25 September 2022

Astral Adventures in Greyhawk

The players in my Castle Greyhawk campaign have spent most of the past 11 months (since 23 October 2021) romping about in the Astral Plane, and, at long last, they're likely to return home to Oerth soon, I think.  Our next session (last night, on 24 September 2022) will tell!

We have been playing through my (somewhat modified) version of Anthony Huso's excellent scenario, Zjelwyin Fall (also available in PDF if you prefer):

 

Zjelwyin Fall cover art by Daniele Valeriani
Zjelwyin Fall cover art
by Daniele Valeriani

As part of my work to deploy Anthony's adventure into my Greyhawk campaign, I also used this as an opportunity to define some more of the planar architecture for the setting.  Some of that design work went into adjusting the framework and background for the scenario to suit my current campaign situation, and some of it was general work expanding upon the options for how the Astral Planet works in my games.  

I'll delve into the campaign context after we wrap up the adventure in our next session, so for now, I'll share some of the rules and design work that I used to augment Anthony's scenario. 

The Astral Plane in AD&D

The rules governing astral travel, astral encounters, and astral monsters are (perhaps unsurprisingly) scattered across a variety of sources in 1st edition AD&D.  They appear in chronological order in:

  • Monster Manual (1977) - mostly in passing, not a lot of real planar substance
  • Players Handbook (1978) - Astral Spell, Great Wheel planar appendix, etc.
  • Dungeon Masters Guide (1979) - various notes, Appendix C p. 180 for one page of Astral and Ethereal wandering encounters, which notably include both the Ether Cyclone (ethereal) and the Psychic Wind (astral)
  • Deities & Demigods (1980) - introduced some new monsters and additional rules codifications, but still not a lot of real planar substance in here either (which was a bummer to me in 1980, since this was the first AD&D hardcover I waited for publication with bated breath!)
  • Fiend Folio (1981) - added some new monsters (most notably astral searcher, berbalang, and githyanki), and also updated the DMG's Appendix C's Astral & Ethereal Encounters on page 119
  • Dragon Magazine #67 (November 1982, just a few short months into my first subscription!) - featured both Gygax's first "Deities & Demigods of the World of Greyhawk" article, as well as Roger E. Moore's "The Astral Plane" (with additions from Gary); this is the first real treatment of worth for the Astral Plane, and the issue also included an astral adventure, "Fedifensor" by Allen Rogers
  • Dragon Magazine #71 (March 1983) - included Moore's follow-up Sage-Advice-like piece, "Solid Answers To Astral Questions"
  • Monster Manual II (1983) - added some new monsters, and also compiled the relevant Astral monsters spanning the MM, FF, and MM2 (but not D&DG, alas!) on page 155
  • Manual of the Planes (1987) - codified the Astral rules based on the Dragon #67 article, didn't add much original material save some expansion to random encounter options

To these, I add various sundry house rules and variants from:

  • Dragon Magazine, generally via early articles about the planes (see the bibliography in my first Gates article from Knockspell for more specifics), and the new monsters introduced from the "Creature Features" columns (inaugurated with Gygax's Mind Flayer in Strategic Review #1), published adventures in Dragon, and the "Creature Catalog" inserts, for which installments began to appear with issue #89
  • Spelljammer (1989) - I've been fond of the idea of plane-travelling ships via Roger Dean's artwork for the band Yes (Fragile through Drama, in particular), Michael Moorcock's Ship Which Sails over Land and Sea as well as the more-apt misty-plane-and-time travelling Dark Ship helmed by the blind captain from Sailor on the Seas of Fate; Spelljammer never quite lived up to this potential, but I still use have a soft spot in my heart for it and leverage some of its rules in my planar architecture and mechanics (and the Neogi are reminiscent of Babylon 5's shadows, too, which is not a bad thing....)
  • I was rather more fond of the 3e Manual of the Planes (2001) than the 1e version (although you can't go wrong with Stephen Fabian interior artwork from the 1e book!), and have probably lifted some ideas from there as well
  • Pagan Publishing's astral rules in The Golden Dawn (1996; for use in Call of Cthulhu), for which I was an early playtester
  • Sepulchrave II's "Tales of Wyre" stories from EnWorld (2002-2014; we can still hope for more!):  lots of inspiration here, but moreso for the Plane of Shadow (and the Abyss!) than the Astral
  • While Anthony Huso's Zjelwyin Fall (2019) is grounded in the 1987 Manual of the Planes, Huso departs from MotP in various ways as well 
  • Trent Smith's Heroic Legendarium (May 2021) offers some very cool guidance on leveraging psychopomps guiding dead spirits en route to the Outer Planes, too

The Astral Plane, and AD&D's planar architecture as a whole, is a far-from-codified system, and remains one of the largest gaps to fill for an enterprising Dungeon Master.

