Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Mysterious Places from the Fringe V

Well met Greyhawk adventurers! The year is nearly over and this will be my 96th post of 2020. That is significant because it's my most blog activity since 2014! I thank you all for reading and participating in the Greyhawk community. Today I am revisiting one of my favorite columns, creating adventure hooks based on the "Mysterious Places" articles of Living Greyhawk. Go back and check out some of my previous attempts from 2014 again 2014, 2018 and 2019. As in my other installments, I have not playtested, researched or stolen any of these adventure locations. I am literally going to write these off the top of my head after I finish writing this introduction. Let's go...

The Terror of Udgru: Over the centuries, the dense Udgru Forest has gone largely unexplored by the Baklunish who have only ever exploited its edges. Those who seek to evade the law of Ekbir, or the hunt of the Tiger Nomads often venture for the deeper woodlands out of desperation. Most of the time they find plentiful game and sometimes monstrous denizens, but the unluckiest of those who would try to explore the forest might encounter the Terror of Udgru. Tales abound of a great stone obelisk that is the size of a tower and marked with weathered runes. The immediate area around the obelisk is perpetually shrouded in gloom and choked with overgrowth that conceals the bones (and treasure) of countless creatures. None have stayed at the Terror for longer than an hour before running away in fear. Survivors describe hearing gradually increasing sounds; shuffling noises, bestial growls and shrill howling winds. Those who remain behind never live to tell their tale. To date, no ranger or druid has been able to track the Terror's exact location, leading some to believe the cursed obelisk is a randomly occurring Fading Land.

The Leap:
The hardy folk of the Hollow Hills have peaceably mined their lands since the ancient days of Queen Ehlissa and even on into the more recent era of the Great Kingdom. Further south beyond the Menowood, and the safety of their halls and warrens, there is notably more danger in the highlands. Here, they run up to a dizzying cliff overlooking the Azure Sea where sailors and intrepid explorers speak of a spot called The Leap. This cliffside point is only discernable by arcane detection or the occurrence of a shadow helix. The purpose of the Leap is debated. Locals claim an evil presence attracts those who despair and lose all hope, while pirate yarns tell of a great sea-elf king's treasure submerged at a point below the cliff, yet sages insist the Leap is part of a ley-line or an intermittent magical gate to the Outer Planes. Adventurers may seek their own answers at the Leap.

Abbathor's Claim: Somewhere within the venerable Griff Mountains is a remote ravine, hazardous to reach through rocky terrain and collapsing paths. Those who actively seek this place know it as Abbathor's Claim, named for a greedy dwarven god that implies both risk and reward. There is indeed a divine lure of untapped riches here; stories ranging from fabulously large deposits of diamonds to veins of rare magical ores. The truth is no one has ever been able to properly start a mine here. Clans of dwarves, duergar, humans and even orcs from nearby Garel Enkdal have all attempted to seize Abbathor's Claim to no avail. 

Surveys of the ravine say at the very bottom, ringed by the jagged cliffs, there is an unnaturally flat granite plain where the remains of prior prospectors decay along with their unused gear. In the center of this plain is a steaming fissure barely a hand-width across. Whatever the reason, this plain has been the site of many brutal, bloody fights, as rivals clash or partners turn on one another. Ultimately those who are last to stand either lack the will to stay at the Claim or suffer at the hands of those who arrive next. It is said local stone giants have began placing markers on the trails leading here as a warning to avoid Abbathor's Claim.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Greyhawk A-Z: Spells

Hail Greyhawk readers! The year is almost out, and I think I have one more good A-Z article in me! If you'd like to see my previous installments check out Best of Greyhawkery at the top of the home page. Until then, enjoy as I muse on A-Z Spells!

Acererak's Blackstone: (Wiz 9) Robert S. Mullin is a true hero of 2E era Greyhawk publication, creating many named spells and spellbooks with extensive Greyhawk lore. This spell by the infamous mage of the Tomb of Horrors is found in Dragon #225, Three Greyhawk Grimoires. It costs a dizzying 5000 gp and an Ioun stone to cast, but the Blackstone can absorb any magic cast at it or active effects that the stone encounters. It makes a good defense as well as a trap since it will explode if too much magic is drained. Good stuff!

Bigby's Silencing Hand: (Wiz 2) Bigby is a household name in D&D. His hand spells are superfluous in PHBs through the editions. However, for the true Bigby enthusiast, there is a TON of his spells (and all the Circle of Eight) in the sourcebook Greyhawk Adventures. They are in AD&D rules, but if you want 5E converted versions, go to Greyhawk Grognard and download his Wizards of the Flanaess. Silencing Hand is one of his lowest level spells that claps a magic hand over a foe's mouth. In a wizard battle this can be a game-changer!

Chain Madness: (Cl 6) I used chain madness once before in my 2E Iuz war campaigns. Very nasty spell. Starts with one target then exponentially spreads like a contagious disease to others. This spell is compliments of Iuz the Evil.

Drawmij's Light Step: (Wiz 1) For a 1st level spell this is genius. It's a limited levitate that allows a user to not leave tracks, walk on still water and even avoid traps that require pressure. Amazingly smart! Another Co8 spell from Greyhawk Adventures. See above for more info.

Evard's Black Tentacles: (Wiz 4) We all have heard of this spell. We all know how annoyingly effective it is. What I didn't know is Gygax debuted it in Dragon #67

Fingerblade: (Wiz 2) This spell might not bear Mordenkainen's stamp, but in Dragon #242 he shared it in the article Jest the Wizards Three by Ed Greenwood. Mordy offered that this is a spell he used in his "younger days". This precursor to Mordy's Sword I bet, creates a force blade around the casters index finger. With it your wizard can literally sword fight with his finger. It can even break a non-magic blade by ending the spell. A quirky, fun spell for wizards who want to toy with low-level fighters.

Glassteel: (Wiz 8) Hey, D&D 3E through 5E, What ever happened to Glassteel? That's the entire entry.

Hextor's Fiery Eyes: (Cl 5) This is an improved version of the command spell. Rejoice DMs! Your evil clerics can now command a creature once a round, the effects last longer and it doesn't use a standard action. Shew! Find this spell in Dragon #356, Core Beliefs: Hextor by Sean K. Reynolds.

