Sunday, December 29, 2019

Two Must See Greyhawk Items

Hello Greyhawkers! It's been a decent year for Greyhawkery. This has been my highest post count in about three years. I credit the Greyhawk community for giving me plenty to talk about, because it has never been stronger. Here is a couple cool links to some Greyhawk-related stuff you have to check out. Enjoy!

My good friend and professional cartographer, Anna Meyer is mentioned on a YouTube video, "9 Cartographers You Should Be Following" by WASD20. I'm proud anytime Anna gets recognition around the internet. I cannot wait till we start up our next Legends & Lore show in 2020.

Second is an astounding series of articles about "Mythic Greyhawk" on the blog Mythlands of Erce by Anders H. While not a dedicated Greyhawk blog like my own, Anders' latest article is a VERY interesting and new take on the background and nature of the demi-god Iuz the Evil. I highly recommend you read this blog and consider his ideas for your own campaign. I am looking forward to more from Anders.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Map: Altimira and Ulek

Happy Needfest Greyhawk fans! Well today I'm in a slightly artistic mood so I did one of my hastily drawn maps of a portion of the Flanaess. This time I had a special idea in mind though. The map before you is based on the Principality of Ulek region of Jay "Lord Gosumba" Scott's long-running campaign that you can find weekly on Twitch. I don't know much about the Free City of Altimira or which other parts are Jay's creation (I like the heraldry!), but with the assistance of Anna Meyer's 598 CY map update of Jay's campaign I was able to combine their work with that of Darlene into my own sketchy style. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 20, 2019

Happy Needfest 2019

HAPPY NEEDFEST GREYHAWKERS! Back in the day when I did a weekly Greyhawk comic strip, my year always ended with a blowout special during the Christmas (Needfest) season. Many of you will remember my timeless classics, A Needfest Story or How the Gruumsh Stole Needfest. As I don't make these anymore (I ran out of material I think), the next best thing is to show them off again to a hopefully new audience of D&D and Greyhawk enthusiasts. So let the good times roll. Enjoy, this classic Needfest Musical Extravaganza from the misty memory of 2011!

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Greyhawk Island

Greetings Greyhawk maniacs! Needfest is fast approaching and I don't have much new to show you, but I can muse about a strange thing I notice about the Flanaess map. If you've been familiar with Greyhawk and the community as long as me, you'll know the celebrated Darlene map, with all its artistic flair, has some dubious geographical features if applied to real life. In my youth I didn't care about that stuff, but now decades later my brain has ran over the map millions of times and I can't unsee the fact that Greyhawk-Duchy of Urnst is an island.

Look it at! The Nyr Dyv and Midbay area is the north coast, the meandering Nesser River is the east coast, the Woolly Bay is the south-south west coast and the short Selintan River is the west coast. This island encompasses the "port city" of Greyhawk, the Duchy of Urnst and the Bright Desert/BrightLands. I hope someone can explain me wrong about this, because without researching it, I'm sure there can't be a real life instance of an island bordering a lake, a sea and one or more rivers at the same time. Fantasy maps, gotta love them.

Running with this island idea though, it's fun how the geopolitical nature of this area is unchanged for the most part. Greyhawk seems more like a low land swampy domain nestled in its NW portion shielded by a range of highlands that runs the length of the islands from the Cairn Hill through the mountainous Abbor Alz middle that encircles the desert third. The Duchy is largely plain of course save a section of highland Celadon Forest. The Bright Desert (formerly Sulm) with the Brass Hills in the center is likely the highest elevation on average in this hypothetical island. Those southern cliffs don't seem to sport any ports unlike the bustling port of Hardby up the coast.

My brain tells me that the east and west river segments ruins the islands premise, but if you consider two swamps, the Mistmarsh and Gnatmarsh border these river systems, then one well placed flood can make this island even more noticeable! Crazy Zendrelda the fortune teller may be onto something. At any rate, the point of this island is, when you've played with the same fantasy map for nearly 40 years, its fun to sometimes turn things on a head and see what new you can do with it. Comment, refute and enjoy!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Oerth Journal #31 Preview

Hey Greyhawkers! Today I'm boosting the signal for Greyhawk Online as they preview the upcoming winter issue of the Oerth Journal:

PREVIEW OF OJ#31!! "FACTIONS" of the Flanaess!! Here's a look at some of the articles coming later THIS MONTH!! For you authors, there's still a *little* time left to write and submit an article on an organization in the Flanaess, either already known or homemade!

Be sure to keep an eye out for this new publication to be released in the coming weeks. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Upcoming Greyhawk Events at GaryCon XII

Hello fellow Greyhawk fans! Today I'm giving an early preview of some Greyhawk events that will be available at GaryCon XII on March 26-29 at Lake Geneva, WI. Note, that registration for all events and games does not begin until February, but keep an eye out because they sell out fast. As for Greyhawk related events be sure to sign up for these four seminars:

Fantasy Cartography with Anna B. Meyer (Friday at 10 am)
This seminar is hosted by Anna Meyer, professional fantasy cartographer and co-host of Legends & Lore. Anna's Greyhawk Atlas is world renowned and in this seminar she will share her experience and answer questions on making maps.

Greyhawk Online: Creating & Sharing in the World of Greyhawk (Friday 1 pm)
This seminar is put on by W. Kristoph Nolen. It showcases the fansite Greyhawk Online, ezine Oerth Journal and wiki The Great Library of Greyhawk. All attendees get a printed copy of the OJ magazine!

