Sunday, January 31, 2016

Quick Greyhawkery Update

Wow it's been almost a week since I posted? Okay, so I have been falling behind on my projects, thus I'm airing this fact to motivate myself to get back on track. 

First, I have a new page of our Castle Greyhawk graphic novel coming up in a few days. The climatic battle with the white dragon is almost done!
My next installment of the Five Shall Be One reboot should be tomorrow (including some nice visual aides that will make you jealous). 

I also have neglected my 5 Reasons to Visit series which I vow to get back to ASAP. I'm thinking Nyrond or the Bright Desert

Anyone else running some Greyhawk? I'd love to hear about it. Until then, make mine Greyhawk!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Five Shall Be One: Prelude

Welcome fans of Greyhawk, today I'm undertaking my first campaign in the Hold of Sea Princes using 5E and I intend to try and do session recaps in my distinctive storytelling fashion like my original Sea Princes campaign years ago. I play and run a lot of campaigns though, so what makes this one special is that I'm making an effort to reboot the 2E modules Five Shall Be One and Howl From the North, set in the south seas. This means in addition to some game play accounts, I will provide some custom free 5E Greyhawk material. Enough set-up, let's get to the adventure and for future reference spoilers ahead!

Dramatis personae:

Cullen (finessed first-mate, human rogue)
Ms. Loreweaver (querying-quartermaster, human bard)
Tyrrus Bandale (daring-deckhand, human fighter)
Kuma Sand (crab-curing, human druid)
and Lash Driftwood (longbow-bosun, sea elf ranger)

The Sea Hag is not much to look at; a dingy, old crabbing ship crewed by a motley group of sailors from about the Azure Sea. But this outward appearance belies the Sea Hag's true stature, for it's originally a warship built for speed and seaworthiness thanks to its aged captain Sid "White Beard" Cragg. The year is 578 CY and the Hold of the Sea Princes is enjoying a relative peace, truces with neighboring Kingdom of Keoland and foes in the far-south Pirate Isles have proved profitable for all.

The Sea Hag begins its tale on Jeklea Bay, a huge tropical body of water nestled between the Hold, the Amedio Jungle and the volcanic Hellfurnaces. The crew is particularly better than most rivals in their profession at locating the best areas to catch lucrative crab thanks to the weather predictions of Kuma and the undersea insights of the sea elf Lash. Their haul this voyage is potentially extra profitable because the captain intends to take them to the capital, Monmurg, where the Hold of the Sea Princes will be celebrating the three-day Princes' Festival. Their first day out was rainy and warm, a pleasant day for throwing pots and hauling lines from the blue waters of the bay. Cragg was becoming disappointed, the crew worked hard but was catching very little despite his expert's advice. Then suddenly Cullen's crab-pot was raised on deck and out spilled a trio of giant crabs!

The crew scattered because the giant species always put up a good fight, though one deckhand, Tyrrus was never intimidated by sea critters. He rushed in to aid the dual-scimitar wielding Cullen, swinging his own long two-handed blade. As Lash began to fling errant arrows at the lumbering crabs, the captain and druid both yelled sharply over the roar of confusion to take the giants alive. Any crab is money after all. Subduing the large hard-shelled crustaceans with bladed weapons proved harder than they figured, especially for Tyrrus' great sword. Loreweaver motivated her compatriots to try harder (after she found crabs aren't affected by insults) and soon the creatures were down and bound up with Kuma tending to their minor wounds (damaged crabs won't sell as well). That night the crew choked down an awful meal cooked by "Good" Bill Barden and listened to a long crabbing story (for the 17th time) by Ms. Loreweaver. The captain retired to his chamber early.

Having finally filled their hold with delicious crab, the Sea Hag sailed north to Monmurg where Prince Jeon II's festival was just getting underway. Ships crowded the port, while kites rose in the air and music played everywhere giving the city a colorful and vibrant feel. Member captains and nobles of the three rival Hold factions were all in attendance: The Princes' Fleet, the Toli Armada and the Hold Flotilla. The Sea Hag's home is Jetsom Island and thus their loyalty lay with the Prince's Fleet, which is an important fact for soon after unloading their cargo, a message was delivered by courier to the hands of Cullen imploring the Sea Hag to represent their island in the next day's Princes Cup Regatta. Evidently their ship's reputation still abounded back home. With some bardic encouragement (and the promise of a rich purse for winning) from Ms. Loreweaver, the captain and crew accepted the invite. 

The rest of the day the crew wandered the docks and streets to take part in the festival. Tyrrus' brawn proved useful in fixing a broken beer wagon earning him a hand keg for his trouble, while Loreweaver and Cullen went on a side jaunt to pick a pocket or two from drunks, then ended up in a brothel where they in turn were nearly pick-pocketed if not for the perceptively intimidating insistence of Cullen to return the stolen items (which Loreweaver would've gladly gave the working girls anyhow). That night everyone congregated at the Black Anchor Inn to crash after a full night's carousing in a third floor common room. That is when dark shapes skulked in through the windows...

