Monday, September 29, 2008

Gaming in Redwall

A while back, a reader emailed me to ask if I knew of any games set in Brian Jacques' Redwall series. At the time, I didn't, but I should have known good ol' 1KM1KT would come through. The Sword of Martin is a free RPG designed with the Redwall series specifically in mind. As a disclaimer, I haven't played it yet, but its a 28-page pdf that seems pretty easy to pick up. I'm curious to hear some feedback on this one. Hopefully, this fits the bill!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Quick 6: My Favorite Rifts Worldbooks Of All Time

I am an old fan of Rifts, which I realize immediately makes me suspect among certain circles. Be that as it may, I can't help but love the kitchen-sink, over-italicized awesomeness that is Rifts.

Time for another episode of Quick 6! Here's a short list of my 6 favorite Rifts Worldbooks--no Sourcebooks, Dimension Books, or anything else, just those loveable Worldbooks. I will also be listing a relative, all-important Gun Porn Rating, ostensibly on a scale of 1-10. Let's count them down:

1) New West: Oh my goodness. Awesome classes like the Psi-Slinger, Gunfighter, and Lawman. The Gunfighter is likely my favorite, just for the sheer amount of firepower he brings to the table. Also does a nice job of supplying a western-themed product for the Rifts setting--from old-style laser pistols to cowboy-themed power armor. All that's missing is the Texas chili (and it isn't in Rifts: Lone Star, either).
Gun Porn Rating: 9/10.

2) Warlords of Russia: This book is one of the heaviest on cybernetics, and many of the designs bring to mind Soviet Union military design--heavy, awkward, and bulky, but effective and deadly.
Gun Porn Rating: 8.5/10 (with a 100/10 for Cyborg Porn).

3) Vampire Kingdoms: The first Rifts World Book, and still one of the best. It perfectly captures the early, sparsely-populated North America of Rifts Earth. Great descriptions on what lies south of the border, and fantastic hooks for the various Vampire and monster powers that lie that way (as well as a good job of providing some lonely human outposts here and there).
Gun Porn Rating: 1/10 (unless you like squirt guns and water cannons--Vampires don't).

4) Triax and the NGR: A wonderful description of central Europe and remnant of Germany, Triax is often considered the last The weaponry and robotics in this book is uniformly excellent, but the vehicles stole the show for me (but what's with the tiny little platform with the giant missle on it? Who thought that through? What happens to the crew when it launches?). There's plenty of New German Republic classes, and a great enemy to fight in the Gargoyles.
Gun Porn Rating: A respectable, efficient 8/10.

5) Mystic Russia: The companion book to Warlords of Russia, Mystic Russia manages to capture many fascinating bits of Russian folk culture and belief. The Old Believer magic and the rest of the spells in here are superb. A surprisingly non-insane book in terms of power level late in the series.
Gun Porn Rating: 1/10.

6) Coalition War Campaign: Everyone's favorite Nazi stand-ins are back! Countless military classes, upgraded vehicles and guns, new suits of power armor, and plenty of Coalition States information--all in the name of Defending Humanity. I've run Rifts games just with classes out of the book, and it was a blast.
Gun Porn Rating: 10/10.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Greyhawk Day #4: Going Wayback

One thing that makes me alternately sad and thrilled is when I use the Wayback Machine to try to recover Greyhawk material no longer actively online. On one hand, I'm bummed because it these items are no longer easily accessible or at least visible, but on the other hand, its like going on a treasure hunt.

Here's an example of a few I've found:

History of Oerth


Copyright 1997

List of Greyhawk Mini Figs


Temple of Elemental Evil PC Site


Old AOL page (some articles from the Masters linked here)

Product Reviews


An Old Campaign Homepage

Greyhawk Heraldry


Using the Wayback Machine is not only fun, but can be an amusing look back at what folks thought about the hobby, circa 1995-2000. We have agonizing over TSR pulling support for Greyhawk, rejoicing at it coming back, bitter partisanship over changes and pigeonholing for Living Greyhawk/3e, and everything else we've come to enjoy in this fine hobby.

The Wayback Machine is sort of like a dungeon delve, isn't it? Maybe that's why I enjoy it so much.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My Resignation From The ENnies: An Explanation

The thought this year, among certain members of the ENnies, was that the categories of Best Podcast and Best Electronic Product should no longer need to send in a CD, but rather could more conveniently send a link to their product. The hope was that this would make the awards more accessible, not only podcasters, fan sites, and shoestring-budget pdf-only companies. It was also hoped that this would stimulate international submissions by bypassing the postage/customs headache that mailing from overseas could be.

