Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Greyhawk Comic Rewind: Waldorf

Hey all, let's have a look at one of my favorite classic Greyhawk comic strips from 2007 featuring the Dragon Magazine legend, Waldorf. Back in the mists of D&D prehistory, people had to write actual paper letters and send them by pony express to the editor to have them published in the forums of the magazine. Often if the letter was outrageous enough other people would write letters about your letter! Internet forums just don't have the same zing as a nice character debate done in print. Check it out...

Friday, September 25, 2015

Greyhawk Wish List

Here's a nostalgic post I've been mulling over for some time. As an avid fan and collector of all things setting related, I have nearly everything you'd want to run a Greyhawk campaign. What's left for me to get in this long dry spell? Definitely not minis. Well for one, there is tons of old lead mini sets, Chainmail mini sets and even pre-painted plastic Greyhawk minis, but I have enough minis, so no thanks. Luckily, there is still some quirky merchandise out there that a collector like me might be interested in finding...

Bigby's Tee: This one is a recent creation from a tee shirt contest a couple years past. I could not find it in time for GenCon which irked me but lo and behold its now on ThinkGeek's site. Well done guys. I can easily get this cool tee so let's move on to the rare stuff.

Olidammara's Dice: These are high on my wish list for Greyhawk related stuff. A pair of six-siders with the symbol of Olidammara god of rogues on one face. If you haven't heard of Olid's Dice they are an artifact only seen in 3E's Epic Handbook. There is still a Olid's dice utility on Wizard's archive that may still function too. I'm sure I can find this on Ebay someday, then I'll be able to tempt my friends who can;t resist random stuff like the Deck of Many Things. Runner up here would be the Fist of Emirikol another cool D&D die that has some rules attached to it. 

Mini World of Greyhawk Boxed Set: Any one remember these little gems? There was a whole slew of mini books and boxes that came out in the 90's. All I ever collected was the mini DMG. I'd love to know what kind of shrink ray they came up with to reduce everything perfectly including the maps. I'm sure I can acquire the mini boxed set. My best friend has one in fact...;)

Gord Novels: There is several titles of these alternate-Greyhawk Gygax novels floating out there and I already own a couple, but the ones I'm most keen on locating is Come Endless Darkness and Dance of Demons. The last two in the series which also have the most Graz'zt and Tharizdun action I hear. Those two novels shouldn't be too hard to get, but like comic books it's something I'd love to stumble upon and be surprised than chase it down. That's all for now. If anyone has other ideas or even has the items listed above, I'd love to hear about it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

About Wizards Forums Closing

It's a light week for me, so I'll talk a bit about WotC closing their community forums in October. From a personal POV those forums have been dead to me for many years now. The once decent Greyhawk forum (a sad subforum of "Other Worlds") saw cross-traffic between it and places like Canonfire and ENWorld then was suddenly and effectively abandoned at the outset of 4E, I'm not sure people moved on to other forums because there was no good 4E Greyhawk material to discuss since Wizards DID publish Greyhawk material in eDungeon/Dragon, and also put out reprints of classic books. Maybe these efforts were discussed in other locations on the Wizards forums, but as a dedicated forum to Greyhawk, the community was long gone from there by the time 5E rolled around.

I definitely agree with their sentiment that technology has changed things. Forums still have their place, since they are best for finding news and information in long form. For quick topics however, discussion and Q&A type things, blogs and social media are easier to follow on a daily basis rather than a forum thread which runs in the dozens of pages. So in short, no sadness here about Wizards dumping their forums. Much like their current adventures, the task of community building is better handled by other sources.

p.s. you can contact me on Twitter @GamersTableMike

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Castle Greyhawk: Ice, Rock and Steel

Welcome back Greyhawk mavens! Well I'm caught up finally in promoting the third chapter of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Check out page twenty-six plus follow some additional annotation by supreme scribe 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: Well this page was special so it just sprung to life in a hurry. It's not often we do a splash page, but the level of detail is heightened and the extreme angles are epic. I love it. The sword hanging off panel was my idea though, trying to pull you into the frame with Yrag. Anyhoo, Scott has something coming up big for the finale of this chapter. Until then I hope you all enjoy the view of the ice cave.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Zuggtmoy Recipe

