Thursday, November 28, 2019

D&D Movie News & Eye of Vecna

Greetings Greyhawk enthusiasts! I'm here to share an article I saw on my Twitter feed today. Looks like more details of this Dungeons & Dragons movie is developing. The surprising part is the movie is rumored to include the Eye of Vecna! The not so surprising part is the rest of the movie seems much more tied to the Forgotten Realms. Now, don't get me wrong, this is a win-win concerning D&D movies; use your #1 setting and also use one of your most iconic artifacts to set up an inevitable confrontation with the arch-lich himself. I'll be optimistic and wager anything involving Vecna will be a trilogy.

The pessimist in me however, thinks this smart movie making decision will come at the cost of future Greyhawk development which I was just talking about a few weeks ago. The whole Vecna theme is one of Greyhawk's last great story lines left to revisit. Of course, Vecna and his various magical body parts were never totally just a Greyhawk thing, that is until the module Vecna Lives! brought him to Oerth and wove him into its rich history (the article acknowledges this gratefully). Traditionally in D&D lore the Eye (and Hand) of Vecna is a multiverse-level threat, even to the unsuspecting Forgotten Realms. So while I'm super jazzed to hear about the Eye as the objective of this movie, it's sort of my problem with this storyline as well.

You see, as a long-time D&D player, I'm disappointed to see the Forgotten Realms with all its hundreds of novels and sourcebooks, doesn't have anything unique worth making a movie about? Heck, it could only fill one slot in an anthology of classic D&D adventures published with the Yawning Portal on the cover. Now the article mentions an obscure Realms dragon and knights who follow some FR deities, which is great, but unless I see stuff like Waterdeep, Zhentarim or the Harpers in this flick, I'm worried it's going to just be a generic D&D movie like the rest of them. But hey at least the Eye of Vecna is here to save the story. I hope in the movie's opening exposition they can at least allude to Vecna and the origin of his Eye/Hand coming from "another plane".

End of rant! This post will likely require a lot of revision and retraction as the movie isn't due till mid-2021 after all...

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Greyhawk Blogging

Good day Greyhawk maniacs! Let's talk about something I do quite often, blogging about Greyhawk. Incredibly I've been doing Greyhawkery since 2010, which was a late decision in truth because my old Greyhawk Webcomic was practically a commentary blog as far back as 2005. Now I've had my ups and downs in the blogging business, always on the verge of hanging it up when I lost inspiration to write or draw. Luckily I'm not trying to be a high profile blogger, win any Ennie awards or stuff like that. My audience is the Greyhawk community and those wishing to break into the World of Greyhawk. In the last couple years I've been buoyed by a surge of online fan content being produced from Twitch to Facebook to websites like the resurrected GreyhawkOnline

People are sharing their games, maps, articles and stories. The point of this post is to encourage you the reader to try your hand at blogging or at least joining one of many Facebook groups (Sages of Greyhawk, Flanaess Geographical Society, Greyhawk Resources). For examples of blogs doing great stuff on a regular basis, check out Frogsama's Greyhawk Adventures, Hall of the Mountain King and Greyhawk Musings. Find your niche. Rally around the community, and maybe if you're really looking to have fun, meet up with people like myself, Jay Scott, Anna Meyer or Allan Grohe at a convention such as Gary Con.

Good luck and happy Greyhawking.

Friday, November 22, 2019

James Ward on Greyhawk Adventures

Hey Greyhawkers! Over at ENWorld, TSR alumn James Ward has wrote another retrospective column, this time about TSR's Designeritus. Mr. Ward goes into the struggles of creating books back in the post-Gygax days with deadlines and corporate looming over everyone. He also mentions the eyebrow raising fact that one of my pet-favorite Greyhawk books, Greyhawk Adventures was a rush job done in three months where it normally took them six! This actually makes a lot of sense because maybe the art was subpar, or certain sections lacked while others were fantastic. I always felt GHA wasn't just right. Imagine what an extra three months could've done for that hardback! Read along and let me see what you think.

Update 06/27/2021: Since this post, we've had Jim Ward and many many other classic D&D authors on Twitch. The last few years have been so enriching.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Elven Populations in Greyhawk

Greetings Greyhawkers. Sometimes on this blog, I fall down a rabbit hole while researching the topic of a post and it leads me into something different. In the case of this subject, the population of elves in the Flanaess, I found it so dry and boring I sat on my collected data for a while. I almost pitched the idea, then I came back to it and figured well I spent this much time on it already, why not? Why am I even tracking elven population? I totally forgot! But the point of this exercise is that elves, while a minority compared to humans in the World of Greyhawk, are not rare (yet).