You see, the ENnies requires each publisher to send 5 copies of their work (one to each judge), and then a 6th as a backup to the ENnies. If this book isn't used due to a missing judge copy or somesuch, then it is auctioned off, to support the various expenses the ENnies incur--operating costs, awards, that sort of thing. All well and good, yes?

The proposal was this--open Best Podcast and Best Electronic Product (and Best Fansite, of course) to link submissions, meaning unlike the prior rules, they could just fill out the submission form and link to their product. Since the other categories remained in the domain of deadtree products, this would open up two or three categories that would likely benefit most from this change without harming the financial model of the ENnies. In my opinion, it was a way to grow the awards in terms of fan/podcaster, pdf-only publisher, small press/indie, and international participation.

But it clearly is not to be. The ENnies feel that if you submit via link, you should pay an unprecedented submission fee to support the awards. In other words, they are asking you to pay them to consider your product's quality for the award. This donation, as proposed would go mainly to the ENnies, with a percentage going to each judge. Several individuals also wanted this as another "barrier" to the awards process, one of them going so far as to worry "we'll get tons of ill-considered crap that isn't worth the time to download". Hardly the right attitude for a judge, I'd say.

I will tell you right now, I will not accept one red cent of that money. I'm not saying this because I want a pat on the back, I just want you to know where I stand, as I always promised I'd be direct with you. I disapprove of this measure entirely, and find it to be a move in the wrong direction for the openness and accessibility of the awards. Instead of making a move that in no way hurt the ENnies but instead possibly improved awards participation, ease, and lowering cost for the entrants, they chose to go with a measure that provided a new income source for the awards, but that would do nothing to grow the awards in any sense. Bear in mind, this is despite the ENnies allowing several last-minute "usual suspect" and much-vaunted companies to submit via link at the very end of the submission period last year (for no charge, of course)! I'm not sure where this will lead, or what impact it will have. But at least you'll know where I stood.

I am, in a word, disillusioned with the ENnies. I am disillusioned with this, I am disillusioned with the attitude shown towards podcasters and fan products, and I am disillusioned with the purposeful lack of transparency in the awards. I am disappointed in the inconsistency shown on treatment of publishers and in dealing with technical issues.

I was especially angered and extremely disappointed when it was suggested that we retroactively change the submission cutoff dates for Book of Experimental Might 2 so that it would go undiscovered that it was accidentally ineligible for the awards period in question. I feel that judges should not be paid, but should be satisfied with the honor of being chosen to evaluate so much hard work (and all the books they receive on top of that). We have been entrusted to give every product a fair evaluation--there should be no bias or disgust at a product's chosen medium.

I don't feel any of this is in the spirit of making the awards transparent and more open. The air of prediliction towards certain favorites and an insular, incestuous culture for the awards themselves is a cancer which, if left untreated, will damage the awards' relevancy and standing.

With that in mind, and because I will not be a further party to matters I do not feel are right, I have suggested the ENnies contact alternate judge Jeramy Ware. I will work to ensure he receives all materials he needs to do the best job he can. In short, the ENnies need to adapt further to recognize both the growing shape and form of the gaming community. As I find it impossible to affect that change in this current situation, I can no longer support the ENnies. I am sorry for the inconvenience, and I am sorry I could not be a better voice and representative for those who elected me. Thank you.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My Top 10 D&D Adventures of All Time

I came across a post a while back over at Grognardia regarding the top 30 D&D modules/adventures of all time. I've since then been struggling with my own list, but in the end, think it turned out pretty well. Check out my list, and then feel free to discuss, add your list, or reminisce about these picks!

Zachary's Top 10 List of D&D Modules

10. White Plume Mountain (S2): James over at Grognardia said this was perhaps a bit too artificial a setup, but I've never had that problem with it in that sense. Perhaps just a little on the short side, but great puzzles to figure out.

9. Dwellers of the Forbidden City (I1): A nice, hefty virtual campaign unto itself.

8. Dungeonland (EX1): I don't hear this one bandied about much, but this is a great Gygaxian dungeon, if a little unreasonably for higher levels.

7. Isle of Dread (X1): Pulpy fun. How fondly I still remember the maps!

6. Bottle City (Pied Piper Publishing): An enjoyable piece of history from the original Lake Geneva campaign.

5. The Village of Hommlet (T1): I love Temple of Elemental Evil, but Hommlet remains my favorite part. Likely one of the best introductions to D&D one could ask for (see my #1 pick for my other choice).

4. Against The Giants--Liberation of Geoff: I'm including the Silver Anniversary edition of this (yes, I know its 3 modules in 1), because that's the one I primarily played. This is a monster module collection, one that can give you months of adventures. This is a standard for any Greyhawk campaign I run.

3. Tomb of Horrors (S1): Your players will consider this cruel and unusual punishment. Then they'll come back asking for more.

2. Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (S3): Hardest. Damned. Module. Ever. This is a damned abattoir, completely with gonzo sci-fi weaponry.

1. Keep on the Borderlands (B2): A wonderful starter, and still likely the first module I'll run with my kids. As close to perfect as a D&D module can be. A no-brainer at the #1 spot.

Honorable Mention: Palace of the Silver Princess (B3): A very well-written beginner's module, this could on any given day squeeze into my top 10. There are a good half-dozen more that would warrant serious consideration, as well.


My worst? Easily Castle Greyhawk (WG7). Some jokes just aren't funny. And so it is with Castle Greyhawk. Even some the really cruddy modules out there, like The Doomgrinder or Gargoyle, have a leg up on CG.

I'd love to hear everyone else's lists!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hitting The Links

I just wanted to mention I finally got around to adding a few new folks and sites to my Links. I try not to have a metric ton of sites I recommend folks go to, because I don't want them to get lost in the shuffle, but I discovered I had somehow left ChattyDM off the list, which is clearly absurd. In addition, in honor of our newly-found Greyhawk Day feature, I added Canonfire! and Greyhawk Grognard.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Oh yeah, the ENnies.

Sorry if I haven't posted much on the ENnies yet. There's a lot in the first wave to digest, and I've been distracted by a) a bad back, b) some craziness at work, and c) the fact that the ENnies folks are still working on sorting out this year's categories and guidelines. My hope remains that any adjustments will leave the awards more open and representative of the hobby as a whole, but we'll see where things end up. I'm really happy we have the separate submissions coordinator this year, which should help with some of the snafus of years past. I know we all do our best to ensure nothing's missed, but a dedicated pair of eyes should really boost the Quality Control rating of the entire process.

In the I'm teeing up to give 3:16 another go, after a poor demo at Gen Con. I'm really hoping that a few answers I've received online regardingly gameplay and the like will change this from the mindless, loosey-goosey gameplay I experienced last time out. A lot of folks really seem to dig this, and I of course need to give it every shot I can. The interior production on 3:16 are really nicely evocative and well done--let's hope the next Actual Play comes out the same!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

d20 Mass Combat

I've tried several d20 mass combat systems, to include those of The Black Company (ok) and Conan (not so ok, but here's the direct pdf link). However, I have to say I'm pretty please with the efforts of the excellent homebrew site Farland World. Their mass combat rules cover a lot of ground without being nitpicky, and there's even a link to a small program which makes it super-easy. I'm working on trying it out with Pathfinder.

So, inquiring minds want to know--what do you use for mass combats? A homebrew system? An older D&D rules supplement? One of the items I've mentioned? Do you skew towards the detailed, abstract, or somewhere in-between? Let's hear it!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Greyhawk Day #3: Anagrams, Puns & Codes!

Greyhawk Day has been a lot of fun so far--and I'm deviating off our excellent queue today to furnish a link for my buddy Dennis, who was surprised to learn so many characters and locations in Greyhawk were puns, anagrams, or codes for Gary Gygax's friends, players, family, and associates. Yes, yes they are.

Thanks to Grodog for this page, which will shed some light on where Bigby, Kas, Tasha, Ulek, and so many more names and places came from. Dennis, my friend, enjoy--this is the sort of thing Greyhawk Day is all about.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Coat of Arms Creator

I've been creating coats of arms for my games for awhile online with clipart and the like, but I have to say I'm really impressed with the Coat of Arms Creator by Joe Wetzel at Inkwell Ideas. If you're the sort of person that uses heraldry for PCs or as props in your game, you should really dig this. The wiki on the site also has some handy tips and background information. Definitely worth your time, but you'll want to make sure your Java is in good shape.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Traveller Blog Roll Call!

Long-time readers of the blog will know that I am a Grognard (J.G.) of the Traveller Universe. (Ask me for my IMTU code sometime). There are a number of blogs out there dedicated to Traveller or Traveller-esque resources. Sound off!:

The Zhodani Base: Musings on various aspects of Traveller canon, and a new addition to the RPG Bloggers Network. Welcome!

CotI Blogs:
Citizens of the Imperium does allow members of their Imperial Moot to have blogs. Most are rarely updated, but that doesn't mean there aren't some interesting tidbits here and there.

My Own Private Universe:
Universe-building, using the Classic Traveller rules.

IMTU: Rarely updated, but has some interesting visual resources.

Traveller Map: Stay updated on the news regarding the amazing Traveller Map.

Stellar Reaches: A fanzine for Traveller. Updates in blog format.