Meditating Lash and the jumpy bard and rogue were awakened by a slight noise and the sign of glittery dust in the air. No one had succumbed to the magical dust, though Kuma slept like a baby and Tyrrus hugged his keg still asleep. Lash could see in the dark of the room that there were goblins dressed as sailors with a human leading them. Afraid that their mission failed, the trespassers began to flee if not for the quick grasp of Cullen and in another direction Loreweaver's thunderous wave of sound shattered glass, burst goblin eardrums and woke everyone else in the inn. The goblins began to flee down a catwalk and down trellises after that show of magic.

Groggy but alert, Tyrrus sprang toward the shattered window and leaped out not heeding their third story room and tackled two of the interlopers to the ground, crushing their skull and severely spraining his own neck in the effort. Lash retrieved his bow against the wall and discouraged another goblin climbing down, till he was too caught at the bottom by Tyrrus (though he also caught some fleas from them). Cullen wrestled with the human sailor until the charms of Loreweaver calmed him. Kuma knocked out a goblin from behind before he could rouse his boss. Outside, Cullen gave chase on the catwalk for the last goblin who leaped for the next building and came up short. With the little pirate hanging from the ledge, Cullen leaped over him to the other side then offered his hand to help. The goblin was fooled and he fell, concussed to the ground. Ms. Loreweaver soon learned from her newest "friend" that they hailed from the ship Iron Trident, the fastest ship of the Toli Armada; and they intended for their opponents to oversleep and miss the regatta, A new rivalry was created...

(to be continued)

Campaign notes: All the prelude encounters were my own creation as a way to let the players get a feel for their characters, the crew, the ship and the background of the setting. Next session we will delve into my adapted remake of FSBO. The characters started at level 3 and rolled stats 4d6 drop the lowest, assigned any order. I want heroic characters for once not lovable losers. We also do a seventh stat, comeliness (from Greyhawk lore) to represent "looks". Next week I hope to have more material to show off, plus maybe a map in a session or two.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Castle Greyhawk: The Tide Turns

Greetings fans of Greyhawk! Today is the day I promote the latest episode of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Check out page thirty-five to see some manic monster melee manuscripted 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: The battle has taken a turn in favor of the heroes! The more I draw this encounter the more I've learned about dragon anatomy and keeping a consistent look has been a challenge. I've also, probably belatedly learned how to give the dragon some emotion be it through the glance in panel one or pain in panel five.

It's good to see Murlynd again. It's fun to think in hindsight how he hung back for most of the chapter just being the light bearer or as my friends call it "the sherpa". In truth he might be the highest level character in this bunch. I wondered while drawing this page what spell he was casting. Surely it isn't magic missile but that's the obvious choice. These arrows of force seem to have more oomph behind them is all I can observe.

As always Tenser is overly brave and dramatic in using his unidentified wand. (do players even do that anymore?) Terik likewise throws caution to the wind just so he can get a lick in on the dragon. By my count so far, I think Yrag has done the least damage to the dragon. What will happen next? Check in soon to find out!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Curse of Strahd

Well, this is tangential Greyhawk news, but no less exciting. On the heels of the new OGL and DMGuild news, Wizards has officially announced their next adventure is Curse of Strahd and from the blurbs and chatter, it's entirely set in Barovia in the setting of Ravenloft. Check the link to get all the details as they continue to roll in daily. D&D celebrity Chris Perkins again takes the lead on this with original creators Tracy and Laura Hickman. It doesn't get much better creatively than this.

I am a huge fan of Ravenloft second only to Greyhawk of course. I've already ran a couple one-shot 5E adventures in Ravenloft and was planning to do a longer campaign when this news coincidentally dropped on my head (I've postponed the idea since). Needless to say I'm anxious to get this book and possibly the tie-in Tarokka deck by GF9, and what's more, if it is true to the setting and not just another Forgotten Realms exploit then that's grand news for the future of the D&D multiverse.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Finally! D&D 5E OGL

The internet is aflame with the news. No not David Bowie's death and not the president's state of the union address. What's up is WotC has finally released an Open Gaming License (and SRD) for 5E! Well about time, right? It's progress yes, but for aspiring Greyhawk creators, it's not quite time to celebrate.

According to Wizard's official article, writers can now use the OGL and sell their material through the approved Dungeon Masters Guild website (from what I seen Wizards gets a 50% cut) provided your 5E product uses original IP or is set in the Forgotten Realms. Well that of course crushes the hopes of many Greyhawk fans such as myself who want to share some quality material for the new edition. Of course it's mentioned in their FAQ that other settings' IP may be opened later, but the pessimist in me says this will be hew closer to 6th Edition than the start of the OGL. Then again, with so many people potentially developing FR maybe Wizards' staff will focus on Oerth for once (pipe dream?).