First some disclaimers. These figures lump published numbers for only playable types of elves together (particularly sylvan, grey, high). So no I am not talking drow or sea elves or snow elves, etc. Also, my math is not solid, and there is bound to be some obscure reference I missed, so at best this study is mostly accurate. Third, I'm not a big expert on demographics, but it does interest me, so I'm drawing conclusions on this info the best I can. Many Greyhawk fans have argued demographics of the setting in the past which in 2000 led to the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer recalculation of these national populations. I will be comparing both the LGG numbers and the 1983 boxed set numbers.

Beginning with how the elven populations are figured, in the 83 Guide Gygax smartly avoids giving exact numbers on demi-human (collected elven, dwarven, gnomish, halfling, etc) populations. When he did it was with war-time statistics in mind so it only meant fighting males only, which for a wargamer like Gygax makes sense. So for these nations I would assign a multiplier of 3 assuming a bare minimum average of one female and offspring per fighting male. This led to another rabbit hole topic I'll address below. When specific numbers weren't given, demi-humans were generalized into terms like "some", "few" or "many" The Guide says these approximations include females and offspring and they constitute a percentage of the listed human population. For purposes of this study, "many" is the suggested 20%, "some" is 10% and "few" is 5%. So for example, Bissel has 50,000 humans and "some" demi-humans, so 5000. With this number I have to break elves out of the overall total. Here I fall back on the LGG which exhaustively lists all types by percentage of population, to tell me almost 10% of all demi-humans (dwarves are majority here) in Bissel are elves (of any type), or 500 for a final total. That sounds like a modest total of elves you'd expect in a fantasy world. When you start comparing and adding up other nations I found that going by Gygax figures in the boxed set, there is about 627,000 elves in the Flanaess.

How about the Living Greyhawk populations? They were all inflated because the writers felt that in the boxed set, the density of people per square mile was too light to accurately simulate medieval demographics. Why is that important? I don't know, it's what we Greyhawk fans do. At any rate, this makes a country like Bissel go from 50,000 people to 123,880. Other are nudged up a bit, like the Pale from 250,000 to 395,000 while more populated nations like Furyondy go from 350,000 to 1,481,800. One thing to consider about the LGG source is that these totals include all sentient races including elves, dwarves, orcs, centaurs, etc (male, female and young). They are all conveniently broke down into percentages, which is fine and easy for calculating, but can lead to some eyebrow raising amounts because this system was based on demographics for player characters not the make-up for nations. For instance, Bissel with its 123,880 is said to have 2% elven population, or 2478 elves. That's five times as many elves as in the gold box, though the overall population only went up about 1.5 times.

This means in the Guide, there is a generous 17,500 total elves in Furyondy, which coincidentally is the same number of male fighting elves in the main elven ruled nation of Celene. If you add females and young, Celene then might have an impressive 52,500 elves. But in the LGG the number of Furyondian elves rises to 133,362, which is more than the entire elven population of Celene in the LGG at 110,600, because in 3e the writers of D&D made it standard to have the majority type of any population 79% the total. Now, nobody would ever suspect Furyondy has more elves than Celene, unless they were just commuting over from the Vesve Forest or Highfolk. These places have their own elven population totals however. Thus in this instance, Gygax's numbers seem more realistic.

For fun here is some of my totals for some elven lands:

Celene 110,660 (LGG) vs 52,500 (Guide)
Highfolk/Highvale 36,400 (LGG) vs 81,000 (Guide)
Sunndi 11,250 (LGG) vs 21,000 (Guide)
Duchy of Ulek 74,518 (LGG) vs 48,000 (Guide)
Vesve Forest 13,000 (LGG) vs 39,000 (Guide)

Now look at some of the biggest human controlled lands and their elven populations:

Nyrond 235,638 (LGG) vs 68,750 (Guide)
Keoland 144,000 (LGG) vs 9900 (Guide)
Ahlissa 191,805 (LGG) vs Great Kingdom 100,000 (Guide)

Because of the iffy percentages in the LGG, I figured the Flanaess in this book has about 1.4 million elves. As a DM your mileage may vary on this amount versus Gygax's 627k. Interestingly across the totals of all nations from both the Guide and LGG, the average percentage of elves in the Flanaess vs humans is still about 5%. I ask you the reader, does 5% elves in the world seem high or low to you? It may depend on each DM's view of elven culture I suppose.

One last discussion, elves are a long lived species. In Gygax's heyday of writing Greyhawk, I'm sure when he wrote "fighting males" for demi-human populations as a generalization, he didn't figure that elven women (or dwur for that matter) who live for many centuries have enough time to practice archery and sword-fighting to be "battle ready" as well. When the Guide says Geoff has 6000 fighting age elven males, surely there is another 6000 females who are just as capable. Also, elven generations are way off base compared to humans. While they initially grow at the rate of humans, elves aren't considered adults until their 100th birthday (5e and 1e agree). Do these near 100 year-old children have fighting ability at all? You can see four or five human generations before an elf male is old enough to be in their army!

