Saturday, August 27, 2016

Crashed Space Ships and Tech Gods

Okay I'm bored today so let's bash out a good original post on Technology and Deities in Greyhawk.

Greyhawk is full of contradiction when it comes to the functionality of technology in the setting. For example, black powder isn't supposed to work unless you're a deity like Murlynd, or if you're a paladin of Murlynd then you get an exception too. But in general it's an unwritten rule (for DM's personal preference) that anachronistic technology isn't supposed to work on Oerth. Until it does.

Crashed spaceships in the Barrier Peaks yield ray guns and robots. A City of the Gods and frozen automatons lay at the fringes of the Land of Black Ice. Futuristic sailing ships are caught in a tropical sargasso. Ancient artifact level machines and mechas stay hidden until found by adventurers. Gates to alternate Earths can be found that work both ways. I'm sure if Greyhawk had enjoyed an unbroken line of development from the 80's to present we'd have even more instances by now. The point is a variety of genre-mixing technology is there if a DM knows where to find it or if they want to keep it out of their medieval fantasy then no one is the wiser.

What if we ignore the Epoch of Magic and apply all the above examples as overt changes to the setting? Put another way, what if tech and magic mingled freely in Greyhawk? Perhaps an Epoch of Magi-tech. Well we might end up with a world more like Eberron I'd assume. Automaton/Robot "warforged" would become a viable PC race. Larger magitech monsters and vehicles would become more common blurrign the line of science and necromancy. I'm imagining Final Fantasy type flying ships, larger golem-like machines leading sieges. Black powder weapons of course would lead to an explosion of crafting and alchemist class characters. None of these advances precludes magic users either, it only enhances them.

Deities would need a slight make over as well:
Murlynd would be the prototypical hero-god of magitech; the bar by which all adventurers are measured.
Boccob, Delleb and Zagyg certainly jump into the weird magic-tech mashup with even more futuristic arcane objects.
Hextor (and perhaps others like Heironeous) as god of war would lead in cutting edge machines of war both on land and at sea.
Moradin, Fotubo and their like would not be outdone in the crafting department though.
Gods like Xerbo, Zilchus and Bralm would encourage and profit off the tech's spread to common folk.
Stranger deities like Celestian, Tsolorandril and the entire Olman pantheon would also focus eyes to the stars way more than they do currently.
And I don't even want to think about Tharizdun paired with technology!

So yes, magic and tech in Greyhawk can make for an exciting fantasy world. It's all a matter of how far do you take it?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Monty Haul Greyhawk

Here's a fun topic from my dusty Greyhawk shelf. Old gamers and DMs such as me are most likely familiar with the term "Monty Haul" campaign (where a DM gives out way too much treasure and magic items) or the more modern player term "munchkin" (a player who power games his PCs). Either way when D&D was still new to us and we were young and easily inspired (go watch the recent show Stranger Things), we tended to create the most over-powered, excessively rich, over the top characters, and yeah it made sense back then. For my part, I had a certain munchkin NPC/PC in my first "monty haul" Greyhawk campaign that by all rights shouldn't have been as cool as he thought he was. Let's examine Knight Stalker!

Knight Stalker is from the humble backwater nation of Blackmoor, but you wouldn't realize it from his super-heroic profile. K.S. is a human multi-classed, 36th level fighter/ 5th level thief with the improbable stat line of:

STR 18(100%) 16 without his Gauntlets of Ogre Power
INT 18 cause apparently he got a good education in Dantredun.
WIS 15 dump stat!
DEX 18 heroes gotta be quick on their toes
CON 16 i see some erasure on the sheet which means he was probably resurrected a couple times
CHA 18 who wouldn't want to hang with him?
COMELINESS 16 because not even a missing eye can harm those good looks