Celebrating Greyhawk: A Fandom Renaissance (Friday at 3 pm)
This seminar is the second annual celebration of Greyhawk hosted by fans (including myself) who have been integral in sharing content and organizing the community. Be sure to come hang out and share stories, ask questions and see what news is happening in the Greyhawk community.

DMs Roundtable-Streaming and Technology in D&D (Saturday at 10 am)
This seminar is paneled by experienced game streamers Jay Scott (Lord Gosumba channel), James Duffie, Frank Schumacher and Carlos Lising. They will cover the ins and outs of streaming and RPGs.

If you plan on attending Gary Con be sure to at least track one or more of these events or possibly sign up for one of their convention games (times to be determined). We love to meet other Greyhawk fans so don't be shy, stop in and join in the celebration.

Update 06/27/2021: Alas, the COVID pandemic cancelled this event. I really was looking forward to meeting Jay Scott, and all my Greyhawk panel friends from the previous year. Maybe in 2022...

Thursday, November 28, 2019

D&D Movie News & Eye of Vecna

Greetings Greyhawk enthusiasts! I'm here to share an article I saw on my Twitter feed today. Looks like more details of this Dungeons & Dragons movie is developing. The surprising part is the movie is rumored to include the Eye of Vecna! The not so surprising part is the rest of the movie seems much more tied to the Forgotten Realms. Now, don't get me wrong, this is a win-win concerning D&D movies; use your #1 setting and also use one of your most iconic artifacts to set up an inevitable confrontation with the arch-lich himself. I'll be optimistic and wager anything involving Vecna will be a trilogy.

The pessimist in me however, thinks this smart movie making decision will come at the cost of future Greyhawk development which I was just talking about a few weeks ago. The whole Vecna theme is one of Greyhawk's last great story lines left to revisit. Of course, Vecna and his various magical body parts were never totally just a Greyhawk thing, that is until the module Vecna Lives! brought him to Oerth and wove him into its rich history (the article acknowledges this gratefully). Traditionally in D&D lore the Eye (and Hand) of Vecna is a multiverse-level threat, even to the unsuspecting Forgotten Realms. So while I'm super jazzed to hear about the Eye as the objective of this movie, it's sort of my problem with this storyline as well.

You see, as a long-time D&D player, I'm disappointed to see the Forgotten Realms with all its hundreds of novels and sourcebooks, doesn't have anything unique worth making a movie about? Heck, it could only fill one slot in an anthology of classic D&D adventures published with the Yawning Portal on the cover. Now the article mentions an obscure Realms dragon and knights who follow some FR deities, which is great, but unless I see stuff like Waterdeep, Zhentarim or the Harpers in this flick, I'm worried it's going to just be a generic D&D movie like the rest of them. But hey at least the Eye of Vecna is here to save the story. I hope in the movie's opening exposition they can at least allude to Vecna and the origin of his Eye/Hand coming from "another plane".

End of rant! This post will likely require a lot of revision and retraction as the movie isn't due till mid-2021 after all...

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Greyhawk Blogging

Good day Greyhawk maniacs! Let's talk about something I do quite often, blogging about Greyhawk. Incredibly I've been doing Greyhawkery since 2010, which was a late decision in truth because my old Greyhawk Webcomic was practically a commentary blog as far back as 2005. Now I've had my ups and downs in the blogging business, always on the verge of hanging it up when I lost inspiration to write or draw. Luckily I'm not trying to be a high profile blogger, win any Ennie awards or stuff like that. My audience is the Greyhawk community and those wishing to break into the World of Greyhawk. In the last couple years I've been buoyed by a surge of online fan content being produced from Twitch to Facebook to websites like the resurrected GreyhawkOnline

People are sharing their games, maps, articles and stories. The point of this post is to encourage you the reader to try your hand at blogging or at least joining one of many Facebook groups (Sages of Greyhawk, Flanaess Geographical Society, Greyhawk Resources). For examples of blogs doing great stuff on a regular basis, check out Frogsama's Greyhawk Adventures, Hall of the Mountain King and Greyhawk Musings. Find your niche. Rally around the community, and maybe if you're really looking to have fun, meet up with people like myself, Jay Scott, Anna Meyer or Allan Grohe at a convention such as Gary Con.

Good luck and happy Greyhawking.

Friday, November 22, 2019

James Ward on Greyhawk Adventures

Hey Greyhawkers! Over at ENWorld, TSR alumn James Ward has wrote another retrospective column, this time about TSR's Designeritus. Mr. Ward goes into the struggles of creating books back in the post-Gygax days with deadlines and corporate looming over everyone. He also mentions the eyebrow raising fact that one of my pet-favorite Greyhawk books, Greyhawk Adventures was a rush job done in three months where it normally took them six! This actually makes a lot of sense because maybe the art was subpar, or certain sections lacked while others were fantastic. I always felt GHA wasn't just right. Imagine what an extra three months could've done for that hardback! Read along and let me see what you think.

Update 06/27/2021: Since this post, we've had Jim Ward and many many other classic D&D authors on Twitch. The last few years have been so enriching.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Elven Populations in Greyhawk

Greetings Greyhawkers. Sometimes on this blog, I fall down a rabbit hole while researching the topic of a post and it leads me into something different. In the case of this subject, the population of elves in the Flanaess, I found it so dry and boring I sat on my collected data for a while. I almost pitched the idea, then I came back to it and figured well I spent this much time on it already, why not? Why am I even tracking elven population? I totally forgot! But the point of this exercise is that elves, while a minority compared to humans in the World of Greyhawk, are not rare (yet).

