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!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

GenCon 50 and Gamerstable Returns

Ahoy Greyfolk! Sadly this week is Gen Con 50 week and while I've known for a while I wasn't going (sold out of 4-day badges!) and I further don't feel I'll miss anything epic, it still kind of makes me feel glum to not be among the gamer crowds like I've done for the last decade.

On the bright side next year I'm sure I'll be back given that my friends at Gamerstable have a Kickstarter going to bring our gaming podcast back from hiatus. So far we are funded with more stretch goals in sight. Help us out if you can! See you in Indy in 2018!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

New D&D Merch

Hola, Greyhawkers! I like Twitter alot and one of the accounts I follow is @Wizards_DnD. Today, the fine folks at Wizards announced the Tomb of Annihilation dice set tin coming out in September. Are you ready to be conquered by Acererak's marketing genius?

This brief post ties into one I had a while back. I have no particular desire to get more dice, though the tin is very snazzy. My initial reaction was, wow, the Great Green Face from Tomb of Horrors is a marketing icon all its own. You can literally put that demon face on any merchandise now and it will sell. There is also a minis, video games and boardgame (with green face standees) tied in to Tomb. Wizards knows how to maximize its properties. Less is more.

Wizards is also getting good at crowd-sourcing ideas. In the same announcement, Wizards asked readers "what other D&D related products you'd love to see themed for future campaigns?" Mind you they aren't asking for what theme you want (anything Greyhawk, duh!). They got that planned years in advance I'm sure. No, they want to know what "merch" you'll most likely buy after tins, minis and boardgames. Ideas posted on Twitter include sensible things like dice bags, leather journals, mugs, DM screens, tokens, dice towers, phone cases and plushies - to cool, crazy ideas like dice jails, chia pets, d20 spin-rings and even a sacrificial dagger. Personally, I think a great green face toilet seat would be fun.

http://nicholaslittleillustration.com/

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Greyhawk Poll: Best Defended City

Welcome back friends of Greyhawk! Today I examine the results of my latest poll, Which City is Best Defended? I handpicked six good locations, but if there is any good ones I left out feel free to correct me cause why not? Let's dig in...

The Free City of Irongate won the poll by a landslide (69%) of course. Nestled on the coast of the Azure Sea and protected by the Iron Hills, this city has withstood invasions by the Great Kingdom (Battle of a Thousand Banners) and the Scarlet Brotherhood (Greyhawk Wars) over the years. I equate this fortress to Minas Tirith combined with Moria with a navy to boot. In addition to formidable physical defenses, and elite human and demihuman soldiery, Irongate boasts the likes of archmage, Elayne Mystica among its magical defenders. It would take an aerial assault to have a chance at cracking this city open. Biggest threat to Irongate? Still the Scarlet Brotherhood because they can infiltrate the place like the Greeks into Troy. In a stand up battle however, there may be no nation that can assail Irongate. Only a dual siege/embargo could work and that's not even a sure thing due to Irongate's purported magical gates.

The Free City of Greyhawk comes in second naturally at a measly 18%. The City of Greyhawk has a fortress and some of the loftiest walls in the Flanaess, but the city is rather accessible to attack from many directions. Iuz threatens from the north, the Pomarj from the south, the Temple of Elemental Evil from the west and Rary the Tratior could conceivably swing in from the east. What keeps all the evil at bay? Greyhawk's domain full of interesting terrain from swamps to hills to open plains and rivers. Greyhawk's armies would be inclined to take the fight to an opponent or ambush before falling back to it's walls. Once in the city, the populace is easily the most resourceful in the world. The Guild of Mages alone could rain hellfire down on an invading force. The various temples would keep Greyhawk properly healed, while the Thieves, Beggars and Assassin's Guild would begin a guerrilla campaign against the enemy. Then of course, there is the abundance of adventuring parties with limitless access to magical weaponry who would rise up to defend their home turf. Biggest threat to Greyhawk? If all four the enemies I listed above combined their forces at once. The worst outcome would involve Iuz's clerics mass-raising undead from Greyhawk's considerable catacombs, thus causing chaos from within. An invasion of Greyhawk would truly be epic.

