Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Greyhawk Locations to Build

Hail Greyhawkers! Today's topic is a new one that I felt would be fun to muse about, and that concerns unique or remote locations in the Flanaess for players to establish their strongholds. One of my obsessions lately has been the survival video game Conan: Exiles. In this game, when not fighting undead and dragons, building elaborate castles or bases is my favorite part. Also, one of the hallmarks of D&D is player characters becoming high enough level to build their own strongholds and wizard towers. In either game, choosing a location is important.

In the World of Greyhawk, finding a cool place to start a domain might be harder than you think. Here is a few suggestions. Mind you, there is hundreds of unused hexes to claim, but you'll see from my commentary why I think these would be nice areas to set up shop. Since I don't have the patience to look up hex coordinates on the Darlene map. Sorry. Instead I've made cut out maps and marked the hex for you. Enjoy!

This first map shows a spur of the Yatil Mountains on the northwest coast of Lake Quag. This hex could either be a highland retreat, much like Mordenkainen's Obsidian Citadel in the very same mountain range or if you prefer, nudge it to the very coast of Lake Quag. This part of the map is north of the also remote Mounds of Dawn, in an area that I'm sure is debatably part of Perrenland. I chose this spot in fact, because its equidistant from Perrenland, Tiger and Wolf Nomad culture. For an idea what kind of monsters may lurk in this wing of the Yatils, perhaps turn to the 1983 Greyhawk Glossography or the AD&D module Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.

Next up is a look at a region in the Thillonrian Peninsula, specifically the very southeast end of the long mountainous landmass. At a point between what I assume is the lands of the Snow Barbarians (Schnai) and Ice Barbarians (Cruskii) is an inlet or fjord that borders a mountain hex. I think this is a perfect place to situate a private stronghold including a port for a barbarian hero to launch their own nautical quests or raids at Aerdy.

Given the general inaccessibility of this spot, there is a also an opportunity here for some special construction by dwarves, giants or even draconic themes. I like the area politically too, because the neighboring human clans and kings will vie for your character to be on their side in events, or who knows, if you play out the 2E modules Five Shall Be One/ Howl From the North, you could unite these warrior kingdoms from this base of operations!

The next map shows a spot in the central Flanaess near the mouth of the Nesser River. This desert-like hex borders the well-trafficked Woolly Bay and is within 120 miles of the Bright Desert (Bright Lands depending on your era). I chose this hex because it may very well be in unclaimed territory. If it is owned by the Duchy of Urnst there is definitely no settlements here. Interestingly, those putting a keep or tower on this hex would be able to search a wealth of nearby ruins such as the coastal remains of Itarr, arid buried temples of Sulm within the Bright Desert or even to the far north, the infamous Maure Castle.

As the hex appears arid on the Darlene map, resources would be quite scarce, so an aspiring lord will have to be very good at trade and diplomacy. If a port is set up here, players could also be involved in the trade that flows to Hardby and eventually to the Greyhawk itself. This sets up some nice interaction then with peoples and pirates across the bay in the Wild Coast and Pomarj.

This last location is on the border between the Grand Duchy of Geoff and the Earldom of Sterich within the foothills of the Crystalmists as they turn into the feared Stark Mounds. This hex is a mere 60 miles from the city of Gorna, making it the only selection so far that is not remote. However, the location is deep enough within the Stark Mounds that it is debatably not part of Geoff or Sterich. In either case, resources and trade would be abundant.

The dangers presented in building your stronghold here are many however, so only the highest level heroes should go looking to establish themselves here. This is a region of great turmoil with giant-kind who are continually a threat to overrun entire nations. Unless your stronghold is properly defended, this hex would be among the first affected by a giant incursion. See the classic AD&D adventures, Against the Giants or Liberation of Geoff for a wealth of information. 

Furthermore, the Stark Mounds are especially famous for sword wraiths that inhabit old battlefields here. While having undead in your back yard is not a good selling point for most characters, it might be a good detterant for the aforementioned giants. These graveyards could also be a boon for wizards (necromancers) who want a free army for their tower. The possibilities are endless. 

