Sunday, February 28, 2016

Five Shall Be One: Shadows and Light

Welcome Greyhawkers, today is the fourth installment of my new 5E Hold of Sea Princes reboot of the 2E modules Five Shall Be One and Howl From the North, set in the south seas. What sort of intrigue and escapades will the crew of the Sea Hag get into this week? Read on, and beware, this story may contain spoilers!

Dramatis personae:

Cullen (capricious captain, human rogue)
Sabriel Loreweaver (fireballing first-mate, human bard)
Tyrrus Bandale (brash bosun, human fighter)
Kuma Sand (searing surgeon, human druid)
Ostyn (determined deckhand, human fighter)

and Lash Driftwood (queasy quartermaster, sea elf ranger)

When last we saw the questing crew was caught cowering from worm crawling cadavers. Leaving the cave and the undead burning in their nostrils, the party descended deeper into darkness in search of their prize. Perhaps emboldened by his near brush with undeath, Tyrrus led the way this time soon finding another rough cavern containing debris and a rockslide along one wall. Unfortunately two more of the fearsome worm-riddled zombies lurked here. With a yell and a charge Tyrrus led everyone in to gang up on them before they could react. One was hewn down swiftly, but the sight of the alien worms shook up Lash enough for him to withdraw to the rear with the mage Mallon. Cullen watched in desperation as one bony hand hit him and a worm tried with futility to gnaw into his skin. Ostyn rallied the group, waving a sword and torch soon setting the pair ablaze before they could regenerate their wounds. Sabriel the bard merely watched them fight, casually giving them a shrug of her shoulder.

Sifting though the debris turned up a few valuables but the rockslide was clearly blocking something. Cullen was uneasy about opening another 'can of worms' so he put it to a vote. Mallon and a few others were keen on clearing the pile to not leave a stone unturned. Tyrrus' immense strength made the effort quick, and Lash was soon peeking into the darkness beyond a short hall ending at a carved archway. Slipping into the breach first was the captain, Cullen. One step near the arch way he saw glowing runes appear on its surface. When he stepped back away they faded. Waving in Tyrrus and Lash, the pair rushed in before Mallon could appraise the situation and stop them with a warning. Glyphs flashed, acid sprayed and the two rolled and swiped as their clothes and skin burned and steamed. Kuma tended to their burns, but the others glared at them in concern, coming into a chamber beyond as the trap was already sprung.

A small black sacrificial altar lay hidden here, remnants of bowls, knives and tapestries to a worm god were all that remained, rusting and rotting in the shadows. A lone skeleton remained with simple silver bracelet. Nearly done with the room, a loose stone was seen in the wall behind the altar. Again, the brawny fighter Tyrrus yanked it free and plunged his arm into the exposed space. The others waited for his arm to be lost and were underwhelmed to find it contained a quartet of potions and a solid gold idol of some Olman fire god that Tyrrus exclaimed must be worth hundreds of thousands of gold pieces. With the items in hand the group backtracked to the long corridor. The rough tunnel soon levelled out and became a worked hallway ending at two flimsy doors. Through the first they saw a room full of broken pottery and shelves. The red glow of magic light cast on Tyrrus' great sword soon attracted a throng of leering undead shadows out of the corners of the room.

The incorporeal creatures chased the first few out of the pottery room, Ostyn bravely stood at the door trying to hold them off, but they amorphously went around him. Blades, arrows and spells flared at the shadows as they reached out with icy hands in an attempt to drain their strength. Their weapons seemed to pass harmlessly through their ghostly forms before one nearly grabbed Ostyn, yet he parried it with a scalding torch. Soon the magic of Kuma's faerie fire, Sabriel's swarm of magic daggers and a frenzy of skilled strikes eventually wiped the shadows into nothingness. Catching their breath, the group pressed on, Lash finally realizing from the day before that he could detect undead. Sure enough the presence of more living dead was ahead.

Past a mosaic floored hall depicting Olman gods and littered with skeletons was a pillared hall ending at sturdy double doors. Before the door was another wormy-zombie standing in a quiet daze until light crept up on it. The presence of the thing chilled Lash yet again but the rest of the party had dealt with them enough by now and gang-whipped the thing into a pulp of rotten flesh and burned worms. Tyrrus, ever-brash kicked in the double doors with a surge of pent of strength and stumbled into a grand temple hall, shrouded in shadows but dominated by a central pile of treasure upon which sat a black dragon of indeterminate size. The thing had been awoke by the intrusion and the party stood awestruck for a moment until it hissed for them to "run away or die".

