Artifact of Evil

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Hot on the heels of my review of Gary Gygax‘s first novel, Saga of Old City, we come to the second in the series (and the last published by TSR), Artifact of Evil, published in 1986.

This book has a very different feel than its predecessor, even though the action takes place only a few months after the end of the first. Where Saga of Old City was episodic, with no real plot threading throughout it other than chronicling Gord’s early adventures, Artifact of Evil has a definite plot. The forces of Evil are searching for a powerful artifact that can be used to loose the evil god Tharizdun from his prison, thus bringing doom to the world unless they can be stopped. Continue reading “Artifact of Evil”

Tasha’s Hideous Laughter and the Master of Deception

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Mother of Witches: Part Six

Tasha’s Hideous Laughter

(Spoiler alert for Iggwilv’s Legacy: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth)

It’s no laughing matter, but here’s how the spell works. You need some tiny tarts—two or three will do—and a long feather. Concentrate while uttering the incantation. Clutch the tarts in the one hand (gods know why) and wave the feather in the air. You know: “tickle-tickle.” As if you were tickling your target, much as a giddy child might employ the feather to tickle a playmate or as frisky young lovers sport with one another, the one teasing the other into laughter. The effect will be that the poor chap so bewitched finds everything and every matter about him hilariously funny. He loses himself in convulsive spasms of hideous laughter from which he scarce can recover to catch his breath. Some laugh until they pass unconscious. That’s the spell for which she is most famous, a “harmless prankster’s charm” which young apprentices all over the Flanaess are eager to transcribe into their books. They think it a mere joke, but it’s a wicked spell and no laughing matter. Tasha’s laughter can be deadly. While so incapacitated under the spell, the hapless and witless victim makes himself vulnerable to attack, for he can scarce find his legs, much less defend himself.

Daughter of Baba Yaga

Who was Tasha, and how did she become the blight of our world? The one of which we speak has acquired many names: Natasha, Hura, Tasha, Ychbilch, Louhi, and Iggwilv. Likewise, her fame has won her many titles including Witch Queen of Perenland, Dame of North Reach Farm, the Yatil Witch, Mother of the Old One, and Mother of Witches. The latter title rightfully belongs to Baba Yaga, her adoptive mother, but Iggwilv inherited it, which is to say, she stole it, along with the dangerous arcane treasures she looted from sealed vaults in the old crone’s infamous hut. Continue reading “Tasha’s Hideous Laughter and the Master of Deception”

Saga of the Old City

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Saga of the Old City: A Novel of Swordplay, Thievery, and Magic

by Gary Gygax

Greyhawk Novels

Saga of Old City is the first in the series of novels and stories written by Gary Gygax, featuring his hero Gord. The book was released in 1985 as part of the last gasp of products written by Gygax right before his ouster from TSR.

Saga of Old City charts the early life of Gord, a beggar, thief, acrobat, and adventurer from the slums of Greyhawk’s Old City (hence the title). Interestingly, though, only the first part of the novel actually takes place in Old City, although there is a satisfying denouement that brings the hero back there.

Rather than presenting a single plot, the book is episodic, broken into several stories with connective tissue bridging them together:

  • Gord as a beggar-thief in Old City
  • Gord among the Rhennee
  • Gord in Stoink
  • Gord in Castle Blemu
  • The Battle of Woodford
  • The recovery of the relic from the dungeon in the Abbor Alz

This episodic nature really gives the book a feel like you’re reading an adventure straight from Gygax’s table. Continue reading “Saga of the Old City”

The Ghost at Saltmarsh

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It Started in Saltmarsh: Chapter Thirteen

By Kirt Wackford
A Dungeons & Dragons campaign adaptation edited by Thomas Kelly and Greyhawkstories

Avast! Spoilers Ahead!

22-23 Goodmonth, 570

While the captured pirate ship gently pitched with the waves, tugging at its anchor chain, the party gathered the loot into a single pile. They more-or-less agreed that all the monetary treasure would be equally split, with Willa (but not Tom) receiving a full share. Aurora conducted a magical ritual to detect magic, and she separated out those things that radiated an enchantment.

“My ritual will let us know what items are magical, but not what they do.  I am happy to follow-up by casting an identify to note their properties, to be sure they are not cursed,” Aurora said. No one had not forgotten the fiasco with Thokk’s cursed luckstone. “But I would appreciate it if the party could split the cost of the expensive pearl required for each use of that spell.”

Barnabas balked at that prospect, but Shefak scolded him, “Greed and attachment to material things bar one from true spiritual progress.”

Barnabas replied curtly, “I don’t know who you are monk, and I don’t know how you came to join this party or to claim an equal share in our pillage. But I think your foreign god would be most grateful if you took upon yourself a vow of silence. I know the rest of us would.”

