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!


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!