Saturday, August 29, 2020

Greyhawk Novel: Siege of the Tower

Howdy Greyhawkers! It's a busy weekend and I don't have any new content to share, but I do have some new old content to show off, that I should've promoted a long while back. My good pal, Thomas Kelly at the blog Greyhawk Stories had an amazing interview back in July with Kem Antilles, author of the Greyhawk Adventures Endless Quest novel, Siege of the Tower. I was bowled over by this interview. Published in 1994, I had no idea there was a Greyhawk Endless Quest book.

Given the cover is the From the Ashes boxed set by Jeff Easley, this story is set during the war between Furyondy and Iuz. You play a 17-year old fighter named Corlen. As you would expect from a "choose your own" story, Corlen has some hard choices to make as forces of Iuz are coming to siege Dragon's Eye Tower (I wonder if its on Anna's map?). To make matters worse, Corlen, who I remind you is a fighter, was cursed by an evil wizard and now cannot touch metal without it causing pain. Needless to say, I somehow successfully led Corlen to victory in my first read-through of the book.

My main reflection on this book was how well it fit with Greyhawk published sources. This enjoyable story adds and does not detract from any RPG sources. It felt like a nice one-shot D&D session involving a couple players. The book has great interior illustrations by Terry Dykstra, but lacks a map of any kind, sadly. Then again, the story does not technically need a map. It references Crockport, Whyestil Lake and the Dulsi River for instance, but all of this is just to set the scene. At any rate, Siege of the Tower made me feel young again. I really wish there had been more Greyhawk novels like this and less like Master Wolf or the Eyes Have It by Rose Estes who did indeed write Endless Quest books, I'm just not sure for Greyhawk specifically.

The other cool thing about this is the author signed my copy! Thanks Kem! Thank Thomas! I will forever cherish this little novel among my Greyhawk collection. Again, go read his interview with Kem Antilles if you haven't already! Until next time, enjoy!

Monday, August 24, 2020

Comments on New D&D Book: Tasha's CoE


Ahoy Greybeards! I'm sure I don't need to belabor the news of Wizard's teased and now announced splat book Tasha's Cauldron of Everything. So I'll make some comments based on what little I know:

  • The cover of Tasha and variant cover especially are gorgeous. I don't know the artists, but it's the first time I'm uncertain which I want to buy. I'll probably lean toward the evil Tasha (Iggwilv as we call her) because it subtly shows Graz'zt and his six fingered hand and possibly a hint of Vecna in the corner as well. The contrast of the off-white margins with her distinctive dark green apparel and dark hair  along with Graz'zt's ebony form is eye-catching!
  • The use of Tasha as a licensing character for a D&D book is remarkable. We've had the privilege to see Iggwilv on the covers of magazines and as interior art throughout the editions. Never before have we seen Tasha (or Natasha the Dark as she was known when adopted by Baba Yaga) depicted in this early form before she got heavily invested in demonology. There is extra art I assume from this book showing Tasha sitting outside the Hut. Love it.
  • The book Tasha holds on the primary cover in Greyhawk lore could potentially be the Tome of Zyx, a book discovered by the Company of Seven back when she hung out with the likes of Zagig Yragerne who with Tasha's aid would entrap the demonlord Fraz-Urb'luu. Tasha would go on to steal this book, run off to the Yatil Mountains, become Iggwilv and add on to this book renaming it the Demonomicon of Iggwilv and go on to trap Graz'zt. I will give the writers of TCoE all my money if they manage to include all of this esoterica in their book.
  • Again I'm positive about having an obscure character like "Tasha" headline this even if 99% of gamers will only know her by the Hideous Laughter spell. It's just another feather in the cap of Greyhawk as far as I'm concerned. Ed Greenwood used to write dozens of mage and spell articles for Dragon Magazine. I don't see them naming a book after the Simbul.
  • As to the contents, I won't list them here. Go read the press releases and news articles online. It's a slew of new variant rules which I'm positive will be a turning point for fans of 5E D&D. I predict 6E will be informed by this book in the future. Mind you I don't believe a new edition is on the way, I'm just hoping this is a marker along the way. I'm still pleased with the pace of WotC releasing new books and stories.
  • I'm very intrigued to see their magic tattoo rules. I only ever seen magic tattoos in play for Eberron (dragonmarks), but I haven't kept up with that setting in 5E, so it'll be cool to see what core D&D offers.
  • I'm anxious to read the sidebar comments in Tasha. They have been a treat in previous books, so I'm positive this one will carry on that tradition.
  • I'm positive I will buy this. I love anything Iggwilv related. She used to be one of my faves from my old Greyhawk webcomic.
That's all for now. Once I have Tasha CoE in my hands, we will see how it measures up!

