Sunday, April 23, 2023

Greyhawk Gods Walk on Oerth

Greetings Greyhawk faithful! Today I'm going to look into a situation that has always bothered me about Greyhawk setting lore, and that is a contradictory suggestion that deities of Oerth do not directly get involved in mortal affairs. This is one area where I'm for classic Greyhawk over latter day authors. Let me explain in more detail...

From the Ashes by Carl Sargent on How Do Powers Look Upon Mortals:

"The Powers of Oerth rarely intercede directly in the affairs of Oerth. They expect their servants to be their right (and left) hands in the world...The Powers have an implicit understanding that if one of them should act too directly, others will act in concert to oppose the meddler, for if all acted in such a manner, Oerth would be destroyed by the Powers.

This helps us understand why the demigod Iuz has been able to effect so much evil in the Flanaess. The Prime Material Plane is his home plane, and therefore, he has a direct involvement in its affairs that other Powers do not...One partial exception is St. Cuthbert of the Cudgel. Other Powers allow St. Cuthbert to act in limited ways to oppose Iuz."

Indeed, this Cuthbert-Iuz rivalry is suggested previously in Temple of Elemental by Gary Gygax and Frank Mentzer but it is not explicitly stated the gods overall are barred from Oerth:

"Because of the plots of Iuz and various demons and evil elemental types, St. Cuthbert has become actively aware of events, and has indirect assistance from Beory (who resists elemental destruction). The enmity between Iuz and St. Cuthbert may result in direct confrontation!"

What does Beory giving assistance look like?!? Cuthbert interferes with Iuz, and in turn Iuz has interfered in the affairs of Vecna more than once (Vecna Lives!). The Living Greyhawk Gazetteer meanwhile, follows what I shall now term, Sargent's Law, and further clarifies this limitation to the "Powers" of Oerth:

"No god above demigod level may enter the Prime Material Plane of Oerth without the consensus of a majority of the gods of Oerth. A few exceptions to this are Ehlonna, Fharlanghn, Obad-Hai, and Olidammara (who chose the Prime Material Plane as their native realm), Beory (who may actually be the Oerth itself), and St. Cuthbert (who was allowed to come to Oerth to fight Iuz on more than one occasion)."

Older sources paint a slightly different picture than what Carl Sargent initiated in the 2nd Edition era of Greyhawk (if there is an earlier source of this law let know in the comments). Len Lakofka and Gygax seemed to have a more classic mythology flair to the pantheons of Oerth. In addition, Greyhawk Adventures by James Ward states in the first paragraph of the first chapter:

"The gods often visit the Prime Material Plane in avatar form to aid their worshipers or just to enjoy themselves. In one way or another, they influence actions of all creatures on the Plane...For some unknown reason, the city of Greyhawk gets an unusual amount of attention from these deities-at least one of these beings usually has an avatar in the city. Many ballads tell of awe-inspiring confrontations between avatars of opposing alignments on the city's crowded streets."

The gods may not directly appear to mortals in their true form in most cases, but they DEFINITELY walk among mortals frequently. Have a look at more of these instances:

Syrul lesser goddess of deceit (Dragon #88) "When a member of the Scarlet Brotherhood who is an assassin, illusionist, thief or monk attains the 9th level of experience, Syrul will personally attend the level-advancement ceremony to wish the character "evil-luck". Such a character is granted a vision spell with no strings attached."

To remind you, the Scarlet Brotherhood is comprised entirely of assassins, thieves and monks. Syrul doesn't just visit her special worshippers then, but ALL those high-level characters in the organization. That's not to say the goddess of deceit does this overtly in front of everyone, but she is there in person for a ceremony! 

Wee Jas greater goddess of magic and death (Dragon #88) "She can summon groups of lawful undead or lawful dragons (not Tiamat or Bahamut) to do her bidding...Summoned creatures will come to her in Acheron or on the Prime Material Plane..." 

Wee Jas is a vain deity, so why wouldn't she want to meddle in mortal affairs? Now admittedly this example is not as concrete as the one for Syrul, but it does infer that Wee Jas can call down heavy aid if she is on Oerth and needs to fight. That's not subtle at all for a greater deity.

Kord the Brawler greater god (Dragon #87) "Kord is quite the fool for a pretty face. He favors elven and human women, but has also consorted with other humanoids and even giants. The world is full of his sons and daughters, but few, if any, of them can claim demigod status (less than 1%)."

