Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Finding the Gems: WGR5 Iuz the Evil, by Carl Sargent

Today's entry for the April A-to-Z Blogging Challenge can be found here: B for Beamos.

This review is based on my hardcopy. I do not own the pdf.
When TSR published Iuz the Evil, Carl Sargent, back in1993, I bought it as soon as I could. I really liked Iuz as a villain.

He's the son of witch Iggwilv and the demon lord Graz'zt. He's a full fledged cambion bent on bringing chaos and evil into Oerth. He first reigned from 479 to 505 CY, before Zagyg the Mad Archmage imprisoned him in the Ruins of Castle Greyhawk. Then he escaped and eventually caused the Greyhawk Wars.

Even though my liking of Iuz has waned over the years, Iuz the Evil still remains one of my favorite accessories from the 2e era.

Sure, certain Greyhawk purist might say this supplement isn't true Greyhawk material, since it was done years after Gary left TSR. But its also a dramatic improvement compared to "joke" material like WG11:Puppets or WG7: Castle Greyhawk.  

My own personal criticism deals with Iuz himself--he's a one-dimensional villain. I think Sargent could have developed him further than just being the major Chaotic Evil menace on Oerth. For a chaotic evil being he demonstrates a lot of organizational skills like creating alliances with drow, demon princes, Stonefist barbarians, holding his empire together, and then willfully signing the Pact of Greyhawk that ended the Greyhawk Wars.

But that's just me.

So what do we have here? 
It's a gazetteer, for the most part, covering the following territories: The Land of Iuz & the Vesve Forest, the Horned Lands, Shield Lands, Bandit Kingdoms, the Fellreev Forest, the Northern Barrens, and the former Duchy of Tenh.

Each has its own history, and entries for every major settlement or location. Some are ho-hum, others frightening. There's plenty of places for adventures, plenty of ideas here.

Locations that stand out include:
--Dora Kaa in the Fellreev Forest, where an insane mage rules over a host of zombies, thinking he's the last true priest of Iuz on Oerth.

--A detailed overview of Rift Canyon, including a small guerilla bandit force opposing Iuz.

--The Soul Husk Caverns, where secrets of Iuz's ascension to godhood reside.

Iuz maintains tight control over his own lands and the Horned Society, but the farther east one goes the weaker his grip becomes.

There's a chapter on the Iuz's priesthood and how they rule by pain and "might makes right." The text encourages the use of "specialty priest" from the AD&D 2e Player's Handbook. Specialty priests of Iuz are very jealous of their secrets, however, and new converts may only be standard clerics.

"Adventures in the Empire" gives the DM some ideas on what kind of campaign he could run. The most obvious is combat and battle. But the section gives other ideas for political intrigue, retrieving magic items before evil forces discover them, and preventing alliances between the forces of Iuz in the Empire.

Sargent chides DMs for running a campaign where the main goal it to kill Iuz. "Iuz is the most malignant force in the entire Greyhawk game world and he's going to be around for awhile." Fair enough.

"Iuz wants you!"
The interior black and white illustrations are decent.
Nothing outstanding, but nothing terrible.

Finding the Gems
There's too much material in this book for a DM to use it all in a typical campaign. Much of it matter-of-fact, typical for a gazetteer. But here are some gems.

1. New spells and magic items. Chain Madness is pretty vicious; it causes contagious insanity. Death Touch kills a victim and transfers part of its energy to the caster. The most powerful of Iuz's priests carry a Blackstaff which can cast Death Touch, and a number of other powers. 

2. A breakdown of the orc tribes: Celbits, Urzun, Jebli, and Kazgund. Each of which vary somewhat from the standard orcs. Kazgun show signs of civilizing. Jebli leaders each have a 5% chance per level of hiding in shadows. I just like to see variants in humanoids. 

3. The "Armies of Iuz" section gives a rundown of the major garrisons of Iuz's soldiery. This, combined with similar sections in WGR4: The Marklands, can be used to generate armies for tabletop wargames alongside your RPG campaign if you so choose. 

4. Encounter Tables for the Cold Marshes. At all times a year there's a chance of encountering a bitter Blackfrost of Hoarwinds that can freeze people to death. The mists in Cold Marshes themselves might contain a Vampiric Mist, Wraiths, Spectres, or worse. These tables can be taken and easily used in other settings.

5. The foldout color map (of course), showing an overview of major sites and territories within the empire.

Augmenting this Product 
1. Toss out most of Iuz's backstory as desired--particularly all of those alliances mentioned earlier. Most of this stuff was cobbled together just to make the Greyhawk Wars happen, and some of it just doesn't make sense. And much of it won't matter to your players, anyway.

2. Make Iuz the father of a new race of cambions. Sure, Iuz has his hordes humanoids and the like--but these are all disposable.  But he has a "core tribe" of followers that are mostly his progeny. The Greater and Lesser Boneheart? They're all his grand-children and great-grandchildren.

3. Replace the numbers of fiends found in the Armies of Iuz section with Iuz's progeny. If this seems unrealistic (how did Iuz be so prolific in such a short time?), may I point out that there's 16 million decendents of Ghengis Khan on this planet. In the Bible, 1 Kings 11, Solomon supposedly had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines.  Might makes right, might also makes babies.

4. Get rid of most of the demons. TSR/WotC did this in later supplements with the Crook of Rao. But demons had become far too common--how the heck would the forces of good stand a chance? I certainly didn't see any angels listed in WGR5: The Marklands. 

5. Toss out the Pact of Greyhawk. Why would Iuz sign something like this in the first place? Have him break it at the start of whatever campaign you want to run.

6. Iuz the Darklord. This is stretching things, but what if Iuz that the powers similar to a darklord in Ravenloft? He is a demigod after all. More lands means more worshippers, and more worshippers increases his chances of true godhood.

Get this if... You like Iuz, you want to run a Greyhawk Campaign where the PCs face off against Iuz's empire, or both. The $4.99 at D&D Classics is worth the money--if the scans are of good quality. But make sure you're going to use much of the material. At the very least its a decent read.

Don't get this if... This is, admittedly, a niche product. Many gamers aren't familiar with Greyhawk these days, it seems. Some Greyhawk purists wouldn't be interested in this supplement anyway, since it takes place after the Greyhawk Wars.

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