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Greyhawk 40th: Comic Rewind


Hey Greyhawkers! I'm drawing a blank today so let's re-read one of my classic Greyhawk Comic specials from 2010, back when I had more crazed creative energy. Development of the World of Greyhawk Setting is a humorous, yet well-researched article I made to celebrate Greyhawk's 30th anniversary. Welp, I guess we are up to the 40th anniversary now. Wow! Pay particular attention to the part about the joke Castle Greyhawk module. It will blow your mind! 

Sunday, August 16, 2020

New Greyhawk Magic Item Ideas


Hail Greyhawkers! Before I get into today's subject, if you haven't already, be sure to check out and sign up for Virtual Greyhawk Con coming October 2-4, 2020. It's meant to bring the Greyhawk community together young and old and it's for charity. Win win. See you then!

As I work on a couple side Greyhawk projects I find my blog i being neglected. So today I'm just going to brain storm some magic item names to work on later using 5E rules. Or hey, maybe one of my readers can take up the reigns and design these items for me using your preferred edition. Either way, that's what we do in the Greyhawk community. So, everyone has heard of magic items named after Greyhawk gods and quasi-deities like the Quiver of Ehlonna, Heward's Handy Haversack and Keoghtom's Ointment. There is also the less well known Shoes of Fharlanghn, Mantle of Celestian, Zagyg's Flowing Flagon and Boccob's Blessed Book. Surely there is more magic items out there named for other deities great and small? Not artifact level stuff mind you, just wondrous items you could find in the hands of worshipers of any class for example. Here is my brainstormed list of name ideas. I sort of have an idea in my head what they do, but I don't have time to flesh them out. If you have power suggestions throw them my way. Enjoy! 

Berei's Plentiful Pouch

Lenses of Delleb 

Talisman of Joramy 

Torc of Kord 

Gloves of Kurell 

Llerg's Barbarous Belt

Lydia's Lyrical Lyre 

Scabbard of Mayaheine 

Myhriss' Mesmerizing Mirror

Rudd's Lucky Charm

Trithereon's Scouting Signal

Mask of Wastri

Xan Yae's Meditation Mat

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

2E Greyhawk Campaign Files: The Ship

 Heya Greyhawk maniacs! By now you've already seen my lengthy series of 2E Greyhawk Wars posts. I've been having fun going through all my old, notes, maps and even drawings, trying to piece back together our games from the 90's. Sometimes I run across stuff that is over the top. "THE SHIP" is one of these crazy things. 

Somewhere between our Bandit War (618 CY) and the Iuz-Furyondy War (627 CY) was something I called the "Border Wars" which judging from my dearth of notes, was a bunch of left over skirmishes from all the previous wars. One such conflict was the Battle of Bellport Harbor. Putting down these pesky border wars was one thing my friends' characters had to contend with, but being high-level, they had ample resources to deal with their enemies in a let's say, disproportionate manner. As I've written many times before, my friend Brian was the player of the elven archmage Mortellan, and Jayson played the barbarian hero Valkaun Dain. Both were involved in several of the aforementioned wars either directly as conquerors or behind the scenes. In order to deal with so many unruly nobles or aspiring warlords across the wide Flanaess, they created THE SHIP. Have a look at this sketch I did. It looks like a galleon with a tower on the back yeah? Well read on...

