Saturday, December 9, 2017

Poll Result: Most Dangerous Swamp

Well met Greyhawkers! Today I am going to muse over the latest front page poll, Which Swamp is the Most Dangerous? Obviously all fantasy swamps are lethal places to venture, but in the World of Greyhawk there is an abundance of these wetlands and each has their own unique troubles and treasures. Just a side note, I know I inadvertently left the Pelisso Swamp and the Lone Heath off the list, Pelisso is located on the fringe in Hepmonaland so I'll let it slide. The Heath is small and slipped my mind entirely. Anyhow, let's get to the rest of the swamps:

Coming in first overall with a landslide 56% is the no-brain champion of Greyhawk bogs, the Vast Swamp. Located in the southeast corner of the Flanaess, the "vee-shaped" Vast Swamp is a staggering 200 miles long and 150 miles across. These waters are pooled by the surrounding Hestmark Highlands, Hollow Highlands and Spine Ridge. There is no known river outlets and sages speculate the place is drained by underground channels.

Why go here? The Vast Swamp is your typical haven for outlaws, slimy monsters and degenerate humanoids such as lizardmen and the hated bullywug. Indeed, the twisted demigod Wastri an ally of bullywug-kind is said to make his lair somewhere within the morass. Heroes could grind on monsters for quite a long time by just wandering these lowlands. However, for those wanting a quick payoff, the Vast is of course most infamous for being the resting place of the demi-lich Acererak and his Tomb of Horrors. Such a death-trap can only be considered dangerous if one goes looking for it. The high risk-high reward of this dungeon has lured many fame-seeking heroes over the years, that is why it is top on most players' and DM's wish-lists.

Next up with 12% is a tie between two mighty marshes, the Hool Marshes and the Cold Marshes. The Hool lies in the southwest Flanaess dividing the Sheldomar Valley from the Hold of the Sea Princes;  The even larger Cold Marshes lie far away to the north dividing the Empire of Iuz from the frozen realm of Blackmoor.

Why go here? The Hool is a treacherous place to navigate making it the perfect place for outlaws to hide out. Heroes would be wise not to chase too deep into the mire however as the place is not only crawling with your typical swamp critters. but also rumors have it cults devoted to Orcus and Dagon. The Hool is also the location for the modules I7 Baltron's Beacon and the Saltmarsh series U1-3. 
The Cold Marshes on the other hand, also present a natural challenge to heroes with its hoarwinds, blackfrost and magical fogs or vampiric mists. Even if these hazards can be avoided there is still evils aplenty such as winter wolves, ice toads, ice trolls, will o'wisps, specters and undoubtedly white dragons. PCs must be brave and well stocked if they wish to find fortune in the Cold Marshes.

Coming in at 8% of the vote is the VERY underestimated Trollfens. Nestled in the joint of the Griff and Raker Mountains, the chilly Trollfens is comparably small, but probably more fearsome than any swamp in the Flanaess. It's so dangerous in fact, that both the Duchy of Tenh and Theocracy of the Pale each maintain a line of keeps to guard against the fens.

Why go here? Monsters lurk in the outer fens such as gnolls and ogres, but if one truly wants to test their mettle, the locals certainly can use aid in defending against the Troll Winters which occur about every 25 years. During this time, the mists of the fens expands and hordes of trolls sweep into the bordering lands killing all in their path. Only the line of castles with their fiery defenses can hold back the incursions. One Tenha castle, Dour Pentress was once under siege for three months by 2000 trolls! What treasures may lay here you may ask? Rumor has it ruins of an old Flan settlement may hold lost magics and material wealth from a time before the spread of the fens, if one can survive going into the troll's home turf.

Next at 4% of the vote is the Rushmoors and the Greyhawk Domain's own Mistmarsh. The narrow Rushmoors collect in the meeting of the mighty Javan River and the headwaters of the Sheldomar. The Mistmarsh lies between the Cairn Hills and the Abbor Alz Mountains.

Why go here? Your typical threats live in the Rushmoors, such as bullywugs, lizardmen and bandits who would rather avoid the lawful hand of the valley's Knights of the Watch. Larger reptiles do lurk here, including aberrations like frogemoths and otyughs. The Mistmarsh by comparison is mainly rife with lizardmen tribes and packs of ghouls though lately black dragons and Sons of Kyuss are rumored to be in the area. The Mistmarsh's proximity to Greyhawk makes it a decent place for heroes to explore. The Rushmoors, while ruled nominally by Gran March is of interest to adventurers seeking lost arcana from the ancient time of the Occluded Empire of Arch-lich Vecna. This swamp is also the locale for the module N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God.