Astral Encounters in AD&D

The DMG, D&DG, Dragon #67, MotP, Zjelwyin Fall, and Heroic Legendarium all offer a variety of interesting Astral encounter options, and to some extent I leveraged them all for our Astral sessions, as follows:

Encounter Checks Frequency

I checked for random encounters on two different schedules for the PCs' Astral excursion: 

  1. Three fixed checks, at the adventure start, midpoint, and end @ 1 in 10 chance for an encounter for each check.  If an encounter is indicated, the type of encounter is checked in the Astral Encounter Table 1 (see below), with the following modifiers:

    • Beginning:  standard chances
    • Midpoint:  +05% 
    • End:  +10% 
     
  2. Three daily checks (every eight hours of Astral travel), with a 2 in 20 chance for an encounter:  a roll of 1 indicates an standard encounter, whereas a roll of 2 indicates an encounter observed in passing (this will not resolve into an actual encounter if the PCs do not interact, and showcases the grandeur and spectacle of the Astral Plane as the metaphysical superhighway of AD&D's multiverse). 

Astral Encounter Table 1

I baselined this table using the Dragon #67 article and MotP, blending the two.  Roll d100, adjusting if necessary (for fixed checks):

  • 01 - 75:  Creature Encounter, roll d100 again below:
    • 01 - 60:  Outer planar creature (see Astral Monsters List)
    • 61 - 75:  Astral native creature (see Astral Monsters List)
    • 76 - 90:  Prime planar creature, roll d100 again below:
      • 01 - 60:  Prime characters
      • 61 - 90:  Prime creature with Astral sensory perception
      • 91 - 99:  Insane/catatonic Prime characters (sensory deprivation to catatonia)
      • 100:  Insane/catatonic Prime creature with Astral sensory perception
        (sensory deprivation to catatonia)
    • 91 - 100:  Deity creature, roll d100 again below:
      • 01 - 60:  Working psychopomp deity on the job with entourage
      • 61 - 75:  Travelling deity with 0-4 servants (roll 1d6-2)
      • 76 - 85:  Meeting between 2-5 divine envoys (roll 1d10:  1-4 = 2, 5-7 = 3, 8-9 = 4, 10 = 5)
      • 86 - 95:  Battle between 2 divine, infernal, etc. forces
      • 96 - 99:  Strangetiude gods (Yog-Sothoth, et al)
      • 100:  Super Special:  Conjunction of the Million Spheres, etc.
  • 76 - 85:  Color Pool
    • I have my own hues associated with the various gates and color pools that access the Outer Planes, but this otherwise functions the same as detailed in your source of choice
  • 86 - 95:  Astral Object, roll d100 again below:
    • 01 - 60:  Conduit/wormhole
    • 61 - 65:  Fixed Portal
    • 66 - 80:  Astral Permanent Planar Feature/Zone
    • 81 - 84:  Flying Missile (on its infinite course, surprises PCs 4 in 6!)
    • 85 - 88:  Elemental Pocket
    • 89 - 92:  Isle of Matter (roll 1d10:  1-4 = Prime Planar, 5-7 = Outer Planar, 8-9 = Alternate Prime, demi-planar, etc., 10 = Ethereal)
    • 93 - 96:  Lair of Astral native creature
    • 97 - 98:  Corpse
    • 99 - 100:  Artifact (some object, not necessarily Baba Yaga's Hut!)
  • 96 - 100:  Psychic Wind

 

Astral Monsters List

Anthony included a table of 20 wandering Astral encounters in Zjelwyin Fall, but I wanted to build out some tables to be a bit more comprehensive, and to allow for a variety of additional encounter types to make the Astral Plane come alive as the super-highway of AD&D's Great Wheel cosmology.  

To that end, I worked from the MM2 p 155 listing of Astral creatures (which breaks them down by Frequency), then combed various additional sources for monsters to broaden and deepen the list.  For those unfamiliar, AD&D 1e frequencies break down monsters as follows:  Common at 65%, Uncommon at 20%, Rare at 11%, and Very Rare at 4%.  

The frequencies listed below do not necessarily match the standard frequency rating for each creature, since they reflect my sense of how frequently they are encountered in the Astral Plane vs. the Prime.  * indicates that the creature's sensory perception extends into the Astral plane. 

