coast to Rel Astra and perhaps Roland then ending in the capital of Rauxes.

Now for the "true knighthoods" according to the Greyhawk Guide, there is the Knights of the Watch in the Kingdom of Keoland area, the Knights of the Shield in the Shield Lands and the Knights of the Hart in Furyondy, Veluna and Highfolk. How these orders get along is mentioned in the last paragraph of the book. 

"Knight of the Hart are hated and despised by Iuz, the Horned Society, and even by the folk of Dyvers, it is said. There is no love lost between them and the Watchers, the rulers of Perrenland, and certain of the Nyrondel noblesse. Considerable rivalry exists between the orders of Hart and the Shield."

So the three branches of Hart and the Holy Shield knights, in their downtime from fighting the evil of Iuz could easily tour the good lands of the north, possibly including the Kingdom of Nyrond (whose cavalry is legendary for defeating the Aerdy at the Battle of a Fortnight's Length) and Perrenland (who seem rather upset at the knights for having more prowess at arms than them?). The knights of the Shield and Hart probably butt heads a lot during war, but during the tourneys their rivalry is friendly and honorable. I'd also say the two orders would be equal in skill if not size. I've personally ran a tournament campaign in this region before and it worked out incredibly well.

Lastly, to the south you have the Knights of the Watch who have a bad history with the Ferrond-Veluna nobles and knighthoods so they'd be rather reluctant to take part in cross-nation tourneys (though I could see demi-human realms like Highfolk and the  Uleks as being moderators between human orders). These Watchers are much more numerous (ten times roughly) so it would follow that their jousting skills wouldn't be as good as the elite teams of Hart and Shield knights. Then again, with a larger population of fighters to draw from perhaps the Lion Throne would dominate a tourney circuit or host theirs own entirely like the Great Kingdom. Such a circuit could cover several states in a year going from Yeomanry, Sterich, Geoff, Keoland, to the three Uleks and Gran March

A grand jousting campaign would combine all the major kingdoms into one long circuit where you could start in the west with Niole Dra and arc your way across the Flanaess hitting all the capitals like Mitrik, Chendl, Amundfort, Rel Mord, and finally Rauxes (where a war then erupts when the Aerdy loses). This area encompasses a breadth of almost 2000 miles east-west unfortunately, so it doesn't seem probable that knights would tour that far from home unless they are individually questing knights or paladins.

One more tidbit, I like this Tournament Ranking chart from the Companion Rules; make use of it to entice your players into trying out jousting:

Number of 
Tournaments Won          Title
5                                  Champion
10                                Chevalier
15                                Silver Champion
20                                Premier Chevalier
25                                Grand Champion

Friday, November 6, 2015

Sea Princes: Azure Bound and Down

ADVENTURE! So last Monday I ran the continuation of my Sea Princes campaign. This one was extra special since it was played around Halloween time so as an added bonus to my players, I DMed the session dressed as a scurvy pirate! I used to be against cosplay at the game table, but I think years of seeing costumes at GenCon has softened me to the notion. I believe the session was a success since we managed to finish my latest storyline based on Smokey and the Bandit. All in all it was a goofy, fun, romp across the Azure Sea like you'd expect.

Here is some plot points and thoughts I took away from running this adapted plot in Greyhawk:

1. The Provincial Navy makes a great villain or power group. Naturally, given the plot my main antagonist was a rear admiral based on Buford T. Justice.  he is a variant paladin of Hextor whose evil brand of maritime law is perfect for chasing offenders way out of his jurisdiction. There is many seafaring nations on the Azure and the South Province is arguably the most tyrannical of the lot, yet they are still a stable, lawful nation so I built them up as an economic force in addition to a military might by blockading Irongate from exporting beer to Keoland. Their fleets' presence on the sea is a threat to pirates and merchants alike. However, Hextorians aren't known for sea based warfare, so I played them as terribly inept compared to an experienced Sea Princes crew. The sight of a yellow flag with a crowned boar's head is now forever ingrained in my players mind as a bad guy. They will appear again.

