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
    film


  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.   

Stencils

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!

Allan.

12 January 2023

OGL Resources You Can Use






She that is Queen of Tunis; she that dwells
Ten leagues beyond man's life; she that from Naples
Can have no note, unless the sun were post---
The Man i' the Moon's too slow---till newborn chins
Be rough and razorable; she that from whom
We all were sea-swallowed, though some cast again,
And by that destiny to perform an act
Whereof what's past is prologue, what to come
In yours and my discharge.

---Antonio in The Tempest,
Act 2, Scene 1, Lines 247-255,

Written by William Shakespeare in 1611 or so
without the benefit of an OGL 

 

Oh the irony...

 

...and to think that I'd almost quit Twitter again last week!

OGL Resources

Some resources I've found useful while navigating the teapot that WotC seems intent upon drowning within:

  1.  Cory Doctorow's "Good riddance to the Open Gaming License" (also at https://mostlysignssomeportents.tumblr.com/post/706163316598407168/good-riddance-to-the-open-gaming-license)

  2. Matt Finch's "Moving the OSR Forward into the post-OGL Era"

  3. Stephen R. Marsh's legal research in the North Texas RPG Con Facebook group

  4. Stuart Marshall on the Paizo ORC license:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/OSRIC1E/posts/3419328041630174/
     
  5. Anna Meyer's "Open D&D"

  6. Ryan Dancey's "Roll for Combat" interview:  "One of the Architects of the Original OGL, Ryan Dancey, Discusses Its Creation | Roll For Combat"  

  7. Ryan Dancey statements @ ENWorld:  https://www.enworld.org/threads/ryan-dancey-hasbro-cannot-deauthorize-ogl.694196/

  8. Ryan Dancey's Change.org Petition:  "Hasbro, Please Take No Action Regarding the Open Gaming License v1​.​0a"

  9. Linda Codega's "Dungeons & Dragons’ New License Tightens Its Grip on Competition"---the leak that started the typhoon


Companies and Conventions Leaving the WotC Value Chain

...and multitudes more joining the crusade with each passing minute.

 

 

I'm Sure There Will be More to Come...

...but perhaps, perhaps, perhaps WotC is wising up?:  https://gizmodo.com/dungeons-dragons-ogl-announcement-wizards-of-the-coast-1849981365

We'll see.... 

Update 13 January 11:31am CST

...and so we did:   https://www.dndbeyond.com/posts/1423-an-update-on-the-open-game-license-ogl

Allan.

08 January 2023

Why Greyhawk in 2023? - grodog's Thoughts

 
 
 
Greyhawk Gazetteer from the 1980 Folio

 

From time to time I'll run across a discussion on Facebook, reddit, in a forum, or elsewhere, that seeks to answer the question, Why play in Greyhawk?  The question is often presented in contrast to another setting---"Why play in Greyhawk instead of the Forgotten Realms?" or Planescape, or Ravenloft, or whatever---or as part of a general poll about settings you like.  A recent reddit discussion about favorite settings prompted me to write this post. 

I have offered many responses to similar questions about how and why I love Greyhawk as a setting, and I've shared some over the years:

 

The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Silmarillion,
by J.R.R. Tolkien

All that said, over the holiday break while re-reading the second edition of Tolkien's The Silmarillion, in the introduction I ran across a quotation from one of Tolkien's letters that helps to explain some of what I love most about Greyhawk (page xii; my emphases):

I [JRRT] had a mind to make a body of more or less connected legend, ranging from the large and cosmogonic, to the level of romantic fairy-story---the larger founded on the lesser in contact with the earth, the lesser drawing splendour from the vast backcloths...  I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched.  The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama. 

The quotation is famous among Tolkien fans and scholars, and inspired the titles for two different zines devoted to MERP gaming and Tolkien scholarship.  It also echoes in spirit and tone, if not specific language, three of the key features that I love most about the Greyhawk setting:

  1. Greyhawk as a sandbox campaign setting 
  2. Greyhawk as a place of adventure inspiration and expansion
  3. Greyhawk's fan community helps to keep the spirit of Greyhawk alive and relevant to today's gamers 


Greyhawk as a Campaign Sandbox: Two Takes

A significant volume of Greyhawk-related lore has been published over the decades in official sources from TSR and WotC, and in unofficial content from both its original creators Gary Gygax, Rob Kuntz, and Lenard Lakofka (to name just a few), as well as from its many dedicated fans.  For a sampling of such 1e Greyhawk content see Adrian Newman's TSR Archive site and for a more-comprehensive listing see Echohawk's Greyhawk Collector's Guide.

