D&D Research and background – Oerth: Timezones in the Flanaess

My D&D campaigns are all set in the “World of Greyhawk” – in the land of the Flanaess, on the continent of Oerik, on the world of Oerth. Nearly all (if not every one) of the adventurers that I’ve written for D&D (and/or other RPG’s) has a detailed background or explanation of how things came to be before the player characters turn up. Some of this detail may be revealed during the adventure itself because of various events, or things found by the players. Some may be revealed after careful searching, or investigation. A lot of it will likely never be known by the players, and exists because I like reasons for things and I really enjoy writing this sort of stuff.

For example: one of my adventures has a partial diary that was handed to the players (eight pages on 3 x 6″ parchment paper), a family tree and details on the whole family. The players are trying to learn about events seventy years after the last of the family died, and stop a curse that began nearly 200 years ago. My players learned most of the background (since it was presented to them as part of the adventure) but weren’t able to bring an end to the curse.

I find that character background works the same way. Players enjoy choosing their class, race/species, sex, hair and eye colour. They are happy to make a few rolls on the tables presented to determine height, weight and origin/place of birth. For D&D I have tables that determine a few details about siblings and parents in addition to country of origin – and I might write a few lines of background for the character that the rolls inspire me to. The players themselves rarely develop a back-story or pay much attention to these sorts of things after character creation. How many players show interest in their characters going “home” or contacting relatives at any time in their adventuring life. (Did all the players determine/decide that they are an orphan!)

I’ve seen a number of starting adventures that give a reason for how and why the PC’s have met. Some do this better than meeting together in a tavern or sheltering under a tree or in a cave during a storm.

For quite a long time I’ve been writing a D&D adventure that provides a detailed reason for why a bunch of people of different races, born far apart, from varied countries and cultures, suddenly get together and form a group that stays together. As a part of this I’ve determined a whole bunch of random backgrounds by race, that players can choose from for a quick start on where they were born (town/city/country), as well as siblings, and parents mortality/occupation. The main part of this introductory adventure will start by dealing with individual characters in their home town, while the other players control NPC’s that represent friends or relatives. Once a certain event is resolved, we will change to the next player around the table… and so on. As a part of this I’ve been looking at detail such as what day, month and year this will start on. The phases of the moon became relevant and I decided it would be interesting to determine what time things would be happening for each player considering they will start at different places in the Flanaess.

I spent some time yesterday and today going over my maps, reading different resource material (primarily the “Glossography” from the 1983 Greyhawk set, and “Greyhawk” 1998 guides) and a little internet searching. I found that other people have asked questions, but no-one appears to have done the work to provide distinct answers, so I did the rest of the work myself.

The resources available already provide climate data, weather tables, phases of the two moons, and details of sunrise and sunset in the city of Greyhawk. They also locate the main area of the Flanaess in the northern hemisphere of the planet between 15 degrees and 60 degrees of latitude. Oerth is a sphere, with a given circumference of 25,200 miles. The region of the Flanaess covers approx 3,000 x 4,000 miles, depending on which maps you use. Since Oerth is only slightly larger than Earth, it makes sense to treat things in the same way. Dividing it into 24 time-zones where each zone covers 15 degrees leads to zones of 1,050 miles or 35 hexes each. (All of the large hex maps that I have of the Flanaess are 30 miles to a hex.)

This means that the Flanaess can be considered to span nearly five complete time zones. This puts Greyhawk City (GMT = Greyhawk Mean Time) in the central zone. Starting from the east edge of my Dungeon magazine map (WotC 2005) the zones become A to I1 (+2 hours), J1 to R2 (+1 hour), S2 to A4 (GMT), B4 to J5 (-1 Hour) and K5 to S6 (-2 Hours), although the western map edge is K6.

On this image – the black lines mark the time zones and the red dot is Greyhawk City.

The World of Greyhawk – Time Zones

The lines could be bumped to the sides in a few places (as in real life) so that countries fit into one zone, but (being as large as it is) the “Great Kingdom” spreads over two zones. If the first line on the east side of the map was placed closer to the edge of the Great Kingdom’s coast, then it would almost fit in one zone.

Here’s a second map with a more effective set of divisions, which produces six zones. It gets a bit confused in the west, where there are a lot of smaller countries:

Alternate Time Zones

There we go… and that’s certainly filled in a fair bit of time today that I could have been painting in! But now I have differences in time for the countries in the Greyhawk world. I wonder what will side-track me next…

Painting – “Lord of the Rings” project

I’ve been focussed on painting heroes and adventurers over the last few months and I’ve nearly done every such unpainted figure! This is quite an accomplishment in itself, considering how many figures I’ve collected for gaming over the decades.

I’ve got seven figures (mostly Citadel Warhammer) undercoated and ready to paint, but because so many of the figures that I’ve painted or repainted recently included Citadel Lord of the Rings figures – I decided to try and paint ALL of the LotR miniatures that I have. The standard hero figures can wait.

Yesterday I sprayed seven horses and a throne. I’ve never painted horses before, so this will be something new and different. I’m sure that part of today will be looking around the internet at photo’s of real horses. I also have a large oil painting on the wall in the lounge (painted by my father) with pre-WW1 cavalry – that’s a nice inspiration for colours and shading.

