Saturday, October 1, 2022

New Map: World of Greyhawk 2.0

Welcome Greyhawkers! I don't typically contribute to Virtual Greyhawk Con, but this year I did have an idea for a Greyhawk map that should drum up some interest in the community. If you've been playing Greyhawk as long as I have you might have the Darlene map labels memorized right? That's when I thought, for fun, can I reorder the nations of the Flanaess and still make it logical? What do you think of my first attempt? Am I completely out of line? How would you do it differently? Comment below or catch me on Discord. Enjoy!



Saturday, September 24, 2022

Wars of Greyhawk: Barren Plains War

Greetings Greyhawkers to another installment of my Wars of Greyhawk series. These battles are hard to research and produce, plus it's a project I've struggled with writing for years, so I'm sorry for holding onto this next one for so long. Many of you have probably never heard of the Barren Plains War, and the simple reason for that is because I believe I coined the name for it, for lack of any other description. This battle comes from Gygax's excellent article Events of the North Central Flanaess in Dragon Magazine #56. This "war" or "conflict" is really just one part of a long historical struggle between the nomads of the north and certain adjacent evil nations. There will be at least two more battles to come that will tie into this entry, so until then Greyhawk armchair historians, enjoy!

Barren Plains War

Conflict & Date: 
The Barren Plains War occurred over a several month period from Coldeven 578 CY to the 26th of Goodmonth, 578 CY.
Armies & Commanders: 
Confederation of the Barrens (7,850 total)
        Chada-Three-Lances, War Sachem.
        Chieftains primarily of the Red Horse, Black Horse, Horn Bow, and Sly Fox clans. Centaur, and     Sylvan elf tribal leaders.
        1,850 light infantry, 2,500 light cavalry, 500 medium cavalry, 2,000 mounted archers, 900 centaurs, 100 sylvan elves.
Wegwuir (Wolf Nomads) (1,000 total)
        Lekkol, emissary of the Wegwuir.
        1,000 mounted archers.
*****
Host of the Horned Society (20,000 total)
Hierarch Blontug.
        4,000 light infantry, 500 medium infantry, 2,000 light cavalry, 500 archers, 4,000 orcs, 7,000 hobgoblins, 2,000 goblins and kobolds. 
Allied Bandits (7,500 total)
        Plar Rostal.
        Seenia (renegade sylvan elf).
        6,000 light cavalry, 1,000 medium cavalry, 500 mounted crossbows.
Result: 
The Horned Society repels the advance of Confederation of the Barrens.
Casualties:
Confederation of the Barrens (2,705 total)
        1,000 light infantry, 750 light cavalry, 100 medium cavalry, 670 mounted archers, 170 centaurs, 15 sylvan elves.
Wegwuir (Wolf Nomads) (270 total)
        270 mounted archers.
*****
Host of the Horned Society (7,200 total)
4,000 light infantry, 500 medium infantry, 500 archers, 4,000 orcs, 7,000 hobgoblins, 2,000 goblins and kobolds.
Allied Bandits (2,800 total)
2,100 light cavalry, 500 medium cavalry, 200 mounted crossbows. Prelude
   The stalwart presence of the Shield Lands continued to prevent the diabolical Hierarchs of the Horned Society from capitalizing on their designs to conquer and control the entire northern shore of the Nyr Dyv all the way to Willip in Furyondy. In early 578 CY, the Hierarchs attempted to once again take advantage of moves by the Land of Iuz against Furyondy to the west. However, their campaign would stall once again, and the armies of the Horned Society would need to turn about in haste to respond to a major threat against their northern territory by Flan nomads out of the barrens.
   These nomads, referring to themselves as the “People of the Plentiful Huntinglands”, were pushed out of their western plains and forest camps by the combined hordes of Iuz and the Horned Society following the disastrous Battle of Opicm River in 515 CY. More than sixty years later, the so-called “Rovers of the Barrens” had managed to survive and prosper, with two generations of warriors honing their fighting skills against the brutes of Stonefist as well as creatures from the Wastes and Cold Marshes. By 566 CY the Rovers began to encroach on the northern edge of the Fellreev, and within a few more years their famed Wardogs were hunting west of the Cold Run. 
   Despite the dangers of Iuz, the Rovers contacted the Wegwuir for an alliance. In autumn of 577 CY, a great hunt and conference was called with emissaries from the Wolf Nomads. Reports estimated over 26,000 warriors from seven major clans attended, their chieftains and Wardog leaders agreeing to a bold plan to regain their lost territory along the Opicm River and the Fellreev Forest. Three western clans most affected by the Horned Society, the Red Horse, Black Horse, and Horn Bows, volunteered to spearhead the confederation’s war-party, while the forest dwelling Sly Fox Clan secured an alliance with the sylvan elves of the Fellreev, to coordinate a strike at their common enemy from the woodlands. The Wegwuir however, would not commit to joining the confederation that night, even though they felt a kinship to the Rovers’ plight.
 
