Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Glittering Isles of Greyhawk: Kings and Queens

(and other "Lesser" Folk)

From the great hall of the King of Hahntar (pictured above) to the small and smoke filled longhouses of Schnai Chiefs, the Glittering Isles are rife with all manner of rulers. Some are well known all over the islands, while others are known only as far as the reach of their own sword. Here can be found some of the most prominent:

The Demi-Human and Humanoid Realms

Halstaf Grom; King of Barak: King Halstaf (LG dm F12) is from a long line of proud and strong Dwarf Kings. The Clan Grom has ruled the various clans of the Dwarf Lords and the relatively young Kingdom (being less than 1,500 years old) since before they even arrived in the Glittering Isles by way of the Underdark. Halstaf is an aging King, 12th of his line; soon expected to do as his forefathers chose to do and retire to cloistered life with the clergy of Moradin and allow his eldest son to take the crown.

Gelnin; High Councilor of Bellor: High Councilor Gelnin (LG gm C10) is an elected leader of the Gnome Chiefs from the Vale of Bellor. He has held the position for three terms and is currently mid-way into his fourth term (each term being for 10 years). He is very conservative in his dealings with surrounding lands; but is very favorable in his alliances with the other demi-human nations.

Raldo "the Axe" Halfkindle; High Hero of Merra: Raldo Halfkindle (NG hafm F10/T12) is one of the most famous adventurers in all the Glittering Isles; and though a Halfling, is greatly feared and respected by even the orcs of Krimba-hai. Raldo is an elected War Leader for the Halflings of the Vale of Merra, having a say really only in the defense of the combined family villages and towns of the tiny realm; though when the Halfling Council is deadlocked, his vote can break any tie in decision making.

Ye'Arendel, King of the Faerie Realm of Ye'Cind: Ye'Arendel (N em D11/MU10) is cousin to the Demi-God Ye'Cind, and ruler of that realm which Ye'Cind once dwelt primarily within. Ye'Arendel is the third ruler of the Faerie Elves of the Glittering Isles, and has done so for over 300 years. He is a very reserved and long-thinking elf; much famed for his diplomatic demeanor and calm in any storm. The religiously minded Faerie Elves of his realm are in truth primarily seen to by Ye'Arendel's Queen-Consort Ya'Alla (CG ef C14); while the King sees to the needs of the land itself and the preservation of nature's natural course. King Ye'Arendel has been known to turn particularly harsh in his treatment of those who mistreat any land he lays claim to protection of.

Sark, War-King of Krimba-hai: The Warlord Sark (LE 1/2om F15) rules the orcs of Krimba-hai with an iron will. Not even originally from Krimba-hai (being from the City of Widdershin), Sark began his service to the orcs a decade ago as a mercenary general against the humans of Hahntar. His ruthless cunning and near genius intellect allowed him to quickly climb the ranks and his vicious slaughter of the previous King's entire brood (King, sons, nephews and cousins all!) followed by taking to wife every female previously married to those killed has cemented his position as supreme leader of the orcs. Many fear this man.

The Human Realms

Agreth Vawn, High Lord of the East Corsairs: Agreth (N  Sfo hm F9//T6) is a "noble" of the Corsair Islands, and leader of the lesser of the two naval powers among the Corsairs. While his domain is one of the least of all the Glittering Isles, those that follow him have become wealthy and are the match of their West Corsair adversaries in ship to ship combat and mercantile interests alike. If Agreth continues his current ways, he may eventually convince many of the West Corsairs to follow him instead of the ruthless High Lord Tayg.

Tayg Vithkam, High Lord of the West Corsairs: Tayg (CE Sfo hm F7//A8) is a follower of the Guildmaster of Assassins in Widdershin; and few oppose him because of this common knowledge. He is a ruthless sea captain, and utterly depraved in his blood-lust and penchant for wanton destruction. He is the primary slaver of the whole Glittering Isles, and this coupled with his constant piracy has made him a rich man who pays his dues to his Guildmaster and is thus nearly untouchable. He is getting older though, and many whisper that his own followers wish for the day his sword is too slow and someone kills him so that the Corsairs of the Glittering Isles can again be united under one leader.

Halfred O'Dale, King of the Land of Dales: Halfred (LG So/elf hm F9) is the elf-kin descendant of a long line of Elf-Friend Lords and then Kings of the Land of Dales. He is a fast ally of the elven people of Ye'Cind and a cool trade partner with the Free Seaholds; his only other neighbor. His small realm is ably defended by free Yeomen Militia and Country Knights all of whom he leads in battle. He strives to continue the traditions of all men being free within his kingdom, and so there are no serfs within the Dales; though there are still many nobles who rent out their lands to yeomen farmers just as the King does.

Aldorn Hahn, King of Hahntar: King Aldorn (LN SOf hm F13/NM) is an aged and besotted man barely able to sit his throne due to a horrible injury that left his mind addled nearly a decade ago; a wound inflicted upon him by then General Sark of Krimba-hai. Aldorn's rule is a farce now, his half-dozen sons being half his stature in capability and manipulated by the powerful Royal Knights of Hahntar or else the religious leaders of the small kingdom. On rare occasions his mind clears; but these are only tormented times for him as he realizes the state of his Kingdom due to his own weakness. He has ordered faithful knights on numerous quests to find powerful magic to cure his ills during these times though.

