Friday, December 22, 2023

Greyhawkery #1067

Happy Needfest! Good luck in 2024 Greyhawkers! I'll see you at Gary Con, on Legends & Lore or on Canonfire (mortellan) and Discord (greyhawkmike)


Thursday, December 7, 2023

New Greyhawk Fanzine: The Grey Grimoire #1

Hail Greyhawk faithful. Today I'm quickly promoting the fantastic work behind the latest Greyhawk fanzine, The Grey Grimoire! This inaugural issue features a variety of articles for a diverse selection of game systems by many wonderful authors and artists from the Greyhawk community. In particular you will find history of Old Aerdy, some great player character options for Hextor and Dalt, monster and treasures of the seas, and some delicious new Circle of (Nine?) heresy. There is all that and much more, check this new publication out NOW. Enjoy!


Tuesday, November 28, 2023

New Map: Where are the Rhennee

Hello Greyhawk mavens! On the heels of my Minimalist Darlene Map I have another "useless" Greyhawk map. I say it's useless because this current bit of humor comes from a discussion in the Greyhawk community about people making useful infographic maps, such a population density map which I've seen someone do remarkably well. I love infographics, heck I've done serious ones before, such as my Regional Resource Maps from a year ago. This new map, on Rhennee in the Flanaess uses the same stock map originally from the World of Greyhawk Folio. While it may be a joke to long time gamers such as myself, this easy-to-follow map may actually help readers new to the setting on where Rhennee boatmen can be found. Now, if someone wants to come along later and do a map of Rhennee seasonal barge traffic then I will tip my hat to you! Until then, enjoy!


Friday, November 17, 2023

New: Minimalist Darlene Greyhawk Map

Greetings Greyhawkers and D&D map enthusiasts in general. Today I present a silly map concept I have been daydreaming about for months, a minimalist Darlene map. If you're like me, you might have a Greyhawk map as your computer wallpaper. And so, I often stare at this map and strange ideas form, this time however I have finally put it to the test. The World of Greyhawk setting map is hex-based, and because of the tendency of Darlene's calligraphic style to conform to this shape, this means a lot of the nations and geographical areas start to fall into these hex patterns on a larger scale. For example. in the Sheldomar Valley side, the tri-Ulek states, Gran March and Bissel fall into a nice row. So does the Sea Princes, Yeomanry, Sterich and Geoff. Some parts were harder to judge than others, but I got the Darlene map down to a minimalist state. It was a fun experiment. One thing though, don't ask what the scale per hex is, I don't know! One more thing, I haven't decided if I can do labels yet have a look for yourself. Enjoy! 

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Greyhawk Quiz #6: Letter G

Welcome again Greyfolk. Time for another of my Greyhawk quizzes. Check out the previous quiz to see more. How well do you know the geography of the Darlene map? Test your luck!


Sunday, October 22, 2023

Greyhawk City: Champion's Games

Welcome back Greyhawk faithful. On a recent Legends & Lore stream we talked about mercenaries and adventuring parties. One of the things we discussed was the Dungeon #128 adventure from Age of Worms titled The Champion's Belt by Tito Leati. In this chapter, as the PCs search for answers involving a retired gladiator named Loris Raknian, they must enter a gladiatorial event hosted by the "Free City" Arena where groups of compete for the coveted Champion's Belt. The meta plot involving a cult of Kyuss aside, I love the idea of an annual Champions Games held in the City of Greyhawk. I highly recommend this issue for anyone running an urban campaign. In the Champion's Belt, there is a huge list of NPC "gladiator" groups (these are not traditional gladiators, they seem more like rival adventuring groups), some detailed as opponents for the PCs, but most are left for DMs to flesh out. The focus of this post is to show the brief descriptive backgrounds I gave these Champion's Belt teams for my own Age of Worms campaign. But first here is some background rules on the Champion's Games. Enjoy!

"The Champion's Games is a five-day-long gladiatorial tournament that takes place annually in the Free City Arena. The games themselves consist of a massive four-round elimination event, interspersed with spectacle fights that pit gladiators against exotic monsters and other unique foes. A single team can consist of no more than eight members. Familiars do not count as members, but larger animal companions, mounts, and cohorts do. Finally, each team of gladiators must identify itself with a name and designate a leader."
  • The tournament is fought in four successive rounds of elimination. The first round consists of six battles of free-for-all combat between four teams (24 teams total). The six winners of the first round of battles are paired off into three team-versus-team battles. The next round, two of the three remaining teams fight each other, while the third team fights a special exotic monster. The final round is a face-to-face battle between the two remaining teams. The winners of each round is awarded a generous prize (trophy plus 2000-10,000 gp). The winner of the Champion's Games wins the right to wear the Champion's Belt (worth 2000 gp) for a year, along with a cash payout of 20,000 gp.
  • All battles are potentially lethal, but a gladiator always has the option of surrender. To surrender, a gladiator must drop his weapons, kneel, and hold both hands in the air. A gladiator who attacks a surrendering foe is disqualified (and likely arrested for assault or murder). A gladiator who surrenders and then attacks anothr foe is also disqualified.
  • Gladiators that can fly or levitate may do so up to a height of 40 feet. A gladiator that flues any higher is disqualified. Burrowing into the arena's floor is forbidden.
  • A match persists until one team is victorious, either through the death or the surrender of all opposing teams.
  • Winning gladiators have no right to the spoils of the fallen. A defeated foe keeps his gear, or in the case of death, ownership of gear reverts to his team.
  • Any tactic that endangers spectators is grounds for immediate disqualification and possible legal action.
  • A disqualified gladiator must cease fighting at once and must move to the edge of the field of battle. Failure to comply results in the disqualification of the entire team. Once a gladiator is disqualified, he may no longer take part in any remaining battles.
The Competition:
These teams are given a short description by me, and are open to further development by a DM. The module does give an "Encounter Level" for each NPC team which helps. Teams marked with an asterisk are fully detailed in Dungeon #128.