Common Astral Monsters (65%; roll 1d12)

1. Cerebral Parasite
2. Daemon, Minor
3. Demon, Lesser
4. Deva, Astral
5. Devil, Minor
6. Githyanki
7. Human Traveller
8. Invisible Stalker
9. Night Hag
10. Nightmare
11. Slaad: red, blue, or green

 

Uncommon Astral Monsters (20%; roll 1d24)

1. Aerial Servant
2. Astral Wolf (D&DG, Nehwon Mythos, p. 97)
3. Agathion
4. Baku
5. Basilisk*
6. Cockatrice*
7. Couatl
8. Devourer (D&DG, Nehwon Mythos, p. 98)
9. Diakk

10. Dracolisk*
11. Githyanki (appears in both lists, not an error)
12. Gorgon*
13. Lich
14. Medusa (roll 1d8:  1-5 = AD&D, 6-7 = Greek, 8 = Arimoi)
15. Mi-Go (D&DG, Cthulhu Mythos, p. 46;
Zjelwyin Fall details a variant as well)
16. Pyrolisk*
17. Rakshasa (roll 1d8:  1-5 = MM, 6-7 = Knight, 8 = Noble; see Scott Bennie's article in Dragon #84)
18. Shedu
19. Star Leviathan (see Creature Catalog in Dragon #89)
20. Titan (roll 1d12:  1-5 = Lesser, 6-9 = Major, 10-11 = Elder , 12 = Greek)
21. Void Shark (Monsters of Myth
, Steve Marsh section; also in my Canonfire! Postfest 18 article)

 

Rare Astral Monsters (11%; roll 1d30)

1. Basilisk, Greater*
2. Berbalang
3. Byakhee (D&DG, Cthulhu Mythos, p. 44)
4. Daemon, Greater

5. Demon, Major
6. Devil, Major
7. Foo Dog
8. Gigante
9. Githzerai (70% hunting githyanki, or 30% in-transit to Limbo)

10. Gorgimera*
11. Great Race of Yith (D&DG, Cthulhu Mythos, p. 45)
12. Ihagnim (see Creature Collection in Dragon #89)
13. Hollyphant
14. Intellect Devourer
15. Ki-rin

16. Lillend (see Creature Catalog II in Dragon #94)
17. Modron, Hierarch
18. Moon Dog
19. Mynakh (Monsters of Myth)
20. Nightgaunt (Call of Cthulhu)
21. Phoenix
22. Planetar
23. Slaad:  grey or death
24. Thelndari (see Creature Catalog III in Dragon #101 and my updates)
25. Wind Steed (see Creature Collection in Dragon #89)

 

Very Rare Astral Monsters (4%, roll 1d30)

1. Astral Searcher
2. Avari (see Creature Catalog III in Dragon #101)
3. Catlord (or, alternately, other animal masters from Melnibonéan Mythos)

4. Daemon, Master
5. Demon, Prince or Lord
6. Demi-lich*
7. Devil, Duke or Arch-
8. Dragon, Unique:  Tiamat (my version), Bahamut, Sariador, or other
9. Dragonhorse

10. Foo Lion
11. Hound of the Underworld (Monsters of Myth)
12. Kelmain (D&DG, Melnibonéan Mythos, p. 90)
13. Kheph (Monsters of Myth)
14. Magnesium Spirit
15.Night Vapour (Monsters of Myth)
16. Oonai (D&DG, Melnibonéan Mythos, p. 93)
17. Opinicus
18. Primordial One
(D&DG, Cthulhu Mythos, p. 46)
19. Pudding, Alien (Monsters of Myth)
20. Retriever
21. Shedu, Greater
22. Sheelba of the Eyeless Face or Ningauble of the Seven Eyes
(D&DG, Nehwon Mythos, p. 101, 102)
23. Slaad:  Lord
24. Solar
25. Tsung Pathet
(Monsters of Myth, Steve Marsh section)
26. Ulyuleng (Monsters of Myth)
27. Utukku (see Creature Collection in Dragon #89)
28. Vampire


Sample Astral Encounters

While travelling through Astral space, my players' PCs encountered the following:
  • Day 6:  Astral wolves, which the PCs outdistanced (although the wolves trailed them for several days, they eventually sought slower prey)
  • Day 9:  a huge Kelmain host of 6,628 slain warriors en route to Limbo; the PCs watched it pass by for a few hours, and it faded into the distance
  • Day 13:  102 high elven spirits being guided to Valinor by Eärendil, bearing a silmaril upon his brow and sailing the Astral upon The Vingilot; after a very positive reaction roll (it really helps to travel with bards and paladins!), he provided the Blessings of the Valar to the PCs, and also gave them a lift, shortening their journey by 1/3
  • Day 25:  Intelligent, psionic yellow mold (that's no mold, it's an asteroid....), which the PCs battled, but ultimately fled
  • Day 27 had two encounters!; the first could have been avoided, but the PCs engaged with the titan:
    • a major Greek titan en route to Tarterus, whom the PCs also received a friendly reaction roll from due to a potion of growth having been consumed during the mold battle (making their MU 24' tall)
    • an astral deva, who provided the PCs with a potion of extra-healing (3 doses), and warned them of getting involved in the affairs of Shodreth Drachod, calling him "the gringling lich" (which unsettled the PCs mightily!)
  • Day 28:  the PCs saw what seemed to be a raven in passing (but was in fact a shape-changed imp), but they did not engage it
  • Day 32:  their phylacteries brought the PCs to Zjelwyin Fall, and the adventure began in earnest!


