Monday, July 29, 2019

Some Gen Con 2019 Stuff

Greetings fans of Greyhawk and RPGs in general! This week starts Gen Con 2019 and sadly, I will not be going again this year, but I can point you to some friends who are doing fun Greyhawk related activities. Mind you, most if not all these events are sold out. That's just how Gen Con is, but if you get a chance to meet any of them, be sure to say Mike (mortellan) sent you.

Anna Meyer, Greyhawk mapper extraordinaire and my co-host on Legends & Lore is representing Griffon Lore Games in a seminar on Fantasy Cartography on Sat at 3:00 pm. The seminar is full but if I know free Gen Con sessions like this, anyone can get in if there is space available. If you are into digital creation of RPG maps, go check out how she does her mapping, you won't be disappointed. 

Also, two of my favorite people, Jay "Lord Gosumba" Scott and Carlos Lising are both DMing an epic 9 hour Greyhawk game on Thursday at Gen Con titled Horror in the Hools. Even though this event is also sold out, it may be worth checking out anyhow since they will be at it most of the day and evening. Here is a blurb for the adventure:

"The once-thriving Halfling community of Dun Mounds has fallen on desperate times. Swamps and marshes that were once distant now encroach on the town, infringing upon them at unnatural speed. With their coming, vile creatures beset the settlement almost daily. Only a few brave Halflings refuse to leave their homes in the Mounds, collecting all of their valuable possessions to hire a group of brave adventurers to investigate the cause of their plight. Will your characters unravel the mystery of the Hools - before it's too late? An adventure set in the WORLD OF GREYHAWK for character levels 3-5."

Lastly, the fine folks at The Greyhawk Channel are doing an off-convention site Greyhawk commune. While I don't have any particulars on where this place is and what games they are running while there since it was by invite, I am sure there will be MANY more Greyhawk fans in force this year than in the last ten years! So keep an eye out at the exhibition halls, you never know who might be a fellow community member! 

To those who will be there, be sure to take pictures and tell your stories. I will be anxious to see how it goes!

Update 06/25/2021: Removed old links.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Mysterious Places From the Fringe IV

Greetings Greyhawkers! Gen Con 2019 fast approaches, so today seems like a good time to write some original adventure hooks based on the "Mysterious Places" articles of Living Greyhawk. Go back and check out some of my previous brainstorms from 2014 again 2014 and 2018. Wow time flies. Let's get into it...

The Kha-Khan's Niche: Nearly 500 years ago, The Relentless Horde came to dominate the northern plains. When the great Kha-Khan Ogobanuk passed into the invisible realm in 345 CY, the Tiger Nomads split from their cousins the Wolf Nomads to go their own way. What is rumored however in civilized circles, is that before the kha-khan's end, these two great tribes constructed a sacred portal for their ruler to enter on horseback and thus depart the Oerth forever. Called the Kha-Khan's Niche, most nomads today will laugh this off as a child's tale, while others will cut out the tongue of a foreigner for bringing it up.
The most common version of the Niche is that it's a cairn-like structure, barely recognizable from a hill or perhaps cliff. Naturally depending on which nomad tells the story this could be placed in the Howling Hills, the Yecha Hills, the Sepia Uplands or even the foot of the Yatil Mountains. The Niche is almost certainly guarded by illusions as well given the Tiger Nomads' reputation for this magic. Others say the place is guarded by demons and giant wolves loyal to the ancient Kha-Khan. Whatever the truth, explorers who see beyond the tales of a nomad afterlife seek the Niche for any treasures left behind by the great Kha-Khan. Should they find the way to the invisible realm or merely a lost tomb is left for the DM to decide.

Shargaas' Void: The Hateful Wars (498-510) were the culmination of a century worth of Euroz and Jebli raids from the Lortmil Mountains into the Good realms of Celene, Uleks, etc. The forces of aggrieved Queen Yolande spearheaded this cleansing action by taking the Low Road, an underground trail connecting all the offender's lairs. The multitude of humanoids were driven out of the Lortmils forever (much to the Pomarj's chagrin), but decades later some parts of the Low Road still remain unsearched.
Shargaas' Void is one such locale in the lightless tunnels in the mountain chain where orc shamans of Shargaas the Night Lord (orc god of darkness, stealth and undead) are said to have stayed behind to harass their elven conquerors so that the rest of their kind could escape to fight another day. This 20-foot diameter hole ringed by profane monoliths to Shargaas shows signs of activity, but no light can penetrate its gloom. Undead creep the area and drag unwary beings back to this Void. Elves have long abandoned ever returning here, but many of their bravest warriors perished here in the Hateful Wars, so the chance to recover mithril and magic weapons is too great a temptation for treasure seekers.