Next on the poll is Hesuel Ilshar (7%) the capital of the Scarlet Brotherhood. Little is known of this city since it is a well-kept secret. Ilshar also lies atop a plateau on a remote peninsula. Any invading army has to A) cross the Azure Sea, B) defeat several outposts inland before climbing the plateau to then C) cross the desolate plateau before D) assaulting the high city walls. Ilshar has been stood for centuries without fear of any attack and is likely to have fewer siege weapons or standing garrisons. This doesn't mean their guard is down. After exposing their existence in the Greyhawk Wars, Hesuel Ilshar is probably on alert for spies ahead of any future counter-offensives. The Brotherhood's monks, assassins and thieves are only equaled by Greyhawk's. Biggest Threat to Ilshar? The Iron League. This alliance (including Lordship of the Isles if they break away from the SB) has a lot of reasons to go after the Brotherhood. The Iron League has the naval power and is resourceful enough to attack from more than one direction on the plateau. It would be a slog for sure, but once under siege Hesuel Ilshar wouldn't last long without aid.

Admundfort comes in at 3% on the poll. The capital of the Shield Lands is on the Isle of Walworth and is historically the most defensible place on the Lake of Unknown Depths. How Iuz came to conquer this city for a time is uncertain to me, I suspect profane magic and treachery. When at full muster, this city with its knights and navies could withstand most conventional attacks quite well. Biggest threat to Admundfort? Still Iuz. The mainland Shield Lands is too wide open and is meant to shield Furyondy from the Bandit Kingdoms more than a demonic, arcane, undead assault by a demigod. Admundfort otherwise is unassailable by simple bandits, ogres or hobgoblins.

The Free City of Rel Astra and Rookroost both came in last at 0%. Apparently no one believes these places are most defensive and rightly so. Rel Astra has the largest population in the Flanaess and a good port. This means they can militarily put up a good fight on land or sea. Lord Drax has not been put to the test yet, but this is possibly due to good diplomacy more than might. Rel Astra's biggest threat would naturally be its own kinsmen from Aerdy. It's a rich city but any king vying to unite the Great Kingdom again would be hard to fend off from land. And finally, Rookroost in the Bandit Lands is another multi-ringed city-fortress along the lines of Minas Tirith. Rookroost prophetically has never been taken in battle so long as ravens remain roosting in the city. Against Iuz however, thee city opted to join him instead of testing his evil might. I have a feeling Rookroost would put up a good fight, but limited long-term resources, reinforcements (bandit kings don't get along) and lack of comparable magic power would cause its eventual fall to Iuz.

Good analysis? Tell what you think and check out my next poll soon!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Greyhawk Comic Rewind: Magic Swords

Well met Greyfriends, here's a couple classic comics of mine from 2007 concerning the hero-deity of swords, Kelanen. A hell of a lot of research went into these. Good lore. Enjoy!

June 7th, 2007:
This week we check in on the ever-popular Prince of Swords, Kelanen. To put it bluntly, Kelanen is obsessed with swords. As the legend goes he wrested the sword Fragarach 'the Answerer' from the hands of an alien god. Fragarach of course is yet another one of those Gygaxian imports from Earth myth. That means the alien god in question can surely be none other than Manannan Mac Lir of the Celtic Mythos (Greater God of the Sea). That must've been one hell of a fight.

Not yet satisfied, Kelanen crafted six other 'Swords of Answering' according to the classic adventure The Temple of  Elemental Evil. Made in the theme of Fragarach, their names are Rebutter, Scather, Replier, Retorter, Squelcher and my favorite, Back-Talker. And because Kelanen's symbol is nine crossed swords, apparently three others were tacked later, named Concluder, Last-Quip and the shamelessly redundant Answerer.

