21 November 2020

Prospects and Retrospects - 101 posts From Kuroth's Quill

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

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

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

My blog masthead proclaims,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prospects and Retrospects

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

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

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

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

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

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


01 November 2020

An Index of the D&D Works of Lenard "Leomund's Tiny Hut" Lakofka

Cover art to LD#44

While Lenard Lakofa is perhaps best known to D&D players for his character "Leomund" and his associated "Leomund's Tiny Hut" column in Dragon Magazine (as well as the third-level MU spell of the same name from AD&D), his roots in fantasy gaming run much deeper:

  • Lenard attended the inaugural GenCon in 1968, and was contributing to the Spartan and the untitled IFW newsletters in the same year.  See IFW zines at The Tome of Treasures forums by for "lakofka" as keyword:  https://www.tomeoftreasures.com/forum/search.php
  • Lenard's fantasy miniatures rules were developed and playtested in his Diplomacy zine, Les Liaisons Dangereuses through mid-1975, as well as at GenCon VIII in 1975 and continuing through until at least 1980
  • Like most TSR and/or TSR-associated tourneys at early GenCons, the titles of the events were very generic like "D&D For Prizes" or "D&D for Novices" or "D&D Adventure" up through about 1979, when event titles began to differentiate:
    • 1980 featured "Consort of the Queen" and "The Crypt of Yenoughu" ("A single session game with plenty of hard-and-heavy action for pre-rolled 5th-11th level characters."), "The Town of Grellton" ("An AD&D adventure with pre-diced characters, second through fifth level.) among others
    • 1981 featured "Devil’s Spire" ("A party of 8th to 11th level adventurers weather encounters with a Pit Fiend, a Mage and myriads of monsters in an attempt to send Dispater back to the plan of Dis. An AD&D adventure."),  "The Embassy to the Pale" ("Adventurers of 3rd to 5th level are recruited by the Baron Ratik, who seeks to attack the Bone March. The Baron must first obtain the help of the Theocracy of the Pale, and you and your comrades will carry his message to the theocrats."), and "The Lair of the Cloud Giant Feor" ("A vast castle site on the island of Voleax in the Northern Spindrift Isles, Here, a prince of the cloud giants makes his home with an assortment of nasty “pets.” An AD&D adventure with characters from 7th to 11th level.")
    • You can explore many of Lenard's GenCon events at http://www.best50yearsingaming.com/programs/?utf8=%E2%9C%93&search_field=all_fields&q=lakofka

Lakofka in Diplomacy and Chicago Gaming Zines

Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Les Liaisons Dangereuses was published from 18 May 1969 and up through issue #81 (20 July 1977), and most of the LD issues are archived at http://whiningkentpigs.com/DW/kent/l.htm.   

Les Liaisons Dangereuses contains the following pieces mentioning Gary Gygax, GenCon, and Lenard's D&D rules/variants.  This list is not comprehensive, merely what I've found to date, and obviously doesn't include data on issues missing from the Dippy Zines archive link above:

  • LD#44 - 18 May 1973, 4th Anniversary Issue, dedicated to J.R.R. Tolkien with a Smaug cover illustration:  page 2 includes "A Short History of Liaisons Dangereuses" which recounts Lenard's introduction to the Diplomacy game via Gary Gygax at GenCon I in 1968
  • LD#57 - 26 May 1975:  page 2 mentions SR#2, ending with "This zine is from the dynamic GENCON group who have produced so many great conventions and excellent miniatures rules from many historical periods"; page 6 states, "Also in LD 58 will be some notes, if not the beginning of a complete set of rules, on Fantasy Miniatures. The Chicago Wargaming group, whose chief members are Gene Leander, Mark Nyderek, Rich Swies, and myself (with respect to miniatures rules--especially Fantasy miniatures) is now writing an entire set of rules for fantasy miniatures. At this time we doubt if they will be made commercially available as some playtesting etc. is necessary.  Your comments on them will be appreciated."
  • LD#58 - 18 June 1975: page 7 touches on Lenard's proposed fantasy rules, stating that he'll hold off on including them in LD until they'd been tested further;  page 9 includes "Combat tables for fantasy miniatures--compatible with Dungeons & Dragons" which is a basic attack/resolution matrix based in Chainmail
  • LD#59 - 9 July 1975:  page 10 (and a little of page 1) includes "Casting a Spell--Fantasy Rules Additions" [with the last few words on page 10 in the title obliterated]
  • LD#61 - 27 Aug 1975:  page 4 includes a GenCon VIII report, with mention of Ral Partha's premiere fantasy line of minis; pages 7-11 include "Fantasy Rule Additions"
  • LD#62 - 18 Sept 1975:  pages 5-7 feature "Additional notes on spells"; pages 8-10 include "An expedition played under LD rules" and "Cleric Spells"
  • LD#64 - 5 Nov 1975:  pages 7-9 feature "A sand table battle" summary/report from a Middle Earth Gondor-Mordor battle, played with with Lenard's minis rules from LD#58-62.
  • LD#65 - 5 Dec 1975:  page 4 includes a letter from Gary Gygax re: GenCon withdrawing its bid to host DipCon 1976, and will shift their hosting bid to GenCon 1977; also states, "Meanwhile, plans for a fantasy battle at GenCon can now proceed. Let us know what day will suit you best, times, etc." and Len adds "for all of you D&D fans he also promises a hobby shop opening soon and knowing Gary it will [be] a great effort" as well as this longer comment:  "I will be gamemastering a fantasy battle (or two) at Gen Con using variable success Spell Rules as outlined in LD.  Since I will be spending most of the week in Lake Geneva I will try a separate game for each of the conventions scheduled days.  I have suggested to Gary a team event using a single elimination system---as we did in 1971 at Gen Con for an armor team game.  The plan for this event will firm up before Christmas once Gary and I have crossed a few letters in the mails."  This seems similar to the scoring system used in the December 1976 Tsojconth tourney from WinterCon V.
  • LD#66 - 21 Jan 1976:  page 8 mentions SR#5 contents and Len's "Highly recommended!" summary, which Lenard concludes with a note "if it only had a demonstration game of Diplomacy or perhaps a Fantasy Variant-- Gary? I'll GM such a game if you would like to include it.)"
  • LD#68 - 3 March 1976:  page 1 mentions GenCon 9; page 6 Len writes a play summary/mini-review of Dungeon!; page 7 has an ad for Origins II
  • LD#70 - 18 May 1976, 7th Anniversary issue:  includes the letter "Dunned for a Dragon Article" by Gary Gygax on pages 11-12 talking about D&D and it shistory
  • LD#71 - 1? June 1976, Fantasy Special issue:  page 1 mentions GenCon IX and Origins II, pages 5-9 "Fantasy Rule Additions" (dated 16 May 1976, and related to (build on?) those Lenard published in TD#1)
  • LD#72 - 17 July 1976, the Dungeons & Dragon Special Women & Magic issue:  "Women & Magic" by Lenard W. Lakofka and E. Gary Gygax on pages 2-4, 8-11
  • LD#73 - 16 Aug 1976:  "Expanding the Combat Table in Dungeons & Dragons" on pages 3; something about Doors on pages 4-5; something about Blackmoor's combat system on page 6
  • LD#74 - 14 Sept 1976:  "The Pyrologist - A Study in Fire Use:  A New Dungeons & Dragons Subclass" by Lenard Lakofka and E. Gary Gygax; and a review of Lankhmar (TSR 1976)
  • LD#75 - 17 Nov 1976:  "Skrying in Dungeons & Dragons" by Lenard Lakofka & E. Gary Gygax
  • LD#76 - 14 Dec 1976:  "Dwarves & Hobbits & Magic" by L. W. Lakofka & E. Gary Gygax on pages 3-5
  • LD#77:  pages 2-3 = something by LL & EGG about combat and MA at Winter Fantasy (a game report it seems?); page 4 MA review; ad for "A Chicagoland Game Club! The Dragon Seekers" on page 5 (2 Feb 1977)
  • LD#79 - 25 April 1977:  mentions "Big Anniversary Issue Next Time! D&D and Diplomacy."
  • LD#80 - presumed May or June 1977:  "Manufacture of Magic Items in Dungeons & Dragons" by Lenard W. Lakofka in association with E. Gary Gygax on pages 3-18 plus 21, which includes enchanment and guidlines for all types of magic items, and a short section on the identification of magic items ; "Regaining Spell Levels" by Lenard W. Lakofka in association with E. Gary Gygax on pages 18 and 21

