Saturday, March 31, 2018

Return of Mysterious Places From the Fringe

Howdy Greyhawkers, it's a good day to revisit one of my favorite article segments that I haven't done in a few years, Mysterious Places From the Fringe. It's just a spin on the mysterious places articles from Living Greyhawk back in the day, except I make them up off the cuff based on no canon or anything, just my own encyclopedic knowledge of the Flanaess map. What DM doesn't need a new location for adventurers to visit? The World of Greyhawk is full of them after all! Check out my previous articles and then continue on to this year's batch. Enjoy.

Dagon's Mouth: There is many unknown dangers posed to sailors and pirates on the seas south of the Flanaess' safe shores. Intrepid vessels seeking riches hid within the vast Vohoun Ocean avoid a certain uncharted region called Dagon's Mouth. All that is known of this demon haunted zone is told by survivors who have returned on rafts made of wrecks of their ship. It is said that Dagon the primordial demon prince of the darkest depths literally lairs here, rising up to claim any craft daring enough to tread across these stormy waters. Other maddened sailors tell of sighting a string of small islets where everything is wrong to the senses even the color of the sky. They are sure death prevails here as staying on land any length of time causes one to waste away despite the evidence of ruins not far from the cursed shores.

The Red Colossus: North of the Mounds of Dawn in a spur of the Yatil Mountains is a place that few go besides humanoids and venerable clans of deep gnomes. Hid within the craggy peaks is a gigantic time-lost statue half buried in the side of a mountain. It is carved in the likeness of a strange humanoid giant facing north, with its legs and one arm half in the rock and another arm raised to the sky. The statue is a curiosity because it is made of a reddish rock not part of this region, but similar in hue to the clay formations seen in Exag to the south. The age of the colossus is not certain save that not even the local giant population claim to know who made it. The red statue radiates overwhelming transmutation magic however and some daring Underdark denizens have tried tunneling below and within to learn more of the colossus. Though no credible riches have been discovered here, wild claims are made that the colossus has weird magical effects such as resurrecting the dead, granting wishes and even visions granted for those who scale to the top of its out-stretched palm.

Beltar's Well:  The Spine Ridge between the Vast Swamp and the Tilvanot Peninsula, is said to have abundant untapped mineral wealth, if one can get past the dangers of humanoids and monsters. Somewhere in the trackless hills of this region is a place called Beltar's Well or depending on the translation it can be attributed to nonhuman gods such as Baphomet, Laogzed, Yurtrus or Vaprak. Whatever the case, the well is a shaft in the heart of a rocky formation where reputedly, monsters occasionally emerge from the Underdark or perhaps a gate to another plane, then venture out into the world beyond. Fortunately the well is not that wide, though monsters have clawed and gnawed at its interior over the centuries. These rents have created ample handholds for any lesser beings who try to climb down the Well in the opposite direction. Many humanoids are dared to do this as a rite of bravery or adulthood, while less hardy species believe there is unclaimed riches ready to be pulled forth if they can only find the muscle to go down and find out.

01000100: Locked deep in the Land of Black Ice is a dark hillock covered by eons of glacial growth. This hill is nearly impossible to locate, only once spotted and noted in the journals of a sage who tried (and failed) to follow in the footsteps of Henriki Ardand and find the fabled Rainbow Vale. The hill only known as 01000100 is named so due to a series of deeply etched lines carved upon an ebony stone archway built into the hillside (01000100 01000001 01001110 01000111 01000101 01010010). It took the sage's entire expedition many hard hours to chip the black ice away as it seemed to regrow as fast as it could be cleared, yet the nature of the numbers and a hidden entrance was eventually exposed. The sage's journal abruptly ends after the initial foray inside the hill. Evidently those explorers that survived abandoned the search for the Vale and had no recollection of what happened, returning with no evidence except the sage's journal and if rumors are true, a shard of some silvery metal puncturing the leather cover. Today, hill 01000100 is surely buried again in black ice waiting for another hapless band of adventurers to try and discover its mysteries.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Greyhawk Map: Nyr Dyv Ship Wrecks

Welcome fans of Greyhawk! Nothing new from me this week, but if you are looking for a great gathering of Greyhawk fans look no further than the Flanaess Geographical Society on Facebook. Today I'm promoting cartographer Ronald Calbick and his inspiring Nyr Dyv shipwreck map. All I can say is wow, what a clever idea for a map that has been covered in many many official sources, yet still is largely undeveloped. As many long time gamers know, Gygax based the shape of the Lake of Unknown Depths on Lake Superior, close to home for Gary. Mr. Calbick himself throws an homage in his map's text regarding this:

"Most of the names and info are arbitrary, although there is some input from fellow gamers to be found here as well. Most of you will likely notice the tip of the hat to Lake Superior."

