Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Let's Fight Vecna! (1990 Version)

Greeting Greyhawk Heroes! Today I'm bringing back the "Let's Fight" column where I examine the stats for a Greyhawk deity and see if players have a chance against them. It seems timely of course to bring in the one god everyone is talking about, yes folks I mean the Archlich Vecna! Even before Netflix fame, Vecna has appeared in more than a few publications including most recently 5E where some people have already been discussing how to fight him. However, we hipsters in the Greyhawk community feared this villain long before he was cool, so I'm going with the oldest source on him for this fight, the mere manifestation of the demigod Vecna from 1990's Vecna Lives! by Zeb Cook. To make things even more interesting, Vecna has not recovered either his Eye or Hand artifacts for this battle even though the module accounts for this eventuality. He just doesn't need them except on principle. Enough talk...let's FIGHT VECNA!

The heroes have already carved their way through Vecna's entire cult and haven't broken a sweat. Vecna now has to get his hands, er hand dirty now. The Whispered One usually appears as he did when he was a lich. a mummified body in tattered clothes, with a left arm ending in a stump and a veil over his missing eye. However, this lesser demigod manifestation could appear as any humanoid creature really. After the initial shock wears off, (those 5 HD or less must deal with his Fear aura) the heroes win initiative (Vecna would automatically go first vs mortals in his full demigod form). They have exactly one round to slay him or things get ugly (though as a lich or demigod he will be reformed in 1d100 days anyhow). Vecna's defenses?

1. Disclaimer: as a 20th level spellcaster with millennia of experience and a 20 INT & 18 WIS, Vecna can conceivably have any wizard spell precast on himself. He knows all spells of all schools and does not need a spell book (yeah he could carry one in his ribcage just for show). As we all know from years of reading about archmages like  Elminster and Mordenkainen this means Vecna will come into this fight with classic spells like Contingency, Stoneskin, Fly, Fire Shield or Spell Turning already in effect. Pick your poison DMs. 

2. Vecna's hit points are decent for 1E/2E era at 116 and he has an AC of 0 (that's AC 20 in today's terms fyi). His manifestation may just be a high-level uber-lich, but he can be destroyed by brute force by a lucky experienced party. 

3. As a lich he is of course immune to charm, sleep, enfeeblement, polymorph, cold, electricity, insanity and death spells. No cheap shots against the Maimed Lord. He must also he hit by +1 or better weapons, like anyone would go into this fight with less...

4. Vecna cannot be turned. Clerics, I am shocked. Shocked I say!

5. Magic Resistance 45%. Yeah, I didn't forget about you wizards either (It'd be 70% with all his body parts intact) 

Vecna's turn? While it's true his Eye and Hand have quite a few nasty offensive powers that can wreck the PCs, the scary thing is Vecna can cast all these same spells without his artifacts. He has at minimum two 9th level spell slots are available so you can be sure his first move is either Time Stop or Mordenkainen's Disjunction. He is a lich so any spell requiring touch will also cause chill damage and paralysis. There is little chance he would go hand to hand however, especially when all the most damaging wizard spells in existence are at his fingertips. Vecna might even turn the players against each other with Domination. And even if the heroes have a secret plan up their sleeves, Vecna the Master of Secrets will know it so leave your trick plays at home. 

So yes, the PCs have a fighting chance against a depowered demigod Vecna. However, when he gets his Eye and Hand or ascends to lesser deity status like in later editions, there is very little chance indeed mortals could take him down without divine intervention. If anyone has battled Vecna in their campaign in any edition, including the newest 5E version on D&D Beyond, I'd love to hear about it in the comments. Before you go here is some bonus links to old Greyhawkery posts relevant to Vecna lore. This one is on the Sword of Kas through the editions, and this post is all about the Eye of Vecna

Bonus bonus content: Here is a custom-made trivia quiz that I created about Vecna. Enjoy!

Until next fight...

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Wars of Greyhawk: Battle of Shamblefield

Hail Greyhawk lords and ladies! Today is a good day because I'm finally releasing another battle in my Wars of Greyhawk series. You may remember my last one was on Gahru's Folly. These battles take a lot of work researching and writing so I'm usually hesitant to post them right away. As a result, I've sat on this a while, but the only way I'll write more battles is if I get this one out first. Shamblefield is a famous battle in Greyhawk lore, so I hope my interpretation of the events does it justice. Enjoy! 

Bonus: Here is a comic on the featured battle from 2010.

Battle of Shamblefield (Caldni Vir’s Charge)

Conflict & Date: 
The Battle of Shamblefield occurred in the spring of 109 CY.
Armies & Commanders: 
Imperial Army of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy (10,000 total)
        Knight Protectors of the Great Kingdom.
        Herzog of the North Province.
        Sir Caldni Vir of Edgefield. 
        3,000 light infantry, 2,000 medium infantry, 1,000 heavy infantry, 1,500 medium cavalry, 500 heavy cavalry, 500 pikes, 500 crossbows, 1,000 archers.
Kingdom of Fruztii. (Frost Barbarian Horde) (20,000 total)
        Fruztii nobles and chieftains.
        10,000 light infantry, 5,500 medium infantry, 500 light cavalry. 4,000 archers. 
The Great Kingdom of Aerdy defeats the Fruztii Horde.
Imperial Army of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy (6,800 total)
        2,300 light infantry, 1,500 medium infantry, 500 heavy infantry, 900 medium cavalry, 150 heavy cavalry, 325 pikes, 275 crossbows, 850 archers.
Kingdom of Fruztii. (Frost Barbarian Horde) (15,000 total)
        7,500 light infantry, 4,000 medium infantry, 300 light cavalry. 3,200 archers. 

