Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Greyhawk in Dragon+ and Gary Con XI

Hail friends of Greyhawk. You may or may not have already seen, but the newest issue of Dragon+ (a periodical I have slacked in reading) has a new article that is a must read. Behind the Screen: Greyhawk by John Roy and Luke Gygax is both a nostalgic ride to the early years of Greyhawk and D&D and also a quite thorough summary on the mood and themes of the setting for those thinking of running Greyhawk for the first time. It covers all the sources for 5th Edition or in classic books on DMsGuild, that one would need (up to and including the newest announced book, Ghosts of Saltmarsh) for a proper Greyhawk campaign.

Kudos to John Roy for writing this piece! There is also a mention in the article of Luke Gygax's panel, Growing Up Gygax, at Gary Con XI in March. I will be there possibly because I'm also in a panel at the con, Celebrating Greyhawk: A Fandom Renaissance which is right AFTER Luke's. Come see me along with Anna Meyer, Bryan Blumklotz, Carlos Lising, Kristoph Nolan and Allan Grohe. Hopefully we get some spill over from the Gygax panel to talk more Hawk!

Update 06/24/2021: Removed old convention links. Needless to say Gary Con XI was a blast and if not for COVID we would have done it again.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Greyhawk Map: Lordship of the Isles

Greetings Greyhawk mavens! As we get closer to GaryCon again I am starting to feel anxious to talk Greyhawk. To pass the time, I started drawing mini-maps of sections of the Flanaess, with some clever artistic touches thrown in. I doubt I'll do a whole lot of these, but I'm looking for corners of the map that are often neglected, that might look more interesting if you have a magnifying glass put on them.

This first map I'll show you, is just a straight hex for hex reproduction of the Darlene map of the Lordship of the Isles-Oljatt region. The map does not show all of the lordship though, as the archipelago continues northward including the capital Sulward. Nor does it give Hepmonaland much love. I wanted to draw attention to the isles and the Pelisso Swamp. The Lordship depending on what era you use, is an underused, underdeveloped area. In the pre-wars era it is a land of buccaneer explorers who flaunt the rule of the Great Kingdom and the Sea Barons. (my preferred era) Post-wars they are capitulating sea lords who serve as the defacto navy of the Scarlet Brotherhood.

As you can see, within this small window there is a lot going on here. Complex coast lines, colonies, monsters, many ports of call. One of my dreams is to set a campaign here to compliment my Hold of the Sea Princes high seas adventures. The Living Greyhawk Gazetteer has a bit of good info on the Lordship, but the isles as well as the surrounding coasts is really untamed territory for DMs in my opinion. Enjoy!

p.s. This map was made using hex paper provided by Black Blade Publishing.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Taxes in Greyhawk

Greetings Greyhawkers. They say in many parts of the prime material plane, nothing is certain but death and taxes. In the World of Greyhawk setting, death is ever present and at times a literal avatar to fight against. But taxes? This too is all the game, there is no avoiding it humble, heroes. Let's take a look:

City of Greyhawk: The Gem of the Flanaess is neutral and wealthy, perhaps supported by a robust system of taxation managed by of course, the dwarven head of the Greyhawk Revenue Service, Glodreddi Bakkanin. Visiting the city, one might be hit with a Ship Tax (3sp to 5gp), a Cargo Tax on imports (up to 1%), a Precious Metal Tax (1%), except for Urnst platinum (.5%). There is also a Freesword Tax (3gp) annually, and a Guild Tax (5sp to 5gp) annually. Glodreddi is always looking for new tax schemes and is also responsible for the People's Constables whose only job is to write citations for crimes so petty they are essentially tax collectors in disguise.

Furyondy: Think it would be nice to live in the good Kingdom of Furyondy? Think again, this place is in perpetual war with Iuz and has to maintain its existence through taxation. Chancellor Rayman Delbeith oversees the collection of funds for his king. The king can collect tithes and taxes due to a Nobility Tax and a Land Tax since all the nobility are technically only leasing their homes and titles from him. This is a low tax and cannot be raised without a vote of the provinces. There is also a Capital Tax created to help rebuild Chendl during the wars.
In turn the provincial rulers tax their retainers and subjects. Nobility Taxes on knights (10-50gp and up to 1000gp for a Count) annually. Hearth Taxes are imposed for luxury items like stone fireplaces (3-20gp) per year.
Furyondy rulers collect taxes many other things in this hard time. Harbor Tax on ships (10sp to 4gp) per day, tolls on roads and fivers (1cp to 5sp), Magic Item Tax (2-30gp) per year, Freesword Tax (1gp) per quarter, Foreign Resident Tax (2sp to 20gp) per year, Inheritance Tax (5-30%), Luxury Tax (5-25%) and then there is Tithes on goods produced usually starting at 15% multiplied by each provinces' rate.
Speaking of these rates, The Marklands source book shows each provinces' multiplier for these base Chendl taxes and services. So for example, the Barony of Kalinstren is x1.6 base costs and County of Crystalreach is x1.7 whereas Duchy of the Reach is only x.8 and Gold County is x.75 the base.