House Rulings in the Astral

During the course of play, various rulings were made that addressed gaps in how the Astral Plane works in AD&D:

  • Time does not pass in the Astral, therefore spells with durations and potions are permanent so long as the PCs remain in the Astral Plane
  • Because time does not pass, PCs do not bleed out if brought to 0 or fewer hit points; similarly, they neither enter a coma nor lose memorized spells while below 0 hit points, since no time passes
  • Clerics of Celestian are able to recover spells once per day, as if the PCs were still in Greyhawk, because Celestian's home plane is the Astral
  • Unseen Servant is a bit more versatile than I'd originally thought (and I already think it's the best first level spell in the books):  because Gary states that an unseen servant can "clean and mend" (mending being a pretty complex task), I allowed it to bind the wounds of an unconcious PC

There may be some other that I'm forgetting, but if so I'm sure my players will remind me and I'll update further.

New Magic-User Spell

I created this spell as a help for the PCs and placed it within Zjelwyin Fall, but they didn't find it---c'est la vie!  

Oshon Yanthû's Temporal and Material Encapsulation (Evocation—Conjuration, Alteration)

Level: 3 Magic-User (Savant 2?), (Cleric of Celestian 4)
Range: 0 or touch
Duration: Special
Area of Effect: Up to 1” radius/3 levels of caster OR 1 person + 1 per 4 levels of caster
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 6 Segments Magic-User or Savant, 8 segments Cleric
Save: None

DescriptionOshon Yanthû's Temporal and Material Encapsulation creates a bubble of native space-time normality within the Astral Plane, which allows designated spell casters within the area of effect to reset and regain spells via prayer and/or memorization.  Given that the passage of time is essentially meaningless in Astral space, the duration of the spell completes when all designated casters have completed their memorization activities.  

Oshon Yanthû's Temporal and Material Encapsulation will affect creatures travelling in the Astral Plane via silver cord (c.f., Astral Spell), or creatures travelling with their physical bodies (via gate, psionic Probability Travel, etc.), but not both.  The caster’s own Astral travel method determines which other casters may benefit from the spell.  In neither case does the spell enable contact with or access to deities or their agents, or to other planes otherwise normally inaccessible from the Astral. 

Notes:

  1. Oshon Yanthû's Temporal and Material Encapsulation carries some risk for all Astral spell casters: 
    • For silver-corded casters, the spell risks snapping their silver cord, calculated at 1% x the highest-level spell memorized (no risk/effect upon any non-spell-casters designated within the area of effect).
    • For physical Astral travelers, the spell subjects them to the passage of time at normal memorization rates (see DMG page 40), including both time for sleep/rest, and prayer/memorization time.  So, they get hungry, tired, etc. as time passes.
  2. If cast while upon the Prime Material Plane instead of the Astral Plane, then Oshon Yanthû's Temporal and Material Encapsulation suppresses the effects of time-related spells and effects within its area of effect, including haste, slow, aging (by spell-casting or ghost touch, etc.), staff of withering, potion of speed, etc.

The material component is a ribbon of the finest, stiffened black silk, inscribed with mercurial or platinum ink; it must be one foot long per level of the caster, at a cost of 50gp per foot.  Twisted into a Möbius strip, it is consumed during the casting.  For clerics of Celestian, their holy symbol (a black circle with seven stars) is also required, but neither the holy symbol nor the ribbon is consumed in the casting.

Modifications to Zjelwyin Fall for grodog's Greyhawk

Here's a distillation of my discussion on Anthony Huso's boards about my Greyhawk modifications to his adventure.

12 September 2021:  My Castle Greyhawk PCs were overdue, in one or two cases, to hit level four, so it's now or never, and I seeded the entry into Zjelwyin Fall in last night's session.  I have to figure out exactly how my background changes require me to rework the module (if at all), since the PCs will be acting as agents of the local clergy of Celestian and not looting the tomb, but instead retrieving an item stored there previously by mutual arrangement.

I haven't decided if they'll be charged to either 

  • snag the item (a scroll or book of prophecy or something related) directly, or 
  • wake the lich to donate two objects to him in order to remove their desired object, or  
  • both (with #1 being the plan, and #2 the backup in case they awaken him or he is already awake)

They may also be protecting a pair of nubile twin acolytes (modelled off of the classic Virgin Records logos at https://rarerecordcollector.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/v-2012-kevin-coyne.png), but I haven't decided if keeping them alive may be too challenging or not....

I think that Shodreth Drachod (I added the "r" to the surname) has this working relationship with Celestian and his clergy, where Celestian helped to fashion and sustain Zjelwyin Fall and in return the lich helps to guard and secure items that he and his clergy wish to remain highly-secure.  