Kord, another greater god, is a classic example of meddling in mortal affairs, in the fashion of Zeus, by having actual affairs with mortals! The article in Dragon goes on to explain how a PC can possibly be a child of Kord and the game bonuses inherited. Later sources like From the Ashes completely omit this behavior by the Brawler in deference to the new "non-interference pact".

Phaulkon greater god of air and avians (Dragon #87) "Phaulkon is a relatively active traveler, and enjoys the company of men and elves. He can shape change into any normal or giant bird at will, as well as into the form of an elf or sprite."

Even Kord's dad likes to hang out on Oerth, and though it doesn't state he is promiscuous, there is no reason to believe he couldn't sire hero-gods like his son.

Norebo lesser god of luck and gambling (Dragon #86) "Norebo enjoys visiting taverns and gambling houses in the guise of a cheerful, innocent stranger and setting up dice games against other is impossible for someone to know Norebo's true identity unless the deity wills it."

This roguish deity is discreet about his interactions at least!

Heironeous lesser god of chivalry and justice (Dragon #67) "Heironeous often leaves the Seven Heavens in order to move around the Prime Material Plane, aiding heroic causes and championing Lawful Good...he has the power to create an illusion which makes him appear as a young boy, a mercenary soldier, or an old man. In the latter guises he will be garbed appropriately, but he always wears a suit of fine, magical chainmail."

Yes, even the patron of paladins and knights everywhere in the Flanaess cannot help but get involved. He isn't directly appearing in all his glory, but he is there (perhaps even on the front lines helping Shield Lands and Furyondy vs Iuz!) in contradiction to later canon law. Then there is his brother...

Hextor lesser god of war (Dragon #67) "Hextor dwells on the Planes of Acheron but can wander to those of Hell or even Nirvana. Most frequently, though, Hextor treads the Prime Material Plane in search of warfare, aiding lawful evil, opposing good...Hextor appears as a normal, handsome man when in disguise, for he can cause four of his arms to meld with his torso whenever he so desires. His complexion is fair and his hair jet black, as are his eyes. He is well spoken and charming, a hale fellow and a man’s man, yet irresistible to women."

Hextor is MOST FREQUENTLY on Oerth doing his business. Why wouldn't a war god hang out on battlefields with mortals? It's what Ares would do. Speaking of war gods...

Erythnul lesser god of hate and slaughter (Dragon #71) "Erythnul stalks battlefields in order to strike fear and rout whenever possible...when Erythnul engages in combat, his visage mutates from segment to segment, flowing in form from human to gnoll to bugbear to ogre to troll."

Think about this, mean ol' Erythnul could potentially be on the SAME battlefields as Heironeous and Hextor. Erythnul is not as subtle as the brothers though. Oeridian gods don't seem to play by Sargent Law. How about Baklunish gods?

Istus greater goddess of fate (Dragon #69) "Istus does certainly make appearances on other planes, including the Prime Material. Sometimes she is an old crone, other times she appears as a noble dame, then again as a lovely lady or even as a shepherd girl."

Istus is another deity that can meddle in disguise as much as she wants, but she is also responsible for the Oerth-spanning retcon during 1E-2E that was Fate of Istus. I suppose she had permission from a majority of gods for that one...

Nerull greater god of death (Dragon #71) "Nerull stalks the many planes-particularly the Prime Material when shrouded by night...However, most of the time he does not venture from Tarterus save to wreak havoc on the Prime Material Plane."

The grim reaper likes the hands-on approach, do not accept any lesser imitations.

There is more exceptions and instances than I can possibly list in this post. So just saying all Powers are flat-out barred from Oerth is just lazy writing in my opinion (which I never accuse Sargent of being any other time) and it robs the deities of much of their flavor and uniqueness. Was it done for game balance? Most likely. But for years we at least had DM agency to have divine intervention if we wanted as authors heaped us with game stats for D&D gods. No one wants a god-killing Time of Troubles situation like in Forgotten Realms of course. Deities shouldn't be superfluous in appearance like the Syrul example above, nor dropping like flies in the street like Greyhawk Adventures suggests. Also using avatars versus actual deities manifesting on Oerth is a semantic argument. Either they influence mortals directly at will or they only allow exceptions like St. Cuthbert. Whatever you decide for your own game, the examples from Dragon Magazine above are all reasonable ways to reward (or punish) PCs for learning mythic lore and having patron deities by showing the players that the gods are real in the World of Greyhawk.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Fantastic Metal and Stones of Greyhawk

