07 August 2021

Greyhawk (and grodog) News Miscellany

Some updates from or of interest to World of Greyhawk fans:

grodog's Greyhawk Updates and Interviews

Some new and updated content on my grodog's Greyhawk web site:
  • I've recently updated my Greyhawk Anagrams page with various new entries
  • I've also re-compiled my Greyhawk Runes reference file, by cutting and pasting the two sets of runes from the 1980 Folio and 1983 Boxed Set together for side-by-side comparisons (the runes are, by far, not all the same!)
I've also recently appeared on a pair of streaming shows, in case you'd like to catch up the recordings:
I actually had an internet outage on the morning of Bill's stream, and dialled into the session on my phone via the Discord app (I hate apps!), which is why the perspective of the video is rather skewed ;)  

I had a great time talking with Dan, James, and Bill, and will happily revisit their shows again in the future, as our stars (and schedules) are right.


06 August 2021

North Texas RPGCon 2021 - grodog's games recap

As usual, I had a wonderful time at the North Texas RPG Con this year (3-6 June 2021)---in particular since this was the first in-person convention that I attended since NTX in 2019!

Some quick NTX info, for those who are unfamiliar with the convention:


Black Blade Booth

These pictures showcase our Black Blade Publishing booth this year:

While it was a transitional and rebuilding year, we did well at the con, and it was great to be able to showcase so many new and cool products to the attending gamers!

grodog's Events

Knights & Knaves Alehouse Social

I played in the K&KA Social on Thursday night, and had a wonderful time.  It's always fun to play with a very large group (15-25 players) each year and to see what mayhem erupts!  This year we were slated to play OD&D (we alternate between OD&D and AD&D each year), and Nathan "tetramorph" Jennings DM'd again. 

We picked up from where we left off two years ago.  Here are my player maps from the 2019  session:


and alas, my hapless PC---who used efreeti-granted wishes to become the Lord of the Manor last time---was laid low by those meddling kids!  Rest in pieces, Lord Merrak the Perspicacious, and know that you will be avenged!  (In the meanwhile, he and his efreet did kill the dragon and go down in a blaze of glory! =) 

Nathan posted his DM-POV event summary at K&KA at https://knights-n-knaves.com/phpbb3/viewtopic.php?p=281522#p281522, with some follow-up comments in the next page too.  General discussion of the social begins on the page at https://knights-n-knaves.com/phpbb3/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=16739&start=135

 Here are a few pics of the K&KA crew in the boardroom where we played:


K&KA Social 2021 - picture by Keith "Welleran" Sloan
K&KA Social 2021 -
picture by Keith "Welleran" Sloan

K&KA Social 2021 - picture by Keith "Welleran" Sloan
K&KA Social 2021 -
picture by Keith "Welleran" Sloan

K&KA Social 2021 - picture by Chris "benjoshua" Fuller
K&KA Social 2021 -
picture by Chris "benjoshua" Fuller


"Treachery in Erelehi-Cinlu!"


I ran "Treachery in Erelehi-Cinlu!" twice at the con, with a fine set of players in each.  These were smaller events than I normally run through my Castle Greyhawk levels, with just six players per event, which allowed for a bit more focus on role-playing with and among the players. 

Here's the long event description:

The drowic sage Erastoriûl Ka’arndrik has betrayed your masters, Lyme, Lord Mage of House Eilservs, and Lady Eclavdra, self-styled Queen of the Vault. Eclavdra and Lyme have sentenced the sage to vengeance and unholy death, and you are to be the instruments of their vendetta! Invade the sage's home, slay him, and return with baubles, secrets, and magics that will enrich the coffers and standing of your masters (and yourselves!). Bring your graph paper, dice, and a healthy dose of paranoid courage! 5th-7th level pregen drowic PCs will be provided. Please note: in grodog's version of the World of Greyhawk drow are chaotic evil, demon-worshipping villains, including the pregen PCs and their masters.

Session #1 ran on Friday night, and Session #2 on Saturday night.

Session #1 players:   Dex Briggs, Mark Greenberg, Jim Kitchen, Keith Sloan, Wade Stalcup, Troy Stearns

Session #2 players:    Corwin Getty, Stephen Getty, Marian Hershberger, Natalie Hershberger,  Shannon Hardt, Darren Moura-Smith, William Meinhardt

I didn't end up playing any other events at the con this year, and both sets of players ended up succeeding in the mission for the scenario, which was a bit of a surprise to me.  I may playtest the lower dungeon level for this at Virtual Greyhawk Con in October, we'll see how the rest of my summer design/editing/relaxing time goes....

grodog's NTX Loot

Adventurers and gamers are all about the loot, so here's what I scored at NTX this year. 

