Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Suel Migration into Zindia

I've long had an idea in the back of my mind that the Suel might just have played a role in Oerth similar to that which the Aryan tribes played in Indian history. Inspired by this article in The Hindu and this opposing one at Swarajaya, I thought it might be a good opportunity to flesh out the idea a little more.

For those who aren't aware, the Aryan Incursion Theory (aka Aryan Invasion Theory, Aryan Migration Theory, etc.) basically postulates that around 1,600 BCE the Indo-European peoples, originating from the area north of the Black and Caspian Seas, exploded in a migration in all directions, explaining the similarities in various Indo-European languages across Eurasia. Part of this migration moved southeastward into India, impacting language and possibly other things as well (some even go so far as to attribute the lighter skin of upper castes to Aryan genetic influence).

I'm most definitely not going to get into the merits of the theory here (or lack thereof), but suffice to say the question is one that is centuries old, and rife with controversy, inflamed passions, and political  / religious / social implications. I'm just using it as inspiration. (Note that this means discussion of the theory itself will not be permitted in the comments; keep it to Oerth, if you please.)

Now, based on the geography of where the Suel Imperium used to be (now the Sea of Dust), and where Zindia is, relative thereto, I thought it might be interesting to apply the same idea to Oerth. Look at Zindia on the map from Dragon Annual 1 (south of what is labeled as the Suel Empire):


Here's a detailed look at the area, taken from my Beyond the Flanaess maps from a few years ago. I basically cropped together the three different maps from that series that cover Zindia. All we know about the area in terms of canon and Gygaxian near-canon* are a few names, which I took and ran with, dividing the large area collectively known as "Zindia" into eight different realms:

It's not perfect -- there are some irregularities where the maps meet -- but you
get the idea. I'm pretty happy with it, all things considered.
(You can also see Behow in the upper-left corner, one of the breakaway kingdoms on the periphery of the Celestial Imperium of Suhfang.)

Now, my great idea is that at the time the Suloise Imperium was destroyed by the Rain of Colorless Fire, it scattered the Suel peoples much like the Indo-European peoples were scattered. They fled not just across the Hellfurnaces into the Flanaess, but also southward across the relatively narrow mountains into Zindia.

In practical terms this means we can expect to see Suel deities in Zindia in much the same capacity as we see them in the Flanaess; mixed in with other, indigenous deities and religions brought in by other invading or neighboring peoples. (I'm thinking there might be some influence from both the Celestial Imperium to the west and Wujio/Nippon to the south, and possibly vice versa with a Buddhism analogue, but that's beyond the scope of this article.)

So that gives us a caste system on a Zindia-wide scale somewhat similar to that seen in the Scarlet Brotherhood (for obvious reasons; they both originated with the Suel), some familiar deities for players to deal with, and a definitive link with the published work. Plus (in my mind, anyway) it rhymes with a prominent if controversial historical theory, but doesn't emulate it in any specific form, which I sort of like.

If my game ever makes it to the steamy climes of Zindia, this is definitely going to be a thing.

___________

* The Gord the Rogue books, specifically; there are a few Zindian lands named in Sea of Death, I believe.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Egg and I

Returning to one of my favorite subjects -- the Temple of Elemental Evil, Elder Elemental God, etc. -- I wanted to explore a bit of Greyhawkiana that is at once both obvious on the surface, but pregnant with possibilities once one delves just a little deeper.

