02 April 2021

grodog's post-GaryCon-XIII Repose - Part 1

Yet-again, I had a wonderful time at GaryCon this year.   Here's the first part of my post-convention recap, working off of my schedule for GaryCon XIII!


Wednesday, 24 March

In our usual fashion, members of the Legio V gathered on Wedsnesday night for our pre-con get-together, which was a fun time as always.  We didn't game this year, just hung out and caught up on life, the universe, and everything.

If you're not familiar with the Legio V, here's some info:

The Lake Geneva Legio V began as a handful of gamers who have attended Gary Con since its inception. We have grown over the past few years to include like-minded individuals united by a respect of Gary Gygax and his legacy. We are the dedicated attendees who love Gary Con for the camaraderie it establishes, the Game Masters who run games from across the decades, and the committed gamers who spend these four days in a fervor of dice rolling and old school good times.

Although events run as LEGIO V Presents will use a variety of rule systems, our focus is on games authored by Gary and his contemporaries as well as those systems whose designers pay homage to these pioneers.

Thursday and Friday mornings - grodog's Castle Greyhawk: 
Escape from Level 14

Over Thursday and Friday I ran two sets of players through levels from my version of Castle Greyhawk.  Both opted to attempt to get away from Level 14, which I first ran at the North Texas RPG Con #1 in 2009, and subsequently at GaryCons #2 (2010), with reprises at NTX and GaryCon #10 in 2018.  The scenario premise is: 

 

Escape From Castle Greyhawk – Player Background

 You are veteran explorers of Castle Greyhawk.  You have worked as a team over the past two years to pursue, plumb, and plunder the depths of the Castle, looting it of treasures and raining doom upon its inhabitants. 

Several days of torrential rain finally let up last night, so today you immediately entered the Castle dungeons, to slay a pair of mated pyrohydras that you discovered on one of your more-recent expeditions to level 10.  Your plan was to follow your normal “wet route” through the dungeons: 

  • enter the ruins through the breached southern gates
  • locate the mobile well in the western bailey, and descend into dungeon level 2
  • use the nearby teleporter to move across level 2, and take the northern stair to level 3
  • go to the central elevator, and take it down to level 8
  • slide down the chute-stair into one of the level 9s
  • descend to level 10 from the secret stairwell, move to the lair of the pyrohydras, kill them, and take their stuff
You would normally have used the long passage from the fens, but with the recent storms, this entrance and the level it leads to are sure to be flooded.  However, things went awry on level 8:  one of the stairwells on the level, that lead to the chute, deposited you into unfamiliar territory, and disappeared leaving a blank wall for your return path.  That is where you are now.

The Thursday crew chose to combine both of my offerings so it our session became "Kill the Holaki which has escaped from the Four Way Hub Level to Level 14" (or something like that).  They did manage to kill the dreaded Holaki, a fearsome creature created by Erol Otus as part of an art commission for members of the Acaeum:

The Holaki - by Erol Otus
The Holaki - by Erol Otus

In addition to the Holaki, the Thursday crew battled with some new monsters created by my 13-year-old son Henry---a pack of Mind Hounds lead by a Mind Spider.  Henry wasn't expecting to battle these--I slipped them into the adventure to playtest them a bit since I knew he'd be playing---and they almost got away with kidnapping some of the PCs (but to what end?....). 

Escape from Level 14 - and - Kill the Holaki,
player map by Henry Grohe

 

Henry created both creatures as part of his The Fortress of Alexander 'zine project for a class at school, and our older son Ethan illustrated them:

The Mind Spider - created by Henry Grohe, illustrated by Ethan Grohe
The Mind Spider - created by Henry Grohe,
illustrated by Ethan Grohe

Expect to hear more about Henry's zine as he works over the summer to expand it from a school assignment for publication.

The Friday crew explored in a different direction, so they didn't encounter the Holaki or Mind Spider, but they did encounter a pair of Fire Weirds from The Twisting Stair #3, who proved a vexing foe.  They were also the first players to discover the Gaming Parlor on the level, where their PCs were able to enjoy Boot Hill, Chainmail, The Awful Green Things from Outer Space, and other classic TSR board games.  (In true grogardly fashion, they opted to battle orcs vs. dwarves at The Battle of Five Armies between the arms of the Lonely Mountain, using Chainmail).  