The Ring of Harmony: Traversing the Plains of the Paynims is a hazard for any caravan, no matter which direction is taken. One such trail is along the western frontier of the Banner Hills from Ket to the untamed land of Ull. Somewhere along this ponderous route is a respite from the dangers of bandits and monsters, called the Ring of Harmony by the local nomads. The Ring is well-known to the Paynims who alternately make use of this site or avoid it entirely. The Ring is a well worn campsite of sorts, a wide circle where no prairie grass or trees grow, marked by worn stones whose meaning are lost to time. What makes the Ring a destination for caravans is that it is an utterly safe place to sleep at night. No matter the season, the Ring seems to offer rest and protection to any traveler who builds a fire upon its ground.
Indeed the hand of Istus or some other divine intervention is at work here, for no weather or outside influence affects those who sleep under the stars at the Ring of Harmony. Campers at this site report feeling rested and healed beyond reason each morning. Furthermore, even though the Ring lies in the open, no creature or force bearing ill will can approach. Some crazed accounts say ghostly guardians whisk away would-be intruders before they get close and leave them stranded miles from the Ring. Whatever the case, the Ring remains a boon to those who journey far from safety of their homelands.

Osprem's Trident: The pirates and buccaneers who ply the waves of the vast Oljatt Sea are an adventurous sort, and coupled with the stories of their exploits are tales of discovery. First reported in the port of Duxchan ten years ago is a trio of islands called Osprem's Trident. Rising from the sea somewhere to the southeast between the Lordship of the Isles and the Hepmonlanad coast, these steep islands seem like tines of a colossal trident. The islands are a tropical sort like the many that dot the coasts of the south seas, but these are deeper out to sea and might be dormant volcanoes. No captain has been able to accurately chart the Trident yet much to the Lordship's frustration.
It is said these islands are holy to Osprem, Suel goddess of the oceans and that she "moves her trident around" to protect its natural habitats from spoiling seafarers. Indeed, the islands have most often been found on accident rather than on a plotted course. The islands aren't settled by sentient creatures, but they do have abundant wildlife and resources suitable for any stranded there. Signs of prior visitors are often found dotted on the three identical isles, their fates vary. Higher up the cliffs of the Tridents may yield hidden rewards left by Osprem, or merely death.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Greyhawk Collecting

 Hey Grey folks! Gen Con 2019 is fast approaching and I won't be there again. This is sad because one of my hobbies within the hobby of D&D is to collect old school D&D/AD&D stuff. Mind you I have a ton of print Greyhawk stuff. I have three Living Greyhawk Gazetteers, I have three copies of the boxed set and probably four copies of X1: Isle of Dread for some reason. Let's have a look at what I still need/desire to get. My wish list is not explicitly a call to find this stuff for me though, I'd be more pleased to find them myself at a con instead of using the internet, but, if you are willing to part with one of these books, maybe I can make a trade. Also, I'm not concentrating on novels. I own some, but let's focus on game material.

Falcon's Revenge and Flames of the Falcon. I own the 2nd in the series, Falconmaster, but never ran it. I'm not really sure I've read it! I feel like I'm missing out on some important lore here.

N1: Against the Cult of the Reptile God. How have I not found this yet? I own the digital version. This is the one I want the most on this entire list.

S1-4 Realms of Horror. I own all four of the constituent adventures of this book, but not this compilation.

Return to the Tomb of Horrors. I recall looking at this boxed set in the FLGS and thinking, I don't need this! I still don't but I'll put it on the list anyhow.

DA4 Duchy of Ten. This is a D&D Blackmoor campaign book, but I'd love to own it just see the influences. I have DA1-3 (Adventures in Blackmoor, Temple of the Frog, City of the Gods) so I'm really curious how this could build on those previous classics.

Night Below. Yeah I don't know how this one slipped by me. While it is not labelled Greyhawk, I believe it was originally intended to be. 

On Hallowed Ground and Warriors of Heaven. Books on good D&D pantheons. Not Greyhawk specifically, but holds lore. Probably didn't spark me back in the 2E era, but in hindsight it's a book I'd like to have on the shelf.

