Monday, August 26, 2019

Blackmoor and D&D History

Welcome Greyhawkers. If you are in the mood, check out these two items of old school nostalgia currently posted on ENWorld.

One is a new article for James Wards' ENWorld column titled Origins of Monty Haul. If anyone isn't familiar with Monty Haul campaigns, well I'm sure Mr. Ward can educate you! I am definitely not a Monty Haul DM. Not usually. Check it out though, its a fun read into the early days of Greyhawk.

Lastly, this is not World of Greyhawk per se, but Secrets of Blackmoor : The True History of Dungeons & Dragons, is a new documentary about the creative origins of D&D:

"Blackmoor is the name of a fictional world created by David Arneson. It is also the prototype of Dungeons & Dragons, the first published role playing game. Unlike other fantasy worlds, such as J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth, Blackmoor is a living world that is being explored to this day. Secrets of Blackmoor investigates the origins of the role playing game, through candid interviews, archival footage, and newly discovered artifacts.

In 1963, David Wesely becomes a founding member of a club that includes history buffs, model makers, and miniature collectors. Hiding within the group, however, are a bunch of college students who are interested in war gaming. Within a year, the gamers meet a high school kid named Dave Arneson who is playing war games with his friends in his parents' basement.

These gamers have no idea that they will change the face of this hobby forever. Their only concern for now, is how to simulate the reality of war, and above all, they just want to have fun. Their voracious hunt for new rules and knowledge leads them to the University of Minnesota Library where they discover an old manuscript, Strategos; the American Game of War. Within the dense pages are a few sentences that inspire them.

The influence of Strategos changes how they play their war games. But are they really following these old rules, or have they stumbled onto something truly unique by misinterpreting what it says? Should a game be constrained by rules, like Monopoly, or should there be no boundaries at all, like a game of make believe?

One thing is very clear--something magical was going on in the Twin Cities."

You will have to pay to watch this, but it is a top notch production. Here is a teaser. As D&D moves forward in the 21st century it's important for these types of documentaries to be made to chronicle our favorite hobby's history for future generations. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

New Greyhawk Posts

Hail Greyhawkers! Today I promoting a few things out there in the Greyhawk community. Ready?

First off, sorry to those who showed up yesterday to see Legends & Lore on the Greyhawk Channel, we had to push the last episode of the season back a week due to real life, but hopefully that will give us time to get a guest on with Anna Meyer and me!

Second, Blake Ryan is at it again with his Greyhawk series on Tribality. Mr. Ryan writes easy to use articles, packed with adventure hooks for whatever town or geographical area he is focused on. This article is titled Greyhawk-Forestscape: Fellreev. The forest-scape presented is a 20x20 mile area of encounters and quests that can be used in any cold-temperate forest. Specifically for Greyhawk, he writes:

"Notes about the region : In Greyhawk this forest area would be in the south west Fellreev forest in the Horned Society lands. During the Greyhawk Wars much of this area was explored and trashed by the various humanoids and fiends who serve the demi god Iuz."

Be sure to check it out.

Lastly, if you haven't already seen the blog Greyhawk Stories then you're missing out on an excellent republishing of Kirt Wackford's campaign classic adaptation, It Started in Saltmarsh. Follow the link and read the entire story from the beginning, though beware: spoilers for anyone who has never ran or played through the original 1E module Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh!

Until next time!

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Rulers of Ull: Kuchakar the Dragon Slayer

Welcome esteemed seekers of Greyhawk knowledge. Delleb knows that I am the authority on all things concerning the inconsequential land of Ull. Occasionally I break out some new material on this lawless frontier, or expand on something I started years ago. That said, I'm featuring a new column titled Rulers of Ull, where I reveal some new-found lore about the many Orakhans of Ull over the centuries. Some are vile, some are useless, but a few are quite epic. Today I'm starting on the heroic end with the mightiest and most famous ruler in Ull history:

Kuchakar "The Dragon Slayer" 
Orakhan of Ull from 3144-3171 BH (485-512 CY)
(N male human ranger 15)

Kuchakar lived near the end of an era of heroism and bravery not seen in Ull since its founding out of the ashes of the Invoked Devastation. Many Uli rightly claim Kuchakar's story is also that of Ulzhun the Victorious. Unlike the famed Orakhan, Kuchakar neither came from the family of a great khanate, nor did he ever lead a feared warband. Baklunish scholars attribute Kuchakar's improbable ascent to the fate of Istus, yet his own descendants profess the strength and wisdom of their ancestors was with Kuchakar on the day he slew the blue dragon, Fusarkalon.

