26 February 2023

Special Guest Interview with Rob Kuntz livestream on LordGosumba's Gabbin' #236

Jay Scott---with Anna Meyer and me also participating---interviewed Rob Kuntz on Jay's Gabbin' at Lord Peak's Haven #236 livestream show yesterday morning.  The show came together very quickly, so I didn't have time to announce it ahead of time.  If you missed it live, you can watch the recordings on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/videos/1748868999 and YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmGKXKPS6kA (video below links to YouTube):



Discussion References

Our widely-ranging discussion delved into various aspects of OD&D and Greyhawk's playtesting and early publishing history, including (among other topics):

1. The original, now alas lost, Greyhawk campaign map drawn by Gary (lost by Chris Schleicher, who printed the Domesday Book newsletters for the Castles & Crusades Society): 

Domesday Book Great Kingdom map by Dave Megarry
Domesday Book Great Kingdom map
by Dave Megarry

Domesday Book Great Kingdom map by Dave Arneson (colored by grodog)
Domesday Book Great Kingdom map
by Dave Arneson (and colored by grodog)


The lost map was 8.5"x11" in portrait orientation (not landscape) featured more text and graphical/artistic detail than the two above, and was in Gary's handwriting. 

That map would have chronologically been developed somewhere between the above two Domesday Great Kingdom maps and the art order sketch maps that Darlene used for the Folio poster maps (and which survive in photocopy form from Lenard Lakofka's archives):


Darlene's published
1980 Greyhawk Folio maps


For some excellent analysis and discussion about the original Castle & Crusade Society Great Kingdom maps, see these additional resources:

2. You can read the full text of Gary Gygax's letter in Alarums & Excursions #15 (15 October 1976) at Jason Zavoda's blog "Gygax's Letter in Alarums and Excursions #15" and Jason had transcribed additional Gygax letters at https://jasonzavoda-hallofthemountainking.blogspot.com/search?q=alarums&max-results=20&by-date=true.


3. Arnold Hendrick's full 1974 review of OD&D from The Courier Volume 6 #6 (1974) appears below:


Gary's rebuttal to the review appears in The Strategic Review #3 (Fall 1975).

For some additional discussion and commentary, see ENWorld at https://www.enworld.org/threads/a-typewritten-d-d-review-from-1974-by-arnold-hendrick.661641/ and Paul's Blog of Holding at https://www.blogofholding.com/?p=5769.


4. "The Gnome Cache" is Gary's incomplete novella published serially (as "Garrison Ernst") in The Dragon #1, #2, #3, #5, #6, and #7 from June 1976 through June 1977:

5. The rules for the "Siege of Bodenburg" were first published by Henry H. Bodenstedt in Strategy & Tactics Volume 1 #6 (July 1967) and were subsequently freely distributed from his Adelphia, New Jersey games and hobby store to help sell the Elastolin Miniatures that he imported. 

The rules used to be freely downloadable at http://www.thortrains.net/armymen/bodebok1.html but that site is now gone, and is not available via the Internet Archive, so I've uploaded the rules to my site at [TBD].

For some additional information about Bodenburg's relationship to Castle Greyhawk, see Zenopus Archives at https://zenopusarchives.blogspot.com/2015/03/visualizing-castle-greyhawk.html and for some historical context about the Siege of Bodenburg game, seehttps://en-academic.com/dic.nsf/enwiki/2650436

I'll try to find the pictures of me playing "Siege of Bodenburg" from my GaryCon photo albums, and add here too.


Online Stores for Rob Kuntz Books

We discussed several of the gaming books that Rob authored and designed over the years, and many are still in-print and available:

  • Rob's most-recent works are spread out across a few different publishing imprints, but are all accessible from:
  • LGCC-1 The Original Bottle City (from Castle Greyhawk), RJK-1 Cairn of the Skeleton King, and RJK-2 Tower of Blood are available from us at Black Blade Publishing, both via mail order or direct from our booths at GaryCon and North Texas RPG Con each year. 

    We also stock all of Rob's in-print titles from Paul at GaryCon and North Texas RPG Con.

Additional References

Rob's most-current biography is on his TLS site at https://www.threelinestudio.com/bio/.

"A Partial, Annotated Bibliography of the Works of Robert J. Kuntz" appears on Canonfire! at  http://www.canonfire.com/cf/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=125 (and is mirrored on my Greyhawk site, but I think my copy is not as current as the Canonfire! one).  Both are likely in need of updating, and also provide some good insight into the contents of Rob's El Raja Key Archive.

Canonfire! also hosts "Rob Kuntz's The Three Artifacts of the Demon Senders," which was first published in Wargaming #2 in 1977. 



Enjoy! :D


18 February 2023

Greyhawk News to Warm Your Readying Hearts

Fun in the World of Greyhawk at Canonfire!

Lots of hustle and bustle in the Flanaess of late, so we'll jump right into the latest Greyhawk News you can use:

  • In the Canonfire! site's discussion forums, Marc-Tizoc Gonzalez (mtg as we know him) began an excellent thread "Names Derived from Deities," in which he puts some much-needed thought into how common names in the Flanaess would be influenced by the names of the various gods, goddesses, heroes, and heroines of the land. 

  • Marc riffed on many of the existing names of the gods to create variations that could be the equivalent of modern-day names like Mary, Joseph, Mark, Luke, Michael, et al., and his work inspired several others (including me) to add to the growing list.  Check it out, and add your own ideas!