Naturally instead of keeping them for himself in his super-secret extra-dimensional stronghold Kelanen somehow allowed all the blades to be scattered abroad for heroes to find. Indeed, Fragarach fell into the hands of Prince Thrommel of Furyondy who then also became lost himself. Go figure. Who put Kelanen up to all this sword mania? Easy answer, his two original swords Sureguard and Swiftdoom. The 83 Greyhawk Guide says Kelanen has no friends or confidants other than his swords. Yes, two highly intelligent, highly egotistical swords that match his neutral alignment and share a purpose to defend him and his interests without hesitation. Two voices in your head, only giving you advice that you want to hear...tell me that's not a recipe for insanity.

Check it out...




June 14th, 2007:
This week is compliments of manic World of Greyhawk Comic conspirator Cebrion. Here we see the second half of Kelanen's popular legend concerning Fragarach. As tales go, to promote Balance he made replicas of the sword he acquired from the 'alien god'. These lesser 'Answering swords' all have their own names and alignments as well. Sadly, Wizards of the Coast's "Book of Nine Swords" has nothing to do with Fragarach or Kelanen. What a missed opportunity!

Anyhow, as a servant of the Balance and Saint of Swords, Kelanen must surely patronize Boccob, a deity with his own balancing habit, namely that he has a copy of every magic item ever made at his abode. These two compulsions are about to create trouble. Check it out...


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Greyhawk A-Z: People Part 2

I thought I'd take another crack at this fun listing article. Check out my last one posted three years ago! This is just some descriptions with quick commentary. Maybe you'll learn something or maybe you'll just be amused.. Enjoy!

Althea: One of Iuz the Evil's top priestesses in the Boneheart. Between her and Halga, I can't recall which was the pretty one. I used to have fun playing them up in my comics.

Belissica: Speaking of pretty, the Countess of Urnst. In my campaign, I cannot think of a more well-liked, well-to-do, comely human female in all of the Flanaess. Must be why one of my players tried so hard to court her!

Ctenmiir: Ah that poor vampire trapped inside White Plume Mountain. Nowadays vampires get out in daylight, join clans, even raise families. How times change!

Drawmij: My favorite aquatic-themed Greyhawk wizard (very specific I know). No wizard gets my creative juices going more than him. I immediately start thinking Cpt. Nemo, meets Jacques Cousteau meets Aquaman.

Elayne Mystica: Hey more wizards! Elayne is an albino human who used to live beneath the Hellfurnace mountains, but now resides in Irongate. Check out what I've done with her.

Fedroot: Good ol' Fedroot owns the Daggerarium in the Old City section of Greyhawk. I don't think there's a finer weaponsmith outside a dwarven forge than Fedroot. So says Mortellan!

Galap Dreidel: Wicked archmage, creator of the Soul Gem and former resident of the Ghost Tower of Inverness. The module says he left northwest over the Selintan River and never came back. Very curious where he went off to since that was a millennia ago. Let's hope wherever he went, he at least changed his name.

Hazen: Aged clerical ruler of Veluna. His artifact, the Crook of Rao is responsible for banishing like 99.9% of the demons on Oerth in a day. Of course nothing said they couldn't just come back...was his Crook a one-shot item?

Immonara: Archdruid of Obad-hai. All I know about her is she leads a sect in the Adri Forest. I would've thought female druids would be into Ehlonna though. Druids are neutral folk though, so equality and all that.

Jallarzi Sallavarian: Speaking of females breaking into men's fields. Jallarzi is to this day the only female member of the Circle of Eight (until Return of the Eight *cough*). As fair magic-users go she is up there with Belissica as well. Also, she had a cool pseudo-dragon pet before it was cool to have little dragon pets.

Kermin Mind-Bender: Yeah yeah, another wizard. Kermin is one of my favorites though. I don't know much about Kermin from Gygax's novels, but he is a Boneheart advisor of Iuz in canon. Kermin however is 18th level which means in addition bending minds, he has Wish-level magic. This is a guy who really could be a BBEG on his own!

