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Ulakand City of Horses (Finished but unpublished and no map yet) This is a complete write up on the capital of Ull and it's neighboring locations on the mesa.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.