Saturday, March 30, 2019

Greyhawk Mini-Map: Whyestil Lake

Greetings Greyhawkers! Today I have another hand-drawn, mini-map of the World of Greyhawk. If you haven't seen these hex maps creations of mine, check out these previous posts, including the recent one I did for the Wastes. I do them for fun, to zoom in on an area of the Flanaess you may or may not be familiar with, plus I add my own embellishments.

If Dorakaa looks familiar, that's because it's the capital of Iuz, home to the demigod of the same name. Also, I did a full map/guide of this city about a year ago. Check it out! Whyestil Lake is a focal point for much of the Greyhawk Wars between Furyondy and Iuz. This map of course only shows the northern half of the lake near Iuz and the adjacent Horned Lands of the mysterious Horned Society.

Take note, foolhardy heroes: other points of interest here is Devouring Bridge and Grunlend Keep from the source book, Iuz the Evil. Grunlend Keep is where Iuz's orcs are trying to learn how to sail warships. Luckily, so far it's a futile measure. Devouring Bridge on the other hand, is a span of fiendish construction and guarded by the worst kind of fiends on top of that! These are both places you have to pass on your way to fight the mighty Iuz on his own turf. That is, unless you know about the "wharves" from the module City of Skulls. I've already said too much....

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Tribality Feature: Greyhawk Cities

Hail Greyhawk stalwarts! Today I'm promoting a new regular Greyhawk series over at RPG website . Staff author, Blake Ryan is slowly building momentum with his Greyhawk Cities feature. His first column covers the Ratik capital city of Marner. This is followed by a unique look at the city of Knurl in Bone March. Both of these articles brilliantly combine established sources and maps with a variety of new information from important locations, organizations, NPCs and resources in the cities. The best part of these articles however, is the section on quests that can be acquired in each town. They are broken down into Confusion, Exploration and Rescue Quests. Absolutely smart writing because it turns each city into a center for adventure and exploration found in popular sandbox games.

Greyhawk DMs you have to check these articles out, because Mr. Ryan is bursting with ideas for your campaign. And he has informed me that there is many more cities in store for this series. Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Ernie Gygax Meets Greyhawk Online

Hey Greyhawkers! I got a quick piece of news I want to boost the signal to, from the resurgent fansite (and friend of this blog) Greyhawk Online. Greyhawk Online had the chance after Gary Con XI to visit the home of Ernest Gygax, the son of the late Gary Gygax. Ernie is known for creating Tenser the archmage for Gary's original Greyhawk campaign. Ernie was gracious enough to show off an amazingly detailed portrait of him as his famed wizard on display, and tell some stories about the character we all know and love. Check it out.

Be sure to visit Greyhawk Online often for old and new Greyhawk content, such as my comics or the recently released Oerth Journal #28. Go there, you won't be disappointed!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Greyhawk Map: The Wastes

Hail Greyhawkers! Today I have another random mini-Greyhawk map drawn by yours truly! If you want to check out some of my previous quickie maps, go HERE. What you are seeing is the Wastes in the northern reaches of the Flanaess - but you are viewing this desolate region from the Icy Sea which means yeah you are upside down.

The Wastes have always intrigued me as a feature since the 80's Darlene map. Indeed, the original Guide to Greyhawk doesn't even detail the Wastes in the section titled "Wastelands"! The accompanying Glossography also does not given encounters for the Wastes which is a shame. Later products would start to develop this place. The most notable feature is the Burning Cliffs first seen in Greyhawk Adventures which allegedly may be connected to the Elemental Plane of Fire, a nice touch considering it is adjacent to the Icy Sea.

Later sources conflate the Barrens and the Wastes into the "Barren Wastes" but the Barrens are actually the grasslands where the nomadic Rovers ride. It is a place where one can find centaurs, gnolls and the strange humanoid qullan. To the south and west is the Cold Marshes and Blackmoor. The Wastes themselves are said to be the blasted remains of a culture from long ago (of course). The remaining features of the Wastes can be seen in the book Iuz the Evil; Icegate, Tomb of Tzunk's Hands, Folly and the Dungeon of Bleeding Walls are all adventure spots that DMs are encouraged to create on their own.