My purchases from the con include stuff bought actually at the con, as well as some items that arrived in the mail while I was away for the con, and some items recovered from our inventory that were buried in storage the past 18 months ;) :


Highlights include 

  • finding a copy of Dungeon Crawl #3 thanks to the vasty stores of Mike "Badmike" Badolato (I had bought a copy of #2 from Wayne Rossi while home visiting South Jersey several years ago; these are still available in PDF via DriveThru)---the Ballantine Adult Fantasy books were from Mike, too!
  • the pulps-inspired Creature Compendium volumes 1-3 (all Special Editions for NTX), and the Fifty Fiends books, all from New Big Dragon:  I'm a sucker for demons, as well as pulp monsters!
  • the new expanded edition of Rob Kuntz's "Beyond the Living Room" set-piece encounter from Castle Greyhawk, recently released by Rob via Paul Stormberg's Legends of Roleplaying 

When I returned home, my copies of Through Ultan's Door #3 and (unpictured, but there in spirit) Gabor Lux's Helvéczia arrived, too! 


See!---I'm Not Dead Yet :D

I finally got this out the door, in the waning days of my first vacation this summer, and have some more news and events to share on the blog soon!


31 May 2021

grodog's post-GaryCon-XIII Repose - Part 2

Being as I'm about to head out to the North Texas RPG Con in a couple of days, I'd better get my GaryCon Report Part 2 concluded! ;)

Continuing from my now-too-long-in-the-tooth Part 1 summary, after running my games on Thursday and Friday of GaryCon XIII, I spent most of the rest of the connvention playing in games (Sunday afternoon excepted).

Saturday, 27 March

1-6pm:  I played in Les "OblivionSeeker" Reno's "Death Master's Gambit:  Dead Men Tell No Tales" AD&D 1e adventure---although they do blackmail with some regularity, it seems.  Our PCs will seek to eliminate the blackmail at the source, somewhere in the Wild Coast....

Les crafted a supremely-cool scenario in which our PCs were pulled into a rather Machiavellian plot:

Your recent adventures began in Safeton. Slanarus Zaal, a prosperous merchant, gathered you together. He felt he could trust you. You’d done work for him in the past, and each of you had proven yourselves to be honorable, in your own fashion, and discreet.

Almost a year ago, letters began to arrive at the man’s office under mysterious circumstances. They seemed to *materialize* on the desk or between a ledger’s pages when the man turned his back for a moment or left and locked the room. To the casual reader, the contents would seem banal—details of a journey, as recorded by a business associate; a jesting but flirtatious inquiry from one of the widower’s former lovers; requests for forbearance from some debtor or other. At first, Zaal was irritated by the intrusion and gave little thought to the texts. Then he realized that the letters were all written in the same hand. He studied them and discovered that mathematical calculation based on the date indicated the number and spacing of written characters to be counted, and each letter’s signature revealed the substitution cipher to translate the letters into a message. When some of you expressed surprise at his ability to decrypt the messages, he smiled and told you that merchants whose business involves transportation of goods often must resort to such tactics to avoid unwanted, official attention. What’s more, the letter followed a method he’d adopted early in his career. No one could know the secret, because all those who had shared the knowledge were all dead....

Things merely got more interesting from there, as Les wove that backstory and our explorations into a twisted scenario with multiple layers of deceptions and betrayals afoot!  I've attached scans of my notes, pregen PC, and gameplay map (which is as much notes as it is map, too; I had captured 3 stages of the map during our game):


I had a great time playing, and look forward to gaming again with Les (and the other players in the round, in the future! =)

8pm-Midnight:  My then 12-year-old-son Henry and I were players in Eli Elder's "The Dream of Oudvarr" for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  This was also great fun, since Henry and I are playing in the game together!  

Our PCs entered the mind of an ice-bound sorcerer (what could possibly go wrong!) in order to try to awaken him back into the real world.  As you can imagine, the setting, encounters, and game rules/environs grew even-more surreal than ASSH's usual blend of REH, HPL, and CAS!  Eli did a great job painting the picture for this dreamy landscape and its inhabitants, including creating some illustrations to show us during the game, which really helped set the scene!:

Islands - by Eli Elder
Islands - by Eli Elder

The Castle - by Eli Elder
The Castle - by Eli Elder

Eli's game was a highlight among so many good games that weekend, and I really encouraged him to try to publish his scenario =)

Sunday, 28 March

8am-1pm:  Player in Gaetano LeFavi's "Unhallowed Halls of the Sorcerer King"---we'll be exploring an alt-lair of Acererak's before he settled into his final digs in the Tomb of Horrors---what could possible go wrong?  (Have you noticed a trend yet? ;) ).  

Gaetano ran a great game that was solidly grounded in the Greyhawk setting's lore (no surprises there!), as well as Gaetano's version of Greyhawk, of which you can see Sunndi as we explored it during the course of our session:

We spent most of the session doing the prep and investigation for our mission (with probably only the last 90 mins or so at the Tomb of Horrors, where our dungeon excursion began), but it was time well-spent!   My notes don't really do justice to the immersive play from the session:

And, like Carlos' game earlier in the con, we all discussed getting back together to complete the rest of the scenario as well!

1-5pm:  I DM'd Paul Stormberg's "Legends of Roleplaying" tourney again this year, and for 2021 it was "Into the City of Brass" by Rob Kuntz.  This is the continuation of the "(To the) City of Brass" tourney I played in 1987 at DragonCon #1, when I first met Rob, so it was a treat to revisit the setting from behind the screen this time!  
As I expected it was a tough challenge to complete in four hours, and the PCs were able to get through nearly all of the first half of the scenario in the session.  (We had a few technical glitches, so we ran a bit long to allow them the full four hour slot).  

Since Paul plans to publish Rob's adventures, I won't go into much detail about the game, but we had a great crew of players during the session who discovered some very interesting solutions to the challenges posed in the scenario! 

7-10pm:  After wrapping up the tourney, I grabbed a quick dinner, then joined a cornucopia of guests with
Jay Scott, Anna Meyer, and Mike Bridges in the "Greyhawk: Ask the Experts & Campaigns" livestreamed seminar.  Among the other guests were Denis Tetreault, Eric Boyd, Erik Mona, and Gary Holian (and likely some other folks since I arrived a bit late as I recall).  The Sunday seminar has capped-off the Greyhawk track at GaryCon the past two or three years now, which is a tradition I'm enjoying!  
The replay from the seminar is available on Jay's LordGosumba YouTube channel, so you don't need my scrawled notes for this one :D 


I took Monday off from work to recover and rest-up =)

Many Thanks!

A big Thank You to Luke Gygax, Dave Conant, Skip Williams, and the rest of the GaryCon crew and the volunteer staff for making GaryCon XIII such fun!

And special thanks to Jay Scott who coordinated the Virtual Greyhawk Con-within-a-Con again this year, and made it even more successful than last year's events! =)


02 April 2021

grodog's post-GaryCon-XIII Repose - Part 1

Yet-again, I had a wonderful time at GaryCon this year.   Here's the first part of my post-convention recap, working off of my schedule for GaryCon XIII!

Wednesday, 24 March

In our usual fashion, members of the Legio V gathered on Wedsnesday night for our pre-con get-together, which was a fun time as always.  We didn't game this year, just hung out and caught up on life, the universe, and everything.

If you're not familiar with the Legio V, here's some info:

The Lake Geneva Legio V began as a handful of gamers who have attended Gary Con since its inception. We have grown over the past few years to include like-minded individuals united by a respect of Gary Gygax and his legacy. We are the dedicated attendees who love Gary Con for the camaraderie it establishes, the Game Masters who run games from across the decades, and the committed gamers who spend these four days in a fervor of dice rolling and old school good times.

Although events run as LEGIO V Presents will use a variety of rule systems, our focus is on games authored by Gary and his contemporaries as well as those systems whose designers pay homage to these pioneers.

Thursday and Friday mornings - grodog's Castle Greyhawk: 
Escape from Level 14

Over Thursday and Friday I ran two sets of players through levels from my version of Castle Greyhawk.  Both opted to attempt to get away from Level 14, which I first ran at the North Texas RPG Con #1 in 2009, and subsequently at GaryCons #2 (2010), with reprises at NTX and GaryCon #10 in 2018.  The scenario premise is: 


Escape From Castle Greyhawk – Player Background

 You are veteran explorers of Castle Greyhawk.  You have worked as a team over the past two years to pursue, plumb, and plunder the depths of the Castle, looting it of treasures and raining doom upon its inhabitants. 