Dead Gods. A classic from the Planescape setting. I was all about Planescape when it first came out, but fell off it quick. I hear it has the Vault of the Drow in it. I wish I had got this one though, let's call this favorite #2 after N1. 

Bastion of Faith. Supposedly has info on Heironeous and Hextor. Who couldn't use that?

Of course, there is more things tied to Greyhawk than I can collect in a lifetime. Check out the Greyhawk version of Echohawk's collector's guide on ENWorld for reference in your own collecting quest.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Oerth Journal #29 Released!

Attention Greyhawkers! In case you haven't already heard, you need to head on over NOW to Greyhawk Online and download the newest issue of Oerth Journal, the seminal fanzine of the Greyhawk fandom. OJ #29 is chock full of amazingly cool articles and NPCs (the theme is "Folks" of Greyhawk) written by an equally amazing lineup of authors and artists from the Greyhawk online community:

Lee "Tanith1st" Murphy
Chris Siren
Will "Giantstomp" Dvorak
Tony "VorpalDM" Milani
Jay "Lord Gosumba" Scott
Thom Vandervenne
Michael J. Gross III
Devin "MysteryCycle" Parker
Michael "Milcheax" Crisefi
Ted "Bear" Gervais
Joey Julian
Belial Lyka
Patrick "Frogsama" Germann
Blake Ryan
NPC Bree
Denis "Maldin" Tetreault
Bryan "Saracenus" Blumklotz

and last but not least
Kristoph "Icarus" Nolen

Be sure to also download the bonus material for issue #29, because this Oerth Journal was too awesome to contain everything in one document. Enjoy Oerth Journal #29 and when you are done reading and adding this content to your campaign keep an eye out for next issue which will cover the theme of "Feuds". Congrats to all the authors on this publication.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Tribality: New Greyhawk Articles

Greetings Greyhawers! It's summer in the land of Ull so we need some cool topics to cover. As always, our friend in the community Blake Ryan over at Tribality continues to put out some amazingly good Greyhawk articles to keep the creative juices flowing.

First is a look at Eru-Tovar, the nominal capital of the Wolf Nomads. This is a fun take on the adventures, culture and factions one might find in this nomadic region of the setting. I really like the mention of Long Fang Riders as it summons memories of playing Warhammer 40k Space Wolves. The Long Fangs in that were veteran warriors, who were literally "long in the tooth". I imagine the same goes for Eru-Tovar's elite riders. Also, DMs should take note on the hardships the Wolf Nomads endure by being next to the evil of Iuz. This is a dangerous yet rewarding area to send players.

Lastly, is Mr Ryan presents an article on an overlooked facet of the Greyhawk setting and that's its connection to the Feywild. This term for the home lands of faeries and sylvan creatures in lore is one of my favorite recent updates to the D&D dictionary (including Shadowfell). In Greyhawk the Feywild and Fading Lands are related. The Fey Wild is a place of mystery and nature where Seelie and Unseelie Courts rule. For a visual, Ryan evokes some of my favorites like Alice in Wonderland or Willow, I might add movies Pan's Labyrinth and indeed Labyrinth!

The article goes a step further and provides some useful areas to access the Feywild from Oerth, including not only the well known Welkwood (by the elven realm of Celene), but also a tropical region (Turucambi) and a Baklunish cultural region (Pinnacles of Azor-alq). He also gives some useful lists on what type of creatures and magic items you might find in the Feywild. All in all, this is a good DM's resources for sending players to another plane for a side-quest.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Greyhawk: Let's Fight Nerull

Welcome back Greyhawkers. Today I'm revisiting one of my favorite columns and that is fighting deities! If you haven't seen the previous ones, head back and read about Istus, Ulaa and Trithereon. This time we are going to tempt your players with the ultimate showdown, death himself: Nerull!

First let's quickly recap: in the old days of AD&D, PCs could potentially take on gods (despite what canon says about gods staying off Oerth). The 1E Deities & Demigods was first to give stats and rules on the powers of immortals, later referred to as avatars in the Greyhawk Adventures source book which gave players a better chance to somehow prevail over a deity in combat. That said we are going with the full-power Nerull stats from the original World of Greyhawk boxed set; let's examine how difficult it will be to beat death at his own game.