Jom Kellson of Jomshold: Jom (CN Suel hm Bar16) is one of the most powerful Schnai warriors in the history of that people; though he is not originally of noble birth in his homeland. He came to the Glittering Isles with only a ship full of followers six years ago, and is now one of the most feared men known because he has so quickly united all the petty Schnai chieftains under his banner. He is openly vocal about his plans to conquer all lands he can before he dies in battle so that his Word Fame lasts for generations to come. He keeps all the Glittering Isles guessing as his ships can often dislodge raiders anywhere, including the Faerie Realm of Ye'Cind; but currently his desire is to crush all opposition in The Warholds before uniting its warriors under his rule for a full invasion of the northern bounds of the Kingdom of Hahntar.

Gwydion, Seneschal of Widdershin: Gwydion (NE Sof hm T11) is the elected leader of the Free Seaholds of the Glittering Isles and de facto Mayor of Widdershin as well. While keeping a public facade of respectable governance of what remains of the Kingdom of Pellham (supposedly for the Royal Line, now extinct) the man is a ruthless manipulator without many who equal his ability. To the general public, he is a vital and humble servant to their needs; but those "in the know" both fear him and steer clear of his machinations. His vast wealth keeps even the Guildmaster of Assassins (Alindor Peele, LE Sof hm A14) in his pocket and under his influence alongside such worthies as the Lord Sorcerer Ballug (CN Sof hm MU9) and High Priest of Lendor (Darus, LN Sfo hm C12).

Shaena, High Autarch of Xalmak: Shaena (LN Sfo hf M6//C9//MU15) is an excessively reclusive ruler of the oldest of human realms within the Glittering Isles. She is the titular head of the "Ruby Wraiths" monastic priesthood of Wee-Jas; though that organization is headed by her servant clergy by appointment. Shaena, though very old, is still a vibrant woman with great wisdom and intellect matched by few indeed. Audiences with her are never given as "unclean" individuals are thought to endanger her closeness to The Goddess. Her great power has thus far precluded infiltration of her people by the Scarlet Brotherhood though; and the agents of the Kingdom of Shar are executed summarily when found in Xalmak.

Lesser Rulers of the Glittering Isles can be found in all the lands (and surrounding seas!) of the Glittering Isles. The High Freeholds (that clannish land north of the Free Seaholds) are ruled by clan chiefs that range in abilities; but most are Fighters of levels 8+ with some few being thieves as well. The Warholds are a patchwork land being quickly conquered by Jom of Jomshold; but the few remaining rulers are Fighters or Thieves of varying levels; though all are at least level 8 or higher. There are many "Petty" Lords of this realm or that; but even some of these are more influential than their title might warrant. One such is the sinister "Baron" Krell of Krell's Gate who intentionally causes the confused state of being vassal to both the King of the Dales and the High Council of the Free Seaholds while also fostering a close relationship with the Wildrunners of the realm of Ye'Cind.

Many nobles throng the lands of the Glittering Isles; as well as Merchant Lords, independent Wizards, hopeful Clerics and more. Of the 150,000+ souls that inhabit these lands, over 2,000 are "rulers" of one stripe or another...there is ample room to create any sort of individual you like for your own Glittering Isles of Greyhawk campaign!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Scribe's Time

Writing can be an exceptionally fun thing to do. So fun in fact that at times you lose track of time and later realize you have written so long that you have missed out on other obligations! My time has been this way for months now, and so now I've decided to get back to my Blog.

While I've been away, I have actually been writing ideas to use for my blog; so I thought I would just use this short entry to list some of the upcoming articles:

Making the Most of It: Weird Creatures

Valuable Villains: Part 3

The Glittering Isles of Greyhawk: Kings and Queens

The Glittering Isles of Greyhawk; Module: the Forest Oracle

I haven't decided on the order that those will be made, but they are at the top of my list right now. Weird Creatures will focus on how you can turn household items into miniatures to use in your D&D gaming, a wonderful new villain will be introduced in Part 3 of Valuable Villains, and the last two about the Glittering Isles will be about the Rulers of the various domains (both petty and great) and the placement of a great AD&D module, the Forest Oracle (N2 The Forest Oracle, by Carl Smith; TSR 1984). If you want to get a head start on the module, it is currently available on DriveThruRPG for less than a value meal at a burger joint!

Also, if there is anything you want to see followed up on from earlier articles, just shoot me a quick message on here and I'll get back to you soon.

See you soon!

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Keep on the Borderlands: In New Places

the Caves of Chaos

Who hasn't played in the "The Keep on the Borderlands" module eh? Well, I'm sure some haven't; but now you may!

I've always loved the simplicity of this module; and while I've mentioned it in a previous article, I really think it deserves even more attention now. It is designed to show a group of players (DM included) just how to run a Dungeon Crawl in a simple manner: a) a base of operations to rest, trade and gain allies, b) a wilderness to explore that can be changed at the DMs desire to always present adventure, and c) a dungeon to explore and conquer!

The Caves of Chaos contained in The Keep on the Borderlands module aren't a complex series of death dealing trap filled warrens; but instead offer a chaotic patchwork of humanoids to combat and defeat in a slow systematic way that allows player and Dungeon Master (DM) alike to take it slow and easy without too much pressure. The humanoids are just enough at each other's throats that they won't immediately seek aid from the others nearby to repel the party, but cohesive enough that they present as primarily non-hostile to each other and thus easy to explain their proximity to each other.

