Friday, July 21, 2017

5 Reasons to Visit the Bright Desert

Welcome again Greyhawkers. Today I continue my article series, "5 Reasons to Visit..." If you haven't read my seven previous installments, check this link to the Best of Greyhawkery and peruse those and many more good posts. The subject of the day is: 5 Reasons to Visit the Bright Desert! The Bright Desert is centrally located in the Flanaess and post-wars becomes a nation called the Bright Lands (after Rary the Traitor took the place over). There is a lot going on here besides the wizard Rary (check out Dungeon #98 for more info on the Bright Desert), let's dig in!

1. Shattados Palace. The Bright Desert was formerly the ancient (and evil) realm of Sulm before a cursed crown transformed it into a waste and the people turned into manscorpions. Shattados Palace is one of the few remaining ruins of this ancient time. Found in the indispensable 2E accessory Rary the Traitor, this location is where the last cursed king of Sulm still lurks with his treasures. The location of this place is interestingly not marked on a map which is great for DMs so they can send players on a Raiders of the Lost Ark style desert hunt.

2. Dagger Rock. Other ancient threats lair in the Bright Desert. Deep within the lonely spur of rock in the northern desert, sleeps the blue dragon Volte. Volte is a wyrm (dangerous indeed) who original hailed from the Stark Mounds to the west before being drove out over a century ago. Volte most likely wants to be left alone, but rumor says Rary has been entreating the wyrm to become his ally. A powerful archmage and a wyrm sounds like a deadly combination indeed. PCs will have to be quite experienced to take on this threat before it gets out of hand.

3. Ghost Tower of Inverness. The classic module C2: Ghost Tower of Inverness was first published in 1979 by Allen Hammack and is considered one of the 30 greatest adventures of all time. This is a standard dungeon (tower) crawl where heroes search for the ominous Soul Gem that once belonged to an ancient evil wizard (maybe why Rary was attracted to the region). Though technically in the Abbor Alz Hills, the Ghost Tower is quite close enough to the Bright Desert to get included in this series. This is a good low to mid-level module and can get players started on a campaign that involves the Bright Desert region. Look for a copy online or the PDF if you can!

4. Pits of Azak-Zil. First mentioned in the seminal hardback Greyhawk Adventures, the Azak-Zil (Pureheart in dwarvish) is the site of a meteor crash on the fringe of the desert and hills. Many nations and clans vied to find and establish this mining colony. It was dwarves of Irongate who at last discovered the wealth of iron, platinum, mithril, adamantite and gold at this location. These dwarves became wealthy until one day the flow of ore stopped. What search parties have discovered since then is the pits are now overrun by undead of a strange sort, since they still work the mine and keep it to themselves. What has caused Azak-Zil to fall to undeath is left for PCs to discover. Perhaps they can clear the mines and re-establish operations for a new business interest.

5. The Mines. There is alot of cool adventure locations in the Bright Desert, so if I had one more to choose I guess I'll go with the Mines just cause they have an intriguing ruler, Father Eye. The Mines are a central interest of Archmage Rary because of its connection to the underdark. Scheming duergar dwarves now control and work in these old mines for their mysterious leader Father Eye. It doesn't take much imagination to deduce who or what Father Eye might be. Heroes looking for a good old fashioned mid-level dungeon-crawl would be well-served venturing into the Mines to take on Father Eye and his dastardly duergar.

So there you go. The Bright Desert has so much untapped potential for adventure that I could do two of these articles. To reiterate for DMs, all you really need is Rary the Traitor, Ghost Tower of Inverness and maybe Dungeon #98 to do a full Bright Desert campaign. Much of this source material is in fact underdeveloped so it's also good ground for designing your dungeons or treasures. Have fun with the Bright Desert!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Ten Places in Greyhawk

It's been a slow week Greyhawk-wise. Let's try a random list of 10 Places in Greyhawk I've Never Used. (In a campaign that is; mind you I've been playing Greyhawk for 35 years so I've had plenty of opportunities.) A couple caveats, one I'm not talking "Beyond the Flanaess" or any pseudo-Greyhawk that Gygax made post-TSR.

1. The Yeomanry. I don't think I've ever willingly set anything in this country, nor had a character come from here. Don't know why. Maybe too peaceful? Can't say for certain.

2. County of Ulek. Again, a most peaceful place in the Flanaess. A veritable "shire" of halfling delights. Haven't had any reason to cause trouble there in my campaigns. Odd!
3. Town of Fax. This town in the Wild Coast has a funny name. I probably avoided it for this reason.
4. Menowood. This woodland in the east is featured in the boxed set as a place to encounter werewolves. I'm not a big werewolf guy so I've probably subconsciously avoided Menowood.
5. Town of Gorna. The capital of the Grand Duchy of Geoff. I've probably had PCs pass through Geoff battling giants before but I don't think I've utilized the town before. This is a shame because I have a nice map of Gorna that Mike Schley did a few years back.
6. City of Sulward. The capital of the Lordship of the Isles. I've had NPCs hail from the lordship but I still haven't had any players set foot on these islands, much less the capital city. I hope to rectify that someday in my next Sea Princes campaign.
7. Yecha Hills. Again, I've probably had PCs travel past or through the hills, but I've never intentionally set anything in this part of the Tiger Nomad lands. A shame.
8. Town of Exag. This mysterious town in Perrenland got a royal write-up article in Dungeon Magazine #145. It's a place I ought to use if only because I love ancient history of Oerth stuff.
9. Axewood. This woodland is in the same neighborhood as the County of Ulek. Never used, but it has treants and elves. A possible fay paradise. Guess I just haven't had a need for that setting so far.
10. City of Lo Reltarma. Capital of the Lendore Isles/Spindrifts. Not sure. I know there's a few classic mods set on the isles that I've never ran, yet I've most likely used the Lendores indirectly because of the seafaring elves. I doubt however that I've ever visited this city in a game session since I can't recall a single fact about the place. Oh well!