A few comments for DMs looking to use the map. One, Ronald leaves some wreck sites unnamed for your own personal ideas. Always a good idea. Secondly, the wreck found near Leukish while anachronistic totally fits in with Gygaxian Greyhawk, one only needs to read about the Jungle of Lost Ships. Lastly, the Nyr Dyv is no simple body of water to do salvaging. Players and DMs would be wise to read this article to get a good feel for what the Lake of Unknown Depths is like. Well done Ronald, I look forward to more maps from your in the future and perhaps others from the FCS.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Greyhawk Mini Map

Hey Greyhawkers. Not much going on this week sad to say so let's do an easy post. Here is a map of the Greyhawk domain I threw together a week ago for my campaign. It's using Black Blade Publishing's newest mini hex paper from Gary Con X.

I originally posted this on Twitter and it caused some confusion because I drew it in 20 minutes and some thought it was a full size hex map.

Here is a second pic for scale. Nope, it's tiny! I love this paper. I need more ideas to use it! That's all for now. What do you think?

Saturday, March 10, 2018

GaryCon 2018 Recap

Howdy Greyhawkers! Well I'm back early from Gary Con X in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Even though I was only there two days I had the most Greyhawk-y experience yet again. Here's the run down:

First, no I didn't see Mike Mearls (two straight years). They must've kept him under lock and key somewhere. It's not a big con though, oh well. So no, I didn't get a chance to ask any questions. I did see Jason Bulmhan of Paizo Publishing, but I wasn't there to talk Pathfinder 2.0 playtest news. So, moving along...

I got see good friend and old school Greyhawk historian Allan Grohe once again. He was working the Blackblade Publishing booth where I got issue 2 and 3 of their quarterly periodical, The Twisting Stair. I'm eager to use their article on treasure maps and player mapping techniques (thanks for the hex paper grodog). Allan and I also discussed getting more Greyhawk fans together at GaryCon next year (on or off the even list). So if anyone is a fan of the setting and will be attending next year, keep on eye on my blog for future info. Alas I couldn't attend his Saturday session of his ongoing Castle Greyhawk campaign. Last year we got to play with Luke Gygax. There's no telling who is guesting in it this year!

I also spent some good time with my friends Anna Meyer of and Scott Casper the mastermind behind our Castle Greyhawk webcomic. Scott was hard at work running a game for a full table in some far away hall (GaryCon is such a labyrinth) while Anna talked about her future Greyhawk mapping endeavors (yes Anna Greyhawk map 2.0). We also took part in our first ever pick up game together, hosted by the extraordinary Carlos A.S. Lising. The party was a group of rangers and druids in the Gnarley Forest looking to rescue two rust monsters from thieves who stole them from Lord Henway's Menagerie. Crazy fun.

If you think that was all I also got to stop and say hi to Darlene the artist behind the original World of Greyhawk map a few times. She is amazing as always. There was a few legends of D&D in the artist row with her, including Larry Elmore and Jeff Easley two guys whose cover art has inspired me from an early age. The GaryCon website said Erol Otus was supposed to be there, but sadly I didn't see him. That would've been my holy trinity of D&D cover artists.

Later that evening I also had a chance to finally have a meeting of the Greyhawk blogs with Joe Bloch of Greyhawk Grognard. I was loopy from no sleep and he had drove twelve hours to get to the con, so we were both a bit chatty. I'm not sure I want to remember what Greyhawk projects we discussed, but I'm sure he will remind me some day soon. Joseph was running his BRW Games booth where he was selling Adventures Dark & Deep and his infamous Castle of the Mad Archmage. If you don't read Greyhawk Grognard, what is wrong with you? His latest post in fact is an homage to Gygax's Dragon update article series. The column was cut off before all the Flanaess was covered, so Joe did one on Keoland and Sheldomar Valley. Check it out!

Day two we took part in another game ran by Carlos titled Die, Markessa, Die! It was the latest in his Markessa series where a group of heroes must once again tackle a lair of the depraved elven Slave Lord, Markessa. Yeah, she got away again, but maybe next  year we will catch her! My friend Jayson was the MVP of the event and got a copy of the module! Spot on AD&D printing and layout. Carlos has even more incredible projects on the horizon. He is my spirit animal.