All that said, Greyhawk still  offers "room to grow" in the baseline versions of the setting published over the years, particularly so in the Greyhawk Folio (1980) and 1983 Greyhawk Boxed Set versions.  By that, I mean that Greyhawk paints its details with a broad brush, that leaves room for you as the DM and the players adventuring in Oerth to finely detail the setting in your individual campaigns.  This is particularly true compared to other settings that have been heavily detailed in both gaming products and in novels, like The Forgotten Realms or Dragonlance.  Later versions of the setting of also support this mode of expansive creativity, simply with more backstory and history behind their "present day" in the setting.

For example, In Darlene's 576 Common Year Greyhawk map there is not much going on near the southern mouth of the Nesser River, so when Henry and I decided to start up a solo aquatic AD&D campaign for him, we set it there, knowing that there wouldn't be too much potential for conflict with existing Greyhawk content:

 

grodog's sketch map for Greyhawk hex L3-94
grodog's sketch map
for Greyhawk hex L3-94

grodog's Greyhawk hex L3-94 with labels
grodog's Greyhawk
hex L3-94 with labels

grodog's Relaqua regional sketch map
grodog's Relaqua regional sketch map

Relaqua materials for aquatic AD&D campaign
Relaqua materials
for aquatic AD&D campaigning
 
Relaqua materials for aquatic AD&D campaigning
Relaqua materials
for aquatic AD&D campaigning

While we were a little off in our "blank canvas" assessment---since I am not as deeply familiar with many 2e Greyhawk books, and WGR4 The Marklands created a new town named Nessermouth near to where we sited our Relaqua game---we're still happy to build out our version of the region as we desire, the Marklands notwithstanding ;)

 

Nessermouth and Gnatmarsh region, from WGR4 The Marklands
Ninja'd!--the Nessermouth and
Gnatmarsh region,
from WGR4 The Marklands

A multitude of these "blank canvas" areas in Greyhawk exist across eras and editions, where you can start a game and begin to explore the world, one bit at a time.  Each of Darlene's Greyhawk map hexes is scaled to 30 miles across, so each offers plenty of room to build out your own version of Greyhawk, even within "known" hexes where towns, cities, and dungeons have predefined locations. 

In this second example, I shift gears a bit into how Greyhawk has slowly evolved as a sandbox setting over its decades of development.  Gygax seeded this twice-told rumor in the 1980 Greyhawk Folio, in the entries for The Wild Coast and the Suss Forest:  

Tales relate that somewhere within the Suss there exists a lost city of the Old Suloise--from which the Jewel River gained its name.  It has never been found, and the legend is highly doubtful (Folio page 19).

and 

A lost, ruined city of of the Old Suloise is said  to be hidden somewhere in the Suss forest, but few dare to venture on such a quest, particularly today (Folio page 26).

 

Artifact of Evil - original painting by Clyde Caldwell
Artifact of Evil,
original artwork by Clyde Caldwell

 

While the same rumors exist in the 1983 Greyhawk Boxed Set, Gary later described this lost city in his novel Artifact of Evil, although it was never detailed fully for play as a published module (and is nicely summarized by Krista Siren in her Gord's Greyhawk site).

This group was to pierce the trackless tangles of the heart of the Suss Forest, find a lost ruin there, recover a bit of some strange and occult object of eldritch origin, and carry it safely into the hands of those who fought against Evil. (page 73)

On the east bank of the Jewel, Curley Greenleaf finally broke out his secret information.  It was a reproduction of an ancient map that crudely depicted the area they were in at a time long past.  This drawing showed that there was a city just a few miles---as far as they could determine, anyway---north of their present position. 

