Monday, December 28, 2009

Goborillas, or, Zilchus greasy palm! That's the hairiest goblin I've ever seen!


Frequency: Very Rare
No. Appearing: 6-36
Armor Class: 6, (or by armor type)
Move: 10"(100 feet), Rush: 16"(160 feet), once in a combat.
Hit Dice: 3
% in lair: 40%
Treasure Type: L, C, Q, X.
No. of Attacks: 2
Damage/Attack: 2-8 or by weapon, +2 damage with weapon.
Special Attacks: Rending if attacking without a weapon, (1-8 extra points of damage on a hit)
Special Defenses: Nil
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Average
Alignment: Lawful Neutral, (tending toward evil)
Size: M, (6' tall, 300 lbs)
Psionic Ability: Nil

Vague and conflicting tales are told concerning the origins of the militaristic goborillas. Some hold that they result from ship wrecked goblins joining with the great gorilla tribes of the Green Fever, others say goblin pack-ape trainers trapped below ground became somewhat too close to their beasts. A cursed artifact, a vindictive Godling, and the usual mad wizard are also blamed.

Though they may be entertaining tavern talk, the truth of these tales is unknown, and also largely irrelevant to any who find themselves facing the war-like goborillas.

Well organized, disciplined and orderly, the militant goborillas appear to be few in number. There are rumors that this is a subterfuge, that great numbers of the creatures drill constantly in the barracks-caverns they have bored through the jungle shrouded tepuis of the south lands.
Some also say the creatues are unfolding a great battle plan that will see them shuffle-march out of the south one day to beat their chests and roar over the ruins of civilization.

Few who meet with the goborillas ever return, so, the facts of the matter are uncertain.

Settlements of other races which intrude on territory claimed by the goborillas are always destroyed without warning. Usually in the dead of night. There are never survivors, or else, the survivors are taken away to a mysterious fate.

Goborillas are powerful creatures, appearing to be either ape-like and very hairy goblinoids, or malignant gorillas with goblinish features. They normally march on their feet like men, but are capable of moving with great speed for a short time by knuckle running as do the great apes.

They are normally encountered in multiples of six. This is the standard squad the soldierly goborillas deploy.
Each squad is commanded by a Silverback. Silverbacks will have 1 extra hit die and carry a two handed cleaving sword, (2d8 dmg).
The other goborillas of the squad will carry scimitars, staff-slings, powerful short bows, pole arms and darts or javelins.
There is a 50% chance of some sort of armor, usually some sort of splint armor. The making of mail is beyond the goborillas skill.

* The pic I clipped out of a Tarzan story illustrated by the mighty Richard Corben.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Viviomancer Magic-User Subclass. Life and death are not manipulated without consequence.

The Viviomancer: an AD&D Magic-User Sub-Class.
The Viviomancers are a sub-class of magic-users which are wholly devoted to Life Magic. This being spells and magic items which affect living things only in a manner which is positive, or neutral.
Viviomancers, also sometimes called vivomancers, deal only in magic which heals, cures, enhances, and strengthens. Or with magic which modifies living things in a manner that is beneficial, or at the least non-malignant. The school of Viviomancy is grounded in the theory that the energy of life, which is called Vivir, can be increased, manipulated and directed by magic.
Viviomancers can cast any spells common to general magic-users which fall within these boundaries. They also have a body of spells which are endemic to the class and unavailable to non-viviomancers. The majority of viviomantic magic draws its power from the positive plane.
A viviomancer may only cast direct damage dealing spells in self defense or in situations where the use of force to defend others is justified.

Viviomancers must always be of good alignment.

Vivomancers have D6 for hit points.

Viviomancers may not wear armor heavier than leather.

Viviomancers are limited to the standard allowable weapons common to all magic-users.

Humans, elves, half-elves, and gnomes may become viviomancers.

The practice of viviomancy is the study of the connection between life, magic, and all living things. Whether the philosophy is instilled in them by the teachers of a viviomantic order, or they arrive at the belief due to the preponderance of the evidence revealed to them by the working of viviomantic magic itself, viviomancers understand and feel deeply the interconnectedness of all living things.

This means that the first rule of the viviomancer is to do no harm in the practice of viviomancy.
This does not mean that the viviomancer is a pacifist or unwilling to defend himself. It means that killing is a last resort, and that spells that are viviomantic in nature must never be used to cause harm.

The great power of magic of the viviomantic school must be managed with care and forethought. Self-knowledge and humility are necessary in one who controls the magic of life and death. A viviomancer of uncertain character or conviction may eventually be overcome by hubris, becoming arrogant and self-worshiping.
Such a viviomancer is in danger of, “falling”, in a sense similar to the way a paladin might fail his faith. A viviomancer who falls may become a generalist magic-user, or even a necromancer.

