Tuesday, September 19, 2017

45th Birthday Week

Ahoy Greyhawk scum! Last week was my 45th birthday (groan) and while I didn't get anything useful done, I did have a good old time. 
My friends and I went to the local Renaissance Fair for the second straight year. It was a blistering, sunny 90+ degrees out but I drank beer, conspired with elves, threw axes, ate a turkey leg, was entertained by wenches and pirate bards and of course, we watched our favorite knight Sir Duncan on the jousting grounds. Might For Right! Naturally, I got a tricorn hat there and just in time for Talk Like a Pirate Day too! Here is a pic of me with my clay tankard from last year's fair. Arr! 

Later that weekend I dined outside at the local Harvest Fest with friends again. We followed this with an overdue game night, finally finishing the Sunless Citadel. The heroes fought valiantly against the evil druid and his minions.
To cap off my fantastical week I got some more loot. First my good friend Eric gave me a Wacom Intuos Art tablet. I've been wanting to up my digital art game for years but have been reluctant. This was the shove I needed.

Secondly, I acquired an old D&D Expert Boxed Set. It is missing the dice sadly, but the box alone is worth it. Included is the rulebook, Isle of Dread module (yes I own both already), an ad to join the RPGA and a cool 1981 TSR catalog (which I'll show off at another date).

That's all for now, but also coming soon I am rejoining my Gamerstable friends for our successful Kickstarter backed return from podcast limbo!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Greyhawk Poll: Best Place to Retire

Welcome again Greyhawkers, this week I review my latest fan poll on the "Best Place to Retire a Character" in Greyhawk. I know just getting a PC to the point of retirement is hard, but where would they be most comfortable to settle down and spend their hard earned treasure in peace? Let's find out what you think...

Coming in first with a whopping 52% of the vote is the most popular and most obvious place, the City of Greyhawk. Yes, the Gem of the Flanaess has it all, it's politically neutral, it's centrally located, it's cosmopolitan taking in all cultures and races, and it has all the conveniences or advances of a magical/medieval society. Looking to spend thousands of gold pieces in one place? Greyhawk. Does your character want to live an expensive villa? Greyhawk. Do they want to run an inn? Greyhawk. Do they want to hang up the sword and run for mayor? Greyhawk.
So yes, any major city in the Flanaess will do, but the City of Greyhawk is for those who want to keep up on current events, stay in the limelight and perhaps come out of retirement should the world need saving again. The city is not for those who want anonymity.

What about characters who like the rustic, quiet life style, but want to stay somewhat close to the action? Coming in at 15% each is the County of Ulek and Highfolk. Ulek is nestled along the Lortmil mountains neighboring the Kingdom of Keoland, while the High Vale and Highfolk town lie along the winding Velverdyva River into the Yatil Mountains. Both places are nominally demihuman realms where humans also live in harmony. Highfolk is ruled by the Lord of the High Elves and is a land that brings images of Rivendell from the Hobbit to my mind. The County of Ulek is one of three independent Uleks, but this one is a shire-like place, like Hobbiton, but perhaps more populated like Tolkien's town of Bree where humans are integrated with halflings (and gnome).
Given the comparisons and similarities, County of Ulek and Highfolk are two prime spots for both demihumans to settle down and good or neutral-aligned human characters to remain among demihuman allies. Troublesome PCs may not apply to these places. Their likes would be better suited to the big city of Greyhawk. The one drawback of these places? They are not neutral realms and are often called on to wage war versus evil. Your retired elf or halfling might find themselves dusting off a weapon or wand before long.

Had your fill of kings and queens with their quests and intrigues? Maybe your character has a desire for a more lawful, democratic society that is still good? Well at 12% of the vote is the Yeomanry. This place is tucked next to the Crystalmist Mountains, well away from most trouble except from giant-kin. The landholders of the Yeomanry traditionally share the power here making this the best place to raise the next generation of adventurers by leaving them some property and title without having to usurp someone to get it.
Despite the quiet, remote location, the Yeomen are still a very martial society however. The finest warriors from humans to dwarves all belong to the Yeomanry League. Should trouble arise the Yeomen will not remain isolated for long, their freeholders will muster and march out to save some king even against their own interests. A retired PC would lose face if they ignored this call.