That was actually hard! Some day soon we'll look at ten other Greyhawk things I've neglected.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Greyhawk Initiative?

Some of you old school gamers who follow D&D news or social media probably have heard about the latest Unearthed Arcana document by head honcho Mike Mearls. The new idea that he's floated about is called "Greyhawk Initative" a variant system of tracking combat for 5E that he introduced at GaryCon 2017 (I was there but missed this bit). Initial reactions online have been muddled and confused. I have no desire to do a rules analysis or gripe about how this bad idea is attached to Greyhawk. Here is a couple places to help you out if you are interested.

ENWorld (including Mearls video)

Tribality (good breakdown of rules)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

5 Reasons to Visit Iuz

Welcome Greyhawk readers as I resurrect one of my article series, "5 Reasons to Visit..." If you haven't read my six previous installments, check this link to the Best of Greyhawkery and peruse those and many more of my finest work. Now onto the subject of the day: 5 Reasons to Visit Iuz! Well, not the deity himself of course, but more accurately the Land of Iuz proper (not the extended Empire controlled areas). All the entries in this survey are detailed in the indispensable 2E sourcebook Iuz the Evil by Carl Sargent. It's not that I'm biased but there really isn't a better source on this region of the setting. That said, if you do not own this book or PDF I highly advise you go and get it. The maps and content are a DM's dream.

1. Kendragund. The land of Iuz is easy to describe to someone who has never played Greyhawk, but has read or watched The Lord of the Rings;  this place is Mordor. It is ruled by an exceedingly evil, omnipotent demigod whose armies are full of orcs and undead. The visuals are immediate and easy to comprehend for any one who plays D&D.
First up is the orcish citadel of Kendragund in the Howling Hills. This is the seat of Iuz's orcish armies in the north, tales saying Iuz began his empire here subjugating the Urzun tribes and with the help of giants, erected the citadel in a day. Today, Kendragund holds a vast garrison of 5000 soldiers, scores of giants and undead warriors with dozens of priests and shamans to drive these forces at Iuz's will. This castle guards the Hills against Iuz's closest enemy, the Wolf Nomads that famously routed the Old One's invading forces at the Battle of Blackwater Bend back in 578 CY (Dragon #65).
Kendragund is ran by Kreshenk, an orog chieftain of giantic strength (F11) whom he delights in torturing prisoners brought up from Iuz's southern wars against Furyondy and the Shield Lands. Those with no political significance are put to fighting against monsters for the entertainment of the humanoids armies. Truly this is a place that heroes would need to tread stealthily in order to rescue someone. That is unless some distraction could cause the formidable garrison to deploy...

2. Dorakaa. The capital city of Iuz's malevolent empire, Dorakaa is called The City of Skulls for good reason and is detailed further in the adventure of the same name. In this module the PCs are tasked to infiltrate and rescue a noble from the most evil place in the world. Dorakaa teems with demons, monsters, orcs, cultists and undead. The sky is literally under a perpetual dark cloud for miles around and the walls have magical defenses unlike any seen in the Flanaess. It doesn't get any worse than this city.
Though Dorakaa is a slum for the most part, it still functions despite the horrors it contains. The city has twisted "Fiend Gardens", Agony Fields where public tortures are put on display, and the Jade Streets where depraved entertainments can be bought. There is artisan and slave quarters where skilled laborers still trade and toil for their masters and the masses of orc soldiery including Iuz's vaunted Legion of Black Death led by the fearsome cambion, General Sindol.
Iuz's top henchmen, the Boneheart, have their own towers and residences here as well, every one just as well guarded and dangerous to visit as the central Palace of Iuz himself. The north wing of this impregnable abode contains the Blackspear Chamber, a permanent gate to the Abyss where Iuz continually draws forth his most fearsome servants. In the middle of the palace behind strong metal doors, is Iuz's throne, a grisly chair constructed from the rib cages of a hundred paladins and clerics of Good. Any PC who ventures to the City of Skulls had best be experienced and equipped with the best magic they can acquire. Attracting too much attention here can easily bring down an overwhelming opposition that no hero can fend off for very long.

3. Road of Skulls. Between the Howing Hills and the capital of Dorakaa is the worst testament to Iuz's reign in the north, the Road of Skulls. Running for 300 miles north-south, this "road" is an astonishing 60 yards wide albeit mostly barren earth. The main trait of his hellish road is at every interval is a pole topped by a skull of various humanoid races. Many of these skulls you see are imbued with magical properties, for example screaming when good-aligned creatures get within a 100 yards or various rays and harmful spells.
Priests and wizards of Iuz, stationed in watch towers every six miles along the Road of Skulls, have control over these magical skulls using wands and staves, so all of this makes openly traveling in the land of Iuz a headache for adventurers. Worse yet, Iuz is now building similar Skull Trails east and west out of Dorakaa. Has there ever been a more foul engineering project in history?