Nyrond: So Furyondy isn't the only large kingdom who will tax you to death. Nyrond is just as cash strapped. You can expect to use all the same taxes as Furyondy plus it has novelty ideas like Fencepost Tax (1cp) per per post! There is also a Boot Tax (3sp) annually for every pair of foot wear you own. Not surprisingly tax evasion is rife in the Nyrond.

Great Kingdom: This huge land once stretched across the Flanaess but is now fractured, but still very large and powerful. Here, the populace of Aerdy also face similar taxes outlined above, but here it can be much higher. In addition the Overking has implemented special taxes like a Castle Tax to help build more keeps and castles in the kingdom and a Worship Tax to harass good religions.

Keoland: Not to be left out, the Kingdom of Keoland to the southwest is currently in a less desperate period of time than its peers, if one discounts the Giant Troubles and high seas piracy. A DM can expect this medieval kingdom to excise the same sort of taxes mentioned earlier, but at an average to lower rate depending on your campaign. Interestingly, the king here cannot create new taxes, only the Council of Niole Dra may do this.

That's all for now. You can imagine from the above examples how taxation in the World of Greyhawk can become a facet of concern for players and a reason to find more treasure, or perhaps even a reason to smuggle in their hard earned loot. Wherever the PCs decide to reside, be it Ket, Veluna, Irongate or even the land of Iuz, a tax collector will always be lurking in wait to pay a visit.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Great Greyhawk Couples

 Happy Valentines Day, Greyhawkers! I don't think there is a Greyhawk equivalent to this holiday unless it's a holy day to Myhriss goddess of love. At any rate, that's a topic for another day. The World of Greyhawk is well known for its mega-dungeons, artifacts and warfare, but is it known for romantic storylines? Let's take a look...

Jallarzi Sallavarian and Kieran Jalucian: This is one of my favorite Greyhawk couples. Jallarzi is the only female member of the famous Circle of Eight in the City of Greyhawk and her paramour, Kieran is the Master of the Guild of Wizardry and Principle of the University of Magic Arts. I am going to assume they met when she was a prodigy student of his at the UMA because Jallarzi was 33 when she joined the Circle, and KJ only looks 30, but is clearly very old according to the City of Greyhawk boxed set. Scandals aside, I can see the attraction for them; Kieran is not only an archmage, but he has a 17 STR so he is no aged-wimpy sage. Jallarzi, described as "distractingly beautiful" has a 17 CHA and a pseudo-dragon pet. What's not to like? The pair are seen all over the city and even slum in the Old City in disguise with magic. Their wizardly careers are probably the only thing keeping them from being official. Work and well, that thing that happened in Return of the Eight...

Iggwilv and Graz'zt: Aww yes, you knew I would mention this couple (well off and on). They are the best confrontational pair in the entire setting. Iggy and Graz' even have a child together (spoiled demigod Iuz, such a dysfunctional family). Iggwilv is an aspiring demonologist-witch queen-conqueror. Graz'zt is an aspiring Prince of Demons-would-be conqueror of the Abyss. Clearly the pair's egos are not big enough to fit on one infinite plane. There is a lot of good game info on this diabolical couple I don't have the room to tell it all! Want to know EVERYTHING about Iggwilv though? Check out this amazing post on Power Score.
Cobb Darg and Elayne Mystica: I'm not sure if these two are a romantic pair, but they should be! Cobb is the old wily ruler of Irongate and Elayne is the albino Suel archmage of the same city. There has got to be a spark there, and I'm certain she knows Mayor Darg's secret heritage.

Queen Yolande and (various) Consorts: Elven culture might be different than human-kind in regards to courtly romance since they live so long and are many times xenophobic. Queen Yolande of Celene has had many consorts over the centuries, and the murder of one even started the Hateful Wars that drove all humanoids out of the Lortmil Mountains. I'm sure Yolande has moved on by now, though given her isolationist stand, does she ever look outside Celene for companionship?

