"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.
Some updates from or of interest to World of Greyhawk fans:
Virtual Greyhawk Con 2 to be held from 1 to 3 October 2021 was announced by Jay Scott, and event submissions are already live and being accepted through 29 September 2021; Event Registration begins in one week, on 15 August 2021; badges are $5 so come check it out!:
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.
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!
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! =)
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 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 ;) :
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!
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
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
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! =)
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
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
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!
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!
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!
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:
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.
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
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
slide down the chute-stair into one of the level
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
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
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!
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 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 ;)
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
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 ;)