Mortellan was mostly responsible for crafting this monstrosity of a vessel since it is an enchanted "item" and it was built in 619 CY at a port in Ilshar (former Scarlet Brotherhood), though I wager Valkaun lent a hand financially. THE SHIP is not a galleon though, it's a flying fortress. Yes, a flying ship. Remember this is Greyhawk, not Mystara or Spelljammer, so we never had levitating/flying ships in our campaigns before and haven't since then I'm fairly sure. I assume since I drew a rudder it spends a lot of time in the water to remain unassuming. Mortellan basically created a magical SHIELD Helicarrier. I call it THE SHIP in this article because that's what it says at the top of my notes and in timelines. I suppose Mortellan gave it a proper name, I just can't find a reference. Also why didn't we think of anything catchy like "flying fortress". Ah well.

Quick note: For statistical purposes we used the excellent article High Seas by Margaret Foy from Dragon #116. If you haven't seen this, it's a must have for detailed maritime adventures. So looking

back on Foy's article, the largest vessel is the "very large" 17th-19th century era Ship-of-the-Line (1st Rate) and the Naval transport, both at 200 feet in deck length with a width of about 60 feet. THE SHIP makes those look small by comparison. THE SHIP's stats are thus:

Size: Very Large, Base speed: 12", Full Length: 460 ft, Deck Length: 400 ft, Beam: 114 ft, Draft: 60 ft, Freeboard: 50 ft, Tonnage: 5730, Masts: 4, Full decks: 8, Partial decks: 5, Pumps: 12, Boats: 12, Maneuverability (sail): 12

Defensive points: Hull: 264, Each mast: 43, Rigging & Sail: 90

Artillery engines: Ballistas: 36, Lt. Mangonels: 64, Md. Mangonels: 56, Hv. Mangonels: 48

Compliment: Commanding officers: 12, Petty officers (total): 88, Sailors: 144, Maximum additional: 720.

What's a mangonel you ask? Well that's a real world problem. In the High Seas article Foy writes: "Mangonels are direct-fire artillery engines that use small, round stones of lead shot for ammunition. They are powered by torsion, either from twisted thick ropes or heavy metal springs. Mangonels are used since arced fire was generally not possible aboardship."

Since this was written back in 1986, it seems historians now say mangonels are just early versions of trebuchets, not direct fire engines like ballista. Well back in the 90's THE SHIP was using Foy's direct-fire mangonels AND ballista (since like Oerth isn't supposed to have black powder cannons and stuff) all from a levitating platform. Throw in gravity and THE SHIP can annihilate a keep or army in just a few volleys. Also, Valkaun Dain notoriously would drop "fireball" necklace beads from these heights for even more area of effect (I blame Greyhawk Ruins). Direct-fire or not, the fact THE SHIP can fly made the type of armaments meaningless in a D&D context. The guys could've dumped logs or barrels of oil off the side and shot flame arrows. Who knows? 

Additional notes: Want your own "THE SHIP"? In 2E construction rules, it cost 537,400 g.p. to make and enchant. Probably cheap by today' standards. But here is some of the ingredients needed in enchanting THE SHIP (cause in 2E you had to put in the work)

  • Spells to cast, Permanency (8th), Levitate (2nd), Airboat (8th lv from Tome of Magic), Enchant an item (6th), Wall of Iron (5th), Wall of Force (5th), Avoidance (5th)
  • Bathe the pilots wheels and sails in clouds on the Elemental Plane of Air.
  • Masts must be made of mature deklo trees.
  • Hull is strengthened by spells and imbued with powdered diamonds worth 25,000 g.p. total.
  • 8 pints of fresh beholder blood which is then poured over the deck.
  • Pilots wheel must be made of lightning fallen wood
  • Potion of Flying crafted and used to christen the vessel at the end of enchanting (so it had to have a name after all?).

