16 August 2019

grodog interview on Twitch TV, Sunday 18 August @ 7:30pm EDT

Jay Scott, one of the gamers I know in South Jersey, runs a Twitch TV channel dedicated to his 30+ year 1e campaign set in the World of Greyhawk. 

While visiting with him on my last trip back home, he asked about having me on his show, which will be live-streamed on Sunday this weekend.  Here's his announcement:

Sunday Evening on the Lord Gosumba Channel

Hello Friends and Greyhawkers! Finishing up a wonderful vacation week with family at the shore! On this Sunday's Gabbin at Lord Peak's Haven #58, my special guest will be Allan T. Grohe Jr., the grodog!

We will discuss Allan's multitude of accomplishments to the D&D and gaming community, his love of the World of Greyhawk, and share what Allan and his company, Black Blade Publishing, are working on currently.

Also, we will discuss some intriguing Greyhawk topics, including, Castle Greyhawk and Castle El Raja Key, Greyhawk Artifacts, rules variants for homebrew Campaigning, and using third party D&D Adventures in the World of Greyhawk setting. I cannot wait to delve into this discussion!

As always, we will welcome questions and participation from the audience! See you Live Stream, Sunday, 8/18, 7:30 PM EDT! https://www.twitch.tv/lordgosumbahttps://www.twitch.tv/lordgosumba
Perhaps I'll see a few of you on Sunday night in the audience :D


06 April 2019

Cairn Hills Lairs - The 1st and 2nd Fluted Cairns

I've been noodling on more regional Greyhawk adventure locations, and the Cairn Hills continue to call to me---there's LOTS of room in them thar hills for various vicious and grand adventuring sites, as well as gold and explorational hijinks!

The Cairn Hills - map by Darlene
from the 1980 World of Greyhawk Folio

I've dubbed these small dungeons Cairn Hills Lairs, and drew two new ones last night and this morning. Both are part of an inter-related system of cairn dungeons called "The Fluted Cairns"---so called because of their titular flutes are, in fact, the entrances into the cairns:  I imagine them as the end-points for large pipe-organ-like tubes that stick up out of the ground all over the hill that the cairn is sited on. You enter by climbing in and sliding down, arriving in one of the various fluted corridors drawn along the edges of each map:

The Fluted Cairn

The Fluted Cairn - by grodog

The Second Fluted Cairn

The Second Fluted Cairn - by grodog

More to come later in terms of the actual key information about the Fluted Cairns, as well as updated maps with intra-level stairs and other dungeon features.


17 March 2019

Celebrating Greyhawk: A Fandom Renaissance - GaryCon XI Seminar

On Friday afternoon last week, I co-hosted a seminar panel discussion at GaryCon XI entitled, "Celebrating Greyhawk—A Fandom Renaissance."  Our panel had a great time discussing past, current, and future fan works, projects, and plans centered on The World of Greyhawk, across all editions, eras, and versions. 