2. True Strike plus siege weapons is bad news. When it comes to ship to ship combat, I tend to keep it vague and cinematic, I don't like to get bogged down in ship stats and would rather get on to a boarding action or evade a pursuer entirely. However players will throw you curves and the first level True Strike is one of those 3.5/Pathfinder era spells that just needs to go away. True Strike when applied to a siege weapon I think is OP and I'm sure I'll find out later that it doesn't work on these devices, but for now it's cutting into my thrill of ship combat.

3. Always try to say yes to players' actions. When running a swashbuckling adventure, players tend to try things and take risks that they normally wouldn't in a static dungeon setting. I used to be a hard-nosed DM who tried to keep things grounded, but on the open sea with that much rope hanging around why not let the players do some crazy acrobatic things.

Curses! I didn't crit anyone. Arr!
4. If you use critical results use fumbles too. For a long time now I've been all about Pathfinder Critical and Fumble cards. The variety of things that can happen in a 52 card deck is so much better than most charts I've seen or boring damage multipliers. But I can't stress enough that if you allow crit effects you need to balance it with fumbles. Fumbles keep things tense and unpredictable unlike crits which are assumed in most games. And since this is a high seas adventure, any little hiccup in the middle of a fight only adds to the danger. Try it.

5. Maps are essential, especially if you're going to run a sea-based campaign. This may seem like a no-brainer, but its easy to forget that visual aids help in player immersion. I could have easily led the players on a rail-road journey from Irongate to Gradsul without use of one, but knowing that they needed to get there in 13 days; being able to see their progress charted out in front of them kept them on edge to the very last day of the mission. For DMs it's also a quick way to teach the setting to new players. I learned Greyhawk by Darlene's map and exploring it with my eyes before I ever played in it.

6. Communication at sea is helpful in moving the story. In the real world there is ways to communicate at sea; signal flags, lights at night or even yelling. In a world of magic there is even more possibilities like the spells Whispering Wind, Sending and so on. For this campaign certain ships were equipped with magic figureheads that could cast Sending to any other figurehead once a day. What this simulated was the CB communications from Smokey and the Bandit. Not every ship had these, but I made sure the main ships did.  

That's all for now!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Tomb of Horrors Minis Unboxed

It's been two Gen Cons ago, but I've finally got the inclination to put together my Tomb of Horrors mini set by Gale Force Nine. What I should be doing of course is painting my Lolth mini I got from three Gen Cons ago, but we all know that isn't going to happen. I digress.

This set is pretty cool, it's a miniature reproduction of the green cover of S1 The Tomb of Horrors which shows full bodied Acererak facing a cleric with his holy symbol and a fighter the set includes, the "mummy" Acererak, a "true form" Acererak as a floating demi-lich skull, the Fighter, the Cleric and wait...another mummy mini?

Well great, it's supposed to be a female Paladin mini (not depicted on the original ToH cover, but neither is the demi-lich). This mini is pretty cool and I'm positive my friends would love to use that in actual play, so I'll be contacting GF9 about a replacement. Anyhoo, back to the minis.

Assembling these were quite easier than ol' spindly legged Lolth. The demi-lich is skull and base; the cleric is base, body and arms/holy symbol; and the fighter is base, body, sword and a nifty helmet like the Mighty Thor. All easily glued in their designated places. The sculpts are incredible as always and there is little flashing that needs cut off in preparation-though you do need to be careful removing them from the sprue since these resin minis are fragile.

The mummy mini however gave me a bit of trouble, the body is in two pieces for some reason (at the hips) but I got that down on the base no problem then the arms for some reason wouldn't stay in place, but that was probably me. Overall it looks menacingly cool (I wonder if this mini could have a second career in Blood Bowl?).

I still highly recommend this line of classic minis. Their latest run is demon lords coinciding with D&D's Rage of Demons story line. I've got my Graz'zt and Zuggtmoy already so be ready for another mini unboxing probably year from now!

