Thursday, 30 July 2020

On Otto

“My liege, and madam, to expostulate
What majesty should be, what duty is,
Why day is day, night night, and time is time.
Were nothing but to waste night, day, and time.
Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief.”
― William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 2, scene 2, lines 93-99

What can be said of Otto? Much, apparently. More than I imagined, at first. That said, much of it was written by James M. Ward, as erudite a sage as Otto, himself.
Otto is a member of the Circle of Eight; not an original member—that distinction goes to the Citadel of Eight: Mordenkainen (wizard), Yrag (fighter), Bigby (wizard), Rigby (cleric), Zigby (dwarf), Felnorith (elf), Vram (elf) & Vin (elf), a group of adventurers who sallied forth from the impregnable bastion (the obsidian Citadel) to fight evil—but one of seven archmagi whom Mordenkainen put together later to act as neutral referees between Good and Evil, lest either gain the upper hand on the other for two long.
The new Circle of Eight were Bigby, Otiluke, Drawmij, Tenser, Nystul, and Otto. Jallarzi Sallavarian was recruited later, and hence forth they were known as Mordenkainen and the Circle of Eight.

I’ll get to each of them in turn; but for now we are here to discuss Otto.
So, what can be said about Otto?
Otto, Clr3(Boccob)/Wiz15: HP 78. AL N. Str 16. Dex 10. Con 15. Int 17. Wis 15. Cha 17.

Otto is 44, 5‘10“tall, 332 lbs., with long curly brown hair and green-hazel eyes. He usually wears voluminous rich robes of purple and gold, and several gem-set rings. Hugely fat, the sociable and ebullient Otto travels widely, claiming to be a merchant, and trading in luxuries, especially foodstuffs. Otto is a gourmet, and what he doesn’t know about good food isn’t worth knowing. He has been writing a book on special dishes and good places to eat for some ten years, and is looking forward to visiting many more fine hostelries still. Otto’s cornucopia of blissful satiation is an item which provides him with three gourmet meals per day, but these must be ones which Otto has eaten before, and no particular dish can be reproduced more than once per year by the cornucopia—hence Otto’s desire to eat as many wonderful (and different) dishes as possible on his travels. Otto is a cultured man. With a love of all arts and music.
Young Otto, Cleric of Boccob
Otto began life as an acolyte of Boccob in the Prelacy of Almor, but despite his enthusiasm he did not make good progress. His superiors suggested switching to a career as a mage, and Otto has never looked back. Possibly due to some very wry assistance from Boccob—or more likely Zagig—Otto made extraordinary rapid advancement […], but in a very special manner. It is Otto’s keen musical sense which has assisted his study of magic. Otto is always ready (when he drops the cover of being a merchant and is known for what he is) to wax lyrical about the similarities between the structure of musical forms and the structures of the laws of magic, and believes the two to be closely linked.
In addition to his own personal spells using alterations of sound accompanying, or causing, magical effects, Otto is notorious for his bizarre singing firefalls and for his casting magic missiles which leave a sound wave of polyphonic chanting behind them as they streak through the air. One Frost Barbarian who incurred Otto’s wrath is reported to have said, “I have been struck by that which the foul dabblers in sorcery call an ice storm before, but never before by one which yodelled as it hailed down on my head.”
Otto is well-liked among the rulers of Almor, and has a large town house there. If he needs to carry out magical research, he uses the resources of the Wizards’ Guild of Chathold, or those at Tenser’s fortress. He spends most of his time in Almor, where he learns much of what is happening in the Great Kingdom and the troubled lands of the Bone March and Ratik, information carefully studied by the Circle of Eight. He is known to assist druids and rangers and their friends in the Adri Forest, and generally his [tolerance of all peoples’ natures] is tinged with good tendencies.
Otto is a frequent visitor to the Free City of Greyhawk and keeps a well-appointed town house there
"The King in Yellow" Grand Theatre and Opera House
[….] He visits to see Tenser, to trade, but mostly to attend major cultural events in Greyhawk, especially the opera. Otto has been in love with Aestrella Shanfarel for years, and adores listening to her. He has showered her with flowers, gems, and gifts of all sorts, and has even dines with her twice (as her way of acknowledging the funds he has donated to the Grand Theatre and Opera House). He has no idea, of course, of her true nature […]. Otto greatly enjoys the excellent food of Greyhawk, and often stays at the Golden Phoenix, talking to the chefs and swapping hints and gossip. On his most recent visit, Otto was able to add kraken steaks stuffed with fillets or rare star-eel, poached in Celene nectarwine and served with a mousse of moonberry and lemon, to his vast store of culinary experiences. He will travel far and wide to enjoy such rarities, and will pay well for recipes he has not already recorded in the many books which fill his bag of holding.
[CoG:FFF - 23]

Ten years later, Otto was much the same. A little fatter, maybe. But by then, Almor had fallen and he had relocated to the Free City, his home away from home.
Otto, a wizard who, like Jallarzi, is of the Circle of Eight, is well-placed as a new noble, having elected to live in Greyhawk after his homeland of Almor was ruined a decade earlier. [TAB - 71]

It is well known that this old mansion is owned by a member of the Circle of Eight […]. Since the destruction of his homeland, the Prelacy of Almor, during the Greyhawk Wars, Otto has been seen in town much more than he once was. Of late, he has travelled to Nyrond on several occasions and visited the lands of Almor that Nyrond annexed, looking for old friends but finding that most died in the fighting. He is present in the city [most] of the time, working on various projects, patronizing the arts, or seeing visitors. Otto is 53 years old, very fat, and extremely outgoing and cheerful. He is a superb gourmet, has a keen musical sense, and has friends among artists and actors everywhere. He has several elderly, quiet servants.
[…] Otto has a side interest in artifacts, though this is not commonly known. Any [person] who brings Otto a new bit of knowledge about an artifact of Oerth (or a previously unknown musical instrument, for that matter) will win his attention and possibly his friendship. If befriended, he is a good source of news on conditions in Nyrond and might know of some adventuring rumours and locations. [TAB - 89]