  • David Prata's "The Amazons of Hardby" attempts to reconcile the warrior-women of Hardby (as championed by Deirdre in Gygax's Artifact of Evil novel---she appears on the cover which I included in my recent Why Greyhawk? post) with the Amazons entry dropped from the 1983 Monster Manual 2 and published in the Polyhedron #22 (January 1985).  The discussion aligns quite nicely with my own campaign's focus in the vicinity Hardby via my Random Encounter Table for Hardby---although I treat Amazons a bit differently than EGG's versions---with some related discussion on Facebook.

Charity Events Abound

Jay Scott's 5th Annual Greyhawk Megastream Fundraiser for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital began on Thursday this week:  


LordGosumba's 5th Annual charity fundraiser for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital
LordGosumba's 5th Annual charity fundraiser
for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital

Donations can be made at https://tiltify.com/+greyhawk-community-streamers/5th-annual-greyhawk-megastream-fundraiser-event-legends and see https://www.facebook.com/groups/40230212669/posts/10159706400557670/ for additional details.


In addition, Carlos Lising's caslEntertainment will soon be announcing a new charity adventure module, which will provide donations to the ASPCA.  

I've participated in two of Carlos's charity streaming adventures in the past, and fully endorse his giving back to the community.  The Tears that Forever Stain supports the Cheetah Conservation Fund, while Lost Dog supports Red Rover.  (Both links take you to his adventure books, which support the charities themselves through purchases of the modules). 

And last, but not least, GaryCon's charity auction is helmed by the indomitable Jim Kitchen, and Jim is seeking donations for the GaryCon 2023 charity auction:

Please think about donating things for the auction. Gary Con attendees have always been generous beyond measure with their donations and the proceeds from auctioning them has made a difference in lives far beyond Lake Geneva.

The Charity auction at Gary Con is bigger than any single one of us. It's the people who make it happen, who donate and who bid that are the three equal parts of what is one of the best parts of the show. 

Jim Kitchen, auctioneering for charity at GaryCon 2022
Jim Kitchen, auctioneering for charity
at GaryCon 2022


This year's auction will support Extra Life and Children's Wisconsin (formerly Milwaukee Children's Hospital), and you can read a summary about the 2022 Charity Auction too.

Rob Kuntz - Two New Releases Celebrate D&D's 50th!

On 1 February 2023, Rob Kuntz announced the publication of two new titles from his Three Line Studios company, as well as a 30 page free fan update newsletter!  


Rob Kuntz's newest adventure, Pryce's Price
Rob Kuntz's newest adventure,
Pryce's Price


The two new books---one an adventure, the other a collection of magic items and essays---celebrate the 50th anniversary of the creation and playtesting of the game, which began in 1973.  (D&D wasn't published until January 1974 or thereabouts). 

  • Pryce's Price:  a new 57 page AD&D 1e adventure for PCs of levels 9-11 in which they delve a wizard's haunted basement to recover various and sundry items lost within its depths.  The module is also a tribute to the 1963 Roger Corman film "The Raven" starring Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, and Peter Loree---an obviously inspired by Poe's poem of the same name.  $12 from the TLS web site.
  • Gargax's Glorious Gewgaws:  a new 36 page collection of AD&D 1e magic items and essays that pay tribute to Gary Gygax.  (For reference, a gewgaw---which I'm more familiar with as a geegaw, but they are several variants for the term---is "a flashy, useless ornament; a bauble" according to my Funk & Wagnalls dictionary).  In this collection of 17 new magic items (including one new spell), none are trinkets and 5 are artifacts!  Rob concludes Gargax's Glorious Gewgaws with the essay "Some Influences Related to E.G.G. in Creating (and Play-Testing) D&D"---an eight-page discussion about the inspirational origins for various elements of Original Dungeons & Dragons and the Greyhawk and Kalibruhn campaigns.  $8 from the TLS web site.

Notably, both books can be ordered in a bundle at 25% off---quite the bargain!

The three new releases (counting the substantive newsletter) are in addition to Rob's most-recent adventure, Beyond the Living Room, published in 2020 via Paul Stormberg's Legends of Roleplaying imprint, and TLB Games, which published Dave Arenson's True Genius and the El Raja Key Archive (among other titles). 

Rob mentions that he will release additional books throughout 2023 to continue his celebration for D&D.  You can keep up on additional Three Line Studio releases by signing up for the TLS mailing list:  email mailinglist@threelinestudio.com with "Subscribe" in the subject line.

grodog on "L&L" Discussing Greyhawk's Planes

I recently appeared on Lord Gosumba's "Legends & Lore" episode about "Extra-Planar Influences" (in Greyhawk, of course).  Jay Scott, Anna Meyer, and Mike Bridges, steered the conversationa and I joined in after a late dinner an hour-in or so.  

We had a fun and widely-ranging discussion about the planes in general, planar architecture, planar incursions/invasions, gods and the source for divine powers, among many inter-related topics.


Extra-Planar Influences in Greyhawk, with Jay, Anna, Mike, and Allan
Extra-Planar Influences in Greyhawk,
with Jay, Anna, Mike, and Allan


You can watch the replays on YouTube at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6Z_5c5QDTU or on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/videos/1732534574.

GaryCon Events Registration Open!

GaryCon events registration is open this weekend on Saturday, 18 February 2023 for Gold badge holders, and the following weekend on Saturday, 25 February 2023 for Silver badge holders.  Additional timeline details for other badge types are at https://tabletop.events/conventions/gary-con-xv.  