First some disclaimers. These figures lump published numbers for only playable types of elves together (particularly sylvan, grey, high). So no I am not talking drow or sea elves or snow elves, etc. Also, my math is not solid, and there is bound to be some obscure reference I missed, so at best this study is mostly accurate. Third, I'm not a big expert on demographics, but it does interest me, so I'm drawing conclusions on this info the best I can. Many Greyhawk fans have argued demographics of the setting in the past which in 2000 led to the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer recalculation of these national populations. I will be comparing both the LGG numbers and the 1983 boxed set numbers.

Beginning with how the elven populations are figured, in the 83 Guide Gygax smartly avoids giving exact numbers on demi-human (collected elven, dwarven, gnomish, halfling, etc) populations. When he did it was with war-time statistics in mind so it only meant fighting males only, which for a wargamer like Gygax makes sense. So for these nations I would assign a multiplier of 3 assuming a bare minimum average of one female and offspring per fighting male. This led to another rabbit hole topic I'll address below. When specific numbers weren't given, demi-humans were generalized into terms like "some", "few" or "many" The Guide says these approximations include females and offspring and they constitute a percentage of the listed human population. For purposes of this study, "many" is the suggested 20%, "some" is 10% and "few" is 5%. So for example, Bissel has 50,000 humans and "some" demi-humans, so 5000. With this number I have to break elves out of the overall total. Here I fall back on the LGG which exhaustively lists all types by percentage of population, to tell me almost 10% of all demi-humans (dwarves are majority here) in Bissel are elves (of any type), or 500 for a final total. That sounds like a modest total of elves you'd expect in a fantasy world. When you start comparing and adding up other nations I found that going by Gygax figures in the boxed set, there is about 627,000 elves in the Flanaess.

How about the Living Greyhawk populations? They were all inflated because the writers felt that in the boxed set, the density of people per square mile was too light to accurately simulate medieval demographics. Why is that important? I don't know, it's what we Greyhawk fans do. At any rate, this makes a country like Bissel go from 50,000 people to 123,880. Other are nudged up a bit, like the Pale from 250,000 to 395,000 while more populated nations like Furyondy go from 350,000 to 1,481,800. One thing to consider about the LGG source is that these totals include all sentient races including elves, dwarves, orcs, centaurs, etc (male, female and young). They are all conveniently broke down into percentages, which is fine and easy for calculating, but can lead to some eyebrow raising amounts because this system was based on demographics for player characters not the make-up for nations. For instance, Bissel with its 123,880 is said to have 2% elven population, or 2478 elves. That's five times as many elves as in the gold box, though the overall population only went up about 1.5 times.

This means in the Guide, there is a generous 17,500 total elves in Furyondy, which coincidentally is the same number of male fighting elves in the main elven ruled nation of Celene. If you add females and young, Celene then might have an impressive 52,500 elves. But in the LGG the number of Furyondian elves rises to 133,362, which is more than the entire elven population of Celene in the LGG at 110,600, because in 3e the writers of D&D made it standard to have the majority type of any population 79% the total. Now, nobody would ever suspect Furyondy has more elves than Celene, unless they were just commuting over from the Vesve Forest or Highfolk. These places have their own elven population totals however. Thus in this instance, Gygax's numbers seem more realistic.

For fun here is some of my totals for some elven lands:

Celene 110,660 (LGG) vs 52,500 (Guide)
Highfolk/Highvale 36,400 (LGG) vs 81,000 (Guide)
Sunndi 11,250 (LGG) vs 21,000 (Guide)
Duchy of Ulek 74,518 (LGG) vs 48,000 (Guide)
Vesve Forest 13,000 (LGG) vs 39,000 (Guide)

Now look at some of the biggest human controlled lands and their elven populations:

Nyrond 235,638 (LGG) vs 68,750 (Guide)
Keoland 144,000 (LGG) vs 9900 (Guide)
Ahlissa 191,805 (LGG) vs Great Kingdom 100,000 (Guide)

Because of the iffy percentages in the LGG, I figured the Flanaess in this book has about 1.4 million elves. As a DM your mileage may vary on this amount versus Gygax's 627k. Interestingly across the totals of all nations from both the Guide and LGG, the average percentage of elves in the Flanaess vs humans is still about 5%. I ask you the reader, does 5% elves in the world seem high or low to you? It may depend on each DM's view of elven culture I suppose.

One last discussion, elves are a long lived species. In Gygax's heyday of writing Greyhawk, I'm sure when he wrote "fighting males" for demi-human populations as a generalization, he didn't figure that elven women (or dwur for that matter) who live for many centuries have enough time to practice archery and sword-fighting to be "battle ready" as well. When the Guide says Geoff has 6000 fighting age elven males, surely there is another 6000 females who are just as capable. Also, elven generations are way off base compared to humans. While they initially grow at the rate of humans, elves aren't considered adults until their 100th birthday (5e and 1e agree). Do these near 100 year-old children have fighting ability at all? You can see four or five human generations before an elf male is old enough to be in their army!

Another note, it doesn't need explained that long-lived elves have a much lower birth rate than frail medieval-era lifespan humans. So when we see figures in the LGG or Guide, that is a snapshot of a census done at that starting point in the timeline. It is thus wrong to permanently tie these elven figures (or any demi-human) to human population totals because when your campaign moves forward and the humans add one or two more generations, the elven totals should remain static or worse, go down.

Congratulations if you've read this entire article or merely skipped to the end. This is the kind of scholarly (nerdy) stuff that some Greyhawk fans like myself ponder and will sometimes torture you with in turn to clear our mind! If you have any commentary or corrections, feel free to join in my mania below. Thank you and until next time...

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Wish List: Greyhawk Relaunch

Okay Greyfriends, here's another quick topic I'll throw out until I get some more original content to show you. We all love to wish list when it comes to D&D, Greyhawk and so forth. For all I know I've done this before, but with a fresh, well-rested mind here we go, what would I like to see in a new Greyhawk relaunch in the 5E era:

One caveat is we all know how WotC runs things now, so there is no pretending they'll do a full boxed set treatment with supplemental books each year. Indeed, even most of the good adventures for Greyhawk have already been redone either by anthology or thematically. So let's not pretend they'll do a series of modules either. Oh, but wait a second. This is the World of Greyhawk. Because this isn't just any adventure rehash, maybe there is room here to tweak the normal business model!

5E Guide to the World of Greyhawk: Your regular hardback book with a condensed guide to the nations, history and politics of the Flanaess like in original 80's setting. Plus, the modern approach to players with up to date relevant information for making characters; classes, races, factions, domains, etc. This leaves room for a modest poster map. I know it can be done, check out Curse of Strahd.

Deluxe 5E Guide to the World of Greyhawk Boxed Set: Yes, Wizards does like promoting the higher end products because they know collectors will buy them, and in advance. So why not make a Greyhawk boxed set? It would have the above book, plus bonus features like more maps, or reprints of old fluff books? Don't care, it's a deluxe box. Fill it.

5E Vecna Returns! (Crossover Adventure Event): Here's the draw. In my opinion the arch-lich god of secrets, Vecna is the biggest, best threat to bring back to D&D. This book would be one hardback, or maybe two leaner books like the Tiamat storyline. Doesn't matter. Where it works is that it can start in Greyhawk (preferably the City of Greyhawk for additional maps and fluff). From there, the crossover event is much like what they tried to do in 2E, but with more follow through. Jump next to Planescape, or Faerun, or Ravenloft again if need be. You get to use ALL your previous 5E books with this storyline because Vecna is a multiversal threat. That's right give Vecna an ambition bigger than just one world. He is that crazy evil. Bring the story full circle on Oerth and give the heroes a chance to then defeat Vecna and impact the multiverse and thus the Greyhawk setting permanently by their decisions. It's not much different than could have happened in VL! but the stakes are much bigger.

Greyhawk Minis: Be it Wizkids or GF9, they have been making minis based on iconic Greyhawk NPCs for a long time now. No reason to stop now. May I suggest the entire Circle of Eight and apprentices? That would be eight sets of two minis (3 in Jallarzi's case if you include her familiar). You're welcome.

Dragon+: Standard series of tie-in articles and product advertisements for the current Greyhawk event. Maybe a celebrity interview or two, they could look up David "Zeb" Cook author of Vecna Lives! perhaps?

I'm sure there's other tie-ins I can't think of right now. Boardgames? Unearthed Arcana articles? Eye and Hand of Vecna merch? That's quite a good run. It's enough in my opinion to give Greyhawk some respect and still push the entire line at the same time. And the best part, it opens Greyhawk up to DMsGuild for fans to do all the rest...

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Halfling and Gnome Minis

Welcome back, Greyfolk! Today is a quick post as I need to thank Jay Scott and the gang from the Lord Gosumba channel on Twitch for the wonderful minis I won in their most recent Reaper Mini Giveaway drawing. Even as a long time member of the Greyhawk community I'm usually a lurker and don't often expect to win anything on drawings, so imagine my surprise when Jay texts me to say I won that week's prize (I had already fell asleep before the drawing. I just can't hang with those east coast guys). So here's what I got (sorry about the picture quality, my phone is junk):

Not a bad haul eh? I don't think I've owned decent gnome or halfling minis in ages. Mind you I have had plenty of those pre-painted plastic D&D minis, but those are to put it nicely, more functional than fine art. I love the Halfling Cook. He is the ever-present NPC of all fantasy campaigns. What's not to love. I need to name this min, maybe you can help. The naming convention we use for halflings is first and last names must be restaurants. For example: Arby McDonald. Give me some ideas in the comments. As for Deep Gnomes, are these Svirfneblin or are they merely Rock Gnomes who sort of also live underground just not as deep? I'm not sure I can tell the difference from just a mini sculpt. Also, I'm not sure what's a Gnome Hero versus a Gnome Warrior. I mean, if a humble gnome (of any ethnicity) chooses the warrior life, isn't he already a hero to his community? That's how it is for our armed forces IRL. Anyhoo, I've never ever ever had anyone in all my game groups over the years play a Deep Gnome character. I don't believe I've forbade their use, I just don't think they are a household name like Drow so they go unnoticed. For that matter, I've never seen a PC Duergar either. Of course those guys are bad ass, so I'll probably forbid their use while I'm thinking about it. I wonder what sort of adventures Deep Gnomes get into in the UnderOerth? When you live your entire life underground, would you have to play a module like the Drow series or Lost Caverns in reverse? So many questions posed by such simple minis. Good job, Jay, look what you started! This was supposed to be a short post too!

Will I paint there minis, you ask? Eh, probably not. I used to be quite qualified to paint minis, but got burnt out on the grind a few years back. Too much Warhammer and Blood Bowl. On the other hand, they are so small, they couldn't possibly take that long to paint. Then again, all my paints are dried up from neglect, so looks like I may have to rough it with these guys at the game table. Sorry. Last observation, is the Halfling Cook offering a taste of his soup from the pot, or is the big spoon his weapon and he's splashing hot broth in the eyes of his enemy? My guess is a bit of both columns. Thanks again to the fine folks at Lord Gosumba for these minis. It's fun watching and talking with you guys. Also, I hope to see Jay and company soon at GaryCon 2020. Until then happy gaming everyone!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

New Greyhawk Stuff on the Net

Good day, well met and all that, Greyhawkers! Today I'm going to share a couple cool things in our community to hopefully boost their signal. I saw these items first on the Facebook group, Sages of Greyhawk, so if you haven't yet joined one of these Greyhawk groups online you're crazy. I am in no way a Facebook regular, but I do appreciate that the platform is where a majority of the Greyhawk community stay in touch on a daily basis and share their projects. Let's get to it:

New Greyhawk Blog!