Now, if you are already playing in a game (like most are) it becomes a little harder to place Ye Ol' Caves in your own game...but I'm here to help! It doesn't matter where the campaign is taking place, the Keep on the Borderlands is easy to set up and run with!

Are you playing in The Forgotten Realms? The Castellan of the Keep becomes perhaps an official of Cormyr, the Keep becoming Castle Krag.

Are you playing in Greyhawk? The Keep has already been placed there "officially" but you can still put it where you like. Me, I placed it originally north of Celene and south of Verbobonc in the Kron Hills. In my "Glittering Isles of Greyhawk" campaign though, the place will be in the High Freeholds south of the Gnome Vale of Bellor.

Are you playing in Harn (a favorite of mine!)? Well, the Keep can become the Keep of Getha in the Kingdom of Kaldor; with the Castellan becoming the Baron of Getha instead. A special note here: the various humanoids simply become mercenary Gargun, all females become males, and ignore the children of the humanoids all together. The other monsters are simple translations then. An additional Note: if you plan to use the Keep in Harn, remember to change the map a bit of the Keep itself. Round towers are not common at all within Harn, only the Dwarves have mastered that technique of building. Replace the round towers with square towers and you are all done. That is unless you want the place to have been built by a Dwarven Engineer? Me, I replaced all but one tower with square towers, making only the tower near the bank round...and its inhabitant being a Dwarf who remains on as chief engineer to the Baron. A small twist, but something to add flavor.

Are you playing in Mystara? The Keep on the Borderlands easily fits in the north of Karameikos; but can just as easily be placed in North-East Darokin too. I prefer north of Selenica so that it is still near at hand to Karameikos, my favorite realm there.

No matter the world you decide to venture into, the Keep on the Borderlands is something you should seriously consider if you are new to the Fantasy Role-Playing game experience. It doesn't matter which rules system you are using, the material is what matters; not the crunch. Numbers can be replaced easily enough; but when you are pressed for ideas or want to try something that is tried and supported highly by the gaming populace, you won't regret using this material.

I usually just post ideas here, but I would LOVE a discussion with anyone willing to share where and how they have used this awesome material!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Making the Most of It: DRAGONS! (or Part 1)

So I love to play Dungeons and Dragons...especially Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (or AD&D). I've had lots of life hours used as gaming hours to say the least! Because I've played so long at these games (since about 1979) I've had to improvise all sorts of things at the most random moments in gaming. Essentially, I've had to make the most of what I had at hand or create whole-clothe from my imagination things in the game...everything from Elminster's distinguished voice to the screech of a Goblin as it attacks...and it is all fun!

One thing I love to do is find things in stores that I can use while playing games. A few months ago I had the luck to find in my local Fred Meyer store's toy section a couple of really awesome dragons!

Land Wyrm deep in the dungeon!
The picture above is of a "Land Wyrm" for my new Glittering Isles of Greyhawk game. I really like how he looks, and his price was well worth it too. I've decided that Land Wyrms are more feral (less intelligent) than other dragons; but very powerful physically and fully capable of using their breath weapon: a fiery belch induced spitting that explodes on impact where it lands in a 30 foot radius. Essentially, the Land Wyrm creates a sac that bursts on impact with anything it hits. While they can't fly, their physical strength and projectile bile are a gruesome combination (they never use spells). Stats are as follows:

Land Wyrm (Draco Sputem Horriblis)
NO. APPEARING: 1 (1-4)
MOVE: 12"/18" (swim)
HIT DICE: 10-12
% IN LAIR: 65%
NO. OF ATTACKS: 4 (claw, claw,  bite , tail)
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1-8/1-8/3-30/1-10
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Breath weapon
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Blunt and slashing weapons do half damage
MAGIC RESISTANCE: Standard (as dragon)
INTELLIGENCE: Low to Average
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Neutral
SIZE: L (36' long)
          Speaking: 20%
          Magic Use: Nil
          Sleeping: 40%

The race of Land Wyrms prefer to have an underground lair of some sort; though individuals will gladly use caves of sufficient depth or even open air areas of heavy vegetation that limits visibility such as brambles, briers and heavy tree growth. Those that can find and hold them are fond of using air filled caves beneath the waterline on the shores of lakes; but rarely do the like to live on the ocean. They are exceedingly territorial, even willing to face a Red Dragon to ensure they keep their lair.

A Land Wyrm can attack by a claw/claw/bite/tail routine or by belching forth a globe of explosive bile with a range of 90 feet that explodes in a 30 foot radius conflagration. The dragon may only employ its tail against targets to its rear or to either side up to its neck. A Land Wyrm's breath weapon is never of less than full strength despite damage to the beast due to the fact it stores its "breath" in a sac which holds the bile that ruptures only upon striking a surface.

Land Wyrms long ago lost the ability to use magical spells; but, like all dragons, they are still able to employ any magical item they have access to that they are able to manipulate with either claw or fang.

NOTE: I play Land Wyrms as engines of rage. When their lair is infringed upon (especially if a mate or eggs/young are present) they attack without quarter given. Subdual does indeed work against them; but it is going to be a hard fought victory; and the Land Wyrm is not especially loyal if its new "owner" shows signs of weakness they may be eaten at a later date. These dragons are inspired by the Harnic "Drake: Forest Dragon" found in the "Dragons" supplement from Columbia Games Inc.

