Sunday, May 21, 2017

Comic Rewind: Hextor and Wee Jas

Howdy Greyhawkers, here's another old comic from the vault featuring Wee Jas goddess of magic and death and Hextor god of war and stuff. These two were among my favorites to draw, Hextor cause he has six arms and a monobrow, and Wee Jas because she's hawt. Anyhoo, check this comic out with accompanying commentary from January 8th, 2008:

"This week's topic is one I've stewed on for a while. Carl Sargent's era of Greyhawk is well known for the Greyhawk Wars of course. One of the new concepts to emerge from this development was a breed of undead somewhere I'm guessing between lich and death knight in power. Ever since Greyhawk Wars, and the unpublished Ivid the Undying sourcebook, these undead haven't seen much play in later Greyhawk products. They just seem needlessly redundant to me with so many other sentient undead running around the Flanaess. So one of my true hopes if Greyhawk ever gets relaunched and "rebooted" is that the Great Kingdom doesn't go down this path again. Don't agree with me?
Well after you read this comic, you'll probably change your mind. Heh heh. Enjoy."


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Stream of Annihilation Thoughts

Wizard's latest announcement is a cross-media event this summer called the Stream of Annihilation. Part of the event is the unveiling of their newest story line product for the season. Given all the hints (the logo), prior build up (Tales from the Yawning Portal) and an upcoming Driz'zt novel by R.A. Salvatore involving Acererak as the antagonist, how can anybody not assume this Wizards rally is going to be about the Tomb of Horrors?

My rant is that Wizards has become extra lazy if this is true. The Tomb of Horrors has become its own brand over the editions in that any time the fan favorite dungeon or its parts are featured, people will automatically buy it up. Nevermind that it's in the Forgotten Realms too (sorry DMGuild writers), ToH does predate Greyhawk though it's long been associated until now. Now don't get me wrong, I like Acererak and the Tomb, but before Yawning Portal we got Return to the Tomb of Horrors boxed set, a Tomb of Horrors novel, and at least two other Tomb sequels since 4th Edition. Oh yeah and it's in the novel Ready Player One. Basically, Tomb has transcended Greyhawk long ago so I'm more upset with the glut not the property itself.

This is a problem with being an older gamer, I like the nostalgia a lot and I like the exposure for the classics to new audiences, but damn this feels more like a cash grab to me because I already got all this other Tomb stuff. Was I asking for more? No, I'm asking for more Greyhawk, or Darksun or Dragonlance, hell, more Spelljammer. Fingers crossed that Stream of Annihilation wows me.

One last thing: Mike Mearls did an AMA on Reddit yesterday, and this question caught my eye (of course):


What's your favorite campaign setting that hasn't been heavily featured in 5e yet?
Greyhawk!Eberron runs a close second.


Sure Mike, Sure.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Thoughts

Hey Greyhawkers! Tonight I am still basking in the afterglow of watching Guardians of the Galaxy vol.2. Anyone who knows me knows I'm a Marvel guy, and specifically a Thor fan. However, Thor comes second to (and maybe third to Cap) my love of the GotG movies. I cannot give an accurate or spoiler free review of the movie, so instead I will tell you why these two movies are important to me in a Greyhawk/D&D context.

Misfit Groups. I am normally humano-centric when it comes to characters and my story focus. Misfit races bug me. This is a byproduct of working with Greyhawk. But the option to have a multi-racial mix of characters is there, it's D&D after all. GotG is not set on earth either so aliens of all kinds are normal, thus it shows misfit groups can work, with some growing pains of course. After a while you stop thinking about their differences and the group gels into a dysfunctional but strong family just like you'd want your D&D players to do.

Opportunistic Heroes. Much like typical D&D adventurers, the GotG are rogues. They are stealing something for some rich guy or turning someone in for a bounty, etc. They might not be lawful, but as a group they are definitely good. Despite all their own motivations they end up doing the right thing in the end. And hey, if they find some loot along the way, it's well deserved!

Over the top villains and monsters. Another thing the movies has an abundance of baddies. Most are weird humanoids or slimy creatures that you'd swear jumped out of a Monster Manual. The Big Bad Evil Guys are definitely on par with most Greyhawk uber-villains like Iuz. Many are also silly in nature, and that levity keeps the story relaxed, which I think is important to an RPG when you get to the end and want a heavy serious finale. No other super hero movies have this kind of dynamic.

Exotic Locations. GotG is set in space on alien planets of course, so the comparison to a fantasy world is easy. Greyhawk might be human-like culturally. but there are many exotic locations in the setting where the true adventure waits like the Land of Black Ice, the Sea of Dust or the Burning Cliffs. Yes, even a dungeon crawl is considered an exotic location in theory. How the heroes get there isn't always important (unless its a 9 hour Tolkien epic), indeed the destination is what grabs players.

