Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zazzle

To paraphrase Gallagher, I have been blogging this past month not only to amuse you, but also to sell you something.

You folks can purchase my game, Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road, in digital form (PDF or EPUB) or print (as a physical book) from the sellers directly to the right. (Not all vendors sell in all formats, but some do.)

But if you're not a gamer, or not interested in becoming one, you can still support my little endeavor by buying t-shirts, coffee mugs, and other items featuring art and logos from the game over at

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for Mrs. Yoop the Yookooho

Mrs. Yoop is a giantess who lives in a giant-sized castle in the Gillikin Country of Oz. Her husband used to live with her, but her neighbors became upset when he started eating them. So they caged him up and sent him to the Quadling Country. Mrs. Yoop would have been captured as well, but her Yookoohoo powers allowed her to transform into a rat and hide.

Yookoohoos are magic users who specialize in transforming living beings into other shapes. This is a feat that even Princess Ozma herself has difficulty duplicating. Another Yookoohoo, who called herself Red Reera, lives near the northern border of Oz, not far from Flathead Mountain.

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for Ix

Technically, Ix starts with an I, but the X is in there. The land of Ix is ruled by a Queen named Zixi. Her story, appropriately titled Queen Zixi of Ix", is not technically an Oz story, but she made a brief cameo appearance in The Road to Oz, so it's connected to Oz.

The story was later made into a film called "The Magic Cloak of Oz" by the Oz Film Manufacturing Company. Hey, there's another Oz connection!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for WInkie Country

Winkie Country is the name of the Western quadrant of the map of Oz. The Wicked Witch of the West used to rule here, until she was melted by Dorothy. In the wake of her destruction, the Winkies decided to elevate Nick Chopper, the famous Tin Woodman of Oz to the status of Emperor. He lived in the Witch's Castle for a while, but found it too damp for his tin body, so he had a Tin Castle built to his specifications.

Other places to visit in the Winkie Country include:

Bear Center: A small forest clearing that is the home to several living stuffed bears.

Herku: The people here take a magical elixir called zosozo that makes them so strong that they have enslaved giants to do all of their work.

Oogaboo: This tiny kingdom is ruled by Queen Ann Soforth, who once went out on a mission to conquer Oz and got a lot more than she bargained for.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Valley of Voe

Although not technically in Oz, the Valley of Voe does appear in an Oz book, so it counts. During the events of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, our heroes find themselves in an idyllic underground valley. There is a small village there, but no people to be seen. The people are actually there, but they are simply invisible.

This valley is the only place in the world where the dama-fruit grows. This fruit renders all who eat it invisible. All the people in the Valley of Voe eat it so that they are safe from the marauding bears that roam the valley floor. Of course, since the bears can't see the people to eat them, they eat the dama-fruit too. So the invisible people must be on the lookout for invisible bears, which makes for a rather bizarre stalemate.

Another curious plant grows in this valley that produces a sap which allows anything coated with it to stand on water as if it were solid.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for Utensia

Although Baum loved puns and wordplay, it is perhaps nowhere more prominent than in Utensia, a land of living kitchen utensils. The High Priest is a colander (because it is holy) and the lawyer is a corkscrew (because it is crooked and accustomed to appearing at the bar).

Utensia gained something of a reputation around my gaming table. During my playtest campaign, the players repeatedly asserted tat they were never going to Utensia. They felt it was too much of a silly place, sort of like Camelot. So when they were ready to end the campaign, they did so with the declaration, "We're going to Utensia," (Thankfully, they were very good sports about ending the campaign and let me give them a few adventures along the way)

To this day, whatever game we're playing, if one of us makes a particularly bad pun, we declare that person "banished to Utensia!" (It's usually me).