The other dragon I found in the toy section was a flying dragon. I decided that in the Glittering Isles, these dragons are essentially like Red Dragons, but they are smaller (having fewer hit dice), but just as intelligent and capable of using magic. I call these beasts by the simple name of "Fire Dragons" which is the only kind of dragon other than Land Wyrms and "Ice Dragons" which live upon the Glittering Isles (I haven't found a good Ice Dragon yet though).

Fire Dragon (Draco Conflagratio Mysticum)
MOVE: 12'/30' (Flying)
HIT DICE: 8-10
% IN LAIR: 60%
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1-4/1-4/3-24/1-10
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Breath Weapon + possible magic use
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Evil
SIZE: L (36' long)
           Speaking: 75%
           Magic Use: 75%
           Sleeping: 20%

Fire Dragons prefer to dwell in great hills or mountainous regions like their cousins the Red Dragons. As with most others of this species, they too prefer to dwell in deep caves and similar subterranean places. Fire Dragons are even more greedy and avaricious than Red Dragons; perfectly willing to kill a mate that attempts to steal from their hoard of treasure; though, unlike Red Dragons, they are far more likely to flee combat if it goes against them.

A Fire Dragon is able to attack by means of a claw/claw/bite/tail routine or by breathing a cone of fire, 10" long, by 2" base diameter. Speaking Fire Dragons are 75% likely to use spells in a greater ability than a Red Dragon. When in flight, a Fire Dragon will save its breath weapon for massed enemies, and use a tail attack against lone individuals.

For each age bracket the dragon has attained it is able to use an additional spell. At the first two ages the fire dragon gains a 1st level spell, at the next two a 2nd level spell is gained, at the fifth and sixth ages a 3rd level spell is gained, at the seventh age a 4th level spell is gained and at the last age a 5th level spell is gained. Thus, an ancient fire dragon would be able to employ two spells of levels 1 through 3 and one each of 4th and 5th levels. Fire Dragons with access to spell books (25% of them) are able to select whichever spells they wish from such tomes; though those without will have a set selection of spells which never changes.

NOTE: I play Fire Dragons as portrayed by the monstrous terror in the old movie called "Dragonslayer" pictured here. If you have never seen that movie, then you MUST see it as soon as you can. While it may be "behind the times" in special effects now, it still is better than many modern dragon portrayals I have seen. Fire Dragons are horrors that are furious enough to burn a village, but not brave enough to risk their own life...even for their young which they will abandon if they must; but will gain vengeance for at a later time if possible.

I play Dragons in my game differently than most DMs I've played with. Not that I do it better; but I try to leave dragons as a mythical creature instead of making them either commonplace to the point of being a simple beast commonly encountered, or else simply the "Boss" at the end of the dungeon level. Each dragon in my campaign is tailor designed and never randomly placed. A dragon's back story is just as important to me as the magical items I place in my games (with each having a history).

For my Glittering Isles campaign I haven't set out any particular dragons yet; though there is a Black Dragon in the module "To Find a King" that I am going to replace with a Land Wyrm for sure. While I like the AD&D dragons (and monsters in general), I like to create new monsters that players don't know the statistics for. I've noticed that this creates a sense of trepidation in going against new monsters and a great sense of satisfaction when those monsters are defeated by players; which is the primary reason I created these two dragons from the toys I found at the store.

I'll have many more monsters that I'll put into this new series; so stay tuned for more of "Making the Most of it" and hopefully you will find that you can use several of them in your own games.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Glittering Isles of Greyhawk: What makes a setting?

I've had dozens of people ask me one question about my gaming: "What is it about a setting that interests you and makes you want to play in it?"

I can say without a doubt that the island of Harn comes up almost every time. If you don't know what Harn is; check out this map:

Harn is a creation of Columbia Games Inc. which you can explore HERE. Without a doubt, Harn is the MOST DETAILED SETTING I've ever run across that is for sale to the general gaming public. Hands down. Several of the things that make Harn just awesome:

1) Harn is a base setting to start a campaign from. There are no novels or later gaming supplements that mess with the history of the starting point. Once something is published for Harn, that is the way it is no matter what. You can go back in time to create your game, or into the future; but the best way to play in the world of Harn is to start from the date given in the various books.

2) The artwork. Not once have I ever looked at a piece of art for the Harn setting and thought anything other than "That is what it looks like! That is what I want my players to see so they have something other than writing to describe the people, places and things!" Richard Luschek (LOO-shek) is the individual who either picks the artist needed or, more often than not, delivers that need himself. You can find his art HERE or HERE (the latter being his own Blog that you can follow). Personally, I use his art for various games I'm playing that aren't even set in Harn. The art is what I like to call "True Medieval" and not so fantastical that it is hard to believe. I can relate to every single piece he has ever put into a product sold by Columbia Games. 

3) Did I mention detail? Well, there is MORE detail. Many of the smallest villages are detailed; right down to the peasants. I don't just mean for the current adventure, I mean I can pick up my Kingdom of Kaldor book and find immediately how many households live in Pendeth (which is in the Earldom of Neph) and even what the land quality is! I know the name of the man that rules there: Constable Garath Ruseller...and I know what the man looks like too!