You'll note a lot of these blogs aren't updated as much as one might like. This is strange, considering Traveller has one of the most robust online communities of any game title/series. But it could be that the Traveller fandom is more forum and mailing list-oriented, just as some fanbases are more at home on blogs or somesuch.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Greyhawk Day #2: Gods, Oerdian and Otherwise

Today's Greyhawk Day article comes from the personal files (circa 1997) of Scott Casper, who like yours truly pines for the Greytalk archives to return. This article provides an interesting look at the deities of Greyhawk (GH), and a through response to an earlier posting (noted in italics), as well as not bad advice for anyone dealing with deities and detail in a campaign setting. Please note minimal additional formatting has been furnished to make an easier presentation of the subject matter, and that this is a partial transcription of a longer Greytalk post. We have a lot more great Greyhawk stuff to come! Send your original Greyhawk articles, maps, stories, and memories to mail.rpgblog(at)gmail.com. Enjoy!:

Since I’ve been the Gods of Oerth series and scouring the various sources for little bits of info which I could exploit, I thought I might jump in to this discussion myself. Kent Matthewson was the original poster.


I. The Problems with the Pantheons

Some problems arise when considering that the gods of GH are real beings in the “game"world, so that unlike the “real” world, it raises these questions in my mind: How many gods can there realistically be, in total, and how do we resolve overlapping spheres of influence? If each pantheon has their sky/thunder god, their god of oceans, etc. – the air and water become crowded, conflicting places – who has precedence in the seas, for example – Xerbo or Procan (ignoring that one is a greater and one a lesser god)?


In my campaign the answer is: “eh?” As a GM I’d like to know *everything* about my world, but with limited resources and even more limited time, I leave it up to the gods, whom the Players will most likely never meet, to decide this. In so far as I’m concerned they can fight it out with all of the Forgotten Realms gods and the Birthright gods and…


It comes down to homodiegetic vs. heterodiegetic. In the latter’s case, we worry about which direction the angular momentum is going, what a deity really looks like in person, and whether the carrying capacity of Oerth would really be exceeded if Orcs were fed aphrodisiacs en masse. In the former’s case, we concern ourselves with what the players might think the sun is, how they relate to their gods, and the taboo of talking about Orcsex.


In the last year or so, after a campaign I hosted sputtered and died due to lack of special interest, I began to worry less about giving the history of Oerik in one hour or less at the beginning, and worried more about telling the players the outlandish (and far more interesting) lies that their grandmothers would have told them. I quickly found that no one but me really cared which way the Oerth turned, but rather wanted to hear more atrocity tales about the horrors which Iuz had perpetrated. My players are human! So I guess my answer is… if you’re Oeridian Procan beat the living crap out of Xerbo who now sits in a sea cave crying all day… if not then Xerbo is the One True God of the Sea and Procan’s priests are a bunch of corrupt bastards (even if they do get spells from someone).


In the “real” world, it was recognized even by the ancient Greeks (Herodotus, for example) that the deities of other pantheons were the gods of the Greeks, but by different names (Herodotus in particular, equates with the gods of Egypt and Asia Minor), and in modern times we recognize certain “archetypal” gods that reappear in differing cosmologies. However, on Oerth, these gods are not variations, but real, distinct beings, so that proposing to fill the “gaps” in the current pantheons creates more problems than it solves.


The Hindus just consider other gods (generally speaking) to be yet another in their immense pantheon. The Romans’ gods, if they did exist, might not have actually been variations on the Germanic/Norse gods or vice versa, but the Romans thought so. So long as they still received spells ;-) who cared?


Of course, we currently have such a difficulty in some spheres – Wee Jas/Boccob, Ulaa/Fortubo, Joramy/Pyremius, Rao/Delleb, Lendor/Cyndor, Procan/Xerbo, Ehlonna/Obad-Hai, and Velnius & the 4 Winds/Phaulkon. Many of these can be resolved on a case-by-case basis, by differentiating subtle distinctions within their spheres, but it takes some doing (and possibly fudging)


But why assume that they have to be differentiated at all? I’m asking this, not as a rhetorical question, but as a serious inquiry. Suppose that the gods never get together across cultural pantheons, that because every outer plane is infinite in scope they just don’t run into one another. If the only access they have to Oerth is the *rare* avatar, then their only agents are their worshippers who can compete or cooperate.


There is also the interesting issue of the merging of faiths due to the Great Migrations. Many of the deities from various pantheons have since come to be embraced as being common to all areas (according to the original god list from the ’83 boxed set). This seems appropriate, especially after a thousand years. The more interesting item on the list, however, are the many gods that are not only common, but of no particular ethnic origin. I can only conclude that these deities were common to all or at least some (more than one) pantheon prior to the Cataclysms. These deities include St. Cuthbert, Ehlonna, Trithereon, Boccob, and Incabulos, as well as several lesser-known deities. I think it would be appropriate to decide on a case-by-case basis which deities were common to which pantheons (ie Cuthbert perhaps being common to the Oerid and the Suel, but not the Baklunish or Flan). When drawing up racial pantheons, any or all of these deities could be included, and factored in when drawing up the cultural traits, political structures, etc. that each race commonly has.