Numinous Objects. Guardians also reminds me that questing for valuable magical objects or even trying to keep the ones you already have out of the hands of villains is always a worthy plot. It' one thing to find the Hand of Vecna. But can you keep the lich and his minions from recovering it later? Sometimes even a mundane object presented at the beginning can have story implications later on. Keep stock of your items!

Saving the World. Lastly, Guardians of the Galaxy moreso than any hero movie so far, shows that a ragtag group of misfits can be coerced by circumstances, into saving the world (or galaxy) on more than one occasion. I used to routinely have my players save the Oerth from some mega-villain-demigod plot then after a while it seemed overdone so I stopped. Now years later, in the age of hero movies, I see that it's not a tired plot after all. Saving the world (or the kingdom at least) is what players will remember the most! That's all for now. What did you think of the movie?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Yawning Portal Page Count and More

Welcome back folks. This week I finally got my copy of Tales from the Yawning Portal. This 5E book is a compilation of classic dungeon crawls adapted for the new format. I have nothing but admiration for the quality of this work and the art within. Today I'm here to discuss the page count of each adventure as it compares to the original and how this book preserves the Greyhawk content of each chapter.


First off the Yawning Portal bar in Waterdeep is the framing device for this anthology, but for Greyhawk fans such as myself, it has an apt replacement for it in the City of Greyhawk's own Green Dragon Inn. From here the adventures can be ran as one offs or as part of a long campaign from 1st to 11+ level. Here they are in chapter order:

The Sunless Citadel by Bruce Cordell.
Page count: 24 (including maps)
Original: 32 + maps
Suggested location in Greyhawk: "The Sunless Citadel is a ruined Baklunish stronghold that was cast into the bowels of the earth when the Suel Imperium unleashed the Invoked Devastation. It is located in northwestern Bissel, in the foothills west of Thornward."

The Forge of Fury by Richard Baker.
Page count: 28 (including maps)
Original: 32 + maps
Suggested location in Greyhawk: "Khundrukar stands in the Pomarj, in the western Drachensgrab Hills. The fortress fell shortly after the Hateful Wars, when a wave of orcs and other evil humanoid invaders swept over the region."

The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan by Harold Johnson and Jeff Leason.
Page count: 35 (with maps)
Original: 25 + maps and art
Location in Greyhawk: The Amedio Jungle.

White Plume Mountain by Lawrence Schick.
Page count: 13 (including maps)
Original: 16 + maps
Location in Greyhawk: Shield Lands

Dead in Thay by Scott Fitzgerald Gray.
Page count: 57 (with maps)
Original: 107 (including maps)
Suggested Location in Greyhawk: "Perhaps Rary the Traitor found the Doomvault -yet another vestige of ancient Sulm- under the Bright Desert."

Against the Giants by Gary Gygax.
Page count: 47 (including maps)
Original: 32 + maps
Location in Greyhawk: Various mountains

Tomb of Horrors by Gary Gygax.
Page count: 18 (with maps)
Original: 12 + maps and art
Location in Greyhawk: Vast Swamp/Various

Analysis:  I guess I've always known that 1E modules were short, but compared to later mods from 2E onward, they were thin indeed (due to their convention use). That said it's remarkable that some are increased in page count like Tamoachan and Giants. All in all every adventure seems to have been rigorously redesigned; keeping all the flavor and detail possible of the originals. Only Thay takes a huge page count hit. I never owned that module so I can't comment on what it lacks exactly. There is an additional 20 pages of monsters and magic item stat blocks in the appendix of TftYP which of course would've been found in the pages of the originals further padding these numbers by a few.

I am also happy with the suggested locations in the Greyhawk setting. I'm sure Chris Perkin's hand was involved, but of the three modules not already set here, they managed to find good spots within the central Flanaess. Smart and accessible. I applaude WotC on this effort. Sure, I like the nostalgic stuff better than their original work so far, but I am looking forward to using this book, quite possibly cover to cover.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Comic Rewind: Norebo and Wee Jas

Okay folks, so some of my long term readers may have noticed my old World of Greyhawk Comic strip has been down and out for several years now. This is due to technical difficulties involving out of date HTML and stuff. Okay. Well I'm going to start reposting some of my old artwork and commentary at Greyhawkery cause why not? I have over 200 comics worth of good jokes and Greyhawk lore to share. I had started posting some of my weekly comics way back when I started the Greyhawkery, but I soon ran out of ideas so I dropped the comic to focus on the blog. I'm willing to bet more than a few of you have never seen these comics before, so enjoy!