Seminar Topics

The seminar brought together six long-time Greyhawk fans, each discussing different aspects of fan engagement with the Greyhawk setting:
  • Kristoph Nolen kicked off the seminar, starting at 4:00.
  • Mike Bridges (starting at 9:00 to 14:20) spoke to his writings, art, and cartography as seen via his Greyhawkery blog, his creative work on Ull, his W.o.G. comic (showcased weekly-ish on Facebook by Bryan), and Castle Greyhawk comic (written by Scott Casper with Mike's artwork), and his recent work with Anna Meyer on their Legends & Lore show on the Greyhawk channel (live on Twitch, reruns on YouTube)
  • Allan Grohe (me, starting at 15:00 to 27:55) shared some of my favorite Greyhawk researchers and their "deep dives" into the setting's lore, in particular the work of bloggers like Timrod's T1 Moathouse-DMG Sample Dungeon-B2 analysis, Scott “scottsz” Szczypiorski for his Cold Text Files work on WG4 Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, and Scott Casper and Mike Bridges' Castle Greyhawk web comic, among other topics.  You can also download my "Greyhawk Fandom - The Deep Cuts" presentation in PDF format.
  • Anna Meyer (starting at 28:40 to 53:20) spoke about her long-term love for and engagement with the cartography of the Greyhawk setting, including the Flanaess Geographical Society and her Patreon---Anna is the only panelist who's full-time day-job focuses on games-related work; Anna also spoke about Creative Commons licensing
  • Carlos Lising (starting at 54:20 to 1:10:22) discussed how to publish and share your Greyhawk home content, with an emphasis on the challenges around self-publishing for Greyhawk based lessons learned via his casl Entertainment publishing company and Patreon
  • Bryan Blumklotz (starting at 1:11:06 to 1:30:45) spoke about the dynamics of building, growing, maintaining, and managing fan communities, how to help encourage Greyhawk fans to tap into the wealth of resources that are available today; Bryan co-administers the Canonfire!  Facebook group, and also creates fabulous Greyhawk Heraldry (which we didn't discuss much during the seminar, but which is featured throughout Anna's maps as well as OJ28 and its handouts!)
  • Kristoph Nolen (starting at 1:31:45 to 1:49) wrapped up our presentations with his vision for GreyhawkOnline's role in the Greyhawk fan community, including the Greyhawk Wiki, fan space on GHO (both current and legacy fan sites), and the Oerth Journal, among other topics
  • Q&A conclude the session, starting at 1:49.

I recorded the audio for the seminar and posted it to my site at http://www.greyhawkonline.com/grodog/greyhawk-seminar-garycon-2019-03-08.mp3.  A transcript for the session will also available once I get that generated.  If I get ambitious, I'll carve up each segment so that you can drop back into the seminar wherever you'd like to do so, but until that time, I've placed time-markers in our section notes above.

GaryCon also recorded audio/video for the session, and we'll provide links to that stream when it's available.  

The GaryCon event description for the seminar is at
https://tabletop.events/conventions/gary-con-xi/schedule/355 and if you're curious I wrote a little more about the seminar's background in my January update to my Charting the Flanaesss: a Settlements Distance and Mileage Chart project, too.


Seminar Video Content

Jay "Lord Gosumba" Scott and DMShane of the Greyhawk Channel also provided videos for the seminar.  Unfortunately we ran out of time and weren't able to share them live, but through the magic of the internet you can view them both:


Oerth Journal 28!

At the seminar, we also debuted the newest issue of the Oerth Journal #28, and distributed 100 copies in print for free to the attendees of the seminar and other folks at the show.  This is the first time that the OJ has been published as a print project!  

Oerth Journal #28 cover image - cartography by Anna Meyer, artwork by W. Kristoph Nolen, Heraldry by Bryan Blumklotz
Oerth Journal #28 cover -
cartography by Anna Meyer,
artwork by W. Kristoph Nolen,
heraldry by Bryan Blumklotz

The seminar participants each contributed expanded material inserted to the OJ print edition, with some new/overflow content appearing online only (not in the print booklet/handouts):
In addition, OJ28 also includes these articles:
  • Order of Ulek: Founding and Synposis – by Jay Scott
  • State of the Bandit Kingdoms – by William Dvorak
  • Order of Ulek: The Shield Lands – by Jay Scott
  • Trading Card Style Artwork – by Jeffrey B. Garrison
  • Rhennee Rumors from Up and Down the River – by W. Kristoph Nolen with the Oliver Brothers
  • The Great Flanaess River Adventure – by the Oliver Brothers with W. Kristoph Nolen
  • Cultists of Tharizdun comic by Mike Bridges
  • The Cerulean Cyst – by Carlos Lising, an AD&D 1e adventure set in the Cairn Hills
  • The Wall – by Denis “Maldin” Tetreault, an AD&D encounter area
  • Greyhawk Reborn Introduction – by Dave Guerreri
  • The Greyhawk Channel – by W. Kristoph Nolen
  •  Flanaess Distance Chart – by Allan T. Grohe Jr.

Lastly, the submitted materials included a lot of "overflow" content that could not possibly fit into the print issue.  

For full details, see https://greyhawkonline.com/seminar/ (and note the upcoming 24th anniversary of the OJ in May 2019, too!). 