Iggwilv's Timeless Sleep:
 (Wiz 9) Another masterpiece of magic from Dragon #225. Our favorite Witch Queen wrote more than Demonomicon stuff. This high level spell from Iggwilv's Nethertome is an improved Temporal Stasis that can be programmed to end when the wizard's chosen conditions are met. Just what an evil archmage needs to keep some boss creatures on ice for emergency!

Jaran's Prismatic Blade: (Wiz 9) Robert S. Mullin is back this time with a rare spell from the Black One of the Vale. Imagine a force weapon combined with all the powers of a prismatic wall! Yes it is as deadly as it sounds. Check this spell out in Dragon #241, Greyhawk Grimoires II

Kieran's Curse Ward: (Wiz 6) Want more from Mr. Mullin? Okay, here is an original spell from Kieran Jalucian, head of the Guild of Wizardry in Greyhawk City. The Curse Ward as its name implies prevents curses from affecting the caster, it removes existing ones, but it stops short of curses from artifacts or lycanthropy. Not bad! Locate more of Kieran's work in Greyhawk Grimoires. Dragon #268. 

Leomund's Secret Chest: (Wiz 5) Len Lakofka's mage has many spells named for him, most using his extra-dimensional theme. Secret Chest has always been in the PHB and I like it because magically hiding treasure is a very D&D thing to do.

Meersalm Skin: (Cl 6) This little known spell from Dragon #354, Heironeous by Sean K. Reynolds, allows your caster to temporarily feel like the Archpaladin! It's basically an improved stoneskin spell that damages any weapon which strikes the protected creature. Love it! 

Nystul's Blacklight Burst: (Wiz 4) Nystul is one of those Co8 mages I still know very little about. But sometimes you can learn more about a wizard through his spell selection. Blacklight Burst sounds, uh, dubious. Actually its a nasty negative energy spell that damages and slows targets. Locate this one in Greyhawk Adventures.

Otiluke's Siege Sphere: (Wiz 7) Another underrated spell from Greyhawk Adventures. Otiluke has alot of spells in this book, really any of them could work here, but I chose his highest level one because it gives me an idea what Otiluke is all about and that's evocation spells. He never struck me as a battle mage, but check out Siege Sphere. This boulder of force magic can take three forms, an exploding ball of liquid fire, an exploding ball of crystal shrapnel or an adamantine wrecking ball. No wonder Rary took him and Tenser out in Greyhawk Wars, Otiluke is geared for war!

Persuasive Oration: (Cl 1) A low level spell that is essentially just charm person for clerics. It is however perfect for clerics of Cuthbert. Find this useful spell in Dragon #358, Saint Cuthbert by Sean K. Reynolds.

Quicksand: (Cl 3) This spell is for clerics of Obad-hai. It's pretty self explanatory, you conjure a pool of quicksand in an area. You can find this spell and many more like it in the article The Power of Faith in Dragon #342 by John Ling, Jr. It's an interesting 3E era article I overlooked that requires you to take an "Initiate feat" to a particular god and it adds a few spells to your cleric/priest's lists.

Rary's Telepathic Bond:
(Wiz 5) Of all the spells in GHA, this is one me and my players perhaps used the most. What isn't to like about a communication spell between a mage and two or more friends anywhere on the same plane? The upshot of this spell is that Wish can make the bond between any two creatures permanent. If a PC can achieve this life-long effect, then I hope their BFF must be quite high level as well! 

Slerotin's Fortitude: (Wiz 9) Another top notch spell from Dragon #241. Who wouldn't want a spell created by the greatest Suel mage of all-time? This spell makes non-magical materials like a wall impervious to damage from physical and magical attacks. Yes, even disintegrate. Perfect for a Mage of Power who wants their tower to withstand a Rain of Colorless Fire perhaps?

Tharizdun's Maddening Scream: (Cl 8/Sor-Wiz 8) Yes this spell is as cringe-worthy as it sounds. It's similar to Tasha's Hideous Laughter, but much worse since there is no saving throw. My favorite part, the victim can only make reflex saves on a natural 20! I like to imagine Tharizdun cultists enjoy having this cast on them as a reward. You can find this nasty gem and others in Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil. 

Unearth Heresy: (Cl 2) Another spell named for St Cuthbert from the pages of Dragon #358. Much like earlier, this is just the cleric version of detect thoughts. You can't hide from Cuthbert, sinners!

Vecna's Conflagration: (Wiz 5) One more from Mullin. Vecna's artifacts are quite renowned, but how well do you know his personal spell repertoire? Conflagration is like setting off a fireball centered on yourself, but the caster is unharmed and all your foes are knocked back. Sounds like a spell Vecna would employ all the time. Again, look for this in the pages of Dragon #225, Three Greyhawk Grimoires. 

Wrath of Hextor: (Cl 4) This is another spell from The Power of Faith in Dragon #342. Your cleric of Hextor flips out against good enemies and deals an extra 2d4 damage with a flail. Just flails though. Could you imagine this spell used by six-armed Hextor himself? That's potentially 3-6 flails!  

Xvarts must have spells right? Pass.

You know if anyone can find a good named-wizard or Greyhawk themed spell with Y in it, let me know in the comments. I'm wearing out here!

Zagig's Canned Laughter: (Wiz 1) Spell-master, Robert Mullin finishes off this A-Z with a humorous one from Dragon #270. Only first level, Zagig must've made this spell for his own amusement because all it does is creature disembodied laughter any time the caster says something funny. This spell would make for a crazy game night if combined with Tasha's Hideous Laughter and 5E's Vicious Mockery.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Beyond the Flanaess: Zihindian Lands

Merry Needfest Greyhawk explorers! I'm happy to promote a new article in a series by the legendary Greyhawk Grognard in which he expands on the Guide to the World of Greyhawk with his rendition of the previously unseen Volume IV A Catalogue of the Lands Beyond the FlanaessJoe Bloch has previously done some amazing Darlenesque work in mapping the mega-continent of Oerik and his articles on nations, deities and events in the Baklunish Basin is unrivaled. His look in on the Lands of Zihindia builds on the dearth of previously published material we have from D&D and Gygax's Gord novels. Admittedly I never cared or even tried to explore this part of Oerik, though I knew it was always there on the far side of the Sea of Dust taunting me.  Download this article now and see how it stacks up with your vision of the southwest. In the meantime, here a is a few enticing takeaways I noticed from reading Zihindia that should get all my scholarly Greyhawk friends interested in this area. 

