Monday, November 4, 2019

New AD&D Greyhawk Campaign Notes

I recently launched a new AD&D campaign on Fantasy Grounds.  Although we're using the 2e ruleset FG released earlier this year, my only books for reference are 1e so anything that has to be looked up is getting ruled that way.  In keeping with the old school system, I decided I wanted to set the campaign in Greyhawk, which is a setting I've never actually used.  I am not, however, using any of the TSR published adventures, classics though they are.  Actually, my motivation for starting this campaign was that I had a growing collection of dungeons I haven't run that could fit into any setting, so why not fit them together in Greyhawk?

For the setting, I'm using the TSR's 1980 folio The World of Greyhawk.  This is a slim 32 page book (not including maps) that provides a brief history, a gazetteer of political divisions, and descriptions of some of the major geographical features, and a couple pages on noble titles, knightly orders, and common runes and glyphs of the realm.  In addition, I believe this book was the first appearance of the famed Darlene map of Greyhawk.

I wanted to start things out in a bit of a different situation from most conquer the borderlands games.  So from the outset, the humanoid tribes would have the upper hand, the borderlands having been pillaged and sacked, and the player characters would be among a caravan of refugees fleeing those ravaged lands.  During their journey, the caravan is attacked by goblin raiders lead by a great orc wearing fantastical armor.  Other rumors speak of more of these powerful orcs and it seems they are the driving force behind the increased aggressions.

After perusing the gazetteer and talking to a couple people much more familiar with Greyhawk, I settled on the Barony of Ratik.  This small country shares a hilly border with the Bone March, a war-torn land overrun with humanoid tribes.  Ratik's eastern border is ocean and northern is the Frost Barbarian tribes, adding further inhospitable forces weighing in on the Barony.  The western border is a mountain range called the Rakers.  The Rakers run from the Flinty Hills, bordering the Bone March, north alongside Ratik before connecting to the Griff Mountains in the north.  The mountains are both a natural defense for Ratik's western flank and a source of danger and adventure themselves, untamed and pocketed with many dungeons.  It is in these mountains that I will find space for most of the dungeons I hope to run.

The first few modules I'm running, with mild spoilers, are:

DDSQ1 - Shipwreck at Har's Point
Just released as a part of R. Nelson Bailey's latest Dungeon Delve kickstarter, DDSQ1 involves a small fishing hamlet that recently had a longship wreck on the rocks that their village cliffs overlook.  The ship is difficult to reach, but rumors of treasure or ghosts area spread and strange happenings star stirring the village over the following day.

I've backed all three of the Dungeon Delve kickstarters and have been very happy with the quality of adventure R. Nelson Bailey has been putting out.  I fully intend to include his other adventures at some point (they are mid to high level dungeons), but I was very happy that he included this small level 1 adventure to kick things off.

In my campaign, following an attack on their caravan, the adventurers were asked to ride ahead to Har's Point for supplies.  There they spent a couple days working on putting together the requested provisions and the events of DDSQ1 drew them into a very enjoyable climactic defense of the hamlet.  Although the antagonists of this little sidequest are unrelated from their other current concerns, a bit of research into the Crown of the Briny Deep uncovered some background lore that will eventually play into The Hyqueous Vaults.

F4 - The Withered Crag

From Chaotic Hechmen Productions, Guy Fullerton's The Withered Crag is the first proper dungeon we'll be exploring.  As of last session, after tidying things up in Har's Point the party accepted a request to accompany a pair of dwarves to their home at the base of the Rakers to bury a friend who'd fallen in the attack on the caravan.  Once there they learned rumors of humanoids creeping through the mountains to and from a nearby crater that all sensible people know to stay away from.  Good enough reason for our nonsensible adventurers to go exploring.  We left off just outside the dungeon and I quite look forward to the next session.

The Withered Crag is a smallish (36 rooms) dungeon with some interesting challenges and a variety of approaches available that can lead to very different experiences.  I've tied the dungeon into the events in Ratik with a special armorer inside being the source of these over-equipped orcs the party have been encountering.  Besides that, there is a good amount of treasure and opportunity for heroism or greed to drive the party's actions.

The Hyqueous Vaults
I picked this one up at Gary Con a couple years ago and have wanting to run it ever since.  A joint creative effort of the Knights & Knaves Alehouse with specific credits to: Rebecca Dettmann, Guy Fullerton, Allan T. Grohe, Jr., Jimm Johnson, Matthew Riedel, and Alex Zisch, The Hyqueous Vaults is a single level, 67 room dungeon that can be placed in any mountain with a stream running into a cave.  I really appreciate how easily all these dungeons can be thrown into any campaign.

Despite being a single level, the map of this dungeon is wonderfully complex.  There are so many different routes through it and wildly different challenges depending on the party's choices.  There a couple different factions that offer opportunity to parley, some monsters that should not be trifled with, and one horrible thing that will absolutely destroy the party if they are foolish enough to intrude upon its lair.

The background to the dungeon involves an ancient watery empire, which I've hinted at a bit already with the Crown of Briny Deep's lore, followed by more recent villains making their own designs on the dungeon.  I've stashed away some more clues to the dungeon amongst the treasures of The Withered Crag, so hopefully those are enough to get the party in search of this dungeon.  I've tried twice to drop this dungeon into other campaigns and both times the players just ignored the bait and wandered elsewhere.  As players do.

I expect these dungeons could take a couples months to explore (we play 3 hours weekly), maybe more as we go into the holidays.  Assuming they survive, there should be enough treasure and experience to get the party to level 4, on average.  I might throw in Guy Fullerton's F3 - Many Gates of the Gann if the party feels like exploring a much larger dungeon (3 levels, over 100 rooms).  His F1 - The Fane of Poisoned Prophecies would tie in very well with some of the background I've already setup in the region, although unfortunately it is not available in print currently.  I'd eventually like to set DD3 - The Misty Halls of Kalavorka in the Griff Mountains.  If the party decides to go to the capital of Ratik, there could be trouble from DD1 - Tower of the Black Sorcerers.  And every campaign needs to end with a dragon, so DD2 - Dungeons of the Dread Wyrm could be a perfect endgame.

I'm always on the lookout for other dungeons worth exploring.  Here's hoping for a long campaign in Greyhawk.


  1. Looking forward to hearing more about your campaign! :D

    I've got a series of posts I plan to do on non-TSR adventures and how/where to set them in Greyhawk. Guy's F1-F4 are on my short list, in part because I may be kicking off a new GH campaign myself with F4---just depends on the players' actions/choices.


    1. I'd like to read that. Guy's stuff has been very good to read so far and I'm glad to be getting it into play now. I hope there's a reprint of F1 soon.

  2. Great to see you Greyhawk campaign is running full speed ahead! :)