Thank You!

We'd like to thank all of the fans who attended the seminar, who expressed interest in the recordings and the Oerth Journal content afterward, and who have helped make Greyhawk into one of the most-fun worlds to game in over the years!

Bryan, Mike, Allan, Carlos, Anna, and Kristoph.

23 February 2019

UPDATE 2 - Charting The Flanaess: a Settlements Distance and Mileage Chart

In May 2018 I began work on building a Settlements Distance and Mileage Chart for the Flanaess, but the project has lain fairly fallow until last month.

Since before the start of the year, our team of Greyhawk fan contributors have been working on material for the Greyhawk Seminar (details in last month's update), and I've been doing my part in that effort too.

As part of some of that work, I've realigned my mileage distances chart data to include only those settlements that appear on Anna B. Meyer's Flanaess map excerpt for the handouts.  In doing so, I removed a few cities from my original swag list, and added a few more, which meant that last Sunday I performed the rest of the Darlene map measurements to drive my distance calculations formulas.  

Here's where things stand at present:

Flanaess Settlements Mileage - Data Entry for Distances and Conveneting mm into Miles
grodog at work -
fitting the Flanaess into spreadsheet cells

With the change from some of the original settlements that are now out-of-scope for the map area in the new handouts, and adding in the new ones, I've now completed distances for 17 of the 130 locations, which is 13.1% of the overall effort.  A little progress goes a long way---although not so far in this case, since all of these settlements are in the Central Flanaess and are pretty close to one another! ;)


19 January 2019

UPDATE 1 - Charting The Flanaess: a Settlements Distance and Mileage Chart

In May last year I began work on building a Settlements Distance and Mileage Chart for the Flanaess, but the project has lain fairly fallow until recently.

Greyhawk Seminar at GaryCon 2019

A crew of six of us will host a Greyhawk seminar at GaryCon XI in March 2019, focused on the state of the state of Greyhawk fandom.  The seminar is titled "Celebraing Greyhawk: A Fandom Renaissance" and the event description is:

Greyhawk fans have been creating and sharing content online for 25+ years, across many platforms. Join Bryan Blumklotz, Mike Bridges, Allan Grohe, Carlos Lising, Anna Meyer, and Kristoph Nolen as we celebrate and showcase Greyhawk resources created by the fans who champion one of D&D's oldest settings. Reference handouts will be provided, and perhaps prizes if we get our act together!
Additional informationabout the seminar  (including a recording of the session and any distributed handouts) will appear on Greyhawk Online at https://www.greyhawkonline.com/seminar.

Charting the Flanaess Update

One of the seminar handouts I'm planing is a working prototype for the mileage chart,  limited in scope to the Central Flanaess in and around the City of Greyhawk, so I’ve been working on that recently by measuring out the distances from city to city on the Darlene map, in millimeters:

Flanaess Settlements Mileage - Raw Darlene Map Distances in mm
grodog at work -
measuring the Flanaess in millimeters

Once the measurements are complete, I enter the raw data into Excel in the first/upper set of cities listings.  The green, red, and yellow highlighted rows are my fact-checking:  I want to insure that the figures true-up across each row and column, and then in total as well:

Flanaess Settlements Mileage - Data Entry for Distances and Converting mm into Miles
grodog at work -
fitting the Flanaess into spreadsheet cells

The second/lower set of cities listings is where I convert the measured distances in mm into scale miles (I’ll eventually do kilometers as well), based on this data and formula logic:

  1. One Folio Darlene hex = 55 mm across = 10 scale leagues/30 scale miles
  2. Convert the raw distance between each city into a ratio relative to the hex sizes on the Darlene Folio maps:  (X mm/55mm). 
  3. Multiple the ratio by 30 miles to derive the final distance figure
Like in the first/ upper set of cities, I also fact-check the figures to insure that they match properly. 

I think I’ve also found a good methodology for how to manually count out of the Darlene map mileage distances:  I’ll simply print a copy of the “Index to the Cities & Features of the Flanaess” page from the Glassography and measure out the distances for each listed city, one city to a sheet.