A):  During the reign of Overking Manshen of Rax, annual raids by Suel northmen had drastically increased on the coastal towns of Bellport and Kaport Bay, and worst, Aerdy’s northernmost settlement of Johnsport, was now occupied by these barbarians. The ineffectual herzog of the North Province (House Naelax) was unable (some say unwilling) to deal with these incursions, a fact that incensed the Overking. 
B):  In the spring of 108 CY Manshen turned to his most experienced, trusted generals and tasked them with securing and fortifying the northern frontier of the kingdom without the direction of Eastfair. Answering the Overking’s call, veteran Aerdian legions massed at the town of Knurl, where the campaign was then headed by the finest warriors in the land, the Knight Protectors of the Great Kingdom.
C):  By autumn of that year, the Imperial Army had easily marched between the Rakers and the Blemu Hills dislodging the Fruztii occupation. Part of the army camped south of Kalmar Pass and started laying the foundations of what was to become Spinecastle. 
D):  The Knight Protectors continued to advance, using their royal mandate to call up thousands of reinforcements from the local North Province (despite objections the herzog personally led this contingent). 
That winter, the Aerdian campaign culminated in a decisive battle at Johnsport, that forced the surviving barbarians back over Grendep Bay. 
E):  Word of the bitter defeat at Johnsport spread like wildfire in the barbarian lands, and by the start of 109 CY, thousands of enraged Fruztii headed south along the Timberway to exact their revenge.
F):  Filtering through several smaller mountain passes in the spring of 109 CY, the assembled Fruztii horde managed to eliminate or evade Aerdy’s patrols, and thus surprised the lightly fortified encampment of the Imperial Army overseeing the construction of Spinecastle. Thousands of howling barbarian warriors quickly outflanked the Aerdian positions, encircling the castle-works before the defenders could fully muster their legions, in the process inflicting significant casualties. Completely surrounded, the Knight Protectors courageously rallied the Imperial Army; their vaunted heavy infantry and pikemen holding the line against waves of attackers, in order to buy time for any outlying patrols to come to their aid. The barbarian horde seemed endless however, and they were certain to overrun the stalwart Aerdians. 
G):  The first patrol to respond to the barbarian attack was headed by the young Knight Protector, Caldni Vir of Edgefield who commanded a heavy cavalry column that was part of a larger reserve contingent led by the Herzog of the North Province during the recent campaign to liberate Johnsport. Famously, Vir turned his cavalry toward Spinecastle to counterattack, defying orders from his liege to abandon the imperial forces and fall back to the south. The Naelax banner was thrown down and the valorous Knight Protector raised the standard of the Imperial Orb into battle. 
   Approaching the site of the battle from hills to the north, hundreds of heavy horsemen with lances rode down upon the rear of the Fruztii formation without warning. The spearhead of Caldni Vir’s charge managed to break through the enveloping Fruztii lines, sending the unwary northmen into disarray. The other Knight Protectors saw the standard of the Imperial Orb carried by Caldni Vir’s troops and were emboldened to turn the tide against their foes. Fierce fighting ensued, lasting until sunset with both sides suffering massive losses. 
H):  Eventually, the Fruztii sensed defeat and retreated toward the Loftwood where no pursuit was given by the beleaguered victors.
   The battle site that would be called Shamblefield, left thousands of Aerdian and Fruztii corpses to burn, bury, and rot. Centuries later, farmers still turn up bones and relics from the battle, and tavern stories tell that remains of the dead that day were used in the mortar of Spinecastle’s foreboding walls. The Kingdom of Fruztii was diminished, they would never again be dominant among the people of the Thillonria Peninsula. Overking Manshen rewarded the courage of Caldni Vir, elevating the young Knight Protector to become the first marquis of Bone March, named for the terrible price paid at the Battle of Shamblefield.
Heroic Hooks
   DMs who wish to feature the Battle of Shamblefield in their own campaign should note this conflict takes place 467 years before the starting timeline of the World of Greyhawk boxed set. This battle is set during a time when the Great Kingdom is at its height, and her Knight Protectors are still noble and just. While a campaign set in this era isn’t advised here, the Battle of Shamblefield could make a good historical flashback. The following hooks are suggested for DMs who want to have player characters participate in the Battle of Shamblefield without necessarily reenacting the entire event.
        Barbarian side: The player characters are scouts of the Fruztii tribe or the allied peoples of the north. They are tasked with aiding the advancing horde at infiltrating the Raker Mountains by eliminating an Aerdian patrol. When the battle starts the PCs must circle around the defensive works and try to stealthily capture alive a protected Aerdian architect so that the king of Fruztii can build his own massive castle. 
        Battle Couriers: In the heat of battle, the PCs are tasked by the Knight Protectors to deliver news of the barbarian invasion to the Imperial garrison at Johnsport so they can swiftly contact Overking Manshen. Not only must the couriers break past the barbarian horde, but they must also contend with agents of the Herzog who don’t want the Overking to find out.
        Rescue the Banner: The PCs are trusted allies of the Knight Protectors and stand by their side in the pitched battle. The Overking’s banner, the Imperial Orb, has been taken by a clutch of barbarians and is being brought to a hill overlooking the battle to be sacrificed to their gods. The PCs must break off from the main conflict to regain the flag and surely boost Aerdian morale.
        Caldni Vir’s Ride: The heroes are part of Lord Vir’s mounted hill patrol. The news has arrived that the castle works are under attack by thousands of barbarians. Caldni Vir has ignored orders from the North Province to withdraw, and you ride. The PCs must be the tip of the spearhead, charging into the rear guard of the Fruztii horde. They must last long enough to carve their way to the Aerdian line, and hopefully turn the tide of the battle.
Carl Sargent. From the Ashes.
Gary Gygax. World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting (1983).
Roger E. Moore. Greyhawk: The Adventure Begins.
Gary Holian; Erik Mona, Sean K. Reynolds, Frederick Weining. Living Greyhawk Gazetteer.
Gary Holian. Places of Mystery: Spinecastle and Veralos. Living Greyhawk Journal #9 (Dragon Magazine #293)
Hunter103. Rhizia: A History of the Northeastern Flanaess. Canonfire!