Otto is a rotund 53 year-old Oeridian with long hair, dyed light orange and worn in curls. At first glance, he appears foppish, as suggested by the intricately designed silk and satin robes that round out his voluminous wardrobe. Further study, however, reveals that he is possessed of the sharpest of minds, tinged only slightly by eccentricity. At times, he acts like the very image of Zagyg, and some have suggested that the attention of that demipower aided greatly in his rapid advancement in the field of arcane study.
The mage’s first calling was to the clergy of the Uncaring One, and it was as a Loremaster, in the vaunted temple of Boccob in Chathold, that he spent most of his life prior to being drafted by Mordenkainen. For this reason, he is a good friend of both Ravel Dasinder of Greyhawk and Riggby, who has long since retired from his position of eminence in Verbobonc.
Otto loves traveling. Before the wars, he boasted of having visited every civilized nation in the Flanaess (and some considerably less civilized, for good measure). He claims that his adventures are due to his love of seeing new and exciting things. Those who know him well explain that, more than the sights, Otto travels to exotic lands for the tastes that might be discovered there. In fact, the mage has a specially enchanted cornucopia that will reproduce any one meal once per year, with the exception that it must be a meal that Otto has ingested in the last 360 days. Otto cherishes this item, and often will brave hazards both magical and mundane to experience some new culinary delight. Such travels have brought him further west than any other member of the Circle save Mordenkainen, and dark secrets learned there have caused him at times to wonder at the true drive of the Circle's founder.
Ultimately, Otto's studies have remained close to the roots he followed before the Greyhawk Wars. He is obsessed with the structure of magic on Oerth, but, unlike Mordenkainen, he takes the unorthodox opinion that the form of magic and the form of music have some telling similarities. His first experiments in this arena involved mixing musical effects with mundane magical spells, but he has, of late, taken to composing chilling arias, such as his Aestrella, which produce stunning magical effects when sung to perfection. His latest endeavor is a piece for a chamber orchestra that, when played correctly, will open a visual-only gate depicting the wild forests of Arborea. It is slow work, but the commission paid by the Greyhawk Opera House has allowed him to continue in lieu of actual adventuring or any other form of income. [LGJ#0 - 10,11]

Otto was once a priest of Boccob, the god of magic, but is now a major wizard and a member of the Circle of Eight. One of the younger members at age 53, Otto is also one of the most colorful. Otto often poses as a rich, cheerful merchant, but he is easily picked out in a crowd because of his huge girth and his ruffled and beribboned clothing. He is a gourmet constantly in search of new, exotic dishes to sample, and is a patron of the arts. He has a natural talent for music and adds musical elements to his spells, which include singing fjreballs and yodeling ice storms.
Once a native of Almor far to the east, Otto has moved to the City of Greyhawk following the complete destruction of his country He can be found visiting the opera house, the Wizards' Guildhall or his fellow Circle members. [PGTG - 22]            

Otto has heard, from a contact in northern Nyrond, that Nystul [another of the Circle of Eight] has been working with powerful druids within the Phostwood to develop a potent form of faerie fire which binds the victim in addition to normal effects, but what has come of this as yet is uncertain. [CoG:FFF]

The Guild of Performing Arts Hall
[The Guild of Performing Artistes] has many wealthy patrons, most notably among the cultured nobility of the city. Otto of the Circle of Eight […] is a member. The guild is open to accepting anyone with any ability in the field of the performing arts, and it is not unknown for the guild to tempt famous performers from other regions to take up residence in the Free City. [CoG:FFF - 36]
The guild counts the archmage Otto among its patrons, and hence the entire structure is literally bathes in magical protections. [LGJ#2 - 8]
The art gallery is magically warded against theft, to an extreme degree. Many wizard and priest spells have been cast here, none of the sort that would damage the artwork while drawing attention to the theft in progress. Because of several attempts to steal works in the past, the guild has great antipathy for the Guild of Thieves, despite the fact that some members of the Guild of Performing Arts also secretly work for the Guild of Thieves. A continuing, low-grade struggle goes on between the thieves, who want to get the artwork, and the guild backers (including Otto […]), who lay down the casle’s defences. [TAB - 113]

Otto’s House
This small dwelling seems almost a cottage among the grandeau of the surrounding mansions. Often it is inhabited only by the white-haired groundskeeper and his wife.
About 25% of the time, however, Otto himself comes to stay here. […]
His house is comfortably appointed, and the housekeeper is a splendid cook. The old man tends the fine gardens on the estate. Otto keeps little of value here. [CoG:GotF  -63]
[Tenser] usually stays either at the house of his good friend Otto […], with Jalarzi […], or treats himself to a little luxury at the Golden Phoenix […]. [CoG:FFF - 22]

Jallarzi Sallavarian
The Golden Phoenix
Lady Valderesse Sharn, Tenser, Otto, Jallarzi Sallavarian (sometimes looking for Edwina, who is friendly with the pastry chef here and may be too fat to fly home), Nerof Gasgal, and Org Nenshen are all among the [Golden Phoenix’s] regular patrons, so this is an ideal place to [meet personages] of the highest levels of political involvement—or even members of the Circle of Eight! [CoG:FFF - 63]

The New Mill
The "New Mill," or New Mill College, is one of two functioning mills within the city walls, and serves as the headquarters for the Guild of Bakers and Cooks. Although some staffers at the Old Mill resented its construction, in truth the output from the New Mill isn't high enough to make any competitive impact since New Mill is first and foremost an educational institution. Here the various skills of food preparation, from the grinding of grain and the storing of milk to the final spicing and steaming of an exotic dish, are well taught by expert chefs from across the Flanaess. The college is also the site of a great cooking competition at the end of Brewfest. The mill's cellar sports a small slaughterhouse and ale-brewing facility. [LGJ#5 - 7]
The wizard Otto, an anonymous benefactor of the college and sometimes guest-instructor, has now taken an interest in the problems at the two mills, although his travels keep him away from the Free City much of the time. [LGJ#5 - 7]

Guildhall of the Performing Arts
High Tower Tavern and Hostelry
This is the favorite gathering place of the powerful wizards of the Council of Eight, when one or more of them are in Greyhawk. On most occasions, these wizards disguise themselves before venturing out in public. Otto, Tenser, and Nystul are the three wizards most commonly encountered here. [CoG:GotF - 63]

Guildhall of the Performing Artistes
The Guild includes performers of all types: jugglers, clowns, musicians, singers, actors, acrobats, snakecharmers, and so on. It enjoys the patronage of the great wizard Otto (od the Circle of Eight […]), and the Shrine to the goddess Lirr in the guildhall seems to engender her favor as well. [CoG:GotF - 75]

The History of Otto
First mention?
Lord Robilar
Robilar, Tenser, and Terik encountered him while adventuring in Greyhawk Castle. Otto was subdued by Tenser, but decided to work for Robilar, rarely straying from Robilar's side, at least until 570 CY when Robilar’s Keep was sacked by the Forces of Good, led by Tensir, and the ranger Otis.