4. Drenghuz. Not all the Howling Hills is controlled by Iuz or the Wolf Nomads. The caves of Drenghuz was once home to orcs (the same kind in Kendragund) but now is one of the most dangerous locations in the all the northern Flanaess. Deep below the earth a shadow dragon of uncertain age resides, though none are sure if it still lives or just slumbers. All the halls and caves surrounding this dragon are filled with hundreds of slow shadows, skulks and worse. Indeed, these denizens from the Plane of Shadow are impossible to control and are much more lethal than normal.
If Iuz's followers won't go here then it must be bad. Surely however, talk of a dragon will attract foolhardy, treasure seeking adventurers who are willing to avoid the keeps, cities and skull roads to take a chance at seeing whether Drenghuz is played out. Most of these characters are probably now part of the lair's population...

5. Icehand Plain. There is many strange and profane sites in the empire, like the Soul Husk Caverns, Devouring Bridge and more, but this last one is rare in that it is only relevant once a year. The Icehand Plain is an innocuous orc camp off the side of the Road of Skulls. On the last day of Sunsebb each year however, Iuz holds a grisly pep rally here.
The leaders of every tribe and army unit along with many Boneheart henchmen and priests attend this mandatory rally. It is said Iuz himself sits upon a replica throne here and a gigantic hand made of black ice appears overhead. This hand points one by one at each of Iuz's subjects, as he divines their loyalty. Those who have traitorous thoughts or waver in their fanatic devotion are blasted into nothingness by a negative-energy ray. Needless to say this intimidates his commanders effectively.
Who cares you say? The significance of Icehand Plain to players and DMs of course is that this is exactly the time and place of the year heroes know Iuz will be outside his palace defenses along with nearly his whole chain of command. It's the perfect opportunity for a hit job, that is if they can brave the icy hand that floats above and a multitude of high level threats all eager to please a paranoid demigod. Your PCs better be close to 20th level for this fight. Good luck!


Monday, July 3, 2017

Poll Result: Villain Sent to Ravenloft

Welcome Grey Travelers! Today I muse over my latest reader poll, which villain should be sent to Ravenloft next? This is in reference to the fact the Arch-lich Vecna and a certain other lich from the Adri Forest named Azalin were both transplanted from Oerth to the Ravenloft setting due to the fact they are irredeemably evil. That's what the Dark Powers like to do, trap evil figures on the demiplane and torment them with hope of escape and an occasional band of heroes to antagonize.

Of course, I believe the criteria for Ravenloft villains has to be a tragic story in addition to being evil. Lord Soth was snagged from Dragonlance not only because he was a death knight but probably some great betrayal or something, I can't remember, but he's likely still trapped there. As far as I know Vecna is the only person to escape the Mists of Ravenloft. Anyhow, here is our newest crop of candidates for being evicted from the Greyhawk setting:

 The Witch-Queen Iggwilv tops the voting with 28%. Iggy is a good choice cause everyone knows she is a schemer, manipulator, and thoroughly evil. She's the tragically abducted and indoctrinated daughter of Baba Yaga. She's also played with the emotions of Demon-Princes, wizards and demigods. This epic threat needs to be contained and where better than Ravenloft? If anyone has a chance at researching and concocting a way out of the demiplane it is also her. With so many enemies however, she might voluntarily stay a while...

Next at 26% was Ivid the Undying. Ivid is quite mad, he is an immortal animus now and he lost his kingdom disappearing in the destruction of his capital after the wars. Perhaps Ivid and his demonic relic the Malachite Throne both get shunted to the Demiplane of Dread where it caters to his fantasies of ruling again over a large kingdom. That may not be enough though, Ivid will eventually go to war with his neighboring Dark Lords. Only a band of heroes will be able to keep him from turning Ravenloft into the Dark Great Kingdom.

Speaking of tyrants, Rary the Traitor is third place with 22% of the vote. Rary is a troubled figure who is both super intelligent and a super powerful wizard. This puts him in the league as Vecna, Azalin or Iggwilv as to devising a way out of the demiplane. Rary tragically turned on his friends in the Circle of Eight, his own country and even his alignment, then moved to the Bright Desert to start his own kingdom. Those efforts haven't gone well however as his dreams of breaking the curse on the desert might be put on hold if the Mists take him away. Rary is wise so he probably wouldn't be a threat to PCs in Ravenloft, he'd probably blackmail and coerce them into doing his bidding in order to escape the demiplane.

At 13% of the vote is St. Kargoth. A lesser known figure in Greyhawk lore, Kargoth was the first death knight in the Flanaess, created by Demogorgon the Prince of Demons. Being a fallen knight, Kargoth is much like Soth in that he betrayed his order and helped in creating more undead of his ilk. Kargoth is much to dangerous to be on the loose in the world, so the mists would probably take him stealthy one day. I can see Kargoth roaming a desolate prison plane recruiting (or raising) an army for some unknown conflict. Perhaps he learns of a greater death knight nearby and feels challenged. Or maybe Karogth quests alone, hopelessly searching the mists for a way out, only to find the PCs instead...

Last but not least is Slave Lord Markessa at 8%. I don't think many fans appreciate Markessa's brand of evil or her percentage would be higher. Markessa is an evil elf, not a drow, which is tragic in itself to her people. She runs with a vile band of Slavers which she uses as a means to capture other elven females and experiment on their minds and appearance to create duplicates of herself. She is twisted,I tell ya. There is probably no woman on Oerth who deserves to be captured by the Mists more than Markessa and the irony is she would love it. The moody, dour residents of Ravenloft would be perfect fodder for her lust for surgery and brainwashing. As a Dark Lord, Markessa would be even more powerful and she'd have a domain to rule that is tailored to her needs. Well, all except for the one thing she seems to need the most. Any PCs who are female elves beware...