Greetings Greyhawk scholars! Today's topic is one that has been eluding me for several years. I would get a glimmer to write about, then forget, or I'd take some notes and lose them. But it's always been popping up taunting me. The topic is fantastic metal and stones of Greyhawk! Most of these entries are from Greyhawk lore, some are unique or perhaps sentient formations, and others are general D&D tropes. Also, given the research on this topic is insanely time intensive, I am sure I'll overlook some examples, so if you know a rare metal or stone in Greyhawk that I missed, let me know in the comments. Enjoy!
Both these fantasy metals are commonly found in Greyhawk as well as D&D lore, owing to fantasy fiction like Lord of the Rings. Adamantine objects are generally harder, Mithral items are also durable but lighter. 
"Adamantine is an alloy created from a glossy black metal known as adamant. Adamant is the pure metal form of a jet-black, ferromagnetic ore known as adamantite. In its pure form, adamant is a lustrous, gleaming black color with rainbow edges. It is one of the hardest substances known (save obdurium), but also brittle. A stylus made from adamant will shatter if dropped.
The alloy adamantine is also black, but it has a clear green sheen in candlelight. This sheen turns purple-white under most magical radiances. Adamantine is pliable but very difficult to work with. It must be forged at very high temperatures by master smiths with special oils to slake and temper the hot metal. Adamantine features the strength of adamant without the brittleness.
Adamantite ore is found only in meteorites and the rarest of veins in magical areas deep beneath the earth beyond where human miners go, sometimes found in spherical pockets in volcanic areas. The drow are rumored to have an abundance of it. A few clans of deep-delving dwarves have also come across it, and most adamantine items found on the surface are of dwarven make. Adamantite has been discovered in the Pits of Azak-Zil."

"Mithral, also spelled mithril and known as truemetal among the dwarves, is a precious metal produced from ore found in the underoerth as well as mountain ranges in certain areas of the Flanaess. Mithral ore is an exceedingly rare silver-and-black mineral in its natural form. It becomes a glistening silvery-blue when it is forged."


Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk by Jason Bulmahn, James Jacobs and Erik Mona.
Stronghold Builders Guidebook by Matt Forbeck and David Noonan

This fantasy metal is less well known than the previous two materials. It goes to show there is always a stronger substance somewhere out there. Indeed, there is more to come...

"A fantastically rare metal that is even harder than adamantine. Obdurium is a pale violet metal which is harder than adamantine. This incredibly rare metal represents the pinnacle of nonmagical metal strength. It is also nearly prohibitively expensive, building with it costs ten times as much as carving stone walls and sixty times what a normal wooden wall would cost to build.
The doors leading to the Godtrap in Zagig's Prison beneath Castle Greyhawk are made of obdurium."