Sabriel Loreweaver cautiously entered behind Tyrrus, who was now on guard facing the coiled dragon. The others however began to back away from the door, back within the pillared hall. Sabriel felt the urge to reason with the creature, a hand held out to use diplomacy with the monster. She inquired first, asking if it knew what the cursed black spot on her hand was. It snarled in the shadows and exclaimed that it was "it's a spot". Just then, another magical glyph on the wall behind the dragon began to glow, this time affecting the mood of some in the party; Sabriel sneered back and called it "the stupidest dragon". An insult that angered the dragon and it pounced!

Cullen rushed in to the defense of Sabriel along with the ready sword arm of Tyrrus. Their first swings connected but struck lightly as it seemed the black dragon was not quite what it seemed, a blurry haze and translucent as the shadowy undead from before. Sabriel conjured a bright light in the center of the room to bring the beast's shape into starker contrast. It was indeed an actual shadow dragon. Ostyn and Mallon dashed in to aid their compatriots yet the enraged dragon swiftly breathed upon them with a mass of rolling, smoky, necrotic energy. Sabriel and Mallon screamed in pain as the other dodged to the sides. Lash feebly flung arrows at the creature and out of the corner of his eye he saw another draconic shadow lurking along the walls and creeping toward them. The second shadow-form breathed at Lash and Kuma sending the druid to the ground in seething pain but Lash saw through the illusion and was unharmed.

Sabriel then utilized the missile bead necklace she had acquired from the pirate Anneka days ago. Flinging the explosive device behind the dragon it erupted in a ball of flame sending the dragon off-balance. The group rejoined battle with the creature, driving at it from all sides with swords, daggers and at a key moment Kuma called down a beam of moonlight to sear the shadowy monster's scales. The radiant energy had severely injured it at last. The dragon lashed out with teeth and claw, Ostyn selflessly drawing it's ire gaining scars in the process though his blades parried some of its necrotic touch. Sabriel turned the tide with a second bead of three from the necklace, again the explosion sent the monster tumbling to its stomach. Magical moonlight and stabbing blades rang at it until it stopped moving and even then a few extra stabs were given for good measure. The illusory dragon faded as well and the hall went silent, with the smell of charred shadow dragon in the air.

The group spread out to sift among the treasure scattered about by the flailing dragon and exploding balls of fire, Mallon insisted they needed to find a sword among the hoard and they weren't disappointed for a rapier of white steel and set with moonstones was found on the ground. The group rested there, collecting all the dragon had formerly possessed, while those with the ability to study the blade soon discovered this was indeed the first Blade of Corusk, named Dreamsinger which glory-loving historian, Sabriel claimed was once held in ancient days by a Suloise bard named Kristin Permfors. Indeed, the blade seemed to call out to her, attuning itself to the next bard in a historical line of warrior-poets throughout history.

To be continued...

Campaign notes: Spoilers of course!

This was my favorite part so far of the original Five Shall Be One. Shadow dragons were quite new back then and so it was quite a shocker to use, never mind that most players don't expect to encounter one so soon in a quest. This time around was just as fun. Dragons are good at capturing player's attentions. As for Dreamsinger, those familiar with the original module may remember that the blades are merely +1 weapons unless in the hands of a very specific class and race. For this I loosened the restrictions and awarded those who happened to be the right class. Check out my 5e conversion of Dreamsinger (player info only):

Weapon (rapier), legendary (requires attunement)

This fine blade is made of white steel with elaborate platinum filigree. Its basket and pommel is also set with polished moonstones. The blade was wielded long ago, by the prophetic bard Kristin Permfors who famously adventured with four other northerners.
   You gain a +3 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon. It has the following additional properties.
   Aura of Protection. While you are holding the weapon, it grants a +1 bonus to Armor Class and all saving throws, except enchantments and illusions because of the strange mental effects of the sword.
  Spells. While the weapon is attuned to a bard or any class that uses Charisma for spellcasting ability, you can use an action to cast one of the following spells (save DC 15): augury and detect thoughts.  Once you use the sword to cast a spell, you can’t cast that spell again from it until the next dawn.
   In addition, the blade grants the spell divination. Once cast, you can’t use this spell again until 7 days have passed.
   Firespear. This power only activates if the wielder of Dreamsinger or any of its sister-swords is in mortal danger. As an action, make a ranged attack against the target. A long spear of intensely hot fire is launched at a single target within 240 feet. On a hit, the target takes 6d10 fire damage.