From what they could determine, they had to be within a few miles of their goal, only the ruin of the ancient city did not seem to exist.  Many things were possible, but entire cities did not just disappear....  Perhaps the whole thing was a fable....  Perhaps, but with but with so much evidence at hand, albeit information of cryptic sort, that seemed doubtful, (pages 78-79)

Legend had said a city of the Suloise had been here, but this place was certainly of origination predating the migration of the Invoked Devestation by centuries! (page 83)
 

Versions of Greyhawk published after the Folio and Boxed Set built upon these foundations, sometimes resolving mysteries initially left for DMs to define on their own.  Later works also introduced new wonders and legends into the setting, some of which, in turn, were explored in the next generations of products.  Carl Sargent's From the Ashes (1992) seeded the idea of the Star Cairns as a collection of lost tombs within the Cairn Hills; they were later built-out as The Star Cairns adventure in "The Lost Tombs" triology of modules during the 1998 Greyhawk revival.  Tenser's castle---The Fortress of Unknown Depths, first described by Gygax in WG6 Isle of the Ape---was sketched in passing the City of Greyhawk boxed set in 1992, and further enriched by Carl Sargent in Ivid the Undying before being built-out by Roger Moore in 1998's Return of the Eight.  The Isles of Woe were first mentioned in Eldritch Wizardry in 1976 in the artifact description for The Codex of the Infinite Planes, and were visited (I think for the first time), in the "Ether Threat" series of Living Greyhawk adventures back in 2002.  Countless additional examples exist.  These successive layers of accumulating lore keep Greyhawk fresh, and offer new opportunities for adventure.  They also showcase the unique stamp that each generation of designers and fans imprint on the setting.

These changes to the setting over time keep Greyhawk alive as a vibrant, freewheeeling sandbox:  some of its lore is contradictory, while some is couched in terms to suggest that it's not accurate ("the legend is highly doubtful").  This "Greyhawk Uncertainty Principle" empower DMs with the freedom to choose the versions of a legend or story they prefer, to relocate legends and dungeons elsewhere in the Flanaess, and to disregard and hack the discrepancies in canon compeltely when it suits the demands of their campaigns.


Greyhawk as a Place of Inspiring and Expanding Adventures

Many adventures provide DMs and players with years of gaming inspiration and fun at the table.  In many cases, they are truly modular, and can be incorporated into any era of Greyhawk, played with any edition (with some conversion, of course), and migrated to published settings like the Forgotten Realms or into homebrew worlds unknown outside of those who dice together around its table.  The Greyhawk modules deisgned by Gary Gygax, Rob Kuntz, Lenard Lakofka, David A. Cook, Carl Sargent, Erik Mona, Roger E. Moore, and many other designers are no exception. 

But Greyhawk's best adventures, like the setting itself, intentionally build design room for the DM and players to expand upon the baseline templates provided between their covers.  I see this in particular in the Giants and Drow series of six modules (G1-3 and D1-3), the paired S4 Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth and WG4 Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, and WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, but this principle holds in many other modules as well.  These adventures sketch foundations and also provide expansion points that inspire Dungeon Masters to design further:  to build next steps, to layer in additional lore and detail, to add another level to what already exists.  To echo Tolkien's quotation above---to wield pen and ink and personal creativity within the frameworks initially shaped by other minds and by other hands.  To image and render possibility, drama, and adventure unimagined but encouraged by Greyhawk's best designs. 

G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief offers lost temples and collapsed corridors that beg to be cleared out to reveal new levels to plumb.  The drowic underworld of D1 Descent into the Depths of the Earth charts the narrow path that leads to Erelhei Cinlu, but sketches a wider Underoerth that can include Carl Sargent's Night Below and Wolfgang Baur's Empire of the Ghouls (Open Design 2007) as desired.  Erik Mona's "Whispering Cairn" (Dungeon Magazine #124) is revisited and later expanded in Wolfgang Baur's "A Gathering of Winds" (Dungeon #129).  The Garden of the Plantmaster (Creations Unlimited 1988) connects both to Castle Greyhawk (where it originated) and to WG5's Lost City of the Elders , which Kuntz later shared in his El Raja Key Archive (TLB Games 2016).  Roger Moore's Return of the Eight mentions a hidden moon base laboratory used by Iggwilv and Tenser.  And so on.  

The wheel turns, and the plots mature.  Endangered Greyhawk calls its defenders to muster.  