And finally, at a measly 2% is the nasty sounding Gnatmarsh. Centrally located between Nyrond and Urnst, this large swamp is formed by the meeting of the Duntide and Nesser Rivers eventually emptying into the Sea of Gearnat.

Why go here? Yes, adventurers, many weird monsters lurk in these swamps too. If one can ignore the basic eels, alligators and swarms of insects here, they may well encounter oddities like two-headed trolls, strong bronze-skinned troglodytes or a green dragon! There may yet be treasure in this overlooked swamp which rumor has it contains its own sunken lich tomb.

I hope this article has shown there is more to Greyhawk's swamps than just the Tomb of Horrors. Happy hunting heroes!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Blog Update

Hey Greyhawkers. Light news day. Still working on blog content for a redesign, not sure how soon I'll have any of that updated, but in the meantime here is some dedicated pages I'm planning on adding to Greyhawkery with essential player information. If you feel I should add some new categories let me know.

  • Playable Races
  • Deities
  • Power Groups
  • Artifacts and Relics
  • Nations/Regions
  • Geography
  • History/Timeline
So far I have artifacts and deities wrote up. The others will be more time and research intensive but I hope to distill them into something easily read and referenced for new and old players alike. Wish me luck!

Oh and by the way, be sure to check out Return to Greyhawk on Twitch. These guys are amazing. Last episode involved Robilar, Iuz and god traps. You had to be there...

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Xanathar's Guide to Everything

Heya Greyhawk fans, today I'm perusing my copy of the popular new 5E rulebook, Xanathar's Guide to Everything. Well it's certainly not everything (I want a 5E Aurora's catalogue), but it does have plenty of good stuff for players and DMs alike. I recommend the book, go and get it if you play this edition. As to reviews, look around the net I'm sure they are out there. What I aim to do is sift through the pages and find some tidbits of interest to Greyhawk fans. Enjoy:

Character Options is the best part of the book. It's an extension of the core PHB options for every class, many of which were previewed in Wizard's Unearthed Arcana articles over the last couple years.

The barbarian path of Ancestral Guardian is a good one for Greyhawk characters hailing from the Ice, Snow and Frost Barbarians of the north. These people have a norse vibe to them, thus ancestors are important. I am reminded of the old magic item The Black Sails of the Schnai that summons an old ancestral spirit to aid a PC. Another good region for this path is the horse riding nomads of Ull who worship their ancestors instead typical gods.

Path of the Zealot is all about berserker action. It specifically mentions that this is a good option for followers of Erythnul and Hextor (gods of slaughter and war).

The bardic College of Glamour has ties to sylvan things like the fey. This is a good choice for elves hailing from the nation of Celene or perhaps living around the settings many Fading Lands.

The College of Swords takes bards to a more martial direction and I think that fits nicely with my ongoing Hold of the Sea Princes campaign that relies on high seas/swordplay elements.

Sadly there is only two new cleric domains in this book, Grave and Forge. Greyhawk isn't particularly known for its forge gods (unless Dwarven pantheon). Whereas the Grave domain will come in handy for those who want to make a cleric of Wee Jas the goddess of (restful) death and magic.

Fighter gets the Arcane Archer at last, a popular prestige class from 3E. This archetype can find use from the elven realms of Highfolk to the parapets of Irongate and everywhere inbetween.

Another classic D&D archetype, the Cavalier, returns. The use for this fighter option is obvious for Greyhawk given the abundance of knighthoods and noble houses in the Flanaess.

Ranger has the Gloom Stalker archetype, which fits nicely with many of Oerik's evil-plagued forests and Under-Oerth adventures.

The Inquisitive and Mastermind rogue types are perfect for those who run campaigns in the City of Greyhawk or any other place region focused on intrigue.

The Swashbuckler type for Rogues obviously goes well with my Sea Princes and south seas campaign suggestion as well.

Sorcerer Origin of Shadow Magic is good for a character coming out of the Valley of the Mage or the Dim Forest. At 6th level they can summon a Hound of the Ill Omen which many Greyhawk fans will recall from the 1E Fiend Folio.

Speaking of shadow stuff, the Warlock Patron of the Hexblade is tied to entities from the Plane of Shadow as well. The same patron responsibile for creating the infamous sword Blackrazor.

Wizards get only one new tradition, the War Mage. This will of course come in handy for characters from nearly any magic using realm in Greyhawk such as Furyondy, Iuz, Keoland, the Great Kingdom and so on. War is all around.

There is a short section on Racial Feats for non-human characters. All will add flavor to your favorite elf, dwarf or yes even tiefling character.

The section on Random Encouters is an old school DM's delight; this lengthy section covers every terrain (not climate though) including urban and underdark. You can't get enough random tables.