David Leonard is so inspired by the likes of Greyhawk Grognard, Anna Meyer and yours truly at Greyhawkery, that he is starting a Greyhawk blog titled Greyhawk Musings. Be sure to stop in, read his debut post and then be sure to bookmark it, because I have a feeling Mr. Leonard has some good ideas in mind (Ratik!). Excited for this project!

New on Greyhawk TV!

Wow, how did I miss this fun document? Elliott Egyptoid shared a document of funny and inventive Greyhawk TV Shows parodying ones we know and love from history. With the blurbs, it kind of reads like a TV Guide. So nostalgic! This is the kind of stuff I thrived on during my Greyhawk Comic years. Elliott sure would make the Graz'zt Show proud with his programming genius! Check out some of these gems:

Wild, Wild Oerth - Watch Murlynd attempt to keep mad alchemists, criminals and other n'aer-do-wells with potent artifacts and lost magical technology from the Twin Cataclysms from destroying Oerth! Episodes featuring the popular re-occurring villain Rary. Keep an eye out for the rest of Murlynd's old adventuring party, especially Zagig (who always plays himself and constantly goes off script) 

Mayaheine the Explorer 
Follow the adorable adventures of everyone's favorite junior  Paladin as she uses examples from her homeworld to teach morality and ideas to children.

Third Rock in the Sphere
- The show is about four spell-jamming mind-flayers who are on an expedition to Oerth, 
which they consider to be a very insignificant planet. The aliens pose as a humanoid family to 
observe the behavior of regular Greyhawk society 

and my favorite for some reason:

Gillmoor Grells

4 young female grells try to discover themselves in the uber-trendy neighbourhood of the Underdark in which they live.

Well that's enough silliness for now. Be sure to check into Sages of Greyhawk and Greyhawk Musings for more amazing content!

Update 06/27/2021: Good to see David Leonard still plugging away. His blog and FB group continue to grow. Very proud.

Friday, November 1, 2019

New Article: A Guide to Mordenkainen

Heya Greyhawk diehards! If you're like me, you want to know everything there is to know about the World of Greyhawk's notable persons, places and things. Well, the gaming blog, Powerscore has just the thing this week, an exhaustive article showcasing EVERY published D&D reference about Mordenkainen the archmage leader of the Circle of Eight. Yes, every article, novel, sourcebook, core book, etc, is picked over in order to give you the big picture on this most enigmatic champion of the Balance. I've had my own theories on what Mordy's trajectory has been in the last couple decades, and this article helps shine a light on some more recent 5E references that I hadn't even read before! Mind you this article does contain spoilers, so players beware! DMs, enjoy!

Friday, October 25, 2019

Sean Reynolds on The Scarlet Brotherhood

Hail Greyhawkers! In my endless search for all Greyhawk knowledge I tend to come across ancient threads and posts that need resurrected time to time. Today's post is one of these. Prolific D&D/Paizo writer, Sean K. Reynolds is the author of among many things, The Scarlet Brotherhood. This book covered the Tilvanot Peninsula, Amedio and Hepmonaland regions. In February 2009, Mr. Reynolds reposted on his Wordpress blog, a neat retrospective on making tSB and how he came up with many of the NPC names contained in the sourcebook. It's worth another read, so I'll post it here in it's entirety for your reading pleasure. Thanks Sean for your hard work on Greyhawk (and its gods) over the years. Enjoy!