Though viviomancers have access to many magics of a healing nature, their spells are not divinely given as are those of a cleric or priest, but are born of the study of magic as are the spells of any other magic-user. Viviomancers are likely to venerate a god or gods of healing, magic, or nature, but receive no special compensation by it.

Normal animals are likely to react as positively to the presence of a viviomancer as they would to a druid. The exposure to life magics gives them an aura of calm benevolence. This also results in a bonus to viviomancers reaction adjustment score of +5% per level.

Viviomancers go adventuring in order to acquire new spells, fulfill the conditions of their apprenticeship, gain needed spell components, raise the money needed to build viviomanticums, or any of the myriad other reasons which cause people to risk their lives facing the unknown.

Viviomancers are by nature opposed to necromancy and necromancers. A viviomancer is likely to be quite tolerant of the foibles of others, looking away from thefts which serve the greater good and victimless crimes. They will, however, never willingly ally with those who employ death magic.

Viviomancer spells.
The spells of the viviomancers include many of the standard spells of magic-users, along with their own versions of many cleric spells, and a large roster of spells which only they can employ.
Though they can use spells which directly cause damage, they do so with a penalty, and only as a last resort. Spells which cause damage dice per level to a foe, such as fireball, lightening bolt, etc, do 50% less damage when cast by a viviomancer. Conversely, magic items which heal wounds or cure disease will increase in effectiveness by 25% when wielded by a viviomancer.

Below is a list of spells from the lists of magic-users, clerics, and druids which viviomancers have versions of for levels 1-3.

1st level.
Cure light wounds, Purify Food & Drink, Resist Cold, Charm Person, Enlarge(living things only), Find Familiar, Jump, Animal Friendship, Invisibility to Animals, Message, Sleep.

2nd level.
Detect Invisibility, ESP, Forget, Invisibility, Ray of enfeeblement, Scare, Strength, Hold Person, Know Alignment, Resist Fire, Slow Poison, Speak with Animals, Barkskin, Create Water, Feign Death.

3rd level.
Blink, Clairaudience, Clairvoyance, Fly, Haste, Infravision, Slow, Suggestion, Water Breathing, Cure Blindness, Cure Disease, Remove Curse, Hold Animal, Neutralize Poison, Plant Growth, Summon Insects.

Spells of the viviomantic school of magic include such dweomers as;

The Marvelous Diagnosticator; of Gregorious Dwelling which reveals to the viviomancer the cause and cure of any ailment, poison or disease.

Strengthen the Senses: One of the recipient’s senses is heightened to super human levels for one turn per level of the caster. The recipient gains the vision of an eagle, the scenting ability of a hound, bat-like hearing, etc

The Hand of Life: By touch, undead must save or be instantly reduced to ash. Those who save take 1d4 dmg per level of the caster.

Increased potential: One of the recipient’s ability scores is raised to its maximum possible for their race for 3 rounds per level of the caster.

Maximized Potential: All of the recipients stats are raised to the max possible for a period of 3 rounds per level of the caster. Both recipient and caster lose 1 hit die of hit points at the end of the spell duration.

Defer Sleep: Recipient may go without sleep for a number of days equal to his constitution score.

Defer Food & Water: Recipient may go without eating or drinking for a number of days equal to his constitution score.

Bolster Vitality: Adds 1 hit die roll to recipient per level of the caster for a period of 4 turns.

This is as far as I’ve gotten with the viviomancer so far. The idea is a magic-user subclass which absorbs the healer class and also has a broader portfolio to work with. I myself have no problems with the cleric, I like a little righteous smiting, but I’ve seen many gamers want a healer without the godly baggage.

The viviomancer is my attempt to create a class that covers that base, but has some logical reason for being, rather than just existing to play the field medic.

I haven’t worked out a full spell list, or decided how to modifiy each of the standard spells usable by the class yet, but I thought I’d put this out there and see what you fine fellows and ladies think.

I didn’t have the time to fine tune this like I did the Alchaemist or the Friar, but I think it’s a good start and I enjoyed working it up.
The holidays are exhausting, what with family and travel and whatnot, and I’m glad to get the chance to fiddle with The Game again.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I share Alchaemical Correspondence.

A little while ago, I posted a character class for AD&D called the Alchaemist. It's a magic-user subclass devoted to physical magic, magic captured in potions, dust, powders, etc.

A blog reader sent me an email with his groups version of the Alchaemist, and I thought he had some great ideas. I've been meaning to continue with an update of the Alchaemist, but the time just hasn't been available.
Since I planned to include alot of the ideas in his email into my own enlargement of the class, I'm going to quote here, with Reagan's kind permission, the emails he sent me.

I've also included the pics he sent me of a model of the moathouse from the Temple of Elemental Evil that one of his players built for the game.

I have to say here that I'm jealous of Reagan's players. Usually it's the DM who has to do all the work and preparation for a game. Having a player so into the game that he devotes the time to build a model of this quality reflects well on all involved.

Here is some of the first email Reagan sent me.