   When the firespear is hurled from Dreamsinger, waves of melodic music cascade out from the sword in a 60-foot radius sphere. Treat the effect as a bless spell for allies, and a bane spell (DC 15 Charisma saving throw) for enemies that lasts for one minute.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Chris Perkins AMA

Howdy Greytalkers. Now I hardly ever read reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) even when it is a Q&A involving D&D creators. Recently fan favorite designer, Chris Perkins got in on the action mainly to promote their Curse of Strahd storyline. There was not much if any Greyhawk asked or mentioned in this thread. But one post involving "clues" seems to have captured people's attentions:

"Curse of Strahd represents an acknowledge of D&D's greater multiverse. We will continue to tell stories in FR, but CoS is a shot off the bow of everyone who professed that Wizards would never go back to its other classic settings. We foreshadowed the coming of CoS in the core rulebooks. The core rulebooks contain lots of clues about the stories we intend to tell going forward."

Clues based on references in the core books? Easy enough. Let's get the obvious out of the way:

The cover of the DMG as described inside, is the lich Acererak raising an army of undead to unleash against the world. There we go, big villain, story framework, artwork, higher probability of happening. My dismay is that this isn't Vecna. Acererak is just a dusty skull around the time of Tomb of Horrors so using Ace' kind of messes with my timeline sensibilities.

The cover of the PHB is Snurre, the main fire giant villain of Against the Giants. The probability of a giant storyline is ridiculously high anyhow, but would Snurre and a bunch of giants really be the best gateway to Greyhawk? I dunno. I'd rather Acererak was turned loose in my opinion. There's got to be more out there.

I will look more into these implied core book clues in the coming weeks. Keep digging friends!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Five Shall Be One: Treasures and Tracking

Welcome Greyhawkers, today is the third installment of my new 5E Hold of Sea Princes reboot of the 2E modules Five Shall Be One and Howl From the North, set in the south seas. What sort of intrigue and escapades will the crew of the Sea Hag get into this week? Read on, and beware, this story may contain spoilers!

Dramatis personae:

Cullen (cut-throat captain, human rogue)
Sabriel Loreweaver (frightened first-mate, human bard)
Tyrrus Bandale (bossy bosun, human fighter)
Kuma Sand (sanguine surgeon, human druid)
Ostyn (driven deckhand, human fighter)

and Lash Driftwood (aquatic quartermaster, sea elf ranger)

When last we saw our courageous cadre of crustacean catchers they had been given a quest most perilous by the Fivefold Council to aid the similarly cursed half-elf mage named Mallon. The city guard of Sasserine knew better than to mess with the Council, so all the captives with black spots on their hand were immediately released and escorted back to the docks. Captain Cragg, understood the gravity of the situation and since he wasn't chosen by the Council he went to his first mate, Cullen and solemnly passed the captaincy of the Sea Hag to him. Gathering his things Cragg wished all the crew luck on their new voyage and announced that he was retiring at long last. Before departing, he gave Cullen his prized flintlock pistol, a gift given to him long ago by the father of Prince Jeon II. He assured the newly-minted captain it would come in handy in the future.

Mallon for his worth came aboard their ship; he had need to ally with these marked-sailors and confided that he had already been researching the location of a great Suloise sword (once wielded by a bard) lost in a ruin within the jungles of the Amedio. Hidden within a cloak pocket, Mallon showed a map marked with a route to the coast of the jungle and from there inland to an ancient Olman city on the banks of Storm Lake. There, they needed to find a location called the Temple of Shadows. Extra supplies were obtained, Cullen handled promotions among his crew and shares were allocated before setting off. Their first day out of Sasserine, it rained steadily but the crew worked hard heading in a easterly direction along the coast. That is when look-out Four-eyes Fuller spotted an approaching sail in the hazy drizzle. What was worse, it raised a crimson flag emblazoned with a black horned skull. A pirate ship of the rival Crimson Fleet.

