Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Greyhawk News and Links

Howdy Greyhawk maniacs. It's that time of the week I throw out a few links to help promote Greyhawk content in the community. I'm sure you've seen most of these items already, but help me by boosting the signal. We need to keep awareness of the setting high in this new golden age of D&D fandom.

First and foremost is the exciting news that old-school publisher Goodman Games gets to do another 5E adaptation of a Greyhawk classic in OAR#6: The Temple of Elemental Evil. This is not an homage, or a mere reprint, but in the spirit of previous releases like Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and the Into the Borderlands, this is a full 5E adaptation alongside a reprint of the original AD&D super-module T1-T4. These books end up pretty weighty, but in my opinion it's a must have. Goodman's press release says this will be out late 2020 or early 2021. I'm guessing it'll be in time for Gary Con 2021, which is where I will snag a copy!

Next, over at the blog Hall of the Mountain King, my fellow Legends & Lore historian, Jason Zavoda has been putting out posts galore. Zavoda is famous for his Greyhawk Index of course, but when he stopped indexing years ago, the content didn't stop. Since he has been more active in the community, Jason has been indexing Greyhawk references in both recent products like the Saltmarsh Encounters and relatively older ones like Dungeon Magazine #148 which featured Spinecastle.

Jason has also tirelessly been posting regular updates on his Blackmoor, Land of a Thousand Witches, a campaign in this region unlike any you've seen before and the final chapter in his ongoing fiction The Hill Giant's Chief: Nosnra's Saga. Tune in daily to see what tidbit JZ posts next on his blog!

Lastly, speaking of Legends & Lore, this Wednesday, Jay Scott, Anna Meyer and myself will be hosting special guests from former Living Greyhawk's Sultanate of Zeif region. Even after having many members of Living Greyhawk on the show previously, I cannot wait to hear how there people played and developed their stories in the Baklunish lands. Also, I cannot wait to mercilessly taunt them about my homeland of Ull! See you there, or if you can't make the live show see the replay through LordGosumba's regular channel.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Let's Pick Through Greyhawk Ruins

Hail fellow Greyhawkers! I'm taking a break from researching and writing about my old 2E campaign, but I'm still staying with a 2E classic, Greyhawk Ruins by Blake Mobley and Timothy Brown. In 1990, Ruins was for the definitive Castle Greyhawk to us. We knew WG7 Castle Greyhawk was a joke and back then I hardly knew anything about Gygax's original campaign enough to go it alone. This book for $15.00 was worth every penny. It boasted 1000 separate room descriptions, though the maps and art left much to be desired. Needless to say, we played every inch of the three tower ruins and then when the adventure was played out, my friends rebuilt Zagig's castle!

Greyhawk Ruins was a success in my book (especially since it got a semi-update in 3.5E), but even if you disagree and have no desire to use it, there is still some quite interesting, obscure stuff you can mine from these dungeons. Let's pick through the ruins. Beware though, there will be SPOILERS.


The first one I'll throw out is the wizard group called the Ring of Five. Chat about this group came up recently on our show Legends & Lore and now digging back into the module I was thrilled to rediscover they are first mentioned in the "Rumors" section. That's right, rumor, it goes like this:

"Zagig, The Black One of the Vale of the Mage, Leomund, Melf and Serten, all powerful archmages and rivals to the Circle of Eight, watch the comings and goings of the Power Tower. They call themselves the "Ring of Five".

This entry is significant in hindsight because Len Lakofka (who guested on L&L) is adamant that his character Leomund was never in the Circle of Eight, but if not this celebrated group, why would Leomund be in this mismatched group either? The next problem is only Melf (an elf) would've been alive when Zagig Yragerne was a practicing mortal wizard. Since then, Zagig became a demigod, but for some reason he hangs out with a random assortment of other spellcasters from present day? Okay this part is true but Ruins aside, previous sources written by Gygax (the boxed set Guide and Dragon Magazine) clearly spell out who Zagyg the demigod hangs out with, and it's none of these guys for sure (his gang is Heward, Murlynd, Keoghtom, etc.). Also, I'm quite certain Serten was killed at the Battle of Emridy Meadows (an esoteric discrepancy). Now I could try to justify the Ring of Five's existence, but I'd rather the rumor is false. However, Ruins presents the Ro5 as a viable present day concern throughout the book. For example, it says if you steal too many magic items from the ruins, the Ring (or their minions) may come to Greyhawk to get them back! Indeed, there is many other clues of the Ro5 operating in the ruins, yet specifically working through representative wizards. More on that below.

The War Wagon: I'm no historian of Castle Greyhawk lore, unlike some in the community (and I drew a comic about the ruins!), but I'd like to know how much of this is part is in Gygax's original castle. Zagig's War Wagon is housed in the War Tower ruins, with its accompanying eight chariots. This is remarkable for a number of reasons. The "famed" (three axle?) War Wagon is big. It dominates a huge chamber. The chariots are made of bronzewood, trimmed in hornwood and adamantite. The chariots and wagon are worth a total of 65,000 gp to collectors. You wouldn't have to play past this first level and be rich. Of course, the army that originally piloted these vehicles still haunts the ruins. But why? Did Zagig bind them to this tower when he vanished? Seems cruel, but you'll see later on this is standard for the mad archmage.
And what foe was this deadly mobile force created to battle against? Zagig's reign was before Iuz and before the Temple of Elemental Evil. He may have intended to use it against the Great Kingdom or Furyondy, though there is no other mention I'm aware of involving Greyhawk defending itself against attack (though it is a walled city, with a huge citadel). Maybe it was to fight orcs and bandits in the Cairn Hills? There is some clues in the lowest levels of one tower that indicate Zagig was prepared to mass enslave ogres to use as an army, in addition to having stockpiles of magic items whose only use could be to utterly destroy an enemy and his land. One more thing, Zagig built the castle in 320 CY, which is 256 years before the start of the World of Greyhawk main storyline. I guess chariots were in style back then, because I can't think of any other instance of them being in a Greyhawk book!