Raids by the dragon effectively cut off trade at the crossroads of Ull and the Dry Steppes, much to the ire of Ulzhun the Victorious, who famously had never been defeated by man or beast. In 483 CY, Ulzhun was pushed to action by the khanate council, and so gathered his personal guard along with a cadre of the best trackers in Ull to assail the lair of Fusarkalon. Among these rangers was Kuchakar, the son of a humble Uli far-rider of the northern plains. By his twenty-fifth winter, Kuchakar was an accomplished rider, huntsman and mountaineer. He had traveled beyond the borders of Ull as well; trading with giant-kin of the mountains, wandering the markets of the north and even witnessing the blinding desolation of the Sea of Dust.

The rangers of Ull had already been searching for Fusarkalon's lair for months, thus they were familiar with many of the mirages and tricks protecting its territory. Since there was no way of knowing if the creature would be in his lair upon their arrival, the Orakhan reluctantly went with Kuchakar's own plan of deception rather than a direct assault. Using a train of pack horses and camels moving away from the hills as bait, the dragon was eventually lured out of its lair and pursued by Ulzhun's mounted lancers, while Kuchakar carefully led the ruler, his sons and the remaining scouts into the revealed entrance on foot. Kuchakar and the rangers planned to lay an ambush in Fusarkalon's own lair, hoping at best the lancers could wound the dragon and force it to return for them to finish off. Ralishaz's misfortune found them first however, as it became apparent when they stumbled upon a treasure-filled cavern, that the dragon outside was not Fusarkalon at all, it was his mate, Kilberenden. 

Fusarkalon the Quick and the terrifying Kilberenden Sand-Twister arrived in the southern foothills of the Ulsprue range some time before 480 CY. Sages speculate Kilberenden was spawned shortly before the Twin Cataclysms and roamed the far-western steppes until she came upon ruins beyond the Sulhaut Mountains. There she met Fusarkalon, whose origin is buried beneath the Sea of Dust with the bones of many ancient wyrms from the era of the Suloise Imperium. From that point on, the pair of blue dragons flew northward where they began to harry nomads and caravans going from Lake Udrukankar to the Kester Escarpment. As they only hunted alone and left few survivors, no one knew it was a pair of dragons that now laired in the vicinity of Ull.

The Death of Fusarkalon is a story that Kuchakar actually loathed to tell and he humbly insisted till his dying day that Ulzhun shared the victory. The initial encounter was a blur. Known as the Quick, the dragon ambushed with illusions, a flash of thunderous lightning and slashing claws until all the rangers and both of the Orakhan's sons were fast slain. Lastly, Ulzhun the Victorious faced Fusarkalon alone with his sword-arm charred and useless, indeed he would have perished if not saved by his cherished adamantine shield. Feeling confident, the dragon toyed with the crippled warrior and tore the shield from his arm as he pinned him under a talon. What words Fusarkalon shared with Ulzhun is lost to time, but it bought Kuchakar time to recover. The stunned ranger had by chance, acquired a shirt of fine chainmail in far-off Zeif years ago, never once realizing its arcane protections against electricity until that very instant. Gathering up the shield of Ulzhun, Kuchakar impaled the dragon's eye with his broad spear. Taking up Ulzhun's scimitar next, he beheaded the writhing wyrm as it wildly breathed crackling energy all about them.

Surveying the carnage and the glittering wealth at his feet, Kuchakar picked up the unconscious Orakhan and carried him into another chamber, hoping to find another way out. Here at the back end of the caverns he found the egg-clutch of Kilberenden half buried in a dune of sand. Weary but undaunted, Kuchakar wisely stopped to destroy the dragon eggs, only to be alerted by the frenzied roar of the female's return. Unscathed, Kilberenden had repelled the lancers and slew everything that moved in the diversion. Kuchakar hastily buried Ulzhun and himself in the dune using the shield and waited with sword in hand. When Kilberenden discovered her mate slain, she began to angrily tear at bodies and stone, that is until she finally saw her eggs and the discarded shield of Ulzhun. Kilberenden Sand-Twister was driven to madness. She vowed revenge on the ruler of the gold blazoned shield before twisting and lashing out of the lair forever. Some say Kilberenden turned bestial from that point forward, never again speaking intelligibly. She has yet to return to Ull for her sworn vengeance. 