Until next time, share some of your own campaign's unique and interesting locations for player strongholds.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Greyhawk Foils: The Lords of Westkeep

Howdy Greyhawkers! Lately, I've been digging through old notebooks and computer files looking for something from one of my home campaigns that I haven't already showed on the blog (or that is coherent enough to show off). Amazingly I think I found something good that I forgot to share, namely the adventuring company who calls themselves "The Lords of Westkeep". My Hold of the Sea Princes campaign is fairly well documented on Greyhawkery and this NPC group was created to be a foil for my players in the Mines of Hokar story line. The Lords of Westkeep are not all bad, in fact, some are down right likeable which made their presence in the Mines aggravating because they were the PC's main rival in acquiring the object of the Mines of Hokar quest, the lost golden Toli Captains. These rare minted coins, of which there are 33 scattered throughout the cavern-dungeon complex, are desired by the Marquis of Hokar in his goal to impress the enigmatic pirate group known as the Fivefold Council. Needless to say, whoever gets the most coins to the Marquis, gets the most reward.

The Lords of Westkeep

The Lords of Westkeep is a group of five “dungeoneers” who mainly search the monster riddled mines of Hokar in the Hold of the Sea Princes. Where they’ve been and how they came together is more interesting than their day job. The Lords, as they call themselves, consist of three main members and two later additions.

“Breaker” Lorgan (CN human rogue 4) Breaker is a professional thief originally hailing from the swamp frontier town of Westkeep. A wanted man in Keoland and the Yeomanry, Breaker formerly ran with a gang of bandits once led by the infamous Black Gus. Gus and Lorgan were good friends since childhood (they wear matching silver skull rings) but eventually as they got older, Lorgan wanted more fame and fortune so he joined a man he met in Westkeep named Malvin Greyblade to start an adventuring group in the town of Hokar. Breaker Lorgan sports distinctive sideburns, wears custom leather armor with many pockets for tools and weapons and is continually seen smoking a pipe.

Malvin “Mal” Greyblade (CN, half-elf fighter 4) is a swordsman who studied his art under tutors in great cities such as Port Toli and Gradsul. He is a patron of Kelanen, the hero-god of swordsmen and mercenaries. Greyblade is somewhat popular in the Hold not only because of his adventures, but also from tales of his romantic prowess. Mal first met Breaker Lorgan in the town of Westkeep, their eventual base of operations, and turned him to a more lucrative pursuit than burglary and banditry. Their party was soon joined by a mutual acquaintance, the gambler Brother Caylen. Greyblade is the most comely of the Lords of Westkeep. He carries a rapier and dagger, befitting his fighting style, and always wears the best fashions of the Sea Princes even when spelunking the depths of the Mines of Hokar.

Brother Caylen (CN, human cleric 4) is a worshipper of the god of gamblers, Norebo. Caylen hails from the great metropolis of Greyhawk where he has ran up some debts and made a few enemies. Now residing in the Hold, he most recently joined two friends to form the Lords of Westkeep in order to ply a monster haunted dungeon in search of gold for the local Marquis. Never without dice or cards, Brother Caylen is shifty eyed and wears chainmail under a black hooded robe. He carries a mace under this robe for when games go bad at the table.

Amagaro the Outstanding (NG, human wizard 4) is a later addition to the Lords of Westkeep. Amagaro has no homeland; he once traveled with a caravan of performers where he was a “strongman” (yes an 18 STR wizard). Bored with simple feats of strength, Amagaro studied the art of magic from the elder circus mage in his free time. As fate had it, the caravan disbanded and left Amagaro stranded in Hokar looking for work. Malvin Greyblade and Breaker Lorgan saw his last performance, and they were so impressed with the strength and good nature of this wizard, they had to have him in their party. Amagaro is a genial fellow who wears commoner robes, often sleeveless, and carries a staff that once belonged to his mentor. Amagaro is tall, bald and has bushy eyebrows.