The Purple Table: I'm going to spoil this magic item from the Power Tower because it's too damn cool to keep a secret, and in the module, they maintain only Zagig knows its full use, which is a travesty. Check it out:

"A large table made of purple marble laced with gold swirls fills most of this area...
The gold swirls of the table will seem to move if observed for long. In actuality this table is an artifact and thus is nearly impervious to harm. Its use is a secret that only Zagig knew...
If all in the room sit at the table, a gold symbol of an eye in a star will magically appear upon the table's center. A purple world with gold markings will form from vapor issuing from the eye...The world will begin rotating and ancient runes will start dancing across its surface.
The world is Oerth and the runes are names and numbers listing many things such as population density and type, mineral wealth, magical concentration, etc..."

This table is invaluable and is clearly tied to Zagig's patron, Boccob. Are you a ruler? The table sees all population figures (like troops?). You a merchant? It knows where all the best resources are at. You a wizard? It knows the best ley lines, magic gates, deposits of oerthblood, etc.

Zagig's Apprentices: According to the cumulative lore of Ruins, Zagig searched for ways to extend his life or become immortal. His ultimate success at becoming a demigod is known in the annals of Greyhawk lore, but what about those who helped along the way? Much like a pharaoh entombed in a pyramid, his servants (including those war wagon guys) seem to never get away from these ruins!

The Power Tower has a group of mummies who were once apprentices but their greed for life and magic made them undead after their passing.

In Zagig's Tower There is a lich in the ruins, also a former apprentice of Zagig who experiments on bodies of any creatures he can get his skeletal hands on.

There is another lich in this tower whose only duty is to log in those who visit Zagig's lowest levels.

And of course, there is also a demilich who guards a library. Naturally, Zagig's most trusted librarian wouldn't get to leave the ruins either!

Zagig/Zagyg has a present day apprentice who works with four other wizards tied to the Ring of Five to oversee the adventure. Their details are left to the DM to develop, but it's suggested the name of Zagig's rep is Kalbe and he is a neutral worshiper of Boccob. While "Kalbe" is specifically the most recent apprentice of Zagig here, there is many other evil wizards and spellcasters running around in Ruins that I won't get into (its a lengthy module). The point is, there is so much magic to be had and learned here, either no one wants to leave, or they can't leave!

The last topic I'll pick out of this adventure (there's so many I could write a regular column on just this module) is unique magic weapons. There's a couple nice ones in here that I highly doubt are known in the general Greyhawk community, so I'm going to spotlight them, so many you can introduce them to your campaign in some fashion.

Dryanon "the Greatest", is a sentient, vorpal two-handed sword +5 with an ego of 35 and an alignment of neutral (Zagig made it?). Besides the usual speech and telepathic features, Dryanon can detect magic, secret doors and invisible objects. It can teleport once a day. It can also cast Fly and Heal. What fighter wouldn't want this sword? Well Dryanon's special purpose is to defeat all diametrically opposed alignments. Yes you read that right. it opposes all alignments except neutrality.
The fun part is how Dryanon starts off subtle and helpful to its wielder, slowly introducing more of its purpose to the PC and the party. It will eventually want all PCs to change to neutral, convert to Boccob or become druids and make it the leader of the party. This is the sword version of militant Balance obsessed Mordenkainen. That's not all, Dryanon has a friend...

Onik aka "Thunk" is a sentient warhammer +2 that is lawful neutral (good) and has a measly ego of 6. Onik is bullied by Dryanon and because of this, it is prone to sobbing, whimpering and moaning about it's uselessness. The hammer is manic-depressed and mercilessly mocked by the sword who calls it Thunk. These two items can definitely be entertaining if not disruptive to a group!

Finally, there is a less obnoxious sentient magic weapon in Greyhawk Ruins named Harlrun. This neutral blade +4 empathically communicates that it was forged for the house of Yust in the Great Kingdom (obscure and wholly undeveloped outside this mod!). Harlrun can detect traps and cast strength, but its main purpose is to defeat non-human monsters (a very broad category). This blade is not a detriment to a party and it could open up a good intrigue subplot for any campaign set in Aerdy.

That's all for now. More next time!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

2E Greyhawk Wars Campaign:Prelude to the Series

Hail to thee, Greyhawk mavens! I hope you enjoyed my recent three-part epic Iuz-Furyondy War report. For those who missed out, I've been going through old 2E Greyhawk campaign notes of mine, and boy did I do A LOT OF WARS, but really isn't that what Gygax wanted? Back in AD&D's heyday, Gary supplied troop numbers in the setting books and he kept adding battles with Flanaess troop info in the pages of Dragon Magazine. War was inevitable and Carl Sargent is who brought it to us via a host of 2E supplements like the questionably useful Greyhawk Wars board game, Iuz the Evil, The Marklands, and the unprinted Ivid the Undying. To wage the many wars for my World of Greyhawk campaigns, I tried a mess of mass combat systems that all came out in the 80's and 90's, such as Companion Set's: Warmachine (my favorite), Battlesystem (I still use their counters), Birthright (loved those troop cards), and yes, even the Greyhawk Wars board game I'm afraid. This "silver age" of D&D gaming was probably our longest running campaign in terms of one continuous storyline. Ah, to be young again!

