Thursday, August 31, 2017

Castle Greyhawk: Chapter 1 Full

Hey Greyhawk fans. As you may know I've been doing a Castle Greyhawk webcomic with co-creator Scott Casper for several years. Well as many have already seen over at the main site, we have finally got the first chapter collected into one PDF download! Read at your leisure now. Go back from the start and enjoy the adventures of Tenser and Ehlissa.


Update 06/20/2021: Looks like this download is still available. Check it out whole you can! Easier than clicking on individual comic pages.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Greyhawk Meets Game of Thrones

Greetings Greyhawk mavens. Today I'm going to muse on the medieval fantasy comparison of GRR Martin's popular "Game of Thrones" series and how it could enhance your Greyhawk campaign. You don't need to run an actual GoT RPG when you have Greyhawk after all. This setting was set up with a war backdrop with all the political intrigue one could want. This was because, as we know, Gygax was a wargamer first. It just so happened that dungeoncrawling then became all the rage back in D&D and thus Greyhawk's heyday. When they did try to push the Greyhawk Wars meta-plot it seemed to fall on deaf ears. Then came the era of storyteller games and adventure-paths that people enjoy today. Is it any wonder then why Game of Thrones is so popular now and not when it first came out?

Back in 2003, Dragon #307 dedicated an entire issue (back when it was still in print) to Martin's books and how to turn Westeros into a D&D setting. I remember barely reading that issue cause well, I'm a Greyhawk guy(wish I hadn't got rid of it). I don't think it captured the hearts and minds of many D&D players back then (this was 3.5e) but today it seems VERY relevant. Enough rambling, here is some ways to make your Greyhawk campaign more Game of Thrones-y:

Dragons. Let's start with the monster in the room. GoT went from popular to super popular thanks to HBO and the fact their CGI dragons look better than 90% of movie dragons (yes even Smaug). Now in D&D, dragons have historically been dungeon dwellers waiting to get slain. No one actually controls dragons either (that's a Dragonlance thing typically). A lot of D&D dragons are VERY intelligent is why. How to bring dragons out of the dark and become a major plot point of your Greyhawk campaign? Alliances.

For example, Rary has Volte (blue) in the Bright Lands. Brazzemal the Bright (red) treats with giants. Dragotha lives within Iuz's realm. There is many dragons in Greyhawk canon. If one ruler in the Flanaess has dragon/s on their side it immediately changes a war and has heroes on their toes because while awake, they could be anywhere.

Noble Houses. For me the main feature of Thrones is the squabbling warring noble houses like Lannister, Stark or Targaryen. Each house has their own style. Colors, mottos, hair colors! Pitting heroes in the middle of the Houses of Greyhawk is as easy as making a fighter the third son of a duke, or a cleric the bastard offspring of a baron. Instant faction association! Greyhawk is full of houses in canon. The Great Kingdom alone has many you can read about in Ivid the Undying, such as Darmen, Naelax and Garasteth. The Kingdoms of Nyrond and Furyondy's nobles are detailed in the Marklands sourcebook. Every minor nation in between has lineages, claims and rivalries that extend back a thousands years. Just peruse the 1983 Greyhawk Guide or the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer for a wealth of intrigue ideas.

Foreign Conflict. One of the big themes in Westeros is the rumored, but impending return of Daenerys Targaryen from across the sea to retake her empire. The foreign threat brings a new faction into the already warring atmosphere. In the World of Greyhawk this foreign aggressor could come in the form of the Baklunish West. Perhaps someone charismatic enough (with dragons or a relic of somekind) could unite the Paynims, Zeif, Ekbir, etc. to then march east in conquest for whatever perceived noble cause.

The Greyhawk Wars already had something close to this with the Scarlet Brotherhood's invasions. Here we had a secret society of monks and assassins who was already infiltrating all the courts in the land for decades, then suddenly, using foreign-born soldiers from the jungles went on a small run of successful conquests. The effort in canon kind of fizzled however. If the Brotherhood had fully used their potential (and used some unconventional weapons), then no country would've ignored them. Time for a second try!