That's it for now. Did I miss any other good candidates? Let me know.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Article: Female D&D Authors

I came across this amazingly good article by Cecilia D'Anastasio on Kotaku titled Dungeons & Dragons Wouldn't Be What It Is Today Without These Women. It's well researched and tells about the contributions of women like Jean Wells, Penny Williams, Rose Estes and our favorite map-maker Darlene, as they worked among an industry that was very male dominated. I was lucky to hear Darlene touch on this subject at GaryCon this year, now read about it here. Enjoy.

Monday, June 19, 2017

GenCon 2017


Quiet week at Greyhawkery. Hey it looks like I won't be going to GenCon this year. If I do it'll be for one night and very last minute planned. I'm not entirely sure I'll miss much as most of the big games I'm interested in have already announced plans or released their stuff at other dates. GenCon for the average D&D enthusiast is really lacking for me nowadays. I love the social aspect, I love Indianapolis and I love the crowds, but I don't miss the hotel scramble and the sameness of everything. I've been to too many of these I guess, which is why GaryCon was a nice diversion this year.

At any rate, is anyone going this year? Is there something I'm missing out on?

Monday, June 12, 2017

New Greyhawk Map! Ulakand Mesa

Well met, Greyhawkers! Today I'm sharing a map I did a month ago featuring Ulakand, the capital of Ull in the Baklunish West. Anyone who knows me, knows I am the #1 source of fan-made Ull material. I adopted little undeveloped, unwanted Ull back in 2004 by doing several articles for Canonfire. Since then no one, not even Living Greyhawk, Wizards or anyone has touched Ull, but me. Yes, I'm bragging, cause I've put a lot of work into this realm. And this map of the Ulakand Mesa is my latest addition. 

The map is hand-drawn in ink on hex with hex with hex paper I acquired from Black Blade Publishing at Garycon 9 this year. The paper is neat stuff and I like the information in the margins including map location. That is a definite call-back to the coordinate system on the Darlene maps and nowhere else!

Some background on the mesa. A creation of my own, the capital of Ulakand is in the middle of nowhere which seemed boring to me, so I imagined a mesa poking up in the sea of grass, which legend says is the carcass of a deity's horse which died of exhaustion on the plains. In the NW corner of this mesa is Ulakand, nicknamed the "City of Horses". No place in the Flanaess reveres horses more than here. The town proper rests on top of the mesa which can look out on the open prairie for hundreds of leagues in all directions. The part of Ulakand on the ground is mostly tents and corrals belonging to various tribes of Ull nomads.

Further into the mesa are other points of interest for wary adventurers passing through including a catacomb to the south and a haunted wood to the NE. The map is keyed you will notice. This is for future reference because I plan to someday put out a gazetteer of Ulakand which will develop all the points on this map in greater detail. I will you keep you posted. Until then, enjoy Ulakand and make of it what you will!



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

TSR 1992 Fall-Winter Catalog

Hello Greyhawk and D&D enthusiasts! Today I was digging around in my collection and found this gem, the TSR 1992 Fall/Winter Catalog! In light of D&D's much hyped products and story events, I'd like to tell you millennial gamers that 1992 was a very good era for the D&D. It was the height of 2nd Edition and there was new stuff coming out every month. I remember anxiously going to the nearest game shop (for me sometimes half an hour away) to see what would be on the shelves next (especially Greyhawk). Let's have a look and see what TSR had in store for us 25 years ago!


Dragon Quest. Never owned it, however I did have Hero Quest which I suppose was a knock off of one or vice versa. No idea. This set gets you a free t-shirt though! Take note WotC.


Hollow World and regular D&D products. I did like the Known World and the BECMI sets. After that I didn't collect them anymore. I do wish I had got The Poor Wizard's Almanac though, that looks cool.


This was a good year for Darksun. Seven products including a computer game for you IBM users. I never got into Darksun, probably because I was too busy collecting the next page...


Yes, the 90's was good for Ravenloft setting fans as well. I didn't read the novels, but the source books like Forbidden Lore were my favorite. Ravenloft was always fun to break out on a dark rainy day and I like those books so much I keep them on my shelf rather than stored away. I also admired Al-Qadim. This was a time before it got shoe-horned into Faerun. While I never ran the rules, those books were great inspiration for my own Greyhawk adventures set in the Baklunish West.


TSR Collector Cards. Good idea, poor execution. They were printed on terrible cardstock, had no custom art (it was all pulled from cropped images out of other D&D books) and in lots of cases had useless information. Sometimes you could find a diamond in the rough, but for canon lore, the cards aren't reliable. 
Now, the Complete Book of Elves (Elvis) is the best of that 2E series. It's the book that gave us Bladesingers. Enough said! Lankhmar always made an appearance once in a while. Love the novels, not interested in the setting.


Here we are finally, the Forgotten Realms section. Yes, the 90's was also the ascendancy of FR one needs look no further than The Legacy by Salvatore, Menzoberranzan boxed set and Volo's Guide to Waterdeep. Not to be outdone, FR also had three video games that season (for IBM and Amiga, take that Darksun fans). Enough of that...


Silly me, Forgotten Realms' novels spill over into the next page belonging to Dragonlance. FR had so many novels that I gave up. I don't know how R.A. Salvatore does it, he writes as much as Stephen King! Meanwhile, Dragonlance still had D&D adventures surprisingly. If any world had MORE novels than FR it was DL.