Kuchakar bore Ulzhun back to Ulakand and the entire way, was hailed a hero, the khanates naming him the Dragon Slayer. Kuchakar became so revered in Ull that every khan, warlord and pit-master in the realm bowed in his presence. It is said even the ogres of the Ulsprues laid out tribute on the golden trail for the dragon slayer. Ulzhun and Kuchakar formed an inseparable bond and divided the recovered treasures of two dragons between them, affording them both a lavish lifestyle unknown to many in Ull. Despite it all though, Ulzhun would rule Ull only two more years. Disheartened by his permanent injury and the deaths of his heirs, Ulzhun the Victorious chose Kuchakar to replace him as Orakhan, and with no objections he departed Ull on his Final Ride. 

Kuchakar the Dragon Slayer would go on to rule Ull for twenty-seven years. Though his legend is defined by one dragon, his adventures in defense of Ull were many. Any bard in Kester or Ulakand can regale stories of Kuchakar in the Taming of the Silver Chimera, or the Sundering of the Blighted  Scorpion and even the futile Hunt for Kilberenden the Sand-Twister. As his adventures waned with age, Kuchakar gave up his title to the khanate council, like Ulzhun before him, and with the last of his wealth took his family north. Why Kuchakar chose to leave Ull behind may never be known for sure, but his descendants are sure it was fanciful tales of dragons hiding on magic-shrouded isles in the Dramidj Ocean.

If you don't want to wait for me to write more, you can find all the rulers of Ull listed in Oerth Journal #19 in the article Ull over at Greyhawk Online. Check it out.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Greyhawk Stories: Daoud's Wondrous Lanthorn

Greetings Greyhawkers! If you are looking for some Greyhawk fiction, you need to check out the fansite, Greyhawk Stories. One of their current ongoing tales is about the famous Baklunish spellcaster Daoud, he of  the magical lanthorn fame. Indeed, the story now on chapter 4 is titled Daoud's Wondrous Lanthorn. Daoud is an exiled pasha and this story tells of how he came to own the artifact and how it ultimately falls into the hands of the Witch Queen Iggwilv as seen in the AD&D module, in the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.

Here is an excellent run down of the chapters so far. I'm particularly proud of chapter 4, Alhazred and the Path of Shadows, where Daoud ventures to Ull and gets a royal welcome from the locals, then spends some time in the Khur Razjin, "Path of Shadows" as written in my various Ull scribings. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Greyhawk Articles on Tribality

Howdy Greyhawkers! I am a bit behind on promoting super-fan Blake Ryan's excellent run of Greyhawk articles on Tribality. Let's play catch up shall we?

First up is Shadowfell, a follow up on Ryan's Feywild article. Shadowfell is a more evocative name for the Plane of Shadow. Greyhawk has many ties with this plane and this article presents some great locations that touch on the Shadowfell such as Valley of the Mage, the Dim Forest and the Cave of Deadly Shadows. He also suggests some great monsters to use in connection with the Shadowfell, including a focus on the elven subrace Shadar-kai, which has been pushed in 5E D&D.

Next up is Blake's take on the most notable feature in the Flanaess, Riftcanyon. Blake does a handy job researching this canyon, giving us a downloadable map, times when there is daylight at various depths (a genius addition) and many many DM ready quests, geographic locations and links to other Riftcanyon sources from the Oerth Journal. Enjoy!

Another article on Tribality is Menowood. This ancient forest in the south east of the Flanaess is mainly known for its werewolves as mentioned in the Greyhawk boxed set. Menowood is otherwise under-developed and this article is now your most useful tool. As the article mentions, Menowood was once a treant and elven stronghold. Judging from the lists and quests presented. things have got a bit more dangerous here in recent history. Check it out!

Lastly, is Yecha Hills, another underdeveloped region of the map that separates the vicious Tiger Nomads from civilized Baklunish culture. There's a lot to find in this article for your home campaign, including the usual quests, ruined locations and monsters. He also suggests some site specific magic items from Greyhawk Adventures to introduce here. Be sure to download the Yecha Hill map as well. Well done Blake! I look forward to your next set of whirlwind tours.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Greyhawk Wars Redux

Greetings Greyhawk enthusiasts! Today's topic comes with a map of the ENTIRE Flanaess. I was mulling over a subject while trying to banish thoughts of not being at Gen Con 2019 and then it dawned on me, how about a "What If" scenario? I've done similar premises in the past, it's fun to tinker with world-wide events and what was more game changing to the World of Greyhawk than the 2E Greyhawk Wars! For those who don't know the events an geo-political changes that happen post-wars and through 591 CY then check out this timeline. Surprisingly the "Greyhawk Wars occurred in a short span (582-584). This study is not trying to replicate this timeline however or give a frame for how long the war unfolds, just the alternate reality results. So without further ado here is what the Greyhawk Wars would've looked like if Iuz had defeated Furyondy!