Make no mistake players and DMs, Nerull is the personification of death and night. He is the Foe of all Good, Hater of Life, Bringer of Darkness, King of All Gloom and the Reaper of Flesh. Killing Nerull in combat may as well be like trying to kill Beory, the Oerth-mother when she is the personification of the planet! Of course, in this scenario, Nerull has chosen to take a form to tread the plane of mortals in person and do some culling, but the heroes are here to stop him for whatever reason because Nerull obviously cannot be reasoned with!
 No surprise to anyone at your game table, Nerull appears as a seven-foot tall, rusty-hued skeleton in a black cowl cloak with sickly green hair (or is it vegetation?), eyes, teeth and finger-nails. Not a pretty sight. The cloak and his rusty bones provides an impressive AC -6 (26 in present D&D). Nerull carries one object, his not-at-all unassuming sablewood staff.

Nerull has superior senses in every way including magical darkness. It is said he cannot be surprised except by "extraordinary means". Perhaps this means, invisibility, or maybe the heroes just pretend to be dead bodies to ambush him, I don't know...however, bony Nerull is lightning fast with a Dexterity of 21. One more thing to note, in AD&D rules, Nerull can only be harmed by +5 weapons. In later editions like 5E this could mean magic weapons in general or maybe just legendary weapons. That's up to each DM. Let's assume your heroes know this, since he is literally the grim reaper, and they brought their best holy avengers and artifact swords. Also, Nerull has 100% magic resistance. That means wizards and clerics are on support in this fight. 

If the PCs manage to go first in combat and can hit and harm Nerull, they will find he has 400 hit points, which in AD&D is the highest possible total allotted to gods' avatars. In later editions Nerull probably has something ridiculous like 2000 hit points, but that doesn't matter because unless the PCs manage destroy Nerull in one well-orchestrated round, Nerull only needs to attack once. 

1. His staff is called Life Cutter and on command a scythe blade of red magical force emanates from it the tip. It is a +5 weapon which means he can harm other gods with it, much less pesky heroes. Those hit by the scythe must make a Saving Throw vs Death Magic or die instantly! Now in AD&D characters could be instantly killed by a single attack. This is why the Tomb of Horrors is so famous. The players should expect no less of the god of death. In later editions (which I'm not going to reference) I'm sure Life Cutter is nerfed by a saving against additional necrotic damage. At any rate, Life Cutter sweeps in a path 10' long in a 180 degree arc. All creatures in that path are hit automatically, even if they are astral, ethereal, incorporeal or gaseous in form! Even if you happen to make your saving throw, the unlucky bunch in that arc of death take 5-30 damage. Fortunately for the heroes, he only gets one attack per round. So spread out...

2. Now, Nerull has been around since the beginning of time, so he is probably bored of killing mortals with his scythe. That is why he will most likely toy with the characters in other ways. One way he can do this is by casting a "clump of darkness with ebony tendrils" to attack his foes. Yes folks, Nerull is the originator of Evard's Black Tentacles spell. Except these tentacles can kill you fast. It's a 10' diameter blob with 4 tendrils that stretch 10' per round into a quadrant. Anyone touched by a tendril has to make the same Save vs Death as Life Cutter. Even surviving this a hero takes 3-18 corrosive damage and is grasped until it's destroyed. Lucky again, Nerull can only use this once a day.

3. If Nerull is particularly bored or distracted, he can summon three demodands to fight for him. Demodands are from Nerull's home plane of Tarterus. While not particularly fond of Nerull, the demodands likely will enjoy having a stretch on Oerth and will delight in killing your characters.

4. While the PCs are busy fending off black tendrils of death and nasty demodands, what is Nerull himself doing? Having fun of course! He is the patron god of assassins after all so maybe he wants to kill the PCs one at a time. Since he can fly at will and travel to virtually any plane when he wants, this means the Reaper doesn't stand still in a fight. Adventurers trying to hide or stand in the back ranks can expect special treatment by Nerull. The god of death has a tool belt of murderous cursed magic items to use on his enemies, such as the Necklace of Strangulation, the Rug of Smothering and my favorite, the Bag of Devouring. You know it's personal when Nerull uses these tricks on your poor character.

So there you have it. Nerull can be defeated by a properly armed and sufficiently high level party, but no one is coming out of this fight unscathed. Even if destroyed, Nerull will be back for the victors someday, he has all the time in the world. In the more likely event of a TPK however, Nerull will just leave the character's bodies there for someone else to clean up. And if the heroes are resurrected, Nerull will be just fine with killing them a second time...