Spelljammer had a good Fall. Source books (Greyspace, woo), a novel AND a computer game. A computer game folks! Below that lineup we then have two sorrowful products for Greyhawk. Just two. No video games for Oerth. What gives? From the Ashes was a nice boxed set, I always liked Carl Sargent's post-war timeline. Rary the Traitor however was garbage. I didn't like the premise of his treachery or the follow up. The book had errors which were later fixed online, it had a terrible cover which was probably intended for something else and just got slapped on Rary last minute, and it had below-average interior art. Rary's only saving grace was that the lore inside on Sulm and the Bright Desert was new to us fans. Later writers would polish this turd to a shine and make Rary's land more interesting.


Lastly we have the oddities. TSR's Marvel Super Heroes was the best. Anyone who knows what FASERIP is had fun times in the 90's gaming. I never owned many MSH books, but I always got excited when new heroes were statted out in Dragon Magazine. Back in the 90's we DREAMED of Marvel movies. Nowadays every C-list hero is getting a movie or show. Back then we had to create our own epic stories.

Never got into Buck Rogers as an RPG, but us 80's kids remember the TV show. Then lastly we have Gamma World. This is another game I fondly remember. All we ever had was the base boxed set, none of these supplements, but we enjoyed it alot. It was so weird a setting and the post-apocalyptic genre was fresh in our mind with movies like Road Warrior or toons like Thundarr the Barbarian. Plus, given that we lived during the Cold War, GW seemed like a very possible future to us at the time. Sadly I never bought into the later reincarnations of Gamma World. I guess it's better left in 1992 for me. Thanks for reading.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Wizards New Storyline and More

Welcome back readers. Well, Wizards' much hyped Stream of Annihilation D&D-fest has begun and the anticipated unveiling of their next story line has been made. All the clues and speculation have turned out true this time, Tomb of Annihilation is the name of this event. It will involve undead and dinosaurs, namely the lich Acererak and the setting of Chult in the Forgotten Realms. Here is my thoughts on the announcement and some other commentary on where Wizards goes from there.

First off, I'm sure a lot of people are disappointed in no Darksun or Dragonlance or hey Greyhawk. Well, Greyhawk fans of all things Tomb can add this to their collection no doubt with little effort. I mean, it wasn't all that long ago Greyhawk stole Isle of Dread into the setting (dinos and demons in that case). As to this storyline it's at least a possible departure from the Sword Coast for a while. I see that Pendleton Ward is involved in this story too. As a big fan of the cartoon Adventure Time, I'm a tad disappointed we won't have a D&D crossover with that world, but I do see what Ward's influence will be with ToA; the main bad guy in Adventure Time is "the Lich".

Speaking of liches, I don't know much about the current state or machinations of Acererak, but I'm judging from 5e art, that he is no longer a boring gem-eyed skull on the floor anymore. I also read that there is a variant rule introduced which will make death saves harder. Now that is a good idea! I have not watched the stream yet, but the news flowing in from viewers is positive overall. I'm unsure if this will be something I buy at this time. I'm currently leaning no.

Now onto my past predictions. Over the last couple years I've tried to make odds on what themes and stories Wizards will use/rehash for 5E. After using Ravenloft, Giants, and Demons, they are running low on good ones. So now, in one year with Tales from the Yawning Portal and now Tomb of Annihilation, I have two more themes to scratch off. I had predicted (long shot) a jungle module akin to Cult of the Reptile God, Isle of Dread or Dwellers of the Forbidden City, yet I didn't think it would be visited so soon. Good on Wizards for that decision.

Second, I had speculated Wizards needed to use a lich for a BBEG story. I assumed Vecna, the original archlich, would be that person (of course). However, I underestimated the popularity of Tomb and its ongoing backstory (Annihilation will be the 5th adventure?). With Acererak ascendant in D&D pop culture, I guess a Vecna Lives! redux is not going to happen any time soon. As usual I've been way off in all my top predictions (except giants, no brainer). Expedition to the Barrier Peaks or Gates of Firestorm Peak continues to be my favorites, and I feel Undermountain or another iconic quest like Rod of Seven Parts is inevitable in the next few years.

That's all for now.



Saturday, May 27, 2017

Greyhawk Deity Poll Results

Hey Greyhawkers, here is the results and commentary on my latest Greyhawk poll: "What Cult is the Next Threat?" This is to mean of course, we have been inundated with Iuz, Nerull, Tharizdun and Vecna cultists over the editions. What other evil gods might pose a good threat to your players?

Incabulos god of nightmares and disease, leads the pack by a mile at 44% of the vote. His versatile portfolios makes his cultists capable of many dastardly plots. Plague the wells of a city? Check. Torture the dreams of a princess? You bet. Bring drought and famine on the local countryside? Every day. These cultists have to be hard working and delight in their work for Incabulos. To make matters better, he is served by Night Hags, the meanest of all hags. There is no deity more terrifying than the Dark Rider. His cult has been woefully ignored in Greyhawk canon but is definitely ripe for DMs to use in their own games.

Next up is the ever-popular Wastri (22%) god of amphibians and bigotry. There has always been something appealing about Wastri, be it his demi-god status makes him a viable foe for PCs and that his followers include amphibians, especially bullywugs (which always remind me of the 80's cartoon). His cult have to be among the most eccentric and crazed followers out there. Their plots are probably not complicated and are centered around stuff like hurting elves or spreading fear from the swamps. Check out this great quote by Rob Bricken on Wastri to inspire your Wastri cult usage:

"The god of amphibians… and a god of self-deception and bigotry. Now, obviously, being a god of frogs and bigotry is amazing, especially this very like means that all amphibians in Dungeons & Dragons are unrepentant bigots, to the point where they pray for help in maintaining their bigotry. But let's not overlook the fact that Wastri is also the god of self-deception. If you're praying to Wastri so you don't realise something... haven't you already failed? And if you have deceived yourself, how do you know to pray to Wastri for thanks? I don't think Wastri thought this through. Probably too busy dealing with all those racist frogs."