570 CY  Sometime over one year ago, Robilar freed a demon, and in the ensuing difficulties, forces aligned with Good sacked and destroyed his stronghold west of the City of Greyhawk. It is reported that the following force escaped and is now somewhere in the Pomarj region:
Heavy Cavalry: 50 (Regulars)
Medium Cavalry: 100 (Regulars)
 Light Cavalry: 50 (Regulars)
Light Horse Crossbowmen: 50 (Regulars)
Heavy Infantry: 100 (Elite Qrcish)
Light Infantry: 100 (Levied)
Heavy Archers: 50 (Elite Orcish)
Light Crossbowmen: 50 (Regulars)
Pole Armed Infantry: 100 (Regular Orcish)
Many of the higher-level figures were slain during the intaking of the castle, but Robilar has Otto, a high-level magic-user, and Quij, an Orcish hero of high ability but low intelligence, as well as some relatively low-level cohorts. This force is Lawful Evil but suspect by the minions of Hell due to chaotic actions. [Dragon # 37 - 11]

One would think that Otto was Robilar’s faithful servant. Robilar certainly did. But was he?
Otto has been involved in the affairs of the Circle of Eight since before the group's existence. In 570, with Robilar's part in the release of luz revealed, Mordenkainen sought to keep tabs on the noble's activities. Since Lord Robilar was said to have the ability to discover magical scryes placed upon him, it was necessary to plant a spy within his sizable host. Having found Robilar's servant, the euroz Quij, wholly incorruptible (insofar as loyalty to his master was concerned), the Archmage of Greyhawk set upon a more mundane plan. Working through contacts in the Prelacy of Almor, he drafted an aspiring magic-wielding priest of Boccob as his mole. So it was that Otto worked his way into Robilar's organization, and onto the path of events that would see him as a founding member of the Circle of Eight.  [LGJ#0 - 10]

571 CY  Otto had served Mordenkainen well, and was rewarded for his efforts.
Over the next year, Mordenkainen invited some of the most prominent magi in the Flanaess to join him. By the first month of 571 CY, he had gathered eight mages to his cause, among them Bigby, Otto, Rary, Nystul, Drawmij, and the affable Bucknard. The Circle in those early days worked to check the power of influential beings in Eastern Oerik. When they could not directly intervene, they sponsored groups of adventurers, as in the sacking of Iggwilv's former haunt at the Tsojcanth Caverns in the mid-570's. Whether or not those agents always knew who set them upon their quests is a matter of some debate. Privately, members of the Circle explored fantastic corners of Oerth, including the strange and foreboding City of the Gods, near Blackmoor, further depths of Castle Greyhawk, and even the manifold layers of the infernal Abyss. More importantly, through their own adventurers and the exploits of those related to them, the Circle began to formulate what soon would become one of the most impressive networks of informers and agents the Flanaess has ever known. [LGJ#0 - 6]

581 CY  An important though seldom noticed event took place in 581 CY, when an agent of Vecna, the Whispered One of ancient Flan legend, struck down the entire Circle of Eight […]. The Circle had acted subtly as a balancing agent for years, preventing any one power from dominating too much of the Flanaess. Though the Circle's leader, Mordenkainen, returned his colleagues to life using powerful magic, the group was in disarray when war again erupted in the distant north in 582. [LGG - 15]

Not all things go as planned. Sometimes, the most unexpected things can happen, things that even the Old One could never have planned for.
Gradually, Vecna’s cult grew and he assumed the powers of a demigod. The process took a long time—gathering his power, responding to his worshipers, and settling himself among the greater powers. Vecna persevered and eventually reached the point where he was accepted as a minor demigod in the legions of evil.
Guaranteed immortality, Vecna was still not satisfied. With his scheming mind, he has devised a plan to ascend to greater godhood and humble his rival deities. With his usual long patience, Vecna has been working on this plan for centuries. Working through his avatar or others, the Whispered One has carefully found seven magical items. Each item has been placed in a secret location, [their positions] strategic to his plans.
These items, when fully powered, will cast a mystical web of energy over all of Oerth, cutting off all other gods from their followers. Already they are creating interference on a local scale. Only Vecna will receive the adulation of his worshipers: the other gods will weaken and leave the path open for Vecna to rise to the fore. Then the Whispered One will open the gates of time and bring forth his faithful followers from the past. Feeding on their devotions, Vecna will become the greatest of gods.
There is only one difficulty that remains for Vecna—finding his Eye and Hand. They are the final keys to fully empower the web, the final keys that open the gate of time. He knows not where these are. In the final confrontation with Kas, when they were sundered from his body, the gods (perhaps foreseeing his powers) hid them from his senses. Vecna cannot detect their energies; he can only find them by seeing their effects on others, much like finding a boat by the wake it creates. Too many times he has come close, only to have them escape his grasp. This time, he is determined not to fail. [WGA4 Vecna Lives! - 7]
The Circle of Eight sensed a great danger, but somehow their divinations were blocked. Mordenkainen sent some of his most trusted mages to investigate. And they died. Every last one of them: Bigby, Drawmij, Jallarzi Sallavarian, Nystul, Otiluke, Otto, Rary, and Tenser. Of course, death was not the end of all of them, it rarely is for those as powerful as members of the Circle. Mordenkainen sent others; their path led ever west and the name Vecna was raised time and again. And Kas. And Iuz.

Shattered Circle
Mordenkainen addressed this absence by recovering what was left of his fallen comrades and cloning them. This endeavor consumed time that otherwise might have seen him addressing the reports of the Circle's allies in the North, who warned of alarming developments in Stonefist and the Barbarian Lands. When those events spiraled into the first conflicts of the Greyhawk Wars, the Circle's clones remained undeveloped and half-aware. By the time the clones reached full maturation, the Circle of Eight had been forced to take a reactive stance to the tumultuous events unfolding before them. 
Though the Circle never acted concertedly during the Greyhawk Wars, certain "hotspots" received a good deal of their attention. Mordenkainen Bigby and Otto fought against the Old One's army at the infamous Battle of Critwall Bridge, and Drawmij was instrumental in organizing the flood of refugees from the Lost Lands to fastnesses in the Good Hills. Nystul worked primarily alone in besieged Tenh, while Otto and Bigby left Mordenkainen in the Vesve Forest to do what they could for the Iron League. Citing pressing personal needs, Rary retreated to his tower in Lopolla and refused to come to the aid of his companions. 
When the political rumblings that signaled the end to the conflict reached the Free City of Greyhawk, the entire Circle was on hand to ensure a favorable outcome to the peace process. Their network of agents researched the backgrounds of key diplomats and participants in the proceedings, and magical divinations were conducted to unmask any would-be saboteurs. Never did the view of those scrying crystals turn inward, however, toward the plans of the single individual who could do the most harm to the delegates' cause. 
Rary's treachery that day killed Tenser and Otiluke, and gained the Archmage of Ket everlasting infamy. Spurned from his family by his brother and banned from Greyhawk itself by Mordenkainen, Rary fled to the Bright Desert, to uncover its secrets and inaugurate an empire. [LGJ#0 - 6,7]

Did I mention that Otto was an erudite soul? He might even be the most learned of the Circle. He most certainly enjoyed a good mystery, doggedly chasing down leads with the help of Jawal Severnain, Librarian, Guild of Wizardry.