4) Price. I've heard some people say that Harn is isn't. You may wonder what I mean when its setting books cost $30; but you will NEVER have to worry about buying another one. Do you know how many Forgotten Realms setting books I've had to buy?! With Harn, what you get the first time is what you need all the time. Find the full list HERE of their products over at

Now, you are wondering: "What in the Nine Hells does this have to do with Greyhawk!?" It has EVERYTHING to do with Greyhawk. The amazing thing about Harn is that you can plug it into ANY setting you want. I have used Harnic villages in the middle of Cormyr of the Forgotten Realms. I have placed entire Kingdoms (the Kingdom of Chybisa) right alongside established settings like the Viscounty of Verbobonc in Greyhawk; simply replacing the capital of Chybisa with the city of Verbobonc. But most importantly for my new home game: I am going to be using not only Harnic villages and towns for my game (all of them ready made mind you!); but also rules supplements from Harn as well.

I'm a big fan of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (first edition people!); anyone that really knows me knows that. I'm just as big a fan of the game products from Columbia Games that I can use to plug in wherever I want. OR, and often even better, I can simply run my AD&D game right in Harn without having to change a thing. Harn has magic, but it is softer and more subtle; so I just change available spells and I'm ready to go. I've detailed a bit about how I plan to use HarnManor in my Glittering Isles campaign HERE.

So, to answer the original question: a setting is awesome to me when it gives me everything I need, but still leaves room for me to create what I want. End of story, that is my answer.

For that, Harn (and its MANY supplements) delivers on that need hands down. A synopsis of how Harn is going to help me.

City of Tashal transforming into Widdershin
The City of Tashal (located in the Kingdom of Kaldor) is going to be transformed into my Glittering Isles city of Widdershin. I had tried to make a map...but I failed in getting the right feeling that I want from a map. I only make two primary modifications: a) There will be no bridge across the river because the river is going to be far too wide for one. The gate that once belonged where the bridge crossed the river (and a minor gate to the south on the wall) will now simply service the docks I plan to build. b) change the inhabitants affiliations to those that fit into Greyhawk (this is the larger change, but most of it is likely never to be encountered by the Party).

With that, my need for a Capital City of Widdershin is taken care of with minimal effort on my part. Though Widdershin's stated population is only 6,500 compared to Tashal's population of 11,400; I can easily explain this away to a dwindling population (as I already stated in previous writings) and many segments of the city being less crowded; while in the height of trade season, the place can hold many more who are passing through either via caravan or ships.

City Gate of Widdershin from outside in the village of Artoen
There are many, MANY more things that the folks at Columbia Games have created that I plan to use in my AD&D game other than their villages, cities and artwork. The adventure modules that they have created are second to none in being easily adapted to any game system. Their wide selection of Bestiary material enables me to have a wide variety of materials to draw on (with amazing art as well).

I'll post more as my conversions go along for my Glittering Isles of Greyhawk home campaign; but before I do that, you should go out and purchase some of these amazing products! This isn't a paid advertisement here seriously should invest some time/money into getting these materials to make your home games even more awesome.

NOTE: All images here are property of Columbia Games Inc. and Richard Luschek. Used with permission.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Valuable Villains, Part 2

As a continuation of my Valuable Villains line, I will be working mostly within the confines of  The World of Greyhawk: The Glittering Isles which I am running as my home game. I'll try to make it so that the Villains I feature here will be usable in just about any campaign setting though...a Plug-n-Play sort of villain.

Today's villains is named Rhannoch Shald'Hrune, Raven King of Khel; a very dangerous, but powerful, behind the scenes manipulator of both good and evil men...all for what he sees as "right" in his world. Rhannoch is the son of a Half-Elf mother and Baklunish father; but only his name is a reminder of those individuals who have been gone for a very long time indeed.

Rhannoch began his life in the land known as Ket (or whatever other Arabic/Middle-Eastern culture you have; such as Calimshan in the Forgotten Realms). His mother, a Half-Elven wizard, was his early teacher of things arcane. Rhannoch excelled at magic which influenced the mind and eyes of his foes; he became strong in manipulations enchantments and charms as his mother had been.

Rhannoch Shald’Hrune is much older than his appearance would dictate. He long ago compromised his freedom to instead have the power to fight the forces of darkness by using the gifts of his Patron God Xan Yae (or some other god of shadows in your game) against evil. Originally Rhannoch was a Baklunish (Calashite, or what have you) wizard who sought to fend off the depredations of ravaging bands of humanoids from the lands of Ket (around the Lake of Steam), and works strongly against humanity itself when individuals embrace evil; though he ignores the fact that he is often using evil means to gain good outcomes.

Rhannoch slowly amassed the power he needed to become strong enough to take on the mantle of The Raven King. He took for his place of power the Dark Pit (once known as the City of Khel), a stronghold once held by the Ur-Flan (or ancient workers of magic in your game) who served the ancient evil known as Vecna (or some other evil demi-god). The Dark Pit rests in the mountains south of Ket (or in the mountains north of Calimshan) where it remains a secret to this day. In its depths Rhannoch is served by the ancient Ur-Flan who still live in various undead states (such as Crypt Things) or as their descendants who are now Dark Stalkers long ago changed who rule over Dark Creepers who were once dwarves who built the Dark Pit. There are many Demi-Liches who Rhannoch leaves to their own devices who rest within the city as well.

Rhannoch deals with disguised Janni who come to him and give information in return for magical items and/or information in return that they can trade to others. These Janni venture into the area of “Raven Mountain” before descending into the Dark Pit; and the many flocks of Giant Ravens which dominate the area leave them unmolested on the orders of their “King” Rhannoch who they serve. Rhannoch’s Seneschal is the Skeleton Warrior named Priasar, who has agreed to serve Rhannoch while the wizard searches for the undead warriors Circlet to free him.

