Wednesday, November 9, 2022

OSR Commentary - Greyhawk Adventures By James M. Ward's Greyhawk Dragons For Your Old School Campaigns

 As an independant & OSR theorist it stands to reason that occasionally one has to get back to basics. And I'm a huge fan of James M.Ward's writing & design. One of my favorite TSR classic era books is the  Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Greyhawk Adventures. This was one of the last hard backs that TSR did back in September 1988. You can read a whole history on the book on the Grehawk Wiki here. 

 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Greyhawk Adventures book is a transition book between the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons system & 2nd edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. And there were so many great additions from the gods, clerics, and the role of religon plus lots more. 
But it's the new monsters that have my attention especially the Greyhawk Dragons. The entry on Greyhawk dragon has the following; "Dragon, Greyhawk ClimatelTerrain: Temperate cities; rarely, temperate hills, barrens or forested hills Frequency: Very rare Organization: Solitary Active Times: Any Diet: Omnivore Intelligence: Supra-genius (19-20) Treasure: U Alignment: Lawful neutral (good tendencies) Reaction Modifier: + 2 Number Appearing: 1 ArmorClass: 0 Movement: 12"/24" (MC:E) Hit Dice: 11 THACO 10 Number of Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite Damage per Attack: 1-10 (claw) x 2, 3-30 (bite) Special Attacks: Breath weapon, magic use Special Defenses: Spell immunity Magic Resistance: 75% Size: Huge (25 feet long) Morale: Fanatical (20) Experience Value: 6200 + 20hp Greyhawk dragons love the companionship of humankind, and prefer to live in cities. They are highly magical and intellectual. Physical Appearance: Although considerably smaller than many of its kin, the Greyhawk dragon shares the strength and robustness typical of other dragons. Its scales are a rich metallic grey reminiscent of brushed steel, ranging to a darker hue-almost like blued gunmetal-on the creature's underside and towards its tail. The membranes of its wings have the sheen of fine silk. Combat: At heart a peaceful creature, the Greyhawk dragon avoids combat where it can. If conflict is inevitable, however, it fights with great intelligence and lethality. In addition to its clawlclawhite attack routine, three times per day it can exhale a highly toxic gas (save vs. poison at -4 or die). The maximum amount it can exhale would fill a cube 30 feet on a side; however, the dragon can carefully meter the amount. The gas is quickly absorbed through the skin, and is just as lethal as if breathed. Partial protection can be gained through coating all exposed skin with lard or other grease, as this attenuates the effect of the poison (the save is now made at - 2). The toxicity is very short-livedwithin two minutes of exposure to oxygen, the gas becomes inert. In preference to any physical attack, the dragon is likely to use magic. At the very young age, it has four 1st level spells. Thereafter, it gains four spells of progressively higher level at each new age bracket (thus at old age, it has four spells of each level 1st through 6th). From birth, it can also polymorph self five times per day. Unlike the regular magic-user spell, this ability has an unlimited duration. The Greyhawk dragon is immune to magic user spells of 1st through 4th level. Against all other magical effects, it has a magic resistance of 75%. It can use all magical items permitted to the magic-user class. "
"Habitat/Society: Because of its love for and fascination with humanity, the Greyhawk dragon usually lives polymorphed into human form. Its favored habitat is a large city, where it typically owns a large house, and where it’s often the center of artistic and intellectual gatheringspoetry readings, discussion groups, etc. In their human identities, Greyhawk dragons are often well-known among the intelligentsia and patrons of the arts. They keep their true nature inviolably secret. Food is usually the creature’s biggest problem: Although it might take the form of a man or woman, it must eat enough to maintain its true bulk. Every two weeks or so, it drops out of sight and travels to nearby wilderness areas (where it might claim to own a hunting lodge). Here it hunts, making up for its enforced fast (at least, by dragon terms) in the city. Like other dragons, the Greyhawk variety is omnivorous, but prefers fresh meat. It never eats domesticated herds, preying instead on wild animals-particularly those baneful to man. Greyhawk dragons are very rare creatures: even the largest city might have only one or two living (secretly) in its midst. Although they take stringent precautions to prevent their true nature from being discovered, one Greyhawk dragon can recognize another on sight. Dragons in the same city are usually cordial to each other, though they don’t usually seek each other’s company. Every twelve years, however, the dragon seeks a mate, often from another city. When it has found one, the couple retires to the wilderness, where they raise a single offspring. Once the youngster is old enough to fend for itself-about 24 months-the parents separate and return to their individual lives. The creatures very rarely select the same mate twice. Greyhawk dragons speak their own language and the languages of most humans, demihumans and humanoids. They can be found-if they wish to be found-in any large town or city. There are reputed to be no fewer then five Greyhawk dragons in the city whose name they bear! . . . although nobody-least of all the dragons themselves seems willing or able to substantiate this. Niche: Greyhawk dragons are at the top of the food chain, with no natural enemies. In cities, they rarely work as artisans, preferring to act as collectors and disseminators of information (like sages). "

So what does all this mean?! Well for dragons on Greyhawk an incredible amount! Greyhawk Dragons can effectively be rulers, kings, wizards, & sages all able to not only rule a country. But they could join a party of adventurers as an NPC without the players ever knowing it. This could be especially true if the dragon wakes after a long sleep & wants to catch up with the direction that the world has taken. Given the grim, gritty, & downright dangerous place that is Greyhawk there may be far more to this then as it first appears! 

Given the treasures of a dragon any city that bares their purview is going to be incredibly lucky. But this may depend upon how one looks at it. The adventurers may become the playthings of a sagely Greyhawk dragon whose motives may not be completely trustworthy. Given their greed for knowledge, artifacts, relics, collectables, etc. The adventurers may find themselves doing more then simply stepping & fetching for a highly motivated creature of magic.  
They may become the pawns of political intrigue, rapid delivery service or more. The change of tone that the dragons of Greyhawk took in Greyhawk Adventures is down to James Ward's imagination.  And these creatures have a lot more creative spark then one finds in the run of the mill monsters for the time of Greyhawk Adventures release. 

Could a party find themselves in the wilds of Greyhawk with a hungry & ravanous Greyhawk dragon!?! Certainly & it might just be that farmer Brown's favorite buffalo or Mastadon  is on the menu! Dragons can be incredibly dangerous & geniunely alien in their thinking even if they seem like creatures or monsters that we are somewhat familiar with them. 

The Greyhawk Dragon's entry makes the 'monster' sound far more like royalty then an actual monster. A creature both a party to the royal court as much as the back rooms of dungeons. 

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