Arcane Auriga* EL 10 
4 elven female archers, exiles from Celene. Led by Rennida Auriga (arcane archer), her daughter Krinasa and two cousins, Eelyssa and Anetah.

Auric's Warband* (defending champion) EL 12
Auric (F10), Khellek (W10) and 3 controlled flesh golems.

Badlands Revenge* EL 9
3 gnoll warriors led by a human druid/barbarian named Joren and his dire badger companion.

Chuko's Ravens EL 7
3 kenku rogues led by a druid named Chuko.

Draconic Brood EL 11
4 half-dragon adventurers (or dragonborn if 5E) including a pseudo-dragon familiar.

Drunken Devilry EL 6
6 drunken students from the fraternal Gnarly House in Greyhawk City.

Final Phoenix EL 7
4 mounted lancers from the Bright Lands.

Guttuggers EL 8
4 half-orc mercenary veterans from Greyhawk City.

Iron (Cairn) Hill Monkeys EL 5
3 monks from Twilight Monastery

Night Owls EL 4
2 rogue knife-fighters from Dyvers.

One of Us EL 4
3 human adventurers (triplets) form the Duchy of Urnst. Might be dopplegangers?

Pitch Blade* EL 12
2 dwarven killers (barb 10) named Drusfan and Pharbol.

Rauth's Dragoons EL 6
4 veteran mercenary cavalry from Perrenland managed by Captain Rauth.

Sapphire Squad* 
EL 9
2 mercenary mounted archers led a jann swashbuckler named Korush.

Snow Leopards EL 9
A half-elf mage and a half-elf ranger with two leopard animal companions from the Lortmils .

Teeth of Kord EL 5
3 clerics led by specialty priest of Kord from Rhizia.

The Crazy Eight EL 6
8 minor gladiators from the Pit in the Foreign Quarter.

The Fisthammers EL 8
4 dwarven warriors from Karakast.

The Gravediggers EL 8
3 of the meanest members of the Gravedigger Union in GHC.

The Skull of Murq EL 9
A mysterious wizard and 4 human bodyguards.

The Unhumans EL 7
A half-orc, an ogre, a lizard man, and a bugbear.

The Woodchuckers EL 3
4 spunky gnomes from Grossetgrottel.

Varmint Patrol EL 5
8 halfling slingers from Elmshire.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Dark Greyhawk Forum Letter

Well met Greyhawkers! Today I was reminded that way back in 2000, at the turn of 2nd Edition to 3rd Edition, before the internet became an everyday means of communication, I wrote a letter to the Forum page that was published in Dragon #273. This was in response to the Question of the Month" in issue #270: “Does your campaign have a particular theme? Is it swashbuckling, epic, gritty, or wahoo? Tell us all about your campaign style!”

Here is my response. Enjoy!

Dark Greyhawk

I wrote this in response to the "Question of the Month" and also to add to the discussion in #264 through #270 about evil characters. The campaign I run is set in the northwest of the Greyhawk campaign setting and uses heavy Al-Qadim sources. The Arabic feel is very refreshing. All the characters are foreigners and have had a wonderful time trying to blend in by learning new customs, dress, and especially language. They have adopted new names and even acquired their hirelings from this area. New and exotic locales always liven a static campaign. The land is full of mystery and intrigue, but the PCs fit in perfectly because they are all schemers and shady fellows as well. They always parlay or even deal with villains rather than just outright slay them. Every monster or encounter is assessed for its benefit, not just used as a stepping stone for the next encounter. Their motto is, dealing with evil is better than a pat on the back. Then, if necessary, you can always turn on evil and side with good in the end.

I do not rigidly control alignments, except in the case of priests. All the characters are decidedly shady but not evil. As long as the PCs can at least trust one another, then it doesn't matter what their alignments are. The lawful evil fighter in my group has shown many instances of paladinlike behavior toward the common man and even his foes. You don't wear alignment like a badge; your actions define your character.

In fantasy literature, the greatest heroes are what I term "shady." Elric, Conan, Fafhrd, and the Grey Mouser are all shady characters. Alignment never stopped any of them from doing the right thing in the end. The only recent characters from literature I can imagine fitting this description are Raistlin or Drizzt. Why are the shady ones the favorites? They have more fun.

It seems to me the only classes purely concerned with their alignment are the religious ones (cleric, druid, and paladin). They are the ones who have their beliefs dictated by a higher power. I am not saying you shouldn't play good guys, but some campaigns could use a change in locale and attitude.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Aerial Items of Greyhawk

Welcome again Greyhawk enthusiasts! I recently had a fun discussion on Legends & Lore stream about aerial related things in Greyhawk (or D&D in general). After talking about cloud castles, playable flying races and our rules preferences for flight, I had some left-over material about magic items related to flying. Let's have a look. Enjoy!

Wings of Flying (DMG) The prototypical D&D flying magic item. This cape flies for a couple hours per day and can carry 500 lbs weight!

Wings of the Rakers (Greyhawk Adventure) This is one of the first items I think of when it comes to flight thanks to the good ol' Greyhawk Adventures hardback source book. This white cloak was made by a wizard who was friends of the aarakocra of the Rakers. It acts like normal wings of flying, except the wearer appears to have sea gull wings. The Wings also allow the user to speak and understand aarakocra language and to dive attack like a member of that race. Love that flavor!

Winged Boots (Unearthed Arcana) This item was always a player favorite in my campaigns. Little wings sprout from your heel (kind of like Hermes) and they impart the ability to fly for 2 hrs without concentration. They come in four different speed and maneuverability types as well.

Cloak of the Bat (Unearthed Arcana) Another fun piece of apparel. This one works in darkness making the wearer virtually invisible and allows you to hang upside down like a bat! In darkness the wearer can fly of course or polymorph into a regular bat! This makes a pretty good villain item and can trick players into thinking they're a vampire!

Cloak of the Couatl (The Scarlet Brotherhood) A bat not good enough for you? Okay try this feathered cloak from Hepmonaland and Amedio. Wings spread out from the wearer and allow flight for two hours. The cloak also can make its wearer invisible while flying but it cuts the time in half. Now if this cloak turned its owner into a couatl it'd be amazing, but alas it's not that powerful.