1. Zihindia is ancient! 576 CY is 9023 Z.C. That makes this area a few thousand years older than their former neighbors the Suloise Empire

2. Before the cataclysms, the Suel also migrated here and quickly slipped into Zihindian society. I can only wonder what the Scarlet Brotherhood would think of this place!

3. This land has some impressive armies. I know Joe likes his mass combat so he has kept with the spirit of Gygax's work and included each land's standing armies. And they are big for Flanaess standards. Jahind has 100k, Uttarayana has 120k (including 100 war elephants) and Mulwar can raise up to 180k! Never mind what else is going on in this land, I mainly want to see how these armies would battle it out!

4. The cities are large. Going along with the impressive armies, Zihindia has some big urban areas. Every capital clocks in at 38-44k population which is comparable to the Flanaess' best. For further comparison Greyhawk (boxed set) is 58,000 and Rel Astra is 63,900. What is Zihindia's largest city though? Pashod, the capital of Uttarayana Raj has 135,000 people. Now THAT is a medieval metropolis I'd like to see mapped out.

Stay tuned to Greyhawk Grognard because there is definitely more in store according to this issue: "Coming soon: our explorations of the mystical lands of Zihindia continue with new monsters found in those lands, new classes, spells, and magic items, complete details of the Zihindian pantheon, and more!"

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Top 10 List: Greyhawk Holiday Modules

Merry Needfest Greyhawk fans! After recently producing those wildly popular Sea Princes maps, I've hit a dry spell, so let's have some fun with this post. In honor of the holiday season let's do an easy Needfest spoof. I used to do Needfest Special comics all the time until I hit a wall (common occurrence, entertaining is hard work!) Back then I had a habit of making my holiday comics with a chaotic evil bent. With that in mind, sit back with a cold drink as I regale you all with this scorcher broadcast to Greyhawkery all the way from the depths of Abyss. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Ring of Five Questions: Round 15

Greetings Greyhawk denizens! If you've been following this blog for the last month or so, you'll know this is the fifteenth round of my ongoing Return of the Ring of Five Questions column! If you're finding this column for the first time, this is a special community participation feature of Greyhawkery. Search back and read the previous installments (Round 1-14) then email me at mortellan@gmail.com with your own five responses. Remember, you can be as short or wordy as you like in these responses. Disclaimer: I will keep taking entries until the end of 2020 so hurry up and respond before Needfest is almost here!

This week is another special entry to the Ring. In fact, it's unique because this participant is such a curmudgeon concerning Greyhawk lore, that no one else dared to enter the Ring with him! I kid of course! Please welcome Robert "Robbastard" Vest, a long time Greyhawk community contributor of fan articles, wiki articles and at one time his own home campaign website, Bastard Greyhawk. Rob is also the best dressed tavern patron I've ever had the honor to share drinks with at Gen Con Indy. Good times. Enough reminiscing, let's see how he fares in the Ring. Enjoy! 

Q1. What is your favorite realm or region in the World of Greyhawk setting? 


Rob: I’d go with the Domain of Greyhawk and neighboring areas—Dyvers, Verbobonc, the Wild Coast, etc.  There always seems to be a lot going on there, and plenty of riches to be unearthed in the published material. A little over half of my campaigns have either started in the City of Greyhawk or ended up there.

I completely agree Rob! It's not called the "World of Greyhawk" for nothing. The Greyhawk Domain is the home base from which Gygax's original campaign spread out and took on a life of its own in D&D (for better or worse). Even if you remove the namesake Castle Greyhawk, the area Rob describes from Dyvers to the Cairn Hills is so rich with adventures and lore that you literally don't need any more than that if you run a new campaign. Good start, keep it going...


Q2. If you could actually be one Greyhawk deity which one would it be? 


Rob: Olidammara, naturally.  No one has more fun that the god of wine, women, and song.


I probably could have guessed this! If anyone is an avatar of Olidammara it's Rob. Interestingly, he didn't mention god of rogues though. Keep your hands on your belt pouches, tavern folk!

Q3. You have one wish. Which Greyhawk module or accessory would you do over or fix?


Rob: The easy answer would be something like Child’s Play, Puppets, Gargoyle, or Castle Greyhawk, but reviled as they are, those modules have had little impact on the setting, mostly because the vast majority of fans ignore them. Not to mention the fact they were pretty much disavowed in The Adventure Begins. No, I think I’d pick something more impactful so I could resolve issues that have echoed down through later products.


Though not Greyhawk-specific, I think I’d choose the Spelljammer boxed set, and make Greyspace heliocentric, like Gygax obviously intended (see Saga of Old City). If I have to choose a Greyhawk-specific product, then maybe The Temple of Elemental Evil, where I could deal with the conundrum of how an imprisoned Iuz was able to conspire with Zuggtmoy, and remove/clarify the part about the “sharp check dealt to Lolth,” enabling folks to run T1-4, A1-4, and then GDQ1-7 without running afoul of the canonical timeline. Or possibly I’d just go back to World of Greyhawk folio/boxed set and remake the entire setting in my image. 😊

Dang! I told you this guy is a rat bastard. Actually though, this might be the most sane answer I've seen yet. The stuff we hate about Greyhawk has little impact. So true! I would've never seen Greyspace as a problem though, but sure, easy fix. However, just when I was ready to contemplate the issues of canon timelines, Rob, like the god of rogues and wine that he is, got drunk with power and ultimately decided to remake the entire setting. Well played, Mr. Vest. Upward and onward!


Q4: You're putting together an all-star Greyhawk NPC group. Who is your number one pick? 


Rob: Though you certainly couldn’t trust him in the long run, I’d probably pick Vecna. Sure, he’s a god now, but he started off as a mere mortal. In 576 CY, he was regarded as a mere arch-lich (though he did have a cult at least as early as the Expulsion of Evil in 209 CY). By 581, he’s a bonafide demigod. Within a decade, he levels up to lesser god. Though his plans are often foiled by meddling adventurers, he nearly always seems to come out ahead.


Shew! Vecna?! He is not wrong though. I can't say much, as my team is led by Iggwilv for the same reasons. I think I see his true interest in Vecna actually. Big V is the god of secrets and Rob is certainly a scholarly fellow. If he wants to remake the World of Greyhawk in his image (and the wikis associated with it) who's better to help out with the lore than Vecna? (everyone besides Tharizdun actually, but let's just skip to Q5)  

Q5. If you could possess one artifact or relic from Greyhawk lore, which would it be?


