Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Vile and Villainous

Hey Greyhawkers! I'm a day late but I'm here to promote the Greyhawk Channel's latest new campaign on Twitch, Vile & Villainous where the players get to be shady characters in the service of the Land of Iuz. This particular show includes my good friend Boshie who is also an entertaining video game and IRL streamer. Check out her channel. The "evil" party also includes map maker extraordinaire, Deven Rue. What sort of trouble will they get into? Only time will tell. Tune in Mondays! In the meantime check the Greyhawk Channel and watch their videos of the day.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Poll Result: Which Monster Should Attack?

Hey Greyhawkers! Today I'm going over the results of my last poll Which Monster Should Attack Town? This was an easy-going fun poll, not much to do with Greyhawk per se, but we can analyze where these monstrous threats are coming from if you as a DM want to shake up your campaign. Let's go!

Coming in tied for first (30%) is the two most popular mega-monsters, the Red Dragon and the king of D&D monsters the Tarrasque. Red dragons are of course the evil, fire breathing variety and are generally the strongest in most fantasy literature and art. The tarrasque is a unique creature which like a dragon, slumbers and comes out to feed and destroy towns before going dormant again. The only difference between the two is red dragons want your treasure, the tarrasque just wants to kill anything that moves.

Where to use a Red Dragon or Tarrasque? This is quandary because the tarrasque can be buried virtually anywhere, ready to pop out. I'd suggest placing the monster in the already dangerous hills of the Pomarj or perhaps somewhere isolated but still inhabited like Perrenland's highlands. However, if you really want to maximize your threat to civilization put the tarrasque in the Cairn Hills not far from Greyhawk itself. The tarrasque is an indiscriminate killer that can only be stopped with high-level combat or magic. It's appearance could be instigated by evil forces, but then again the Big-T is a force of nature itself so fighting him could be a situation where good and evil must band together. Who needs the Doomgrinder?*

As for red dragons, there is plenty in Greyhawk canon to draw from if you want a Tolkienesque Smaug-level threat. The main bad dragon is Brazzemal the Bright who can be found either in the Hellfurnaces or in the Rift Canyon depending on your source, he is first seen in Hall of the Fire Giant King. There is Farcluun a rather intelligent yet powerful red found in the dungeons of the Greyhawk Ruins. Finally, there is another epic red in the Crystalmist Mountains named Sulphacitezus from the book Treasures of Greyhawk. All of these dragons can make a cunning and ultra-deadly foe for PCs and a terror on any towns nearby.

Coming in second with 16% of the vote is the surprising Roc! For those who don't know, a roc is a gigantic bird of prey known from mythology often depicted carrying off an elephant in its talons. It is featured in the popular fiction The Arabian Nights encountered by Sinbad the sailor. In Greyhawk fiction I believe there is a roc on the cover of Dungeonland. So yes, this is Rodan-level death from above for monster buffs out there.

Where to use a Roc? This one could go many directions too. Given the roc's mythological background it would fit best in the warm Baklunish culture preying on ships sailing the Dramidj Ocean or perhaps picking off caravans crossing the Dry Steppes. In the east Flanaess, a roc can easily roost in any mountainous areas near the Azure Sea or Solnor Ocean. It's a top of the food chain monster, probably only threatened by dragons and mankind. In the most extreme case, a roc could threaten your local villagers used as a flying mount for a cloud giant. That's double trouble!

Next in line with 10% of the vote is the Purple Worm! This is just what you think it is, a colossal sized worm that burrows and swallows whole everything in its way including unwitting heroes. The purple worm is an iconic D&D creature featured in the Monster Manuals from way back, it is often seen in the Underdark and not on the surface however. This doesn't mean a DM can't lure one to the surface though. A confused hungry purple worm on above ground is just as deadly.

Where to use a Purple Worm? The first place I can find them on the World of Greyhawk encounter charts is the Sea of Dust. This immediately brings up images of Dune's sand worms. That begs the question, can purple worms be domesticated as a mount by some intelligent species to invade outside the desert? You're welcome evil-DMs. Ideally however, they can be found near any dungeon ruin, ready to creep up looking for new sources of food.