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Ull: Land of a Thousand Villains - Nimhon the Despised

Welcome back fans of Greyhawk! It's summer, there's holidays, haven't really been working on anything new, but it's good that I have my ongoing Ull: Land of a Thousand Villains to fall back on! In fact, this latest entry in my NPC catalog was written back in the winter-spring. Nimhon the Despised was written with low level play in mind. Ull like anywhere in Greyhawk, is a place that can support all levels of game play, but in my opinion low-mid level campaigns are the most fun. For example, PCs should struggle to survive and get around in Ull. To that end, all one needs is a horse. What could go wrong? 

“Ull can seem rather boorish and backward to visitors from the east. However, one universal truth that all cultures can agree on is horse thieves are scum of the Oerth.

Nimhon the Despised (human, male, ranger 3)

Northern Ull is well-known for its vast herds of horses, bred and trained to be the hardiest and most dependable in all the Baklunish West. This is a fact that has led many traders, armies, and adventurers from all over the Flanaess to go out of their way to acquire one of these fine animals. While there is a lively horse-market in Ulakand, supply never keeps up with demand. The nomadic families of Ull treat horse-ownership like a religion, so there is no greater taboo than horse thievery. Horses taken in combat is considered an honorable act, and freely giving one’s mount to another is also a sign of respect if not outright acceptance into a tribe. That said, there is less a stigma against stealing from and selling stolen horses to foreigners. This is where Nimhon the Despised thrives.

   Nimhon has no family name. He is a nomad outcast who many whisper was originally a member of the vaunted Jadrun Khanate, though such open claims often result in a head on a pike. Nimhon is called the Despised due to his reputation throughout Ull as a shady horse-trader and smuggler. A skilled ranger and master horse-rider, Nimhon, mainly roams the southern and eastern fringes of Ull, often along the Banner Trail in the shadow of the Barrier Peaks. He can be found venturing into villages and towns along this trail, such as Semust and Kurukand trading stolen horses and leather goods to unwary foreigners and unscrupulous locals. Nimhon also frequently trades with the reclusive Yorodhi hillmen in the south, who do not fear the ranger as they do Ull’s marauding warbands.

   Though he predominantly steals from foreign caravans and unsuspecting travelers, Nimhon has still made enemies of several Uli warbands and a few smaller khanates, for thieving their prized horses. He does not care that he is despised by his kinsmen, and even takes pride in liberating fine horses from those he deems undeserving. Nimhon is considered cowardly by Ull society. Since he generally works alone, Nimhon does not fight fair and if necessary, he will drop everything he owns to evade capture. Naturally when he has lost his pursuers, the wily ranger will always circle back and get revenge, or in the very least steal back his belongings.

DM’s Campaign Notes: Nimhon knows the land well and is adept at stealth and trailing potential targets. He is resourceful, often using distractions and at times minor magic items to help sneak into caravans and camps undetected. Given his ranger background, Nimhon is uncanny at handling horses, sometimes they come to him as if he speaks their language. Despite his reputation as a coward, he is trained in all bows and light weapons, and will not hesitate to kill if there is no other option. Nimhon also reputedly sells stolen horses to the enigmatic Yellow Cartel for use in their drug cultivation and supply line. This unspoken arrangement perhaps gives Nimhon a degree of safety in Ull.

   Nimhon the Despised makes a good low-level foil for a wilderness type campaign. He is not a real threat to most adventuring bands, but he can make a good recurring character to antagonize the heroes. If dealt with diplomatically, Nimhon can be a source of gear, information and even direct the PCs to even more dangerous encounters.