582 CY, letter from Otto to Mordenkainen following the defeat of the Falcon, 22nd of Reaping,
My dear Mordenkainen,
Your inquiries into the origins of the derro following the recent discovery of them beneath our city streets will be satisfied in part by the account herein, taken from my personal investigations. The heroes who last month saw to the defeat of the serpentine Falcon and her derro followers saved us all from an unspeakable fate.
The creation of the derro, the only servant race of the Suloise whose generation was publicly known and debated, is an especially ugly page in our fragmentary history of the Suel Imperium. References to their creation and uses appear in several buried libraries in the eastern end of the Sea of Dust; I have made copies of some of these if you wish to examine them, though as usual I do not wish to reveal the exact location of my sources.
Approximately 1,800 years ago, after much debate, the Suloise Imperial Congress approved the creation of a new subject race of beings to serve as miners, delving into the earth in search of precious metals, gems, and magical compounds sought by the wealthy and politically powerful wizards of the empire. The race was bred from human and dwarven prisoners and slaves by means that do not bear description here. This new race was called the thurgamazar, Suloise for “little miners,” but they became more popularly known as dwur-rohoi, “twisted dwarves,” a term used by a Flan slave of the Suloise who saw the new race at work. Dwur-rohoi was corrupted over the centuries to dwurroh, then to derro.
The creation of this race produced a permanent rift in the Suloise pantheon. Fortubo, the industrious god of stone, metals, and mountains, was so outraged at the horrific mistreatment of the captive dwarves used by Suloise wizards to create the derro that he withdrew his favor from nearly all his human followers. Clerics of Fortubo were apparently later responsible for instigating numerous anti-imperial revolts among the empires few dwarven slaves, free workers, and merchants. Fortubos efforts to destroy the derro and punish the Suloise who created them were seen favorably by the dwarven gods Moradin and Berronar. They soon gave Fortubo his hammer-artifact Golbi and joined forces with him in the Flanaess to destroy enemies of the dwur-folk. Fortubo is the sworn enemy of the derro and their patron deity Diirinka, whose origin I do not know but which I suspect lies in the Suel Imperium’s time.
The derro gained a great streak of possessiveness from their dwarven progenitors, but they craved magic and knowledge, not gold, perhaps as a result of their Suloise ancestry. The Suloise blood in them gifted the derro with extraordinary magical ability, and the dwarven resistance to magic was magnifiedfurther as well. But the derro temperament was most fully formed by their cruel mistreatment at the hands and spells of the surface-dwelling Suloise.
Their slavery came to an end 1,000 years ago, when the Baklunish Rain of Colorless Fire slew the Suloise above ground but failed to penetrate the deep mines dug out by the derro over their centuries of enforced servitude. Derro regard the Rain not as a disaster but as their deliverance and a blessing. There in the subterranean darkness they survived and prospered, looting the many ruins above them now buried deep under the ashen desert we call the Sea of Dust. In imitation of their former masters, the derro began taking slaves of every sort from neighboring races in the underworld, but especially from human adventurers or survivors of the cataclysm. The derro continue this evil practice to this day.
Humans and dwarves of all worlds would be horrified to learn of the truth of derro ancestry, that our world Oerth is responsible for their creation. The dwarven priests of Fortubo know this today, and they rarely share it even with their followers though they act upon it to destroy their distant, wicked kin. It is suggested here that this knowledge never leave our Circle, lest our world serve as a lightning rod for the wrath of those elsewhere whom the derro have tormented.
[Dragon #241 - 40, More Player Races for the Greyhawk Campaign, by Roger E. Moore]

585 CY, at the close of the Greyhawk Wars.
Otto, […] is believed to have gone to Almor to search for his henchman, the priestess Johanna. Both Otto and Johanna hailed from Almor’s capital, Chathold. [Dragon #230 - 8]
He found her. He rescued her. Why would risk life and limb for her? Because she is his oldest and dearest friend.
Johanna is native to the Prelacy of Almor, where she is an important official in the temples of Boccob. She has served in the priesthood all her life. It was there she first met and tutored Otto. Later, she was one of those who advised him to leave the temple. Johanna and Otto have remained close friends ever since.
To others, this seems like an odd Mutt-and-Jeff combination: the epicurean mage and the dour, strict priestess. In truth, Johanna is much less formidable than the image she presents. Uncomfortable among strangers, she lowers her defenses among friends, becoming warmer and showing a sly sense of humor. [WGA4 - 92]

Sunset, 8th of Coldeven
My dearest friend and ally, Johanna,
Your letter of the 5th arrived here in my residence on the same night, as no doubt you hoped it would, but I fear I was dining out alone that evening in a vain attempt to calm my anxieties over your safety; I did not enter my study until last night. I regret I was not here to read your words and share in your grief, as I do now. Please accept my apologies and know that I wept long when I read of your poor family’s fate. I remember your two brothers as if they were my own. I curse the beasts who delivered them and all in Chathold to such unspeakable evil. There will be vengeance for this from me, I swear this night by Boccob’s brow, a vengeance that will burn even the heart of a fiend.
I must also tell you that I was profoundly distressed to read of the rumors you have heard regarding a white orb said to have been seen in the claws of the Great Murderer of Almor, Duke Szeffrin. This was news of the worst sort, and your report regarding the powers that the orb is said to possess has only fed my nightmare that a true artifact has fallen into the possession of our hated enemies. That this orb is held by an undead wretch such as Szeffrin is ghastly news; between this and word of your brothers, I have been robbed of my appetite, and I have scarcely eaten for a day now. I have sent urgent word to Mordenkainen through Jallarzi to meet with him, since he has resources that I lack, but she returned and said he was “out,” likely swapping tales with that vile goat of a spell-hurler from Faerun — rot him for delaying Mord in this hour of need! But I have been tardy as well, and we must as a consequence handle this matter on our own.
The “white sphere” that you described as “engraved with myriad serpents or dragons” is very likely one of our world's Orbs of Dragonkind. You have heard of these, assuredly, but in the event that you have made no further study of these artifacts, I am attaching a copy of a short paper I wrote on this subject, which I read before the Eight only four years past on Midsummer’s Night, 581 CY. At the time, this information was little more than a part of a pet project to catalog the three or four dozen families of artifacts of this great continent of Oerik, but now the matter lies at the center of my worst dreads.
The information that I impart to you must be kept only to yourself for now. Thanks to my many private connections among the nobility of the central Flanaess, I have had access to records in archives and libraries where no outsider would normally be welcome, much less left alive once discovered. The general release of this information would, first, endanger my treasured connections and, second, threaten our whole, bloodied world, as it might motivate any number of individuals and forces, from greedridden half-heroes down to such Abyss-spawned nightmares as sit upon the thrones of Dorakaa and Rauxes to go in search of these orbs and the great powers they possess. You and I would be in the very snake pit of danger ourselves, since some of my research drew upon materials secured in ruins beneath the Sea of Dust, guarded by intolerant fiends who would not appreciate knowing I had been there among their treasures.
Read, then, and understand my fears.