One other source I overlooked when drawing this is the obscure adventure, Ex Keraptis Cum Amore by Andy Miller in Dungeon #77. In this sequel to White Plume Mountain, we are treated to another wizardly dungeon site near the Burning Cliffs called the Melted Fane. If anyone is intrigued by the map to the left, you better find this issue to find out more!

That's all for now. Stay tuned for my next random map.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Where Is Saltmarsh?

Hello Greyhawkers! The title of this post is of course facetious, it's part of the World of Greyhawk. But for a small port first introduced in 1981's U1: Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, it's surprisingly a house-hold name in popular culture (27th all-time) while at the same time under-appreciated in the setting that spawned it. Allow me to explain:

WotC's new book Ghosts of Saltmarsh is taking up the iconic seaport and allowing it to fit into any campaign world. And that's fine. Indeed, the 3.5E DMG2 first expanded on Saltmarsh, taking a one page description of the town in U1 and developing it into a fully realized campaign location, 33 pages in length.

Where is Saltmarsh? According to U-series authors Dave Browne and Don Turnbull, Saltmarsh is in Keoland, fittingly at hex coordinate U4/123. The U series is initialed as such because it was written by TSR's United Kingdom division. I wonder then if this is why Saltmarsh for all its rave reviews is hard to find referenced in other Greyhawk sources.

The original Darlene map of course doesn't feature towns this small and it predates the creation of the module in the 1980 World of Greyhawk Folio. The module however DOES predate the 1983 World of Greyhawk boxed set. In the boxed set Glossography booklet there is a listing of hex locations for modules set in the World of Greyhawk. None of the U series modules make this list. Thankfully the modules themselves give its hex location.

Furthermore, a ton of modules was released from 1981 onward such as I1: Dwellers of the Forbidden City and L1: The Secret of Bone Hill. On the back of all these modules would be advertisement listings to help you collect the whole library of D&D products. Shockingly, UK mods don't appear on the American module ads, but the U and UK series mods sure as heck reference the home office's work. Now the reality of business between oceans and promoting each others works may have been an obvious geographic choice. Even so, I can only conclude short of being featuring in Dragon Magazine, that the U1 got popular by word of mouth!

Despite being an underground hit, the dearth of Saltmarsh references is pretty steady until the second DMG is put out towards the end of 3.5E (set 7 years after the events of the U-series). Earlier works in the same edition like The Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, does not list Saltmarsh among major towns (Keoland is quite large). Worse, the Living Greyhawk Journal #1, has an article about Keoland by my friend Gary Holian. However, this well-developed article does not show Saltmarsh on it's close-up map (it shows Seaton though) and only mentions Saltmarsh in the caption of a piece of art showing the haunted house of the module (named Makaster House).

What else references Saltmarsh? A Dungeon Magazine #77 adventure titled To Walk Beneath the Waves by W. Jason Peck, makes mention of the module being set in the Flanaess near Saltmarsh. By the way, this mod must've slipped by WotC while they were combing Dungeon for aquatic adventures in GH like The Styes and Tammeraut's Fate. Fortunately, Paizo's 4-part World of Greyhawk map from Dungeon (118-121) is a hex for hex update of the Darlene map and does give Saltmarsh it's proper placing.

In summary, Saltmarsh the adventure defied the odds and became a D&D icon. That Wizards would take the town, build upon it, or even suggest it be played in another setting is entirely fine then, because the town deserves the spotlight for once.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Greyhawk Going on at Gary Con XI

Greetings Greyhawkers! It's been a wonderful weekend as I just had a small dose of Gary Con XI. Yeah I was only there for barely half of it with my best friend Jayson "Valkaun" King, but I do have a lot to report on the Greyhawk front! Let's go!

Getting the big news out of the way first, me and Jayson walked by D&D super-celebrity Joe Manganiello in the hall. I got to give him a shout out and he said "hey man". That was my mere brush with the new D&D fandom. Joe aside, I was IN a panel on Friday called Celebrating the World of Greyhawk, A Fandom Renaissance.  My co-panelists were Allan Grohe, Bryan Blumklotz, Carlos Lising, Anna Meyer and Kristoph Nolen. Those who have been in the Greyhawk community for a ling time probably know most of us, but if not...
  •  Allan Grohe owns Grodog's Greyhawk and is part of Black Blade Publishing
  •  Bryan Blumklotz is known for his heraldry pieces and runs the Canonfire Facebook group.
  •  Carlos Lising writes amazing old school adventures and runs Casl Entertainment.
  •  Anna Meyer does incredible maps at annabmeyer and co-hosts Legends & Lore.
  •  Kristoph Nolen is an artist who manages Greyhawk Online and co-edits the Oerth Journal.

