Thursday, March 31, 2016

Friday, March 11, 2016

Giant rat

Dude, this is seriously the "rat, giant (Sumatran)" from the Monster Manual.


Here's some trivia - the (Sumatran) part of the entry header comes from a throwaway mention in one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "Sherlock Holmes" stories. In "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire", reference is made to "...the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared." I'm certain Gygax was aware of the line, and that made its way into the header.

(h/t Sky News)

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

5E Sorcerers of Greyhawk

Sorcerers are rare on Oerth, but not completely unknown. More often than not, those with innate sorcerous ability will hone their skills with more traditional wizardly study, becoming truly formidable spellcasters combining the learned magic of a wizard with the intuitive understanding of a sorcerer (in game terms, this means that single-class sorcerers are exceedingly rare, and more often those who begin as sorcerers will switch classes to gain levels as a wizard).

SORCEROUS ORIGINS

Sorcerers in the World of Greyhawk may choose the following alternate origins if they wish.

BITTEN BY THE SERPENT

The Serpent, known as Mok'slyk to the ancient Ur-Flan, is a creature whose origins are obscured in the mists of time, and whose very existence is doubted by many sages. Some sorcerers, though, know the truth. Mok'slyk does exist, and on very rare occasions, it will come to someone and instruct him or her in ancient and terrible ways of magic.

Some say that the Serpent is the very personification of magic, while others believe it to be one of the so-called “Ancient Bretheren” who predated the gods themselves. Still others believe the Serpent to be an aspect of Asmodeus, the Arch-Fiend. It is whispered that the arch-lich Vecna was one so Bitten in ages past, and some believe the Serpent to be nothing more than a figment of his twisted imagination, brought to life. Its true nature may never be known.

Mok'slyk is possessed of all the knowledge of those sorcerers in the past whom it has touched in this way, and with good reason. Once someone who has been Bitten by the Serpent dies, the Serpent consumes his or her soul, gaining the knowledge and life experience of that person, and using it to help the next person to be so touched. Still, those who are Bitten deem it a worthy trade in exchange for all the power and knowledge that the Serpent can bring. While not all those who are Bitten by the Serpent begin their sorcerous careers as evil, none who are, can escape that eventual fate.

Serpent’s Tongue

Starting at 1st level, you have better than normal powers of persuasion. Whenever you are making a Charisma check to persuade an NPC of something, you may add your proficiency bonus to the roll. However, if you fail the roll, the NPC has a “bad feeling” about you, and you may never use your proficiency bonus when attempting to persuade that same NPC again.

Coils of the Serpent

Also at 1st level, you can use your action and expend one Sorcery Point to attempt to wrap an enemy in the coils of the serpent. The target must be within line of sight and no more than 30’ away. He must make a Wisdom saving throw. Failure means he becomes incapacitated for the remainder of the round. If he succeeds in the saving throw, the intended target cannot be affected by the coils of the serpent for the next 24 hours.

Serpent’s Venom

Starting at 6th level, you can spend sorcery points to spit venom from your mouth like a snake as your action. The venom will have a range of 5’, and you must make a successful “to hit” roll. If you successfully hit with your venom, the victim will take 2 points of poison damage for every sorcery point you spent. You must declare how many sorcery points you wish to spend prior to either the “to hit” or saving throw rolls being made.

In addition, anyone of good alignment will by this time be moved to a neutral alignment if they have not already. Thus, lawful good turns to lawful neutral, and chaotic good turns to chaotic neutral.

Power Locus

At 14th level, you can imbue a part of your body with special magical power. Select exactly 18 spell levels’ worth of spells known to you. As long as that body part is available to you (i.e., a hand is not chained, an eye is not covered, an ear is not removed, etc.), you may cast the selected spells without preparing them, as long as you have sufficient spell slots available. Casting the spell expends the slot.
In addition, anyone of neutral alignment will by this time be moved to an evil alignment if they have not already. Thus, neutral turns to neutral evil, and lawful neutral turns to lawful evil.

Summon the Serpent

Beginning at 18th level, you are able to summon the Serpent to manifest within you directly; those with true sight will see the semi-transparent form of the Serpent wrapped around your body, glowing with a dark radiance. Doing so costs a number of sorcery points as listed below and counts as your action. Doing so allows you to select one of the following effects:

  • You radiate fear in a 60’ radius until you lose concentration. All non-friendly creatures within the radius of the effect must make a Wisdom check or be frightened until the effect ends. Those creatures who make a successful Wisdom check cannot be effected by any Commune with the Serpent effect for 24 hours. This effect costs 5 sorcery points.
  • You may cast the equivalent of a commune spell and ask the Serpent for its wisdom directly. This effect does not use up any spell slots, and only you will hear the Serpent speaking in response to your questions. This effect costs 3 sorcery points. 

In addition, the alignment of the sorcerer will change to neutral evil, the purest form of evil, and will not deviate therefrom for any reason, short of the intervention of a deity or the effect of an artifact.


TOUCHED BY THE WIND DUKES

The Wind Dukes of Aaqa are the stuff of legend. Ancient champions of Law native to the Elemental Plane of Air, they battled Miska the Wolf Spider, and it was only through their use of the Rod of Law (now shattered into the Rod of Seven Parts and scattered to the far corners of the multiverse) that Chaos was stopped from conquering all of reality. Since the battle of Pesh, which took place north of what is now known as the Nyr Dyv, the weird energies released by the shattering of the Staff of Law still manifest themselves in strange ways that are unpredictable to mortals (there are suggestions that these manifestations follow some incredibly intricate, if unfathomable, regular pattern).

While those who are Touched by the Wind Dukes are more likely to hail from the lands north of the Nyr Dyv (particularly the Shield Lands/Bandit Kingdoms), they could conceivably come from anywhere except its most remote regions, as long as an ancestor may have lived, or even passed through, the region. They will all be of Lawful alignment, however, whether they be Lawful Good, Lawful Neutral, or Lawful Evil.

Predictable Spellcasting

Starting at 1st level, you may choose to avoid random chance when casting any spell that normally requires a die roll to determine damage, duration, etc. Rather than rolling, you use the average possible value, rounding down. For example, if casting the spell magic missile, you would not roll 1d4 and add 1 to determine damage. You would take the average roll (1+4=5, divided by 2 = 2) and add 1, for a consistent damage of 3 with each missile. The average of a d4 is 2, a d6 is 3, a d8 is 4, a d10 is 5, a d12 is 6, and a d20 is 10.

Light as a Feather

Also at 1st level, you have a natural ability to float slowly down through the air instead of falling. Functionally, this is the same effect as the spell feather fall (the ability will not have any effect on others). You must have a short rest between uses of this ability. No metamagic effects can be used on this ability, as you are not actually casting a spell.

Shield of Law

Starting at 6th level, you have resistance against Wild Magic surge effects and all magical attacks from extra-planar creatures of chaotic evil, chaotic neutral, and chaotic good alignment. You can apply this resistance to a number of attacks equal to your level. Once you have used up this power, it is restored after you have taken a long rest.

Lifted by the Wind Dukes

At 14th level, you have a flying speed equal to your walking speed.

Hammer of Law

Beginning at 18th level, you may spend 1 sorcery point to gain advantage on any single attack roll, or to get a bonus of +5 to damage on an attack. You may choose to spend 2 sorcery points to get both advantage and the +5 damage bonus. You may not spend more than 2 sorcery points per attack.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Greyhawk's College of Balance for 5E Bards

Bard characters in the World of Greyhawk may choose from the following college, in addition to the choices listed in the Player’s Handbook.

COLLEGE OF BALANCE

Bards in the College of Balance are closely aligned with the Old Faith of Druidry, and are talented performers who are interested in seeing that no side in the cosmic struggle for dominance – law and chaos, good and evil – ever completely dominates the others. Their tales spoken in glades in deep woods, or songs sung in smoky urban taverns, emphasize the eternal nature of struggle, the cyclical nature of history, and how even the most seemingly-invincible foe can be overcome, only to start the cycle anew.

While they may not be always formally recognized as agents of the Cabal (see “factions”), bards of the College of Balance are most certainly informally aligned with the same goals; to prevent the dominance of any extreme alignment over the Flanaess, and ensure that Balance is ultimately restored should any alignment come to ascendance.

Members of the College of Balance seldom gather in formal settings, preferring to spread news between one another as they wander around the Flanaess, and will also use druid networks of followers, priests, and agents to spread and learn information.

BONUS PROFICIENCIES

When you join the College of Balance at 3rd level, you can speak three additional languages, one of which can be an exotic or secret language. You gain one additional language every three levels.

You also gain proficiency with medium armor.

SONGS OF NATURE

Once you join the College of Balance at 3rd level, you may choose from either the Bard or Druid spell lists when selecting new spells to learn, including the additional cantrip you learn at 10th level. You still use the bard tables to determine cantrips and spells known, and spell slots.

In addition, you do not need to prepare the spell legend lore. You can always cast it as long as you have an available spell slot. 

BONHOMIE

Also at 3rd level, you can project a naturally affable and likeable manner that can have an influence those around you. You automatically have advantage on the first social interaction check you make with any new creature. You only get this advantage once per individual creature, and only on the first social interaction check you make with them.

MUSICAL KNOWLEDGE

Starting at 6th level, you can use your superior knowledge of music and sound in several different ways. When using any magical item that relies on sound (the horn of blasting, for instance), the bard can, at his or her option, re-roll any 1’s or 6’s rolled for duration or effect. When using your bardic inspiration ability, the target creature will have resistance to thunder attacks and sound-based magical effects such as the luring song of a harpy, in addition to the other benefits of bardic inspiration.

CHARMING PERSONALITY

Starting at 14th level, you do not need to prepare the spell charm person. You can always cast it as long as you have an available spell slot, and the target creature always has disadvantage when making its saving throw, unless you or your companions are fighting it, in which case it will have advantage.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

5E Barbarians of Greyhawk

Barbarians hail from either the extreme north or the extreme south of the Flanaess, and come in three general types. Those in the north hail from one of the four groups of horseback-traveling nomads – the Tiger Nomads, Wolf Nomads, Rovers of the Barrens, and Hold of Stonefist. Those in the northeast of the Flanaess – the Fruztii, Schnai, and Cruskii – are more settled and are excellent seafarers. Those from the steamy jungles of the south are more primitive than their northern counterparts, but no less savage. Many will be of Olman, Suel, or mixed heritage.
In addition to the primal paths listed in the Player’s Handbook, barbarian characters in the World of Greyhawk have access to the following additional path.

PATH OF VATUN

The Path of Vatun is available only to those barbarians who hail from the Thillronian Peninsula; the lands of the Schnai, Fruztii, and Cruzkii. They are dedicated to the Great God of the North, Vatun, god of cold, winter, and arctic beasts. Those barbarians following the Path of Vatun in Stonefist would have originally come from one of the barbarian lands to the east. Those who follow the Path of Vatun are inured to cold and the hardships associated with it. As followers of the god Vatun, barbarians who follow this path are naturally antagonistic to followers of Telchur, and after CY582, Iuz.

Vatun's holy symbol - a sunrise
over an icy plain
Rune of Frost

Starting when you choose this path at 3rd level, you are resistant to cold when you rage. In addition to the normal resistance to weapons, you also have resistance to all cold-based attacks. In addition, time spent in frigid water while raging does not count against the normal time limit.

Rune of Snow

Starting at 6th level, you radiate freezing cold in a 5’ radius while raging. Any creature in this sphere (friend or foe) will take 1 point of cold damage per minute.

Rune of Ice

Beginning at 10th level, you can freeze enemies with your icy gaze as your action. To do so, select one creature within 30’ who is in line of sight. If the creature can see you, it must make a Wisdom saving throw (DC 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma bonus) or be paralyzed. If you can keep your gaze fixed on the creature, you can extend the effect until the end of your next turn. The effect ends if you end your turn out of line of sight, or more than 60’ from you. If the creature is successful in its saving throw, you cannot use this feature on it for 24 hours.

Rune of Sleet

Beginning at 14th level, you can cast the sleet storm spell once per day.

PATH OF THE TOTEM WARRIOR

Those barbarians who choose the Path of the Totem Warrior (as described in the Player’s Handbook) are constrained in their choice of animal by their homeland. In addition, four new animal totems are available, and are marked with an asterisk in the table (specifics regarding the new totem animals are given below).


Totem Animal Tiger Nomads Wolf Nomads Rovers of the Barrens Hold of Stonefist / Stonehold Ice, Frost, or Snow Barbarians Hepmonaland or Amedio Jungle
Bear






X
X


Crocodile*








X
Eagle






X
X
X
Horse*




X
X




Jaguar*










X
Tiger*
X










Wolf


X


X
X



Totem Spirit (3rd Level)

Crocodile. While raging, you have resistance to all physical damage except psychic damage. The spirit of the crocodile ensures that your hide shrugs off physical harm like the scaly hide of an crocodile.

Horse. While raging, your base speed is increased by 10’. The spirit of the horse gives you speed and stamina.

Jaguar. While raging, you can make either a standing long jump or standing high jump that covers full distance, rather than half, and if your jump requires a DC check, you have advantage. The spirit of the jaguar allows you to leap into the midst of your prey.

Tiger. While raging, your strength is temporarily increased by 1 (maximum 20). You have the strength of the spirit of the tiger.

Aspect of the Beast (6th Level)

Crocodile. You gain the patience of a crocodile. You can remain stock-still for hours on end, gaining advantage on any Dexterity (Stealth) checks while so doing, and gaining advantage on your initiative check when attacking a surprised foe after being so concealed.

Horse. You have the speed and endurance of a stallion. For up to an hour at a time, you can sprint like a galloping horse, covering twice the normal distance in that time. Once you have sprinted for an hour, you cannot sprint again until 8 hours have elapsed.

Jaguar. You have the stealth of a jaguar. You gain advantage on all Dexterity (Stealth) checks, and can use stealth while traveling at normal pace.

Tiger. You have the stealthy hunting instincts of a tiger. you have darkvision with a 30’ range and advantage on all Dexterity (Stealth) checks.

Spirit Walker (10th Level)

This functions as described in the Player’s Handbook.

Totemic Attunement (14th Level)

Crocodile. While you’re raging, you automatically have advantage on all grappling attacks. You may also grapple a creature up to two sizes larger than you, and may move a grappled creature at normal speed.

Horse. While you’re raging, you automatically get advantage on any attack where you are able to move at least 10’ prior to attacking. You also get an extra dash action every turn.

Jaguar. While you’re raging, you get an additional attack each turn, as long as it is with a slashing or piercing weapon.

Tiger. While you’re raging, you may let loose a snarling growl of challenge that will cause all enemies within 15’ to be frightened (as per the condition) if they fail to make a saving throw vs. Wisdom. If you cannot be heard, the growl has no effect. You need a short rest before you can growl again, and the effect lasts for 10 minutes.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Greyhawk Races for 5E

DWARF

Dwarves as described in the Player’s Handbook can be found in many regions of the Flanaess. In some cases, dwarven nobles rule over regular states rather than simply hill- or mountain-based enclaves, such as the Principality of Ulek, and either way they are regarded as fully the equal of their human or elven counterparts. Both hill dwarves and mountain dwarves can be found.

ELF

Elves can be found both in secluded communities deep within forested fastnesses as well as major states where they rule over others, including tens of thousands of humans. The elven realms of Celene and the Duchy of Ulek are prominent examples of elven-led realms. Elves of various sorts can be found throughout the woodlands and cities of the Flanaess, and as a rule they get along well with their human and demi-human neighbors, although Celene does maintain a policy of isolationism.

VALLEY ELF

Although the Player’s Handbook lists valley elves under the high elf label, game masters who wish to do so may use the following description instead.

Valley elves are found in only one place on Oerth, known as the Valley of the Mage. Their exact relationship with the Mage of the Valley is unknown, but what is known is that they are implacably loyal to the Mage, and those who venture outside of their Valley are rare indeed. They function as the main core of the army of this strange and reclusive realm, and little is known about their culture. Other elves will shun them, not considering them to be truly elvish, which they consider a fine arrangement, as they have largely eschewed elvish culture as a whole. They are taller than regular elves, some being equal to human height.

Ability Score Increase. Your Intelligence score increases by 1.

Language. You are proficient in gnomish.

Elf Weapon Training. You are proficient with longsword, shortsword, longbow, and shortbow.

WILD ELF (GRUGACH)

Wild elves, as the name implies, dwell in isolated bands, nearly feral, shunning any contact with outsiders, even those of other elvish strains. As a wild elf, you will feel great unease around strangers, and will be completely unfamiliar with civilization and its many social restrictions.

Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 2.

Elf Weapon Training. You have proficiency with the longsword, shortsword, shortbow, and longbow.

Fleet of Foot. Your base movement rate increases to 35 feet.

Natural Trapper. While in a woodland environment, you can set snares and deadfalls, adding your proficiency bonus to the attempt.

Language Restriction. You do not begin the game fully proficient in the Common tongue; you only speak Elvish. You are at disadvantage when trying to perform any task that involves verbal communication in the Common tongue. You may remove this restriction at any point where you would normally be allowed to increase an ability score or take a Feat.

HALFLING

Halflings exist throughout the Flanaess, but are largely content to remain in their quiet agricultural communities alongside their human and demi-human compatriots. There are no halfling realms in the Flanaess, although they do make up a large portion of the military auxiliaries in a number of human states’ armies, often functioning as scouts or slingers. There are three types of halfling found in the Flanaess; Hairfoots (labeled Lightfoots in the Player’s Handbook), Tallfellows, and Stouts (as described in the Player’s Handbook).

TALLFELLOW

As a tallfellow halfling, you are rumored to have a trace of elvish blood in your veins, on your great-grandmother Willow’s side of the family, which is rarely talked about in polite company over Elevenses. You’re taller than the average halfling, and can ride a pony without difficulty. Your kind are most often found in elvish realms and near elvish communities, for obvious reasons.

Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 1.

Languages. You can speak, read, and write elvish as well as halfling and the Common tongue.

It’s as tall as I am. You have proficiency with spear.

Naturally stealthy. Just like a hairfoot halfling, you can attempt to hide even when you are obscured only by a creature that is as at least one size larger than you.

HUMAN

There are four major human strains to be found in the Flanaess. The Baklunish, Flan, Oeridian, and Suel races, and their various admixtures, form the overwhelming majority of humanity in the western portion of Oerik. The Rhennee are concentrated in the central Flanaess around the lands of the Nyr Dyv, while the Olman and Touv peoples are rare in the extreme and hail from exotic lands far to the south.

Few lands in the modern Flanaess have pure-blooded majorities of any human racial stock. Characters hailing from one of the nations listed below may choose from any of the major strains found there; minor strains are listed solely for aesthetic reasons; someone of Oeridian stock from Nyrond, for instance, could well have the trademark platinum blond hair from some distant Suel ancestor, although he would still reckon himself as being of Oeridian stock. The order of the strains listed indicates the relative strength of their representation, but for game purposes such subtleties have no impact on the choice of human sub-race by a player.



Nation

Major
Strains

Minor
Strains
Almor Oeridian, Suel n/a
Amedio Jungle Olman n/a
Bandit Kingdoms Oeridian, Flan, Suel Baklunish
Barbarians, Frost, Ice, or Snow Suel n/a
Bissel Oeridian, Suel, Baklunish n/a
Blackmoor Baklunish, Oeridian n/a
Bone March Oeridian, Suel n/a
Celene Suel n/a
Dyvers Oeridian, Suel Flan, Baklunish
Ekbir Baklunish n/a
Geoff Flan Oeridian
Gran March Suel, Oeridian Flan
Great Kingdom Oeridian, Suel n/a
Greyhawk Oeridian, Suel Flan, Baklunish
Highfolk Oeridian Suel
Idee Oeridian, Suel n/a
Irongate Oeridian Suel
Iuz Oeridian, Baklunish Flan
Keoland Suel, Oeridian Flan
Ket Baklunish, Oeridian, Suel n/a
Lordship of the Isles Suel Oeridian
Medegia Oeridian n/a
Nyrond Oeridian Suel
Olman Islands Olman n/a
Onnwal Oeridian n/a
Pale Flan, Oeridian n/a
Paynims Baklunish Oeridian
Perrenland Oeridian n/a
Pomarj Oeridian, Suel n/a
Ratik Suel Oeridian, Flan
Rel Astra Oeridian Suel
Rovers of the Barrens Baklunish, Flan n/a
Scarlet Brotherhood Suel n/a
Sea Barons Suel Oeridian
Sea Princes Suel, Oeridian Flan
Shield Lands Oeridian n/a
South Province / Ahlissa Oeridian Suel
Spindrift Isles Suel Oeridian
Sterich Oeridian, Flan, Suel n/a
Stonefist Flan, Suel n/a
Sunndi Oeridian Suel
Tenh Flan n/a
Tiger Nomads Baklunish n/a
Tusmit Baklunish Oeridian
Ulek, County of Oeridian, Flan, Suel n/a
Ulek, Duchy of Suel Flan, Oeridian
Ulek, Principality of Oeridian-Suel n/a
Ull Baklunish n/a
Urnst, County Suel, Oeridian n/a
Urnst, Duchy Suel n/a
Valley of the Mage Oeridian, Baklunish Flan
Veluna Oeridian Suel, Flan
Verbobonc Oeridian Flan, Suel
Wild Coast Suel Oeridian, Flan
Wolf Nomads Baklunish, Flan n/a
Yeomanry Suel, Oeridian Flan
Zeif Baklunish n/a

BAKLUNISH

Baklunish folk have skin with a golden hue, and grey, green, or hazel eyes. They have dark hair and tend towards hirsuteness. Those in the north tend towards brightly colored clothing, often with patterns dazzling to the eye. They wear either robes or short pants with long coats. Those in the south favor pastel parti-colored clothing, with complex stripes, puffs, and slashes.

FLAN

Flannae are generally bronze-hued, ranging from lighter copper to near brown. They have dark eyes, but occasionally an amber-eyed Flan will be found. Hair is dark, ranging from black to dark brown, and tends to be either wavy or curly. Their dress tends to be modest and of solid and bright primary colors.

OERIDIAN

Oeridians are dark-skinned, ranging from tan to olive, and have hair color from dark blond to black, but various shades of brown predominate. They can have eyes of just about any color, but grey and brown are most common. Those in the far east tend to wear plaids, with the pattern denoting their clan, while those in the west tend towards checks (although variations from the standard square pattern are most common). Clothing tends to be close-fitting.

OLMAN

Representatives of the Olman people are relatively unknown in the Flanaess in CY 576, but after the Scarlet Brotherhood brought many thousands of them into the lands around the Azure Sea as troops and slaves in CY 585, they become a more common sight. Their skin is a red-brown and their hair is straight and black, and they have dark eyes. It is not unknown for Olman parents to flatten the skulls of their infants, as a high, sloping forehead is highly prized among them. Their clothing tends to the simple, but is dazzlingly decorated with beads, feathers, and the like. Leaders will have elaborate headdresses.

RHENNEE

The Rhennee are strangers to Oerth, or so their legends say. Inveterate wanderers, they are mostly found as bargefolk in and around the Nyr Dyv, but a branch known as the Attloi undertakes their journeys in wagons rather than on the water. They have skin of olive to tan color, much like Oeridians, and dark curly hair. They tend to be shorter than normal, and have a well-deserved reputation as thieves, con men, and rogues. Only women are ever encountered as spellcasters, and then never as clerics; if the Rhennee have any gods in which they believe, they do not rely on them for magical abilities. Their dress tends to the functional and eschews bright colors, but the quality of their leatherwork is noteworthy.

Rhennee speak their own language as well as whatever other languages they may happen to speak. They use their language as a sign of recognition among the True Folk, as they call themselves.
Rhennee can be found mostly around the Nyr Dyv and its connecting rivers. Rhennee barges can be found as far upstream as Verbobonc, Molag, Stoink, Trigol, Nellix, and Hardby. Atloi wagon caravans can be found in roughly the same region, although they obviously don’t need to remain close to the water.

SUEL

The Suel people are fair-skinned to the point of near-albinism, and their hair color runs from platinum blond to red. Their eyes are some shade of blue or violet, but occasionally grey. They wear solid colors, often wearing two (or occasionally three) colors to denote their house, and tends to be of loose cut.

UNCOMMON RACES

DRAGONBORN

Dragonborn are native only to Dragons Island, far to the southwest of the Flanaess. They are rare enough in the Celestial Imperium, which is the closest civilized land to the island; dragonborn who have ventured as far as the Flanaess are exceedingly rare and will certainly be objects of curiosity and/or hostility, often being mistaken for cambions (half-demons).

GNOME

Gnomes are relatively common in the Flanaess. Some gnomish communities, such as those found in disputed border territories, are independent enclaves, while others are fully integrated into larger realms and make up a significant portion of the population, such as the County of Ulek. Sometimes gnomish contingents will make up large portions of regular armies. However, all gnomes encountered in the Flanaess will be of the forest gnome type. Rock gnomes, as described in the Player’s Handbook with their tinkering and inventive ways, are unknown in the Flanaess.

HALF-ELF

Half-elves are relatively common in the Flanaess, owing to the relatively high degree of contact between the elven and human communities.

HALF-DROW

The drow of Oerth are both fecund and degenerate, and are not above mating with human slaves (or non-slaves) from time to time. The result of such unions are universally despised by both the drow and human communities, and while they are not uncommon in drow communities, they are exceedingly rare on the surface. Half-drow do not have the magical or training benefits of full-blooded drow.

Ability Score Increase. Your Constitution score increases by 1.

Darkvision. Your darkvision has a radius of 60 feet.

Sunlight Sensitivity. You have the same weakness in sunlight as a full-blooded drow.

TIEFLING

Tieflings are very rare in the Flanaess, and any tieflings found in a Greyhawk campaign will be regarded by nearly everyone they encounter as cambions (half-demons) at best, or more likely some sort of creature from the lower planes. They will suffer even more prejudice because of their appearance in most civilized places, with the possible exception of lands such as Iuz and the Great Kingdom, where cambions are relatively common. In such an environment, a tiefling might be less of a novelty, but would still find life difficult at best; certainly more difficult than they would in a world where they were at least native. In campaigns set after CY586, when the Flight of the Fiends caused most of the demons and other creatures from the lower planes to flee the material plane, tieflings will still be confused for demons or semi-demons, but will stand out all the more because of it, and face more suspicion and hostility.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Campaigning in the World of Greyhawk

There is a wealth of official published material detailing the major places, persons, and events of the Flanaess. The published, or canon, material starts in the Common Year (CY) 576, and goes through CY 591. In those 15 years, the setting undergoes enormous changes both in detail and in tone.

The Dungeon Master must answer two fundamental questions in regards to his Greyhawk campaign prior to play. First, what year will the campaign being? Second, what impact (if any) will the larger events in the Flanaess have on the PCs (and vice versa)? Of course, for DMs who are relatively unconcerned with canon or setting, these questions are irrelevant, but it does raise the question of why use the World of Greyhawk in the first place.

The three most popular time-periods for starting play are CY 576, 585, and 591. Each has strengths and weaknesses, and each will give a different play experience, as the tenor and tone of the setting changes dramatically as the fortunes of good and evil wax and wane.

CY 576

This is the period detailed in the original World of Greyhawk folio published in 1980 and “gold box” set published in 1983. Evil is on the rise in places like Iuz and the Sheldomar Valley (encompassing Keoland and the states surrounding it), but there seems to be a status quo in place and there are bright places of hope willing to stand against it such as Veluna, Furyondy, Nyrond, and the Iron League. The tone is one of good and evil in balance, with the player characters able either to tilt the balance in the direction of good in their way, or to pursue their own ends without seeming to leave the rest of the world to its fate.

CY 585

This is the time of the Greyhawk Wars (1991) and From the Ashes (1992) boxed sets. By this time the Flanaess has undergone enormous turmoil, and the tide has turned most decidedly in favor of chaos and evil. Iuz has conquered the Horned Society and the Bandit Kingdoms, and is putting serious pressure on Veluna and Furyondy the Vesve Forest is a battleground. Almor is ruined, Nyrond is exhausted, and the Great Kingdom itself has fallen into anarchy, ruled by a series of undead, demonic, or otherwise evil-serving warlords. Geoff and Sterich are either lost (or soon will be) to giants and humanoids. The Circle of Eight, those powerful mortals who strove to maintain balance, are gone. The Scarlet Brotherhood has created an empire in the south seemingly overnight, conquering the Sea Princes and establishing outposts throughout the Flanaess, threatening or overturning several members of the Iron League. The tone of the setting is one of evil ascendant, with the player characters there to slow the tide of evil. Reversing it hardly seems possible.

CY 591

This is the period described in the Greyhawk Player’s Guide (1998), The Adventure Begins (1998), and the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer (2000). Some semblance of balance has returned to the Flanaess, but seemingly only because both sides are so exhausted from the fighting that they are hunkering down and rebuilding. Some successor states have arisen in the former Great Kingdom, the demons and other denizens of the lower planes which had been running rampant across the face of the Flanaess were mostly sent back to their home planes. Furyondy and Veluna have dealt checks to Iuz. Sterich has been retaken, and Geoff is not as solidly lost as was once supposed. The Scarlet Brotherhood has been set back on its heels, and Nyrond, though wounded, is regaining its strength. The setting’s tone at this juncture in history is seemingly one of holding its breath, waiting to see if the pendulum will swing in the direction of order and good, or chaos and evil. The time is ripe for player characters to intervene and influence the swing of that pendulum.

Naturally, these are only the time periods that have been extensively detailed in published products. It’s entirely possible for a DM to set a campaign a hundred years before or after these events, allowing him to completely remake the tableau of the Flanaess and chart his own course.

However, for the DM who is desirous of taking advantage of the rich history that has been created, there are two ways to go.

The first is to give the player characters the opportunity to be among the movers and shakers in the setting. There are three ways to go about this. They could themselves be nobles, commanders of armies, heads of guilds, etc. and influence the course of events on a grand scale. Or, they could be relatively anonymous adventurers, acting at the behest of those grander individuals, helping to stem the tide of evil. Or, as a third possibility, they could simply stumble on opportunities to influence the course of history, simply being in the right place at the right time, and having no more motive than the desire to Do the Right Thing (and get well remunerated in the process!).

The second alternative is to have the well-documented events happening in the background, with no direct input or influence from the player characters (an approach I call The Great Greyhawk Campaign). This has the advantage of not being dependent on the actions of the player characters, allowing the Big Events of the campaign tableau happening in the background (and still allowing the PCs to act on the periphery of those events), but the timeline won’t be thrown out of whack if the PCs somehow stop Iuz from wiping out the Horned Society in CY583.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

New 5E Background: Woodsman (Greyhawk)

Here is the first in what may well turn into a series of new material for D&D 5th edition, specifically with a Greyhawkian twist. But I'm sure enterprising DMs could always adapt it to other settings.

Background: Woodsman

You were born and raised in the deep forest, as have your fathers and mothers for generations before you. You know the ways of the wood; the sounds of the birds, insects, and animals are like a trumpeter’s call to you; you can sense when something isn’t right in the forest.

As a woodsman, you are more rough-hewn and straightforward than your city-dwelling cousins, but not so unaware of civilization as to count as an outlander. Generally speaking, woodsmen will resent the efforts of the states which neighbor their homelands to bring them under control, but in some cases the people of the forest will welcome such protection, especially in areas that are themselves under threat from worse powers than human kings. 

Skill proficiencies: Athletics, Survival

Tool proficiencies: Herbalism kit, woodcarver’s tools

Equipment: A set of traveler’s clothes, a handaxe, a hunting trap, and a small pouch with 10 gp.

Homeland

Not all forests are the same, and so too not all woodsmen are alike. The traits associated with the various major forests of the Flanaess are generalizations, naturally, but will apply in a great number of cases. Woodsmen will also often have a general camaraderie amongst one another, regardless of which forest fastness they call home; a shared bewilderment as to how others don’t know that the outer bark of a birch tree is waterproof and can be used to create an improvised canteen, and similar bits of lore that are known to every child back home.

d10
Homeland
1
I am from the Adri forest. I dislike folk from the Great Kingdom as a rule.
2
I am from the Celadon forest. I will be inclined to drive away or kill any outlaws or bandits I come across.
3
I am from the Dim forest. I am well disposed towards elves.
4
I am from the Gamboge forest. I tend to trust Nyrond and its citizens more than the Palish.
5
I am from the Gnarley forest. I resent any who would claim suzerainty over my home.
6
I am from the Grandwood forest. I dislike Medegians as a rule.
7
I am from the Phostwood/Nutherwood. Bandits of any stripe are my foe.
8
I am from the Rieuwood. I dislike folk from South Province.
9
I am from the Vesve forest. Orcs, hobgoblins, and anyone serving Iuz will not find a friend in me.
10
I am from the Welkwood. I am inclined to trust elves and gnomes, but have a stronger-than-normal dislike of humanoids.

Feature: Woodsense

When you are in a woodland, you can use the subtle cues and clues of the forest to sense the presence of monsters, humanoids, and other creatures which are not naturally forest-dwellers, or which are non-subtle predators such as dragons. Whenever you make a Wisdom (perception) check in a wooded setting, you are considered to be proficient in the skill.

Suggested Characteristics

Growing up in the fastness of a vast woodland leaves a definite mark on anyone. Woodsmen will tend to be mistrustful of outsiders and those they consider “too civilized”, but are downright clannish when it comes to those with whom they are familiar.

d8
Personality Trait
1
I rarely speak unless I’m asked a direct question, and even then, I don’t say much.
2
I am gregarious and love to hear tales of the wide world beyond the forest.
3
Animals you can trust. People, not so much.
4
I once saw a dryad in the deep woods. I’ve spent the time since trying to find her again.
5
I’m constantly doing bird calls. Most of the time I don’t even realize I’m doing it.
6
I collect bits of civilized luxuries, even if I don’t always know what they’re for.
7
I think civilized city ways are foolish and effete, and will take any opportunity to point that out.
8
I am always polite to city folk, because I think they’re somehow better than I am.

d8
Ideal
1
Freedom. Every man is his own king, and the woods are their common realm. (Chaotic)
2
Solidarity. All of the forest-folk should band together for the common good. (Good)
3
Balance. Life in the forest shows that all things happen in cycles; birth and death, summer and winter, fortune and ill-luck. I take everything in stride, knowing that it won’t last. (Neutral)
4
Survival. Everything I do, I do so that my family and I can survive another season. (Neutral)
5
Adventure. There’s a huge world beyond the verge of the forest, and I want to see all of it. (Any)
6
Greed. There are wolves in the wood that take what they want. I am one of them. (Evil)

d8
Bond
1
I’ll protect my home forest no matter the cost.
2
I’ll do whatever I can to stop the retreat of the boundaries of the forest.
3
All the forest folk are my friends.
4
As a woodsman I understand the need for logging. But clear-cutting whole acres at a time is wrong, and I’ll take revenge against those who did that to my home forest.
5
I once went on a legendary hunt with my friends, and we formed a lifelong bond on the trip.
6
I follow the Old Faith and will give up anything to aid it or those who follow it.

d8
Flaw
1
Bathing is for city-folk.
2
I’m overly trusting of wood elves.
3
I’m overly trusting of gnomes.
4
I think I understand elvish ways much better than I actually do.
5
I don’t really know how to deal with other people.
6
I feel anxious when I’m not under a canopy of greenery.

What'd I miss?

Hey all!

Back from my respite, and game-blogging should resume its normal sedate pace. Anything big happen while I was gone, other than DMsguild? A few wayward Kickstarters here and there, no doubt, but things seem pretty much the same as they did three months ago. Hel, James Spahn's White Star is even still in the top twenty over at RPGNow.com! :-)

Friday, November 27, 2015

Castle of the Mad Archmage - 50% off today only

Update: Thanks to everyone who participated in the sale! It set some records!

How's this for a Black Friday deal?

The Castle of the Mad Archmage adventure book is 50% off, today only, in pdf format. That's less than five bucks for more than thirteen levels of old-school megadungeon goodness, with thousands of rooms and encounters, new monsters, new magic items, and literally years of adventuring possibilities.

You'll still need to buy the map book and illustration book separately, but this is about the best deal you're going to find on something that will keep you and your players entertained for years.
You can find the deal here:

http://www.rpgnow.com/product/123202/Castle-of-the-Mad-Archmage-Adventure-Book

Thanks, and for all my American readers, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

Friday, November 20, 2015

More pig faced orcs (now in 15mm!)

Last year, I posted that I had found some nice, and relatively inexpensive, true 25mm pig-faced orcs, and some shots of them pre- and post-painting.

Well, something I've been looking for for years are 15mm pig-faced orcs, to use in miniatures wargaming. Well, Splintered Light Miniatures has finally come to the rescue, with a bunch of truly beautiful casts in 15mm. These figures really capture the feel of the orcs as they were originally in AD&D, down to the weapons and shape of the shields. The detail is really good for 15mm, and the lines are pretty sharp. All in all, these are excellent figures. 

By the way, BRW Games will also be carrying these figures at conventions. Not just the pig-faced orcs, but kobolds, bugbears, and a bunch of other figures from Splintered Light. They might just fit in with a product we have upcoming...

Here are some of the orcs straight out of the bag, before I'd done any cleaning up, so these will give you an idea of the flash and mold sprues that were attached. Not bad at all, and I was able to clean it all off of a total of 24 figures in about ten minutes. Only one figure had a base that needed filing to stand straight, so all in all I'm really happy with the quality of the casts. This is the "Pig Faced Orc Warband", which retails for US$20.






And here they are after I've cleaned off the flash, in the box ready to be primed. I'll be using a simplified version of the paint scheme I used with the 25mm figures, although I'll be able to use both mustard and purple cloaks, since there are several figures that have them.



Tomorrow, a unit of miniatures to paint, the Jessica Jones series to watch, and my wife and daughter out for the day at a concert. My Saturday is set. More pics when I'm done painting and basing!

Coming soon: Airfix the wargame

When I was a kid, I had a ton of World War II model figures. Infantry, jeeps, tanks, mostly in 1:72 scale, and mostly from Airfix. This was before I had ever heard of wargaming or RPGs (before there were any RPGs, for the most part); I just liked to collect the figures, and (sometimes) paint them (not very well at all, me being about 7 years old).

So imagine my surprise when I see this come across my feed this morning:
Airfix is a fondly remembered part of every boy’s childhood and the company are famous for their line of injection-moulded plastic aircraft, tanks and soldiers.  The Airfix brand has been synonymous with model kits for years and now it’s back with a vengeance, with Airfix Battles bringing those adventures to life and its campaigns to a tabletop near you

Playable with all your existing Airfix figures and vehicles, Airfix Battles Introductory Set comes with everything you need to play exciting World War Two battles straight out of the box with the Introductory Set. 
This includes die cut cardboard counters for tanks, infantry and guns in case you don't have any figures to hand. Airfix Battles also lets you plan your army using the Force Deck. Draw the cards or select the ones you need to build an exciting army to challenge your friends.
You can sign up to be notified when the pre-order goes live. I'll definitely be in on this, if for no other reason than nostalgia. Although it's worth noting that you don't have to use figures to play the game, so at least I won't have to start haunting hobby model shops again.

(h/t Paint it Pink)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

We're Number One!

Wow! Thanks to you, the Golden Scroll of Justice is currently the number one best selling product on RPGNow.com.

Thanks, guys and gals. That sort of support means a lot.



Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Golden Scroll of Justice now available

The Golden Scroll of Justice lets you bring your old-school RPG into a whole new world of wuxia/kung fu action based on Chinese mythology, history, and folklore. The book contains:

  • Two new PC races: the shanxiao (monkey-man) and gouren (dog-man)
  • Two new character classes: the wu and the fangshi, along with guidelines on how to use your existing classes in a mythic China setting
  • Hundreds of new spells
  • Rules for kung fu that fit seemlessly into the existing combat and skill system, but still allows for cool "cinematic" moves
  • New weapons and armor
  • New magic items
  • New monsters
  • And much more!

The rules are designed to be completely modular; take what you like, leave what you don't. Want fangshi and gouren but not the kung fu system? No problem. Everything will still work fine. And it's compatible with just about every old-school RPG out there. You can find the book here, available in softcover, hardcover, and pdf. And as always, the hard copies come with the pdf version at no additional cost.