D3: Vault of the Drow by Gary Gygax
Dragon #298 Vault of the Drow: Dark Elf Metropolis by Frederick Weining
"The true splendor of the Vault can be appreciated only by those with infravision, or by use of the roseate lenses or a gem of seeing. The Vault is a strange anomaly, a hemispherical cyst in the crust of the earth, an incredibly huge domed fault over 6 miles long and nearly as broad. The dome overhead is a hundred feet high at the walls, arching to several thousand feet height in the center. When properly viewed, the radiation from certain unique minerals give the visual effect of a starry heaven, while near the zenith of this black stone bowl is a huge mass of tumkeoite — which in its slow decay and transformation to lacofcite sheds a lurid gleam, a ghostly plum-colored light to human eyes, but with ultravision a wholly different sight. The small "star" nodes glow in radiant hues of mauve, lake, violet, puce, lilac, and deep blue. The large "moon" of tumkeoite casts beams of shimmering amethyst which touch the crystalline formations with colors unknown to any other visual experience."
"Deep beneath the mighty Hellfurnace Mountains lies the Vault of the Drow, an immense hemispherical cyst in Oerth’s crust over six miles long and nearly as broad. Its mineral-veined ceiling rises more than 1000 fathoms above its crystal-strewn floor; near the zenith of the dome is a huge mass of tumkeoite, which as it slowly decays and transforms into lacofcite glows like a ghostly, plum-colored moon in the firmament of the Vault, while other phosphorescent nodes dimly gleam like stars in the same stony heaven."
Tumkeoite and Lacofsite (lack of sight) is two more of Gygax's usual anagram/pun creations that he name-drops throughout the setting. Taken literally though, Tumkeoite is a very rare radioactive substance that, depending on your ability to see different spectrums, sheds a light that is not harmful to normally light-sensitive Drow. Surely the dark elves picked the Vault because of this substance and the area it covers. One can also assume that give the radioactive nature of Tumkeoite, this is what gives some Drow gear their special properties and causes their decay when away from the Underdark. There is no mention of these unique minerals appearing anywhere else besides the Vault of the Drow, so I would ask, are these natural formations, or is Tumkeoite something that fell to Oerth in prehistory?
Speaking of meteorites, the Pits of Azak-Zil in the Abbor-Alz hills is a famous impact site where everything from gold to adamantite have been dug up, but one odd piece of ore has caused a lot of trouble at the mine... 
Greyhawk Adventures by James Ward
"For five years (dwarvish clan) Highforge swelled with wealth...Then abruptly the flow was cut off...a few suppose that the mine was visited by a curse, either by something imported from the heavens or by something wakened by the shooting star or the activities of the miners."
"There will be unusual numbers of undead, especially ghouls and ghasts, many of dwarven origin...The cause of this horrible transformation is an ellipsoid of bluish metal about 2 feet long and one foot diameter. All who die within five miles of it raise at the next full moon as undead creatures...The stone also causes consuming greed and transformation to a lichlike state in its possessor."