Will you answer the call?

The call to adventure.

 

The Fan Community Sustains Greyhawk

Oerth Journal #37 nears publication and its launch will mark 28 years of fan-published support for the setting.*

The Greyhawk Wiki didn't exist during the heyday of the Greytalk and Greyhawk-L email listservs in the 1990s and the Living Greyhawk era.  

Jason Zavoda's wonderful Encyclopedia Greyhawkiana Index spans both eras of fandom:  rooted in the Greytalk era, it has blossomed through a modern redeployment in both wiki and Excel forms.  (For more detail, see my Greyhawk Links page notes).  

Discord supports Greyhawk discussion and gaming across a variety of servers:

reddit has dedicated channels for both Greyhawk and AD&D.  Twitch livestreams, YouTube channels, and podcasts champion and explore Greyhawk.  Blogs and forums offer deeper dives and keep the old Greytalk Archives alive even after they vanished into the deep ethereal of Lotus Notes hell decades ago.  (For more detail, see my Greyhawk Links page notes). 

The community of Greyhawk fans have rallied around the setting and kept it alive when its corporate overlords thought they had put the final bullet between its eyes.  

Greyhawk thrives during this decentralized, Fandom Renasissance, and its fans keep Greyhawk as relevant today in 2023 at it was in 1973.   

Greyhawk fans are tenacious, curious, and always willing to lend a hand to help welcome newcomers to the setting.  

Adventure beckons.

Join us. 

Allan.

==

* Friends of the Oerth Journal Assemble! posted by /u/ArtharntheCleric on 6 Jan 2023:

Greyhawk fans will probably be aware of the Oerth Journal, a "fan" created magazine available in print and on line since 1995 creating new content for Greyhawk. It was originally started to support Greyhawk when TSR was not, and has featured luminaries such as Len Lakofka, Gary Holian, Erik Mona, Roger E Moore, Erik Boyd, etc.

Oerth Journal during COVID migrated from Patreon to Jemi for donations to support its work, and the take up was not 100%. In fact well short of. So the Oerth Journal, with issue 37 due to come out soon (delayed due to injury and illness to editor Kristoph Nolen), needs your support. Kristoph will ensure it gets out, but we'd all prefer he wasn't putting his hand in his own pocket to ensure it does!

If you previously supported the OJ via Patreon but didn't renew when it moved to Jemi, or have enjoyed it before but never supported, or have never checked it out before and are willing, please look at providing support with a one off or regular donation via Jemi here:

https://jemi.so/greyhawkonline

01 December 2022

More Greyhawk News to Cheer your Sunsebb!

Darlene's Greyhawk Map with Hex Coordinates 

Zach Henderson's Map

We got discussing module hex coordinates in the Flanaess Geographical Society group on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/ghmaps/posts/5868854479844570/ (building in part on some September discussion at https://www.facebook.com/groups/ghmaps/permalink/5621068317956522/, where I was looking for a map-based mechanism to ID hex locations on Darlene's map), and Zach Henderson created this fabulous map:

 

Zach Henderson at work on Darlene's map
Zach Henderson at work
on Darlene's map

You can download Zach's full map file freely at https://www.dropbox.com/s/xjogcd7xltwqv4c/WoG_Map_Coordinates_v2.jpg.

Thanks Zach!  


Paul Stormberg's Module Hex Coordinates

During that same discussion about TSR module locations, Paul Stormberg of The Collector's Trove, Legends of Wargaming, and Legends of Roleplaying fame, shared the list of known hex coordinates for classic-era TSR modules set in Greyhawk. Paul's list draws in part on the module locations as defined in the Glassography to the World of Greyhawk booklet (1983 boxed set, page 30), but expands upon it as well:

In any case here is the "official" World of Greyhawk Glossography locales and another set done in Polyhedron 10. Both have some problems with their locations and likely have some "windage" applied to them by fans over the years to mark "better" locations:
 