Trivia & Anecdotes: The Scarlet Brotherhood

seankreynolds / February 22, 2009

(Trivia & Anecdotes is a series of blog posts I’ve been meaning to make for years now about weird and sometimes funny behind-the-scenes facts about various books I worked on. Yes, the acronym is deliberate.)
(Published mid-1999.)
This book, hmm. There aren’t really any funny stories about it. I remember that in my process of writing it, I had to wrap my idea around the Suel people–a race of what essentially are fantasy-world Nazis: fair skin and hair, racist against all other humans, believing they’re the master race, that as a race they were wronged and that they would rise again to take their rightful place in charge of the world. They do evil experiments on other creatures. They murder and enslave others. They’re pretty much evil bastards all around. And I had to make up 96 pages about them.
Which proved difficult. Fortunately, Lisa Stevens (creative director for Greyhawk, not coincidentally my uberboss at Paizo) was willing to let me explore stuff near the lands controlled by the Scarlet Brotherhood–stuff that had only been hinted at in old old old products (namely, The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, which has murals depicting black-skinned humans battling the Aztec-ish humans that built Tamoachan). So the question for the latter part of the book was “who are these black-skinned humans, and what do the Scarlet Brotherhood, living so near them, think of them?” Thus, we got a jungle continent with a thriving black-skinned-human civilization in the south, with black/brown/white mixed villages in the north that had become savages–an ironic twist on the white-supremacist idea that their race was the superior civilization. (I also did it because the Suel have a barbarian-ish god of battle and I needed a way to explain how he was still important to some of the Suel people).
A few notes and inside jokes:
* The southern continent had long been known as “Hepmonaland.” I decided it got that name because of the famous Suel explorer Eri Hep-Mona… named for Erik Mona, Greyhawk guru, loremaster for Team Greyhawk, and now the publisher at Paizo. ;)
* The illo for the Father of Faith, Tyrum, is based on former Wizards ad guy, Mark Jessup.
* The illo for Mother Iridni is based on former Wizards PR person, Lara Dalch.
* Father Renho’s background is based on Duane Maxwell, former editor at Wizards (and former military intelligence guy)
* Foster Uncle Pramas is based on Chris Pramas of Green Ronin, who at the time was another designer on Lisa’s team.
* Doxon, who has several refs in the book, is named for a car dealership in the greater Seattle area. He also makes an appearance in my later book Into the Dragon’s Lair.
* Kerilin on page 24 is name for my sister, Keri.
* Uncle Ikkens in Shulof is named after former Wizards editor Jon Pickens.
* Fort Calmuden is named for my friend Jeff’s dwarf Calmuden Rhizodex.
* Fort Tiru is named for my old Tunnels & Trolls character Tirumulesa, who is named after my high school friend Virinchi’s dad, Tirumulesa.
* The Maxwul is based on and looks like Duane Maxwell.
* Ellinka is probably named for Mike Selinker, game designer, with whom I shared a double cube at Wizards.
* The creation story of the Touv is probably the first creation story to appear in a Greyhawk product.
* The goddess Berna is named for my college friend Bernadette. Likewise, Nola is named for my college friend Nola.
* Hambu Channel is named for an old AOL screen name of mine, “Hambu,” short for “Hamburger.”
* Nila, the great dog of Hepmonaland, is named for my white lab Nilla, who died a few months before I wrote this book.
* The adventure hook “Death on Black Wings” is named for the chapter of that name in the original Dragonlance trilogy.
* Writing the Gods chapter of this book is probably what cemented my role as “the guy who does gods writeups for D&D.”
* Likewise, the Suel Language section probably made me the go-to nerd for various fantasy language articles I did for Dragon.
* The spell devious stares is named from a line in the Marcy Playground song “Sex and Candy.”
* All the interior art is by Sam Wood, coming into his own as an artist for Wizards, and I think soon after he started working on D&D core stuff for 3rd edition.

Greyhawk Maps: Pomarj and Enstad

Welcome loyal Greyhawk fans! Today I'm promoting some maps posted on the Facebook group, AD&D World of Greyhawk 1e. These two maps by Aaron Froke are hand-made, watercolor on parchment. The first is the Pomarj Peninsula and I can tell you as one who has drawn this map many times before, it is one of the most interesting coastlines in the entire World of Greyhawk. I also used to do watercolor (haven't since the 90's) so I have to also give some kudos to Mr. Froke for this gorgeous use of light color. Watercolor is a subtle skill and he doesn't overdo it here. One more positive critique, great place labels as well. Aaron clearly has a professional eye for scripting words.

His other work of art is this handout map of the Celene city of Enstadh. Much like the previous map, the use of watercolor is airy and vibrant. The map isn't busy and outlines exactly as much as PCs need to know going into this place. Again, I love the scripted text. Aaron also mixes in some elevation lines to subtly show its not just a flat region. Now looking at this, I'm not sure I've ever seen a map of this city before. Wonderful choice!

If you would like to know more about his campaign and Enstadh, join their Facebook group. There is more amazing art shared here, and I'm sure this is not the last of Mr. Froke's work either.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Random Greyhawk Lore

Greetings fans of the World of Greyhawk! One of my favorite exercises on Greyhawkery is to pull random Greyhawk publications off my game shelf, literally flip them open and point out obscure facts and information about the setting that you may or may not know. New here? Check out some of my previous random lore posts. I hope this material I dump on you can in some small way inspire you as a player or DM to explore more of the world and use it for your stories and backgrounds. Here we go, enjoy!

Greyhawk: The Adventure Begins (on the Oerid Record)

Okay, as you may have heard I love the little nomadic land of Ull. But what was Ull before it was Ull? Well it was once inhabited by Oerids whom yes, are responsible for most of the nations of the Flanaess we know presently, because primarily of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy. The Oerids created the C.Y. (Common Year) calendat, but on the setting timeline what is O.R. the Oeridian Record? According to the Adventure Begins:

"For ages, tribes of Oeridian horse barbarians inhabited the steppe and foothills of what is now Ull. Over two centuries before the fall of the Baklunish and Suloise empires, these barbarians united in a single confederation to resist incursions of imperial Baklunish across the Ulsprue Mountains and by nomadic Baklunish to the north. This event marks the start of the Oeridian Record (OR), the calendar used by Oeridians until the Great Kingdom was founded."

Indeed CY replaced OR, but there is still OR times listed for events in the original publications, making me wonder what backwater villages may still use OR and eschew the CY system cause well, who likes the Aerdians? In fact, after the Great Kingdom began to break up, Nyrond and Furyondy continue to use CY and didn't go back to their parent timeline? Hrm!

Living Greyhawk Journal #3 (on Amedian Gutworms)

Hey DMs are you bored of rot grubs? Have you overplayed Kyuss worms? Well then, have you heard of Amedian Gutworms? These nasty parasites as the name suggests were first discovered in the Amedio Jungle, but oh no, thanks to foolish explorers they have been brought back to civilization where instead of swamps they lurk in sewers. The gutworm is as big as a man, it is amphibious, it likes to hide, and if it gets a grapple on you, well, you know...