The ship in question was the Sea Horse, infamous in Jeklea Bay for preying on fishermen and crab-boats. Captained by the fanatical Cpt. Mulsever, they out-maneuvered the tired Sea Hag crew and were closing fast in their smaller vessel. A parley flag went up next and the Sea Horse hailed the crabbing-ship to allow them aboard to forfeit some booty in return for safe passage in these waters. Ostyn and Lash had encountered Mulsever before however, and knew he was honorable enough except he always maimed one person as a way to instill fear in defenseless fishermen. Captain Cullen allowed the Sea Horse to run up alongside and put down a plank to cross, like they had done dozens of times to every ship save the Sea Hag. Brash Mulsever himself, wearing studded leather and a bright crimson sash was ready to go across first, gloating loudly to his men how he finally caught Capt Cragg and the fastest crab-ship in the south. However, Cragg wasn't present...

Tyrrus got a running start and leaped across the divide to the Sea Horse and was soon knocking pirates overboard into the clear waters. Cullen was first to dash across the plank to directly surprise Mulsever with two sword driving into the overconfident pirate. His first mate, the stunning Anneka watched at his side in awe, her fist clenched around a small object ready to throw. Ostyn was right behind his captain also pressing the shocked Mulsever with flashing blades, then from the crow's nest, the sharpshooting ranger Lash flung one arrow into Mulsever and dropped him dead on the deck. What happened next was remarkable. The crew of the Sea Horse surrendered and cheered the crabbers for ridding them of the maniac pirate captain. The captain was relieved of his valuables, while Anneka was charmed by the equally insulting or flattering charms of Sabriel and soon was handing over the object in her hand - a magic bead from a necklace of three she wore. Anneka was reasoned with and willingly cooperated so she could live and inherit the Sea Horse. As she was charmed she gladly gave away her jewelry, her silvered longsword and the necklace of (fireball) missiles among other things. Mallon came out of hiding and was surprised to see the danger had passed so soon. With the plunderers plundered, the two ships parted in the night and the skies cleared by dawn.

Twitchy Ted Tindall had been a continual screw up on the Sea Hag since Cullen joined and now that he was captain, the latest work injury was enough. Taking the injured Twitchy to his cabin, he remarked that he would never mess up again and quickly dispatched him, took him on deck and dumped him in the bay in front of everyone. The crew was stunned, save Cruel Colin who knew Ted had it coming. Sabriel soothed the worried crew with her kind words about Ted how he was terminally ill anyhow. The men of the Sea Hag could hardly argue, but things were now troublesome. That evening they reached the mouth of a small river that bored into the Amedio Jungle, nearby was an abandoned fort and pier. The Sea Hag was left here while the away team would strike off into the jungle to follow Mallon's directions.

Taking a launch, they followed the unmarked, meandering river, aptly named the Sabriel River by their glory-seeking bard. The jungle loomed all about them but floating on the river, nothing dared bother them for a few days travel save for the lectures of the sagacious mage Mallon. Sabriel's sleep magics made sure the trip was much quieter. At a ford between two streams they disembarked from the boat and hid it onshore. From this point Lash led them safely into the jungle, swiftly blazing a path with ease toward the distant Storm Lake. Again, the jungle thrived with noise and smells, but the their arduous trek was made safe by the combined skills of the party. It wasn't long before signs of ruins became apparent in the dense jungle. The tangle of trees eventually gave way to a great Olman city laying in rubble on the banks of a gloomy, thundering lake stretching to the horizon.

With a storm fast approaching, Lash got an uneasy feeling that undead were in this area, and he spotted tracks and signs that proved his fears. Sabriel began conjuring colorful lights upon objects for each of her comrades as night encroached. Exposed to the elements, they decided to venture farther in to seek shelter and it was before the entrance of an old hill-side temple of a bat-god, that they saw the hulking body of a gorilla, laying lifeless in the mud. Undaunted, Tyrrus went up to the dead ape to extract some teeth as a souvenir yet to everyone's shock (especially the revolted bard) a large green worm bored out of the ape's mouth and tried to bite the fighter! Swatting it off in disgust, Tyrrus cleaved the corpse apart with his huge sword and made sure if the ape was undead it wouldn't get up. The worm became lost as rain poured down. The group retreated into the temple's entrance tunnel to get dry and possibly get a long deserved rest. Lightning flashed outside silhouetting things moving about in the broken city.