My two personal events have registrants in them already, but more than half of the seats are still open.  Here are the entries if you'd like to register:

On Friday night I'm helping Paul Stormberg by DMing a table of the Legends of Roleplaying tourney, along with Allen Hammack, Steve Winter, Harold Johnson, Victor Raymond, Doug Behringer, and several other volunteer DMs.  

If you'd like to register, Legends of Roleplaying Tournament: Ruins of Elder Evil runs on Friday night at 6pm.


01 February 2023

Wilderness Random Encounter Table for Hardby - Greyhawk Campaign Prep

Somewhat akin to the missing forest from Darlene's gorgeous maps of The Flanaess, the Glassography from the 1983 World of Greyhawk boxed set doesn't include an encounter table for Hardby.  Unlike the forgotten Folio Forest, however, Hardby is only mentioned in passing in the original Folio and Boxed Set editions for the setting, so it's not terribly surprising that Hardby doesn't merit its own Encounter Table.

Still, my current campaigns have been set in and around the City of Greyhawk, and while the previous group from our Wichita Greyhawk Campaign (RIP due to COVID) did visit the city of Hardby for training and some resupplies during their explorations of the DMG Monastery dungeon, the current Castle-Greyhawk-based crew has not trod its hallowest streets quite yet.  But they are planning a trip to Hardby in the near-future, to be followed by a trip to Dyvers (perhaps directly from Hardby, perhaps via Greyhawk City---we'll see!). 

World of Greyhawk campaign prep - a DM's fun is never done!
World of Greyhawk campaign prep -
a DM's fun is never done!


Since the PCs are still relatively lower-level, and the path between the two settlements is along well-trod roads, the journey from Greyhawk City to Hardby will likely be conducted by the PCs afoot, unless they decide to hire a local ship or a Rhenne barge to speed their trip.  

In any event, travel afoot, mounted, or via riverine transport will require several days, which will entail some random encounters.  One of the aspects about the design and detailing of Greyhawk that I love is its use of setting-specific regional encounter charts, which include local patrols details too.  However, Hardby lacks an existing table for such roaming monsters.... 

That didn't stop me from creating a table, of course, but I did check and recheck to make sure I hadn't missed its entry, sure that it should be there (it wasn't).  I build the list of possible encounters using a mixture drawn from other nearby encounter tables' entries, including the Abbor-Alz, Cairn Hills, the City of Greyhawk, and the Wild Coast.  

Here's the final result:


Hardby Wilderness Encounters Table 

d100 Roll   Hardby Encounter
 01-04   Demi-Humans
 05-06   Dwarves (1d6: 1-4 hill, 5-6 mountain)
 07   Elves, Sylvan
 09-10   Halflings (1d6: 1-4 Hairfeet, 5-6 Stout)
 11   Hill Giants (raiding)
 12-15   Humanoids (raiding)
 16-18   Men, Amazon Patrol - Light
  Men, Amazon Patrol - Medium
 21   Men, Amazon Patrol - Heavy
 22-25   Men, Bandits
 26-27   Men, Brigands
 28-29   Men, Buccaneers (on or near water)
  Men, Characters
 33-45   Men, Merchants
 46-47   Men, Pilgrims
 48-52   Men, Pirates (on or near water)
 53   Men, Raiders (slavers or otherwise)
  Men, Rhenne (on or near water, or Attloi inland)
  Men, Tribesmen (hill- or marshmen + 20-80)
 63-64   Ogres (Merrows if on or near water)
 65-66   Trolls (Scrags if on or near water)
 67-100   Use Standard Encounter Tables


20% of riverine encounters will be with Rhenne, with the remaining 80% using the standard tables.  

I still need to detail Hardby's Amazon Patrols (and the Amazon Marines that ward the Selintan River and Wooly Bay coastal waters), but that'll come together quickly I'm sure.


16 January 2023

#Dungeon23 Resources - Mega-Dungeon Tools of the Trade

Desmond Tutu's old adage---"How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time."---is sound wisdom for how to deal with any seemingly-impossible and/or overwhelming and/or too-daunting task.  Just take it one step at a time, and eventually you'll have finished whatever Herculean trial that besets you. 

But, you ask, what do Desmond Tutu and eating elephants have to do with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons or the World of Greyhawk?  Far more than may immediately meet the eye!:

  1. Fantastical elephants have a long and storied place in wargaming and history---Hannibal's elephants crossing the Italian Alps to invade the Roman Empire were quite real in 281 B.C.E.---as well in AD&D's elephant-inspired outer-planar-agent of Good, the baku. 

    Tolkien's oliphants, however, probably take the cake:

    Oliphants from Peter Jackson's Return of the King film
    Animated Oliphants from Peter Jackson's
    Return of the King

  2. When we played together as kids, my younger-brother Phil sometimes lifted historical, real-world people for use as high-level NPCs in his games set in the Known World from CM1 Test of the Warlords.  A few distinct names still stick with me: 

    - Sho-Rembo, a pregen elf name borrowed from B1 In Search of the Unknown (I may be conflating this character with another character he named Suhie Baba, perhaps)
    - Bruce Lee as the Grand Master of Flowers (likely as inspired by the Commodore 64 Bruce Lee game as Enter the Dragon :) ):

    Bruce Lee - Commodore 64 title screen
    Bruce Lee -
    Commodore 64 title screen

    - Nelson Mandela!---but alas, I don't recall any specifics about Mandela's class or level in the game, just that he was a high-level NPC national leader
    - ...and Desmond Tutu, who was, of course, one of the few a high-level NPC clerics able to cast Restoration, Gate, and Resurrection =)

  3. Several folks have been championing a cross-blog/platform project of building a mega-dungeon, one room a day, one level a month, to end up with a 365 room mega-dungeon by the end of the year. 