The panel covered a wide range of topics, mainly concerning promotion of Greyhawk fan-works across many platforms, such as blogging, publishing and streaming shows like DMShane's ever-growing Greyhawk Channel, and Jay "Lord Gosumba" Scott's old school channel. The ultimate goal is uniting the community once again in order to let WotC know that there is still a strong call for published Greyhawk products in the future.

The turn out for the panel was incredible, mind you Gary Con is a small venue, so the smaller conference room crowds allow you to interact with the audience much easier. Everyone present was a long time fan. I found many in attendance have read my blogs, comics and seen my streaming shows with Anna. It was very gratifying to put new faces to names and talk about shared memories. Those who made it to the panel were also treated with a collection of handouts including the first print version of the newly resurrected Oerth Journal #28 produced not only by the six of us, but many contributors from the Greyhawk Community such as Joe Bloch, Denis Tetreault, Jay Scott, The Oliver Brothers, Len Lakofka,  Jeffrey Garrison, Will Dvorak, Rick Miller and Dave Guerrieri.

Be sure to keep checking for the download of Oerth Journal #28 at Greyhawk Online! Also, for those wanting the info on my Gary Con handout the Ulakand Mesa map, go HERE to get the map and keyed information. Enjoy.

Special thanks to Tony Milani for bringing a gigantic printing of Anna's Flanaess map to the seminar for every to see! Also a huge shout out to Amanda and Linda for their support!

What else was happening at Gary Con? Carlos Lising ran some more Greyhawk adventures such as When Comes the Witching Hour:

"In 586CY, Lady Ariana Silverfox disappeared while exploring the depths of Castle Greyhawk. Now, almost fifteen years later, divinations have revealed that the adventuress yet lives somewhere in the remote hinterlands of Perrenland. Will your band of heroes prove capable of finding the explorer and returning her to her family? An adventure set in the World of Greyhawk for character levels 9-12."

And the latest in his Markessa series, Markessa, Thy Name is Evil:

"One by one, a brave fellowship of heroes have infiltrated the strongholds of the villainess, Markessa. Still, despite their best efforts, the enchantress yet draws breath and continues to work her experiments upon the flesh and souls of the innocent folk of the Wild Coast. Can your heroes put an end at last to Markessa's evil? An adventure set in the World of Greyhawk for character levels 9-12."

Be sure to join his Patreon for Casl Entertainment.

Could there be more? Why yes, our panel got to have a sit down with Gary Gygax's son Ernie, whose original character Tenser is the protagonist of Scott Casper's novella and web comic Castle Greyhawk. It was an honor to present Ernie copies of some art prints from the comic's climatic last page. He sat and talked with us for a while about things from his dad's campaign and what it's like living in Lake Geneva where it all started. Our Greyhawk panel just happened to follow the Gygax family panel as well. Kristoph Nolan had the honor there to give the family early copies of our seminar handout. It was a good day.

I also saw some cool banners about the con, showing classic mods:

Something interesting is coming next month from Harold Johnson... 

I got my newly acquired AD&D Manual of the Planes signed by cover artist Jeff Easley.

Lastly, there is also news that Goodman Games will be doing a 5E adaptation of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, the third in their series starting with Keep on the Borderlands and Isle of Dread.

Well that is all I can recall. I'm sure there was more newsworthy stuff that happened on Saturday and Sunday that I missed, but for now, Gary Con is the place for Greyhawk. Thanks and hopefully I will see you there next year!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

5E: Which Greyhawk Classics Are Next?

Hail Greyhawkers! Today I am going to do an in-depth survey of which adventures or classic themes remain for WotC to adapt to 5th Edition. It's been a remarkable run so far for 5E, with Wizards' handling of nostalgia driven storylines and online entertainment. I wonder if they can keep up the pace? To that end, I want to also utilize a wonderful article The 30 Greatest D&D Adventures of All Time from Dungeon Magazine #116. A panel of D&D's best authors chose the top 30 and it shows that when it comes to classics that remain fresh with each edition, Greyhawk is the king of D&D. Let's have a look:

Classic (#30): Ghost Tower of Inverness by Allan Hammack

5E: None
Comments: Living Greyhawk did a "return to" Ghost Tower module in 3.5E and 4E did one for their Encounters game event. As I'm running this module as I write this post, I can say with conviction there is a lot of potential for a 5E version though the trope of a ruined castle/tower owned by a wizard is very common in classic D&D. 

