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WG12 Vale of the Mage (2e)
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WG12 Vale of the Mage (2e)

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There's only one way to get there - through the Barrier Peaks. Once you're there, you are confronted with armed guards, traps both magical and mechanical, and legendary beasts?not to mention the wandering necromancers.

Why go in there?

Because rulers of neighboring countries have asked you to persuade the Black One to help rout that group of expatriate necromancers. They tried a coup, failed, and came to the Vale of the Mage to hide - and, presumably, to regroup and ally with the Black One. They may have gained the help of the Tree People, as well; you won't know until (perhaps) it'll be too late to turn back.

It's a jungle in there?

For 4-6 characters level 7-9.

Product History

WG12: "Vale of the Mage" (1990), by Jean Rabe, is the twelfth-ish and final World of Greyhawk adventure. It was published in January 1990.

About the Title. All the previous sources called this area "The Valley of the Mage". That title is even used for one of the interior chapters. At best guess, someone in marketing thought that "Vale of the Mage" would sell better. It certainly has a better cadence.

About the Cover. That's Tysiln San on the cover, first protector of the the Vale, and an emigrant from the Vault of the Drow. No, she's not the eponymous Mage, but her presence on the cover probably reflects the increased interest in drow at the time, thanks to Drizzt Do'Urden. The Vale itself, stretching out behind her, is surprisingly arid given its placement in the Barrier Peaks, but that matches with the description inside the book.

Origins (I): An Ending for Greyhawk. "Vale of the Mage" was impressively the sixth Greyhawk book published in a twelve-month period, beginning the previous year with WG8: Fate of Istus (1989). However, it's also very different from its predecessors. The adventures coded WG9-WG11 had all been converted from RPGA tournaments and usually felt like they were just barely set in the World of Greyhawk. WG12: "Vale of the Mage" is instead a combination sourcebook and adventure that's all about a specific locale in Greyhawk: the Vale of the Mage.

As a result, it feels like "Vale of the Mage" was where TSR got its feet under them for its strong new AD&D 2e Greyhawk line. Though they'd already published the well received City of Greyhawk (1989) it was only with "Vale of the Mage" that they started regularly publishing Greyhawk supplements that were strongly set in the World of Greyhawk. However, later publications would not use the classic "WG" code, but instead adopted a brand-new "WGA" code, for World of Greyhawk Adventures.

Origins (II): The Gygaxian History of the Vale. The Vale of the Mage was never an important element in Gary Gygax's Greyhawk campaign. As he said, "None of the players ever cared to investigate the Valley of the Mage. It was their decision, and I didn't prevent interaction." However, Gygax did write about the Vale early on, in The World of Greyhawk Fantasy World Setting (1980). He described a mysterious place, a "lush valley" in the Barrier Peaks claimed by a "mighty wizard", who warned that "entrance to the domain … was forbidden except by express invitation from its laird." Everything else about the land was speculation, but it was obviously a potential place for adventure.

Fans learned a tiny bit more about the land in S4: "The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth" (1982), which included monster entries for the valley elves and their elven dogs, the cooshee. Gygax says that he introduced them because he as "thinking of detailing the Valley of the Mage". These entries were brought to a wider audience in Dragon #67 (November 1982) and the Monster Manual II (1983). Then, Dragon #72 (April 1983) immortalized them all in a parody song called "Valley Elf".

"North of Geoff, South of Ket,

By the River Javan wet

Living with the stubby gnomes,

The Valley Elves do make their homes,

"Sure, totally, y'know, I had a dog, man,

a cooshee, like he was special,

A Gucci cooshie poochie,

he had designer genes, like, really rare …"

The Valley Elf of the song even met the Mage, but he "has got like no, totally no sense of humor" and fries the Elf's cooshie poochie.

Bummer.

And that was it for the official history of the Vale under Gary Gygax. As for what might have been, Gygax later said that his mage would have been "a demi-urge in retirement rather akin to Tom Bombadil". That demiurge actually showed up in Gygax's Sea of Death (1987) novel, published by New Infinities Productions. There, Gord the Rogue meets with Basiliv, a demiurge with his own contingent of valley elves.

But by then, Gygax had been forced out of TSR. Shortly afterward, the Vale would go in a totally different direction under other authors, starting with James Ward in Greyhawk Adventures (1988). Gygax says that Ward had never been to Gygax's Vale, so "whatever he conceived of and wrote was entirely of his one imagination".

Adventure Tropes. The half of "Vale of the Mage" that's an adventure is quite traditional. It's a wilderness hex crawl that's laid out as a simple macguffin quest: catch the necromancers! It also does a nice job of introducing some of the main actors in the Vale.

Exploring Greyhawk. Though Gary Gygax had his own ideas about the Vale of the Mage, TSR's canon Vale first appeared in Greyhawk Adventures, which revealed the mage as Jaran Krimeeah, a rebel and exile from the Great Kingdom, obsessed with magic and intent on becoming a shade.

"Vale of the Mage" builds on that background, revealing an arid lost world. With some 30 pages of detail, there's extensive detail on the land and its people, including valley elves, tree people, and gnomes. There's even a nice foldout map of the area, an innovation for the "WG" line.

NPCs of Note. Somewhat inexplicably, the mage Jaran Krimeeah has become Jason Krimeah. Tysiln San, the drow protector of the Valley, who also debuted in Greyhawk Adventures also gets attention in this new supplement.

About the Creators. Rabe was the Network Coordinator of the RPGA, which may be what brought her over to the Greyhawk line. In later years, she'd be much better known for her work in creating the Fifth Age for Dragonlance.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
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Pages
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1.0
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File Last Updated:
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This title was added to our catalog on November 08, 2016.