Today's comics are a pair from April, 2008 involving the deity couple Norebo and Wee Jas. I wrote:

"It's been a while since I had fun with avatars. It's also been a long time since I used Joramy, the
volcanic lady or Xan Yae the lady of perfection. Who better to bring all these elements together than
Norebo? By the way today's scene takes place in Norbeo's temple, called the Church of the Big Gamble according to Dragon Magazine's Gods of the Suel pantheon series."


"Last week Norebo and uh, Norebo were fleeing the scene or else incur the wrath of Wee Jas back home. Let's see how it pans out."


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Gods, Demigods & Heroes

I recently acquired a free copy of the 1979 (7th printing) of the old "Supplement IV" Gods, Demi-Gods and Heroes booklet for the original D&D. Let me tell ya, it's in good shape too. Written by Robert J. Kuntz and James Ward (two of my favorites), this book is the precursor to the more popular AD&D book, Deities & Demigods.

While it is the same as later deity books in content such as stats on gods, artifacts and mythical monsters, this one might exceed its descendants in volume of deities presented. This is because the text is small, the info light, and the art is sparse. This is not to say the art is bad; the cover (see above) is in color for one while the b&w interior art looks like classical woodcuts or etchings which I dare say is nearly superior to the more familiar D&D illustrations that would follow.

What mythos are here? Here's the rundown:

Egyptian
Indian
Greek
Celtic
Norse
Finnish
Robert E, Howard's Hyborea
Elric and Melnibone
Meso-American
Eastern Mythos

Deities & Demigods would later drop Hyborean and add monster myths, Nehwon, Cthulhu and Arthurian lore. Of course, by the next printing it also dropped Cthulhu and Melnibonean unfortunately. I find the information on Hyborea to be invaluable if you are into Cthulhu mythos since they are contemporary. The real world myths go into greater detail on pantheons of female deities and general heroes and legendary monsters, where later editions probably relegated that stuff to the Monster Manual.

I can tell by forging through there real world myths and adding popular fiction, it made TSR's job of creating homebrew D&D gods like the Greyhawk pantheon much easier. The only other book from this series I own is Blackmoor. I may need to dig it out and see what I'm missing!


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Greyhawk Wars 2 Poll

Howdy Greybeards and D&D enthusiasts! This week I muse over the results of my latest Greyhawk poll: Who would win Greyhawk Wars 2? No I'm not talking about the somewhat reviled Greyhawk Wars 1, the meta plot event (and board game) that changed the political landscape of the setting forever Nope, much like in our own history, I'm talking about a round two. Let's dig in our trenches. One note, the poll allowed people to vote for more than one winner, cause obviously it's good vs evil at the core, so there can be some give and take here. The results are extrapolated from the poll, much like odds on a d20 roll, so they are by no means a guarantee.

Let's start with the likely losers. The former secret society, the Scarlet Brotherhood (7%) had an improbable surge of success in GHW1, taking over Onnwal, Idee, Lordship of the Isles and the Sea Princes. Of course only six years late most of those gains were slipping away. Their reliance on Hepmonaland conscripts and foreign sea power to hold together their scattered territory likely contributed to their losses. In the resurgent GHW2, the Brotherhood looks to be an instigator at best. With everyone on the lookout for their assassins and spies, there is no chance to expand from their remote peninsula much less retake anything lost previously. Their nearest outlet to attack is the County of Sunndi and its natural resources. Again however their chances of success are hard with the Vast Swamp inbetween and the fact Sunndi is encircled by hills and mountains. Demihumans would also put up a long fight against any occupiers. In truth the SB's best chance at any success would be to usurp the allied Empire of the Pomarj. This is a lateral move for them but it could put them in striking distance of Greyhawk if GHW3 ever breaks out. Don't worry about the Brotherhood shaking anything up.

The Kingdom of Nyrond (15%) is in bad shape as well. The kingdom is big and spread out with few natural defenses. The last war stretched their resources and manpower thin and it was looking like the place might crumble like its enemy the Great Kingdom did a mere six years earlier. GHW2 breaks out and suddenly Nyrond is on the defensive from all directions. Their chances of winning anything would be to completely drive out evil from old Almor or maybe put down an indignant Theocracy of the Pale to secure the north. Greyhawk scholars seem to agree, the old Nyrondese Cavalry Squadrons might have their last ride in this war. Nyrond's loss could be a gain for neighboring nations like the Urnsts and the Pale who would pick up disaffected refugees from the failing kingdom. That is unless they are turned away!