Gargoyle Cloak (Temple of Elemental Evil) I guess while I'm talking about cloaks that give the user flight, I'll mention this one. This time the cloak does polymorph the wearer. As a gargoyle, the wearer has all the abilities of this creature, including flight, but each turn (10 minute) there is a cumulative chance your mind is permanently changed into a gargoyle's. Not cool!

Broom of Flying (DMG) Back in the day, I would have never handed one of these out in my games. However, since the popularity of Harry Potter, I'm rethinking this item's usefulness. It allows unlimited fly power. Carries just 200 lbs though, so yeah not for the armored fighter. Neat part is you can call it to your hand from 300 yds out. That could lead to some fun escape scenarios!

Book of the Griffon (From the Ashes) This magic tome is intentionally left for the DM to tailor for their campaign, but its suggested powers are: summon a group of "magical" griffons once a day. Charm natural griffons, plus spells of flight, elemental air and magical mounts. The book has a price tag of 60,000+ gp so this is a nice diamond in the rough.

Ring of the Wind Dukes (Dungeon #129) This ring comes from the Age of Worms adventure A Gathering of Winds. As expected, this ring belonged to one of the Wind Dukes of Aaqa from Greyhawk prehistory. Among its aerial powers are an immunity to strong winds and the ability to charm monster on Air subtype creatures, so it opens the possibility of riding an aerial mount. Its other offensive powers make this nearly artifact level in rarity. Check out this issue!

Ring of Elemental Metamorphosis (Tome of Magic) Hey speaking of wind themed rings, this item (in our case Air type) can polymorph the wearer into an elemental once a day. As you would expect the wearer gets the form and physical abilities and defenses of an air elemental (so flight). It doesn't screw with the wearer's mind luckily!

Ring of Elemental Command (DMG) Possibly better than the previous rings, the Air subtype here has loads of powers. Among them is communication with elementals, the fly spell, invisibility and control winds

Flying Carpets (DMG) Probably my favorite aerial themed magic item of all time. I mean who didn't grow up with stories of Aladdin on his flying carpet? In Greyhawk, Mordy and company ride one in Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure. In the DMG, they come in four various sizes and speeds. The smaller the carpet, the faster it is, but it also carries less weight. For a fun idea, I once created a flying carpet that also teleported randomly when fed expensive gems.  

Ebony Fly (DMG) Figurines of Wondrous Power are classic magic items. The ebony fly however is one I don't think I ever used. It grows to the size of a pony, flies for 12 hours straight and can carry up to 350 lbs. Seeing a hero riding on a giant house fly would be quite a sight! 

Bronze Griffon (3.0 DMG) This is a new type of figurine found in 3rd edition. Naturally it grows into a magical griffon that can be rode for 6 hours at a time, twice a week.

Saddle of Flying (Tome of Magic) Okay I knew this item had to exist and I finally found it. When secured to a horse, this saddle causes the mount to sprout wings and the ability to fly at its normal movement rate for one hour per day. Not bad if you're a paladin or cavalier who wants to ride a cheap Pegasus into combat!

Coruskian Stone (Greyhawk Adventures) Another hidden gem from GHA. This greenish stone set in a gold necklace gives the wearer the ability to charm griffons into being aerial mounts. The stone however does not impart any special skill in riding griffons, so combat will be dicey. 

Headband of the Corusk Mountains (Greyhawk Adventures) Okay one more from GHA, this one is even better. There is something about the Thillonrian Peninsula that screams the need for flying items, I guess. This headband is fun, because it's made from the skull of a white dragon! Its purpose is to charm white dragons into being a mount and yes, the item imparts the ability to ride aerial creatures.  What's more, the headband makes the wearer immune to cold attacks. Very cool!

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Greyhawk Map Definitions

Welcome back Greyhawkers! If you've spent as much time as I have staring at the Darlene map of the Flanaess then you'll understand that you start to question the meaning and origins of every damn label Gygax used for his geography and towns. Sure, we know a ton of them are anagrams or homages of family and friends, or are using French, German or Latin words, but the ones that are left over still sometimes need defined to fully understand them. Gygax after-all was a wordsmith who was fond of using archaic English vocabulary in his Greyhawk works (often for NPC names). Let's explore some words from the map, see which ones you know already, and if you have any clarifications, please put them in the comments. Enjoy! 

(Plains of the Paynims) paynim: (noun) "heathen; pagan" I always assumed this was a reference to nomads or something Arabic adjacent. What I failed to understand all these years is that paynim is a real-world derogatory name (albeit an archaic term). From the meta-perspective of the World of Greyhawk Guide's author, yes, the men of the plains would be heathens or pagans compared to the Flanaess' cultures. This term of course fits in on a pulpy map that also lists barbarians, nomads, and savages. I can now only assume the peoples of the Baklunish West would have a different name for this region! 

(Lake Quag, Quag Keep)
quag(mire): (noun) "soft miry land that shakes or yields under the foot; a difficult, precarious, or entrapping position."
 I always knew Quag was a root of quagmire. I think the first time I heard the word was in reference to a war you cannot get out of once started. I wonder if Gygax envisioned Lake Quag as some place that is dangerous then? It doesn't seem especially bad, like it may freeze over but that's far from what you'd expect in a quagmire situation.  

(town of Shiboleth) shibboleth: (noun) "a word or saying used by adherents of a party, sect, or belief and usually regarded by others as empty of real meaning; a truism or platitude; a custom or usage regarded as distinguishing one group from others." I got to admit I've never seen this word used in general conversation only in writing, maybe it's one of these antiquated Gygaxian words. What is interesting though, is that the town of Shiboleth (one "b" less) is in Gran March, a (religious) militant state. So that choice of word is on the mark!  