Tommo the Minstrel (CG, halfling bard 4) is from the nearby County of Ulek. Enamored by human and elven culture, the little minstrel travelled west to write and play ballads about heroic figures he would meet. Malvin Greyblade as chance would have it, is his current interest and as such Tommo is only a honorary member of the Lords of Westkeep. Tommo never goes into the Mines of Hokar, but instead waits at the nearest tavern to hear his friends account so he can retell their exploits. Tommo and Amagaro share a close friendship, both being entertainers. Tommo is always cheerful and optimistic. He appears more like a foppish court room fool, wearing a floppy hat, belled shoes and playing a small lute.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Greyhawk Thoughts: The Flight of Fiends

Hail Greyhawkers! Today's topic was recently brought up in discussion on our Twitch show Legends & Lore, but it's something I haven't researched much, and certainly have never referenced in my own campaign. I'm talking about the Flight of Fiends. If you haven't heard of the Flight, it's probably one of the most significant events in all of published World of Greyhawk. The short of it is that the most powerful cleric in the world used the artifact, Crook of Rao to mass-banish all demons and devils from the Flanaess. Let's analyze the Flight of Fiends and see if it is truly as momentous as it would seem:

Here is a few other events to put the Flight into perspective:

1. The "Greyhawk Wars" raged from 582-584 CY. Much of Iuz and Ivid V's might was due to the influence of many demons and devils summoned by way of gates.

"The Blackspear Chamber is Iuz's gate to the Abyss. Fiends are summoned through it and upon their return to the Abyss, the powerful nexus strengthens them..."
-Iuz the Evil

"Baalzephon guided Ivenzen's men to the Cauldron of Night and instructed the priests and wizards how to fashion the malachite throne. The baatezu offered diabolic aid in the form of spinagon and barbazu troops for the House of Naelax. Further, it gave the House of Naelax dark magical artifacts which the overking and his mages hold to this day...In return, Baalzephon asked for two things. First, the House of Naelax had to agree to cease all dealings with tanar'ri—except for enslaving them and banishing them. Second, Baalzephon graciously demanded the souls of Ivenzen's heirs and descendants for 888 years—should they rule from the malachite throne."
-Ivid the Undying

"Ivid's own throne room is a 40-yard diameter circular chamber with the great malachite throne set into the north wall...Once per week, if the correct command word is uttered, the throne can be used to open a gate to the uppermost of the Nine Hells."
-Ivid the Undying 

2. Delegates sign the Pact of Greyhawk ending the Greyhawk Wars in Harvester 584 CY. Rary "the Traitor" tries to subvert the Great Signing, killing Tenser and Otiluke in the process. When Rary fails to stop the signing, he flees to the Bright Desert and sets up his own realm with some planar aid.

"He summoned yugoloth and other creatures from the planes, and ordered them to transport Rary' Tower, as well as Robilar and his army, into the Bright Desert. There he ordered the yugoloth to construct a fortress for his new headquarters."
-Rary the Traitor

3. Circa 576 CY, at the behest of the Circle of Eight, a band of heroes liberate the Crook of Rao in the adventure Isle of the Ape, thus foiling the Witch Queen Iggwilv and her demonic allies. After this event, the Crook goes out of sight until it seemingly comes to Rel Astra post-wars.

"The Crook of Rao then passed from view for a time, until it resurfaced in the Great Kingdom following the Greyhawk Wars in the hands of the LordProtector of Rel Astra, an animus known as Drax the Invulnerable. How he acquired it is unknown, but some speculate it was lost by an agent of the Circle of Eight seeking to relieve the forces of Commandant Osson of Almor before their destruction in Medegia."
-The Crook of Rao, Oerth Journal #3 by Eric L. Boyd

"Rumors abound that the Lord Protector of Rel Astra. Drax the Invulnerable, has made known he has acquired a powerful artifact of Good. sacred in the Power Rao. He has offered this to the rulers of Veluna in trade for magical items more useful to the forces of Rel Astra. Veluna's Canon Hazen is depserate to have the artifact and is said to looking for powerful adventurers to travel to Rel Astra and back."
"This mission is important enough that Hazen's second-in-command, Patriarch Lemuel will accompany the PCs."
"Chaotic evil enemies of Veluna will not be pleased to see a mighty artifact of lawful good retrieved (Iuz is the obvious case)."
-From the Ashes, Atlas of the Flanaess

The Flight of Fiends and its Aftermath: 

Indeed, the Flight of Fiends was made possible not because of the wisdom of the Circle of Eight, but due to their misguidance or carelessness and of course the greed of Drax, who likely didn't know what the Crook could really do. Using the Crook of Rao was no small matter.

"In Coldeven 586, Canon Hazen of Veluna employed the Crook of Rao, a powerful artifact, in a special ceremony that purged the Flanaess of nearly all fiends inhabiting it. Outsiders summoned by Iuz, Ivid, or independent evils fell victim to this magical assault, which became known as the Flight of Fiends."
"In a stirring private ceremony attended by the entire College of Bishops, Canon Hazen (along, it is said, with the help from the archmage Bigby of Mitrik) employed the fabulous artifact to trigger the Flight of Fiends."
-Living Greyhawk Gazetteer

Whatever the Circle of Eight's internal politics was during the Greyhawk Wars, at least Bigby redeemed himself by helping with the Flight as well as assisting Veluna in pursuing Iuz afterward:

"...word spread through Furyondy of an extraordinary event. The great fiends that had patrolled and ravaged the many lands seized by Iuz were no longer in sight."
"...the artifact known as the Crook of Rao had been recovered, and it had been used by His Venerable Reverence, Canon Hazen, aided by many lesser priests and the archmage Bigby, to rid the Flanaess of the fiends' presence. Reports confirming the absence of those monstrosities conflicted with later news that a few fiends in scattered locations had withstood the Crook's effect and remained at large. Still, a majority of these demons had been cast from the Oerth, back into the depths of their home planes."
-Greyhawk, the Adventure Begins 

"Without his support structure of fiendish officers, Iuz's armies lost much of their striking power and organization. Belvor knew well that this chaos would not last forever. Furyondy's plight demanded action. At great cost to his own power and holdings, King Belvor IV initiated the Great Northern Crusade."

"Bereft of their powerful masters, many lesser nonhumans and ambitious human generals attempted to stage coups throughout the occupied lands, even as rebel bandits and indigenous populations took advantage of the Flight of Fiends to strike back at their oppressors."
-Living Greyhawk Gazetteer

Meanwhile, in the Great Kingdom, things weren't so hot for mad overking Ivid either:

"Immediately after the Flight of Fiends, it was announced in Rauxes that Ivid V was no longer overking, though it is unclear if he had actually died. Conflict engulfed the capital in a matter of hours as many of Ivid's generals and nobles, filled with rage and ambition, marched upon Rauxes. No one can explain the events that followed, but the city itself was soon engulfed in a strange magical field. Few willingly approach Rauxes now, given the bizarre eldritch forces that prevail where the ruined city stands." 
-Living Greyhawk Gazetteer

Did the Flight of Fiends have any lasting impact? Certainly the Great Kingdom was already smashed apart before then. The Flight of Fiends removed Ivid's last, best means to keep his very powerful rivals (wizard, animus, death knight, etc) in check. With Ivid gone, the east was up for grabs. Back in the west, the Great North Crusade in just three years, resulted in reversing many of the losses that Furyondy and the Shield Lands suffered in the Greyhawk Wars, the main victory coming in the Battle of Crockport (with Bigby's help). Some of the Bandit Lands and Stonehold also shook free of the yoke of Iuz's evil for now. Unfortunately, Iuz the Old still managed to bring the fighting to a stalemate despite the "permanent and unalterable state of war" declared by Belvor.

By 591 CY, as Belvor predicted it seems, Iuz either started summoning demons again or perhaps the proximity of his permanent Abyssal gate in Dorakaa protected some of them.

"Even after the Flight of Fiends, demons walk the grim battlements..."

"No one knows how many demons survived the Flight of Fiends in 586 CY; few have surfaced."
-Living Greyhawk Gazetteer

Post-Flight it's said Hazen, who was already old, was too weak to get out except in special occasions, like announcing the Great Northern Crusade. The Crook of Rao like Hazen, was kept out of sight during the intervening years. This is the only snippet I could find on what happened in Living Greyhawk play concerning Hazen and the Crook:

"In events that take place in the Living Greyhawk campaign, it is revealed that three Raoan priests were tricked into betraying Canon Hazen by accepting magical curses which transcribed the true names of 101 demons onto their skin in the forms of magical tattoos. These 303 demons were not banished. It is further revealed that most of the powerful demons left of their own accord to make the ceremony appear more successful than it truly was. In the aftermath, the Canon has rarely been seen due to his weakened condition and the Crook has lost most of its power."
-The Crook in Living Greyhawk

My Speculation and Conclusions:

1. It's glaringly important to ask, why did the Crook become lost soon after it was recovered by heroes in Isle of the Ape? Eric Boyd's war-focused theory is pretty solid for why it ended up in the Great Kingdom. A more scandalous reason however, is that Mordenkainen (who is not only obsessed with the Blood War between fiends, but also the Balance) wanted the wars to continue and dropped the Crook off in Rel Astra for his own twisted ends.

2. Did the Flight of Fiends directly affect Rauxes or the Malachite Throne? It's not known for sure how the capital of the Great kingdom fell to magical ruin, but Ivid or another wizard trying to use a broken Malachite Throne to summon more devils and accidentally destroying the city would make a pretty cinematic scene.

3. Did all of Rary the Traitor's yugoloth minions get unsummoned during the Flight or were they already released from service after constructing his fortress? This would have to be addressed for any campaign that uses this area in post-586 CY.

4. Can the Crook be used again to abjure evil on a grand scale? Not likely according to LG sources, but author Roger Moore in The Adventure Begins leaves the door open for it to be used again in some fashion. Due to his great age, Hazen would surely be replaced in anyone's campaign at some point. Perhaps a promoted Patriarch Lemuel would be strong enough to power the artifact again.

5. The ascendancy of evil was set up by Carl Sargent in the Greyhawk Wars/From the Ashes era. The Crook of Rao and Canon Hazen, in the Tales of the Year of Peace, was one of the suggested events that Sargent seeded for the next timeline advance that eventually came in the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer. In my opinion, the Flight of Fiends should have ultimately led to Iuz's defeat in Greyhawk publication if not at least in living campaign play. Sure Ivid V was removed from the chess board, but was he ever really an existential threat except in wartime? Vecna was arguably more a threat than Ivid the Undying in the same time frame. The Great North Crusade, billed as the push to end Iuz once and for all, was one backdrop for the Living Greyhawk campaign that played out over several more real life and in-game years. As far as I know, by the end of LG play and official Greyhawk publication (Paizo or WotC), Iuz still remained the defacto main villain.
Now, I understand there is a thematic reason to always have a Big Bad Evil Guy like Iuz at the center of the World of Greyhawk setting. I just think in hindsight, Iuz's ever-present, unbeatable evil made the Flight of Fiends less spectacular, especially once the demons started to inevitably creep back in (see Paizo's Savage Tide). The retrieval of the Crook of Rao and the Flight of Fiends should have been the Greyhawk equivalent of blowing up the Death Star in New Hope which led to the defeat of Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi.

6. The Flight of Fiends was meant to turn the tide for Good. Rather than someday using the Crook for Flight of Fiends 2.0, future Greyhawk authors should look to build on the Flight and Crusade by chipping away at the Old One even more. Develop the Soul Husk Caverns or have the REAL Vatun unite the north this time. Or hell have Mayaheine actually do something; wasn't she physically brought to Oerth to help Furyondy fight Iuz? There's plenty of work left to be done, Iuz must be vanquished. The Flight of Fiends should not go to waste.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Rulers of Ull: Ulzhak the Golden

Welcome again sages of Greyhawk knowledge. Delleb has tasked me with learning and documenting all things concerning the paltry land of Ull. This is the second installment of Rulers of Ull, where I recount the lore on the many Orakhans of Ull from throughout the centuries. Before you continue on, be sure to read my first article on Kuchakar the Dragon Slayer. If you are caught up, then for your reading pleasure, here is another heroic tale (Ull has heroes too) from 750 years before Kuchakar was Orakhan: The Saga of Ulzhak the Golden.

Ulzhak "The Golden" 
Orakhan of Ull from 2387 to 2420 BH (-272 to -239 CY)
(CN male human fighter 16)

Ulzhak the Golden, known for his long blond hair, gilded lamellar armor and a magical golden scimitar, is a name still sung by the minstrels of the Baklunish West. Few rulers of Ull have a greater lineage than Ulzhak. He is the son of Buhul the Warlike, defender of Ull's frontiers, grandson of Khuzhan the Builder who crafted the mesa-capital Ulakand, and great grandson of Ulaghai Ora Khan the revered founder of Ull. Ulzhak's saga starts as most do, during his childhood. 

A Prodigy is Born

Ulzhak was born an ordinary Uli boy, with dark hair and vicious temper. Among the women in Buhul's tribe however, it was commonly said that the orakhan's son was gifted with heroic awareness. Most notably, in his second winter, little Ulzhak caught and strangled a stirge that flew into his yurt. Though his sleeping mother and other attendants perished in the swarming attack, Ulzhak remained unharmed. As the boy grew, now raised by his sisters and aunts, he became preternaturally calm and began to exhibit an adept sense of sight, hearing and smell. Remarkably he broke his first horse before he was strong enough to string a bow. Eventually Ulzhak's phenomenal skills attracted the notice of his busy father. 

At age eleven, Ulzhak proudly rode at the side of his father training with hardened warriors loyal to the orakhan. Buhul the Warlike was a restless leader, always away from Ulakand and on the offensive against Ull's many perceived enemies. Unfortunately, this violent lifestyle brought aging Buhul Orakhan to his demise during a victorious battle on the Plains of the Paynims. Returning to Ulakand still too young and inexperienced, Ulzhak was now orakhan, but by tradition he was assisted and advised by his eldest uncles. One uncle was a fierce yet wise fighter, while the other was a scheming yet masterful horseman. They would both continue to train and raise Ulzhak to manhood, shielding him from many khanate intrigues. By the time Ulzhak turned nineteen, he embodied the traits of both his mentoring uncles and his ability to rule was no longer disputed by the Khanate Council who also found the new Orakhan exceedingly insightful and charismatic. Ulzhak however, had the blood of Buhul in him, thus he felt an ancestral urge to prove himself beyond the safety of Ulakand.

A New Threat Emerges

Ulzhak began to ride in force with his royal warband and tested his martial prowess against his fathers' enemies at home and abroad, yet his uncles never let him stray far from Ull's territory. Then during one fateful council meeting, at age twenty-one, the young Orakhan was brought news that both his elder uncles fell in battle against an incursion of vicious ogres from the Ulsprue Mountains. Worse, the invading ogres claimed to be incited by an enigmatic Lord of the Ogre-Magi. Amidst the Khanate Council's furious debate over this outrage, Ulzhak, without delay, discreetly departed Ulakand along with a detachment of his most trusted guards and entered the Ulsprues to personally face this new threat to his land.

Through intimidation and guile against every ogre he encountered, Ulzhak ventured deeper and higher into the mountains. The farther he ascended to look down upon his familiar plains, the Orakhan began to wonder if he was being intentionally lured to his doom. Finally Ulzhak and his surviving band reached a summit and found a hidden palace, old and carved into the surrounding rock. Here, they faced giants and demons alike, leering and laughing at their approach. The guards fled in terror and were chased down, but Ulzhak was undaunted and went alone into a great hall to stand before the imposing Lord of the Ogre-Magi. Naively, the young ruler assumed he would be facing a brute, but in reality this new threat was wise, cunning and possessing of an arcane intelligence. 

A Deal is Struck

It is said that instead of violence, Ulzhak and the Lord of the Ogre-Magi sat facing each other and engaged in a battle of wits and willpower, with the host treating his youthful counterpart with cultured hospitality befitting his station. Impressed with Ulzhak, the Lord of the Ogre-Magi made an accord with the Orakhan of Ull. The Orakhan was granted access to certain timberlands and silver mines in the highlands provided that the people of Ull would not war or interfere with the giant-kin of the Ulsprues. To seal the accord and reward him for his bravery, the Ogre-Magi presented to the young Orakhan the magical scimitar, Ganchabar, forged on another plane and said to be sharp enough to slice through metal and bone with ease. The Lord of the Ogre-Magi warned the foolhardy youth, should the bearer of Ganchabar break the treaty, then a great curse would befall him. Holding the scimitar aloft for the first time, Ulzhak's hair and armor instantly and irrevocably turned gold.

 A Golden Age in Ull

Ulzhak the Golden's triumphant return to Ulakand was heralded with awe and celebration by the assembled khanates. The Orakhan had brought the ogre incursions to an end and opened new sources of wealth to the Uli. Despite whispers of a pact with demons, the Orakhan now fearlessly ruled Ull, riding at the fore of a relentless horde and Ganchabar would become the gleaming golden symbol on Ull's battle standards. Years passed and still in his prime, Ulzhak the Golden had many adventures and won dozens of battles on the vast plains, yet the treaty with the ogres remained true. Indeed, many tribes gladly started to render aid to the Uli in procuring the riches of the mountains. As his legend grew, Ulzhak became more like his father Buhul the Warlike, exceeding him in every way possible. This confidence and power eroded his finer qualities, making the Orakhan spoiled and cruel to any who stood in his way, be they friend or foe. It is said even the sultan of Zeif gave up all attempts to pursue his interests into the realm of the indomitable Golden Maned Khan. 

A Divine Quest

As Fate would have it, one night on the frontier of the Ulsprues, the Orakhan hiked alone while his horde rested following a successful skirmish with the Paynims over water rights. It was high-summer and the Wadi Khijar was running drier than usual. Worse, many of Ull's lesser streams were suddenly fouled and unable to sustain their herds. Under the twin moons, at the edge of a pure spring, the golden warrior encountered a demure woman standing in a clear pool with fish swirling about her feet. Though the peoples of Ull had long abandoned their ancient religions, Geshtai, goddess of lakes and wells was one deity that was still held in reverence. Awed by her divine radiance, the ruler of Ull knelt by the waterside and heeded her troubling news; a monster called Korokhor was responsible for polluting the waters of Ull and though Geshtai did her best to purify the damage it wrought, she needed a hero to slay the menace.     

Ulzhak could not refuse her divine quest. Again he felt the weight of his ancestors calling on him to save his people; and so entering the pool with Geshtai, he was transported far away to a sludgy, smelly stream bed, where the imposing five-headed Ettin, Korokhor vomited its poison into the waters. Ulzhak was familiar with giant-kin, but nothing as twisted as this demon. Ganchabar shone as he advanced, causing Korokhor's many eyes to squint and grasp blindly at the golden hero. The skill and speed of the Orakhan brought the monster to its knees, even as it purged acidic filth and ichor in all directions, damaging Ulzhak's golden armor and blistering his skin in the process. Mighty Ganchabar was unaffected by the filth of Korokhor however, and as Ulzhak labored to sever the monster's heads one by one, vile trolls and other nameless creatures spawned from its lifeless husk and slinked away into the lightless depths. 

Redemption and Consequences

Ulzhak would not revel in his victory for he now knew that the despoiling monster was sent by the treacherous Lord of the Ogre-Magi. Returning to his army, the Orakhan of Ull brought grisly proof of his dire encounter and then turned the wrathful host toward the Ulsprues. Following mountain trails he last saw in his youth, Ulzhak swept aside howling demons and gibbering giants in their path until he again reached the ancient palace. This time wielding Ganchabar, there would be no negotiation. The Golden-Maned Khan drove the frightened Lord of the Ogre-Magi and his remaining minions from their lofty domain, but not before the voice of the Ogre-Mage could be heard echoing on the wind, invoking the curse he vowed long ago would come to Ulzhak if he ever interfered. While his men searched and looted the palace, Ulzhak gazed out to the horizon and pondered his doom. Little did the Orakhan know then, that the curse would actually be on his family line.

Ulzhak the Golden ruled Ull for thirty three years in total. Though the Orakhan was renowned and respected, because of this fame, Ulzhak's own family became foolish, haughty and thus despised by the khanates. Indeed, Ulzhak's eldest son, Durske the Unlucky would prove to be the least trusted, as his kin began to die in a series of mysterious accidents. The line of Ulaghai Ora-Khan would never recover. Meanwhile, the deserted palace of the ogre-magi lord was settled by followers of Zuoken and became the esteemed Falla-nil Monastery.
Upon his death, the body of Ulzhak the Golden was interred in the Great Catacombs of the Ulakand Mesa, but the magic scimitar Ganchabar vanished never to be seen again. 

The search has continued for hundreds of years. Most who seek the golden scimitar remain sure it is buried within the vast mesa, or was perhaps stolen back by the vengeful Lord of the Ogre-Magi. Some claim Ganchabar was hid by Geshtai at the bottom of a stream, or is perhaps guarded by the monks of Zuoken who have no use for such a blade, but may yet deliver it again to a new hero that is as worthy as Ulzhak the Golden.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Next Legends & Lore: Living Greyhawk

Hail Greyhawk fans! Just a quick announcement. There will be no Legends & Lore next Wednesday, but mark your calendars for the following Wednesday as we bring on a special panel of guests to talk about their experiences working on Living Greyhawk! I am sure many of you will have your own memories to share with the panel, so be sure to stop by and chat on the next Legends & Lore. See you there!

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Castle Greyhawk: Absolute Edition!