The Orbs of Dragonkind
Magical creations are sometimes developed in parallel to a surprising degree of similarity. One of the most famous cases of such independent convergence of thought concerns the Orbs of Dragonkind, examples of which have been recorded on no fess than six different worlds. While the specifics of each case vary considerably, with such orbs covering a wide range in size, composition, power, number, and purpose, all such items were created with the intent of bestowing upon the user a measure of mastery over dragons. Doubtless, some such devices have inspired the creation of others, but certain dragon affecting orbs seem to have had no antecedent in their lands — the Dragon Orbs of Ansalon, for example, or the Orbs of Draconic Influence of Faerun.
Why this consistent combination of orbs and dragon control? What is confusing to the commoner is obvious to anyone who has long studied the matter. The orb represents an eye, and eye contact is crucial among all dragons in establishing communication, dominance, and intent. No other geometric shape has the power so quickly to arrest a dragon’s attention and make it prey to whatever powers the user would work on the creature’s mind and will.
Oerth, it is well known, has its own Orbs of Dragonkind, but their oral and written history is poorly known even to the learned. Sages have long suspected a connection between these orbs and the long-lost Suel Imperium (Suloise Empire, Empire of the Suel, whatever), dead just over ten centuries. I have recently finished my own investigation into this topic, and I now offer you the results, sparing you my bibliography and the harrowing tale of my research until later this evening, after the fine dinner that I have prepared for your digestive education. Attend my words:
In the ancient days of the maturing Suloise Empire, starting about -2400 CY, a great series of wars was fought between the emperor’s forces and the various monsters that populated the southern Crystalmist Mountains, what we now call the Hellfurnaces. The emperor, Inzhilem II of the House of Neheli-Arztin, was a surpassing wizard, the fifth such among the Suloise to be known as a Mage of Power. Inzhilem wished to establish mines deep within the Crystalmists to harvest rare minerals and crystals for his personal research, though he also had a niggling interest in throwing back some of the humanoid and draconic monsters that periodically raided the eastern provinces of his empire and reduced their taxable resources
 Imperial armies, even supported by military wizardry, found themselves hard pressed by their opposition. The great families of red dragons throughout the southern Crystalmists had enslaved Iimitless numbers of brutish humanoids for use as sword-fodder, originally to attack one another’s territories or bring in additional treasures. These armies of orcs and goblinkind were now turned upon the empire’s soldiers, hurling themselves into battle with great ferocity and in numbers that well made up for their lack of skill or foresight.
In addition, these dragons were exceedingly skilled at magic; baneful extraplanar powers supplied them with secret knowledge of spellcasting in return for great sacrifices of wealth. Worse yet, certain of those red dragons had undergone sorcerous rituals that infused their living bodies with shadowstuff from the Demiplane of Shadow, granting them new and devastating powers. These were the first of the accursed shadow dragons, and they and their servants built a vast network of caverns, halls, and tunnels beneath the Crystalmists that exists even to this day. Even the great Vault of the Drow is said by some sources once to have been the cavern-hall of an elder shadow dragon of this bygone age, some treasures of which may still lie hidden thereabouts. (The gods grant us that these treasures yet remain undiscovered by the drow!)
Facing such evil strength, the army commanders sent word to lnzhilem that the issue was in doubt, and they asked for his personal intervention. Angered at first that his armies could do no more than hold their own against mere dragons and orcs, lnzhilem quickly became intrigued by the difficult problem posed by the Fiery Kings, as the troublesome dragons were known in the eastern lands. He returned to the capital to remedy the situation.
Historical references to Inzhilem’s studies are sparse and contradictory. He was not in the habit of recording his thoughts and deeds for posterity’s sake. It is recorded in several places, however, that Inzhilem called upon and gained the direct assistance of the Suel deity Wee Jas herself, who in those early days was of greater aspect and power than she is now, and less concerned with matters of death than of pure sorcery. Legend has it that other gods favoring humanity were involved as well, though their names are lost; indeed, some of them may now be dead and forgotten. Myth and legend claim that all these gods were benevolent, but I have grave reservations about this. Whatever sources he used, lnzhilem gained sufficient knowledge to produce a solution.
The emperor elected to construct a limited number of identical artifacts that would give his forces the ability to confront and destroy the Fiery Kings. Knowing the great importance that dragons attach to direct eye contact, which among the most paranoid and wicked of them is regarded as a challenge resulting in an immediate fight to the death, lnzhilem set upon the orb as the ideal form for these surpassing devices. Each orb would be carried into battle by a war-trained wizard and used to subdue, assault, or defend against all dragons present, while a group of elite soldiers and battle-priests who accompanied the wizard would move swiftly to finish off the draconic foes; this group would accompany a regular army, which would carry the battle to the dragon’s humanoid supporters. This use of an orb with combined forces is important, as a single orb was not meant to be carried out alone against a many-talented foe like a dragon, much less the countless underlings who would soon overwhelm a lone orb-bearer. This misconception of the powers and uses of these orbs has likely undone more than one champion who was fortunate enough to gain an orb yet unfortunate enough to use it unwisely and alone, perishing as a consequence.
Furthermore, lnzhilem planned that each orb would be useful against every sort of evil dragon known, not merely against the red and shadow varieties. To accomplish this, lnzhilem was forced to have his entire collection of caged and charmed dragons in the capital gardens slain by sorcerous means. A portion of the blood, bone, brain, and spirit of each dragon was captured and imprisoned in each orb, though the orbs themselves were not meant to contain true intelligence as such. So strong were the enchantments with which lnzhilem hoped to fill the orbs that rumors flew that every cruel dragon on Oerth would fall prey to them, and the evil races of dragonkind would be wholly exterminated and cast into myth.
It was calculated that eight orbs would be enough to deal with matters in the east. According to one record I examined, lnzhilem secretly directed the Imperial Congress about the year -2360 CY to produce such wizards as would be necessary to assist him in the mighty enchantments that would have to be cast. Again, history fails to reveal all that followed, but one major event in the following years has survived for the telling. A smoldering feud within the House of Neheli-Arztin flared into violence in -2354 CY, and lnzhilem II was slain and destroyed beyond recovery before the struggle had ended. The partial house of Arztin ceased to exist as a result of retaliation, and the victorious partial house of Neheli kept the throne. Ubrond Thrideen (“Third-Eye”) became emperor.
A devoted but unremarkable ruler, Ubrond apparently continued the project to produce the orbs and saw it through to its finish, but considerable interference took place and the original plan for the project went inexplicably awry. Eight orbs were still made (the date of their completion has been lost, but it was after -2350 CY), but the orbs were now of differing sizes and powers, each oriented toward the control of dragons of differing ages. The reason for this alteration has never been made clear, as it certainly reduced the effectiveness of these orbs when used in battle against dragons of ages older than allowed for by any one orb.
This alteration was not the only one made, and certainly some of these alterations were performed without the knowledge or approval of the emperor or his staff. I conjecture that the Fiery Kings were able to insinuate agents among the wizards involved in the project, and without Inzhilem’s ability to grasp the full scope of the work and oversee the critical details, errors and even curses were worked into many of the final products. It is clearly known, for instance, that each Orb of Dragonkind possesses a malign, innate intelligence that attempts to overwhelm and destroy any user. Furthermore, each orb was given the power to affect good and neutral dragons as well as evil ones — an obvious addition by the fiery kings.
Once finished, the eight orbs were given names corresponding to the age level of the dragons they were meant to fight. In order from the smallest orb up, they were the Orb of the Hatchling, the Orb of the Wyrmkin, the Orb of the Dragonette, the Orb of the Dragon, the Orb of the Great Serpent, the Orb of the Firedrake, the Orb of the Elder Wyrm, and the Orb of the Eternal Grand Dragon. When not activated, each orb was a light, solid sphere of purest white jade, completely and elaborately carved with the entwined figures of dragons in battle with one another. None of these orbs could be damaged in the least by mundane forces, nor could any beast or animated construct bring them harm. If there were any means developed for their destruction, they have long been lost.