Update 06/15/2021: I still have not opened Graz'zt and Zuggtmoy. That is all.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Castle Greyhawk: Icy Death

Welcome again followers of Greyhawk! I'm proud to one again promote a new page in the third chapter of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Check out page twenty-nine plus follow some potent prose by crafty conjurer Scott Casper. On our site you can also check the archives and follow the entire Castle Greyhawk story from the very beginning.

Artist's Commentary: This entire chapter has been an artistic mountain climb and drawing a white dragon in combat against the heroes is a new summit for my career. I'm enjoying the process a lot and at times I can feel the fear in these characters that I don't normally get when fighting RPG dragons I think. It's as if seeing a visual illustration of a dragon in action (or a movie dragon) captures the threat more than words. For instance, reading how bad ass Smaug was in the Hobbit was cool but seeing it in animation only reinforced that even if the dragon didn't actually do much but talk.
At any rate, I hope you all enjoy my meager draconic artwork. Let's see how they fare next page...

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Brainstorming Ull Project

Welcome back readers. It's a rainy, gloomy day on the fields of Ull and I'm currently taking a break from drawing the Castle Greyhawk comic to write a new post mainly because it's been a few days since my last one. With little to comment on (D&D news is sadly all FR) this notion struck me, why not go over my list of unfinished Ull articles? In fact, I have enough material topics that if I got off my butt I could do a whole source book! Let me know what you think and maybe it'll spur my mood to write again:

Gazetteer Material
Ulakand City of Horses (Finished but unpublished and no map yet) This is a complete write up on the capital of Ull and it's neighboring locations on the mesa. I'm sure this one will go over big and it was written as a template for my next idea in the Ull Source Book.
Kester, the Pit City Following up on my old Canonfire articles about this town, I need a city map to go with it as well. I also would like to devise a random gladiator generator since the town is built around fighting pits.
Okkand and Kurukand. These two minor villages have lie on the roads between north and south. Each should have their own unique characters and dangers.

Threats of Ull
A series of articles or chapters for a sourcebook involving dangers and encounters in Ull, that I've yet to write up, such as:
The Children's Gang. Kester has many dangerous factions, but this one may be the most underestimated.
Water Stealers. Who are these fiends and who do they serve?
Briar Golem. A new construct to infuriate your players.
Stone Ettin. There are more than ogres to contend with in the Ulspure Mountains.
Creature from Beyond the Barrier. There are some creatures that sages haven't seen before.

Magic of Ull
Some themed items that I need to throw in someday. We haven't had any Canonfire Postfests in a long for me to write these up yet.
Polearm of (x). Because south Ull loves their polearms.
Saddle Blanket of Ulakand. A simple utility item that buffs a horse perhaps?
Turban of the Khans. Probably a leadership or combat related head gear.
Headband of (x). Similar buff item or protective gear.
Amulet of Kester. A warding device of some sort I'm thinking.

That's all for now!

Update 06/10/2021: Hmmm, a lot of ideas left on the table, this should be my blog retirement project!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Another Greyhawk Item

Not long ago I was wish listing a bunch of Greyhawk related merchandise that I'd like to get. In addition to the Bigby t-shirt, my friend @GamerstableEric pointed out this shirt design that I just have to get for next Gen Con. Not sure if it's new, but it is to me! Check it out he had Blackrazor!

Update 06/10/2021: I don't have the Bigby, but I DO have the Gygax shirt. I need to wear it more often!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Greyhawk Map: Azure Sea

Click to zoom in
What did you guys do last weekend? I was busy making a Greyhawk map of course. This hand-drawn map is typical for my campaigns, focusing on areas that I primarily have the players running around; in this case it's my ongoing Hold of the Sea Princes game. If you haven't seen my other handmade maps, I have a thing for the south seas.