Here's a short but pleasant bit of Greyhawkery. Continuing with the sudden D&D fame that our favorite fungi demon-queen, Zuggtmoy is enjoying, I have to share this incredibly cool blog post today by Geeky Hostess. Now I want some of these, foul demon curse be damned!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Place Your Bets: D&D Story Plots

5th Edition certainly has the D&D community buzzing. I myself am still playing in the Tyranny of Dragons storyline and we've just barely scratched Princes of the Apocalypse before Rage of Demons began. Though I always lament these aren't Greyhawk modules (or heavily borrow from them), with the adventure Out of the Abyss hot off the presses, I'm still among those who get excited about every preview and I love reading the speculation of what comes next. It's like a game within a game to guess what's coming up from clues and teases by WotC. For this reason I went to the Wheel of Gold Gambling House in the City of Greyhawk to find out the official odds on Wizard's next few story plots. Enjoy!

A giant-centric story is heavily suspected by the community given plot points laid out in previous adventures. Given Paizo has recently run-down their own giants-themed AP it'll be interesting to see if Wizards follows suit sooner or later.

Crashed spaceship is another popular theory given Chris Perkins' recent teaser involving a picture of a Froghemoth and other aberrant monsters. Would Wizards really mashup scifi and fantasy in Faerun though?

A straight up dungeon crawl. This combined with others like Greyhawk Ruins or Maure Castle is a natural option for any long term game. Given the locations of Wizard's last few stories this one cannot be discounted.

This is another idea I've seen mentioned in forums. The epic adventure boxed set has just the right components for a contemporary D&D mega event. It has demons (too soon?) and it has a multipart artifact quest.

This classic module is by one of Wizards' best authors Bruce Cordell and involves the Far Realms which is always a huge meta-threat in D&D. Firestorm Peak would make a good alternative to borrowing Barrier Peaks. For bizarre monsters and crazy evil NPCs you can't do much better than this.

Uber-liches are popular villains in D&D and one like Vecna who wants to supplant existing gods is definitely a Forgotten Realms type plot (Time of Troubles, ahem). This is also one of the last strongest Greyhawk modules out there that hasn't been redone since 2E. 

I6: Ravenloft/ Odds 10:1
Uber-vampires are also a popular monster-villain in fantasy and TV (not to mention hugely popular zombies which you can lump in here). Normally this type of storyline would be the province of the Ravenloft setting, but maybe Wizards can spin a new yarn to rival Strahd Von Zarovich?

Scaly evil and jungle ruins is an untapped resource for D&D writers in the last couple editions. Given WotC's tendency to set their adventures in temperate or cold climates though, this type of story is still far off in my opinion.

Human traffickers is an evil organization that can keep adventurers busy across a wide area. This classic series has been revised recently so it may be fresh on Wizard's mind. It can also translate to other settings easily.

That's all I can think of off the top of my head. Feel free to add your own speculated odds to this list! 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Castle Greyhawk: Two For One

Welcome back Greyhawk patrons! Well this is unusual, I'm two entire pages behind in promoting the third chapter of our ongoing Castle Greyhawk graphic novel. Check out page twenty-four AND twenty-five plus follow some bonus exposition by fantastic fantasist 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: Well for those who are familiar with Maure Castle may recognize some scenes presented in these last two pages. I won't reveal more and just say that the party's curiosity will get them into more trouble before long...

From an artistic standpoint I've really enjoyed this interlude and the time for me to draw them really flowed faster than ever. What keeps the dungeon interesting for me is new tunnel and room design and in this case the mysterious mural. Spending too long in one location is a grind artistically, so I like that the party has keep it moving at this pace. Speaking of locations, page 26 coming soon is a doozy. Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Dungeons and...Demons?

I have to admit, I can't get enough of this Fall's D&D event, Rage of Demons. I have a feeling a vast majority of D&D fans can't get enough either. So what is it about demons and demon lords that captures the imaginations of RPG fans (as much as dragons)? It's probably a long and complicated answer, but I can provide a couple concrete reasons to build upon: demons are an unrepentant evil and they look damn cool. Dragons look cool too, but being evil isn't necessarily their whole reason for existence. There can be exceptions. Not so with D&D demon-kind (or Tanar'ri as they were known in the dark times). Demon lords especially are totally, 100% irredeemable in this game so that makes them the best villains. These aren't demons like you'll see on Buffy (except maybe Graz'zt). That means there is no ambiguity or confusion (unless they create it) in defeating them since they certainly won't feel bad taking your character's soul first!