It may be presumed that these orbs were delivered to the Suloise armies and brought into combat with the Fiery Kings, but there is a break in the historical record here. A curious fragment exists that appears to be a message from a provincial lord to the emperor — whose name is not given — asking for the latter’s intervention to “deliver us from those who hold the stolen Globe.” Considerable strife between army commanders is also noted in some dispatches from the eastem provinces, with several references to a renegade officer, apparently mad, who called himself the King of the Fire Kings. It is apparent that one or more of the orbs either fell into enemy hands, was seized as part of a coup, or possessed a power or curse that led its user into insanity or rebellion.
As best as can be told, only five of the orbs remained in the hands of the Suel until the time just before the Rain of Colorless Fire. I managed to secure several authoritative accounts — from a source I cannot discuss openly, so I must beg your forgiveness — that list these five as the Orb of the Hatchling, the Orb of the Dragonette, the Orb of the Dragon, the Great Firedrake’s Orb, and the Orb of the Elder Worm. Some of you are surely aware of the contrary legends that five, not eight, orbs exist on our world, and I believe that this discrepancy resulted because three had been lost or fallen into the hands of the enemies of the Suel in the empire’s last days. I think that the Baklunish held at least one orb, but I have as yet found no evidence of this; perhaps our resident Kettite, Rary, will investigate and enlighten us! Despite the slight renaming of some of the orbs in late-empire records, I believe the missing original orbs to have been the Orb of the Wyrmkin, the Orb of the Great Serpent, and the most powerful of them all, the Orb of the Eternal Grand Dragon.
After the Rain of Colorless Fire, the historical record is dotted with appearances of these orbs, but very rarely is the exact identity of each orb known for certain. Obviously, most or all of the orbs were transported out of the empire before it was burnt into ashes. One orb, a small one said to be the size of a man’s fist, was held in Rauxes by the Overkings in the youthful days of Aerdy, until it was stolen after two centuries by unknown thieves. Another, a larger one, was discovered and lost in 311 CY by explorers in the Hellfurnaces, though this report is confusing in details. Everyone in the Flanaess must know the tale of the mad Zagig Yragerne, who is said to have taken a large white crystal ball with him when he left this city one spring day in 361 CY and returned the following week with a hoard of treasure such as only a succession of kings would know, using some of these riches of course to build Castle Greyhawk. He returned here without the white ball, however, and never spoke of it nor even acknowledged its existence before or afterward.
I have counted about two dozen other confirmed or probable appearances of the orbs between the fall of the Suloise Empire and the present day. The location of only one orb is known for certain to our cozy group of the Eight: The Orb of the Hatchling is unquestionably held in Rauxes, as Mordenkainen himself was able to demonstrate to our satisfaction last year. It is almost certainly the same orb held by Aerdy’s early overkings, but we do not know yet where the orb was found, how it was recovered, the uses to which it is being put, or the identity of its true owner or master.
Unlike the sections of the fabled Rod of Seven Parts, the various Orbs of Dragonkind have never been reported to indicate the presence of any of their fellow orbs, for which I am sure we can all be thankful. No spell, not even a Wish, and some say not even a god, will reveal the location of an orb; you simply have to be lucky enough to find one and know it for what it is. They seem to function independently of one another, though tales circulate that unexpected abilities become manifest when two orbs are brought into proximity of one another. I believe most of these stories are exaggerations and falsehoods, but I cannot discount the possibility. Time, perhaps, will tell.
What do the dragons think of the Orbs of Dragonkind? The dragons hate them, of course, as they would hate anything that would give mastery over them to some other race. There is only one tale of a dragon gaining an orb, but it is quite fanciful and its information is subject to grave doubt. The dragon in the tale slays a wicked knight who stole a magical white ball and attempted to control the beast. The dragon then took the ball into its lair and hid it away from humans forever. I cannot say what would happen if an orb was collected by a dragon, whether good or ill would result from this. Surely, I think, this has happened at least once in the past, but we do not know the truth.
You have all been most patient with me, and I now arrive at the core of my lecture. My research has also disclosed new information on the actual powers of these spheres. I will, as I mentioned earlier, cover my sources later. For now, here are those powers whose existence has been proven beyond doubt, as well as the most reliable information on other potential powers.
Orb of the Hatchling
This, the least of the eight orbs, is three inches across and easily fits into a pouch or pocket. As this orb was used in public by the early Aerdy Overkings upon small captive dragons, its powers are clearly established for anyone who researches the matter. This orb, like ail of its kind, confers upon the one who holds it the ability to converse openly with any dragons within hearing, both understanding the dragons and being understood by them. Further, the orb upon command casts a charm that affects a single young dragon aged five years or less, of any type or scale color, the spell being so potent that the beast finds it difficult, if not impossible, to resist. Thus the dragon may be led into captivity or slain from surprise, if action is swift. This orb has a mind of its own whose thoughts are devoted to wickedness and revenge. This is the weakest of all the orbs, and its mind is weak as well. Still, the user must have above-average intelligence and insight to maintain control over the globe, or else disaster results. This was sufficiently and tragically proven when Overking Erhart I allowed his eldest son to handle the Orb of the Hatchling in 98 CY; the orb proved too much for the youth, who evaded his father and threw himself over a parapet, dying of his injuries that evening. The orb was recovered in an undamaged state, of course, though it had fallen eighty feet to a stone-paved courtyard. After this, the orb was locked away beneath the castle until its theft only fifteen years later. Beyond its ability to charm young dragons, this orb appears to confer a low degree of magical protection on the one using it. It also grants the user the ability to see heat sources in darkness out to forty yards, and it bestows the spell clairvoyance at least six times a day, at the user’s will. It is thus useful, but hardly a grand artifact.
Orb of the Wyrmkin
This remains one of the least known of the eight artifacts of its family. It likely confers the same communication powers of the next smaller orb but can charm dragons of slightly older ages. I would guess that it is four inches across. One of my sources refers to this orb as cursed but does not say in what way; the Suel hated to give away any secrets that an enemy might use against them, and they hated to admit to failure. We must pass this one by for now and move on.
Orb of the Dragonette
[Interestingly], this orb is unmistakably mentioned several times in ancient Suloise literature. One wizard was said to have used the orb to fly over the countryside and scout for monsters and other enemies of the Suel Imperium, which the orb was capable of stunning. This five-inch orb vanished after the Rain of Colorless Fire and may still lie beneath the ash of the Sea of Dust.
Orb of the Dragon
This, like the previous orb, vanished without a trace after the fall of the Suel Imperium and probably still lies buried there. I discovered little about It, except that it was rarely used thanks to a flaw in its construction that killed one commander who used it. It is six inches in diameter.
Orb of the Great Serpent
Ah! This might have been the orb that Zagig himself used in that great battle in which he won his own dragon’s hoard. Several legends and tales about the Orbs of Dragonkind refer to one the size of a man’s head (this one would be seven inches, so its about right) that could blast enemies with waves of cold and ice, or turn aside the largest red dragon’s breath. A useful item to the Suloise long ago, no doubt! This orb is probably still at large somewhere in the Flanaess, but where, I cannot say.
Orb of the Firedrake
All the comments I made about the previous orb apply to this one, too. This one would be eight inches across, but I have found no records to distinguish it from the other. I assume from the title that it is effective against red dragons, but who can say?
Orb of the Elder Wyrm
Nine inches across, this orb was the largest one in the Suel Imperium at the time of its fall, and it had a black reputation. Though it had great powers by all accounts, and could kill any beast with but a word from the user, tales have filtered down that the orb was alive in some way and demanded blood for its favors. This is very possible, as I have seen notes that convicted criminals were attached to the army unit to which this orb was assigned, but no provisions were sent along for the prisoners beyond food for a few days. Were they executed by the orb or its user? It is possible. Even the commanders were loathe to use this device in the face of attacks by dragons, so its evil nature must have been great.
Orb of the Eternal Grand Dragon
I would love to say that I know something about this orb, but oddly even the Suloise records are sparse about it, and the Suloise loved to brag when they had something worth bragging about. There is a note or two to the effect that this largest of all orbs, ten inches across, was kept securely locked away most of the time, but this is understandable if it was terribly powerful. It is curious, however, that there is no mention of its use during any battle.
This concludes my little look at the Orbs of Dragonkind, and not a moment too soon, as I believe our dinners should be ready at last. We will take this topic up again, but first — let us eat!