IMC, the ‘common’ deities (of lesser or higher standing) were initially either individual cults or parts of another pantheon all together. As a preview of Gods of Oerth, vol III, the Oeridians were kenotheists in the Hindu sense. That is, every god is great and the greatest one at a time. Praise Celestian, greatest of all gods, in the morning, then pray to Heironeous, chief of power in the gods’ realms and mightiest of all, in the evening. Given this openness and will to recognize gods of all stripes, we see certain absorption and dissemination of religions. That is, the reason that they’re commonly worshipped is because their religions have been changed to a the greatest degree possible w/o being offensive to the gods’ sensibilities. Xenophobic constructs or subversive elements to the cults have been sterilized. “Common” comes to mean not only frequency, but the degree to which the religion has been spread thin over the continent.


Moreover, it will be Kambellian’s thesis that this is absolutely necessary (bloody Oeridian that he is). That is, if any other culture had dominated the subcontinent, we would be looking at a different picture altogether. If the Baklunish peoples (to be Vol II), who were reforming the church of Istus and effectively downsizing the pantheon when the main thrust of their migrations began, were to have dominated the continent these cults would not have been tolerated to any great degree and worship of most gods would have been divided into regional cults. The Suel (to be Vol. IV) would have demanded that their gods, who (according to the Suel) really do determine the events within their spheres of influence, be worshipped as the primary gods. Here again, we see something of a repression and the likelihood that many of the gods would have disappeared.


II. The Oerdians

[Excellent thoughts on the Oeridian pantheon snipped]


Here are some of my own observations. First, we have two sets of brothers, indicating that these gods are thought to have been born and that their interrelationships are a factor of time and history. We can also note that this gives them a mortal quality, at least in the legends.

The pantheon is distinctly patriarchal. You mentioned Obad-Hai, whom I recall being Flan, but aside from her, of all of the intermediate powers, not one is female. Also note that unlike the Suel pantheon, in whose families deity status seems to be hereditary (Kord), the parents of our two sets of brothers, Hextor-Heironeous and Celestian-Fharlanghn, are of little consequence. Whether it is because they were mortals (who gives a damn about them anyway? J) or because they were gods lost to time is a matter which we can debate here ad nauseum without ever getting conclusive evidence.

On the other hand, we don’t (to my knowledge) ever hear of them paying visits to one another. Procan is never found knocking on Celestian’s door asking him to turn down the head of the sun because it makes his oceans evaporate, and Erythnul to our knowledge hasn’t ever invited Telchur over for tea and patries. The many forms of Erythnul seem to hint that he may have come from the humanoids (as opposed to them adopting him). You can tell I’m leaning towards this kind of open-minded adoption hypothesis right through prehistory (similar to what the Greeks did).


Because of the lack of evidence of anything but the most occasional interaction, IMC, the Oeridians are god thieves. Look at the binary Cain-Abel nature of the Hextor-Heironeous pair and compare it to the benign brotherhood of Celestian and Fharlanghn. There doesn’t seem to be a consistent tradition, leading me to view everything through a lens of cultural assimilation.


In my timeline, mostly adapted from OJ1, the Oeridians were the slaves of the Suloise empire. They toiled in the equatorial sun to get what little they could from the soil so that their masters could have time for games and the occasional social gathering. As the original inhabitants of the Plain of Pesh, they had been tribal and each possessing their own god(s) and extremely distinct dialects and even languages. When the Suel conquered the land, the tribes were forced into a mush of cultures. Their treatment and standard of living varied from dynasty to dynasty; some times they had to be paid for their work (a piddly amount).


So each tribe member had to accept her sister’s god. It was a survival thing. Many of those gods have been lost to time for want of worshippers, but we have some in the form of the basic Oeridian pantheon.


To complete the narrative, the Oeridians dribbled out when they could. But, when the time was ripe, they eventually rose and killed a number of their masters in the province of South Pesh. Fearing further uprising, they were emancipated and were force-marched to the north and into the Baklunish empire (who accepted them but resented the influx of impoverished people which devastated the economy, leading to strains in their already bloody relationship with the Suel… and here we go!).


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Indie Gaming Scene

RPG Pundit just posted a flashback link to the old Indie Gaming Scene blog, which is the fake site of a die-hard, elitist indie RPG adherent and advocate, and which still makes me laugh. I love a lot of small-press games, but nowadays, when people are still divisive with the hobby, they don't even try to be funny about it. I personally enjoy this bit:

Anyhow, I’m helping him playtest his game Limbo Fever, which is all about the choices contestants in a dance competition face; basically, it all comes down to the question “how low can you go?”. We’re also using it to explore some heavy personal stuff. There was a moment where my Venezuelan limbo king dealt with his alternative sexuality, which was really a powerful moment at our table. I didn’t see the game going that way, but the Professor threw it in there.