    According to
    Ben Laurence's post, Sean McCoy started the idea, which has been shared enthusiastically across Twitter, reddit, Facebook, user forums, and elsewhere using the #dungeon23 hash tag, which I'm rendering as dungeon23 since I'm not sure whether blogger actually supports pound signs in labels.

    And, of course, building a mega-dungeon is a monumental task, so taking it one bite-sized room at a time is a worthwhile methodology to drive some creative focus.

That said, while I love and support the idea of more mega-dungeony creativity and goodness entering the old-school gaming world on a regular basis, I'm not going to participate in the Dungeon 23 challenge as structured.   I am quite interested, but I have enjoyed judging my version of Castle Greyhawk at conventions over the past 15 years, and running an online campaign centered in and around Castle Greyhawk since 2020, as well as DMing my boys through Castle Greyhawk in their ongoing (but now more intermittent, since they're both freshmen) Castle Greyhawk campaign since 2012 or so, too.  So I don't really need to build a new mega-dungeon, per se. 

Instead I will take inspiration from the #dungeon23 challenge to continue to develop my own version of Castle Greyhawk, and to leverage the focus of #dungeon23 as an inspirational push to finish some of my still-incomplete levels, and to whip them in shape for publication.  That's been a long-time goal of mine, so perhaps this'll help provide the additional structure and focus I need!

grodog's 8-ish years delayed Grodog's Castle levels
grodog's 8-ish years delayed
Castle Greyhawk levels

It'll also help to get me back on track for more-regular mega-dungeon Mondays content, too! 

#Dungeon23 Resources

And just because I'm not building a room a day doesn't mean that I don't have contributions to make to support a cause so near-and-dear to my DMing heart! =)

I'll start out with some basic tools of the trade for folks who are new to mega-dungeon design, and continue later with additional design resources.  

Graph and Hex Paper

One of the primary challenges to building and running a mega-dungeon is conveying its scale:  
  • How do you convince your players of the huge majesty of the dungeon and its many levels?
  • How do you design levels that are worthy of the term "mega-dungeon level"---big enough for the players and their characters to get lost within?
  • How do you encourage them to map and explore the ruin, each cautious step into the dark balancing trepidation and expectation for what may be revealed?
One key way that I try to convey scale is through building my Castle Greyhawk levels using a variety of graph paper sizes.  Levels designed on sheets with 4 spi (squares per inch), 5 spi, 6 spi, 8 spi, and 10 spi will provide very different size dungeon levels, even if all drawn on a single sheet of 8.5"x11" graph paper. 

I most-regularly use grid sizes of 5 spi, 6 spi, and 8 spi for my levels, but they all get used from time-to-time (and one or two of my old Armory pads of graph paper have 20 spi grids on them, which I use for cross-section/elevation maps showing the relationships between the levels themselves and large features that span multiple levels). 
I also like large sheets of paper, and while most of my pads are 8.5"x11", I regularly use 11"x17" sheets with 5 spi, 6 spi, and 10 spi, with some are even larger 17"x22" sheets in 4 spi and 8 spi (my thanks to Rich Franks for gifting me the latter nearly a decade ago!). 

Black Blade Graph and Hex Pads

I love graph and hex paper so much, we began to sell pads of it for Black Blade back in 2011!
We offer three sizes of graph and hex pads, with 40 sheets per pad, and each sheet is 60# weight paper (it's heavy enough that some friends paint dungeon fill on the sheets using India Ink and a brush!):
  1. mini-pads @ 4.25" x 5.5"
  2. standard letter-sized @ 8.5" x 11"
  3. standard ledger/tabloid-sized @ 11" x 17"

The mini-pads are single-sided, while the two larger pads are duplex-printed with different-sized grids on the front and back of each sheet. 

You can see them in our Facebook album (which is publicly visible) at https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.705096762986612&type=3 and if you're not interested in a Facebook link, you can also view the graph and hex sheet designs in my GaryCon X post at https://grodog.blogspot.com/2018/03/new-titles-at-black-blade-booth-at-garycon-x.html.

Hex Crawling Home for Your New Mega-Dungeon

While our Black Blade hex grid pads were designed to be compatible with drilling-down into the classic Greyhawk and Wilderlands of High Fantasy map hexes, you can use them with any homebrew or published campagin setting, of course. 

Our 8.5" x 11" hex pad contains three levels of hexes, to allow you to drill down into a single large campaign hex for local details, while our 11" x 17" pads feature two levels of hex to build out regional and continental map details. 

You can view our sheets in use in some of my blog posts where I've drilled into large, campaign-sized Greyhawk hexes at https://grodog.blogspot.com/2023/01/why-greyhawk-in-2023.html and https://grodog.blogspot.com/2020/02/renovating-the-monastery-in-greyhawk-part-1.html (this one also walks through my methodology for to detail larger hexes by breaking them down into smaller ones) and also in Mike Bridge's Greyhawkery blog at https://greyhawkery.blogspot.com/2017/06/new-greyhawk-map-ulakand-mesa.html and https://greyhawkery.blogspot.com/2020/11/new-map-ice-barbarian-campaign.html (among others).