Rob: The problem with a lot of Greyhawk artifacts is they seem to come with bad side effects, especially if you use the 1E versions.  If I’m gonna be Olidammara though, I might as well pick the Kanteel of the Oldest.

Rob is careful with his decision like a few before him. Olid's epic Kanteel is an excellent idea! It's an item that isn't often brought up in Greyhawk discussions so, kudos for making such an entertaining choice. Idea, Vecna only has one hand so he has no use for a kanteel. That means as the god of wine and music, Rob can just perform while Vecna does most of hard work re-creating all Greyhawk lore. What could go wrong? Party on! 

Well that was certainly an enjoyable entry in the Ring. Thanks again to Rob Vest for dropping these answers off. They are just what I needed! More next time!

Thursday, December 3, 2020

New Maps: Unconquered Sea Princes

Welcome aboard Greyhawkers! Today I'm proud to share a project I recently worked on, brand new maps of my own Hold of the Sea Princes campaign! I really love the Sea Princes, it's true, but I don't exactly know what spurred me to do these maps. I think I was looking at the South Seas map hanging on my wall and probably thought, I need an updated Sea Princes map that coincides with all the material I've written for it so far. What material is that you ask? Well check the links in the Best of Greyhawkery and for the best collected info, download Oerth Journal #32 to read my Unconquered Hold of the Sea Princes article. These maps are set in the baseline date of 576 CY and in my writings continue on through the end of the Greyhawk Wars where this Sea Princes is not summarily taken over by the Scarlet Brotherhood and then reduced to a useless wreck of a state by 591 CY. By Xerbo, no! This is an untarnished land of adventure, political intrigue, exploration and high seas piracy. Astute cartographers will notice a load of towns and ports you don't recognize. Well, these are places I've created for my campaign, but have not yet fully developed yet. Maybe someday I will! Until then I hope you enjoy the maps, have fun using them!

Monday, November 30, 2020

Oerth Journal #34 Available

Greetings Greyhawkers! Today I'm promoting the release of Oerth Journal #34! Head on over to GreyhawkOnline to download the latest issue. Again, the exquisite cover depicting Iggwilv in the Baklunish West is done by the sublime artist LadyLoth. This issue is packed with all kinds of Greyhawk goodness by a host of authors who are active in the community, check it out:

● Librarian's Chronicle: Letter from the Editor - by Kristoph Nolen
● St. Benedor - by Gary Holian
● Lore of the Phost Tree - by Lance Hawvermale
● Omnipotent View: Forging of a Man - by Richard DiIoia
● Reimagining Yrag the Lord - by Amy "Theala" Crittenden
● The Pentegram: A Spelljamming Ship - by Denis "Maldin" Tetreault and Rick Esch
● Exploring the Dry Steppes: Journal of Zabin Al-Xin - by John Burchfield
● Ecology of the Thri-kreen - Kristoph Nolen
● A Fistful of Baubles - by David Leonard
● Inauguration of an Apprentice - by Robert M. Guy III
● Fergus Matremand: Capt. of the Greenjerkins - by Paul Herridge
● Vault of Daoud - by Thomas Kelly
● Secret Legacies of the Flan - by Les "Oblivion Seeker" Reno

Special kudos to Gary Holian of Canonfire! for his development on St. Benedor. No one is more an authority on the saints and death knights of the Flanaess than Gary. Also very pleased to see John Burchfield of Blue Box RPG in the Journal now! It's also quite humorous and overdue to see a Denis Tetreault Spelljammer article here. Maldin knows his stuff! I could gush on about all the authors and their works and projects. Richard DiIoia, Amy Crittenden, Thomas Kelly (his Daoud story is the cover of the issue), David Leonard, Les Reno and so on. A great line-up of authors all around! Oh yes, and someone I know might have a couple comics in this issue. I can't wait to see what the gang comes up with in OJ 35!

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Ring of Five Questions: Round 14

Well met Greyhawk patrons! If you've been following this blog for the last month or two, you'll know this is the fourteenth round of my ongoing Return of the Ring of Five Questions column! If you're finding this column for the first time, this is a special community participation feature of Greyhawkery. Search back and read the previous installments (Round 1-13) then email me at mortellan@gmail.com with your own five responses. Remember, you can be as short or wordy as you like in these responses. Disclaimer: I will keep taking entries until the end of 2020 so hurry up and respond before Needfest is almost here!

This round we have another special entrant to the Ring, my friend and creative compadre, Scott Casper whose novella Castle Greyhawk, I helped bring to life as a graphic novel for several years online. Scott is an old school stalwart of the Greyhawk community who is no stranger to the Ring of Five Questions. Check out Scott's original interview from way back in 2012. Those Five Questions were tailored to him, so this time around he will be answering the same as everyone else, but a couple of the Q's are still classic. Since Scott holds a special place in my history with the Greyhawk community, I'm going to take his return to the Ring up a notch. Let's see how 2020 Scott measures up to the Greyhawk community, 2012 Scott and...ME. Yes I'm throwing myself in the Ring at long last for my final answers. Ready? Enjoy!

Q1. What is your favorite realm or region in the World of Greyhawk setting? 

Scott: Last time my answer was South Province, and I still love that region (the only time in recent years I’ve written anything for Canonfire was when South Province needed some representation in a project), but my last two campaigns have been set in the City of Greyhawk. To an extent, I’ve tried making this the Greyhawk City of the Original Greyhawk Campaign, but I do get lazy on occasion and borrow from Carl Sargent’s amazing City of Greyhawk boxed set. I don’t want to go 100% boxed set version because I’ve already done that -- that was, in fact, my second Greyhawk campaign ever back around 1990. But it’s also just too good to ignore.

Anyway, short version is that my answer is the City of Greyhawk, or perhaps I should say the Domain of Greyhawk -- since Castle Greyhawk is in the domain, but not in the city!

Mike: Scott wisely changes his answer from 2012. The South Province (Ahlissa) can be a cool place to make your own, but the City (and yes, Domain) of Greyhawk is too iconic in my view to deny. for that reason I too choose Greyhawk as my favorite location. Unlike Scott, I was never versed in Gygax's novel/home game version of the city, but my best campaigns have always been built around the 2E city boxed set, the updates from Roger Moore's The Adventure Begins and the later Living Greyhawk Journal (and Denis Tetreault map) additions. Greyhawk has all the best NPCs, organizations, economy and yes, magic. 