   The mighty Flan warrior Chada-Three-Lances, hero of many raids against Stonefist, was elected War Sachem of the confederation. He personally brought an alliance with the centaurs of the barrens who, like the Rovers, were displaced from their plains on the western end of the Fellreev by the hated Horned Society. 
Battles (Map Stage 1)

A):  In the spring of 578 CY, Chada-Three-Lances and his war-party of 6,000 riders along with 900 centaur warriors, and 1000 fast-moving Wardog footmen moved south on the plains. At the same time, 850 Sly Fox warriors and 100 allied wood elves slowly advanced along the edges of the Fellreev. Their initial forays into enemy held territory went uncontested as several settlements were pillaged even as far as the frontier town of Dingaverge. After enduring a couple months of these hit and run raids, news finally spread back to the Hierarchs from the survivors of their raided settlements. These reports were wildly exaggerated however, as most claimed the invading horde had two to three times their actual number. B):  In response to the increasing raids, the Hierarchs finally decided to forgo their southern campaign, and sent an army north, calling on additional mercenary bandits and brigands to muster at Dingaverge. Led by Plar Rostal, an infamous mercenary warlord and his consort, Seenia, a traitorous sylvan elf from the Fellreev Forest, a cavalry force of 7,500 mobilized at Dingaverge within a week, all eager for coin and some action. C):  Rostal would not wait for the Hierarchs’ slow-moving army to arrive though, as his cavalry units began to scout northward to locate camps and prevent any further incursions by the Rovers. At the same time, he sent bandit outriders along with small bands of kobold spotters to search the fringes of the Fellreev, due to more recent reports of Wardogs and elves moving through the woods. D):  Even more troubling for Plar Rostal was a rumor that a force of Wolf Nomads had been seen skirting the Cold Marshes toward the Barren Plains.

E):  Late in the Dozenmonth of Reaping, the forces of the Horned Society finally arrived at Dingaverge. The Host of the Hierarchs was led by the dread Hierarch Blontug, a half-orc war-priest and assassin of ill-repute. His vile army was 20,000 in strength and included well-armed hobgoblins, goblins, and orcs. The Host spent a few days at Dingaverge resting and restocking for their next march.

F):  The Rover war-party withdrew from any further raids south at the news of a large cavalry force scouring the plains. War Sachem Chada brought his chiefs into council to decide a course of action. Their war council was emboldened by the arrival of Wegwuir emissary Lekkol Noyon, (seventh son of Tarkhan Bargru and first with his Rover wife Golden Dove) who had returned to the Barren Plains with 1,000 mounted bowmen at his back. It was decided that their best riders would strike the enemy cavalry swiftly and by surprise. So that the Rover cavalry was not slowed down, most of their Wardog footmen were ordered to circle south into the Fellreev to bolster the Sly Fox forces waiting there. Another band was then sent back to their home camps in the north and east along with their remaining loot and captives.
 
(Map Stage 2)

G):   Having been informed of Rostal’s cavalry advance, Blontug started his march north to catch up with his mounted allies, sending outriders ahead of the main body to make contact. Rostal’s cavalry regrouped but was lured further out on the open plains where they were assaulted by an equal force of nomads and centaurs. H):  The bandits were not ready for such a furious charge, as Rovers and Wegwuir circled the regiment, raining arrows, and striking with lances, while many of their cavalry were brought down from their mounts by the Rovers expert use of lariats. Rostal’s cavalry suffered severe casualties and were forced to retreat northwest with the Rovers in pursuit. Chada Three-Lances only feigned pursuit of the bandits however, by sending a screen of 1,000 riders and a band of centaurs. This would prove to be enough to make Rostal believe the entire horde was following. The remaining confederation warriors continued southwards for one last push to finally seize control of their former territory. Their scouts then located the larger army of the Horned Society approaching, but they were in turn alerted before the horde could get close for an attack. I):  Hierarch Blontug wisely sent light cavalry to cover his infantry’s withdrawal from the open plains, eventually positioning his army at the edge of the Fellreev Forest in order to protect against cavalry charges. J):  On the first day of actual battle between the two armies, there was more light skirmishing as the allied cavalry probed the opposing infantry for a weak spot in their formation while Hierarch Blontug likewise attempted to assess the strength of his enemy. Despite heavy losses that day, the Host of the Horned Society held their ground.  
K):  On the second day, the Blontug’s humanoid scouts again prevented a surprise attack, this time coming from the direction of the forest. The Sly Fox clan had arrived with Wardog support. Assisted by elven archers of the Fellreev they taunted and lured the Hierarch’s humanoid units out of formation momentarily. In a short span, the zealous Wardog footmen managed to exact severe casualties upon the Horned Society but were inevitably repulsed by Blontug’s greater numbers. L):  The Rovers’ ruse had kept Rostal’s bandits cut off for several days, but once their true numbers were discovered, the Plar regrouped and easily turned away the harassing riders in a decisive counter-offensive. The remaining cavalry then ignored the scattered nomads to speed southward and reinforce the defending Host of the Horned Society.  M):  Several days of combat ensued as Blontug’s loyal humanoid infantry and human cavalry matched Chada-Three-Lances move for move, withstanding several coordinated charges from all directions. The Hierarch was now certain the Rovers lacked the numbers to defeat his army, but their superior mobility prevented him from mounting any offense. N):  On the 26th of Goodmonth, Chada and Lekkol called off a final mass assault when their lookouts spotted the arrival of Plar Rostal’s cavalry. The relieving bandit force made to encircle the depleted nomads while with a boost of morale, the main body of Blontug’s army charged forward. Sensing their campaign was finished, Chada-Three-Lances deftly countered the enemy maneuvers with a series of feigned retreats by enraged centaurs and sniping mounted archers, all while the majority of the war-party retreated back into the plains and the deep forest. The Confederation of the Barrens managed to inflict significantly more casualties than they suffered as the humanoid infantry attempted in vain to give chase, and by then Rostal’s weary cavalry could not mount another charge. Though the Horned Society had allowed their enemy to escape, they had ended the Barren Plains War. Aftermath 
   Hierarch Blontug called on his forces to regroup and resupply for a new campaign to end the nomad nuisance. His plans were soon thwarted as Plar Rostal received news from Rookroost that the Bandit Kingdoms were uniting against the forces of the Duchy of Tenh who had crossed the Zumker River and were now marching on their freeholds. Though personally threatened by Blontug, Rostal and his remaining cavalry departed without hesitation to join the combination of freelords in the east.    The Confederation of the Barrens would not attempt any more raids for the rest of the year either, though the damage done to the Horned Society and its colonial expansion was enough that it allowed previously scattered tribes of Flan (Gray Lynx, Wolverine) to return and reestablish themselves in the northern regions of the Fellreev. Chada-Three-Lances was hailed as a hero among the clans, and remained War Sachem at least through 579 CY, though later war councils failed to assemble a second war-party to permanently drive their enemy from the plains. At a stalemate, the Hierarchs began to rebuild and kept their focus on the northern frontier, building up stronger garrisons beyond Dingaverge.
   