Several days of torrential rain finally let up last night, so today you immediately entered the Castle dungeons, to slay a pair of mated pyrohydras that you discovered on one of your more-recent expeditions to level 10.  Your plan was to follow your normal “wet route” through the dungeons: 

  • enter the ruins through the breached southern gates
  • locate the mobile well in the western bailey, and descend into dungeon level 2
  • use the nearby teleporter to move across level 2, and take the northern stair to level 3
  • go to the central elevator, and take it down to level 8
  • slide down the chute-stair into one of the level 9s
  • descend to level 10 from the secret stairwell, move to the lair of the pyrohydras, kill them, and take their stuff
You would normally have used the long passage from the fens, but with the recent storms, this entrance and the level it leads to are sure to be flooded.  However, things went awry on level 8:  one of the stairwells on the level, that lead to the chute, deposited you into unfamiliar territory, and disappeared leaving a blank wall for your return path.  That is where you are now.

The Thursday crew chose to combine both of my offerings so it our session became "Kill the Holaki which has escaped from the Four Way Hub Level to Level 14" (or something like that).  They did manage to kill the dreaded Holaki, a fearsome creature created by Erol Otus as part of an art commission for members of the Acaeum:

The Holaki - by Erol Otus
The Holaki - by Erol Otus

In addition to the Holaki, the Thursday crew battled with some new monsters created by my 13-year-old son Henry---a pack of Mind Hounds lead by a Mind Spider.  Henry wasn't expecting to battle these--I slipped them into the adventure to playtest them a bit since I knew he'd be playing---and they almost got away with kidnapping some of the PCs (but to what end?....). 

Escape from Level 14 - and - Kill the Holaki,
player map by Henry Grohe


Henry created both creatures as part of his The Fortress of Alexander 'zine project for a class at school, and our older son Ethan illustrated them:

The Mind Spider - created by Henry Grohe, illustrated by Ethan Grohe
The Mind Spider - created by Henry Grohe,
illustrated by Ethan Grohe

Expect to hear more about Henry's zine as he works over the summer to expand it from a school assignment for publication.

The Friday crew explored in a different direction, so they didn't encounter the Holaki or Mind Spider, but they did encounter a pair of Fire Weirds from The Twisting Stair #3, who proved a vexing foe.  They were also the first players to discover the Gaming Parlor on the level, where their PCs were able to enjoy Boot Hill, Chainmail, The Awful Green Things from Outer Space, and other classic TSR board games.  (In true grogardly fashion, they opted to battle orcs vs. dwarves at The Battle of Five Armies between the arms of the Lonely Mountain, using Chainmail).  

In that chamber they also found a Deck of Many Things, which resulted in several interesting conclusions for the PCs:

  • Dex's ranger PC drew first, and drew two card with good results on each
  • Julian's fighter Preson also drew twice, but also drew The Fool as his second card, which permitted him a third draw
  • Rich's dwarf F/T Archie Rubblesworth drew thrice---twice with good results, but the final pull drew the infernal attentions of Asmodeus himself!
  • Kevin's bard Joanie Blackheart drew only once, but was whisked away to Acheron to fight Hextor in personal combat!
  • Robert's druid, Trebor, also drew twice:  he gained three wishes, once of which he used to bring all of the PCs back to the City of Greyhawk (including the earlier-slain wizard Silvermane, who spontaneously combusted in battle with the fire weirds); his second draw, however, forced him to change alignment or to be judged---he refused to change, so he ended the session upon the scales of the Cosmic Balance, awaiting the judgment of The Grey Lords!

I used the H. R. Giger tarot for the deck, which set a suitably ominous tone ;)

Thursday, 25 March

Thursday night, I played in Rich Frank's "Lost Temple of Set" dungeon, where we successfully threaded the needle of a very large dungeon level to find and recover the fabled Eye of Horus:

This adventure has been designed to run as a pickup game run for member of LEGIO V, on the Thursday night of Gary Con XIII. Pre-gen characters are provided by Keith Sloan, and are identical to those used in his Sea Lords games, run at past Gary Cons.

Premise:  The party has traveled through a jungle to locate an ancient and forgotten Temple of the God, Set. Set has not been worshipped in any notable or public way in centuries, most of the old temples having been thrown down and replaced with temples to other Gods. However, Set, being a major God, has been able to maintain a cult of worshippers despite being forced out of the consciousness of most of the population in this world.