The Wizard newsletters (1977):  Lenard edited this Chicago newsletter for the Dragon Seekers club (although there may have been another newsletter entitled "DragonSeekers" too?), and articles penned by Lenard appear in issues #3 and #4:
  • Issue #3 (1077):  
    • "The Pyrologist, a new Dungeons & Dragons subclass:  A Study in Fire Use":  9 pages of codified and cleanly-presented class details and new spells, clearly built from the year-earlier article in LD#74
    • "The Gods and Dungeons & Dragons":  I believe that this is the first mention of the gods from the "island of Lendore" pantheons (although not named Sueloise in nature as such at this time---these first gods of Lendore were from the Egyptian, Greek, and Norse mythoi), and lays out Lenard's approach to defining the rules that bound deities and their interactions in the campaign setting---including a gods-level saving throw chart! 
  • Issue #4 (January 1978):   
    • "Animals & Monsters: Attack Modes" by Lenard Lakofka and W. John Wheeler (later known as a co-founder of The Companions) on pages 2-5
    • "Climbing and Falling" by Lenard Lakofka on page 6
    •  "Damage and Special Damage" table by L. W. Lakofka in assocation with E. Gary Gygax on page 7
    • "Dungeonmastering - A Soliloquoy" by Lenard Lakofka on pages 8-9
    • "Lycanthropy" by Lenard Lakofka on pages 10-11, 14
    • "A Miniatures battle for up to 12 players - Played on August 20 1977 @ GenCon X" by Lenard Lakofka on pages 12-14

Leomund in Dragon and with The Companions


From the DragonDex, an extract of all of Lenard's articles from The Strategic Review, The Dragon, and Dragon Magazine:

Lakofka, Len            

                 "Action In the Melee Round"                43(26)        D&D1
                 "Adding Depth To the Flanaess"                52(18)        D&D1
                 "All Good Things Must End..."                31(30)        D&D1
                 "Beefing Up the Cleric"                            58(5)        D&D1
                 "Blueprint For a Lich"                            26(36)        D&D1
                 "Bureaucrats and Politicians"                74(8)        D&D1
                 "Cloistered Cleric, The"                            68(30)        D&D1
                 "Creating Tailor-Made Monsters"                108(9)        D&D1
                 "Experience: By Doing and Learning"            35(14)        D&D1
                 "For NPC's Only: The Death Master"            76(10)        D&D1
                 "Gods of the Suel Pantheon"                87(23)        D&D1
                 "Gods of the Suel Pantheon"                88(8)        D&D1
                 "Gods of the Suel Pantheon"                89(20)        D&D1
                 "Gods of the Suel Pantheon"                90(24)        D&D1
                 "Gods of the Suel Pantheon"                92(22)        D&D1
                 "Good Evening: Are You Wild About Vampires?..."        30(7)        D&D1
                 "How To Make a Pantheon You Can Have Faith In!"        36(17)        D&D1
                 "If You Meet These Monsters, Don't Let Them Bug You"     32(16)        D&D1
                 "Inner Planes, The"                    42(24)        D&D1
                 "Just a Door? Not Any More"                53(56)        D&D1
                 "Keep Track of Quality"                    65(13)        D&D1
                 "Len Lakofka's Fantasy Miniatures Rules"        1(13)        --
                 "Leomund's In a Rut"                    36(29)        D&D1
                 "Let Them Entertain You"                69(54)        D&D1
                 "Magic For Merchants"                    62(56)        D&D1
                 "Make Charisma Count For More"                63(19)        D&D1
                 "Missile Fire and the Archer Subclass"            45(32)        D&D1
                 "Mission Control"                    48(63)        D&D1
                 "Monsters: How Strong Is Strong?"            44(28)        D&D1
                 "New Charts, Using the '5%' Principle"            80(48)        D&D1
                 "New Monsters For Low Levels"                66(54)        D&D1
                 "Notes On Women & Magic"                3(7)        OD&D
                 "Presenting...The Monties"                37(16)        D&D1
                 "Presenting the Suel Pantheon"                86(30)        D&D1
                 "Rearranging and Redefining the Mighty Dragon"        38(10)        D&D1
                 "Recipe For the Alchemist, A"                49(56)        D&D1
                 "'Segment of Action' System..."                34(34)        D&D1
                 "Shield and Weapon Skills"                57(10)        D&D1
                 "Smoothing Out Some Snags In the AD&D Spell Structure"    33(16)        D&D1
                 "Specialization and Game Balance"            104(28)        D&D1
                 "Starting From Scratch"                    39(20)        D&D1
                 "Thief: A Special Look, The"                47(20)        D&D1
                 "Tone Down the Demi-Humans"                105(10)        D&D1
                 "Working Your Way Up To First Level"            51(22)        D&D1

With The Companions:  While Lenard contributed to a few of their products, as well as participating in some seminars with them at GenCons in the 1980s, their collaboration began in the late 1970s, as seen in The Wizard issue #4 piece above:

Lenard's More-Recent Work

  • The Oerth Journal Issue 1 - May 1995):  "The History of Oerth (Oerik)" written with Steven "Tamarlane" Wilson, et al
  • The Oerth Journal Issue 10 - Jul 1999):  "Leomund’s Life"
  • The Oerth Journal Issue 11 - May 2000)"A History and Timeline of the Suloise"
  • Footprints (Issue 5 - Aug 2005)
  • Footprints (Issue 6 - Dec 2005)
  • Footprints (Issue 7 - Apr 2006)
  • Footprints (Issue 7 - Apr 2006)
  • Footprints (Issue 8 - Aug 2006)
  • Footprints (Issue 9 - Dec 2006) 
  • Footprints (Issue 12 - Mar 2008)  
  • Footprints (Issue 14 - Jan 2009)
  • Footprints (Issue 15 - Jun 2009)
  • Footprints (Issue 17 - Mar 2011)
  • & (Issue 3 - Winter 2012)
  • Gygax Magazine (Issue 1 - Feb 2013) 
  • & (Issue 4 - Spring 2013)
  • & (Issue 5 - Summer 2013)
  • Gygax Magazine (Issue 2 - Autumn 2013)
  • & (Issue 6 - Fall 2013)
  • & (Issue 7 - Winter 2013)
  • & (Issue 8 - Spring 2014)
  • Gygax Magazine (Issue 4 - Summer 2014) 
  • & (Issue 9 - Summer 2014)
  • & (Issue 10 - Fall 2014)
  • Gygax Magazine (Issue 5 - Winter 2014-2015) 
  • & (Issue 11 - Summer 2015)
  • Gygax Magazine (Issue 6 - Sep 2015): Leomund's Secure Shelter  - "Telepathy in First Edition AD&D" 
  • & (Issue 12 - Fall 2015)
  • & (Issue 13 - Fall 2016)
  • Dragon+ (Issue 14 - Jun 2017)
  • Dragon+ (Issue 28 - Nov 2019)  
Lenard's RPGgeek entries also highlight some contributions to early D&D-related Netbooks, which I'll dig up and add here too.

Interviews and Livestreams with Lenard

For some basic information about Lenard, see his Wikipedia and RPGgeek entries.
I helped James Malizewski contact Lenard in 2008 to conduct this three-part interview series:
And of course Lenard has been a frequent guest on Jay Scott's LordGosumba Greyhawk-focused livestream on twitch.tv.  I haven't built an index of all of Lenard's appearances on Jay's show yet, but will continue to work on that:


Research Thank Yous!

My thanks to Mark Petrick for scans of The Wizard newsletters; to Andrew "Fid" Weist, Bryan Fazekas, Andreas Claren, David Prata, and the many L4 and L5 organizers and editors at Dragonsfoot who brought those projects to published completion; and to Fid again for the LD#80 articles.
Of course my greatest appreciation goes out to Lenard Lakofka, for sharing his works with us over the decades---our Greyhawk and AD&D gaming has been a far richer experience thanks to your myriad and substantive contributions!  You are missed!


19 October 2020

Virtual TsunamiCon 2020 - A Resounding Success!

My thanks to the indefatigable Erik Carl and his cohort of admins, helpdeskers, and technical wizards for putting on TsunamiCon 2020 Virtual Con this weekend!

As usual, I have a wonderful time each year at TsunamiCon, and 2020 was no exception!

I played Dread for the first time under the auspices of Matt Harrop’s madcap (and sometimes just mad!) Empire-Records-meets-the-King-in-Yellow scenario for Dread, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” with Angela K. A. Robertson and Vanessa Keeler, all three of whom had me laughing uncontrollably throughout our session together! While laughter isn’t always terribly common in a Cthulhu game, it just proves the old axiom that it’s the best medicine/remedy, since we did in fact manage to save the world, in spite of ourselves ;)

I also played in Jb Wilson’s excellently-run Delta Green scenario, “Operation: Dust Bowl”—the first time I’ve played under the “new” DG RPG rules, and possibly the first time I’ve played it in general since the late ‘90s when Pagan Publishing still ruled the CoC roost! I had a good time playing alongside Brian Wiles for the first time (on the same side of the screen, that is—we met at TsunamiCon last year, in fact!), and with our fellow Cell-W agents portrayed by El Cid, Becky Hooton, and Andrew Shepard. Becky’s “Agent Wade” didn’t make it out, but the world lives to fight another day through his greatest sacrifice, which is all DG ever asks for ;)

I also ran two playtest sessions of my Iounic Vaults AD&D 1e scenario, and one session of the late, great Tom Moldvay’s unpublished module CH-1 The Morandir Company. I’ll blog about those, as well as the two other sessions I ran at Virtual Greyhawk Con two weeks ago, in the next few days.

Thanks again to the admins, volunteers, GMs, and players who made TsunamiCon 2020 Virtual Con such a fun success!

03 October 2020

Virtual GreyhawkCon - Day 1


I had a wonderful time at Virtual Greyhawk Con today!:

  1. Friday afternoon I ran the first of four playtest sessions for the Iounic Vaults (two at vGHC, two at the upcoming TsunamiCon 2020 Virtual Con), and had a very fun time with a crew of eight players. They managed to almost recover The Ring of Gaxx, but didn't quite pull it out in the closing minutes of the session. Settling for the One Ring isn't a bad alternative, right?

  2. After a quick pizza dinner, Carlos Lising of casl Entertainment ran his new Greyhawk scenario "Reflections from a Smoking Mirror" for five of us---a diplomatic rescue suicide mission from the beleaguered Free Onnwal to the Tuov in Hepmonaland, both mutual victims of the Scarlet Brotherhood.

Carlos' games are always fun, and he wove together the mythologies of Greyhawk and the Central American Aztecs into a seamless whole.

It's not often I get to nearly not-die while fighting the god of death, which is a great way to conclude a Friday night of gaming :D

28 September 2020

grodog's Castle Greyhawk - Campaign Journal 25 September 2020

We had an excellent Castle Greyhawk session last night, with some really fun roleplaying among the PCs and goblins in particular, which setup the rest of the session's action very nicely!  



After exploring into some waterway areas in Castle Greyhawk's level 1 dungeon, The PCs headed back to investigate a door under the entry stairs, discovering what may be a one-way door (the hard way).  Afterward, they explored a bit off of a Y intersection, and then met some local goblins in the other Y, and got in good with them through some judicious role-playing (and a charismatic half-orc and MU able to speak goblin).  It helped a lot that the PCs mentioned that they were a) a part of the Horned Society, and b) that they had recently routed a bunch of kobolds (back in March at the start of the game), which the goblins had been following up on.  

The goblin captain (Captain Nieder, pronounced like Needa ;) ) asked them to bring him the head of the Kobold King (who is now likely be be anagrammed from Yuri Gagarin, since "Bring me the head of Yuri Gagarin" is the title of an old Hawkwind bootleg from the Space Ritual era), which they agreed to do, at which point Captain Nieder will take them to meet the Goblin King ("down below").  

Now allied with Captain Nieder and his goblins (of the Moon Flayers tribe), he still wouldn't allow them into their "Echo Base" goblin territory, but did agree to take them through blindfolded to the eiger toll keepers (eiger = ogre in Greyhawk alternate races parlance), which would then allow them back south to go back after the Kobold King.

After blindfolding, the PCs were spun around, etc., and the long trek through the dungeon halls to the toll keepers was 250-400 feet or more.  The PCs were hands-free, and had a goblin hand-holder with each, and two additional goblins (including Nieder still). When they got to the eiger toll keepers, Nieder advised the PCs to be respectful.  And this is where things got very interesting:  the first WM check on the way passed uneventfully, but the 2nd came up positive (I had the PCs rolling the checks, including the actual monster and # appearing), as a 17 kobold war party coming into this section of the dungeon to (obviously) raid upon the goblins!!

A chaotic three-way battled ensued:  kobolds attacking everyone, ogres attacking kobolds (and perhaps goblins/PCs?), goblins and PCs attacking mostly-together vs. the kobolds.  And these were not your run of the mill kobolds either:  several leaders were garbed in strange carapace armor (from giant crabs slain near their lair earlier in the year by the PCs!).  

Round 1:  PCs have initiative but mostly hold actions, unsure what's going to happen; kobolds act 2nd, and charge everyone:  five of them significantly wound the first ogre, nearly kill the second one outright! (I rolled some very high damage rolls for them vs. the L-sized ogres), and nearly kill the PC MU (who's AC 10 and is now at 2 hp!).  The goblins and ogre kill a kobold or two.

Round 2:   Kobolds have initiative, coup de grâce the severely wounded ogre, hit the other one again, but miss the PC MU, wound another PC or two lightly, and fail to hit any of the goblins.  The surviving ogre acts next, kills a goblin and bellows for help---at the end of the round, 3 more ogres are coming to join the fray!  The goblins and PCs simultaneously act last, and battle kobolds while shifting position (goblins in response to a command from Captain Nieder) into a more defensive formation, but the PC MU misses with his shocking grasp attack on his kobold, too!

Round 3:  PCs act first, and drop some more kobolds (but none of the giant crab armored ones); the ogres kill 2 more kobolds---however the biggest ogre, while it hits one of the carapace-armored kobolds, it fails to kill it (!); the goblins kill some kobolds; the kobolds act last in the round, and with ~12 dead, their morale breaks and they flee (with only one fleeing-from-melee kobold being hit, and that not killing it).  

Round 4:  the goblins and kobolds act first (kobolds are now completely out of sight and retreating toward greener pastures!); at a command from Captain Nieder, the goblins shift into Sardaukar-like triads, with 2 set spears defensive and 1 ready to throw; the ogres are pissed of still, smash some dead and/or wounded kobolds, but do not attack the goblins or PCs (after some quick reaction response checks to Captain Nieder's speech); the PCs sheathe weapons and stand down.

After calming down a bit, and negotiating new toll rates with the "hoch eiger," the PCs exit the same way that the kobolds entered/fled, and the ogres close the portcullis, effectively cutting the PCs off in a completely new section of the dungeon, with no idea where/how to connects to what they've known to date.  

And that's where we left off :D


19 September 2020

grodog's October 2020 Convention Greyhawk Events


I'm running events at both Virtual GreyhawkCon and Virtual TsunamiCon in October this year!

I've already written about my Virtual GreyhawkCon events, which will feature two playtest sessions for The Iounic Vaults---the concluding portion of my Iounic Caverns level from my version of Castle Greyhawk, as well as one session in Rob Kuntz's classic Bottle City level from Castle Greyhawk:

Bottle City level - poster map from Three Line Studio

My TsunamiCon 2020 Virtual Con events are submitted!

At TsunamiCon (16-18 October 2020) I'll also run two AD&D 1e playtest sessions in The Iounic Vaults (the conclusion to my unpublished Iounic Caverns adventure in Castle Greyhawk), as well as one session of Tom Molday's classic, (mostly) unpublished Morandir Trilogy of adventures (#2 Seren Ironhand was published in 1986).

- Iounic Vaults on Friday 6pm, Sunday 1pm
- Moldvay Morandir on Saturday 1pm

I also registered to play in my friend Matt Harrop's End of the World game (which uses Jenga for its success mechanics), as well as Justin Wilson's Delta Green game =)

17 September 2020

SYFY Article on Castle Greyhawk

SYFY article artwork
Fans of Castle Greyhawk will find Matt Bassil's latest article, "Castle Greyhawk, the lost dungeon that kicked off Dungeons & Dragons, still inspires players today" of interest: https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/dungeons-dragons-castle-greyhawk-lost-dungeon
I was interviewed for the piece, along with Rob Kuntz, Bill "stratochamp" Meinhardt, and Patrick Wetmore of Anomalous Subsurface Environment fame!

25 August 2020

For the Love of Greyhawk - Reprise

World of Greyhawk Gazetteer, 1980
World of Greyhawk Gazetteer, 1980

Over on ENWorld, the user Snarf Zagyg started an interesting conversation in response to some discussion about Greyhawk that arose as fans learned about the release of the new 5e book, Tasha's Cauldron of Everything.

Snarf Zagyg entitled the thread "For the Love of Greyhawk: Why People Still Fight to Preserve Greyhawk" and it offers some good food for thought for Greyhawk fans, and for D&D players in general.  This reproduces my reply in that thread:


A very interesting conversation, thanks for starting it up, @Snarf Zagyg !

While I am a long-time Greyhawk fan, I too would be interested to see what interesting and new material could be published for Greyhawk. Unless and until WotC releases older editions for publishing via DM's Guild, that means new official Greyhawk material will be written for 5e and 6e, ad not for 1e/OSRIC or the other clones. So, if WotC publishes a Greyhawk book that I like, I'll pick it up. Adapting new material Greyhawk is a natural process that every Greyhawk DM has to do who's not playing with the current rules set; it's not a big deal, and it works forward as well as backward (all of those 1e adventures are also easy to bring forward into 5e too). I do the exact same thing with material from FR, Necromancer Games, Call of Cthulhu, and whatever else feels right to use in my Greyhawk campaigns.

One of the core strengths of Greyhawk (in addition to its resilient and enthusiastic fanbase, who provide support for the setting through many ways, including the Oerth Journal---a freely downloadable professional quality zine---to name just one example among multitudes*) is its flexibilty. When I run a Greyhawk campaign, it may be related to others that I've run before from a story/continuity POV, but it's just as likely that I'll use that game as a fresh start: to play in a region of the setting that I've not explored before (I've not yet run a campaign set in Land of Black Ice or in the era of the Migrations, for example), or to play with new classes/races/rules to try them out (an all-thieves game set in Dyvers, where the PCs are undermining the guilds of Greyhawk City, for example), or to explore multi-planar play among several inter-related Primes (Greyhawk sort of meet's MCU's Nine Realms, as in my two concurrent campaigns).  Greyhawk can handle all of these options and more, and deliver a setting that drives gameplay that brings me and the other players to the table each week, excited about the next session.

Greyhawk's core flexibility is grounded in and builds upon both the setting's patchwork publishing history, and the design ethos that Gary and Rob baselined Greyhawk to support:

1. Greyhawk's spotty product support---both in quantity and quality---can be leveraged to your advantage as a DM:  because Greyhawk canon is so filled with contradictions, mutually-incompatible evolutions, and alternate takes on the same people, places, and things, it demands that the DM define their take on the setting, to decide what's in and what's out from the options palette during each game.  You want an undead-focused globe-trotting save-the-world campaign?---grab the Vecna modules or "Age of Worms" and have at it.  You want urban high intrigue among sparring noble families?---use the CIty of Greyhawk boxed set during the signing of the Treaty of Greyhawk, or use Ivid the Undying set during the Turmoil Between Crowns.  You want swashbuckling piracy?---build out Feelta's Slave Lord fleet raiding the shores of the Wooly and Relmor Bays, or fight the Scarlet Brotherhood as an Iron League privateer in the Azure Sea.  You don't like how the Greyhawk Wars played out?---play the boardgame to a different conclusion, and change history by preventing the assassination of Tenser and Otiluke.

2. Greyhawk's design ethos is built upon the foundations of DIY modular campaigning.  Both the 1980 Folio and the 1983 Box, Greyhawk offer a loose framework within which any DM can build and create any campaign they desire.  Because it's defined in a light-weight manner---the broad sketching high points of history, geography, and the political topography---that open framework frees the DM to pick and choose among canons, to rewrite history to serve the needs of the game**, but still doesn't force a DM to fill the whole blank-slate work on their own.

I'm on the record about what I think has been done wrong with Greyhawk over the decades, but I don't think any of that would prevent Greyhawk from thriving with the proper attention and support.


* For my favorites, see my Greyhawk Links page at https://www.greyhawkonline.com/grodog/gh_links.html

** A great example of how one DM (Montand on Greytalk but reposted from Greyhawk-l@oracle.wizards.com as preserved on Canonfire!) proposed changing Greyhawk nearly 20 years ago:

Date:         Fri, 12 Oct 2001 05:55:16 -0400
Reply-To:     Greyhawk <[log in to unmask]>
Sender:       Greyhawk <[log in to unmask]>
From:         Taras Guarhoth <[log in to unmask]>
Subject:      The Future of Greyhawk
Comments: To: Greytalk <[log in to unmask]>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"

Out of chaos, order forms. The civil war winds down in the Sea Princes, and the land coalesces into two stable states. Westkeep was held by the Keoish, but barely, and at great cost to their armies. Now two hostile nations, ruled by former Olman slaves, stare at each other across the lower Javan plains. But as much as they hate each other, they hate those to the north even more. And so it begins. 

And out of renewed order, chaos and evil are born. Sterich, retaken from the giants settles back into it's daily life. But something is amiss within the land. A corruption rots at the heart of the old Earldom. A bloody coup is staged, and the Margrave is killed, some whisper sacrificed to foul gods, and the land begins to change. Keoland watches from across the Javan, sending in a token force that it quickly dispatched, their forces spent in the campaigns in the south. 

Farther north, the Gran March and Geoff squabble endlessly over the city of Hochoch. Their attention is myopically focused on a tiny chunk of river land, and their resources are quickly dwindling. They fail to notice developments farther to the north, beyond the plains of Bissel. The lands of the Bakluni have been enflamed. A new leader has arisen among them, and demanded that they expand. A horde forms, and sweeps through the hills and vallies of Ket, and then presses beyond, into Bissel, swiftly destroying what resistance that land could muster. But they do not stop there. They press on, into the Gran March and Veluna, thrusting into the hearts of both lands. 

Across the Yatils, the Wolf and Tiger nomads join their Bakluni bretherin, riding on Perrenland and Iuz. Although their gains are more modest, they do succeed in keeping the famed mercenaries of Perrenland home, and Iuz from pressing in upon his southern neighbor while Veluna distracts it. And distracted Furyondy is. The cities are scoured and fields emptied to push back the Bakluni horde. Veluna and Furyondy finally reunite, in a hasty attempt to shore up both lands against their invaders, and Ferrond is reborn. The horde is stopped, and pushed back to the Fals Gap...but not quite back through it. 

All is not quiet elsewhere, however. Turrosh Mak, barely holding onto power, makes a renewed surge to the north, into the lands of Celene. None stand with the Fey Queen, remembering her refusal to stand with them. None can afford to, either, for war is breaking out. The elves fight hard and fiercly, but, in the end, they fail, and their land is overrun. But not only their land. Narwell and Safeton are ripped from the grasp of Greyhawk. Riots break out in the free cities as refugees flood into Verbobonc, Dyvers, Greyhawk City, and Hardby and chaos reigns in the lands south of the Unknown Depths. 