Speaking of giant things, coming in with 8% of the vote is a Titan. Again, this is a mythological giant, even greater in size and strength than even storm giants. A titan is supposed to be a near god-like being and are typically represented in D&D as being in Greek-garb and have special abilities according to their sphere of interest. While not generally evil, an enraged titan could be trouble for a town either directly or collaterally.

Where to use a Titan? The titans are not prevalent in Greyhawk on their own per se, so they can appear virtually anywhere. They could be the divine agents of a deity like Pelor however showing up to exact vengeance on a wicked town. Titans as such will rarely come into conflict with PCs, but they could be nice to break out if players start to get on an ego-power trip at higher levels. Now speaking of titans...

Lastly and most surprisingly at 6% last is the Kraken! No not the monster from Clash of the Titans, I'm talking the one we all know about, the colossal intelligent squid kind. With its size and giant reaching tentacles, the kraken would be the most awful terrible and epic creature to unleash on a small harbor town. If the tarrasque rules land, then surely the kraken (is that singular or plural?) rules the deep oceans.

Where to use a Kraken? In canon Greyhawk has/had a kraken in Grendep Bay near the barbarian lands. The town of Krakenheim is derived from this tale. If there is giant squids in the cold north, then surely there some in the vast deeps of the Azure Sea ready to be called up by evil such as sahuagin to wreck havoc on cities like Irongate or Gradsul. Or maybe your PCs are into high seas exploration off the map into the tropics? Well then there is definitely some krakens out there, ready to haul down a ship or terrorize the local natives.

*No, really, do not play Doomgrinder what ever you do! It will wreck your campaign and is in general a huge waste of time.

Whatever your choice of monster, remember the long lasting effect they can have on your campaign could be significant. Players, beware and behave!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Greyhawk Stuff Online

Good day Greyhawk fans! I don't have any new content myself this week, but I can surely point you toward a few outlets of Greyhawk fun and information in case you missed it. Ready?

Over at Greyhawk Grognard is a great series finishing Kuntz and Gygax's "Greyhawk's World" updates from Dragon Magazine that were left hanging so many years ago. First was the Sheldomar Valley, followed by the more recent West Central Flanaess. It's top notch, seamless work, trust me check it out if you are interested in the political and military milieu of Greyhawk.

Next up is my friends at the Greyhawk Channel. They keep growing and growing with more shows and a burgeoning fanbase. All the campaigns are interconnected as well. The most recent additions are Mordenkainen's Path of the Planes an "epic plane-hopping adventure from the master of mages" which is timed with the upcoming release of Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes. Also there is DMShane's biggest challenge yet, an all evil group in Vile and Villanous "wicked fun in the World of Greyhawk".

I don't know how TGC juggles all these games and players, but kudos to these folks for having the desire and energy to play in our favorite setting on a regular basis. Support them by following, subscribing an maybe even joining in the fun on their Discord. There is also a Youtube channel where you can watch past episodes. Enjoy!

Lastly, if you haven't already, join the Canonfire! group on Facebook. It's under new administration and is growing fast! For those who have never been to Canonfire! it is the oldest fan site dedicated to Greyhawk on the internet with features like articles, a Greyhawk wiki and active forums. Support your fellow fans and visit both these Canonfire! sites.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Return of Mysterious Places From the Fringe

Howdy Greyhawkers, it's a good day to revisit one of my favorite article segments that I haven't done in a few years, Mysterious Places From the Fringe. It's just a spin on the mysterious places articles from Living Greyhawk back in the day, except I make them up off the cuff based on no canon or anything, just my own encyclopedic knowledge of the Flanaess map. What DM doesn't need a new location for adventurers to visit? The World of Greyhawk is full of them after all! Check out my previous articles and then continue on to this year's batch. Enjoy.

Dagon's Mouth: There is many unknown dangers posed to sailors and pirates on the seas south of the Flanaess' safe shores. Intrepid vessels seeking riches hid within the vast Vohoun Ocean avoid a certain uncharted region called Dagon's Mouth. All that is known of this demon haunted zone is told by survivors who have returned on rafts made of wrecks of their ship. It is said that Dagon the primordial demon prince of the darkest depths literally lairs here, rising up to claim any craft daring enough to tread across these stormy waters. Other maddened sailors tell of sighting a string of small islets where everything is wrong to the senses even the color of the sky. They are sure death prevails here as staying on land any length of time causes one to waste away despite the evidence of ruins not far from the cursed shores.