Karin Keoffel and Yrag: I'm willing to bet you don't know who is Karin Keoffel. She happens to run the Fruit of the Mill in the lower part of Greyhawk, she is 44 years old and is cheerfully in love with her mercenary boyfriend "Yr". Whether she knows Yr is actually Yrag, a magically preserved 200 year-old adventuring legend is not known. What is for sure is that Yr/Yrag definitely loves his girlfriend and has gone to lengths to discreetly protect her, such as gifting magic items and telling the Guild of Thieves to back off her business. If that isn't love I don't know what is!

Iuz and Zuggtmoy: Iuz has many henchmen and allies he could choose as his consort, but in Greyhawk lore (and novels?), the Lord of Pain for some reason has an infatuation with Zuggtmoy the Demon-queen of Fungi. Despite being a power-couple they both have spent time in prisons, so their relationship has always been strained. Despite this I suspect Iuz loves her more than she loves him back. So much so, that Iuz literally gave Zuggtmoy his soul to guard on her abyssal plane. Like that won't ever come back to haunt him some day!

Lady Evaleigh and Gord or Alain IV of Ratik: The comely Evaleigh is a noblewoman from the County of Knurl and was featured as a love interest to Gord the Rogue in Gygax's early TSR novels. How that turned out, I'm not 100% certain, since I never read them all. Evaleigh however did make into the game setting as the widowed ruler of Ratik. She married the son of Baron Lexnol, Alain IV and he was soon killed by gnolls. Evaleigh had to assume rulership after Lexnol then became disabled upon hearing the news. Tragedy!

Wee Jas and Norebo: I would be remiss if I didn't mention this dynamic Greyhawk deity couple! Wee Jas the goddess of death and magic could only be won over by the roguish charm of Norebo right? After all he has been reputedly with every female deity it is said. Unfortunately, being gods of the Suel Pantheon, there's a good chance they are related! Why she puts up with him and his cheating ways in the first place is a matter of theological study. I know cause I've done plenty myself!

Honorable Mentions. I could go on and on, but here is some other couples I think would be worth musing about in future valentines posts...

Dragotha and Tiamat: Draconic love. Till death do they part?

Lorana Kath and Lord Kargoth: Both death knights of the Great Kingdom. A couple that works together!

Sotillion and Zilchus: Married deities of business, wealth and leisure. Gee, I wonder who they remind me of...

Markessa and Markessa: This Slave Lord likes altering the minds and bodies of elven women into doubles of herself. Self-love?

That's all for now. What other great Greyhawk NPC relationships are there?

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Colorful Places of Greyhawk

Greetings Greyhawkers! Today I bring you another fun topic on Greyhawk geography. This one follows suit with the post I did on "Cold Places" in the Flanaess. This time let's look at the colorful places found in the World of Greyhawk. In our world there is plenty of colorfully named locations such as the Black Sea, Greenland or Yellowknife. Naming places with colors is catchy and evocative and that's why Gygax made ample use of it in his setting. Let's take a look...

Land of Black Ice: This is the first place I think of when you mention the color black on the Darlene Flanaess map. Is the ice literally black or blue-black or transparent showing off stone below? Does it absorb heat or repel it? I have too many physics questions about this place. For more on the Land of Black Ice check out my most recent article on cold places mentioned above.

Blackmoor: Naturally next to the black ice is the grim-colored Blackmoor. While it might not be Dave Arneson's original Blackmoor, the Blackmoor we get in the World of Greyhawk is an homage that includes the same gloomy environment, the castle of Blackmoor, the mysterious City of the Gods and the even more mysterious villain Egg of Coot. Want to spice up your Blackmoor or heck play the Mystara version? Go to Havard's Blackmoor Blog.

Azure Sea: The biggest and boldest blue on the map is naturally the Azure Sea. Azure according to Wikipedia is bright blue, like the color of the sky on a clear day. I'm no expert on physics, but perhaps this means the Azure Sea is more clear and calm than say the Solnor Ocean or the warmer Drawmij Ocean? I'd love to hear theories because I know on Earth, there is a difference in our oceans and seas.

No I'm not being facetious, there is a town called Blue on the east coast of the Pomarj. Why is it called Blue you ask? Good question. I really don't know at the moment. I do know it's been a fisherman and pirate haven for centuries and most recently it's now a port in control of the Slave Lords or Turrosh Mak's Orcish Empire or both? Whatever the case, Blue is a nice rough port to stop at for PCs who want to get in some roguish trouble.

Gold County: So gold is yellow of course, but where is the Gold County you may be asking? It's a southern part of Furyondy along the Velverdyva River bordering Verbobonc and Dyvers. In other words it's safe, quiet and wealthy while up north they are battling Iuz 24-7. Not only do the nobles love hiding out here, with their gold, there is also an abundance of sunflowers on the plains. Yellow indeed.