Rhannoch is also served by many Baklunish adherents to the faith of Xan Yae, and a secret monastery rests within the Gateway of Shadows; which is the outer town, though still below ground. The monks and their followers guard the entrance for The Raven King as he is considered a Prophet of Xan Yae and so a very important religious figure among the worshipers of the Baklunish. The monks never pass the Shadow Gate which leads into the ancient city within however.

Rhannoch works his weal and woe where he sees fit; often felling paladins who try to conquer as often as evil wizards who try the same. To Rhannoch, "evil" is the taking away of freedom from individuals. He believes that only control of the self is right...all else is wrong. Though not truly evil, he is only not evil because he often does good as well...given time, however, he will likely slip over the edge into evil completely.

AD&D Rhannoch: Neutral hm M-U 18; Str: 12, Dex: 19, Con: 16, Int: 22, Wis: 18, Chr: 17. If you want to add some spice to him, you can make him a Shade as found in Monster Manual II.

Rhannoch's Statistics in 3.5 D&D:

Class/Level: Wizard 6 / Shadow Adept 10 / Arch-Mage 2
Race: Human Alignment: Neutral Good    Deity: Xan Yae
Age: 31           Gender: Male            Height: 6’1”               Weight: 174 lbs.
Actual: ?         Eyes: Black                Hair: Black                 Skin: Deep Olive

STR:   12                                HP: 115                                  Speed: 30
DEX:   24 (18)                        AC:  66 (Touch: 56, Flat-Footed 46)
CON:  16                                w/Greater Shield of Shadows: +4
INT:    36 (30)                        w/Haste                                    +1
WIS:   19                                w/Foresight                              +2
CHR:  17                                Fort: 22          Ref: 26           Will: 33

Initiative: +11            Base Attack: +9       SR: 18 w/robes
                                    Grapple: +8                    22 w/Shadow Shield
                                                                             23 w/staff

Shadowed Staff of the Arch-Magus +9/+4 1d6+2 damage
Silver Dagger +8/+3 1d4+1 damage

Skills: Appraise 18, Balance 7, Bluff 23, Climb 1, Concentration 24, Craft 13, Decipher Script 23, Diplomacy 8, Disguise 25, Escape Artist 7, Forgery 15, Gather Information 8, Heal 4, Hide 17, Intimidate 3, Jump 1, Knowledge (Arcana 36, Architecture 19, Dungeoneering 19, Geography 19, History 19, Local 19, Nature 19, Nobility 21, Religion 21, Planes 34), Listen 4, Move Silently 17, Perform (Acting 8, Dance 7, Oratory 7), Profession (Monarch 18), Ride 10, Search 15, Sense Motive 4, Spellcraft 36 (39), Spot 4, Survival 4, Swim 1, Use Rope 7

Feats: Shadow Magic, Improved Initiative, Scribe Scroll, Improved Counterspell, Reactive Counterspell, Silent Spell, Deft Defense, Insidious Magic, Pernicious Magic, Tenacious Magic, Skill Focus: Spellcraft, Spell Focus: Illusion, Spell Focus: Enchantment, Craft Contingent Spell, Leadership, Enduring Life, Live My Nightmare1, Eyes in the Sky2, Non-Combatant3 (Flaw), Vulnerable4 (Flaw),
Enduring Life, Feat, page 26, Libris Mortis
Live My Nightmare (page 94, Unearthed Arcana): DC 17 Will to disbelieve & Fort to live
Eyes In The Sky (page 93, Unearthed Arcana): sense Sensors in 40 feet
Non-Combatant (page 91, Unearthed Arcana): -2 Melee
Vulnerable (page 91, Unearthed Arcana): -1 AC

Magic Items: Shadowed Staff of the Arch-Magus (Shadow Touched Staff of the Arch-Magi), Ioun Stone: Orange Prism (+1 Caster Level), Greater Extend Rod 9th lvl spells or less 3xday, Greater Quickened Rod 9th lvl spells or less 3xday, Bracers of Natural Armor +5, Ring of Protection +5, Ring of Force Shield +5 (+7 AC), Gloves of Dexterity +6, Mask of Warding Shadows (+5 Celestial Save Bonus), Boots of Fortuitous Warding (+5 Luck Save Bonus), Heward’s Handy Haversack, Black Cowled Crown of Shald’Hrune (+6 INT, Good Wearers +5 Celestial Bonus to AC, Neutral Wearers +5 Luck bonus to AC, INT casters +5 Insight bonus to AC), White Robes of the Arch-Magi (+5 AC, +4 to all saves, +2 vs. SR, gives SR 18), Amulet of the Raven King, Magical Trunk (Miniature 5,000 GP trunk, when opened summons full sized Trunk which holds Spell Books and other items). Various Misc. Scrolls and Potions.

Class Abilities: Shadow Adept: Low-light Vision, Darkvision (in all darkness), Shadow Defense (+3 on saves vs. Enchantment, Illusion, Necromancy and Darkness), Shadow Walk 1xDay (at 10th level), Greater Shield of Shadows (+4 AC, Negates Magic Missiles, SR 22, 20% Miss Chance, Lasts 18 rounds), Shadow Double (AC: 27, HP: 51, Saves: F 7, R 8, W 18, Str 12, Dex 18, Con 16, Int 30, Wis 17, Chr 17, lasts 18 rounds). Wizard: Summon Familiar. Arch-Mage: Mastery of Counterspelling, Spell Power +1 (+1 DC & +1 vs. SR).