Their rest over, the seven roused from their uneven slumber to turn around and explore down the narrow dusty tunnel behind them. Newly cast cantrips of dim red light surrounded the single-file party while roguish Cullen stealthily searched ahead. Around a corner he heard a shuffling noise, likely a source of the tracks in the city and possibly the green worm. A hand shot up to halt the party so he could scout closer, but once he saw it, Cullen ran in fear to the midst of his compatriots. It wasn't long before Lash too fell away in unshakable fear and poor Sabriel screamed in horror as she too saw a zombie lumbering after them, its eyes, mouth and limbs writhing with unholy green worms. The first to conquer his fear was Ostyn and as he stabbed at the zombie with his newly procured silver sword, the thing began to thrash with clawed fingers and dripped worms as it reached out. Kuma, a druid abhorred the unnatural being and tried to stab at it from a distance with his spear but it pressed on until Ostyn managed to knock it down with a deft maneuver. Tyrrus brazenly jumped ahead to run it through while it was prone, but to their dismay the thing was regenerating. Even from the ground, a tenacious undead hand grabbed Tyrrus' ankle and with it a worm nearly bored into his skin again. The thing flailed and tried to stand but with the others fending it off, Kuma managed to finally set it ablaze with a torch. The others recovered from their fright and watched as the foul thing smoldered and crackled with the sound of popping worms. That had only been the first room.

To be continued...

Campaign notes: As I have explained more than once, this is adapted from the module Five Shall Be One. One thing of note is the map below, showing a part of the Amedio Jungle. In the original mod, Mallon's map is of the Bandit Kingdoms and the Bluff Hills found in the cold north. It took a good stretch of imagination to chance locations like this, but I like my results. Hand-drawn maps are the best. Check it out:

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Castle Greyhawk: Epilogue To Adventure

Well met patrons of Greyhawk! Well folks we are at long last at the end of chapter three in our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Check out page thirty-seven to see some bow-tying scenes by sensational scribe 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: It's been a wild ride getting to the end of chapter three (over a year's time). I've learned a lot of new artistic tricks and practiced many others. And I got my fill of draconic art! Shew.
What's next for our Greyhawk protagonists? Well, me and Scott will soon be having a meeting of the minds in person over this very topic.I think there might be a lull before the start of the next chapter but do stay tuned!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Some Greyhawk Stuff

It's a cold wintry day in Ull so let's recycle some Greyhawk items recently found on the web...

First is this really cool 3D Tomb of Horrors by Josh Plunkett at Down Under DM. Spoilers ahead! If I had the time and space, this type of project would totally be up my alley. I'll stick with 2D for now! Kudos Mr. Plunkett.

Speaking of the Tomb in case you hadn't seen this post yet, someone out there really really hates the module. Those were different times I guess!

Greyhawk is king over at where PDFs of its classic publications own half of the top 12 hottest downloads. I'm not even counting stuff like OD&D rules and the Blackmoor supplement. Greyhawk is not dead, folks.

Lastly, I'm dying to attend Garycon someday. This March 3-6th at Lake Geneva, WI is Garycon VIII. I know there will be more than a few of our fellow Greyhawk colleagues there, as well as artists and writers who have touched the setting in times past.

Here is some select events going on there:

Grodog's Castle Greyhawk - The Heretical Temple of Wee Jas by Allan Grohe
The Heretical Temple of Wee Jas has gone too far---its excommunicated High Priestess must be brought to justice, and her heretical followers put to the sword! Descend into the depths of Castle Greyhawk's seventh level, to wield the divine wrath of the Suloise goddess of death and magic upon the iconoclast blasphemers! Explore Grodog's version of Castle Greyhawk: bring your graph paper, dice, and a healthy dose of paranoid courage! 7th-10th level characters will be provided.

OD&D: The Invasion of Arun'Kid by Scott Casper
Arun'Kid - a small farming village with a sinister legacy. Now, a group of gnomes seeks vengeance on the hamlet for wrongs done to them long ago and the return of fantastic riches lost in the shadows of the past. To save the village, the heroes must seek answers from the most unlikely sources. The PCs will do their sleuthing from the home of a crazy hermit druid and his unique hedge maze to the tomb of a respected village leader and beyond. Characters of levels 2-4 will be provided.