"An implanted creature has no symptoms for 1-4 weeks. During this time, any magical treatment that removes disease kills the implanted egg. After that incubation period, the gutworm begins to grow dealing 1-2 points of temporary Strength and Constitution damage to its host each day. After 1-2 weeks, the larval gutworm erupts from its host."

This eruption requires a save and can insta-kill a PC (at least in 3.5E). Meanwhile, the larval gutworm which is also dangerous, is halfling sized and grows to full size in a few months if it can find water. Gross.

Okay after that entry, here is a palate cleanser for your eyes. An illustration of cute halflings in combat by Jim Holloway.

Against the Giants: The Liberation of Geoff (on Mogthrasir's Laws)

Liberation of Geoff is a sequel to the original against the giants run, where giants roam down from the mountains and take over many towns and pretty much the entirety of Geoff. The PCs naturally must clear these giants out one town at a time. It's a book that is an excellent sourcebook if nothing else. One such giant occupied settlement is Pest's Crossing, a logging town on the Oyt River ruled strange enough by a fire giant named King Mogthrasir. Interestingly he has a set of laws listed in this section of LoG:
  • All dwarves, elves, and gnomes are to be slain on sight.
  •  Attempting to escape is punishable by hard labor until death.
  •  Striking an ogre, troll, or hound is punishable by hard labor until death.
  •  Striking a fire giant is punishable by execution.
  •  Spellcasting by any human is punishable by execution.
  •  Carrying a weapon other than a work tool is punishable by execution.
Yep, that sounds like what a fire giant would say. Adventurers may as well go in swords blazing here. Also notice halflings are not killed on sight. Maybe they think they are human children? Or maybe they're just lumped in with gnomes. Hard to tell with dumb giants.

Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk (on Apprentice Rings)

This underrated adventure by Mona, Bulmahn and Jacobs is a sequel to Greyhawk Ruins and involves a return to the ruins and dungeon of the famous mad mage Zagig Yragerne. One minor magic item that can be acquired in this adventure is the Apprentice Ring which is a plain tarnished copper band with runes  on the outside. No stats needed to replicate this for your game, or any megadungeon really:

"Zagig made these simple copper rings to offer some small means of protection to his apprentices, who would sometimes fall victim to the traps in the dungeons of Castle Greyhawk."

Basically the ring gives a bonus to saves against traps and a once a day knock spell, but it only works within the confines of this dungeon. Sounds like a good low level item to find on your way into a dungeon like this for the first time!

Greyspace (on Anti-Liga)

I'm going to end on a fun note, by using a Spelljammer product tied to Greyhawk, Greyspace. Not everyone subscribes to Spelljammer as a rules-set or its campaign add-ons for Oerth and beyond, but it does have some amazingly cool mysteries that would make for good prophecy if the DM is into astronomy. And before you cast aside Greyspace know that things like the Flanaess zodiac, Celestian and Oerth's two moons are quite prominent in base campaign sources. Anyhow, it is generally accepted that Oerth, the planet, is the center of the solar system (crystal sphere for you SJ fans). Unlike our world, the sun (Liga) is just another body that revolves around this planet. We all know Oerth has two moons (Celene aka Kule, and Luna aka Raenei), but some sages, like in our world, could argue it once had two suns as well!

Ancient myth from various regions of Oerth tell that, in the depths of pre-history, there were two suns in the sky. These myths, apparently developed independently, contain so much consistent detail that various astrologers and astronomers conclude that there once was another fire body sharing the same orbit as Liga, but separated from it by 180 degrees. They believe this "Anti-Liga" was the same size and color as the sun, and theoretically like it in structure.
At some time, many thousands of years ago, the second sun simply disappeared from the skies...
A wild and totally unsubstantiated theory currently circulating proposes that Anti-Liga drifted from its orbit for some reason, and it struck the planet in the next orbit out from Oerth. This impact extinguished and destroyed the fire body, shattered the planet and created the asteroid field now known as the Grinder."

Crazy eh? Well not when you consider one of the World of Greyhawk's primary uber-evils is the god of darkness Tharizdun. He who wants to annihilate all life on Oerth. What could a god possibly do that is so heinous it could get all good, neutral and evil gods to gang up and have him imprisoned? Anti-Liga is a hell of a theory.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

A Few Greyhawk Things

Hey Greyhawkers! It's been a slow week for me, so let's have a look at what others are doing in the Greyhawk community:

Over at Greyhawk Grognard, resident Greyhawk-scholar Joe Bloch is on an epic run of posts concerning Connecting the Temple of Elemental Evil with the Vault of the Drow. How is this even possible? You gotta read and find out. When Joe says buckle up, he means it. Be sure to read Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

At the blog Greyhawk Stories, the saga of Daoud continues with the Sevenfold Mazework. If you haven't read the story from the beginning, then you are missing out on some good Baklunish culture and some amazing ideas for your own campaign. You need to check this series out.

Next up, I'm a bit slow on this announcement, but have you SEEN the 598 CY handout map teased by cartographer extraordinaire Anna Meyer? No? Go here now. Then if you like what you see, join her Patreon!

Finally at Wizards, the latest Dragon+ is out and there among other things is some downloads of maps from the 5E Ghosts of Saltmarsh anthology. If you are interested in the Saltmarsh region for your own campaign, but don't own the book, this set of maps (and other ones) should definitely do the trick. Thanks to Dyson Logos, Mike Schley and Jason Thompson.

That's all for now. Hopefully in the coming weeks I will have more original content for Greyhawkery. I hope you like Ull...

