26 August 2017

Vote for Greyhawk in New Survey from Wizards of the Coast

Wizards of the Coast has a new survey up for D&D 5th Edition at http://sgiz.mobi/s3/36e018baf04e which asks several questions where fans can support their favorite settings, including the World of Greyhawk.

World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980 (image from The Acaeum)

Go vote for Greyhawk! :D


10 August 2017

The Many Levels of Castle Greyhawk - Part 2

In part 1 of this article series, I examined the Castle Greyhawk::El Raja Key relationships reveled in Rob Kuntz's El Raja Key Archive, released last fall. 

In this article, I share an unpublished letter between Gary Gygax and Stephen Chenault of Troll Lord Games, concerning the initial development of the Castle Zagyg project.

Letter from EGG to Stephen Chenault, 14 January 2004

Afternoon Steve:)

Seems as if my email and yours is going to take up a considerable portion of this day, eh? If this goes on much longer I'll phone you +_+

> Thanks for this.  I thought that might be it but then
> looked at the color coded guide and confused myself.

Those colors were put in so as to lessen my own confusion...

> So to recap, does this look roughly online:
> Castle Zagyg
> Part I  Yggsburgh - City and surrounding area

Right, and you have the extent of this super-module set.

> Part II  Dark Chateau - Castle (?)

Well, I suppose a castle-like chateau, more of a cross between a mansion and a fortified dwelling with many outside areas and buildings according to Rob.

> Part III Upper Works - Castle Ruins


> Part IV Beneath the Ground (first three levels)

Storerooms, Cellars, and Dungeon, plus one sublevel, the Arena.

> Part V  The Laboratories, Menagier, Museum (five levels)

The two side levels being the Catacombs and the Upper Crypts.

> Part VI The Deeps (six levels)

These being the Lairs and a side level, the Lower Crypts accessed only from the Upper Crypts above; the Labyrinth and a side level the Warrens that can be accessed from the Labyrinth, the Warrens accessing the Lower Crypts above and the Vaults below; and finally the Endless Rooms with a side level, the Grand Mausoleum, but no entry to the Vaults.

> Part VII The Caverns - grotto, maze (six levels)

Proper order is Maze, Grottos (small caves) and the sublevel Pools of Chaos*, Caves with the Burrows sublevel it connecting to the level below, and Caverns.

* I envision normal connections to the Burrows and Caverns, also transporter pools on level and to various other dungeon level locations on a one-way basis.

> Part VIII Zagig's Way - Lightless Lake, Inferno (three
> levels)

Again, proper order is the Lightless Lake, the Little Inferno, and then Zagyg's Zone (or some such name).

> I've added some working title names that aren't written
> in stone, obviously.



The Levels of The Original Castle Greyhawk (as seen through the lens of Castle Zagyg)

The text from EGG's letter clarifies the original, intended scope for the Castle Zagyg project, and the "Part" designations from Stephen's initial note align to Troll Lord Games' original release schedule for the Castle Zagyg product line (thankfully preserved by Joe Bloch on his Greyhawk Grognard blog), for which Castle Zagyg: The Upper Worksmerely served as the introductory product in a far-grander vision.  A vision that was never realized, unfortunately.

Breaking out the levels from their CZ book groupings yields the following list:
  1. The Storerooms
  2. The Cellars
  3. The Dungeon 
    1. The Arena (sub-level)
  4. The Laboratories
  5. The Menagerie
  6. The Museum 
    1. The Catacombs (sub-level)
    2. The Upper Crypts (sub-level)
  7. The Lairs 
    1. The Lower Crypts (side-level; accessible only from The Upper Crypts above, and The Warrens below)
  8. The Labyrinth
    1. The Warrens (side-level; accessible from the Labyrinth, while The Warrens also accesses The Lower Crypts above and The Vaults below)
  9. The Endless Rooms 
    1. The Grand Mausoleum (side-level; no access to The Vaults)
    2. The Vaults (side-/sub-level?; no access to The Endless Rooms or The Grand Mausoleum) 
  10. The Maze
  11. The Grottos 
    1. Pools of Chaos (sub-level; accessible to The Burrows and The Caverns, and with transporter pools within this level and to various other dungeon levels' locations on a one-way basis)
  12. The Caves 
    1. The Burrows (sub-level; also accessible to The Caverns below)
  13. The Caverns
  14. The Lightless Lake
  15. The Little Inferno
  16. Zagig's Zone

Next up:  slotting the above information into what we already know about Castle Greyhawk's levels.


27 July 2017

The Many Levels of Castle Greyhawk - Part 1

Since 27 July is Gary Gygax's birthday, and has been heralded as Gary Gygax Day in the old-school gaming communities (or at least social media), it seemed an apt date to discuss one of my favorite AD&D subjects, Castle Greyhawk

In slides I prepared for the The History and Development of Castle Greyhawk Seminar that Paul Stormberg, Jeffrey Talanian, and I hosted at GaryCon V in 2013, I built upon the then-recent re-discovery of Gary's Europa article that detailed the Castle Greyhawk dungeon levels in order, as well as other Castle Greyhawk sources---some commonly known, others commonly overlooked. 