Greyhawk gripes aside, this new OGL set-up is indeed great news for everyone, especially for people who want to develop and sell a homebrew setting. In the very least it will be good to get into the practice of self-publishing in the event Greyhawk or some other loved setting comes open for general use. Who knows, maybe then a clever team of Greyhawk fan-writers can revive the setting like they did almost two decades ago...

Update 06/11/2021: Still waiting...

Update 06/11/2176: Still waiting...

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Vault of the Drow Poster

Comic artist Jason Thompson is at it again, this time in keeping with WotC's love of the Underdark, he has drawn a remarkable walk-through poster of the classic module Vault of the Drow. Jason has done many many other wonderful maps such as this which I've covered in years past. Now check this one out too!

Update 06/11/2021: You can the Vault walk-thru and more on the blog RendedPress.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Castle Greyhawk: Ice Breaker

Welcome again fans of Greyhawk! Today I'm happy to plug the latest episode of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Check out page thirty-four to see some breath-taking battles conjured 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: The more I draw this dragon, the better it seems to get. The chapter has got to end soon though, so I can't get too attached to this ol' ice wyrm. He doesn't even have a name! 
I think a lot of the artistic weight to these panels comes from the fact I've been watching The Hobbit extended edition movies and at the same time finished playing WotC's Rise of Tiamat. Any dragon worth his salt, like Smaug, just bully their way around a movie screen or comic page for that matter. 
It's fun then to see how Scott manages to squeeze our heroes into the scene while the white dragon is flailing about in all directions. 

With that in mind, it's also good to have dungeonmaster experience in composing these types of comic scenes. Positioning is good to know. Terik is on the left, Robilar to the right, Serten behind and well, Tenser was up front but bailed. Speaking of bailing, where did Murylnd go?

More next time.

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year New Stuff

Happy Needfest Greyhawkers. It's finally 2016, or, 606 CY in Living Greyhawk time. Either way, I have a couple 'hawk related things to show off that I got this season:

At our annual Gamerstable secret Santa party, I got this very Greyhawk-y shirt from my oldest, best friend Jayson. It's a pretty popular parody-design and I hadn't even put it on my wish-list but I am definitely wearing this to the next GenCon Greyhawk Meet-Up. Be sure to thank Jayson on Twitter for me. I am a Son of Gygax indeed!

Speaking of Greyhawk originals, my other item is a gift from one of the all-time best hawk fans out there, Allan "Grodog" Grohe. He sent me a pair of Olidammara's Dice, which I had been looking to get someday. These dice aren't easy to come by, so I feel honored to know Allan and have earned his friendship over the years. Hopefully we'll get to cross paths and roll some dice at a convention in 2016.

What do Olid's Dice do you ask? It's high risk, high reward. Sort of like the Deck of Many Things, but not a campaign killer. Just because obscure Greyhawk stuff like this needs to be shared, here's the write-up from the 3.5 Epic Level Handbook (all content owned by WotC of course):

This pair of yellowed ivory cubes appears much like any other pair of typical (6-sided) dice, though in place of the "1" spot is Olidammara's symbol. the mask of comedy and tragedy combined.
A character with a pair of Olidammara's dice who wishes to roll them must announce that he is rolling the dice (accidental rolls have no effect). Rolling the dice is a standard action, and both dice must be rolled simultaneous to have any effect.
To mimic the roll of Olidammara's dice the player should roll 2d6 and consult the table below.

2      Lost 10,000 XP and dice roll again next round.
3      Permanently lose 1d4+1 dex
4      Gain 1d4 negative levels (Fortitude DC 20 to remove)
5      -1 penalty to all attacks, saves, and checks for 1 hour
6      -4 penalty to AC for 10 minutes
7      +1 morale bonus on attacks and saves against fear for 10 minutes
8      Gain effects of blur for 10 minutes
9      +1 insight bonus on all attacks, saves, and checks for 1 hour
10    Gain effects of freedom of movement for 1 hour
11    Gain one limited wish (must be used within 1 minute)
12    Gain 10,000 XP and may roll again next round

 No character can gain any effect from an additional roll of the dice within 24 hours, with two exceptions. If you roll a 2, the dice automatically roll themselves at the beginning of your next turn and you must accept the additional result. If you roll a 12, you may choose to roll again in the next round (if more than 1 full round elapses between the roll of 12 and your bonus roll, you lose the bonus roll).
There  is no method (mundane or magical) to predict or influence the result of a roll of Olidammara's dice. Even powerful divination magic can't predict the outcome of a roll before it is made.