The upcoming series of wars I plan to present was recently rediscovered AFTER I posted my Iuz-Furyondy War on Greyhawkery. Chronologically however, that war is one of the last in our 2E campaign, so I'm going to pull a Star Wars prequel on you guys and go back to the start now. Disclaimer, I probably only remembered the huge Iuz-Furyondy War because I had done detailed maps and kept meticulous track of casualties. These remaining wars, timelines and assorted notes were written mainly in a narrative fashion, so battle data will not be as forthcoming. The upshot is there will be more detail in what was going on with my player's heroes during these worldwide events.

Here is a preview of the war chronology so you can see what I'll be writing about. You'll notice that my timeline was well ahead of published timeline of Greyhawk products (576-591 CY). I usually adapted new material to our ongoing campaign as it came out:

Great North War 605 CY to 609 CY
Great Kingdom War of Succession 610 CY to 611 CY
Pomarj-Celene War 610 CY to 613 CY
3-Month aka "Scarlet" War 613 CY
Schnai Civil War and Aerdy Civil War 616 CY
The Greyhawk Wars aka "The Bandit War" 617 CY to 618 CY
Battle of Bellport Harbor 623 CY
Iuz-Furyondy War 627 CY to 629 CY (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

Having dredged up material for eight more wars (wow) I have additional 2E campaign material I may write up that coincides with these events:

Final 2E Campaign Map of the Flanaess 638 CY
The High Ring (magocratic power group)
Revealed Land of Black Ice Colonization and Map
The Night Shadows (barbarian power group)

I hope this ends up a good trove of game material and ideas for your own Greyhawk campaign. Stay tuned!

Update 06/27/2021: Added links to associated articles that followed this prelude, for ease of navigation. Or you can find them all in the page tab for Best of Greyhawkery.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Furyondy-Iuz War Map, Part 3

Cold Iron Avail You, Greyhawkers! This is the third and final installment of my old 1990's 2E war campaign based on the map and troop figures published in Iuz the Evil and the Marklands. If you haven't read Part 1 and Part 2 yet, catch up real quick, but hurry back because Furyondy is in big trouble right now. Iuz has broken through the Flare Line and has the capital of Chendl under siege...

Map 3 (October 628- January 629)

October (wk 1): Booters Fall at Royal Highway. Iuz's undead horde marches on to Baranford. (Iuz gain) Losses 1000 undead, 20 spellcaster vs. 600 inf, 200 hv inf. During successful rescue of Patriarch Riggby at Izlen, heroes capture and bring back Boneheart member Panshazek.
October (wk 2): Betrayal of the Highfolk. Philidor is captured, taken to Dorakaa. Wood elves massacred, Iuz marches toward Sepias and Vesve Heartlands. (Iuz gains) Losses 600 orc, 20 fiend, 6 spellcaster vs. 800 elf.
October (wk 3): Iggwilv rescued from Graz'zt's Argent Palace.
October (wk 4): Demon lord Pazrael destroyed. Iggwilv leads heroes into a trap, imprisoned in Dorakaa. Timeless Tree besieged with fire and magic. (No gain) Losses 20 fiend, 5 spellcaster vs. few casualties.
November (wk 1): General Blood marches on Sepia Hills, gnomes flee west. (Iuz gain) Losses 200 undead, 200 orc vs. 200 gnome.
November (wk 2): Invasion of Willip. Waquonis and Lord Gregin fail to take port by water. (No gain) Losses 600 orc, 200 human, 200 undead, 21 spellcaster, 20 giant, 40 monsters vs. 200 pike, 600 inf.
November (wk 3): Flameflower and Quaalsten Burned. Ironstead Overrun. (Iuz gains) Losses 600 orc, 1000 losel, 20 fiend, 30 spellcaster vs. 900 demihumans, 500 human.
November (wk 4): Critwall Bridge Fixed. General Rehmat attacks Herechel. Heldarn Falls. (Iuz gains) Losses 400 orc, 20 giant, 200 undead vs. 1000 inf, 400 hv inf, 200 lt cav.
December (wk 1): Siege of Chendl Continues. City resupplied with magical aid. (No gain) Losses 600 orc, 20 giant, 5 spellcaster vs. 200 inf, 200 archer, 3 spellcaster. General Gallanten
December (wk 2): Willip Sacked by General Rehmat. Refugees escape by water to Dyvers and Greyhawk. (Iuz gain) Losses 1400 orc, 20 giant, 20 fiend, 200 undead, 10 spellcaster vs. 2800 inf, 200 pike, 200 lt cav, 200 hv inf.
December (wk 3): Highfolk Assaulted. (No gain) Losses 1000 undead, 20 fiend, 5 spellcaster vs. 800 demihuman.
December (wk 4): Highfolk Burned. Highvale Pillaged by Gen. Blood. (Iuz gains) Losses 800 undead, 800 orc, 40 giant vs. 800 human, 1200 demihuman.
Needfest: Icehand Plain Meeting. Iuz calls upon reserves in Howling Hills. Sends Legion of Black Death to Chendl. Calls for destruction of Greyhawk City, Dyvers, Nyrond, Urnsts next. Heroes and Philidor escape jail in Dorakaa. Philidor battles Iuz himself while heroes go to Abyss to acquire Iuz's Soul Gem
January (wk 1): Iuz forces consolidate in Furyondy.
January (wk 2): Heroes return and destroy Iuz's Soul Husks.
January (wk 3): Battle of Gorsend. Furyondy and Veluna rally. (Allied gain) Losses not reported.
January (wk 4): Battle of Chendl Fields. No results recorded.