Existential Threats. Speaking of invasions there is some threats that can't be reasoned withMuch like the Night King's undead army beyond the wall, Paizo's Age of Worms AP did just that with Kyuss' return and an undead plague right in the heart of the Flanaess. Zombie-plagues not your thing? Well other world wide threats can be imagined that could create opportunities for diplomacy among rivals and put a pause to ongoing conflicts. How about giants emerging out of ALL of the major mountain ranges at once? (Against the Giants on steroids) Or weird automaton armies marching out of Land of Black Ice? Whatever the threat, it can change the mood of the setting and turn the focus of play in a different direction than what PCs expect.

That's the four areas I'd emphasize, though anything in this genre can easily be ported into Greyhawk. One other note, if you want to do the humdrum of running a nation or several, look into the out of print Birthright Campaign. A D&D setting ahead of its time. What other aspects of Game of Thrones did I miss?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

GenCon Stuff I Missed

Heya Greyhawkers! I didn't go to GenCon and after seeing news on ENWorld, I'm really regretting seeing the GenCon50 Museum. I had no idea it was going to have this many old school artifacts on display. I already saw alot of the art on display at Garycon earlier this year, but the museum they erected inside my beloved Lucas Oil Stadium is way more impressive. Check it out (Thanks Morrus).

And then some quick notes on the Ennies awards. It is surprisingly refreshing to see so many new games and companies winning awards in recent years. Last time I attended the awards (which was a few years) Paizo swept everything. And with the popularity of 5E you'd think Wizards could dominate every year too. This year both are conspicuously off the winners podium. Wizards did manage to win Best Publisher which at the surface seems weird if they didn't have anything else to offer. Wizards has lately taken a rather laid back approach to GenCon to focus on other conventions, which apparently benefits the rest of the gaming industry. No complaints I guess. I do feel extremely grognardy reading these winners though; I am so out of the new RPG loop I've not heard of half these winners. I did hear Tales From the Yawning Portal won a Judge's Spotlight nod, so kudos to, ahem, Greyhawk in the very least.

Update 6/20/2021: I still regret not seeing the 50th anniversary set-up. Then again, in hindsight, I've met more people involved in D&D by staying home thanks to Twitch than I ever did going to conventions. Go figure!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mortellan Interview on the RPG Academy

Hey Greyhawk fans and RPG players alike! I may not be at GenCon this year but I do have something exciting to show everybody! I recently did a podcast interview for The RPG Academy's "Show & Tell" feature. You can now listen to me ramble on about Greyhawk, Canonfire, Greyhawkery, art and other things. Enjoy!

Thank you to the host Michael and the rest of the RPG Academy network. Check out their site and look around!

Update 6/20/2021: Looks like the fine folks with RPG Academy are still humming along. This may be the first online interview I ever did outside my friend's podcast. Ever since then you can find me all over the internet. But if you stumble upon this, checkout my first awkward interview.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

GenCon 50 and Gamerstable Returns

Ahoy Greyfolk! Sadly this week is Gen Con 50 week and while I've known for a while I wasn't going (sold out of 4-day badges!) and I further don't feel I'll miss anything epic, it still kind of makes me feel glum to not be among the gamer crowds like I've done for the last decade.

On the bright side next year I'm sure I'll be back given that my friends at Gamerstable have a Kickstarter going to bring our gaming podcast back from hiatus. So far we are funded with more stretch goals in sight. Help us out if you can! See you in Indy in 2018!

Update 6/20/2021: I'm pretty sure I have not been back to Gen Con since before this year. Also, removed Kickstarter link. I'm sure that's long expired.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

New D&D Merch

Hola, Greyhawkers! I like Twitter alot and one of the accounts I follow is @Wizards_DnD. Today, the fine folks at Wizards announced the Tomb of Annihilation dice set tin coming out in September. Are you ready to be conquered by Acererak's marketing genius?

This brief post ties into one I had a while back. I have no particular desire to get more dice, though the tin is very snazzy. My initial reaction was, wow, the Great Green Face from Tomb of Horrors is a marketing icon all its own. You can literally put that demon face on any merchandise now and it will sell. There is also a minis, video games and boardgame (with green face standees) tied in to Tomb. Wizards knows how to maximize its properties. Less is more.