DGS Presents: "The Tower of Glass" by Chad Parish
A mysterious tower of impenetrable glass has appeared just outside the fabled city of Greyhawk. Who created it and what is its purpose? You and your companions have been charged with finding the answers to these questions. Welcome to the Tower of Glass!

Grodog's Castle Greyhawk - Enchanted Orchards of the Arimoi by Allan Grohe
Playtest grodog's next Castle Greyhawk dungeon level, GC-02 Enchanted Orchards of the Arimoi. Enchanted Orchards of the Arimoi is an extra-planar sub-level accessible from GC-01 Iounic Caverns (run at GaryCon IV in 2012). Also Greek-themed, this wilderness environ details a mountainous coastline where the magical orchards of the Arimoi grow. The Arimoi are a race of ophidian oracles ruled by their beatific and oracular queen, Echidna. Seek their dark wisdom; steal their magical elixirs, ambrosias, and nectars; or loot their temple lairs! Explore Grodog's version of Castle Greyhawk: bring your graph paper, dice, and a healthy dose of paranoid courage!
7th-10th level PCs will be provided. Event planned for 5 hours, to 1am.

Update 06/11/2021: Had to remove broken link to blog that hates Tomb of Horrors. Sorry folks.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

5 Reasons to Visit Nyrond

Welcome back, World of Greyhawk buffs as I once again treat you with my ongoing feature titled "5 Reasons to Visit...". If you haven't seen my overviews of Keoland, the Bandit Kingdoms , Great Kingdom or Furyondy, be sure to check them out. Anyone who has played D&D should at least know the classic adventures of Greyhawk and hopefully you hard core fans like me, 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. Rel Mord: The capital of Nyrond was first developed in the module Fate of Istus and later expanded upon in The Marklands (the best source for things Nyrond). This great walled city on the Duntide River sports 34,200 to 46,500 people depending on your era. This is also where the (future) sage Pluffet Smedger the Elder and the Royal University is located, first mentioned on the very covers of the boxed set Greyhawk guides. 

Nyrond is ruled from Rel Mord by King Archbold III (or his son King Lynwerd post-wars) and starting at any published Greyhawk timeline, the strain of war with the Great Kingdom and Iuz on either front wears on his stalwart kingdom. This is a nominally good realm (lawful neutral) yet constant political drama, massive war casualties, peasant poverty and droves of refugees moving out threaten to tear Nyrond as we know it apart. During the timeline of King Archbold's succession, the rather large domain of Nyrond and its varied factions could be a perfect place to set up a campaign akin to Game of Thrones

2. Star Haunt: To the west of Rel Mord, the Celadon Forest and it's inhabitants' strife concerning Baron Bastrayne of Woodwych makes for a good sub-campaign, but within the Celadon itself is a site that is adventure worthy all on its own. Star Haunt is an aptly named, star-shaped ruined castle built long ago by an insane tribe of Oeridians

What else is distinctive about this ruin? For one, the walls of Star Haunt are covered in a phosphorescent moss giving the ruin an eerie glow at night. Do you expect monsters to lair here? Of course this is monsters, but it's much worse than you think. A strange curse on Star Haunt's location imbues all monsters living here with a displacement effect. That's right, just like displacer beasts. Now imagine something like displacer trolls or displacer rust monsters! 

It gets even worse unfortunately, because the longer monsters stay here the more they fade out and become specters and wraiths. Hopefully not displacer wraiths though. Nuff said there. There is undoubtedly still treasure to be had in Star Haunt, because the locals give this place a wide berth and for good reason!

3. Kurast's Tower: To the east of the capital on the borders of Almor is another point of interest called Kurast's Tower. At the source of the Flessern River on a hill is a plain looking, squat tower made of a black stone unknown in the Flanaess. The tower is owned by a clumsy, absent-minded wizard named, yes, Kurast. Old man Kurast is a water-elementalist and normally keeps to himself.

Then during the times of the Greyhawk Wars after the fall of Almor, the area of this tower becomes a Nyrondese garrison to keep an eye on the vile animus Duke Szeffrin across the border. Kurast is a curious fellow going from joking and friendly to Nyrondese forces, then alternately grumpy and shut away for days in his impenetrable tower. What watery magic goes on below in his dungeons is currently open to DM speculation, but he is known to have sent elementals down river to deal with humanoids in the past. 