Next is Erythnul (17%) the god of massacre and hate; another underused deity in publications. He is not only a very violent evil god, but his worshipers include your typical list of monstrous enemies like orcs, ogres, trolls and bugbears. Cult actions for Erythnul are nothing short of open warfare on populations or other vile atrocities. Interestingly Erythnul is a rival of the more popular canon god of war, Hextor, which could lead to some nice headaches for PCs caught in the middle. Also, Erythnul is the official deity of Stonehold (Hold of Stonefist) so there, you go from cult threat to state threat real fast. Good luck heroes.


Wee Jas the goddess of death and magic and stuff, comes in at a paltry 15% probably because she isn't evil per se. The Stern Lady's cult, called Jasidans, is more an accepted religion in most lands, being strongest among Suel locations like the Scarlet Brotherhood. Her priests are generally stewards of the dead and would be counter to most evil cult's plots but her love of magic might lead her followers to oppose heroes during a quest for an artifact. Her followers, like their mistress, are lawful and probably vain, which can make them good foils for PCs rather than traditional villains. Despite all this, there could always be a cultist gone heretic in her service, employing shady wizards and planning to do evil in her name. So many possibilities.


Lastly poor old Telchur god of winter, failed to get a single vote. This is a travesty cause he has the potential to have the most dastardly cultists so far untapped next to Incabulos. Telchur has already shown evil plots on an epic scale having trapped Vatun and sided with slaad lords and the arch-fiend Belial. Stories say Telchur was once left in charge by his father Velnius and froze the Oerth for a thousand years. While most worshipers seek to placate him, a truly crazed cult of Telchur could be the catalyst for a truly epic Oerth-shaking event. Something to ponder...


Until next time.

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!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Great Flanaess River Adventure

Well met Greyhawk fans! Today I'm doing a long overdue promotion of the Oliver Brothers new 1st Edition AD&D compatible "river campaign" titled the Great Flanaess River Adventure. The GRFA is a massive 15 chapter epic taking your heroes from humble beginnings in Blackmoor and taveling by various waterways to the City of Greyhawk. Each chapter is its own PDF download with new chapters added each Friday.

To hook your attention, the Olivers write: "The hardest (and most frustrating) part of any journey is the planning. And so it is with the new party of adventurers planning to journey down the Fler and Velverdyva Rivers to the Gem of the Flanaess – Greyhawk.

Chapter 1 of The Great Flanaess River Adventure begins in Blackmoor in the Village of Arneson located at the headwaters of the Fler River. The party needs provisions, the means for securing future provisions, and canoes. A number of opportunities arise for the party to secure all they need before departing. From hunting the winter wolf, to entering the Burneal Forest to obtain wood for dugout canoes, to watching the antics of the snow monkeys--the adventure and campaign of a life time begins."

For those who like old school D&D, the GFRA is done in the format of those old AD&D modules, from the stat blocks, to the font and even the blue tint maps. The campaign has already wound its way through the Burneal Forest and crossed the nomad lands and is now at Lake Quag. It's not too late to hop in a canoe and check out this lovingly written, original Greyhawk campaign.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Greyhawk Twitter Topics

Welcome Greyhawk fans and readers of all things related to D&D. When it comes to social media, I spend a lot of time on Twitter (@GamersTableMike) and recently I asked some of my friends and followers for topic ideas. I got a few good responses, so let's just do them all!

Alec Stutson (@padawanovelist) wants to hear about, "Taking real world and historical influence, from politics and ancient world powers, and incorporating those into a campaign."

Okay let's get the hard one out of the way first, haha. The World of Greyhawk setting, created by Gary Gygax is a clinic in historical influence. Old Gygax was first a historical wargamer thus the genesis of his fantasy realm was real world influence. This pseudo-realism is what keeps Greyhawk grounded even when you throw in liches, dragons and death-trap dungeons.

For those wanting to run a campaign with ancient real world flavor all you need to do is read the boxed set Guide to see references to each nations' borders, army strengths and their ongoing or past conflicts. Gygax goes into great detail on knighthoods, royal naming conventions and of course heraldry, like no other. The nature of the setting is also to borrow analogs of Earthly culture. This way you have Euro, Asian and Arabic references to draw upon. All a DM needs to do in crafting a story based on say the Roman Empire or the Crusades is find the region best suited both culturally or geographically and highlight the most important aspects for players.

Example: I run a campaign based on the golden age of piracy. The most geographically advantageous spot for that is the Azure Sea and southward. In canon, a seafaring area like the Hold of the Sea Princes or the Lordship of the Isles is best to base these campaigns around. From there you can spin other tales on the high seas such as the Great Kingdom creating a fleet inspired by the Spanish Armada or you can have exploration of Oerth's jungles inspired by the Age of Exploration. Never mind that these historical eras mash up directly against more ancient tropes like armored knights, raiding vikings or sword and sandal Roman gladiators. It's a fantasy world!

Barantor (@Barantor) suggests, "Explain Iuz as a force present in "the flesh" on Oerth. This is a topic that needs a little backstory on the demigod of evil, pain and deceit. To sum up, Iuz is the progeny of the Demon Prince Graz'zt and the witch Queen of Perrenland, Iggwilv. His birth was likely planned as a long term powerplay for both parents to rule the world, though Iggwilv would later lose Perrenland and Graz'zt would have his hands full as well. Iuz likely started as a bandit king whose supernatural powers gave him an advantage over his neighbors. As he grew more powerful and realized his birthright he took on more followers of humanoid persuasion and by means not entirely understood attained immortality enough to soon have his own priesthood.