   Lekkol and the Wegwuir had no time to celebrate the spoils of the war with the Rovers, as they returned home in haste at news that their people were besieged at Eru-Tovar. They would meet with their kin in time to drive off the forces of Iuz at the Battle of Blackwater Bend.
Heroic Hooks
   DMs who wish to feature the Barren Plains War in their own campaign should note this conflict takes place about two years after the starting timeline of the World of Greyhawk boxed set. This campaign is set during a time when the Hierarchs still rule the Horned Society, and the Rovers of the Barrens still have the numbers to make a comeback in the Bitter North. This War could make a good historical flashback, or a climatic event for a wilderness campaign. The following hooks are suggested for DMs who want to have player characters participate in the Barren Plains War without necessarily reenacting all the events. Diversionary Tactics: The player characters have joined the Barren Plains war-party and have been tasked with distracting Plar Rostal’s bandit cavalry so that the Rovers and their allies may proceed on to fight the Horned Society. It is up to the heroes to keep the enemy busy as long as possible. As a complication, Rostal’s lieutenant the evil sylvan elf Seenia and her guard will break off from their force to try and deal with the small skirmishing band herself.   Ambush from the Woods: It is the PCs job to lure out a column of hobgoblin and orc warriors who are entrenched at the edge of the Fellreev Forest guarding the main Horned Society army encampment from Rover Wardog or Wood Elf attack. The PCs will be outnumbered but they can plan an ambush on their terms if they are crafty enough. Protect the Leader: The Confederation is making yet another bold attempt to pierce the Horned Society’s formations. The allied PCs are given the honor to ride at the side of Chada-Three-Lances, whom they must keep safe as he is a high-profile target for Hierarch Blontug’s humanoid soldiers. Time is of the essence, the party must navigate a chaotic battlefield, and return to safety before Chada becomes overwhelmed. Spies in Dingaverge: The heroes are sympathetic to the Rovers’ plight and have been in Dingaverge since the call was made for bandits to converge here. The PCs are thus able to blend in easily and do some reconnaissance, or information gathering about the build-up of troops to take on the nomad confederation. Once they have the information they need, they must ride into the barrens, evading any chasing patrols, and meet with the Rovers at a rendezvous location. Sources:
Gary Gygax. World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting (1983).
Gary Gygax. Greyhawk’s World: Events of the North Central Flanaess. Dragon Magazine #56.
Gary Holian; Erik Mona, Sean K. Reynolds, Frederick Weining. Living Greyhawk Gazetteer.
Carl Sargent. Iuz the Evil. Dave Howery. Ghost Dance. Dungeon Maga
zine #32.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

More Obscure Greyhawk Lore

Heya Greyhawkers! In conjunction with our weekly stream Legends & Lore, here is some super obscure lore about the World of Greyhawk setting. If you already heard me share these factoids, then go back and read some of my previous posts on this topic. Enjoy!

Living Greyhawk Gazetteer and From the Ashes on Philidor the Blue:

Does it get more obscure than Philidor? Philidor the Blue was created in the From the Ashes era by Carl Sargent as a mysterious Gandalfian benefactor for the troubled forces of good, in particular the Vesve Forest in their fight against the demigod Iuz. He evidently appeared in the Greyhawk City one year BEFORE the Wars ended and despite never having lived there before, or belonging to the Wizards Guild, or being an ambassador, he has a house there! Phil appears as a blue human in Greyhawk, or a blue elf in the Vesve. I wouldn't doubt he'd appear as a blue dwarf if he visited Irongate. He warns Good folk of impending disasters and has set up floating globes to monitor the forest boundaries. Sargent teases in FtA that he is an enigma yet at the end of his entry tells DMs to keep him a mystery, maybe we'll tell you more about him later...

Of course, that doesn't happen. Fan sentiment was rather bad for this character and later authors swept him under the rug despite hints he had a long-term plan in mind in Marklands. The LGG mentions him twice, one that he hasn't been seen much since the Great North Crusade, but his agents and items still operate in the Vesve, and two, the last claimed sighting of Philidor was at the entrance to the Valley of the Mage. This throw-away rumor completely disentangles the wizard from all his previous lore and implies he is either allied with the Mage of the Valley or seeks to replace him. Whatever the case, Phil is gone. Everyone has their theories on who or what Philidor was, but mine is Carl Sargent was inspired by a famous French chess master, who has a defensive opening named after him. How apropos. Check it out.

The Scarlet Brotherhood on the "Tall Walkers"

Here is a bit of obscure lore. In the fine accessory written by Sean K Reynolds there is extensive, yet undeveloped lore on the southern lands of the Hepmonaland continent. A particular nation of the Touv called Byanbo references a people called the Tall Walkers. There are only two references, and one is a bit misleading. 

"The Scarlet Brotherhood landed once at the city port (Byanbo) and offered gifts to the king; a small group remained behind to study the language and advise the prince. Reports surface from time to time of unusual ships on Byanbo's shores piloted by beings the locals call "The Tall Walkers".