K.S. had 263 hit points which I'm not sure is even mathematically possible and I don't have time to fact-check it.
By virtue of his part-time thievery he can do thieving skills but most are useless while he wears Plate +5 and carries a Shield +5 but hey he can still back stab that's what's important.
Stalker was notable for having ran through the adventure The City Beyond the Gate in Dragon Magazine #100 where adventurers go to modern day London to retrieve the Mace of St. Cuthbert. Well instead of bringing a mace back he brought back an arsenal including a .357, and an AK-47 and counter to Greyhawk physics his blackpowder weapons could work much like the hero-deity Murlynd's 6-shooters cause why not?
Boomsticks aside, Knight Stalker at one time possessed Excalibur as well, but lost it, which was fine because his main sword was a Tri-bladed Sword +5 whose blades could be launched at enemies. Sound familiar? Yup, it's from the movie The Sword and the Sorcerer. I'm actually proud of that one.

Knight Stalker at the end of his career was 54, but somehow retained the appearance of a spry 32 year old (thanks potions of longevity!). He got his name because he hates knights, cavaliers and clerics. I will assume he dislikes paladins as well. At the end of his career he only had 2182 g.p. left though, which might make life in his castle in the Adri Forest difficult. And lastly, if you think he will die poor and have his body looted of gear I will point out the Will (yeah 1st edition had Wills, it's a lost art) at the bottom of his AD&D character sheet :

I, K.S. (cause with an 18 INT he was too smart to sign his actual name) do hereby swear to come back from the dead and slay my foe.

Yes folks, that means everyone. But especially people who look like knights. AD&D had fun rules for the era, but our ridiculous monty haul game characters were certainly more memorable.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Castle Greyhawk: Page 10 and Patreon

Welcome again Greyhawk readers to the overdue continuation of chapter four in our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Check out page-ten to see some clever conversations by author Scott Casper. On our site you can also check the archives and follow the entire Castle Greyhawk story from the very beginning.

Artist's Commentary: This page took me longer than normal to get out and no less to promote. I will tell ya that the striped tent is canonical. If you have the city poster map from the boxed set City of Greyhawk then by the Black Gate you'll see this big tent. Who does it belong to? Your guess is as good as mine. 

Erac's Cousin's dog seems to not like poor Ehlissa. She better watch where she treads, oops too late!

On another note, Scott and I have launched a Patreon for the Castle Greyhawk comic. We have about 100 pages to go and any patronage would be worth your while to keep us going. Check it out, see what you think and JOIN! Stay tuned for the next page in a week.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Howl From the South Update

Welcome back Greyhawk fans. This is an unfortunate bad post today folks. My initial drive to adapt and serialize the 2E module Five Shall Be One was a great success. My disdain for the abysmal sequel module, Howl From the North was to be an homage in name only called Howl From the South. Cause like it's set in the Azure Sea and not the barbarian lands. Get it? Well my attempts to rewrite a wonky module have turned into a long, protracted, but still fun campaign with as many ups and downs as the module I tried to best. That said, I cannot serialize these anymore. It's daunting work to write-up game sessions after they are played, sometimes I take good notes, other times not.

Setting aside the serialization posts, I'd rather concentrate on running the game more efficiently (Sabriel Loreweaver is my muse) and sharing the game content with everyone, including 5E conversions of the Blades of Corusk, new Greyhawk development and character sketches. Then who knows, years from now I'll write a cleaned up module series based on this campaign (doubt it). But yeah there ya go, the Sea Princes campaign sails on, but you'll have to get the cliffs notes version or maybe follow us Sunday on Twitter or Periscope for the live experience: @GamersTableMike @xb0shi3x

Campaign note: The original series started at 7th to 10th level and curiously the start of HFtN has the players at the same level range. We didn't start so high in this adaptation, but for my game I hope my friends still want to play these characters beyond the confines of this "sword quest". I'd like to see how powerful high level 5E characters can be and at least the sword quest provides a great backstory for whatever comes after. Fingers crossed!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Mortellan's 2016 Gen Con Recap

Howdy Greyhawkers, I am still recovering the day after a fun filled and long GenCon 2016 weekend in Indianapolis. As usual this post is intended to report on anything tangentially about Greyhawk which is always like squeezing blood out of a turnip. Let's see what I came up with:

First off, the Greyhawk meet and greet was called off. My bad to anyone who inquired, but attendance is hard to muster sometimes. Next time I'm going to shoot for more informal meet ups around the con. That said I had a good time with the legendary Anna Meyer of and Kobold Press fame. Anna attended a couple eat-outs with me and the Gamerstable podcast crew and one location was at Champps Restaurant where she had on display a HUGE 9'x9' printing of her entire World of Greyhawk map. I hope plenty of people made the trip to see it like we did. That map deserved to be displayed in the con hall itself, but GenCon must be anti-Greyhawk. Who knows?