In that chamber they also found a Deck of Many Things, which resulted in several interesting conclusions for the PCs:

  • Dex's ranger PC drew first, and drew two card with good results on each
  • Julian's fighter Preson also drew twice, but also drew The Fool as his second card, which permitted him a third draw
  • Rich's dwarf F/T Archie Rubblesworth drew thrice---twice with good results, but the final pull drew the infernal attentions of Asmodeus himself!
  • Kevin's bard Joanie Blackheart drew only once, but was whisked away to Acheron to fight Hextor in personal combat!
  • Robert's druid, Trebor, also drew twice:  he gained three wishes, once of which he used to bring all of the PCs back to the City of Greyhawk (including the earlier-slain wizard Silvermane, who spontaneously combusted in battle with the fire weirds); his second draw, however, forced him to change alignment or to be judged---he refused to change, so he ended the session upon the scales of the Cosmic Balance, awaiting the judgment of The Grey Lords!

I used the H. R. Giger tarot for the deck, which set a suitably ominous tone ;)


Thursday, 25 March

Thursday night, I played in Rich Frank's "Lost Temple of Set" dungeon, where we successfully threaded the needle of a very large dungeon level to find and recover the fabled Eye of Horus:

This adventure has been designed to run as a pickup game run for member of LEGIO V, on the Thursday night of Gary Con XIII. Pre-gen characters are provided by Keith Sloan, and are identical to those used in his Sea Lords games, run at past Gary Cons.

Premise:  The party has traveled through a jungle to locate an ancient and forgotten Temple of the God, Set. Set has not been worshipped in any notable or public way in centuries, most of the old temples having been thrown down and replaced with temples to other Gods. However, Set, being a major God, has been able to maintain a cult of worshippers despite being forced out of the consciousness of most of the population in this world.

The motivation for the characters is to find the fabled Eye of Horus, a large piece of jade in the shape of a pointed oval, with the symbol of the Eye of Horus carved into it, and inlaid with gold. Among the purported properties of the Eye is the ability to roll back time and view what happened in the area the Eye is currently placed. (More on this in the description of the Eye of Horus at the end of this document.) Indeed, the characters have traveled here to find the Eye, as part of a larger investigation to find who/what abducted the daughter of a great King of the Realm.

We had a good time digging around in the ruined pyramid atop Rich's dungeon level, and fought several fearsome creatures within (that we learned afterward were Minions of Set from D&DG).  

A fortuitous series of discovered secret doors led us straight to the EHP and his treasure horde, including the Eye of Horus!:


Rich Franks' Temple of Set - player map by Allan Grohe
Rich Franks' Temple of Set -
player map by Allan Grohe

Rich Franks' Temple of Set - player notes by Allan Grohe
Rich Franks' Temple of Set -
player notes by Allan Grohe


My map shows about 1/50th of the level that Rich designed for our delve, so we got very lucky in our exploration and secret-door-detection rolls!

Notable quotations from the night's revelries:

  • "We're up to 0.8 Jon now"---Jon was having internet connectivity issues
  • Set slave kabobs - 50 deep!
  • "Sometimes counter clockwise is good"
  • Michael earned the "most valueable elf" award---he was also the only elf PC ;)

 

Friday, 26 March 


Friday night, I played in Carlos Lising's livestreams Twitch game, "The Nine."  This aired on the GaryConGreyhawk channel instead of Carlos' regular caslEntertainment channel (which also has a YouTube archive as well).  We didn't experience any technical difficulties, and you can watch the replay of our game session with Carlos, as well as pre-order a copy of The Nine, which is scheduled to release in May. 

I had a wonderful time exploring Carlos 600 CY version of the Flanaess, and role-playing through the grim-and-gritty level 1 scenario with my fellow players:

The Great Kingdom once stood as a testimony to the heights which mannish civilization could aspire. A place of magic and miracles where law and order held sway, a proud army ensured its peace and defended its common folk against the terrors beyond its borders. But no more. After decades of corrosion from within, nightmarish horrors now stalk the Great Kingdom, eager to prey upon those that formed the soul of this once-mighty nation. With its potent military shattered, few exist to defend these innocents outside small pockets that have managed to remain intact through the harrows that saw all they once held dear fall to ruin.

One of these groups is the 9th Division of the Sign of the Crimson Wyvern.

And this is their tale.


The PCs consisted of:

  • Jono (played by Dave), a young male human Fighter 1 in charge of our motley crew---all out on our first mission
  • Katin (played by Gregory), a female human Fighter 1, and Jono's (older?) sister, much more cautious than her brother
  • Gully (played by Emily, Dave's wife), a female halfling Thief 1; she took the lead once we arrived at Caldera's Burrow, where a large group of halflings may have been enslaved or killed by humanoids
  • Lovian (played by Jeremy), a male elven Magic-User 1 missing his left arm from the elbow downward; the hand is replaced by Bigby's Metallic Gauntlet, but the gauntlet floats mid-air, unattached to the arm that guides it....
  • Lord Morrow (played by Bill), a male human 0-level Cavalier of Hextor (he may have been a 0-level Paladin, not sure)
  • Baran Kolvigg (played by me), a male Flan human Cleric 1 of Pelor; I've not played a PC worshipper of Pelor before, so it was fun to explore the sun god through Baran's eyes

Baran Kolvigg - The Nine pregen PC
Baran Kolvigg - The Nine pregen PC

 

Our PCs spent 4 days on the road south from Bulwark Keep, and on the way to Caldera's Burrow encountered a creepy female necromancer of Nerull who had animated a large group of halfling skeletons to tend a field---but what exactly they were sowing, we don't know....  We spent the last hour or so of the session exploring the humanoid-occupied halfling burrows, and managed to kill an orcish witchdoctor (perhaps?), turn his halfling skeleton bodyguards, and slay a few orcs as well---all without any of our hapless PCs being slain!

We decided to continue the game after the convention, so you'll be able to follow-along with our exploits, fumbles, and likely-demises in 4K Technicolor, at some point ;)

More to come soon, in part two!

Allan.

25 March 2021

grodog's GaryCon XIII Schedule - 25-28 March 2021

I'll be scarce the next several days as I'm running and playing games at GaryCon Gaming Convention XIII.   

It's going to be a great convention again!---good times to be discovered, dice to be rolled, monsters to be put to the sword, and treasures to be looted! =)




My schedule is full of fun this year!:

Thursday, 25 March

  • Noon-5pm:  DM for grodog's Castle Greyhawk:  I'm running either my "Four Way Hub Level" or "Escape from Level 14" level, based on the players' selection.  My 13 year-old son Henry will be playing in this session, which is always fun =)

  • 7pm-Midnight:  Player in Rich Frank's "Lost Temple of Set" dungeon, where we seek to recover the fabled Eye of Horus:

    The party has traveled through a jungle to locate an ancient and forgotten Temple of the God, Set. Set has not been worshipped in any notable or public way in centuries, most of the old temples having been thrown down and replaced with temples to other Gods. However, Set, being a major God, has been able to maintain a cult of worshippers despite being forced out of the consciousness of most of the population in this world.

    The motivation for the characters is to find the fabled Eye of Horus, a large piece of jade in the shape of a pointed oval, with the symbol of the Eye of Horus carved into it, and inlaid with gold. Among the purported properties of the Eye is the ability to roll back time and view what happened in the area the Eye is currently placed. (More on this in the description of the Eye of Horus at the end of this document.) Indeed, the characters have traveled here to find the Eye, as part of a larger investigation to find who/what abducted the daughter of a great King of the Realm.

Friday, 26 March

  •  9am-2pm:  DM for grodog's Castle Greyhawk:  I'm running either my "Four Way Hub Level" or "Escape from Level 14" level, based on the players' selection.  Henry may co-DM this one with me, we'll see....

  • 7-11pm:  Player in Carlos Lising's "The Nine":  for good or ill, this will be livestreamed on Twitch as we attempt to right wrongs in the fallen Great Kingdom

Saturday, 27 March

  •  1-6pm:  Player in Les Reno's "Death Master's Gambit":  Dead Men Tell No Tales, although they do blackmail with some regularity, it seems.  Our PCs will seek to eliminate the blackmail at the source, somewhere in the Wild Coast....

  • 8pm-Midnight:  Player in Eli Elder's "The Dream of Oudvarr" for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  This'll be fun, since Henry and I are playing in the game together!  Our characters will be entering the mind of an ice-bound sorcerer, what could possibly go wrong?!?  =)

Sunday, 28 March

  • 8am-1pm:  Player in Gaetano LeFavi's "Unhallowed Halls of the Sorcerer King"---we'll be exploring an alt-lair of Acererak's before he settled into his final digs in the Tomb of Horrors.  What could possible go wrong?!?

  • 1-5pm:  DM for Paul Stormberg's "Legends of Roleplaying" tourney this year, "Into the City of Brass" by Rob Kuntz.  This is the continuation of the "(To the) City of Brass" tourney I played in 1987 at DragonCon #1, when I first met Rob.  Looks like a tough challenge to complete in four hours to me!

  • 7-10pm:  "Greyhawk: Ask the Experts & Campaigns" livestreamed seminar I'm co-hosting with Jay Scott, Anna Meyer, Denis "Maldin" Tetreault, and other guests; it caps off the Greyhawk track that's been running throughout the convention this year. 


Remembering Gary Gygax and Other Friends

While this year marks the second year that GaryCon has been virtual, that doesn't meant that we can't raise a toast in the memory of Gary Gygax, without whom it would never have brought us together:


"Late Night with LEGIO V" t-shirt verso,
by Rich Franks


2021 also marks the first GaryCon that Brian Sloan is no longer with us to enliven our games with his acerbic wit, quick-thinking explosive engagement, and staring glares of "WTF?!?"  

We remember you in games and quips past, Brian! =)

 

From L to R:  Dex Briggs, Brian Sloan, Keith Sloan at GaryCon in 2016
(smoking selfie by Keith Sloan)


What I love most about GaryCon is the many friends I see each year, and the friendships that I have today that wouldn't exist without it (or the games that brought us all together). 

Allan.

22 March 2021

Canonfire! Postfest XIX - Greyhawk's Drowic Underworld - deadline to submit 15 April 2021

As announced by Gary Holian (PSmedger) on Canonfire!


Drow by Bill Willingham, in
TSR's D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth (1981)



It's been a long time coming, but due to popular demand, Canonfire has decided to revive the Postfests!

What is a Postfest? A Postfest is a shared design project where members of Canonfire (or anyone who wishes to participate) agree to write articles on the same topic.  They are turned in by a deadline, then shared all at once.  Reading and goodness ensues.

For example, here was a Postfest on Villains from the early days of Canonfire: http://www.canonfire.com/cf/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=18

Inspired by this weekend and Lord Gosumba’s fundraiser topic, “Underdark Uprising”, this Postfest will focus on Greyhawk’s Underdark. We’ll use a broad definition of the Underdark that includes hollows within mountains (i.e. Slerotin’s tunnel), caverns below the earth (i.e. Vault of the Drow), the Rift Canyon, and ancient underground ruins upon which new cities have been built (i.e. Narwell). 

Topic ideas might include:

  • New or Existing Entrances to the Underdark
  • Mysterious Places in the Underdark
  • Underdark Races and Monsters
  • Ecology of the Underdark and Wilderness Survival
  • NPCs from the Underdark
  • Magical Items or Artifacts that focus on the Underdark


We’ve made a few changes to the traditional Postfest:

  1. First, we won’t be voting on the submissions anymore. It's all in good fun, but if people want to give writers some feedback, I’m sure they’d love it. 

  2. Second, we’re going to post the submission to Canonfire as usual, but we also plan to compile all the submissions into a Greyhawk Underdark PDF that will be available for everyone to download.  We are considering compiling some of the old Postfests, likewise.

  3. Third, if you participate, we are thinking of giving back some suitable loot (perhaps a printed copy of the PDF) for some randomly selected participants, or everyone if we can swing it.


Due date is March 19th*, about a month from now,  a week before Gary Con.  Any questions, send them to psmedger@canonfire.com

 

* The editors extended the submission date to 15 April 2021, given the overlap with GaryCon's Greyhawk-heavy tracks.

If you're looking for submission ideas to riff off of, check the Dragonsfoot "Mapping the Depths of the Earth" project, which is also coordinated by Denis "Maldin" Tetreault at http://melkot.com/locations/underdark/underdark.html.  You can also read through previous postfests on Canonfire!.

My submission will be a drowic trading hub, and is 1725 words to date, with probably another 1000 or so to go in tables and such before it's done.  We'll see....

Allan.

28 February 2021

grodog's virtual GaryCon XIII events - March 2021


 
I submitted two five-hour delves into my version of Castle Greyhawk to Virtual GaryCon XIII  this evening.

 

 
The events will hopefully be scheduled at these times I submitted: 

 
The two event descriptions are identical:
 
Explore grodog's Castle Greyhawk levels. Choose from: 1) seek to Escape from Level 14, or 2) battle the dreaded Holaki in the Four-Way Hub Level. Bring your graph paper, dice, and a healthy dose of paranoid courage! 6th-10th level pregen PCs will be provided. Virtual session will be run in Webex, details to be provided after registration.
---
The Lake Geneva Legio V began as a handful of gamers who have attended Gary Con since its inception. We have grown over the past few years to include like-minded individuals united by a respect of Gary Gygax and his legacy. We are the dedicated attendees who love Gary Con for the camaraderie it establishes, the Game Masters who run games from across the decades, and the committed gamers who spend these four days in a fervor of dice rolling and old school good times.

Although events run as LEGIO V Presents will use a variety of rule systems, our focus is on games authored by Gary and his contemporaries as well as those systems whose designers pay homage to these pioneers.
 
I'll be helping Paul Stormberg to DM his Legends of Roleplaying tourney again this year, and plan to register to play in various Greyhawk- and old-school themed events, too. 
 
I'll also help close out the Greyhawk track with Jay Scott's 7pm Greyhawk Experts Panel on Sunday night. 
 
Jay Scott has also organized a huge Greyhawk presence for the convention, spanning several editions---proving the validity of Canonfire!'s motto:   "Editions Change.  Greyhawk Endures."---so I've captured a bunch of highlights below (there are over 30 additional events included in the track not shown below!):


 
 


I'll update my schedule details above as the events are approved.  
 
See you there! =)
 
Allan.

21 November 2020

Prospects and Retrospects - 101 posts From Kuroth's Quill

Due to the vagaries of real-life timing winning out over planning, my 100th post in From Kuroth's Quill arrived uncelebrated as my compiled (and still far-from-comprehensive) bibliography for Lenard Lakofka's D&D writings.  Given Lenard's recent death (about which I still have a memorial post in draft), it didn't seem the right time to crow about much of anything at all, and is another hash-mark against 2020 that began back in January with my post in tribute to Rush's drummer, Neil Peart.  

So, this will be my semi-celebratory and semi-reflective piece about the ongoing writing of this blog.  'Tis a rainy, grey afternoon outside, which is more conducive to writing and reflection than most, so here we go!

From Kuroth's Quill - grodog's Vision vs. Reality

My blog masthead proclaims,

"From Kuroth’s Quill" is grodog's regular design column covering the elements of adventure design (and more-specifically dungeon design, given my interest in that topic). I will also wander through the design of spells and magic items; monsters, traps, tricks, and treasures; PC and NPC classes; planes and pantheons; and likely other topics as well. In the blog, I hope to provide practical examples that will be useful in campaign play, to show theory in action.
While From Kuroth's Quill remains more sporadic than regular than I'd prefer, and while it's not always 100% focused on AD&D and/or Greyhawk, it's generally remained on-target, although I've certainly focused more overall on general dungeon design than on creating specific content for AD&D or Greyhawk.    

Here's a breakdown of my posts by year, as well as some high-level topical analysis for them:

  • 2020 - 25 posts YTD = 2.08 per month (counting this post, assuming I don't write another one in-between ;) ), with posts in 11/11 months YTD (100%)
  • 2019 - 27 posts = 2.25 per month, with posts in 9/12 months (75%)
  • 2018 - 27 posts = 2.25 per month, with posts in 8/12 months (67%)
  • 2017 - 22 posts = 1.83 per month (but I began the blog in April, so that's really 2.44 posts per month), with posts in 6/12 months (50%)

My writing has obviously declined slightly in frequency over time, alas, but it has remained relatively consistent and is increasing in regularity on a monthly basis, which I suppose counts for something. 

The topics of my posts remain a bit more all-over-the-map, but the main categories based on my tags include:

  • mega-dungeon - 25 
  • Greyhawk - 21
  • module - 18
  • adventure - 17
  • design - 17
  • campaign - 16
  • Gary Gygax - 13
  • grodog's Castle Greyhawk - 13
  • kellri -12
  • mega-dungeon mondays  - 12
  • Castle Greyhawk - 11
  • Rob Kuntz - 10
  • Tales of Peril - 10
  • World of Greyhawk - 10

There's obviously some overlap among the topics, and if I was more curious I'd also break them down by number of posts per topic per year to play out the trends of the topics, but I'm too tired  to do that--today, at least.  

Prospects and Retrospects

I have 54 additional blog posts currently in various states of draftedness, which stretch back from today to the dawn of the blog.  

Some of them are convention reports I'll never complete and should just delete.  Others are reviews and pieces about reviewing standards---I got my start in RPG professional design writing reviews for Pagan Publishing's The Unspeakable Oath, Pyramid when it was a print magazine, and various others including Dragon during Erik Mona's Paizo tenure.  I'll likely complete the wrecked/incomplete remaining entries from Kellri's September 2018 challenge as I incorporate both Court of Ardor and D3 Vault of the Drow into my current campaigns.  Various unfinished "From the Vaults" pieces about Greyhawk rarities, and other topics around mega-dungeons, Greyhawk, my campaign, et al. will queue over time, too.  

Completing more of these---in particular the pieces about my Shadow Master class (part 1 of which appeared in the final issue of Knockspell), since some folks continue to remain interested in reading the rest of it---would be a good idea, I'm sure.

Other topics I'd like to explore, reflecting on my masthead with 20/20 true sight:

  • I have some posts about the role/function of traps and tricks, as well as designing enigmas/"special" encounters that I'd like to dig into (although Trent Smith is covering these very nicely in his ongoing development work for his AD&D Companion/Heroic Legendarium, too)
  • I continue to work on planar materials for my campaigns, and am trying to design content that helps to support lower-level planar play in particular (Anthony Huso's Zjelwyin Fall may also see play at the table sooner vs. later in one of the two campaigns)
  • The campaign has further rounded out some details about gods active in the Greyhawk-Gnarley-Narwell-Hardby-Maure Castle region of my central Flanaess, including Hextor, Wee Jas (since retiring my elf fighter/magic-user, I'm also playing a paladin of Wee Jas in Bill Silvey's ongoing Monday night Greyhawk campaign; we're about to enter White Plume Mountain!), Zagig/Zagyg himself, and the Old Faith Druids and Bards
  • Whip up my AD&D dragon house rules into more-final shape, including the expanded NPC personality tables I created for them, and it wouldn't hurt to complete work on other rules pieces too:  my revised/expanded DM log/screen and monster multitudes come immediately to mind; some of these projects would be for the blog, but others like the DM log/screen are intended for publication
  • Incorporating non-TSR adventures and city supplements into Greyhawk

If anyof the topics above (or otherwise---who knows where the winds of Greyhawk-inspiration will drive us all!) jumps out at you with particular interest, please comment below and I'll try to align my inspiration and writing accordingly.

Allan.