Reading this from start to finish can almost imply the Suel blooded visitors are the ones with strange ships called the Tall Walkers. An earlier section of TBS on the Touv says they are typically shorter than other cultures of the Flanaess. So indeed, the Brotherhood could be "tall walkers" here, but then the second references clouds things:

(Yano Desert) "...an oddly constructed ruin near the hills is said to have been built by an ancient race of people that predate the Touv, possibly the ones the people of Byanbo call "The Tall Walkers".

Here it suggests the Tall Walkers were around southern Hepmonaland a long time before the Brotherhood ever visited. Whoever this race was obviously died out, or move on? There are no giants on the encounter charts of TSB except Fire Giants in the Ino Hills near Byanbo. Perhaps a connection? Or most likely the local Touv are greatly mistaken and have conflated two stories about beings who are generally taller than them. Part of me wishes the Tall Walkers are indeed a new ancient culture to throw into our Greyhawk lore. That's up to us fans!

Living Greyhawk Journal #4 on Lotakal the Caretaker

The Silent Ones of Keoland were written for LGJ #4 by Gary Holian. One of the most intriguing characters to come out of this article is Lotakal the Caretaker, a Bard 10/ Silent One 5. Lotakal is woman who graces the cover of the issue, flanked by strange fey looking creatures. In fact, her unique role in the Silent Ones is to maintain an orphanage for extra-planar creatures and created homonculi called the Wretchery. Mind you they are orphaned familiars because the Silent Ones probably kill wizards they don't like. Kind-hearted Lotakal is different however, she knows what she is doing when it comes to forest and sylvan lore, having spent six years among the fey of the Dreadwood as a child. As an adult Silent One, the Caretaker is such an interesting NPC for players to meet and her Wretchery seems like a whimsically fun place to visit on an interlude through Keoland.

Greyhawk Players Guide on The Wandering Caravan

The 2E Players Guide by Anne Brown is an underrated accessory. If you don't have this book, get it, because its full of neat lore tidbits and Greyhawk observations you won't find elsewhere. Anne knows her stuff. One item in this book is an utter mystery and as far as I know it only appears in this book. The ghostly Wandering Caravan is a great hook for a DM to develop:

"Several times a year, a phantom caravan of merchants and guards appears on the roads circling the Nyr Dyv. The caravan - three wagons with blue-and-black-striped awnings (each pulled by four horses), six peripheral riders and horses, six teamsters and six guards - has appeared to assist stranded travelers, fight off bandit attacks on other caravans, and spoil ambushes that might cause loss of life or property. No one is certain who the members of the caravan are or when their appearances began. Some witnesses profess the entourage to be entirely ghostly, while others insist that the caravan's members are in a weird form of stasis, victims of a curse that forces them to ride the roads around the Nyr Dyv until they fulfill some goal or correct and old misdeed. Their intentions seem to be honorable, and they can be recognized by the complete lack of sound made by the horses and wagons."

So yes, the Wandering Caravan is beneficial though spooky. It sounds like they can be interacted with at times, or others they are just incorporeal. Where are they from originally? Are they related to the Rhennee (the Attloi)? This is quite a special encounter and it's in a high traffic area! They could be going through peaceful Urnst land or even through war torn Bandit Lands. It's all for DMs to expand upon.

Planescape, Sigil and Beyond on Duke Rowan Darkwood

Anything Planescape can usually be counted as lore for any setting, but one NPC from Sigil in particular has a strong Greyhawk connection. Duke Rowan Darkwood is the Factol of the Fated faction (R19/P20) and he is considered one of the two most influential residents of Sigil. The Fated (also known as the Takers and the Heartless) believe that the multiverse belongs to those who can hold it. Each makes their own fate, everyone has potential to be great, but it doesn't mean it will happen. His background certainly lends to his destined fame as he claims to be a former hero of Vaasa in the Forgotten Realms, but he is in truth from Oerth! Duke Rowan was the third son a minor noble (it doesn't say where) so with no prospects he turned to being a ranger. He ran afoul of a major devil after a "magical mishap" with a deck of cards (hmmm). Rowan was missing for ten years before he returned to Oerth, and by then everything had changed. He had got a taste of the outerplanes however, and so he followed his destiny on went on more adventures to Faerun and beyond, eventually ending up in the Sigil.

Duke Rowan may not be very significant in Greyhawk history, but he certainly would be remembered in ranger circles, if not in the annals of some noble family tree. I'd like to think he was from Keoland given its ruler is also a ranger, plus Rowan carries a giant slaying sword which he perhaps acquired back in the day fighting in the Crystalmists. Greyhawk adventurers who journey to Sigil would certainly be shocked to see one of its rulers is familiar with their world. It's good to see Mordenkainen isn't the only high-level plane-hopping adventurer from Oerth!

 Dungeon #112: Maure Castle on The Chapel of Kerzit

Anyone who owns Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure and the Maure Castle sequel in Dungeon #112 will recognize the covers with archmage Mordy on one and the evil Eli Tomorast on the other respectively. What they have in common is the chamber that they both stand in is part of the dungeon! In MFA, the Chapel of Kerzit is merely a non-descript chapel with a granite altar for sacrifices. Dungeon #112 expands on the Chapel giving it the gravitas it deserves for being the backdrop of both adventures (spoilers ahead)

"At the back of the raised area, a semi-circular archway is set into the wall. A wolf-like head...is carved into each of the archway's sides...The space beyond the archway seethes and roils, a misty cloud of vapor and liquescent fumes that unsettles the stomach to look at for too long."

"The strange archway filled with swirling mist...radiates strong conjuration magic. This is a portal that leads to a layer of the Abyss ruled by no demon prince but contested by many...Details of the realm on the other side of the portal are left to you to decide."

