28 May 2020

Planar Architecture for grodog's Current Greyhawk Campaigns

Part of what I'm working toward, by defining and incorporating the forgotten Folio forest into my current Greyhawk campaigns, is to play a more gates-oriented game.  This is one of several campaign concepts on my DMing bucket list, and in this case they appear excerpted here as a cluster of related ideas:
Games/campaigns I'd most like to run, in rough order of my desire:
  • gates-driven AD&D campaign starting out at fresh at low level (1st-3rd-ish), where gates are sufficiently common that they drive the entire campaign:  economy, weather, culture, travel, etc. (think The Primal Order meets Stargate meets World of Tiers meets Moorcock's multiverse meets Greyhawk)
  • AD&D "Treasure of the Dragon Queen"; I'll have to write it first, of course:  http://www.greyhawkonline.com/grodog/gh_tourneys_dragon_queen.html
  • AD&D Greyhawk drowic adaptation of MERP 1e Courts of Ardor campaign (could be played as an evil campaign by drowic PCs or traditional good-ish PCs; could merge with previous gates-driven entry)
  • AD&D Abyssal campaign (PCs are a new generation of demons, vying for power amidst the chaos; could combine with gates or drowic ones above); I've slowly been building the framework for an AD&D game where the PCs run demons and explore the mythic geography of the multiverse

In order to play a gates-oriented game, I need to design elements that specifically introduce gates and related magics into the game.  Some of that is easier, some harder.  We'll see how it goes as the games continue, but here's the framework that I've been working up for Oerth's immediate multiversal neighborhood.  I wrote the bulk of this post in response to some discussion in the Greyhawk sub-reddit, in which the user u/P4TR10T_96 asked A Question About the Planes:

Are [the planes] connected to all prime material planes, with the exception of worlds that are explicitly stated to be separated from the rest (Eberron for example)?

but I'd drafted the bulk of the content below in my design journal back on New Year's Day:
This is in your purview to define as the DM. There's not a lot of explicit guidelines on defining your own multiverse(s), but I do list a bunch of resources you can dig into in my two gates/planar articles from Knockspell Magazine:
Greenwood's seminal article "Theory and Use of Gates" and the bibliography at the end of part 1 should both be particularly useful for your purposes, I think.

In my current Greyhawk campaigns, I'm boosting the gates/planar aspect of play through a few different methods:
  1. I'm leveraging alternate Prime Material Planes to Oerth, in a Norse-like model with some known/planarly "nearby" worlds as "sister worlds." *
  2. Adding more gates, magical pools, free-standing portals, and such into the mix early in the campaign, so that the PCs grow in power with these as baseline "givens" in the game world/setting and in their campaign adventures. NPCs dwarves will be encountered that are from "Nidavellier" for example (or whatever name I settle on for that place).
  3. Adding some more spells (see my 2nd KS article above) into the mix, along with some planar-related magic items that will make planar-related "stuff" more accessible for the PCs
* The list of sister worlds is not fully-baked yet, but will likely end up looking something like this:
  1. Oerth/Greyhawk - home plane for the current batch of PCs
  2. Mendenein - my homebrew campaign that is interleaved with Greyhawk and is its "closest" sister world: many permanent portals exist between the two planes, including some that are always open and allow cross-planar trade, for example; if you're curious, you can see some of my maps in on Dragonsfoot at https://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?p=2025364#p2025364
  3. Hyperborea - the plane for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, from my friend Jeff Talanian's publishing company Northwind Adventures: https://www.hyperborea.tv/store/c1/Featured_Products.html
  4. "Jotunheim" - in some form or other: the homeland of giants, which will likely have multiple layers/sub-planes associated with it (Muspelheim, for example)
  5. "Faerie" - in some form or other - the homeland of elves and fey; probably won't be an alternate Prime, but more like the Shadow Plane or Ethereal, in that it's accessible from many Primes (via regio-like zones from Ars Magica/Robert Holdstock's Mythago Wood)
  6. "Nidavellier" - in some form or other: the homeland for dwarves; connects to Oerth in the Underdark
  7. Arabian Nights desert plane: more Dune, The Eight, Rodney Matthews, Thieves World and Tattooine than Dark Sun or Al-Qadim
  8. Archipelagos and Islands watery plane: Blue Planet meets the Greek Aegean; a likely homeworld for the Oeridians, perhaps
  9. Other: various other settings will be linked and in the mix, but not as "close" and therefore not as easily accessible as these planes. The other settings will include Avremier (from Mothshade Concepts), Helveczia (from u/GaborLux), Averoigne (from CAS, and perhaps other of his worlds like Zothique), the Old World (from 1e Warhammer FRPG), perhaps the Known World (from B/X), and the usual smorgasbord from fiction (Moorock, Leiber, REH, etc.)

In addition to what I'd posted in the reddit, there are some other planar decisions that I'm still working through, too:

  • The Rhenne home plane of Rhôp will be in the mix as well many of Greyhawk's famous and infamous demi-planes and Fading Lands.  I don't plan to place Rhôp planarly "close" to Oerth, and am pondering that it may have been destroyed (or presumed destroyed, with the Rhenee always holding out hope that it survives still---a way to reverse-exploit their chicanery against them, perhaps:  Rhôp being the one thing you can reliably gull the Rhenne with), making the Rhenee into planar refugees/expats of a sort.  I sort of envision them having fled a planar rift, so portions of Rhôp may survive as fragments in the Ethereal, Astral, Shadow/etc. planes....
  • I've sketched out a simple planar relationship diagram over Memorial Day weekend:

    Oerth and Mendenein Prime-Planar Environs diagram by grodog
    Oerth and Mendenein Prime-Planar Environs

    I'm not sure that it really reflects the planar relationships that I want I to define yet, and since I'm still thinking of a Tree of Life structure for the planes too, that may necessitate bumping one or more up to the level of "primary Primes" perhaps.
  • I have another similar diagram and/or notes that take the planar concepts from Dragon #73 and leverage 2d4 joined into a pointier six-sider as the basis for that planar structure (no doubt inspired by Steve Marsh's d4 structure proposed in Dragon #73), but haven't refound them yet.  That's more important for the Inner vs. Prime planes, so not super-necessary, yet.

More to come as it percolates into play! :D


25 May 2020

grodog's Mega-Dungeon Maps - Revising and Expanding the First Two Dungeon Levels of My Castle Greyhawk

In one of my two concurrent Greyhawk campaigns, the players are exploring the dungeons beneath Castle Greyhawk, which has been pushing me to revise and expand the first two levels of that infamous death trap.  The inventory work for all of my newly-designed levels from the past 15 years began a few years ago now, and continues as play evolves the environs.

*** Saturday and Sunday campaign spoilers ***


*** Saturday and Sunday campaign spoilers *** ***

*** Saturday and Sunday campaign spoilers ***

*** Saturday and Sunday campaign spoilers ***

*** Saturday and Sunday campaign spoilers ***


Level 1

My first and second levels were originally drawn in the early- to mid-1980s.  I was never deeply satisfied with the second level, so I began to redesign it significantly in 2017 as my sons began to explore beyond the first level.

grodog Castle Greyhawk map - level 1 left
grodog Castle Greyhawk map -
level 1 left
grodog Castle Greyhawk map - level 1 right
grodog Castle Greyhawk map -
level 1 right

I still rather like the design of the first level, but decided that I needed a bit more "breathing room" while running the current crew of players in it, and began to expand it earlier this month.  The original map was designed on 4 spi graph paper, and I began to worry that the players would soon exhaust its exploration potential, and that they may need a bit more breadth to pick-and-choose their level of challenge across the encounters among its inhabitants.  Unlike my revisions to the second level, I preserved most of the first level as-is, and simply extended its expanse, primarily to the south and a little to the west too.  

The original design for the first level spans ~660 feet (4 spi = 33 squares on each of 2 sheets @ 10' per square) by ~840 feet (4 spi = 42 squares on each of 2 sheets @ 10' per square), with a total area of ~554,400 square feet.   

The new level is drawn on Black Blade Publishing 11x17 6 spi graph paper, which significantly increases its size to ~1320 feet (6 spi = 66 squares on each of 2 sheets @ 10' per square) by ~1020 feet (6 spi = 102 squares on 1 sheet @ 10' per square), with a total area of 1.34 million square feet.  So it's more than twice the area of the original design, which should help with providing more exploration options for the players.  I hope!

My old 11x17 scanner is still on the fritz, so these are pictures taken with my cell phone:

grodog's Castle Greyhawk map -
level 1 - revised and expanded

As you can see, the original first level ends about 1/4 of the way into the bottom half of the new design. 

Level 2

grodog Castle Greyhawk map - level 2 left
grodog Castle Greyhawk map -
level 2 left
grodog Castle Greyhawk map - level 2 center
grodog Castle Greyhawk map -
level 2 center
grodog Castle Greyhawk map - level 2 right
grodog Castle Greyhawk map -
level 2 right

The second level shows remnants of old changes---particularly around the entry location in the top center, and in its level name as "The Lair of Thelmon Onvalth"---as I wrestled with whether to step away from Castle Greyhawk and all its lore, canon, and known history.  Hard to believe, eh? :D 

grodog's Castle Greyhawk map - level 2 - revised and expanded
grodog's Castle Greyhawk map -
level 2 - revised and expanded

The second level maps were expanded, and significantly revised to create a tighter adventuring environ.  Unlike the first level, while I did preserve aspects of the original second level design, I mostly took inspiration from the old level, cherry picked some specific elements I wanted to keep, and then began a wholesale revision.   

The new design replaces and builds out further from my old 6-sheet map for level two (on 4 spi paper). The old level included 193 rooms and the level was 1300 feet across at its greatest length.  The new 4-sheet level (with two added half-sheets, so I suppose it's really a 5-sheet level!) is built using Black Blade Publishing 11x17 6 spi graph paper.  I haven't tried to count rooms or to fully measure the level yet, since it's not completely designed, but the sheets' width will accommodate a level 2040 feet wide, or so.

Good Enough To Play

Neither level's design is complete.  The first level is prett close, probably about 85-90% or so, while the second level is more like 65-70% or so.  

However, both are good enough to DM with as-is, along with the expanded keys (which I'll touch on in my next update).  I'll plan the next design work in response to the players' explorations, since they may-well decide to delve into a sub-level, bypass the second level for a deeper one, jump outside the Castle to follow a treasure map, or whatever.  

You just never know where they'll take the game, which helps to keep me on my toes! :D


P.S.:  Feel free to explore previous entries in my "Mega-Dungeon Mondays" series if you enjoyed this one.