If you're interested in ordering any of our graph or hex pads, you can email us at tacojohndm@yahoo.com or message us from our Black Blade Publishing Facebook page.

Pencils, Erasers, Markers, and Pens

I use mechanical pencils with .5 mm leads for drawing most of a level's features.   I also use Prismacolor colored pencils, for drawing water, gates, traps, magical and other zones, and other features that I want to distinguish with color. 
For fixing errors, I use both a Pentel Elite Eraser (~1/4" around white eraser) and Sanford Tuff Stuff Eraser Stick (~1/8" around white eraser)---this one I usually slice off the tip so that I have a sharper and more-refined edge for more-controlled, precise erasures. 
I still draw some levels in pen and ink, using my signature Parker rollerball pen with .5 mm fine blue ink cartridges.  While I drew many of the levels I designed from 2005 to 2014 or so in ink, and still have a fondness for that look, one of our cats spilled water across the dining room table and wiped out a bunch of our play session notes and some of the maps from one of Henry's dungeons (not his DM maps, but our player maps/notes).  The ink just washed off the sheets like it was never there, alas.  So I've mostly shifted over to drawing in pencil again these days.  
I also still have a set of technical pens from my architecture days, that I'll pull out (along with some calligraphy pens that Heather doesn't use anymore) when I want to design some treasure maps, letters, or other player handouts:
Various parchment papers with Rapidograph and Rotring pens
Various parchment papers with
Rapidograph and Rotring pens

If I didn't own the pens and inks already, I wouldn't buy/use them just to make D&D handouts, since they're somewhat fiddly and have to be cleaned properly or the unused ink will clog the nibs.  As an undergrad I never had a vibrating ultrasonic cleaner, and I don't use the pens often enough to justify the expense today---although I have heard that some miniatures painters use the ultrasonic cleaners to help with stripping minis, too.... 
I use Stabilo art markers (sensor .3 fine, point 88 .4 fine and sensor .7 medium thicknesses when drawing dungeons in ink (and have pretty much fully replaced my Berol Prismacolor colored pencils, although for maps that I draw in pencil, I'm still more likely to draw features in colored pencils on them vs. markers).  

I use Sharpie and Bic black permanent markers (fine point, although "fine" on these markers is still far thicker than on the mechanical pencils or Stabilo markers), for filling in the between-stuff fill.  
For ink and marker corrections, I use a Bic Wite-Out Shake 'n' Squeeze correction pen, although it's not always the best.  Sometimes I'll just patch a sheet by redrawing it, and taping a smaller sheet atop the area that needs repair (I'll do the same thing in some maps to add another layer above or below the baseline elevation of the level, too---my "Heretical Temple of Wee Jas" level has these elevated additions taped to the map). 

To store my pens and pencils, I use a ArtBin Pencil/Utility Box (one for each).  Inside them, in addition to the pens or pencils, I keep a small manual pencil sharpener with two sizes of holes, spare pencil leads and erasers for the mechanical pencils, very small rulers (including a small triangle ruler with different grids along each face; this too dates from Penn State), spare blue and black ink rollerball cartridges for my Parker pen, and the odd paper clip or binder clip.  The ArtBin boxes have padding along one side, which helps prevent the tips of the pencils from being crushed as they move around in the box.   


I have ten plastic mapping stencils that I keep together using a single ring-clip.  Here are a few of them:

A sampling of grodog's mapping tools
A sampling of grodog's mapping tools

My go-to stencil is one I've had since college (several of my mapping supplies, in fact, date from my one semester and one week as an architecture major at Penn State), and is the Template Designs General Purpose TD 422.  I use this to draw doors, hexes, arcs, and small equilateral triangles.  Henry has a newer version that's basically the same template but with two arcs on it instead of just one, but I think it has fewer hexes.  

Other regular-rotation stencils include:
  • Triangles and Diamonds R51
  • Squares R30, and
  • Combo Circle Master TD104---used a lot to draw both circles and arcs (using just part of a circle)
For hexagonal rooms, I use general purpose template (it has 7 hexes on it, ranging from 1/8" per side to 1/2" per side), as well as several other's I've picked up for just the hexes on them:
  • Rapiddesign R-57 Template Bolts and Nuts---includes 13 hexes and would be my first choice if i were to be buying these fresh today; the hexes range in size from 1" across side-to-side to 1/4" across side-to-side; it also has squares and circles on it, and some silhouettes of a bow-like looking washer design
  • Staedtler Professional Sketch Master Template 977-135---has 12 hexes on it, but it also has little nubs that raise the template higher off of the paper surface, which makes it a bit harder to work with
 Less-frequently used, but still quite nice to have templates include:
  • Ellipse Masters R77 and R78---I probably really didn't need both, but the ellipses span different sizes on each template; R78 is the same as R77 but includes ellipses that are 20, 30, 40, and 50 degrees)
  • Rapidesign R-83 Chemical Ring template---includes three pentagons, hexagons, septagons, and octagons, in addition to some molecule groupings of hexes
  • Learning Advantage Geometry Template 2826---includes a nice mix of larger shapes, including a novagon, decagon, various non-standard triangles and parallelograms, and a protractor

Other Tools of the Trade

I use a very nice composite-woods clipboard that one of my cousins gave me ages ago, and it fits standard letter-sized sheets quite handily.   I normally have the clipboard loaded up with sheets of scrap paper, since we re-use the blank backs of stuff that gets printed and isn't needed anymore:  I take notes for games sessions on these, use them for noodling on level keys, writing drafts of articles, etc.  While mapping, I usually draw with a few sheets of the scrap paper behind my graph paper sheet; it feels like it gives a smoother flow for drawing. 