Kerzit is the main guardian demon of the module, summoned by Eli Tomorast by use of the Tome of the Blackheart. This chamber portal, and indeed the plane it is attached to must be Kerzit's home. The wolf head designs are kind of a giveaway...

That's all for now. Until next time!

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

New Towns of Sea Princes 576 CY

Greetings dear Greyhawk readers! I got nothing new this week, but I'd like to brainstorm a project that is on the back burner. One of my best received custom maps is my Hold of the Sea Princes 576 CY. Based on my personal campaign, it's the reference for all my Sea Princes writings for Greyhawkery, Oerth Journal and so on. Besides my ongoing series about the Hold's nobility there is several new towns and ports on this map that I'd like to give the gazetteer treatment someday. For now, here is a list of them and my general thoughts on what they are like based on my previous articles and game notes. Enjoy.



Fairwind Isle
  • Port Azure: Mercantile port that competes with North Harbor. Ruler has a sizeable library.
  • Harriven Point: Minor town with a walled keep overlooking cove. Peaceful because ruler is rarely there.
Jetsom Isle
  • North Harbor: Busy, wealthy port that handles a lot of imports. Ruled by family of explorers. Fabulous palace with a shrine dedicated to Kelanen.
Flotsam Isle
  • Galeside: Rich port in league with prince of Port Toli. Archbaron is focused on exploring and exploiting more of the south seas.
Mainland Hold
  • Tanport: Very old, but important port town. Services a lot of exports from inland farms.
  • Keyfield: Farming community. Close ties with Port Torvin. Lawful ruler hires laborers.
  • Bracken Hall: Farming community with ties to Westkeep. Monsters encroach from Hool Marshes.
  • Tower Hill: Major farming community that also serves land route between Hokar, Port Toli and Monmurg. Baron's keep is trapped against thieves in area.
  • Ardo: Quiet, remote farming community on trail to Berghof from Hokar. Reclusive ruler is feared by locals.
  • White Cove: Major port that services trade inland to Hokar. Marble buildings. Expert shipbuilders. Osprem temple.
  • Silver Shore: Wealthy port that focuses on Jeklea fishing fleets and trade with Sasserine.
  • Cliffhaven: Tiny port serving Berghof. Ruled by a former adventurer.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Sea Princes Nobles 576 CY - Governor Jon Ellis

Hola Greyhawkers! I haven't submitted a new noble in my Sea Princes series since May 2022. So, let's return to the Hold and look at one of the most beloved members of this buccaneer aristocracy. Enjoy!

His Solemn Lordship, Governor Jon Ellis of Port Calm. (House Rhola, Prince's Fleet, Rogue 8)

The governor of Port Calm is appointed by the Prince of Monmurg. Jon Ellis has reliably held this office since the reign of Jeon II. He is married to the foreign-born Rhani of Longspear (F2), the daughter of a Yeomanry grosspokesman. While she is trained in martial armaments like all Yeomen, Rhani is a progressive influence on her husband, and the couple is much loved by the citizens of Port Calm. Their prosperous town is an important stop on the road along Cape Rhon to the larger capital city of Monmurg. Governor Ellis is a skilled negotiator and writer, formerly working as a merchant for House Rhola’s interests in the Sheldomar Valley. The Ellis family lives and works out of the governor’s estate, a Keoish-style mansion set on a high hill with a winding path connecting to the center of town.
Politics and Intrigues: All is not so peaceful for the governor of Port Calm in truth. Highwaymen have recently been attracted to the area, emboldened by Governor Ellis’ forgiving brand of justice. This increased banditry outside Port Calm is roundly mocked in court by nobles from Flotsom Isle and Port Toli. Despite this, Governor Ellis has a great many friends in the House of Peers, some even among the Toli Armada who don’t see him as a political threat.
Governor Ellis and his wife are excellent low to mid-level contacts for good-aligned player characters who will defend and uphold the laws of the town. Jon and his wife still have interests beyond the Hold and can be a hook for missions involving overland travel. Port Calm also makes a suitable home for starting Sea Princes adventurers before moving on to larger cities and intrigues.
House of Peers in the Sea Princes
The Hold of the Sea Princes comprises thirty domains, divided amongst a dozen noble houses. A few of these houses can trace their lineage back hundreds of years to the first Suel migrations, while most are merely fabricated hereditary titles of pirate captains who settled down a century ago. While the Hold is currently ruled by the Prince of Monmurg, the Prince of Port Toli has led the House of Peers for much of the Holds’ history. In political situations, the twelve houses are evenly divided between naval factions called the Princes’ Fleet and the Toli Armada. Those Sea Princes captains who choose to avoid house politics, nominally defer to a fleet named the Hold Flotilla in times of war.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Ull: Land of a Thousand Villains - Aluk the Lucky

Heya Greyhawk fans! It's time for another installment of Ull: Land of a Thousand Villains. One of the fun things about doing this project is that Ull is populated by all sorts of morally "gray" people. While most would rather kill outsiders, even a helpful NPC that the PCs meet may turn out to be a bigger problem down the road. Long time readers of Greyhawkery will remember the illicit substances found in this post come from an older article I did for the Gryehawk fansite Canonfire! Follow this link for more information on them and shadowy organization who makes them. Enjoy!

“When a desperate or depraved person looks for an escape from the realities of Ull, those who profit off this misery always seem to find them first.

