The Onnwal Project


The Player's Guide Saga

Onnwal Gazetteer

In days of yore the RPGA UK once produced its own publication, Polyhedron UK, edited by then Head of the RPGA UK Ian Richards. The majority of the RPGA UK members thought it was excellent and the issues fetch a high price on ebay. (I personally prefered the few US issues as Polyhedron UK seemed very parochial and focused on event reports of Southern England conventions and Living City: Sarbreenar which was of absolutely no interest to me). With the release of the Living Greyhawk Journal it was decided the Player's Guide to Onnwal should be given a professional layout and produced as an official RPGA UK production. While the Design Team wished to release the Player's Guide so that authors could use it as a resource and players could gain an understanding of the setting the Head of RPGA UK, Living Campaign Co-ordinator and the usual RPGA UK suspects did not. It was briefly released in 2001 for about 2 days before the Living Campaigns co-ordinator withdrew it for editing and layout design. The RPGA UK steering committee and chums came up with endless schemes to produce a professional book (at one point a games shop called Hidden Fortress were going to pay for it to be produced in small quantities for sale in their shop). The book languished in their hands all through 2000 until 2002. Eventually the text file was finally released back to the team with very little of the original text altered in its 2 years with the RPGA UK. Thanks to Simon Butler of the Triad it was laid out in Quark Express to resemble to the 3.0 books that were coming out at the time.

The Gazetteer was then sadly delayed further as RPGA US (which would eventually be Ian Richards) would not allow it for download with copyright artwork and layout from WotC products. A version was eventually released to the players after nearly 3 years with all the original artwork and layout removed and a (putting it nicely) inferior design was used. The version on this website is the original high quality artwork version.

Two If By Sea

This is perhaps my favourite module I ever wrote for Living Greyhawk. I didn't even get paid for it (back in those days you got around £30 per round of scenario from the RPGA, enough to buy a bag of chips or go to a con and run the module for people) but really my only regrets are that it ran only at Summer Weekend in Onnwal and thus only people at the event got to play it. It was released as a series of 3 mini-missions (i.e. ways of getting round the increasingly problematic RPGA sanctioning program that meant it could take 9 months to get a scenario in play after submitting a finished draft).

The idea behind this module was to sail around the Dragonshead through the Scarlet Brotherhood fleet and dock at Longbridge. One of the team at the time had been working on this module since 2000 and it had gone from the original plan somehow to a totally different "Lost World" Isle of Dread exploration type island scenario infested with volcanos, dinosaurs and savages. In some ways I am glad not much came of this other module - Onnwal to me is the Dungeons and Dragons version of Battlestar Galactica. Once you started dropping in weird islands full of monsters that no-one has ever been to on the much-sailed Gearnat the credibility of the setting is compromised.

Additionally one of the player characters in the campaign (Gremag, a half-orc paladin of Mayaheine) had somehow obtained from the Verbobonc Triad a cert for a vessel for the Free State of Onnwal, called the Lady of the Silver Hills. The time seemed right to work this into the plot - so Paul and I realised given the module had been worked on for 2 years and we'd seen no drafts that it was safe to re-use the original synopsis and allow the Lady of the Silver Hills to be the ship running the blockade.

The first part, the Scarlet Straits was written by Paul Looby based on a loose synopsis that we both worked on. The second part was by me, and mainly has no combats in it as I did not have time to write any lengthy statblocks! The third part was also hastily written by me, and at that time we had no rules for mass combat so I improvised. I doubt we would have got through RPGA sanctioning with this.

A lot of RPGA politics and problems happened in the making of this module. Volunteers of any sort - notably authors and Dungeon Masters, or rather the lack thereof, were always a problem in the UK Living Greyhawk campaign and the RPGA UK head honchos were as little help as possible. Add to the fact the event organiser was not a nice person by any stretch of the imagination, was a player (who was not afraid to abuse his two different hats) and quite happy to promise the moon to delegates as he did not personally have to deliver on any of them and you had some very stressful working conditions. A lot of this is reflected in the scenario.

It is worth noting that Eirud Proshahar, the villain of the piece, was aptly named after said organiser and the crew are named after his (much, much nicer) co-workers and then-girlfriend. Despot Rattrin, Eirud's pal and self-proclaimed ruler of the island, was named after a real RPGA UK despot who was good friends with Eirud while Salaman Crestdeep, a Stormseeker who spends all the scenario in the pub doing nothing is named after another RPGA employee who... er... did very little.

Not all the characters were based on real life people - Dasmius the Pholtan was a character of mine stolen from a Rolemaster campaign. In Rolemaster Paladins had no alignment restriction and with the short-life span in Rolemaster I played the character as a bigoted witch-hunter and religious zealot. The DM obviously liked this - the character survived for the remaining 2 and a half years of the campaign!

Shortly after we were nearing finishing this series we were informed by the convention organiser (by reading the announcement they posted on the player list) that the con organisers wanted a costumed interactive and an additional 1-2 rounds of mini-missions. Paul and I literally wrote these on the fly, with the Dungeon Masters demanding them so they could Slot 0 them (i.e. play them for experience and gold in the LG campaign). In spite of this the scenario went down very well at the convention - the roleplaying of the second part with dinner with the slimy Eirud was very popular but only one group successfully returned both the Resplendent and the Scarlet Scourge:-

His Grace spoke then of his gratitude and that of the people of Longbridge, to the Shields [of the Summoner] and the crew of Resplendent. Longbridge need no longer gaze south across the sea in fear, he said. Duke Gellen praised their valor in not only bringing one ship though the gauntlet set by the hated Brotherhood, but to also capture one of the enemy vessels and thus bolster the Free States handful of warships. The captured vessel would be renamed The Bolt of Longbridge, he declared in honour of the Duke's divine patron.

One small indulgence on the redrafted scenario on this site -- it always felt 'a bit cute' and coincidental that the Resplendent was crewed entirely by half-orcs. This is as likely to me as a ship entirely crewed by half-Chinese, half-Italian piratess and personally I've never understood why a bright green and tusked half-orc is acceptable in Dungeons and Dragons 3.x civilisations and an equally green but more tusky orc is a monster to be shot on sight within city limits other than the fact one has an entry in the Players Handbook and the other in the Monster Manual. The players in the Onnwal region (and other regions) campaigned for half-orc rights. As authors we were more interested in the 'Suel Backlash' plot where given the Scarlet Brotherhood were of pure Suel stock the pure Suel Onnwalons would not be flavour of the month in a post-occupation Onnwal. Also the vessel is from Nyrond rather than the remote region of Verbobonc. We had problems with far-off regions wanting in on our excellent plot. For example a certain troublemarker wanted a Ket-Onnwal crossover, with Ket teleporting vast hordes of soldiery into Onnwal... and even getting the Ket Triad to plan such a random movement of troops.