Johanna, I have little more to add to this missive; the hour is late, and I have much to do. I hope to join you in Almor by the morrow at dusk. Should you be discovered by unwholesome forces, you must destroy this letter at once and, dare I add, speak to no one of its contents. We must immediately seek out our common enemy, the murderous duke, and we must take from him that which he cannot be allowed to have. If the orb is indeed the size of the duke’s skull, as you have heard, then it is surely one of the more powerful of the orbs, and with it he could likely break the stalemate that has kept poor, crippled Nyrond from total collapse and ruin. I will warn the rest of the Five of my intentions, but we cannot wait for them to act. Let us pray that Boccob has given us such insight and knowledge as we need to bring this crisis to a satisfactory close.
And if, as a consequence of our actions, grief should befall the Great Murderer of Almor, Szeffrin, then we may take home with us the cold certainty that your brothers — indeed, our whole ruined nation — have in some small way been avenged.

I remain ever faithfully yours, dear Johanna,
[Dragon #230 - 8 to 15, The Orbs of Dragonkind, by Roger E. Moore]

Let us not think that Otto was entirely sedentary. He was not. He never was, despite the girth that one might think testament to the contrary. He did risk life and limb to rescue his closest friend. He was ever travelling to expound upon his culinary knowledge. And he was always keen on the goings on of his homeland and those areas surrounding it.
A knot of heavy forest some three miles in length and two miles wide, the Fern Groves have the usual concentration of faerie creatures, with one special group—a community of 23 dryads.
The groves take their name from an unusually thick growth of ferns that carpets the forest floor here; though tree leaf cover is thick, enough dappled sunlight reaches the forest floor to sustain these shade-seeking plants. The mage Otto, on a visit to these parts, claimed that sunlight bent around branches to reach the ground, and that some magical force was at work here. On the latter score, at least, he was surely right; there are many rumors concerning buried magics in the Fern Groves […]. [FtAC - 45]

One might add that Otto was prolific, as well.

“Arcane Manipulations of the Entourage” 
By Otto [Book]
(sleep, scare, fumble, geas, Ottos irresistible dance, confusion)
[Dragon #82 - 58]

Level One
Otto’s Chime of Release
Level Two
Otto’s Soothing Vibrations
Otto’s Tones of Forgetfulness
Level Three
Otto’s Crystal Rhythms
Otto’s Sure-Footed Shuffle
Level Four
Otto’s Drums of Despair
Otto’s Rousing Anthem
Otto’s Silver Tongue
Otto’s Tonal Attack
Otto’s Tin Soldiers
Otto’s Warding Tones
Level Five
Otto’s Gong of Isolation
Level 6
Otto’s Triple Chime
Level 8
Otto’s Irresistible Dance

Otto’s Imperative Ambulation

Spells like […] ‘Otto’s Gelatinous Cube Transformation to Edible Gel’ have been left off as too esoteric for even the most curious spell crafter.

[Descriptions of spells found in the AD&D Player’s Handbook, Greyhawk Adventures, Wizard’s Spell Compendium Volume III]

So, what have we learned about Otto? He is entrepreneurial. A patron of the arts. A dandy, perhaps a popinjay. He is also kind. He is loyal. Learned. And studious. He put his curiosity to work, prolific too, if the breadth and preponderance of his correspondence and his writings are any indication.
One might add that Otto is a fan of his creature comforts, as well. Culture and cuisine are his greatest loves, aside from those he holds dear.
This is not to say that he is not powerful. And dangerous. To think otherwise would be foolish. He has lived long, and no mage who has should ever be underestimated.
To do so would risk your own life and limb.

One must always give credit where credit is due. This History is made possible primarily by the Imaginings of Gary Gygax and his Old Guard, Lenard Lakofka among them, and the new old guards, Carl Sargant, James Ward, Roger E. Moore. And Erik Mona, Gary Holian, Sean Reynolds, Frederick Weining. The list is interminable. Thanks to Steven Wilson for his GREYCHRONDEX and to Keith Horsfield for his “Chronological History of Eastern Oerik.”
Of course, this piece would not be possible if not for the writings of James M Ward.
Special thanks to Jason Zavoda for his compiled index, “Greyhawkania,” an invaluable research tool.
Primary sources for this history were the DMG 1e, The World of Greyhawk Folio, and The World of Greyhawk Gold Box, Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, Dragon Magazine.