People know me and assume from my extensive Ull and Sea Princes writings on Greyhawkery that these are my favorites, but the Gem of the Flanaess and its surroundings (of course the iterations of Castle Greyhawk) is where most of players have enjoyed adventuring and establishing their characters homes. Every time I run a game there it's like returning home, so it's never difficult to DM. Good start Scott, let's continue... 

Q2. If you could actually be one Greyhawk deity which one would it be? 

Scott: Last time I said Boccob, but that was a joke answer. I don’t want the responsibility of being a greater god. I’d choose to be a quasi-deity, like Heward. He gets to hang out with the gods, play the organ at their parties, but doesn’t have a portfolio or sphere of influence he has to worry about.

Mike: Scott has had years to reflect and become humble. Boccob was a choice of more than a few people in the Ring too. I myself was very tempted to take the Uncaring, then it dawned on me. No I'm not talking about Pelor, or Pholtus! I would chose to be Wee Jas, goddess of Magic, Death, Law and Vanity. Am I vain, no never, but if I were a god I'd have to shake Scott's concern about responsibility. Sure, Heward is a fine choice, alot of the Quasi and Hero-gods get to adventure around still, party with all the Mordys and Zagygs out there and he's right, don't have to answer to anyone. But for me, after some thought I'm WEE JAS. Yeah, yeah, she's a goddess and I'm fine with that! No one else went for her, so surprise!

Boccob has magic and is greater. Nerull has death and is greater. Wee Jas however kind of plays the middle at times, which is very like me. She can be greater or intermediate depending on her mood perhaps? She is lawful, which is also like me. She is also vain and ambitious for more portfolios. This part is not like me, but if I'm Wee Jas, then heck with it!   

Q3. You have one wish. Which Greyhawk module or accessory would you do over or fix?

Scott: I never got this question eight years ago! I’ve seen a lot of answers already that seem like really good answers, but I am going to stake my claim on the Rob Kuntz Archives. His maps and keys to El Raja Key (or Maure Castle, as we know it on Oerth), including some of the levels that also became part of Castle Greyhawk, are on that CD-ROM product (maybe not the original original versions, though; I suspect the keys were rewritten sometime in the early 1980s, given some of the monsters you can encounter there). I have been fleshing out those levels with more detail for recent campaigns. While not technically a “fix,” I am tempted to share my more detailed version of El Raja Key.

Mike: Mr. Casper shows he is a paragon of old school Gygaxian Greyhawk. I'm a big fan of Kuntz too, I love Maure Castle probably more than Castle Greyhawk in fact. Eli Tomorast is my boy! I also have the CD-ROM Scott talks about and it's a wealth of unpublished lore. I got at Gary Con, so I'm not sure where you can still get a copy from. Maybe Scott will know? Anyhoo, I imagine bringing RJK's El Raja Key to life in a finished product would fulfill the wishes of quite a few friends of ours in the community.

Myself though, I have ranted several times in the RoFQ column about the Five Shall be One/Howl from the North/Greyhawk Wars storyline. I will stick with this being my hill to die on for a revision. Sargent was merely taking Gygax's cues and was steering the Flanaess to war. I like wars as anyone who has read Greyhawkery knows. The quest for the 5 Blades of Corusk should have united Thillonria to go conquer lands to the south, Bone March, Pale, North Province, etc. That's how it played out in my 2E campaigns and I think GH Wars as published could have its Great Kingdom/Iuz subplots and still allow for the barbarian faction led by a very real and freed Vatun to carve a new power group in the north. If not that, the mods could be reworked for a South Seas variation like I did in 3E for my players. Instead of questing in the cold north the blades are scattered across the tropics. Instead of barbarians, you need a party of Suel pirates. Good times!

Q4: You're putting together an all-star Greyhawk NPC group. Who is your number one pick? 

Scott: I love Tenser, Robilar, Terik, Yrag, Ehlissa, Murlynd, and all the characters from our Castle Greyhawk webcomic. Eneever Zig, the wizard who goes into the Castle Greyhawk dungeons with Gord and Chert in Night Arrant, has featured prominently in two of my campaigns now. If I’m going by canon characters -- I am going to stick with our main protagonist, Tenser.

If I can include non-canon NPCs, though….I loved using this mage named Mokli in my old South Province campaign. He was based on Quinton, from the comic book Thieves & Kings (created by Mark Oakley). He’s supposedly extremely powerful, but he dresses like a poor apprentice and is never seen casting a spell, ever. He showed up at various points in the campaign, looking for the PCs because he had vital information to tell them about what they needed to do next -- but then something would always happen that would interrupt him and keep him from being able to tell them. It made him seem like he knew a lot about what was happening behind the scenes of the campaign, but every time it was a bluff -- I didn’t actually have anything prepared to tell the PCs. They were good sports and always played along. I’ve been blessed with some great players over the years.

Mike: Good ol' Tenser is a bold choice. He is indeed a wonderful protagonist throughout all Greyhawk lore. He is near and dear to the Greyhawk Domain as well, and someone who a quasi-deity like Heward would hang out with too! I definitely enjoyed drawing Tenser (and all those NPCs he mentioned) for the comics all those years. You could see his progression in power through the chapters, though we never quite got to the pinnacle. Still, as NPCs go he would be a much better team leader than Mordy who always manipulates from the shadows. Also Scott, since we're pals, I will give you Mokli as well. I like nostalgia and sometimes your own creations are better. Yup another mage to run with Tenser. Wizards  is where all the glory is at in Greyhawk.

For myself, I like wizards too. I was tempted to go with an obvious good choice like Mordenkainen, Rary or even Tomorast, but as cool as it would be to have a guy with demon-hands on my team, I realized that I need a more powerful and classy #1 pick. You guessed it, I'm going with Iggwilv the Witch-Queen of Perrenland. She is quasi-deity level, she can make artifacts, she can trap demon-lords and she has a lot of connections in the D&D multiverse. Am I worried about Iggy usurping me? Heck no, I'm Wee Jas remember? Girl power! Okay, one more question to go...

Q5. If you could possess one artifact or relic from Greyhawk lore, which would it be?