The section on Downtime has been expanded from the core set. Now DMs can get more out of buying/selling magic items, carousing, crafting and so on in the form of Complications. Good stuff!

Magic Items? Yes sir. The DMG has many uncommon and rare items but it lacks every day magic. The Guide introduces a slew of new common magic items including a Greyhawk themed one, Heward's Handy Spice Pouch. This wondrous item does exactly what you think it does, nothing extra fancy ;)

There are some spells in the Guide too. First on the list in fact is Abi-Dalzim's Horrid Wilting, a classic from 2E Tome of Magic. You may ask why I mention this spell? I personally co-opted Abi-Dalzim into Greyhawk after I noticed the named mages in toM had no backstory. Dalzim himself haunts the Ulsprue Mountains in Ull. You're welcome.

Another classic, Melf's Minute Meteors also returns for 5E. Then there is the 8th level Mighty Fortress spell which is just a temporary Daern's Instant Fortress I imagine.

Lastly, what spell list wouldn't be complete without Tenser's Transformation? Happy gaming everyone.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Return to Greyhawk on Twitch

Welcome again fans of Greyhawk! This week I am promoting a new venue of Greyhawk entertainment on Twitch called Return to Greyhawk. This is a live D&D 5E campaign and I'm jazzed about this particular channel given the rise in popularity of streaming D&D tabletop groups, mainly because Return is the first I'm aware of actively presenting themselves as a Greyhawk game.
I watched most of their first session last night and it was everything you'd expect in a tense, hard fought D&D adventure (no spoilers), but I went back and re-watched their opening video to episode one and it's AMAZING! Please watch this if nothing else, it's a lovingly crafted intro to a new campaign; you won't be disappointed in the overview it gives to the World of Greyhawk setting.

Here is the cast of characters:

Alessa Amodovar (Human Wizard) played by May / @liqquidfire
Luciano Venturi (Human Cleric of Olidammara) played by Travis / @binaryfyre
Elara Kelm (Elven Rogue) played by Dani / @ImperialScum
Kallic Kelm (Hal-elf Ranger) played by Michael / @LoserMLW
Nilly Belovar (Half-elf Bard) played by Bree / @npcbree 
Merrick Saewolf (Human Bloodhunter) played by Josh / @WingedHorizon

and Dungeon Mastered by DMShane / @MageandSage

After the first session, the cast gave away a prize to one lucky viewer, a copy of the classic module Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure. Sadly I didn't win this prize (already own it) but I will be back for more. For those wishing to join me, expect the party to be back in action, live on Sundays 7pm to 11pm (est). Carry on, Greyhawk!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Birthplaces for Tieflings and Dragonborn

Welcome back friends of Greyhawk! In an effort to balance my last post, which had little to show off, I threw together this nice randomized chart based on the character birthplace charts in the 1983 boxed set Glossography. This one is for you 5E fans who like to use the playable races of dragonborn and tiefling which actually became popular during 4E and survived going forward. Fiend-blooded tieflings in fact go farther back to 2E when they were a playable race in the Planescape setting. Along those lines I'm not sure how closely dragonborn are to Dragonlance's draconian race, so there's that precedent, but their current origins derive from 3E as magically transformed servants of Bahamut (thanks Armitage).

Disclaimer: despite being official D&D, neither is truly a Greyhawk favored character race to use. There is no published regions that currently support these uncommon races. The goal of this chart is to show that tieflings (those of infernal heritage) and dragonborn (enhanced lizardmen essentially) can have a place in the Flanaess. They could be from scattered tribes found in the darkest recesses of the map or found among the urban masses of Oerik's major cities. *Even more plausible is that these races come from "Beyond the Flanaess" where across vast prairies and over widest oceans there is rumors of draconic cultures and decadent civilizations yet undeveloped. Only recently, has these races come into contact with this part of the world and may yet join the ranks of Greyhawk's heroes. 


Most Common

Amedio Jungle
Bandit Kingdoms
Beyond the Flanaess*
Bone March
Bright Desert
Dry Steppes
Fellreev Forest
Frost, Ice or Snow Barbarians
Great Kingdom
Horned Society
Land of Black Ice
Rel Astra
Sea of Dust
Sea Princes
Vesve Forest
Wild Coast

Friday, November 10, 2017

Blog Redesign Idea

Hey Greyhawkers! This weekend I've been contemplating upping my blog game instead the usual melancholy thoughts of hanging it up! Before I did anything I decided I need to air my ideas and perhaps get some feedback. I'm lazy and might not do anything after all, but at least this could get the ball rolling. What do I have in mind?