White Fanged Bay: White immediately gives you the impression of cold. Set along the Icy Sea, this is a frozen coast noteworthy for its walruses and seals. Ivory and fur can be had by any enterprising barbarian willing to trek to White Fanged Bay. With that much food in a crowded area, what's the chances there's white dragons as well?

White Plume Mountain: Speaking of white in the north, there is one iconic location that is not cold, but rather a volcano. White Plume Mountain, the home of Keraptis the wizard, is the destination of many a treasure seeker wishing to recover the lost magic weapons that were stolen away to this dungeon. You can find a version of this module online for just about any edition of D&D imaginable. Good luck!


City of Greyhawk: Naturally, the city that started it all would be named for a color. Growing up I would always spell the color gray, grey because I'm a D&D nerd. I definitely know Grayhawk would look weird to me. The City of Greyhawk may be nicknamed the Gem of the Flanaess but I believe the name of the town does indeed come from a species of hawk living in the area. I also suspect Gygax chose grey for the name of his famous campaign, because gray is a neutral color, much like the free city itself is neutral politically. It is also centrally located on the map, in a neutral position from all the law and chaos swirling around it. Perfection.

Grayflood River: A tributary of the Thelly River, this gray-sounding river is what forms the boundary between the South Province (Ahlissa) and the Iron League member state of Sunndi. One can imagine, in more peaceful times this was a decent river to cross and trade. Nowadays with the Great Kingdom ruled by mad-men and undead, the Grayflood sounds as dismal as its name.

Silverwood: This tiny forest within the Duchy of Ulek is just what you imagine it might be from the metallic sound of its name. It's a primeval wood, out of bounds for mere men and inhabited by sylvan elves, unicorns, treants and other fey creatures. Ironically there is no actual silver here, but the inhabitants value their trees more than silver!

Iron Hills: By now you're thinking, yeah the World of Grey-hawk has a lot of gray in it. The Iron Hills is yet one more, this one is though is known for its dwarven clans, indeed the place is actually the Kingdom of the Iron Hills. Given it's proximity to the city of Irongate and it being an ally of the Iron League, you can see a theme here.

Irongate: As mentioned before, there's also Irongate, another grayish metal themed place and what I imagine as Minas Tirith from Lord of the Rings, but on the coast. This city (ruled by a dragon some say) has never been conquered, not by a thousand Aerdian nobles, nor the sneak attacks of the Scarlet Brotherhood. Want a good aligned place to start a campaign, especially with dwarves and gnomes? Try Irongate!

Greysmere: Not enough dwarven lore for you? Okay one more. In the Abbor Alz Mountains is a clan of dwarves living in an underground town called Greysmere. If you'd like to know more about this place, grab a copy of the City of Greyhawk boxed set. I'm moving on...

Scarlet Brotherhood: Another great example of a color capturing the mood of a name. This remote peninsula region isn't the name for a nation per se, but rather a semi-secret, evil organization led by dangerous Suel monks and assassins. Unlike the Red Wizards of Thay in Forgotten Realms, if they were called the Red Brotherhood, they wouldn't sound half as sinister would they? (hmm Red Monks of Ilshar?) The Scarlet Brotherhood source book is all you need to get in order to know all the inner workings of this power group. Highly recommended.

Redspan: This red-colored city is in the Duchy of Tenh. What I know about it is mainly from the book, Iuz the Evil. This fortified town used to protect the duchy from the Bandit Kingdoms, but it couldn't withstand Iuz's forces. DMs looking for a contentious city on the edge of war in all directions could give Redspan a look.

Redhand: One more red themed place for you is Redhand. This is the bandit principality that touches on the Nyr Dyv coast including the town of Alhaster. It might be heretical to the fine folks who worked on the Bandit Kingdoms for Living Greyhawk, but if you want easy accessed info on Redhand, check out 3.5 Edition Age of Worms AP by Paizo in the pages of Dungeon Magazine.

I seriously cannot find a purplish place in the Flanaess. Unless you want to count "Mauve" Castle which is ridiculous because that's a sorry misrepresentation of Maure Castle from the novel Saga of Old City.

Greenreach: Well I'm quite stunned by how hard it is for me to find places named for shades of green in Greyhawk. Greenreach, an Iuz town near the Vesve Forest is one. As you can imagine, it's a staging area for the demigod's attacks to the west. Listen up heroes, someday you may very well have to raze Greenreach before tackling the big names in the Land of Iuz.