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for TIn Woodman

The Tin Woodman started out as a normal Munchkin named Nick Chopper, until he fell in love with a girl named Nimmie Amee. Unfortunately, Nimmie Amee worked for a lazy old woman (in one version of the story, it's the Wicked Witch of the East herself) who did not want her to leave. So this woman caused Nick's ax to be cursed and start chopping limbs instead of trees. Every time this happened, he had a replacement limb made by the local tinsmith. Eventually, all his limbs had been removed and he was left with only his tin.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for Scarecrow

The Scarecrow is one of the smartest characters in the Oz stories. Second only to the Woggle-bug in raw intelligence, he is often the one with the clever solution.

He even got an Oz story with his name on it: The Scarecrow of Oz. It was adapted from a film made by Baum called His Majesty, The Scarecrow of Oz. More recently, there has been an attempt to make a computer-animated version of the story. It was on YouTube briefly, but all I can find now are teaser clips of partially finished animation.

(It may be that they're cleaning up the animation further, since Trot often got her eyes heavily shadowed which made her look odd. I'm crossing my fingers that they're recasting the Scarecrow voice. His voice was grating and sounded much like Snarf from the old Thundercats cartoon.)

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Role Playing Game

While most of my A to Z postings have been about various Oz things, there is another side to this blog (and me).

I have been playing Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop RPGs for about 13 years and publishing my own for nearly 2 years. The only game I've managed to get out is Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road, the first English-language RPG to use the land of Oz as a setting. (There was a French-language game that was released a number of years ago and I beat out Oz: Dark & Terrible by about 6 months.) But there are other ideas in the pipe, just waiting to be unclogged.

So if you've ever wanted to explore the land of Oz for yourself, check out some of those links over on the right and buy the game. If you've never played an RPG before, and don't quite know what all the fuss is about, check out my latest podcast to get a little taste.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for Queer

Please note that I'm using "queer" as a generic term for all of those people who don't fit into the neat little box of heteronormality. And I just wanted to say that I've encountered a number of you guys (and gals and otherwise) as I've made my way through the Oz fandom and you've all been awesome.

Some people wonder if any queer characters made it into the Oz stories. There are those who point to the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman as a gay male duet. Though I wonder how that would work because even though they have gender (they both identify as male and use the male pronouns) they do not have sex (biological or anatomical sexual characteristics). Unless there's something that Baum didn't tell us...

Though Baum did avoid even heterosexual romance for much of the series. He was writing mainly for children and you know how kids can be about "mushy stuff." Scarecrow of Oz is the first Oz story to feature romance as a plot point. A few books later, Baum gleefully skewered romantic tropes of his day in The Tin Woodman of Oz.

I've pointed to Tip/Ozma as a transgendered Oz character a few times. Although we meet him as a boy, the course of the story includes a sex change into his true form, that of Princess Ozma.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Patchwork

Scraps Patchwork, that is. The amazingly awesome Patchwork Girl of Oz
LinkShe's so cool and unique that I even put her on the cover of my own book.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Ork

From Lord of the Rings to D&D, everybody knows what an orc is. Sometimes, they even spell it ork. But I'll bet that very few of you have seen an ork quite like this.

Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for Nome

For the record, that is not a misspelling or deliberate typo. That's the way Baum spelled it when he included them in his Oz stories. Though curiously, it is only in Baum's Oz stories that this particular spelling is used. Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus mentions a Gnome King, and when Ruth Plumly Thompson took over the Oz series, she reverted the spelling to Gnome for her story The Gnome King of Oz.

The Nomes and their ruler, the Nome King, have been one of the most persistent threats to the people of Oz. Witches come and go, but the Nomes keep on coming. First appearing in the third book in the series, Ozma of Oz, the Nomes attempted to conquer Oz in The Emerald City of Oz. The original Nome King is deposed due to his villainy in the events of Tik-Tok of Oz, and his replacement shows that he's not much better in Rinkitink in Oz. Even without his kingdom, the Nome King still manages to stir up trouble in The Magic of Oz.

These Nomes are elemental fairies of Earth. They are extraordinary craftsmen. Some say that they are capable of not only carving and sculpting gems and precious metals, but also know the secrets of creating these materials from scratch.

Gnomes in gaming hve always been spelled with a G and seem to have given up their earthy, crafting ways to the dwarves. They're generally friendly, if zany, very unlike the wicked Nomes that Baum created.

Stay tuned tomorrow for another fun crossover between Oz and the gaming world.

Worthy Cause Alert

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, so OneBookShelf is offering a fundraiser bundle. A $25 donation is all it takes to get a bunch of cool gaming stuff (including the Adventures in Oz Characters Pack) and support the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Munchkin

The Eastern quadrant of Oz is known as Munchkin Country. This is a rather famous section of Oz , as it's where Dorothy's house landed when she first arrived in Oz. Other than that, it's really rather boring. Munchkin Country is where many Oz adventures start, but heroes rarely stay there for long.

And now for the big question: Just how tall is a Munchkin?

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Munchkins Dorothy meets are roughly her own height. Since Dorothy is depicted as being a little girl, most people presume that Munchkins must be very small. Especially since this is how they are depicted in the film version.

My own theory is that Munchkins are only slightly shorter than normal people. While her age is not stated in Wizard, she is noted as being tall for it. I take this to mean that she is old enough to be going through puberty and in the midst of her first growth spurt. So the Munchkins may indeed be smaller than most people, but not by too very much.

There was also a narrative reason behind the size of the Munchkins in that first story. If the Munchkins thought Dorothy was a little girl, they wouldn't have allowed her to undertake any adventures. But since they're the same size as her, they presume she's fully adult and able to take care of herself.

Amusingly, the word "Munchkin" has taken on an alternate meaning in the gaming community. I took some time a while back to talk more about that bit.

Watch out for the next few entries, where I use words that have distinct meanings for my Oz readers and for my gaming readers.

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Lurline

If you're wondering how the land of Oz came to be such a magical place, just ask Lurline.

Lurline is the queen of a fairy band that enchanted Oz into the fairyland that it is today. She also left one of her own, Princess Ozma, to rule over Oz. Although she never appears as a character in any of the stories, it could be said that her presence is felt in each one.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for Ku-Klip

Ku-Klip is the tinsmith who made the Tin Woodman the sparkling person that he is today. Because of the fairy magic that makes all the people in Oz immortal, there is no need for medicine or surgery. Instead, you call the local handyman to fix whatever ails you.

So when Nick Chopper began cutting off his own limbs (thanks to a cursed ax), he turned to his local tinsmith to replace his parts. Who did a very good job, all things considered.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for Imagination

There is no
Life I know
To compare with
Pure imagination
--Willie Wonka
Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Imagination is more important than knowledge
-- Albert Einstein

Imagination has brought mankind through the Dark Ages to its present state of civilization. Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity. Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities. So I believe that dreams—day dreams, you know, with your eyes wide open and your brain-machinery whizzing—are likely to lead to the betterment of the world.
-- L. Frank Baum
The Lost Princess of Oz

Monday, April 9, 2012

H is for H.M. Wogglebug, T.E.

The Highly Magnified and Thoroughly Educated Wogglebug is one of the most famous characters to appear in the Oz stories.

What? You've never heard of him? Okay, so he didn't make it into MGM's big movie, or Return to Oz, which featured a number of other characters and incidents from The Marvelous Land of Oz (the book in which he made his first appearance).

But back in the day, he was big news. In 1904-05, people all over the country were asked "What did the Wogglebug say?" via their newspapers. In 1905, he appeared on stage in a play called (appropriately enough) The Wogglebug and also got his own Wogglebug Book.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for Gillikin

The Gillikin Country of Oz occupies the northern quadrant of the map of Oz. It is looked after by the Good Witch of the North, whose name is not revealed in the stories. This is not Glinda, who is the Good Witch of the South. When MGM made the movie version, they simply put the two Good Witches into the same actress. For those of you who have read Wicked, Gregrory Maguire tries to split the difference here by having Glinda come from the Gillikin Country even though she assumes power in the Quadling Country (So she's from the North, but of the South).