Hail Greyhawk legends! Today is a good day because I finally get to show off the result of years worth of hard work by Scott Casper and myself on the Castle Greyhawk comic which wrapped up a year ago. Even though my part was over, Scott diligently worked on publishing the collected works of this graphic novel and his short stories into the special hardback ABSOLUTE EDITION. Check out these pics of the covers.

For those who are new to this blog or our Castle Greyhawk comic, this was a story written by Scott "Scottenkainen" Casper based on Gary Gygax's original campaign. The story features iconic characters of D&D such as Tenser, Mordenkainen and Robilar.

The gorgeous Castle Greyhawk book I now hold was given out to our Patreon backers whose their loyal readership made the effort quite worthwhile. One backer is my good friend Allan Grohe who also supplied the foreword to the book. Thank you Allan for your sagely introduction.

Not only did Scott manage to self publish a 300+ page book of our work, he included extra commentary on each page. So far it's been a delight to just go back through and reminisce about the creation of this comic over the years. Truly breathtaking. I don't have enough words to express how satisfied I am now with this project. I've been published in Oerth Journal many times and collaborated with people in the Greyhawk community, but anytime you can have something tangible in your hands is extra special! My only wish is that I had contemplated this would be a print product at the end. I never look far past sharing stuff online when it comes to writing or art, so thank you Scott for being more ambitious than me.

Now that I've gushed about this book, I bet you're wondering how you can get your hands on one perhaps? Well, that is again out of my hands, so you'll need to ask Scott if there will be a second printing of the novel (I believe there was a less-expensive soft-cover variant for patrons). When I know more or hear about some interest in this book I will be sure to let him know. Until then, go and check out the Castle Greyhawk blog and read the story!

Update 06/27/2021: I've published a lot of articles, been in a few printed versions of Oerth Journal, but this book is still my proudest achievement. Scott as always deserves the credit for doing the writing, and leg work on this printed product.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Oerth Journal #31 Released!

Happy New Year, Greyhawkers! This is a good day to start off 2020 because I'm promoting the latest issue of Oerth Journal, winter edition (the theme is Factions). My good friend Kristoph Nolen at Greyhawk Online has been doing an amazing job bringing the ezine back and making it quarterly. He has definitely struck at the right time as the community has never been more into content creation than it has in the last ten or fifteen years. This is in large part to social media like Facebook and Twitch. I am glad Greyhawk is surviving into the 21st century and Oerth Journal in PDF (or print) will be a nice legacy for us old school gamers going forward.

You must check out issue #31, there is an incredible gathering of authors and artists in this one. I am particularly proud to see Greyhawk indexer extraordinaire, Jason Zavoda coming into this issue strong. I am also proud of the folks from The Greyhawk Channel and all who have contributed for the first time to this honored staple of the Greyhawk community.

Here is a packed lineup of what is in store when you download Oerth Journal #31:

Designing and DMing Factions by Allan T. Grohe Jr. (grodog) 
Rant of a Malcontent by Nathan Doyle (Attention Deficit & Dragons)
Rogues’ Gallery:    The Night Merchants by Will “Giantstomp” Dvorak
Rogues’ Gallery:   Cult of Steel by Jason Zavoda
Rogues’ Gallery:    The Blacksheep by James “AvatarOfWrath” Belk
Rogues’ Gallery:    The Blood Ravens by Kalvin Gearhart
Rogues’ Gallery:    Guild of Lamplighters and Torchbearers by Jason Zavoda
Rogues’ Gallery:    Cult of the Red Scythe by Kristoph Nolen
Rogues’ Gallery:   Celenian Suss Forest Knights’ Watch by Jay L. “Lord Gosumba” Scott
Rogues’ Gallery:    Church of Heironeous by Thom “Oronir” Vandervenne
Fiction:  The Castle by David Leonard
Rogues’ Gallery:    Origin of the Horned Society by Jason Zavoda
Fiction:   Espionage at the Royal Opera House by Kelli “TheOperaGeek” Butler with Krissy Dominy
Rogues’ Gallery:   Alliance of Defiance by Cal Scrivener
Rogues’ Gallery:   Grey College Observatory by Andy Miller and Kristoph Nolen

Update 06/27/2021: Again, the Greyhawk Channel is no longer active, but you can find their past streams on YouTube. Link updated.