Lareth the Beautiful: This evil cleric from the Temple of Elemental Evil is inexplicably more popular in Greyhawk lore than half the NPCs I've mentioned. Recurring villains are good like that though. He never rated in my campaign though. Hm, my mistake I guess.

Murad: The Sultan of Zeif, and a 15th level fighter! It's hard to find high level fighters (still alive) in canon. I wonder what dangerous adventures the sultan undertook to get to that peak of skill. He sounds like a ruler who leads from the vanguard in battle.

Nix and Nox: The Efreeti brothers from White Plume Mountain. Seen in one of my favorite illustrations by Erol Otus from 1E D&D. One evil genie is bad, but twins? Watch out!

Org Nenshen: Leader of the Greyhawk Thieves Guild and best friend to former guildmember (no one is ever a former)Nerof Gasgol the mayor of the city. In this day and age of billionares and oligarchs in politics, a guy like Org makes perfect sense to me today.

Pluffet Smedger the Elder: Esteemed professor from the University of Rel Mord and the author of the Guide to the World of Greyhawk. As Pluffet lives in the setting's future, the only thing we know for sure happens is that Rel Mord still stands.

Querchard: Needless to say there isn't many good Q-named characters. Querchard is the Earl of Sterich. That is until post-wars when he vanished from Istivin leaving his wife Resbin in charge. One thing unique about Querchard is that in AD&D rules he is a multi-class fighter-thief-bard. None of those classes saved him from being kidnapped however.

Ricard Damaris: Hey it's another fighter! While not as skilled (he is missing a finger) and important as Murad, Ricard does have a cool job, namely he runs the famous Green Dragon Inn in the City of Greyhawk. His boss (spoilers) is secretly another more powerful fight, the infamous Lord Robilar.

Sevvord Redbeard: Speaking of warriors. Sevvord is the leader of the barbarian-adjacent Stonefists. There is probably no barbarian more brutal than this guy. I mean, his army is so tough they have annual try-outs! And I'm not 100% sure the losers live.

Tang the Horrific: And while we're talking barbarians, Tang is one of those ridiculed but highly underrated NPCs. Who else has the moxie and charisma to try and raise a horde to take on Iuz? Too bad he never got his chance!

Utavo the Wise: Okay so it isn't easy finding NPCs starting with a "U". Who knew? Last time I used Uhas and that's apparently the best until you get to Utavo the Wise (Living Greyhawk Journal #0) who is indeed a unique character in the Flanaess. He is a Tuov for starters, and second he is a former slave who now leads a sanctuary for other ex-Scarlet Brotherhood slaves in southern Sea Princes. Pretty cool!

Vesparian Lafanel: Also called Vesper, this elf runs a humble pawn shop in the old City of Greyhawk. His actual job however with the Guild of Assassins. His seriousness and skill eventually led to his promotion to guildmaster (and thus Directing Oligarch) of the city, when his superior Turin Deathstalker left to fight Iuz in the north. Don't cross this elf.

Waldorf: What? You've not heard of Waldorf?!

Xavender: Xavender is the (other) Overking of the United Kingdom of Ahlissa (formerly the South Province). You want to see a pompous image of Xavender, check out the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer. At least he's not undead.

Yolande: Queen of Celene. Belissica might be the epitome of beauty for human rulers, so I always assume Yolande is the peak of all elves. When I think of her how can I not picture Galadriel from Lord of the Rings?

Zoltan: It's easy to pick rulers out for a notable people list. I've already done so several times. The last guy for the list is thus Zoltan, the beygraf of Ket. His claim to fame is opportunistically (and against counsel) attacking Bissel during the Greyhawk Wars, thus allying Ket with Iuz. Not popular with Bisselites or even his own people, Zoltan was eventually assassinated four years later. I'd like to think it Turin Deathstalker who was sent.

That's all for now. More A-Z someday soon!