The Pale strikes hard into Tenh, and pushes the Fists and a distracted Iuz from the land, claiming it in the name of He of the Blinding Light. The expanded Theocracy becomes even more repressive and institutes an inquisition across the whole of their land to root out the remnants of Iuz and other non-Pholtine religions, whether good or evil, lawful or chaotic. All will be stamped out in the name of Pholtus, while Nyrond teeters on the brink of collapse to the south, starvation and taxation and warfare having taken a heavy toll on the land. 

The lands of Aerdy have not been quiet, either. Old North Province and Old South Province finally settle their scores within the heartlands of that formerly Great Kingdom. Warfare rages, cities burn, and in the end, Xavener takes his rightful place on the Malachite Throne, ruling a reunited empire that stretches from Idee in the south to North Province in the north. The land is awash in humanoids and mercenaries, a new round of civil war ready to sweep the land after it's Second Turmoil Between Crowns...but Xavener has something else in mind... 

Aerdy's forces march on Almor, and that ravaged land swiftly returns to the fold of Imperial Aerdy as troops march across the land, sweeping through the near-rebellious Nyrondese. Nyrond rapidly gives ground to the Aerdi, suddenly feeling a dagger in it's side. The Pale. Revolts erupt in the north and west as the renewed warfare brings even greater hardship. Midmeadow openly rebells, and invites Palish troops in. Nyrond finds itself disintegrating rapidly. When the dust settles, the lines have been round to a halt. Rel Mord stands on the border, and Womtham has fallen. Nyrond is a much reduced nation and pleads with the Urnst states for help, which they grudgingly give, allowing the fallen kingdom to keep itself from being swept from the face of the Oerth. 

Xavener also sends his troops south...and while Irongate withstands even more years of seige easily, Sunndi is not so lucky. For the second time in under two decades, the land finds itself fallen to Aerdy...and this time, there is no Osson to liberate them. The "king" of Sunndi is executed for treason, and Aerdy sets about occupying the land. But their occupation faces an unexpected setback. Bullywugs and lizardmen and other creatures from the Vast swamp pour out in all directions, slaughtering the forces of Sunndi and Aerdy alike. They claim half the Pawluck valley before they are finally ground to a halt by humanoid troops. The short-lived Kingdom of Sunndi is no more. 

But is this all? Or is there more? 


Ok. Yes, there was a reason to all of that. A revelation hit me tonight. Greyhawk is stagnant. It is bloated. It is everything we accuse the Forgotten Realms of being, and then some. 

Why do I make these outlandish claims? 

Let us take a look. It has been a decade since the Wars were published, and like them or hate them, they were the last major change to the Flanaess. Nothing of real note has happened since then. A few borders shifted a little bit, a few faces changed, a few titles changed. But no real change happened. The Flanaess remained in the exact same place it was in 10 Real Life years ago. 

And since then, we've sat around doing nothing of note. We've contemplated the scent of Otto's toejam, and what color Mordenkainen's belly-button lint is, all based on obscure passages from books so long out of print they aren't worth worrying about anymore or based on some utterances of some half remembered events that may have actually happened handed down from various creators, which, of course, are at odds with everything published. 

And in doing so, we've locked out two simple things. 

New People. And New Ideas. 

We've let ourselves become every bit as decadent and decrepid as Imperial Aerdy under the last of the Raxes and the Naelaxes. We chained ourselves to our precious "Canon" for so long that we refused to accept the existance of anything not already mentioned in it. Hell, we codified it, in the form of NiteScreed's essay. 

And so we damned ourselves. 

How did the Forgotten Realms survive for years on a constant stream of product, which is probabily easily triple or quadruple what was produced for Greyhawk? They weren't afraid of change. They weren't afraid to shake things up. They weren't afraid to introduce a fresh face into the halls of power or use a fresh idea. But Greyhawk was. We demanded that villans be heavily tied to the setting, and so we forced the same tired faces to be reused. We never killed our enemies. Doing so would drastically reduce our options. 

Greyhawk, if it is to survive, needs to change. It needs to burn, and then rise like a phoenix from it's ashes. It needs to shed itself of the foolish notions of rooting everything in something that came before. 

Above was one possibility of how to do this...but there are others...I know, I've heard them. They came from the ancient and near-mythical time of TSR on the AOL boards. I have dim recollections of such things as a Rennisance in Keoland, and a Plague sweeping out of Celene. This is what Greyhawk needs now. 

The question is...can we get it from anywhere? 

Taras Montand Guarhoth 
Canonfire! http://www.canonfire.com/ 
Submit Early, Submit Often...but make no mistake, you Will Submit!