I recently had their characters hauling off from Keoland in the west to the other side of the Azure Sea to pick up some dwarven ale in Irongate and bring it back for the duke's party in Gradsul. Unfortunately the South Province currently has a blockade on this port and will give chase when they try to leave for home. Yes, I'm running the plot Smokey and the Bandit in Greyhawk.

This "nautical chart" is drawn at the Darlene map scale of 30 miles/hex using paper provided by Black Blade Publishing. I drew the coastline in pencil from existing source material and inked it with the same pens I use on the Castle Greyhawk comic. Then cause I'm always in a rush, I colored it with my old Prismacolor pencils that I've had for probably over 20 years. As a final touch I added dashed lines to indicate trade routes. For my own amusement I thought about naming all these sea lanes with things like the "Gryrax-Scant Run" or the "Olman Passage". Still pondering this, but I'm open to suggestions.

One thing I've taken away from making this map, the Azure coast is freakin huge. Maybe not huge in real world terms but for fantasy maps of it's kind, I bet it has more coastline than the Sword Coast or Middle Earth. Also, looking at the Azure with trade routes in mind, there is no logical reason for sailors to cross over the middle of this sea. Many of the credible ports-of-call on the Azure are in easy in coastal distance of each other. Only a crazed pirate coming from the southern isles would be in a hurry enough to zip across to the Gearnat Sea in the north. I can only imagine the dangers natural or magical that lay in the middle of that vast body of water...

Friday, October 16, 2015

Castle Greyhawk: Roar

Welcome back followers of Greyhawk! It's a good day to promote a new page in the third chapter of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Check out page twenty-eight plus follow some potent prose by crafty conjurer Scott Casper. On our site you can also check the archives and follow the entire Castle Greyhawk story from the very beginning.

Artist's Commentary: This is a great milestone in our joint project! Scott has woven a story that has had it's share of dangers from giant centipedes to ogres to violet fungi. Now after running around in a dungeon for three chapters we get to the other "D" in D&D. I hope the party can handle this newest threat.

From an artistic standpoint this page was a delight. I can't say for certain how many dragons I've illustrated in my life but I'm going to guess I can count the number on my fingers. For those old school D&D enthusiasts this monster is entirely based on the illo by Dave Sutherland in the first Monster Manual. Needless to say I put most of my mojo into drawing that panel and I'm quite pleased. I only hope I can repeat the success next page. :-s

Monday, October 12, 2015

Sea Princes Campaign Rambling

I've been working a lot lately and haven't had much a chance to update the blog. With nothing newsworthy going on, I decided to air some thoughts and brainstorms I have on my ongoing series of Hold of the Sea Princes campaigns. Today I'm running one at Twilight Comics in Swansea, IL for one of my long time groups. If any readers live around that area or you serve at Scott Air Force base, you should definitely check out the store.

This will be our fifth or sixth session and I've covered a lot of ground including Jetsom Island, the Jeklea Bay coast, Port Toli and soon, today I'll be featuring Keoland's main port of Gradsul. The best info on the port of Gradsul can be found in the Living Greyhawk Journal #1. If you can find a PDF or old print copy of this magazine I highly recommend it because the article on Keoland is written by my good friend and Greyhawk author, Gary Holian.

As for Port Toli, there is really little to go on, but from conversations I've had with people I've turned it into a metropolitan hotbed of danger, intrigue and dubious morals. Mind you, my game is played at the gold box timeline of 576 and after. Post-Greyawk Wars Sea Princes ruled by the Scarlet Brotherhood is not the environment for high seas fun that I want. Yet. If I get around to it, I'll try to do some write ups of the locations and set-pieces I've developed for these parts.

Moving a game from port to port is a challenge for DMs in that you have to keep players engaged and interested in the tasks and destinations you provide. A good method I advise is to use random weather, sea encounter charts (mind are cobbled from all editions) and most importantly custom crew event charts to make the travel in between planned encounters less tedious and it creates subplots that you may not have otherwise thought of beforehand. A simple storm blowing a ship off course or a random fight breaking out on deck between NPCs might get you more mileage than a scripted encounter and for a long term campaign filler encounters are invaluable.

I'm brainstorming another future campaign for my Sunday group too. This one will differ slightly from my current Monday group but they share the same continuity which helps in writing overall. This game is going to be more epic in scale though, so I'm contemplating starting at 3rd level! This leads to my last thoughts on D&D. My Monday group uses Pathfinder rules, which has been a good transition from my old 3,5e games. The Sunday group I'm with uses 5e rules pretty much exclusively now. I did a couple test runs DMing the new rule set in a Ravenloft setting and it's pretty fun. My only concern is trying to adapt over some of my hybrid Basic/1e/3e seafaring rules to 5e.

I haven't seen much in the way of seafaring rules yet from Wizards and given their current love of the Realms I can't see that happening soon. I could be wrong but does Faerun have any kind of high seas story to its setting? I remember reading a Moonshae novel way back in the day and I know they have an inner sea sourcebook of some kind, but high seas, I'm not sure. What I mean here is I'm not waiting. I'll cobble some house rules like I always do when the time comes.

That's all for now, back to your normal gaming day.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Graz'zt and Zuggtmoy Minis

Just saw this on ENWorld the other day. Yup, the first mini ever of Zuggtmoy and new minis of demon lords Graz'zt and Orcus from Gale Force 9. What else can I say about this?

Update: ENWorld has just reported there is a Demogorgon mini and damn it's fantastic looking!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Castle Greyhawk: Fire and Ice

Welcome back again loyal Greyhawk readers! It's high time I promoted a new page in the third chapter of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Check out page twenty-seven plus follow some lead-in literature by wily wordsmith Scott Casper. On our site you can also check the archives and follow the entire Castle Greyhawk story from the very beginning.

Artist's Commentary: An alternative title for this page could also be "Frozen Assets". Anyhoo, the party has ventured into the ice cave and found treasure frozen in ice. I'd like to say this is a "Mike" type encounter, anything to keep the players from having loot, but this situation actually happened to me as a player this year in a game I am playing in. Go figure.
This page continues to test my artistic skills. Ice effects, lighting, icy breath, fireballs in motion. What else you got Scott? ;)

Stay tuned for next page, it is gonna be a blast!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Greyhawk is Ugly

I'm playing devil's advocate here, so hang on. Yesterday I was reading how it was the late Dave Arneson's birthday. The co-creator of D&D is of course famous for Blackmoor, which is a setting in its own right yet inexplicably part of the World of Greyhawk as well. That got me rethinking how Greyhawk, the setting many of us love is really an ugly patchwork of disparate settings, genres and authorial voices. Contrast that with rival Forgotten Realms, and you'll see why Greyhawk isn't a very marketable setting as a whole.

I'm not a Gygax historian by any means so my facts and chronology might be skewed, but I do know enough about the setting that I can look at the parts that make up the whole and see how hard it would be to defend the setting to a newcomer. The basis for the World of Greyhawk is naturally, an adaptation of Gary's home game and if I'm right Robert Kuntz's Maure Castle game as well. It's not uncommon for writers to collaborate on fantasy settings; Dragonlance is a successful example. A couple DMs building a homebrew world is ideal in fact, though Gygax does get a lion's share of the credit. Ed Greenwood by comparison is also considered the singular voice behind the Forgotten Realms but it's early development wasn't burdened by additional or outside the home setting material (cultural analogs Kara-Tur and Al-Qadim notwithstanding). Greyhawk however, during the infancy of D&D was intentionally designed to be a kitchen sink setting that liberally borrowed from many of TSR's brightest authors.

This spirit of creative diversity at first can be taken as an advantage, but once you try to explain the origins of this crazy quilt of a setting it becomes rather unwieldy. So you already have Gygax and Kuntz's campaigns and then Blackmoor (and the Duchy of Tenh) in what I can only guess is an homage to Arneson's campaign because the two bear little resemblance except in name. Add to this Lenard Lakofka's Lendore Isles campaign nestled comfortably on the edge of the map. Jim Ward's classic sci-fi game Metamorphosis Alpha was given a nod in the World of Greyhawk via the adventure Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. Genre bending hero Murlynd features heavily in early Greyhawk canon and I suspect he may have once been intended as a link to TSR's western-themed RPG, Boot Hill. Stranger yet is author Andre Norton's involvement in writing the novel Quag Keep. It's name is also thrown in the game setting despite there being no further similarity.

The patchwork nature of the setting goes "beyond the Flanaess" too, the setting nearly saw the inclusion of Frank Mentzer's Aquaria setting and it's now fairly well known from the Dragon Annual #1 map of Oerth that much of what was planned to be in the western half of the world was somehow based on the French graphic novel Black Moon Chronicles. By the time all these things are in place, the incorporation of Moldvay and Cook's classic The Isle of Dread into Oerth for Paizo's Savage Tide AP seems even less surprising.

So what is a fan of Greyhawk to think? Luckily the setting has been around long enough that later writers and fans have done all the heavy work justifying how these parts work (or don't work) together. Or you can ignore ramblings like mine and enjoy the diversity. Yet for published Greyhawk to continue one day or even reboot as the case may be, I'm afraid it may be necessary to tear up this quilt and focus just on the cohesive or "iconic" parts of the setting.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Greyhawk Comic Rewind: Waldorf

Hey all, let's have a look at one of my favorite classic Greyhawk comic strips from 2007 featuring the Dragon Magazine legend, Waldorf. Back in the mists of D&D prehistory, people had to write actual paper letters and send them by pony express to the editor to have them published in the forums of the magazine. Often if the letter was outrageous enough other people would write letters about your letter! Internet forums just don't have the same zing as a nice character debate done in print. Check it out...

Here is the editor's responses to the famous Waldorf letter(in italics), followed by a deluge of other equally wacky letters that came in response to Waldorf's. This is classic Dragon Magazine comedy:

Of course. However; you forgot to enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope. We regret that Waldorf must lose the experience points and gold for his victory.

  • Dear Dragon: My friends and I have been playing the AD&D game for over six years now. Our major characters have levels in the millions, maximum scores for almost every ability, and can obliterate five planes of the Abyss in a round. We have moved on to other games and have developed other major characters in those games. We have created creatures that are barely a challenge for our characters. After a while, role-playing got boring. I haven’t played for about two months. I would like to know how I can have fun with these high-level characters.

Perhaps you should meet Waldorf.

  • Dear Dragon: Stop making your game. I killed all the monsters. 

All but Waldorf.

  • Please tell Waldorf that I have successfully completed making my savings roll, and ask him how much damage I took from the atomic bomb.


No address given, but we assume it was Greyhawk

  • My character, “Fist” Xavier Redlance, has become ultimately powerful. . . . He owns three or four completely paid-for and fortified castles. He and his mount, a 14-HD cloud dragon (“Phantom ”), could wipe out Tiamat in one round of combat, or obliterate five tarrasques or even Waldorf. He is a 60th-level knight/23rd-level bard/23rd-level druid/l4th-level illusionist. . . . His two weapons are a mounted Dragonlance and a + 6 two-handed holy avenger. He is also psionically imbued. Tell Waldorf that not all of the planet was obliterated. “Fist” Xavier has two of his castles completely surrounded by granite (i.e, they’re three miles underground). The one thing he hasn’t done is design a device to clean up postexplosion radiation, but he is currently working on the problem. He can come out because his armor is resistant to just about any substance known to man (or Waldorf).

Travis Fox
Virginia Beach VA

  • Recently, my AD&D® game character, Mirv the Outrageous (a 360th-level mage who had developed long-range space travel and left his home in the Forgotten Realms) discovered a small barren world. There were only a few inhabitants on it, on a 3 x 4-mile island with a castle. After infiltration, Mirv and his comrades discovered the castle’s name: Castle Waldorf. Beneath the castle, working in a salt mine, were the deities of the realm. What a horrible fate. So Mirv and his friends returned to their ship and destroyed all of the remaining life on the island through the use of saturation bombing (phosphorus and antimagic bombs) and Mirv’s favorite spell, power word nuke, a tenth-level spell. They then returned to the island in radiation gear and liberated the poor gods who, due to their lives among the stars, were immune to radiation at ground zero. Unfortunately, the owner of the isle was standing directly at ground zero when Mirv’s spell hit. We truly mourn his loss.

Jake Lovell
Louisville KY

  • I was a little disturbed when I read the letter about Waldorf in issue #137. Well, it just so happens that my 421st-level magic user, Alkeronus, was in outer space for the last year and just decided to come back to Greyhawk. Alkeronus was, of course, ticked off, so he decided to destroy Waldorf and his castle. With his supreme power, Alkeronus made the sun go supernova, which completely disintegrated the planet. Waldorf is dead, and I expect the character to never be used again. Waldorf, you should have known better than to mess with Alkeronus'’s alehouse!

Wade Beckman
Sioux Falls SD

  • We regret to inform Waldorf the magic-user that he is in eternal servitude to Shamogroth Darkmane, a 511th-level Krynn minotaur barbarian and his 89-person barbarian horde. Shamogroth was on his home plane avenging the destruction of his original barbarian tribe, so he was absent during the holocaust. Unfortunately for Waldorf, Shamogroth returned to his home forest to see that it was devastated. Shamogroth then searched for the only safe place on Oerth to return from the Border Ethereal: Castle Waldorf. By now, Mr. Darkmane was very steamed (and a little hungry), so he and his group of barbarians (ranging in levels from 100 to 300) plundered the castle and destroyed it and all within, save Waldorf and the deities. Shamogroth released the gods, who promptly did away with Waldorf’s power by exposing him to a little Negative Material plane torture, then repopulated Greyhawk. Shamogroth is now an epic hero and is watched over by the good and kind gods, and Waldorf is now chained to the bottom of the Valley of Eternal Pain, created by Shamogroth and his divine friends. Sorry, Waldorf.

James Collins &Jason Ross
Woody CA

  • In response to this so-called wizard Waldorf’'s recent letter, I will not send my character sheets to Mr. Waldorf, simply because I am the most powerful being in Greyhawk. Maybe you have heard of me: I call myself the Dungeon Master. And just let me say that I’ve been getting pretty annoyed with Waldorf lately, so watch it!
Spotsy VA

  • My 1st-level assassin from Waterdeep in the Forgotten Realms was teleported to the world of Greyhawk. He survived the dangers of radiation with his suit of + 5 radiation-proof leather armor. He sought out Waldorf’s castle and made it into the throne room while wearing his cloak of elvenkind, then shot Waldorf with his blowgun and a needle of slaying cheaters doused with Type A cheapo poison he bought at the Waterdeep Assassins’ Guild. Waldorf dropped with one shot. My assassin then freed all the gods under the castle, and they have started to repair and rebuild the world of Greyhawk. I think that for this deed all the people at TSR, Inc. need to send me a written thank you....I also think Waldorf should mail me his character sheet and list of possessions and magical items, so I can total the experience points for my new 14th-level Guildmaster Assassin.

Chris Bishop and Trent Ocobock
Yakima WA

Here is your “thank you.” The editors also wish to thank Bloodstone of Furondy (a 386thlevel magic-user) for decapitating Waldorf with a sling, Natricia (a 394th-level magic-user/214thlevel fighter/296th-level cleric) for recreating Greyhawk and challenging Waldorf (“as his damage was such a bother to fix”), Oharan Morshall (“The Drow From Below” who replaced Lolth) who suggested polymorphing Waldorf (“Waldorf Slaad has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?”), and all the other characters (and players) who wrote to us.