So there you have it, the most Greyhawk one can enjoy in a short span. I really hope to top it next year. Thanks to all my gamer friends (old and new) for the invites and time spent with Jayson and me. See you in 2019.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Greyhawk Poll Result: Which Sword Would You Carry

Hey Greyhawk fans! It's GaryCon week. I hope to see more than a few of the community in Wisconsin. Until then, let's muse over my latest front page poll: Which Sword Would You Carry? That is sentient magical swords. There are many so I kept the list to a handful. Let's get to it:

Coming in tied for last on the list at 4% is Dreamsinger and Swiftdoom. Dreamsinger is from the 2E module Five Shall Be One. Too bad this weapon got such a low vote, it is the sword that gets the ball rolling for the quest to find all five Blades of Corusk. It is a unique empathic broadword in that Dreamsinger gives the bearer visions of how to find the other artifact weapons. Without Dreamsinger it is quite impossible to find the other blades. This sword is tuned to bards unfortunately, meaning if you are a thief, great! But in the hands of a bard it unlocks even more powerful effects like a magical fire spear. In my Sea Princes campaign I updated Dreamsinger to be a rapier to better reflect current D&D trends, plus there is no broadswords in 5E. You can check out my conversion here.

Meanwhile, not many people picked Swiftdoom, one of hero-deity Kelanen's two, yes count them two sentient blades. Well they are hard to distinguish at a glance, but Swiftdoom is a bastard sword +6 (another relic of AD&D weapon lists) firebrand that always strikes first. Among Swiftdoom's laundry list of powers is vampiric healing; a nasty enough effect to have for a fighter without peer like Kelanen. In the hands of a lesser adventurer, Swiftdoom would make them legendary for sure.

Speaking of legendary, the infamous Sword of Kas comes in second with 7% of the vote and this is probably for good reason. This magical blade has changed so many times over the editions. It was a short sword, then a two handed sword, then a longsword and back to short sword, or whatever. Read about here. Originally seen in the earliest days of D&D but featured prominently in the module Vecna Lives!, the Sword of Kas is definitely an evil sword bent on trying to kill its creator the Arch-lich Vecna.  However, it has built in limitations when going after Vecna. So for that reason and many more, Kas' sword is not that desirable of a weapon for adventurers to own. To destroy? Maybe yes...

Next up with 15% of the vote is Swiftdoom's sister sword, Sureguard. Kelanen packs two sentient blades, this one is a broad sword +6 (yeah DMs where can players get one of those?) that is also a dancing frostbrand defender. Yes you read that right. The defender ability alone makes this sword quite impressive, but in tandem with Swiftdoom, Sureguard is a defense/offense dream. Keep dreaming though, because the Prince of Swords will not give these blades up over his dead body.

Speaking of dead body, many of you picked (29%) the legendary sword Fragarach. Another broadsword, this sword called "the Answerer" is seen in the classic adventure Temple of Elemental Evil. It is a chaotic good weapon whose main power is to unerringly counter attack any foe who hits the wielder first. Deadly accuracy, but the blade plays fair. Legends say it came from another plane, notably Earth the home of Manannan Mac Lir, from whose myths the blade was borrowed. Somehow though it ends up on Oerth in the hands of one Prince Thrommel, who has not been seen for a while...To see more on Fragarach (including its copies), Swiftdoom and Sureguard check out this comic of mine from way back.

Lastly at 38% we have the most desired magic sword in all Oerth history: Blackrazor. One of the objects of White Plume Mountain is to recover this sword from the evil lair of Keraptis. Blackrazor is a soul draining weapon that is definitely an homage to the sword Stormbringer from the Elric saga. It's secondary effects and sword type varies between editions, but they all agree, Blackrazor is Evil and likes to eat souls, even its owner's if given a chance. Just like its cousin Stormbringer, Blackrazor is not just a sentient blade, it's rumored to be a negative energy entity of some kind. Why would any hero want to carry this sword? Probably for bragging rights, or intimidation factor, or maybe they just don't know better. Now you do.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Greyhawk Channel

Well met Greyhawk fans, today I am once again promoting the live streaming efforts of good friend and showman extraordinaire, DMShane. His Twitch empire is growing faster than Iuz can conquer the north so as a result he has rebranded to The Greyhawk Channel. This channel comprises all his various events such as the flagship Return to Greyhawk campaign, the self-explanatory Classic Crawls, interview show The Green Dragon Inn and the Guardians of Greyhawk campaign. Yes folks, I feel lazy compared to this channel and I've been doing blogs and comics for many years. Be sure to check out and follow his channel daily, there is always something going on or hosted there. I  will see you all on the Greyhawk Channel chats!

Update 06/24/2021: Yes folks, Return to Greyhawk became The Greyhawk Channel which is now done, or moved on to other talent. But this start on Twitch in my opinion, is what led to a renaissance of online Greyhawk content across many platforms. I've updated the link from Twitch to their archived videos on YouTube. Enjoy!