Interesting aside #1:  of the 130 settlements that appear in the Glassography index, about 50 appear in the general region of the Central Flanaess.  That’s 38% of the cities squeezed into an area only that occupies only 25% of the Darlene mapspace. 

Interesting aside #2:  looking at each page of the original maps to calculate the settlement density will also be an interesting exercise to go through, I think. 

Minor Complications

One of the major issues I’ll want to call out in the data is a possible discrepancy in measurement when the distances span both of the Darlene maps:  maps can shift around, the hexes could be misaligned, etc., so measuring across both maps will be more challenging and more prone to error than when measuring within either map alone. 

In my prototype data set, only Luekish, Radigast City, and Riftcraft appear on the right-hand map, so I calculated all of the left-hand map’s distances first, then measured the right-hand ones back to the left, and wrapped up with the right-hand-only mileage. 

Next Steps

Once I have a better understanding of the scope included in the map handouts that we’ll distribute at the seminar (and we will post all of the handouts to Greyhawk Online, and at minimum an audio recording of the seminar as well), I will update the list of cities to feature any other major ones that aren’t already included in the chart, which will finalize the initial prototype data set. 

Sometime after GaryCon, the rest of the long-haul work will begin, likely to occur in three phases: 

  1. Count out all of the distances in the left-hand map.
  2. Count out all of the distances in the right-hand map.
  3. Count out all of the distances that span both maps.

I’ll continue to post updates here as I make further progress!

09 January 2019

Paul Stormberg reddit "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) on Gygax Manuscripts Archive

This afternoon today, Paul Stormberg of The Collector's Trove held a Q&A session over on reddit about the contents of Gary Gygax's unpublished manuscripts:
Adventurers wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success!
This is an AMA, wherein I allow adventurers to ask me anything about the trove of treasures left behind by Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, and what traps and guardians await them.

Gail Gygax's agent, Gina Ramirez, also participated in the AMA, covering questions around licensing as well as future publishing plans for computer games, RPGs, etc.

In the Q&A discussion, Paul offered several interesting revelations about the contents of the Gygax collection, including details relevant to the original Greyhawk campaign!

I'm quoting Paul throughout the text below, and also quote a few of the asked questions for context, as well.  And here's a quick mini-TOC in case you want to jump among the topics later:

The Gygax Collection as a Whole

  • JustOneAmongMany's Q:  "Presuming that you've looked at (or, hopefully, catalogued) the entirety of the material, can you break it down into percentages by category? e.g. 10% Greyhawk, 25% Lejendary Adventures, 15% novels, etc.?"

    Paul's A:  "I'd say it breaks down to 30% product (comp copies and author's copies of product), 15% correspondence, 15% personal materials (play copies of games, dice, desk knick knacks, awards, etc.) , 40% game design materials (manuscripts, maps, notes, etc.).

    "Of the design materials: novels and short stories 20%, original campaign materials 30%, new unpublished designs 50% (fiction, board games, card games, computer games, adventures, RPGs)."

Castle Greyhawk Data Points

  • Paul:  "The manuscript for Gary's, unpublished, original home campaign is still extant! Indeed, I have unearthed the original castle manuscript of 22 levels. Also, the larger, expanded castle of 62 levels is also intact and well secured by Gary's widow, Gail Gygax.
    "Additionally, there are over a dozen alternate levels that were used to change out levels depending on who was playing. In total nearly 100 levels of the castle exist with some 300 pages of keys."
  • Paul:  "Finding and reading the entry of the imprisoned demigods in Gary's original castle was pretty cool too!

    "The demigods are different than what was published and what transpired in the game and later related historically is also different -- totally stunned when I read it and as thrilled as Carter when I discovered it.

    "Remember, Gary was actively running his home campaign. He was very careful about revealing secrets and rarely published his personal campaign material. If he spoke of it he was careful not to reveal too much.
  • Zenopus Archives Q: "What are publication plans for the original Castle material that we know of, specifically the binder maps/keys, the demo of level 1 at Origins (which you have run at Gary Con), and the Teeth of Barkash Nour tournament level?"