Surprisingly, major player the Empire of Iuz is given only a 18% chance of winning GHW2. Iuz's empire had already started to flake apart post-Wars. His demigod resourcefulness and high powered circle of henchmen ensured they could easily take the Northern Marches, including the Bandit Kingdoms. Their push into Furyondy stalled however and those gains were lost as the knights of good moved in place to retake the Shield Lands next. By the time Iuz's enemies are ready for GHW2, the Old One himself will likely be in personal trouble again, having to always deal with major threats like Vecna or the Circle of Eight. Iuz's empire can only hope to see success if they go after more soft targets. Instead of southward his forces must finally roll over the Tiger and Wolf Nomads to the west then into Stonehold to the east. Stonefists can be beguiled by Iuz as we learned, but the nomads are used to his tricks and might avoid direct conflict. It's a long shot but if Iuz could secure Perrenland, his mother Iggwilv's old realm, that could improve his odds drastically.

In the same boat as Iuz is the fractured Great Kingdom of Aerdy. At 20% that's basically a 1-4 on a d20 roll.Since GHW1, it has split into 2-3 large kingdoms and several free cities. the old capital Rauxes and the See of Medegia are wasted. Undead run the place from animus to death knights. It's not a good time to be a human in the east. This means if GHW2 broke out, poor peasants would be running in all directions to avoid the deprivations of their own rulers who would be busy in a civil war of sorts, much less worrying about a traditional opponent like Nyrond or the Iron League. In this eventual civil war, the edge here goes to the United Kingdom of Ahlissa, which has a very secure and defensible position in the south with plenty of natural resources, sea access and rational rulers who aren't trying to turn the place into a necropolis. If there is any way the Great Kingdom beats the odds and wins at GHW2 it's if one of the claimants to the Overking's throne brings Aerdy back together with little bloodshed, probably with the assistance of high magic like the Malachite Throne or the Regalia of Might.

Now for the obvious winners of GHW2. At 34% we have the Kingdom of Keoland. Interestingly their only real conflict came at the hands of a giant incursion into the western states of Geoff and Sterich. If they had any other real problems it was with traditional foe Ket or middling piracy still coming out of Scarlet Brotherhood controlled Sea Princes. Keoland thus got off rather easy in GHW1 and still has full forces of knights and navies to utilize. Even at 34% however, confidence is low that they make any ground. I see them as repelling the giants eventually with hero support, and even possibly reclaiming old lands like Westkeep from the Brotherhood who are too far away to aid their forces. Likewise, the Pomarj is just too far to be a concern to them (unless Ulek needs help though) and Keoland realistically shouldn't sweat Iuz unless Furyondy-Veluna falls. (see below) So yes, Keoland has everything to gain and little chance to see any credible losses unless inner court turmoil does them in, as is the case in many other kingdoms.

Then there is the fan favorite, Kingdom of Furyondy at 43%. If any one can win GHW2 and needs to it is this bastion of Good. With the help of Veluna and the Knights of Holy Shielding, Furyondy had already halted and drove back Iuz within 6 years. After regrouping there is no reason to think that the Shield Lands aren't liberated next, then a push made to finally conquer Molag and capital Dorakaa as well. Alot of this second effort is supported by heroic intervention of course, behind the scenes, keeping the Old One busy or weakening his power in various ways. Furyondy has the best knights in its vanguard and if it gains any more allies, say from Highfolk or the Bandit Lands uprising, their success would be quite higher. Really Furyondy doesn't seem in a position to lose, perhaps another stalemate at worst. I do know from experience though, once Furyondy does defeat Iuz permanently and drive all the evil away, the void is quickly filled by other bandit kings and scheming lords wanting to rule in stead. It's an exciting prospect if Furyondy wins GHW2. Can they maintain the peace thereafter or will they move on to the next crusade?

Finally, the Other category at 3% is quite a long shot. There is some states in the Flanaess that could "win" in the event of a second Greyhawk War. Perrenland or Highfolk are ones that spring to mind. Perrenland can either side with evil and take out Highfolk, or side with good and expand by taking out unruly Ket. This of course could ignite a whole new Greyhawk Wars 3 when the Baklunish realms band together to drive back the forces of the east. Highfolk (and the Vesve Forest) peoples benefit by winning in that they drive out evil and can secure a peaceful region again.

Other long shots, the nomads of the north could rally together (Tiger, Wolf, Rovers) and form a horde to pinch out Iuz from two directions. The chances they ally are slim though. Another remote winner is the barbarian lands who could (and should have after Howl From the North) band together into a horde and raid Bone March again (successfully?) or attack the North Province by sea or even go as far as taking the Sea Barons. There's many ways they could succeed if only the barbarians would be utilized. One last musing, let's say Rary lashes out in GHW2. He uses all his magical might, he restores Sulm, he unleashes automata, daemons, or he attracts unlikely allies to his cause like the Gynarchs of Hardby or humanoid enclaves scattered around the central region. He could thus easily threaten his immediate vicinity such as the Duchy of Urnst, the Wild Coast and yes, the Free City of Greyhawk. What's your thoughts? Thanks for reading!