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    Postfest IX(Brewfest 2008): A Natural Selection of Staves
    Posted on Fri, January 30, 2009 by LordCeb
    Wolfsire writes "Dungeon Magazine issue number 85 contains a third edition adventure written by Matthew G. Adkins entitled “Natural Selection: Celadon Druids Vs. Urnst Rangers.” This article adapts, discusses and modifies one portion of the treasure in it to first edition with emphasis placed on and discussion of aspects of the Greyhawk setting and bowyery.

    “Natural Selection” is aptly summarized by its subtitle, which in the opinion of this author wonderfully captures and utilizes the grey essence of Greyhawk. For that reason, and because it develops a relatively unused portion of the Flanaess, this adventure is well worth a look whatever edition you play. For use in first or second edition, numerous but not overwhelming changes can be made to this module. FN1 

    Some background is necessary to understand this development. Ten years prior, in order to defeat a green dragon named Lakaradermaz, the druidic Counsel of the Thorn ceded to the Duke of Urnst a portion of the Celadon Forest as consideration for the aid of his rangers, the Royal Pathwardens. The adventure involves a breach of the special conditions under which the land was ceded as well as the dragon’s treasure. 

    The treasure at issue in this article is located in Dedermont’s Keep, the hall of the Royal Pathwardens within the ceded territory, and is described as follows: 

    “Hidden Treasury. … In the southeast corner, near the entrance, lay three logs. … The logs in corner are darkwood, a magic substance prized for its light weight and ability to be fashioned into items of superior quality. (See page 243 in the Dungeon Master’s Guide for details.) The rangers ran across a darkwood sapling felled by a storm a few weeks ago while patrolling the forest. Rather than let the precious tree go to seed, they carried it back to the keep, where it was sawed into segments and treated with oils for preservation. Each log is worth 60 gp to an interested buyer, though they rot into uselessness in 2d4+1 weeks and must be sold before then.” 

    The notion of a felled tree going to seed, rather than dying or surviving through suckering, is an honest mistake. That of wood rotting so rapidly once preserved is a silly and unnecessary game mechanics expediency. However, most unfortunate is the use of darkwood here- a generic magical ingredient created to feed the essential power gaming of third edition- when Greyhawk has its own unique hardwoods that could perform the same function. 

    Here we make the first change to the treasure. There are not three sawn logs, but rather three seven foot long and three inch wide staves split lengthwise from the sapling. Each of the staves is one quarter of the tree split for purpose of making longbows. When splitting lumber it is not uncommon to have the grain run off. In this case, that resulted in one of the four quarters being unsuitable for making a bow. Ripping, or sawing lengthwise, without a power tool or magic is not practical. 

    The second change, made possible now that we are rid of the hyper-versatility of three magical logs, is to banish the notion of darkwood. For bows in Greyhawk, hornwood is much prized for it is very straight, strong and resilient. FN2. But I will choose another. The Celadon is noted as being a forest of oak and elm, both of which are suitable for making normal bows; though obtaining such staves might be difficult due to a general prohibition on harvesting living trees. FN3. Although trees of suitable shape and size for making staves are uncommon, even with the harvest prohibition, neither of these would justify making such wood a significant treasure. 

    Instead, for reasons which will soon be obvious, I choose bronzewood. 

    “These trees are slender until after many decades of growth. The average size is 40 ft. with branches growing at 45 degree angles from the trunk. The bark is a reddish-brown and hard. Leaves are narrow and toothed, from eight to ten inches long. The wood of this tree is heavy and hard, so that only experts can work it properly. If it is carefully seasoned and especially dried, the outer part will become as hard as metal, while the overall weight of the wood is unchanged.” FN2 

    We may posit that bronzewood is rare in the Celadon. With the descriptive emphasis on the braches, but not on its straightness, we may also posit that a knot free stave of bronzewood would indeed be very rare. But is the wood suitable for bow making? Probably not by itself. Being hard as metal, it undoubtedly has outstanding compressive strength, though probably not an appropriately corresponding tensile strength. Unlike the hornwood, it does not bend very well. Perhaps such is the reason it fell in a storm. 

    But this may be remedied, and here we return to the module background and make a third change to the treasure. With the three staves, in a sack can be found various remnants of the dragon Lakaradermaz, including all of the beasts sinew, the tips of horns FN4, strips of de-scaled rawhide from the comparatively soft underbelly as well as scraps of the same. Sinew is just the opposite of bronzewood. It has almost magical tensile strength, dragon sinew all the more so. Indeed sinew is an essential component of composite bows, which correspondingly rely upon material strong in compressive strength, like horn. Scraps of the dragon hide may be boiled into glue FN5 to attach the sinew, which in turn may be covered for protection and a lustrous green camouflaging beauty with the strips of dragon hide. Horn makes excellent tips for the nocks upon which rest the bowstring. For powerful bows, such nocks are important to prevent the sting from actually cutting into the bow over time. 

    And now we have a true treasure unique to Greyhawk, the makings of three powerful composite long bows. Of course DM discretion is of utmost importance in this matter, but the author recommends that these ingredients are suitable for non-magical strength adjusted bows of up to 18(00) strength, enchantment up to +3, enhanced range or something similarly suitable for the campaign and game balance. FN6 

    Finding material strong and rare enough to make a suitable stings (or several of them – those darn fumbles) is another mater entirely. 

    FN1 Although not strictly relevant to the purpose of this article, it is worth mentioning - if for no other reason than to the mind of this old gamer it involves a laughable absurdity - the chaotic and evil humanoid druids might be changed to neutral Flan without ill effect on the adventure. The leader of the druid cult is a gnoll, but on the cover page of the adventure he looks like a werewolf. It would be a shame not to use such a wonderful piece of art. Having him actually be a werewolf, perhaps even having the whole Counsel be werewolves with a controlled variant strain, makes for some very interesting options. If nothing more, the central theme and premises of the adventure should be enhanced by make making the adventure, with suitable references, into a struggle between Ehlonna and Obad-Hai. A note in the adventure by a ranger references Ehlonna and a special garden is dedicated to her in the Duke’s capital of Leukish described in the module the Fate of Istus. 

    FN2 See eg. 

    FN3 See From the Ashes p. 52. 

    FN4 Bone may be substitute here if desired. 

    FN5 Green Dragon Jello! 

    FN6 Although bronzewood is noted as being particularly heavy, a bow made of such would not be abnormally so because the power of a bow is a function of its mass assuming efficient design. So a strength adjusted bow would be heavier than normal, but a normal bronzewood bow would be thinner than other bows while having the same weight. The DM should consider adjusting the gp value of this treasure as it is based on the third edition game mechanics.
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    Re: Postfest IX(Brewfest 2008): A Natural Selection of Staves (Score: 1)
    by Mystic-Scholar on Mon, September 28, 2009
    (User Info | Send a Message)
    Nice work. An excellent conversion and logical. Thanks for bringing it to the community's attention.

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