 Aluk the Lucky (human, male, rogue 5)

  Aluk is a rakish, charismatic guide to the culture of Ull. A natural polyglot, he claims to know almost thirty languages and has been to every part of the land, making him an invaluable service to foreigners who find Ull’s dialect of Baklunish too harsh to understand. Aluk does not have a family or a permanent home, instead living out his life attached to caravans and adventuring bands travelling back and forth from Ulakand to Kester. Nicknamed “the Lucky”, he has many friends and contacts everywhere he goes in Ull. He is well-liked among the venal populace of southern Ull who can put up with his freeloading demeanor, but he is not respected by the practical tribesmen of the north. Aluk the Lucky is generally considered a coward and a double-crosser by those who have been wronged or taken advantage of by the fast-talking guide. Whatever the reasons, Aluk is always ready to move on, self-assured that he will find a new friend or employer.

DM’s Campaign Notes: Aluk the Lucky is a mid-level agent for the Yellow Cartel, a secret power group that cultivates rare drugs in Ull and trades them as far as the City of Greyhawk. Aluk has a contact in Najul Khanate between Ulakand and Kester who regularly supplies him on his journeys. When the time is right, he is always ready to sell contraband to those he befriends such as Zharkat (Pleasure Herb) and the highly addictive Kadzur-Ruz (also called Blackstones). He also occasionally deals in various sleep powders, poison draughts, and purported aphrodisiacs. Individual DMs will need to use their own rules systems for these illicit substances.

   Aluk the Lucky makes a decent low-level threat, information source, and a fun instigator for trouble in taverns or encampments. As befits his nickname, Aluk has supernatural luck (Istus favors him?) when it comes to situational encounters. Use whatever game rules you prefer (feats, rerolls, etc) to reflect this benefit.

Friday, August 12, 2022

World of Greyhawk Campaign: Anne Brown 1993

Welcome back Greyhawk mavens! I've been going through my RPG collection recently and trying to decide which stuff I should sell/trade off and which to keep. Needless to say, I'm very attached to my 1E and BECMI D&D stuff. Then my 2E and 3E era stuff is hit or miss. If it's Greyhawk related I keep it naturally. One item I almost put in the sell section was the hardback 1993 TSR Master Catalog. I did a post on this rare find back in 2013 and I just realized while I posted a picture of the World of Greyhawk foreword by Anne Brown, I didn't really talk about the article itself. It's so good, let's just read the entire thing. One more thing, if someone EVER asks you to describe the Greyhawk setting and why you should play it, point them to this article by Anne Brown! Enjoy!

The WORLD OF GREYHAWK campaign 

by Anne Brown 

    "Through clearing smoke and settling dust, refugees and tired soldiers make their way across a scarred landscape. The wars are finally over, and nations struggle to establish borders, alliances, and protective forces. Scarlet Brotherhood spies infiltrate every corner of the land. An undead king's grip tightens on unsuspecting nations. The Circle of Eight, the most famous clique of wizards across the continent, has scattered to the four winds, two of its members dead and one of them turned traitor. 
    What remain are danger, intrigue, and adventure-opportunities and treasures for those intrepid enough to seek them. Spies must be ferreted out, vital supply lines must be kept open, and victims of war crimes and injustice must be rescued. Perpetrators must be made to answer for their evil deeds."

Good intro! This sums up the state of the Flanaess post-Greyhawk Wars and leading into From the Ashes era. Evil is ascendant and the wars while over, are still simmering. Back then we are still a way off from the Return of the Eight, and the reversals of war leading into the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer. Let's continue...

    "The WORLD OF GREYHAWK campaign setting, the oldest world devised or the ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game, is a land of chivalry, valiant knights, heinous villains, and wrongs waiting to be righted. It has stood the test of time as a gaming ground, boasting such adventures as Temple of Elemental Evil, Tomb of Horrors, and Vecna Lives! It provided a starting point for thousands of AD&D game players, young and old.
    The GREYHAWK setting is also home to some of the most famous names in the ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game-Mordenkainen, Bigby, Tenser, Rary, Vecna, Iuz, Zagyg, and more. These heroes and villains have no doubt both saved and threatened the necks of all player characters over the years. Their influence is unmistakable and their absence would be painful."

Greyhawk does benefit from being the innovator. Really the only thing you need to know is classic adventures and famous D&D personages is what separates Greyhawk from all the others. The examples Anne lists are perfect, even Vecna Lives! which is not highly regarded for its quality is now very relevant in 5E. Like she says, the absence of these names associated with their famous spells and magic items is a grave mistake. Greyhawk's influence reverberates through all D&D history. Moving on...

    "The famed City of Greyhawk, described in its own boxed set, is a gaming jewel in its own right. Filled with interesting characters from Mayor Nerof Gasgal (a former member of the thieves' guild) right down to gamblers and street urchins, this bustling metropolis is filled with adventure and intrigue. It boasts a marketplace, gambling house, opera house, museum, wizards' academy, and library. It is a city inhabited by thieves, merchants, wizards of all levels, sewer zombies, and plenty of friendly, ordinary folk.
    Like any civilized continent, Greyhawk is not without its problems. Raiding barbarians, evil necromancers, and the occasional dragon have all beleaguered innocents and adventurers alike. It would be a boring land without interesting villains."

Anne leads into the City of Greyhawk which is literally the center of this great setting. Since the boxed set she mentioned, the city has had timeline updates and additions through the editions. Whatever source you use for the Gem of the Flanaess, the description here holds true. There is more...

"The Winds of War
    In recent years, political frictions built into the campaign world came to a boil. Deceit, treachery, double-dealing, and expansionism desired by greedy leaders all took their toll. Shaky alliances fell and armies mounted by forces of evil besieged coveted lands. Horrible tales of war machines, destructive wizardry, and massive humanoid armies on the march are now told in every inn, tavern, and outpost.
    For two long years, the nations of the Flanaess schemed, murdered, and warred against each other until nearly all sides lay bloodied and beaten: war had exhausted the land and the people. Furyondy, and Iuz ground to a stalemate; Nyrond's vast coffers drained dry and its overtaxed peasants grew rebellious; the Great Kingdom shattered into a swarm of petty landholdings vying for power; Keoland ought invasion on all sides; countless men, dwarves, elves, and orcs marched off to war, never to return; farms stood empty; fields lay fallow... the Flanaess could war no longer.
    The leaders of the fatigued nations finally agreed to a truce-no small undertaking. Each nation sent ambassadors to the Free City of Greyhawk. Six months of strained negotiations commenced, and in the end, came the Day of the Great Signing. Finally, the nations of the Flanaess rested in an uneasy peace. The documents were signed. But across the countryside, the world was far from peaceful."

So again, Anne lets us know war is a major backdrop of the setting. This is another huge selling point for the setting. Only Birthright really goes more into medieval fantasy warfare than Greyhawk does. From its war gaming roots, Gary Gygax's Greyhawk was meant to have this kind of continent-wide conflict. She goes on to name-drop some of the most important kingdoms on the map and finishes with the event that leads to the unfortunate Rary the Traitor. What comes next from Anne Brown?

"After the War
    The GREYHAWK campaign setting now offers more gaming opportunities than ever before. In December 1991. the original boxed set was amended by the Greyhawk Wars boxed set, describing the status of the war and providing a complete wargame, allowing fans of the setting to play out the events of the war.
    In October 1992, the game line was again amended by a boxed set, entitled From the Ashes. This set provides a complete update describing the aftermath of the war, and includes new maps, encounters, and gaming hooks. Countless rumors and whispered tales are included as fuel for the imagination of the DUNGEON MASTER.
    From the Ashes also includes new non-player characters to provide player characters with tour guides and enemies. These folks run the range from law enforcing rangers and patrols to mischievous wizards and fiendish undead creatures. Of course, plenty of friendly natives, grumpy dwarves, and sly elves fill in the gaps.
    The most powerful creatures in the world of GREYHAWK, the gods themselves, are also detailed in this boxed set. Major deities are outlined to provide both players and the DM with just enough to understand their workings but still keep them guessing."

  Anne brings it back to the stuff being sold in the catalog. I would not recommend Greyhawk Wars for a campaign simulation, but it makes for a fun boardgame. Like or not, From the Ashes does indeed build on previous published Greyhawk. The 90's was of course the golden age of prolific author Carl Sargent and sourcebooks like Iuz the Evil, Marklands and the unpublished Ivid the Undying; all would go on to add an abundance of new lore undreamt of during the Gygax era. Let's finish this off...
  
    "The lands of Greyhawk will be recovering from the wars for decades. Certain areas are wild as ever, while some regions, once safe, have fallen under evil influence. Skirting the Scarlet Brotherhood spies, avoiding the eye of Iuz, and eluding Ivid and his undead will make for years of memorable gaming!"

Well said Anne Brown! Built off this momentum in 1993, Greyhawk would go on to have even more 2E updates and adventures, then it was made the core world of 3.5E D&D. This was the peak of the Greyhawk setting; featured by Paizo Publishing in dozens of adventures for Dungeon magazine and was the setting for the unmatched Living Greyhawk campaign where players from all over the world created hundreds more modules for several years. Though the star has faded since then, Greyhawk lore continues to influence modern D&D for all the reasons Anne listed above. If you are just now learning about the World of Greyhawk, the 90's is actually a great place to start because it has all the wondrous simplicity of 80's Greyhawk with a respectable amount of gritty new adventure seeds and you won't get overwhelmed by all the published lore that comes out in the 2000's. Thanks again, Anne for writing this article.  

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

All About Manzorian the Archmage

Hail Greyhawkers! To coincide with a Legends & Lore discussion on Tenser and Mordenkainen, I decided to break out the old Paizo Age of Worms AP and see what was going on in that module with Tenser aka Manzorian. I am still flabbergasted that WotC made Erik Mona and company genericize much of Greyhawk's proper names in this series. Greyhawk was the defacto setting in 3.5 D&D and Paizo made highly detailed conversion articles for Forgotten Realms and Eberron. So....yeah. Anyhow, this post is a look into some of the material written about Manzorian, mainly from The Spire of Long Shadows by Jesse Decker in Dungeon #130. I hope you enjoy my commentary. Let's get into it!

Archmage Manzorian (LG male human wizard 16/archmage 5)

Manzorian is an interesting wizard name that definitely has more of a Greyhawk feel than an Ed Greenwood Realms name. Hm, Manzorian's Floating Disk? If I had never heard of the name Tenser, then Manzorian would be suitable. Also, I noticed the root name "Manz" is found in Living Greyhawk Journal #1 for a Count Ignaz Manz who is a 16th level fighter. Coincidence or some deep lore connection? Even though Jesse Decker wrote the module, I can imagine Erik Mona had a hand in renaming this important NPC.

One more thing, Tenser/Manzorian's level in previous products ranges up to 20th. I see in this timeline he got a bit more experienced. More on that later. Let's look at Manzorian's neighboring village, Magepoint.

"A community shaped and defined by the presence of an archmage, the village of Magepoint offers myriad portals to adventures of surprising breadth and difficulty, a result of the many visitors seeking Manzorian's advice...Magepoint has grown considerably in recent years, its growth spurred by a combination of untapped economic potential, readily available land, and the safety that comes from living within the shadow of Manzorian's power."

"After all but one of his clones were destroyed by a treacherous ally several years ago, the archmage's return to Magepoint has ushered in a time of prosperity for the village."

The latter part is a reference to Rary the Traitor killing Tenser and Otiluke before the Great Signing to end the Greyhawk Wars. Manzorian's return means the events of Age of Worms are chronologically meant to take place after the module Return of the Eight. Get this classic module for more info on Magepoint and the Fortress of Unknown Depths.

"Archmage Manzorian is a tremendously powerful character - in fact he's one of the most powerful NPCs the characters are likely to encounter...Handle him with care. You don't want the PCs to come to depend on him too much, but his presence shouldn't be downplayed."

The module goes to great lengths to show Manzorian is too busy to get directly involved, but the PC's quest is too important to ignore. He has agents and allies who can intercede for him if necessary.

"When the PCs first arrive in Magepoint, Manzorian is not present - he's finishing off important business on another plane. Anyone in town can tell the PCs this..."

"Manzorian returns from his travels to Arcadia..."

What was Manzorian doing in the plane Arcadia following his return from death? Was he getting his memory or abilities restored? Clones are just save-points after all, so he probably missed out on a few years. Since Manzorian is one level higher than Tenser was in RotE maybe he was on a divine quest for more power? The only Greyhawk deity I know who resides in Arcadia is Saint Cuthbert. Hmm. 

Two of the notable Magepoint citizens are long time agents of the archmage, Cymria of Celadon (13th level elven fighter-mage) from the module Vecna Lives! and clerical ally Agath of Thrunch (19th level) from the module Isle of the Ape.

Manzorian's Fortress of Unknown Depths (and to a lesser extent Magepoint itself) sits atop a mysterious well-spring of arcane power...The origins of this power are known only to a few, but many reap its benefits...even Manzorian himself has not yet mastered its full potential."

The origin of this power is called Oerthblood. For more info on this mystery read Return of the Eight or Dragon #351, Irongate: City of Stairs by Denis Tetreault and Gary Holian. For AoW however, all arcane spells cast within 1000 yards of the Fortress of Unknown Depths can potentially gain effects of metamagic feats Enlarge Spell, Extend Spell or Empower Spell without having to increase the spell's caster level. That's pretty cool and definitely makes Magepoint a place wizards would want to visit.

"Manzorian knows a fair amount about the Age of Worms and Kyuss."

"A former companion of mine, a wizard named Balakarde, made an extensive study of Kyuss and his ways. You might even say he was obsessed with Kyuss...When Balakarde learned Kuluth-Mar was the likely location of Kyuss' divine apotheosis, he could barely restrain himself. I cautioned him against going to investigate the ruins. One does not simply teleport into an unknown region without doing some research."

Oh, like when Mordenkainen sent you to Halmadar the Cruel's tomb in Vecna Lives? Tsk tsk Manzorian. This is the part of the adventure where Manzorian starts dumping lore on the players. It's really good stuff and even if you never intend to play Age of Worms, get it just for the lore. He continues: 

"I intended to try to track him down, but unfortunately, other events conspired to take my attention away. I suspect he is dead now. Or worse."

Again, if not for a botched Circle of Eight mission in Vecna Lives, a subsequent cloning, followed by Rary zapping him dead then his next clone being turned into a dretch, and a trip to Arcadia that couldn't wait, he would've totally gone after his friend. Sure, Manzorian, sure. For those who haven't read AoW, Balakarde is actually Bucknard of the Everfull Purse fame. It's silly that besides his famous purse, this is perhaps the first time the NPC has been utilized in some useful lore and he had to be renamed. Ah well, let's see what other lore Manzorian is dispensing...

"The Age of Worms prophecy predicts that several major magical artifacts shall surface in the months before the end...I know of several that have surfaced of late; the Black Blade of Aknar Ratalla, the Tome of the Black Heart, the Obsidian Eye, the Dread Forge, the Bindings of Erivatius, and...a fragment of the Rod of Seven Parts."

What are all these delicious artifacts? I mean, we all know the Rod of Seven Parts, and the Tome of the Blackheart I know from Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, and the Maure Castle Dungeon #112 megadungeon. I had to do some searching for the others, but it looks like the Paizohawk crew was slipping in easter eggs via Manzorian. For instance. Dungeon #119 has a generic high-level adventure, Tomb of Aknar Ratalla by Jack Flynn. Then Dungeon #120 has a module named The Obsidian Eye by Nicholas Logue and Brendan Victorson. The Bindings of Eritavius is from the epic level module Quicksilver Hourglass in Dungeon #123 by Anson Caralya. Erivatius is the Lord of Inertia, a demigod of aging and death and would be just as bad freeing as Kyuss. I couldn't find a reference to the Dread Forge but based on the others I am 100% certain it's from a Dungeon adventure. If anyone recalls the reference let me know in the comments.

"When the PCs are ready to go, Manzorian directs their attention to the numerous paintings on the walls - to one in particular. These paintings are of significant locations of historical import throughout the world, and each is imbued with divination magic to aid in teleportation."

As I mentioned before, there is supplemental articles on how to port Tenser/Manzorian in other game worlds. In Eberron, Age of Worms suggests that Magepoint is a haven for dragons, and that Manzorian is actually a dragon in human form (LG wyrm gold dragon archmage 4). In the Forgotten Realms, it is suggested the Fortress of Unknown Depths is called the Tower of Twilight and is inhabited by a family of wizards. Manzorian here is even MORE powerful and goes by the name Malchor Harpell, a NG Illuskan wizard 20/archmage 5). This seems unnecessary since Tenser was already recast, but he does get a more Realmsy name this way, I guess. 

Manzorian meets the PCs again before the climatic end of the adventure in Dungeon #135, Dawn of a New Age by Tito Leati. No spoilers, but ol' Manzorian counsels and finds a way to help the PCs battle Kyuss without getting directly involved of course. Check out that issue for some epic level information. That's all for now. Until next time!