Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Listen to Me Talk Greyhawk

Hey Greyhawk fanatics! Today was a special day because I was the FIRST guest on a new live stream talk show about all things Greyhawk called Tales From the Green Dragon, hosted by DM Shane of Return to Greyhawk. We covered a lot of topics (including the Green Dragon Inn) and interacted with our live viewers on Twitch. I had a good time and look forward to next week's installment.

For those who missed out, you can see the replay HERE.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

More Random Greyhawk Lore

Howdy Greyfolk! My last post on random Greyhawk lore was so fun that I'm gonna throw some more out. Ready? Let's get to it...

Greyhawk Adventures (on Vampire Cacti)

"Vampire cacti resemble century plants, with 12 fleshy leaves each tipped with a sharp needle about 1 inch long. Sprouting from the plant's central core is a single spike rising to a height of 5-6 feet...Once every midsummer a single small flower blooms at the top of the central spike. This flower is blood-red in color. After this flower has been pollinated,  a small blood-red fruit forms. This fruit is moist and sweet-tasting, and almost irresistible to most birds...
Vampire cacti are usually surrounded by the skeletons and drained corpses of warm-blooded denizens of the desert...
Creatures of the Bright Desert, vampire cacti evolved their blod-draining abilities to help meet their water needs....Migrating birds seem to have carried the seeds of vampire cacti to the margins of the Dry Steppes, and even to the forbidding Sea of Dust...."

Bonus: In the Greyhawk Adventures: Monstrous Compendium supplement, vampire cacti are found on the "temperate desert" random encounter chart (same chance as a blue dragon or pyro-hydra). Vampire cacti are not however, found on the "tropical desert" chart.

Against the Giants: Liberation of Geoff (on adventuring party, the Golden Circle)

"The Golden Circle is an older adventuring group that has traveled much of the Flanaess. The original members first met in the City of Greyhawk and explored parts of the Cairn Hills and Rift Canyon, eventually specializing in missions that involved sneaking behind enemy lines, including one short-lived venture into the lands of Iuz....
Currently under the employ of Grand Duke Owen I of Geoff, the Golden Circle are charged with discovering a way to return the lands of Geoff to its previous owners. The whole group is currently in Pest's Crossing...
Torm is the leader of the Circle, having taken that role several years ago when their paladin departed to team up with some paladins of Mayaheine on a quest to reclaim the Shield Lands."

Bonus: In the same module, Torm (no relation to the namesake Faerun deity) is a priest of Pelor god of the sun. The Circle also includes two thieves, a ranger, and an enchanter. There is another adventuring party called the Dark Star Guardians, who are also undercover in Pest's Crossing trying to dislodge the giants.

Rary the Traitor (on the ruins of Utaa)

"Utaa was once the thriving capital of Sulm. Sand has eaten up most of the city now, leaving only a central hub of palaces and temples rising above the desert floor...from time to time, the wind reveals a building or two, allowing entrance and possible exploration...
The city is truly vast. It consists of over 100 square miles of homes, temples, castles, palaces, and every other imaginable type structure. It was swallowed up by the desert...and the city still contains substantial amounts of wealth...
The city may also serve as an entrance to or exit from the Underdark, for many of the city's palaces and castles featured deep dungeons...."

Bonus: For an ancient city, Utaa must've been the biggest city in the history of the Oerik if not Oerth. I highly doubt any other city in the Flanaess takes up 1/3 of a map hex. For comparison ruins of ancient middle eastern cities like Ur and Babylon only cover 3-4 square miles; their actual pre-ruin area thus is doubtfully as big as Utaa. For further reference, modern cities are ginormous, like New York (5400 sq. mi. metro) and Tokyo (4300 sq. mi.) Present day Rome is only about 500 sq. miles however, so it stands to reason Utaa was at least on par with one of the greatest ancient cities in our history.

The Temple of Elemental Evil (on random sentient swords)

"When developing encounter areas...use items from the following table if magical treasure is indicated by random roll...

  • Longsword +1 'Snoop'...AL NG, Int 13...can detect invisible and detect magic...
  • Scimitar +1 'Schakha'...AL LN, Int 14...speaks azer, giant, common, human common (?) and dwarf..."

Bonus: (spoiler) The same module has several other more powerful sentient/aligned swords that are non-random. Good luck finding them, yet your chances of locating those are better than the 1 in 100 chance of stumbling onto one of the two blades above. Side note, a weapon that speaks azer is pretty damn rare (they are an elemental fire race first seen in the MM2) and useful in this module. Plus, I'm rusty on AD&D, what is human common versus regular common?

That's all for this installment. Happy exploring!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Random Greyhawk Lore

 Happy New Years, denizens of Greyhawk! Today I'm going to shift into gear and entertain you all with one of my favorite D&D past times, namely grabbing random published books off my shelf and picking out an obscure bit of canon that no one has ever discussed. Let's see what we get starting with the most dense of all Greyhawk tomes:

Living Greyhawk Gazetteer (on Snow Barbarians burial customs)

"Their greatest kings and jarls have all been seafarers, beginning with Schoffmund the Strong, who defeated the Kraken of Grendep Bay. Since this day, all dead Schnai kings are interred in ships, which are ignited and set adrift on the sea."

Bonus: In the hardback Greyhawk Adventures is a wondrous item called the Black Sails of the Schnai. A great warrior who is burned on his funeral pyre can be summoned back to fight as an einheriar for the possessor of the last magical shred of his ship's sail.