Thokk grunted with laughter, but Shefak coolly ignored the remark. She conducted herself as if the halfling did not ruffle her at all. Continue reading “The Ghost at Saltmarsh”

Battle for the Sea Ghost

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It Started in Saltmarsh: Chapter Twelve

By Kirt Wackford
A Dungeons & Dragons campaign adaptation edited by Thomas Kelly and Greyhawkstories

Avast! Spoilers Ahead!

22 Goodmonth, 570

In his haste to alert the party, Tom sailed the excise cutter into the sea cave with the mast down, but he did not take the time to remove it from the ship. Willa took charge and ordered the party to remove it for the operation. She saw Thokk and Barnabus loaded and launched before she placed the rest of the party in their positions within the jollyboat.

Thokk strained against the oars and pulled his craft out into the black, rolling sea. His half-blood eyes allowed him to see through the darkness well enough to avoid the rocks around the cave mouth. Barnabas had to endure several terrifying minutes of blackness and crashing waves, tossed about the cutter and drenched with spray while Thokk heaved and fretted. Once they pulled out beyond the surf zone and into the open sea the waves calmed and Thokk concentrated on rowing silently with a steady pace. Every so often the half orc looked over his shoulder, trying to detect the dark ship against the dark sky so that he had somewhere to make for more precise than “away from land.”

Willa checked everything twice in the jollyboat before shoving off. She was in no hurry; she wanted Thokk to have as long a lead as possible. Her kept her hauberk of chain neatly folded under her aft seat. She directed the beam of her lantern through the fog and across the rocks as she called orders. Tyrius and Babshapka took the oars at the outset, though she would spell them out if needed. Continue reading “Battle for the Sea Ghost”

Flight from the City of Brass

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Daoud’s Wondrous Lanthorn: Chapter Five

Flight from the City of Brass

“Now my son,” Surrvaris said to his student, “You have learned some magic and you have learned the ways of undeath. But what do you really know of the world? Are you ready to command the genies? By the power of your great-grandfather’s ring, I will create a portal. Toss yourself into the flames of this brazier, and you will see wonders. Only do not forget to return by the way you have come before the coals of this fire go cold, or you may not find your way back at all.”

Daoud looked apprehensively into the hot flames, then shrugged his shoulders and stepped into the fire. Pain seared his flesh as the fire leapt up to consume him, and in only a moment his whole body burst into flames. In terror for his life, he leapt away from the brazier, only to find himself no longer in the chambers of Surrvaris or anywhere near the city of Sefmur. He stood upon a balcony overlooking a great city of stone and brazen domes, all ablaze with flame. The heat struck him like a blast from every direction. Even the streets burned, as did the arched bridges that spanned a river of hot lava flowing through the center of the city. Daoud lifted his hands and peered at his body, expecting to see himself badly burned, but instead he found himself quite unharmed. Well, if I am really here, I should have a look around and see what I might learn.

The blazing streets teemed with fearsome creatures: efreet sauntered about like Continue reading “Flight from the City of Brass”

Sanballets Refrain

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It Started in Saltmarsh: Chapter Eight

By Kirt Wackford
A Dungeons & Dragons campaign adaptation edited by Thomas Kelly and Greyhawkstories

[Avast! Spoilers ahead.]

8 Goodmonth, 570

Tyrius, Larry, Aurora, and Babshapka were already awake when the smell of Ruth’s cooking came drifting up the stairs from below. Others, having indulged in too much ale the previous night, needed to be roused from their beds when the food was finally laid out on the table. Eventually the whole of the party found their way downstairs, some eagerly and some reluctantly.

A tall, broad-shouldered, dusky woman strode in through the door. Her features betrayed a predominantly Flan heritage, though not purely so. She had copper-brown skin and black tresses. Whether her mixed ancestry included Oerid, or Suel, or both was not obvious. Ruth nodded in recognition and offered a half-curtsy in respect. The newcomer was dressed in an old but well-maintained tabard bearing a device on the left sleeve, a loose linen blouse underneath, tight leather breeches, and high boots. The hilt of a longsword projected above her shoulder (she wore it on a back-harness under her tabar) and a dagger sat comfortably on her hip.

The woman grinned, more in satisfaction than friendliness.“No mistakin’ ther lot o’ ye fer Moorfolk, be t’ere?” she asked rhetorically. Thokk, looking up from his plate of fried fish, smiled in reply, spiky tusks protruding from his broad mouth.

“Excuse me?” asked Aurora. She understood Keoish well enough, but she was taken aback by the woman’s thick lower-class Salinmoor accent. The woman tried again in Common, but her accent was just as heavy. “I be sayin’, ther lot o’ ye be ther strangers wot met wit’ ther council.”

“Oh, yes, quite!” Aurora agreed. Continue reading “Sanballets Refrain”