Now, I love many of the people and games out there at Story Games with a passion, but you have to admit, it wouldn't sound out of place there or at the Forge. If we can't laugh at ourselves and others, we need to remember what it is we're doing in this hobby.

I think we've seen all sorts of gamers can be pretty narrow-minded when it comes to their favorite games--even Cornell Richardson.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Greyhawk Day #1: The Battle of Emridy Meadows

I'm very pleased to announce the inaugural Greyhawk Day column, which will run every Friday on this site. We'll explore the majestic, wild, stately, entertaining, and historic world of Greyhawk, one of the first campaign settings for D&D, and certainly one of the most well-regarded and memorable.

Today's column is by Mike "mortellan" Bridges, Canonfire! contributor and Greyhawk artist. He's written an excellent article about the Battle of Emridy Meadows--a fight well-documented and important to the region's history and, as we'll see, to a popular published adventure or two.

This is the first in a potential series of articles detailing the known military history of the Flanaess. The Battle of Emridy Meadows begins this survey because its location near Greyhawk makes it the best known and most comprehensively written battle in canon (Out of over 50 listed battles and wars). All battle articles will attempt to cover the conflict in three parts; the prelude to battle, the battle itself and any possible aftermath. Maps and figures on troops strengths and casulties when possible are taken from canon or otherwise inferred from secondary sources.

-mortellan

The Battle of Emridy Meadows

Conflict & Date:

The Battle of Emridy Meadows occurred in the spring of 569 CY.

Armies & Commanders:

Allied army (1700 total)
Prince Thrommel IV, Marshal of Furyondy and Veluna.
Viscount Wilfrick of Verbobonc.
1200 humans, 200 dwarves, 100 gnomes, 200 elves.
Horde of Elemental Evil (@4570 total)
Unnamed cultist lieutenants from the Temple of Elemental Evil.
3500 orcs, 550 humans, 500 gnolls, 20 ogres.

Result:

The allied forces of Prince Thrommel IV slaughter the Horde of Elemental Evil.

Casualties:

Allied army
200 human, 55 dwarves, 25 gnomes, 20 elves
Horde of Elemental Evil
4500+ (Survivors eventually fall at siege of Temple)


Prelude
Sometime in the late 550s the village of Nulb began to fester with all manner of evil folk, culminating with the founding of the soon infamous Temple of Elemental Evil. Before long local caravans, gnome clans and the neighboring village of Hommlet became easy targets for bandits from that region. Following many years of these simple raids and complacency among the rural folk, matters grew steadily worse by 568 CY. First was the construction of the Moathouse, an outpost east of Hommlet meant for further raids, then agents of Good also discovered that not only was the Temple mustering a small army but that the cult of Elemental Evil was actually under the direction of a powerful demoness.

News of this Evil quickly spread from the Viscounty of Verbobonc to the ears of Prince Thrommel IV, Marshall of the combined armies of Furyondy and Veluna and also a renowned paladin. Compelled into a quest, the Prince left behind his concerns to the north, and promptly called upon his most pious knights, clerics and his own picked guards to help bring down this profane temple. Shortly after crossing the Velverdyva River in the spring of 569 CY, the host of Prince Thrommel joined with waiting contingents summoned from Veluna and Verbobonc. Accompanying these forces was Serten of St. Cuthbert, the lone member of the Citadel of Eight to volunteer aid to Thrommel’s cause.1 Not long after the allied column began their slow march to the southeast they were met by a welcome council of demi-human bands from the Lortmils, Kron Hills and the Gnarley Forest, who had similarly decided to deal with the growing presence of evil at their borders.

When the allied forces closed to within a day of the Temple they first encountered the enemy on the open fields several leagues south of Verbobonc City and northwest of Hommlet called Emridy Meadows. The bulk of the Temple’s human forces, comprised of mostly mounted bandits, brigands and mercenaries had moved to stall Thrommel’s advance. Elven scouts then reported that a much larger than expected army of creatures was approaching from the south. Knowing the Temple might empty its entire horde early, Thrommel went with a contingency plan drawn up in council. In an attempt to draw this Horde of Elemental Evil away from any population centers, he ordered the withdrawal of the entire allied column north, to a strategic position near the east bank of the Velverdyva River. Despite some later historical accounts there was no significant fighting at Emridy Meadows, for the only action that day was light cavalry skirmishes screening the withdrawal to a more favorable battlefield.2 Outnumbering their foes by more than three to one and eager for their first combat victory in the region, the Horde of Elemental Evil predictably pursued Thrommel’s forces north.