The Art:
All art is wholly owned by the artists.
Otto, by Sam Wood, Living Greyhawk Journal #0, 2000
Cleric by maylaa
The-King-in-Yellow-Theater by morkardfc
Lucian-Cleric-Of-Boccob-Commission by devtexture
Yelling-Theatre by kevissimo
Jallarzi Salavarian,  by Sam Wood, LGJ #0, 2000
Theatre-Of-The-Night by intao
Lord Robilar detail, from the Epic Level Handbook, 2002
WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure cover, by Clyde Caldwell, 1984
Mordenkainen detail, from Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk, 2007
Jellarzi, Mordenkainen and Otto in battle, by Joel Biske, Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Magic Tome, by...?

1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1068 Greyhawk Wars Boxed Set, 1991
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
9027 S2 White Plume Mountain, 1979
9577 The Adventure Begins, 1998
9578 Player’s Guide to Greyhawk, 1998
11434 Return to White Plume Mountain, 1999
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Dragon Magazine 241
OJ Oerth Journal, appearing on Greyhawk Online
LGJ et. al.
Greychrondex, Wilson, Steven B.
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer

Friday, 24 July 2020

Thoughts on A0 Danger at Darkshelf Quarry

“The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times 
the same good things for the first time.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

A0 Danger at Darkshelf Quarry
Darkshelf Quarry holds more than limestone and granite. Whispered rumors abound that the quarry’s dwarf overseer isn’t what he pretends to be, and that he’s involved in unscrupulous dealings with foreign threats. Investigation is the only way to learn the truth, but beware! The quarry is well defended, and danger lurks within its dark tunnels and hidden chambers. [A0 - 5]

Skip Williams has had a long history with TSR, first as a part-time clerk at the Lake Geneva game store, then as an administrative odd-jobs man, and finally as a convention coordinator and game designer.
Thirty years after the classic Slavers tournament modules were first published, Chris Perkins asked Skip if he would pen a prequel to the much-revered series for a proposed compilation to mark the anniversary of their release. Skip rose to the challenge.
He most certainly did.
Personally, I think he hit a home run with Danger at Darkshelf Quarry. He adhered the structure of old-school tournaments, but also updated it to today's desire for verisimilitude and story. Nothing seems out of place, unlike some of the ol old adventures; indeed, everything that is included feels like it ought to be there.
It’s set in Nyrond, far from the Pomarj. As it should be. This introduction need be set where the slavers are harvesting their victims, not where those victims end up. So, It could have been set in Keoland if you've a mind to, or in the Holds of the Sea Princes, or Onnwal; so long as it is nowhere near the Pomarj.
Maybe I need to back up for some who may not be as old as I am and not familiar with the A-Series.

So, what’s been happening in Greyhawk, or more specifically, on the waterways of the central Flanaess? Slavers have been raiding the coastlines.
For several years, organized bands of pirates and slavers have made a living by raiding the coastal towns on the Sea of Gearnat. Ranging from Onnwal to the Wild Coast, they have descended quickly and ruthlessly on the small towns and villages, and carried off innocent citizens into the night. [A1 - 2]
Those slavers had been raiding far and wide; had they not, Keoland, Nyrond, or Onnwal might have made short work of them. But as the slavers raided far and wide and without pattern, they had not, and the people were made to suffer the consequences of their inability to do so. Hitherto, those raids had been infrequent, but unbeknownst to the people of Nyrond, the slavers had become far more brazen of late, and the overlords were as yet still unaware of that. Life carried on as it always had.
We now come to our adventure:
Bazali Erek/Brubrok
The overlord of the village of Darkshelf has become wary of the quarry’s new owner and manager, a fiery dwarf named Bazili Erek. Odd things have been heard at the quarry of late, and even though Erek has recently, and conveniently, put and end to the slavers’ raiding in the region, the overlord has grown suspicious of the energetic yet secretive dwarf. Little does he know that Erek is not a dwarf at all, and that the work at the quarry is only a front for a far more sinister enterprise.
If you haven’t read this gem, you ought to; it has a cunning and sinister villain in Brubrok, an elven maid as dark of heart as Markessa in Glyrthiel, and enough goblins and half-orcs to challenge the most hale of adventurers. There is even an Elemental Temple for those who wish to foreshadow far more grim adventures to come.
Temple of the Elemental Eye

I am just as impressed with the quarry itself. There are problems with it: the workings are far to small by far to be a real mine or quarry (as they should be, this being a tournament module and not an endless dungeon dive), and the prospect that any mine would produce both granite and limestone is unlikely—not  impossible, just not probably; but aside from that, I was not insulted by how a working mine is depicted. Why is this so important to me? Because I’ve worked in mining my whole adult life, both in labour and engineering, so it pleases me that Skip Williams took the time to get it right, or mostly right as the case may be.

One ought to do a little work beforehand, if this is to kick off the greater Slavers campaign. Leave a clue or two at the temple of the Elemental Eye that ties it to the Scarlet Brotherhood, named as a financier of the slavers in later modules. And I would suggest an encounter or two while in the village of Darkshelf. The overlord has put out a call for adventurers; so, let there be a few in town, and one specifically: Ketta, a slippery sort, brash of tongue, and watchful too. But likeable. The life of the party. Obviously competent; so much so that PCs will wish she were along for the ride. Why Ketta? Because she’s a slave lord, or will be. Let’s say she isn’t one yet; let’s say she answered the same call you did, but didn’t like the pay or the terms of the contract. Either way, she can turn up here and there if you please, and will be a bit of a surprise when she makes her final appearance in A4 In the Dungeon of the Slave Lords.

All in all, Danger at Darkshelf Quarry is a well plotted, well paced, and well written module.
This is an excellent introduction to the A-series, but a party of characters could not possibly jump from this to A1. One might consider it foreshadowing, though, something that the characters do and then move on from, only to find themselves caught up in after it is long forgotten. Perhaps they find themselves drawn to Hommlet after receiving a letter from a relative….

The Art:
All art is wholly owned by the artists.
A0 Danger at Darkshelf Quarry Cover Art, by Brian Snoddy, 2013
Brubrok, by Rich Longmore, 2013
Temple of the Elemental Eye, by Rich Longmore, 2013
Quarry Main Level cartography, by Mike Schley, 2013
Ketta detail, by Erol Otus, 1981

9026 T1 The Village of Hommlet, 1979
9039A  A0 Danger at Darkshelf Quarry, 2015
9039 A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity, 1980
9042 A4 In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords, 1981