Friday, September 30, 2011

Non-Traditional Sandbox Design 13

I decided to revisit the coins of the realm, and came up with a much more fitting design. It's evocative of Isolde-Delta, while also retaining the classic elements that made the original designs simple and effective.

The marbling in the background was included to show the imprecise process of smelting, while dropping the Runic/Harn font design, in favor of an easier to identify Latin motif. Silver and platinum were contrasted against each other by incorporating a cream base in the silver, while the platinum retained a white base.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Isolde-Delta and Castle Zagyg Part 6

For completion, I'm including the product line information here for interested parties:

Main Series
8050 CZ1 Castle Zagyg: Yggsburgh - by Gary Gygax (2005)
8060 CZA1 Castle Zagyg: Dark Chateau - by Rob Kuntz (2005)
8059 CZ9 Castle Zagyg: The East Mark Gazetteer - by Gary Gygax & Jeff Talanian (2007)
8051 CZ2 Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works - by Gary Gygax & Jeff Talanian (2008)

City Modules
8061 CZ10 Free Town of Yggsburgh: Town Halls - by Jeff Talanian (2007)
8062 CZ11 Free Town of Yggsburgh: Moat Gate - by Don Macvittie (2007)
8063 CZ12 Free Town of Yggsburgh: The Store House District - by Jeff Talanian (2008)
8064 CZ13 Free Town of Yggsburgh: The East Corner - by Joe Damiani (2008--PDF only)

PDF Excerpts from CZ1
Castle Zagyg: Yggsburgh Preview - table of contents, pp. 4-7 (free)
CZ PDF1 Castle Zagyg: Class Options & Skills - multi-classing & secondary skills rules for C&C (free)
CZ PDF1 Castle Zagyg: Class Options & Skills - Talanian edit (free)
CZ PDF2 Castle Zagyg: Player’s Maps - unkeyed city & environs maps drawn by Darlene
CZ PDF3 Castle Zagyg: The Outs Inn - pp. 92-101

PDF Excerpt from CZA1
Castle Zagyg: Dark Chateau Preview - basically just p. 3 (free)

PDF Exerpt from CZ9
Free Town of Yggsburgh: Town Map - city map keyed by district, drawn by Peter Bradley

To round out what would be considered the final piece of the existing info on Castle Zygag, we must turn to Jeffrey Talanian, whom co-wrote with Gary the Upper Works. In Issues 9-12 of The Crusader Journal - a magazine by Troll Lord Games there was additional information written. I'm including Mr. Talanian's  reply herein:

I wrote the first one as an historical perspective of the project. Gary edited it for me. Two weeks later, Gary passed away, so I wrote the next piece all about the man I knew, my friend Gary. The next two issues were pure adventuring material, expansions to the whole and worthy of inclusion in any Castle Zagyg game, IMO.

Finally, Jeff made available a work called: Castles & Crusades Castle Zagyg The Workhouse of Yggsburgh Town - a 3 page write-up on one small encounter within Yggsburgh. It is here that Jeff shows his genius, and I for one wish he would have continued on with the series after Gary's untimely passing.

Here is all the items recommended in order to run WG13 Castle of the Mad Archmage!

S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks
EX1 Dungeonland
EX2 The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror
Oriental Adventures
WG6 Isle of the Ape
Garden of the Plantmaster
MC10 Ravenloft Monstrous Compendium
Hacklopedia of Beasts
The Living Room
Bottle City
Adventures in Oz

To be continued when the party begins to explore the Mouths of Madness...

Isolde-Delta and Castle Zagyg Part 5

Background Continued:

To say I'm excited and elated is an understatement. This has Gary's fingerprints all over it and it shows. So, Yggsburgh and Dark Chateau are on their way - all that is left to do is track down a copy of East Market Gazetteer and I have the kit and caboodle.

Oh yeah, the dungeons, I forgot about them. Well thankfully, Joseph Bloch over at has created The Castle of the Arch Mage and its been made available to download at his site. It connects perfectly to the Upper Works and is amazing. I took it to Staples, and had it printed in a set of spiral bound booklets single page so I could keep/make notes on each page. I even had the maps bound separately to make my life easier.

Outside of booklets - note custom cover with MAPS written on it:


Isolde-Delta and Castle Zagyg Part 4

Background on Castle Greyhawk/Zagyg:

This was originally posted over at Dragonsfoot forums (in the 1E section) one of my favorite places to hang out, as both a tribute to Gary Gygaz, and as a way to reintroduce my campaign plans.