Battle
It was at dawn when the horde was roused early from their rest by the signal horns of the allies preparing their formations for battle. The packed ranks of the allied contingents were arrayed so that 500 pikemen were protected on their flank by the Velverdyva River while at the center was displayed the colorful banners of 400 light cavalry and 100 heavy cavalry led by Thrommel himself. Finally, on the allied left were deployed blocks of 200 Lortmil dwarves and 100 Kron Hill gnomes, with about 50 elven archers of clan Meldarin positioned in between.3 The Horde of Elemental Evil was comprised of two forces. On the hordes’ left flank rode 550 human cavalry made up of bandits and Nulbish thugs with little experience in warfare beyond raiding lightly defended caravan trains. To the bandit’s right was a much larger force of humanoid infantry, a host of 3500 orcs drawn from the dark forests to the southeast and even the very depths of the Oerth. Also among them howled frenzied warbands of gnolls some 500 strong, and towering over all nearly 20 crudely armed ogres culled by the Temple from the surrounding wilds to provide heavy support.

With reckless abandon the cultist lieutenants commanded their human cavalry ranks to engage the right flank and center of the allied forces, not that the rabble of humanoids gave them much choice. The majority of the Horde immediately charged the allied left flank once they saw the shields and heard the taunts of their traditional enemies. The enraged mass of humanoids was allowed to push aside the smaller demi-human ranks in a hasty attempt to encircle the rest of the allied army. Thrommel’s pikemen and screening cavalry also allowed the charging bandit cavalry to penetrate their line leaving them between the bend of the Velverdyva River and packed in with the encircling mob of humanoids. This of course sprung the trap planned by the Prince. At once the whole allied army pivoted counter-clockwise to encircle the Horde in this pocket. As Thrommel’s knights quickly turned to counter-attack the humanoid main body from the rear, 150 more elven warriors came from hidden reserve in the Gnarley Forest to close the killing arc.4 With their backs to the river and their leadership in disarray, the Horde of Elemental Evil was completely routed. While most fought to the death, scattered groups did manage to break out of the allied lines only to be hunted down or drowned in flight. However some survivors were allowed to flee south back to their Temple as a message of what was to come next.

After the field was won Prince Thrommel wasted little time in rallying his weary troops and collecting their fallen. The most storied among those slain at Emridy was Serten of St. Cuthbert who fell during the final moments of the battle zealously defending the Prince to his last breath. This would later be a major loss to the allies’ plans for their next phase in the campaign, the siege of the Temple of Elemental Evil.


Aftermath
News of the victory at Emridy Meadows spread fast to Hommlet, the first evidence coming as strange men dressed in ochre were sighted running through the village in panic. The Temple of Elemental Evil lay within a couple days march for the allied host. Their coming emboldened the local villagers and farmers, knowing the end of the Temple were at hand. The allied forces, having met no resistance on their march were refreshed and well supplied once they finally laid siege to the walled fortress of the Temple. Inside the cult of Elemental Evil futilely held out with a scant garrison of troops, falling within a fortnight as the army threw down the upper works of their fortress just short of damaging the central Temple itself. Only a few of the vile leaders of the Temple managed to escape, and it is said these vengeful individuals were later to blame for the sudden disappearance of Prince Thrommel IV in 573 CY.

Fearing a raid on the dungeons of the profane Temple would be too costly given the presence of a major demoness (Zuggtmoy), Prince Thrommel summoned all his mages and clerics to cooperate in creating great seals to bind this evil within the deepest parts of her own dungeon.5 Four pairs of large bronze doors starting with the Grand Entrance of the Temple were each bound with heavy iron chains and their seams filled with softened metal. Lastly runes were carved into the bronze portals bearing abjurations of arcane and holy power. With the final spells in place Evil was contained at last, but in the following years, agents of Good would remain nearby to keep an eye on the Temple for its inevitable resurgence.

Nearly inconsequential during the siege of the Temple, the raiders’ Moathouse was the last piece to fall before Thrommel’s quest was complete. While the Prince oversaw the binding of the Temple, he sent a splinter force with their leftover siege machines to take the small outpost. Remarkably a mob of villagers from Hommlet, long terrorized by the evils of this place, joined in to help surround and raze the Moathouse.