I speak of the platinum egg that rewards adventurers who slay the mortal form of Lolth at the climax of D3 Vault of the Drow. Here is how it is described therein (on page 21):
If Lolth flees, or is slain in her current form, a silvery (platinum) egg will be revealed. A remove curse will enable it to be opened, and whomever does so is geased to enter the astral gate on Level #1 (14) and confront Lolth if he or she is able or die trying. In the egg are an iron pyramid, a silver  sphere, a bronze star of eight points, and a cube of pale blue crystal. (These items have value and use only if the party continues the adventure in the next Module (Q1, QUEEN OF THE DEMONWEB PITS).
Fair enough. This is expounded on slightly in the introduction to the aforementioned Q1 (on page 3):
The play begins with the council of nobles (those good rulers who started this series of adventures by enlisting the aid of the adventurers in fighting the raiding giants; see Dungeon Module G1,2,3-AGAINST THE GIANTS) in conversation with the adventurers via the amber pool. This pool apparently acts as a communication device, though none of the characters understands its operation. When the conversation begins, the players will have in hand a platinum EGG about the size of an ostrich egg (5" long and 3" wide). In a previous conversation, the adventurers will have explained about the appearance of the EGG (see Module D3) and will have shown it to the council. After much private discussion, the council has recontacted the players, offering three different opinions concerning the EGG. The majority believe it to be cursed, left by Lolth to wreak vengeance upon her attackers. Some of the older (and perhaps wiser) members believe it to be both a key and a trick to lead and lure intruders somewhere so that Lolth may destroy them. A small majority think that the EGG is a gift from a rival god as a reward for the destruction of Lolth's plans on this world. All agree that extreme care should be taken in dealing with the EGG. They also advise the party to investigate the EGG further, possibly casting one or more of the following spells: augury, commune, remove curse, dispel evil, identify, or dispel magic.
You can bet that when we see that the "perhaps wiser" members of the council of nobles thinks it's both a key and a trick, that's what it is, and we're not really disappointed in that. Once in the Demonweb itself, the four items within basically serve (without much rhyme or reason) to ferry the PCs around the place. The iron pyramid, silver sphere, and the bronze star will glow and hum when taken to specific rooms in the web, and teleport the party to another location. The blue crystal serves to open up the doors to the spider ship.

Yeah, I know, steampunk spider ship in a spiderweb design taken from a hand towel. The history of how the module came to be is well known and recounted in many places, often with a bit of wistful wishing what-could-have-been. Moving on...

The first three items from the egg serve to move the PCs from one level of the demonweb to the next. Pretty straightforward. The fourth one opens a door. Again, straightforward. But the problem is, the PCs can get from one level of the demonweb to another simply by stepping off an overpass; there is a permanent feather fall effect for their convenience. Similarly, a simple knock spell will open the doors to the spider ship. The contents of the platinum egg are thus something of a let-down, as they are not only relatively minor in effect, their lack can be easily circumvented.

It would seem the contents of the platinum egg are nothing more than the casualties of the hand-off of the module's design from Gygax to Sutherland. And there the question would have lain, were it not for an exchange in one of the Gygax Q&A's on EnWorld, wherein Gygax states the following:
Q: At the end of D3, the party can end up with the "egg". "In the egg are an iron pyramid, a silver sphere, a bronze star of eight points, and a cube of pale blue crystal." The pyramid, sphere, eight-pointed star, and cube evolved into the triangle, circle, eight-pointed star, and square from the ToEE correct? Did you intend the items in the egg to be associated with the elements as they turned out being in the ToEE?
A: When I wrote an adventure I always tried to put in a few disguised hooks for later exploitation, or not, as the creative muse moved me.
The symbols in question, from the
"Hall of Elemental Magic"
As you note, the shapes were repeated in the ToEE as I did intend to tie the latter into the series. Lolth was to be connected to the temple, she the key to activation of that which would remove the imprisoning bonds from the Elder Elemental God. Of course that would have been by unintended consequences of her actions when the PCs discovered her.
How it was all to operate was something I never did get fleshed out. This was to happen in the lower levels of the temple, the development of which I never got around to because of my work out on the West Coast. Spending time trying to get a D&D-based film and like projects going took precedence over paper game material creation until the very end when I came back to Wisconsin to bail TSR out of its near-bankruptcy position.
Okay, here we go. I've explored the relationship between Lolth and the Elder Elemental God previously in detail, so I won't recount all of that, but suffice to say that Lolth is involved with the EEG's imprisonment on a distant star, and the platinum egg was at some point somehow related to its release. Doing so in ToEE would have counterbalanced the release of Zuggtmoy (per an interview in Oerth Journal 12):
The EEG was indeed meant by me to have a place in the very nethermost recesses of the ToEE. An anomaly there allowed him to manifest a portion of himself, and by doing the wrong (right from the DM’s point of view) thing the adventurers could release him also! Of course that would counter somewhat the freeing of Zuggtmoy, had she been loosed, so on balance it could serve to redress that error.
The pieces are falling into place. But here's what I see as the clincher (from the room description on p. 90):
Zuggtmoy once used the symbols to visit the Elemental Nodes, and to send screaming sacrificial victims to their dooms in these places.
Here's where my speculation starts. What if the contents of the platinum egg are the keys to activate those symbols in the Hall of Elemental Magic, turning them into teleporters/gates to the elemental nodes? That would be consistent with their function in the as-published Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits, where they are keys to activate teleporters to other levels of the Demonweb.

What if the contents of the platinum egg are the keys to release the Elder Elemental God? And what if that could be done via the Elemental Nodes beneath the Temple of Elemental Evil?