    Paul's A: "Of course I am well aware of both of those properties and they have been incorporated back into the original castle. We have looked at different options and have met with several interested parties. This is Gary's magnum opus of game design and we want to be partnered with the right sort of publisher and developer.

    "Gary was very clear to his wife Gail on how he wanted this to be presented. She is striving to follow his wishes and find the best possible partner in this. Many are eager to be involved and have incredible heart but the effort must be exceptionally professional and of the utmost quality."

The Temple of Elemental Evil

  • Paul:  "Indeed the original manuscript exists but more interestingly, Gary's original campaign notes, maps, and keys exist! Gary had an incredible epic planned for this legendary adventure but he was never able to realize it and turned over only the partial, typed manuscript to Frank Mentzer to finish.

    "Thus the real adventure lies in the the treasures of the Gygax vault. Indeed, the maps for the home campaign dungeon are totally different than the published version and his original notes from 1977 lay out a far different campaign than was published.

    "I have personally discussed these with Mike Mearls of Hasbro and Erik Mona of Paizo and, despite their immersed nature in the game and years of experience, were duly astonished and thrilled by the thought of the campaign laid out by Gary."


grodog's Questions

Paul very generously answered at length the questions I submitted, so I'm reproducing them here in full:
  • grodog Q #1: Given your access to and visibility across Gary's full career of creative work output, what do you consider Gary's best game designs, and why?

    Paul's A: "I really think the G-series and D-series, especially G1 for the economy of words -- I think like 6 pages of actual adventure -- Gary demonstrated what you really need to run a great sword and sorcery adventure. No prose is wasted on the DM and there is no padding that gets in the way of running the adventure. Nonetheless, it is one of the all-time beloved adventures and has to be one of the most published adventures of all time.

    "Like artists, I think all designers suffer in their sophomore efforts D&D and the AD&D are right on in tone and usefulness. The DMG is a giant in RPG design and is the bible for DM's of any stripe. It is an endless well of great advice and inspirational and instructive writing without having one mote of dull writing. Gary's sophomore effort was Unearthed Arcana, admittedly forced by circumstances. It broke all of his rules set forth in the first three books. While it is beloved by some it is polarizing."
  • grodog Q #2: "Similarly, what undiscovered gems in Gary's work that are either very rare or unpublished have you seen that you would most want to see published, and why?"

    Paul's A:  "His smallest samurai books are among my favorites for non-RPG materials.

    "So many levels of his original castle that have never been mentioned publicly -- wow! The Teeth of Barkash Nour lying undiscovered for years is a fantastic one. He has another adventure where the players must enter the Egyptian underworld, recover pieces of their souls, travel through the various underworlds, face their present aspect of their ruler, and ultimately ascend out of the place if they succeed. Great adventure!

    "Of course, the whole castle reigns supreme as far as crown jewels go but wow do I love Gary's original Temple of Elemental Evil home campaign! It really blows my mind the the incredible campaign arc he outlined back in 1977 was never realized! It really give me goosebumps when I describe it."
  • grodog Q #3: "Gail Gygax has talked in the past about wanting to publish Gary's IP in a variety of formats: movies, video games, RPG products, etc. Does she have any updates in the works for Gary's IP that you can share?"

    Paul's A:  "The update is that we are still wanting to find the right partner on a variety of projects. There have been some heartfelt efforts and some incredibly professional ones. We hope to start closing in on product lines in the near future.

    "Gina Ramirez, Gail's agent, will have some more to add as she has been shoulder to should with Gail on this."
  • grodog Q #4: " Among the World of Greyhawk materials in the collection, do these known-but-unpublished manuscripts still survive, and if so, to what extent?---that is, can please you describe what survives in terms of maps, content outlines, written pages, art orders, etc.: 
    1. Wasps Nest: the City of Stoink, 
    2. the missing Geomorphs sets: Dungeon Geos "Rooms, Chambers & Passages - Set Four and Outdoor Geos Set Two (Castle/Fortress) and Set Three (Ruins), 
    3. new class materials for Gary's proto-second-edition for the Bard, Hunter, Jester, Mountebank, Mystic, and Savant, 
    4. the City of Greyhawk in it's various forms (small, medium, and large?), and 
    5. last but certainly not least, Castle Greyhawk in its two (or more?) formats as the Original Castle and the Expanded Castle."