Coming in last at 2% each is Caliphate of Ekbir and the Olman Isles (Narisban). I chose these two vastly different places for a reason. They are far from the other polled locations, being decidedly beyond the Flanaess. The City of Ekbir is huge at over 60,000 people (close to Greyhawk in size) assuring that it has many of the same conveniences of Greyhawk yet the culture is the Baklunish West. As such, Ekbir's racial demographics (halflings are found here) and language barrier would be a turn off to a retiring dwarf or Cold North barbarian for instance. Ekbir is also a highly lawful good society making it attractive to paladins and some clerics (of the proper deity) but maybe not so much rouges and rangers. You can retire your PC in Ekbir in order to hide from the troubles of the Flanaess at large, because no one will think to look here.
Similarly there is Narisban, a tiny island town in the tropical Olman Isles. This place is as remote as it gets for those really looking to get away from it all. The weather is nice year round (barring storms), there's miles of beaches and while the native Olman people probably don't speak your retired character's language, they are not a threat to a former-hero (ignore those cannibal rumors). You won't have much in Narisban except what you bring with you or your can barter to get, making it a good home for resourceful outdoors types like rangers and druids. The place does get visited by pirates and sneaky Scarlet Brotherhood types however, so you can't exactly throw away your magic dagger and armor. Random jungle monsters might be a concern too, so build a sturdy hut and keep antitoxin handy.

That's all for now! Let me know where you have retired a PC to in your campaigns.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Frank Mentzer's Empyrea

Hey Greyhawkers. Most you by now have seen the news about an upcoming Kickstarter for Empyrea, Frank Mentzer's home campaign that was nominally supposed to be set to the west across the Solnor Ocean in the World of Greyhawk. Even better this will be a boxed set and the announcement promises much more, check it out:

"Frank Mentzer's Empyrea begins on Monday 02 October—a Kickstarter for a boxed campaign set usable with multiple fantasy RPG systems.

This set is the first big step, created with the help of many friends. Watch for details coming throughout September.
The core set has a lot to cover, and must be brief. The ambitious Empyrea product line will eventually include adventures, novels, details of all cities and major areas, and other supporting products.

Empyrea Online is a future Community project, where many fans can design the details of the Realm. We hope to make parallel-world Empyreas available for most popular RPG systems. We'll need your help describing it… that’s a lot of real estate! The gateway has opened; throw your hat in the ring at http://worldofempyrea.com/.

This is thrilling! Lots more news to come. Thanks very much for your interest.

—Frank Mentzer"

I'm anxious to see how old school and Greyhawk-ish they can make this without the obvious entanglements. For example check out this story snippet from the official Empyrea group on G+

FROM THE EMPYREA JOURNALS OF FRANK MENTZER

—About the Voyage... a word from history—

Krazandol, 230 B.H

Almater Pudin, Lord of the Land Below, sits with Prince Carin.

"No, that Voyage story that you know is wrong. Listen up, kid…”

"I still remember. Grandpa said, 'Those humans are at it again. War's coming, again. It always ends like this. We gotta get out of here.’”

"The Great Solnor Migration is a legendary event in the annals of history. Within a single month, and with little forewarning, a flotilla of hundreds of boats left the eastern shore of the homeland. Olve, Noniz, Hobniz, and even some of our Dwur left by the hundreds, braving the vast sea to find Life, and leave War behind. And the Lords of the Sea came, and helped us along the way, but you're too young to learn about that.”

"They helped, and most of us survived. What we found left us astounded, and awed…”

"This—not the war-torn lands overrun by humans, THIS continent—is our original homeland. All of us came from here.

"But son, it is time to prepare, for the Humans will come. They always do."

Looks good! I'm also optimistic about the community building aspect since that type of fan-focused crowd-sourcing is what really set Greyhawk apart in the 90's early 2000's. Will I throw my hat in the ring? Hard to say. Time will tell.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Castle Greyhawk: Chapter 1 Full

Hey Greyhawk fans. As you may know I've been doing a Castle Greyhawk webcomic with co-creator Scott Casper for several years. Well as many have already seen over at the main site, we have finally got the first chapter collected into one PDF download! Read at your leisure now. Go back from the start and enjoy the adventures of Tenser and Ehlissa.

DOWNLOAD CHAPTER ONE HERE

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Greyhawk Meets Game of Thrones

Greetings Greyhawk mavens. Today I'm going to muse on the medieval fantasy comparison of GRR Martin's popular "Game of Thrones" series and how it could enhance your Greyhawk campaign. You don't need to run an actual GoT RPG when you have Greyhawk after all. This setting was set up with a war backdrop with all the political intrigue one could want. This was because, as we know, Gygax was a wargamer first. It just so happened that dungeoncrawling then became all the rage back in D&D and thus Greyhawk's heyday. When they did try to push the Greyhawk Wars meta-plot it seemed to fall on deaf ears. Then came the era of storyteller games and adventure-paths that people enjoy today. Is it any wonder then why Game of Thrones is so popular now and not when it first came out?

Back in 2003, Dragon #307 dedicated an entire issue (back when it was still in print) to Martin's books and how to turn Westeros into a D&D setting. I remember barely reading that issue cause well, I'm a Greyhawk guy(wish I hadn't got rid of it). I don't think it captured the hearts and minds of many D&D players back then (this was 3.5e) but today it seems VERY relevant. Enough rambling, here is some ways to make your Greyhawk campaign more Game of Thrones-y:

Dragons. Let's start with the monster in the room. GoT went from popular to super popular thanks to HBO and the fact their CGI dragons look better than 90% of movie dragons (yes even Smaug). Now in D&D, dragons have historically been dungeon dwellers waiting to get slain. No one actually controls dragons either (that's a Dragonlance thing typically). A lot of D&D dragons are VERY intelligent is why. How to bring dragons out of the dark and become a major plot point of your Greyhawk campaign? Alliances.

For example, Rary has Volte (blue) in the Bright Lands. Brazzemal the Bright (red) treats with giants. Dragotha lives within Iuz's realm. There is many dragons in Greyhawk canon. If one ruler in the Flanaess has dragon/s on their side it immediately changes a war and has heroes on their toes because while awake, they could be anywhere.

Noble Houses. For me the main feature of Thrones is the squabbling warring noble houses like Lannister, Stark or Targaryen. Each house has their own style. Colors, mottos, hair colors! Pitting heroes in the middle of the Houses of Greyhawk is as easy as making a fighter the third son of a duke, or a cleric the bastard offspring of a baron. Instant faction association! Greyhawk is full of houses in canon. The Great Kingdom alone has many you can read about in Ivid the Undying, such as Darmen, Naelax and Garasteth. The Kingdoms of Nyrond and Furyondy's nobles are detailed in the Marklands sourcebook. Every minor nation in between has lineages, claims and rivalries that extend back a thousands years. Just peruse the 1983 Greyhawk Guide or the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer for a wealth of intrigue ideas.

Foreign Conflict. One of the big themes in Westeros is the rumored, but impending return of Daenerys Targaryen from across the sea to retake her empire. The foreign threat brings a new faction into the already warring atmosphere. In the World of Greyhawk this foreign aggressor could come in the form of the Baklunish West. Perhaps someone charismatic enough (with dragons or a relic of somekind) could unite the Paynims, Zeif, Ekbir, etc. to then march east in conquest for whatever perceived noble cause.

The Greyhawk Wars already had something close to this with the Scarlet Brotherhood's invasions. Here we had a secret society of monks and assassins who was already infiltrating all the courts in the land for decades, then suddenly, using foreign-born soldiers from the jungles went on a small run of successful conquests. The effort in canon kind of fizzled however. If the Brotherhood had fully used their potential (and used some unconventional weapons), then no country would've ignored them. Time for a second try!

Existential Threats. Speaking of invasions there is some threats that can't be reasoned withMuch like the Night King's undead army beyond the wall, Paizo's Age of Worms AP did just that with Kyuss' return and an undead plague right in the heart of the Flanaess. Zombie-plagues not your thing? Well other world wide threats can be imagined that could create opportunities for diplomacy among rivals and put a pause to ongoing conflicts. How about giants emerging out of ALL of the major mountain ranges at once? (Against the Giants on steroids) Or weird automaton armies marching out of Land of Black Ice? Whatever the threat, it can change the mood of the setting and turn the focus of play in a different direction than what PCs expect.

That's the four areas I'd emphasize, though anything in this genre can easily be ported into Greyhawk. One other note, if you want to do the humdrum of running a nation or several, look into the out of print Birthright Campaign. A D&D setting ahead of its time. What other aspects of Game of Thrones did I miss?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

GenCon Stuff I Missed

Heya Greyhawkers! I didn't go to GenCon and after seeing news on ENWorld, I'm really regretting seeing the GenCon50 Museum. I had no idea it was going to have this many old school artifacts on display. I already saw alot of the art on display at Garycon earlier this year, but the museum they erected inside my beloved Lucas Oil Stadium is way more impressive. Check it out (Thanks Morrus).

And then some quick notes on the Ennies awards. It is surprisingly refreshing to see so many new games and companies winning awards in recent years. Last time I attended the awards (which was a few years) Paizo swept everything. And with the popularity of 5E you'd think Wizards could dominate every year too. This year both are conspicuously off the winners podium. Wizards did manage to win Best Publisher which at the surface seems weird if they didn't have anything else to offer. Wizards has lately taken a rather laid back approach to GenCon to focus on other conventions, which apparently benefits the rest of the gaming industry. No complaints I guess. I do feel extremely grognardy reading these winners though; I am so out of the new RPG loop I've not heard of half these winners. I did hear Tales From the Yawning Portal won a Judge's Spotlight nod, so kudos to, ahem, Greyhawk in the very least.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Mortellan Interview on the RPG Academy

Hey Greyhawk fans and RPG players alike! I may not be at GenCon this year but I do have something exciting to show everybody! I recently did a podcast interview for The RPG Academy's "Show & Tell" feature. You can now listen to me ramble on about Greyhawk, Canonfire, Greyhawkery, art and other things. Enjoy!

Thank you to the host Michael and the rest of the RPG Academy network. Check out their site and look around!