Spells Typically Memorized (4/8/7/7/7/6/6/4/5/4) Spell DC: 24 plus level of spell
DC is +1 more for Necromancy & Darkness / DC +2 more for Illusion & Enchantment
0th: Detect Poison, Message, Message, Read Magic
1st: Charm Person, Charm Person, True Casting, True Casting, Know Protections, Magic Missile, Net of Shadows, Silent Image
2nd: Shadow Mask, Life Bolt, Life Bolt, Scourge of Force, Crystalline Memories, Toothed Tentacle, Web
3rd: Inevitable Defeat, Spectral Hand, Spellcaster’s Bane, Hold Person, Pall of Twilight, Control Darkness and Shadow, Dispel Magic
4th: Greater Mirror Image (Immediate), Spell Enhancer, Shadow Well, Ghorus Toth’s Metal Melt, Anticipate Teleportation, Nightmare Terrain, Thunderlance
5th: Wall of Force, Dominate Person, Break Enchantment, Teleport, Baleful Polymorph
6th: Disintegrate, Circle of Death, Permanent Image, Chain Lightning, Geas, Greater Dispel Magic
7th: Projected Image, Finger of Death, Forcecage, Mass Hold Person
8th: Horrid Wilting, Otiluke’s Telekinetic Sphere, Temporal Stasis, Scintillating Pattern, Maze
9th: Wail of the Banshee, Power Word: Kill, Time Stop, Bigby’s Crushing Hand

Contingent Spells

Displacement (Extended: 38 rounds), Immediate Action, If someone rolls to hit and succeeds; gives 50% Miss Chance.
Greater Mirror Image, activates immediately after Displacement above.
Fly (Extended: 38 minutes), If Rhannoch falls more than 10 feet (up or down).
Freedom (Instant on Self) vs. Binding, Entangle, Grappling, Imprisonment, Maze, Paralysis, Petrification, Pinning, Sleep, Slow, Stunning, Temporal Stasis & Web.
Foresight (Extended 380 minutes), Immediate Action, if Rhannoch becomes target of hostile action he is unaware of. +2 AC & +2 Reflex, Never Flat-Footed
Timestop, Immediate, if Rhannoch is reduced below ½ his Hit Points.
Greater Teleport, Immediate if reduced below ¼ Hit Points, sent to Dark Pit.
Anti-Magic Aura, Immediately activates after Greater Teleport above.

Non-Contingent Spell

Heart of Stone DR 5/- Resist Energy 5 vs. Cold, Fire & Electricity, Heal only 1 HP/Day, Healing Spells require DC 27 lvl check. Real Heart in Adamantine Case in Magical Trunk.

Rhannoch’s Drugs

Haunspeir (Pill): Ingested DC 12, Initial: 1d4 damage, Secondary: 1d4+1 INT for 1d10+15 minutes and Slashing and Piercing do +1 damage, Addiction: Low. Costs: 50 GP.
Panaeolo (Leaf): Ingested DC 8, Initial: None, Secondary: DC increases by +2 for 1d4 hours (does 1d6 temporary CHR damage), Overdose: in 1st hour increase to +3 DC, suffer 2d8 CHR damage, Addiction: Low. Costs: 250 GP.

Sakrash Wine: Ingested DC 11, Initial: Dazzled for 1 minute, Secondary: Can’t be detected by effects that read or alter thoughts or emotions (No detect thoughts, zone of truth, modify memory, emotion, fear, etc). This lasts 1d4 hours. Side Effects: No Shared Thoughts. Addiction: none. Costs: 500 GP.

For Rhannoch's "Lair" I've pirated a picture I found online, modified it slightly, and placed it here for you to use...I wish I could give credit to the original creator but I can't find her/his name.

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Glittering Isles of Greyhawk: Fantastic Feudalism

When I say "Fantastic Feudalism" I mean two things: it is great fun AND it is Fantasy Feudalism as well. A few questions should be asked by the DM about their fantasy setting:

1) How do those Knights afford their armor and mounts if they aren't adventurers?

2) Exactly how are the various governments ACTUALLY run in my campaign world?

3) How is the setting's economy affected by the government; and how is the government affected by the economy?

4) Is it easy to allow my players to have an estate of some sort...or even a barony if they desire it?

Those are the four main questions I had going into establishing The Glittering Isles of Greyhawk; but believe it or not, the answers were SOOOO easy after I found only two things.

The first thing I found was an article about changing the AD&D monetary system into something more like our own Western Europe experienced during the Medieval Era. I put up a post about that particular monetary system HERE. If you haven't read it yet (as well as the article I got a great deal of the information from) I encourage you to read that before going even a sentence further!

The second thing I found had absolutely NOTHING to do with AD&D. It is from a fantasy game though, and well worth your time: Harnmaster. Within the Harnmaster game system is a book called HarnManor (you can find HERE at the company site or HERE on Amazon) that gives you all the information you need to allow both you and your players a better look into a feudal society...and particularly the feudal society I'm running for my Glittering Isles campaign. Now, I should say here, I don't expect anyone to run out to grab this particular book, because frankly it isn't always to be found cheap! But if you DO want to get it, I think you will love the experience!