Kurast makes for a perfectly new and unusual benefactor wizard in a campaign setting that is already full of typical archmagi. His location on the buffer zone between two major kingdoms could give him more prominence if war escalates on the border. Then again, if PCS rub Kurast the wrong way he could also be one of their biggest antagonists!

4. Claw Point: On the southern coast of Nyrond is many small towns and ports, but one remote peninsula called Claw Point bears visiting. Claw Point is used by smugglers to hide in its sea caves, but lately the sides of this cliff have eroded to reveal a network of catacombs from the early Oeridian migrations. Naturally tomb robbers and adventurers down on their luck have come here to pilfer the burial ground that is said to run a mile deep.

The trick to Claw Point is accessing its tall cliffside entrances by climbing all the while knowing that the Sea of Gearnat is quite windy year round. Once inside, the tunnels are constantly crumbling and undead creatures lurk here, entirely ready to follow you outside. Inevitably some robbers also return from here with curses and diseases. A small price to pay for buried Oerid treasure.

5. Crystal Springs: Lastly, north of Rel Mord is another notable location at the headwaters of a river, called Crystal Springs. Strange bluish-quartz stone formations surround the bubbling springs that form the Duntide River and despite being brittle yet centuries they hold no further importance except as a way stop for several garrisons in the region. 

However, below the springs somewhere, is an extensive series of chambers or caves which may hold the true secrets of Crystal Springs. Despite reports of monsters and magics, no one to date has ventured down there long enough to find any answers. Crystal Springs is a good location for a DM who wants to develop an their own dungeon crawl yet set it near a few centers of civilization (its at the edges of Nyrond, the Pale and the County of Urnst). 

Five Shall Be One: The Quest Begins!

Welcome back fans of Greyhawk, today is the second installment of my new 5E Hold of Sea Princes reboot of the 2E modules Five Shall Be One and Howl From the North, set in the south seas. What sort of intrigue and escapades will the crew of the Sea Hag get into this week? Read on!

Dramatis personae:

Cullen (fearsome first-mate, human rogue)
Sabriel Loreweaver (qualified quartermaster, human bard)
Tyrrus Bandale (diligent deckhand, human fighter)
Kuma Sand (serene-surgeon, human druid)

Ostyn (dual-wielding deckhand, human fighter)
and Lash Driftwood (balanced-bosun, sea elf ranger)

When last we saw the crew of the Sea Hag, they had been ambushed in their sleep by goblin-sailors from the rival vessel the Iron Trident. This delaying action didn't work however, and the survivors were questioned, looted and tied up. The next morning the regatta was getting underway in the harbor of Monmurg. a grandstand stood near the water's edge where the nobility and captaincy of the Hold sat with their ruler and guest of honor, Prince Jeon II. The Sea Hag for its worth was getting into position along with nine other large, younger ships. Compared to these vessels, some made for war, the weathered crab boat stood out on the glittering waters. Among them was the Azure Jewel, the prince's best carrack, the Lyrical a sleek white caravel from the port of Windsong and alongside the Hag was of course the Toli Armada's finest, the Iron Trident, bristling with energy and ire for reasons they couldn't say.

Kuma Sand had consulted the sea gods ahead of time for Captain Cragg, and knew the weather would be fair and their racing winds moderate. The crew all were at their stations, Cullen standing at the wheel with Cragg at his side and Sabriel nearby, ready to relay orders and use her talents to raise morale. The signal was made and the city erupted in cheers as the ships started the regatta, a complete circuit of the harbor vast front. The Sea Hag jumped out ahead with the Iron Trident cruising close alongside its starboard side, the old crab ship still had legs. Five vessels began to lag behind, including the Azure Jewel, then on the turn the Sea Hag and Iron Trident began to have complications as they got too close to one another, both vessels falling behind to the swift Lyrical. Kuma again dropped a rope and made a subtle appeal to the four wind goddesses. Their sails then filled again with a quick boost of wind and the Trident fell out of sight. On the last stretch the Hag gained, the crew all straining and focused on their duties, then by a prow the Lyrical was defeated. The harbor roared in applause for the two ships.