Comments: First off I apologize to all my reader who have stuck with me while I talk about my boring home game, because I have no data or narrative result for the end of this War. This is it. I'm going to keep digging, but I'm at a dead end. More on this in a bit while I cover some other tidbits.

What happened to Panshazek after he was captured? I don't recall. I guess he was interrogated then executed. Hard to say, but it didn't prevent Iuz from overruning the Vesve and wrecking Highfolk.
What was the significance of rescuing Riggby? I don't really remember this either. Was it symbolic? Was he going to help with the Crook of Rao to banish all the demons in the war? Did I at any point even do the Flight of Fiends? Was it a favor for Mordenkainen? Don't know, but Riggby is suggested as one of Iuz's targets in Iuz the Evil though so I must've ran with it.
How was Philidor betrayed? How was he captured? How was he even fooled? Does anyone care?  
After I started writing up these war accounts I found one of my old DM notebooks, it says Graz'zt wanted Iggwilv and Iuz dead for trying to ally with Pazrael. This explains alot with the planar travel behind the scenes.
In these notes I also made General Sindol, who was also a cambion, the half-brother of Iuz, well really, a simulacrum invested with some of Iuz's power. I still like this idea.
Kermin Mind-Bender of the Boneheart turned traitor in this war after he was given information on the Soul Husk Caverns by Graz'zt, so Kermin in turn gave it to the PCs. The idea here was Kermin wants to make Sindol into the new Iuz. An alliance was made with Prince Lakaster in Aerdy who would run the east, Sindol the central Flanaess and Kermin the west. I don't think this exactly transpired in my campaign.
Critwall Bridge being fixed implies it must've been destroyed in the original Battle of Critwall from the Sargent-era storyline. If this happened maybe I did have a previous Flight of Fiends that soon was undone?
Icehand Plain is pretty cool, read about it. Philidor duked it out with Iuz, I assume Phil lost because he is never seen again. The PCs however are on a trajectory to end Iuz going after his Soul Gem and his Soul Husks. Do I have any notes on either of these? Nope, I looked. I don't keep my old game stuff as well as I thought I did.
The worst part of this exercise is not having the final reports on the Battle of Gorsend and the Battle of Chendl Fields. Gorsend had a result, I just didn't record the losses. Chendl Fields however, from the sounds of it was billed to be my version of the Battle of Pelennor Fields from Return of the King. I was (and still am) infautated with Tolkien back then and I especially loved the cartoon which features this battle. I have it on VHS. I have a vinyl record of the audio. This was the superbowl of fantasy war for me so I am positive this is where my campaign was headed. And yes kids, this was before the movies. 
So again, I apologize for having ZERO results on how this war ends. Chendl Fields is clearly the climatic battle of the war given it's the last thing I put on paper. Furyondy turned the tide and Iuz is weakened. It had to end with Iuz on the run, or maybe wth Iuz falling and Sindol-Kermin suing for peace? If I ever find out I will finish this story I swear!

One last announcement, as I was digging for info on this Iuz-Furyondy War, I amazingly found more wars and battles I did prior to this war in my 2E campaign. They are all less data heavy and more on the narrative side though. So, yes I will be writing up more battle stories for you all in the future. Huzzah!

Thanks for reading. Until the Starbreak!   

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Furyondy-Iuz War Map, Part 2

Welcome back Greyhawkers! If you are just coming into this 3-part epic post on my 1990's 2E war campaign, go back and read PART 1 to see the background of why and how I'm doing this. When you are all caught up, then pick up here on Part 2. Quick reminder, I am using earthly months because it was easier to reference back then. Second, the solid line is the battle front at the start of summer 628 CY, which corresponds to the end of the account in Part 1. Third, this time you'll notice the red line, this was a special mission undertaken by player characters in the middle of the war backdrop. Lastly, you'll need to click on the map to see the information at full size. This map was traced on notebook paper back in the day and originally, I never intended to display this online. But here we are! Now, back to the ongoing war between Iuz and Furyondy!

Map 2 Click to Enlarge
Map 2 (June 628- Brewfest 628)