Think the Blue Ellipsoid was weird? Well, there is a sentient Purple Stone that was actually worshipped by a cult...
Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure by Robert J Kuntz
Dungeon #112 Maure Castle by Robert J Kuntz and Erik Mona
"Ancient Suel migrants fleeing the Rain of Colorless Fire carried the Purple Stone from its temple and installed it here...The cults came to a tragic end many decades ago when the Purple Stone tried to subvert them all along with the nearby masters of Maure Castle. The Maures responded by sealing the Purple Stone and all the cultists within the dungeon and raising the Unopenable Doors to prevent anyone from coming to their rescue."
"...a single oblong purple stone. The stone is ten feet long, four feet high, and three feet wide, its surface smooth and polished. The stone seems partially translucent and pulsates dimply with an inner violet light...The Purple Stone is not wholly disembodied spirit, not wholly magic artifact, but somewhere in between."
The Purple Stone wants others' attention, but two even more powerful sentient rocks, the Black Obelisk and the Oerth Stone just want to be left alone. The Obelisk's sole purpose is to hide the more important Oerth Stone, and it would still be hidden itself if not for a certain pesky archmage and his outrageous plan to capture nine deities...
Greyhawk Ruins
by Blake Mobley and Timothy B Brown
"One of the main reasons Zagig chose this area to build his castle on was the great magical obelisk he discovered...Unable to move it, he sought to use it in other ways..."
"Within lies the obelisk which drew Zagig to this area. The obelisk is a large 9’ diameter stone which looks as if made from obsidian. One large shield-sized chip is missing from it as well as four smaller such chips...The obelisk is actually frozen in space in relation to Oerth. It can only be moved or scratched by powers equivalent to multiple deities under the careful guidance of a brilliant mind. Any magic used in this room will strip that item or PC of all magical powers...Zagig placed several of his original creations in this room as a tribute to the obelisk. These items have been so exposed to the obelisk that they have gamed several special properties. They have been filled with the obelisk’s powers of existence (thus they are as difficult to break or destroy as an artifact)."
"The obelisk also blankets everything in a cloak through which deities (except Boccob) simply will not see. Priests won’t immediately realize they are being ignored. Thus a priest can cast spells here, but no new spells will be granted in this area..."
"In his search for the great obelisk, Zagig happened upon this chamber. It is filled with intense powers of earth and rock. Yet, he could never determine the source (he never realized how close he came). Finally, he assumed it had to be a side effect of the obelisk somewhere below. Located at the center of the main rock column is a huge chip of brown smoky quartz...It is actually a fragment of the shattered Earth (Oerth) Stone, which was a relic of immense power used long ago by the creators to fill the Prime Material Plane with the heavenly bodies of earth and rock. The creators themselves decided that this relic was too powerful to allow any one of their numbers to guard, thus it was shattered, and a single fragment given to each to hide or guard as they desired. Then, only with their combined knowledge could the item easily be reformed. This sliver was placed here by one of the ancients and has gone unnoticed over the eons."
"This was once the holding cell of the (Oerth) Stone. Its location was hidden from Zagig by the obelisk until after the Stone escaped this area. When Zagig summoned the nine deities, the obelisk had to exert a tremendous amount of energy so that they would not notice the presence of the Oerth Stone."
As we've already seen, the central Flanaess is a hot bed of fantastic materials. Some are extremely hard and dangerous to get, like Oerthblood, found primarily below Tenser's castle and also the rich city of Irongate. This substance has nonetheless seen much use in the creation of famous artifacts.
Return of the Eight by Roger Moore
Dragon #351 Irongate: City of Stairs by Gary Holian & Denis Tetreault
"Oerthblood seeps into The Endless Well from deep beneath the Fortress of Unknown Depths, the dwelling place of the archmage Tenser, His ancient keep was built by migrating Oeridians to guard and harvest this rich magical ore. Few know Oerthblood exists—Tenser has been studying the substance in seclusion for decades- and no one knows exactly what it is. Tenser recently reactivated his keep’s mining operations (which had been shut down after his death during the Greyhawk Wars), and minor earthquakes and strange grinding vibrations occasionally rumble into the surrounding area from deep beneath the citadel, hinting at the immense golems currently at work harvesting the world's magical essence."
"The Endless Well can draw up molten, dark red, ferrous metal there, when cooled, is black, dense, easily enchanted and nearly impervious to damage. This substance is called oerthblood and from it several famous artifacts were made, such as Heward’s Mystical Organ and parts for the infamous Machine of Lum the Mad."
"Oerthblood is dangerous to handle, and much of the work involved in tapping it, pouring it into sheets of molds, working it and finishing it is done by golems and automatons that can withstand the molten substance’s unpredictable radiation, as well as the local heat and poisonous gases."
"Oerthblood weapons and armor must be made of a specific alloy of Oerthblood, known mostly to the artificers and smiths of Irongate, to gain the following benefits. Only primarily metallic objects gain these bonuses."
Oerthblooded iron, so-called "blood-iron," is an exceedingly rare and precious material, created from an amalgam of iron and oerthblood. Discovered as early as the age of Queen Ehlissa, oerthblood is a highly magical element found only on Oerth and thought by some to be the residue of creation. Oerthblood is extremely rare even on Oerth, and Irongate is one of the few locations where it can he found and forged. By reputation, it’s as strong as adamantine and just as effective. Shimmering black flecks on their surface distinguishes Oerth-blooded items."
Some say the World of Greyhawk is not high magic, but those sages have never researched the depth of magical mysteries on Oerth, from strange weather phenomena to innately magical minerals such as these last two entries...
Iuz the Evil by Carl Sargent
From the Ashes by Carl Sargent
"Dweomerstones: A small clan of gnomes have discovered a few score small, utterly smooth, black, pebblelike stones which, if held in the hand of a wizard, can grant extra spellcasting power. Each stone has one use only...The gnomes selling the stones are fearful and eager to sell at reasonable prices."
"The Horned Lands are unique in having very rare deposits of a unique magical gem: dweornite. Small clusters of dweornite gems, tear-shaped, semi-opaque, blue-white stones, are found in totally unpredictable subterranean locations. The gems have diverse magical powers. Those which have been documented include spell gems, gems which yield magical potions when crushed and dissolved, gems with empathic effects, gems with teleport, dimension door or extraplanar travel properties, and gems of a divinatory nature. These are similar to the dweomerstones of the Cairn Hills; and some sages suggest a common origin for both these and the reputed ioun stones Rary seeks in the Bright Desert."
In closing, I haven't found any specific lore yet that shows Ioun Stones are naturally produced on Oerth besides the aforementioned hook by Sargent, that Rary seeks them in the Bright Desert. In other D&D lore, Ioun stones are enchanted from specific expensive gems, or in 4E are the creation of a new deity of knowledge, Ioun. Either way, Ioun stones could be rare gems that have innate floating properties, and either come with magical powers or are later imbued with them. To each their own. Lastly, D&D also mentions the material, Cold Iron, but I'm unsure that's regular iron found in a special situation or if its a new metal? Someone fill me in on that lore. Until next time!