(Spindrift Isles) spindrift: (noun) "sea spray; fine wind-borne snow or sand" This is a word I didn't know the definition of until I wrote this article and is what started me down this dictionary rabbit hole in the first place! Now I have never spent time on the sea, the desert or in the arctic, so it's new to me, but maybe this is a commonly used term? In any case, kudos to Gygax for naming an island chain with such an appropriately descriptor. It is amusing to me though, that he could have just as easily called the Bright Desert the Spindrift Desert and this entry would be unchanged!

(Gamboge Forest) gamboge (noun) "a strong yellow; an orange to brown gum resin from southeast Asian trees of the Saint-John's wort family that is used as a yellow pigment and cathartic." 

(Celadon Forest) celadon (noun) "a grayish-yellow green; a ceramic glaze originated in China that is greenish in color."
A two-for-one on this entry. I covered both these words in a previous article on Colorful Places of Greyhawk. Gygax uses A LOT of colors in his naming schemes. These two rare words however eluded my consciousness for many years before I started blogging. Celadon makes sense for a forest descriptor, whereas gamboge perhaps is referring to the forest's changing leaves during the autumn season.

(Woolly Bay) woolly (adjective) "consisting of wool; like the rough, vigorous atmosphere of the early West in America." This is one of my favorite choices of Gygax's. And I don't think this is about woolly mammoths or wool sweaters. Here we literally have "wild and woolly" labelled side by side on the map. Gary likely envisioned the Wild Coast and Woolly Bay as his medieval fantasy version of the Wild West. He even gave us the gunslinging paladin Murlynd after all (have gun will travel). 

(town of Knurl) knurl (noun) "a small protuberance or knob; one of a series of small ridges on a metal surface to aid in gripping." Coincidence or clever Gygaxian naming for this town? I don't know much lore about Knurl, but maybe the town is built on a hill? It is kinda at the tip of the Blemu Hills I think.

(Suss Forest) suss (verb) "to inspect or investigate so as to gain more knowledge." This one I knew about, but it's still weird to my ears, like yes, we do need to investigate this evil woodland more. No, what I think is actually happening in this case is Gygax used a root of the word of susurrus "a whispering or rustling sound." Now that sounds like a cooler reason to name an evil forest.

(Gnarley Forest) gnarly (adjective) "twisted with or as if with gnarls or knots; distasteful or distressing, gross." Everyone's favorite forest (an added "e" for variation) is an aptly described place that gives you an immediate mental image of being old, dense and twisted. If you grew up in the 80's however the latter definition certainly made this forest into a running joke. Good times.

(Welkwood) welk (verb) "to lose freshness or greenness, dry up; to become less." This one I'm not totally sure about but again, Gygax is known for using obsolete words in Greyhawk. Welk can be a synonym for fade, wilt or wane. This definition doesn't evoke the image of a lush sylvan forest though, unless it is already in decline from ancient times. Another thought with the benefit of hindsight, I'd speculate that the "Suss and Welk" forest names should be swapped. One other possibility, Gygax was a fan of Lawrence Welk? Shrug!

(Nutherwood) nuther (conjunction, pronoun or adjective) "not either; not the one or the other of two or more." This one is a stretch so bear with me. According to the internet, (which is always right) nuther is a dialectal variant of the word neither. So, taken in context of the Flanaess on the opposite side of the river is the ghostly Phostwood and the locals are calling this side "Neitherwood" meaning this is also not a place you should enter. My other suspicion is that "nuther" is a play on "nether" implying this woodland is some kind of otherworldly place of the dead. Now that seems more fitting for a fantasy setting! 

(Flotsom Isle)
flotsam (noun) "floating wreckage or a ship or its cargo; a floating population (emigrants/castaways); miscellaneous or unimportant material." 

(Jetsom Isle) jetsam (noun) "the part of a ship, its equipment, or its cargo that is cast overboard to lighten the load in time of distress and that sinks or is washed ashore." 
I have another two for one entry. You know I gotta mention these two words because they're part of the Hold of the Sea Princes. Not kidding, I went many, many years before I knew the definition of flotsam and jetsam. Jetsam kinda sounds like jettison, which has to share the same root meaning. Also, I guess Gygax used a variation of the spelling, "flotsom and jetsom" cause fantasy world, right? Whatever the spelling or meaning, these islands are perfectly named for their location, a high seas haven for buccaneers.

(Griff Mountains) griff (noun) "a deep narrow glen or ravine; news or reliable information." I'm uncertain about this one as well. I see this word is a dialectal variant, or a slang English word. It's most likely just the shortened version of the mythical creature griffon (griffin) of course. This is D&D after all. Still, calling a mountain range griff because of its numerous glens and ravines doesn't seem all that implausible. 
(town of Glot) -glot (adjective combining form) "having knowledge of or using languages." This last word I enjoyed more than I thought I would. Polyglot is a word I've always known, and glottal and glottis refer to vocal cords. So here we have the capital of the Cruskii, did Gygax intend Glot to be monosyllabic because they are barbarians? Maybe it's a clever inference that the Ice Barbarians are multilingual, or good at war cries, I don't know! Or maybe I give Gygax too much credit in naming the Flanaess, and Glot is just four random letters. That's all I got for now! If anyone has a cool obscure map word definition, let me know! 

Friday, September 15, 2023

Expressions in the Land of Ull

Well met, Greyhawkers! One of my absolute favorite Greyhawk source books is Anne Brown's Players Guide to Greyhawk from the 2E era. Among the many useful tidbits of Greyhawk lore and info on how to make a character set in the Flanaess, there is a section on expressions and sayings. This kind of stuff is a delight because it adds spice to your roleplay, further adding to the immersion of the setting. By now most of you have heard gems like "I Spit on the Old One", "Cold Iron Avail You", or "May the Axe Grow Great." Well in this post I am going to attempt to add to this cultural exchange with some custom expressions from the frontier land of Ull. Keep in mind Grey-scholars, these sayings are translated from the original Ulagha dialect of Ancient Baklunish, so the actual wording may or may not be accurate. Until the Starbreak!