There was also a Wicked Witch of the North, who was named Mombi. Although she was replaced by a Good Witch, she managed to hold on to a very powerful secret. The Princess Ozma, rightful ruler of Oz, was held by Mombi, magically disguised as a boy named Tippetarius (making Ozma the only transgendered character in Oz that I'm aware of). After the enchantment was lifted and Ozma ascended to the throne of Oz, Mombi was stripped of her magic. Where she is now is anyone's guess (unless they've read The Lost King of Oz).

Other notable features of the Gillikin Country include:

The Forest of Gugu: The largest forest of the Gillikin Country is ruled over by King Gugu, an immense Leopard.

Flathead Mountain: A mountain with a large flat headland at its peak. The Flatheads live here and carry their brains in cans, since their heads are flat where everyone else has brains. They've had a long-running feud with their neighbors, the Skeezers.

Friday, April 6, 2012

F is for Fuddlecumjig

Fuddlecumjig is one of the more interesting bits of the land of Oz. A small town in the Quadling Country, Dorothy visits during the story The Emerald City of Oz. The people who live there are called Fuddles and have a rather special talent: When startled or surprised, they break down into puzzle pieces and scatter themselves.

The Fuddles also make an appearance in the adventure The Jaded City of Oz in the back of Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. In the adventure, the characters meet a mismatched Fuddle called Horbull. He got some of his pieces mixed up with another Fuddle and wound up getting the short end of the stick in the exchange.

This is one of my favorite sections of the Jaded City adventure. Mostly because I have some props. It's always cool when you can put a piece of the game world in your players' hands. As an added bonus, these puzzles give players something to play with.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

E is for Emerald City

The Emerald City is not only at the heart of Oz (being right in the middle of the four major countries of Oz), but it is also the heart of most of the Oz stories. Quite a few of the stories begin there and nearly all of them end there.

A few months ago, I spent a couple of posts looking at the Emerald City as a place for your characters to hang out and have adventures in. Rather than simply regurgitate that material, I think I'll just provide some links.

The Emerald Sandbox

This is the (Emerald) City

And if you are interested in purchasing Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road, you can buy it at DriveThruRPG in print and PDF!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D is for Dorothy

It's almost not an Oz story if it doesn't have Dorothy. L. Frank Baum learned that lesson rather quickly. His second Oz novel, The Marvelous Land of Oz, is the only one to not feature Dorothy. Every other Oz novel he wrote featured her in some capacity. In most of the stories, she is one of the main protagonists. In some others, she appears in some other capacity, such as to welcome the story's hero or heroine to the Emerald City or to rescue an imprisoned protagonist (such as in Rinkitink in Oz). But Dorothy is always there.

For Adventures in Oz game stats on Dorothy and info on the Adventures in Oz Characters Pack, click here.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is for Children

“To please a child is a sweet and lovely thing that warms one's heart and brings its own reward.”
-- L. Frank Baum

This is just a reminder that April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Monday, April 2, 2012

B is for Blog

Conveniently enough, today marks the fourth anniversary of this blog. I had been designing the game as something of a thought experiment for about a year beforehand, but developing the drive and the will to turn it into an actual product didn't come until early 2008. I would have started the blog on April 1st, but I was afraid it might come off as an April Fool's joke.

From the beginning, I was committed to a weekly update schedule. The idea was to keep the blog in front of any potential readers and also to push me into having something to say every week. Though as something of a side effect, I fear I might be more of a blogger than a publisher these days.

So to all of those who have been following my blog for all these years (or most or some or none), thank you! For those new arrivals, feel free to check out where it all began.

Purchase Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A is for Adventures in Oz

For those of you just tuning in, this is the promotional blog for Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. It's a tabletop roleplaying game designed for creating your own Oz stories with your friends.

While I normally update this blog once a week, I have decided to participate in the April A to Z challenge this year. So for 26 days this month, I'll be posting something new, one post for each letter of the alphabet.

One the one hand, keeping a focus on Oz and gaming for a whole month could be quite the challenge. On the other hand, I'll have a much easier time than most with some of the tougher letters. While L. Frank Baum may not have been a free with making up words as Dr. Seuss, he did come up with a few.

Purchase Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road

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