If you haven't been following her work, this map is an over 10 year labor of love that has won her wide community acclaim and even freelancing work with Kobold Press for which she was included at the Ennies awards this year in the Best Cartography category for her work on the Southlands Campaign Setting Map. Anna did not win unfortunately, somehow losing out to Shadows of Esteren and Maze of the Blue Medusa. She will be back.

On the topic of the Ennies, my very good friend over at Melvin Smif's Geekery was nominated for back website category and lost to the juggernaut of Gnome Stew. No bad feelings there, being nominated is a reward all its own for a first time entry.

Another Ennie tidbit, Wizards' Curse of Strahd did very well at the awards winning gold for Best Cover and Best Adventure. Not sure who picked up their award since the WotC group supposedly weren't attending. I'd love to hear how that went. At any rate, it's good to see Ravenloft get so much love. It gives me hope that fans want more than just another Forgotten Realms product.

Greyhawk Reborn had another successful run at the 3rd floor hall in the JW Marriott this year. I know all the slots were sold out cause I tried to get into an earlier game. I was too busy for a Sunday game. If anyone took in a GHR game I'd love to hear how it went.

Speaking of Greyhawk convention play, I met and played in a Savage Worlds game ran by Chris Hussey from the show Titansgrave Diggers and more. Chris is a Living Greyhawk player from way back and out of the kindness of his heart he gave me his Shield Lands t-shirt. I am overwhelmed. I love it!!

Lastly, at the Gamerstable Appreciation Dinner we hosted the incredible Monte Cook and the lovely Shanna Germaine from Monte Cook Games. It was a good time and definitely the biggest gaming celebrity I've had the chance to sit down with in my life. Monte even signed my coveted Book of Vile Darkness. It was a great memory for someone who has played 3.5 D&D for so long. Well that's about it for Greyhawk news. Anyone have some things to share? I'd lvoe to hear about it in the comments section!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Onto GenCon 2016

Well folks I'm leaving extra early for GenCon even though it technically starts Thursday. If any one wants to attend a Greyhawk meet and greet, I'll be at the JW Marriott on Friday evening @5-6pm. Just drop me a line on Twitter:  @GamersTableMike
or email me: mortellan(at)

I am all over the place during GenCon if you can't make Friday. You can find other Greyhawk fans, possibly including me all week at the Greyhawk Reborn events in the JW Marriott. I will also be at the RAM Brewery on Wednesday night with the GamersTable podcast crew and friends or if you want to just say hi randomly inside the convention hall I'll do my best to find ya.

Update friday: I am calling off the get together due to various factors. Sorry everyone.Maybe next year. I am willing to meet and talk hawk with anyone at the con. Just drop me a line.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Greyhawk: Conclave of Ull

It is said in more civilized corners of the Flanaess, that the remote frontier land of Ull is a godless wasteland; home to only nomadic horselords, hill ogres, cruel slavers and debauched gladiatorial fights. No mention is ever given to the denizens of Ull having a tradition for the arcane arts. This is for good reason because its most powerful mages are foreigners who like to stay out of sight and out of reach of their contemporaries. In such a small realm however, these rare practitioners of magic cannot exist peacefully without some contact and certain unwritten rules.

The Conclave is a very loose association of mages dwelling primarily in the towns and villages of Ull or among the encircling highlands. Their meetings and communications are few and far between but at times, external threats such as rumors of a new Brazen Horde or more often pesky treasure-seeking adventurers have resulted in a couple of these mages cooperating for a common purpose. The local ruling khanates know little of the mages, except through reputation, though individuals have on occasion served as consultants to various warlords or sheiks at their own peril. The unwritten rule of the Conclave is to stay out of each other's business lest they invoke the ire of the others or worse, bring down the wrath of Ull's mundane populace. These boundaries are pushed at times when interests overlap, but so far each mage's privacy has been respected.