Scott: If I’m Heward then naturally I want my Mystical Organ (insert your own dirty jokes here). But I also want the Mighty Servant of Leuk-O because I always pictured that being Voltron.

Mike: Okay Scott you talked me into it again. Since he is Heward and has to impress at those parties in Tenser's Castle, I will grant the Mystical Organ is a given. The Mighty Servant though, yeah that gets the job done. Mentioning Voltron definitely plucks at my 80's cartoon heart-strings too. So there you go buddy, two for one! Well played!

To finish off this truly epic round of the Ring, I am going to go with the best artifact in all of D&D and probably RL mythology, the Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga. Skip Twitchell first picked the hut back in round 4 and that stuck with me. If I'm the ultimate deity of magic and death with the ultimate witch queen at my side, then our base of operations is going to be mobile and plane-hopping! Baba Yaga would have to be in this witchy group too, I can't kick her out of her own home after all. Who knows, maybe when we visit the City of Greyhawk, Heward and his organ can entertain us at a party inside the hut. Well that was a load of fun everybody. 

Thanks to Scott Casper for his entry. I hope you were tickled by my answers as well. There is still time, send me an email if you'd like to share your five answer with the Greyhawk community! 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything

Hello Greyhawkers! I don't often do reviews, but I think the latest 5E splat book by Wizards deserves some attention from this discerning Greyhawk expert. Tasha's Cauldron of Everything has been talked about across the D&D community for some time, but I finally got my hands on it and well, news rules and crunch arguments aside (psionics, meh), I'm pleased with the entire package not to mention the numerous nods to Greyhawk throughout in this book. Not convinced fellow grognards? Let me explain... 

First off, kudos to Jeremy Crawford for leading this book. Using Tasha as the authorial voice of the book at first seems like another Greyhawk swipe, but then I read the intro and you can tell it isn't uninformed. They did their research. Tasha pens a foreword introducing herself to the reader that drops names faster than a Carl Sargent sourcebook. Unless there was doubt, she is indeed Natasha the Dark, Hura of Ket and the daughter of Baba Yaga. She reminisces of her days interacting with the "original" Mad Archmage Zagig Yragerne, the Company of Seven and Mordenkainen (there is an awesome illo of her playing chess with Mordy btw). These throw-away references are not useless however. Right there at the beginning and in her boxed text comments throughout the book, a new reader may very well wonder where is Ket, who else was in the Company of Seven or what is original about Zagig, etc. Fan-service doubles as trivia teasers.

What else do I like about Tasha as a brand name character in 5E? Wizards had all of D&D to choose from and they went with an alter-ego of the Witch-Queen from the Greyhawk setting. Not one of the Seven Sisters like the Simbul, or the thousands of other NPC wizards from the Forgotten Realms, not Raistlin, nor Azalin from Ravenloft (oh wait his pic is in this book). Worst case scenario Tasha becomes a famous D&D name alongside Elminster and Mordenkainen and she grows even more, best case scenario more and more people become curious about Tasha and what she represents, want more, and we edge closer to more official Greyhawk content in the future.

Okay enough gushing about the first part of this book. What other references can you expect to see in Tasha's? Here's a sample list just from casual perusal:

Strange technologies of the Barrier Peaks tied to the artificer class.
Clerics of Order give Wee Jas and Pholtus as examples.
Tasha jokes about spells "Mordenkainen's Bountiful Back-Patting and Heward's Hot Air" being left out of the book.
Graz'zt and Tasha illustration (not to mention the gorgeous variant cover by artist Wylie Beckert with the two).
Travel to other worlds like Oerth using the spell Dream of the Blue Veil.
Wow your friends with new spells "Tasha's Caustic Brew, Tasha's Mind Whip and Tasha's Otherworldly Guise." 
Magic items: Baba Yaga's Mortar and Pestle, the Crook of Rao (includes some Iggwilv lore), the Demonomicon of Iggwilv (of course! Includes mentions about Fraz-Urb'Luu and the Tome of Zyx), the Mighty Servant of Leuk-O (plus a bad-ass illustration), and the Teeth of Dahlver-Nar (d20 effects).

No doubt there is more subtle references here, you're not going to find extensive lore on anything in a rule splat book after all, but in closing I love Tasha's. I don't know how much of it will find use in my game, but as a Greyhawk enthusiast and collector, this is a must-have alongside Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes. Yeah I'm a sucker for products named after Greyhawk NPCs. That said, if anyone at Wizards R&D is reading, I'm hoping the next splat book is presented by Tenser or Bigby. Let's see, how about Bigby's Handbook of Heroes or Tenser's Guide to Adventuring? Just a thought. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Ring of Five Questions: Round 13

Well met Greyhawk patrons! If you've been following this blog for the last month or so, you'll know this is the thirteenth round of my ongoing Return of the Ring of Five Questions column! If you happened upon this column for the first time, well put simply this is a community participation feature of Greyhawkery. Search back and read the previous installments (Round 1-12) then email me at mortellan@gmail.com with your own five responses. Remember, you can be as short or wordy as you like in these responses. Disclaimer: I will keep taking entries until the end of 2020 so hurry up and respond before Needfest is almost here!

Every so often someone finds a loop hole in my plans where I didn't explain my rules well enough. This time a daring reader of the blog has (through no fault of his own I'm sure) responded to the questions in one of my original RoFQ interviews instead of the stock five Greyhawk questions I posed at the start of the column. This is significant because I used to customize a couple of the questions to each person I interviewed especially when they were published authors. I will indulge this gentleman's entry and take it up a notch by comparing his answers to the original custom interview. But from here on, the loop hole is closed. Only respond to the questions in rounds 1-12. Without further ado, let's enter the Ring! I present the ineffable Christopher Lerch versus the legendary Creighton Broadhurst of Living Greyhawk fame and freelancer at Raging Swan Press. Good luck Christopher...enjoy!

Q1. As a long time Greyhawk fan, you should know the Darlene map by heart. What is your realm of choice in the World of Greyhawk?

Creighton: I have a lot of good memories of Onnwal because of my time in Living Greyhawk - I made some very good friends in LG and had some great games! I'm also becoming very partial to the Great Kingdom - and its successor states; most of my recent campaigns have been set there.

Christopher: Verbobonc because I've had so many adventures there (starting with Hommlet), both as a player and as a DM.

Creighton was instrumental in developing Onnwal during the 3.x era as well as being notable for his adventures and lore further developing Rary the Traitor and the Brightlands. That he takes interest in the fractured Great Kingdom is no surprise here. I imagine he would love for the Iron League to exact some payback on Aerdy! Christopher holds his own with an old school answer in Verbobonc. While I'm not sure if he was involved in Living Greyhawk (Verbobonc was the region I lived in and I didn't), I do know Hommlet, the Moathouse and the Temple of Elemental Evil is where alot of long time fans cut their D&D teeth. Good show, moving along...

Q2. If you could be one Greyhawk deity which one would it be?

Creighton: Boccob. I almost always play wizards, sorcerers and the like so it would be cool to play at being the best wizard ever!

Christopher: Definitely St. Cuthbert!  He, to me, represents not only Greyhawk, but 1e AD&D as well going all the way back to the DMGs Artifacts & Relics.

Christopher shows his gallant side as he identifies as the most proactive good god in the game, St. Cuthbert! His love of Hommlet, AD&D and the original DMG emanates from him! Or maybe it's that Mace he is holding? Creighton counters with the enigmatic Boccob. D&D has magic, so who has the most? No, not Mordenkainen! No, not Elminster! The Uncaring One of course! A wise choice, sir. Now knowing this, I wonder if Creighton was pro-Rary the Traitor? Hmm...

Q3. You published alot about Rary for Living Greyhawk. What NPC/organization would have been your second choice for a major storyline?

Creighton:  Rary was actually my second choice! Originally, when we were casting about for a major core plotline I got very interested in exploring the ruins of Medegia. It's an area ripe for development and we could have explored some very apocalyptic themes. I think adventures in the ruins of Pontylver would have been particularly cool. I even had an article basically ready to go for the Living Greyhawk Journal (which later saw the light of day in the Oerth Journal). Eventually, however we decided that the plot would have been too regional in focus - in that Medegia isn't exactly central in the Flanaess and its plots would have focused a lot around the Splintered Sun meta-region.

ChristopherI would have liked to have seen more Mordenkainen-centered stories.  Maybe something about his fortress in the Yatils?

So far the first two questions have been standard for the Ring. This one is slightly tailored to Br. Broadhurst because of his publishing credit in Greyhawk. It is very interesting to see his Rary writings was utilized by LG because of its central location. This explains alot, why the living campaign didn't venture too far into the edges. For those who want to track down his Oerth Journal stuff, go to GreyhawkOnline. He has alot of contributions, including his mentioned Medegia idea featured in issue #25. Mr. Lerch has a mountain to climb now as I don't know if he has published any Greyhawk material of his own. Few in the Ring can compare to CB. However! He does pose a great idea for a story line that people would absolutely EAT UP. Anything Mordenkainen is a must have, and I would definitely go for an adventure set in or around his Obsidian Citadel in the Yatils. So much potential. So many dark secrets there...

Q4. Is there any Greyhawk module that you wish you had never ran?

Creighton: No, but there are lots I wish I could run. I really, really want to run GDQ1-7. I've played it twice, but never DMed it. Sadly, my current group has a player who has just run it as a DM and thus knows it rather well. I'll have to bide my time. I'd also like to make my players forget the Temple of Elemental Evil and run that again - it's one of my all-time favourite modules, but sadly we all know it rather well.

Christopher: No! I love those old modules.  I need to expand out of the 1e (I have run *some* 2e), maybe check out the 3e Living campaign.

Well, well, looks like Chris has NEVER ran a module he didn't like. I would expect nothing less from the god of zeal. Well, there is a significant segment of 1E/2E that I wish I could undo or even unpublish. The Sargent and Moore eras are not bad, but I'll assume you used the best of what came out. As for 3E era stuff, I'm sure anything by Broadhurst is top notch. I'd stick to the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer and select issues of the Living Greyhawk Journal however. Creighton meanwhile, agrees with Chris, but goes in the opposite direction wanting to relive Greyhawk's AD&D classics. If he was Boccob he could make his players forget what they previously ran. Good times...

Q5: There's a vacancy in the Circle of Eight. Which NPC wizard would you pick to fill the spot?

Creighton: I guess that depends on what year it is! Assuming it's after Return of the Eight, I'd add Graf Reydrich (from South Province [Ivid the Undying]). His write-up includes a very interesting snippet about him pleading to join the circle 15 years ago (so around 569/570), but that he was rebuffed by Mordenkainen. That really intrigues me; after all Tenser was on the Circle for some time and he wasn't exactly neutral. It would be interesting to see how Reydrich's influence would be felt in the policies of the group. 

Christopher: Drax! He's an NPC wizard in my game that was retired to my realm by a great player that moved away long ago to Florida and we've since lost touch. Drax had a lot of memorable moments in the game and it would be great for other players in my realm to see what they could become one day.

The final question of this round. Creighton brings up a delicious point I didn't know, (he did because Boccob knows all of course) Graf Reydrich wanted in the Circle??? That's very interesting indeed. I am supremely sure Mordy would love to have him on the team due to his political influence in the east. Maybe Bigby opposed him or goodie good, Tenser. Much to ponder here. Christopher gets to end this Ring with an Aerdian of his own. Drax of Rel Astra?!  I had to check the boxed set to be sure, but yes, Drax is an Assassin/Magic-user! While Mordy would love to have Rel Astra in his Circle, much like the South Province in Reydrich, I wonder if Drax wouldn't be rebuffed as well? Christopher however, makes reference to his home campaign which is poignant for this old school man in the chapeaux. Drax must've really been a big deal to his players if they measured up to him. Yeah I never let one of my friends have a PC in the Circle either, so they tended to make their own wizard groups to compete. That's what I like about Greyhawk, we can all share our stories and takes on the setting, they are all valid. Last thing, I do hope that Mr. Lerch can get in touch with that player again some day.

And that ends round 13! Thanks to Christopher and Creighton once again (hopefully he comes on Legends & Lore stream someday). What is in store for the next round? Perhaps another look back into the past of the Ring of Five Questions???

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Rive of Five Questions: Round 12

Welcome again, fellow Greyhawkers! If you've been following this blog in recent weeks, you'll know this is amazingly the twelfth round of my ongoing Return of the Ring of Five Questions column! If you happened upon this column for the first time, well put simply this is a community participation feature of Greyhawkery. Search back and read the previous installments then email me at mortellan@gmail.com with your own five responses. Remember, you can be as short or wordy as you like in these responses. Disclaimer: I will keep taking entries until the end of 2020 so hurry up and respond before Needfest is almost here!

Let's slide back into the Ring with a couple more willing participants. First is a new reader to Greyhawkery, but nonetheless a very knowledgeable fan of Greyhawk, Rich DiTullio. And sharing the spotlight with him is William "Giantstomp" Dvorak of Wicked Studios; Greyhawk blogger, streamer and Oerth Journal author. Let's see what these two have to say...enjoy!

Q1. What is your favorite realm or region in the World of Greyhawk setting? 

William: This is a tough one as I like adventuring, and running, all over the Flanaess. If you were to hold my feet to the fire though I'd have to say the Bandit Kingdoms. There is a ton of diversity there before and after the war with the different Free Lord realms. Of those of course my favorite has to be Rookroost. What better place to place adventures with characters that have flexible morals. 

Rich: I love the Ulek states for the start of an adventure especially the Principality.  The realm being controlled by demi-humans makes almost any combination of heroes makes sense to be from there.  You can strike out in so many directions: north to the Suss Forest, Wild Coast, or Celene, south to take to the sea and encounter the Sea Princes and Saltmarsh, and of course who can resist heading east to try and find the hidden treasures of Pomarj from under the noses of the goblinkin.    

William like many of us have travelled all over the map and find it hard to pick a favorite. But yes you can't go wrong with the Bandit Kingdoms and Rookroost. The map and info on that city in Fate of Istus is the only reason to get the module IMO. BK is right in the middle of the action from Greyhawk Wars to White Plume Mt to Age of Worms. Good choice! Rich going with the tri-states of Ulek is also a smart decision. I always imagined the realms like Tolkien. The duchy is Rivendell, the county is the Shire and the principality is Moria/Iron Hills? Well said Rich, its a great launching place for heroes.

Q2. If you could actually be one Greyhawk deity which one would it be? 

William: Brandobaris. He's a great god for adventurers and he's a halfling so what's not to like? He is the ultimate trickster god and playing tricks and being able to get out of a jam in a pinch would be helpful. 

Rich: Zagyg, no question.  He saw Greyhawk in a way that no one else ever did or will again and followed that crooked path all the way to godhood. 

Rich brilliantly goes with Zagyg. He again shows some insight I haven't seen in the Ring before. Zagyg indeed is the driver in much of Greyhawk lore so what better god to embody, even if he is mad as a march hare. Will OTOH goes a humorous direction as well, but instead he reveals that he's a little prankster at heart. IMO Brandobaris is a very very rare choice for the Ring or even for a character patron, kudos sir! Moving along...

Q3. You have one wish. Which Greyhawk module or accessory would you do over or fix? 

William: Well, I have to go with the one that is freshest in my mind and that would be WGS1 Five Shall be One. In the adventure, that sets up the Greyhawk War, Iuz tricks adventures into collecting the 5 Blades of Corusk. Well, if you collect all 5 it's said that it would free Vatun from his imprisonment. The blades are collected but Vatun isn't freed. Instead, they simply disappear, and then Iuz pretends to be him. Boo, I say! If the 5 swords came together then Vatun should have really come back and then put a beat down on Iuz for trying to dupe his people.

Rich: Fate of Istus.  I remember the first time I tried to run it.  We finished the first encounter and now they are heading to Rel Mord for the second encounter.  They need to be at a higher level when they arrive but they ignored every adventuring hook because of the threat of the plague.  That is when I realized this one just wasn’t going to work as written and I never did quite figure out how to get them hooked on the mystery of the plague and so that they would continue to follow it from city to city. It still disappoints me to this day.

Five Shall be One (and Howl from the North) is a popular sentiment for me and others in the Ring. I love the concept, but the pay off was not there I agree. Iuz duping PCs and entire nations always left me wondering, is Vatun supposed to be real or a figment of the barbarians? I mean, Carl Sargent did create him without prior development. Who knows! Meanwhile, Rich brings Q3 back to what I was saying earlier, FoI is only good for the source material. It's a concept that could work, I imagine Paizo could've done better with their APs, but as wishes for a redo go, yeah please Istus rewind time.

Q4: You're putting together an all-star Greyhawk NPC group. Who is your number one pick? 

William: Obmi. What can I say I've been a fan of this guy since I read about him in the Gord books. Besides that he's had a long career working for Giants and Iuz, he's just a great bad guy. Girdle of giant strength, dwarven thrower, boots of speed, and a murderous attitude, what's not to like.

Rich: Bigby.  With all the plotters, schemers and cryptic mages out there, it is refreshing to have a mage dedicate his life to making bigger magical fists to punch people with.

Rich cracks me up. Yeah, Bigby does have a simple charm to him. Don't mess with Bigby. Also those hand spells are good to keep the team in line! Mr. Dvorak gets serious now with Obmi. If he's putting together a team led by this evil dwarf then it must be a hard hitting team indeed! On to the last Q...

Q5. If you could possess one artifact or relic from Greyhawk lore, which would it be?

William: Blackrazor! Hands down man, the scariest and baddest sword in the game!. All you have to do is keep it fed and it will be happy. :-) 

Rich: As dangerous as it would be, I’d want the Codex of Infinite Planes.  The lure of instant travel to so many other worlds would be irresistible. 

William the avatar of Brandobaris isn't all fun and games after all. He wants to possess a soul sucking sword?! Well with Obmi leading your NPC team (probably out of Rookroost) then I suppose you'll have a ready supply of victims for Blackrazor. Maybe he can outfit Obmi's team with more magic blades, say...five of them? Rich finishes off this stimulating round of the Ring by selecting the Codex! Like William, Mr. DiTullio likes to flirt with danger. He is crazy as Zagyg after all! The Codex may be fun and have all these powers to see other planes and stuff, but eventually, fate, Istus y'know, catches up to those who use the Codex. However, with Bigby and his Ulek friends involved, maybe Rich can convince Istus to re-write his fate. Okay enough riffing for now!

That was a great round! Thanks to William for your responses. See you on the streams! And thanks to Rich, don't be a stranger! If you or anyone else reading who wants to get more involved in the community or would like to just hang out with Greyhakwers go to Twitch where you will find a wealth of community activity like LordGosumba channel or on Facebook's many Greyhawk groups. Until next time!