From time-to-time, I occasionally use:

  • 6" and 12" ruler or other trustworthy straight edge; the stencils do fine most of the time; I do have a T-square also dating from my architecture days, and will use that occasionally on the larger map sheets
  • a compass; I don't use this much, since the circles template meets my needs most of the time
  • flexible curve; I rarely use this now---it's one of those artifacts from my undergrad architecture time

For letter-sized storage, I use either a 3-ring binder (I do prefer ones with at least 1 if not 2 pockets) with sheet protectors (I use heavier archival ones, as much because they're thick and provide better protection as for preservation).  For the larger sheets I use both 11"x17" sheet protectors, or a Dunwell Art Portfolio sized for 11"x17" sheets.  For the sheets larger than 11"x17", I fold them in half (which I also do with some of the 11"x17" sheets, to fit them into a letter-sized sheet protector). 

I'd love to hear about what other tools do you may use when drafting your maps, in the comments! :D

Next time:  my favorite mega-dungeon design articles!


12 January 2023

OGL Resources You Can Use

She that is Queen of Tunis; she that dwells
Ten leagues beyond man's life; she that from Naples
Can have no note, unless the sun were post---
The Man i' the Moon's too slow---till newborn chins
Be rough and razorable; she that from whom
We all were sea-swallowed, though some cast again,
And by that destiny to perform an act
Whereof what's past is prologue, what to come
In yours and my discharge.

---Antonio in The Tempest,
Act 2, Scene 1, Lines 247-255,

Written by William Shakespeare in 1611 or so
without the benefit of an OGL 


Oh the irony...


...and to think that I'd almost quit Twitter again last week!

OGL Resources

Some resources I've found useful while navigating the teapot that WotC seems intent upon drowning within:

  1.  Cory Doctorow's "Good riddance to the Open Gaming License" (also at https://mostlysignssomeportents.tumblr.com/post/706163316598407168/good-riddance-to-the-open-gaming-license)

  2. Matt Finch's "Moving the OSR Forward into the post-OGL Era"

  3. Stephen R. Marsh's legal research in the North Texas RPG Con Facebook group

  4. Stuart Marshall on the Paizo ORC license:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/OSRIC1E/posts/3419328041630174/
  5. Anna Meyer's "Open D&D"

  6. Ryan Dancey's "Roll for Combat" interview:  "One of the Architects of the Original OGL, Ryan Dancey, Discusses Its Creation | Roll For Combat"  

  7. Ryan Dancey statements @ ENWorld:  https://www.enworld.org/threads/ryan-dancey-hasbro-cannot-deauthorize-ogl.694196/

  8. Ryan Dancey's Change.org Petition:  "Hasbro, Please Take No Action Regarding the Open Gaming License v1​.​0a"

  9. Linda Codega's "Dungeons & Dragons’ New License Tightens Its Grip on Competition"---the leak that started the typhoon

Companies and Conventions Leaving the WotC Value Chain

...and multitudes more joining the crusade with each passing minute.



I'm Sure There Will be More to Come...

...but perhaps, perhaps, perhaps WotC is wising up?:  https://gizmodo.com/dungeons-dragons-ogl-announcement-wizards-of-the-coast-1849981365

We'll see.... 

Update 13 January 11:31am CST

...and so we did:   https://www.dndbeyond.com/posts/1423-an-update-on-the-open-game-license-ogl


08 January 2023

Why Greyhawk in 2023? - grodog's Thoughts

Greyhawk Gazetteer from the 1980 Folio


From time to time I'll run across a discussion on Facebook, reddit, in a forum, or elsewhere, that seeks to answer the question, Why play in Greyhawk?  The question is often presented in contrast to another setting---"Why play in Greyhawk instead of the Forgotten Realms?" or Planescape, or Ravenloft, or whatever---or as part of a general poll about settings you like.  A recent reddit discussion about favorite settings prompted me to write this post. 

I have offered many responses to similar questions about how and why I love Greyhawk as a setting, and I've shared some over the years:


The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Silmarillion,
by J.R.R. Tolkien

All that said, over the holiday break while re-reading the second edition of Tolkien's The Silmarillion, in the introduction I ran across a quotation from one of Tolkien's letters that helps to explain some of what I love most about Greyhawk (page xii; my emphases):

I [JRRT] had a mind to make a body of more or less connected legend, ranging from the large and cosmogonic, to the level of romantic fairy-story---the larger founded on the lesser in contact with the earth, the lesser drawing splendour from the vast backcloths...  I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched.  The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama. 

The quotation is famous among Tolkien fans and scholars, and inspired the titles for two different zines devoted to MERP gaming and Tolkien scholarship.  It also echoes in spirit and tone, if not specific language, three of the key features that I love most about the Greyhawk setting:

  1. Greyhawk as a sandbox campaign setting 
  2. Greyhawk as a place of adventure inspiration and expansion
  3. Greyhawk's fan community helps to keep the spirit of Greyhawk alive and relevant to today's gamers 

Greyhawk as a Campaign Sandbox: Two Takes

A significant volume of Greyhawk-related lore has been published over the decades in official sources from TSR and WotC, and in unofficial content from both its original creators Gary Gygax, Rob Kuntz, and Lenard Lakofka (to name just a few), as well as from its many dedicated fans.  For a sampling of such 1e Greyhawk content see Adrian Newman's TSR Archive site and for a more-comprehensive listing see Echohawk's Greyhawk Collector's Guide.