Like many and for more years than I care to admit, I wanted to run/play the real Castle Greyhawk, its dungeons and all the goodness it offered. Of course, things didn't work out the way we envisioned with the passing of Gary long before this project could be finished and shared with the gaming world.

Jump back in time to 1974 when I was 11. I was introduced to Chainmail by my Uncle - whom was a historical war gamer and I dug the whole miniature thing right away. The next year my world was changed when D&D came out and my Grandfather bought it for me. My mom then married a real piece of work - my stepfather. He was one of those men whom was a pathetic excuse and dominated my mother and I emotionally, physically - the whole gambit. In any case, D&D, and then AD&D saved my life quite literally. It kept me from spending most of my adult life in prison by focusing on a way to escape for a short time from him and the troubles I faced on a daily basis. I'm sure my story isn't unique, and it may seem quite sappy to some, but there is an epilogue to it I'd like to pass on:

While attending a convention in the early 80's I had the opportunity to meet Gary for the 3rd time - and even saw a bit of one of the dungeon levels from Castle Greyhawk (which one I don't remember - wish I did). During a break between sessions, I saw him again and wanted to share this story with him. As I finished, he smiled, grasped my hand ever so firmly and got a twinkle in his eye. Then he said "Thank You!".

So jump back to this year, and I still longed for Greyhawk. I set my sights on the Upper Works - heck everything I could get my hands on that Troll Lords had done for this setting. After reading a ton of reviews about it online and coming into it with the mindset that it didn't have the dungeons that some wanted, I decided to track down a copy. I spent way more than I wanted, but it arrived yesterday.

Isolde-Delta and Castle Zagyg Part 3

"Rats!...or how one cleric almost roused the worm at worlds end..."

The basement of the Dark Chateau held many secrets, some of which our brave party were want to find. The curtain to the NE/NW held a couple clues, but a wondering Hook Horror (which almost slayed one of the Midnight Green clothed monks) started the nights gaming session in style. Then, one of the clerics in the party decided to examine the golden pentagram to the North, and decided to sprinkle some of the black salt laying on the floor. Instantly, a swarm of ravenous rats popped into being, wisps of black smoke rolling off their boil-covered, larvae encased bodies. The party was quickly covered by the small sharp-toothed vermin, and 5 (five) members of the party were diseased in the ensuing combat.

Then, they discovered not 1, but 3 serpent wrapped, silver filigree mirrors hidden in a secret alcove. 1 mirror turned out to be empty, a second contained a goblin, while the third held a elven warrior. 2 of the mirrors faced each other, while the 3rd faced outward - and the party was smart enough to use the decapitated head of the hook horror to see what would happen when its reflection was seen in all 3 mirrors at once.

Saxon, a fighter of epic mutton-eating proportion decided to solve the issue by swinging with a downward strike into the mirror holding the elf. His blade stuck in the mirror for a moment, then a fine hairline crack began to expand outward. In an instant the mirror exploded with hundreds of tiny shards, and the elf - Lorien Otolui lay at the party's feet. When the party looked back up, the mirror was once again intact.

The same tactic was used on the goblin-holding mirror, the promise being big treasure for the goblin chief's rescue. The chief kept his promise, tossing a alembic into the air and yelling catch at the same time while running away. The party has yet to fully investigate the alembic which was caught by the alchemist, Azcalaban. After solving a riddle with the crypts to the NE, each with its own color scheme, and matching votive candles - the party was rewarded with a heart shaped pendant - found in the tomb of one of the ex-owners of the chateau.

From there, one not-so-smart elf decided to take off down the southern passageway - only to come face to face with the illusion of a hydra. The 9 heads all spoke at once - warning that only family or one whom has been granted access may pass. Never has an elf turned and hightailed it back through an archway faster in the annuls of Isolde-Delta history. The chosen one (wearing pendant) was able to search the room that contained 9 alembics in a perfect circle (each with it's own color liquid) that surrounded a wooden inlaid sarcophagus.

A small niche was discovered - opened only when the stone was placed in the recess of the properly-colored alembic. In this case, a ancient magical parchment that needed to be covered with wisps of smoke from the matching color led to deciphering it - and a treasure was discovered, a word of safe passage, written on the parchment also showed in vibrant detail a cave entrance at the Mouths of Madness.