A slight change in website design/layout. With some added content if I can ever get it done. The front page elements would stay the same or be rearranged. What I'd like to add however, is some more focused Greyhawk primers for various topics like Deities, Nations, Power Groups, etc. The Greyhawk primer I wrote a couple weeks ago has made me realize I cater too much to old fans, but I have a chance to be a hub for new gamers needing easily digested info on Greyhawk. One thing also: having wikis with Greyhawk info is great if you know what you're looking for, but having essential material presented in one location is the next best thing to a setting book.

Speaking of which, I know others have done 5E conversions for Greyhawk. Greyhawk Reborn is doing good things in that regard, carrying on the old timeline. I am more aligned to Greyhawk Grognard's feel to bring 5E Greyhawk back to the old 576 CY starting point. So, while I'm no expert at game design, any Greyhawk primer I do will be fluff not crunch. I'd try to focus on what's important or relevant for new gamers and then crosslink to any "advanced" information I can find online either on 3rd party sites or on my own blog.

Brainstorm over.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Poll Result: Which Knighthood to Join

Welcome back Greyhawkers. This week I'm musing over the results of my last poll, Which Knighthood Would You Join? Easy enough, let's look at the knightly orders of the Flanaess:

Coming in at a surprising first place (28%) is the Knight Protectors of Aerdy. This ancient order hails from back in the heyday of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy and until the rise of the evil dynasties of Ivids and St. Kargoth's death knights, was the premier order in the world. The Protectors included followers of war deities Heironeous and Hextor, united in a lawful cause to keep the kingdom safe. Currently the order is scattered and in hiding in places like Ratik and among the Iron League.

Why join the Knight Protectors? Certainly to help reclaim the glory of old Aerdy from the hands of evil. To rebuild an order that is so dormant that their heraldry is no longer in use (crowned sun guarded by a white axe and red arrow). Being a Knight Protector these days is like King Richard returning from the crusades, you'll have to remain in disguise from your own countrymen until the time is right. It's a difficult road, but the Protectors has the biggest heroic payoff.

Second in the poll is a tie between the Knights of the Hart and the Knights of Luna (21%). The Knights of the Hart and the all-elf Knights of Luna share much in common but have their own issues as well. The Hart have three branches, the Knights of Furyondy, Veluna and the High Forest (all elves). These knights defend against the regional threats, primarily the Empire of Iuz to the north. This gives them common cause with other orders like Luna and the Knights of Holy Shielding, but heated rivalries among them (and neighboring nations) keep them from uniting fully. Luna is in an even worse position. Primarily serving the isolationist realm of Celene, this order is more focused on its closest threat the Pomarj even though they agree with their cousins in the Hart that Iuz is the biggest danger.

Why join either? The best reason for the Hart is they are open to anyone from commoner to noble if they possess the skills, bravery and loyalty to their respective nation. Velunan knights also count clerics among their numbers now and the High Forest naturally, likes those who are skilled in the woods (rangers). Luna is more reserved, usually accepting gray and high elves only, but they do take wizards where other knighthoods do not. Unfortunately, they are becoming more opposed to their queen who eschews problems outside their borders. The Luna do quest abroad but are required to tithe back Celene. On the upside, their leader is the renowned wizard-warrior Melf, Prince Brightflame.

Third in the poll is the Knights of the Watch (16%), who serve the Kingdom of Keoland and its satellite nations. The focus of the Watch is to guard against barbaric incursions from the west (Baklunish and giants) into the Sheldomar Valley. At one time this order (which arguably the largest population to draw from) had 600 members, more than all other orders combined! More recently the order has split into two branches, the regular Knights of the Watch and the Knights of the Dispatch which are more proactive in hunting threats.

Why join the Knights of the Watch? Well besides being easiest to gain entry, this order is good if you want a strong established morale code. Their Twelve and Seven Precepts fits well into many religions of the region from St. Cuthbert to Mayaheine or Pholtus. There is also ample room for promotion within the order, each having a more grandiose title than the next. If you are a ranger or rogue the Dispatch is also within reach since they are more into skirmish tactics than their Watch brethren.

Last in the poll is the holier than thou Knights of Holy Shielding (14%) of the troubled Shield Lands. This order was once mighty and proud, defending against simple threats in the north such as bandits and nomads. Since the rise of Iuz however, their numbers have been diminished and the order pushed out of their homeland, forced to rely on the hospitality of their old rivals the Knights of the Hart. Their War of Reclamation rages on to this day.

Why join the Knights of Holy Shielding? If you are a paladin or cleric of Heironeous there is no greater respect given by commoners than to this order. Other knighthoods and nobles might scoff at the arrogance of the Holy Shielding but they are not at the vanguard of evil every day. If you want a challenge of martial prowess then this order is for you. Given the results of the poll, many fans indeed cannot stomach this knighthood.

For additional knightly gaming inspiration, check out Joseph Bloch's 5E Cavalier.