Richfest 628: Master thief Palinestin cons his brother Alinolis and friend Rando into helping him rob Greyhawk City Treasury.
July (wk 1): Furyondyian provinces call up more levies to the front lines. Iuz's priesthood animates more undead at the Razing Line then march the horde east toward the Flare Line.
July (wk 2): Massacre at Crying Spear Keep. Demonic assassins sent by Xenvelen kill everyone, by night a orc warband holds the keep. (Iuz gain) Losses 40 fiends vs. 400 inf, 200 hv cav, 8 spellcasters.
July (wk 3): Skirmishes in Vesve. Highfolk forces turn back a huge warband. (No gains) Losses 400 losel, 400 orc vs. 200 elf.
July (wk 4): Morsten and Fendrelan Raids. (No gains) Losses 400 orc, 20 giant, 400 undead vs. 600 pike, 400 hv inf. Archmage Mayor of Greyhawk, Mortellan meets with leaders of Furyondian alliance.
August (wk 1): Heroes slay Boneheart leader Vayne in Admuntford. He is immediately replaced by Waquonis. Iuz moves reinforcements from Dorakaa to reinforce Xenvelen at Flare Line. General Blood given command of Kendragund Army from Howling Hills.
August (wk 2): Fall of Castle Ehlenestra. Key guardian of the west ruined by a force of undead and fiends. (Iuz gain) Losses 600 undead, 6 spellcasters, 20 fiends vs. 200 archer and Sharnalem herself is slain.
August (wk 3): Redoubt and Spinecastle Besieged. (No gains) Losses 600 orc, 9 spellcasters, 400 human, 20 fiend vs. 400 inf, 200 pike, 200 lt cav, 200 archer.
August (wk 4): No movement. Siege continues.
September (wk 1): No movement. Siege continues.
September (wk 2): No movement. Siege continues. 
September (wk 3): Flare Line Collapses. Alliance of Good retreats over Crystal River. Spinecastle, Greatwall, Moatshield and Redoubt are lost. (Iuz gain) Losses 2200 undead, 40 spellcaster, 400 human, 20 fiend vs. 2000 inf, 200 hv inf, 600 archer, 8 spellcaster, 400 pike, 400 lt cav. Artur Jakartai and Baron Kalinstren are slain.
September (wk 4): Iuz forces consolidate and move south. Raid on Timeless Tree in Vesve. (No gains). Losses 20 giant, 200 orc vs, few casualties.
Brewfest: Siege of Chendl. Destruction of Cerenellyl's Towers. Morsten and Fendrelan Overrun. (Iuz gains) Losses 1000 orc, 20 fiend, 20 spellcaster vs. 1000 inf, 200 archer. Meetign at Timeless Tree between powerful mages including Mordenkainen, Philidor and Mortellan. Heroes sent and rescue Patriarch Riggby from the Land of Iuz.

Commentary: Wow this campaign is bleak. As I re-read my accounts and retype them I vaguely recall the severity of these battles as much as the special missions that my players undertook. I am sure that the deaths of Sharnalem, Kalinstren, etc. were not a big deal to my players as much as the sidetrek to take out Vayne or rescuing figures like Earl Holmer or Riggby. 
There was definitely two or three separate games going on simultaneously here. One, the wargame I was conducting week by week (including rolling for weather or other events). I don't think the players had control over these maneuvers except to play out the rolls, otherwise Furyondy would have been on the offense rather than defense. That's how players are after all. 
The second game was old high level characters, like my friend Brian's wizard Mortellan. He was running Greyhawk back then, and we had got into the political realm using a lot of conniving and deal-making with big name NPCs like Mordenkainen, Philidor and more, but it's clear Mortellan was only interested in defending Greyhawk, or his family home of Highfolk as he never directly got involved (typical of archmagi). His meeting in Furyondy was probably to profit off the losing war effort. That's how he was played!
Speaking of which, the sidetrek of robbing the treasury was likely one of these conniving plots I devised to punish Mortellan by using the third game as pawns.
The third game was the active adventuring characters at this time period, the Brotherhood (Brothers in Arms) led by elven wizard Alinolis and halfling rogue Rando Wiggins. This group was based in Greyhawk, had their own Adventurers Guildhall and even had a Rugby team. They were however very instrumental in the behind the war sorties against Iuz. I don't recall who slew Vayne, whether it was Mortellan or the Brothers in Arms. My guess it was the latter. 
I am not sure General Blood is a published NPC from Iuz the Evil. I think this was a villain made specifically for this campaign, possibly from one of my player's backstories, to be a foil of the Brothers in their Iuz missions. He ends up leading a massive army against the Vesve.
It's interesting to me today that I used Philidor at all. I was in love with everything Carl Sargent wrote for Greyhawk in 2E, and this mysterious blue wizard was a benefactor I thought would have long lasting implications down the road for the World of Greyhawk. Boy was I wrong! 

Tune in soon for Part 3. The war gets even more grim-dark, just the way Sargent liked it.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Furyondy-Iuz War Map, Part 1

Well met lords and ladies of Greyhawk! Today I have an unusual treat for your eyes and senses. This topic is so epic in fact, it will take me THREE POSTS to get through all the information! Yes, I'm going to bore you by talking about my home campaign. But not just any campaign (I've had several unlike Jay Scott), but my "silver age" 2E campaign set during the heyday of writer Carl Sargent, especially Marklands/Iuz the Evil/Ivid he Undying. This was circa 1993 back when I was in the middle of my college days, full of energy to play D&D and do class work at the same time. Of course while I was in lectures I was really working on notes for my next Greyhawk session, or in the case of these maps, I was amusing myself by drawing maps and recording the historical accounts of actual battles me and my friends conducted. Greyhawk Wars the board game came out in 1991, so pitting the entire Flanaess in conflict was a hot topic for us, especially since we'd been waging wars prior to this using only the scant troop strengths Gygax gave us in the 80's boxed set (and mostly using war machine rules in the D&D Companion Set). Less so with Wars, and moreso with Sargent's books, the greater detailed maps and troops strengths opened up things for a highly detailed campaign between the forces of Good against the Old One, Iuz. You'll see below, that the timeline for the map starts in 627 CY, that's because my campaign had been rolling a long time before Sargent's stuff came out, so I was making use of information meant "canonically" for 40 years prior. No worry, happens to us all!