Both winning crews were brought to the grandstand to meet Prince Jeon II a handsome young captain, but hardly regal, and his rival from Port Toli, Prince Varek IV an older, shrewd looking noble. They gave each ship their prize purses and all the sailors were presented with a silver pin bearing the symbol of the Sea Princes, a crown over a ship. The pin gave them the prince's favor for a year.  Captain Cragg was presented a silver cup as well which was to bear his ship's name and be displayed in the prince's palace. Just as they were ready to attend a party, news spread through the crowd and reached the princes that the Provincial Navies of the Great Kingdom were amassing an armada in the east Azure Sea and further, had issued letters of marque against the Hold of the Sea Princes for daring to run their economic blockades. This news caused a nationalistic furor among the captains. The Prince's Fleet all called for a show of strength and immediately left to rally their ships. Prince Varek and the Toli Armada faction however changed their tune and decided to return home and guard what they have instead of engaging the Great Kingdom of Aerdy. Captain Cragg, loyal to Prince Jeon and Jetsom Island was ready to act, but he was told to stand down. He and his ship were too old, the new fleet could handle this for now.

Sulking, Cragg and the Sea Hag returned to Jeklea Bay to what else, crabbing. Sabriel Loreweaver consoled the old drunk white beard privately and learned he was in a battle twenty years ago when the Hag was in its prime. He had lost both his sons in that conflict and his wives left him. He was useless but the bard lifted his spirits some. That night, Cullen discovered a hidden crate in the hold. After some effort he found it contained a cannon from Cragg's warship years. Confronted, Cragg apparently thought he had sold them all and forgot it was down there. Was it a sign?

A few days later they had brought their latest catch to the far flung city of Sasserine on the bay. Here, Cragg and his officers sold the lot to Vico Bevenin a businessman of a shady sort. Also dealing with the Bevenin family was a young half-elf mage named Mallon who helped identify a minor wand the captain needed to sell off. Once the crab was delivered, the crew went about the town enjoying their time off. On their way back to the docks, the group noticed the young man in an alley fighting off three chainmail clad assailants. Lash used his sea elf abilities to call up a fog cloud so Mallon could disengage. Cullen feeling bloodlust rushed to the cloud with Ostyn not far behind. Sabriel noticed more of these mercs in the shadows though, ready to flank them. Tyrrus was undaunted and sped to the flank to hew one down while Kuma sprayed poison spells at a second to keep his mace at bay. Cullen and Ostyn's flashing blades took down one armed man lost in the clouds and drove a second back. Lash climbed to a roof for an archer's position and saw the attackers already had a man up there on overwatch. Fiery rays shot out from the man's hand, barely missing Lash who dove for cover before loosing an arrow back at the wizard and hitting his arm. The mage fled, flying away into the night.

Just then, the leader of the mercs emerged from the shadows bearing a two handed sword ready to cleave down Tyrrus. Ever-alert, Sabriel's hand shot out defensively and from her lips a thunderous wave of force knocked him back. Tyrrus then turned his attention on the leader and their large swords clashed. The battle was cut short however as a mob of Sasserine city-watch pounced on both groups and arrested them. Apparently they had been gathering to bring down a smuggling deal and the Hag's crew was in the wrong place at the wrong time. At a prison tower, the crew was in a communal cell with Mallon the half-elf as well. Their enemies were in a different cell but were soon released. Bailed out by Vico Bevenin. Mallon thanked them for saving his life and he too was being held on trumped up charges. The men who attacked him had been hired through Vico for an expedition and decided to double-cross him instead.

Captain Cragg then entered, his pleas to the guard were not going well though. Sea Prince sailors were always distrusted in Sasserine. Before the crew could argue their case, the door to the cell block rumbled and crashed open. A small whirlwind of paper and debris whisked into the chamber knocking everyone about. The dust devil then passed through the bars of the cell and dispersed, leaving behind mysterious letters at the feet of all in there save Mallon. The letters bore the wax seal of the enigmatic Fivefold Council only known among pirate culture as the original lawmakers for all conduct upon the seas. Opening the letter, they were stunned to discover the Council had chosen them for a quest most perilous. Their arcane mark was soon transferred from paper to their hand. The Black Spot. And Mallon cowering in his corner, raised his hand to show he already had one before they met. The powerful Council had twisted fate in order to bring them together...

(to be continued)

Campaign notes: The letter from the Fivefold Council is REAL! Check it out ye squabs.