City of Greyhawk Boxed Set (on Blackfair Manor's horses)

"The stables now hold over 100 breeding mares, some two dozen stallions, and perhaps 200 fillies and colts in various levels of training. The purchase price for one of the young horses is double the asking price in the High Market of Greyhawk, but generally considered worth it.
For those who take their horses very seriously, the Blackfairs may consider parting with a breeding mare, for 2000-3000 gold, approximately. Some of the stallions can be had for as little as 10,000 gp, while others have fetched five times that amount. The stud of the herd, called simply Father Black, is not for sale, though it is rumored that the lord has been offered more than 100,000 gold for that horse."

Bonus: In case you haven't done the math, all the horses of Blackfair Manor are worth a total of 570,000 gold pieces. Minimum. Remember that tidbit when you have too much treasure to spend and want to show off to your comrades, or when your DM asks your group if you want to go looking for scraps of treasure in some nearby dungeon and instead turn to a life of horse thievery.

The Scarlet Brotherhood (on the Lone Deklo)

"The solitary tree is surrounded by an open field 100 yards across. The Lone Deklo is a monstrous example of its kind, 30 feet in diameter and nearly 300 feet tall...The Lone Deklo is sentient and is effectively a sage specialized in flora, fauna and astronomical and meteorological phenomena. It can converse in a low whisper similar to the sound of wind though branches..."

Bonus: For comparison, in A Guide to the World of Greyhawk, the section on Trees (yes, Gygax created his own trees) states that a deklo tree is a massive hardwood often 15 feet in diameter and over 100 feet tall with round leaves than can sometimes span a foot in diameter.
For further comparison, the world's tallest tree on Earth is Hyperion, a sequoia at 379 feet. Sequoias have an average width of 24 feet and can live roughly 3000 years. If the Lone Deklo is half that age, it was around before the Twin Cataclysms, the Migrations and might remember the time of the elves and the ancient Flannae kingdoms.

Fate of Istus (on the origin of Jurnre the capital of the County of Ulek)

"Despite its modest size and undistinguished history, Jurnre is among the most peaceful and prosperous cities of the Flanaess. It is also one of the oldest, excepting certain settlements in Ekbir, Zeif and Tusmit that antedate the Invoked Devastation. From the time of its foundation nearly nine hundred years ago until the present day, Jurnre has been an island of stability in the turbulent stream of history...
A brief siege of the city by refugee goblins and orcs in 506 CY, at the height of the Hateful Wars, and some unsuccessful attacks by the Sea Princes sailing up the Kewl...are distant history to the human citizens of Jurnre, and even nonhumans have begun to forget. Not even the oldest gnome can remember the sight of enemies within the gates."

Bonus: Not only is Jurnre peaceful, it is quite idyllic. The County of Ulek is ruled by Archdruid Lewenn (13th level) who is quite possibly the only druid involved in Flanaess politics. His constituents are of course halflings, gnomes, sylvan elves and also the nearby Silverwood is home to treants and unicorns.

That's all for now, hope you enjoyed!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

New Greyhawk Map: Dorakaa

Hail thee, Greyhawkers! It's still December so I got one more good post for the year and this one will knock your socks off. I'm inspired by the current exploits of the Twitch streaming group Return to Greyhawk. When they come back from their holiday break, hopefully the players or duneonmaster can make use of this ill-gotten new map I acquired on the mean streets of Dorakaa the capital city of the Empire of Iuz

"Ye Olde Travel Guide to Dorakaa" is an isometric map based on the crude keyed city map found in Carl Sargent's excellent books, Iuz the Evil and the follow-up module City of Skulls. The elements in my map are entirely from these sources and are only semi-spoilery in that any hero with half a brain should know that the city of an evil demigod is a dangerous place to visit. What's charming about the Dorakaa guide is it's intended for visitors to the city; laden with warnings and advice for gullible travelers so that they can survive the city for more than a day. See for yourself and good luck!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

How the Gruumsh Stole Needfest

Welcome back Greyhawk fans, you've been on Santa's nice list so here is another classic Christmas (Needfest) comic of mine from over 10 years ago. I have rarely had such a good run of parody ideas than I did for the World of Greyhawk Comic strip. My theme for the Neefest specials was always to do "evil" versions of classic Christmas stories. I'm particularly proud of this one:

"December 21st 2006: Here it is! The second annual Needfest Special! Last year's 'A Needfest Story' is regarded as among my best work to date. It is certainly my favorite piece and as such it should be tough to top. Well this one goes the distance to try that. You will find some absurdities and stretches of Grey-logic but that's what the comic has always been about. No, it is not a parody of a Christmas Carol either, that would be too easy! Anyhoo, feel free to share this one with all your friends and have a Happy Needfest. Also, kudos go out to Cebrion, the mad verse editor whose love for the subject covered by this Needfest Special, has made it work out so perfectly. Enjoy! -Mortellan" 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Comic Recap: A Needfest Story

Good news Greyhawkers, in working with my friend Maldin at Melkot.com I may soon have my entire 300+ Greyhawk Comic strip collection back in service for you to read! In the meantime, now is a good time to re-read my favorite Greyhawk parody comic of all time, A Needfest Story. Here is the intro from 12 years ago. How time flies! Enjoy.

December 22nd, 2005: Here it is! The labor of love that is my super comic Christmas special. This is the first Greyhawk Comic to star a mortal, but I think you'll agree with me that he is appropriate. There are plenty of other new deity faces in this installment as I finally branch off into hero/quasi-deities. Well enough blather, tear open this present, read it and tell your friends, I promise this one won't disappoint. -Mortellan 




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!