"Yoll, Yoll, Yoll!" This is an ancient battle cry used by Uli warriors, predating their occupation of the Oeridian lands. It was most famously yelled by the united forces of Ull when it turned back the invading Brazen Horde at the Battle of Ulakand in 308 CY. Over time however, this specific expression has fallen out of popular use by the many khanates of Ull who have developed their own local battle cries. Only the small warband called the Wild Men still cling to this expression as they harass travelers passing though Ohkir Khanate. Note: this expression originally comes from Gary Gygax's novel Sea of Death, where for copyright reasons the land of Ull was renamed Yoll.

"I'd sooner go to Kester." The derision felt between the traditional northern nomadic clans of Ull, and their corruptible southern kin is no more evident than in this familiar saying which has now spread across the neighboring plains and steppes. Kester's reputation for danger and depravity lends itself well to this forceful rejection of an obviously perilous request. Example: "You want to go in the Tomb of Horrors? I'd sooner go to Kester!"

"The arrow has been loosed." Variations of this idiom are found throughout Eastern Oerik. In Ull, it is commonly asserted that once an arrow is launched there is no changing its course. To put plainly, it refers to a decision that is made which cannot be taken back. Example: "I told the sheik we will not give in to his demands. The arrow has been loosed!"

"Ride fast, ride far." Many nomadic tribes in the north of Ull will travel vast distances in a shorter time than most riders due to the strength and resiliency of their horse breeds. This expression of parting is quite popular among the khanates and has even found use by their distant kin on the Plains of the Paynims. The saying is also the rallying cry of the annual Najaam Trials (during Richfest), a cross-country horse race that brings honor to a rider's family.

"Come down from your saddle." This expression is used to imply someone is being stubborn or unreasonable and needs to humble themselves. This usually includes a subtext of violence. For context, it is customary in Ull for negotiations to be conducted on foot, mainly in the event combat breaks out to decide the matter. Example: "Seventy gold pieces for that old bow? Come down from your saddle..."

"Blood is strength." Ull is a land of internal strife with warring raiders and contentious nomad families. When Uli have common foe however, the entire domain will rally together behind a strong leader. The phrase "blood is strength" is thus used by locals as a rousing means of setting aside differences to deal with a foreign problem.

Your god did not follow you here." While not outright hostile, this expression is often invoked as a way to rebuke clerics and missionaries foolish enough to come to Ull. Uli are distrustful of religions in general believing more in spirituality centered on their ancestors. They do believe the gods exist but only harmful ones like Incabulos or Ralishaz pay any mind to Ull. Example: "Keep your prayers and begone beggar, your god did not follow you here."

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Greyhawk A-Z: Named Fiends

Welcome again Greyfolk! I got another fun A-Z list coming at you! Some of my previous alphabetical lists of peopleplaces, deities, and most recently magic items, can be found on the Best of Greyhawkery Page. This time around I will try my hand at discussing named fiends (demons or devils) from the many editions of D&D. Fiends of the lower planes have always been an integral part of Greyhawk lore from the very beginning. I am quite sure there will be no ill side effects by listing all these evil beings, I mean it worked for Iggwilv in her Demonomicon right? Enjoy!

Arendagrost: (Dragon #290) Right off the bat I'm throwing out an obscure fiend. Arendagrost, the Maw of the Abyss, is the three headed, draconic offspring of Demogorgon and Malcanthet the Queen of Succubi. Arendagrost's significance is it was summoned as a byproduct of Lord Kargoth's betrayal of the Knight Protectors and the resulting creation of the death knights. While Arendagrost was sent back to the abyss by the forces of good, it waits to cause more carnage in the future.

Baphomet: (MM2) Now this is more like it, the Prince of Beasts. Good ol' Baphomet rules abyssal layer #600, the Endless Maze. Baphomet is one of those demons extracted from real world mythology though in D&D lore he is the patron of minotaurs as you'd expect. As a bonus tidbit, I wrote the Minotaur Mask of the Ulsprues with Baphomet in mind.

(MM2) Another outlier on this list, Charon is obviously the famous skeletal boatman of the Styx from Greek myth. This doesn't change in D&D except he is a unique daemon (I believe yugoloth in 2E parlance) whose duty is to transport beings on the same river Styx that connects all the Lower Planes. What's fun is that Charon has his own look-alike daemon servants called Charonadaemons who also runs skiffs because I suppose the high demand for ferry services in the afterlife?

Dagon: (Dragon #349) You thought I might go Demogorgon here, eh? Too easy. The Prince of the Depths. Dagon is a classic baddy who lurks in layer #89 The Shadowsea. I like Dagon because he is an ancient evil (obyrith) from real world myth and is well-known in other fantasy lit (Cthulhu, Conan).

Ereshkigal: (MM2) Surprisingly not much going on in the E department so I'll punt. This female demon lord somehow has evaded detail in D&D, but Gygax definitely lifted the name from Sumerian myth. Ereshkigal is one of many gods of the underworld, and in these myths, she is married to another "fiend" on this list (see below).

Fraz-Urb'luu: (MM2) Fraz, the Prince of Deception comes from abyss layer #176, Hollow's Heart. He is quite familiar in Greyhawk lore, like Zagig Yragerne once trapped Fraz as a trial run for capturing real gods. One you may not know is Fraz-Urb'luu once had a side gig as drummer on the Graz'zt Show.

(Dragon #91) Nope, not going to do Graz'zt either, too over-exposed in Greyhawk. Let me show you an arch-devil you can use in your campaign! The Lord Who Watches, Gargoth was once only second to Asmodeus in the Nine Hells but now he wanders the Prime Material Plane on his own terms! If you want to read more about what Gargoth is up to and what this devil can do, check out Nine Hells Revisited in Dragon #91 by Ed Greenwood. I also hear a rumor "Gargauth" is dabbling in godhood in the Realms...