"First of all, congratulations on a most excellent blog. There are a great number of clever, and inspiring posts within, and your use of language often harkens back to the way Gygax himself wrote. I wish I could write in that way!
In any case, attached is a different version of the lovely Alchaemist class you posted. It is still very close to the original, but leans a bit closer to chemist than magic-user in a few ways. As for the formula, I tried to use OSRIC/1E spells to gauge power level equivalency, and, in a few cases, directly lifted effects. I’ve tried to combine a few spell effects or alter them in ways that makes the formulae different, and often equivalent to the spell in question; in this way, one would hope, there would be a use for both the potion and the spell in the same adventure. We’ve only gone through level 3 thus far, but I have a few ideas for some formulae past 3. Luckily, the alchemist player character in my game is not nearly high enough to cast those un-created spells yet. In my game we use the low-magic healing rules at Beyond the Black Gate, so many of the healing poultices come from there.

Your formula ‘Prul’s Eraser’ was quite a boon; it inspired us to create our own set of revered Master Alchemists, each with his own particular quirks and fetishes, much in the same way that magic-users have their Mordenkainen, Otto, Tenser and Melf-created spells. They are:

· Jorderchar - who focuses on potions to aid the summoning of demons, devils, and ectoplasmic things

· Prul - who prefers to mix his potions into a variety of alcoholic beverages, has a fascination for writing and language

· Garnak - enjoys manipulating gases and finding ways to use alchaemy to improve alchaemical processes (like the 3rd edition concept of meta-magic)

· Megnammon - an evil necromancer

· Dimo - a version of Indiana Jones if he were an alchaemist; his mixtures (typically pastes) help people explore, navigate, and survive the dangers inherent in dungeons and other dark, mysterious, and ancient places

· Drasar – an alchaemist who focuses on manipulating the four elements; he has a childish sense of humor and likes to name his formulae in comedic ways, especially in reference to bodily fluids

· Scifres – this is a magic-user player character in my 1E game who is going to be re-worked into an alchemist for the next session. His character is fascinated by the necromantic side of things, and has an unhealthy fixation on Megnammon, his hero. Scifres’ formulae are initially intended to be necromantic in nature, but often he creates a number of formulae that are inherently worthless, or useful only in certain specific situations.

One thing that I have yet to do is work up a nice, loose set of rules for the harvesting of alchemical ingredients from slain creatures. The idea of a Herbert West-type D&D character carving into the slain Naga to retrieve its still-warm vomeronasal gland is too good to pass up.
I apologize for any grammatical of formatting errors contained within the spreadsheet; it is indeed late and I think I got most of them! Also, in combining all the various tables and paragraph chunks, I might have left something out, so please let me know if something seems amiss. I look forward to seeing what you come up with next for the Alchemist; I may have a bit of a playtest report to get back to you after our next session on the 14th.
Keep up the fantastic work!

There are so many good ideas in this, it irks me that I haven't had the time to really chew over my own Alchaemist expansions. A group of famous master alchaemists is just what was thinking of myself.


One of Reagan's players decided to convert his magic-user over to an Alchaemist and sent him this list of ideas for fleshing out the character's abilities and formulations.

"I was wondering if I could have some additional mundane items that would have little game effect, other than just role-playing the mystique of being an alchemist.

I figure these could be mundane dusts, oils, salves, etc that are produced at little cost from the occasional rare find..."oh hey, here is some fairy wing residue, I can mix up some Flash-pellets":

· Everrose Salve - a sweet smelling oil that is rubbed lightly under nose to ward off unpleasant odors (exploring a city sewer or foul-smelling dungeon). Will not protect against stinking cloud or other like affects.

· Glitterstrike Dust - a faint ash that sparkles as it falls lightly to the ground. Will remain airborn for a few moments, and if drawn in a small arc through the air, it will carry a flame from one end to another...suitable for lighting a candle, lantern, torch or pipe from about 12 inches away. Unlikely to light large fires (oil, campfire, etc)

· Fermanist Rootdrops - changes the flavor of any beverage to cinnamon, also enhances color.

· Everstink Poultice - horrible smelling oil/tar, will not wash off for several days. Absolutely repulsive to dogs, but won't impair their tracking.

· Darkblade Tar - a slick grayish tar that keeps blades from reflecting light (may provide a +2% hide in shadows for a rogue). while slightly irritating to skin and organs, and may produce a strong burning, does not do damage

· Water Pellet - a grainy blue dust that can be sprinkled over any water-based liquid (water, ale, holy water, but not oil) and immediately absorbs said liquid, forming a small pellet that can be stored. A strong impact (hammer strike, dropped onto stone floor) causes the pellet to release the stored water. One application is good for the equivalent of a pitcher of ale or water.
· Scifres Heating Reagent - an oil that heats any metal when applied and exposed to air for 1 round. Metal becomes uncomfortable to the touch, but will not impair, for example, ability to wield a dagger or shield.