  • A1 A4-101 (Poly #10: A4-101)
  • A2 A4-102 (Poly #10: B4-103)
  • A3 A4-104 (Poly #10: Z3-103)
  • A4 A4-104 (Poly #10: Z3-103)
  • C1 A4-137 (Poly #10: Y3-135)
  • C2 A4-92 (Poly #10: Z3-91)
  • D1 M5-138 (Poly #10: M5-141)
  • D2 M5-138 (Poly #10: M5-141)
  • D3 N5-138 (Poly #10: M5-141)
  • Q1 N5-138 (Poly #10: M5-141)
  • EX1 D4-86
  • EX2 D4-86
  • G1 P5-129 (Poly #10: N5-126)
  • G2 S5-134 (Poly #10: V5-128)
  • G3 M5-138 (Poly #10: N5-139)
  • I1 Y-109
  • L1 B-78
  • L2 (Module: "18 miles south[-east]" of B-78
  • L3 (Module: "18 miles south[-east]" of B-78) 
  • N1 K5-113/H5-112
  • S1 K2-97 (Poly #10: L2-100)
  • S2 T3-70 (Poly #10: U3-69)
  • S3 A6-119 (Poly #10: Z5-118)
  • S4 E5-88 (Poly #10: M5-141)
  • T1 O4-98 (Poly #10: N4-95)
  • U1 (Poly #10: U4-123)
  • U2 (Module: V4-124) 
  • U3 (Module: W4-125)
  • UK1 (Poly #10: O4-124)
  • UK2 (Module: E5/137 and F5/138) 
  • UK3 (Module: E5/137 and F5/138) 
  • WG4 F5-88
  • WG5 (Module: X3-86) 
  • WG6 D4-86 (Greyhawk Castle Locale)
 
Compiled module locations are also shows on the Canonfire! map at http://www.canonfire.com/cf/ghadventures.php (but you don't get hex coordinates with them too).
 

Lenard Lakofka GenCon "AD&D Open" Tournament Adventures Newly Re-Discovered!

Tentatively identified as rounds 1, 5, and 6 of the 1982 GenCon Open tourney:

Recently sold by Michael Cox of The DragonsTrove:

I'll pull the details from the auctions and add them to my Greyhawk Tourney History page, if applicable (I don't immediately see any Greyhawk content in them, but will dig some more).  I've also been in touch with Matt Shoemaker, who maintains the GenCon Events Database at http://www.best50yearsingaming.com/.

Lenard was a fan of The Companions' hex grid maps, which helped me to ID the last round of the tourney as possibly also created by him. 

I also recently confirmed that Lenard co-wrote  "The Great Deck" (by LL and Wm. John Wheeler), "Cards of Minor Power" (by Wm. John Wheeler, with LL and Peter L. Rice), and Magical Treasures (by Wm. John Wheeler and Peter L. Rice, with LL and others) in The Companions' Treasure Trove I: Cards of Power 1982 generic D&D supplement.  

I'll add these details to my Lenard Lakofka Index over the holidays.


grodog's GaryCon XV Events Submitted and Approved

I also submitted two events to run at GaryCon XV in March 2023.  Both have been approved but not scheduled formally yet, so take the date/times below with a grain of salt for the moment:

  • LEGIO V—Gary Gygax's Castle Greyhawk Level Keyed by grodog     
    • Queued for Scheduling     
    • Thursday at 19:00     
    • 5 hours      
  • LEGIO V—Gary Gygax's Castle Greyhawk Level Keyed by grodog     
    • Queued for Scheduling     
    • Saturday at 19:00     
    • 5 hours

 Here's the event's long description text:


Explore grodog's version of one of Gary Gygax's unpublished Castle Greyhawk dungeon levels. The Chessboard level existed in either the Original or Expanded Castle Greyhawk. grodog has a copy of the original map, but not the original key.  So, you're playing Gary's (slightly modified) map with grodog's key.

Bring your graph paper, dice, and a healthy dose of paranoid courage! 6th-8th level charcaters provided.

==

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.

 

On Friday night, I will also help DM one of the rounds for Paul Stormberg "Legends of Roleplaying" AD&D Open tourney.  That's usually at 6pm. 


grodog Interviewed Twice in One Week!