23 October 2021:  I'm doing 3 checks per day (every 8 hours = 3/day vs. every 4 = 6/day), with the total duration of the trip being [(2d20+4)x4 days] / 2 (due to the phylacteries, which they're wearing on their heads like diadem headbands, and which shoot out hot pink/ruby searchlight lasers to track and home in on ZF)

1 September 2022:  I'm thinking that Drachod (I added the extra 'r' in my version of his name) may offer help to the PCs out of desire for self-preservation (aka, the goodness of his heart ;) )---if their reaction rolls are good.  He acts as a custodian for prophetic lore from the clergy of Celestian, and in return Celestian helped to build ZF and still maintains it on Drachod's behalf.  So he has a vested self-interest to ensure that Celestian continues to invest that daily Primal flux into ZF. 

So the PCs will retrieve the prophecy previously-deposited* in ages past.  That they're pulling this particular prophecy (the sestina I emailed you) will pique his concern and curiosity, in particular if he notices one of the PCs carrying the lesser tentacle rod.  (In fact, he'll be far-more concerned about evidence that the drow attempted to infiltrate ZF and will immediately connect them to the prophecy, although he won't share that detail with the PCs, or Celestian).  Hence the help.  If he notices that, he may also geas the PCs to deliver a message to the Master at the NWI (which would be a handy way to introduce that into the game), or perhaps to Tenser, Iggwilv, or someone comparable (I haven't decided yet---he may just keep the info to himself, for the moment, too).  

* The PCs don't know this yet, but they're not just bringing back a scroll with the prophecy on it.  To retrieve the prophecy requires a virgin twin acolyte, and Drachod will kiss her to transfer it (sort of a cross between the Quickening from Highlander and the kiss of the angel Simon from The Prophecy).  Drachod himself is the storage device.  To deposit the prophecy into him (which the PCs are not doing) is a bit more intimate....  The twins are critical to the process:  the prophecy, while it is deposited into one of them, infects both:  so the twin who remains on the Prime also acts as a receiver for the prophecy, and gains access to it at the same time that the other twin in the Astral receives it from Drachod.  This ensures data availability for the priesthood in case the first twin doesn't successfully return home.  (The NPC twins naturally know nothing of this either). 

I also rewrote Drachod's poem at the pull-ring, recast with seven lines, each with one through seven syllables:

No mercy exists
before me
Open this door
to vanish forever
from Shodreth Drachod:  Gringling
King
am I


I hope that these will prove useful in your games.  Enjoy!

Allan.

29 August 2022

More Mega-Dungeon Meanderings (and on a Monday!)

I've been hanging out in reddit a lot more over the past few years, among its OSR, AD&D, Greyhawk, mega-dungeon, miniatures, and related old-school (and Delta Green) communities. 

 In /osr/ the user livefreebugs posted a question at  https://www.reddit.com/r/osr/comments/wzugz6/what_elements_would_make_your_ideal_megadungeon/ asking (with my linebreak additions), 


I've been reading a lot of theory and perform advice on megadungeons and it seems like an area that there's a lot of room for awesome new adventures in. There's definitely a‍ risk some megadungeons run into of being repetitive or incoherent and having a huge quantity of locations over consistent quality. I think vibrant factions, multiple approaches, verticality, a sense of place/history that gives deep interconnections between areas of the dungeon, and a scale that allows for many sessions of return delves.
 
I know it's not too controversial here but while not exactly "mega" depending on your definition I think the Caverns of Thracia is one of the better large dungeons ever made due to the integration of layout, history, occupants, into the whole and not feeling like a jumble of random rooms (though gonzo funhouses' can be sweet too). 
What would you look for in your perfect large/mega-dungeon that doesn't exist yet?

My response follows. 

==

My favorite things to do in mega-dungeons, as a player or DM:

  • Explore...:  lots of room to wander around, get lost, find cool things no one else has found, pass through empty rooms/chambers/halls on the way to fun encounters!  A mega-dungeon must also lead outward into the world(s), as well as pull the world into it's orbit from time-to-time
  • ....and Map!:  I love to map while playing and mega-dungeons provide wonderful opportunities to do so :D
  • Interact with Interesting characters:  whether PCs or NPCs, some of whom are only available to meet in the mega-dungeon, of course!  Over time, they may offer opportunities to ally, to cautiously negotiate with neutrally, or to become bitter foes (long- or short-term).  Either way, they are the personalities that help to bring the mega-dungeon to life, and they 're not just factions (although they're important too).
  • Encounter Tricks, Traps, Trials, and Enigmas!:  any adventure should not just be about combat, and the rest of the challenges should include aspects that bring the environment into the foreground from time-to-time
  • Magic!:  there should be cool, fun magic items, spells, effects, and other artifacts and relics that are only available in the mega-dungeon---and some should be permanent features that the players may want to return to for years on end (rather than the usual kind that are hauled up and out and used/sold)


Mega-dungeons sometimes have overarching themes that range in from obvious (Rappan Athuk) to more-subtle (Caverns of Thracia), while others don't seem to have themes at all.  I like there to be zones with and without theme, to keep the whole from getting stale, and to allow the DM freedom and flexibility to design "off topic" levels, or players to really dig deep into side-levels, sub-levels, and extra-planar environs that catch their eye.