Classic (#29): Assassin's Knot by Lenard Lakofka
5E: None
Comments: This is the second part in Lakofka's L series, started by the equally classic The Secret of Bone Hill (perhaps #31 in the top list?). These modules were early examples of sandbox style of play. Individually or together, I could see them end up in a 5E anthology book like Yawning Portal.

Classic (#27): Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh by Dave Brown and Don Turnbull
5E: (converted) Ghosts of Saltmarsh
Comments: Ghosts of Saltmarsh also includes the rest of U series, Danger at Dunwater and The Final Enemy. This book is significant because it not only serializes three Greyhawk modules, it also brings in some Dungeon Magazine classics for the first time like Tammeraut's Fate and The Styes.

Classic (#26): City of Skulls by Carl Sargent
5E: None
Comments: This module from 2E is unique due to its part in the time line of Greyhawk during the Greyhawk Wars. The theme of infiltrating a city to rescue a kidnapped noble has only been done perhaps in 5E Dragon Heist, though Waterdeep hardly compares to the capital of Iuz the Evil. It is so intricately tied to Greyhawk, that it would be surprising to see this classic updated to 5E.

Classic (#23): The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun by Gary Gygax
5E: None 
Comments: This gothic horror module will likely come soon to 5E since the namesake cult in this book is quite popular in D&D lore. Thematically cults have been over done in D&D, including a few times in 5E story lines to date, but this one is rather unique. Likewise, Tharizdun has been mentioned in 5E products already so it's only a matter of time!

Classic (#22): The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth by Gary Gygax
5E: None
Comments: As mentioned before, this is a sandboxy module of mountain and cave exploration. The villains and monsters found in Tsojcanth were original for its day. Lost Caverns was last expanded in 3.5E Dungeon Magazine, but a 5E update would surely be free to roam again. Alternatively Tsojcanth could end up in a 5E anthology book with the other remaining classics from S1-4, Realms of Horrror (Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks).

Classic (#20): Scourge of the Slave Lords by various authors
5E: (reprint) Against the Slave Lords 
Comments: This adventure path is comprised of the A series of modules dealing with the theme of defeating an evil slave trading organization one piece at a time. This series was compiled in Scourge and later expanded in 2E's Slavers. Most recently, there was a new episode (A0) added to the slavers series for their Against the Slave Lords AD&D reprint. There seems to be slight chance WotC will use this plot since it was already explored in a reprint, though the rules remained 1E. 

Classic (#19): Against the Cult of the Reptile God by Douglas Niles
5E: None
Comments: This modest low level classic is set near Keoland and involves themes of an evil cult and investigation. Like I mention before, evil cults are a constant theme of D&D plots. This module would be best seen in an anthology of classic cult modules like Forgotten Temple and the Temple of Elemental Evil.

Classic (#18): Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan by Harold Johnson and Jeff Leason
5E: (converted) Tales From the Yawning Portal
Comments: Tamoachan is a popular jungle themed dungeon and has seen revision in 4E once and though it is Mayan influenced, the theme of jungle exploration is currently one that Wizards covered in Tomb of Annihilation. It's inclusion in Yawning Portal comes as no surprise.

Classic (#13) Dwellers of the Forbidden City by David Cook
Classic (#10): Return to the Tomb of Horrors by Bruce Cordell
Classic (#3): Tomb of Horrors by Gary Gygax
5E: (themes and converted) Tomb of Annihilation/Tales From the Yawning Portal
Comments: As mentioned above, ToA is about jungle exploration and lost cities (ties to the classic Isle of Dread and Dwellers). ToA also utilizes the antagonist of ToH, a module that is so popular that it has been seen in novels and expanded upon or adapted for every edition of D&D.