Celadon Forest: Celadon is a shade of green, kind of like jade color. The great Celadon Forest is in between the Duchy of Urnst and Nyrond. It's an old forest, home to sylvan creatures, elves, good woodsmen, rangers and so-forth. It's a wonderfully green base of operations for nature-oriented characters.

Copperstead: Yup, orange is just as hard as you'd think to find. Copper is an orangish metallic color though and coincidentally the village of Copperstead lies within the aforementioned Celadon Forest! This tiny hamlet is the HQ for the little-known Defender of Celadon.a group of woodland freedom fighters trying to repel a brutal local baron.

Gamboge Forest: Oh that sneaky Gygax, he almost got this shade of orange past me. Gamboge is a saffron like color like the robes used by Buddhist monks. The Gamboge Forest therefore must be orangish right? Well unfortunately, there is no mention of this, but maybe in the Fall the leaves here are very orange in color? Not surprisingly this a home to sylvan elves, halflings, gnomes and the like, caught between the political drama of Nyrond and the Pale. Sounds like a cool place to visit.

Sepia Uplands: The shade of sepia is a (reddish) brown color of course. The Sepia Uplands sound like they must be as monochromatic as the sepia photos we remember from history. It's an hilly region along Lake Quag, mainly controlled by Perrenland, but also bordering the Wolf Nomads and extending into the Vesve. Quite picturesque!

Bronzeblood Haunt: Bronze is a brownish color right? Metallics are hard to judge. At any rate, this eerie ruined castle is found within the lawful and good Kingdom of Furyondy. Want a cool place to send players without the need for a long trip? Try this place. For more info, check out this article on Furyondy.

Sablewood: Sable is actually a very dark brown, going on black. I couldn't decide which entry to place it, so I made it last. The Sablewood is in the extreme NE of the Thillonrian Peninsula in Cruskii. The fir trees in this wood of course are valued for their deep (black) color when treated. The barbarians love sable wood so much they don't export it! According to the Trees of the Flanaess section in the boxed set (yes Gygax loved tree-lore, don't judge), sablewood branches make excellent arrow shafts. Now you know where the "black arrow" comes from.

Phew! That's it! I'm sure I missed some obscure color-coordinated place in Greyhawk. If I did chime in and let me know. Until next time!

Friday, February 1, 2019

Castle Greyhawk Finale

Greetings Greyhawkers! This week I am proud to announce that Scott Casper and I have reached the conclusion of our long running Castle Greyhawk comic. It's been several years and over 160+ pages of amazing story and art.

When we started this comic back in 2012, Scott had already written a virtual novella based on the original home campaign of Gygax, involving such notable Greyhawk characters as Tenser, Robilar and Mordenkainen. It was when he approached me to do an illustrated adaptation of these short stories that I was inspired to jump at it since I had already ran out of material for my long running Greyhawk Comic strip. For seven years I've lived and drawn these characters doing incredible things I've never done in an actual table top RPG setting. My only regret is that I chose to do it in greyscale instead of full color. However, I am sure I would have never accomplished half the work load if I had done so. Then again, how many D&D fans have done one if not two comics based on their favorite setting? So yes, no regrets at all in hindsight.

If you are just now finding my blog Greyhawkery, or Castle Greyhawk, and are new to every contained in this story, well this is mainly the story of the wizard Tenser. The exploits and adventures of Tenser and his off and on again compatriots happen around the free-city of Greyhawk, which is central to the published World of Greyhawk RPG setting. Nearby is the dungeons of the ruined Castle Greyhawk once home to the famous mad archmage Zagig.

The story of Castle Greyhawk also features the hardworking mage in training slash barmaid, Ehlissa. She is a strong, fearless adventurer in a world dominated by so many powerful male figures. One of these individuals is the noble, but reclusive fighter Yrag whose experience leads to taking the young wizards on their first foray into the infamous ruins.

As the story progresses, you will become familiar with another fearless warrior named Robilar. As time goes by Robilar falls in with Tenser and company as well to search the dungeons for treasure. Along with him comes a whole cast of adventurers and henchmen such as Quij the orc, Terik the fighter, Otto the mage and Serten the cleric.

Mind you, this story isn't one big dungeon crawl either, the story also takes you across the streets of Greyhawk, into inns, taverns, wizards towers and even a local bandit's fort. There is so much going on in this five-chapter story that I can't begin to tell it all. Start from the beginning and read Castle Greyhawk. In the future I hope to post up compiled versions of the chapters for ease of reading.

Until then, thanks for at least reading about my latest feather in the cap. Thanks once again to Scott Casper for his hard work and amazing direction. Every panel you will see in this comic is drawn by me, but it is executed exactly how Scott imagined it first. Congratulations my friend on having your dreams come true!