Some additional thoughts at https://grodog.blogspot.com/2020/06/grodog-favorite-mega-dungeons.html and in my review of Castle Zagyg at http://greyhawkonline.com/grodog/gh_castle.html

===

What are your favorite aspects of gaming in mega-dungeons---the things that bring you back to the table again and again?

Allan.

20 August 2022

Greyhawk Happenings in the News

New Settings from WotC Announced

They include both Spelljammer and Dragonlance, but no Greyhawk---none of which are big surprises, really.

Perhaps I'll have more to say on this front later, but for now, that's sufficient.  


Virtual Greyhawk Con #3 - 30 Sept to 2 Oct 2022

It's that time of year again, and Jay Scott has organized another Virtual Greyhawk Con!  Event registration began today at Noon CDT, and event submission closes on 26 September; see https://tabletop.events/conventions/virtual-greyhawk-con-2022 for details.

My events this year will be:
  1.  Carlos Lising's _G2 The Witch Queen's Lament_ on Fri Sep 30 at 8:00 pm (4 hours) at https://tabletop.events/conventions/virtual-greyhawk-con-2022/schedule/62

  2. Rob Kuntz's _Maure Castle and Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure_ on Sat Oct 1 at 7:00 pm (5 hours) at https://tabletop.events/conventions/virtual-greyhawk-con-2022/schedule/63

  3. Erik Mona's _COR1-03 River of Blood_ on Sun Oct 2 at 2:00 pm (4 hours) at https://tabletop.events/conventions/virtual-greyhawk-con-2022/schedule/64

All are set in the World of Greyhawk (of course!) and will be run using AD&D 1st edition rules (of course!).  
 
In addition to my events (all of which still have seats open as of this posting), numerous other Greyhawk fans are running events spanning OD&D to 5e, all set in Oerth.  I'm playing in three other events, and will take part in the closing Greyhawk panel discussion too:

  1. "Citadel by the Sea" from Dragon Magazine, and run by Jay Hafner in 5e; I've never played with Jay before, but am looking forward to testing out this classic adventure in my first 5e game (PC levels 1-3)

  2. "The Broken Stone Alliance" a 1e scenario for PC levels 7-9, DM'd by Michael Mossbarger.  Also my first time playing with Michael.

  3. "The Ravages of the Mind" by Lenard Lakofka, his final adventure:  journey into Ratik's Timberway to root out a growing malignancy. AD&D PC levels 3-5, DM'd by Joss Popp.  This'll be my first time playing with Josh DM'ing, although we've previously played in online games together.

Registration to play is just $5 and events are free:  https://tabletop.events/conventions/virtual-greyhawk-con-2022

 

Oerth Journal

Oerth Journal #36 (Spring 2022 issue) released in May at https://greyhawkonline.com/download/16145/ 

It's themes is around the "Festivals of Greyhawk" and the table of contents is:

  • Father Tabor's Guide to Richfest - by Thomas Kell
  • Richfest in Chathold - by Sam "DMSam" Dillon 
  • Beers of Greyhawk - by James A. S. Muldowney III, M.D.
  • Erkill's Skullsplitter - by Mark Allen 
  • Saltmarsh Festival of Spirts - by Nathan Doyle
  • The Desportium of Magick - by Kristoph Nolen 
  • Never the Heroes, pt2 - by Mark Allen 
  • Fistful of Baubles, pt3 - by David Leonard 
  • The Sheltering Ancestors - by Les Reno 
  • Accursed Fishhooks - by Zach Houghton 
  • Alvynn Bannocksburn—gnomish merchant - by Paul Jurdeczka 
  • Seaton - by Case Brown
  • The Best festival of allGARYCON XI !!!! 

Issue #37 focuses on on "Magick of the Flanaess" and should be releasing soon.  Kristoph has shared a few previews from it in the Oerth Journal discord channel of Greyhawk Online:   https://discord.gg/DaajjgWU (I think that the OJ channel is for patrons only, so you can check-in at the main GHO channel if you're curious).  I believe that my article about a new and enigmatic magical tome may be in that issue; we'll see.

 

Mapping Happenings in the Flanaess

  • This spring (March 2022), Denis Tetreault updated his City of Greyhawk map!   See http://melkot.com/locations/cogh/cogh.html

  • Anna Meyer (and sometimes Allysa Fayden too!) are running a new livestream mapping channel in Twitch; see https://www.twitch.tv/anna_b_meyer
  • Stoink: A Wasp's Nest news:  Long-time Greyhawk fan Ed Courtroul passed away nearly two years ago now, on 15 November 2020, and is still missed.  Through the kind graces of our mutual friend Mike Badolato (Badmike to those in the know, who co-founded the North Texas RPG Con), I am now in possession of some of Ed's original Greyhawk campaign materials, including his research materials about the long-lost-and-partially-recovered Stoink manuscript. 