Other items, varying level:
· (1) Firemaster - essentially the same as affect normal fires, a mixture that will either increase or snuff out fires. Very useful and a precursor to mastering elemental potions of all kinds.

· (1) Fjiorhall Fumes - wide-body potion with a thin neck and stopper is inhaled through the mouth. Grants additional 2d4 hp for 10 minutes. Also tends to increase anger and irritablility for several hours after comsuming. Damage incurred to bonus life is not temporary, and death is possible when affects end.

· (1) Inferior Regeneration - regenerates 1d6 hp at 1hp per round. Can be consumed with other regeneration brews without fear of cross contamination, but stays in the system for several hours after effects wear off and will certainly cross-contaminate with any other potion consumed during this time.

· (2) Ruckhuster Brew - unpleasant tasting, chunky, frothy mixture consumed hot. Will delay poison effects for a brief period. Useful for buying time to analyze poisons and preparing antidote.

· (2) Magnetic Salve - this thick salve is stored in two phials with an activator stored in a third phial. When mixed with the activator, the two salves become magnetically opposed to each other, regardless of substance and distance. Distance is controlled by amount applied and weight of opposing objects. One application is sufficient to levitate 100 lbs/alchemist level up to 100' + 10' per alchemist level (expertise in pyrite sublimation creates more purified activator)

· (2) Scifres Enervating Respiration - this necromatic potion is stored in ceramic jars painted black, topped with a wooden handle. They break easily upon impact, and release a cloud of noxious fumes that decay the lungs causing severe breathing impairments, loss of vision and disorientation.

· (2) Mask of Living Death - Scifres discovered the instructions for this salve in the Mascontin Mines south of Verbobonc. It is a white powdery paste applied to the face that conceals the aura of the living from lesser undead.

· (2) Unblemished Regeneration - regenerates 2d6 hp at 2hp per round.

· (2) Spectral Form - This clear glass potion is milky white, with strong sweet smells and flavors. Imbiber immediately assumes a ghostly form that can pass through small cracks and apparate across gaps up to 20'. All gear falls to the ground.

· (3) Consumption Neutralizer - Scifres devised this potion to allow multiple potions to be consumed in rapid succession. It reduces the chance of volatile mixing effects by 50% for combining 2 potions, 25% for 3 potions, and 10% for 4 potions.

· (3) Conspicuous Regeneration - 3d6 hp at 3 hp per round.

· (3) Breath of Necrosis - a thick gooey sap that is applied to the interior of the mouth and blown, dispersing a horrid cloud of supernatural wilting rot. Living tissue rots and decays instantaneously, causing 1d6 dmg per level to creatures in the cone of dispersion (save vs breath weapon for 1/2).

· (4) Chitinous Armor of Aldiajarkan - A skin of thick chitinous scales grows painfully from the imbibers skin, and absorbs physical damage before being chipped and torn away. Will absorb 10hp per level.

· (4) Wraith Form - Like the spectral form potion, but black and seething, with thick black fumes emanating from the container. Imbiber immediately assumes a sub-ethereal state, retaining his posessions, and gaining immunity to normal/non silver weapons.

· (4) Magnificent Regeneration - 4d6 hp at 4 hp per round

· (5) Phenomenal Regeneration - 5d6 hp at 5 hp per round

· (6) Demonic Filcher - a greusome looking flask of thick frosted glass with something dark squirming inside, bound with iron and marked with protective wards and odd symbols. A command word deactivates the wards when thrown, and upon impact fills a 10' -15' area with enormous, writhing black tentackles that grapple and rend creatures within reach. If a creature is grappled, they are pulled underground and left to suffocate. Works best on sandy and dirt ground, but will function (albiet slightly less effective) on stone. Will only grapple on metal surfaces.

· (7) Scifres Ghastly Transformation - a horrible, twisted concoction that grants the imbiber horrific powers commonly seen among the walking dead. The creature is granted DR, AC bonus, increased HP, paralyzing attacks and is subject to the will of the potion's creator. "

I've told Reagan he ought to start his own blog, I'd love to read his play reports. It sounds like he runs one heck of a game.

I'd also like to ask if any of you readers out there in the blogosphere have used the Alchaemist, or facets of the class in your own game. I'm always interested in feedback.

And thanks again to Reagan and his players! It's very gratifying to see fellow gamers having fun with stuff I've cooked up.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Welcome to Wyrd Greyhawk! We'll all laugh about your ignominious death.