Nice to-do list, eh? Making this vessel was probably more fun than using it in the end. Anyhow, THE SHIP operates with a permanent Levitation spell controlled at will by the wearer of a linked magic ring. This ring can also steer THE SHIP instead of the pilots wheel. I'm not sure what the payroll for THE SHIP crew is, but it has to be costly to run, which is why it never saw much use in my game. At the end of our 2E campaign, I'm not positive what happened to THE SHIP. It certainly never saw its match in combat (though dragons could take it down I imagine). I suspect Mortellan took it with him to the Sea of Dust when he went into self-exile to avoid the headaches of Flanaess wars and politics. If anyone else has used flying ships in their campaigns, I'd love to hear about it. Until next time!   

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Community Project: Touring the Flanaess

Hail Greyhawkers! Over at fan site Canonfire! there is a new community project starting up on the forums that looks rather fun and informative, called Touring the Flanaess. Started by Richard Di Ioia (aka Longetalos), this project is a series of half-page write-ups on each nation (or city) in the Flanaess, providing a digestible amount of published setting information and suggestions for DMs who are perhaps unfamiliar with all the World of Greyhawk so they can pick the right locations for their own campaigns. Head over to the Canonfire! forums now and have a look at some of the Touring the Flanaess articles already submitted (some by longtime authors of the site).

If you are interested in joining in on this remarkable community project, read the rules at the top of the forum and then go here to contact Longetalos and reserve a country. There are plenty of places remaining. Good luck and enjoy!

Update 06/27/2021: This collected project has a map page linked to these articles called Post Cards from the Flanaess. Link added above.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

New Greyhawk Map: Isalund the Dark Isle

Greetings Greyhawk mavens! This weekend I have an old game map to share! My 2E era vault of game stuff is very deep. As you saw in my recent 2E Greyhawk War Campaign series, we played more in that era than any other time period. In addition to great wars, high adventures and epic level characters, I hand drew a lot of maps. In this campaign, the Thillonria Peninsula was heavily featured and I mapped all of it using hex paper for a zoomed in view (1 hex = 10 miles). One extra area I did is a big island, about 180 miles off the north coast of the Ice Barbarians which first appeared in the Glossography map here:

I always wondered why this blob of a land form never made it into Greyhawk canon, maybe except that it was cut off in production of the Darlene map. It's definitely not too far away to be discovered, unlike the many islands strings to the far south. It's on the Icy Sea so I can imagine its not easy to get to, but I find it unlikely the hardy Cruskii raiders who go all the way west to Blackmoor and the Land of Black Ice cannot reach this place right above their home. So as part of a long forgotten plot, I had the players venture to Isalund "the Dark Isle". Yes, Islaund, I admit that was an unfortunately lazy name for an island, but I've yet to hear anyone else name this island? If someone has info on the island or their own name, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section.

Observations and memories:

Isalund is called the "Dark Isle" I believe because I set an ancient relic of Tharizdun here, and due to whatever effects it had, the island was considered cursed, that's why no one hardly ventures to the place. I don't yet recall what the item was (or maybe it was an avatar?), but Big T is everywhere!
On the south shore is a dot of a village named "Dokyard". This cove settlement is probably the only accessible part of Island. 
I used color to show elevation. Isalund is a rocky spur overall but still rather broad enough for more settlement. I'd say it's about average 210 miles by 90 miles in size. Quite big.
To the northeast I have an arrow pointing to "the Frozen Desert". I assume this is where the Icy Sea becomes one massive ice sheet melded into the arctic circle of Oerth.  I'd love to see what others have done with globes of the planet and where Isalund fits in this sea zone.
Straight north from Dokyard up an icy stream is a marked fort/tower/keep. I really don't recall what this was and it regrettably isn't labelled. This is surely the cursed location the PCs were trying to find as it's conveniently centered in the Dark Isle. If I find more on this place I'll post an update.
The label at the very bottom margin says 180 miles north of Hrafknel. I don't know anything about this town except it's a Cruskii settlement. My Thillonria maps have many custom settlements like this, including the home of my friend's famous barbarian war hero Valkaun Dain. Maybe someday I'll develop these parts again...
That's all I got on Isalund. This isle is too big to go unnoticed in the Flanaess. I hope others have noted its existence and have tried to use it besides me. Enjoy!