Here is a reference to the colored regions on this altered Darlene map:

Scarlet: Scarlet Brotherhood
Crimson: Empire of Iuz
Green: Alliance of Good
Yellow: Baklunish Empire
Light Blue: Rel Mord Pact
Gray: Remnants of the Great Kingdom
Light Purple: Rhizia

Empire of Iuz: The front line of much of the Greyhawk Wars was fought between the demigod Iuz and the stalwart forces Furyondy, Veluna (and exiled Shield Lands). Iuz smashed the kingdom in this event by fielding his best forces; summoned demons, undead hordes and the Legion of Black Death. The Old One's alliance with Ket proved a distraction for Veluna and Bissel, yet the beygraf of Ket was double-crossed when the return of the Witch Queen Iggwilv was revealed. Aiding her son in conquest, she used her old base of power in the Yatils to marshal even more evil might and retook unaware Perrenland as well as absorbing Ket and Highfolk. The advance of Iuz through Furyondy and Veluna was halted at the Velverdyva river by the desperate valor of Dyvers and Verbobonc. A new Alliance of Good would soon emerge to give them relief.
Elsewhere, the Wolf Nomads was brought to heel by enchantment and superstition rather than by the sword. Finally, with a horde of horsemen at his disposal, Iuz stopped his empire's advance to see who might be his next opponent. Interestingly Blackmoor in this exercise goes unnoticed by all factions. Meanwhile in the east, the Bandit Lands held their territory as they watched the empire lose the Duchy of Tenh to the Theocracy of the Pale. A late alliance with the orc city of Garel Enkdal in the Griff Mountains provided a buffer for the rise of the mighty barbarian realm of Rhizia.

Scarlet Brotherhood: In this scenario the secret society reveal themselves through stealth and murder in the lands of Idee, Medegia and the Lordship of the Isles. Their efforts at a coup in Onnwal were reversed by the quick wits of the Iron League. Focusing their military might just in the east, the Scarlet Brothers pushed deeper into Aerdian lands taking Sunndi and the South Province. The naval might of the Lordship was utilized in a victorious sea war against the beleaguered Sea Barons who also were contending with the raids of Rhizia. Through intimidation and reasoning the Brotherhood gained the alliance of Rel Astra, Menterey and Roland who chose enlightened subjugation to barbarian razing or undead despotism.
The Brotherhood had been searching, colonizing and recruiting the savages of the Amedio and Hepmonaland jungles for decades prior to their invasions. The onset of the Greyhawk Wars in the north had forced the Father of Obedience to move up his plans, thus the Sea Princes and much of the Jeklea Bay were never affected. An alliance with the Slave Lords and Turrosh Mak of the Pomarj did make for good timing however. The Orcish Empire was stalled at the north Wild Coast and by the Principality of Ulek. Their pirate fleets combined with the Brotherhood's other ports however, prove to be trouble for the besieged lands of Onnwal and Irgonate.

Alliance of Good: Desperate times make for strange alliances. The threat of Iuz and Iggwilv now at their doorstep, coupled with the second front of the Scarlet Brotherhood, the Kingdom of Keoland made a truce with all its former satellite states, including the Hold of the Sea Princes to build up their naval might and bolster the Knights of the Watch. The timely interference of adventurers made sure no Giant Troubles would plague the lands along the western mountains in this time. Farther afield, the lands of Verbobonc and Dyvers were rescued from destruction at the hand of Iuz by the arrival of good forces united from the Lortmils, Kron Hills, Lorridges, the Uleks and even the reluctant return of the Kingdom of Celene to action.
Facing the threat of Iuz across the Nyr Dyv, the Domain of Greyhawk had to shed its neutrality and joined in a great council of Good nations at a signing in the City of Greyhawk. In this scenario Archmage Rary is a hero, using the traitorous events in his home of Ket to inspire him to advocate and mastermind an Alliance of Good along with Tenser and other wizards, clerics and luminaries. Rary still moves his tower and base of operations to the Bright Desert. The Alliance brings the Suel ties of Keoland and the Duchy of Urnst together, along with the wisdom and arcane might of the demi-human realms combined with Dyvers and Greyhawk. The alliance also offered succor to the surrounded realms of Onnwal, Irongate and the Iron Hills, a source of highly sought after weapon-craft. The caveat to the Alliance of Good was that another alliance of nations, fighting the same enemy, refused to join in. They are the Pact of Rel Mord.

Pact of Rel Mord: This alliance, or as others call it the Kingdom of the Pale, was a result of Nyrond's lack of resources and exhaustion from fighting the Great Kingdom and the threat of Iuz's banditry. The Theocracy of the Pale had remained aloof in the early stages of the war, only protecting their own borders. Once Tenh was overrun and refugees poured in from there and Nyrond, they had to take action. The priesthood of Pale converted much of these refugees and turned their energy into retaking the Duchy of Tenh and securing the Artonsamay River. Northern Nyrond had long desired to be annexed by the Pale and conditions during the war led to Nyrond losing effective control of these lands, while they were more focused on defending the blighted remains of Almor.
Once the Scarlet Brotherhood took the South Province (Ahlissa) and began overtures to the southern coast of Nyrond is when the king had enough. He met with the Palish representatives and the Countess of Urnst in Rel Mord to forge a pact of defense. This had been planned in advance by the Pale it said, indeed it was the Pale stubborn and self-serving voice at the council in Greyhawk that led to the Pact's refusal to join the Alliance of Good.

Great Kingdom: Mad Overking Ivid, the Death Knights, Duke Szeffrin, Delgath, Grenell, etc. all continued to lead the once Great Kingdom into the ash heap of history. They had started with a strong campaign against their old rival of Nyrond, but soon fell into disarray as the Scarlet Brotherhood came on the scene and wiped out half the Iron League where they couldn't. To make matters worse, the Aerdians were soon raided and occupied by a vast barbarian horde from the Thillonria Peninsula. These berserk warriors had not been a major threat since the Battle of Shamblefield and the construction of Spinecastle. Now it seemed a new cause had united these tribes to not just plunder, but conquer and settle the northern ports and marches. Even the Sea Barons, at war abroad with the piratical Duxchaners, could not have anticipated the amphibious assaults on their home islands by Rhizian long ships. From there, Rel Astra and the other coastal cities capitulated with the Brotherhood rather than be annihilated. The rest of Aerdy, especially the capital of Rauxes fell in on itself.

Rhizia: The Thillonria Peninsula is home to the barbarians of the Bitter North, but the Suel people of the these lands refer to themselves as Rhizia. Through time, various tribes, snow, ice or frost had held the upper hand, but none could unite them all, it was prophesized until the Great God of the North could be freed from his ancient imprisonment. In this scenario, a band of adventurers fulfill this event by bringing the five Blades of Corusk together and summoning Vatun to Oerth. It was no trickery though. Inspired by the direction of their divine patron, the kings and thanes of Rhizia formed an Althing, a type of democratic council of rulers and land owners, to guide their new land to war against the coming tide of Iuz, Stonefist and their old enemy; Aerdy. The appear of a god in the Flanaess certainly got Iuz's attention and checked his activities in the west.
Vatun would not stay long, but his divine wisdom was clear. Rhizia must fight. The gains in the south were swift and brutal, aided by Ratik whom was eager to put down Bone March. Before the Great Kingdom could recall forces from the fight against Nyrond, they had lost half the North Province. Meanwhile the rise of orcs in the Griffs and the liberation of Tenh by the Pale brought the Rhizian advance to a halt after Stonehold was overrun. Now at a pause, Rhizia is wary not of Iuz, but of the emissaries of the Scarlet Brotherhood who now seek to form an alliance of Suloise ancestry.

Baklunish Empire: Another holy destiny was fulfilled in the Baklunish West, as the enigmatic Mahdi of the Desert emerged from the Dry Steppes at the fore of a massive horde of Paynim nomads and dervishes. The prophecy told this person, who would possess divine proof of his ancestry, would be the next Padishah of the Baklunish Empire. They first swept through lawless Ull, who were at first hostile to this religious figure, but then receptive when it became apparent they could make war on the civilized Baklunish lands instead.
As the Mahdi army grew to a size not seen since the Brazen Horde, the lands of Zeif levied their forces to fend off the advance. Ekbir and Tusmit however had already been in contention with the wicked return of Iggwilv and the treachery of Ket. Their high priests and monks knew the Mahdi prophecies well, so in a hallowed convention, the Mahdi met with the sultans and rulers of the west (even the Tarkhan of the Tiger Nomads) in Ekbir City. Whatever happened that day satisfied all parties as the Mahdi's claim was irrefutable and rather than civil war, all bowed to the new Padishah. For his first proclamation, the Padishah turned his gaze east. Would he now fight the Baklunish's ancient enemy the Suel or the demigod tyrant to the north?