Another thing, the map below was regrettably drawn on notebook paper. Like I said, I wasn't paying attention in class. If I knew that I'd be referencing these to a wider audience decades later, I'd have used something clearer and maybe in color. At any rate, I've scanned and tried to sharpen it as best as I can. The campaign map is based (and traced) from the maps found in Marklands/Iuz the Evil and it shows the thick starting border line in 627 CY, and then shifting fronts, troop strengths, special events and leaders as they are at the end of summer 628 CY. I have always loved military history and this is the closest I've ever come to accurately recording a Flanaess war or battle besides my account of the Battle of Emridy Meadows. If time was no object I'd do more of these, though this one will forever be unmatched because we actually played this campaign out. If you can make sense of the map, read along with my edited notes for the campaign (sorry I don't use Greyhawk months, it was easier thinking in Earth months as we played it out). Finally, I need to point out that battle losses are registered by Iuz forces first followed by Good allied forces.

Now, please enjoy the Iuz-Furyondy Campaign Part 1 of 3!

Map 1: Click to Enlarge

Map 1 (September 627- June 628)

Prelude 627 CY: Elven wizard, Mortellan becomes mayor of Greyhawk, marines retake Safeton, thieves guild is run out of the city.
September (wk 1): Ambassador of Iuz withdraws from treaty citing illegal activities between Furyondy, Veluna, Greyhawk Domain and Celene.
September (wk 2): The Gold Dragons (mercenary army) hired by Mortellan to defend Greyhawk.
September (wk 3): Mortellan visits Dyvers, is not welcomed well.
September (wk 4): Panshazek and Xenvelen re-open raids into Vesve with greater magic assistance. Furyondy declares state of war with Iuz. Troops move on the Fronts.
Brewfest: (no events)
October (wk 1): Swarming Ground-Razing Line Offensive (no gains). Losses 600 undead, 200 orc vs. 400 inf.
October (wk 2): Salamandra Offensive (no gains) Losses 200 undead, 200 orc vs. 200 pike.
October (wk 3): Moatshield Offensive (no gains) Losses 400 orc vs. 200 inf.
October (wk 4): First wood elves affected by chain madness. Vesve skirmishes. Losses 200 losel, 200 orc vs. few elves.
November (wk 1): Skeleton horde moves across Razing Line (Iuz gain) Losses: 200 undead, 200 orc vs. 200 inf, 200 archer, 200 lt cav.
November (wk 2): Spinecastle-Redoubt Assault (Iuz gain) Losses 1000 orc, 200 undead vs. 1000 inf, 200 pike, 200 hv inf.
November (wk 3): Work begins on old Critwall Bridge. Both sides regroup.
November (wk 4): Supplies robbed. Fendrelan Offensive (no gains) 200 undead, 400 orc vs. 200 inf.
December (wk 1): No movement. (heavy snow)
December (wk 2): No movement. (heavy snow)
December (wk 3): Salamandra Counter-Offensive led by Trithereon priests. (allied gain) Losses 400 orc vs. several clerics.

628 CY
Needfest: No movement. (cold)
January (wk 1): A chimera attacks Brancast. (no gains) Losses: 1 chimera vs. 1 resident wizard.
January (wk 2): No movement. (heavy snow)
January (wk 3): No movement. (cold)
January (wk 4): No movement. (cold)
February (wk 1): Knights of Hart (Highfolk) with Sharnalem, hunt orcs. (allied gain) Losses: 200 losel, 200 orc vs. few.
February (wk 2): No movement. (cold)
February (wk 3): Greatwall-Moatshield Offensive (no gains) Losses 1200 orc, 6 cleric, 12 fiends vs. 400 inf, 200 pike, 200 m cav, 10 spellcasters.
March (wk 1): Greyhawk sends troops to disband Pelgaryn bandits. Iuz reinforces front lines. Furyondy calls up militia in Kalinstren (1000) and Crystalreach (1200).
March (wk 2): Greyhawk defeats Pascorel and Cantona. Major raid on Castle Ehlenestra (no gains) Losses 200 undd, 200 orc, 10 cleric vs. 200 archer.
March (wk 3): Molag Offensive. Heavy fiendish presence. (no gains) Losses: 200 orc, 200 undead, 10 spellcasters, several demons vs. 200 pike, 200 hv inf, 200 inf, lt cav, 2 clerics.
March (wk 4): No movement.
Growfest: No movement.
April (wk 1): Flare Line Offensive. (no gains) Losses: 2000 orc, 20 giant, 10 spellcasters vs. 800 inf, 400 lt cav, 200 archer, 3 spellcaster.
April (wk 2): Flare Line Offensive continues (no gains) Losses: 2200 orc, 200 human, 20 giant, 20 spellcaster vs. 600 inf, 200 pike, 400 lt cav, 200 hv inf, 5 spellcaster.
April (wk 3): Sharnalem's scouts hunt in the Vesve. Losses 400 orc, 2 spellcaster vs. no casualty.
April (wk 4): Assault of Redoubt. (no gains) Losses 20 giant, 20 fiend, 200 orc, 200 undead, 20 spellcaster vs. 400 inf, 200 pike, 200 hv inf.
May (wk 1): Iuz conscripts Vesve goblins. Drives them west into wood elf territory.
May (wk 2 to wk 4): Border Skirmishes. (no gains) Losses 20 giant, 1000 orc vs. 200 pike, 400 lt cav, 400 archer.
June (wk 1): No movement.
June (wk 2): No movement. Furyondy hires heroes to successfully rescue Earl Holmer from Dorakaa. (module, City of Skulls)
June (wk 3): Moatshield Sieged. (Iuz gain) Losses 400 human vs. 400 inf, 200 lt cav.
June (wk 4): Greatwall Sieged. (Iuz gain) Losses 20 fiend, 200 human, 400 orc vs. 400 inf, 200 lt cav.