The Red Colossus: North of the Mounds of Dawn in a spur of the Yatil Mountains is a place that few go besides humanoids and venerable clans of deep gnomes. Hid within the craggy peaks is a gigantic time-lost statue half buried in the side of a mountain. It is carved in the likeness of a strange humanoid giant facing north, with its legs and one arm half in the rock and another arm raised to the sky. The statue is a curiosity because it is made of a reddish rock not part of this region, but similar in hue to the clay formations seen in Exag to the south. The age of the colossus is not certain save that not even the local giant population claim to know who made it. The red statue radiates overwhelming transmutation magic however and some daring Underdark denizens have tried tunneling below and within to learn more of the colossus. Though no credible riches have been discovered here, wild claims are made that the colossus has weird magical effects such as resurrecting the dead, granting wishes and even visions granted for those who scale to the top of its out-stretched palm.

Beltar's Well:  The Spine Ridge between the Vast Swamp and the Tilvanot Peninsula, is said to have abundant untapped mineral wealth, if one can get past the dangers of humanoids and monsters. Somewhere in the trackless hills of this region is a place called Beltar's Well or depending on the translation it can be attributed to nonhuman gods such as Baphomet, Laogzed, Yurtrus or Vaprak. Whatever the case, the well is a shaft in the heart of a rocky formation where reputedly, monsters occasionally emerge from the Underdark or perhaps a gate to another plane, then venture out into the world beyond. Fortunately the well is not that wide, though monsters have clawed and gnawed at its interior over the centuries. These rents have created ample handholds for any lesser beings who try to climb down the Well in the opposite direction. Many humanoids are dared to do this as a rite of bravery or adulthood, while less hardy species believe there is unclaimed riches ready to be pulled forth if they can only find the muscle to go down and find out.

01000100: Locked deep in the Land of Black Ice is a dark hillock covered by eons of glacial growth. This hill is nearly impossible to locate, only once spotted and noted in the journals of a sage who tried (and failed) to follow in the footsteps of Henriki Ardand and find the fabled Rainbow Vale. The hill only known as 01000100 is named so due to a series of deeply etched lines carved upon an ebony stone archway built into the hillside (01000100 01000001 01001110 01000111 01000101 01010010). It took the sage's entire expedition many hard hours to chip the black ice away as it seemed to regrow as fast as it could be cleared, yet the nature of the numbers and a hidden entrance was eventually exposed. The sage's journal abruptly ends after the initial foray inside the hill. Evidently those explorers that survived abandoned the search for the Vale and had no recollection of what happened, returning with no evidence except the sage's journal and if rumors are true, a shard of some silvery metal puncturing the leather cover. Today, hill 01000100 is surely buried again in black ice waiting for another hapless band of adventurers to try and discover its mysteries.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Greyhawk Map: Nyr Dyv Ship Wrecks

Welcome fans of Greyhawk! Nothing new from me this week, but if you are looking for a great gathering of Greyhawk fans look no further than the Flanaess Geographical Society on Facebook. Today I'm promoting cartographer Ronald Calbick and his inspiring Nyr Dyv shipwreck map. All I can say is wow, what a clever idea for a map that has been covered in many many official sources, yet still is largely undeveloped. As many long time gamers know, Gygax based the shape of the Lake of Unknown Depths on Lake Superior, close to home for Gary. Mr. Calbick himself throws an homage in his map's text regarding this:

"Most of the names and info are arbitrary, although there is some input from fellow gamers to be found here as well. Most of you will likely notice the tip of the hat to Lake Superior."

A few comments for DMs looking to use the map. One, Ronald leaves some wreck sites unnamed for your own personal ideas. Always a good idea. Secondly, the wreck found near Leukish while anachronistic totally fits in with Gygaxian Greyhawk, one only needs to read about the Jungle of Lost Ships. Lastly, the Nyr Dyv is no simple body of water to do salvaging. Players and DMs would be wise to read this article to get a good feel for what the Lake of Unknown Depths is like. Well done Ronald, I look forward to more maps from your in the future and perhaps others from the FCS.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Greyhawk Mini Map

Hey Greyhawkers. Not much going on this week sad to say so let's do an easy post. Here is a map of the Greyhawk domain I threw together a week ago for my campaign. It's using Black Blade Publishing's newest mini hex paper from Gary Con X.

I originally posted this on Twitter and it caused some confusion because I drew it in 20 minutes and some thought it was a full size hex map.

Here is a second pic for scale. Nope, it's tiny! I love this paper. I need more ideas to use it! That's all for now. What do you think?

Saturday, March 10, 2018

GaryCon 2018 Recap

Howdy Greyhawkers! Well I'm back early from Gary Con X in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Even though I was only there two days I had the most Greyhawk-y experience yet again. Here's the run down:

First, no I didn't see Mike Mearls (two straight years). They must've kept him under lock and key somewhere. It's not a big con though, oh well. So no, I didn't get a chance to ask any questions. I did see Jason Bulmhan of Paizo Publishing, but I wasn't there to talk Pathfinder 2.0 playtest news. So, moving along...

I got see good friend and old school Greyhawk historian Allan Grohe once again. He was working the Blackblade Publishing booth where I got issue 2 and 3 of their quarterly periodical, The Twisting Stair. I'm eager to use their article on treasure maps and player mapping techniques (thanks for the hex paper grodog). Allan and I also discussed getting more Greyhawk fans together at GaryCon next year (on or off the even list). So if anyone is a fan of the setting and will be attending next year, keep on eye on my blog for future info. Alas I couldn't attend his Saturday session of his ongoing Castle Greyhawk campaign. Last year we got to play with Luke Gygax. There's no telling who is guesting in it this year!

I also spent some good time with my friends Anna Meyer of ghmaps.net and Scott Casper the mastermind behind our Castle Greyhawk webcomic. Scott was hard at work running a game for a full table in some far away hall (GaryCon is such a labyrinth) while Anna talked about her future Greyhawk mapping endeavors (yes Anna Greyhawk map 2.0). We also took part in our first ever pick up game together, hosted by the extraordinary Carlos A.S. Lising. The party was a group of rangers and druids in the Gnarley Forest looking to rescue two rust monsters from thieves who stole them from Lord Henway's Menagerie. Crazy fun.

If you think that was all I also got to stop and say hi to Darlene the artist behind the original World of Greyhawk map a few times. She is amazing as always. There was a few legends of D&D in the artist row with her, including Larry Elmore and Jeff Easley two guys whose cover art has inspired me from an early age. The GaryCon website said Erol Otus was supposed to be there, but sadly I didn't see him. That would've been my holy trinity of D&D cover artists.

Later that evening I also had a chance to finally have a meeting of the Greyhawk blogs with Joe Bloch of Greyhawk Grognard. I was loopy from no sleep and he had drove twelve hours to get to the con, so we were both a bit chatty. I'm not sure I want to remember what Greyhawk projects we discussed, but I'm sure he will remind me some day soon. Joseph was running his BRW Games booth where he was selling Adventures Dark & Deep and his infamous Castle of the Mad Archmage. If you don't read Greyhawk Grognard, what is wrong with you? His latest post in fact is an homage to Gygax's Dragon update article series. The column was cut off before all the Flanaess was covered, so Joe did one on Keoland and Sheldomar Valley. Check it out and Make Aerdy Great Again!

Day two we took part in another game ran by Carlos titled Die, Markessa, Die! It was the latest in his Markessa series where a group of heroes must once again tackle a lair of the depraved elven Slave Lord, Markessa. Yeah, she got away again, but maybe next  year we will catch her! My friend Jayson was the MVP of the event and got a copy of the module! Spot on AD&D printing and layout. Carlos has even more incredible projects on the horizon. He is my spirit animal.

So there you have it, the most Greyhawk one can enjoy in a short span. I really hope to top it next year. Thanks to all my gamer friends (old and new) for the invites and time spent with Jayson and me. See you in 2019.