The motivation for the characters is to find the fabled Eye of Horus, a large piece of jade in the shape of a pointed oval, with the symbol of the Eye of Horus carved into it, and inlaid with gold. Among the purported properties of the Eye is the ability to roll back time and view what happened in the area the Eye is currently placed. (More on this in the description of the Eye of Horus at the end of this document.) Indeed, the characters have traveled here to find the Eye, as part of a larger investigation to find who/what abducted the daughter of a great King of the Realm.

We had a good time digging around in the ruined pyramid atop Rich's dungeon level, and fought several fearsome creatures within (that we learned afterward were Minions of Set from D&DG).  

A fortuitous series of discovered secret doors led us straight to the EHP and his treasure horde, including the Eye of Horus!:

Rich Franks' Temple of Set - player map by Allan Grohe
Rich Franks' Temple of Set -
player map by Allan Grohe

Rich Franks' Temple of Set - player notes by Allan Grohe
Rich Franks' Temple of Set -
player notes by Allan Grohe

My map shows about 1/50th of the level that Rich designed for our delve, so we got very lucky in our exploration and secret-door-detection rolls!

Notable quotations from the night's revelries:

  • "We're up to 0.8 Jon now"---Jon was having internet connectivity issues
  • Set slave kabobs - 50 deep!
  • "Sometimes counter clockwise is good"
  • Michael earned the "most valueable elf" award---he was also the only elf PC ;)


Friday, 26 March 

Friday night, I played in Carlos Lising's livestreams Twitch game, "The Nine."  This aired on the GaryConGreyhawk channel instead of Carlos' regular caslEntertainment channel (which also has a YouTube archive as well).  We didn't experience any technical difficulties, and you can watch the replay of our game session with Carlos, as well as pre-order a copy of The Nine, which is scheduled to release in May. 

I had a wonderful time exploring Carlos 600 CY version of the Flanaess, and role-playing through the grim-and-gritty level 1 scenario with my fellow players:

The Great Kingdom once stood as a testimony to the heights which mannish civilization could aspire. A place of magic and miracles where law and order held sway, a proud army ensured its peace and defended its common folk against the terrors beyond its borders. But no more. After decades of corrosion from within, nightmarish horrors now stalk the Great Kingdom, eager to prey upon those that formed the soul of this once-mighty nation. With its potent military shattered, few exist to defend these innocents outside small pockets that have managed to remain intact through the harrows that saw all they once held dear fall to ruin.

One of these groups is the 9th Division of the Sign of the Crimson Wyvern.

And this is their tale.

The PCs consisted of:

  • Jono (played by Dave), a young male human Fighter 1 in charge of our motley crew---all out on our first mission
  • Katin (played by Gregory), a female human Fighter 1, and Jono's (older?) sister, much more cautious than her brother
  • Gully (played by Emily, Dave's wife), a female halfling Thief 1; she took the lead once we arrived at Caldera's Burrow, where a large group of halflings may have been enslaved or killed by humanoids
  • Lovian (played by Jeremy), a male elven Magic-User 1 missing his left arm from the elbow downward; the hand is replaced by Bigby's Metallic Gauntlet, but the gauntlet floats mid-air, unattached to the arm that guides it....
  • Lord Morrow (played by Bill), a male human 0-level Cavalier of Hextor (he may have been a 0-level Paladin, not sure)
  • Baran Kolvigg (played by me), a male Flan human Cleric 1 of Pelor; I've not played a PC worshipper of Pelor before, so it was fun to explore the sun god through Baran's eyes

Baran Kolvigg - The Nine pregen PC
Baran Kolvigg - The Nine pregen PC


Our PCs spent 4 days on the road south from Bulwark Keep, and on the way to Caldera's Burrow encountered a creepy female necromancer of Nerull who had animated a large group of halfling skeletons to tend a field---but what exactly they were sowing, we don't know....  We spent the last hour or so of the session exploring the humanoid-occupied halfling burrows, and managed to kill an orcish witchdoctor (perhaps?), turn his halfling skeleton bodyguards, and slay a few orcs as well---all without any of our hapless PCs being slain!

We decided to continue the game after the convention, so you'll be able to follow-along with our exploits, fumbles, and likely-demises in 4K Technicolor, at some point ;)

More to come soon, in part two!