    Ed's materials shed a little further light on the map and the three and a half pages of manuscript notes that match the map as potential key headings.  These seem to be all that remains of the original manuscript, so far as I can tell, at this point. 

    I'll spend some time detailing this in a long-overdue second entry in my "From the Vaults" post series (if you can still call a follow-up to a nearly-three-year old post a series ;) ).  
 

More to Come, including Campaign Updates

Some of my AD&D 1e Greyhawk campaigns continue to live on, even through COVID:

  1. The virtual Castle Greyhawk campaign that began in 2020 with the cancellation of GaryCon is mostly-thriving.  The PCs (levels 1-3) have been on a mission into the Astral Plane for the high priests of Celestian, and should be returning from Anthony Huso's Zjelwyin Fall soon....

  2. The solo aquatic campaign that I'm running for Henry also continues, and his PCs are about to enter the city of Irongate in Greyhawk.  I've been cooking up some new "special" options for aquatic random encounters, and while rolling up the hoards of two different dragon turtles, made a perhaps-campaign-changing die roll....

    Henry is also running a solo campaign for me, set in his version of the south-eastern end of Ahlissa in the South Province, between the Rieuwood and the Greyflood.  We'll likely return to play there soon, too.

  3. The third, in-person campaign set in the northern bight of the Gnarley Forest near Safeton, and exploring the DMG monastery dungeons, unfortunately succumbed to COVID, and has not returned to the land of the living.

 

And that's all for now!

Allan.

14 June 2022

Mega-Dungeon Map Design Sprints with Henry

Update - 13 June 2022 at 7:18pm:  Well, just like my lost big posts during Kellri's Module Challenge, blogger crapped out and I lost this huge post detailing the fun mapping work Henry and I were doing.  I was uploading pictures from my phone, and perhaps it got too be too much.  Who knows. 

Here's what I'm able to recover by manually retyping it from the preview window on my phone.  *sigh*

Lesson re-learned:  a) type the blog post in Word, and b) eventually move to another platform if I’m going to keep the blog ;)

==

We drove six hours (one-way!) to Dallas for the NTRPGCon and all we got was this Lousy Coronavirus....

Somewhere along the way to/from, or while attending the North Texas RPGCon (NTX as I affectionately dub it) over the end of last week/weekend, my 14-year-old son Henry and I caught COVID.

This is not that story (or convention report, for that matter; that will follow soon-after!).

Neither is this the story of Henry’s excellent learners-permit drive through the Oklahoma City leg of our return journey on Sunday later afternoon for about 90 minutes (this will also be included in the convention report!---sneak peek:  he did great :D ).

This is, however, the story of some of the fun we had while passing the time in our post-infection bubblehuts.

Playing Games in COVID-land

While Henry and I have been isolating from Heather and Ethan (who have tested thankfully negative since our return), we’ve been playing games and hanging out together in general.  Our symptoms haven’t been too bad, all-in-all; I’ve continued to work all week long, although Henry had to drop out of his summer PE class, which is a bummer.

We played several games over the past week, including:

·         Noita:  easily my favorite computer/online game; I’ll have to post our explorations map, too---we began drawing it several months ago, after many more months of playing and exploring its levels in general)

·         Henry introduced me to a new game he likes called Inscryption (the game has spoilers, so you may not want to read the linked Wiki article?); I’m not enthralled yet---it has a bit of a 7th Guest meets Twin Peaks meets Fargo meets Magic: the Gathering vibe thus far, so we’ll see if it sticks or not

·         We also played several rounds of the now-working-again Dungeon Robber (yay!) too

Well, on Friday night after dinner, we shook things up a bit.

Mapping Sprints?—What’s That?

I had mentioned a recent dream to Henry earlier in the week, in which we were designing a big map together, and Henry got the idea to make that dream real, with a twist:  we would design the map in alternating segments, working off of each others’most-recent drawings in regular rotation.

Our process went like this:

1.      After some noodling, we settled on a 6 spi grid size for the dungeon level, and taped together two 11”x17” sheets of Black Blade Publishing graph paper.

2.      We each began to draw/design in opposite corners of the combined 17”x22” sheet.

3.      We ran timed, 10-minute design sprints, drawing and mapping the dungeon environment.  After 10 minutes, we pivoted the map to work on the area the other had just been building.  The two 10-minute “turns” complete one sprint.

4.      We captured one picture of each of our respective work on the map during each sprint, and a single shot of the whole map, too, as we slowly grew it out over about five hours or so. 

This is the setup in our spare bedroom; we borrowed the card table from Heather’s folks so that Henry and I can eat meals in here without getting crumbs all over the bed:

 

Our tools:  pencils and papers, table and templates
Our tools:  pencils and papers,
table and templates

 

Pictures follow in chronological order, broken down by sprint number; times are from the photos, which were captured at the end of each mapping sprint.  

