Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Mysterious Places from the Fringe V

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Greyhawk A-Z: Spells

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Xvarts must have spells right? Pass.

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

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Beyond the Flanaess: Zihindian Lands

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Top 10 List: Greyhawk Holiday Modules

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

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Ring of Five Questions: Round 15

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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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

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

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

Thursday, December 3, 2020

New Maps: Unconquered Sea Princes

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