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

A Treasure Trove of D&D Books

Welcome Greyhawkers! Those who've gamed with me, met me at a convention or seen stream me on Legends & Lore will know I love to collect old Greyhawk and classic D&D publications. My super best friend forever, Brandi recently joined in this collecting craze when a gracious former co-worker of hers named Patrick, who was also an avid gamer wanted to find a home for his old D&D stuff rather than throw it out. Naturally, me and our friend Jayson helped appraise what was best in this collection for her bookshelf first; including a loving worn AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, Monster Manual, Deities & Demigods (second print), City of Greyhawk books and maps (no box), a set of 1980 Darlene Greyhawk maps, many Forgotten Realms books, a mint set Silver Anniversary TSR Collection and the full four volumes of the Encyclopedia Magica. Trust me there was much more, so she is gushing with old school books now.

Of course knowing about my insatiable D&D mania, Brandi gave me anything Greyhawk related and then some. Let's have a look at this wonderful treasure trove of Patrick's. I could tell he was a hardcore Greyhawker by his classic AD&D character sheets, poster maps with holes in the corners from being mounted on the wall, custom hand drawn maps (shown for another day) and a sturdy binder that contained a full printing of Ivid the Undying and more. I am proud to carry on his collection and add it to mine. Indeed, I hope in the very distant future I too will be able to find someone as crazy and dedicated as me to curate my collection.

G2 The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl: Rough shape, original monochrome edition. Never owned this before love it. I could run from this tomorrow.

G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King: A very rough copy that was missing the cover (which means no maps). Never owned this so I'll take it in with love anyways. Patrick didn't have G1, so that's now on my to-do list.

D1 Descent Into the Depths of the Earth: Another classic monochrome module, in good shape. Again I didn't have this before. More of the Drow series...

D1-2 Descent Into the Depths of the Earth: This was a revised edition that combined D1 and Shrine of the Kuo Toa. Already own it, but good shape. Definitely could use this mod someday.

Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits: This purple covered classic was wrecked from years of use and storage. The covers/maps are torn apart, but the book is still in one piece. Luckily I own it. I hope Patrick's game group defeated Lolth to cause this much damage.

L1 The Secret of Bone Hill: This classic Lakofka module was in rough shape and definitely was played through. Oddly Patrick had cut out pieces of the module (perhaps art or flavor text?). This one will have to take a rest beside my copy.

L2: Assassin's Knot: Another in the Lendore Series. Good shape. I need to run this someday...

S1 Tomb of Horrors: This classic module was also in bad shape, and the art inserts were colored (something I did to a lot of my early AD&D stuff as well). Again, I'm sure a lot of PCs died in this one, so I'd like to imagine frustrated players shredded the Tomb in revenge.

T1-4 The Temple of Elemental Evil: Much like the others, this module was wrecked, wrote in (which means it got a lot of play) and was missing most of the maps. My own copy of TOEE isn't much better. This one can hang on my shelf any day though.

U2 Danger at Dunwater: Wrecked book and covers. Luckily I got a copy of this last year and have recently ran it for 5E out of Ghosts of Saltmarsh. I'll see what I can salvage from this classic.

U3: The Final Enemy: Part three of the Saltmarsh series. This book was in very bad shape and had no covers/maps. Sadly Patrick didn't have U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh. I find it hard to believe he had these, but not U1. Wish I had asked him about it.

Greyhawk: The Adventure Begins and Players Guide to Greyhawk: Both these 2E products were in mint looking condition. Well, compared to mine. Clearly Patrick made better use of the early boxed set era stuff like many of us from that generation. Still, these books are a godsend and I will try my best to take care of them for my own Greyhawk research.

Against the Giants: The Liberation of Geoff: This adventure sourcebook is used, but in about as good shape as my own copy, so I'll gladly have two on his shelf just in case. While he didn't have much Sargent era "Greyhawk Wars" stuff, Patrick did have a lot of the stuff from that era printed out which was available online.

UK4: When a Star Falls: Good shape. Never owned this TSR United Kingdom module, but have others in the series. Can't wait to read it.

B5: Horror on the Hill: Never owned this module, unfortunately this one has a torn cover, but the booklet is in good shape. Would make a good Halloween one-shot.

I8: Ravager of Time: Another module I've never owned before. Rough shape. I own I6 Ravenloft, but what the hell happened to I1-5?

X1 The Isle of Dread (blue cover): Who didn't own this? Patrick's was worn, loving played through and now can reside by my other three copies ;)

B2 Keep on the Borderlands: Speaking of everyone owning a copy. It doesn't get any more classic than this one. This copy was also well used as I would expect. If Brandi were to change her mind and want some of these old mods, X1 and B2 would be no brainers.

B7 Rahasia: This module by Tracy and Laura Hickman had no cover and the booklet was rough looking. A shame because I never owned this one before and it looks fantastic with amazing interior art I've never seen before by Jeff Easley. A keeper nonetheless!

DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor: Patrick and his friends did a lot of Basic D&D evidently and they were no strangers to Dave Arneson's Blackmoor either. This module, which I do own coincidentally, was in decent shape, but with a torn cover. Interestingly he also donated to us, an amazing copy of a Blackmoor campaign hex map that I haven't seen in my life, but I'm sure a lot of my fellow Blackmoor aficionados would be very familiar with. (save for another day)

REF4 Book of Lairs II: This book was in good condition and is a welcome addition to my shelf since I only had volume one.

Lastly, he gifted us with a 2nd Edition DM Screen and Players Option DM Screen, both in very good condition. Both my copies were long since worn to death so this is nice to have even if I don't use screens much these days. Well that's it. Patrick if you read this blog post, you have my eternal gratitude and know that you have left a huge footprint in the Greyhawk community.