Another note, it doesn't need explained that long-lived elves have a much lower birth rate than frail medieval-era lifespan humans. So when we see figures in the LGG or Guide, that is a snapshot of a census done at that starting point in the timeline. It is thus wrong to permanently tie these elven figures (or any demi-human) to human population totals because when your campaign moves forward and the humans add one or two more generations, the elven totals should remain static or worse, go down.

Congratulations if you've read this entire article or merely skipped to the end. This is the kind of scholarly (nerdy) stuff that some Greyhawk fans like myself ponder and will sometimes torture you with in turn to clear our mind! If you have any commentary or corrections, feel free to join in my mania below. Thank you and until next time...

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Wish List: Greyhawk Relaunch

Okay Greyfriends, here's another quick topic I'll throw out until I get some more original content to show you. We all love to wish list when it comes to D&D, Greyhawk and so forth. For all I know I've done this before, but with a fresh, well-rested mind here we go, what would I like to see in a new Greyhawk relaunch in the 5E era:

One caveat is we all know how WotC runs things now, so there is no pretending they'll do a full boxed set treatment with supplemental books each year. Indeed, even most of the good adventures for Greyhawk have already been redone either by anthology or thematically. So let's not pretend they'll do a series of modules either. Oh, but wait a second. This is the World of Greyhawk. Because this isn't just any adventure rehash, maybe there is room here to tweak the normal business model!

5E Guide to the World of Greyhawk: Your regular hardback book with a condensed guide to the nations, history and politics of the Flanaess like in original 80's setting. Plus, the modern approach to players with up to date relevant information for making characters; classes, races, factions, domains, etc. This leaves room for a modest poster map. I know it can be done, check out Curse of Strahd.

Deluxe 5E Guide to the World of Greyhawk Boxed Set: Yes, Wizards does like promoting the higher end products because they know collectors will buy them, and in advance. So why not make a Greyhawk boxed set? It would have the above book, plus bonus features like more maps, or reprints of old fluff books? Don't care, it's a deluxe box. Fill it.

5E Vecna Returns! (Crossover Adventure Event): Here's the draw. In my opinion the arch-lich god of secrets, Vecna is the biggest, best threat to bring back to D&D. This book would be one hardback, or maybe two leaner books like the Tiamat storyline. Doesn't matter. Where it works is that it can start in Greyhawk (preferably the City of Greyhawk for additional maps and fluff). From there, the crossover event is much like what they tried to do in 2E, but with more follow through. Jump next to Planescape, or Faerun, or Ravenloft again if need be. You get to use ALL your previous 5E books with this storyline because Vecna is a multiversal threat. That's right give Vecna an ambition bigger than just one world. He is that crazy evil. Bring the story full circle on Oerth and give the heroes a chance to then defeat Vecna and impact the multiverse and thus the Greyhawk setting permanently by their decisions. It's not much different than could have happened in VL! but the stakes are much bigger.

Greyhawk Minis: Be it Wizkids or GF9, they have been making minis based on iconic Greyhawk NPCs for a long time now. No reason to stop now. May I suggest the entire Circle of Eight and apprentices? That would be eight sets of two minis (3 in Jallarzi's case if you include her familiar). You're welcome.

Dragon+: Standard series of tie-in articles and product advertisements for the current Greyhawk event. Maybe a celebrity interview or two, they could look up David "Zeb" Cook author of Vecna Lives! perhaps?

I'm sure there's other tie-ins I can't think of right now. Boardgames? Unearthed Arcana articles? Eye and Hand of Vecna merch? That's quite a good run. It's enough in my opinion to give Greyhawk some respect and still push the entire line at the same time. And the best part, it opens Greyhawk up to DMsGuild for fans to do all the rest...

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Halfling and Gnome Minis

Welcome back, Greyfolk! Today is a quick post as I need to thank Jay Scott and the gang from the Lord Gosumba channel on Twitch for the wonderful minis I won in their most recent Reaper Mini Giveaway drawing. Even as a long time member of the Greyhawk community I'm usually a lurker and don't often expect to win anything on drawings, so imagine my surprise when Jay texts me to say I won that week's prize (I had already fell asleep before the drawing. I just can't hang with those east coast guys). So here's what I got (sorry about the picture quality, my phone is junk):