I haven’t actually posted anything about my game world before because it’s Greyhawk, and I figured everyone is already familiar with it. I’ve realized though, that everybody’s Greyhawk is different. And alot of gamers have no experience of Greyhawk at all.
Weird, huh?
It sort of took me aback the first time I ran into a dismissal of Greyhawk as “vanilla fantasy”, and poorly detailed. My Greyhawk is based on the original World of Greyhawk Folio, and I had always just assumed that everyone understood that the world was only sketchily described because you, the DM, are supposed to make up and fill in your game world as you need, and as you like.
Apparently, this isn’t so. I’ve gathered from the forums and game blogs that there is an expectation that contemporary game product should be, “plug and play”. No tinkering or house ruling required or allowed. A product is considered incomplete if every possible situation isn’t nailed down in the rules.
This strikes me as one of those disconnects between Old Guard thought and New School. I like to make stuff up. I like to build things and figure them out at my leisure. I’d much rather buy the tools I need to create something on my own than pick up a turn-key version already finished. You learn something when you do it yourself.

Anyway, I’ve never actually written out all the things I’ve done to Greyhawk over the years. My version mostly just exists in my head, or in scattered notes in binders.

I’ve decided though, to at least write an outline, or a set of points, that detail the differences and changes I’ve made, and those I plan to make in the future. I’ve picked up a lot of great ideas from the blogs and forums and I look forward to trying them out. This is really to help me pull together just what I’m going to do for the next campaign.

I’m preparing to get a game together in the near future and relaunch the Greyhawk campaign with a reconstituted game group. I think getting this down in one document will help me focus on the spirit of the World of Greyhawk I want to convey. This is just a draft of the general idea, not a complete description. I don’t think that’s even possible.

I’m calling my iteration, Wyrd Greyhawk, cause we’re all a pack of doomed, laughing bastards anyway. Eat, drink, and be Gary! For tomorrow we die!

Wyrd Greyhawk is mediaevalesque pulp sword and sorcery. Imagine it as Arthurian myth, the tales of Charlemagne, and the Canterbury Tales, as rewritten and expanded on by Fritz Lieber, Clarke Ashton Smith, and R.E.Howard. In the private library of a disreputable tavern, while smoking black lotus from a bejeweled hookah, and drinking absinthe from elf-skull cups, with smoky eyed dancing girls languidly twirling about the room.
And H.P.Lovecraft sitting on a pile of black silk cushions in the corner playing a sitar.

My sense of humor is dark and earthy, and so is my sense of drama. Stuff happens in my games that you know you’re a bad person for laughing about.

The core of the world is solidly medieval European, with themes and situations from Sword&Sorcery, Weird Tales/Pulp fiction, real world ancient history, Lost World stories, dark fairy stories, and others layered on top.

Player characters are not super-human Heroes, but average Joes. Maybe they have a bit more skill, or talent, or luck, than usual. They’re desperate, or idealistic, or greedy, or excluded, or otherwise unwilling or unable to plow, or march, or forge, or serve their betters.
For one reason or another, they’re at least partially outside the bounds of society and must make their own way in the world.
Black humor is at the heart of the game. The odds are stacked heavily against the PCs and they know it. Humanity and its allies are beset on all sides by inimical races, monsters, and gods. Plagues, war, and famine stalk the Flaness.
They aren’t destined for greatness, though they may attempt to carve their way to it. If that’s what they’re after. It’s really up to their own actions, and the dice. They might make you a king; they might say you die in a pit.


* Magic is rare. It is weird, feared, and not a technology stand-in. Magic-users are few and far between. No crystal ball TVs, no magic streetlights, no wizardly freezers. There are no magic shops. There’s not a snowballs chance in hell that anyone is going to sell genuine magic weapons, spells, or items from a storefront. PCs might be able to work out a trade with an NPC in possession of a magic item they desire, but it won’t be cheap, and it’s unlikely that mere gold will be sufficient to purchase magic outright.
* There are no magic schools. Arcane knowledge is guarded and shared by the powerful practitioners of the art only with their own apprentices and followers. Great wizards accumulate apprentices and followers and hangers-on. These may be thought of as members of a particular school of magic, centered on the theories of that particular mage, but there are no classes or diplomas.
* The city of Greyhawk has an area known informally as, “The Sorcerer’s Quarter”, where many of the cities powerful magic-users have their homes, but, there is no giant pyramidal School of Wizardry. I always hated that thing.
* I’m writing a version of Trollsmyth and Malisjewski’s Secondary Powers and Residual Effects for spells. I think it’s a brilliant idea that helps drive home the weird and fearsome nature of magic use. Magic-users are manipulating the very fabric of reality by casting spells, and that kind of power is not free of consequences.
* I think that I may work up a sanity risk table to associate with spell use of levels above 3rd. Maybe something like Call of Cthulu has. I may extend the risks of magic use to include those who spend a lot of time with the magic-user, like fellow party members.

* Religion

I’m including all the published gods of Greyhawk in the setting. No Norse, or Greek, or other pantheons though. I’m including real world approaches to the gods to make religion a bit more true to life though.
* People create hyphenated, or composite deities to serve cultural or political needs. As the Egyptians had Atum-Ra, so there might be a Pelor-Pholtus, or a Boccob-Celestian
There’s always the problem of having a pantheon of deities underlying the monotheistic structure of the Cleric Class, which as you all know, was built on the archetype of the Christian crusading priest. And also, to hold Sir Fang in check. To address this, I’m adding the religion of The One God, a belief system which holds that all the gods of the various Greyhawk pantheons are in fact, each facets or faces of a single creator god. Worshipers of the One God view all other gods as valid, but incomplete, manifestations of the One God.
This will take care of the players who want a classic, crusading cleric, while keeping the pagan flavored pantheonic cleric as well.
All religions have factions and theological hair-splitters, so, there’s also the worshipers of the True God, who view all other gods as false, or demonic. Some of them are open-minded and philosophic about their beliefs and some are militant and intolerant.

* I’m also including the Cthulu mythos under both their own, and alternate names. They won’t be worshiped openly, at least not by humanity. But behind closed doors in degenerate backwaters, and in guarded dungeons in the great cities.
“IA! IA!”. My kuo-toa are Deep Ones.

I haven’t assigned areas of influence yet, but the flavor and style of worship of every god and pantheon will vary widely from place to place. There is no guarantee that worshipers of god X in one location will agree, or get along with worshipers of god X from another location. They might not even be of the same alignment.
Also, whether standard, composite, monotheistic, or pantheistic, all clerics classes will be able to cast clerical spells. The true nature of the gods can never be known, and no one can point to the ability to call on divine magic as proof of their religions validity, as all clerics are capable of doing so.
There isn’t going to be any final truth about whose view of religion is correct that the PCs can ever uncover.
The unknown is at the heart of the game.

* Expanded Timeline

The chronology of historical events in the gazetteer covers a space of 1122 years. It begins with the start of the Baklunish-Suel wars in 5031 by the Suel calendar and ends at 6091, or 576 Common year.
The Invoked Devastation and the Rain of Colorless Fire are marked at 5094, Suel calendar. 1003 years Before Present,(publication of the Greyhawk Gazetteer).
Pulp sword&sorcery is built on ancient empires and forgotten kingdoms, prehistoric races and monsters of the unknown past. I really want the Suel Empire to be my ancient empire of evil sorcery, Hyperborean, Melnibonean, Stygian in feeling. So, I’m pushing the Rain of Colorless Fire way back a few thousand years.
I’m assuming that Gary meant the Suel Empire to play a somewhat analogous role to the Roman Empire, as far as the history of the Flaness is concerned.

The commonly accepted date for the end of the Roman Empire is A.D. 476. If the end of the Suel Empire is meant to overlay that, and you add the 1003 year span to take us to the publication date of the Gazetteer, that would bring us to a real world date of 1479, and knowing Gary’s preference for a high renaissance setting for his own Greyhawk, I have to think this isn’t coincidental.

I came to D&D from literature and not wargaming though, and 1000 years just isn’t enough time for me to feel the sense of really ancient history that I want the Suel Empire to evoke.

So, in Wyrd Greyhawk, 5094 is the date of the fall of the Oeridian Empire instead. The Oeridian Empire is going to be my Rome analogue. The end of the Suel Empire in the Rain of Colorless Fire takes place thousands of years earlier. In the aftermath and migrations into the Flaness, the Oeridians founded their own empire. It stands for two thousand years, and then disintegrates due to continued invasions by the Knor in 5094 where we pick up the standard timeline. This makes the Great Kingdom of the Aerdy a lesser imitation of the Oeridian Empire. Something like the Holy Roman Empire was to the actual Roman Empire.

The Knor are my stand-ins for the Saxons, Goths, Franks, and other Germanic Tribes which finally overwhelmed Rome. In Wyrd Greyhawk, they’re suel tribes who move down from the north and destroy the Oeridian Empire after 300 years of migrations and wars.
By the time of publication of the Gazetteer, they’ve largely assimilated with the conquered peoples and no longer strongly identify with the Thillonrian Suel.

* I’m also making the Thillonrian peninsula the original home of the Suel. It never made sense to me to have the survivors of the Suel Empire make their way there and then suddenly abandon all their ancient culture in favor of viking-like barbarism.
In Wyrd Greyhawk, tribes of ancient suel sailed from their ancestral home in the Thillonrian peninsula many thousands of years ago, and dispersed across the Oerth. One group founded the kingdom in the south that would later become the Suel Empire. Others vanished to known history.

This frees up the Frost, Snow, and Ice barbarians from the Suel Empire baggage, and gives me the option of inserting new history as it occurs to me.

* I think I’m going to flavor the Baklunish countries, Ket, Tusmit, and Ekbir, with some Empire of the Petal Throne Seasoning. I’m not sure exactly how yet, but they always seemed a little flat to me.
A dash of Tekumel ought to spice them up.

This up coming campaign will kick off prior to the Greyhawk Wars. I’ll eventually do some version of the wars, but I think I’ll hold off on that until the party makes it to End Game stage.
There will be no Rary the Traitor, or Vecna knockoff rubbing out the Circle of Eight. That was just silly.


Alignment is treated as a generalization. I’m not getting rid of it; it’s a good method of shorthand for basic behaviors. No alignment languages though, I don’t see a need that thieves cant, or arcane speech, or soldiers argot doesn’t fill. Players don’t know the alignments of each others characters, that stays between the player and the DM.
A cleric PC who casts Know Alignment is unlikely to share the knowledge gained other than vaguely. The Cleric’s player is not allowed to pass the information to other players, only hint.

Technological level

I think that in a world with many competing races, plus monsters, war, plagues, gods, and demons that the constant strife would result in migrating areas of Dark Age and renaissance. Technological advancement depends on the persistent transmission of accumulated knowledge over time, from one generation to the next.
Wyrd Greyhawk has no printing presses, and magic is not used to bring learning to the masses. Wizards are generally unsharing sorts. Save for the personal teachings of the friars of Delleb. With knowledge only transmitted directly from master or teacher to student, or apprentice, or journeyman, any break in the chain results in the loss of information and skills. The learned, the skilled, the knowledgeable, get killed in wars, or eaten by monsters, or die of plague, and civilization must rediscover, or recreate what has been lost, over and over again.
So, the default maximum level of technology tops out at about 1350 AD Europe in the greatest cities, an average level of 1100-1200 AD in the towns, villages and hamlets, and an iron age base in the hinterlands.
Plate mail is the greatest protection normally possible, and it’s not common. Full plate armor is nearly unheard of. Only the elves and dwarves have the skill and knowledge for complex armor, and even they don’t make a lot of it.

Societal Changes

As with technological level, the ever present threat of humanoids, monsters, magic, war, plagues, etc, has an effect on the mostly feudal governments of Wyrd Greyhawk’s perpetual middle ages.
The structure of society is both altered and reinforced. Even mediocre Lords, Chieftains, or Kings enjoy the loyalty of their subjects, so long as order and a degree of security are maintained.

The recurring destruction and disruption of villages, towns, and cities results in a permanent underclass of wanderers, refugees, and dispossessed. These people migrate in search of new homes and opportunities, outside of the normal feudal structure of most kingdoms.
They are generally referred to as the Unfettered, as they have no masters or lords. Adventurers often come from the ranks of the Unfettered.
The fame and riches that a successful adventurer may acquire may result in greater than normal social mobility, both upwardly, and downwardly.
A lord whose castle is sacked, and whose land is overrun, may also sink to the level of the Unfettered and take his chances as a soldier of fortune.
A dirt poor swineherd whose pigs are devoured by wargs may also become unfettered and take his chances on adventure.
Life with perpetual near-disaster tends to make both rulers and ruled more accepting of their inferiors and superiors. People still desire advancement, since advancement equals greater security, but in general, there is less friction between the classes than was the norm in actual history. Nothing unifies the in-group like Threats from Outside.


Slavery is prevalent in many areas of the flaness, but not quite the majority. Those areas without slavery are usually the ones where the common man has a fair amount of power. Slave labor devalues the work of free men and puts them at a disadvantage. Lands such as the Yeomanry stoutly oppose slave holding.
Bringing slaves into non-slaveholding land is viewed with distaste and discouraged, but only the Theocracy of the Pale automatically declares slaves in its territory to be freed.
The city of Greyhawk looks the other way concerning outlanders bringing small numbers of personal slaves within its domain. Only convicted criminals may be enslaved in areas controlled by the city.
The Elves
The elves are weird. They hale from the Otherworld. The Otherworld is contiguous with Greyhawk, meaning entering it at one point, traveling across it and exiting it at another point will bring you out in an analogous point on the face of Greyhawk.
It exists in the same space as Greyhawk, but not the same dimension, as it were.
The Otherworld is a fey Greyhawk, where the elves are dominate and men are few in number.
There, the elves are their true selves and far more powerful than they are in Greyhawk.
For various reasons, they choose to spend time in Greyhawk and the longer they stay, the lesser they become.
PC elves are always the standard "lesser" game elf.
This is the hollow world at the center of Greyhawk. There unknown races built eldrich and ancient civilizations eons before the surface was populated.
It has had many names, but known now by the name given it by the last to discover it, explorers from the Suel Empire.

This is as much as I’ve got for tonight, just off the top of my head. I’m going to keep posting my ideas for Wyrd Greyhawk as they form up.
I think I’ll pick out some more atmospheric art for posting too. A picture is worth a thousand random tables, you know.
Picture credits:
Top pic is from a king arthur tale and the artist is unknown to me.
second pic is the Darrel Sweet cover for Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions.
Usually Sweet is a bit to cartoony for me, but I like this one, and Three Hearts and Three Lions is often sited by Gygax as one of the foundational books that inspiration for D&D was drawn from.
Third pic is Jeff Jones, the Son of the Bear God. Rockin, eh?
Fouth pic is called Tyranny of the Night and I think the artist's name is Raymond, not certain on that.
Fifth pic is The Wizard, by Don Maitz. You might recall it on the cover of Dragon magazine long ago. I love Maitz's stuff, You have to see a large version of this to really see all the detail in it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Spontaneous Generation allows the Weird Mythic Underground and Gygaxian Naturalism to play nice together.

Spontaneous Generation is the theory that life can arise spontaneously from non-living inanimate matter, or that one form of life may be generated by another unrelated form.

The classic example is the notion that dead meat itself creates maggots spontaneously. Other forms of the theory allow for life to arise from lifeless matter by the power of the sun, by the "Vital Heat" contained within all matter, or by many other igniting factors.

The early natural philosophers held that by natural trials of combinations of parts of spontaneously arising animals, successful combinations had formed the species that they saw around them, and that the unsuccessful combinations had failed to reproduce.

A sort of unnatural selection. Heh...

This theory held from Aristotle until well into the 18th century before being finally pushed aside.

In my own Greyhawk, Spontaneous Generation is a fact. It is also modified, and altered, and distorted by the existence of magic, the will of the Gods, the meddling of infernal intruders, malignant emanations from the underworld, or the black spaces between the stars, and DM Fiat.

This is how I justify to myself the existence of so many monsters and sentient races on a single world. It is in the nature of Greyhawk itself to constantly churn out new life forms. Most of them are only single examples, and fail to found a species. These are my Monsters, with the capital M.
The creatures that do manage to continue themselves with offspring become the regular monsters, (little m), and other creatures of the gameworld.

I've got a little list here of modifying factors which influence the likelihood of any particular corpse spontaneously generating a new living thing.
This isn't a hard and fast rule, I may just say, "It is so!". It is always fun to roll some dice though, since you never know what'll happen.

Whenever something dies in the game, I check to see if there's a chance of a new creature being spontaneously generated. These percentages are cumulative.

* If the creature was killed directly by magic, +5% chance.
* If the deceased was a user of, a creature of, or actively employing magic at time of death, +5%
* If the body lies in an area either sacred or profane, +5%
* If the deceased creature had powers of regeneration, +5%
* There is a 1% chance of spontaneous generation for every hit die, or experience level of the deceased.

If a spontaneous generation does occur, there is a 75% chance that it results in ordinary insects or vermin. (75 or below on a 2d10)
There is a 10% chance of normal animals of a higher sort. (76-85 on a 2d10)
There is a 10% chance of the newly generated life being any sort of standard monster native to the area. (86-95 on a 2d10)
There is a 5% chance of the spontaneously generated creature being a new Monster. This may be an altered version of the deceased creature, or something completely unrelated.

This new Monster may or may not be able to breed with other creatures to found it's own line. That's up to you.

As an example, lets just say that Gneerg the goblin footman of the Vampire lord is slain along with his master by our band of intrepid adventurers.

Lets say Gneerg got himself zapped by the same lightening bolt that did in his Master. And also maybe sprayed with vampire blood and ichor. Just after downing an invisibility potion in an attempt to escape.

If the dice are feeling generous, or if you just decide it will be so, this combination of factors causes the spontaneous generation of an altered goblinoid some few weeks later.
Maybe it's an adult to begin with, or maybe it starts as a grub and metamorphoses into a larger creature later.
I think in this case, the spontaneous goblinoid will have vampiric abilities, and to make it weird, I'll have the nails of it's hands become long hollow fang-like blood syphons.
Maybe this thing is just a one-off, maybe it reproduces and becomes a pox on the gameworld.

This is just a thing I like to do to maintain some feeling of verisimilitude to the natural world of the game setting, while still allowing for the existence of the weird and freakish.
It also lets me keep everyone on their toes. It codes into the rules the idea that the DM is totally within his rights to throw unknowns at the players.

Just as Greyhawk is selecting for the best possible monsters to inhabit the game world, it's also deselecting the player characters who fail to show the survival traits needed in a worthy adventurer.

Survival of the Fittest just cracks me up.

*edit, that pic at the top is a clip from a larger Richard Corben illustration from 1971, fyi.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What If?! Jack Kirby played D&D!

It would look like this!

Some where, out there, in the depths of the Multiverse, there is an alternate reality where Gary Gygax was best buds with Jack "The King" Kirby!

In that wondrous world, True Believers, Kirby illustrated Dungeons & Dragons with all the majesty and hallucinatory phantasmagoric wonderment that only he was capable of!

Consider well, oh my brothers, (and Timeshadows), the mind expanding force of fantastic illustration, and think on what might have been the path of Dungeons & Dragons had this exotic world been ours!

I'm a bit punchy tonight. please forgive my hyperbolic hyperbole.