Night Arrant might be the least-read and most-entertaining of Gygax’s Gord the Rogue series of Greyhawk novels. It takes place between the events of Saga of Old City and Artifact of Evil. I’m told that the style is comparable to Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stories (if not a straight up knock off) with Gord in the role of the Mouser and Chert as Fafhrd. Having never read Leiber’s work, I’ll take your word for it.
As typically happens with the Gord books, the cover art seems to be unrelated to the contents of the book. Oh well. You can’t judge a book by its cover, right?
Night Arrant isn’t a single narrative or one big quest like Artifact of Evil. It’s a series of episodic adventures, thinly connected when at all. The book contains nine fun-to-read, swashbuckling short stories about Gord’s misadventures in and around the City of Greyhawk. It reminds me of the type of D&D games my friends and I ran when we were kids and had time to play almost every day. As Dungeon Master, I’d have to come up with spontaneous adventures on a daily basis—usually off the cuff one-shot episodes scrapping with the locals around town.
Purists seeking the Gygaxian Greyhawk will find a treasure trove of Greyhawk lore in every story. It’s the kind of detail and color that you won’t get in the sourcebooks. Plenty of fuel to inspire your own games and a plenty of pages to enjoy immersed in the world’s greatest RPG realm.
“In the Heart of Darkness” tells the tale of how Gord and Chert become henchmen for questing wizard who hires them to accompany him on an expedition into the heart of the Mad Mage’s legendary Castle Greyhawk. It’s a psychedelic trip with a comical ending. Best of all, it grants the reader a peek into iconic dungeon as told in the words of the Mad Mage himself.
“The Weird Occurrence in Odd Alley” introduces Greyhawk’s most famous backstreet, a Flanaess equivalent of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley. You might think of it as a Brigadoon Street where just about anything might happen.
“A Revel in Rel Mord” never really makes it to Rel Mord. Under the compulsion of some geas Gord and Chert undertake a journey in the direction of Nyrond, travelling in the company of a nobleman and an Ogre Mage. Somewhere in or near Nyrond, in the remote village of Grimalkinsham, the hapless crew falls into the clutches of a coven of seductive buxom Night Hags. Yuck!
“Twistbuck’s Game” takes readers on a memorable tour of Greyhawk’s streets to play a “game of legs” which has Gord and the Professor Twistbuck (a don of Counts College) engaging in a fierce competition counting the number of legs that appear in the signage over various Greyhawk drinking establishments. A short excerpt will best explain the rules of the game:
They walked up Tosspot Lane and almost immediately came to a small tavern. “The Blue Elf. I score two,” Gord said with artificial disappointment. It was one of the least desirable shops around, but he knew what came next, in any of the optional directions. “Let’s continue along this route for now,” the professor said. They followed the curve of the lane uphill and soon came upon another sign. “The Castle. Pity. I don’t have any legs at all, and it’s now your turn again, Gord.” The young thief whistled as they walked along. Two signs down, two and twenty to go, and an intersection lay ahead. “I say we go right along Uskbarrel Road,” he informed the others, and headed off due east thereon. Soon he came to the place he knew was there. “What luck!” Gord called happily to the pair trailing him. “Here’s the Stag & Wolves, and I note that there are fully four of the latter painted on the sign too! Twenty legs for me then, plus the two before. I lead two and twenty to naught.”
“The House in the Tree” takes Gord out of town for a few days visit to the Gnarley Forest where a trufflehunt for magical mushrooms goes awry. This one’s great fun of the fairy tale sort. Gord and his companion Hop are seek dweomerdot mushrooms which, as the name suggests, render magical spell effects when consumed. You may want to introduce them to your campaign.
Dots are tiny fungi that come in various colors. The color determines the magic it possesses when eaten, and the ingestion empowers the person eating the dot to have the dweomer it possesses for the space of several hours.
The magical fungi only bloom on a night when both Celene and Luna are half full. Gord gets greedy with the mushroom gathering business and trouble ensues.
“Cats vs. Rats” gets into the dark politics of the Greyhawk thieves guild when someone hires a renowned assassin to take out one rogue thief. Good luck with that.
Finally, in the last two tales, Gord stumbles into a tangled web of intrigue when he falls for an exotic, emerald-eyed, Ketite dancing girl performing in Greyhawk’s foreign quarter. This is love story headed for a bad ending. The tale spans the last two entries in the book: “Love Laughs at Locks” and “Cat or Pigeon?”.
There’s great material here to incorporate into your own adventures in the Flanaess, and it’s all told through the original Dungeon Master’s own words. I give Night Arrant four wizards.
Find more book reviews of Greyhawk novels here on the Greyhawk Novels page.