Classic (#9): White Plume Mountain by Lawrence Schick
5E: (converted) Tales From the Yawning Portal
Comments: Wizard's ruined dungeons are commonplace, but WPM is unique for being built inside a volcano and it features a few classic magic weapons like Blackrazor. This module has seen updates and adaptations in nearly every edition as well.

Classic (#8): Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil by Monte Cook
Classic (#4): The Temple of Elemental Evil by Gary Gygax and Frank Mentzer
5E: (theme and board game) Princes of the Apocalypse, Temple of Elemental Evil, Out of the Abyss
Comments: The theme of an evil elemental worshiping cult is taken in a wild new direction in 5E, without directly taking the Temple out of Greyhawk. A tie in board game of the namesake however, failed to pay homage to its roots. It is also worth noting the demoness villain of this megadungeon, Zuggtmoy, is also featured in Out of the Abyss. ToEE is popular enough in D&D to warrant a full 5E adaptation someday, perhaps in an anthology book like Yawning Portal.

Classic (#5): Expedition to the Barrier Peaks by Gary Gygax
5E: (sequel) Lost Laboratory of Kwalish 
Comments: Barrier Peaks' themes of magitech and weird monsters wasn't reimagined here so much as given a suitable sequel to Gygax's original. The special adventure was done for charity, instead of a regular story line event, so I wonder if this theme will be revisited someday.

Classic (#1) Queen of the Spiders by Gygax and various authors
5E: (themes) Storm Giants Thunder, Out of the Abyss
Comments: Queen of the Spiders' adventure path components are classics in their own right. Themes seen in 5E include giant antagonists, Against the Giants (G series), fighting through the Underdark, Vault of the Drow (D series), and defeating demonlords, Queen of the Demonweb Pits. Somehow, given Lolth and drow are heavily in Out of the Abyss, I expect this plot to see another pass in the years to come if only because of author R.A. Salvatore.

Some other select Greyhawk adventures of note:

Age of Worms: This adventure path from 3.5E Dungeon Magazine involved stopping an evil cult bringing a destructive deity to Oerth. One could argue that is the plot of 5E's first story line, Tyranny of Dragons.

Savage Tide: Another huge adventure path set in Greyhawk. This series involves nautical elements, demons and it drags the Isle of Dread into Greyhawk. As the plot involves themes like madness, Demogorgon and abyssal politics, I'd say Out of the Abyss covered this one.

Vecna Lives! Vecna Reborn, Die Vecna Die: Vecna is a core deity in D&D. His exploits are well known and developed since 2E. Vecna has not been featured in 5E yet. Perhaps the antagonist of lich Acererak in Tomb of Annihilation would cover this base, but really there is too much material left here for Wizards not to use Vecna someday.

Five Shall Be One, Howl From the North: This two part adventure deals with themes of barbarians and cold, wilderness exploration. So far 5E has not gone this route yet. FSBO is note worthy in that it is a quest for five magic blades to free a trapped god who will unite the barbarians of the north. After having adapted this story in my campaign to the south seas, I can tell you the originals are weak and a 5E update could only improve it.

Greyhawk Ruins/ Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk: The modules based on Gygax's most famous mega-dungeon. I can say with certainty these won't see a 5E revision since the themes of a dungeon belonging to a mad mage is exactly that of Undermountain (#17 classic) which was recently updated in the apt title, Dungeon of the Mad Mage

Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure/ Maure Castle: This megadungeon by Rob Kuntz is a classic in my opinion. It's see a conversion and expansion during 3.5E in Dungeon. However, like Castle Greyhawk, I can't see Wizards ever going here due the enormous length and similarity in theme to DotMM.

TL;DR version:
D&D has found it's groove by weaving new story lines into classic modules, while also dishing out anthologies of 5E adapted modules to promote old school themes. It's a formula they won't deviate from soon, but given the lists of classic Greyhawk adventures to draw from, they are already more than half-way through their pool of themes. In the future, WotC will need to turn to either other game worlds, like Dragonlance (Dragons of Despair, #25 classic), Ravenloft (#2 classic, adapted in Curse of Strahd 5E), Planescape (Dead Gods #14 classic) or the pages of Dungeon Magazine to find some diamonds in the rough that with any luck, will become the new classics.

Update 06/24/2021: Two years later and WotC has danced around this list without touching it. Kudos to them for not using Vecna yet. However, news coming later this year may soon knock a few more classics off this list. Stay tuned!