Friday, October 25, 2019

Sean Reynolds on The Scarlet Brotherhood

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

Trivia & Anecdotes: The Scarlet Brotherhood

seankreynolds / February 22, 2009

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

Greyhawk Maps: Pomarj and Enstad

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

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

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

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Random Greyhawk Lore

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

Greyhawk: The Adventure Begins (on the Oerid Record)

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

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

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

Living Greyhawk Journal #3 (on Amedian Gutworms)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk (on Apprentice Rings)

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

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

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

Greyspace (on Anti-Liga)

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

A Few Greyhawk Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

A Treasure Trove of D&D Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Download Oerth Journal #30 Now!

Okay friends of Greyhawk this is it! Oerth Journal #30 is now available for download over at Geyhawk Online. If you missed the previous issue, Oerth Journal #29 was themed "folks" of Greyhawk. This time the theme is "feuds" of Greyhawk. Here is the lineup of this issue's esteemed authors (including myself):

Librarian's Chronicle: Letter from the Editor - Kristoph Nolen

Fifth of Greyhawk - John Roy 

Persecution and Murder - Kristoph Nolen

The Pit: Gladiatorial Favorites - Cal Scrivener with Zuul "Rurat" Ramsey
Warbands of Ull - Mike "@GreyhawkMike" Bridges

Constellations of Greyhawk: Veneficus et Mil├ęs - Andy Miller
Beggars vs. Thieves - Will "Giantstomp" Dvorak 

Rivals: Auric's Warband - Mark "Sollace" Allen
Suel-Baklunish War - Cal Scrivener

Who Watches the Watchers? - Nathan Doyle 

Map of Elmshire - The Grey League

Download this must have, beautifully produced publication. Also be sure to keep checking into Greyhawk Online for other articles and news concerning the World of Greyhawk

In addition you can find John Roy, who is a stand-up comic on Twitter: @johnroycomic 

Furthermore, Nathan Doyle, author of the adventure Who Watches the Watchers? can be found @deficitdragons as well on Reddit: /r/deficitdragons

Last but not least, be sure to follow @thegreyleague for more cartography, videos and advice concerning D&D and Greyhawk! 

Until next issue, enjoy!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

New Articles: Introducing Greyhawk

Hey Greyhawkers! Wow, okay, I don't know how I overlooked this excellent contribution to the community (I'm a notorious slacker), but over at Greyhawk Online is a new columnist: John Roy and his initial offering is titled, A Fifth of Greyhawk: Introducing 5E Players to Oerth. Be sure to also check out Part 2 of this series. For those who don't remember, Mr. Roy did an excellent article on Greyhawk for Dragon+ back in February. A lot of what our community is invested in lately is outreach and education of new players getting into the World of Greyhawk. John is certainly a good new high profile voice and I'm glad to have him involved.

Read his articles and get in on the discussion. Enjoy!