Further analysis and summaries about some of the levels and keys, encounters, and play summaries from Castle Greyhawk has been conducted at the Knights & Knaves Alehouse, Zenopus Archives, Dragonsfoot, Random Wizard (now gone, but thankfully still readable via the Internet Archive), Sean at Power Score (two separate links there, FYI), in Greyhawk Grognard's Greyhawk Lore collection, and by Michael Mornard via Paul at the Blog of Holding.  Other good analyses and anecdotes are out there, so if you have a favorite I've not referenced, please mention it in the comments.

Since then, three additional and noteworthy sources have recently come to light:
  • An unpublished letter between Gary Gygax and Steven Chenault, dating from during their early efforts to organize the Castle Zagyg project 
  • I recently organized the notes from my many letters and phone conversations with Rob Kuntz, dating from 1987 when we first met, up through the present-day; the notes fill three looseleaf binders thus far, and while organizing them, I flagged some discussions specifically relevant to Castle Greyhawk and ERK
I examine the first of these new sources in detail below (within the context of the Castles and their Dungeons), and will address the Castle Zagyg letter, and the analysis of my RJK notes in future posts.   

The El Raja Key::Castle Greyhawk Connections

In addition to providing excellent scans, historical introductions, and insights into 13 dungeon levels from ERK and 17 levels of the Expanded Greyhawk Castle, Rob Kuntz's El Raja Key Archive also included a dungeon level that was brand-new to me: the Expanded Castle Greyhawk Core Level 5 - Sealed Tomb Level.  While initially this might not sound like a big deal, I've had access to most of the contents of the ERK Archive for years, so seeing a new level for the first time was quite a treat for me personally!

I couldn't pass up this picture when driving past a local construction site the other day:  the pallets are labelled with "OldCastle36" and I thought the layered view was a nice analogy for stacked dungeon levels ;)

In addition, the Archive explicitly maps, for the first time, the relationships between the two castles' dungeon levels:
  • Mapping the relationships between Rob's original El Raja Key dungeon levels and their placement in the Expanded Castle Greyhawk yields:
    • ECG (Somewhere on) Level 2, Alternate 16 - LGGC-1 Bottle City (Black Blade, 2013)
    • ERK 02 → ECG Core level 2 - Invisible Maze Level
    • ERK 04 → ECG Core Level 3 - Gem Room & Crypts
    • ERK 05 → ECG West Level 5 - Gallery Level
    • ERK 06 → ECG Core Level 6 - Black Pudding Door Keeper Level
    • ERK 10 → ECG Core Level 7 - Tsojconth Level (Lost Caverns of Tsojconth, Metro Detroit Gamers 1976)
    • ERK 07 → ECG West Level 7 - Barracks Level
    • ERK 07.5 → ECG Core Level 7.5 - Black Reservoir (see also Gygax's 1975 short story from El Conquistador)
    • It sounds like the Orcky level was in the Expanded Castle too, but only the rough image is included in the Archive, not the completed map
  • These levels remained native to Castle El Raja Key, and were not incorporated into the Expanded Greyhawk Castle:
    • ERK Upper Works
    • ERK Level 01
    • ERK Level 03
    • ERK Level 05.5
    • ERK Level 08
    • ERK Level 09
    • ERK Level 11
  • The following additional levels were created new for the Expanded Castle Greyhawk, and were never part of the Original Castle or of Castle El Raja Key:
    • ECG East Level 3 Split - Garden & Giant's Pool Hall Level
    • Core Level 5 - Sealed Tomb Level
    • ECG East Level 8 - Machine Level; Rob wrote a wonderful introduction to this dungeon on his Lord of the Green Dragons blog
    • ECG Core Level 11 - Entrance to Oz
    • ECG Core Level 12 - Boreal Level
    • ECG Core Level 13 - Entrance to Asgard, Melnibone, and Dying Earth
    • ECG Core Level 14 - Orb, Sceptre, and Crown Level
    • ECG Core Level 18 - Dragon Level
    • ECG Core (Special) - The Living Room (Pied Piper Publishing, 2008)
  • The following extra-planar levels were known to be in the Original Castle (or at least accessed from it), and were never part of Castle El Raja Key; they may or may not have been placed in the Expanded Castle (unknown, at this time): 
    • Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass 
      • GC S8/X1  → GC1 Dungeonland EX1 Dungeonland (TSR) 
      • GC S8/X2 → GC2 Land Beyond the Magic Mirror EX2 Land Beyond the Magic Mirror (TSR) 
    • Asgard 
    • Barsoom level 
    • City of the Gods (presumably set in Blackmoor) 
    • Dirdir level 
    • Dying Earth  
    • Melnibon√© 
    • Nazi Germany (see "Sturmgeschutz and Sorcery" in SR#05, although this was more likely a one-off Chainmail game vs. a D&D game) 
    • Oz 
    • Skull Island/King Kong level (WG6 Isle of the Ape, TSR 1986) 
    • Starship Warden level (see Gygax's "Faceless Gods and Clockwork Monsters" in TD#17)
  • Other levels are known to exist, but their placement in the Original Castle vs. El Raja Key vs. the Expanded Castle vs. Castle Zagyg remains unknown outside of the original players, at this time:
    • Rob Kuntz's Greek level ("Horsing Around")
    • Teeth of Barkash Nor (originally designed as another extraplanar adventure by EGG and later developed by Bill Silvey and Scott Gregg)
    • The three levels from WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure (TSR, 1984)