All this happened on the watch of Furyondy and the Shield Lands too. You would think if a powerful individual like Iuz was ascendant, the forces of good would be swift to stamp it out. Iuz perhaps hid behind the more vile acts of the Horned Society and the Temple of Elemental Evil for a while. The former even took  Iuz's short disappearance into captivity by Zagyg for granted and much like the kingdoms of good, wasn't prepared for his return, an almost Napoleonic rise back to power where he carved out a bloody empire from the north.

Iuz's purpose in the setting is the big bad evil guy, the meta-plot villain mastermind behind all the world's ills, ala Sauron. Iuz is also a foil for other would-be BBEGs such as Vecna or Kyuss. Evil turns on evil and the spoiled little demigod Iuz does not want other demigods running around. Iuz is a rather kitchen-sink type villain too. He has it all, orc armies, undead armies, demons, you name it. So there you have it, I don't know if I answered the question, but the short of it is the world needs a major villain or two to keep heroes busy.

Temujin (@Temmogen) wants to know more about, "The lost civilizations under the Crystalmist mountains." Here's one that I'm no expert on, but I'm assuming he wants to hear about the Lerara tribe of the Suloise. Long ago when the Suel fled the destruction of their empire in the Rain of Colorless Fire, many tribes fled through Slerotins's Tunnel, a sort of moses parting the Red Sea moment in Greyhawk history (see above question). For whatever reason the Lerara got lost or fell behind and they were trapped in the underdark with all those creepy critters. they managed to eek out an existence thanks to the "Mother" a mysterious entity who is basically like a god to the Lerara.

In my opinion, Mother is probably some unique, ancient amorphous being left over from an age before mankind, maybe an aberration akin to the Aboleth or an old obyrith demon like Dagon. whatever the case, the Lerara worship her like a goddess. Little has been written on this culture outside the World of Greyhawk Guide or sources about the mage, Elayne Mystica who left the underdark to live in Irongate. elayne aside, I wager given a millennia of underdark life, they albino, they have dark vision and are probably inbred to the point of being inhuman in appearance.

The Lerara are lost to human kind, but are surely well known to the drow, duergar and other races of the Under-Oerth. Besides this tribe as a lost culture in the mountains you could also speculate on clans of giant-kin lost among the vast mountains as their larger cousins spread out into the plains or maybe time-forgotten cavemen hidden in and around the inaccessible Valley of Mage or the site of the adjoining Barrier Peak ship crash.

and finally...

Brandi (@xb0shi3x) inquires, "Sabriel, where is she now? Probably getting nasty with George Clooney." Hah, well she is from my last Sea Princes game group (see above). where she played Sabriel Loreweaver, bard, pirate and wielder of the sword Dreamsinger from the adventure Five Shall Be One. When we finished that quest she had been a "friend with benefits" to a pirate lord named Captain Kendrick of Blue. He was best described as looking like George Clooney, thus the appeal.

To answer Brandi, what is Sabriel doing now? Well she is not in Blue port, she was last seen in the Hold of Sea Princes mulling over a lucrative marriage proposal from the rotund Count Robiga of Poniard. What she really has in mind for the count is left to be seen, but I'm sure the he won't keep Kendrick away for long. Yep, we have a lot of unfinished political intrigue to finish should we ever return to Sabriel and the crew of the Envy. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

GaryCon Haul

Last week I recapped my experience at my first Gary Con in Lake Geneva, WI. This week I'm showing off the modest haul I brought back from the con. I'm not a big shopper. I've cut back as shelf space and need for gaming stuff dwindles, plus I've acquired most old Greyhawk materials I'll ever want. Some stuff you just have to get at every con though...


First thing my friend Jayson did was make sure I got a dice bag. For years I've kept my main gaming dice in a clear ziplock bag. Cause reasons. Well at one of our games, Jayson and Kraftwerk dice shamed me into ditching that. Luckily now I have this fancy GaryCon dicebag with Demogorgon on it. What's not to like? We also got last year's official GaryCon d8 die. I assume every other year they have one, so next year is the d10. Oh boy!


Of course what is a convention without the GaryCon tee shirt? Again, Demogorgon was evidently the mascot for this year. We are guessing its to build on the hype of Demogorgon on the show Stranger Things. Good call cause I've always been a big fan of the Prince of Demons. I didn't buy a Demogorgon mini however. So that means my players are safe this year.


 Now onto my actual purchases. Besides swinging by Darlene's booth endlessly and buying a couple small prints, I didn't get much to brag about. My main focus was on the Blackblade Publishing booth where Allan Grohe hooked me up with a CD copy of the El Raja Key ArchiveRobert J Kuntz's collected notes on his home campaigns and published works. There is a wealth of esoterical Greyhawk information in there for me to blog about. Excited.

I also got my favorite thing, Blackblade's specialized hex paper. Their newest pad is a giant hex with hexes in it, which in turn have hexes in it! Hex Inception. I can't wait to create a map with those. Allan suggested something like the Maure Castle regional map in Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure. Lastly, just for fun he gave us some TPK tissues because sometimes, a gamer gets emotional.

That's about it. See you again soon GaryCon!

Monday, March 27, 2017

GaryCon 2017 Recap

Well folks, I'm back and recovered from GaryCon and wow was it quite different than GenCon Indy. Different as in going back in time by 20 or 30 years. Here's a rundown on the weekend that I shared with my long time gaming best friend Jayson.