Wizards is also getting good at crowd-sourcing ideas. In the same announcement, Wizards asked readers "what other D&D related products you'd love to see themed for future campaigns?" Mind you they aren't asking for what theme you want (anything Greyhawk, duh!). They got that planned years in advance I'm sure. No, they want to know what "merch" you'll most likely buy after tins, minis and boardgames. Ideas posted on Twitter include sensible things like dice bags, leather journals, mugs, DM screens, tokens, dice towers, phone cases and plushies - to cool, crazy ideas like dice jails, chia pets, d20 spin-rings and even a sacrificial dagger. Personally, I think a great green face toilet seat would be fun.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Greyhawk Poll: Best Defended City

Welcome back friends of Greyhawk! Today I examine the results of my latest poll, Which City is Best Defended? I handpicked six good locations, but if there is any good ones I left out feel free to correct me cause why not? Let's dig in...

The Free City of Irongate won the poll by a landslide (69%) of course. Nestled on the coast of the Azure Sea and protected by the Iron Hills, this city has withstood invasions by the Great Kingdom (Battle of a Thousand Banners) and the Scarlet Brotherhood (Greyhawk Wars) over the years. I equate this fortress to Minas Tirith combined with Moria with a navy to boot. In addition to formidable physical defenses, and elite human and demihuman soldiery, Irongate boasts the likes of archmage, Elayne Mystica among its magical defenders. It would take an aerial assault to have a chance at cracking this city open. Biggest threat to Irongate? Still the Scarlet Brotherhood because they can infiltrate the place like the Greeks into Troy. In a stand up battle however, there may be no nation that can assail Irongate. Only a dual siege/embargo could work and that's not even a sure thing due to Irongate's purported magical gates.

The Free City of Greyhawk comes in second naturally at a measly 18%. The City of Greyhawk has a fortress and some of the loftiest walls in the Flanaess, but the city is rather accessible to attack from many directions. Iuz threatens from the north, the Pomarj from the south, the Temple of Elemental Evil from the west and Rary the Tratior could conceivably swing in from the east. What keeps all the evil at bay? Greyhawk's domain full of interesting terrain from swamps to hills to open plains and rivers. Greyhawk's armies would be inclined to take the fight to an opponent or ambush before falling back to it's walls. Once in the city, the populace is easily the most resourceful in the world. The Guild of Mages alone could rain hellfire down on an invading force. The various temples would keep Greyhawk properly healed, while the Thieves, Beggars and Assassin's Guild would begin a guerrilla campaign against the enemy. Then of course, there is the abundance of adventuring parties with limitless access to magical weaponry who would rise up to defend their home turf. Biggest threat to Greyhawk? If all four the enemies I listed above combined their forces at once. The worst outcome would involve Iuz's clerics mass-raising undead from Greyhawk's considerable catacombs, thus causing chaos from within. An invasion of Greyhawk would truly be epic.

Next on the poll is Hesuel Ilshar (7%) the capital of the Scarlet Brotherhood. Little is known of this city since it is a well-kept secret. Ilshar also lies atop a plateau on a remote peninsula. Any invading army has to A) cross the Azure Sea, B) defeat several outposts inland before climbing the plateau to then C) cross the desolate plateau before D) assaulting the high city walls. Ilshar has been stood for centuries without fear of any attack and is likely to have fewer siege weapons or standing garrisons. This doesn't mean their guard is down. After exposing their existence in the Greyhawk Wars, Hesuel Ilshar is probably on alert for spies ahead of any future counter-offensives. The Brotherhood's monks, assassins and thieves are only equaled by Greyhawk's. Biggest Threat to Ilshar? The Iron League. This alliance (including Lordship of the Isles if they break away from the SB) has a lot of reasons to go after the Brotherhood. The Iron League has the naval power and is resourceful enough to attack from more than one direction on the plateau. It would be a slog for sure, but once under siege Hesuel Ilshar wouldn't last long without aid.