Hutijin: (MM2) This Duke of Hell is found in the 8th layer of Hell, Caina serving his master Mephistopheles. He looks like a pit fiend which is by design because he personally leads two companies of pit fiends. Though I couldn't find it in writing, the best I could find online is that there are 333 devils in a company. An army of 666 pit fiends sounds pretty epic!

Ilsidahur: (Dungeon #10) I had to dig deep for this demon. The Howling King is from the adventure "The Shrine of Ilsidahur". From layer #99 The Guttering Grove, he is a giant ape with ram horns who is the patron of bar-lguras. This module might be worth looking into!

Juiblex: (MM1) Yes of course I have to mention the Faceless Lord here. This famous ooze demon lord is from layer #222, Shedakalah which he shares with another featured fiend on this list (see below). Little known fact, Juiblex loves stand-up comedy.

(MM2) I would've gone with Kerzit on this letter, but Kosty will forever be a favorite thanks to the classic cover of Dragon #119 (left). The aptly named Prince of Wrath rules layer #23 The Iron Wastes. According to his background, Baba Yaga had a hand in his ascension to demon lord status which is fitting because both are based on Russian folklore.

Lolth: (D&DG) Everyone and their cousin knows Lolth, Demon Queen of Spiders who runs abyss layer #66 the Demonweb Pits. No demon lord or duke of hell has probably influenced Greyhawk or D&D for that matter, more than Lolth. I mention her nonhuman entry in Deities & Demigods, but I also first saw her evil glory in Fiend Folio.

The Malgoth: (Dungeon #117) You're probably wondering, what, no Mephistopheles? No Malcanthet? Well folks this is a sleeper pick, check out the Dungeon module, Touch of the Abyss by Greg Vaughan. The Malgoth was once an ancient obyrith that was so awful he was destroyed by an alliance of demon princes (sorta like Tharizdun level badness). His evil was so great that his essence continued to linger invisibly over the aeons, until Lolth unsuccessfully tried to take the city of Istivin into the abyss. This brief overlap allowed the Malgoth to enter Oerth, where he can now possess a single creature, becoming his "voice." It's an insidious demon, and one helluva module.

Nergal: (Dragon #75) This "devil" is intriguing. The Bringer of Pestilence and Fever is an exiled Duke of Hell, one of the "Rabble of Devilkin" who roam Avernus looking to regain his status. That's cool and all but I know a more prominent Nergal from the original Deities & Demigods where he is an underworld god of the Babylonian pantheon (and according to myth is married to Ereshkigal). My favorite however is Nergal the pestilent Chaos god from Warhammer fantasy lore. All in all, there is probably a lot of crossover in these Nergals.

(MM1) No brainer on this letter. Orcus, ruler of layer #113 Thanatos, is the classic Prince of the Undead and wielder of the iconic artifact, the Wand of Orcus. Orcus has featured heavily in D&D and Greyhawk lore, though in my opinion he's best known for his efforts to become a true god in the Planescape module Dead Gods

Pazuzu: (MM2) AKA Pazrael from Iuz the Evil, this demon lord is well known in Greyhawk lore. The Prince of the Lower Aerial Kingdoms is unique in that he rules the skies of all, I repeat ALL the skies in the 666 layers of the Abyss. Pazuzu's main enemy is Graz'zt yet he makes deals on Oerth with the Dark Prince's demigod son Iuz. Like any good demon lord, ol Paz' cannot be trusted!

Queen of Chaos: (Rod of Seven Parts) Thank goodness for the Queen on this letter. She is the elder evil ruler of all abyssdom before Demogorgon. She is so old in fact she has no name except "Queen of Chaos." The Queen was the demon lord who was infamously defeated by the lawful Wind Dukes of Aaqa at the Battle of Pesh. The Queen now lurks in defeat on level #14, the Steaming Fens. 

Rhyxali: (Fiendish Codex I) Quick question, would Raxivort count as a fiend since he spent so much time serving Graz'zt before becoming god of xvarts? At any rate speaking of Graz, Rhyxali the Queen of the Shadow Demons is his sister! Allegedly. Rhyx resembles Graz'zt though, six fingers and all that. There isn't much on her, but she rules layer #49 Shaddonon where all shadow demons originate. Cool!

Shami-Amourae: (Dungeon #148) The Lady of Delights. She is a rival of Malcanthet whom was once the consort of Demogorgon. Shami however was imprisoned in abyss layer #73 The Well of Darkness. She appears in the adventure path Savage Tide because she knows intimate information about the Prince of Demons. Oh my!

(MM2) I'm picking Titivilus because the wily ambassador/messenger of arch-devil Dispater looks fun to use in a roleplay sense. This goat-legged devil is wicked because he can spew the most corrupted twisted words and causes fear and confusion like no other. Fiends even hate talking to him!

Ugudenk: (Dragon #333) The Squirming King is an obyrith demon rules that layer #177 the Writhing Realm. He is best known for having his wormy creatures burrow into Fraz-Urb'luu's realm while he was imprisoned by Zagyg. Let's leave it at that. Nasty.

Verin: (MM2) Tricky letter. This demon lord is mentioned in Monster Manual 2 but is not given any detail. Later on, Verin would be made the "Voice of Graz'zt", the demon who filled in for his demon prince while he was imprisoned by Iggwilv. I believe this role is synonymous with the demon Vuron from Gygax's Gord novel series. Either way, Verin is a cool customer.

Wejinhastala: (Dragon #357) Okay this is an obscure reference, but W isn't a popular letter with fiends evidently. Wejin is the Tempest, a demon lord from antiquity that allied with several others to take down the Malgoth (see above) before falling into ruin themselves.

Xaxx'aa: (Rary the Traitor) This is a hidden gem. Xaxx is an Ultroloth (the toughest of daemon-kind) who is in the service of Rary the Traitor. Xaxx is in the Bright Desert voluntarily to aid Rary, overseeing the epic teleportation of Rary's tower from Ket to the desert. He has uncertain motivations, perhaps displacing the mage as ruler? Xaxx'aa is not only highly intelligent, but deadly in combat, carrying a sentient sword +3 called Doomcutter whose special purpose is to slay demons and devils. This guy needs to be used more!

Yeenoghu: (MM1) The Demon Prince of Gnolls is well known from early D&D lore. He lives on layer #422 "Yeenoghu's Realm" a barren plane that once belonged to other demon lords. Yeenoghu has many enemies, including Baphomet (see above) who have been scheming over events in Western Oerik

Zuggtmoy: (TOEE) Let's finish this list properly. Zuggtmoy has been featured in adventures and novels from the very beginning of Greyhawk. The Lady of Fungi is of course most famous for her um, association with Iuz, and her role in the classic adventure Temple of Elemental Evil. When not imprisoned, Zuggy lives on abyssal layer #222 Shedakalah along with her slimy friend Juiblex. Spoiler: this realm is where Zuggtmoy hides Iuz's soul object. This fiendish show of devotion reminds me of an old blog post from 2019. Enjoy and until next time!

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Greyhawk Quiz #5: Five Letter Chain

Welcome again Greyhawk mavens! 

It's been a fun lazy summer and since I have no GenCon 2024 news of any importance, how about a new Greyhawk quiz? If you haven't already, check out my previous four quizzes on Human CulturesCapital CitiesModule Covers and Vecna. Good luck, this next one requires a bit of typing. Enjoy!


Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Greyhawk A-Z: Magic Items 2

Welcome back Greyhawkers! It's time for another fun A-Z list! Some of my previous alphabetical lists of 
peopleplaces, deities and yes magic items can be found on the Best of Greyhawkery Page. This time around I will look at some magical items that are not swords or artifacts. Wish me luck! I hope you'll enjoy!

Apparatus of Kwalish: Debatably this is an artifact, but it's always been listed among wondrous items in DMG's. We all know this most famous of aquatic magic items, but for future readers I want to make clear, Kwalish is human, and he originally worked out of the Baklunish West in Zeif.

Bucknard's Everfull Purse: This is an item I rarely gave out in my old campaigns, though every group had a Bag of Holding or Heward Haversack. The purse just seemed game breaking to me at low level and useless at high level. Why did Bucknard, a former member of the Circle of Eight, need to make this item? I guess he always got stuck paying for drinks at the tavern.

Cloak of the Couatl: Here's a rare one from The Scarlet Brotherhood. This feather cloak is only found in Amedio or Hepmonaland. As you'd expect it allows the wearer to fly. It also lets you turn invisible. Wow, talk about game breaking!

Dream Cap of Veluna: Greyhawk Adventures really is the best source for GH specific items as you'll see throughout this column. The dream cap gives premonitions in your sleep, usually of bad stuff that will happen. Later on, you get a bonus to save when whatever happens. I never used this before, but it sounds like a good roleplay device for DMs!

Ebon Skull: Possibly a relic (since only three were made), but this major magic item is found in Iuz the Evil. The user can do typical necromancer stuff, animate dead, cloud kill, etc. I believe the book lists which NPCs has the three skulls. I can't recall if I ever used these, I think I'd remember if my players acquired one though...

Flaming Mirror of Tenh: Yes, another gem from GHA. The Flaming Mirror is a cool plane-travelling device (elemental plane of fire) that I did use in the past but for the Baklunish West instead. Tenh sounds cool, but I don't see the thematic connection except to give this item a place name. Personally, I'd trade this one with the Whip of Zeif to make the Flaming Mirror of Zeif.

Gargoyle Cloak: From the Temple of Elemental Evil, this garment obviously polymorphs the wearer into a gargoyle! (helpful if one plays the module Gargoyle?) Interestingly if the wearer takes 20 hp damage from edged or fire attacks the cloak is ruined and stops working. The worst drawback is each 10 minutes you remain a gargoyle there is a 10% chance (cumulative) that your mind is changed to a gargoyle permanently. One more note, the module says there is other cloaks that turn wearers into other types of creatures. See below!

Hasty Barge of Nyr Dyv: Another from Greyhawk Adventures, this is a Rhennee barge that has magical movement, and it automatically repels unintelligent sea creatures. This is one of the only items attached to Rhennee culture that I'm aware of, so this makes the hasty barge valuable indeed!

Iron Bands of Bilarro: Well, this item is pretty standard across D&D editions (and we know by now what the anagram name is about), but what I just realized on re-reading it is the bands start off as a "ball" of iron that you throw at an opponent. The bands unwind and wrap around the target to catch it. Holy crap guys, it's a Pokemon ball!

Jug of Geshtai: Throwing you all a curve ball here. This item was created by ME way back in 2005! Check it out over on Canonfire!

Keolish Plate Mail of the Seas: Interestingly demonym spelling from GHA. Keolish? Misprint or intentional? At any rate this item is great because it has historical relevance. The King of Keoland gave it to his admiral for defeating the Sea Princes. That's the Battle of Jetsom Isle folks! Naturally the armor allows the wearer to not sink in water. Makes you wonder if the Sea Mages of Gradsul made more of these?

Leomund's Labile Locker: I'm a sucker for alliteration. From TOEE once again, Leomund sure knows how to make extra-dimensional storage space. This small box does it all, it shrinks, grows and can be used as a Leomund's Secret Chest spell. More of this please!

Mantle of Celestian: A unique magic item from Unearthed Arcana. This black cloak allows the wearer to breathe and act normally in space! It also has numerous extra-dimensional pockets to store things like food & water while you um, float around in space?

Necklace of Missiles: Found in the DMG, this fireball inducing item isn't necessarily uniquely Greyhawk. But I will tell you a story from my campaign when the players got a bunch of missile beads from the module Greyhawk Ruins. No joke (spoiler) there is a room with 13 jars holding 300 beads each. A chart in the module says 94% are missile beads of various strength (the remaining 6% are beads of force, no big deal). That means this dungeon yields 3666 fireball missiles. Needless to say, my players invented carpet bombing in Greyhawk.