Wisconsin and Lake Geneva is gorgeous. I'm from southern Illinois so geographically Wisconsin isn't much different, but the city of Lake Geneva and the resort that GaryCon is held at is simply wonderful. I could do a whole blog just on the peripheral sights to see. Needless to say, if you go to GaryCon in the future, venture out to the Lake, explore, it's worth it.

Good friends, amazing artists. We had planned zero events for GaryCon and truly had zero idea what to expect. In two days though, we filled our entire schedule with invites to gaming, a panel and meals. We felt really appreciated being among a smaller, more intimate crowd. That said I definitely was there to meet some fellas from the Greyhawk community. My good friend and patron from the Canonfire! community, Kraftwerk was first to greet us (though our hockey rivalry would soon strain that relationship) and invite us to his game. Fellow Castle Greyhawk comic scribe, Scott Casper was there as well and we hung out for the game and then for a good part of the day in the Exhibition Hall and where we got to meet the legendary artist behind the World of Greyhawk map, Darlene herself. I don't need to tell any of you how great it was to meet her and have her sign one of my Greyhawk maps. It was even greater to spend the rest of the evening with her and Kraftwerk afterward! Not to be outdone, on Saturday we were invited by one of my favorite community friends, Allan Grohe of Blackblade Publishing to play in one of his "gygaxian" Castle Greyhawk dungeon crawls. More on the games in a bit.

One thing to note: when you walk into Gary Con there is a whole roster of gaming veterans and VIPs at every turn who freely mingle with the crowd. You can't get that as easily at a huge convention like GenCon. We sat in on a TSR panel which included Darlene and the likes of Larry Elmore, Bill Willingham, Jeff Easley, Jeff Dee, Steve Sullivan, Tom Wham, Diesel and Jeff Butler. The stories they told about working in the old offices at Lake Geneva, how they got hired, bagging on artists not present or honoring those passed away, was the highlight of the con. It was a different time for artists back then, they really taught each other a lot. Coming out of that I really felt like I was born in the wrong era.

Speaking of art. On the second floor in the historical gaming room (how this all got started), was an original art display of the likes you'll not see anywhere else. Among the best and most iconic pieces there was the paladin in hell illustration by Dave Sutherland from the 1E Players Handbook. Crazy good linework. This picture inspired me to run many encounters with demons of the lower planes.







Then there is Jeff Easley's sleeping vampire Drelzna from the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. Easley is usually known for his amazing full color cover paintings, but even his B&W interior art is inspiring. I had the privilege of seeing a new painting Mr. Easley did for the con, which I'm hoping you will all get to see in the coming year.
One more to show, is the full wrap-around painting for the cover of the 1E Dungeon Masters Guide also by Dave Sutherland. He wasn't the best artist of that era (my faves are Erol Otus and Dave Trampier) but this painting is among my favorite D&D works of art, so to see it in person was an honor if not eye opening on how art was done back in the day.




Greyhawk Gaming! So like I mentioned earlier me and Jayson (and his recurring female dwarf fighter) took part in three Greyhawk games over two days. We played in one Greyhawk in ten years of GenCon attendance. Just saying. Here's a quick overview of the adventures we had in Greyhawk:

Kill Markessa. Kraftwerk's mission was supposed to be simple. A powerful benefactor hires a fellowship of heroes to go into a lair and slay the infamous Slaver and vile surgeon Markessa. In two hours real time. A couple illusions and one orc room later, a chaotic melee broke out including misshapen trolls and guard dogs. We found and woke a Markessa duplicate only adding to the confusion. That we failed and the real Markessa got away is no surprise. There is always next time for Die Markessa, Die! I guess. What made this adventure extra special was our VIP guest, Luke Gygax! Now being able to say I gamed with a Gygax is definitely a feather in my cap for the rest of my life.

Diamonds in the Rough. Allan Grohe's Castle Greyhawk is heavily inspired by the original Gygax campaign and he runs it 1E style all the way. This scenario is a continuation of his larger ongoing convention exploration of the famous dungeon. It is a mapping nightmare too. It's been so long since I DMed a mega-dungeon that I forgot how careful and slow players go! After an hour of silent searching and geometry, our guards were down and no one saw the door shaped mimic coming! I love when I fall for D&D tropes. Needless to say things got intense when giant insects and demon Chasme started chasing our party. One intrepid player used a wish from his sword however and transported all into a room full of gems (and one certain artifact gem) belonging to a dazzling gem dragon. What ensued was much groveling and placating of the noble creature before we were allowed to leave (though my halfling sneaked a few gems out). Our wizard however bugged out too soon, escaping to an uncertain doom in the astral plane...

Upon Thy Head a Crown. I hope I got this title right. Our last game was ran by Kraftwerk again, involved several deceased, chosen proxies (yes the female dwarf, Marya was there again) of a variety of deities being sent into a series of rooms to test who is most worthy to gain the object at the end, with the prize being you are resurrected, thus lifting the station of their patron deity. It was a game of the gods. Each room had an elemental theme and required more than combat to cross, indeed it took a marvelous amount of thinking to get by the wind and water and icy environments when we all started with nothing but clothes and a signature weapon. Literally everything we came across or took from a slain foe was used in some way to get past the traps and hazards. It was fun and the end wrap up was nicely done leaving everyone happy and applauding our DM.

That's the run of it all. I could go into my haul or other stuff but we'll leave that to your imagination. I am so glad to have met a host of new gamers, many of which are Greyhawk fans, and many which I got to hang around multiple times. I hope to see you guys online, just drop me a line if you read this! Maybe I'll see you at another GaryCon soon!