October was a rare month with two interviews for me:

Shane Plays

Shane Stacks of Shane Plays interviewed me on Sunday afternoon 9 October 2022, and it just went live last night:

OSRIC & The OSR with Allan T. Grohe Jr. - Episode 264- 11/30/2022

RPG developer and publisher Allan T. Grohe Jr. (aka "grodog") joins to talk AD&D retroclone OSRIC, the OSR, Black Blade Publishing, John Eric Holmes, and RPG goodness in general. Allan LOVES him some Greyhawk. The skills he learned tracking down early information on Greyhawk helped lead to his main non-RPG career. How active is the current AD&D 1E and/or OSRIC scene? What is Allan’s definition of OSR, and does he feel it’s important? The legal importance of OSRIC to the OSR community. ‘zines are often lauded, but at one time Dragon magazine was a sort of “D&D website” in its day as well. Watching an RPG project happen behind the scenes. Shane offers a mild defense of rules lawyers. “Vanilla” fantasy is not a derogatory term. Cthulhu and Delta Green. Look, just hit Cthulhu with a boat. Shane has figured out Lovecraft’s indescribable color. Thunderdome match: Strongheart versus Warduke.

You can listen at https://shaneplays.com/osric-osr-rpg-allan-grohe-podcast/ and on YouTube or your podcast platform of choice (see the main link).   

 

College of Wooster Gaming Research

Within the same week, on Thursday evening, 13 October 2022, Laura Jentes---who is working on a gaming history MA thesis at the College of Wooster (in Ohio)---interviewed me about my experience gaming in the later 1970s through to the present.  

This is part of her research on the oral history of gaming (she also wrote a bio on Gary Gygax as part of a class she took last year).  All of the content and research will be shared later in the spring once her work has concluded, and I'll share the news when it becomes available.


I'm off to Philly to visit my family and friends in South Jersey on Friday, and I may perhaps try to drop in on PAX Unplugged, too.  We'll see how the timing shakes out.

And that's all the news that's fit to print, for the moment, anyway ;)

Allan.

24 November 2022

The Prophecy of the Six and the Twelve

As retrieved at the behest of the Seventh Order of the Darkly Luminous from its Astral fastness in Zjelwyin Fall, the highest priests and priestesses of Celestian invoke the Mandate of Far Seering, and herald into Oerth and its sister-worlds, on this Godsday, the 11th of Goodmonth, in the 576th year of the reign of Celestial Aerdy, the nineteeth prophecy of the twins:  the Prophecy of the Six and the Twelve.


==



The Prophecy of the Six and the Twelve




Bleak communions: eldritch gardens, fallen shadows
encircle and conjure, name and bind our chorded woe.
All-Father lost amongst Fimbûl winters’ whispers—
wastelands of wishes, long-sought in mast’ries’ umbrage.
Twin daughters stand—resolute, against opening gates
as the sands’ tides rise in unchronicled secrets

found, lost, found again—the march of moments, secrets
seeking, seeking dusts drift and swallow all shadows.
Vain hope to halt the keying of myriad gates
without the Twins’ sacrosanct blessings—untold woe
will flow, filling seas, valleys, and skies with umbrage—
unbound cacophonies, loves’ unspoken whispers,

bloodlines unborn beyond Time’s unyielding whispers—
forever barred from unlocking tomorrows’ secrets.
The Twins times twice—each brightening in awed umbrage,
adroitly chime, ringed with wisdoms—chase the shadows,
unwind the Strands of Fate to reweave the worlds’ woe—
newly-spun, reborn in storms—scale the final gates.

A web of motes illumines planes, ley lines, and gates,
divines clear roots of quiet through the silences, whispers,
Susurrations, and branching forks—all paths of Woe.
To fight the future—decrypt its resounding secrets,
speak their wisdoms to the chiaroscuro shadows,
unveil the Prince of Raptors, find allies in Umbrage.

Beware!—winterlorn seekers, replete with umbrage,
assay to disjoin the Twins’ names, to fissure the gates,
rechime time, and wreath all worlds in ashen shadows.
Breach their unravelling wiles’ twisting whispers
lest—lured into Eclipse with chromatic secrets—
they unleash once more the long-sought, lost Isles of Woe!

Hearken!—black-iron wyrds weave arcs of worlds against Woe.
The Twins in issue must overcome the Twins’ umbrage—
undisputed their bedimmed, festering secrets
will spill across the spheres’ conjunctions, key the gates,
blind the Father in silence’s sibilant whispers
while the Stern Mother’s wisdoms fall into shadows.