These miniatures are, with one exception, from Citadel’s 1985 range. The horses each came with one of the main characters from either the “Fellowship” or another notable figure. The single-piece throne also came with a two-part “Sauron” – basically a empty hooded and cloaked humanoid figure who sat on the throne – very unimpressive. I don’t like multi-part figures now (although I’m better at dealing with them) and a few decades ago I hated them. Sauron was lost (or thrown out) long ago, but I’ve always liked the throne – it’s an imposing, detailed piece of furniture. Painted and based (or “dias”-ed) it should even more worthwhile. The one figure that isn’t Citadel is a 1988 Mithril Miniatures “Angmar troll”. (I note that Mithril is still producing 32mm figures for LotR.)

Suggestions for painting the throne are very welcome! The bulk of it is covered in heads and torsos, interwoven with vines or tendrils. I’m not sure whether to go with shades of grey, or a more fleshly pink/red. Tendrils could be black or green. At the top is a huge eyeball, and what could be a dragon’s head. The rear is bones in a spine-like arrangement.

Throne of Sauron - front

Throne of Sauron – front

Throne – rear

Painting – An “old” set of Adventurers

“Ten” Adventurers:

These miniatures are some of the first I ever purchased, all metal. The bulk of them can be easily dated to 1985 and most of them would have been painted in the following five years. Being done so long ago and not varnished, they have all required substantial repainting to bring them up to my current standard of figures. Most I have kept very close to the original colour scheme. The assassin still has a broken dagger that I’ll do some repair work with – I’m sure I can find a blade in my “bits” that can be reworked.

Ten Adventurers

  • Citadel “Talisman” (1985)
  • 1: Druid
  • 2: Assassin
  • Citadel “Lord of the Rings” (1985)
  • 3: ME-1 Aragorn (Fellowship Heroes pack 1)
  • 4: ME-1 Gandalf (Fellowship Heroes pack 1)
  • 5: ME-2 Legolas (Fellowship Heroes pack 2)
  • 6: ME-62 Saruman the White
  • Prince August “Fantasy Armies – Characters
  • 7: CH4 Hooded Thief/Assassin
  • 8: CH9 Armoured Cleric
  • 9: CH12 Druid
  • 10: CH26B Elf Girl

Citadel “Talisman figures” – Druid and Assassin

Druid and Assassin – rear view

My Lord of the Ring’s figures were never intended (or expected) to be used as LotR characters – so painting schemes went with whatever I felt like at the time. Aragorn and particularly Legolas (more than the other two), have seen regular use in my D&D games.

Aragorn and Legolas

Rear View

My “Saruman” is simply intended as a general wizard and the contrast between the black and yellow appealed to me. I did paint my “Gandalf” figure just as he is first described in The Hobbit (p15) – “He had a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak … and immense black boots.” I wanted more variety than different shades of grey – so his robe is white, but “dirty” or travel worn. I continued the blue onto belt and under-tunic. I suppose I’ve got a transition between Gandalf the “Grey” and the “White”. I love the pipe tucked into the hat. Army Painter dark tone really picked out the beard/hair detail.

Gandalf (the Grey) and Saruman (the "White")

Gandalf (the Grey) and Saruman (the “White”)

The Wizards

I really like the sculpts for the Prince August figures. They have good poses and plenty of detail. They are well moulded too – almost no visible mould lines, and I don’t remember ever cleaning off flash or over-cast. They all came as a one-piece metal figure on an oval base, but have now been glued to 25mm rounds.

Thief in studded leather and Cleric in full plate mail.

Rear view

The “Elf Girl” came in a pack of 3 Poses – sleeping, standing, fighting. I had originally painted these as “Silvara” – the Silver Dragon/Kargonesti Elf from the Dragonlance Saga (insert from “Dragons of Mystery”, Larry Elmore) because the figure matched the images I’ve got in “The Art of the Dragonlance Saga”. (Although I did the fighting pose in blue, not red.) I gave the standing figure to a friend, and kept the others. I’ve repainted the hair this time, and the blue clothing to purple. Of the two figures I have, only the sleeping figure shows a pointed ear – otherwise there is nothing that distinguishes the figure as elven.

Druid and Silvara

Druid and Silvara

I find great interest in this figure because I’m not aware that Prince August had a license for Dragonlance at any time. Ral Partha produced a large Dragonlance range for TSR, and it looks like TSR produced some themselves. I have two A4 colour reprints of Larry Elmores paintings (Art of the DL) as well as sketches. The only feature my figure shows that isn’t in the artwork are the dagger and sword!


I was quite pleased this morning to find a home improvement site where I could list a few things I wanted done (installation quotes – new oven, hot water service and air conditioning) and get some suggestions of businesses I could contact. It also sent messages to people on my behalf, so I also received a number of calls from tradesmen who were interested in helping. Much better than tracking someone down and then have them say they are too busy, or don’t handle all of what you want. It will be so nice to have hot water out of a tap again!

I collected a new pair of glasses today – my first pair of multi-focals. I’m already impressed that I can read books or text on my phone now without having to remove my glasses. I was hoping that the new pair would allow me to focus on figures for painting too – normally I’m taking them off to paint, then back on to find something on the desk/look at my computer. They’re better – I can hold the figure closer than before to see detail, but for very fine detail (like eyes) I think no glasses is still the way to go. (At least until I can get a magnifying desk lamp.)

I spray undercoated a new batch of figures this morning and left them out to dry. Much better weather this weekend than all of the last week. I’m nearly finished the ten figures that I’ve been struggling to complete during the week – mostly eyes on everyone now, the hair of one figure and a bit of basing work on some. I’m hoping to spray varnish completed figures tomorrow. (Then take photographs!)

Queuing up on the painting desk…