Abi-Dalzim (W18, NE): The notorious "Father of Droughts" has haunted the foothills of the Ulsprues near Kester for half a century, but only recently has been active since escaping from incarceration by the dao in the Great Dismal Delve. Abi-Dalzim is an earth elementalist infamous for the creation of the spell Horrid Wilting, and is likewise an adherent of Incabulos (god of disasters and famine), thus combining the worst aspects of transmutation and necromancy.

Dalzim works through agents, rarely leaving his tower, leading many to believe he is an impostor, however the Conclave knows better. Among his personal schemes, Dalzim has a long vendetta against the wizard Alhamazad of the Circle of Eight. Dalzim is also actively interested in defeating the dervishes of the Dry Steppes and preventing the ascendancy of their prophetic Mahdi.

Hornung (W16, CN): Originally hailing from another prime material plane close to Oerth, Hornung is known to mages in Eastern Oerik as the "Wild Archmage". Hornung is the foremost practitioner of a disputed and dangerous school of arcane study called wild magic. Hornung's reckless reputation and generally chaotic demeanor has led to his aggressive banishment from many cities in the Flanaess, including the Free City of Greyhawk whose former mayor Zagig Yragerne is said to be a pioneer of the magical theory.

Hornung might be a sociopath, but he is certainly not a fool. The Wild Archmage has been meticulously searching the continent for areas of wild magic around known Fading Lands and planar gates, plus other untapped sources of arcane power such as dweorstones and oerthblood. Hornung retreats back to Ull where he has been observed practicing his wild spells unrestrained, but this is also where he must rest and review his research. The location of his personal sanctum has yet to be discovered by any of his Conclave peers, save his protege Nahal, though given his nature it may randomly change.

Lorloveim (W24, N): The "Mistress of Shadows" is said to be an ancient sorceress from a realm long lost in Oerik's past. and is perhaps one of the first to be called quasi-deity. The penultimate master of shadow magic, Lorloveim hides in the open among the small villages of southern Ull, blending in flawlessly as a free-willed Baklunish woman when she wants to be seen at all. Lorloveim seems content to be left alone, choosing Ull for its remote location and dearth of magical entities. Only the Conclave has recently drawn her into the open; indeed few others in the world even know she still exists. This fact has been kept discreet by the Conclave, especially Abi-Dalzim who fears the powerful sorceress most.

The shadow mistress is stern, quiet and seems to have no personal goals though deep down she has a heroic bent. Lorloveim spends her time with art, literature and preparing magical components using her obsidian mortar and pestle. Lorloveim might walk among Uli by day, but somewhere in the shadows she has concealed a gate to a private demiplane where so far only the Baklunish alchemist Alamir has been invited. Alamir never speaks of Lorloveim's home save for the mistress' preoccupation with images of a certain obscure Flan hero-deity.

Khazid (W11, CG): The young Bakluni summoner known as Khazid is originally from the bustling city of Zeif. Khazid was a child prodigy who grew up on the streets of the capital, this life instilled in him a mischievous personality that soon got him on the wrong side of the sultan's court. Khazid's greatest achievement, his Procurement spell, was also his downfall.  Khazid learned how to create micro-gates to anywhere in the city through a silver mirror in order to obtain material components with ease. The roguish side in Khazid soon got the best of him as his superiors accused him of thievery; a sentence that would've cost him a hand.

Panicked and with nowhere else to go, Khazid fled the city, hiding along with a caravan heading south. He knew the jealous, pampered wizards of Zeif wouldn't follow him into the wilderness. Before Khazid knew he was stranded in the remote capital of Ulakand, fortunately his streetwise nature allowed him to swiftly find employment as a sage and adviser to the many uneducated khans and warlords of Ull. Khazid became part of the Conclave through dealings with its founder Alamir and elementalist Maximilian. Khazid is still a wanted man, but this time for his Procurement spell which he refuses to teach anyone including the Conclave. Meanwhile back in Zeif, rare gems and magical substances keep randomly disappearing from the palace yet servants report seeing a hand swiping things out of thin air.