Tides of Woe conjure and bind worlds in shadows.
Resplendent Umbrage sheathes tangs and tongues in whispers.
Gardens of secrets increase beyond the dim gates.



==


And so it begins.

Allan.

24 October 2022

October in Greyhawk: Things that Go Bump in the Night

In October, thoughts naturally gravitate toward the undead and other things that go bump in the night, so I've compiled some of my house rules and other variant rules about undead for your Halloween-inspired gaming!

 

Undead Variants - grodog's Standard House Rules

  1. All undead gain a +3 hp bonus after their HD: i.e., ghouls are 2+3 HD, ghasts are 4+3 HD, groaning spirit is 7+3, etc.

    This is a natural extrapolation from the mid-tier undead like wight, wraith, mummy, specture, and vampire, and it does give them all a bit more staying power (and make them worth a bit more XP!). 
  2. In my campaigns, zombies are now the lowest form of undead at 1+3 HD undead, and skeletons are promoted to the 2+3 HD undead:  i.e., skeletons are tougher, faster (they get +1 on initiative!), and way cooler than zombies---as it should be, in the classic Harryhausen manner:



    Jason and the Argonauts (1963) -
    skeletons by Ray Harryhausen


  3. All undead cause fear upon sight (with a range/radius of 1" per HD of the undead) in any creature with HD equal to or less than the undead's HD:  i.e., zombies (1+3 HD in my games) cause fear in up to 1+3 HD monsters, and 0- and 1st-level PCs and NPCs.

    A save vs. Spells negates the fear, with Wisdom bonuses/penalties applicable.  If the save is failed, duration of the fear is 1 round per HD of the undead minus the PC victim’s level (with a minimum duration of 1 round).

  4. For the past several years, I've used the DMG's Alternate Turning Matrix described in the table notes in the 1e DMG on page 76:

    The progression on the [clerical turning] table is not even. A variable
    increment of 5% appears - 19, 20. It is included to reflect two things.
    First, it appears to allow lower level clerics a chance to turn some of
    the tougher monsters. It disappears (at 4th level) and reappears again
    only when the clerics have reached a high level (8th and up). This
    reflects the relative difficulty of these clerics when faced with turning
    away the worst of evil creatures, but also allows the table to have them
    completely destroy the weaker undead. If for some reason you must
    have an exact progression, follow the columns for levels 1, 2, and 3,
    correcting to the right from there - and thus rather severely penalizing
    the clerics of upper levels, but by no means harming play balance.
    Column 4 will then read, top to bottom: T, 4,7, 10, 13, 16, 19, 20. Do not
    otherwise alter the table as it could prove to be a serious factor in
    balance - weakening or strengthening clerics too greatly.

    I began to adopt this rule after seeing vampires, ghosts, and liches basically made useless as monsters against high-level clerics turning via the standard table. 

    Another rationale for these rules (in my mind anyway!), is to differentiate clerics a bit more.  Perhaps some deities that are particularly dedicated against undead grant their clericis the original turning tables, while most employ turning on the Alternate Matrix

    When implemented, the Alternate Matrix for Clerics Turning Undead, et al, looks like this:



    Thankfully provided in full DMG-compatible layout and font through the kind graces of users Jeff and Joe Mac on the Knights & Knaves Alehouse, and downloadable at https://onedrive.live.com/?authkey=%21AKCnK4DqVZ5ZJcU&cid=BAC8631E5B382A0F&id=BAC8631E5B382A0F%215041&parId=BAC8631E5B382A0F%21144680&o=OneUp.


Other Noteworthy Undead Variants

While many new types of undead monsters are introduced in various TSR adventures as well as in subsequent OSR publications, some interesting variant undead types remain buried in semi-obscurity and deserve a bit more visibility. 

The Dungeon Masters Guide lists NPC vampires in the Monster Level IX and X tables of Appendix C.  The Level IX vampire also has the full powers of a 7th to 10th level cleric (1d6+4), while the Level X vampire is also a 9th to 12th level magic-user (1d4+8). 