Admundfort comes in at 3% on the poll. The capital of the Shield Lands is on the Isle of Walworth and is historically the most defensible place on the Lake of Unknown Depths. How Iuz came to conquer this city for a time is uncertain to me, I suspect profane magic and treachery. When at full muster, this city with its knights and navies could withstand most conventional attacks quite well. Biggest threat to Admundfort? Still Iuz. The mainland Shield Lands is too wide open and is meant to shield Furyondy from the Bandit Kingdoms more than a demonic, arcane, undead assault by a demigod. Admundfort otherwise is unassailable by simple bandits, ogres or hobgoblins.

The Free City of Rel Astra and Rookroost both came in last at 0%. Apparently no one believes these places are most defensive and rightly so. Rel Astra has the largest population in the Flanaess and a good port. This means they can militarily put up a good fight on land or sea. Lord Drax has not been put to the test yet, but this is possibly due to good diplomacy more than might. Rel Astra's biggest threat would naturally be its own kinsmen from Aerdy. It's a rich city but any king vying to unite the Great Kingdom again would be hard to fend off from land. And finally, Rookroost in the Bandit Lands is another multi-ringed city-fortress along the lines of Minas Tirith. Rookroost prophetically has never been taken in battle so long as ravens remain roosting in the city. Against Iuz however, thee city opted to join him instead of testing his evil might. I have a feeling Rookroost would put up a good fight, but limited long-term resources, reinforcements (bandit kings don't get along) and lack of comparable magic power would cause its eventual fall to Iuz.

Good analysis? Tell what you think and check out my next poll soon!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Greyhawk Comic Rewind: Magic Swords

Well met Greyfriends, here's a couple classic comics of mine from 2007 concerning the hero-deity of swords, Kelanen. A hell of a lot of research went into these. Good lore. Enjoy!

June 7th, 2007:
This week we check in on the ever-popular Prince of Swords, Kelanen. To put it bluntly, Kelanen is obsessed with swords. As the legend goes he wrested the sword Fragarach 'the Answerer' from the hands of an alien god. Fragarach of course is yet another one of those Gygaxian imports from Earth myth. That means the alien god in question can surely be none other than Manannan Mac Lir of the Celtic Mythos (Greater God of the Sea). That must've been one hell of a fight.

Not yet satisfied, Kelanen crafted six other 'Swords of Answering' according to the classic adventure The Temple of  Elemental Evil. Made in the theme of Fragarach, their names are Rebutter, Scather, Replier, Retorter, Squelcher and my favorite, Back-Talker. And because Kelanen's symbol is nine crossed swords, apparently three others were tacked later, named Concluder, Last-Quip and the shamelessly redundant Answerer.

Naturally instead of keeping them for himself in his super-secret extra-dimensional stronghold Kelanen somehow allowed all the blades to be scattered abroad for heroes to find. Indeed, Fragarach fell into the hands of Prince Thrommel of Furyondy who then also became lost himself. Go figure. Who put Kelanen up to all this sword mania? Easy answer, his two original swords Sureguard and Swiftdoom. The 83 Greyhawk Guide says Kelanen has no friends or confidants other than his swords. Yes, two highly intelligent, highly egotistical swords that match his neutral alignment and share a purpose to defend him and his interests without hesitation. Two voices in your head, only giving you advice that you want to hear...tell me that's not a recipe for insanity.

Check it out...

June 14th, 2007:
This week is compliments of manic World of Greyhawk Comic conspirator Cebrion. Here we see the second half of Kelanen's popular legend concerning Fragarach. As tales go, to promote Balance he made replicas of the sword he acquired from the 'alien god'. These lesser 'Answering swords' all have their own names and alignments as well. Sadly, Wizards of the Coast's "Book of Nine Swords" has nothing to do with Fragarach or Kelanen. What a missed opportunity!

Anyhow, as a servant of the Balance and Saint of Swords, Kelanen must surely patronize Boccob, a deity with his own balancing habit, namely that he has a copy of every magic item ever made at his abode. These two compulsions are about to create trouble. Check it out...