Alamir (W14, LN): The alchemist Alamir was once a student in the famous Zashassar school of Ekbir. Alamir's obsessive curiosity to know how all magic items are crafted led to the development of the spell Fundamental Breakdown. However, Alamir's efforts often resulted in the destruction of what ever item was studied. This fact and Alamir's failed cover ups were soon discovered by the Zashassari elite who promptly banished him from working in the Caliphate. Alamir went to Tusmit next, then Zeif, but found he had been blacklisted due to his reputation.

By the fate of Istus, Alamir fell in with the wanted mage Khazid and the pair went to Ull where the two work closely together from Ulakand to Kester as advisers and craftsmen for those who can afford their services. The Conclave itself was devised by Alamir when he started to encounter other mages in his travels throughout Ull and desired to bring them together. Though the Conclave is hardly a coherent group like the Zashassar, Alamir is still regarded as the most trustworthy mage in the region, a fitting legacy for an alchemist thrown out of so-called civilized society.

Nahal (W11, CE): Nahal is an arcane phenom who was discovered by Hornung manipulating wild magic in the city of Lopolla. Nahal was trained to be a common hedge mage, but his propensity to drink and the acquisition of a wand of wonder changed his life forever. By the time Hornung met Nahal, he had already lost his wife, his job and was wanted by the beygraf for several counts of malicious injury and vandalism. The unhinged Nahal was taken under Hornung's wing in an attempt to save his life if not hone his talent in wild magic.

Nahal so far has proven to be a disaster in the making. Hornung has been lacking as a teacher with his chaotic travels, leaving Nahal alone to create questionable spells like Reckless Dweomer and Nonsensical Nullifier. Only the wide-open prairies of Ull and the careful watch of the Conclave seem to contain his manic use of wild magic. To that end, the wild mage has been slowly growing in power, lending his magic to various warbands. Nahal harbors many grudges in Ull and back home for which he vows to someday repay. Hornung though affable, is wise to be wary of Nahal.

Maximilian (W14, LE): This grim-faced, stocky earth elementalist hails from the highlands of Geoff. Already a capable mage as a young adult, Maximilian was displaced by the Giant Troubles a decade ago and ended up with no family or money at a refugee camp in Bissel. A visiting mage from Ekbir took pity on the angry, vengeful mage and personally sponsored him to join the Zashassar school in Ekbir. Not surprisingly, Max was treated harshly as a foreigner at the Bakluni institute, a hardship that forced him into many fights and put many people in the infirmary with the use of his Stony and Earthen Grasp spells. Eventually Maximilian quit the Zashassar altogether to seek his own way and possibly find a tutor more his temperament.

Max turned to the lawless frontier of Ull to seek service with the ill-famed elementalist Abi-Dalzim, yet much to his chagrin the Father of Droughts rejected his advances. Fueled by this setback Maximilian found work for the pit masters of Kester and joined slaver bands in the Yorod Hills before magically building his own tower where he has crafted unique wonders such as clay golem-armor and also bred horrors like the Stone Ettin. Through the Conclave, Max has found common ground to work with the likes of Khazid and Nahal, and if he can be believed, even Abi-Dalzim is regretting his decision to rebuff the formidable earth-mage.

All these wizards come from named spells in the highly underrated 2E accessory, Tome of Magic. This book was designed by David Cook, the late Nigel Findley, Chris Kubasik, Greyhawk's own Carl Sargent and Rick Swan. This book has always been a little treasure trove of conversion ideas for me as I never see anyone else in the D&D community using these spells, items or proper names. Long ago I co-opted Abi-Dalzim as a villain for Ull to much acclaim. By sticking several more characters from the Tome of Magic into my own "living" Ull campaign I hope to develop and use them more in future writings.