I can summarize briefly here what HarnManor can do to help your AD&D games: it gives a simple village generation system (based on the Feudal Manor system) that not only gives a population (in great detail!) for your various habitations of humanity, but also details easily the money to be made (gross and net) from a feudal manor. The ONLY change that needs to be made to HarnManor to make it fit into the Aerdy Pound/Glittering Isles monetary system is to cut all values of "d" (pennies) in half from the HarnManor supplement. Then it fits smoothly into the system detailed in Todd's Aerday Pound article from Footprints 15 at Dragonsfoot. Yep, that is all you have to do.

Now, for those of you not wanting to buy HarnManor, you will not have as great of a detail as I plan to use, but you can still get a solid feeling for the AD&D Feudal Government I plan to use. Instead of using HarnManor all you need to do is convert the numbers in various places for the DMG (Dungeon Master's Guide), PHB (Player's Handbook), UA (Unearthed Arcana) and the various Monster Books (I, II, Fiend Folio) into the Aerdy Pound monetary system. You will then be able to run a Player Character focused gaming experience just as easily. Most of the conversions are straightforward (X now equals Y); but the treasure tables are a little different. I personally shifted all things "up" one category for my treasure tables: Copper takes Silver's place, Silver takes Gold's place, Electrum becomes more silver, and Gold takes Platinum's place on the charts. What takes Copper's place? More Copper...just roll for copper normally, then convert it to the new monetary system. Pretty straightforward like I said.

For those of you that DO get HarnManor (or already have it?), the paperwork does indeed increase a small amount; but it is worth it. By generating villages (and have literally every settlement on  your map detailed) ahead of time, the work you have to do will be actually less during game play. I know, not everyone has time to devote to this...I understand that completely. However, if you do this instead of binge-watching Daredevil on Netflix then you will be surprised at what you can get done right?! Well, that is what helped me.

Just as an example, lets look at a Manor as generated by HarnManor; not in detail, but in the abstract so that everyone can follow along. I'll use my very primitive map of Mathghamhna as a basis for the idea so you can follow more easily. The Thorp of Mathghamhna is near the city of Widdershin; only 3 miles away in fact. An ancient ruin (that we don't need to detail at this point; but it WILL come up in a future article about Mathghamhna) sits near the tiny village, and in the village are the following things:

1) A fortified tower that holds a half dozen Men-at-Arms and their Captain. Their job is to tax anyone going into the ruin and out...although nobody has ever made it out.

2) There is a Council Storehouse (the Council of Widdershin owns the land here, and so a sizable portion of all crops grown goes to the Council and they are stored here before transport to town.

3) Two Grain Storage barns that hold the grains recently harvested by the peasants; as well as various tubers, apples and etc also grown/found here.

4) A Mercantyler who is part of the Mercantyler's Guild. He is only here because it saves a great deal of time for locals to buy things here instead of going into town (picture the medieval version of the corner market near your house).

5) A Tavern owned by a member of the Tavern Master's Guild. He is the only individual in town allowed to brew ale or beer; though alewives from the peasants families are also allowed to brew for their personal needs as it is better to drink small beer than water in a medieval village...including children.

6) A Shrine (and attendant "holy house") to Berei where a minor cleric of that god is to be found who tends to the needs (both spiritual and medical) of the thorp.

7) A Councilor's Manor. This building is not owned by the man and his family that inhabit the place. They are instead part of the functionary government of the Free Seaholds hired to oversee the interests of the Council of Widdershin. Normally in a feudal society, this would be the home of some minor lord or knight; but in a Republic such as the Free Seaholds many such thorps and villages are now the property of the Council of Widdershin which appoints a minor functionary to take care of things locally.

Last, but most importantly, 17 peasant homes/families. Without the 17 families of Mathghamhna, things just wouldn't get done in the thorp! With an average of 5 members per family, this puts approximately 85 peasants living in the place. Most of these are what are called Villeins; and they owe their lives to the local lord (in this case, the council's representative). Others are called "Cottars" and they have very little land, and instead supplement their meager income and food by doing menial labor around the village; though some probably go into Widdershin to do work as well.

Because the thorp is so close to Widdershin, there is no need for some of the usual things you would find in a feudal manor: no metalworker/smith, no mill and no woodworker...all of these individuals are so near at hand in Widdershin that they are not needed for the daily functioning of the thorp at all. Also, unlike in most medieval settlements, there are no Yeoman at all. A yeoman is an individual who farms land much like a Villein, but instead of owing common labor (shoving shite from the stable, tending the needs of the noble family and etc.) the Yeoman  serves a certain number of days each year in a military capacity. Because the place is garrisoned by Men-at-Arms with loyalty to the Council, there is no call for Yeomen from this village...though in some settlements there probably is such a need so that the Council has a military to call on!

Other functions normally had in a village are: Reeve (who sees to the direction of the village's farming and other needs, essentially the Foreman of the place), Beadle (who is the law enforcer of a village for minor matters, but here overseen by the Men-at-Arms by direction of their Captain) and some few others.

There are many other aspects to the feudal life that can be helpful to know about when running your AD&D or other fantasy games; but there you have a brief summary of what is to be found. There are woodsmen, millers, woodworkers, smiths, innkeepers, and so much more. If you want to read more, without buying HarnManor (which I still encourage you to do) then I suggest you go to your local library, go into the children's section (yes, there are solid books there!) and get any of the "Eyewitness" books such as: medieval life, viking, knight and etc. They are an invaluable resource to me in running my games because of the pictures alone!

I hope you decide to get HarnManor...and remember to cut all values in "d" (or pennies) in half; including the costs and the incomes. I think you will find that it really helps flesh out your fantasy campaign!