All that said, Greyhawk still  offers "room to grow" in the baseline versions of the setting published over the years, particularly so in the Greyhawk Folio (1980) and 1983 Greyhawk Boxed Set versions.  By that, I mean that Greyhawk paints its details with a broad brush, that leaves room for you as the DM and the players adventuring in Oerth to finely detail the setting in your individual campaigns.  This is particularly true compared to other settings that have been heavily detailed in both gaming products and in novels, like The Forgotten Realms or Dragonlance.  Later versions of the setting of also support this mode of expansive creativity, simply with more backstory and history behind their "present day" in the setting.

For example, In Darlene's 576 Common Year Greyhawk map there is not much going on near the southern mouth of the Nesser River, so when Henry and I decided to start up a solo aquatic AD&D campaign for him, we set it there, knowing that there wouldn't be too much potential for conflict with existing Greyhawk content:


grodog's sketch map for Greyhawk hex L3-94
grodog's sketch map
for Greyhawk hex L3-94

grodog's Greyhawk hex L3-94 with labels
grodog's Greyhawk
hex L3-94 with labels

grodog's Relaqua regional sketch map
grodog's Relaqua regional sketch map

Relaqua materials for aquatic AD&D campaign
Relaqua materials
for aquatic AD&D campaigning
Relaqua materials for aquatic AD&D campaigning
Relaqua materials
for aquatic AD&D campaigning

While we were a little off in our "blank canvas" assessment---since I am not as deeply familiar with many 2e Greyhawk books, and WGR4 The Marklands created a new town named Nessermouth near to where we sited our Relaqua game---we're still happy to build out our version of the region as we desire, the Marklands notwithstanding ;)


Nessermouth and Gnatmarsh region, from WGR4 The Marklands
Ninja'd!--the Nessermouth and
Gnatmarsh region,
from WGR4 The Marklands

A multitude of these "blank canvas" areas in Greyhawk exist across eras and editions, where you can start a game and begin to explore the world, one bit at a time.  Each of Darlene's Greyhawk map hexes is scaled to 30 miles across, so each offers plenty of room to build out your own version of Greyhawk, even within "known" hexes where towns, cities, and dungeons have predefined locations. 

In this second example, I shift gears a bit into how Greyhawk has slowly evolved as a sandbox setting over its decades of development.  Gygax seeded this twice-told rumor in the 1980 Greyhawk Folio, in the entries for The Wild Coast and the Suss Forest:  

Tales relate that somewhere within the Suss there exists a lost city of the Old Suloise--from which the Jewel River gained its name.  It has never been found, and the legend is highly doubtful (Folio page 19).


A lost, ruined city of of the Old Suloise is said  to be hidden somewhere in the Suss forest, but few dare to venture on such a quest, particularly today (Folio page 26).


Artifact of Evil - original painting by Clyde Caldwell
Artifact of Evil,
original artwork by Clyde Caldwell


While the same rumors exist in the 1983 Greyhawk Boxed Set, Gary later described this lost city in his novel Artifact of Evil, although it was never detailed fully for play as a published module (and is nicely summarized by Krista Siren in her Gord's Greyhawk site).

This group was to pierce the trackless tangles of the heart of the Suss Forest, find a lost ruin there, recover a bit of some strange and occult object of eldritch origin, and carry it safely into the hands of those who fought against Evil. (page 73)

On the east bank of the Jewel, Curley Greenleaf finally broke out his secret information.  It was a reproduction of an ancient map that crudely depicted the area they were in at a time long past.  This drawing showed that there was a city just a few miles---as far as they could determine, anyway---north of their present position. 

From what they could determine, they had to be within a few miles of their goal, only the ruin of the ancient city did not seem to exist.  Many things were possible, but entire cities did not just disappear....  Perhaps the whole thing was a fable....  Perhaps, but with but with so much evidence at hand, albeit information of cryptic sort, that seemed doubtful, (pages 78-79)

Legend had said a city of the Suloise had been here, but this place was certainly of origination predating the migration of the Invoked Devestation by centuries! (page 83)

Versions of Greyhawk published after the Folio and Boxed Set built upon these foundations, sometimes resolving mysteries initially left for DMs to define on their own.  Later works also introduced new wonders and legends into the setting, some of which, in turn, were explored in the next generations of products.  Carl Sargent's From the Ashes (1992) seeded the idea of the Star Cairns as a collection of lost tombs within the Cairn Hills; they were later built-out as The Star Cairns adventure in "The Lost Tombs" triology of modules during the 1998 Greyhawk revival.  Tenser's castle---The Fortress of Unknown Depths, first described by Gygax in WG6 Isle of the Ape---was sketched in passing the City of Greyhawk boxed set in 1992, and further enriched by Carl Sargent in Ivid the Undying before being built-out by Roger Moore in 1998's Return of the Eight.  The Isles of Woe were first mentioned in Eldritch Wizardry in 1976 in the artifact description for The Codex of the Infinite Planes, and were visited (I think for the first time), in the "Ether Threat" series of Living Greyhawk adventures back in 2002.  Countless additional examples exist.  These successive layers of accumulating lore keep Greyhawk fresh, and offer new opportunities for adventure.  They also showcase the unique stamp that each generation of designers and fans imprint on the setting.