(Some of the pictures look partially erased in places, but that's apparently the glare from the room's light). 

Mapping Sprints 1 and 2---10 June 2022 8:29pm CDT

Since we were just starting out, I didn’t think to capture pictures of our first sprint, so these first three pictures show our work after we’d completed Sprint 1, then swapped once and completed Sprint 2 as well:

 


Sprint1+2 – Allan’s starter environ, with Henry additions
Sprint1+2 – Allan’s starter environ,
with Henry additions



I began my initial dungeon environ with a 20’-wide stairwell entering the level, with large 20’x20’ landings at the turning corners, too.  That lead into what I intended to be a gated/controlled entry checkpoints area where guards would be above the entry corridor in a kill zone controlled by portcullises. 

Henry then expanded each of the controlling corridors, and began the routing of their directional possibilities.

 

Sprint1+2 – Henry’s starter environ, with Allan additions
Sprint1+2 – Henry’s starter environ,
with Allan additions

 

Henry’s starting area began with a cluster of small rooms connected with 10’-wide passages, all branching out from the 30’x30’ entry chamber.

To those, I added the outer-layer of 20’-wide edge corridors, and started to rough-in the oval chambers. I also added the hemispherical chamber off of Henry’s smaller original warren of rooms, and the pointy, squid-like chamber with several corridors branching off.

And here we end Sprints 1 and 2 with the full map:

 

Sprint1+2 – Full map view
Sprint1+2 – Full map view

 

Mapping Sprint 3 -- 10 June 2022 8:49pm CDT

In Sprint 3, for the first time, we both began to respond to each other’s additions to our original mapping areas.


Sprint 3 – Allan’s first return to his starter environ
Sprint 3 – Allan’s first return
to his starter environ


I added the portcullises I’d pictured as part of the access control mechanisms into the level design, and then began expanding upon the eastern corridors that Henry had added to the south.  I was envisioning a large, open area with side sections off of it (like an open-air market or bazaar), but such was not meant to be ;)

 

Sprint 3 – Henry’s first return to his starter environ
Sprint 3 – Henry’s first return
to his starter environ

 

Henry began to add the first doors to the map within his original warren, as well as to build the larger chamber with a central area accessible via stairs.  He also started to define the zone to the south of the oval chambers.

I didn’t capture a full-map picture for Sprint 3.  Still working on those consistent quality control processes ;)

Mapping Sprint 4 -- 10 June 2022 9:05pm CDT

In Sprint 4, Henry continues to build upon the corridor he introduced to my map, and turns my planned open area into another length of 20’-wide corridor…:

 

Sprint 4 – Allan’s original environment, with Henry’s new additions
 Sprint 4 – Allan’s original environment,
with Henry’s new additions

…while I start to lengthen and expand upon the corridors I’d added to his map, including a 40’ wide corridor with columns* (directly inspired by our recent Dungeon Robber Games, which were, of course, inspired by Gary Gygax’s random dungeon generation tables in Appendix A of the 1e DMG):

 

Sprint 4 – Henry’s original environment, with Allan's new additions
Sprint 4 – Henry’s original environment,
with Allan’s new additions

And we conclude the sprint properly, with the full-map view, this time!

It doesn’t really look like we’ll ever meet in the middle, does it?

 

Sprint 4 – Full map view
Sprint 4 – Full map view

Full map view, attained!

* see also:  https://www.knights-n-knaves.com/phpbb3/viewtopic.php?f=28&t=13328

 

Mapping Sprint 5 -- 10 June 2022 9:19pm CDT

Sprint 5 sees my start on the large temple complex at the bottom of the map…:

 

Sprint 5 – Allan’s original environment, with Allan’s newest additions
Sprint 5 – Allan’s original environment,
with Allan’s newest additions

 

…while Henry does more development in the middle of the upper area…:

 

Sprint 5 – Henry’s original environment, with Henry’s new additions
Sprint 5 – Henry’s original environment,
with Henry’s new additions

 

 …and the resulting full map:

 

Sprint 5 – Full map view
Sprint 5 – Full map view


==

And there was quite a bit more of that back-and-forth Wimbledon-like commentary for each sprint, and many more pictures taken, but I’m not going to recreate the rest of the posts from my phone preview, except to note that:

We concluded our Friday late-night sprints on Saturday morning with Sprint 16 -- 11 June 2022 12:57am CDT, after which we went to bed.

Then on Saturday night, we ran Sprint 17 at 9:27pm, Sprint 18 at 9:51pm, and Sprint 19 at 10:09pm before turning in a bit earlier that night ;)

 

Sprint 19 – Full map view
Sprint 19 – Full map view

 The End!

And that’s where we wrapped up for now.

The process was a lot of fun, and we may try to do a similar effort to key the level when it’s complete, too.

We’ll keep you posted!

Allan.