The sticky wicket is how to get the platinum egg from Lolth in the Vault of the Drow to someplace the PCs could discover and use it. How to work them into the existing adventure as written is the easy part; the iron pyramid, silver  sphere, bronze star, and cube of blue crystal take the place of the four Elemental Power Gems that, once fitted into the Orb of Golden Death, can be used to free Zuggtmoy from her prison.

Note: the four elemental objects double as keys, just like the gems do in the published adventure. I like the notion that they could be used to unlock more than one prison. Especially when that seems to be the original intention; that freeing the EEG would "somewhat counter the freeing of Zuggtmoy."

The tricky part, from the texts as published, is figuring out how the elemental keys are introduced into the Temple, since they were placed in the Fane of Lolth seven years before the Temple was published. There are a couple of ways around this conundrum:

  1. The PCs use the elemental keys in the Temple after they adventure through D3. I find this unsatisfactory, as it means they either need to come back years later, or they hit the Temple after the Vault of the Drow, which would not make a lot of sense game-wise, as PCs of sufficient level to kill or drive off Lolth would not find much challenge in the Temple as written.
  2. There are two sets of keys. Having a duplicate set of keys is sort of a cheat, but it does work. I think there's a better solution, however, and one which solves yet another problem with the published work. To wit...
  3. The elemental keys start off in the Temple, and if the PCs don't use them to good effect, could end up with Lolth. Indeed, perhaps that is what Falrinth (who is secretly in Lolth's service, just like Lareth the Beautiful) is actually there to do; find the gems/keys and send them to his mistress, the demon queen Lolth, to keep the EEG in prison for eternity. 
I really like the symmetry of that third option. In essence, it sets up the Elder Elemental God as the ultimate Big Bad for the campaign. As the PCs venture through the Temple, they could free it at the same time they free Zuggtmoy. If that doesn't happen and they move on to greener dungeons, the same keys  would show up in the possession of Lolth, giving them yet another shot at freeing the EEG or imprisoning it forever, this time in Lolth's lair. 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Artist Needed

I find myself in need of an artist for a project that's coming up.

However, this is not like most of my art requests, which are b&w line art. For this, I need a full face (no background) that's full color, computer generated. I will need several minor iterations of a basic image, to reflect different emotive states (probably around six or seven, which will involve only minor variations to the main piece). I will retain all copyright.

Please email me at joseph@brwgames.com if interested, and do include some representative pieces.

Feel free to spread this far and wide.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What makes a megadungeon?

It's big, but is it mega?
There's been a lot of chatter in my own little corner of the OSR web lately about megadungeons, and this is a thing that I both enjoy and encourage. For obvious reasons, I've got quite a few opinions about the megadungeon concept and execution, and I'm not afraid to share.

But I think in order to properly frame the discussion, we need to get a bit of definition around what, exactly, a megadungeon is.

Quite a few people subscribe to the "mythic underworld" interpretation of the megadungeon, where it represents a place where the normal rules of the world no longer apply, and wherein fantastical and abnormal things can be encountered. Indeed, Philotomy's Musings (a well-traveled booklet in certain circles) gives a length discourse on the megadungeon as mythic underworld, and in addition provides the following criteria for the mythic underworld/megadungeon (which he significantly uses interchangeably):

  1. It's big, and has many levels; in fact, it may be endless
  2. It follows its own ecological and physical rules
  3. It is not static; the inhabitants and even the layout may grow or change over time
  4. It is not linear; there are many possible paths and interconnections
  5. There are many ways to move up and down through the levels.
  6. Its purpose is mysterious or shrouded in legend
  7. It's inimical to those exploring it
  8. Deeper or farther levels are more dangerous
  9. It's a (the?) central feature of the campaign 

Personally, I'm not a fan of the mythic underworld interpretation, if for no other reason that in what has become the default style of FRPG campaign, there really is no distinction between the laws of reality in the dungeon, as compared to the town or inn. In a Campbellian sense, there's no definitive transition between the normal world and the world of fairy tales wherein one can encounter orcs, and vampires, and find magic rings. You could very well be attacked by a vampire while staying in your (supposedly) safe space.

Now, certainly, this is not the only approach to setting up a FRPG campaign, and something like the Western Marches campaign (seriously, if you've not read that yet, go do so immediately; it's brilliant) does in fact make the distinction. The town is safe, the lands to the west of the town are not. But when compared to "most" FRPG campaigns, that's the exception.

But more to the point, it fails to distinguish between a "regular" dungeon (one that can be "finished" in one or more sessions and play) and a megadungeon. For instance, I would argue that Philotomy's criteria 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 could apply to all sorts of different adventures and not just a megadungeon. I would also argue that 2 doesn't even necessarily apply to a megadungeon, although it could (and I would argue could apply to certain sorts of adventures, such as extra-planar excursions, more than it does to a megadungeon).

For instance, let's take one of my favorite modules, B1: In Search of the Unknown.

Certainly, it's big, and has many levels. It's not linear (although Dyson Logos made an effort to make it moreso); has several interconnections between levels; is certainly shrouded in legend as a general thing, even though its purpose is pretty straightforward (to act as a base for Zelligar and Rohgan); and it's definitely inimical to explorers (what dungeon isn't?). While it doesn't necessarily get harder as one goes from the surface, the second level certainly seems to be more deadly than the first, and 9 is not relevant because it can be plugged into any campaign (by design) and could certainly serve as a campaign tentpole (I used it in just such a way once, and it was a great success).

But I don't think anyone would argue it is a megadungeon.

What does that leave us? Simple.
3. It is not static; the inhabitants and even the layout may grow or change over time
That, to me, is the key. That's what makes something a megadungeon, rather than a regular dungeon. Any tomb or fortress or magic vault can be deadly, or get harder as you go further from the entrance, or whatever else.

But what makes a megadungeon special is that it is literally impossible to "clear".

Part of this is because of its size. You might be able to clear out a level (indeed, some of the PCs in the original Greyhawk campaign did just that, for a while, and claimed it for their own), but you'll never clear the dungeon. It's just not possible. Because while you're off exploring level 8, the orcs on level 3 are tunneling into a side level, and the myconids in that cavern in level 7 are spawning new warriors, and the Mad Archmage at the bottom is busy forming gates to new demi-planes.

Speaking of which, Wayne at Initiative One is entirely right. A megadungeon doesn't have a "boss" that can be defeated. If that were the case, doing so would "clear" the dungeon, which is exactly what can't be done to megadungeon. Certainly, individual levels can have bosses. Absolutely! But even Zagyg at level 13 of Castle Greyhawk, and the Mad Archmage at the bottom of Castle of the Mad Archmage, aren't bosses in that sense. They're not there to be defeated. They're there to open up yet another aspect of play. Certainly, meeting them can be viewed as a victory of sorts, but when you take the slide to China, you haven't defeated the dungeon. You just have farther to walk to go back to exploring it. Because the Greyhawk Construction Company just opened up a new side level on level 4 that wasn't there the last time.

In fact, we can infer exactly this from the racial abilities built into 1E. Detecting new construction makes absolutely no sense in a game sense unless there's new construction to detect.

So where does this leave us? It's not size (although size is important from a practical standpoint). It's not deadliness, because any dungeon worth its salt is deadly. It's all about replayability. The state of being wherein the PCs could, if they wished, keep going back into the dungeon over and over and over and over, and never, ever, not have something new to explore. (They might not find it, but that doesn't mean it's not there.) And that isn't limited to physical construction, either; demi-planes and other extra-dimensional gates, time portals, cursed scrolls taking PCs to the Starship Warden; they all count as part of the megadungeon.

Without that element of infinite replayability, you don't have a megadungeon. You just have a large dungeon, which is a very different thing.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Now on Facebook!

A bit of administrivia, if I may. Greyhawk Grognard now has a FaceBook page! If you look to the right you'll see the button that will take you there. Or you can just click here.

Remember to "like" the page to get updates!

On there you'll find not just announcements of activity here on the blog, but also shorter pieces that don't warrant entire blog posts of their own, plus more ephemeral things like links to relevant news stories and things I find amusing/relevant. There also tends to be a lot more dialogue over at FaceBook, so more chances to get into fights with engage with your fellow readers!

Let's Read: Greyhawk Adventures (Part 10)

Picking up the pace as we near the end of this long, long journey, the next section up is the Geography of Oerth, and truth to tell this is one of my favorite sections.

Here we are treated to a dozen interesting / mysterious / adventure-worthy locations in the Flanaess. These aren't full-blown adventures (those come in the next section of the book), but they give enough high-level information and specific detail that a dungeon master could develop any of them into an adventure that could take his PCs weeks if not longer to work through.

And that, I think, is the strength of this section. It doesn't spoon-feed things to the DM, but rather sets up just enough detail to let the DM's own imagination take over for the details. A few game mechanic suggestions are given at the end of each entry.

The dozen locales detailed include the following.

The Pinnacles of Azor'alq, located in the middle of the Drawmij Ocean. These are a series of cliff-like islands that rise suddenly out of the sea, filled with lost interior caves, and home to all manner of fantastic flying creatures such as dragons and phoenixes.

The Sea of Dust. Already known in very truncated form from the World of Greyhawk gazetteer, we learn a lot more about its nature and its inhabitants in this section, including likely places where surviving ruins of the ancient Suloise Imperium might be found. The details don't mesh with Gary Gygax's novel set in the same place (for obvious reasons), but it is still great information to have at the DM's fingertips.

The Pits of Azak-Zil, located in the southeastern Abbor-Alz. Most of the description is left to the history of the site, which is a now-abandoned dwarven mine, at the site of a meteor impact. Some of that background doesn't quite ring true (the Principality of Ulek is going to send an expedition all the way to the Abbor-Alz?), and I wish there was more concrete information about the undead-infested mines themselves.

Skellingshald, a plateau-city located in the Griff Mountains. Originally a Flan stronghold, now abandoned to its magical and mundane guardians, its inaccessibility is as great an obstacle to overcome as the kobolds and other creatures, and what treasure remains is of course cursed.

The Sinking Isle, located near the Sea Barons. As the name suggests, this mysterious island emerges from the sea at intervals, inviting those who happen to be in the area at the time to investigate. There are treasures to be had, but the whole is dangerous in the extreme, as the island can sink beneath the waves at any time. In addition, it is guarded by both sahuagin and kraken.

The Twisted Forest, located in the Drachengrabs. Not an actual forest at all, but rather a region of stone pillars that could well be described as humanoid instead of tree-like in shape. They are, in fact, the trapped remains of a variety of evil inhabitants who wandered into the area over the years, including some ancient Suel refugees. There is treasure, but also danger from the possibility of the trapped ones taking over the bodies of explorers.

The Burning Cliffs, located along the Icy Sea. This patch of naturally hot and fiery bitumen and flammable rock is not only dangerous in and of itself because of the intense heat and smoke that it spews forth, but is actually growing each year. At the heart of this place is apparently a gate to the Elemental Plane of Fire, making the fabled City of Brass accessible to those foolish enough to make the attempt.

Csipros Erd - The Geysers of Death, located in the northern Barrier Peaks. This is pretty straightforward; a region of geysers, poisonous gasses, and hot springs that make travel hazardous in the extreme, but sweetened by the presence of a treasure hoard belonging to humanoids driven out of the Lortmils during the Hateful Wars.

Tovag Baragu - The Stone Circles, located in the Dry Steppes. This is one feature that was actually given a fuller treatment in a later module; Vecna Lives! The whole thing is an artifact that acts as a time/planar travel system. Vecna later uses it in his attempt to achieve godhood.

Rigodruok - The Rainbow Vale, located in the Land of Black Ice. Sort of a riff on the idea of the Hollow Oerth, this is a warm and fertile bowl-shaped vale in the midst of the black ice, inhabited by humanoids, spiders, and cavemen, with plentiful diamonds.

Esmerin, located in the Lortmils. This is a happy and hidden valley, rich in gems and metals, wherein tallfellow halflings and giants live in harmony.

Turucambi, located in the Oljatt Sea near Hepmonaland. A maze of limestone and coral reefs and shoals, with many small islands. The maze of reefs under the surface is home to sea-races of all types, and the whole produces weird and unpredictable tides, geysers, and the whole filled with poisonous plants and animals. The presence of many rare and valuable corals makes the whole thing worth visiting, despite the dangers.

Next up: Adventures in Greyhawk

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

RPGNow OSR Extravaganza Sale - 15% off!

I didn't know it was coming, but I'm glad to be a part of it.

Right now all of BRW Games products are 15% off as part of RPGNow's OSR Extravaganza Sale. That includes all our game titles, hard copy as well as pdf!

Enjoy!


Friday, May 19, 2017

We have winners!

Well, two out of three winners, anyway.

In conjunction with the recent ADD/CotMA pdf sale, three lucky winners were going to get free hard copies of their purchases. All three winners have been contacted through OneBookShelf, but unfortunately I've only heard from two of them!


But we still have another winner to be heard from! If you're reading this and bought a pdf during the sale, please look for an email from Chris Tang (from OBS) with the subject line "Free Book" and follow the instructions within.

If I don't hear from our mystery winner within a week, I'll be forced to draw another winner. I'll also ask OBS to try to get in touch with him again.

Jonathan and Weird Dave, your books will be en route shortly. Thanks to everyone for participating!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Reminder: Sale ends today!

Just a reminder that the Adventures Dark and Deep/Castle of the Mad Archmage 20% off pdf sale ends today. Plus, two lucky winners will get a free upgrade to softcover versions, and one grand prize winner will get a hardcover version of their purchase. Details here. Good luck!


Friday, May 5, 2017

BRW Games PDF Sale and Drawing!!

Hey-o!

As we head slowly into the summer months, I thought I'd do an impromptu sale, with a contest to boot!

From Saturday May 6, 2017 through Sunday May 14, 2017, all print-possible pdf titles will be 20% off.

In addition, anyone purchasing a pdf version of a title (that has a print version) will be included in a special drawing. Two lucky winners will win a free upgrade to a softcover version of the title, and one lucky winner will get a free upgrade to hardcover (if available)!

Shipping to the United States is included. Outside of the U.S. you will be asked to make up the difference in shipping costs. But the books themselves are still free!

Purchases of titles that do not have a print version will not be included in the drawing. But if you get a print title, and want to try for a second copy, more power to you! The following titles have print options available:

A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore
Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit
Adventures Dark and Deep Players Manual
Castle of the Mad Archmage Adventure Book
Castle of the Mad Archmage Adventure Book (Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Edition)
Castle of the Mad Archmage Illustration Book
Castle of the Mad Archmage Map Book
Castle of the Mad Archmage Expansion - Level Three East
The Golden Scroll of Justice

This offer does not apply to the Adventures Dark and Deep bundle, but does apply to the Castle of the Mad Archmage OSR digital bundle.

Good luck!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Slügs in the Castle of the Mad Archmage

So I downloaded James Raggi's latest dealybob over at RPGNow, which is a pay-what-you-want version of his Free RPG Day offering. It's called Slügs! and it's just what it says on the tin; a mini-supplement with a bunch of variant giant slugs in it.

First of all, buy it. Buy it now. It's great, and hilarious, and useful. It's worth a buck or two for the brilliantly passive-aggressive introduction, even if you never use a giant slug in your game.

But more to the point, it made me realize there is only a single giant slug encounter in the entirety of my own Castle of the Mad Archmage. Just one. And even that's just on the random encounter table on level eight.

Consider this a free (and very optional) supplement to Castle of the Mad Archmage to correct that oversight.

General Note

When playing on December 25, all slug encounters are changed to a Christmas Slüg (37 h.p.). No exceptions.*

When playing from 4:00 AM - 11:59 AM (local time), all slüg encounters are changed to a Breakfast Slüg (52 h.p.) 40% of the time plus 5% per hour closer to noon. As there is no such thing as a Brunch Slüg, and the concept is clearly beyond the boundaries of any reality that might realistically harbor a labyrinthine maze inhabited by monsters, filled with treasure, and ruled by an insane wizard, once noon rolls around all slug encounters are back to normal.

Level Seven: The Crypts


A roll of 5 on the random encounter table indicates Slügatron (38 h.p.). He is on the level trying to discover the location of the Clockwork Crypt, thinking that the mechanical man Tok-Tok might be allied with Slügatron's nefarious robot enemies from a distant star (it's up to the GM to determine whether or not that is true). If the PCs befriend him and agree to help him find that specific crypt, he will join them.

Level Eight: The Lesser Caves

A roll of 4 on the random encounter table indicates an Acid Slüg 50% of the time, rather than an ordinary giant slug.

67. This cave is now home to a Glass Slüg (h.p. 45).

Level Nine: The Greater Caves

28. A Love Slüg is nestled in the northwest alcove in this room, soaking up the radiation from the temple of the goddess of love and beauty. If the proper ritual is enacted on the altar (as described in the text), the Love Slüg will "pleasure" the character who performed the ritual. If more than one character was involved, the slüg will choose one at random.

Level Ten: The Lesser Caverns

13. A pair of Ocular Slügs dwell here now (h.p. 28, 25).

Level Eleven: The Greater Caverns

A roll of 5 on the random encounter table indicates the Swiss Army Slüg from area #47, when rolled outside the fungus forest.

47. This cave is now home to a Swiss Army Slüg (h.p. 70). Replace the reference to the Catholic Church in the monster description to the Church of Saint Cuthbald.

Level Twelve: The Catacombs

2. The purple worm in this room is replaced by a pair of Rock Slügs (h.p. 56. 59). The treasure remains as described in the original text.

Appendix D: Special Random Encounters

On a roll of 1, the PCs encounter the Mentallo Slüg, who is on a mission to try to find the Mad Archmage to try to warn him of the impending invasion of the world by a horde of mechanical alien ladybugs from a distant star (they hitched a ride unnoticed on Slügatron, so if the two ever encounter one another, the Mentallo Slüg will be decidedly unfriendly).

__________

* You're lucky I didn't change all encounters to Christmas Slügs.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Deal of the Day is Up!

Now's your chance, fans of post-apocalyptic gaming. Project Oasis is 50% off at RPGNow and DriveThruRPG for the next 24 hours. Grab it while the grabbing is good!

You can purchase Project Oasis here




Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Let's Read: Greyhawk Adventures (Part 9)

Ehlonna's tits! Am I still doing this series?

Yes. Yes I am. Even though the last installment was a shade under two years ago. (Sorry!) My work on 5E Greyhawk has given me renewed incentive to look through the sources for material, and Greyhawk Adventures is one of them.

This time out we look at the Magical Items of Greyhawk, and in my estimation this is one of the weakest chapters in the book. Not only are the origins and names completely unimaginative (with such entries as the casket of Furyondy, or the necklace of Almor), but the in-setting details are sometimes suspect. For example, we are told of the Dark Crown of Aerdy:
This evil headgear was worn by one of the original Overkings of the House of Naelex [sic] in the ancient Great Kingdom.
The problem being, of course, that the original Overkings were from the House of Rax. And it wasn't called the Great Kingdom at the beginning; it was the Kingdom of Aerdy until the Battle of a Fortnight's Length more than a century later. And they weren't decidedly evil until much later.  And the House of Rax was succeeded by the House of Naelax, not Naelex (we are similarly told that the capital of the Horned Society was Malog, when it should be Molag). It's just sloppy writing and editing, but it speaks to the almost afterthought-like vibe I get in this whole section.

I find this an enormous missed opportunity to have brought in all the "missed" magic items from the original Greyhawk campaign that never made it into the DMG or UA. Things like the needle/spear of Zagyg. Of course, that would have been difficult at the time, with Gygax, et al estranged from TSR. But instead we have mostly mediocre magic items with names of geographic locales from the Flanaess tacked on seemingly at random. What else to make of the prism of Greyhawk, which casts color spray and hypnotic pattern once per day? There's nothing there that particularly ties the item thematically to Greyhawk; it's just another magic item that any DM in the 11th grade could have come up with.

In some ways, the ones that do convey the theme of their place of origin are worse, because of the heavy-handed and completely unsubtle way in which they are handled. Take the red armor of the Hellfurnaces. It's plate armor +4 made from the hide of a red dragon, and allows the wearer to save vs. fire attacks for half or no damage. Get it? Hellfurnaces. Fire. It's a natural!

Now, to be fair, there are some that are genuinely clever in my opinion, and actually add to the flavor of the place whence they come. The chalice of the Shield Lands, for instance, allows the user (who must be a fighter) to take a holy vow and become a paladin of the same level for the duration of a single quest. That's a nicely themed, non-generic magic item in my view. The black sails of the Schnai are another great one; sails for funeral ships that, when the final piece is burned, summon the spirit of the warrior whose funeral ship it was, to fight for you. It's a nice call-back to the archetypical Viking ship-funeral, and that goes well with the generally Viking tone of that part of Greyhawk.

If the flaw of this section could be summed up in a single word, it would be rushed. The whole seems like it was knocked off in a day or two, with insufficient thought or research into the lands in which the magic items were supposed to have originated. Take, for a final example, the anvil of the Lortmil Mountains, which is a dwarven magic item that can allow the user to make blades worth 100 times their normal value. That's all well and good, until one considers that the Lortmil Mountains were under the control of humanoid tribes until the Hateful Wars some 75 years prior to the timeline of this book (the FtA era, 585 CY). Is that enough time for such an item to have been created? Sure, but wouldn't it have been much cooler to have a humanoid-themed item from the Lortmils, that predated their expulsion, and which could be used in some plot to reconquer the mountains? A few more minutes of reflection on each item might have produced far greater results for this entire chapter. On the whole, I find it a disappointment.

Next up: Geography of Oerth

Project Oasis 50% off tomorrow!

Hey all!

Just a quick note that Project Oasis, my post-apocalyptic RPG setting, will be tomorrow's Deal of the Day at RPGNow and DriveThruRPG, for 50% off the normal price.

One Day Only!

Project Oasis is a gonzo PA setting that draws inspiration from the post-apocalyptic aesthetic of the 1960's and 1970's. Think Planet of the Apes (movie, TV show, and Marvel Comics' original stories like Terror on the Planet of the Apes), Logan's Run, Genesis II, Planet Earth, Ark II, A Boy and His Dog, Mad Max, and the Ultimate Warrior (a very underestimated film in my opinion!).

Toss all that up in the air and let the pieces settle all over a continent-wide map of North America, throw in a 36 page guidebook that's very rules light (although it does have appendices with new monsters and technology, statted for both Apes Victorious and Mutant Future, although you can use it with almost any old-school science fantasy rules), and you get Project Oasis.

And it'll be just $4.98 tomorrow. I guarantee it will never be that price again.

Enjoy!

A thousand years ago, the world died.
Now, out of the ashes of the great nuclear-biological Devastation comes a new world. A world where intelligent apes hunt humans for sport. A world where subterranean mutant cyborgs serve great disembodied brains and plot world domination. A world where apocalyptic cults try to finish what the bombs started. A world where frightful artificial intelligences command armies of robot servants, and entire nations of clones lead peaceful and productive lives, unless you’re not of the right clone-lineage. 
And it’s also a world where mankind and his newfound fellow intelligent species try to pick up the pieces and rebuild civilization.
This is a world where a force for good, knowledge, and science works to help restore that which was lost, to guide this new world onto a path of justice and learning. That force is called Project Oasis.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Greyhawk update/designer's notes

Hey-o!

So back in January I announced that I was working on some 5E Greyhawk products on the off chance that Wizards of the Coast would eventually open up my favorite setting to designers on GM's Guild. No, this isn't some announcement that they have done so. I just want to give a quick update and let you know about the approach I'm taking.

Specifically, I've been working on what was the Players Guide to Greyhawk, because the rest all hinged on having Greyhawk-specific 5th edition material to make it all work. Unfortunately, that turned out to be too large a task for a single book.

So now, what was the Players Guide to Greyhawk is going to be three different books.

Most of the crunchy bits will be in the Player's Guide. The class options, the backgrounds, the spells, factions, etc. There will still be plenty of color, but this will be where the majority of the rules-heavy stuff will be found. All new, but a lot based on things from the earliest days of Greyhawk and the 1st Edition rules. Because I'm a 1E nerd, and proud of it.

The DM's Guide, on the other hand, is going to feature the new monsters (mostly drawn from the Greyhawk Adventures book and the Monstrous Compendium Greyhawk volume) and new magic items (again, mostly from the GA book). But the majority of it is going to give history and the current state of the Flanaess circa 576 CY; the same era as the original Folio and Gold Box editions. It will have all the information in those books, plus a lot more gleaned from all the other products that have come after; history, NPCs, etc. from various adventure modules, sourcebooks, boxed sets, articles, and some more outré sources that I think you'll find pretty cool.

I was going back and forth between just having a brief entry for each country, and going on a full-bore in-depth recitation based on the sources, and have decided to go with the latter. It won't be completely comprehensive (the book would be a thousand pages) but it'll cover everything the DM needs to get things going in 576.

And the third will be something I've been writing about for years; the Great Greyhawk Campaign. It would have all the information a DM needs to take the Greyhawk setting forward in time up to 591 CY, a full fifteen years of game time. And in so doing, it would allow the DM to set his or her game in those other periods that have been extensively covered in the past; 585 CY (From the Ashes), or 591 CY (Living Greyhawk Gazetteer).

So anyway, that which was one is now three. It's really no more work for me than I had originally envisioned (other than maybe the GGC book), but as I go through the sources, it's really just a question of putting the information in the right place.

__________

And hey! Don't forget that the GM's Day sale is still going on, and you can find almost everything from BRW Games on 30% off; if you ever wanted to check out Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, or nearly anything else, now's the time!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Playtesters Needed - 5E

OYEZ! OYEZ!

I find myself in need of playtesters for some 5th edition D&D material I'm writing up. If you're a DM with an established group, preferably playing in a World of Greyhawk campaign (but that's not necessary, as long as you can use WoG-centric stuff in your campaign), and are interested in playtesting some new player options including class options, spells, backgrounds, etc. please send an email to greyhawkgrognard@gmail.com.

You and your players will be asked to sign an NDA, and will receive regular updates with new material to try out.

Thanks in advance!