Comments: Mortellan is an elven archmage once played myself in 1E then by my late friend Brian Kuebrich. Because Mort was so instrumental in my games, many of my Greyhawk friends will know I've used Mortellan as a screen name for years.
I don't remember why Dyvers hates Mort, but I'm sure it's something Brian did, he played Mortellan as a very haughty and power-hungry wizard (he didn't like the Circle of Eight either). Bonus anecdote, Brian and my friend Jayson's character Valkaun Dain once rebuilt the three towers in Greyhawk Ruins and over an argument, Mortellan bought Valkaun's share.
The module City of Skulls was played out in one evening at my friend Eric's house. I vaguely recall cutting ALOT of corners to finish this adventure, but I recycled much of the info in later adventures where the players tried to mess with Iuz.
Next post will cover the war from June 628 to Brewfest 628. Things ramp up in this shorter time frame. See you then!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

D&D: Alternate Vision Rules

Hey there Greyhawkers! Today is an off day for me, because I want to discuss D&D instead of setting lore. Strange I know, but this issue popped in my head recently and has been a concern of mine for a very long time I imagine, but has only become more pronounced in recent 5E rules. I am talking about playable races with darkvision. I apologize in advance if you've read a rant like this on other blogs years ago, it's caught up to me finally.

I will not get into a lengthy comparison with previous editions for expedience sake. I know AD&D had varying degrees special sight like infravision, later low-light vision, etc. I am going to assume the nine presently playable races in the PHB have traits consistent over their D&D history. Okay, my gripe is that darkvision (seeing normal in dimly lit conditions or seeing dim in darkness) is an easy crutch for D&D games to get around pesky things such as lanterns and torches. Sure, human and halfling characters still need to use these devices, but can easily circumvent this need through simple spells or magic items. Why is this important to me? Because as a DM, having a party that is either intentionally or unintentionally comprised of characters entirely with darkvision takes an entire tool out of your storytelling tool bag; fear of the dark. For a game that is traditionally built on dungeon crawling and cave exploration, PCs venturing into the darkness is part of the challenge. If this challenge is nullified easily by the game itself, then the DM may as well provide ample lighting for the PCs and move on.

Quick note: yes, magical darkness can be used to nullify superior PC vision, but if it's used too much it becomes obvious and personally directed at the players which isn't cool either.

Out of nine playable races in the 5E PHB, only three do not have darkvision. That means if a group of five players randomly picked their race at character creation, there would 3.33 heroes with darkvision at start. If the number leans to 4 out of 5, from my experience, that one outlying player is immediately pressured to make up for this visual deficiency somehow or become a burden to his night-sight allies. In my opinion, an option to remove this mechanical advantage, is to leave darkvision to creatures or races that live a majority of their life underground, which is logical, and give them a more personalized vision trait. Now let's examine these six races with darkvision and what can be given alternatively.

Side note: why don't Dragonborn have darkvision? Intuitively, being related to dragons you'd think they would! I saw this as the designers realizing that there were too many races with darkvision and made the unfortunate choice to exclude this new race from the club. Moving on...

Dwarves: Most PC dwarves are either hill or mountain. Sure, they work in dim conditions at home, but do they not have lighting in their stone halls? Of course not! Now the subrace Duergar deserve DV being a true Underdark culture. For those dwarves who tend to spend most of their time in the light I'd instead give them Expertise in Investigation skill (double proficiency bonus to checks) based on their years of detailed crafting in dim conditions. I'd also give dwarves, a martial culture Blindfighting, a trait which will negate the disadvantage of combat in darkness.

Elves: Again, elves who are an above-ground race are assumed to be superior to humans in every regard. This is summed up in the Keen Senses trait which gives them advantage to Perception checks. This is huge on its own because perception is all the senses, not just sight. So the fact they have DV is overkill. Drow, like Duergar deserve it because they are a true underdark culture. Instead of DV I'd give elves as a whole the ability of Telescopic Sight, so they suffer no range penalties and give them advantage on a single aimed shot per round (think Legolas archery in LotR).

Gnomes: Deep Gnomes, Underdark, yadda yadda. Rock gnomes however, more so than dwarves I gather, tinker in dim places so their eyesight should be ideal for up close things. This is why I suggest Keen Senses on Investigation (advantage on all checks).

Half-Elves: Not totally cool like parent elves, these characters still deserve some good eyesight, but certainly not full on darkvision. Let's make them resilient since they are typically outcasts by giving them Keen Senses on Survival (advantage on all checks). Think Tanis in Dragonlance.

Half-Orcs: Okay half-orcs have darkvision, why? Cause orcs like to raid at night, might be sensitive to light, I don't know, but that shouldn't make these characters on par with drow or duergar or heck plain elves! Let's scale them back with Expertise in Perception (double proficiency bonus on checks) and Blindfighting like above.