More analysis and discussion will undoubtedly follow.  In the meanwhile, celebrate Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson, Rob Kuntz, Phil Barker, Jennell Jaquays, and their works today, this weekend, and into the future by rolling some dice, crushing some monsters for their treasure, and hearing the lamentations of your Dungeon Master! :D


29 June 2017

grodog's NTX 2017 Convention Report - Part 1

+Jon Hershberger  and I have been attending the North Texas RPG Convention since its inaugural convocation in 2009, and our first publication premiered there, too---our 1e conversion of the Goodman Games module DCC 7 Secret of Smuggler’s Cove.  So, NTX holds a special place in our hearts, both as gamers and as publishers.  

NTX wouldn't exist as a convention without the organization, sponsorship, and commitment of its founders, Doug "ScketreWhisp" Rhea and Mike "Badmike" Badolato, and the best news from the convention was seeing Doug Rhea and how great he is doing!  For those who hadn't heard, Doug announced just before Christmas last year that he had stage 4 colon cancer and would begin radiation and chemotherapy in January.  His treatment is continuing, but he looked great at the convention, and was in his usual excellent spirits---hustling, bustling, and making everything come together just-right throughout the event! :D

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Jon and I drove separately to Dallas this year, and I left a bit earlier in the morning than he and Nathalie did, so I arrived mid-afternoon.  There was a lot to sort through on the initial arrival, especially that we could begin setting up our joint Black Blade-Goodman Games booth tonight (we weren't originally going to have access to the exhibitor hall room until Thursday morning, but the event that was scheduled to be in that space cancelled on the hotel, so we were able to begin setup on Wednesday evening).  

As a result of that unexpected news, I cancelled my Pagan Publishing "Grace Under Pressure" game for Call of Cthulhu (which I had scheduled for Wednesday night knowing we wouldn't be setting up the booth...), which I felt bad about, since it was a full event (8 players), and I've never cancelled a convention game like that before.  Despite my misgivings about cancelling, and even with getting started early, Jon and I still worked on the booth until 11:30pm, so it was the right call.

The other good news from Wednesday was that the half-palette of cases of Tales of Peril all arrived safe-and-sound the day before, on Tuesday.  We also had copies of The Twisting Stair #2 (Summer 2017)---which arrived at my home in Kansas two days before on Monday---and a number of other new titles at the convention, including:

  • Dwellers in Dark Places by Matt Hargenrader - a new monster manual for OSRIC
  • Mothshade Concepts' Avremier, Dhavon, and House of Illthrix by David A. Hill 
  • The new Goodman Games reprint of the Judges Guild Book of Treasure Maps by Jennell Jaquays
  •  Rob Kuntz's new non-fiction book, Dave Arneson's True Genius
  •  The new conventions-only module, Blood of the Serpent, and two new sets of DCC Dice---Ming’s Infernal Bones and The Dice of Lost Lemuria---for the DCC RPG from Goodman Games

Thomas Denmark's new games, Terence Gunn's Fantastic Worlds of Grenadier, the Epsilon City boxed set for Metamorphosis Alpha, and a pile books from third-party OSR and DCC publishers rounded out our newest offerings at the convention:

Black Blade Publishing and Goodman Games at NTX 2017

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Thursdays at NTX are usually the busiest at the convention, and this year proved to be no exception.  Sale throughout the day were good, and we also donated Tales of Peril #1 to the Saturday night auction to support Doug's cancer treatment:  

+Chris Holmes arrived early afternoon and was able to check out the book for the first time.  He was very pleased with it, and promptly started showing it off to folks wandering by the booth :D

Thursday night normally closes with Jon and I gaming at the Knights & Knaves Social, but we ended up arriving a bit later than usual (just before 7pm or so), and the game was already well-underway.  

Standing at the head of the table are co-DMs Steve Robertson (of Vanquishing Leviathan and the OSRIC Players Guide fame) and Jimm Johnson (of the equally-famous Scribes of Sparn), while the motley crew of K&K veterans, regulars, newbies, and random victims of the tabletop.events registration system:

Jimm, with Random Wizard, brews the beer for the Social each year---this year featured both Black Wizard Stout and OD&D Bug Bear Pumpkin Ale:

Steve wrote an excellent event summary over on K&K (and in following posts; login probably required to read it), and you can download the KK2 The Mystic Cup of Gygax adventure for free from Jimm's blog, too! 

After enjoying the mayhem with Chris and Jon for a little while, shooting a few pictures, and cackling madly with the DMs behind their screens, we left to eat dinner at Terra Mediterranean, and it was excellent (and not too far from the hotel).  The only advantage of not playing in the K&K Social was that I did at least get to bed at a decent hour :D

Part 2 to follow!