    Paul's A:
    1. None but all of Dyvers exists.  
    2. None. 
    3. Hunter, Mountebank, Mystic, and Savant only.
    4. All. 
    5. The manuscript for Gary's, unpublished, original home campaign is still extant! Indeed, I have unearthed the original castle manuscript of 22 levels. Also, the larger, expanded castle of 62 levels is intact and well secured by Gary's widow, Gail Gygax. Additionally, there are over a dozen alternate levels that were used to change out levels depending on who was playing. In total nearly 100 levels of the castle exist with some 300 pages of keys.
  • grodog Q #5: What do you consider Gary's most important role at TSR?: his work as an game designer/creator of original content vs. his work organizing, editing, and bringing together the diverse contributions from Arneson, Kuntz, Marsh, Lakofka, Lucien, and many others vs. his work as a visionary and leader scaling up the hobby as a whole (with TSR atop, of course), or some other role I've not described?

    Paul's A: Certainly we would not have D&D or AD&D and many of the beloved works associated with Gary's company TSR without his endless energy to network, connect, inspire, encourage, collate, collaborate, and publish the disparate contributions of so many. Ultimately these contributions end up under Gary's hand but there is no denying Gary's own ability to create and his vision are the reason we all have a beloved pastime.

    Gary's greatest impact on the company was probably the patriarchal role he played from the IFW days to TSR's heyday. He really had a cult of personality among the creative types and even other employees. This would bring the Blume's much grief as they tried to run the company under their edicts.

Gygax Games Website Update --- including Muesuem of the Gods level map!

Also very noteworthy is that the Gygax Games web site has a new facelift, and it sounds like Paul and Gina will be helping to maintain it going-forward (if I'm interpreting their comments properly). 

Under the Gary's Archive page is a picture of the Museum of the Gods map from the Castle Zagyg manuscript, too!:

Gary Gygax's Museum of the Gods map
from the Castle Zagyg manuscript, unseen for 45 years!

You can also download the full-size version, too.

Paul's video on the same page introduces the collection, and mentions the new Gygax Games Twitter account will be providing future updates, as well:  @gygaxgames.

All-in-all, this was a fine day for a Greyhawk fan, and I'm very curious to hear what more news may be revealed at GaryCon 11 in a couple of short months!


04 January 2019

grodog's Mega-Dungeon Maps - the Behind Bars level

I drew most of this level last night, and noodled on it more today over breakfast and lunch.  It's about 80% done or so---I need to work on the detailing more, to make some decisions on areas that aren't connected to the rest of the level yet, insert intra-level elevations, etc., as usual.

I wanted to focus on some specific design goals for the flow:

  • visible areas that are on/off inaccessible via portcullises, also with several one-way doors in the mix (including some off of the entry chamber; I need to add some more portcullises too)
  • some larger, more-open spaces, including a dragon lair perhaps (or one for a clutch of sibling sub-adults!)
  • several mini-hubs that corridors/rooms radiate outward from
  • a more middle-of-the-road level of complexity vs. my usual more-elaborately-tormenting designs ;)

Beyond what I noted above (and some miscellaneous very light notes on the map), I don't have a specific ideas in mind for the key, but I do envision this as a more upper-level, perhaps even an alternate primary entry route into the dungeons.

I got the idea to start another new level when browsing through OSRIC for an unrelated product, and I rediscovered Sean "Stonegiant" Stone's starting area VI on page 159 (in the PDF).  (My entry point is the 30' wide stair leading down into the level, center-ish in the lower-left quadrant):

grodog's "Behind Bars" level - first draft map
grodog's "Behind Bars" level - first draft map

The full-size version is available @ http://www.greyhawkonline.com/grodog/gh_castle_grodog_level-behind-bars-01.jpg

The other articles in my Mega-Dungeon Maps series include: