23 April 2023

Greyhawk News You Can Use in the Month of Planting!

Black Blade - GaryCon booth review at Black Gate

John O'Neill of Black Gate Magazine visited our Black Blade Publishing booth at GaryCon last month, and rote a very nice piece about the booth and the books at https://www.blackgate.com/2023/03/26/gary-con-report-black-blade-publishing-and-limitless-adventure/.

Allan working BBP's GaryCon booth (photo by John O'Neill)
Allan working BBP's GaryCon booth
(photo by John O'Neill)

The article nicely updates John’s rediscovery of our booth back at GaryCon X at https://www.blackgate.com/2018/03/13/the-1001-treasures-of-black-blade-publishing-and-goodman-games-gary-con-2018-report-part-ii/.

It’s sometimes difficult to appreciate the breadth and depth of excellent content available in the greater old-school, OSR, and Greyhawk gaming communities, and John’s article does a great job summarizing the passion that we bring to this hobby. 

It’s a true pleasure to help introduce gamers to the myriad of wonderful books, adventure modules, fiction, and other fan-created projects at GaryCon and North Texas RPG Con each year.


Tonisborg Review, 2002 Gygax Video, and the Marmoreal Tomb Shambles into Unlife

Two news items via Trent Smith’s always-insightful blog, The Mystical Trash Heap:

  1. Trent’s excellent review of The Lost Dungeons of Tonisborg, recently reprinted via Kickstarter by the Secrets of Blackmoor documentary team

  2. A recently-rediscovered 2002 interview by Peter Michael Garcia with Gary Gygax at GameFest 2002 (Richmond, VA) at https://vimeo.com/809850827 (23 minutes):

2002 Peter Michael Garcia interview with Gary Gygax
2002 Peter Michael Garcia interview
with Gary Gygax


The video was shared on Facebook by Ernie Gygax, and Trent reshared it from there.

Ernie’s and Benoist Poire’s Marmoreal Tomb Kickstarter also began to ship product in March, after the long-delayed project was rescued through the assistance of Troll Lord Games, who completed production and fulfillment.  I wasn’t a backer, but the new books do look pretty good, per a picture that Anthony Huso shared recently from his blog:


The Marmoreal Tomb in all of its glory (photo by Anthony Huso)
The Marmoreal Tomb in all of its glory
(photo by Anthony Huso)


What’s Up in the Greyhawk Fan Community

The community has been pretty busy of late---creating, announcing, and delivering several new projects!:

  • Ben Ball’s Peoples of the Flanaess download is at https://www.mediafire.com/file/zbmel607ngy0zfj/Peoples_of_the_Flanaess.pdf, and offers pre-defined lists of names for each of the 61 cultures, nations, and named regions in the World of Greyhawk. Each d30 table includes columns for female and male names, alignment, hair color, hair texture, complexion, and eye color.  Follow-up discussion is available at the Knights & Knaves Alehouse (where Ben also shared some brilliant encounter tables for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, too!).

    Ben’s work aligns nicely with the Greyhawk naming discussion on Canonfire! that Marc-Tizoc Gonzalez began, and which I mentioned in last month’s news update.

  • The new Gulf of Ghayar Gazetteer can be downloaded at https://www.annabmeyer.com/2023/04/19/gulf-of-ghayar-gazetteer/.  Designed by Crag and supported by the Greyhawk fan commuinity, the 96 page PDF details the full scope of the Dramidj Oceanic region, located at the extreme northwest of the Flanaess, beginning at Ekbir and sweeping westar beyond.

  •  Jay “LordGosumba” Scott, Anna Meyer, and I hosted another discussion with Rob Kuntz on Saturday morning, 22 April 2023---Earth Day, so perhaps we should have made it an Oerth Day chat, but we didn’t think of that and instead we discussed the origins, history, and continuing development of Rob’s player character, Lord Robilar (and a few other topics).  You can watch the recording on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/videos/1800551316 and on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mH6A85uMC8:

    And if you missed last month’s widely-ranging discussion with Rob, the recording is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmGKXKPS6kA.

  • Jay also recently announced the dates for Virtual Greyhawk Con 4:  this year it’s being held from 6-8 October 2023!:

  • Last, but certainly not least, a new Greyhawk fanzine is in the offing, Visions of Greyhawk:

    Evan “FormerlyKnownasNorker” Cummins announced the new zine on Canonfire! at http://www.canonfire.com/cf/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=9716 with a pointer to this four-page download:  http://www.canonfire.com/visionsofgreyhawk/VisionsofGreyhawkProposal.pdf:

    VISIONS OF GREYHAWK is a new e-zine being made by and for World of Greyhawk enthusiasts. It will be hosted on Canonfire.com. As that website has done for the hobby for over two decades, this e-zine will present mini-modules, lore articles, reviews, new monsters and magic, and more, regardless of the version of the rules employed.

    Zine submissions opened on 15 April 2023, and Gary Holian added some commentary in the above Canonfire! announcement thread: 

    My two cents. The Oerth Journal continues to exist and we should be proud of of it as one of the longest running zines in fandom. But this is more about Canonfire and its new direction.

    I will be relaunching the [Canonfire!] site soon, with updated forums and using a modern Wordpress installation as a base. That should greatly improve the signup process and the search engine, both of which are functionally broken in many ways. We'll work on ways for people to discover and re-discover all the great content on this site.  [snip]

    Why the name Visions of Greyhawk? I suggested we choose a name that leaves no doubt what the content is about, targeted for people far and wide who are not just members of Canonfire, but it will be hosted and promoted on CF.

    The editorial team has been firming up as new community members volunteer to help support the zine, and currently includes (as of 19 April 2023):

    • PROJECT EDITOR: Ewan Cummins
    • CONSULTING EDITOR: Gary Holian
    • LAYOUT AND DESIGN: Lee Schaidle
    • ASSISTANT EDITORS: Gary “hedgeknight” Francisco

Visions of Greyhawk is still accepting volunteers for assistant editorial positions.  To volunteer your help in editing or layout and design, or to submit an article or a piece of artwork, emails visionsofgreyhawk@gmail.com.

Since the new zine is positioned as complimentary to the Oerth Journal rather than competitive with the OJ, I remain cautiously optimisti that the community can support multiple zines.  We’ll see!


And that’s all for the month of Planting!  Happy Oerth Day everyone (yet-again blogger ate my content yesterday afternoon, so this being posted a day late and a post short), and see you next time!


02 April 2023

GaryCon XV Convention Report - 21-27 March 2023

GaryCon XV has come and gone, and---as usual---I had a wonderful time at the convention playing AD&D, celebrating the life and games of Gary Gygax and the rest of the old-school guard, and catch up with friends old and new!

The Ugly, the Bad, and the Great

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Ugly and the Bad won't take up too much space in this post, and The Great far outweighs these two, they remain important to share nonetheless. 

The Ugly: COVID

To get the Ugly out of the way first:  I caught COVID at GaryCon XV.  Because I worked the vendor hall at our Black Blade Publishing booth, I interacted with a LOT of folks at GaryCon, so I've shared this information as widely as I can on Facebook.

This is the message I sent to the players in my GaryCon XV games via TableTop Events messaging:


Hello Fellow GaryCon Gamers!---

As some of you will already be aware from my post on Facebook, I tested positive for COVID on Friday 31 March 2023 after presumably being exposed at the convention.  I had meant to send this out on Friday, but forgot, so if this is the first time you're hearing this news, I apologize.  

If you played in one of my GaryCon games, or visited the Black Blade Publishing booth, you may have been exposed too.  If we interacted, you should consider testing whether you're showing symptoms, or not.  (I was masked while working the booth on Saturday and Sunday of the convention after hearing rumors of COVID cases at GaryCon).  

The CDC guidelines on testing and isolation are at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/if-you-were-exposed.html and https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/isolation.html and have changed since I had last reviewed them.  For what it's worth, I tested negative twice on the evening of Monday 27 March and Wednesday 29 March before I tested positive four days after my return from Lake Geneva on Friday, 31 March.  

I hope that you remain healthy, that you recover quickly if you do get sick, and I look forward to gaming again together in the future!


The Bad: Not Much!

With COVID out of the way, I don't have any significant complaints about the convention.  I was pretty tired after the con, and moreso than in years previously.  I attributed that initially and in particular to working the booth alone (it was about 6 hours to set up, and 4 hours to tear down), but some could have been COVID tiredness too. 

Dave Conant and Travis (a volunteer) did come by the booth while Jeff Talanian and I were chatting, and asked for feedback.  We spoke about noise in the louder events rooms, which is a recurring problem that's hard to solve.  

The only other possible complaint is the new location of the vendors hall in the Forum (this was the second year there), but we haven't crunched the numbers on our sales data yet to see how we did, so complaining would be quite premature ;) 

The Great:  all the rest! :D

Other than COVID, the rest of the of GaryCon was  awesome, as always.  

It's always a treat and a treasure to catch up with old friends, to meet folks for the first time who I've only known online via a username, and to game with both groups at the table. 

Black Blade Publishing booth and New Old-School Games!

Allan at the Black Blade Publishing
booth at GaryCon XV

Our Black Blade Publishing booth was one of mainstays in the hall.  It's always a pleasure to introduce gamers to wonderful works created by our friends and fellow designers.  You can browse through some pictures of the booth in my Facebook profile (they're publicly visible) in my GaryCon XV photo album, and John O'Neill of Black Gate Magazine also shared his walk-through pictures of our booth too---John's are more-current than mine, in fact, and show the booth in its "final form" from Saturday ;)

New products to highlight in the booth this year included:

  • Black Blade's newest 17"x22" hexagonal mapping pads
  • John Eric Holmes' Maze of Peril (his 1986 novella; this was placeholder stock until we reprint Tales of Peril
  • Goodman Games' Original Adventures Reincarnated series, volumes 1-6, including OAR#6 The Temple of Elemental Evil, which also featured in Paul Stormberg's "Legends of Roleplaying" tournament on Friday night
  • Lenard Lakofka's L3 Deep Dwarven Delve (along with a number of other TSR classics reprints)
  • Richard Barton's The Halls of Arden Vul (we sold out of copies by Sunday!) 
  • Alex Bates' Fire-Pearls of Aya-Ghan adventure
  • Handy Haversack's The Hybrid Bone Effigy Crucible of the Urgent Chimera adventure
  • Joe Bloch's Adventures Dark & Deep "Tomes" series:  Swords of Cthulhu, Adventures Great and Glorious, Book of Lost Lore, and Book of Lost Beasts
  • Larry Wickman's Gamewick Games titles:  Pittsburgh 68, Roswell 51, and Innmouth 32

We also promoted new PDF-only products from Rob Kuntz' Three Line Studio (both Gargax's Glorious Gewgaws and Pryce's Price, his 50th anniversary of OD&D tributes to Gary Gygax), and Carlos Lising's Hounds of Oerth, a new casl Entertainment charity supplement supporting the ASPCA.

Other GaryCon XV New Releases and Acquisitions!

Anna Meyer's seminar handout, two new Lenard Lakofka modules, and more!
Anna Meyer's seminar handout,
two new Lenard Lakofka modules,
and more!


The Lenard Lakofka Archive announced the release of two new AD&D adventures, which are free to download from Anna Meyer's web site:  LA1 The Lighthouse and LA2 Devil's Dung. These are newly-published adventures written by Lenard and released to the public for free in PDF form.  I playtested a still-unpublished adventure ("Ravages of the Mind") at Virtual Greyhawk Con 3 last October, so keep an eye out for more new Lakofka materials in the future!  And thank you to the archive team for their hard work---these modules wouldn't exist without time time, talent, and treasure donated by Troy Alleman, Daniel Boggs, Richard Di Iola, Anna Meyer, Josh Popp, Lee Schaidle, Dan Smith, and of course to Lenard Lakofka.

Anna B. Meyer shared her 2023 cartography seminar handout at https://www.annabmeyer.com/2023/03/12/gary-con-xv-handout/ and it's gorgeous!  Anna has many new projects coming this year, including new Greyhawk and Meyerhawk heraldry, and updates to many of her maps including her new Oerth v2 project!  Anna also took the time out of her busy schedule to deliver my copies of Lenard's new modules; thanks Anna! :D

In addition to the above highlights, I also picked up a copy of some old homebrewed character sheets from Shawn and Devon Hibbs at their Die Cast Games booth (the Burntwire Brothers, as they're known among the Acaeum crowd).  I had bought the exact same set from them last year, so I'll be opening the shrink wrap on one of them to see what's on the backs of the sheets.

Zach "Zenopus Archives" Howard also graciously gifted me with a 5e handout that Steve Marsh provided at one of his games at the North Texas RGP Con.  It had caught my eye because it includes a new class that's oriented toward shadow magic (which was first professional gaming publication way back in 1987 in White Wolf Magazine #11).  Thanks Zach! :D

COVID Comforts for grodog

While I've been isolating at home, in addition to reading some of the goodies above, I've also been re-reading Roger Zelazny's second Chronicles of Amber series, which focuses on Corwin's son Merlin.  On my last trip to NJ I had picked up Seven Tales in Amber, which collects Roger's last stories in the series (primarily his short stories from Amberzine).  

The Merlin stories have lately been scrabbling aroud in my backbrain, along with Anthony Huso's Night Wolf Inn (recently given a five-star review from Prince of Nothing at Age of Dusk), so I read through them the past few days while isolating:

COVID comforts for grodog
COVID comforts for grodog

COVID comforts for grodog
"Where there's a whip, there's a way..."

My reading pile also includes a new-to-me puzzle dungeon entitled Aberrant Reflections.  I haven't fully read it yet, but the publisher is directsun Games, and I hope to carry them in our booth in the future.

John Popson of Effincool Miniatures also hand-delievered a box of wonderful Rankin-Bass-inspired goblins above, which I will to paint and mix in gleefully with my Max Carr Dungeon Dwellers goblins from Heritage :D  Thanks John!

The last title I leave you with is a book that was recommended to me by Eli Elder, and it looks like it'll fit in quite nicely in my 1:1 solo aquatic Greyhawk campaign with my son Henry:


I don't have a copy of this in-hand (yet!), but Knight Owl Publishing's Aquatic Adventures looks like a winner based on my flip-through of Eli's copy at the con. 

Until the next time, when I'll provide a run-through of the games I DM'd at GaryCon XV.


26 February 2023

Special Guest Interview with Rob Kuntz livestream on LordGosumba's Gabbin' #236

Jay Scott---with Anna Meyer and me also participating---interviewed Rob Kuntz on Jay's Gabbin' at Lord Peak's Haven #236 livestream show yesterday morning.  The show came together very quickly, so I didn't have time to announce it ahead of time.  If you missed it live, you can watch the recordings on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/videos/1748868999 and YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmGKXKPS6kA (video below links to YouTube):



Discussion References

Our widely-ranging discussion delved into various aspects of OD&D and Greyhawk's playtesting and early publishing history, including (among other topics):

1. The original, now alas lost, Greyhawk campaign map drawn by Gary (lost by Chris Schleicher, who printed the Domesday Book newsletters for the Castles & Crusades Society): 

Domesday Book Great Kingdom map by Dave Megarry
Domesday Book Great Kingdom map
by Dave Megarry

Domesday Book Great Kingdom map by Dave Arneson (colored by grodog)
Domesday Book Great Kingdom map
by Dave Arneson (and colored by grodog)


The lost map was 8.5"x11" in portrait orientation (not landscape) featured more text and graphical/artistic detail than the two above, and was in Gary's handwriting. 

That map would have chronologically been developed somewhere between the above two Domesday Great Kingdom maps and the art order sketch maps that Darlene used for the Folio poster maps (and which survive in photocopy form from Lenard Lakofka's archives):


Darlene's published
1980 Greyhawk Folio maps


For some excellent analysis and discussion about the original Castle & Crusade Society Great Kingdom maps, see these additional resources:

2. You can read the full text of Gary Gygax's letter in Alarums & Excursions #15 (15 October 1976) at Jason Zavoda's blog "Gygax's Letter in Alarums and Excursions #15" and Jason had transcribed additional Gygax letters at https://jasonzavoda-hallofthemountainking.blogspot.com/search?q=alarums&max-results=20&by-date=true.


3. Arnold Hendrick's full 1974 review of OD&D from The Courier Volume 6 #6 (1974) appears below:


Gary's rebuttal to the review appears in The Strategic Review #3 (Fall 1975).

For some additional discussion and commentary, see ENWorld at https://www.enworld.org/threads/a-typewritten-d-d-review-from-1974-by-arnold-hendrick.661641/ and Paul's Blog of Holding at https://www.blogofholding.com/?p=5769.


4. "The Gnome Cache" is Gary's incomplete novella published serially (as "Garrison Ernst") in The Dragon #1, #2, #3, #5, #6, and #7 from June 1976 through June 1977:

5. The rules for the "Siege of Bodenburg" were first published by Henry H. Bodenstedt in Strategy & Tactics Volume 1 #6 (July 1967) and were subsequently freely distributed from his Adelphia, New Jersey games and hobby store to help sell the Elastolin Miniatures that he imported. 

The rules used to be freely downloadable at http://www.thortrains.net/armymen/bodebok1.html but that site is now gone, and is not available via the Internet Archive, so I've uploaded the rules to my site at [TBD].

For some additional information about Bodenburg's relationship to Castle Greyhawk, see Zenopus Archives at https://zenopusarchives.blogspot.com/2015/03/visualizing-castle-greyhawk.html and for some historical context about the Siege of Bodenburg game, seehttps://en-academic.com/dic.nsf/enwiki/2650436

I'll try to find the pictures of me playing "Siege of Bodenburg" from my GaryCon photo albums, and add here too.


Online Stores for Rob Kuntz Books

We discussed several of the gaming books that Rob authored and designed over the years, and many are still in-print and available:

  • Rob's most-recent works are spread out across a few different publishing imprints, but are all accessible from:
  • LGCC-1 The Original Bottle City (from Castle Greyhawk), RJK-1 Cairn of the Skeleton King, and RJK-2 Tower of Blood are available from us at Black Blade Publishing, both via mail order or direct from our booths at GaryCon and North Texas RPG Con each year. 

    We also stock all of Rob's in-print titles from Paul at GaryCon and North Texas RPG Con.

Additional References

Rob's most-current biography is on his TLS site at https://www.threelinestudio.com/bio/.

"A Partial, Annotated Bibliography of the Works of Robert J. Kuntz" appears on Canonfire! at  http://www.canonfire.com/cf/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=125 (and is mirrored on my Greyhawk site, but I think my copy is not as current as the Canonfire! one).  Both are likely in need of updating, and also provide some good insight into the contents of Rob's El Raja Key Archive.

Canonfire! also hosts "Rob Kuntz's The Three Artifacts of the Demon Senders," which was first published in Wargaming #2 in 1977. 



Enjoy! :D


18 February 2023

Greyhawk News to Warm Your Readying Hearts

Fun in the World of Greyhawk at Canonfire!

Lots of hustle and bustle in the Flanaess of late, so we'll jump right into the latest Greyhawk News you can use:

  • In the Canonfire! site's discussion forums, Marc-Tizoc Gonzalez (mtg as we know him) began an excellent thread "Names Derived from Deities," in which he puts some much-needed thought into how common names in the Flanaess would be influenced by the names of the various gods, goddesses, heroes, and heroines of the land. 

  • Marc riffed on many of the existing names of the gods to create variations that could be the equivalent of modern-day names like Mary, Joseph, Mark, Luke, Michael, et al., and his work inspired several others (including me) to add to the growing list.  Check it out, and add your own ideas!

  • David Prata's "The Amazons of Hardby" attempts to reconcile the warrior-women of Hardby (as championed by Deirdre in Gygax's Artifact of Evil novel---she appears on the cover which I included in my recent Why Greyhawk? post) with the Amazons entry dropped from the 1983 Monster Manual 2 and published in the Polyhedron #22 (January 1985).  The discussion aligns quite nicely with my own campaign's focus in the vicinity Hardby via my Random Encounter Table for Hardby---although I treat Amazons a bit differently than EGG's versions---with some related discussion on Facebook.

Charity Events Abound

Jay Scott's 5th Annual Greyhawk Megastream Fundraiser for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital began on Thursday this week:  


LordGosumba's 5th Annual charity fundraiser for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital
LordGosumba's 5th Annual charity fundraiser
for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital

Donations can be made at https://tiltify.com/+greyhawk-community-streamers/5th-annual-greyhawk-megastream-fundraiser-event-legends and see https://www.facebook.com/groups/40230212669/posts/10159706400557670/ for additional details.


In addition, Carlos Lising's caslEntertainment will soon be announcing a new charity adventure module, which will provide donations to the ASPCA.  

I've participated in two of Carlos's charity streaming adventures in the past, and fully endorse his giving back to the community.  The Tears that Forever Stain supports the Cheetah Conservation Fund, while Lost Dog supports Red Rover.  (Both links take you to his adventure books, which support the charities themselves through purchases of the modules). 

And last, but not least, GaryCon's charity auction is helmed by the indomitable Jim Kitchen, and Jim is seeking donations for the GaryCon 2023 charity auction:

Please think about donating things for the auction. Gary Con attendees have always been generous beyond measure with their donations and the proceeds from auctioning them has made a difference in lives far beyond Lake Geneva.

The Charity auction at Gary Con is bigger than any single one of us. It's the people who make it happen, who donate and who bid that are the three equal parts of what is one of the best parts of the show. 

Jim Kitchen, auctioneering for charity at GaryCon 2022
Jim Kitchen, auctioneering for charity
at GaryCon 2022


This year's auction will support Extra Life and Children's Wisconsin (formerly Milwaukee Children's Hospital), and you can read a summary about the 2022 Charity Auction too.

Rob Kuntz - Two New Releases Celebrate D&D's 50th!

On 1 February 2023, Rob Kuntz announced the publication of two new titles from his Three Line Studios company, as well as a 30 page free fan update newsletter!  


Rob Kuntz's newest adventure, Pryce's Price
Rob Kuntz's newest adventure,
Pryce's Price


The two new books---one an adventure, the other a collection of magic items and essays---celebrate the 50th anniversary of the creation and playtesting of the game, which began in 1973.  (D&D wasn't published until January 1974 or thereabouts). 

  • Pryce's Price:  a new 57 page AD&D 1e adventure for PCs of levels 9-11 in which they delve a wizard's haunted basement to recover various and sundry items lost within its depths.  The module is also a tribute to the 1963 Roger Corman film "The Raven" starring Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, and Peter Loree---an obviously inspired by Poe's poem of the same name.  $12 from the TLS web site.
  • Gargax's Glorious Gewgaws:  a new 36 page collection of AD&D 1e magic items and essays that pay tribute to Gary Gygax.  (For reference, a gewgaw---which I'm more familiar with as a geegaw, but they are several variants for the term---is "a flashy, useless ornament; a bauble" according to my Funk & Wagnalls dictionary).  In this collection of 17 new magic items (including one new spell), none are trinkets and 5 are artifacts!  Rob concludes Gargax's Glorious Gewgaws with the essay "Some Influences Related to E.G.G. in Creating (and Play-Testing) D&D"---an eight-page discussion about the inspirational origins for various elements of Original Dungeons & Dragons and the Greyhawk and Kalibruhn campaigns.  $8 from the TLS web site.

Notably, both books can be ordered in a bundle at 25% off---quite the bargain!

The three new releases (counting the substantive newsletter) are in addition to Rob's most-recent adventure, Beyond the Living Room, published in 2020 via Paul Stormberg's Legends of Roleplaying imprint, and TLB Games, which published Dave Arenson's True Genius and the El Raja Key Archive (among other titles). 

Rob mentions that he will release additional books throughout 2023 to continue his celebration for D&D.  You can keep up on additional Three Line Studio releases by signing up for the TLS mailing list:  email mailinglist@threelinestudio.com with "Subscribe" in the subject line.

grodog on "L&L" Discussing Greyhawk's Planes

I recently appeared on Lord Gosumba's "Legends & Lore" episode about "Extra-Planar Influences" (in Greyhawk, of course).  Jay Scott, Anna Meyer, and Mike Bridges, steered the conversationa and I joined in after a late dinner an hour-in or so.  

We had a fun and widely-ranging discussion about the planes in general, planar architecture, planar incursions/invasions, gods and the source for divine powers, among many inter-related topics.


Extra-Planar Influences in Greyhawk, with Jay, Anna, Mike, and Allan
Extra-Planar Influences in Greyhawk,
with Jay, Anna, Mike, and Allan


You can watch the replays on YouTube at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6Z_5c5QDTU or on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/videos/1732534574.

GaryCon Events Registration Open!

GaryCon events registration is open this weekend on Saturday, 18 February 2023 for Gold badge holders, and the following weekend on Saturday, 25 February 2023 for Silver badge holders.  Additional timeline details for other badge types are at https://tabletop.events/conventions/gary-con-xv.  

My two personal events have registrants in them already, but more than half of the seats are still open.  Here are the entries if you'd like to register:

On Friday night I'm helping Paul Stormberg by DMing a table of the Legends of Roleplaying tourney, along with Allen Hammack, Steve Winter, Harold Johnson, Victor Raymond, Doug Behringer, and several other volunteer DMs.  

If you'd like to register, Legends of Roleplaying Tournament: Ruins of Elder Evil runs on Friday night at 6pm.


01 February 2023

Wilderness Random Encounter Table for Hardby - Greyhawk Campaign Prep

Somewhat akin to the missing forest from Darlene's gorgeous maps of The Flanaess, the Glassography from the 1983 World of Greyhawk boxed set doesn't include an encounter table for Hardby.  Unlike the forgotten Folio Forest, however, Hardby is only mentioned in passing in the original Folio and Boxed Set editions for the setting, so it's not terribly surprising that Hardby doesn't merit its own Encounter Table.

Still, my current campaigns have been set in and around the City of Greyhawk, and while the previous group from our Wichita Greyhawk Campaign (RIP due to COVID) did visit the city of Hardby for training and some resupplies during their explorations of the DMG Monastery dungeon, the current Castle-Greyhawk-based crew has not trod its hallowest streets quite yet.  But they are planning a trip to Hardby in the near-future, to be followed by a trip to Dyvers (perhaps directly from Hardby, perhaps via Greyhawk City---we'll see!). 

World of Greyhawk campaign prep - a DM's fun is never done!
World of Greyhawk campaign prep -
a DM's fun is never done!


Since the PCs are still relatively lower-level, and the path between the two settlements is along well-trod roads, the journey from Greyhawk City to Hardby will likely be conducted by the PCs afoot, unless they decide to hire a local ship or a Rhenne barge to speed their trip.  

In any event, travel afoot, mounted, or via riverine transport will require several days, which will entail some random encounters.  One of the aspects about the design and detailing of Greyhawk that I love is its use of setting-specific regional encounter charts, which include local patrols details too.  However, Hardby lacks an existing table for such roaming monsters.... 

That didn't stop me from creating a table, of course, but I did check and recheck to make sure I hadn't missed its entry, sure that it should be there (it wasn't).  I build the list of possible encounters using a mixture drawn from other nearby encounter tables' entries, including the Abbor-Alz, Cairn Hills, the City of Greyhawk, and the Wild Coast.  

Here's the final result:


Hardby Wilderness Encounters Table 

d100 Roll   Hardby Encounter
 01-04   Demi-Humans
 05-06   Dwarves (1d6: 1-4 hill, 5-6 mountain)
 07   Elves, Sylvan
 09-10   Halflings (1d6: 1-4 Hairfeet, 5-6 Stout)
 11   Hill Giants (raiding)
 12-15   Humanoids (raiding)
 16-18   Men, Amazon Patrol - Light
  Men, Amazon Patrol - Medium
 21   Men, Amazon Patrol - Heavy
 22-25   Men, Bandits
 26-27   Men, Brigands
 28-29   Men, Buccaneers (on or near water)
  Men, Characters
 33-45   Men, Merchants
 46-47   Men, Pilgrims
 48-52   Men, Pirates (on or near water)
 53   Men, Raiders (slavers or otherwise)
  Men, Rhenne (on or near water, or Attloi inland)
  Men, Tribesmen (hill- or marshmen + 20-80)
 63-64   Ogres (Merrows if on or near water)
 65-66   Trolls (Scrags if on or near water)
 67-100   Use Standard Encounter Tables


20% of riverine encounters will be with Rhenne, with the remaining 80% using the standard tables.  

I still need to detail Hardby's Amazon Patrols (and the Amazon Marines that ward the Selintan River and Wooly Bay coastal waters), but that'll come together quickly I'm sure.


16 January 2023

#Dungeon23 Resources - Mega-Dungeon Tools of the Trade

Desmond Tutu's old adage---"How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time."---is sound wisdom for how to deal with any seemingly-impossible and/or overwhelming and/or too-daunting task.  Just take it one step at a time, and eventually you'll have finished whatever Herculean trial that besets you. 

But, you ask, what do Desmond Tutu and eating elephants have to do with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons or the World of Greyhawk?  Far more than may immediately meet the eye!:

  1. Fantastical elephants have a long and storied place in wargaming and history---Hannibal's elephants crossing the Italian Alps to invade the Roman Empire were quite real in 281 B.C.E.---as well in AD&D's elephant-inspired outer-planar-agent of Good, the baku. 

    Tolkien's oliphants, however, probably take the cake:

    Oliphants from Peter Jackson's Return of the King film
    Animated Oliphants from Peter Jackson's
    Return of the King

  2. When we played together as kids, my younger-brother Phil sometimes lifted historical, real-world people for use as high-level NPCs in his games set in the Known World from CM1 Test of the Warlords.  A few distinct names still stick with me: 

    - Sho-Rembo, a pregen elf name borrowed from B1 In Search of the Unknown (I may be conflating this character with another character he named Suhie Baba, perhaps)
    - Bruce Lee as the Grand Master of Flowers (likely as inspired by the Commodore 64 Bruce Lee game as Enter the Dragon :) ):

    Bruce Lee - Commodore 64 title screen
    Bruce Lee -
    Commodore 64 title screen

    - Nelson Mandela!---but alas, I don't recall any specifics about Mandela's class or level in the game, just that he was a high-level NPC national leader
    - ...and Desmond Tutu, who was, of course, one of the few a high-level NPC clerics able to cast Restoration, Gate, and Resurrection =)

  3. Several folks have been championing a cross-blog/platform project of building a mega-dungeon, one room a day, one level a month, to end up with a 365 room mega-dungeon by the end of the year. 

    According to
    Ben Laurence's post, Sean McCoy started the idea, which has been shared enthusiastically across Twitter, reddit, Facebook, user forums, and elsewhere using the #dungeon23 hash tag, which I'm rendering as dungeon23 since I'm not sure whether blogger actually supports pound signs in labels.

    And, of course, building a mega-dungeon is a monumental task, so taking it one bite-sized room at a time is a worthwhile methodology to drive some creative focus.

That said, while I love and support the idea of more mega-dungeony creativity and goodness entering the old-school gaming world on a regular basis, I'm not going to participate in the Dungeon 23 challenge as structured.   I am quite interested, but I have enjoyed judging my version of Castle Greyhawk at conventions over the past 15 years, and running an online campaign centered in and around Castle Greyhawk since 2020, as well as DMing my boys through Castle Greyhawk in their ongoing (but now more intermittent, since they're both freshmen) Castle Greyhawk campaign since 2012 or so, too.  So I don't really need to build a new mega-dungeon, per se. 

Instead I will take inspiration from the #dungeon23 challenge to continue to develop my own version of Castle Greyhawk, and to leverage the focus of #dungeon23 as an inspirational push to finish some of my still-incomplete levels, and to whip them in shape for publication.  That's been a long-time goal of mine, so perhaps this'll help provide the additional structure and focus I need!

grodog's 8-ish years delayed Grodog's Castle levels
grodog's 8-ish years delayed
Castle Greyhawk levels

It'll also help to get me back on track for more-regular mega-dungeon Mondays content, too! 

#Dungeon23 Resources

And just because I'm not building a room a day doesn't mean that I don't have contributions to make to support a cause so near-and-dear to my DMing heart! =)

I'll start out with some basic tools of the trade for folks who are new to mega-dungeon design, and continue later with additional design resources.  

Graph and Hex Paper

One of the primary challenges to building and running a mega-dungeon is conveying its scale:  
  • How do you convince your players of the huge majesty of the dungeon and its many levels?
  • How do you design levels that are worthy of the term "mega-dungeon level"---big enough for the players and their characters to get lost within?
  • How do you encourage them to map and explore the ruin, each cautious step into the dark balancing trepidation and expectation for what may be revealed?
One key way that I try to convey scale is through building my Castle Greyhawk levels using a variety of graph paper sizes.  Levels designed on sheets with 4 spi (squares per inch), 5 spi, 6 spi, 8 spi, and 10 spi will provide very different size dungeon levels, even if all drawn on a single sheet of 8.5"x11" graph paper. 

I most-regularly use grid sizes of 5 spi, 6 spi, and 8 spi for my levels, but they all get used from time-to-time (and one or two of my old Armory pads of graph paper have 20 spi grids on them, which I use for cross-section/elevation maps showing the relationships between the levels themselves and large features that span multiple levels). 
I also like large sheets of paper, and while most of my pads are 8.5"x11", I regularly use 11"x17" sheets with 5 spi, 6 spi, and 10 spi, with some are even larger 17"x22" sheets in 4 spi and 8 spi (my thanks to Rich Franks for gifting me the latter nearly a decade ago!). 

Black Blade Graph and Hex Pads

I love graph and hex paper so much, we began to sell pads of it for Black Blade back in 2011!
We offer three sizes of graph and hex pads, with 40 sheets per pad, and each sheet is 60# weight paper (it's heavy enough that some friends paint dungeon fill on the sheets using India Ink and a brush!):
  1. mini-pads @ 4.25" x 5.5"
  2. standard letter-sized @ 8.5" x 11"
  3. standard ledger/tabloid-sized @ 11" x 17"

The mini-pads are single-sided, while the two larger pads are duplex-printed with different-sized grids on the front and back of each sheet. 

You can see them in our Facebook album (which is publicly visible) at https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.705096762986612&type=3 and if you're not interested in a Facebook link, you can also view the graph and hex sheet designs in my GaryCon X post at https://grodog.blogspot.com/2018/03/new-titles-at-black-blade-booth-at-garycon-x.html.

Hex Crawling Home for Your New Mega-Dungeon

While our Black Blade hex grid pads were designed to be compatible with drilling-down into the classic Greyhawk and Wilderlands of High Fantasy map hexes, you can use them with any homebrew or published campagin setting, of course. 

Our 8.5" x 11" hex pad contains three levels of hexes, to allow you to drill down into a single large campaign hex for local details, while our 11" x 17" pads feature two levels of hex to build out regional and continental map details. 

You can view our sheets in use in some of my blog posts where I've drilled into large, campaign-sized Greyhawk hexes at https://grodog.blogspot.com/2023/01/why-greyhawk-in-2023.html and https://grodog.blogspot.com/2020/02/renovating-the-monastery-in-greyhawk-part-1.html (this one also walks through my methodology for to detail larger hexes by breaking them down into smaller ones) and also in Mike Bridge's Greyhawkery blog at https://greyhawkery.blogspot.com/2017/06/new-greyhawk-map-ulakand-mesa.html and https://greyhawkery.blogspot.com/2020/11/new-map-ice-barbarian-campaign.html (among others).

If you're interested in ordering any of our graph or hex pads, you can email us at tacojohndm@yahoo.com or message us from our Black Blade Publishing Facebook page.

Pencils, Erasers, Markers, and Pens

I use mechanical pencils with .5 mm leads for drawing most of a level's features.   I also use Prismacolor colored pencils, for drawing water, gates, traps, magical and other zones, and other features that I want to distinguish with color. 
For fixing errors, I use both a Pentel Elite Eraser (~1/4" around white eraser) and Sanford Tuff Stuff Eraser Stick (~1/8" around white eraser)---this one I usually slice off the tip so that I have a sharper and more-refined edge for more-controlled, precise erasures. 
I still draw some levels in pen and ink, using my signature Parker rollerball pen with .5 mm fine blue ink cartridges.  While I drew many of the levels I designed from 2005 to 2014 or so in ink, and still have a fondness for that look, one of our cats spilled water across the dining room table and wiped out a bunch of our play session notes and some of the maps from one of Henry's dungeons (not his DM maps, but our player maps/notes).  The ink just washed off the sheets like it was never there, alas.  So I've mostly shifted over to drawing in pencil again these days.  
I also still have a set of technical pens from my architecture days, that I'll pull out (along with some calligraphy pens that Heather doesn't use anymore) when I want to design some treasure maps, letters, or other player handouts:
Various parchment papers with Rapidograph and Rotring pens
Various parchment papers with
Rapidograph and Rotring pens

If I didn't own the pens and inks already, I wouldn't buy/use them just to make D&D handouts, since they're somewhat fiddly and have to be cleaned properly or the unused ink will clog the nibs.  As an undergrad I never had a vibrating ultrasonic cleaner, and I don't use the pens often enough to justify the expense today---although I have heard that some miniatures painters use the ultrasonic cleaners to help with stripping minis, too.... 
I use Stabilo art markers (sensor .3 fine, point 88 .4 fine and sensor .7 medium thicknesses when drawing dungeons in ink (and have pretty much fully replaced my Berol Prismacolor colored pencils, although for maps that I draw in pencil, I'm still more likely to draw features in colored pencils on them vs. markers).  

I use Sharpie and Bic black permanent markers (fine point, although "fine" on these markers is still far thicker than on the mechanical pencils or Stabilo markers), for filling in the between-stuff fill.  
For ink and marker corrections, I use a Bic Wite-Out Shake 'n' Squeeze correction pen, although it's not always the best.  Sometimes I'll just patch a sheet by redrawing it, and taping a smaller sheet atop the area that needs repair (I'll do the same thing in some maps to add another layer above or below the baseline elevation of the level, too---my "Heretical Temple of Wee Jas" level has these elevated additions taped to the map). 

To store my pens and pencils, I use a ArtBin Pencil/Utility Box (one for each).  Inside them, in addition to the pens or pencils, I keep a small manual pencil sharpener with two sizes of holes, spare pencil leads and erasers for the mechanical pencils, very small rulers (including a small triangle ruler with different grids along each face; this too dates from Penn State), spare blue and black ink rollerball cartridges for my Parker pen, and the odd paper clip or binder clip.  The ArtBin boxes have padding along one side, which helps prevent the tips of the pencils from being crushed as they move around in the box.   


I have ten plastic mapping stencils that I keep together using a single ring-clip.  Here are a few of them:

A sampling of grodog's mapping tools
A sampling of grodog's mapping tools

My go-to stencil is one I've had since college (several of my mapping supplies, in fact, date from my one semester and one week as an architecture major at Penn State), and is the Template Designs General Purpose TD 422.  I use this to draw doors, hexes, arcs, and small equilateral triangles.  Henry has a newer version that's basically the same template but with two arcs on it instead of just one, but I think it has fewer hexes.  

Other regular-rotation stencils include:
  • Triangles and Diamonds R51
  • Squares R30, and
  • Combo Circle Master TD104---used a lot to draw both circles and arcs (using just part of a circle)
For hexagonal rooms, I use general purpose template (it has 7 hexes on it, ranging from 1/8" per side to 1/2" per side), as well as several other's I've picked up for just the hexes on them:
  • Rapiddesign R-57 Template Bolts and Nuts---includes 13 hexes and would be my first choice if i were to be buying these fresh today; the hexes range in size from 1" across side-to-side to 1/4" across side-to-side; it also has squares and circles on it, and some silhouettes of a bow-like looking washer design
  • Staedtler Professional Sketch Master Template 977-135---has 12 hexes on it, but it also has little nubs that raise the template higher off of the paper surface, which makes it a bit harder to work with
 Less-frequently used, but still quite nice to have templates include:
  • Ellipse Masters R77 and R78---I probably really didn't need both, but the ellipses span different sizes on each template; R78 is the same as R77 but includes ellipses that are 20, 30, 40, and 50 degrees)
  • Rapidesign R-83 Chemical Ring template---includes three pentagons, hexagons, septagons, and octagons, in addition to some molecule groupings of hexes
  • Learning Advantage Geometry Template 2826---includes a nice mix of larger shapes, including a novagon, decagon, various non-standard triangles and parallelograms, and a protractor

Other Tools of the Trade

I use a very nice composite-woods clipboard that one of my cousins gave me ages ago, and it fits standard letter-sized sheets quite handily.   I normally have the clipboard loaded up with sheets of scrap paper, since we re-use the blank backs of stuff that gets printed and isn't needed anymore:  I take notes for games sessions on these, use them for noodling on level keys, writing drafts of articles, etc.  While mapping, I usually draw with a few sheets of the scrap paper behind my graph paper sheet; it feels like it gives a smoother flow for drawing. 

From time-to-time, I occasionally use:

  • 6" and 12" ruler or other trustworthy straight edge; the stencils do fine most of the time; I do have a T-square also dating from my architecture days, and will use that occasionally on the larger map sheets
  • a compass; I don't use this much, since the circles template meets my needs most of the time
  • flexible curve; I rarely use this now---it's one of those artifacts from my undergrad architecture time

For letter-sized storage, I use either a 3-ring binder (I do prefer ones with at least 1 if not 2 pockets) with sheet protectors (I use heavier archival ones, as much because they're thick and provide better protection as for preservation).  For the larger sheets I use both 11"x17" sheet protectors, or a Dunwell Art Portfolio sized for 11"x17" sheets.  For the sheets larger than 11"x17", I fold them in half (which I also do with some of the 11"x17" sheets, to fit them into a letter-sized sheet protector). 

I'd love to hear about what other tools do you may use when drafting your maps, in the comments! :D

Next time:  my favorite mega-dungeon design articles!