Rob Kuntz's uderlings from RJK-2 Tower of Blood (published originally by Pied Piper Publishing and reprinted by Black Blade Publishing in 2014) are a cool undead gnomes that mix plane-of-shadow and vampiric powers: 

 

RJK-2 Tower of Blood --
back over art by Jim Holloway

  

Lenard Lakofka introduced several undead variants in his wonderful sandbox adventure L1 The Secret of Bone Hill, including some that were not reprinted in the MM2:

  • Ghoulstirges:  (AC; 7, MV: 3"/8", HD: 1 + 6, #AT: 1, D 1-4 plus paralysis and blood drain). On the first successful hit the ghoulstirge does 1-4 points of damage and paralyzes the victim unless a save vs. Paralyzation is made. Every round thereafter,
    the ghoulstirge does 1-6 points of damage automatically, through blood drain. When the ghoulstirge has drained 12 points, it detaches from the victim and flies away to digest its
    meal. The ghoulstirges are 70% likely to guard a nearby treasure (on the body of a former victim). The treasure will contain 6-60 gp, 8-80 ep, and is 40% likely to also contain either a miscellaneous potion or scroll with 1-4 1st and 2nd level clerical spells.
  • Skelter: (AC: 6, MV 12", HD 2 + 2, hp 16, #AT 1, D 1-10). The skelter, like the zombire, is the animated remains of a once very evil low-level magic-user. It is immune to the same attack forms as listed for the zombire and can cast the following first level spells: shield, sleep. It can be turned as per wights and has 42 gp.
  • Zombire: (AC: 5, MV 12", HD 3 + 3, hp 18, #AT 1, D 2-12). The zombire is not slow like a zombie but might pretend to be so in order to deceive the party while approaching. A zombire is immune to hold, charm, sleep, and cold based spells, in addition to poison. It can be turned as per wraiths. In addition, the zombire, the animated corpse of a low-level magic-user, can cast the following spells:  First level: magic missile, protection from good.

I have naturally flipped the power-level of the skelter relative to the zombire to match my house rules above. 


Undead Variations - Standardized Immunities 

While I've used the above house rules for ages now, other house rules that I've developed have been less-thoroughly playtested.  They seemed like good ideas at the time, but I'm still not sure that they're necessarily worth the effort, overall. 

On example is that all undead benefit from a variety of different levels of immunities, which I codified into letters/types A-E, as written in the inside of my MM cover:

    1. Immune to sleep, charm, hold, energy drain, and generic mind-affecting spells (see Wisdom listing); also gain frost resistance (save at +4, -1/die damage)
    2. Immune to poison, paralyzation, immune to cold-based attacks
    3. Immune to aging, ray of enfeeblement/strength drain, black flame; also gain electricity resistance (save at +4, -1/die damage)
    4. Immune to death magic, exorcism, magic jar/possession, body sympathy; immune to lightning-based attacks
    5. Immune to insanity (including feeblemind, confusion, symbol of insanity), polymorph

    I defined most
    undead immunities for creatures from the MM, FF, and MM2---along with some additions from Dragon Magazine---as follows (shadows and slow shadows don’t appear on the list since they’re not undead IMC):
  • apparition – ?
  • bloody bones (?)  – ?
  • coffer corpse – ?
  • crypt thing (an insane/crazed/devolved lich?) -
  • death knight – E
  • demilich – E+
  • eye of fear and flame – ?
  • ghast – B
  • ghost – C
  • ghoul – A
  • groaning spirit – D
  • haunt – ?
  • huecuva – ?
  • juju zombie – D
  • lich – E
  • monster skeleton - C
  • monster zombie - B
  • mummy – B
  • necrophidius – ?
  • penanggalan – ?
  • revenant – E (C?)
  • sheet ghoul – ?
  • sheet phantom – ? (do these two really even exist in my games??)
  • shoosoova (Dragon #63) – C
  • skeleton – C (B?)
  • skeleton warrior – E
  • son of kyuss – C
  • spectral stalker (my renamed midnight stalker from Grenadier's Monster Manuscript) – ?
  • spectre – D
  • tapper (my renamed rapper from Dragon #58) - C
  • vampire – C
  • wight – B
  • wraith – C
  • zombie – A


Happy Halloween and Samhain!

Allan.