For these reasons Greyhawk has always been a hot-bed of demonic plots over the years. From the very beginning, Iuz the half-demon son of the demon lord Graz'zt has been the primary evil threatening the Flanaess. And his witch of a mother, Iggwilv is the main authority on demonology with her famous Demonomicon. Then nearby, trapped in the Temple of Elemental Evil lurks Iuz's ally the queen of fungi Zuggtmoy. Beneath the mountains, Lolth causes trouble for Oerth all the way from her Demonweb. That's just for starters.

Fraz-Urb'luu was once trapped beneath Greyhawk Ruins by mad Zagyg, the Prince of Demons Demogorgon tried to wreck the world with his Savage Tide, the Queen of Chaos terrorized Oerth in prehistory against the Rod of Seven Parts, and the foul Kerzit menaced the dungeons of Maure Castle. There was simply so many demons in Greyhawk at one point that the Crook of Rao had to be used to chase off most of them.

So have fun playing Out of Abyss as they tear-up the Forgotten Realms. Or maybe an enterprising DM can adapt the module to Greyhawk. It's not like Oerth can't handle a few pesky Demon Lords.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

In Defense of WhimsyHawk

A few days ago ENWorld's Morrus posted an interesting article that talked about the relevancy of whimsy in D&D today in regards to the characters previewed for the upcoming Out of Abyss adventure. He highlighted an old WotC article from 2005 on why humor is downplayed whereas it was more prevalent in editions before that (TSR era essentially). This naturally points a big finger at many Greyhawk products, most of which not considered classics. Sure Greyhawk has had plenty of whimsy, but I have a hunch Forgotten Realms hasn't had as much (in my limited experience) even compared to other settings like Planescape or Spelljammer.

To go along with this is a poll asking if you like whimsy mixed with a "grimdark" setting like the Underdark with all these demon-lords running around in it. I for one have no problem with whimsy mixing with serious if it is handled with care. Currently the poll stands at almost 2/3 in favor of mixing the two elements, with the rest either against or not caring. This shows that there's just enough confidence in D&D's writers to try anything. If those results were like Fantastic Four's rating on Rotten Tomatoes then I'm sure there'd be damage control going on right now.

Of course It's still left to be seen how much the dark and whimsy we are talking about here. Here's a quick analysis and a summary of how I think Out of Abyss will differ from "WhimsyHawk":

Let me tell you about WhimsyHawk!
When people think of humor in Greyhawk the first shoe thrown is Castle Greyhawk, the infamous joke module. It's intentionally full of parody, puns and worse atrocities. The art (Jim Holloway on interiors) is especially supportive of this whimsical adventure. To wit, demon-lord Graz'zt is in this module as well which must make him some sort of object of dark comedy (I should know).

When comparing the cast of Out of Abyss to previous D&D the next whimsy duo brought up is Greyhawk's Dungeonland and The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror. It is no coincidence that these two modules also have their setting within the realm of "Castle Greyhawk" though they predate the joke module's publication by five years and have no more direct connection than that. That Greyhawk took on a dark and dangerous Alice parody back in 1983 is remarkable since Alice is presented as more dark than whimsy these days in movies and graphic novels.

I could go on and talk about other silly aspects like those found in Greyhawk Ruins (see a pattern here?), Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (debatable), or heck, Zagyg the demigod of humor, but the bottom line is that none of these things present a serious threat to the World of Greyhawk setting. Castle Greyhawk never instigated the Greyhawk Wars and Dungeonland never threatened to change the face of the Flanaess if the heroes lose. Out of the Abyss wisely starts in the Underdark yet I believe the premise is that if the demons win there, they will spill out and ruin the Sword Coast next. I'm not sure its the demon-lords; I think some people are more worried the whimsy is going to break loose and infect Faerun! 

So yes, I like a mix of dark and humorous, but I don't think the D&D team is in danger of spreading too much whimsy to their future products either. After two heavy world-saving storylines like Tyranny of Dragons and Princes of the Apocalypse why not have a little light-hearted stuff to set up what will inevitably be another Realms-shaking event anyhow?