The Dark Chateau, written by Rob Kuntz is one adventure that really draws the player into the mystery. Troll Lord Games had originally published this module as part of the Castle Zagyg line, then lost the license after the passing of E. Gary Gygax. One thing that should be made clear is there are plenty of places within the module that a DM may expand descriptions, and even add in his own nuances/encounters. In my case, the single mirror with filigrees became 3, while the sarcophagus room was a perfect spot to add a hidden niche, which contained the parchment.


When last our party saw daylight, they had left the Dark Chateau, traveled North-West to the Castle of Zagyg, and found the opening that matched the gnome illusionists memories. The doors swung wide when the command word was spoken, and into the darkness they traversed.

More to come as they begin their descent into the Storeroom levels - and deeper (if they are found to be fortunate and lucky) into the Castle of the Mad Archmage's dungeon levels.

Isolde-Delta and Castle Zagyg Part 2

The next days were spent investigating the last of the leads, and it was decided a trip back into the swamps to a local resting ground. The party made their way without much difficulty to the Tomb, but hilarity ensued when they entered the steep, mud/water slicked main entrance. Players were beset by Swamp Gargun, smaller sized orcs with a mean disposition, and in the melee each player save two slipped and fell. Down the passage creature and player slid, knocking over their comrades as they went. Players were diving on creature and vice-versa, but somehow in the din of battle they emerged, muddied, battered but alive. Later, after making a trip via portal back to Corvis, they returned for what they hoped would be a final time and fortune smiled on them when they discovered the secrets of the Tomb.

Returning with information, they discovered the festival was underway, and masses of undead had encircled the city, preparing for decimation. In the midst, the players faced off against a young lass, and a new player to the intrigue - one whom had escaped their original inquiries. They wound up giving a cherished ancient blade to the lass, while attempting to keep the new arrival from escaping through a portal.

So, they decided at this juncture to ignore going to Jo'sRun, and focus instead on making the journey West through Grand Lynne and Coppice, and then onto Yggsburgh. After a bit of respite in Grand Lynn, the party weaved their way through Coppice, and down into Garroting Deep. While camping there the 2nd night, they encountered an old man.

Music played as he approached them, powerful and majestic in his coming, and each player fell under the spell of the Forestal. After a brief meeting, which some of the players took as a sign, they hurried out of the Deep and onto their final destination...Yggsburgh.

Below is included the path that the players took, along with a key to encounters/places of interest.

Once they were settled in The Outs Inn, early the next morning they started up the path that would lead them to Castle Zagyg. Only when the players got to the fork in the road did they see what lay ahead. Jutting above them the Castle loomed in the distance, foreboding and menacing. To their left and down in a valley lay another mystery, The Dark Chateau, rumored to be the original home of the Mad Archmage himself.

It was at this point the players threw a wrench in their own desires, wasting a ton of energy to make it to the City of Legends, and planning to explore the Castle fully, they instead decided with a name like "Dark Chateau", the place had to be explored.

They have explored the first floor, and found the basement entrance. From there they discovered an animated Guardian glove, that gave open slaps that paralyzed it's prey. A couple players had single HP remaining after the battle.

Isolde-Delta and Castle Zagyg Part 1

This set of articles details my original 1977 Isolde-Delta Campaign reloaded to the present. It will include details of The Foaming Flagons, which began at The Bloated Blowfish, located at Troyen, Elise Hundred.

For information on the Micro Sandbox Design process that was used in 1977, and updated for our current group, I draw your attention to my set of articles on Sandbox Design located in the Storage section on the left side of this blog.

Our host had some particle board in a corner of the basement, and prior to the adventure starting, I placed multiple help/wanted signs on the board. During the session, the players each took the time to go over and look things over, then each player had a vote to decide on a plan of action.

While the band Blind Guardian (5 bards) was playing on stage, one of the elves in the party struck up a conversation with a fellow mage, whom it turned out was looking for work himself. Hence the party had acquired their first NPC associate. They decided to take the job of guarding wagons on their way to Corvis, and then onto Jo'sRun.

Chaos ensued as they reached the hilltop swamp before Corvis, as they were set upon by Swamp Gobbers, kin of goblin, but smart and tactful. The heavy fog made fighting difficult (created by the small bellow driven devices the creatures used to gain surprise), and through the hail of bolts and solid rolls the heroes in training won the day.

Once arriving in Corvis, the party walked into a mystery, bodies were disappearing and with a large day of celebration only a week away, plans were quickly formulated to investigate. Multiple sites had to be checked/questions asked and answers only led the company deeper into the puzzle. It was a few days later when a respite came in the form of a tournament for the monks in the party.