These changes to the setting over time keep Greyhawk alive as a vibrant, freewheeeling sandbox:  some of its lore is contradictory, while some is couched in terms to suggest that it's not accurate ("the legend is highly doubtful").  This "Greyhawk Uncertainty Principle" empower DMs with the freedom to choose the versions of a legend or story they prefer, to relocate legends and dungeons elsewhere in the Flanaess, and to disregard and hack the discrepancies in canon compeltely when it suits the demands of their campaigns.

Greyhawk as a Place of Inspiring and Expanding Adventures

Many adventures provide DMs and players with years of gaming inspiration and fun at the table.  In many cases, they are truly modular, and can be incorporated into any era of Greyhawk, played with any edition (with some conversion, of course), and migrated to published settings like the Forgotten Realms or into homebrew worlds unknown outside of those who dice together around its table.  The Greyhawk modules deisgned by Gary Gygax, Rob Kuntz, Lenard Lakofka, David A. Cook, Carl Sargent, Erik Mona, Roger E. Moore, and many other designers are no exception. 

But Greyhawk's best adventures, like the setting itself, intentionally build design room for the DM and players to expand upon the baseline templates provided between their covers.  I see this in particular in the Giants and Drow series of six modules (G1-3 and D1-3), the paired S4 Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth and WG4 Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, and WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, but this principle holds in many other modules as well.  These adventures sketch foundations and also provide expansion points that inspire Dungeon Masters to design further:  to build next steps, to layer in additional lore and detail, to add another level to what already exists.  To echo Tolkien's quotation above---to wield pen and ink and personal creativity within the frameworks initially shaped by other minds and by other hands.  To image and render possibility, drama, and adventure unimagined but encouraged by Greyhawk's best designs. 

G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief offers lost temples and collapsed corridors that beg to be cleared out to reveal new levels to plumb.  The drowic underworld of D1 Descent into the Depths of the Earth charts the narrow path that leads to Erelhei Cinlu, but sketches a wider Underoerth that can include Carl Sargent's Night Below and Wolfgang Baur's Empire of the Ghouls (Open Design 2007) as desired.  Erik Mona's "Whispering Cairn" (Dungeon Magazine #124) is revisited and later expanded in Wolfgang Baur's "A Gathering of Winds" (Dungeon #129).  The Garden of the Plantmaster (Creations Unlimited 1988) connects both to Castle Greyhawk (where it originated) and to WG5's Lost City of the Elders , which Kuntz later shared in his El Raja Key Archive (TLB Games 2016).  Roger Moore's Return of the Eight mentions a hidden moon base laboratory used by Iggwilv and Tenser.  And so on.  

The wheel turns, and the plots mature.  Endangered Greyhawk calls its defenders to muster.  

Will you answer the call?

The call to adventure.


The Fan Community Sustains Greyhawk

Oerth Journal #37 nears publication and its launch will mark 28 years of fan-published support for the setting.*

The Greyhawk Wiki didn't exist during the heyday of the Greytalk and Greyhawk-L email listservs in the 1990s and the Living Greyhawk era.  

Jason Zavoda's wonderful Encyclopedia Greyhawkiana Index spans both eras of fandom:  rooted in the Greytalk era, it has blossomed through a modern redeployment in both wiki and Excel forms.  (For more detail, see my Greyhawk Links page notes).  

Discord supports Greyhawk discussion and gaming across a variety of servers:

reddit has dedicated channels for both Greyhawk and AD&D.  Twitch livestreams, YouTube channels, and podcasts champion and explore Greyhawk.  Blogs and forums offer deeper dives and keep the old Greytalk Archives alive even after they vanished into the deep ethereal of Lotus Notes hell decades ago.  (For more detail, see my Greyhawk Links page notes). 

The community of Greyhawk fans have rallied around the setting and kept it alive when its corporate overlords thought they had put the final bullet between its eyes.  

Greyhawk thrives during this decentralized, Fandom Renasissance, and its fans keep Greyhawk as relevant today in 2023 at it was in 1973.   

Greyhawk fans are tenacious, curious, and always willing to lend a hand to help welcome newcomers to the setting.  

Adventure beckons.

Join us. 



* Friends of the Oerth Journal Assemble! posted by /u/ArtharntheCleric on 6 Jan 2023:

Greyhawk fans will probably be aware of the Oerth Journal, a "fan" created magazine available in print and on line since 1995 creating new content for Greyhawk. It was originally started to support Greyhawk when TSR was not, and has featured luminaries such as Len Lakofka, Gary Holian, Erik Mona, Roger E Moore, Erik Boyd, etc.

Oerth Journal during COVID migrated from Patreon to Jemi for donations to support its work, and the take up was not 100%. In fact well short of. So the Oerth Journal, with issue 37 due to come out soon (delayed due to injury and illness to editor Kristoph Nolen), needs your support. Kristoph will ensure it gets out, but we'd all prefer he wasn't putting his hand in his own pocket to ensure it does!

If you previously supported the OJ via Patreon but didn't renew when it moved to Jemi, or have enjoyed it before but never supported, or have never checked it out before and are willing, please look at providing support with a one off or regular donation via Jemi here: