Thursday, March 29, 2018

Irons in the Fire

I just wanted to give a quick update on the various thingamabobs that I'm working on.

Musicland: The Kickstarter campaign was a huge success (and thanks to everyone who supported it!). The manuscript is off to the editor, the cover is done, the interior artist has given me sketches that have been approved. So all systems are go, and we're right on track for the summer release.

Bitterbark's Circus: As part of the Musicland Kickstarter (since it's technically another side-level for Castle of the Mad Archmage, albeit one which is eminently suitable for inserting into any campaign), we reached a stretch goal wherein I promised to prepare Bitterbark's Circus for print on demand. That is currently scheduled for April. Update (3/30/18): The files have been submitted for review. Once they're approved, I'll get a proof copy, and then it'll go live if all is okay with it.

DM's Guide to Greyhawk 576: Should be done this weekend; there are just a couple of monsters left to convert. Wizards of the Coast is still calling the shots as to if and when Greyhawk will be opened up on DM's Guild. Over that decision I have no control, of course. Update (3/29/18): Done! Last monsters are statted up, and this one is in the rear-view mirror.

Greyhawk's World: I'll probably finish out the last few installments of that venerable series of magazine articles by Gygax and Kuntz, since it was so much fun the first time. One correction I'll be making, though, is to remove the reference to the fall of Strandkeep Castle, which it turns out should probably be a few years down the line, given the time frame of the novel Artifact of Evil.

Armies of Greyhawk: I've been neglecting my miniatures painting for a long, long time. One of the things I've really wanted to do is put together some 15mm armies with livery from the Flanaess. I'm hoping to start doing just that this spring, and of course there will be plenty of pictures.

Moving the Blog: For years, www.greyhawkgrognard.com has pointed to the Blogspot home of my blog. I'm thinking of moving it over to the domain completely, which would give me some flexibility to do some other things besides pure blogging under the GG moniker.

After that, there are a few things I've been toying with, but since I haven't taken the plunge on any of them yet, I'm loathe to make any announcements just yet. Stay tuned...


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Thalos

Tucked away in one of the corners of the Sundered Empire on the far northwest of Oerik is an island called Thalos. When I did my Beyond the Flanaess series of posts a few years ago, I naturally included it, but recently there's been a request to show the full-size version because someone is thinking about setting a campaign there.

As an impulsive whim of beneficence has overtaken me (quite alien to my normal nature as a Dungeon Master), I have decided to put together a composite map from the earlier ones, and post it here at full size. It's not a perfect map, because I just superimposed one atop another (you can probably see where, where the coast line sort of disappears), but it's serviceable. If I ever do the area in detail, it'll certainly get redone.

Click to embiggen.


I'm not going to get into the history of the place. Those with access to the Chainmail setting know it all already, and a quick Google search of "Thalos Chainmail" will get most of the broad strokes to everyone else. Part of the problem is that my own focus is on CY 576 at the moment, and Chainmail takes place years later. But it will be interesting to explore what the place looks like before the death of Stratis, won't it...?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The fall of Molag

The conquest of the Horned Society by Iuz is one of the seminal events of the Greyhawk campaign. It is a It is described in both Gary Gygax's novel Artifact of Evil, as well as the history of the Greyhawk Wars written after Gygax's departure from TSR, after which the setting took a somewhat different turn.

In the book, this happens after a siege of Molag, the capital of the Hierarchs' realm. Devils and the spawn of Tarterus came to their aid, but the hordes of Iuz prevailed:
First the wild kin of these humanoids made up the bulk of the attackers, but soon enough things far worse than troll and ogre, bugbear and gnoll, were there. The masters of the Hierarchs summoned monstrous creatures from the lower planes to fortify the defense of Molag. ... In answer to this, the besieging force was sent demons when they called for aid. ... Then the Dukes of Hell took an interest in what was happening. They sent legions of their servants to assist the masters of the Hierarchs because their cause was one with Nerull and the rest. ... The terrible battle waged day and night for a week. When it finally ended, all of the things summoned were dead or returned to their own planes. ... Molag fell to the mundane armies of Iuz. ... Of the Hierarchs, not even Iuz knew for certain. ... the Ten had surely managed to flee somewhere. Rumor said that they had been carried far to the south, but nothing was known beyond this tale. As the month of Sunsebb brought the chill of winter to the land, the ones who opposed Evil wondered what would follow. (Artifact of Evil, pp. 341-343)
The takeover of the Horned Society by Iuz is somewhat different as depicted in the Greyhawk Wars Adventurer's Book:
Nor did the Lord of Evil stop at rebuilding his own lands, but reached also into the Horned Society to replace leaders there. The Dread and Awful Presences, the Hierarchs, made the task easy for him. The Hierarchs reigned in veiled seclusion, hiding their human identities from their humanoid minions. Rumors that the Hierarchs were fiendish overlords arose among the humanoids of the Horned Society -- rumors the Hierarchs fostered to cement their power. Iuz decided merely to make the rumors reality. In the month of Coldeven, at the height of the Blood-Moon Festival, the citadels of Molag ran red with blood as Iuz staged his coup. In less than a fortnight, the Hierarchs became creatures of mere legend and Iuz held absolute control over the Horned Society. (Adventurer's Book, p. 9)
To be sure, the details of the two accounts seem irreconcilable. The novel places the fall of the Horned Society in winter, while the guide specifically mentions late spring. The novel presents us with a full-on invasion crowned by a siege, while the guide frames the events more as a bloody coup, with Iuz's troops coming in afterwards. In the book the fate of the Hierarchs is uncertain, while the guide strongly implies (but interestingly never explicitly states) that they were slain.

But what if these two accounts are merely two phases of the same event?

In the winter, Iuz invades, laying siege to the city, involving many hundreds or thousands of demons, demodands, devils, and daemons. The city is taken, but the Hierarchs are able to hide or escape. However, the fact that their fate remained unknown would naturally lead their loyal supporters to resist the occupation by Iuz. By the spring, however, their hidey-holes in the citadels of Molag were discovered, the Hierarchs finally destroyed, and Iuz's "absolute control over the Horned Society" became a reality.

So, basically, the massacre of the Hierarchs during the Blood-Moon Festival happened months after the siege of Molag. It essentially cemented Iuz's control over the Society by eliminating their leaders, the only possible source of resistance.

I make no claims that this was the intention of either Gygax or Cook. I'm just trying to reconcile the two accounts so they make some sort of narrative sense.

In my construction, the narrative lays out thus:
Nor did the Lord of Evil stop at rebuilding his own lands, but reached also into the Horned Society to replace leaders there. ... First the wild kin of these humanoids made up the bulk of the attackers, but soon enough things far worse than troll and ogre, bugbear and gnoll, were there. The masters of the Hierarchs summoned monstrous creatures from the lower planes to fortify the defense of Molag. ... In answer to this, the besieging force was sent demons when they called for aid. ... Then the Dukes of Hell took an interest in what was happening. They sent legions of their servants to assist the masters of the Hierarchs because their cause was one with Nerull and the rest. ... The terrible battle waged day and night for a week. When it finally ended, all of the things summoned were dead or returned to their own planes. ... Molag fell to the mundane armies of Iuz. ... Of the Hierarchs, not even Iuz knew for certain. ... the Ten had surely managed to flee somewhere. Rumor said that they had been carried far to the south, but nothing was known beyond this tale. As the month of Sunsebb brought the chill of winter to the land, the ones who opposed Evil wondered what would follow. ... [Three months pass.] The Dread and Awful Presences, the Hierarchs, made the task easy for [Iuz]. The Hierarchs reigned in veiled seclusion, hiding their human identities from their humanoid minions. Rumors that the Hierarchs were fiendish overlords arose among the humanoids of the Horned Society -- rumors the Hierarchs fostered to cement their power. Iuz decided merely to make the rumors reality. In the month of Coldeven, at the height of the Blood-Moon Festival, the citadels of Molag ran red with blood as Iuz staged his coup. In less than a fortnight, the Hierarchs became creatures of mere legend and Iuz held absolute control over the Horned Society. 
I think it works. In fact, it makes things even more dramatic, as it implies a few months between the conquest of Molag described in the novel, and the final destruction of the Hierarchs by Iuz described in the adventurer's guide, were marked by some sort of guerrilla campaign of resistance by the Hierarchs and their minions, until their final defeat. I like that!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

GaryCon 2018

The original plastic castle that was the model for
Gary's Castle Greyhawk
I had the pleasure of spending this past weekend in beautiful Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, for my first ever GaryCon.

I drove out (twelve and a half hours, for those who are counting) from New Jersey, as I had a car load of products to sell at the BRW Games booth. Sales were very good throughout the weekend, but I was amazed at how many people had already heard of me and my work. The kind words were really appreciated, everyone!

I got to hang out with a bunch of OSR luminaries over the course of the weekend. Putting names to faces was a great thing; Erik Tenkar, Jeff Talanian, Jon Hershberger, and many, many others. But the highlight for me was meeting Anna Meyer (of GHMaps.net fame) and Darlene the artist, who created those magical Greyhawk maps many years ago.

Unfortunately, being a solo vendor means that most of my time was spent in the exhibition hall, but I did manage to run a game of Castle of the Mad Archmage on Saturday night, and got to see a lot of other games being played. Tons of pics beneath the fold:


Saturday, March 3, 2018

If only...

Back in the early 1980's I was a huge fan of the World of Greyhawk Fantasy Setting, and especially of the articles in Dragon magazine by Gary Gygax and Rob Kuntz, which "advanced the timeline" and laid out the goings-on in setting during the two years after the established date of CY 576 for the folio/gold box era.

I know "advancing the timeline" has a bad reputation in many quarters of Greyhawk fandom, thanks to the bad taste that Greyhawk Wars and From the Ashes left in folks' mouths, but I loved these articles at the time. I really wish that Gygax/Kuntz had been able to at least cover the whole of the Flanaess, but unfortunately the series was discontinued before the south and central Flanaess could be covered.

I hereby present a wish, an "if only this had been able to be", in the spirit of the original articles. It hopefully adds a little color to the setting at this time, without directly contradicting anything that comes afterwards.

Man, I would have given up a lot to have actually read this article back in the day.

You can see a thumbnail of the article in the upper-right. You can read the whole thing here.

Edit: The pdf has been updated to change the reference to Strandkeep Castle, which didn't fall until a few years later, according to the time-frame of Artifact of Evil.


Friday, March 2, 2018

See You At GaryCon!

Just a reminder - next weekend I'll be at GaryCon for the first time (woo-hoo!). I'll be manning the BRW Games table in the dealer's room, and running sessions of Castle of the Mad Archmage on Friday and Saturday nights (both are sold out, sorry!).

Do stop by and say hi, if you're in the neighborhood!