Not a bad haul eh? I don't think I've owned decent gnome or halfling minis in ages. Mind you I have had plenty of those pre-painted plastic D&D minis, but those are to put it nicely, more functional than fine art. I love the Halfling Cook. He is the ever-present NPC of all fantasy campaigns. What's not to love. I need to name this min, maybe you can help. The naming convention we use for halflings is first and last names must be restaurants. For example: Arby McDonald. Give me some ideas in the comments. As for Deep Gnomes, are these Svirfneblin or are they merely Rock Gnomes who sort of also live underground just not as deep? I'm not sure I can tell the difference from just a mini sculpt. Also, I'm not sure what's a Gnome Hero versus a Gnome Warrior. I mean, if a humble gnome (of any ethnicity) chooses the warrior life, isn't he already a hero to his community? That's how it is for our armed forces IRL. Anyhoo, I've never ever ever had anyone in all my game groups over the years play a Deep Gnome character. I don't believe I've forbade their use, I just don't think they are a household name like Drow so they go unnoticed. For that matter, I've never seen a PC Duergar either. Of course those guys are bad ass, so I'll probably forbid their use while I'm thinking about it. I wonder what sort of adventures Deep Gnomes get into in the UnderOerth? When you live your entire life underground, would you have to play a module like the Drow series or Lost Caverns in reverse? So many questions posed by such simple minis. Good job, Jay, look what you started! This was supposed to be a short post too!

Will I paint there minis, you ask? Eh, probably not. I used to be quite qualified to paint minis, but got burnt out on the grind a few years back. Too much Warhammer and Blood Bowl. On the other hand, they are so small, they couldn't possibly take that long to paint. Then again, all my paints are dried up from neglect, so looks like I may have to rough it with these guys at the game table. Sorry. Last observation, is the Halfling Cook offering a taste of his soup from the pot, or is the big spoon his weapon and he's splashing hot broth in the eyes of his enemy? My guess is a bit of both columns. Thanks again to the fine folks at Lord Gosumba for these minis. It's fun watching and talking with you guys. Also, I hope to see Jay and company soon at GaryCon 2020. Until then happy gaming everyone!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

New Greyhawk Stuff on the Net

Good day, well met and all that, Greyhawkers! Today I'm going to share a couple cool things in our community to hopefully boost their signal. I saw these items first on the Facebook group, Sages of Greyhawk, so if you haven't yet joined one of these Greyhawk groups online you're crazy. I am in no way a Facebook regular, but I do appreciate that the platform is where a majority of the Greyhawk community stay in touch on a daily basis and share their projects. Let's get to it:

New Greyhawk Blog!

David Leonard is so inspired by the likes of Greyhawk Grognard, Anna Meyer and yours truly at Greyhawkery, that he is starting a Greyhawk blog titled Greyhawk Musings. Be sure to stop in, read his debut post and then be sure to bookmark it, because I have a feeling Mr. Leonard has some good ideas in mind (Ratik!). Excited for this project!

New on Greyhawk TV!

Wow, how did I miss this fun document? Elliott Egyptoid shared a document of funny and inventive Greyhawk TV Shows parodying ones we know and love from history. With the blurbs, it kind of reads like a TV Guide. So nostalgic! This is the kind of stuff I thrived on during my Greyhawk Comic years. Elliott sure would make the Graz'zt Show proud with his programming genius! Check out some of these gems:

Wild, Wild Oerth - Watch Murlynd attempt to keep mad alchemists, criminals and other n'aer-do-wells with potent artifacts and lost magical technology from the Twin Cataclysms from destroying Oerth! Episodes featuring the popular re-occurring villain Rary. Keep an eye out for the rest of Murlynd's old adventuring party, especially Zagig (who always plays himself and constantly goes off script) 

Mayaheine the Explorer 
Follow the adorable adventures of everyone's favorite junior  Paladin as she uses examples from her homeworld to teach morality and ideas to children.

Third Rock in the Sphere
- The show is about four spell-jamming mind-flayers who are on an expedition to Oerth, 
which they consider to be a very insignificant planet. The aliens pose as a humanoid family to 
observe the behavior of regular Greyhawk society 

and my favorite for some reason:

Gillmoor Grells

4 young female grells try to discover themselves in the uber-trendy neighbourhood of the Underdark in which they live.

Well that's enough silliness for now. Be sure to check into Sages of Greyhawk and Greyhawk Musings for more amazing content!

Update 06/27/2021: Good to see David Leonard still plugging away. His blog and FB group continue to grow. Very proud.

Friday, November 1, 2019

New Article: A Guide to Mordenkainen

Heya Greyhawk diehards! If you're like me, you want to know everything there is to know about the World of Greyhawk's notable persons, places and things. Well, the gaming blog, Powerscore has just the thing this week, an exhaustive article showcasing EVERY published D&D reference about Mordenkainen the archmage leader of the Circle of Eight. Yes, every article, novel, sourcebook, core book, etc, is picked over in order to give you the big picture on this most enigmatic champion of the Balance. I've had my own theories on what Mordy's trajectory has been in the last couple decades, and this article helps shine a light on some more recent 5E references that I hadn't even read before! Mind you this article does contain spoilers, so players beware! DMs, enjoy!