Live long and prosper.
Dragon #173

  • Dear Dragon, Recently, Parevé Dotrose (a 564th-level magic-user and 34th-level illusionist) teamed up with Megahnan Whitewolf (a 567th-level mage of high sorcery) to perform the greatest deed of 1991: the great resurrection of Waldorf, king of the nuke! Parevé and Megahnan traveled to the Realms by way of spelljamming and sought out the cleric known as Darklight Moonbeam. They were escorted to Moonbeam’s temple by a fleet of toxic dragons and welcomed by Darklight himself. After a nice dinner, Darklight allowed them to gaze upon his most recent creation: a wand of Waldorf resurrection +36. Needless to say, the two mages were speechless. Megahnan convinced Darklight to help in the plan to bring Waldorf back to the land of the living. So, Darklight gathered up his gear and his merry band of 100 kenders in order to depart on a great adventure.
  • After Darklight had used the wand (and the kender band had “found” all of the things there were to “find”), Waldorf was resurrected. But Waldorf had become a lich! The wand had malfunctioned and just happened to cast a spell that transformed the nuclear man into a mean and nasty undead. Of course, Waldorf wanted revenge on his enemies, who had seemed to come out of the woodwork to kill him. Thus, Parevé, Megahnan, Hanibal the Minotaur (46th-level warrior), and Nicodemis (20th-level sage) wandered the multiverse, slaying the enemies of their lich leader. The first to fall was “Fist” Xavier Redlance. Megahnan polymorphed Xavier’s pet cloud dragon (14 HD) into a salamander and swallowed him whole. Next, Megahnan broke Redlance’s holy avenger +6 with the ancient hammer of Kharas, then finished him off with a 46th-level bolt of plasma.
  • Next, Megahnan used his ring of Mirv finding to locate the human known as Mirv the Outrageous. Megahnan quickly coughed on Mirv’s band, infecting them with the horrid “burning fever” from the DRAGONLANCE® saga, then turned to face Mr. Outrageous himself. Megahnan won the first attack and slew Mirv with one hit from his sword of infinite slaying. 
  • Thirdly, Hanibal captured Shamogroth Darkmane while Parevé killed Darkmane’s band of 89 barbarians with his newest 42nd-level spell, spirit rollingpin. Darkmane fought Hanibal and killed Nicodemis (who was along for the fun) in the process. Hanibal became mad and ran Darkmane through with a footman’s dragonlance. Shamogroth died a coward, screaming for his mommy.
  • Lastly, Waldorf, Hanibal, and their new slave, Thor (mentioned in issue #152) killed the hundreds of other characters who dared to try to challenge Waldorf in 1989. To top it all off, Waldorf and his new twin dragon steeds, Tiamat and Takhisis, fought a hard battle with the powerful being known only as “Dungeon Master.” Of course, Hanibal was there to help in the battle, so the DM died also. So, now that Waldorf lives again, he will begin to control, mold, and shape the world of Greyhawk as he wishes.
I sorta knew this would happen, sooner or later.
Dragon #177

  • Dear Dragon, I have had it with Waldorf and the 100 + level campaign. I’m stuffing a hammership with nilbogs and ramming Waldorf’s castle. If I act fast, I can catch all of his demi-followers at the victory celebration. The nilbogs will convert all the damage they take into hit points and wipe out the survivors. The End (I hope!).

Douglas M. Burck
Boyd KY

Your plan worked perfectly Congratulations. Waldorf is officially dead!

But as few know, this is what really happened:

From page 98 of The Adventure Begins:

Waldorf the Archmage (CN human male, Wizard 1, hp 1) is the 64 year old owner of the Roc and Oliphant Tavern. "Waldorf is notorious for his tall tales, most of which allegedly concern his past life as a deity. (He says he was eventually thrown down and made mortal by other jealous gods after a great battle in space.)He is a master storyteller for a failed wizard, and his grandiose but straightforward lies are the envy of all."