There was no shortage of heroes at the Battle of Emridy Meadows. Viscount Wilfrick attained fame for his part in commanding the campaign. His fortune and gratitude was shown to Hommlet through the construction of a temple of St. Cuthbert and the beginnings of a walled castle bestowed upon Burne the wizard and his friend the warrior Rufus, both veterans of Emridy. Another fighter earning fame at Emridy Meadows was Ricard Damaris who lost a finger on his left hand and suffered a wound that left him the distinctive triangular scar on his face. Ricard would later return to the Temple of Elemental Evil with the opportunistic Lord Robilar to help plunder its dungeons and earn enough to retire as the owner of the popular Green Dragon Inn in Greyhawk City. And brave Serten was given a grandiose funeral service in Verbobonc attended by many who fought with him at Emridy. Ironically, also in attendance were all his former companions from the disbanded Citadel of Eight whom for their own selfish reasons, had failed to take part in the most historic battle of the century.


Footnotes:
1. Otis, a fellow member of Serten’s in the Citadel of Eight contended that the Citadel was too absorbed in their own affairs instead of more important local events. Otis left the Citadel well before the Battle of Emridy Meadows and his whereabouts during that campaign are unknown, but his prophetic claims surely had an affect on the undervalued Serten who answered the call to Verbobonc. Otis would redeem his absence from the battle a couple years later, as a ranger knight and a secret agent in the town of Nulb, watching activity around the Temple.

2. The actual placement of Emridy Meadows was the hardest part of my research as very few reliable maps try to define its location. The most consistent written sources placed it 10 to “several leagues” south of Verbobonc City. However, the actual placement had to be more accurately southeast along the well documented road towards Hommlet because once Thrommel calls for the strategic withdraw north he leads the Horde between the bend of the Velverdyva River and the Gnarley Forest and not back to the gates of Verbobonc City. I was appalled to discover that later semi-canonical (and possibly more widely read) Emridy publications glazed over this critical maneuver and assumed the entire battle took place on the meadows south of the city. So the true battle in fact takes place east of Verbobonc though any map you will likely ever see will claim the entire battle site to be the location where the armies only skirmished on the first day.

3. Elves of Clan Meldarin are well-known for their bowmanship. The Meldarin are also favorable toward humans and gnomes, as such they have the highest number of half-elves among their clan.

4. Elves of Clan Sherendyl also of the Gnarley Forest have a reputation as excellent warriors. Though the Meldarin were more apt to ally with non-elves, Sherendyl elves could not possibly pass on a chance to battle humanoids.

5. I speculate that if Serten had survived until the siege, his aid might have been enough to allow them to go after Zuggtmoy directly. In this case, Serten would not necessarily be defending Prince Thrommel so much as the other way around. Naturally the Prince would have preferred to have the entire Citadel of Eight along on his quest and perhaps he still held out hope they would show during the two week siege, certainly plenty of time for additional messengers to be sent. When no special help came is when preparations were finally made to seal the Temple.


Sources:
Gygax, Gary; Frank Mentzer. The Temple of Elemental Evil.
Cook, Monte. Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil.
Sargent, Carl. From the Ashes.
Gygax, Gary. World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting (1983).
Moore, Roger E. Greyhawk: The Adventure Begins.
Holian, Gary; Erik Mona, Sean K. Reynolds, Frederick Weining. Living Greyhawk Gazetteer.
Mona, Erik and Gary Holian "Wheels within Wheels: Greyhawk's Circle of Eight." Living Greyhawk Journal #0.
Lundeen, Robert; Verbobonc Triad (RPGA). Journal of the Wanderer: The Wayfarer’s Guide to Verbobonc.
Bulmahn, Jason; James Jacobs, Erik Mona. Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Greyhawk Day Is A Go!!!

I've had a nice response thus far for the Greyhawk Day idea, and I'm proud to announce this Friday will mark Greyhawk Day #1. In the weeks to follow, expect original content, essays, maps, articles, links and much more, in the spirit of both keeping the vibrant setting alive and introducing it to the uninitiated. And if you've got content perfect for this, let me know and we'll get it up here--with full credit to you. Remember, just drop me a line at mail.rpgblog(at)gmail.com.

Fellow RPG Bloggers, if you've got any room for a blurb to help publicize this, I'd be super-appreciative. I think one of the big boons of the RPG Bloggers Network is supporting each other in our features, ideas, and content. And of course, if I can return the favor, you just let me know, pard.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Planning Greyhawk Day!

I'm working on adding some old school goodness to my blog: I'd like to make every Thursday or Friday a Greyhawk Day. Yup, links, articles, art, and fan-submitted goodness (all attributed) to celebrate ans help keep alive one of our most beloved settings (and to pointedly remind those crazy rascals at WotC next time they write something about the "first campaign settings").

So if you've got a good link, have an article you've written, a great story from your Greyhawk campaign, incredible insight on the Egg of Coot, fan art, or have an old map you drew while explore Castle Greyhawk itself, please, send it to mail.rpgblog(at)gmail.com. I'll make sure proper credit is given, and we'll see if we can't rock this blog with some weekly Greyhawk love! Canonfire, don't let me down!