Oracles of Greyhawk: Oracles in this case are specialized crystal balls (likely created by Zagig Yragerne). There is seven of them and once per day the oracle will answer a sagely question about a specific area such as Greyhawk City, Horned Society or the Wild Coast. I like these items because it can allow a DM to insert meta-knowledge into a game. The added danger to this orb is that the rulers of these areas may not want an oracle that can reveal their secret troop strengths or hidden resources. I need to use this next time!

Purple Robes of Tharizdun: Hilariously, these robes first seen in Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, are given magic item status in Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil. It just protects against the magical cold of their temples, pretty basic, like their cultists. There I said it.

Quaal's Feather Tokens: A classic from the DMG. These were always easy to dish out because they are one shot items. I think my players liked the Anchor best because they would use it offensively like a Looney Tunes cartoon. Tell me I'm not the only one.

Rary's Ring of Memories: This plain ring is from Slavers surprisingly (not Rary the Traitor). I thought it would be cooler, but all it actually does is cast Rary's Memory Alteration. I guess that could be evil if played right. *activates ring* "No Tenser, I didn't try to kill you and Otiluke! It wasn't me, I swear."

Shoes of Fharlanghn: Another very cool item from UA and also Land Beyond the Magic Mirror. The wearer never fatigues from walking and if they are neutral the boots give extra movement powers. But wait, that's not all! If the wearer is a Fharlanghn worshipper, they get even MORE powers. I don't think we ever had someone play a Fharlanghnite, so this item never got used in my campaign. A shame.

Tenser's Girdle of Giant Strength: From Return of the Eight. This module has a bunch of Tenser created items mainly for fighter-types to use, but this one is of particular interest because it's for only for wizards. This is significant because the original DMG says strength girdles do not work for magic-users. A custom magic rope belt that gives a mage hill giant strength is definitely on brand for Tenser.

Universal Solvent: A classic magic item but who has ever used this actually? It's funny to have an item whose main purpose is to negate its opposite, Sovereign Glue. That's the Gygax era though!

Vecnan Wafers: Okay this one is from way out there. Found in the 2E module, Die Vecna Die this unholy magical flat bread is consecrated to Vecna. If one who worships Vecna eats the wafers it will give a variety of buffs/heals, whereas non-Vecnans can expect reallllly bad stuff to occur. Fun!

Wand of a Wonder: You've heard of the Wand of Wonder, yes? Well, when that item runs out of charges, try the Wand of A Wonder from the TOEE mega-module. It's similar to the DMG version and has a whole new list of random wild effects. Good times!

Xaren Cloak: This is a nifty cheat for the list. Technically it's a variation of the Gargoyle Cloak above, but in the Encyclopedia Magica Vol 1, the listing for this cloak includes a d20 list of other monster cloaks. Xaren was unexpected, why not Xorn? At any rate, there ya go!

Yagrax's Spellbook: Here's another obscure one for the A-Z list compliments of Encyclopedia Magica. In Dragon #82 there is a tome subtitled Alterations of Tangibles and Intangibles. This has the spells melt, transmute water to dust, item, material, fabricate, and the always classy crystalbrittle.

Zagyg's Flowing Flagon: One more from UA to finish off this column. Zagyg is a whimsical mage who has some eccentric magic item tastes. This one is a vessel that refills itself up to six times with ever more potent alcohol each time. Somehow, I have never used this item but I'm putting this one in my next game you can bet!

Friday, July 28, 2023

Greyhawk Quiz #4: Human Cultures

Welcome back Greyhawk buffs! 

I got nothing new to show off, so how about another quiz? If you haven't already, check out my previous three quizzes on Capital Cities, Module Covers and Vecna. Good luck and enjoy!


Saturday, July 8, 2023

Gen Con 2023: I'm Back!

Heya Greyhawkers! I'll be at Gen Con in Indianapolis this year, but only for one day on Saturday unfortunately. I haven't been to GenCon for seven years. I have no idea what I'll do there besides the dealer hall. So, if anyone wants to meet up and chat Greyhawk or con stuff for a while, hit me up on the comments or email me at

Until then, enjoy!

Saturday, July 1, 2023

Virtual Greyhawk Con 2023

Greetings Greyhawkers! Be sure to keep an eye out for Virtual Greyhawk Con 4 this fall. Registration for the event and submissions for games started on June 30. Event registration will begin August 19th. Good luck everyone and have fun!

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Sea Princes Nobles 576 CY - Archbaron Gavin III

Greetings Greyhawk courtiers! Today I think I'm going to share another NPC noble from my Sea Princes 576 CY series. Gavin III is the ruler of Galeside, a small but rich town on Flotsam Isle that I hope to develop a bit more when I get around to fleshing out my Sea Princes campaign. Until then enjoy!

His Indomitable Nobility, Gavin III, Archbaron of Galeside, Captain of the Courser. (House Toli, Toli Armada, Rogue 10)

The archbaron of the small port Galeside is incredibly wealthy largely owing to his station in House Toli but also his ruthless ambition. Gavin is widely known as a capable sea captain and explorer. His personal ship, the Courser has notably voyaged beyond the Densac Gulf into the south seas several times, and on each return to port he has brought more wealth to his familys’ coffers. Archbaron Gavin III is married to Kerri of Jetsom Isle (Rogue 2) a noble lady who lives a comfortable life in a walled manor overlooking the sea. When her husband is away on a long voyage the archbaroness is rumored to go on her own adventures in the Hold. 

Politics and Intrigues: The cousin of Prince Varek IV the head of House Toli, Gavin III is constantly plotting with members of his family to further enrich themselves through the exploitation of the Amedio Jungle and its coastal islands. Kerri is the younger sister of Baron Deran Insley, a fellow explorer whose relationship and thirst for maritime knowledge is often exploited by the archbaron to aid Galeside in exploring the south seas for new resources and trade routes.

Archbaron Gavin III is an ideal mid-level NPC patron to use for campaigns that involve a lot of exploration by ship (see the Dungeon adventure path, Savage Tide for more on this). His home port of Galeside is a low key base for characters who want to avoid the dangers and intrigue of larger cities.

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.