Tieflings: The newest, popular entry to the PHB, these characters have fiendish heritage. They are not necessarily from the Underdark, but neither are they from the Abyss either (I'm sure all demons and devils have DV). Let's make Tieflings unique by giving them Infravision, a trait that gives them Keen Senses on Insight (advantage on all checks), to spot lies and read people's intentions and Expertise on Perception (sight only) to locate creatures who are hidden, based on the ability to see faint heat signatures. Obviously this only works on living creatures.

How's these house rules look? Got a better idea or tweak? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

New: Faiths of the Flanaess

Greetings Greyhawk faithful I hope everyone has been staying healthy in these trying times. Keep Incabulos at bay! And speaking of deities and faithful, it's time to promote Joseph "Greyhawk Grognard" Bloch's last and best 5E adaption of Greyhawk material. His book, Faiths of the Flanaess covers an amazing 69 deities with all the requisite game info you need to steep your 5E clerics in Greyhawk lore. Go follow Joe on Patreon so he keeps making more quality publications like this, and then if you haven't already, go back and download the other 5E books in his collection plus a host of many Greyhawk themed works. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Hand Drawn Oerth Polar Map

Hail Greyhawkers! Today I am sharing one of my ancient hand drawn maps that I evidently did for my own amusement, because this was pre-2000 and I clearly never did anything substantial with it until now. My best mapping buddy Anna Meyer has been doing among many current projects, an Oerth globe projection using scientific methods and cool software. My totally artistic, not scientific attempt back in the day looks like this: 

This zoomed in beast of a polar map is based on the expanded Oerik inset map in the boxed set Glossography. Back before the Dragon Annual #2 Oerth Map took the Greyhawk community by storm, I favored a looser continental distribution of my own. Mind you, I knew nothing about Aquaria back then, so no that is not on this map. Likewise, I didn't have the Scarlet Brotherhood, so I don't recall if my Hepmonaland is a large island or part of a greater southern hemisphere continent. Also, on this scrap map I drew migration routes that exist in the published source, but mine goes into where the Flannae migrated in ancient times!

Back then I had some intriguing ideas that the Flan were very old, but very advanced contemporaries of the Suloise Empire, but they had collectively declined by the time the Suel and Oerids migrated into the Flanaess. Notably, the Flannae at every turn were destroyed by the corruption of Tharizdun somehow; Sulm in the Bright Desert is one example. Where else did these Flan go? That's where this polar map shows their paths (marked "F")  and I have notes on the margins which I'll try to decipher for your consideration. Note that, the Flan originate in what is present day Land of Black Ice (and Blackmoor?). This was influenced less by Dave Arneson unfortunately since I didn't own much of his D&D stuff back then. Using the cursed black ice cap the Flan spread around my globe haphazardly. Let's see if this makes sense...

The Flan "eastern" migration leads to a pincer-shaped coast where there is Tdon, of Arnd's Invulnerable Coat fame. Tdon is a peaceful land of psionicists. Also in that bay I have notes in this region for illithids who take Tdonian slaves, an area of psioncists who are very lax and drugged all the time and an isolated island realm called Nuplacia. Sweeping north along that continent the Flan have "5 coastal kingdoms" bordering a valley of avariels. The eastern spur that breaks off an curls back toward the Flanaess I believe ends up being the Sinking Isle civilization seen in Greyhawk Adventures, that is gone by the time the Aerdi show up. If I recall, I theorized Tharizdun (of course) ruined these people long ago and turned them all into sahuagin!

The Flan migration trail that goes "due-north" over the ice into some subcontinent encounter snow elves, spirit lands.There is also contact with people influenced by Gygax's Oriential Adventures rules, realms called Edosaka and Morioka. The "northwest" trail of the Flan migration runs into another smaller continent of my own creation. Here there is a xvart culture, a mountainous enclave like Tibet, and a Pleistocene region with Neanderthals. The "western" trail splits through and curls back to Oerik interestingly running counter to Baklunish migration. Of course, before I knew anything of Beyond the Flanaess I had this branch of Flan pass through some places like the Forsaken Desert, the Valley of Spiders and instead of the lamentable "Orcreich" I have a place ruled by Jann. These notes are faded and written very small.

All in all it's fun to do world building with Greyhawk. I'm not crazy about my old mapping efforts, but I do still hold to my theories on ancient Flan being more advanced. Maybe if I find my old Flan notes I'll write up that treatise another day. If you have any comments feel free to add to this madness. Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Custom Greyhawk Dicebag

Howdy Greyhawkers! Today I'm showing off a wonderful present I got from my good friend and regular Greyhawk players, Brandi. You guys think I'm creative? She is multi-talented at music, athletics, gaming, art, crafting, cosplay, streaming, etc. Oh yes, and she currently works in the senior health care field, so she is very essential as a worker too. Because I'm her favorite DM (or so I imagine), Brandi recently customized this amazing dice bag for me and I must say, I have a lot of dice bags, but I don't have one that says Greyhawk on it, much less "Greyhawk Grognard" (sorry Joe you can't have it). She knows me well, even remembering that I started playing Greyhawk in 1982. Good times! 
While we are all homebound during these crazy times, check out and follow Brandi's stream (twice a week) on Twitch. If you are into variety video gaming, chill chats and occasionally music, this is the place you can find me online when I'm not doing my own Greyhawk streaming. Until next time!